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The Esoteric Beat: Crash, Cram, Disaster

Welcome to 'The Esoteric Beat', the news report that provides new and unusual ways to think about games and culture. This week's column looks at car crashes, FPS tutors, ...
Welcome to 'The Esoteric Beat', the news report that provides new and unusual ways to think about games and culture. This week's column looks at car crashes, FPS tutors, and climate games. - Over in Sweden, some strange developments in software interpretation of the written word suggest interesting possibilities in the realms of games. New Scientist reports [premium excerpt] on the research project, which is working to turn everyday written descriptions of events, such as a car crash, into 3D animations. The idea behind the project is to help build up pictures of what took place in car-accident scenarios and perhaps to teach drivers what they're doing wrong. The program is designed specifically to deal with ambiguous statements, thanks to an 'understanding' of context and reference within written work. The software, which is named 'CarSim', has been applied to a large range of written statements regarding car crashes, and generally produced animations that matched the incidents that statements were trying to describe. Could such text processing one day have wider application? Could developers simple tell game engines how they wanted scripted sequences to play out, or how an animation should take place? There are some startling possibilities ahead. - Meanwhile, in the realms of actually playing the games, 1UP.com has an article that discusses the growing popularity of gaming tutelage. Those folk who find themselves getting stomped at a Halo deathmatch might feel that they need a few coaching lessons to up their game, and if that's the case then they can head over to Gaming-Lessons.com to sign up for a talented tutor, for which they'll pay raw real-world dollars. If that doesn't work and you're feeling intimidated by the prowess of the adult tutors, then perhaps you'll feel less threatened by the tutelage of Lil' Poison, the seven year-old pro-gamer who will get you playing better Halo 2 for a mere $30 an hour. I wonder, does he get taxed on that? - So anyway: can you change the world by playing games? The European Climate Forum certainly thinks so, at least if educating folk counts as changing the world (which it usually does). The body has a project underway to create climate-based games, including a board game, named Winds Of Change, in which the player must: "Use your skills... to make good use of the Winds of Change and prevent them from developing into a devastating storm." The Forum has also developed its own (albeit simplistic) weather-based video game, in which "visitors control future climate policy by adopting the role of either the government, a CEO of a global company or a typical private household of an industrialized country". Fighting that dust-bowl future, one high-score at a time... [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]

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