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The Best Video Games For the Family on The 4th of July

Playing video games with family on the 4th of July is safe, legal and condoned by your housing authority.

The same can’t be said about the fireworks that are probably banned in your city and the charcoal grill that will get you hassled by your landlord bright and early on Thursday morning. You could trade that M-80 in for lame sparklers or bring the BBQ party indoors, but we think that sharing with your family and friends your video game dependence is the best way to celebrate this day of independence.

Turns out we have a list, nay a signed document, of ten family-friendly video games for freedom-loving families.

Kinect Disneyland Adventures


Kinect Disneyland Adventures
Disneyland is especially magical during the 4th of July thanks to the theme park’s elaborate parades and brilliant fireworks -- Mickey Mouse has a permit to set them off right above Cinderella's Castle. Not as magical? With the holiday crowds and long wait-times. Kinect Disneyland Adventures for Xbox 360 is a great alternative for the entire family; it’s faster than Fast Pass and has a fireworks mini-game to boot. The rest of its 18 mini-games are based off of the attractions, new and old, from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters to Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. Best of all, it’s all located in your living room. No chance of a live-action National Lampoon’s Family Vacation sequel in your future.

Kinect Disneyland Adventures is the latest game in a long line of video games with fireworks that you should check out.

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Google Glass

Google Glass was demoed at this week’s Google I/O conference, proving that while jetpacks, hoverboards, and flying cars are still not on the horizon, wearing a pair of cyborg glasses is just a few shorts months away. Google co-founder Sergey Brin announced the price as $1,500 and a release window of early 2013 for the first developer prototype, Google Glass Explorer Edition. Gaming wasn’t a part of the demo and the first iteration of Google Glass doesn’t seem ready to take on much more than data, chat, photo and video capturing capabilities. Of course, that hasn’t stopped us from spec-ulating about how Project Glass could impact the world of video games as a head-mounted display (HMD).

Call of Duty

“See The Whites Of Their Eyes” In First-Person Shooters


HMD devices like Google Glass and FPS games are a natural fit, so much so that one developer known for being a pioneer is already working on this winning combo. John Carmack demoed the Oculus Rift to us at E3 2012, showing off Doom 3 BFG Edition in conjunction with his own homebrew HMD and an Xbox 360 controller. This virtual reality headset really gives you a more immersive first-person shooter experience and it’s supposed to cost only $500 as a DIY kit, according to Carmack.

Google Glass, although significantly more expensive than Carmack’s Oculus Rift, could be designed to provide a similar 90-degree FPS gaming experience and do it with sleeker frames. On top of that personalized viewing experience, its accelerometers, gyroscope, compass and “other sensors onboard” could lend the Google device to other functions tied to gaming that aid or eliminate the need for a controller.

"Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes," the unattributed famous quote of the American Revolutionary War, would take on new meaning as you literally come eye-to-eye with enemies. Seeing their facial expressions in a Call of Duty or Battlefield game and having it be so close to your own face would be unforgettable. In an instant, Google Glass would enable the FPS genre to take on a more personal, war simulation-like gameplay.

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Skyrim: Dawnguard

Besides adding a ton of new weapons, items, quests, and shouts; Dawnguard adds in a whole new slew of people, places, and creatures to Skyrim. With so many new places to get lost in and names to remember, you would practically need a guide just to keep it all together.

We thought we'd give you all a little primer before you go exploring.

New People:

Durak the Orc -- When you first encounter the Dawnguard, Durak will seek you out, a skirmish will break out with new Vampires, and he'll tell you about the vampire hunters. Ask him about them, and he'll point you in the direction of Fort Dawnguard.

Galathil -- You can find her in the Ragged Flagon in the Ratway beneath Riften. Give her 1000 gold, and you can re-edit your character's appearance.

Lord Harkon -- The Leader of the Volkihar Vampires and your ultimate target as a member of the Dawnguard.

Serana -- This lovely lass just happens to be Vampire Lord Harkon's Daughter. You discover she's been locked away for a very, very long time in the quest Awakening.

Isran -- The leader of the Dawnguard in Skyrim. You'll be talking with him quite a bit as a member of the group.

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The Amazing Spider-Man

With The Amazing Spider-Man swinging into theaters, we thought we should take the time to find out what it takes to make a great Spider-Man game.

Spidey's been through the wringer throughout his stint as a video game hero in addition to his day job as a Marvel forerunner. He's graced us with performances both good and bad. This seems to be the case with many of Peter Parker's newer jaunts -- a strong premise and promising gameplay assets that fizzle out to little more than decent licensed adventures. They're still better than any of Superman's games, but then again, what isn't?

There's got to be a way to ensure future games are improvements on those of the past. And we think we've got the answers: collect what makes Spidey games great -- what works, and whatever made stepping into the webslinger's shoes memorable. We can't say we're developers or anything, but we're thinking these aspects combined should make a powerhouse superhero game.

Spider-Man

Keep It Open

A stealthy Spidey isn't impressive. Peter Parker is best known as the crafty, witty webslinger with a quick-fire joke for any occasion. We're just not accustomed to a brooding Parker slinking around in the shadows. It's not that exciting, for one thing, and games like Batman: Arkham Asylum seem to have fit that niche beautifully already. So why not give players the real freedom they crave: free reign across the board in any fictional city we find Spidey fighting crime? Games like Grand Theft Auto and Prototype are exemplary for this, allowing players to go wherever they please and offering plenty of options for side quests and additional content to supplement the story unfolding with each completed objective.

This has been done quite exceptionally in previous Spider-Man releases and with success. Once this element is removed, Spidey's exploits become considerably less "epic" -- the feeling you get when whizzing through the air with the lightness of a feather, dangling by a thick cord of web is gone. It not only meshes well with mission-based gameplay, but it makes a generally linear game feel much less like a slog. We know it works, and we'd like to see more of it in the future, rather than confining Spider-Man and his foes to simple flicks of the wrist to ensnare a foe and close-quarters combat.

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The Journey Down

There’s an indie revolution occurring in the adventure gaming scene, and The Journey Down: Episode 1 may just be one of the best examples of the creativity and ingenuity that’s giving this worn-out genre a second golden age.

You follow the misadventures of Bwana and Kito, two brothers down on their luck ever since the disappearance of their father, Captain Kaonandodo. Their lives get turned upside-down with when a beautiful stranger appears looking for help and passage into the mysterious Underland. Painted in shades of noir and comedy, The Journey Down never fails to surprise at every turn.

Maybe it’s the look of the characters or the slow Jamaican sway of the sound track, but The Journey Down is the kind of game that stands out immediately from the very beginning. The game’s aesthetics blend this sort of gritty city feel with a slow African beat as the character’s over-sized tiki faces seem to express as much as the words rolling off their tongues. Even in the darkest moments, there’s still a playful edge that keeps you moving and looking for that next item.

As with most adventure games, there’s a reasoning to figure out behind each of the puzzles. With colorful characters and plenty of items around, the game constantly feeds the player new information to keep the flow moving from one puzzle to the next. You might not remember picking up the shirt or paintbrush, but you often figure out what you need to do once the puzzle is presented to you. The game even nudges you towards the right direction once you’ve clicked on the same item a couple of times.

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Skyrim's new expansion, Dawnguard, adds a ton of new content for you to explore, but sometimes you just need a really good weapon. We've already shown you the new Dragon Shouts, the new abilities of Werewolves, and the undead power of Vampire Lords. It’s time for you to hit the forge and find that sharp new thing to stab into the hearts of your enemies. For this guide, we’ve scoured every corner of Dawnguard so you won't have to.

You might want to empty out your pockets before you get started on this guide for new weapons and armor in Dawnguard.

Dawnguard Skyrim

Zephyr -- This unique Dwarven Bow can be found during the "Lost to the Ages" quest in Arkngthamz. It's enchanted with a unique ability to fire 30% faster than normal. It's a solid choice for a middle tier bow, but there's a better unique bow in Dawnguard.

Auriel's Bow -- You get this during the main questline in the Forgotten Vale. Not only is it a pretty strong option for a bow with its fast draw time, but it also does extra damage to undead creatures. You can also equip two different types of unique arrows with it: Sunhallowed and Bloodcursed.

Sunhallowed Elven arrows cause the sun to shoot sunbursts at nearby enemies when you shoot them at the sun. Bloodcursed Elven arrows temporarily blot out the sun for a day if you happen to aim for that big ball of fire in the sky. Both arrow types only perform their special abilities when you use them with Auriel’s Bow. You can get more Sunhallowed arrows from Gelebor in the Forgotten Vale, and Serana gives you Bloodcursed arrows after the questline is over.

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Nerdsourcing finds you the best crowd sourcing projects from Kickstater, Indiegogo, and other such sites and brings them straight to your wallet. Give, help spread the word, or just find out what’s going to be the hot new thing in the future; nerdsourcing is there to help support the dreamers out there looking to make the impossible a reality, or those looking for the next big thing an edge on the competition. Time is limited to fund these projects, so don’t wait too long.

Trial of the Clone

We all remember Choose Your Own Adventure books from our childhoods. As you read, you would be presented with two options and a different page to turn to based on the choices you made. These books were awesome, but got pushed to the wayside as videogames started to become more widely adopted. Trial of the Clone is somewhat similar, adapting a gamebook format that enables players to interact with the story on a deeper level with collectable weapons, battles with monsters, and player powers.

In addition to supporting the project’s development and production, funds are also being used to fund philanthropic projects, like Fight for the Future (which fights to protect our internet usage and destroy evil things like SOPA and CISPA) and scientific research. It’s already reached a stretch goal that guarantees a sequel will release one year later. That’s a pretty cool use of excess funds!

Reward: A digital copy of Trial of the Clone is only $10 with a signed paperback copy available for only $10 more.

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To get you ready for the July 7th Bruce Lee Marathon airing on G4TV at 9am/8C, we’ve picked out the Top 5 Games that make you feel like a true Kung Fu master.

Bruce Lee isn’t just some regular action hero. He’s unstoppable. He’s likable and always does the right thing. It doesn’t matter the size or number of enemies thrown at him; he will always prevail. To get you in the mood for G4’s Bruce Lee Marathon, we put together a list of games that make you feel like Bruce Lee - unstoppable, in-charge, and ready to kick some ass, but you'd better warm-up with some stretches before starting any of these games.

 

Mortal Kombat!

Mortal Kombat

As a series, Mortal Kombat has always been about fighting until there isn’t anyone left to fight; killing your opponents one-by-one until you are the only one still standing. While Bruce Lee doesn’t rip his opponents' arms off and beat them with their own limbs; doing so makes you feel just as badass as the man himself.

As with most fighting titles, learning the move set requires patience and hours of practice. This discipline requires the most adamant dedication to becoming the best that you can, just as Bruce Lee did with Wing Chun Kung Fu. Pulling off a perfect Kombo set makes for one of the most satisfying feelings that games can accomplish. While Mortal Kombat’s 1v1 battles may seem tame compared to the number of baddies that Bruce Lee encounters at once, working your way up the Kombat Tower can simulate the sensation of a never-ending stream of people wanting to kill you.

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AbleGamers

Today, we’re looking at two pieces of technology that help to bridge the gap between the disabled community and those of their fellow gamers, the XIM Edge and Adroit Switchblade.

We live in an amazing age of development in gaming, where worlds come to life at our very fingertips. While some may struggle to reach into our virtual realms, gaming accessories have made it easier for those with certain disadvantages to enjoy the games that we often take for granted. As we’ve seen already this week, developers struggle to meet the needs of every gamer wanting to play their game, but accessories help to bridge this divide by meeting the needs of the individual.

With help from Steven Spohn Editor-in-Chief at AbleGamers, here are the products that you need to know about if you know someone in your life that use a helping hand getting into gaming.

Adroit Switchblade

Adroit Switchblade

As mentioned in previous articles, the Adroit Switchblade comes from the collaboration between AbleGamers Foundation and Evil Controllers, and was first unveiled during the Gamers Doing Good panel at PAX 2011. What looks like a mass of switches for most is surely a lifesaver to others in need of a controller that won’t break the bank.

With a wide variety of programmable ports, the Adroit Switchblade adjusts to the needs of the user, not the other way around. Even small movements can register as button presses or more given the profile changer that allows the user to switch the button configuration with very little effort. Switches that signal for action buttons change to shoulder buttons or for a different configuration with a simple movement. Adaptation is the key component that makes Adroit one of the top controllers in its class.

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With Ted hitting the big screen, it’s time to take a look at our Top 5 Favorite Teddy Bears in Video games.

We're all conditioned to look at a teddy bear and be reminded of childhood innocence, happiness, security, and even bedtime. Of course, the teddy bears of the present in various forms of media defy those stereotypes in many ways.

Take Ted, for example: this foul little plush toy may seem like a perfectly innocent companion at a glance, but as the little boy who grew up with him, he's grown into quite the monster with a filthy mouth. But you probably still want to tune in for his antics because he's an adorable little bear, right? We don't blame you. The gaming world is rife with plenty of the same similarities and many of our favorite teddy characters aren't what they seem.

We've got a rundown of video game bears and their various idiosyncrasies. You probably wouldn't want to cuddle up in bed with most of them, though.

Persona 4

5. Teddie

Game: Persona 4

Though he's not the most conventional "bear" you'll find on our list, Teddie first appears to the Persona 4 protagonists as a peculiar little blue bear clad in a red and white jumpsuits. Full of embarrassing bear puns and comic relief, Teddie can always be counted on to want to run from shadows and danger when it arises...for a while, anyway. Did we mention he's also a huge flirt? It's not like any of the Investigation Team is actually interested, but he tries at least. Teddie has the rare opportunity to aid his friends in their investigation of the Midnight Channel in human form later on, but he's always going to be our favorite wisecracking blue bear, not flaxen-haired Casanova.

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Skyrim: Dawnguard

Skyrim's new DLC Dawnguard adds in not only the Vampire goodness we expected, but also a few new shouts for your Dragonborn to use. For the most part, they're pretty straightforward, closely linked to the questline, but some words are a little tricky. Use this handy guide to go out and learn a few new Words.

Drain Vitality - This new shout will drain Health, Magicka. and Stamina from your target. You will find two words for it in areas that are directly related to the Dawnguard quest line, with the final one in Skyrim itself.

For the first Word, you are likely to find it located in Dimhollow Crypt, which is quest related.

The second Word is tied to a quest area located in the Forgotten Vale, on an island in a Frozen Lake - be prepared for a fight two named dragons for this one though.

The final Word is located at Arcwind Point, which is to the south of Ivarstead and east of Riften.

Durnehviir - After you've battled this undead Dragon in the Soul Cairn, you have a conversation with him. He'll teach you a shout that allows you to call him to your aid in Tamriel. By doing so, you'll also learn the third new Shout through Durnehviir.

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Welcome to G4's Knuckle Up, where we bring you a byte-sized view of our five favorite mobile games every week. The phone and tablet space is filled with incredible games that will keep you busy for minutes, hours, or even days -- we'll let you know what we're playing and why we're playing it. Here are our top five games this week: 

GAME OF THE WEEK

BAND TOGETHER

iOS

Never have we seen a game weirder or more adorably twisted than Band Together. For aficionados of the short film (and movie) 9, this game will be right up your alley. The story comes together like this: Midge, a kid who’s been bullied recently, discovers little cardboard figures in his attic that come to life when they come into contact with light. Being the inquisitive kid we’ve all been at that age, Midge builds cardboard mazes for the “Bandies” (so named because they seem to -- what else? -- band together) and observes them attempting to discover the exit in each labyrinth.

You’re put in control of the Bandies, and you’ll swipe and drag across each screen to guide the group (or an individual). Each level looks gorgeous on the Retina iPad, and each level is introduced by a sketch and some thoughts from Midge. He’s a bit of an evil genius, and soon, your Bandies will have to avoid some seriously terrifying contraptions made of objects like thumbtacks and sharpened pencils. There’s a lot of fun to be found in such a strange, twisted game. In addition, it’s currently being offered for free on the App Store, so we couldn’t pass it up.

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AbleGamers

Do video game developers do enough to facilitate the enjoyment of their games by those who are disabled? I asked this question on Twitter earlier this week and the response was an unanimous 'No'.

Darius Kazemi commented, "When I was working in QA on D&D Online back in 2005, I filled a bug about a puzzle that red/green colorblind people couldn't solve. Red/green colorblindness affects 10% of men, which I'm guessing given the typical audience of a D&D game is probably close to 10% of all the players."

Kazemi added somberly. "The real reason is that when you're trying to ship a game, you care about changes that make what you perceive to be the biggest impact. So in the mind of certain (I would say most) devs, it's 'Oh, that's a bug that only happens 10% of the time, so it's low priority.' This is a terrible way of thinking about it. What you need to think is, 'Oh, that's a bug that affects 10% of our players 100% of the time, and it affects them because they have a disability we didn't bother to consider -- rather than a compatibility issue we overlooked.' I want more devs to think the second way.”

"These kinds of problems are what I would call "irreducible": you can't reduce a percentage of your audience to a bug frequency percentage, even though they're both percentages. You have to think about the entire context around what's happening."

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Skyrim: Dawnguard Vampire Lord Perk Guide

Skyrim's new DLC add-on adds a whole new way to play as a member of the Undead - Vampire Lords. Early during the new questline, you're presented to Lord Harkon, the Patriarch of the Volkihar vampires. He gives you the option to become a Vampire Lord like him.

While not transformed, you act just like a normal Vampire as always. For those people not familiar, basically, feeding on people resets your level of Vampirism, and lets you interact easier with NPCs. At more advanced stages of Vampirism, however, you have access to a number of abilities that can come in handy. For a more in depth refresher on the basic Vampire, check out our original Vampire guide.

The meat of the new powers comes when you transform into the Vampire Lord. Much like Werewolves, you zoom out to third person and lose your equipped gear. You have access to a whole new set of powers and abilities, including Blood Magic.

Powers like the ability to turn into a group of bats during a dodge, the power to raise the dead to fight along side you and a spell called Vampiric Drainball - essentially a fireball-like spell that also drains health.

You also will be able to upgrade your powers thanks to the skill tree added. In order to gain skill points you need to kill enemies with the Drain Life power or bite them.

Here are all the new perks you’ll get to play with when you choose to be a Vampire Lord.

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AbleGamers

Urgent. Please respond.

I glance up as an e-mail from AbleGamers' Editor-In-Chief, Steve Spohn, quietly slips atop a growing pile of newsletters, press releases, and social media notifications. Curious, I click on it.

The message is brief but authoritative. Hi, G4 will be running our stories soon. This is Cassandra. She writes for them. She needs your answers today. Please respond ASAP. Thank you.

Whoa. No room for misinterpretation there. Within fifteen minutes of the first e-mail, a cordial apology (Had I even given them a due date? Are they going to think I'm some horrible slave driver now?) for a perceived lack of timeliness makes its way into my inbox. By the end of the day, I have all the answers I need. Were people supposed to be this efficient?

Asides from being a tightly run ship, AbleGamers is the largest community for disabled gamers on the Internet. Founded by Stephanie Walker and Mark Barlet, this nonprofit organization has been responsible for designing peripherals, curating the biggest repository of accessibility-driven video game views on the World Wide Web, and a variety of other nifty things, all in line with their goal of bringing greater accessibility to the digital entertainment space. Most of all, they've been making a difference.

AbleGamers Article: A History of Accomplishing the Impossible

When I asked the crew about their best memories of working with AbleGamers, their co-founder and president Mark Barlet sent me a photograph of a little girl in an orange shirt along with his answer. She looks almost impossibly happy. You could probably use that smile of hers to fuel a small solar power plant. In the picture, her hands are lightly rested on what resembles the controls for a gaming console from the 70s.

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