GOOD

Selling Virtual Reality to the Masses

At GDC 2015, a legendary game programmer makes the case for an emerging technology’s conventional future.

John Carmack receives a lifetime achievement award at GDC 2010. Photo by Official GDC via Flickr

In recent years, virtual reality has evolved from an overambitious 1990s pipe dream into a bona fide technological marvel. Leading the charge is Oculus Rift, a head-mounted virtual reality display in development by Oculus VR. The company initially raised $2.4 million through crowdfunding site Kickstarter, and, in 2014, was bought by Facebook for $400 million in cash and a further $1.6 billion in Facebook stock. To date, the company has only released a number of development kits, with a final consumer version of the product expected sometime this year.

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Five Female Developers Turning the Tables on the Gaming Industry

At the Game Developers Conference this year, more women than ever participated on panels and talks. Here’s what they said.

In the wake last year’s Gamergate affair, a meticulous and damaging campaign targeting female game developers and their supporters, this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco is celebrating the work of women in the games industry. A number of panels and talks focused on gender diversity, while others provided practical advice on hiring and retaining female employees. Microsoft’s Women in Games event, held every year during GDC, celebrated the ongoing contribution of female talent across the industry’s disciplines. And though the numbers are still woefully unbalanced, for the first time in GDC’s history, this year’s conference saw a record number of female speakers: 184 women versus 744 men, the highest of any GDC to date. In the spirit of celebrating women’s ever-growing contributions to the gaming world, here are five female game developers helping to turn the tide.

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Broadway Culture Shock

Ayad Akhtar's smart, provocative scripts ask tough questions of American theatergoers, and they love him for it.

Broadway is not the ideal place to talk politics. Every night, hundreds of theatergoers clog the dazzling sidewalks of Times Square in anticipation of the type of flamboyant, highly regimented performance that has come to define mainstream American theater.

And yet, on a recent Saturday, four people stood on the stage of the Lyceum Theatre on West 45th Street discussing the sobering topic of Islamic fundamentalism. Ayad Akhtar’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Disgraced, began its run on Broadway last October after sold-out houses in Chicago, London, and New York’s Lincoln Center. The play is set inside the Upper East Side apartment of Amir, a successful lawyer, and Emily, his artist wife. Emily is American, “white, lithe, and lovely,” and her work is inspired by Islamic motifs. Amir is an apostate Muslim who views Islam as a backward way of thinking. The couple invite two friends over for dinner: Isaac, a Jewish curator at the Whitney Museum who wants Emily’s work in his next show, and Jory, Isaac's wife and Amir’s law firm colleague. Amid talk of Knicks games and fennel salads, Amir is eventually called upon to defend his problem with Islam, setting off a conversation whose trajectory draws out the hidden prejudices of everyone involved.

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A Tale of Two GMO Transplant Techniques

Would consumers feel more comfortable with GM crops if there was more transparency in how they’re created?

Photo by Lindsay Eyink/Wikimedia Commons

Ever since scientists announced they could place functional foreign genes into plant cells some 30 years ago, people have been arguing about the pros and cons of genetically modified crops. On one hand, GM crops produce larger, heartier yields, and could help solve the world’s food shortage problem. On the other, something about eating a tomato whose genes have been tampered with can be a little unsettling and, well, unnatural.

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Sorry, Colonizing Mars is Still a Pipe Dream

Even though you responded to the casting call, you probably won't become a reality star on Mars.

Photo Courtesy of Bryan Versteeg/Mars One

In 2012, a Dutch nonprofit led by entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp announced plans to send four citizen astronauts to colonize Mars in 2023. The motivation behind the project was later revealed to have little to do with the pursuit of science; instead, the organization—known as Mars One—plans to film the whole thing, turning the far-flung mission into a reality TV show.

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Follow the Crowd

Why online gaming may just be the future of science

Mason-Pfizer monkey virus

In 2011, a group of online gamers solved a 15-year-old biochemical problem in 10 days. Using a simple online puzzle game called Foldit, it took them a little over a week to decipher the crystal structure of the AIDS-causing monkey virus Mason-Pfizer, something scientists had been trying unsuccessfully to do for more than a decade in the hope of gaining insights into the design of antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV.

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