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Early Commercials for 10 Best-Selling Game Systems

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1. Atari 2600, 1977

This is probably the first Atari 2600 commercial to air in the U.S., just before Christmas 1977. Poor George leaves empty-handed, but we’re willing to bet he got his hands on an Atari eventually: 30 million other people did.

2. Nintendo Game & Watch, 1981

“Neentendo” illustrates an early version of the cinematic game trailer here; when your graphics don’t hold up, just hire animators. The Game & Watch kept 43 million kids occupied through the 80s and early 90s.

3. ColecoVision, 1982

Coleco released just over two million of the “most advanced video game system you can buy” into the world in the early 80s.

4. Nintendo Entertainment System, 1985

In these kids’ defense, Legend of Zelda was pretty rad. The NES sold just over 61 million units during its lifetime.

5. Sega Genesis, 1990

Sega’s marketing plan wasn’t subtle. The Genesis (or Mega Drive for everyone outside of the US) sold about 40 million units.

6. Super NES, 1990

Nintendo’s response was a bit more civilized. It paid off eventually: the SNES made its way into 49 million homes.

7. Game Boy, 1990

Nintendo one-upped itself by sending the Game & Watch packing to make room for Game Boy, which would release in color the next year. Nearly 120 million handheld systems flooded the market and school buses.

8. Game Gear, 1991

Sega’s plan to (obliquely) talk smack about Game Boy’s lack of color ended up being a bad idea. When the Game Boy Color released, Game Gear’s edge was gone. Regardless, it still ended up being one of the best-selling early portable systems; whether or not those 11 million kids actually wanted a Game Boy is debatable.

9. PlayStation, 1994

We’re not sure if humiliation was the driving force for sales or just a perk, but Sony’s PlayStation went gangbusters, totaling more than 102 million consoles sold.

10. Xbox, 2001

Right from the start, Xbox commercials were weird. But Microsoft did well for themselves, though: the original Xbox now resides in 24 million attics.

Can you out-fact the Facts Machine? Go to this post and leave a comment with your own amazing video game fact. If your fact is deemed sufficiently Amazing, you could win the mental_floss t-shirt of your choice.

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Brain Training Could Help Combat Hearing Loss, Study Suggests
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Contrary to what you might think, the hearing loss that accompanies getting older isn't entirely about your ears. Studies have found that as people get older, the parts of their brain that process speech slow down, and it becomes especially difficult to isolate one voice in a noisy environment. New research suggests there may be a way to help older people hear better: brain training.

The Verge reports that a new double-blind study published in Current Biology suggests that a video game could help older people improve their hearing ability. Though the study was too small to be conclusive, the results are notable in the wake of several large studies in the past few years that found that the brain-training games on apps like Luminosity don't improve cognitive skills in the real world. Most research on brain training games has found that while you might get better at the game, you probably won't be able to translate that skill to your real life.

In the current study, the researchers recruited 24 older adults, all of whom were long-term hearing-aid users, for eight weeks of video game training. The average age was 70. Musical training has been associated with stronger audio perception, so half of the participants were asked to play a game that asked them to identify subtle changes in tones—like you would hear in a piece of music—in order to piece together a puzzle, and the other half played a placebo game designed to test their memory. In the former, as the levels got more difficult, the background noise got louder. The researchers compare the task to a violinist tuning out the rest of the orchestra in order to listen to just their own instrument.

After eight weeks of playing their respective games around three-and-a-half hours a week, the group that played the placebo memory game didn't perform any better on a speech perception test that asked participants to identify sentences or words amid competing voices. But those who played the tone-changing puzzle game saw significant improvement in their ability to process speech in noise conditions close to what you'd hear in an average restaurant. The tone puzzle group were able to accurately identify 25 percent more words against loud background noise than before their training.

The training was more successful for some participants than others, and since this is only one small study, it's possible that as this kind of research progresses, researchers might find a more effective game design for this purpose. But the study shows that in specific instances, brain training games can benefit users. This kind of game can't eliminate the need for hearing aids, but it can help improve speech recognition in situations where hearing aids often fail (e.g., when there is more than one voice speaking). However, once the participants stopped playing the game for a few months, their gains disappeared, indicating that it would have to be a regular practice.

[h/t The Verge]

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This Game About Soup Highlights How Tricky Language Is
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Something Something Soup Something

Soup, defined by Merriam-Webster as "a liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food," is the ultimate simple comfort food. But if you look closer at the definition, you'll notice it's surprisingly vague. Is ramen soup? What about gumbo? Is a soy vanilla latte actually a type of three-bean soup? The subjectivity of language makes this simple food category a lot more complicated than it seems.

That’s the inspiration behind Something Something Soup Something, a new video game that has players label dishes as either soup or not soup. According to Waypoint, Italian philosopher, architect, and game designer Stefano Gualeni created the game after traveling the world asking people what constitutes soup. After interviewing candidates of 23 different nationalities, he concluded that the definition of soup "depends on the region, historical period, and the person with whom you're speaking."

Gualeni took this real-life confusion and applied it to a sci-fi setting. In Something Something Soup Something, you play as a low-wage extra-terrestrial worker in the year 2078 preparing meals for human clientele. Your job is to determine which dishes pass as "soup" and can be served to the hungry guests while avoiding any items that may end up poisoning them. Options might include "rocks with celery and batteries in a cup served with chopsticks" or a "foamy liquid with a candy cane and a cooked egg served in a bowl with a fork."

The five-minute game is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but Gualeni also hopes to get people thinking about real philosophical questions. According to its description page, the game is meant to reveal "that even a familiar, ordinary concept like 'soup' is vague, shifting, and impossible to define exhaustively."

You can try out Something Something Soup Something for free on your browser.

[h/t Waypoint]

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