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11 Video Games That Embarrass You for Poor Play

Game developers are aware that some people just aren’t very good at video games, and they love to play off of it, humiliating those who can't complete specific levels or treating players who take the easy way out like wimps. These 11 games weren't content with simple, mocking "Game Over" screens upon the inevitable failures—they decided to embarrass gamers for their bad performances. 

1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain // The Chicken Hat

Metal Gear Solid isn't exactly a game for beginners, with stealth segments that can challenge even the most patient players—so it's not odd to be forced to repeat more difficult sections until you're able to pass them with flying colors. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the latest in the series, and in addition to being one of the series’ largest and most impressive entries, it also features one of the most comical ways to aid players in need of a helping hand: a chicken hat. The poultry headwear can be equipped after multiple deaths, and it eases the difficulty of the game for those who simply can't get their act together. The only drawback? It looks absolutely ridiculous. The game's obviously mocking you for failing to meet its standards, to hilarious effect. 

2. Ninja Gaiden Black // Ninja Dog Mode

Ninja Gaiden Black wears its austere difficulty like a badge of honor, especially given the fact that most of the games in the series are soul-crushingly punishing. You'll die—a lot. And the game knows this all too well. That's why this particular entry in the series will offer you the "Ninja Dog" difficulty once you've failed upwards of three times, where protagonist Ryu Hayabusa is forced to wear a purple ribbon while Ayane, a young female ninja, berates him for being unable to complete his mission. It can be pretty brutal, especially if you're the type to throw controllers. 

3. Dishwasher: Vampire Smile // Pretty Princess Mode

The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile was renowned for its frustrating difficulty upon its release on the Xbox Live Arcade, though it was fast, frenetic, and easy to pick up and play. Gamers who died too many times would unlock "Pretty Princess Difficulty," where enemies would do virtually no damage, take fewer hits to eliminate, and would bleed neon pink hearts. For a normally bloody game, it was a harsh blow to the ego to see hearts and other dainty sparkles and colors fluttering out of enemies rather than guts. At the very least, it kept you motivated to push forward and improve. 

4. Alien Hominid // Mockery

Playing through Alien Hominid is no picnic, no matter what difficulty you've chosen. If you choose Thumb-sucker mode, however, you can at least complete the game. But when you actually get to the end, you realize you haven't completed the game at all. Instead, you’ve successfully finished only one third of the entire side-scrolling arcade shooter. As if forcing you to play without bothering to tell you that you're wasting your time weren't snide enough for developer The Behemoth, the game also greets you with the sarcastic advice that you should play the game on a difficulty that's actually challenging. Talk about adding insult to injury. 

5. TimeSplitters 2 // Monkey Army

If there's one multiplayer shooter that plays nearly all of its features for laughs, it's TimeSplitters 2. While Call of Duty rewards you and attempts to bolster your efforts when you die by awarding Kill Streaks (care packages, special perks, and more), TimeSplitters 2 uses Monkey Assistant mode to humiliate you. If you end up in last place, a squad of killer monkeys will be sent out to take out the player who's doing the best in the current match to help you out, because clearly you're not capable of doing it yourself. 

6. Earthworm Jim // Earthworm Facts

Touted as one of the most difficult platformers out there, Earthworm Jim has a huge cult following, mainly due to its humorous interludes and zaniness throughout the game. So it probably won't come as a surprise that playing through Practice Mode wins you a still shot at the end of your journey with a voiceover by series creator Doug TenNapel and some mockery. "What a worm! Playing on practice, eh?" will ring forth from your speakers as TenNapel decides to regale you with all the facts he knows about worms. Meanwhile, you can't help but feel a little like a worm yourself after completing the game on its easiest setting. 

7. Streets of Rage 3 // "You play this game like a beginner!"

The American version of Streets of Rage 3 features an Easy difficulty that is, essentially, the Normal setting for Japanese players. When you defeat Robot X at the end of stage 5 (out of a total of 7 stages), your adversary will spout "You play this game like a beginner." Not only is the game insulting you for playing on what you think is Easy, but as the North American version of the game ensured the difficulty was cranked up, you're actually accomplishing something and still getting told you're bad. You just can't win for losing. 

8. Body Harvest // Multiple Difficulties

Body Harvest was an incredibly tense and difficult title that followed a genetically engineered soldier on a mission to eliminate advancing alien forces. It offered players two settings for adventurers to play on: Hero and Zero. If you choose Zero Mode, the entire game ends after the third level. Given that it takes a ridiculously long time to play through said levels, it's mocking you for wasting all that time only to find out that you'll have to start again and play on Hero difficulty if you want to see the game's final two levels.

9. Serious Sam HD // Exploding Enemies

Serious Sam is a franchise known for its unrelenting difficulty, waves after waves of enemies, and over-the-top gore, and Serious Sam HD is a glorious remaster of the original game that started it all. If you choose to play through on the "Tourist" setting, however, you don't get the gore. Instead, when you kill advancing adversaries, they explode into clouds of flowers and sparkles rather than blood. It's an interesting effect, but quite an embarrassing one, and all because you couldn't play on a higher difficulty mode. 

10. Contra 4 // Cutting the Game Short

If you've read the other list entries, by now you should know that several games simply take delight in making you feel about an inch tall. Take Contra 4, which ends at stage 7 on Easy mode, thus never allowing you to see the final stage if you continue down that path. What's more, the game actually tells you that you'll never see the ending on Easy. As if you weren't self-conscious about your skills already, right? 

11. Devil May Cry // Easy Automatic Mode

Devil May Cry has a very unique approach to combating what it considers to be "bad" gaming, and it can frustrate players beyond belief. If you die three times within the first three missions of the game, you're offered a mode called Easy Automatic Mode. While it's optional, if you decide to take it and play through the game so you don't embarrass yourself further, you can't change the difficulty later. Certain monsters won't spawn, you can't unlock specific modes, and the only way you can get away from Easy Automatic Mode is to begin an entirely new save file. It's brutal in a very strange and unusual way, but that makes total sense for the world of Devil May Cry.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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iStock
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Live Smarter
Working Nights Could Keep Your Body from Healing
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iStock

The world we know today relies on millions of people getting up at sundown to go put in a shift on the highway, at the factory, or in the hospital. But the human body was not designed for nocturnal living. Scientists writing in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine say working nights could even prevent our bodies from healing damaged DNA.

It’s not as though anybody’s arguing that working in the dark and sleeping during the day is good for us. Previous studies have linked night work and rotating shifts to increased risks for heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and car accidents. In 2007, the World Health Organization declared night work “probably or possibly carcinogenic.”

So while we know that flipping our natural sleep/wake schedule on its head can be harmful, we don’t completely know why. Some scientists, including the authors of the current paper, think hormones have something to do with it. They’ve been exploring the physiological effects of shift work on the body for years.

For one previous study, they measured workers’ levels of 8-OH-dG, which is a chemical byproduct of the DNA repair process. (All day long, we bruise and ding our DNA. At night, it should fix itself.) They found that people who slept at night had higher levels of 8-OH-dG in their urine than day sleepers, which suggests that their bodies were healing more damage.

The researchers wondered if the differing 8-OH-dG levels could be somehow related to the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate our body clocks. They went back to the archived urine from the first study and identified 50 workers whose melatonin levels differed drastically between night-sleeping and day-sleeping days. They then tested those workers’ samples for 8-OH-dG.

The difference between the two sleeping periods was dramatic. During sleep on the day before working a night shift, workers produced only 20 percent as much 8-OH-dG as they did when sleeping at night.

"This likely reflects a reduced capacity to repair oxidative DNA damage due to insufficient levels of melatonin,” the authors write, “and may result in cells harbouring higher levels of DNA damage."

DNA damage is considered one of the most fundamental causes of cancer.

Lead author Parveen Bhatti says it’s possible that taking melatonin supplements could help, but it’s still too soon to tell. This was a very small study, the participants were all white, and the researchers didn't control for lifestyle-related variables like what the workers ate.

“In the meantime,” Bhatti told Mental Floss, “shift workers should remain vigilant about following current health guidelines, such as not smoking, eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of sleep and exercise.”

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