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Cutting up ships in space, exploring accessibility in Minecraft with BuildAbility, playing games may boost your cognitive function.

Space salvage game Hardspace: Shipbreaker gets full release

Vancouver’s Blackbird Interactive has pulled Hardspace: Shipbreaker out of early access and into full release.

Available for Windows computers through Steam and Xbox PC Game Pass, Shipbreaker puts you in the spacesuit of a salvage operative, contracted to float around the vacuum of space, cutting up derelict and abandoned spaceships and collecting the valuable parts.

There’s a story here that deals with some interesting ideas, like servitude to a corporation, dangerous working conditions, a dystopic future, but the real fun comes in figuring out how best to carve things up without killing yourself in the process.

There are so many ways to die. If you lose your tether you’ll just float away. If your cutting torch gets too close to a fuel cell, things explode. If you don’t plan your movements, you could get pinned between parts that are floating around.

With uncanny physics and massive ships, Hardspace is a delight to play. You’ll have to upgrade your equipment in order to consider more difficult contracts, because you’ve got a debt to pay, and it’s not getting any smaller.

Exploring what accessibility means in the world with Minecraft BuildAbility

Minecraft’s Education Edition has another essential world for kids to explore.

BuildAbility was developed in partnership with Ontario’s Peel District School Board (serving the municipalities of Brampton, Caledon, and Mississauga) and based on the lived experiences of students who confront barriers to accessibility every day.

The world focuses on accessibility and building inclusive spaces. After learning about the five types of barriers – attitudinal, information/communication, organizational/systemic, physical, and technological – students will explore spaces in the Minecraft world and be tasked with redesigining and rebuilding spaces to make them “accessible for all”.

Educators get access to a full lesson plan which includes learning objectives and student activities.

Research shows that playing video games can enhance cognitive skills

A new survey of research into the effect of playing video games on the cognitive functioning of adolescents shows that doing so can improve executive function as measured by memory, attention, and task switching tests.

Published in European Psychologist, the article, Effects of media multitasking and video gaming on cognitive functions and their neural bases in adolescents and young adults, the authors reviewed research from about the past ten years.

The authors from the University of Helsinki contrast video game play with other passive screen time such as TikTok and “excessive media multitasking”, which “may lead to enhanced distractibility and problems in maintaining attention”.

They did not include in their survey research into gamers who were diagnosed with disorders characterized by an inability to manage game time. People who prioritize gaming over everything else and for whom that interferes with sleep, school, and physical activity actually have more social and mental health problems than the norm.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, study co-author Mona Moisala talked about a study she conducted in 2017 investigating the impact of gaming on cognitive performance of adolescents.

“Parents shouldn’t think their kids should go out and start playing videogames to get a cognitive advantage, if they aren’t already,” Dr. Moisala told Julie Jargon. “But parents also shouldn’t worry about gaming frying kids’ brains or making them zombies, because that’s not true.”

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Use your iPhone to know what berries can keep you alive in the wilderness; Indigenous groups take responsibility for high-speed internet to northern communities.

Using your iPhone to identify the world around you this summer

Despite inflation and the high cost of gas and travel, I expect many of us will be looking for ways to get away this summer. Those of us using iPhones will be using the camera lenses to take pictures of the fun and games we’re having, and if you’ve got a connection to the internet wherever you are, you can also get information about what it is you’re taking pictures of.

Over the Victoria Day long weekend, I wanted to know what my wife was planting in our garden but I didn’t want her to know that I hadn’t been paying attention when she told me her plan, so instead of asking her what that cute purple-blue flowering plant was, I took a picture of it, I tapped the “i” icon at the bottom of the screen, and tapped “Look up – Plant”.

We’ve got a bluebell in our garden. Did you know that it’s Latin genus name is “Hyacinthoide”?

You use this same “Visual look up” feature to identify landmarks and pets, too. I already know that our family dog is a golden retriever. My iPhone confirmed it.

And if you’re in an area where you don’t understand the written language, you can take a picture of text with your iPhone, highlight it, and have Apple iOS translate that text for you.

Just another way you can use your pocket computer to live your best summer.

Yukon fibre network sold to Indigenous development corporations

Northwestel, which provides telecommunications services to northern communities in Canada, has sold its Yukon fibre network to a group of Indigenous development corporations across the territory.

The partnership puts ownership of the high-speed networks that get internet connections to communities in the hands of 13 First Nation development corporations.

“We’re showing that by working cooperatively, First Nations can make these types of major investments and create more opportunities for investment and ownership in infrastructure and communications projects that impact the lives of our citizens,” said Fred Koe, Da Daghay Development Corporation Chair and designated spokesperson for the newly formed Yukon First Nations Telco LP, in a release. 

The initiative is part of the effort to get high-speed internet connections to every community in the Northwest and Yukon Territories.

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Switch Sports is just as much fun as we had with Wii Sports way back when and playing Fortnite on your smartphone again.

Nintendo’s Switch Sports recaptures the Wii Sports magic

Wii Sports was something special. Packaged with the Wii console when it was released by Nintendo, the collection of sports activities was more than a tech demo. It showed off what you could do with the Wii and the motion-sensing controls, but it was also really fun to play.

Switch Sports is all that and more.

There are six sports you can play. Badminton, soccer, and volleyball are new, bowling, chambara (sword fighting), and tennis are updated versions of the games we played way back when. And they are all fun to play, even more fun when you play with friends.

What really distinguishes Switch Sports is that you can take it online to play against others in the world. There’s something quite thrilling about playing two-on-two volleyball with a friend against opponents from somewhere on the other side of the planet.

The mechanics don’t require that you move exactly as the real sport requires; this isn’t a simulation game. But you can learn how to refine your movements and, more importantly, your timing, to get good at spiking a volleyball, or setting up a drop shot in badminton.

Chambara, sparring with a sword, can get really interesting if you don’t just spam your movements trying to overwhelm your opponent. I could never get the hang of this, but my 12-year-old did, and was beating me every time.

The most fun you’ll have with Switch Sports is playing together. Our family of four played on Mother’s Day and had an absolute blast with bowling and volleyball, when it was parents versus kids. The kids won.

Golf will be added to Switch Sports this fall as an update, and I expect it will be just as much fun as these six sports. Just make sure you make use of the wrist straps.

Epic Games and Microsoft make a deal for Fortnite

Epic’s fight to keep Apple from getting such a sizeable cut of Fortnite in-game purchases has a new battleground.

Last week, Epic and Microsoft announced a partnership that puts Fortnite on the Xbox Cloud Gaming service that effectively treats your iPad or iPhone or Android device like a terminal.

So you can make your V-Bucks purchases with Epic, and they just appear on your profile when you sign in.

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