SciTechBlog
April 5, 2010

Geek Out!: The inside scoop on more Easter eggs

Posted: 04:45 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

We reached out to some of our gaming contacts, who provided us some great stops on a gaming Easter egg hunt. Have you gotten any of these?

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii, 2007) - Press buttons inside Samus’ ship and hear secret voice messages from Nintendo executives, Mr. Miyamoto and Mr. Iwata. Also, if your Wii saved files for other games and you got a certain bonus, the ship would be outfitted with cool bumper stickers

New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii, 2009) - If a player has 99 lives the map-running Mario will lose his hat

Wii Sports (Wii, 2006) - Players have the ability to throw the bowling ball backwards, surprising the crowd

Wii Sports Resort (Wii, 2009) - Hold down any direction on the D-Pad while the bowling game is loading and you can change the colors of the bowling balls

Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64, 1996) - Fully complete the game, getting all 120 stars, and you can unlock a cannon in the castle's front courtyard. The cannon can get you onto the roof of the castle to meet Yoshi (who will provide plenty of extra lives)

Metroid (NES, 1986) - Enter the code "JUSTIN BAILEY" to start the game will full power-ups.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 1992) – Find the hidden room that contains 45 blue rupees and a plaque from the ‘creator’ of the Easter Egg

Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985/1986) - Hit hidden blocks to get a ‘vine,’ which lifts you above the clouds to a series of coins and warp pipes

Halo 3: ODST - Buck and Monkeyman: When Vergil lights Avery Johnson's cigar during the interrogation, push the right thumbstick to the left and the scene will pan over to the left, revealing Edward Buck picking something off of a Caveman eating it
Siege of Madrigal: A song from Bungie’s game, “Myth,” can be heard in the Kikowani Station in several Halo games, including ODST. On Legendary, when standing on top of the small roof above the door on top of the bridge, you can see Marty O'Donnell dancing along to a musical beat with winged hearts flying around him.

Fable II - The Dingly Egg: Find The Grumpy Rabbit book and follow the instructions to the Dingly Egg, an Easter egg that lets you access the rabbit hole and a commemorative mug which is decorated with three of the Lionhead development team's faces

Gears of War II - Find the cowboy hats that your character and allies can wear during the game. There’s also toast and a toaster that provides funny banter between the COGs.

Halo 3 - A gorilla face can be found on the mountains in the Valhalla multiplayer map. Also find Bungie’s Valhalla graffiti on certain holidays, like one that says “BBQ at Bob’s Place” on the Fourth of July

Halo Wars – Forcing the marines to continuously march will make them break out into song. They sing many marching songs that are quite humorous

Sim Copter - There was the code that made all the male residents wear swimsuits and kiss one another… That one got someone fired

iPad app for Paramount Digital Entertainment’s “Top Gun” - Want to turn your jet in to a stock car from Days of Thunder? Change your pilot's name to "COLE TRICKLE". After the name change, you will be wearing a snazzy racing suit during cut scenes! What if you wanted to turn your jet in to a space ship? Just change your pilot's name to "LASERFACE JONES". To unlock the secret volleyball mini game between Iceman and Maverick, change your pilot's name to "VOLLEYBALL.”

Filed under: Geek Out! • Uncategorized • video games


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Geek Out!: Our favorite 'Easter eggs'

Posted: 04:10 PM ET
God of War 3
God of War 3

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

Need a break from this past weekend’s Peep-induced sugar coma? Here’s something else that’s pretty sweet for Easter Monday: some of our favorite Easter eggs! Easter eggs are those fun extra features in games, DVDs and even in some software that play out with a magic code, or some deftly-pressed combination of left-right-left-right-up-down-down. These are the ones that really bring out our inner geek:

My favorites are from the extended editions of the "Lord of The Rings" DVDs. They’re on each one of the films. The first 2 are a little racy as Jack Black is at the council of Elrond in “Fellowship,” and Gollum/Smeagol is accepting an MTV award (with some colorful language) in “Two Towers.” The tamest and possibly funniest are on "Return of the King," where Elijah Wood gets prank interviewed by Dominic Monahagn and Peter Jackson gets asked about making more LoTR-themed movies.
- Nikki Rau-Baker

“Star Trek: The Next Generation” was a 1993 Williams Electronics pinball game based on the popular TV show. When you shoot your pinball into the Holodeck you are presented with a choice of either 25 million points or a “shuttle simulation.” Instead of choosing one over the other, hold in the trigger and press the right flipper button. Once you do that, you will be sent to a hidden video mode where you play a hand of poker with Commander William Riker (voiced by Jonathan Frakes).
- James Dinan

A couple of years ago, when you clicked on the moon in Google Earth and zoomed way in, the moon became a chunk of cheese. It was a super cute easter egg.
- Karyn Lu

The Disc 1 commentary track of “Freaks and Geeks - The Complete Series" shows anime photos of the characters Lindsay and Sam.

“Lost Season 2: Everybody Hates Hugo” - Jorge Garcia talks about sweating.

“Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” - Yoda dances to The Roots, as seen in the photograph above.

"Spider-Man 2" DVD – Willem DaFoe and Sam Raimi prank Alfred Molina.

"Star Wars Trilogy" - hidden blooper reel

"Firefly: The Complete Series" - Adam Baldwin sings "Hero of Canton"
- Henry Hanks

At the end of the video game "God of War," Kratos is left in a room with two huge statues. One is Ares, the former god of war and the last boss of the game, the other is of a giant Minotaur.

If you steer Kratos to the statues and spend close to 5 minutes just wailing on the statues they will eventually shatter. There is nothing to give you a clue that they will break: no crunching sound or debris falling from the statues.

You will doubt yourself, thinking this is not going to work - but it will.

Once they're gone, a special phone number pops up on the screen. When you call it, an automated message from Kratos kicks in telling you that you might think you've got the video game goods because you beat his game, but he will still kick your butt, because *he* is still the God of War.

This was really fun and gave me a good laugh after finishing a great game. This also guaranteed that I would waste a lot of time trying to bust unbreakable statues in both of the sequel video games.
- Gustavo Castaneda

My all-time favorite is the "Fight Club" DVD. David Fincher inserted several subliminal frames of Brad Pitt’s character Tyler Durden in the film – long before you find out he’s a mental projection of the narrator.
- Valerie Streit

By far the best set of Easter eggs I have found has been for the 2002 Best of Bowie DVD video collection.

They added nine cool extras that are completely hidden and have unique ways of getting to them such as leaving the page alone for 5 minutes or having a different version play every 2nd time you select a clip.
- Will Etkin

So what are your favorite Easter eggs? And how did you find them? In the mean time, check out a few more tips for hunting Easter eggs here.

Filed under: Geek Out! • pop culture • Uncategorized • video games


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April 2, 2010

Geek Out!: Classic 'Clash of the Titans'

Posted: 09:22 AM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

Yes, the new “Clash of the Titans” movie comes out this weekend, and yes, I will go see it (but not in 3-D). But as good as this film could be, it cannot and will not replace the original 1981 version as one of the “classic” movies of my younger days.

The story is an ancient tale of bravery, love, gods and monsters. Growing up, I remember watching the movies of Godzilla and Gamera and being bedazzled by the awesomeness of monsters coming to life on the screen.

I also watched King Kong, Mighty Joe Young and the Sinbad movies just for that reason. I became familiar with the name Ray Harryhausen after watching “Jason and the Argonauts” and the animations of skeletons fighting the sailors.

Even though I knew it wasn’t real, Harryhausen’s stop-motion model animation made it seem real. But it was in “Clash of the Titans” where his most memorable work was waiting for me.

The skeletons returned to harass Perseus and his men as well as giant scorpions, a winged horse, mythical creatures, and, of course, the Kraken. The legend of the Kraken portrayed them as very large octopi or squid. Harryhausen went one step better and gave the monster a head that resembled a cross between a parrot and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Even the funny and smart mechanical owl, Bubo, was made so well that I wanted to find an owl like that for myself.

It wasn’t that these creations were done so masterfully that made the movie memorable. It was that there were so many throughout the entire film. A scene with one animated creature would end and another would begin with a brand new monster. As a teen boy who was reading Tolkien (for the billionth time) and playing “Dungeons and Dragons”, these were my imaginations coming to life.

“Clash” would be Harryhausen’s last feature film to showcase his stop-action work. Computer animation was already being used and movie companies were using it more and more for their productions. While the use of computers made the creatures more life-like, they seemed to sap away my need for my imagination to make them seem real.

While I have only seen trailers for the new version, I can say I am impressed with the new Kraken. I will go see the 2010 film and probably be dutifully entertained. Will I come away with the emotional and nostalgic feelings that I get when I watch the 1981 version?

Probably not. But that doesn’t mean I won’t like it.

What was your favorite part of the 1981 “Clash of the Titans”? What made it a memorable movie for you? Let us know in the comments area below. In the meantime, here's what moviegoers told iReporter Chris Morrow about the new version at an early screening.

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Filed under: Geek Out! • Movies • pop culture


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March 30, 2010

Geek Out!: Thoughts on PAX East – a gamer's dream

Posted: 04:05 PM ET

Everyone remembers the first time.

Whether it’s the first time you drove a car or the first time you kissed a girl, it was probably important.

That was how it felt at the first East Coast Penny Arcade Expo or as it’s better known, PAX East, which wrapped up Sunday. The annual west-coast gathering of gamers, started in 2004, had become so popular that, finally, it made the jump across the country country.

For gamers, this was an important event - not just because we got to go out with our "geek flags" flying high, but also because we felt the camaraderie and shared love of gaming that we can't always find without an Internet connection.

The Hynes Convention Center in Boston was packed with people carrying gaming PCs, consoles, and even pouches full of dice. No style of gaming or gamer was excluded. Everyone was accepted and most likely, found a ton of people that were into the same type of games.

It was definitely the place where you got to pick your poison. If you were into "Dungeons & Dragons" there was a room for you. If you wanted to play "Magic: The Gathering," not only were there rooms filled with people eagerly shuffling their decks, but games spilled out into the halls.

Retro arcade gaming was represented in full force, taking everyone back to the quarter-hoarding mindset or our youth - or, for younger gamers, of legend.

There were even rooms set up with dozens of PS3s, Xbox 360s, and Nintendo Wiis ready for action. All you needed was a game and the courage to play it in front of other people.

Once you were done getting your butt kicked by a 13 year-old, there were plenty of panels discussing new trends in gaming and the evolution of today’s games.

Actor, blogger and geek superstar Wil Wheaton kicked off the convention with a keynote address about growing up as a gamer and how relationships forged in the crucible of imagination have become some of his strongest friendships.

Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the founders of PAX and creators of the "Penny Arcade" webcomic, took questions from the audience and even showed people how they make a strip.

No gaming topic was overlooked. Panels discussed every aspect of the gaming community, from game development, criticism, marketing and even creation. New games were demoed, "Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands" and "Split Second" were playable and they haven’t been released yet.

This convention was a gamer's dream.

Back in 2004, when Holkins and Krahulik started the convention in Washington, they wanted to bring gamers together. And they've succeeded.

If the reaction in Boston is any indication of the future, Mike Krahulik may get his wish of one day starting a Euro PAX.

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March 29, 2010

Geek Out!: 'Penny Arcade' writers on geekdom and games

Posted: 11:44 AM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

PAX East, the Penny Arcade Expo, was the geek buzz this weekend as gaming fans flocked to the event in Boston, Massachusetts. Wil Wheaton of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" was a guest speaker. Before the convention, I chatted with Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, the writers of the Web comic Penny Arcade, who started it all. Here is an edited version of our conversation.

What do you want people to get out of your convention?

Jerry: We want them to derive nourishment. Nourishment for the geek soul and the enduring sensation that they are not alone.

Do you think that geeks today are more accepted than before?

Jerry: Even if it were true, I would resist it. I don’t want to be accepted. I want to retain my street credentials. There are lots of geeks, and certainly geeks can communicate with one another, but ... do we have an openly geek Senator? Is there a Senator that can speak fluently about Daleks? Maybe not.

I would say that Michael and I are being beat up less. It hasn’t completely abated. It still happens on occasion. But I would say that… the beatings are less severe.

What do you think is the difference between a nerd and a geek?

Jerry: I think being a geek is cool… A geek has an ownership of their geek nature.

And nerds?

Jerry: They don't. It’s my hope that my nerds become geeks via a natural process, that they learn that their inherent nature isn’t something they need to feel ashamed of. I feel like 'nerd' is the epithet, and 'geek' is the inside term.

Mike: Is that like what's written on a tombstone?

Jerry: Mhm. Here lies, you know, Nerd.

How do you geek out?

Jerry: We geek out constantly. I'm geeking out right now. I'm talking to CNN.

Mike: I tend to geek out about gadgets. Pretty much any new gadget that comes out, I get excited for, mostly because I like taking them out of the box, peeling that layer of transparent film off of them ... .

Jerry: The thing that I geek out about most is that specialized cultures, just by necessity, need to develop a lot of customized language. Because Penny Arcade is read by a broad spectrum of people, one of the things that we can do is create bits of useful language and I like to track those words and see if they end up with a happy, healthy life. Like, if they make their way into actual conversation and are used as a tool.

"Bull shot" was a good example that Mike came up with. It's often the case that a case screen shot from a game - obviously screen shots are part of the marketing engine that promotes this medium - but sometimes these shots are obviously fraudulent. Most recently it was with Final Fantasy 13 on the [XBox] 360. There were just some shots that were untrue... The term "bull shot," which we had put in the strip a couple years ago, was leveraged, even today in 2010 to describe that - which, for us, is pretty exciting.

How did you meet and start making comics?

Jerry: We met in journalism class originally and we did a small comic in the paper for Mead High School in Spokane. Through the course of human events, we ended up working on comics there in the apartment. [E]ventually we entered a contest to create comics for a Web site called Next Generation Online, which was connected to a magazine back then. Very prestigious. We failed in that task. We did not win that contest. [But] we had an ample selection of comics, and we found a place to run them.

How did you go from writing comics to selling books to making your own video games to hosting your convention?

Jerry: We tried to make the right decision at each juncture. If there was an opportunity to get books out through Dark Horse or Random House, if there was an opportunity to make a game or make a show or put together a charity, we just tried to make it as good as we could each time. It was a pretty organic process.

How would you describe what Penny Arcade is?

Jerry: It's essentially like a political cartoon for the gaming industry. We essentially catalog gamer culture and pop culture in a thrice-weekly comic strip.

How would you say that it evolved since 1998?

Jerry: We have changed a lot. Essentially the strip – it's about games because that's what we like. But more than that essentially, the strip is about us, it's sort of like a diary in that respect. It's changed along with us... Occasionally, we'll discuss the kids we've had in the interim period, or things like that. We've touched on some more dad issues, and some things that are maybe of a more enduring nature than the releases that week.


Did you think that your franchise would be become so big?

Jerry: One always has the best hopes for their children, but no. It’s a perpetual surprise

What is your favorite video game of all time and why?

Jerry: There have been a lot of games that I’ve played in recent memory that are sort of standing tall. Mass Effect 2 just came out, and we've all in the office played through that, and that had a pretty profound effect on all of us...The original Wasteland on the Commodore 64... that was the first game I ever bought with my own money, so for me, I earned every second of that experience so I was very aware of it. But I really liked the first Shenmue as well on the Dreamcast.

Mike: My favorite video game is probably Kingdom Hearts II, but I also have to go with Jerry and say that Mass Effect 2 is pretty amazing.

How did you come up with the alter egos Gabe and Tycho?

Jerry: We didn't have to work very hard. Gabe and Tycho were our handles... The name that you choose when you play a game in multiplayer or single player, it's just sort of these personas there. Personality wise, the characters in the strip are just sort of exaggerations of our worst qualities.

How did you meet Wil Wheaton and start inviting him to PAX?

Jerry: He's our friend. We had met him at multiple conventions; he often found his way down to San Diego and we had met him there one year and really hit it off. And so when the time came to move PAX from Bellevue, where it started out, into the Washington State Convention Center, a pretty momentous move… we really wanted to identify that shift, that motion into a world-class show, and we thought that Wil would be a good voice for that. We were not wrong; he delivered a really great keynote that year.

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Geek Out!


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March 26, 2010

Geek Out!: Wheaton wows gamers

Posted: 05:21 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

"I was a weird kid," Wil Wheaton told the masses of excited, hardcore gamers at the Penny Arcade Expo (or PAX) Friday afternoon in Boston, Massachusetts.

While some kids were playing football, Wheaton said, he was delving deep into the world of fantasy gaming. The former "Star Trek: The Next Generation" actor turned geek icon gave the keynote address at the annual festival, which welcomes console, computer and tabletop gamers alike.

Wheaton's speech came from the heart, from someone for whom gaming has been a major part of his life - something he described as the foundation of some of the best friendships he's ever had.

"This small red box [of Dungeons and Dragons handbooks] was the first step onto the path that led me right here," he said. "In the '80s, I didn't have the Internet to tell me that carrying around character sheets and 'D&D' books wasn't weird."

Wheaton said the advancement of gaming platforms has been a hallmark of his generation. "In my lifetime I have had a front row seat as games have gone from Pitfall! to Portal," he said.

He said that he realizes how special games have been to his generation, because when he tells his children about gaming, they aren't nearly as interested as he would hope.

He had harsh, and off-color, words for "elitists" who criticize games like "Rock Band" because they're not the same as playing a real instrument.

He went on to say, "When we play 'Rock Band' we are creating a world where we get to be the rockstars we can never be."

This was the second time Wheaton has spoken here. He said he loves the festival so much that he separates his life into two columns: "pre-PAX and post-PAX."

[CNN's Henry Hanks in Atlanta contributed to this post.]

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Geek Out!: An old friend (or foe) in 'How to Train Your Dragon'

Posted: 03:39 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

“Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup!” - slithery twist on a "Lord of the Rings" quotation

Through the years, we’ve come to know dragons as both friend and foe in literature and movies.

From Smaug, the riddle-spouting dragon who terrorized Lake Town in "The Hobbit," to Elliott, the overgrown, grinning dragon in “Pete’s Dragon" - and now Toothless, the lead dragon in "How to Train Your Dragon," the animated, 3-D movie released Friday - we love to geek out over our dragons.

We collect miniatures of them, play games with "dragon" in the name, read books about dragons and even have an entire convention with dragon in the name [Atlanta's DragonCon].

Fearsome, but often misunderstood, dragons always have played an important role in geek culture, working their way into our collective psyche. So, how do the dragons of today stack up to dragons of the past?

Let’s examine a few of the “top dragons.”

Draco in “Dragonheart” only wants to be left alone and not forced to become part of the evil boy-king’s life, literally. It turns out that the smooth-talking, last remaining dragon isn’t so bad after all.

In "Voyage of the Dawn Treader," Eustace Scrubb, a boy-turned-dragon, becomes a good guy [dragon] instead of the bully he was when he was human.

The dragons in the Harry Potter series are probably the fiercest of the modern dragons - the Chinese Firebolt, the Hungarian Horntail and the Norwegian Ridgeback. They are bred for fighting with very few redeeming qualities. [The obvious exception, of course, being Norbert, the dragon that Hagrid hatched from an egg.]

There is Saphira, the main dragon in the Inheritance cycle ["Eragon," "Eldest" and "Brisingr"] a kindly, loyal dragon that will fight to the death to keep her rider safe.

The newest dragon on the scene is Toothless from “How To Train Your Dragon”.

He’s feared by the Vikings until a young boy manages to show them that not only is Toothless a good dragon, but that all the others are as well.

The nice thing about seeing a movie on opening day, early in the morning, is that you get the theater all to yourself. In this case that was a good thing, since I found myself gasping and laughing out loud at the antics of the dragons in “How To Train Your Dragon”. Toothless has definitely become a top dragon on my list.

The dragons of today may be getting slightly cute and cuddly. But I’m still hiding all the bottles of ketchup just to be safe.

What do you think? Who are your favorite dragons of the past and today?

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Geek Out!: New Nintendo handheld goes for bigger, better

Posted: 10:02 AM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's Marquee and SciTech blogs

Is bigger better?  Or is it just bigger?  Nintendo is banking that their latest handheld console – the DSi XL – will be both.

The Nintendo DSi XL is similar in many ways to its little brother, the DSi.  The configuration of the buttons and screens are the same as are the camera tools, Internet connections and available software.

 What sets the two apart is the size.  The XL version is 93 percent larger than the regular handhelds.  The new screens measure 4.2 inches diagonally and the closed unit grew to 6.3 inches wide by 3.6 inches tall.

 Nintendo is counting on the increased size to promote family fun.  With the smaller DSi, gamers hunched over their consoles to focus in on the action on little screens. 

With larger screens and an improved wider viewing angle, Nintendo hopes to make it easier for friends and family to watch and join in on the game.

 “For some people, good things come in big packages,” Nintendo executive vice president Cammie Dunaway said. “This new portable system really lets players enjoy the fun together.”

 The XL comes pre-loaded with three titles: "Brain Age Express: Math," "Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters," and "Photo Clock."  Nintendo is also releasing 2 new titles at the same time, "America’s Test Kitchen: Let’s Get Cooking" and "WarioWare: D.I.Y.," which it hopes will highlight the advantages of the larger screen.

 I got my hands on the new XL and it definitely felt better than the smaller version.  It felt solid and didn’t feel like it was going to snap apart in my hands [not that I’m a strong guy, but I am destructive].

 There are no new features other than size.  But the size difference makes itself felt when you power up the device and load some software. 

 The new screens made it easier on the eyes to enjoy my games.  "Flipnote Studio," a program that allows you to draw and animate, became easier to work on finer details in my art.  Gameplay jumps out of the screen and finesse seems more manageable.

 Nintendo said the DS handheld (Lite and DSi combined) sold 11.2 million systems in 2009 in the U.S. alone.  It said they sold 30 million DS units in Japan during their last fiscal year, so they have a large market to entice with their latest device.

 However, Nintendo just announced that they would be launching a 3-D version of their DS handheld sometime before April 2011.  Will gamers go big or go 3-D? 

 The Nintendo DSi XL will be available on March 28.

UPDATE (Tuesday): Nintendo announced that games on older handheld consoles cannot transfer over to the new DSi XL. The company said DSiWare games and points would have to be repurchased on the new XL console.

Nintendo of America released this statement: "The games and applications are specific to each system, not each user. We’re looking into that specific topic, but we don’t have anything to announce at this time."

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March 25, 2010

Geek Out!: Happy Tolkien Reading Day!

Posted: 09:50 AM ET
The Fellowship Festival 2004
The Fellowship Festival 2004

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's Marquee and SciTech blogs

Every year since 2003, fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic tales have gathered on March 25 for meetups at local libraries, schools, universities and elsewhere to celebrate the works of one of the original geek icons.

March 25 is the date that Sauron, the evil overlord, is overthrown in Tolkien's "Return of the King."

It all started when the Tolkien Society, a group dedicated to the "Lord of the Rings" author, were approached by a journalist who asked why there was no day of celebration for Tolkien to match the one for James Joyce.

Thus, Tolkien Reading Day was born.

Each year, there is a different theme for the day (this year it's "Tolkien's Seafarers"). Fans - encouraged to attend in costume, of course - read aloud some of their favorite sections for about ten minutes or less, and participate in "musical interludes." Some people even bring recordings of Tolkien himself giving a reading.

Since the final Oscar-winning film of the "Lord of the Rings" series was released, Tolkien Reading Day has been the main event to bring Tolkien fans back to basics.

One of the most popular forums at Tolkien fansite TheOneRing.net, is "The Reading Room."

Patricia Dawson, a senior staff member with the site, said that the original purpose of the site 11 years ago was to post the latest news about Peter Jackson's films (Jackson, and subsquently, Guillermo Del Toro, have a close relationship with the site). Since then, she said, the site, with its 4,500 message board members, has been even more "grounded in (Tolkien's) works and readings." The aforementioned "Reading Room" is a place for scholarly discussion.

Fans, young and old, flock to Tolkien Reading Day, according to Dawson. Some of them were fans long before the idea of having an online community first came about.

Young children, she said, "do some of the best readings I’ve ever seen." She has even heard of 24-hour reading marathons taking place.

To be sure, the long-awaited "Hobbit" movie is still a big topic among fans online. Del Toro keeps TheOneRing.net visitors aware of the latest developments, including recent "enquires from above" about releasing it in 3-D, in the aftermath of "Avatar."

Until "The Hobbit" hits theaters, however, fans will continue to pay tribute every year to the man who first wrote that book over 70 years ago.

If you stop by your local library today, you might just be get the opportunity to join them.

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Filed under: Geek Out! • pop culture


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March 23, 2010

Geek Out!: 'Human Torch' to play Captain America

Posted: 01:44 PM ET
Captain America?
Captain America?

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

"Fantastic Four" star Chris Evans will play Captain America in not just one, but multiple movies, according toThe Hollywood Reporter. Evans played the Human Torch in the two recent "Four" movies.

As my fellow comic book geeks will know, Cap and Human Torch are two very different characters. Of all of the things wrong with the "Fantastic Four" movies (and oh, there were many), Evans' portrayal of Johnny Storm was aggressively annoying. On the other hand, the Torch is quite literally a self-involved "hot head," so I'm not sure if that performance was necessarily so far off the mark.

Captain America, on the other hand, is the very model of a stoic, noble super-soldier. Supporters of Evans taking the role point to his good work in other films and Cap doesn't appear to be a major acting challenge, per se. Of course, the script will likely be more of a determining factor in whether the movie is any good or not.

Something I would more take issue with is that Evans and some of the others who were rumored to be considered for the role -  like Mike Vogel, John Krasinski, and Channing Tatum (who was all wrong for "G.I. Joe's" Duke, but that's another story) - seem to lack the gravitas needed.

Captain America will next appear in "The Avengers" movie(s) and should be a leader/elder statesman (I mean, he did fight in World War II, frozen in ice or not). The folks behind this online movement to cast Jon Hamm seemed to have the right idea, but it appears that he was never given serious consideration.

What do you think of the decision to cast Evans? Do you think he can do Captain America justice? Share your reaction on video, or in the comments below.

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Filed under: Geek Out! • Movies • pop culture


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