It was 20 years ago today that Sega released the Sega Saturn, the US video game industry's first and only surprise console release. Tom Kalinske, Sega of America's CEO at the time, walked out onstage at E3 and announced to a theater full of game publishers, journalists and store owners that its new console was available right now for a whopping $400. If that seems like an insane business plan, it was; Saturn was so rushed to market that its scant few games didn't even have titles printed on their case's spines. Expensive and difficult to developer for, it was quickly buried by the popularity of Sony's PlayStation. The sad truth is that while the Saturn wasn't a hit here in the US, it actually enjoyed a healthy following in Japan thanks to an abundance of excellent games that only made it out in that region. Here are seven curios for Sega's maligned machine that make it a must for fans of the obscure.

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'No Pineapple Left Behind' and the politics of American education

Seth Alter was a teacher for all of six months before quitting his job and going indie to make video games full-time. No Pineapple Left Behind, his second PC title, is more or less the story of why he left his students at a Boston charter school. As a special education math teacher, his sixth graders were expected to meet the same behavioral standards and educational expectations as their mainstreamed counterparts thanks to 2001's controversial No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which ties school funding to standardized test scores. Alter says that teacher evaluations are drawn from those scores as well. And because most charter schools are non-union, they can fire teachers for almost any reason, including low test scores from special-needs students who should have been held to modified standards in the first place. It doesn't take a genius to realize just how flawed that logic is: It's a system built to fail.

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Tim Dunn and Nate Coppard are on a mission to rewire your brain. They're respectively the senior producer and senior designer behind Guitar Hero Live's new six-button guitar, and while neurological change is not their direct goal, it's a side effect they seem to relish. The new guitar has two rows of three buttons each, stacked on top of each other at the end of the neck -- this not only adds an extra button to the series, but it allows for fresh challenges. "It's not something people will be familiar with," Dunn says, glancing down at the Guitar Hero Live guitar in his hands. He taps some of the buttons. "It's a new thing."

Seated next to Dunn, Coopard adds, "We've had a lot of people saying they can feel their brains kind of adjusting and kind of rewiring to the new way of playing it as they play through the songs, and then gradually getting to grips with how the difficulty ramps up as you jump around between the two layers."

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BOXBOY! did not hit the 3DS with the fanfare it deserved this spring. It's a brand-new game, with brand-new characters and it's published by Nintendo. Which is precisely the sort of thing the company's greatest detractors claim it's missing. Then again, even though the funny, little puzzle game is ingenious and addictive, it's also as quiet and unassuming as the studio that made it: HAL Laboratory.

Much like BOXBOY!, HAL does not have the reputation it should. For 35 years, the first-party Nintendo studio's pumped out games that are deeply traditional while remaining deeply experimental. The Kirby franchise, HAL's signature work, has been both a major sales success with more than 30 million games sold and a hotbed for creativity (as in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse) and old-school style (a la Kirby: Triple Deluxe.) That little pink puff Kirby tends to dominate HAL's output, which is what makes an original like BOXBOY! so exciting. So to get some deeper insight into the creation of this new Nintendo IP, I interviewed Yasuhiro Mukae, the director of HAL's first original in five years, via a translator through email. We discussed HAL's creative process, the secret to making expressive characters and what it's like making games at one of gaming's most consistent, if underappreciated, studios.

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These surrealist games melt more than clocks
Some say surrealism was the most influential art movement of the past century and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it's had an effect on video game developers too. The games you'll find below weren't made by Salvador Dalí or M.C. Escher, but the influence those mind-bending artists had is unmistakable. And it's not just limited to endless staircases or clocks melting off the side of a ledge (although those make appearances) in indie games, either. Dream-like visuals and landscapes have dotted the world of blockbuster games too -- not even God of War 3 was immune when it released in 2010. Let's take a mind-bending trip together in the gallery below, shall we?

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Game developer Chris Hecker attended Parsons School of Design in the late 1980s -- his admissions counselor was a fashionable man named Tim Gunn, who accepted Hecker's portfolio complete with a four-foot oil painting of Freddy Krueger, the canvas slashed as if it had been attacked by the subject's own bladed fingers. Hecker eventually dropped out of Parsons and studied computers, picking up jobs at Microsoft and, finally, EA Maxis, building Spore. Now, he's an independent developer and his current project, SpyParty, has been in the works for eight years. Hecker is experienced. He's a veteran developer. He's a relic of gaming's lost AA industry. Or, as Hecker puts it, he's "old and decrepit."

"I'm 44 years old, which is old as hell in development," he says.

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Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon: These juggernauts are at the forefront of the tech industry. And with that success comes an ever-expanding workforce, and the need for a place to put them. To keep pace with growth, these companies have been making the requisite real-estate deals in order to build physical spaces to match their forward-thinking business approach. Fortunately, their designs are also more environmentally conscious than ever before. With the eyes of the world upon them, they've taken the well-being of the Earth, as well as their employees, into account, building innovative work spaces in an attempt to harmonize with the world around them. Below, we take a look at some of the steps these giants of industry have made over the years as they've moved from garage operations to vast campuses.

[Image: NBBJ]

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Games for Change president Asi Burak has noticed an odd trend in the gaming industry. Gaming is growing rapidly as a form of entertainment and it's entering a space of serious artistic critique, where people from other fields of entertainment recognize its potential to influence real-world events. Here's the odd part: Opposition to sophisticated critique of video games tends to come from within the gaming industry itself, Burak says. He runs through a few potential reasons for this phenomenon: It's the nature of gaming to be edgy and anti-establishment. It's a young industry. It saw rapid commercial success and now doesn't want to derail its prosperous ways. It's historically an underground kind of field, not used to a spotlight that could reveal flaws alongside beauty.

"For all those reasons, social responsibility and real-world issues are not the core of the gaming industry," Burak says. "And I think it's interesting because when you look at other media, it's always the case [that they're socially aware]."

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My Nintendo 64 memories have nothing to do with GoldenEye 007, the famed first-person James Bond shooter that helped define the genre. Unlike seemingly every other N64 owner, I never played that game because, quite frankly, shooters aren't my thing. With Splatoon, Nintendo's quirky, new third-person action shooter for the Wii U, ready for release on May 29th, however, it may be time I change my tune.

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Owl Cave popped onto the indie scene in 2013 with a macabre, witty point-and-click adventure called Richard & Alice, which received a slew of rave reviews. Studio co-founder Nina White specializes in crafting vaguely horrific stories packed with tension, and her latest creation, The Charnel House Trilogy, is no exception. It's a subdued brand of horror: no jump scares, no boogeymen under the bed, no demonic children with long, limp hair crawling out of the TV. Charnel House takes place on a train and tells the stories of three passengers over the course of a single night.

"For me, horror's all about the creeping dread, the slow, unsettling burn," White says. "It's this sense of unease and discomfort that I really like playing around with when crafting horror stories."

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Maximum Bjorkness! That's what I came in expecting at MoMA PS1, the Museum of Modern Art's Queens-based offshoot, where the famous musician/distressing fashionista's new virtual reality exhibit is on display. "Stonemilker," a lilting, melancholy track from her new album Vulnicura, is the basis for Bjork's foray into VR. Considering the freaky name -- Stone milk? Gross. -- the harrowing emotional subject matter of her new record and the tech, you can understand why I arrived ready to get weird.

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Storyscapes Press Preview - 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

Storytellers are finding new mediums, like mobile apps, virtual reality headsets and web-based products, to convey their narratives. Of course, events like Sundance and Tribeca Film Festival are the perfect place to exhibit any fresh or interesting project, where people can actually experience them firsthand. And they all have one thing in common: The key is to make you part of the story. At Storyscapes, an exhibit at the Tribeca Film Festival that showcases immersive creations, we came across some that caught our eye. For example, a couple use VR to express the director's message, another an app and, in the case of Door Into the Dark, a 6,000-square-foot labyrinth that relies on audio to guide those who try it. Sounds like fun, right? Don't worry: You, too, can check these out if you happen to be in New York City from today, April 16th, through April 19th.

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Tim and Adrien Soret, brothers from Paris, were quietly developing a Studio Ghibli-inspired dark fantasy game when the Cyberpunk Jam digitally rolled into town in early 2014. They took a break from their existing development schedule to build a completely new experience, a pixelated, neon-infused, sci-fi homage to some of their favorite childhood titles -- Another World, Flashback and Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee. They were new to game development and unknown on the indie scene, but in six days they coded, animated and designed their entry, The Last Night, and then threw it online for voting. They didn't expect much.

"When we discovered that we won out of 265 games, we were totally stunned," older brother Tim Soret says.

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It could've been the latent heatstroke setting in from the three days I spent tut-tutting millennials under my breath at Coachella, or the five coffees I'd drunk to sustain some form of consciousness. But when I finished playing a demo of the new 200cc level in Mario Kart 8 with some folks from Nintendo on Monday, my eyes felt looser in their sockets and a barely containable feeling of nausea lingered in my gut for about an hour. It was as if I'd come off a roller coaster -- like one of those daring, metallic serpents from Six Flags or Busch Gardens in the '80s that jolted you just a bit too much and gave the impression you'd nearly avoided whiplash.

All of which is to say, 200cc is not for the weak. It is stupid fast and stupid good.

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