Are You a Tech Geek?

You’d rightly bristle at being called a nerd, but these days it’s practically chic to be labeled a geek. Take this quick quiz to see whether you can count yourself among the few, the proud who know their NVRAM from their H.264.

1) The first thing you do when you get up in the morning is:

a)

Pull on your bathrobe and head outside to grab the newspaper.

b)

Yank your smartphone from under your pillow and check your messages.

c)

Wake up your iPad and surf to Engadget to see what you missed since your last visit, which was at 2:30 a.m.

d)

Unclasp your sleep bracelet and launch an app to review how your slumber numbers stack up against the ones from the night before.

2) It’s the first weekend in months that you don’t have to go in to the office. You’re going to reward yourself with:

a)

A romantic getaway weekend -- just you and your girlfriend at a B&B so remote it doesn’t get cell service.

b)

A strenuous mountain hike that will let you put your new Magellan MobileMapper CX through its paces.


c)

Back-to-back watching of “Battlestar Galactica” seasons three and four, streamed straight to the TV from your 4 TB hard drive.

d)

Deep delving into the product links you grabbed by scanning QR codes up and down the aisles of this year’s C.E.S.


 

3) An abbreviation you use on a daily basis is:

a)

AOL

b)

ROFL

c)

COD MW3

c)

TRA (If you don’t know this one, you obviously don’t work for the U.S. DoD.)

4) The way you’re most likely to use the word “game” in a sentence:

a)

“I can’t believe there’s no game meat on this menu.”

b)

“Anyone game for a ride on my new jet ski?”

c)

“I finally figured out an untraceable way to game the cable company!”

d)

“Dude, Portal 2 is not just a game to me -- it’s my life.”

5) When it comes to cameras, your philosophy can best be described as:

a)

“Let’s keep Kodak in business! Digital is for sissies.”

b)

“Why should I buy a camera when I’ve already got one on my phone?”

c)

“I don’t care what the experts say. I love me megaloads of megapixels.”

d)

“My life before buying a light field camera is just one big blur.”

6) The TV personality with whom you most identify is:

a)

The washboard-ab’d Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino of “Jersey Shore.”

b)

Walden Schmidt, the Internet billionaire played by Ashton Kutcher on “Two and a Half Men.”

c)

Stan Smith, the “American Dad” bodacious CIA operative.

d)

Adam Savage, the bespectacled special-effects designer who co-hosts

MythBusters” as well as the new science- and engineering-themed game show “Unchained Reaction.

7) If you could meet any historical figure, it would be:

a)

Ned Ludd, the rebellious 18th century English youth whose name was adopted by that era’s Luddite movement.

b)

Benjamin Franklin, founding father, author, diplomat and inventor.

c)

Alan Turing, World War II–era scientist and creator of the Turing machine.

d)

Watson, the annoyingly smart computer that won “Jeopardy!” last year.


8) You’re all ready for the Olympics this summer, thanks to:

a)

Friends who’ve offered you their place just off Leicester Square -- and front-row tickets to the opening ceremonies, diving competition and decathlon.

b)

The new flat-screen they’ve just put in at your fave neighborhood haunt, the Regal Beagle.

c)

A satellite dish on your roof, which pulls in 880 high-definition sports channels -- providing there’s no reception interference from a heavy rainstorm.

d)

Your 55-inch 3-D television and a box of active-shutter glasses. Soon, you and your two best buds -- whom you met while working at the Apple store’s Genius Bar -- will be watching the London games in three friggin’ dimensions.


SCORING

Calculate your answers according to the values assigned to each:

a = 1 point

b = 2 points

c = 3 points

d = 4 points

If you scored a total of …

8 to 12:

Are you serious? Not even a pocket protector and a ham radio kit could turn you geek.

13 to 19:

You’ve got some tech tendencies, but you need to make some changes before you can geek out with the best of them.

20 to 26:

Way to go! You’re an up-and-coming geek. Very few people make it this far.

27 to 32:

Congratulations! You may not get all the ladies, but you are a true Jedi Master in the world of tech geeks.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/oliverwolfson

Kinect Games to Collect Now

There once was a time when video games were the anti-workout, the kind of thing guys who didn’t give a hoot about their physiques did in their free time. Sure, you could argue “Super Mario Bros.” gave your fingers a workout (and perhaps rescuing the princess set your heart racing), but for the most part, gaming was right up there with hitting the McDonald’s drive-through when it came to keeping fit. The Nintendo Wii, released in 2006, changed all of that, forcing us to get off the sofa if we wanted to play along. Tech being tech, it stands to reason something hotter would eventually come along -- and sure enough, Kinect for Xbox 360, introduced late last year, has taken gaming to a stratospheric new level.

Using 3-D imaging, voice and face recognition and motion-sensing technology worthy of a James Cameron movie, Kinect watches and relays your every pitch, sway, kick and hop. You lift your virtual ski poles or throw a sucker punch, and Kinect displays your avatar doing the same on screen. Liberated from a controller, you become so lost in the action that you forget you’re breaking a sweat. (As a courtesy, the Kinect occasionally reminds you to take a breather and hydrate.)

Although game releases are still trickling out, what we’ve seen so far has got us pumped (literally). Below are our current faves and future releases that have got us just as excited.



Feats of Daring

Ride roaring rapids, fly through outer space and navigate an alpine obstacle course in “Kinect Adventures!” (Microsoft Game Studios; bundled with Kinect). These whimsical outdoor adventures will likely be your introduction to Kinect-style gaming, and after a few twists and turns, you’ll be hooked. Once you get good, post your score on Facebook, along with the Polaroid-style digital photos the Kinect snaps of you during game play.

Shake It

So you think you can dance? Pick up a copy of “Dance Central” (Harmonix; $49.99) and learn routines that will earn you major props -- and maybe a phone number or two -- the next time you go clubbing. Break-it-down on-screen instructions (which you can watch in slow motion) and an impossibly patient instructor’s encouragement keep hope alive even for those with two left feet. Songs range from old school (The Commodores) to new (Cascada).

No Pain, No Game

If you relate a little too well to the contestants on “The Biggest Loser” (pre-weight loss, that is), “The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout” (THQ; $49.99) is for you. Among our favorite features: the ability to work out simultaneously with fellow Kinect-owning friends (via Xbox LIVE) and a function that will track and record your physical progress as you whip yourself into shape over time. Best part of all? You don’t need to embarrass yourself on national TV to do it.

Become a Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Harry may still wave his wand, but in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” (Electronic Arts; $39.99), you won’t need one. At first, this homage to the last book in the series by J.K. Rowling may leave you feeling as though you need a degree from Hogwarts, but with some practice, you’ll be using spells and potions to battle Death Eaters and Snatchers like a true wizard. (Of all games reviewed here, this is the only one that can be played without Kinect, though doing so is certainly less magical.)

Sure to Be a Thriller
“Michael Jackson: The Experience”
(Ubisoft; $49.99), scheduled for an April release, is a game that will have you singing and dancing like the King of Pop. With both a karaoke feature and an immersive music-video format, it’s the sort of game we predict you won’t stop playing till you get enough. Or till your family tells you to beat it. (Sorry, we can’t seem to stop ourselves.)

Will the Force Be With You?
If the Darth Vader boy from those great Super Bowl ads got you spinning your own sci-fi dreams, “Star Wars Kinect” (LucasArts; $49.99) promises to have you saber-wielding on behalf of the Rebel Alliance in a world so immersive you just might forget you don’t live on planet Tatooine. Sadly, this game feels like it comes from a galaxy far, far away -- its release date is December 31, 2011.

Photo: Getty Images

Play These Video Games to Perform Better … in Life

The proof is in: Video games improve physical and mental skills that come in handy in the real world. Here's what to play to get an edge.



Could there be benefits to playing “Halo” for hours on end … besides getting really good at “Halo”?

Over the past few years, research has shown that video games can give you an edge at some real-world skills. Actual, useful skills, stuff that will come in handy at times other than when you happen to come across an energy sword.

“When I was at Beth Israel Hospital, I noticed that surgeons who played video games were better at laparoscopic surgery,” says Dr. Paul Lynch, an Arizona doctor who’s been studying the effects of video games on physiology for over 20 years. Laparoscopic surgery involves inserting a camera into the patient. “In that type of procedure, surgeons have their hands on instruments while looking at a screen. It’s almost like playing a video game.”

That’s a very specific example of video games honing a particular skill, but all kinds of studies that have been done over the years point to the many benefits of gaming. Rolf Nelson, a professor of psychology at Wheaton College, recently looked at the effects of gaming on cognitive abilities.

“Different video games cause players to adopt different strategies in subsequent tasks,” says Nelson. “For example, after playing a fast-paced shooting game, players tend to sacrifice accuracy in favor of speed in a completely unrelated task.”

So which kinds of games emphasize which skills? Lynch’s research can give us a clue. In his study, he had his game-playing surgeons play three different kinds of games, each of which improved specific tasks:

To Improve Visual Skills:

Playing a shooter, particularly one with targeting crosshairs and a sniper-like experience, can improve visual skills. Anyone who plays “Halo 3”or “BioShock 2” will probably be better at tracking several objects at once and making snap decisions. That could be useful playing sports, but Nelson suggests it could be a benefit for even more mundane tasks.

“If you're playing ‘Halo’ with friends,” he says, “you need to track where they all are and to distinguish them from non-threatening things. Thus, video game players just may be able to find their keys faster in a messy room.”

To Improve Spatial Perception:

Second, games with heavy 3-D graphics can bestow better spatial perception. The immersive experience of “Super Monkey Ball” constantly forces players to imagine depth of field. That could come in handy in drafting or graphic design.

“What I can say with a fair amount of confidence is that for any task that uses a graphical user interface, video games can certainly help,” says Lynch.

To Improve Reaction Time:

Finally, racing games like “Supercar Challenge” may have an effect on reaction time. Surgeons in Lynch’s study who played “Star Wars Racer Revenge” were quicker with their scalpels than those who didn’t.

So in light of the potential benefits, should you schedule more quality time with your PS3? Not quite. As Nelson’s research showed, games that emphasize one goal (say, speed) may cause you to sacrifice another (accuracy). He also warns of other consequences: “There may be other larger trade-offs, such as depression or a loss of social life -- but that's a bigger issue.”

The Most Stylish Video Game Characters

Improve more than your hand-eye coordination while playing video games by taking style cues from these (pixelated) leading men.



In the early days of interactive entertainment, video game characters' style was more of an afterthought. After all, when you're made up of a handful of blocky pixels, no one can really tell if you're wearing an Armani suit of a suit of armor.

In contrast, today's games include near-photo-realistic graphics, so your in-game avatar's wardrobe is impossible to miss. This gives gamers a whole new generation of style icons to emulate -- from sports stars to action heroes.

Of course, if you follow video game style trends blindly, you might end up wearing overalls and a red plumber’s cap -- so pick your icons carefully!

We asked stylists Jorge Ramon and Diane Davis of the Stylelist Web site to examine a lineup of the five most fashion-forward male characters from today’s hottest video games. Here’s who got the joysticks-up and why:

1. James Bond: “Quantum of Solace”
Double-oh-seven has been making tuxes look good for more than 40 years. This latest video game version in the James Bond franchise has him sporting a classic look.

Jorge Ramon: Black and white and kicking butt all over, you can never go wrong in a classic tuxedo. Tailoring is key for a well-fitted and dramatic look. Nothing is worse than an ill-fitting suit that is either too big or small for the guy in it. Do yourself a favor: Go to your local tailor -- some dry cleaners offer this service too. Also, have at least one navy suit (pinstripes are always stylish) and a gray suit -- these are wardrobe workhorses for guys.

Diane Davis: It's pretty hard to get more stylish than James Bond. Tom Ford dressed Daniel Craig for Quantum of Solace [and Craig was, in turn, digitally scanned for the game], and boy, do those suits sing. Don't be afraid to invest in classic suits and tailored shirts -- you really can wear those looks for many years.

2. Jin Kazama: “Tekken”
Workout gear doesn't have to look drab, as this Tekken” fighting game star proves. Known for his high kicks and acrobatic flips, Jin favors loose-fitting patterned track pants and a generous dose of hair product.

Ramon: Can you say B-U-F-F? Jin's shredded upper body is the perfect attention grabber that punctuates the gold embroidery on his traditional ying-yang inspired black-and-white flame pants. Black and white is a color combination that will never steer you wrong: A black suit and white shirt can work in many situations -- from boardroom (with a slick, square-bottom black tie) to date night (open collar). Just make sure these looks are fitted and your accessories (sorry, Jin, I’d skip the gold in this case) complement the overall look (i.e., good shoes and a belt are a must -- and keep them black!).

Davis: Jin is following a cardinal style rule and emphasizing his best asset: his ripped torso. This is not a look easy to replicate at home. But you might be able to find a few pairs of flaming pants that, when combined with the right haircut and some muscles, evoke the same general feeling.

3. Snow Villiers: “Final Fantasy”
A rebel with a cause, fighting the evil Sanctum in “Final Fantasy XIII” (yes, the 13th game in the series), we’re guessing Snow was named after his shock of platinum-blond hair (in sharp contrast to his fiery temper).

Ramon: A classic trench is a must in a well-dressed man’s wardrobe. Versatile and actually useful in the rain, this piece will look amazing over a suit; or with jeans, plaid shirt and a chunky sweater. If you want to get your rocker on, trench coats also come in black. 

Davis: Snow has definite cyberpunk appeal. His trench coat pulls together the entire look, and his studded belts are making a comeback from the 1980s right now. I am digging these two-tone combat boots -- they remind me of shoes I’ve seen in a designer’s fall 2009 lineup. I'm not sure you can get Snow's look off the shelf, but the classic trench is a must-have for every man. Even if you can't afford designer prices, look for quality details when you do buy a raincoat: topstitching, epaulets and straps at the wrists.

4. Leon Kennedy: “Resident Evil”
One of the mainstays of the long-running “Resident Evil” series, Leon Kennedy manages to look sharp even when blasting brain-hungry zombies. Part of his mojo comes from how he moves effortlessly from his police blues to Indiana Jones-style leather jackets (and honestly, part of it is that always-perfect hair).

Ramon: Right on trend, Leon’s look is strong, masculine and simple -- proving less is more. The monochromatic black puts the shearling jacket center stage. And don’t let the initial investment of a shearling jacket deter you from wearing a look that will serve you for many years to come. Keep it casual with jeans, layered tees and boots, or even dress trousers with a turtleneck and a dress shoe/boot. This jacket is manly but always fashionable, and the older it gets, the better it looks.

Davis: Leon makes cargo pants and camo look cool by pairing them with a classic leather jacket. He’s clearly dressed for his job and has the confidence to throw trends to the wind. A classic leather bomber can definitely lend any man panache. Just be sure to buy one made from soft but thick quality leather -- and no 1980s shoulder pads.

5. Tiger Woods: “Tiger Woods PGA Tour”
If millions of fans were watching your every move under the bright midday sun, you'd be pretty careful about how you dressed too. Not everyone can pull off the classic polo-shirt-and-cap look, but Tiger makes it look effortless -- like it's just part of his job.

Ramon: Fashion plate? Who cares when you’re Tiger Woods! The effortless “golf chic” shirt keeps his lines clean, simple and refined while highlighting those champion guns. Less can be more when dressing your best. The key is to pay attention to the details: Fit is crucial (too loose or too tight is not an option), experiment with color (Tiger’s lucky red works for many skin tones) and always make sure your shoes are shined and well-maintained. Never wear white socks with dress shoes or black socks with shorts. And remember that a baseball cap is not a hairstyle -- c’mon guys, you’re big boys now!

Davis: It’s hard to look stylish in polo shirts and pleated pants, but Tiger always pulls it off. You can find polo shirts at any department or discount store. The secret to looking good in them is twofold: First, find one that fits your body type. (Don't wear one that’s two sizes too big or that gaps at the arm.) Second, take good care of it. If you want it to look crisp and tailored, air-dry it flat, making sure to smooth out all the wrinkles.