Friday, March 16, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Huzzah for Friday! It always gets better every week. Now to spend the weekend...working.

Well at least you all have the Weekly Link Round Up to keep you entertained. A gathering of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet this week!

- Video games don't know how to handle current events, according to a Vulture video. If you take half a second to look at the comments (I know, it's YouTube. That's dangerous territory), you'll see that the video is nothing more then click bait. To ask games to be more into current events is kind of dumb. Games take YEARS to make. Not days. Not months. Years. Unless you're doing one of those coding marathons. Even then, that's probably not a piece you are proud to release to the public for retail. By the time social or political movements affect current events, game developers are already 2-3 years into their project. They can't completely abandon all that they've worked on and start on something new. That's not how it works. Games are a business and need to make a profit. It's not profitable to have to ditch idea every 2 years in order to follow trends.

- Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hold a round table with video game characters based on their movie adaptations? No? Well, too bad. The Ringer thought it would be a fun topic to test. TLDR: It's weird.

- Fortnite has officially surpassed PUBG as the most played game right now. Though the article seems more impressed that the game has higher user logins than Minecraft, since the game released a free-to-play battle mode, interest has surged. Epic Games announced that there are over 45 million users for Fortnite. Crazy. But it's easy to see why. It doesn't require the same heavy hardware specs as PUBG, no upfront costs, it's free to play for the battle mode, and it's softer on the graphics giving it a more cartoonish appearance - which has a broader appeal for audiences.

- Musical artist Drake played Fortnite on Twitch the other day, and it became one of the most watched streams in the company's history. Here's the Washington Post's "dummies guide" on why that's a good thing.

- Need more proof that video game violence doesn't affect us? Check out this study from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Germany's University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf. Using 52 participants, playing Grand Theft Auto V daily for 2 months for a minimum of 30 minutes, over 8 weeks, they found that there was no behavioral changes between the control group and the GTA5 group. Granted the study group needs to be larger to get a better result, but these initial findings are in favor of gaming. Daily game play is rarely tested. To have a study that incorporates this is vital in our future research of media's influence on the human brain.

- The NCAA tournament is going on now. As people fill up their brackets, it's near impossible to determine who will win at the end of the day. Video games may help. While I'm not a big fan of these bracket contests, I do find it interesting how a game is making predictions.

- Finally, here's a tongue-in-cheek article from GameSpew about all the things that video games teach us. Because if games are simulations for teaching children how to use a gun, then games are also perfect for teaching us how to parkour! Or hack. Or building! Or driving. Pretty sure you won't find gamers parkouring off of rooftops anytime soon.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

So Long Toys 'R' Us. Hello eSports.

Double header on today's blog. There are two big announcements; one that will certainly alter the retail world.

- Sources with the retailer Toys 'R' Us are days away from making an official announcement that they are closing and selling all of their stores U.S. locations. On Wednesday, the company told it's 33,000 employees that the process will start soon, but will take some time to fully shut down. So no, not all of the stores are closing today/tomorrow/next week, but they will all most likely be out by the end of the year.

The company filed for bankruptcy 6 months ago and there hasn't been any improvement since then. They have had difficulty paying back an $8 billion debt that dates back to 2005. There are even reports that they have not been able to pay vendors such as Mattel and LEGO. Yesterday they did announce that they would be closing all 100 of their U.K. locations. This also includes Babies 'R' Us.

Given the number of people the company employs, that's going to have a huge impact on local economies and job numbers in the coming months. But this is not all of the Toys 'R' Us locations. There are roughly 200 in Canada and in various countries around the world. The store closures currently don't affect them, and there have been rumors that the company may sell the remaining international stores to keep the business open and move everything to Canada.

Though the company makes up at least 1/5th of toy/game sales in the U.S., after a decade of rough weather, they weren't able to keep up with the changes to the market.

- The city of Arlington, Texas (if you are a football or baseball fan, you know this city is home to 2 of Dallas' teams) is transforming their convention center into an eSports arena. Working with Esports Venues LLC and the architecture firm Populous, the city is putting $10 million into the project to make the convention center. They want this to be the "the largest and most flexible esports stadium in the country," according to officials.

The updates are expected to be completed by fall of this year. When it's completed, the facility will have 100k square feet in space to utilize, including seating for 1,000 spectators, vending areas, and a broadcasting studio. Esports Venues LLC will have a lease on the space for 10 years, with an option to renew.

The location is centered between Cowboys Stadium and Globe Life Park. It will become a sports epicenter for fans of...well whatever sport you want! The eenderings for the updates look interesting enough. There's a lounge center, more walkways, a display area for stuff - that's probably a place for a vendor booth. But I have to wonder if $10 million is going to be enough to cover the renovation. I was at the convention center a few months ago for a video game fair. Those rendered photos are much bigger and more impressive than what the current area can offer. Crew will need to demolish and strip out most of the interior to get it to look like that. There are low ceilings, cramped hallways, closed meeting rooms. It's not the most user-friendly of areas. We'll see what happens in a few months as construction commences.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Free Games for Twitch Prime!

More perks are here for Twitch Prime members. Ever since the streaming service was purchased by Amazon, subscribers have been receiving a nice boost of benefits. Such as a free subscription to your favorite streamer without having to pay extra. In-game items like card packs for Hearthstone, or even free games through the Twitch app! Now those free games will occur every month.

Starting tomorrow, if you have Twitch Prime you will receive 5 indie games for PC, and another group next month. And so on. And so on. And so on, until the offer ends. This is in response to Amazon's Indie Amplifier program to help showcase smaller titles on a larger market. Next month on the list is Tales from the Borderlands, which is a highly regarded TellTale game that we recommend.

Thanks Amazon for the games! We know we're paying for the 2-day shipping and in some ways we're paying for this too, but we appreciate the extra perk.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Overwatch League Needs Conduct Rules Now

Activision/Blizzard is going to get themselves into big trouble if they don't work out the "conduct" issues with their players. To date the company still has not published a thorough set of rules for the Overwatch League on how players should act, both on and off the field. The content you will find on their website is brief. Given the importance of the Overwatch League and the number of people watching, it's imperative that Blizzard gets on this. Now.

Particularly since the Dallas Fuel has released Felix "xQc" Lengyel, who was again suspended for using homophobic and racial slurs. He sat out on a portion of stage 1 for the same reason. In all, 4 players have been fined or suspended for breaking the vague "rules" on conduct. Given that the first match of the League began on January 10th, and we are barely 2 months in, to have so many players penalized is borderline appalling. And one could easily argue that it's because Blizzard's rules are not firm. It's all fluff.

For those who want to argue about codes of conduct in eSports, you may not be aware that for other sports, such as football, basketball, hockey, etc. they too have a code to follow. When they sign those contracts, players must agree to the league's rules or face penalties (from fines to expulsion depending on the severity of the misdeed). This is for on the field and off. Because what a player does off the field can directly reflect the attitudes of the sport. This is why you will see hockey players dressed in suits when they travel. They are also one of the nicer sports groups you'll meet - super strict rules. But in the end, they know it's worth it. They have millions of people looking to them as the "examples" of what athletes should be. Anything they do could have a negative impact on the sport.

eSports are no different. If you wonder why there are so few women or people of color in these games, it's because of the behavior of the other players, the staff, and the judges. There is nothing enticing about joining a sport when you're constantly harassed by your "supposed peers." With this field growing so rapidly, it's up to the League to set an example. They need to tell players and teams that there is a hard line on what is acceptable behavior. And until they outline it in detail, they're going to continue running into these problems. Players will keep getting hit with meaningless penalties and suspensions; more people will tune out. Eventually eSports will lose the credibility they have been trying to build. ESPN won't broadcast a sport that is overrun with homophobic and racial slurs. That's a Disney company. Airing the Overwatch League in it's current format could affect 'The Mouse's' brand.

And yes, it is important that eSports have a code of conduct. These gamers are already influencing an entire generation of adults and children. You have to look no further then 2017's BlizzCon where the world Overwatch finals were held. Sitting in on a few matches we saw the audience filled with kids. Some were barely 10 and they were chanting with the adults, cheering on their favorite players. They are already being affected by the Overwatch League.

If eSports is to have a future, than stricter, more robust rules of conduct need to be introduced now. Not next month. Not next year. Now. We are too deep into this first season for the rules to be undecided.

Friday, March 09, 2018

10 Reasons Why Video Games Help You & Society

Since the news cycle has been taken over by game developers holding a meeting with a certain someone...somewhere...anyway! It's killed the news for the week so the Weekly Link Round Up is out of commission right now. And with people kicking games in the teeth once again, blaming them for real world violence, I think this would be an ideal time to throw down a list of what makes video games great. Not just for me, or you, or for gamers in general. But for society as a whole. There are a lot of benefits in having video games in our lives, and it's important to address those on the same footing as the "violent games destroy morality" claim that goes around. We don't talk enough about the good things video games can and have done for us.

So! Here's the list of 10 Reasons Why Video Games Help You & Society:

10 - Games can make you smarter. A number of studies over the past 15-20 years have shown  video games help improve spatial reasoning, cognitive development (in turn, boosting your ability to learn), and problem solving. These are aspects of childhood and adolescence development that often go to the wayside in favor of tests and memorizing facts. But if children aren't given an interest in learning from an early age, knowing facts won't help them in the long-term. They need to be able to understand the importance of asking questions, seeking out answers, learning about their surroundings, and deducing hypothesis.  Ex. Mario Kart. You need to be aware of your space at all times, and effectively manage your resources to ensure victory - or quickly determine how to move from last to first if you get hit with the notorious blue shell.

9 - Games may help slow down mental aging. Yep. By playing video games your brain can retain information longer and help reduce the stress of aging. This one is straight up science. By playing a game your brain is staying active and firing off neurons. This stimulates certain nodes in your brain that help improve your memory. It's the same as doing crossword puzzles daily. Games like Tetris and Brain Age provide more dexterity, thus more engagement to help keep your mind moving.

8 - Games can help your eyesight. The old wives tale of TV will ruin your eyes is false. Unless you're sitting so close that all you can see are the pixels of the screen, and you'd have to be doing it constantly for decades to see any effects. Games help vision, action titles specifically, by allowing the eye to see subtle variations in the landscape to quickly react to what's happening on the screen. As we age, one of the first things we lose with our vision is seeing subtle movements, changes in color tone - minor things that can add up over time. Action games help keep our vision sharp and focused on these aspects. They've also been noted to help people recovering from eye surgery in healing faster.

7 - Games help improve hand eye coordination. And we don't mean with systems like the Wii that requires motion controls. This is for a myriad of games and consoles throughout the years. Back to Mario Kart, you need an immense amount of coordination to play that game, and it can result in you being a better driver!

6 - Games can help with depression and anxiety. There are some games that were specifically designed to address these medical issues, but if you need a perfect example of games helping those with depression, here I am! In middle school is was diagnosed with depression and it's been a life-long struggle. It's better now, but there are some days/weeks/months where I slip back and become a shell of myself. One of the things my doctor recommended was that I play more video games. She saw how it improved my mood, allowed me to be more sociable, and addressed my problems in a unique way. I wouldn't say games saved my life, but they helped me in ways that traditional therapy couldn't.

5 - Games help children and adults with dyslexia. I can also relate to this one. Not with myself but my brother. He has dyslexia and it was a struggle for years to get him to be interested in reading or anything related to school. He struggled and the educational system wouldn't help him. Video games did. Growing up the only time I saw my brother actively reading was with video games. Why? Because video games address the gamer in a different way than a text book. It's actively asking the person to engage in the content. It provides more thought and context in the story/dialogue that allows kids to connect to it. As such, it helps provide stability to their dyslexia and apply to the real world. Today my brother reads books for fun. I never thought I would see that!

4 - Games help rehab patients recover at a faster rate. Stroke, heart attack, physical rehab, you name it. Games are being used more often in facilities to get patients back on track to a healthier life. They require mental and physical functions that are sometimes lost in a stroke. By keeping up a steady regimen of gaming, people can regain their mental and physical capabilities faster than traditional methods.

3 - Games have not contributed to real world violence. And at this point we need to accept that as a fact, as more studies are produced monthly confirming this. The overall crime rate has been down every single year, and continues to drop. We even see spikes of where crime drops even more during the holiday season as games and consoles go on sale. Games are not the reason for violence nor are they encouraging it.

2 - Games help creativity! All you need to do is go to a fandom convention and you can immediately see the impact video games have had on creativity. Cosplayers, artists, musicians, writers - everyone benefits from video games. Games that use unique problem solving or dynamic content/story building are likely to help enhance our desire to create art. Thanks brain and video games for giving me the love art! Here's another study to corroborate this.

1 - Games help improve social interaction, team building, and providing empathy towards your fellow humans. Yes, there will always be exceptions to the rule, but overall when you play a game you're becoming a better person. So many of today's games require online play. Meaning you must interact with other people to reach the game's goal. In doing so you develop acquaintances, friendships. You learn more about your team. Who they are. Where they come from. Their life circumstances. We have an amazing community. We think and feel on a global level. We're active in charity work and helping our fellow gamers/humans. We know how important it is to interact with each other for us to live in today's society. Especially in this world and the current social/political climate. We only have each other to support us. Gamers know it better then everyone else the importance of us communicating, compromise, and finding solutions that benefit everyone.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Avoid 'Metal Gear Survive' - The Review!

Today is March 8th, and I feel confident in saying that we have already seen the worst video game of 2018: Metal Gear Survive.

The first game in the Metal Gear franchise without Hideo Kojima at the helm is the cringe-worthy train wreck that you imagine it would be. It is a game that punishes you for playing by forcing you to play it more. It's a game that doesn't care for the Metal Gear legacy, and spits on it when it can. It's a game that is trying to be 7 Days to Die with Metal Gear. I think we can all see why it doesn't work from the get-go. Here's my unabashed review of Metal Gear Survive, oh why did I play this game?

I was gifted a copy of the game to review which has led me to the conclusion that my readers do enjoy torturing me. Metal Gear Survive is even worse then Battlefront II. Maybe E.T. The Extraterrestrial bad. It's a game that you will hate before you pick it up. Say what you will about Kojima and his need for perfection. The man knows how to make a compelling game. If you've ever wondered what a non-Kojima Metal Gear looks like, Survive is a perfect example of everything done wrong.

Survive moves the series away from the tactical game play into an action shooter, with some crafting thrown in. Yes, it's weird. The game starts at the end of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, after Big Boss' base is destroyed. Your custom created character is sucked into a wormhole that appears out of nowhere and sends you to another dimension/plane where you are surrounded by nanotech zombies. They are zombies because they want to destroy everything - not necessarily wanting to eat flesh. Your goal is to survive (eye roll) by creating defenses and gathering others to help you fight off the nano-zombies. There are story missions throughout that eventually lead you back to your original reality.

Much of the game works off the MGS5 assets. You'll see a lot of repetitive content and barren deserts while you make your way through the story. Honestly it feels like they took MGS5 and said "hey, let's change all the mechanics to turn this from a stealth tactical game to a third person shooter!" Because that's exactly how it plays. The controls are clunky and not intuitive. You'd have better luck punching wood in Minecraft than trying to gather materials in Survive. Running, ducking, hunting for food - it's all a chore that feels forced on you rather then a "do or die" scenario. I shouldn't need to surf through 20 menus to find the one item I want to craft. And then accidentally cancel when the action/jump button are the same.

By the way, this is the entire game. You gather stuff. You craft. You make some defenses. You get attached by nano-zombies. You gather some more. You craft some more. Somehow all of this allows you to get closer to reaching your goal of going home but the game never explains why. Logically, I'd go out to find the source of the wormhole and start adventuring around, if this was video game logic of course. Because sitting around and gathering to make defenses is not the most enticing game play. But that's all this game is! Waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more!

Just to make it more of a chore to play, if you fail one of the story missions you have to restart from your last checkpoint. That sounds fine in theory. Lots of games do this. The problem is checkpoints are incredibly scarce in Survive, much like food and water (which you need and it takes way too long to resource). You may not see checkpoints for up to 5 missions. It's maddening! Imagine spending 20 minutes fighting off a nano-zombie hoard only to die with 10 seconds left on the clock? There is no checkpoint before the fight or during the sequence. You get to spend another 20 minutes doing it all over again, plus the extra 2-3 hours beforehand farming and crafting your defenses. Fun, right?

And I can't say that it's part of the "charm" of the game to have it be so punishing. It's not. It's aggravating. You don't want to pick up the controller and continue when the game hates you so much. At least 7 Days to Die, Minecraft, and Dragon Quest Builders provide you with means to store, share, and access your content after you've died so you can continue on. Survive offers none of that. It's a pat on the back and a "f off" to you. If the game were at least nice to look at or had interesting places to explore, it might excuse a tiny bit of the oversight on the checkpoint situation. Very, super, mega tiny excuse. So tiny an ameba would think it's a speck. It's not like Minecraft where it's fun to explore outside of your little realm to see what else is out there. Survive is a world of dirt and grimy sand: brown, grey, and some shades of black. Bleak worlds can look interesting. Think outside of the brown palette.

Metal Gear Survive is a trash game. I hate to say it because I know countless people worked on this title in hopes it would be a new start for the franchise. I do not blame the staff for what's happened. This is all on Konami and management. When you take a game series that's already fantastic and completely re-work it into...whatever this is, it's too far gone to be saved. I was so angered by the single player content I couldn't bring myself to try multiplayer.

Avoid this game at all costs. Go spend your money elsewhere. Monster Hunter: World is okay. Horizon Zero: Dawn is better. Or go slam your face into Overwatch. Anything but Metal Gear Survive.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Hawaii's Loot Box Bills One Step Closer to Reality

State lawmakers in Hawaii have unanimously voted on Tuesday to push forward 3 bills that would regulate video games that contain loot boxes or microtransactions. As we reported just shy of a month ago, that 4 bills were in the process of being introduced, with State Representative Chris Lee at the helm. The concern was that publishers were pushing "predatory" practices onto consumers, disguising loot boxes as a way to gamble. The 4th bill was killed a few weeks ago after one of the House resolutions, that was similar to Lee's original bill, succeeded.

Here are the details:

Senate Bill 3024 would prohibit the sales of video games that use monitization or loot boxes to anyone under the age of 21. Monitization in the sense that you use real world money to buy item or currency to then use on a loot box/random reward.

Senate Bill 3025 would require publishers to publish warning labels that their games have random monetized rewards, disclose probability rates, and these warnings need to be applied to physical as well as digital copies of each game.

House Bill 2727 is an extension of Senate Bill 3025. It has been passed in the House and will go before the Senate. Depending on the language used, it will either move forward and SB 3025 will be killed, or vice-versa.

If these bills are finalized and passed at the last stage, the rules would go in effect in 2050 (I know, that's a really long way away), but it would be a start in trying to get the industry to better regulate loot boxes. The start date can change before the laws go into effect. It's customary to put an extended end-date to ensure conversation takes place from all parties involved.

What do you think of these bills?

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Where's the Meat in "How-To" Gamer Articles?

I'm having a really bad year. Surprised I'm still alive at this rate. And the week continues to go downhill, so we're keeping today's post light today. Because I say so. By the way, don't buy a car form Toyota unless you want to be treated like the scum of the Earth. They'll damage your vehicle and do nothing to resolve it. #boycotttoyota That's been my hell for the last 32 days. Lucky me!

Okay! Stupid gaming story time. As eSports continues to grow, so are the articles urging you to become a pro gamer. It's super easy to get into this field, right? Everyone should do it! Of course if everyone did it, there wouldn't be any "pros" to watch or enough prize money to go around. That's not stopping the easy articles from pumping out talking about how you can be a pro gamer.

The Sun's suggestion is to find something that you like and practice. Yes, it is important that you pick a game that you like, but it's not always the best option. If you're more inclined to strategy and RTS, you're probably not going to fare well in Overwatch. The steps for The Sun's article are hilariously simple: pick a game, practice, join a club, go pro. Wow! Who knew making money could be so easy! (insert sarcasm face here)

Intel's is arguably worse, starting from the get go with a statement that you can go pro in 8 "easy" steps. Pick a game! Stay motivated! Get sponsors! is not much better, but at least they take a moment to mention burn-out. Yes, that's a thing. And yes, it can happen to anyone.

It's laughably bad at how so many of these articles are copy/pastes of the same content. At this point, most gamers know the basic concept of how to get into pro gaming. What we need is helpful advice on how to handle these tasks. What type of investments do we need to make? How do we factor in taxes, insurance, and retirement? Do we need to get an attorney, or does he/she need to work as a retainer for contract issues that come up? Give us the meat, news articles. Not the fluff.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Oscars Highlight Good Movies - Box Office Hits Need Not Apply

Today, we're going to talk about the Academy Awards. If you want to tune out now, here is your chance. Oscars holds a soft spot in my heart as the literal embodiment of the "film nerd." I have 3 degrees in the subject. I may know a few things about movies. So of course last night I was live-tweeting my reactions and responses (to the best of my ability as I had a killer headache that carried over from Saturday). But I was also a bit dismayed that people were dogging on the movies and nominees selected this round. This was easily one of the better group of nominations we've had over the past few years, with the exception of animation (the choices were limited, and when you have a Disney movie you know that one will win). I was waffling on my list for Best Picture nods. It could have gone to 'Get Out,' 'Lady Bird,' 'The Shape of Water,' '3 Billboards,' nearly every movie had weight to own the top award.

The problem is, some people felt that the Academy Awards don't pander enough to the general audiences by selecting movies that are popular or have high box office ratings. I.E. there wasn't enough 'Star Wars' or comic book films on the list of nominees, though 'The Last Jedi' was on the sound editing and musical score (thankfully, it didn't win. 'The Shape of Water' did.) A few opinion articles cropped up before the awards asking us to rethink Oscar. Should more box office hits be in the rankings?

For those who don't know, the Academy Awards started as a way for Hollywood to promote movies. It's taken on a more profound meaning since then, but marketing was one of the main reasons behind this show. It gave studios an opportunity to showcase movies to help push audiences to go out and see them. Since then, it's morphed to highlight the accomplishments of actors, directors, screenwriters, designers, and a small handful of the unsung heroes behind the screen. In doing so, it's been a place where both box office hits and indie flicks converge in the same room.

In fairness, I do think that there aren't as many big selling movies on the docket. But, it's for a good reason. They are not always thought-provoking, climate-changing movies. Many of them, 'Transformers,' 'James Bond,' 'Spiderman #591082' all exist with 2 specific purposes: to entertain and turn a huge profit. They don't exist to question to medium or challenge the current status of film. They entertain. Mind you, there's nothing wrong with this. But I would never put 'Spiderman' over 'The Shape of Water' in film composition. From the acting, directing, script, design, the popular films are not the best in quality. This is why we have movies like 'Get Out' and '3 Billboards' - movies that challenge our notion of reality and provide an experience that unsettles us in new ways. We need more of these movies in the mainstream settings. But those are not profitable, according to studios. Until we, the consumers, start spending our dollars more wisely, we'll continue to see more 'Transformers' and less 'Dunkirk.'

Why is this bad? Because the "popular" films typically pander to audiences. See my review on 'The Last Jedi'. It's no different then a "popular" video games. See my review on Battlefront II. These movies and games are designed to attract the most people possible. So their focus is on great visual effects and graphics, big battles and action sequences, with actors and actresses that you might like enough to buy a ticket for. Script, direction, the meat of the content doesn't matter. It's big robots fighting each other and Mark Wahlberg standing around, saying random things!

That's not art. That's pandering to get your money.

And that is not what the Oscars are about. When given the choice between 'Avatar' (the blue people one) and 'The Hurt Locker,' the right movie won in 2010. Hands down. 'The Hurt Locker' elevated what a "war" movie could be while simultaneously showing that a deep story can produce compelling action. You'll find a number of films post 'The Hurt Locker' emulating the same techniques. 'Avatar' brought 3D back to theaters, with mixed results. That's it! We're only now seeing the use of the digital effects in a realistic manner. 8 years later. So, um...thanks for the $35 ticket price for a movie I can't watch due to my eyesight? I'll stick with the $7.50 ticket.

Not all movies are created equal. And the best films are not going to be blockbuster hits. You may not know that they exist because Hollywood is constantly marketing what they think you want to see, not what's "good."

Of course "good" is a relative term. For this film-goer, it's not 'Transformers.'

If you like/love 'Transformers,' cool. That's your thing. Is it Oscar-worthy? Far from it. Let's keep the "box office" hits out of the Oscars until Hollywood produces MORE of these unique, complicated, and diverse ideas that they become the "box office" hits.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Anyone else grateful that it's Friday or is it just me? At least we can have our weekly link round up! A collection of the best, worst, and strangest gaming news on the internet...this week! Let's see what's cooking:

- According to a press release from Sony Interactive Entertainment (that no other article links to, but I took the 10 seconds of Googling to find it for you all to read, enjoy!), they will begin restructuring management in April to start focusing on first part titles. A lot of it is management swaps to take on more responsibilities to help improve the "creative" fields and push for more first party titles on Sony platforms. What does that mean for you? Nothing right now. But over the next few years, expect to see more PlayStation only games.

- AI's are doing more weird things in video games, this time with Q*Bert. University of Freiburg's Patryk Chrabaszcz, Ilya Loshchilov and Frank Hutter set a few AI loose on the game to see how they learned from "playing." By doing so, the AI have 2 unique ways to win the game that few are aware of, or may not have been discovered before. The first involved jumping on blocks seemingly at random. However the AI only jumped on the blocks that "blinked" and provided them with more points - a glitch in the Atari version that is sometimes exploited. The second method was the try and get Q*Bert to commit suicide, by jumping off the platform entirely. Yep. AI's are going to kill us because of Q*Bert. Thanks scientists!

- Academics are stepping up to rebuke the World Health Organizations (WHO) recent classification of video games as an addiction. I've written about this before, and don't think that the update is a bad idea, in theory. There are those with addictive personalities that need assistance, and can't get it because doctors are afraid to bridge that divide. But not everyone who games has an addiction. That's where academics are butting heads with WHO to ensure that the updated rules are fair for those who need/want help, and the average gamer.

- The economy of gaming is still growing every year. In the UK, over 5.11 billion pounds were spent in 2017 on games and digital content. Games are continuing to beat out film, television, and even traditional sports (football, baseball, etc) as the top source of entertainment for consumers. And it will keep on climbing!

- "You can play all the Mario Kart you want." Those were the words of Chicago, IL Judge Robert Anderson after he banned a teenager from playing any violent games. The teen was arrested after making a video threat to people to stop talking about guns in schools or he would shoot one up. He was placed on "indefinite" home detention. Here's your reminder that violent games do not create violent people.

- SquareEnix is doing some weird stuff lately. The Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition will be released soon, and depending on where you pre-order it, you'll get some bonuses to be used in the multiplayer game. For Steam, you can get the Half-Life Gordon Freeman outfit. Because that fits so well in a Final Fantasy game, doesn't it? My favorite is the Origin pre-order bonus - creepy The Sims 4 inspired costumes of a Plumb Bob and Llama that look like wanna-be superheroes. They. Are. Creepy. Not quite as bad as the Assassin's Creed: Origins camel-Chocobo, but close. Those who own The Sims 4 will also get an item for their game. Oogie. They also decided to release an "enhanced" version of Chrono Trigger this week on really bad reviews. Why? Because it's a port of the awful iPhone/Android version of the game, and not the decent Nintendo DS variation. SE needs to have a talking to.

- No Round Up is complete without a WhatCulture list. We chose their "15 failed video games that became cult classics" because I have to see what they deem as a "failure" and a "cult classic." On the list is Okami, Fahrenheit/ Indigo Prophecy, and Beyond Good and Evil. Eh? I never really saw Okami or BGE as cult classics given how big their followings were. Both games sold well for their time and continue today to have a strong fanbase. I'd say that the NiGHTS: Into Dreams fans were not as active as Okami and BGE. I don't see this as a list of cult classics, but a list of games that didn't reach their full potential for one reason or another. Some of these were games that were released at the tail-end of a console cycle and couldn't get the traction needed for better sales. Others released at the same time as much bigger games and would not have been noticed. These are not games that failed, not by a long shot.