Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How The Time Flys

The year is coming to an end. Thank goodness. It's been a tumultuous year for me personally, but we can check it off the list and move on.

But I also feel that this year is one of my best in terms of reporting and writing. So I'm going to use this space, the last entry, to reflect on the year in gaming with the posts that I enjoyed.

- Twitch Plays Pokémon was ingenious. The concept sounded like it would reign in nothing but chaos: multiple people playing the same game of Pokémon and must traverse all of the dojo's to be the very best Pokémon master! Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was enough of a challenge when you have a full team playing and you're limited to a certain range of movement. "Go here. No go here. Take the bucket or we're going to die!" But it was enjoyable to see thousands of players act civilized when it came to Pokémon. There were mishaps and lots of button mashing causing your hero to run into walls and non-existent doorways, but overall, the game play was enjoyable. Gamers can work together for a common goal!

- Where are the religious video games? While some video games do utilize religion, they are handled in a delicate way and are not so glaringly obvious. But my interest was why there were few games based on a religion, or a retelling of a story from the Koran or the Bible. I'm still looking for an answer on why we don't see these more often given how prevalent religion is around the world.

- Time Magazine showed lack of research when making the statement that 90% of video games produced today are violent. Based on the context of the article, violence meant on the level of Call of Duty, blood and gore. It was surprising to see them come to such a conclusion given the ESRB's 2013 stats showed 45% were rated E. Only 9% receiving an M rating. This isn't to say that M content isn't popular, nor does it not sell more then other ratings. But 95 does not equal 90% of released content. There are a lot of games out there, Time. Not all are violent.

Time did it again later in the year when they placed war photographer into The Last of Us to take screenshots and report on his experience. Unfortunately he didn't really play the game, handed the controller off to someone else in the office who did know, and acted as a "watcher." He missed the intent behind the assignment, and I felt it dampened his results.

- The Stick of Truth released! I still find myself enjoying the game on occasion. I need to get the "Befriend Jesus as a Jew" achievement, but I do not like the class because of the equipment restrictions. Still, it was a game worthy of release this year.

- As a follow-up, when THQ went bankrupt and vacated their offices, they didn't take anything with them. All of their awards, their posters, computers - it almost seems like someone called out a bomb threat; everyone got up and left and never came back. The images from a Reddit user are eerie and depressing. What happens when a developer goes out of business?

- Diversity in games is needed, else the industry will become stagnant. That's pretty much been my message for the year. And nerds? Let it be. The time for change is now. It's okay to grow up. Gaming is ready for it.

- Goat Simulator became a thing, and I wrote about how simple, and sometimes stupid games, deserve their place in the world. Because simple can be beautiful. It can be elegant and enchanting. It can also be the right amount of fun without overwhelming your senses, or pouring endless hours into the world. It's just a story about a goat. With a long tongue and weird physics.

- GTA is ready for a female protagonist. Given it's legacy and how much it loves to push against the sandbox grain (see what I did there?), it is time. Rockstar is one of the few companies with the balls to do it. They need an investor or two to back them up.

Have a Happy New Year everyone. I'll be back tomorrow with my annual report.




Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Commenting On Video Games and Our Interest

#REHASH and #HappyHolograms took South Park fans and gamers for a spin. The two-part episode aired just in time for The Game Awards that honored those in the industry and gamers...who make videos commenting on video games. Oh irony, if you have a sound effect now would be the perfect time to ring it. Why ironic? Because Trey Parker won Best Voice Actor at the award show for South Park: The Stick of Truth.

Here's the plot synopsis and why it's all so funny: Kyle just picked up the latest Call of Duty and wants to play with his little brother, Ike. He finds that Ike is spending his time absorbed with YouTube videos of people playing video games. Specifically PewDiePie (who makes a cameo in the second episode). While the kids lament on how silly the videos are and offer no real value to the world, Cartman takes it up as a hobby, starts earning money from it, and the whole thing takes off.

I'll link to the full synopsis because the rest of the story derails from there if you are not familiar with the way South Park storyline is working this season. It involves the singer Lorde (who's actually Randy Marsh), hologram Michael Jackson and Tupac, and how commenting is the new "hit thing" for marketing a product - not necessarily the product itself.

It is interesting to see how quickly media evolves. A few years ago, sitting and watching other people play video games on YouTube or Twitch didn't appear to be a recreational activity. Twitch was still trying to find it's place in the gaming world, and focused more on game tournaments and expo coverage before going after the gamers themselves in their homes for day to day play. Now it's owned by Amazon and continues to expand their content. Watching people playing games, not by their side, but over the computer, is normal. Even I do it. But as with the South Park episodes, we have to wonder if this new phenom is dimming the art of game play. That's essentially what the episodes are trying to get at, as well as a few news articles here and there (albeit in a very simplified manner).

What makes watching someone as they comment on a video game so entertaining?

You could relate it to sports reports or those officiating a football match. You're not playing the game, but you are paying to watch it, whether at the stadium or on your television, and listening to the announcer as they call the game. The content with Twitch and YouTube is no different. It just seems unconventional because it's a video game. Even now as games have evolved to include a mature audience, people still view it as something "just for kids." (I realize the Business Week article is a few years old, however, it still exemplifies the attitudes people have regarding games.)  Yesterday's article where I discussed Cinema Blend's piece by Ryan Winslett is a perfect example of this: collegues and peers looked down on his work because it was "just video games." There's nothing serious to report about, when it's the exact opposite.

And it's also amusing. People watch PewDiePie because he says silly things and sometimes throws in a weird accent. I don't particularly like his brand of comedy, but enough people do that he's able to make a strong living from it. I personally prefer the Rooster Teeth crew and their Let's Play videos. Not necessarily for the general game play and commentary, but when they create events within the games, such as Minecraft Monopoly, or The Most Dangerous Game in Grand Theft Auto V. It's a game within a game - a new spin on how to play the product. That holds my interest far more then someone attempting a speed run at Super Mario Bros. The videos are more of a creative outlet, less about making silly comments. Not to say that are void of anything involving the human voice. There are remarks aplenty, but the emphasis is more on "look at what else you can do in Minecraft" then reporting on what it's like to punch trees.

I'm curious to see where the fad goes in a year, maybe two years from now. Will it still be as popular? Will it start fading? And what will replace it?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Don't Quit The Games

A few days out from the new year, and I'm fervently combing through the 2014 stats to provide my annual review. I think you all will be just as surprised at the trends and changes as much as I am.

So today I bring you all 2 news postings that caught my attention.

First! Is 2015 The Year to Quit Gaming? Cinema Blend writer Ryan Winslett is an 80's kid. He grew up in a time when the Nintendo Entertainment System was a new thing, and latched on to the PlayStation when Metal Gear Solid gave adults a mature gaming outlet that wasn't focused on sex (Leisure Suit Larry, anyone?). But like all of us, he does get the comments from his peers, colleagues, and those above his age that he's too old to game. Bravo to him for pointing out the fact that gaming has taken over sales into an industry worth billions and is outpacing conventional media such as film and television. But Winslett's concern is that with so much gaming out there, he's afraid that he'll miss out on content. It's not a matter of quitting games altogether, but pulling back on the reigns and slowing down because he's not enjoying the game he's playing right this second. He's focused on what's happening tomorrow with gaming and not living in the moment.

It's rough being an adult gamer, particularly when you are a reporter. You have to be constantly involved in, well, everything. You have to have reviews, company updates, watch stocks and any flash sales that affect gamers. There are so many facets to the gaming world that you have to stay on top of it all - from business to gamer perspectives. It's a challenge, and not one people recognize until they dive deep into the topic. So I can understand Winslett's position about wanting to slow down so he can enjoy the game's he's playing and make it a hobby again.

I'm also amused at the comments slamming the notion that as adults we have to give up the "kid" stuff. The first note from

Winslett address the comments his article has received.

The other piece is from The BattleCreek Enquirer via The Washington Post. Legit article. Promise. Ester Cepeda bemoaned about her two teenage sons and how this generation of children are wrapped up in the digital landscapes of video games, that any real-world tasks seem boring and lifeless by comparison. Her fear was that her sons would become unsuccessful, dull beings that do not contribute to humanity in a positive way.

Gamers, parents, and grandparents sounded off and provided Cepeda with feedback she never expected. A multitude of stories about games and how they helped improve lives flooded her inbox, and she responded in kind with a more positive outlook about games. 

The common theme was moderation. Like any hobby it is easy to go overboard (from football to knitting). When parents are involved, actively take an interest in their child's activities, it's easier to find a balance between gaming and the real world. Many people have attributed gaming to improving their reading and comprehension skills, dexterity with hand-eye coordination, and the like. I have regaled you all many times about my brother's struggle with school, and how video games helped him with his dyslexia to graduate, get into a fantastic university, and now he's making games for a living. This is a man who would see numbers flip with every math equation, and now he codes games. 

Video games can drive passion and encourage a strong future for kids. So Cepeda, don't worry. As long as you let your sons game, within reason, they'll be fine.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

[Update] Sony Says "Merry Christmas" With Downed Network

It's a day that many gamers dread: Christmas. For 2 reasons. One is completely unavoidable, and that's everyone opening their new games and jumping online to play them, resulting in lots and lots of lag. It happens. The other is Sony's fault.

Currently the PlayStation Network is down with a message that the system is undergoing maintenance. There were threats by a hackers group that there would be a "Christmas Surprise" if Sony Entertainment released The Interview. But right now Sony is stating this is just maintenance, possibly to prevent said hacking. No reports on when everything will be fixed, but hopefully soon. I'd like to get my GTA Christmas gear with the creepy gingerbread man mask.

Update 4:50pm: Both PSN and XBox Live are down.A hacking group called Lizard Squad is claiming responsibility. Most likely it is a hacking attempt as even the U.K. servers are experiencing trouble. So thanks whomever is doing this. Have a Happy Freekin' Christmas too. >.> Way to upset people over nothing. Are there even ethical hacking groups anymore? Seems like they do it just because they can, not to get a point across.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Interview Is Coming To (some) Theaters

Sony has reached a tentative deal with YouTube to stream the once shelved The Interview starting as early as this afternoon! Rentals of the film will be $5.99, or to purchase a full copy it'll be $14.99.

Logic has prevailed!

While the investigation continues into the hacking situation, many people have admonished Sony, as well as Paramount Pictures for Team America: World Police, in their decision to pull the film after a number of the largest chains opted to not show the film. Instead, all of those independent places have been given permission to pick it up and add it to their schedules. Cinemark and AMC are going to hurt - it doesn't matter if The Interview is a good movie. It has such a high amount of draw right now because of the current situation that people are clamoring to see it. Within a few hours of the announcement, most theaters airing the film sold out through the weekend.

Of course I'll be watching it. I have to. And not because of the hype. I was interested in this prior to the madness because I like Seth Rogan's writing. He's not conventional and he speaks to a sector of the audience that mainstream films have yet to properly tap.

And now we wait for the reaction.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How Does One Handle Developing A Game A Week?

It shouldn't be a surprise that most video games have a long development cycle - even mobile apps can take months to produce before they are out to the general public. Which is why I'm posting about Adriel Wallick insane idea to make a game a week for 2014. That's 52 games in 52 weeks. As someone who has a tiny bit of coding skills, the thought of it is hurting my brain on a physical level I never expected. How does one do this? By themselves no less?

Her journey is almost completed and she has posted a blog to Gamasutra reviewing her progress. Wallickis an indie game developer. She was a programmer for weather satellites before moving to gaming, working on titles such as Rock Band Blitz. She currently develops game jams and well as her own projects. The start of her 52 game challenge sounds very reminiscent of how The Geek Spot began:

"When I started Game a Week, I was really just trying to find my motivation. As I've said so many times before, I started adhering to these self-imposed guidelines as a way to force myself into productivity. I quickly found that by creating a deadline - no matter how inconsequential the ramifications for not meeting the deadline were - there was suddenly this air of importance attached to the task at hand."

And like all of us, there is the post-blues cycle when it all comes to an end. You are happy the project is done, but you don't want it to be over. It's a cool concept - I wish she would post her games so we can experience her work. The full weekly blogging episodes can be found on Ms Minotaur.

Monday, December 22, 2014

343 Industries Promising Halo: Master Chief Improvements

Had enough Halo news yet? Well here's some more anyway.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection, has not fared so well with XBox One players. Since launching on November 11, players have experienced wide-spread matchmaking issues - from being unable to locate anyone for a match to unrealistic teams (because 6 vs 1 is completely fair). There are also graphical glitches, lag issues with the servers, and some of the memorable maps from the XBox versions are mysteriously missing.

343 Industries plans to rectify that with a big apology. Anyone who owns the collection and has logged on to play from November 11 to December 19th will receive Halo 3: ODST, a free month of XBox Live Gold, and an exclusive in-game nameplate with avatar. Halo 3: ODST is a full game, which is a fairly big apology note from 343 and Microsoft. For everyone who has the game, but has not gone online or plans to purchase it in the future, the Relic map from Halo 2's multi-player will be made available.

The content will be made available as early as mid-January. There is not concrete date yet, but 343 plans to deliver on those promises. At least for Halo fans, they do come through. They admitted to mistakes and issues with the XBox One launch and they want to make it right.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Halo 5 Beta Test Available Today For Some

343 Industries and Microsoft have released a beta of Halo 5:Guardians starting this morning to XBox One Preview Program Participants. The beta will be available until 11:59pm PST December 21 (or December 22 if you're in the UK). Consider this early access beta for Preview Program members. It will contain week 1 content of the full beta. For those who purchased the Halo: Master Chief Collection, you probably already know about the full beta (which contains a code for people to try out the full beta December 29).

Halo 5 is a continuation of the Halo franchise, minus Master Chief. Supposedly. Halo 3 was suppose to be the last of it, and then they had spin-offs, then Halo 4, and more spin-offs, and it just keeps going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny. Five is listed as a single player and multi-player online game, being touted as a possible MMO. It's hard to say for certain. It is 343 and they do enjoy staying tight-lipped. Given the content presented to us previously, we do know that it is taking place in the Halo Universe, it'll be an XBox One exclusive because a new engine was developed for the game, and there will be online multi-player content.

Whatever the story or the game play may be, there will be a number of gamers keeping busy this weekend and over the New Years holiday.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

DA:Inquisition "Review" Inaccuracies Worry Me With New Gamers

I don't know why I did, but I clicked on the Breitbart "review" of Dragon Age: Inquisition written by Milo Yiannopoulos. I'm using the term review lightly because of Yiannopoulos previous work. Breitbart News Network, for those who don't know, is a conservative news and opinion site that tends to lean very much towards the political right. If you weren't certain, scroll down their page and look at their "See Also" sections that link right back to Fox News. It initially was a wire go-to site for the Associated Press, Reuters, etc. and became a good source for quick picks. But it has evolved since then into a  Republican, politically minded opinion site.

Because of this, I haven't linked to Breitbart before. Particularly with the #GamerGate hashtag, as Yiannopoulos was one of the primary "reporters" on the stories and was, well, let's just say less then objective.

"The video game community is...a strange choice of target for feminist culture warriors, who heaved ominously into view a few years ago, like the genocidal, psychopathic aliens in Independence Day.

It was time to do away with all that “fun” people were having, said these grievance-mongering killjoy arrivistes, and start taking seriously the overwhelmingly clear moral obligation to include at least six minorities, four gay dudes and a paraplegic illegal immigrant lesbian in every major video game release.

I’m exaggerating, obviously. But not by much: these bizarre campaigners, deploying a series of disingenuous and morally questionable tactics, such as goading people into making unpleasant remarks and then using those statements to publicly beg for sympathy and cash, have made gamers’ lives a misery these last few years." From the article GamerGate: Angry Feminists, Unethical Journalists Are the Ones Not Welcome In the Gaming Community. (With the URL noting that GamerGate is making terrific progress, don't stop now!)

Yiannopoulos announced on December 15th that as a "social warrior of justice," and one of the first to break the news about the secretive mailing list (that publishers pay for reviews, sex favors, and the industry is trying to push a political agenda onto millions), is writing a book about #GamerGate.

Yeah.

This is why I don't take their opinions seriously enough to link them here. Their objectiveness scale is a bit off-kilter.

So I don't really have a good reason as to why I decided to read Yiannopoulos' Dragon Age review, knowing that it was going to be a mess in composition, thought, and would probably lack in factual information. Checking his history on Breitbart shows that he has yet to write a game review.

I think it was the Mass Effect image used as the screen cap for the article. Because Mass Effect is the same game as Dragon Age. Absolutely.

Sarcasm aside, the first 3 paragraphs would turn a Bioware fan, or any gamer in fact, away from reading onward. It starts out bashing Canadians followed up by labeling Bioware as a developer of “average games that perform well with customers." You can feel the hatred oozing. Let it flow through you.

As one who has not played Inquisition yet (no time!), I can see the mountain of inaccuracies that the review brings by how Yiannopoulos talks about the other games in the Bioware catalog. "Mass Effect 2 wasn’t a critical success with ordinary gamers either; they called it “filler” and said it was “uninspiring.” It, too, bored players with politics." I'm trying to figure out where he found the quotes as his sources are not mentioned. According to reviewers across the board it's lauded as one of the best in the Mass Effect franchise. While it simplified combat and equipment compared to the first game, it expanded a story that begged to be told. And it's one of the highest user score's you'll find on Metacritic, so I don't know where Yiannopoulous found his facts regarding gamers impressions. Three million in sales is nothing to balk at.

Reading the disgust (I can't think of a better word to describe his words) Yiannopoulos has for Bioware's past games, with information that is not accurate, it's easy to assume that what he writes about for Inquisition is probably untrue as well. Not just easy, but most likely a safe assumption. He also takes jabs at other game sites like Polygon but doesn't provide content to back up why he's making the insult. (I know, I know. I do this sometimes too with Fox News but at least I explain myself instead of blindly bashing them.) What kicked it over for me was his section about the "forced romances." Never played Inquisition, but knowing Bioware as well as I do with how they develop their content, having a romantic relationship with characters in the game is never forced. They are always optional. Always. They are extra components to the story to help develop your personal Inquisitor, but they are not required to proceed to the next plot point.

Yiannopoulos has completely missed the mark if he couldn't convey the basic romance premise to the readers. How are his readers to know fact from fiction if he can't provide accurate content?

And THAT is why I'm discussing this article today.

Since published, the article has received 240 comments and, after some searching, at least 12 thousand hits (roughly-since the stats on this will change from search engine to search engine). My biggest concern is that this quick to judge reaction over a video game and a gaming company is causing a rift between gamers and conservatives that follow the Breitbart website. The responses from gaming communities like Giant Bomb are, essentially, mocking the review. There are a few posts here and there mentioning that Yiannopoulos makes one or two valid points about Inquisition, but when it's seeped in the sea of discontent and hatred, it's very easy to blow off the review. And because the writer is coming from the position of social Conservative, he's isolating himself and others from gamers. They're becoming outcasts when the gaming community is (generally) a place of inclusion. Yiannopoulos has taken a mantle as the one to save the world from the corruption of games - in turn people are associating all Republicans as game haters. We know that's not the reality, but when you read articles like that, it's difficult to find a good side.

My other concern is that those who know nothing about video games, who have heard a lot about Inquisition and thought they might try it but decide to check reviews first, stumble upon this one - what is their reaction going to be? With the lack of facts, and a heavily swayed opinion about anything that isn't white-male-Republican, my worry is that new gamers are going to be turned off from gaming entirely because of this one man's interpretation. It is vitriol. While game reviews are known by the masses to be more laxed, humorous and witty with their honesty, they at least provide more objective commentary then what Yiannopoulos provided with his article. The piece is more of a gay-bashing, lesbian-hating, Canadian destroying, fear-monger writing style.

I have to wonder if he even played the game based on how fairly inaccurate his description of game content was. Looking over the entirety of the piece, the only section I could find as factual was the game's pricing at the very bottom of the review: "Dragon Age: Inquisition, $59.99 (PC); prices for console editions vary." Yep. Inquisition is on PC and on other platforms, priced at $59.99 on PC - console editions may vary.

While I know that the majority of the internet understands that this article should not be taken seriously, my concern lies to those few who do not - who are missing out on the experience of gaming in general because of writing such as Yiannopoulos'. It's not a review. It's a hate-filled speech against anything Yiannopoulos feels does not fit his point of view. That is my worry. I dislike it when people are afraid to try something because of the words of one individual are telling them "no."


Also, underwear as your rating system? Really? Is that really an appropriate way to gauge a product? I have to wonder if he even cares about media content if he is quick to relegate it to clothing that covers ones bum as a means of rating it. Stay classy Yiannopoulos.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Interview - Why Are We Not More Concerned About Freedom of Speech Being Censored?

You can relax Sony lawyers. I won't be discussing any of the e-mails or information leaked from the hacking attack.

I post this piece out of concern for the movie The Interview. Starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, it is essentially Argo but comedic. The plot revolves around two producers (Rogen and Franco) of a celebrity tabloid show, who score their biggest interview from one of their fans: North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un. The CIA catches wind of this and attempts to recruit the two men into assassinating the Jong-un. 

Since the hacking of Sony Entertainment, many believe it was in reaction to the release of The Interview. Currently there is a threat spreading to theaters that show the movie may face retaliation. Sony is still promoting the film, but there will be no repercussions to those theaters that opt to not show the film. As of this post, Cinemark and AMC, two of the largest chains in the U.S., have removed it from their marquee.

But what is everyone else interested in right now? The scandal of the e-mails. Did you hear what the Sony exec said about X person? Or how much they hate Mister Y? And Z! Oh my goodness! Z was trash talked about in Sony's last meeting. She is so mad right now!

It's a bit sad when you think about. We're more interested in the content of the e-mails and trash-talking in Hollywood, something that has been a part of the business for centuries (not saying I condone it, by the way - it's, unfortunately, a part of the culture), then the fact that our freedom of speech is being infringed upon. Yep. By giving in to the demands of an unknown, unnamed source threatening violence, our speech, our right to produce and show a movie, has been violated.

Let's roll this back just a bit, because this isn't the first time The Interview has stirred up trouble. In June, when initial promotion began, a statement was released by the North Korean government regarding the movie - essentially calling Americans cowards for stooping to that level of fiction, making vague references to President Obama and his safety, and promising retaliation if the film is released. In July, North Korea's UN Ambassador, Ja Song Nam, vehemently protested the movie and demanded their intervention. The commotion died down briefly before it picked back up again with the hack attack.

This also isn't the first time a North Korean leader has been parodied. There was a minor scuffle with Kim Jong-il, who is the primary antagonist in Team America: World Police. While he never publicly commented on the movie nor mentioned if he watched it (he's a noted film buff, apparently), it's well-know the the movie is considered an insult to the region. So much so that they attempted to push the Czech Republic, an area where they had influence at one time, to ban the film.

Why is this a big deal that theaters are pulling a movie? As Republicans might say, we're letting the terrorists win by giving in to their demands. What I'm arguing is that by making this decision we're slowly having our freedoms stripped away because we are allowing others to dictate what is and is not acceptable in our country.

I'll give an example to help better explain my thoughts. There is a two-part series of episodes from the television show South Park titled "Cartoon Wars" (also made by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, producers of Team America). The episode parodies Family Guy and an episode being edited because a group of unknown terrorists were offended that the series would show the face of Muslim Profit Muhammad. When the network heads attempt to air the episode again without editing, Eric and Kyle (two of the four main characters in South Park) attempt to reach the studio and stop the show from airing altogether. Kyle for altruistic reasons to end violence, Eric because he hates Family Guy and knows that if the episode is pulled the series will end forever. 

Now that you know the setup, I want to focus on the end of the second episode, where Kyle and Eric confront the Fox Network executive. Kyle, after seeing Eric's plans, understands that this one incident means so much more. It's about freedom of speech. It's about allowing people to speak their minds, create their art, and divulge their opinions - to be human without repercussions. By giving in to the terrorists, we're saying it's okay to stomp on that founding freedom. When the network exec mentions he can just censor the image, well that's no better, now is it? We're basically saying only certain things are okay to show and say. To quote Kyle, "[i]t's either all okay, or none of it."

Time for the irony. In the end, the Fox exec aired the show without editing. And what did Comedy Central, the network that hosts South Park, do? They edited the scene out after a terrorist threat was made against their headquarters. (It was found to be a lone man who never intended to carry though on his threat. He's currently in jail after pleading guilty.) Double irony that fans of South Park are fully aware of: the show has showed Muhammad before. There was an episode title "Super Best Friends" that had a number of infamous religious figures, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, and Joseph Smith, to name a few, as a fictional super hero group. No one was up in arms over that. There was no retaliation. There was no threat against Comedy Central or endangering innocent lives. The show was aired on multiple occasions until "Cartoon Wars." Now you can't find it online. It's no longer apart of the Season 5 DVD and will no longer be on television.

This is what happens when you allow threats to dictate what is and is not okay. We are loosing our freedom of speech - a core product that our country was founded upon. 

If you don't like something? You don't have to watch or listen. Outright banning and creating censorship police is not the answer. Then we go down this slope of nitpicking every little thing (yes I'm looking at you Australia with your swear bans) that freedom of speech is no longer allowed - it's oppression of a basic human right.

We have enough to worry about in this world. Is a movie parodying Kim Jong-un really worth making threats against? 

Our freedom of speech is at stake. It's not about what the Sony execs said in their e-mails. It's about our First Amendment Right. Do you want that taken away over a movie? I know that I don't, and I will fight to protect my right to speak.

At least the staff marketing The Interview is maintaining their sense of humor.

"From the Western capitalist pigs who brought you Neighbors and This Is The End, comes #TheInterviewMovie - In Theaters This Christmas."



Edit #1: Variety has reported that The Interview will not be released. /sigh I don't know what to say...our freedom of speech has been trampled again.

Edit #2: The Verge stole my idea. I was talking about this with my supervisor just before I began writing this article, that Sony should release the movie online. Given it's recent publicity, they have nothing to lose and could regain the loss of funds for having the film pulled from theaters.

CBS. Scaring Your Kids With ​Nintendonitis

' "First there was "Nintendo epilepsy." '

And then the world ceased to exist! CBS must have taken a page from FOX News, because this is one story that will not go away. Within a few hours of posting, it's sweeping the internet and gaming blogs, mostly to people shaking their head and some poking fun at it. Some show some concern, but if you've played a game you already know the key things: eat, drink water, stand up and walk around every hour or so, and listen to your body. If you need to pee, pause and go to the bathroom. Even hardcore gamers who make a living off of this hobby know to answer their body's pleas first. The game comes second.

Nintendo epilepsy. Nintendo neck. Nintendo elbow. Nintendonitis.

Not only are they funny to say, but cultural terms that are real medical issues. They may be coined differently in the field, but we all know better. You got that "tennis elbow" by playing too much Wii. In the 1980's there were a few isolated cases of children reacting to the NES with seizures because of the rapidly changing screens and intense flashes. Over time the few instances caused game distributors to change their manuals to include health warnings. A study released yesterday focused on the cases where games were listed as the cause for health issues, and cautioned safety to those purchasing Nintendo products as holiday gifts. Because it's that darn Nintendo that causes so many problems. The XBox and PlayStation? Those are fine.

Here's the reality: the vast majority of people playing video games are not going to experience problems. Those who have suffered seizures have been cases where there was another underlying health condition where their bodies are predisposed to react to lights and sounds differently.

Don't let the CBS article freak you out. Any gamer can tell you that it's easy to listen to your body. The hard part is following-through. If your wrist starts to hurt, pause the game and stop playing. If your thumb feels sore, pull back and put the controller down. It is just a game and you can stop it at any time. Do so and don't be a dummy about it. Enjoy your games this holiday season!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Link/List Round-Up of 2014

Tis' the season of unruly shoppers. I ran into one last night. Well, more like he nearly ran into me. I don't know why he felt it was necessary to get right against my personal space and breathe down my neck where there was 10 feet of space to his right wide open for his use.

People are jerks.

Today brings another link-round up for listings for your gaming enjoyment. Consider this an apology for yesterday. Unless something insane happens with the Take-Two/Rockstar lawsuit, I will not bring up those 'celebrity' names again. Because this blog needs class again, even if it's in the form of lists. :)

- Game Bias created a list of the 10 Worst Games of 2014. Feel free to give Jeff Pressgrove a lot of quizzical looks, because this list is scary. South Park: The Stick of Truth is on there, a game that makes up 25% of Ubisoft's digital sales. I'm confused about some of the choices, but the name of the blog is Game Bias. Obviously you're going in knowing it's going to be a one-sided, harsh opinion.

- The New Yorker, a publication that is infamous for it's high-brow commentary and satire, is taking a stab at video games as well with their 2014 Best Of list. It does take a few minutes to get through to the list as the majority of the introduction focuses on the "conflicts" the game industry has had this year, including #GamerGate. The list includes the heavy hitters, Mario Kart 8, Shadow of Mordor, Dark Souls II, but it also includes some mobile games like Threes!, a Tetris-esque puzzle game. You might find something new on this list to try out for the holidays.

- And as more of mainstream media jumps on board the gaming train, The International Business Times has their Top 5 Video Games of 2014. Look at that. Games are becoming the it news. Sadly, this one lacks the clout of The New Yorker. The list reads exactly as you expect it. In fact. Don't even click on the link. I'll tell you the results in descending order: The Last of Us: Remastered, DragonAge: Inquisition, Mario Kart 8, Destiny, and Shadow of Mordor. I think they borrowed the list from a generic gaming blog and put little other thought into it.

- The Guardian gives us the Top 25 Games of 2014. Well it's only 25-16, but let's see if there's anything new on this list. *starts scrolling* Yeah. Nope. About what you expect-Titanfall, Shadows of Mordor, with a mention of Fifa 15.

I wonder if these groups just copy/paste content from fan blogs. I don't see any reporting or reviewing going on with these sites.

- At least Kotaku is keeping it classy with their list of the Best Video Game Concept Art of 2014. And the art here runs the gambit. Platinum Games with Bayonetta 2 (still one of the best studios out there if you ever need reference photos for their characters), Aliens: Isolation, The Banner Saga, and even Thief makes it onto the podium. Those are some pretty art pieces...

- If you need more math and accounting on your lists, The Fiscal Times will aim to please you with their 10 Best-Selling Video Games of 2014 list. Unsurprisingly Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare ranked in at the top with 5.8 million units sold. GTA5's re-release for the PS4 and XBox One made it to slot number 3, but with over 3 million units out the door at a fraction of the time that AW was on the shelves, that's damn impressive - particularly from a game that made over a billion dollars in sales in 2013.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mobile Game In The Neverending Story of Lohan

In a twist to all things Lindsay Lohan, on December 12th a mobile game tied to her likeness was released on iTunes and Google Play called "Lindsay Lohan's Price of Fame." Yes, this was done with her consent - her name is in the title after all. Maybe this is the proverbial middle finger to Take-Two and Rockstar for GTA5. Or it's a chance to grab cash after seeing the huge success of Kim Kardashian's mobile game.

My god...what is happening to this blog? I have talked about Kim Kardashian twice, and Lindsay Lohan 3 times this year. Media personalities need to get out of games and off my blog.

Just like the Kardashian game, you start out from the bottom of the chain and work your way to the top to become famous. Lohan's game is quote-unquote more drama ridden, according to the game's description and her website. The game was developed by Space Inch and works like every other freemium title out there. You can download the product for free and play for a bit, but if you want to speed things up or get trendier clothes for your avatar, you've gotta pay.

Well...if this is your type of game go for it. I need to find something digital and fuzzy to shoot to regain my sanity. Maybe a romp through Diablo 3 will help.

Friday, December 12, 2014

XBox Now Accepting Bitcoin Payments

Bitcoin, the ever-evolving, ever-confusing digital currency, has been making waves over the past year, but it hasn't stopped the feature from growing. Now Microsoft has jumped into the fray and will accept Bitcoin for XBox and Windows-based devices to pay for games, music, movies, and apps.

Surprisingly, they were very quiet about the whole thing. The news broke over a Reddit thread regarding the currency trade, of all places. But for the new CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, it's a necessary step forward for the company to be accepted as more modern. Being the third largest company in the world, Microsoft isn't known for innovation. They have staple products and we know what works with them, and what doesn't. And we're content with it. They don't drive technology forward like Google. Being a world-wide force that now takes digital currency? That's bold.

There are caveats, of course. Bitcoin is only available for US purchases. It can only be applied to digital, non-software purchases. So no, you can't get Microsoft Office with digital funds. And all sales are final. Because Bitcoins exchange rate fluctuates almost daily and can change from retail location to retail location, unlike paper money, your initial purchase could result in a larger or smaller refund depending upon what the current "rate" is. It's too much of a grey area to handle, so if you want that game you are keeping it. The system sounds very similar to how you accumulate XBox Live points. You make a purchase of points to load to your account. Then you take the points and spend it on the content you want to own. I'm curious to see how well people take to using this alternate means of payment.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Video Game Social Experiment

This is brilliant and sadistic. I foresee a future Marvel bad guy in the making. Andy Baio has been performing a social experiment on his son that was planned before his birth! The test? Make his son, Eliot, work through the history of games before getting to today's newer content. The hope was that Eliot would appreciate games for what they are and not take for granted the achievements developers have been striving for, for decades.

"Before my son was born in 2004, I was prepared. I’d brainstormed a long list of sociological and psychological experiments with friends and coworkers, ready to unleash my inner Milgram on my unborn offspring."

The "experiment" began when Eliot turned 4 in 2008. He was given games such as Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and Galaxian. By 2010, age 6, the kid beat the original NES Legend of Zelda all on his own. Based off of Baio's tweets, Eliot is going to be one hell of a gaming threat when he becomes old enough to compete. This year was the finals for the test, when Eliot reached age 10. Baio finished it off with games that were released at the time of his son's birth, such as Katamari and Shadow of the Colossus.

Like any nerdy parent, he had his concerns that the test would fail from the get go. "In the days leading up to his birth, I’d jolt awake in a cold sweat from nightmares of raising a six-year-old athlete, begging me to go outside to play football or baseball or some other dreaded physical activity." None of us want the child athlete. My biggest concern for my cosplayer friends whom are parents is that their children will despise all of the dress-up times.

Like any kid today, he does love the games that his peers do - aka Minecraft. But he also appreciates game that provide him with mental and dexterity challenges. The kid beat Spelunky. That game is a bitch. I want to see Eliot go after Ghosts & Goblins. I'd love to see his speed run on that.

This is a fun read. I love the interjection of tweets when Eliot hits a milestone. "He just gathered all 120 stars in Super Mario 64!" I'm sure some people would be horrified that someone created and acted upon a social experiment on their own child, but is teaching one to appreciate history all that bad?

"So I gave my son a crash course in video game history, compressing 25 years of gaming history into about four years. At this point, you’re probably either thinking I’m a monster or a pretty awesome dad. Maybe a little of both. That’s okay with me. My son is amazing, he loves video games, and more than anything, he loves playing them with me."

That's "father of the year" material, ladies and gentlemen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Prostitue Is Someone Who Will Love You No Matter Who You Are...Or What You Look Like

In an interesting twists of twists, sex workers are proclaiming that Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes vs. Women videos, particularly the segment involving prostitutes, are not helping in the fight against real-world violence. In fact, they claim that the videos contribute to the objectification and stigma of being in a sex oriented job. So says Reason.com and former sex worker, now author, Maggie McNeil.

Much of the concern is around the terms Sarkeesian uses when describing the digital characters. Sex workers are labeled as "prostitutes," which McNeil says devalues the men and women of the trade into commodities. By being a "worker" it's looked upon as a job. Where as the word "prostitute" has negative connotation in a number of cultures. The logic is people are more likely to be aggressive and abusive if you're labeled as a "prostitute." But if you're a "sex worker" that sounds like you have a real job.

I dummed down the language, but that's how it reads in the article on Reason.

But there are just as many sex workers that agree with Sarkeesian's position. N'jaila Rhee, adult web model, is also a gamer. Many of the things Sarkeesian has pointed out with her web series resonated with Rhee, but that the true concern is how "Feminism 101" Sarkeesian's points are. The issue Rhee and others have is not about the use of the word prostitute, but how simple Sarkeesian is making her stance. Now I would argue this is to help with public consumption, because most people in the U.S. never learn about feminism outside of the 19th Amendment in the Constitution giving women the right to vote.

The piece is Safe for Work and worth the read. Though it is interesting to see how a number of other groups outside of the #GamerGate hashtag are rallying against Sarkeesian. While I appreciate the effort and what she is trying to accomplish, I don't agree with her on a lot of points. Some of it feels like it's grasping at straws and other times it's almost like "tell me what we can do to fix this?" Because that's the bigger problem. No one has a solution and we're all looking for a way to resolve it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Game Music Conference

This January, TCU (that's Texas Christan University in Ft. Worth, Texas) will be holding the North American Conference on Video Game Music. This is the second year the conference will be held and they chose to do it in Ft. Worth. I'm not sure why, but we'll roll with it. If you're a student or faculty member of TCU, you get in for free. The rest of us will have to pay $100. $75 for a graduate student...psh. How much of a kick in the butt is that? You're paying more money for an advanced degree and you still don't get the perks of being a student.

The keynote speaker is Winfred Phillips, who has a longstanding history with Sony and Media Molecule, helping design the music for all of the Little Bit Planet, God of War, and Assassin's Creed: Liberation. The rest of the speakers are all university related, most from the Texas region, and all under musical theory. This is an academic outing on a fun topic.

I may attend. There is no listing yet on what the topics for each panel will be, so I'll wait until that's released before deciding. But hey, if you're in the area, you're bored the weekend of January 17th, then go for it.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Game Awards...With Lasers!


The Game Awards!

Airing on Friday evening, I decided to give this one a chance and Live Tweet during the event.

If you don't want to read the full review/synopsis here is my general response: It was better then Spike's Video Game Awards but could use a better balance on "premiers" and award presentations.

Initially I was hesitant to watch - real hesitant. The new show was produced by Geoff Keighley who had a major role in developing the Spike version of gaming awards. Needless to say, I was expecting a slew of D List Celebrities with 0 interest in gaming to come out and start making fun of gamers for having "lazy, fat, slob lifestyles."

To my surprise, they tried to class it up.

Iconic game composer Koji Kondo (the man behind the themes to Super Mario and Legend of Zelda) opened up the event with a quicky diddy on the piano with Mario. I wish they had made it longer then 45 seconds. It was too short and felt like a brush off to the legend. Thankfully the show redeemed itself at the end by bringing Kondo back on the stage. We were about to have a nerd throw-down after that intro.

And for 21 minutes, the screen was filled with "World Premiers" before reaching the first award of the evening. This is where the E3 component of the show overtook the stage. It felt like the majority of the evening was about releasing new trailers and footage for content coming out in 2015. Which is fine, but about an hour into it and I was already annoyed with hearing the "World Premier" voice. It was so consistent that it overshadowed the few on-stage speeches. I couldn't focus on the awards because I was timing the mute button.

"Look dude. We get it. It's another World Premier. We can read. Can you shut up already, please?"

That is my biggest complaint with The Game Awards. It was too much emphasis on "premiers" less on awards. In fact, most of the awards were given off stage! Keighley had a booth behind the audience (small attendance which probably, in part, was due to the last minute announcement of the show) where he handed out trophies in a multitude of categories - and because they were quick quips, you missed out on the developers reaction. Hell I have no idea who the other entries were in the categories. I have a vague recollection that one of the awards was for Best World Changing Innovation or something like that. It's a game that causes us to think beyond the normal boundaries and asks us to react. And I only remember that because the winners were two men from France who were humbled to be honored and would not give up the microphone to Keighley. Good on you two!  The rest was a blur.

The most memorable speech of the night came from the first award 21 minutes into the event. Trey Parker won best performance for South Park: The Stick of Truth as a multitude of voices in the cast. He gave thanks to the panel and for loving video games, because they allow a man like him to win an acting award over Kevin Spacey. Damn right, sir.

Another issue I felt was apparent was the amount of downtime in the show when winners walked up to the stage. The layout of the seating was an open, standing room only, floor at the front for paying fans. Towards the back was a section walled off for developers and winners, who had to traverse a series of stairs and wrap around the wall before reaching the floor. Note to the show: When you know someone is going to win, and we know that you do else you wouldn't have those awards personalized, put the winners close to the front. That will shave off the 15 minutes of downtime of people walking.

The performances by various musicians were also a highlight. The Game Awards went all out, getting a collection of old school and new talent by bringing gaming to an artistic level. Lindsay Sterling classed up the joint with her melody from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Imagine Dragons closed out the show with Koji Kondo by playing Zelda music and incorporating some of their hit tunes. And the light show. Oh that light show...maybe not so classy but it was entertaining and very gamer-esque.

I was also a bit unnerved by the "Trending Gamer" award. I didn't understand the purpose of it, other then to give YouTube stars a chance to be involved in the awards. That's all I could derive from it. Here's my thing: as gamers we're a fairly tight knit group. There isn't one person more important then the other. We do our best to treat each other as equals. So I find it a bit of an oxymoron when they show promotes inclusion, diversity, and acceptance of everyone, but wants to single out particular gamers for "trending." Confusing.

And a personal pet peeve was the breaking of the 180 rule in Keighley's booth. A few times the camera's would swap to one that sat behind the area and focused on the award winner. I dubbed it Awkward Reggie Angle because it flipped his position on the screen (from left to far right) and zoomed on his face. In film and television we have this imaginary line in front of the camera. You can pan and move the camera safely without crossing the line because no matter where you go or what you do (short of flipping the rig completely upside down) the person on the left will always be on the left and the person on the right will always be on the right. It allows for spatial awareness with the viewer and less of a paradoxical jump on the screen; which is what happens when you cross that line. When you allow yourself to break the 180 line, that's when the filming looks weird. Reggie went from the left, to the right, to the left within a handful of seconds and it was visually jarring. It does not make for "cool, artistic" visuals. Rather, it's annoying and causes more confusion to the casual viewer that a man jumped positions.

Overall, it was an improvement on what Spike would typically give us. The show is better then Spike by leaps and bounds, but it definitely had it's growing pains. If they can tighten up their schedule, have less "World Premiers" and more awards presented on the stage and more developer involvement, this could be something worthy of mainstream entertainment to take into consideration.

Ralph Baer - Gaming Origins

Let's have a moment of silence for Ralph Baer today. For those who don't know their video game history, he is considered the grand creator of video games. An engineer, he immigrated from Germany and created the first console in the late 1960's, to be re-branded and sold as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972. Since then he has held over 150 patents, received numerous of awards, and many console developers see his pioneering work as inspiration. He passed away yesterday at the age of 92. Rest in peace, good sir. Thank you for your innovations.

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Game Awards - Quick Wrap Up

Initial Impression: Better then the VGA's. Could use some work on pacing and finding a better balance on "world premiers" vs awards. But we had some classy performances and celebrities that gamers could relate to...other gamers.

I'll have a full review by Monday.

New Not VGA's - Live Tweet

The new Video Game awards are on right now! I'll be live tweeting. Feel free to jump in and say hi as I post silly things. It only took 21 minutes for them to finally get to the first award! >.>

Holiday Link Round-Up!


So many top "must buy" lists are out for the holiday season, and I wanted to share the ones that make me chuckle and/or groan.

- As Forbes continues to become more hardcore in the gaming journalism sphere, they have released a Top 6 Game Guide for families. There are the usual suspect: Mario, Mario, and more Mario. But what made me raise an eyebrow was the suggestion of Diablo III: The Ultimate Evil Edition. That's...not a family game Forbes. Please explain.

"But for slightly older kids, there’s no reason this can’t be fun for the whole family. The violence is cartoony and hardly graphic. And you can play with four people at the same time, battling through hordes of enemies, scooping up mad loot, and leveling and powering up to your heart’s content."

By "older kids" the writer had to refer to those age 17+ because this is still an M rated game. Just want to point that out here...

- GameZone graces us with the Top 10 Star Wars Games of All Time! This is one I was willing to read through because there are a LOT of Star Wars games. They may not be as plentiful now since LucasArts was dissolved, but they still make up a chunk of the gaming landscape that they could easily be pitted against Mario and Zelda titles for who has the biggest stash. It's one of the few lists that I mostly agree on the choices, though it does miss out on some of the early 1990's titles such as Super Star Wars for the Super Nintendo, one of the best designed platformers you'll find to date, and X-Wing/Tie Fighter. But #1 and #2? Yeah. I will not contest those spots. They're perfect.

- The Verge sizes up portable consoles and their results are a bit surprising. We know that the Nintendo 3DS is the king of the market and the PlayStation Vita has yet to take off on the level that gamers know it can achieve. Frankly, the DS has more content. But pitted against each other? Well according to The Verge, the Vita is far superior by nearly a point in their arbitrary rating system. Beating those two is the Apple iPad Mini! An Apple product? Something not designed to consume video games and will never have products like Mario Kart or God of War? Whoever designed this article needs to take a step back and look at the facts. I really don't want to say that the the piece reads like an Apple fan-boy wrote it...but that's how it reads.

- GameInformer brings us The Glitch King, a video listing of top games out right now that are full of funny arse glitches. It's good for a few laughs at the bugs in games.

- And finally, if you live in LA, California, LA List has 7 places where you can get your gaming on. The first spot, EightyTwo, looks like a warehouse, which is apparently "hip" according to LA List. So, whatever. We'll roll with it. The One Up looks more my speed with a Space Invader sign. But I'm not sure how thorough they were with the research. Their last pick was Dave and Busters, which, while an entertaining place, I'm sure LA has more independent places in the area.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

I'm Telling On You

How does one respond to violent, abusive threats online? Well if you're Alanah Pearce, you rat them out to their mothers.

Pearce is gaming journalist in Australia, and has worked with several radio and tv stations in the country as their game reviewer. Not a bad gig at 21 years old. And like all gaming personalities, she is subjected to online harassment - more so then most because she's female. (Before you all jump down my throat you know it's true. You should see how many of the comments are not posted on this blog because of it.) Seeing enough on her YouTube Channel, Twitter, Facebook, Pearce began doing some light digging and realized that the abusive comments were not all from adult men (who should know better). Some were from young boys (who should also know better). The adults may be more difficult to persuade, but at least one can use logic and a police threat. Young boys are another matter entirely and don't always understand the power of their words.

So Pearce reached out to one commentator's mother on Facebook:

"Hi Anna, I don't know you, but I was wondering if [blanked] is your son? I have never spoken to him before, but he sent me a concerning message to my public Facebook page today that I was wondering if you might be interested in discussing with him.

She has contacted 4 mothers so far, but only one has responded. The mother who has had a great response, which Pearce had permission to tweet. Ideally, she'd like to have the boys apologize, but more then that to have them see why their words affect not just her, but themselves. We really don't need more asses growing up into this world. I don't know if she'll keep doing this, but I hope she will. Even if there are no further messages from other parents, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're not taking action in correcting their child's behavior. It's still SOMETHING to let people know "hey...this is not cool behavior for any reason." More then what most people do with violent threats.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

GTAV Pulled From Australian Target Stores

Announced moments ago, Target posted a media release regarding the sales of Grand Theft Auto V. A Change.org petition was created by 3 Female, former sex workers, who deplored the depiction of the treatment of women in the game. Forty thousand plus signatures later and Target agreed.

The petition notes that "literally makes a game of bashing, killing and horrific violence against women," adding that "women are being portrayed as deserving to be sexually used by men and potentially murdered for sport and pleasure – to see this violence that we lived through turned into a form of entertainments is sickening and causes us great pain and harm."

I've argued why, as a feminist, I enjoy the game, but to each their own.

Target General Manager Corporate Affairs Jim Cooper stated that the decision was made after hearing customer concerns, both on the petition and through their website, e-mails, and contact forms. He also mentions that people have contacted them in support of selling the game, "[h]owever, we feel the decision to stop selling GTA5 is in line with the majority view of our customers."

 The game is rated R18+ in Australia, which means only those licensed, 18 and older are allowed to purchase the product. Target Australia will still sell other R18+ games, but because of the strong feedback from customers, they felt it was best to pull the game.

Before you all get up in arms U.S. gamers, the chances of this happening here are virtually non-existent. The release of GTA5 for the PS4 and XBoxOne are guaranteed to rake in high holiday sales - something Target would not want to miss out on. Frankly, Australia has always had really stiff laws regarding video games. Sometimes going so far as requiring content being changed to allow the product into their country. The cases against video games in the U.S. have gone in favor of the games. That First Amendment is pretty awesome like that.

Steam Broadcast Is Beta-Live

Not one to be left behind, Valve introduced a new feature to it's platform yesterday: Steam Broadcast. The feature is now available as a beta and requires no additional purchases, fee's apps, and all that jazz - it's included in the latest Steam update.

But unlike Twitch, Steam's version of game streaming focuses more on comradery and your friends. I.E. it's limited to watching what your friends are playing and there is currently no way to stream your game time to a wider audience. To activate it, simply go to your Friend's List and select the "Watch Game" option. That's it! You'll be able to view what your friends are playing, live. The update also includes a new dashboard for viewing your friend's games.

Again, this is still in the beta and we don't know if Steam plans to expand on it. Right now this version of game streaming is very different from Twitch - which allows streaming to the public. Private streaming for friends is a twist. Actually, I kind of like it. While I enjoy the Let's Play videos, gaming with friends will always be a front runner on things to do during my free time. Let's see what Valve comes up with next.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Waiting To Play

Re-posting an article from Kotaku, via their Australian base, about the change in video games to a waiting sport.

"[H]e didn't have time essentially. But complained that when he did have time he always had to download updates on his PS3. Then the games required updates. Most of you understand the quandary: when you only have a spare hour of leisure time in your day, every second counts. A series of updates might actually ruin your planned night of gaming."

This sounds like my quandary Saturday night. My brother was home for the holiday weekend and we decided to cycle through a quick game on the XBox 360. I may not be prudent about updating my 360, but it's only been about a month since it was last turned on - so it shouldn't be that bad. 30 minutes later, and the system was still updating.

Once that was done, the game we wanted to play was a XBox Live download. So while it may be on the system, we still had to sign in and verify that yes, I am the person that bought this product, quit asking me to sign into my account 4 times as part of your DRM.

And then we finally get to the game screen to load it up...and there's another update!

In all, I think we wasted well over 50 minutes starting up the system, installing patches and updates, and continually logging into XBox Live. By then, my free time had vanished. A simple game session turned into work. And sadly I'm use to all of this! We all are, as gamers. Most of us probably have a routine set up now that we start the system, let is update, and we walk off to do chores around the home, and check back in 30 minutes. But for the average consumer (a group that makes up the bulk of the market it Madden sales are any indication), I could see it being endlessly frustrating. You bought the system. You bought the game. You want to play it now, not wait an hour or two for updates. I don't know what people do during that time...maybe they stare at their screen? Maybe they stop the update and do something else. Now, it's all a waiting game. Even day one releases require some form of system or game updates that you can't even play a new product fresh from the box!

And I understand that part of the change with technology allows for streaming of content and better access to updates and fixes. I totally get it. But there has to be a better way to provide this content and not force downloads onto the consumers. The system that Blizzard (Battle.net) and Steam uses at least allows for online games to be downloaded and updated without it interrupting your game time. After the initial client install, most products can be played while the update continues in the background. But this is something that consoles have yet to master as they lock up for the patches.

For those who may say that it's no different then getting a new computer, the difference is that the majority, if not all, built computers are pre-loaded with everything ready to go. You may have to run an operating system update, but those are done in the background similar to Battle.net and Steam - it allows you to still utilize your computer without disruptions while patching. With consoles, you are at the mercy of the download speeds.

At this point so many of us are accustomed to it, that it's become the norm. I don't know if I want to go back to the 'good ol' days' where updates were not available. I'm not bashing the updates. We need them to fix glitches that may not be known until after release, along with a myriad of other reasons. But what's wrong with picking up a game, going to your console of choice, popping in the disc, and playing right then and there? Why can't we have that as an option in lieu of the forced updates?

And to the commenter on the Kotaku piece regarding the download speeds, the U.S. is not much better. While we're above the global average of 21.5 Mbps, we're still lagging behind most first world countries, not even cracking the top 25. States like Idaho, Maine, Montana, even New Mexico are lucky to get 15 Mbps. It's not just Australia with connectivity issues - it's everyone.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Largest Game Collection For Sale - Again

The World's Largest Video Game Collection is back up for sale. Michael Thomasson initially had his collection sold through GameGavel for just over $750,000 USD. Unfortunately the winning bidder was unable to provide payment and kept delaying the purchase, allowing/forcing Thomasson to keep his games.

So he's looking to try again under multiple options: possibly selling off the collection in smaller chunks, or to go directly to a local gamer for a discounted sale because it's less hassle with shipping. He may even put it up for auction at Christie's so who knows. Rawrcade reached out to Thomasson for details about the bidder that fizzled out and the future of the collection. The biggest concern for Thomasson is getting a sale fast, but not at the loss of the worth of the collection. He's dealing with family and medical concerns where selling the games would really come in handy right about now. It's a massive collection, and to get a piece of it would be great for any game enthusiast. Stay up to date with Good Deal Games for potential collection sales.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Play-Through Reviews-Borderlands:The Pre-Sequel Part 3


Otherwise known as: We have gravity again and the butt stomping stopped.

A belated Happy Turkey Day for those of you who celebrate. I've been busy playing catch-up on Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel since I have been unable to play over the past few weeks. Decided to start over with the Jack Doppleganger as my main character. Lasted about an hour until Level 4 and the first boss fight before I had to stop and make Thanksgiving dinner, and just got onto the moon.

So scratch that. I need to finish the main story first before bouncing around to another character. Back to Nisha I went and onward with the quest to stop that laser and take back Helios Station!

I had stopped in my previous play-through at the point where I was going to go back to the station. No more side-quests. Awesome. It was good to feel the story progressing. Up to this point I felt like I was getting lost in the petty fetch and kill motions that the fun of the game was lost. Being able to move forward and into the primary plot line gave me a kick of energy. And with that gravity returned. Which sucks for super butt stomping, something I have become accustomed to as part of my arsenal. Now you can still butt stomp in a gravity environment - it requires you to double jump, holding the second jump for a moment and then slamming to the ground. It works better as you are going downhill. But when you rely on it as a tool for killing the bad guys, to have it removed really sucks.

And I had to swap to a laser gun as my weapon of choice. By this point in the game baddies and plentiful and move around A LOT. In fact, too much. I was incredibly annoyed at how damn jumpy the mercenaries at Helios Station were. As well as the bugs. /sigh Too much skittering and plane clipping causing enemies to get stuck in the environment - making it impossible to fight them but they are more then capable of killing you while sitting in a container.

Irritating.

While Nisha's Showdown skill made targeting the rolling and flying targets really well, nothing can help stop bad guys stuck in the wall. Yippie.

The difficulty level of the mobs was more then I had anticipated.  It feels like they were trying too much to beef up the levels without giving the player a chance to breathe. I barely felt like I had a moment to just sit and swap out weapons before another wave of enemies came along. I think the first time I had a breather was just before we went into the Eye of Helios - which is pretty much near the end of your time on the station! Yea!

Despite these set-backs, the story really picked up. I felt like I was witnessing the transformation of Jack from wannabe hero to anti-villain, and ultimately into the villain that we know. You watch him as he kills an AI to source her code for a super machine. He kills a group of scientists, assuming one is a mole, to help preserve his path to retake the station. You see him break down in front of you, and it made me want to give him a hug. He looked like he needed a hug...before you backhanded him.

I like where the primary story is going. The game has peaked my interest again and I can not wait to see what happens next, now that we're off to the vault!