Friday, July 29, 2016

Life is Strange Turning into TV Series

Developer Dontnod is teaming up with Legendary Digital Studios and dj2 to create a miniseries to air online for the video game Life is Strange. As announced on their blog, the developers believe that the game lends itself well to television, and the digital series will be available for web consumption. There are very few details regarding the collaboration beyond that. There's no casting announcements or release dates. But it's happening.

I'm probably in the minority of this opinion, but I'm not in favor of this move. Life is Strange is a humbling awkward game. You can alter your decisions as you play by rewinding time. Not to the level of Prince of Persia where you can change an entire level; this is just a few seconds or fractions of a second. In doing so, you learn so much about the main character and the importance of one's decisions. Every action has consequences, so to speak. It's a powerful life lesson squished into a unique game.

An important aspect of this game is the player's ability to make a decision. When that's removed from the medium, the message no longer carries the same weight. What became a powerful tool for Life is Strange is now a passing fancy. You can argue that the game is visually played out like a film or TV show with it's episodic format, which does lend itself to those mediums and making the transition easier. The lack of player choice may prove to work against the miniseries. Games like this that require the player to interact heavily with the content don't always transition well to the big screen - particularly when choices are involved. That's part of the enjoyment of the game.

Or it could work wonderfully well. I don't know. We have to wait and see what happens.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Weekly Link Round Up

With all of the Pokémon Go news on the internet, the craze is swallowing up the rest of the content. But don't worry! There are still plenty of good, bad, and ugly gaming stories we can talk about this week.

- If you're still invested in the Feminist Frequency series, a new video was released yesterday focusing on a very important question: are women too hard to animate? Yes. That's a dig at Assassin's Creed: Unity and their lack-luster response as to why they didn't have any playable female characters in the game. The short answer is no, women are not difficult to animate. The 7 minute video dives into the details a little further.

- Remember that study that we posted in the last Round Up about the decline of sexualization of female characters in games? More details about the study are coming out now that the interest is there. Such as how background female characters are still heavily sexualized. And that there appears to be little to no difference in the way women are portrayed between T and M rated games. The study also didn't focus on any game advertising, which tends to exaggerate female characters, the authors noted. More info to confirm what we already know.

- Random List Time! Twinfinite has marked out 10 Things Everyone Does in Video Games. And actually I don't partake in #10, which is constantly swap out your weapons in first person shooters. I hate it. The noise of the switching constantly annoys me. While I may be a junk hoarder and climb up mountains, that doesn't mean everyone else is the same. I also don't intentionally try to fire on my companions and friends to see if there's a friendly fire option. The list is very flawed - what about jumping to zone? Everyone jumps when you zone. That's a game law. Why isn't that on the list?

- Reposting because this is amusing: a news story about a professor who was interviewed for a magazine about gamification in schools. What? That's a thing? I didn't know one could write a story about someone who's being interviewed!

- WhatCulture is making a return with a list that has merit. Hazzah! 9 Perfect Video Game Sequels that were not developed. Some of them ended up being cancelled outright, such as Silent Hills, while others were retooled to become different stories, like Call of Duty: Roman Wars turned into Advanced Warfare. The original pitch for Roman Wars was canned for being unlike the deluge of CoD games on the market. Which was the point...this list is actually pretty good. Keep it up WhatCulture!

- The Bit Bag has a terrible article on how one can make money by playing video games. Linking so people can read and have a laugh. "You like playing games? Well being a game tester is a real job! How about that?" People, this is 2016. We know that playing games generates business. Poor attempt at the click bait.

- A German Broadcaster has pulled the broadcasting rights of ELEAGUE, a Counter-Strike tournament series, in the wake of the violent acts that occurred recently in Munich. Several news outlets have reported that the gunman in the attacks was a fan of violent games like Counter-Strike. This isn't the first time that Germany has censored games in some form or another, so it's not surprising. But it is a concern for a number of gamers, promoters, and advertisers who see the big business of gaming.

- And finally, PlayStationLifeStyle would like to talk about the death of importing video games. In that we rarely have to do it anymore! Success! It's a good time to be a gamer as our access to overseas content continues to increase with the advent of digital technology, faster communication, and better cross-platform processes that make it much easier to transition products to international audiences. No longer do we have to bust our wallets and drop $129.99 on Japanese only games to bring them to our homes. Now we can save and still play with English dubs. Rejoice!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Disney Filmmaker Stirs SDCC with Video Game Comments

How many of you know who Brad Bird is? Probably not a lot. He's the filmmaker behind animated features such as 'Ratatouille' and 'The Incredibles.' At San Diego Comic Con over the weekend, he attended a panel to promote a documentary behind the development of 'The Iron Giant.' He even joked that more people have seen the documentary in the halls of Comic Con then the original film released in theaters.

But what's catching attention is Bird's comments about video games. A question from the audience asked for Bird's advice on for aspiring filmmakers. His response was two fold: study films that make you feel something, and avoid video games.

"In terms of what to stay away from, I feel like video games are a bad influence for storytelling because they are not directed points of view. They are about floating around universes and I see a lot of films now where the camera is soaring all over the place. That’s okay if you pick the right moments, but a lot of times it feels like there is no point of view, but a lot of time it’s just motion. It bothers me when I see directors arcing around somebody and then arcing back and then arcing around somebody and then arcing back and I go ‘Where are you going? Are you going anywhere or are you just going like this?' "

Before you all raise the pitchforks, let's break down what Bird is trying to say. He didn't cite specific examples of games he's talking about, but I can see what he's referring to. It's not necessarily the content of the stories themselves, but how they are presented to the audience. RPGs, for example, are notorious for introducing a cast of dozens of characters with unique backstories, and we, as the gamer, are expected to learn everything about them in order to achieve the end-game goal. It comes with multiple points of views, plot lines, and stories that inter-weave into one. Makes sense for a 60 hour game. Not so much for a 2 hour film. It can be a whirl-wind if you attempt to transfer the consciousness of a video game into a movie format, and expect people to walk out of the theater in tact.

Seeing the latest 'Star Trek' film, I found myself closing my eyes on numerous occasions to help stop the dizzy spells hitting me. There was a lot of movement of the camera that felt very video game-like. The plot points jumped around and made it a challenge to follow the action. I felt that I couldn't appreciate the movie because I was more focused on stopping the room from spinning.

Bird's words are not meant to incite a revolt from gamers. If one is to take any influences from video games, it should be to focus on the content, the story, and how to piece together interesting narratives that connect to audiences. Not on whirling camera tricks that don't provide perspective.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Loving that Gaming Convention Life

Gaming expos are an an odd cataclysm in the realm of conventions. People go to network and do business. And they go to relax, have fun, and try out new games. And to hang out with friends. And to boost their fanbase on Twitch and YouTube by playing tournaments. And to spend money on swag and Five Night's at Freddy's plushies. It's a weird place to be.

Unlike anime conventions, with a focus on a fun, friendly environment where people can geek out on all things Japan while spending money, and pen shows, which is a real thing and it's 100% business related, gaming expos are a little bit of everything and anything. More then a party atmosphere, and full of serious gamers.

What makes them so enticing? 

Gaming expos are multi-faceted. It allows everyone, no matter what type of a gamer you are, to enjoy themselves. Want to play the latest tech demos before anyone else? Head to PAX Prime/West or GenCon (for you tabletop fans). Interested in meeting your favorite YouTube and Twitch stars? RTX, PAX, SGC, and a bevy of other gaming expos now feature them as guests! Indie gamer? You're covered there. More indie games are appearing at expos, big and small, to get their name out there. Or if you want to just sit in a room and game all weekend with your PC, you can do that too.

It's not an experience you'll find anywhere else. And even if you are a casual gamer, you'll find yourself among your peers and brethren talking about the hobby you enjoy so much. Also easy access to developers. Many of the core team members will attend these conventions to test our their games, and it gives you an extraordinary opportunity to talk to them. My favorite thing to do is to try and break their games when I play because it's the most helpful feedback to the team, as odd as that may sound.

I don't think of gaming expos as a "party place." There are after-parties, sure. But the feeling on the show floor is more like being involved in an exclusive club with thousands of others that you can call friends. It could also be that my expectations of a party include alcohol, dancing, and lots of smoke in the air - the dancing thing might happen at a gaming expo if there's a DDR game in the room.

But it's an atmosphere that I adore. I always find myself entertained and gravitate back to it. More so then anime and comic conventions. What about you? Have you been to a gaming convention before? Tell us your experience!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Another Week of Pokemon Go!

Another week of Pokémon Go, which means a bevy of news stories to showcase the popularity of the game. And some of them are doing some really stupid things to catch these digital creatures. Talking about the craze this week, a number of us have come to the same conclusion: the people getting into accidents would have done it eventually in some other way. Pokémon Go happens to be the easiest thing to blame. Very true. I've seen people walk out into traffic while talking on their phones, oblivious to the world around them. This was long before the app's release. People who don't care will do stupid things. Simple as that.

So here's another friendly reminder to those of you playing Pokémon Go:

- Turn off the sound and use the vibrate feature on the app. The phone will let you know when there's a Pokémon near by so you don't have to bury your face into the screen while you walk. This allows you to be more aware of your surroundings!

- Check both ways before crossing a street to ensure there is no oncoming traffic. You learned this in Kindergarten. We shouldn't have to repeat it.

- DO NOT PLAY WHILE DRIVING. Put down you damn phone and focus on the road.

- DO NOT PLAY ON PRIVATE PROPERTY. That means homes, parking garages, cemeteries, office complexes - any place that is not public and requires you to go through, or over, fences, means you are not meant to be there.

I know most of us understand the laws of the land, but some people seem to forget. The game is enjoyable and exciting. But don't let that overwhelm your senses and pay attention.

Here are some of the stories of the week for the popular app:

- Go is finally in Japan! It released with it's first advertised content from McDonald's. And the drastic growth has seen Nintendo's stock rise to over $35 billion. That's more then Yahoo. The advertising deal with McDonald's has created 2,000 PokeStops and a handful of gyms at their restaurants.

- And not to be left behind by the other countries, a number of people in Japan are finding creative ways to level up and crack open eggs.

- A US user has already claimed the title of PokeMaster, until they add more monsters into the game. Walking 153 kilometeres, he has managed to capture all available Pokémon. Barely took 2 weeks. Madness.

- Wednesday was the largest Pokémon gathering to date in San Fransisco. Over 9,000 people signed up for a Facebook event of a PokeWalk - which is walking around a park or a city with a group of people to catch pocket monsters. The event had over 21k people interested, and drew in a massive crowd. Even as the servers went down before the event, people arrived and experienced the controlled chaos.

- Director Oliver Stone, currently at SDCC promoting a new film, isn't a fan of the app. Like several others posting memes and concerns online, he believes the game is nothing more then a large-scale data mining project meant for harm, rather then good. Think what you will of it, but we know the risks when we download the game to our phones.

- In other world news, Saudi Arabia's 15 year old decree on banning all things Pokémon is still an issue. While there has been no official ruling on how to handle Go, it is unavailable in the country (even though some people are playing it illegally). The religious force in Saudi Arabia cites that Pokémon could create havoc for supporting evolution and polytheism.

- In other world news, people are dicks. Some people are using the new craze to play pranks, and suggest violence against those playing the game. One man even called it a "Purge" on his Facebook page, and he was reported to authorities for making terrorist threats. People...don't. Please. Just don't. There's so much bad crap happening in the world. Let us have our silly game, okay? You get your sports and movies. This is what we have. Let it be.

- Wired has an interesting article looking into how Pokémon Go isn't a solution to Nintendo's financial problems, but a symptom of them. For a company that has been stead-fast against mobile games, why this sudden change?

- And finally, here are 8 random stories about Go players that may or may not be true...but they're funny and reemphasize the need for people to PAY THE F ATTENTION!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why Do Games Sell?

I stumbled upon this story on my news feed by accident, and it's already causing me to shake my head. It's one of those "well it has something to do with video games, so people will click on it" news reports that the station hopes will prompt people to click it. In doing so, there are no links to the actual article and such broad information that even non-gamers would have known the content and understood what was up.

Why am I talking about this? Because the source article has promise. It's a viable marketing study. Though it too lacks in details, the reason for the research is one of those gaming and sales conundrums that is exclusive to this media.

The question is pretty simple: Why do video games (consoles) sell?

I added in the 'consoles' since that seems to be the focus on the press release.

The original piece I'm not going to link to. is not working right now, and I'm not going to add to the news stations click rate. All you need to know is you can read the "news story" on your mobile phone without scrolling, and that popular games sell systems. As if we didn't already know that.

The study comes from the University of Texas at San Antonio, from the chair of the Marketing Department Suman Basuroy and Associate Professor Richard Gretz. The focus of the research and the release of the details coincides with the event 'Big Data, Big Movies' in Berlin, Germany later this year. From the synopsis, the study focused on multiple avenues on how video games move - more specifically how their sales help generate console purchases. Traditional marketing tactics like bundling games with systems (which is no different then getting a promotional movie toy in your McDonald's Happy Meal when you get to the core concept), and console exclusivity are the key drivers to people wanting to buy games, and the systems. Knowing that you can only get X game that's been promoted everywhere on the PS4 is enough to entice people to want that system.

I also found it interesting that they mention backwards compatibility being a turn-off for buyers, due to this notion that we want the "best and latest" hardware. Like mobile phones, we want the coolest one out right now. A 3 year old phone doesn't satisfy our needs. We want what's hot right now. Video games work the same way. Even to those of us from gaming days of ol' who want those features, it doesn't satisfy the majority of consumers.

I'd like to see more of the facts and figures behind this study. It's interesting to learn the mental aspects behind why people make their purchase decisions. What's involved? What neurons fire off in our brains? How can we rationalize having one of every console to play 2 games that are exclusive?

Speaking of which, Microsoft is still popping up in the news that they are making the transition from exclusives to having XBox One/PC integration. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen. But that could hurt their bottom line for future sales, if this study is any indication.

Based on my own observations in marketing, and having worked for a gaming retailer, I think it's a little bit of all of these features, and something more. There's a fervor with gamers that I haven't seen outside of the masses storming Wal-Mart and Target on Black Friday. Except with gamers, it's year-round. They see something that looks awesome, due to it's spiffy graphics, story-line, or it's from a developer they like, then they will stalk the product online/in stores. They have to have it before anyone else. The history of video game marketing has always been about "you get to be the cool kid on the block if you have it first!" I remember way back in the late 1980's, early 1990's, the TV ads for the Sega Genesis. Their sole purpose was to not be Nintendo. You are the baddest kid in town if you have a Sega! And we all bought into that notion. This mind-set has been further emphasized these days by offering pre-order bonuses, day one exclusives, and early unlocks in MMO's. You get to be "cool" all over again by having the game first. I don't know if the UTSA study will focus on this aspect, but I'd love to see this fleshed out more.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Weekly Link Round Up

The Weekly Link Round Up is a bit early this round, as I've found a lot of random news articles on the internet today and it was difficult to pick just one to focus on. So why not a little bit from each? Here's a listing of the best, and worst, gaming news on the internet:

- GameSpew has a list of the top 10 funniest video game cheats. I'm thankful that they focused mostly on pre-2000 games when cheats were icing on top of the cake. Not modded pieces that you had to build and implement to get better armor. These were cheats that were meant to delight as well as annoy. Such as the DK/big head cheat in GoldenEye. Or Washing Machine Banjo in Banjo-Kazooie. Game options that are utterly silly, and all the more brilliant!

- A study recently released from Indiana University claims that female characters in games are becoming less sexualized. I'm calling BS on that, but let's see what the study says. The researches focused on 571 games from 1983 to 2014 where there were playable female characters. Games such as Grand Theft Auto were not included since you can't play as a female avatar. While it does limit the amount of what we can pull from the study (because NPC's are just as important as heroes in how they are portrayed), one thing to note is that heroines are becoming less sexualized. Whether it's in their actions, their clothing, or their dialogue, they are not pandering as much to the male gaze as they use to. However, the field for female heroes is stagnant. The study finds that there hasn't been any growth in female leads for games since 1998. This year's E3 showcased games is a prime example.

- Looking for some new games that are quick to love? The Telegraph has compiled a list of 15 games that you may have missed this year! In all fairness, a lot of the games they have down only released in the past month. One was JUST YESTERDAY! At least give us a week to let the buzz build up before we play. Yeash! Having said that...solid list. I recommend Inside, from the creators of Limbo, and The Flame in the Flood.

- If you're one of the lucky people heading to San Diego Comic Con, Discover San has a couple of gaming booths you should hit up while you're there. And expect Pokemon Go to be impossible to access. They are set to release it in Japan today. God help us all.

- Like the Olympics? Who doesn't! ACMI is set to celebrate the history of the Olympics with 'Retrolympiad.' Starting this Saturday, ACMI will transform its Melbourne gallery into an arcade, with games, music and, visual art that blends Olympic fever with retro style.

- A press release from late yesterday confirms that Ubisoft will release UNO for PS4, XBox One, and PC on August 9th. Somehow this is news. I'm not sure how, but there you go.

- Pokemon craze is still sweeping the world. And some countries are already taking precaution, such as Indonesia. The presidential palace is a Pokemon free zone. Security officials were concerned that the game could be used to highlight and/or photograph areas of the palace or documents, and be shared with unknown sources. It's best to assume that if you're not in a public space, you shouldn't be playing Pokemon Go. Let's leave it at that.

- Oh, hi there WhatCulture. Do you have a list this week that won't make us depressed? This time they present us with 10 beloved video games that have crappy openings. This is one of the few times where I'll have to agree with the slow pacing of Red Dead Redemption and Uncharted 4. While both help set up the story and setting, they can be tough to swallow when you want to get into the meat of the game right off the bat. I'm still not convinced on their argument for Metal Gear Solid 4. It's like they never played an MGS game. Kojima is all about the exposition, so don't whine about it. This list gets a 30% on the like scale. Keep trying WhatCulture. You'll win back favor eventually.

- It looks like someone is trying to revitalize the NCAA football series. After a lengthy legal battle, the NCAA and EA Games have terminated the contract that the games have been out of development for a few years now. But a number of fans, including current NCAA football players, want the games back. iMackulate Vision Gaming is looking to make that happen. How? That's up in the air at the moment. The project is still very much in it's infancy, and they will have a ton of legal proceedings to wade through before they can even consider beginning to code. While EA may no longer produce the games, they still own the rights to NCAA football. 

- Finally, Games Radar takes a brutally honest look at how difficult it is to be funny, especially in video games. Like a movie, the jokes and prat falls are pre-planned. You can't edit on the fly, and hope that your crack sticks with the audience. You have to factor in the story, timing, and pacing to get a joke to land. Fun read and well thought-out, Games Radar. Thanks for rounding up my links for the week with this gem.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mario Kart Can Improve Your Driving?

Another "study" was published yesterday regarding video game violence and how it's bad for children. But instead of wasting everyone's time, and rising to the click bait, for another pointless story that has no merit (because we all know better), we're going to talk about another study that was released that should be getting more coverage.

Mario Kart can help improve your driving skills!

Not kidding. Here's the link to the study. The original paper was submitted in 2015 and was published in April. Academic papers take a while to turn around, especially in 'Psychological Science.' Lead author Li Li from New York University Shanghai, along with co-authors from the University of Hong Kong, Rongrong Chen and Jing Chen, set out to see if action games would "improve essential visuomotor-control skills used for driving." They set limits on play to 5 hours, over multiple sessions, to see if limited time spans of gaming would help. Each participant needed to utilize a driving simulator for three-95 second trials. It's the same type of driving test one would take during driver's ed, but in a virtual environment. Everyone was scored, and split into groups of action games like Mario Kart and Unreal Tournament, and non-action games such as The Sims 2. Mario Kart is considered an action game for this study because you need to constantly move your character. There is no down time outside of the menus. Unlike Rollercoaster Tycoon, also cited in the study, where most of your movements are pointing and clicking the mouse, and waiting on objects to build.

The researchers found that people playing the action games had better response times while driving compared to the group that did not play the games. And after 10 gaming sessions, the subjects showed even greater improvement. They also factored in whether or not the individuals had driver's licenses (most of them did not, however many in Hong Kong are given tests to drive and are capable of doing so, but it's expensive to own a vehicle. See: Japan, South Korea, France as examples). Which ended up not being an issue as all tests came out even during the driving simulation, prior to gaming.

Science! It's amazing.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Playing Games with Cats

Lots of crappy things are happening in the world today. So let's keep today's post lighthearted and talk about cats! Specifically, cats that play video games and questioning how someone managed to get a research grant out of it.

RMIT University, located in Melbourne, started their research three years ago to look into the everyday gaming habits of Australians. From there it grew to include their pets, cats in particular, taking interest in playing the same electronic devices as their owners. Gizmodo Australia spoke with Professor Larissa Hjorth, who leads the study.

“When we started, we were not expecting to find anyone other than humans playing games but it seems their animals are joining in with them as well."

Apps for pets is not a new phenomenon. Apple and Google have categories specifically for cats and dogs with games that can stimulate their brains, and paws. By researching how and why cats play with iPads, Hjorth believes it correlates to how we, as humans, play games with each other. All of this leads up to an exhibition called the Art of Play, going on now through September 6th, that dives deeper in to the minds of cats and their pet owners.

Seriously I couldn't get a grant revolving around interactive digital media, but someone was able to continue their study on cats playing games? Weird world we live in.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Pokemon Go Weekly Link Round Up

This edition of the Weekly Link Round Up is all about Pokémon Go. The app that has catapulted as the top download on iOS and Android charts. People are waiting for the app to release in their country, and even now it's already estimated that 410 thousand South Korean's will download the game upon release. I'm sure the server lag will be a nightmare. And though it's only been a week, there are a ton of stories swirling the internet of the good, the bad, and the ugly with Pokémon Go. So much so that late night talk show hosts and morning radio DJ's are talking about it. It's a thing!

Before jumping in, I do want to use this space as a quick PSA. Because this app, as fun as it is, has caused a few people to forget about things such as social decorum, or laws; or even common sense. And sadly, I feel like I have to put this note in here because people are not paying attention and doing dumb things by not looking up at their phone when they walk or drive. If you think texting while driving is bad, imagine how much worse it is with Pokémon Go.

So, dear readers. Please be safe and be aware of your surroundings while you play Pokémon Go. 

- If there is a Pokestop or a gym at a hospital, police station, fire station, or any medical offices, do not go there. Do not camp out the space. You are putting lives in danger by blocking vehicles that are trying to transport people to safety.

- Look up from your phone while you are walking. You do not have to have your nose buried in the screen. Pro tip: turn on the vibrate option! When you are near a Pokémon that has spawned, your phone will buzz. That way you can walk without having to look at your phone, and only stop when you need to. You can pay attention to your landscape and not do something silly.

- DO NOT PLAY WHILE YOU ARE DRIVING. I am bolding that line because damnit people, you know better. Stop it.

- If you see a grass flutter or a Pokestop behind a gate, fence, wall, a cemetery, or inside a building that is not a public facility (such as a home), do not pass go. Do not collect. It is still illegal to trespass on private property or any government facilities. You can find a Pokémon elsewhere.

Got it? Okay then. Now that's out of the way, let's get on to the Round Up!

- If you have been jealous of your American friends, not to worry, Pokémon Go is finally hitting European countries and Australia. This week it was posted in the UK, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia. Italy, Spain, and Portugal should have access today. Welcome to the club!

- And the wait for official releases are not stopping people from downloading and tweaking settings to get the game to run. Indonesia is seeing a rapid rise in downloads using US and Japanese servers.

- While the use of Google's tech for GPS seems logical, since it's a very robust map system, it's also tied in to the history of Niantic CEO John Hanke. The founder of the mobile phone company, with the hottest game out there, was once a member of the Google team that developed Google Maps and Google Earth. He knows what it's made of and the power behind it to create the AR gaming app. The game that sold Pokémon to going with Niantic is called Ingress, which many of you may have heard of this week as Go's Pokestop/Gym hangouts mirror Ingress's game locations. The people at Pokémon and Nintendo were so impressed by Ingress, that even Pokémon CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara was a fan of the game. Thanks Google for once again making the world awesome.

- Barely a week out and of course the political world is trying to capture on the success. Hillary Clinton's campaign has been dropping the P word on social media. And some follow-up tweets have sent in suggestions to Nintendo and Niantic to try and secure rare Pokémon at polling places this November to encourage younger people to stop in and vote. Not a bad idea.

- The app is such a hit, that even a few NYPD officers are currently being investigated for possibly playing the game while on duty. The gamer that filmed them did apologize for taking the video, but really, they should have known better if they were, in fact, playing on the job.

- T-Mobile customers are going to love this one: they are giving away free data for a year for use with Pokémon Go. There are clauses to be aware, of course. The data will only be free when you play Pokémon and won't be associated with other programs or apps. The offer starts July 19 and runs through next August. If you currently don't have a plan and sign up soon, you'll be rolled into it, with the same ending date.

- Not to be outdone, McDonald's is already working out a deal with Nintendo and Niantic to make their fast food shops into Pokestops around the globe. Several users have checked out the coding in the game and noticed the pattern, which has prompted some inside sources to discuss the potential ad deal. Sponsored locations are nothing new to Niantic, having used them for Ingress. But such a big name so soon is unexpected. That's the power of Pokémon.

-  The power of the pocket monsters is so strong that a number of people are now using the game to promote their businesses. I can attest to a few restaurants, shops, and even the local arboretum have been advertising their spaces as PokeStops and Gyms for people to gather, and spend money. Niantic will be installing ads in the game soon and open up sponsored locations, so don't be alarmed when that happens. We knew it would. Until then, enjoy the bevy of lures that smaller businesses are dropping to attract people to their stores!

- If the app is killing your phone battery, there are ways to help reduce the impact. Time has 6 tips to help you out. Surprisingly, the app doesn't use a lot of data - but it does destroy that battery life, hard core!

- And are you one of those people who is just tired of all of the Pokémon talk? Chrome users have your back with a set of extensions that will block out everything on Google Chrome that relates to Pokémon. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Former Ubisoft Motion Pictures CEO - Game Movies Can Win an Oscar

Hopefully some of you enjoyed my writing overlord article yesterday. I needed to type that out of my system. Badly. Back to gaming!

GameSpot recently spoke to Julien Baronnet, former CEO of Ubisoft Motion Pictures who quit to start his own company, Marla Studios. The new venture will focus on video game movies, which after one film and negotiating contracts for 4 others, Baronnet feels like he's an expert now. So much so, that he believes a video game movie will one day win an Oscar.

Yep. You read that correctly. A video game movie winning an Academy Award. Will that happen in our lifetime?

Baronnet has had a peek at video game movie adaptations over the past few months and believe it will. "The creative angle, the production design, the artistic choices, the originality. Yes, definitely I think that maybe one video game movie can win an Oscar...if it's properly done."

Always a catch, isn't there? And knowing the Oscars, it'll be for something like special effects or costume design, not necessarily for acting, directing, or screenplay. The "noble" awards, as they call it.

Look. We get it. Video game movies have a bad rap. As gamers and non watch these filmes, we are criticizing the story, the casting, or the lack of connection to the games.  Even the latest Warcraft tanked here in the states, but did incredibly well overseas so there will probably be a sequel in the works. One day, there will be a good one that breaks the barrier and allows the public to see that yes, it can be done! But we aren't there quite yet. Maybe Assassin's Creed will break that barrier? With the exception of the Kanye West, gay fish, song, the trailer looked promising. But is it good enough to earn an Oscar? That's debatable.

Baronnet believes there are 3 things necessary to make a good game adaptation to the silver screen. Number 2 and 3 make a lot of sense, and those are the game developers having creative control over the script to prevent movie studios from changing them, and that said developers are actively involved throughout the entire process. Having their stamp of approval on a film is likely to produce a better product. Baronnet's first point is meh. 'The right creative choices must be made.' Well, heck! That's like shooting fish in a barrel! Sarcasm aside, it take a lot to develop a great film. There is no way to know if the "right choices" have been made until you plop the final product in theaters. It's an ambiguous statement.

Before leaving Ubisoft, Baronnet worked out deals to have games such as Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell, Watch Dogs, and Rabbids to be on the movie block. Though I cringe knowing that Michael Bay will be working on the Ghost Recon movie. There goes that Oscar nomination.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Please Punctuate!

Today's post has less to do with gaming, and more about writing. In fact, it's all about writing. So unless you're really interested in the English language, grammar, and punctuation, now's a good time to check out and we'll see you tomorrow. But hey! If you are trying to get into the gaming industry as a reviewer, or on a production team as a story developer/script writer, then stick around. This post may save your career.

English is a subject I have always been fond of. Not only for the reading aspect, and I fully admit I was one of those nerdy kids who loved getting homework assignments that involved reading, but writing as well. Developing my own thesis and defending my position through the written word is something I still get a kick out of today. I've got three degrees to back it up. My final thesis was over 250 pages long. And it wasn't to fluff the content. It needed to be done to fully develop the argument.

And over the years I have been exposed to a myriad of writing styles. Being a film student at a Baptist private university, I have seen classic religious works to television scripts and manga. Writing has transformed so much over the past decade. The rise of cell phones and texting has made way to a new genre of short-term typing. In that, we have seen a rapid change in the written word among children and young adults that better cater to their LOL and 1337 needs. Even so, there is something to be said for the centuries of writing that have been formulated to create the foundation that we have today.

Writing is fluid. It will grow and adapt to the world around it. But we can't ignore the basics. It's those rudimentary aspects that allow writing to exist, and maintain it's use in society. We need foundations. With everything! Writing has evolved for hundreds of years to become what it is now. The reasons behind the use of commas, periods, quotation marks has been scientifically studied. The too long, didn't read version (TLDR) is pretty straight forward: we have honed the written word that is pleasing to the eye and easy for people to read. Punctuation is necessary, otherwise people will tune out.

And yes, people like their periods and commas to delineate pauses in sentences. We don't speak 500 words in one breath; we pause, whether it's for emphasis or to let Oxygen into our systems.

Texting is an odd phenomenon. Back in the 90's when cell phones were becoming more common-place on the consumer market outside of executive jobs, texting had limits. Think of it as Twitter for your phone. You had only X number of characters to use for free before your phone network began to charge you for each additional character. So people began developing a new system of short-hand and 1337 speak to reduce the numbers of characters used. That also meant all forms of punctuation went out the window. This has become so ingrained in us that even today, with unlimited texting, we still forgo the punctuation and proper spelling. And even that is being replaced by emojis, pictured images that represent a word or phrase. This has spilled over into social media, Twitter and Instagram in particular come to mind. But for the most part, the decorum is to use proper punctuation and sentence structure unless there are character limits. Science backs it up.

What's the point of today's post? It's ranting and tying to understand why there is a change happening in writing classes around the globe to highlight trends that throw the rules out the window.

Yesterday my friend Meg sent me a fan fiction she wanted me to read. There was no context to the note. I don't read fan fiction often. She knows this. But I trust her point of view, so if she was sending it to me, there was a good reason behind it.

I made it about 3 sentences in before quitting. At least I think they were sentences. I couldn't tell you what the story was about, of if it was worth the read through because the lack of punctuation and spacing made it near impossible to read. The first 'paragraph' was composed or 350 words with 2 periods and dashes to designated characters speaking. The character dialogue was in the paragraph. They were not separated out into their own lines, and they talked on top of each other. It would go from one character to the next without a pause. The sentences ran together. Where there were paragraphs, there were no double spaces to indicate as such. No indents. I don't believe I saw a comma or an apostrophe.

I understand that the dashes are used in some countries instead of quote marks. And some writers use it to provide additional emphasis on words or actions to delineate the importance of the sentence. In doing so, they still showcase proper punctuation and sentence/paragraph spacing so that people can read it. They don't ignore the other basic principles of writing that allow people to read the content.

It was after that third sentence, or paragraph, that I gave up. I scrolled down the rest of the page and found the formatting to be the same throughout. There were 9 chapters into this fan fiction over the course of 8 months. I hoped that clicking on the recent chapter would show an improvement in style. Sadly, it did not.

My next instinct was to read through the comments, possibly post my own to give the writer a heads-up that if you're going to break some writing rules, you shouldn't break all of them. The reader needs to be able to still dissect your content. If they can not read it, they won't follow-through with your story. But of course, this being the internet, people had already commented with their thoughts. Only 10 comments; all referring to the difficulty of reading the story. And polite! Sometimes the internet can be a wonderful place where people provide construction criticism instead of insistent bashing. One person commented that he/she appreciated the tone of the story as well as the character development, but the writing style made it a challenge to read. This person offered suggestions to help out with the spacing, and adding more punctuation so there would be pauses in the sentences - allowing both the reader and the characters a chance to breathe.

Unfortunately the writer didn't take the words as constructive, and responded to each comment with the type of defensive tactics that one would see with politicians. The writer apparently was taught how to write like that in school, and their way is correct. How dare we question their ability to write!

When I got back to Meg, I asked her if she sent me the fan fiction as a joke. (For the sanity of the "author" I'm not going to link the story.) Meg was 100% serious and wanted to know my initial reaction to it.

"I wanted to bang my head against the keyboard with every word for the lack of spacing and punctuation. Maybe doing that, I could add a few more commas and periods to the story."

After that, we had an interesting debate about the changing language of writing. Make no mistake. Writing is moving into the digital era with a loud thud that is rattling the cages of scholars and authors. But to outright ignore the foundations would be literary death. If the author of the fan fiction truly was taught how to write in that manner, we need to put an end to that teacher's madness. He/she has set that writer up for failure in life by not being able to write a clear sentence.

We are at an odd time where we need to learn more then on written language to communicate. And that's okay! Learning how to text, comment on social media, and write a thesis are all important aspects of life today. They allow us to stay in touch with friends and family while securing jobs as adults. All are equally important. It's no different then being bi-lingual, when you get to the nuts and bolts of it. But there is a time and a place for it. Texting should never, never, never take place in a short story, paper, or any type of work where people, en mass, are reading it. Ever. If you were to write in 1337 speak for a movie/TV/game script, you would be laughed out of the room. Scripts, in general, are different from novels as they utilize capitalization to designate settings and character names. They also do some very interesting formatting where dialogue is centered and in tight margins. This is done to ease the reading and to limit the pages to a minute, i.e. one page equals one minute. If you have an 80 page script, that's an 80 minute movie. Even so, you'll find that every one of these scripts still maintains the basic principles of writing to ensure people can read the content. They don't ignore or disobey all of the rules due to the unique format.

Proper spelling, grammar, punctuation are all important - no matter what you do in life. It's okay to embrace the changes in society with technology, but we shouldn't do so at the expense of the written word. Please continue to use those punctuation marks. Or people will stop reading and it will be a disaster.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Amazon Prime Day v.2.0 for Gamers

It's Amazon Prime Day, once again. Last year, many of us remembered it for being really crappy on the sales. Ridiculously so. How about that 10 cent savings on a PS4? But Amazon released the numbers, and their sales were bigger then Black Friday for the site. While social media ripped them apart for the lame deals, Amazon was prepping to run Prime Day once more.

So what's on the docket this year? Hopefully not 30 gallons of lube. Luckily, a few sites have compiled some of the gaming deals that have cropped up so far, and more will appear throughout the day.

-GameRant has a listing of console bundles where you can save up to $140 for some. And Amazon Fire TV starts as low as $69.99. Not bad.

- PC World has a few games that are worth mention. Doom and the latest Mirror's Edge can be purchased for under $49. And if you haven't played Saint's Row IV, it's only $3.75 today. Nice.

- Tech Radar lists out multiple gadgets that might peak your interest, including 25% off on select Android phones, and GoPro bundles.

- For our UK friends, Gizmodo has you covered, and they will be updating their site all day to include the flash and goldbox deals that are limited time offers.

As for me, nothing is really standing out. But if you haven't picked up some of last year's hits the deals might be worth the investment. The Witcher 3 is selling for $29.99 on PS4 (for the next 29 minutes at least). That's about on par with a Steam sale. Just Cause 3 is up for $24.99. And the Turtle Beach X12 headset is on sale for $34.99. That is one headset I would recommend. Excellent sound quality and great microphone output. The keyboards? Eh. I'm seeing some at 15% off. Big whoop. I'll go to Fry's instead.

That's all that's caught my attention so far. Maybe some better deals will crop up throughout the day?

But if you need a reason to sign up for Prime, because this is a Prime Members offer only, any pre-orders or new games (within 2 weeks of release) you'll receive a 20% savings by ordering through Amazon. I have a couple of games on my list for the fall and winter release cycle that made my Prime membership worth it. There's always a silver lining.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sponsored Mordor Game Videos Under Fire by FTC

Warner Bros. has caused a bit of an upset with the FTC regarding paying YouTubers to promote the video game Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor. The action itself is not illegal. We see sponsored videos all the time littering YouTube and Twitch these days from top gamers. The problem is in the details, as is always the case.

This morning a press release was issued by the FTC and Warner Bros. settled charges that it failed to adequately disclose that money was paid to online personalities to only post positive reviews of Mordor. Such figures include PewDiePie, and the sponsored videos netted over 5 million views when the campaign was completed. The WB does not deny the accusations. While they won't pay any fines, they will have to re-evaluate any future programs, and deal with an embarrassing fall-out among gamers.

What it boils down to is that the WB did not properly disclose information regarding the sponsored videos, and refrained YouTubers from posting any negative content. In doing so, it did not give the consumer an honest view of the product. A PDF file of the restrictions given to YouTubers was provided in the proceedings that included the following:

• Video will feature gameplay of the [Shadow of Mordor video game]
• Video will have a strong verbal call-to-action to click the link in the description box for the viewer to go to the [game’s] website to learn more about the [game], to learn how they can register, and to learn how to play the game.
• Video will promote positive sentiment about the [game].
• Video will not show bugs or glitches that may exist.
• Video will not communicate negative sentiment about [Warner Bros.], its affiliates or the [game].

That's a pretty hefty list. It essentially gives WB full control over how your video had to be presented and if it met their standards. In return, you got paid. Even worse is that the "sponsorship" tag that is required in any YouTube video was buried deep in the description. The Consumerist used PewDiePie's video as an example, where you had to expand the description to see that it was a sponsored video. Also, note it's location. It's so buried, you have to be digging for that content to realize it was sponsored.

So remember kids! YouTubers are now getting paid to promote new games. If you think something sounds too good to be true, click on the description and see if it's a sponsored product. Sometimes the reviews are honest, and sometimes they are not

Friday, July 08, 2016

Weekly Link Round Up

Rough week in the country, and it seems to want to continue a steady decline. I'm going to make a very brief comment before we move back to gaming news:

Can we stop killing each other, please?

If there is anything we can learn from the thousands of years of recorded human history, it's that violence has not solved a single damn thing. Only through peace, diplomacy, and respect have we been able to accomplish so much in this world. The internet would not exist without global cooperation.

Stop being dicks. Value life (human, animal, plant). And quit trying to kill each other!

And back to our regularly scheduled program. Weekly Link Round Up for gaming news:

- If you live in Germany then congrats! Today is National Video Games Day. has wrapped up 9 facts about games, include a study that concludes surgeons should play a minimum of 30 minutes a day to help with their hand-eye coordination, as it translates to the operating table. Interesting.

- Las Vegas casinos are now looking to incorporate more video games into gambling to draw in younger crowds. Not video poker, but more of an Angry Birds meets poker type of situation. In February, a law was passed that allowed for the introduction of more skill-based games in casinos. Not a series of slot machines that are based on random luck, but games that require you to be good at them in order to win the big prizes. It'll take a few years before we see these types of games on the floor, but it could open up a new realm of gambling for the gaming elite.

- YouTuber MatPat, known for his new series on YouTube Red, did something very unexpected: he gifted the Pope a code to download Undertale on Steam. There was a Vatican summit for YouTube creators this week, and he wanted to show how a game like Undertale could create a dynamic landscape for gaming without the need for violence. For those who don't know, you can win the game without hurting a single digital creature. It's also customary to give the Pope a gift or token when meeting him, so why not a game? MatPat's response to it is quite thoughtful.

- EuroGamer has posted a video in their series 'Low Batteries' which focuses on mental health issues and gaming. This particular episode, however, is a topic everyone can relate to: grief. How we handle it and how video games approach such a subject - please watch it today. Incredibly thoughtful and insightful.

- On the other end of the spectrum, WhatCulture has a new list for us: 10 Video Game Franchises Nobody Admits To Liking. The title image includes the likes of Duke Nukem, The Sims, and Call of Duty. Really? No one likes CoD? Then why are there so many people who still buy the games AND freely talk about their enjoyment of playing said games on the internet? The writer's #1 pick is World of Warcraft and blames the South Park episode 'Make Love Not Warcraft' as the reason why people don't admit to liking the game. Because that's exactly why no one went to see the Warcraft movie - South Park did it. (Insert eye roll here.)

What happened, WhatCulture? You keep going through these up and down phases, and this list is horrible. It's a slap in the face to the fans who show up looking for meaningless dribble and a laugh or two. This list is pure trash, even for your standards. I guess they'll be going on the "do not view" list for a while until they clean up their mess. Ugh.

- And finally, is it any surprise that Pokémon Go is one of the top downloads and most used apps this week? Well, it shouldn't. This has been a gaming 'must-have' since last year and now that it's in our hands, we all want to play! There are still a lot of issues to be addressed and downed servers, but it will get better. Eventually.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Pokémon Go - Initial Impressions

Within minutes of the app being available, I had it downloaded and was already exploring the game to see what goodies it had to offer. Pokémon Go has been a long time coming, offering a new experience for trainers to play their favorite game in the real world - sort of. Using AR (augmented reality) technology and your cell phone, you are able to catch Pokémon around you, level them up, and battle in gyms. The internet freaked out a little bit.

Now that I've played the app for a while, I can say for certain that it has a lot of growing up to do and I hope they don't make players wait for long.

Since the beta, the game now introduces you to a mini tutorial and provides you with a starter Pokémon of your choice from the standard 3: Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur. To catch a creature, you have to flick a Pokéball at them by swiping your finger across the screen. If you bop them on the head, you are more likely to catch them. Throw the ball too far off course and you'll miss your chance to nab them. After that, you are set out to explore the world around you and catch more Pokémon.

That's about all the tutorial will tell you. The rest you're expected to figure out on your own. Hint: The Pokémon in the wild will appear on the overhead map with leaves fluttering among the grass/buildings. That's not explained in the game.

It wouldn't be so bad if there were a robust FAQ or even a menu system with more then 4 options. So you have to fiddle around with the app to figure out what things do. You get a few starter items as well, such as an egg which allows you to potentially spawn up to 3 Pokémon near you, but it's not a guarantee.

Right now you can capture the pocket monsters, train them with items so they can become stronger, and battle against gym leader NPC's. You can also claim a gym and use one of your Pokémon to hold down the fort. Other people can battle your character this way, but there are no one on one battles at this time. There is also no trading. Interaction with other human's playing the game are almost non-existent. You can't event friend people (or if you can, I have no idea how since the menu system is so basic, there's little information to help you out). Hopefully these are all features that will be released soon.

Another issue to be aware of is your phones limitations. A number of people have been concerned about battery usage since the app not only requires you to turn on your GPS but you also have to keep the screen up if you want to pick up items throughout your day. GPS is a massive battery suck. Combined with the screen time, it's going to drain your cell phone's life; even with a charger plugged in. It's recommended that you turn on the Battery Saving option under the settings menu, and turn off that GPS when you are not playing. The developer is looking into a more permanent solution. I only played for a few minutes this morning and it took a 2% dip in my battery life. During my lunch break, I had to turn up the screen brightness. After 10 minutes of roaming, I was down 5% on the battery. Results may vary.

There is also the issue with the AR itself. Since the game is based off of GPS, if you have a phone that's older then a year, it may not have access to the latest software updates and/or is unable to utilize the newest content. As such, it can limit your range when the app refreshes the Pokémon available in your area. This is why you'll see some people catching monsters in their home with ease, but the rest of us have to walk a few blocks before we find one. As phones get better over time, so will the tech and Go. Until then, good luck trying to stay on top of the game!

I could see this becoming an addictive game, for all the right reasons. It's promoting a different means of exercising with the amount of walking one needs to do. And with the future inclusions of more one on one battles/trades, it'll only further the success of the app.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Pokémon Go Out in the U.S.!

This is not a drill. I repeat. This. Is. Not. A. Drill.

Pokémon Go is out in the States! It's a free download on Android and iOS with in-app purchases.

People have been playing since this morning, but were tagging their accounts in another region and causing a string of bans from the developer, Niantic, Inc. But, it's now up and running on U.S. mobile stores and it's ready to take up all your free time! One of the biggest concerns to come from the game is that it's killing phone battery life. Should any of us be surprised by this? Some quick tips to help, other then using the battery conserve option, is to keep your phone screen dim, turn off the sound, and stop the app if you're playing the game.

And if you're interested in a little more, here's an overview of the micro-transactions in the game. 

Now go forth and catch those Pokémon!

RTX 2016 Review

This past weekend I was in Austin attending RTX, the now annual expo where the internet meets reality and weird stuff happens. It began not to long ago under the watchful eye of internet media production company Rooster Teeth and grew into the beast that it has become today. Since acquiring other groups such as Screw Attack, Game Grumps, and FunHaus, RTX has become a multi-media event worthy of attending while keeping things casual for the fans.

It's difficult for me to summarize exactly what RTX is. There are panels with internet celebrities from Rooster Teeth and other gaming groups. Meet and greets and autograph sessions with said internet phenoms. There are also multiple gaming developers in the midst, mostly indie, pushing their wares onto the audience at large. Twitch sets up shop to stream content all weekend live from the floor, including a painting session (that was kind of cool). Gaming tournaments took place in the main Expo hall on the big screen all weekend, and around the corner in smaller booths for prizes ranging from free games to $5 grand. And among the bevy of geeky shops there is the Rooster Teeth experience where you can see, touch, and pose with props from various show sets; including a broken down Warthog from the Halo franchise. With the inclusion of Screw Attack, one hotel was able to offer 24/3 programming with a retro arcade, a "dance" (read that as rave), and late night internet celeb panels.

As far as the age-range...this is the weird part. All of these personalities are over 21. They swear and drink on occasion on their channels and shows. Their content could be considered juvenile, but they hit that 21-35 adult male crowd that advertisers dream of: the ones with disposable income and ready to buy anything that looks cool. The people that showed up were mostly from this target group. But there were also young teenagers, kids, women, adults over the age of 40 without kids. It was a little bit of everything and everyone. Nice to see. Weird to experience. My first time attending RTX in 2012 it was a heavily male dominated space. That's not to say that I felt isolated. Everyone was kind and I had a great experience. But it was obvious that I was the odd duckling being one of the few women in a setting of young adult men. In those 4 short years, Rooster Teeth has changed the face of internet content by providing shows like RWBY and Immersion that would appeal to a broader audience. Now the halls are filled with an all-ages, all-gender group of people all enjoying the love of video games. Though I should caution parents about the panels: most of them are for adults due to language and sometimes the content. Nothing perverse, but could ruffle a few feathers if you aren't aware of the Rooster Teeth videos.

The difference between the years that I've attended is astounding. For one, they opened up the entire convention center (something they needed to do in 2012 and realized their folly even back then). Lots of walking space, lots of things to see and do. I felt myself constantly busy, but not in an "oh I'm so tired there's too much to do" kind of way. I was able to walk around and do things at my own pace and didn't feel bogged down by much.

The only thing that I missed out on, that I really wanted to do was their Five Nights at Freddy's Haunted House. It ended up being promoted on their podcast early Sunday morning so the line was astronomical for the rest of the day. Oh well.

Overall, if you are a fan of Rooster Teeth or any of the gaming groups they own, there is something for you to like. If you're a gamer, there were plenty of old and new school games to try out. And if you're there for a convention scene, well you're in the wrong place. This isn't like a typical anime or comic book convention. This is an expo, meant to showcase games and internet celebrities. If you don't have an interest in either, then you don't want to be there.

RTX has a weird, cool kids club vibe that's easily accessible to anyone who may be interested in their antics. You feel special for having an "in" to the event and understand the jokes. But it's also very easy to get "in" if you want to learn more. The only barrier is yourself and how much you want to dive into their culture.

Lots of improvements from my first time attending, including the autograph lines (I like the concept, though Guardians should have been a little more active on the speed of said lines. And maybe extend the signing times by 30 minutes so everyone has an opportunity to talk to said internet celebs). This year they made it a ticketed event that you received for free with the purchase of your badge. There were several signings each day, broken into pairs and you could choose one. The line to get in was made extra long by security - not only a bag check but a metal detector. I'm just grateful that they didn't dump out my purse contents. That would have made it take 500 timers longer! RTX also now offers a cosplay contest (though I would recommend moving the room next time - that one was packed), a quiet space for chilling out and getting away from the noise, and 24 hour programming at an adjacent hotel (as mentioned earlier).

Some of the games I tried out: Butt Sniffin Pugs. The game is just as it sounds. You and a partner roam around a level, sniffing and barking at things to unlock special powers. The controller is a giant tennis ball with a Pug butt to sniff stuff. It's as weird and cooky as it sounds.

Brawlhalla was back again, this time showing off some of the new character skins and abilities that will be releasing over the next few months. The game is still free to play and gaining a lot of traction on Steam. We talked to their social media manager on Sunday and he was really pumped for what the game has available. Couldn't give much details, but said that the core fans will love it.

Dub Wars is an EDM driven game that focuses on the music beats to progress through levels. Very Tron meets Flower and Asteroids. With music. Your goal is to use music as your weapon in this top-down shooter to clear levels and beat the bad guys/aliens. Great visuals and very striking music. Easy to jump into and not feel overwhelmed by the sounds.

I only have one major gripe against a Guardian that went on a power trip, but I've already sent in my concern about that. But that's really my only complaint! Everything ran fairly smooth. We were able to get into the panels we wanted to see, big and small, with less then an hour of wait time. Overall, I enjoyed it and hope to return!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Rise of Tabletop Games on Kickstarter

I'm back from RTX and will have wrap-up...eventually. Need to get all of the photos off my camera first and work up the review. In the mean time, let's get back into gaming and Kickstarter news with some surprising stats from Polygon. Over the past few years, video games were steadily climbing and taking over as one of the top crowdfunded projects on Kickstarter. They were setting records left and right.

But this year, the numbers have dropped drastically. Roughly the same number of game projects are being backed, but for a lower dollar amount. There is a noticeable absence of "big name" projects. No Shenmue 3 to entice people to pledge. It's a lot more indie games, asking for a lot less money.

U.K. based ICO Partners has conducted a review of the backed projects on Kickstarter this year and has found that more board games are being funded then video games. Up to 6 times more, in fact. And up to 4 times more projects are receiving funds because of this, putting the genre on track for a record year.

Why the drastic change for gamers? There isn't a direct answer for that, but I do think there are a few reasons that have helped spur the interest in tabletop games. Media channel RoosterTeeth and web comic Cyanide & Happiness have both produced card games that reached the million dollar level when they only asked for a few thousand. Big name companies/groups that have a strong fan base willing to donate compared to indie games and developers who have no following. It also helps that in many cases with the board games, the final product is ready to go. The companies have the stories, the pieces, the design, everything they need - expect mass production. That's what is stopping them from delivering the product to a store or convention near you. They don't have the funds to produce multiple copies of their game. Seeing the tangible product on Kickstarter is more of an incentive to backers. Unlike a video game that may not be produced, as we have seen on multiple occasions, you can see with the board game that the item is ready. You feel more inclined to back the project compared to a video game concept that doesn't have coding or artwork down.

It'll be interesting to see where the rest of the Kickstarter year takes us. Will there be more of a push towards tabletop games, or will video games make a comeback?

Friday, July 01, 2016

The Dollar Value of a Game

Over the years, questioning the price of video games has become a common practice. Do you remember when they use to be $39.99? I do. Those were glorious days. With the XBox and PS2, the pricing models changed and only Nintendo was willing to buck the trend for a few years by keeping games in the $39-$49 range. Overall the $59.99 price tag has stuck around and hasn't changed. And while many of us think games should be cheaper, Simon Nash at OnlySP argues that games need to be more expensive.

Ready those pitchforks.

His opinions center on two points: that we get a lot of content out of these games and they are worth more then $59.99, and the rise of development cost.

Nash overlooks the fact that a number of games are released "broken" or contain so many bugs that we pay for unfinished products, on the guise that the developer will fix it later. Paying for things you can't play - sounds like a GameStop motto. But at the rate developers are going lately, gamers are not willing to pay more for a broken product. They'll pay more for a working product, but not a broken one. It's as simple as that. If the companies can resolve those issues, then we can talk about a price increase. We can argue that the value of the games are more then what one would get out of a book, movie, or tv show. But the value is what the consumer places on it. They are not willing to spend $69 or $79 on a game, it won't sell and you'll have to discount it to a level that it's worth their time, and money.

In regards to the rising costs, there is no denying that there has been an increase with games. That's a fact in every business around the world. More consumption, higher demand, higher pricing. But the overhead costs for developing a game are still small by comparison. With digital downloads taking over the need for discs (which are still pennies on the dollar cheap to make), publishers have to produce less physical copies, which makes up part of that dent in the budget. And developers are now using more nontraditional advertising to get their product out to the masses. Such as promoting it through YouTubers (where they receive the game for free to give a play through and review on it) versus standard TV ads that can cost hundreds of thousands to produce. The viewership on a YouTuber is guaranteed compared to a TV ad.

I don't think games are in a dire need to raise their prices right now. Down the road, of course. That's part of the economic shift. But now? Nope. They are find just where they are.