Friday, March 30, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Happy Friday! Or Happy Good Friday if you celebrate it? Is it a holiday? I don't know anymore. There are some people not at work, but it's still a work day. But not a national/bank holiday so stuff is open. What?

Anyway; it's the Weekly Link Round Up! A collection of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet.

- Kotaku asks what if a video game knew you were streaming it? Which immediately makes me jump into thinking video games having their own, autonomous mind. Being able to jack with you while you're streaming, yelling profanities or intentionally messing up your high score to get a rise out of you. The discussion with SOS designer Ian Milham isn't about that. It focuses on creating games meant for streaming, but the idea of a game being actively aware of you streaming is creepy.

- Viz Media, which you probably know as an anime dub house, has released a video game. Weird, right? The World Next Door is an odd mix of action-adventure with Tetris and Bejewled. I don't know what to make of it, but Polygon gave it a like. That's got to account for something.

- A Washington Federal appeals court has ruled that 'Big Fish Games' Big Fish Casino' constitutes as gambling. The argument stems from whether these games promote gambling and if buying the in-game currency holds value. The original case was brought up in 2015, but was dismissed by a court in 2016. Judge Milan D. Smith of the Ninth Circuit of U.S. Court of Appeals wrote “[B]ecause Big Fish Casino’s virtual chips are a ‘thing of value,’ Big Fish Casino constitutes illegal gambling under Washington law.” This could have implications across the U.S. on these type of app/browser-based games. The ruling is limited to Washington state. This can not be applied elsewhere...for now.

- The 2018 Video Game Hall of Fame finalists have been announced. The "hall" is organized by The Strong National Museum of Play. And no, your eyes are not deceiving you. Final Fantasy VII is listed among the greatness of Tomb Raider and Half-Life. You can learn more about the hall of fame here, but don't take it too seriously folks. The museum is located in Rochester, New York. While it's a great looking exhibit about the history of play and toys, it doesn't have any official authority on video games.

- And now for something different: Jeff Goldbum reading quotes from video games. You're welcome.

- No roundup is complete without a list from WhatCulture. Here are 9 tiny issues that ruined the reputations of great video games! And no, these "issues" did not ruin the game's reputation. No one cares that you can't wear finger-less gloves in GTA4. Or that Max Payne got older, shaved his head, and wore a Hawaiian shirt in Max Payne 3. And by all accounts, a lot of people really like the episodic content of the latest Hitman game. Go home WhatCulture. You're drunk again.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The "Myth" of Dragon Quest Explained!


Sorry. I'm really excited about this news. Dragon Quest is one of the few series that I latch onto and appreciate for sticking to what it does best: classic kick-ass JRPG. But it never feels old or repetitive. The stories and characters always change. The battles more epic. The combat more commanding. And with every iteration, Akira Toriyama's (Dragon Ball, everything Dragon Ball) artwork becomes reality. I love this series probably as much as Final Fantasy. And this is one where I didn't jump into it until Dragon Quest VII.

Dragon Quest has always been an odd fascination to us in the West. It's a franchise highly lauded in Japan and throughout Asia. So much so that there has been a longstanding rumor that a lot of people will call out from work/school on DQ release days to play it. Not on the level of Halo 3/4 like we've seen here in the states. There is a significant lack of productivity that affects the Japanese economy when a new Dragon Quest game is released.

It's even spawned an urban legend that the Japanese government created a "Dragon Quest Law" to force SquareEnix to publish future DQ games on Saturday only, to prevent future economic concerns. Executive producer for the series Yuu Miyake spoke with IGN about the myth. (The truth is DQ Law became an internal change with the company and Nintendo to push releases to Saturday to help their consumers, starting with DQ 3.)

But we rarely see the games make their way over here. It's been better over the past decade, and we did get a couple of remakes on the Nintendo 3DS. Generally speaking, DQ has never quite found the footing in North America. Miyake believes that the lack of NA interest was Enix (at the time) not putting as much effort into overseas promotion. Some of it could be timing as well, he remarked. Final Fantasy didn't really take off in the West until FF7 and the PS1. DQ was a strict Nintendo product for some time and took a while to convert to disc. By the time that happened, NA and EU gamers were focused on more Westernized products. Gimmicky promotions with DQ games, such as demo discs for Final Fantasy, helped push sales, but never on the level as Asian countries.

Though the times have changed, DQ remains and it's still every popular in the East. Hopefully one day that success translate to the West. I can't wait for September to roll around and finally get my hands on this game!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

ME: Andromeda - One Year Later

It's been a year since Mass Effect: Andromeda released (March 21, 2017), and I felt today's post would be an appropriate time to look back at the madness surrounding this game. It was one of 2017's more controversial releases, resulting in some key figures leaving BioWare, along with harsh reactions from some gamers. It was on a level that exceeded Assassin's Creed: Unity. And that was a game that could glitch and become virtually unplayable. Andromeda never reached that state.

I fully admit that I enjoyed Andromeda. But it received an unfair assessment by a number of gamers with a huge backlash campaign before the game released. Including harassing non-BioWare employees. Most professional reviews of the game have been good to positive. Could the final product have used more polish before it was released? Yes. I'm not behind the rose-colored glasses so much to ignore the technical issues and unexplained plot-holes.

Now that many of the negative gamers and bottom-feeders have moved on to other topics (see: Star Wars: Battlefront II), more Andromeda fans are sharing their experience with the game. Many fans have found a new enjoyment for Mass Effect that they didn't see in the original series. Others are getting into the franchise for the first time with Andromeda. There are a number of people who genuinely enjoy Andromeda, and this is the first time some feel safe/comfortable enough to speak without the fear of trolls. And that's awesome.

Sadly, the damage has already been done. In August of 2017, BioWare announced that there would be no more future updates or patching to Andromeda. This includes story elements and DLC. Multiplayer content with the APEX missions would still continue, and are still running regular updates. But the base game is all we are going to see from Andromeda. The patching for the game has been a mix of both story elements and technical issues. The glassy/glossy eyes from Asari and Humans have been resolved, male-Ryder can romance Jaal, etc. For fans and those looking for closure with the end of Andromeda, we've got books. Books that had long been planned to expand with the series. At least it's better then nothing at all. The franchise appears to be shelved while all hands are on deck for BioWare's new IP: Anthem.

It's good to see that a lot of the hate for the game before/after it's release has dissipated. There are still those who will comment on every single BioWare social media post with "you've killed Mass Effect" or some variation of hate/death threats. Thankfully they are not as common or pervasive as they once were. More fans and interested gamers are coming out to talk about Andromeda. And the world feels a little bit brighter because of it.

As a fan of the game, I did feel alone for a while. I had some comfort in the N7 Elite costuming group that there were fans there as well. We were able to talk with some freedom without the harshness of other gamers bogging us down and forcing us to go back into hiding. When I stream the game, I get more questions and interest from viewers instead of hate-filled spew in the chat room. I'm finding more people talking openly about Andromeda on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. It's refreshing.

There are a number of things to enjoy about the game. The combat is solid. Easily one of the best improvements from the previous Mass Effect iterations. It's fluid. Easy to comprehend. Fun to mix and match job abilities.

You get a freekin' jet pack. You know what would have made Shepard cooler? A jet pack. But s/he didn't get one. Ryder did. Instant cool points.

The world building is amazing. A little cliché that some locations followed the standard sci-fi pattern: a desert planet, an ice planet, and a jungle planet. But we also got a mix of different landscapes, weird foliage and aliens, unique rock formations, crazy sunsets/moon risings, etc. And I love that one of your goals in Andromeda is to help get life in the galaxy back on track. You have to help terraform these planets to make them livable. In doing so, many of the quests you embark on focus on this task. You meet interesting characters that help provide more context, and life, into the overall mission.

Your companions are charming, weird, dynamic, and sometimes annoying. Which is what companions in a game should be. You want to remember them, even if you dislike them. That means the writing did something right to hold your interest.

Exploring doesn't feel like a chore. It's vastly superior to Mass Effect 1 where hunting down missions/quests on a planet was a grueling task. The end-goal for exploration in Andromeda has always been to help give life to a dying corner of a galaxy. That feels like a worthy reason to continue excavating and collecting instead of dealing with the copy-paste environment of ME1.

The soundtrack is solid. The opening menu music will hold your attention and not let go.

There are gut punching moments. If you unlock all of the audio files and play through them at the end, it's heartbreaking what you learn about the Milky Way. We as ME fans know what happens. But first time players who don't know the ME legacy are in the same position as Ryder and everyone else that traveled to Andromeda. I'll leave this section spoiler free for those who haven't played, but I'm sure you can YouTube a playthrough of the audio files if you're really curious.

By no means is Andromeda a perfect game. I still have questions about how the Milky Way translators were able to pick up the Andromeda technology so quickly to be able to communicate with the Angara and Kett. The logic and reasoning by the Kett being in the galaxy is fine, but still too "must have big bad guy for the sake of plot" in a case where we didn't really need it. I'd have been more into it if this were an exploration/fact finding game. The graphical glitches are incredibly few and far between, but on occasion the double Drak (your Krogan companion) will appear on the Tempest (compared to my playthroughs of ME1-3 well after the games were released, I saw more glitches there than in Andromeda). Sometimes the exploration quests become tedious - particularly the ones that are randomized and require pure luck to complete. And then there are your companions, who go dead silent on the Tempest at random times. It is an odd contrast when they are noisy/boisterous on the field.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is a game that has a lot of potential, some really good mechanics, an interesting story, GORGEOUS scenery, and expansive content. It didn't deserve the hate that it received.

Let's make one thing clear: you can have an informed opinion and dislike a game. You can have constructive criticism, positive and negative.

Being a dick and spouting hate is not okay.

We don't know what BioWare's intent is with the franchise from here on out, but I hope they continue to provide love to Andromeda. There are a lot of gamers that support the game. I'm still playing. I'm still having fun exploring a new galaxy. I still adore Jaal and gal-pal around with Vetra. I still want Kesh to be a party member. We'll have to continue looking to the stars to see what's next.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

How Can I Approach 'Ready Player One'?

Ready Player One will be out in theaters this Thursday, and it's been shown to a number of critics with mixed reviews. It's currently sitting above 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. What's the deal with this movie? Well it's based off a 2012 book of the same name, which has a fairly solid rating on Good Reads, even with the myriad of negative reviews. The book is set in the not-to-distant future where VR is king, and so are the 80's. A gamer must find an Easter Egg in this massive world in order to claim the prize before an evil corporation can nab it. It's the standard small good guy versus the big bad evil business story with a very 80's spin. It also features a smattering of gaming references that even casual gamers would understand. The book was a big seller, and was optioned into a movie that was ultimately directed by Steven Spielberg. The trailers have been a smorgasbord of who's-who in the gaming and pop-culture world. Websites have been analyzing every piece of footage to locate all the hidden gems.

I'll be honest in saying I don't understand the appeal of Ready Player One. I attempted to read the book, but put it down after a few chapters. I felt that the content spent more time hammering to me the importance of the straight white male lead, and not on the world. And the writing was meh. It was "some text here" followed by massive information dumps. The flow was too jittery.

Some of the initial reviews of the movie are pointing out on the same issue. But this wasn't a book geared towards me. And I have a sinking feeling that the movie will be similar. Pop culture references. 80's nostalgia. Insert-game-character-here all for the sake of profit. I'm not saying that to dump on Spielberg. I enjoy his work. But this is not his type of film, and not the solid story he typically gravitates towards.

I'm torn. I have a feeling this will be a movie forced on me because it's "video game" related, and I have to see these to keep myself informed and up to date for future articles. And I REALLY like the 80's. Really, really like it. I don't have a problem with nostalgia being used as a story-telling proponent. If done well, it can be charming and effective. Then I see reviews like this and wonder if it's a movie so wrapped up in the straight white male fantasy, that we can't experience anything but that? Win the challenge. Charm the woman as she becomes your trophy. The usual tropes we all associate with these types of movies. Or the movie will throw in too many references and other characters from games/sci-fi/fantasy/comics that we can't focus on the story.

I need your opinions, readers. Do I give this movie a shot when I couldn't make it through the book? Or do I give it a pass and let the trailers be my guide?

Are you going to see Ready Player One?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Defining "Freedom" in Video Games with Yoko Taro!

Yoko Taro, yes that developer, flew in to GDC last week and ran a panel discussing the freedom of video games. What is freedom? What is "open world?" Can such a thing exist in a video game where there are predetermined boundaries set up by coding that tell a player where they can and can't go?

It's an interesting subject to tackle because one could easily argue that a game could be both open world and linear. Grand Theft Auto for example gives the impression that you can go anywhere you'd like, but it's restricted to the defined rules of the code. You can't go to certain locations until you complete missions. You can't unlock driving until you do a few quests (see GTA: San Andreas). And once you enter that "open world" aspect, repetitive tasks litter the landscape. It may feel real, but it's also tedious.

Yoko Taro wants to challenge our notion of "freedom" in games by not looking to open world titles like GTA. Instead, we should think of games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. He used Zelda as a point of reference for NieR. It's not about littering the world with quests, crafting, and items to pick up. The game will eventually feel like a chore or an obligation if the goal is to pick up every herb in the Hinterlands. Taro suggests two ways to help provide more to the gamer and give that feeling of "freedom". The first is providing content beyond the perceived limits of the game (he used the hidden warp pipes in Super Mario Bros. as an example). The other is not requiring every NPC to be interactive (see GTA4 - this helps provide realism because humans don't naturally talk to every person they see. That's weird. So why do RPG's force every NPC to have dialogue to provide to the player?).

"Open World Fatigue" is becoming more common with games. MMO's included. The design of these games is to fill the realm with "stuff" that you need to do and collect, but the rewarding elements are few and far between. The perceived "freedom" becomes bogged down by content to keep players busy. I will give Yoko Taro some points in that both NieR games didn't feel like a chore to play, even when doing the random fetch-quests and level grinding. There was a flow and purpose that helped the progression. Developers could learn from this.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Yea! Another week on the books. It's time for another round up! A gathering of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet! Here's what we've got on the list this week:

- While Epic Games is ruling the world with Fortnite right now, they showed off something way flashier at GDC this week: Siren. Teaming up with 3Lateral, Cubic Motion, Tencent, and Vicon, Siren captures real-time character animations, rendering them almost instantly. This is all powered with the Unreal Engine. And the results are creepy realistic. This is probably the cleanest demo we have seen so far, with real-time rendering of a digital character. The person's hair and clothing could use some work, as they feel a bit too animated. But the skin, facial expressions, and textures are insane. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the applications of this for future games and films would be staggering.

- Endadget journalist Jessica Conditt toured GDC this week and found an anomaly among the reporters that hasn't happened before. Someone finally asked "[h]ow come there are no women?" Icing on the cake is that this occurred at an Ubisoft promo event. The same company that said making a female lead in Assassin's Creed would prove to be too difficult as more time would be required to animated the character. This may seem minor, but few people question the disproportionate gender balance in games at conferences. Someone did. That's a step forward, as tiny as it is.

- Gaming with a disability has always been a challenge. While the industry is getting better at making games more accessible, there are still those that struggle with basic needs - such as making text easier to size/read for the visually impaired (Monster Hunter: World, I'm looking at you).
EA Sports Accessibility Lead Karen Stevens spoke at GDC this week about how the blind made up a significant number of their player base, and what they are doing to help support them. We can trash EA as much as we want, but sometimes they do good things.

- Kotaku would like to remind you that drinking in video games sucks and is usually unrealistic. Enjoy!

- Clunker Junker is a game you'll never be able to play in you home, unless you have a lot of money. But this premise sounds entertaining as hell. A co-op spaceship sim that falls apart the more you play. What makes it fun to watch is that the interactive nature is beyond the screen. There are boxes, ports, and various objects you have to fix as your ship is damaged. Click the link to see the video.

- Owen Mahoney, the CEO of Nexon, spoke with CNBC at the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong about the single most-important aspect to have with a game: longevity of players. If you were looking for a ground-breaking thought here, it's not going to happen.

- Mashable decided to throw something to gamers. Here's a video of a dog reacting to someone playing Call of Duty. That's all.

- Finally, for those gamers who are fashion forward and have the money to spend, Bloomingdale's has a collection of retro-gamewear. While a number of the pieces are Mario-themed, you can find a variety of sweaters, shirts, pants, swim trunks, and inflatable swimming tubes decked-out in gaming goodness. How about a Yoshi baseball cap for $80? No really. Look. It's $80. Yea capitalism?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Nick Games from PS2 Era to be Re-Released

THQ Nordic is doing gamers a solid and plans to re-release some classic Nickelodeon games starting later this year!

Teaming up with Nickelodeon directly, the games are direct from your 90's and early 00's childhood. The games have not been announced, but the series affiliated with the titles have. Such as Spongebob Squarepants, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Invader Zim. THQ originally held the licenses for Nickelodeon games until their liquidation in 2013. Nordic Games purchased THQ in 2014. No details have been announced on which system these re-releases will appear.

Admittedly a lot of these games were passable. They weren't bad, but they weren't great either. But for kids in the PS2/XBox era, this is what they had to E-rated content. It worked. They were silly and full of the same wonder as the shows, even if they weren't amazing games. Seeing re-releases would introduce new, younger gamers to a generation of content they probably did not know existed. They are fun games, like the early Mario Party titles or the Rayman: Raving Rabbids games. Fun. Silly. And will entertain your friends for an hour with the crazy premises. That's all we really need in our Nickelodeon games.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Being Too "Real" is Destroying Video Game Movies

The video game movie business is an odd one. The latest Tomb Raider adaptation, which doesn't feature Angelina Jolie, is not close to getting a passing grade. Both audiences and critics are in the "meh" category with it. Understandably so, this movie looks like it's trying too hard to be super serious about a billionaire archeologist. Because they flipped the script! They took the original premise, some inspiration from the latest Tomb Raider games, and made this a more "hard-edge" Lara Croft. She's now a penniless student, rejecting her family's wealth as she tries to carve out her own path in life!

Someone should have informed Warner Bros. that this is not Tomb Raider. While the Jolie movies were over the top, the one thing they did right was they were stupidly action-oriented tomb raiding romps. That's what we wanted! That's what was in the games! They didn't change who Lara was. The script added new content on top of the existing stuff to flesh out the character. But Lara didn't change.

This new 'Tomb Raider' film has a different Lara that is out of context of the one so many of us grew up with.

Why did they make such an odd decision with this new film? Well if they had a director like the one for the 'Rampage' movie releasing this year, it's because people wouldn't sign on unless the project was "grounded" in realism. Yep. That's what director Brad Peyton said to Cinema Blend. He didn't want to be involved in something that wasn't "grounded." He dismissed the original game premise (there was a story, as small as it was) as too out there, and required a different plot in order to proceed. Because realism is a big deal when it comes to mutated giant apes and wolves, right?

Maybe this is the problem with the video game movies hitting theaters over the past 15 years. Assassin's Creed. Agent 47: Hitman. They try too hard to be "real" and "gritty" that they miss out on the the spirit of the games that captured our attention. We didn't play AssCreed for only the cool visuals. It had a really off-the-wall, wonky ass story that made us wonder why this was a thing. We didn't play Rampage to talk about the consequences of genetic mutation. We thrashed about cities as a big monster!

While the 'Mortal Kombat' movie was ridiculous, it was MK silly. That's why we went to see it. 'Super Mario Bros.' tried too much to be a "real" story that we could smell it failing from a mile away. Realism does not equate to better content.

Hollywood. It's easy to make a video game movie once you embrace the source material to it's fullest. It might be time for them to call it quits and let books take over. That medium is already doing a good job of retelling and adding content with some of the biggest IP's on the market.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

GDC 2018 NVidia Unveils New Cinema Tech

NVidia announced today at the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) that it will be releasing new technology this year called RTX "real-time ray tracing." What does it do? Well it provides developers the ability to render and illuminate a scene in real time with cinematic-level quality. Which is a pretty big deal to developers! Many consider this a need-to-have, but impossible to lock down tech.

Some companies such as Epic Games and Remedy Entertainment have already been experimenting with the technology. NVidia partnered with Microsoft in the creation of this technology - thus making it fully supported by Microsoft's new DirectX Raytracing, integrated directly into Windows. It also requires that systems run NVidia's new Volta line of GPU's. However there are no consumer versions available yet. There are only a few on the market for developers and businesses. It'll take a while for this content to trickle down to the masses in an affordable means. But it's already being steadily integrated into the Frostbite and Unreal engines for futher testing.

The best way to describe the new tech allows for some of the impossible rendering to become possible. It helps replicate transparency and light refraction. It accounts for light sources within a scene/setting and can develop shades and shadows in a logical way instead of letting developers create it by hand. Not all devs get the class on light theory. The test vids look promising. It doesn't look like the content is being rendered in real time. Not sure if that's good or bad, but the lighting is fairly accurate to how the light should reflect/refract.

This is still a ways off from being in consumers hands, but it will be worth watching to see how developers overcome the processing power to make RTX work in console games.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

So Long Toys 'R' Us. Hello eSports.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Free Games for Twitch Prime!

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Overwatch League Needs Conduct Rules-Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 09, 2018

10 Reasons Why Video Games Help You & Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Avoid 'Metal Gear Survive' - The Review!

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

The first game in the Metal Gear franchise without Hideo Kojima at the helm is the cringe-worthy train wreck that you imagine it would be. It is a game that punishes you for playing by forcing you to play it more. It's a game that doesn't care for the Metal Gear legacy, and spits on it when it can. It's a game that is trying to be 7 Days to Die with Metal Gear. I think we can all see why that concept will never work.

Here's my unabashed review of Metal Gear Survive, or "why did I play this game?"

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

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

Much of the game works off the MGS5 assets. You'll see a lot of repetitive content and barren deserts while you make your way through the story. Honestly it feels like they took MGS5 and said "hey, let's change all the mechanics to turn this from a stealth tactical game to a third person shooter!" Because that's exactly how it plays. The controls are clunky and not intuitive. You'd have better luck punching wood in Minecraft than trying to gather materials in Survive.

Running, ducking, hunting for food - it's all a chore that feels forced on you rather then a "do or die" scenario. I shouldn't need to surf through 20 menus to find the one item I want to craft. And then accidentally cancel when the action/jump button are the same. (Hey devs, can you stop doing that please?)

By the way, this is the entire game. You gather stuff. You craft. You make some defenses. You get attacked by nano-zombies. You gather some more. You craft some more. Somehow all of this allows you to get closer to reaching your goal of going home, but the game never explains why.

Logically if I were in the game, I'd go find the source of the wormhole and start adventuring around, if this was normal video game logic of course. Because sitting around and gathering to make defenses is not the most enticing game play. But that's all this game is! Waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more!

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

And I can't say that it's part of the "charm" of the game to have it be so punishing. It's not. It's aggravating. You don't want to pick up the controller and continue when the game hates you so much. At least 7 Days to Die, Minecraft, and Dragon Quest Builders provide you with means to store, share, and access your content after you've died so you can continue on without it affecting your sanity. Survive offers none of that. It's a pat on the back and a "f off" to you.

If the game were at least nice to look at or had interesting places to explore, it might excuse a tiny bit of the oversight on the checkpoint situation.

Super, mega tiny. So tiny an ameba would think it's a speck.

It's not Minecraft where it's fun to explore outside of your little island to see what else is out there. Survive is a world of dirt and grimy sand: brown, grey, and some shades of black. Bleak worlds can look interesting. Think outside of the brown palette!

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

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

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Hawaii's Loot Box Bills One Step Closer to Reality

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

Here are the details:

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

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

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

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

What do you think of these bills?

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 05, 2018

Oscars Highlight Good Movies - Box Office Hits Need Not Apply

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 02, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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