Wednesday, January 16, 2019

New YouTube Guidelines for Dangerous Challenge & Prank Videos

Today would be an amazing time to do the Weekly Link Round Up, but then we would ignore the rest of the stories that pop up on Thursday and Friday. There is so much going on in gaming I don't know where to start. But the news that stuck out to me is YouTube's latest Community Guidelines update.

After feedback from the community, YouTube will now begin flagging videos of dangerous challenges or pranks that can cause lasting physical or mental harm. Think 'The Tide Pod Challenge' of 2017/early 2018 where someone attempts to eat one of the Tide Pod detergent pouches and films the results. Or the more recent 'Bird Box Challenge' where people blindfold themselves and attempt to do everyday tasks. Logan Paul, even after filming a dead body he is somehow still popular, was filmed driving a car and walking into traffic blindfolded. Netflix tweeted a warning to not attempt such dangerous activities.

While the news actively reported on the Tide Pod Challenge, the overwhelming majority of humanity knows you shouldn't eat laundry detergent, and they didn't. Younger children and the elderly with deteriorating mental health were more likely to consume the product than the teens and adults the challenge video was targeting. Last reported, the number of teens poisoned in the US by laundry detergent in 2018 was .000002%. Only 84 people. (The number is based off of calls to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, or AAPCC, and the final data may vary.)

8,606 calls were made as of November 30, 2018 to the AAPCC for children under 5 whom ingested laundry detergent. An unexpected panic, along with berating millenials, rose up in early 2018 to stop the Tide Pod challenge. However it was all focused on teens and young adults, and not the young kids that were actually getting hurt due to parental negligence. A person is more likely to be injured or killed through gun violence or fireworks than with a Tide Pod. Having said that, why were people posting videos of themselves eating the packets? Well most people didn't, nor did they actually eat the real thing. Alternate, edible versions were made to look like the Tide Pod to trick viewers. And like anything on the internet, those that did it wanted the views. Subscriber numbers and thumbs up help keep channels at the forefront of viewers minds. There is no easier way to maintain viewers than a quick challenge video. Still, YouTube was active in removing these videos after public concern hit their bottom line.

It's likely that the Bird Box Challenge is in the same situation. A few YouTubers created videos for easy likes, but the vast majority of us know that being blindfolded while driving a car is absurd and would never do it. Few of us are doing the challenge. We know better. The handful that are, are trying to get their 10 seconds of internet fame.

With the new Community Guidelines, YouTube has gone so far as to create an FAQ to outline what is considered a "dangerous" prank or challenge. Why now? It could be a moral responsibility to help stop promoting content that could harm others. It could be to help circumvent lawsuits that will inevitably happen after someone is hurt after watching one of these challenge videos. The updates also include reviewing custom thumbnails (the image that informs the viewer what the content of the video is about) and external links to ensure the content matches with YouTube's guidelines. It's more work for the humans and AI that monitor videos, and there are likely to be a few pieces mislabeled as harmful when they are not.

This change will affect all YouTube content, including channels that focus on video games. If any of the content produced can be viewed as challenging people to perform dangerous tasks, or harms another through verbal abuse, the video and/or stream can be removed. See the Blue Whale Challenge prompting Saudi Arabia to ban 47 games. Moral panic will sometimes supersede logic.

Be wary of what you post.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

'Just Dance' Film Rights Purchased - Movie In Works?

Yep. You read that headline correctly. Ubisoft is trying to cash in wherever they can on their popular games. Just Dance made the list. Originally released in 2009 for the Nintendo Wii, Just Dance took full advantage of the Wii's motion sensor by allowing gamers to mimic dance styles of popular singers. It's DDR with more full body motion and less stomping. The game has survived a console cycle and expanded to multiple platforms, keeping it a constant presence in gaming libraries

Screen Gems, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures, won the bid while multiple studios attempted to claim the movie rights. Ubisoft Film and Television (formed for the Assassin's Creed movie) and Olive Bridge Entertainment will produce the movie. A script is reportedly completed, but details are limited.

We know it's a thing. We know it's coming. We know that nothing will stop the madness of "video game movies."

What would a Just Dance movie be like? My gut is going with something similar to 'Step Up' or 'You Got Served.' Either the male lead or the female lead is someone who is really passionate about dancing and wants to "break into the industry." They find their scrappy partner of the opposite sex who is an amazing dancer, but wants nothing to do with the glitz and glam. The lead convinces the partner to try. They're great together. They become romantically involved. There is tension when they don't win their first contest, or another team tries to show them up, or their life differences prevent them from being together (one's wealthy while the other is poor). But when they dance at the end of the movie it solves all of their problems. Because they can only communicate their true feelings through dance. They win the competition, their differences are resolved, and they live dancily ever after.

Sony, where's my paycheck? I wrote your movie. I would be surprised if one of these tropes did not make it into the Just Dance adaptation.

It's going to be a while until we see another good video game movie, isn't it?

Monday, January 14, 2019

What Could Have Been for Disney Infinity

Last month, Vimeo user P Tologist uploaded a video on potential Disney Infinity pre-alpha footage of the game's 4.0 update. The content is recently gaining traction. However Disney Infinity and Disney Interactive studios closed in June of 2016 after the last set of updates were release. While those who own the game can still play it, the game has been silent ever since. This supposed pre-alpha content would have added a new layer to the game.

Labeled Disney Infinity Kingdoms, the video is a look into the world of Agrabah ('Aladdin'). Some comments have noted that the area looks larger than most of the Infinity levels, and allows for more character interaction. Aladdin is clearly there, as well as Apu in elephant form. But there's also Yoda from 'Star Wars' and Rocket from 'Guardians of the Galaxy.' There are more characters than usual, adding to the depth of the level. The content was developed by United Front Games and Avalanche Software, both have worked on Infinity in the past.

In general, this little bit of footage looked like an improvement on what Infinity currently offers. It would have added more puzzles and games and battle mechanics to make teaming up with other characters effective.

Disney has not commented on the legitimacy of the video. And since the game has ended, this is content we're likely to never see fully imagined. But it does offer a glimpse at the possibilities had the series continued.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Weekly Link Round Up

Yep. It's that time again. Time for us to pull together a collection of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news of the week with the Weekly Link Round Up. Settle in for the madness:

- According to The Information, Amazon may be creating a video game streaming service similar to Netflix. This has not been confirmed by Amazon, but it wouldn't be a stretch for them to try. They currently do stream movies, TV shows, and music. Having acquired Twitch and several gaming developers, they could create a system that works. There are a few video game streaming services, including through PSN and XBox Live, but they have all had ho-hum results. Big expectations, but no one has found the magical formula, or price range, to entice gamers. It's up to Amazon to decide if it's worth pursuing. Personally, I'd rather have 20% off pre-orders back for Prime.

- The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was this week. Video games and CES have a very rocky past, but that doesn't stop some from showing off their wares. AMD has a new processor. XBox's Phil Spencer continues to push the XBox One X. VR experiences are getting weirder. Arcade cabinets are trying to make a comeback. CES is best for PC gamers where you get a first glimpse at the hardware that will hit shelves for the year. It helps plan out upgrades, or if you need to dump money into a new unit. Like the Asus ROG Mothership; a laptop on steroids. It's build for gamers and graphic designers who need high power machines, but with laptop portability.

- Activision Blizzard announced yesterday that they will be ending their partnership with Bungie for the Destiny franchise. The game will continue to be updated and patched, and Bungie's roadmap is still a go based on their latest update. A reason for the split was not provided, but the drop is immediate for 2019. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Activision will not assume any operating costs, loss, or profit from Destiny this year. Expect the game to be removed from very quickly.

- China is getting back into the groove of approving video games with 84 more titles soon to hit their market. But none from Tencent, or it's rival NetEase. A message is being sent to Tencent, and it does not bode well.

- Because a Weekly Link Round Up is not complete without a list, here is ScreenRant with 20 Notoriously Bad Video Games (That Everyone Still Played). Of course not "everyone" played all of these games. But some did. And this list...oh man. It's bad. Because some of the games on here are fun! Like Shadow the Hedgehog. Is it the bastion of the Sonic series? No. Is it enjoyable? Yep. If a game was truly bad, it wouldn't have sold 2 million copies within a year. Word or mouth and the power of money is very strong. People played this game because there was good content in it. Also on the list is Fallout 4, which I'm sure will ruffle some feathers. The cast of NPC's make up for some of 4's technical issues. And then the list has incredibly questionable additions of Dr. Mario and Pac-Man on the Atari. I'm going to put it out there: the writer of this list had a sad childhood. If you did not find Dr. Mario a delightful time-suck, then we can't help you.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

F is for Epic Games BBB Rating

Epic Games of Cary, North Carolina, the makers of Fortnite are one of the worst ranked businesses according ot the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB announced yesterday in an article on their website that Epic has an F rating due to unanswered customer complaints. There are 279 complaints on file with the company over the past 3 years, with 271 submitted in 2018. 247 of those issues have not been answered.

According to the BBB, the majority of the complaints deal with customer service and refund issues. You can read most of them here, where the customer's name and contact information is not provided. Some of the complaints are not worth a response, like those who have been banned and are trying to recover their accounts. Others are more genuine such as products not working, poor customer service, or invalid purchases (i.e. a child takes a credit card and uses it on Epic's digital store without permission and bypasses the security protocols - while there isn't a law that requires businesses to issue a refund in these instances, most companies do "in good faith").

Why the BBB felt it needed to write an article about this is unclear. Likely they are trying to rack up the clicks and views to their site with a popular item: Fornite. A few keywords is all they needed for the story to gain traction.

For those who are unaware, the BBB is not the end-all, be-all for customers and businesses. They are a national non-profit entity with no government authority. They provide dispute resolution services, lobby against fraudulent business practices, and can provide general business information to consumers. Companies are not required to register with the BBB nor need to respond to every complaint. It's up to the business to decide.

The rating from the BBB is based on several factors: is the company registered with them (which does include a fee), how quickly do they respond to complaints, how satisfied are customers with the resolution, etc. If the complaint is resolved and the BBB is not informed, it can ding a company's rating. However, some have questioned the system given that certain nefarious companies are on the list of A+ and have really bad business practices. Or companies that have openly complained about the BBB will be ranked lower than their peers, in spite of having better customer service.

The BBB has no authority. That's the bottom line. It's a system meant to help inform customers about businesses, and even then it's sometimes not accurate. As someone who has deal with the BBB both as a consumer and as a business, they hold no merit. The best way to describe them is they are mediators. They take your complaint and pass it on to the business. If the business responds, they send the answer back to you. The BBB is the middle man. They don't have the power to penalize businesses for bad practices. All they do is extend your resolution time. Cut them out and go directly to the business. If the business won't resolve your issue, the BBB won't help.

Epic Games will not take a hit from this BBB rating. Valve has had an F rating for years, and many customers still use their services.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Metacritic's Worst Games of 2018

As everyone wraps up their talk of 2018/2019 predictions, let's talk about the games that did not fare so well in 2018. Metacritic has released their list of the lowest scoring games of 2018. If you though Metal Gear: Survive was on the list, you'll be as disappointed as I was.

The list was compiled on a few pieces of criteria. The game had to have been released from January 1 through December 31 of 2018. If the game had less than 7 reviews from professional critics, it was excluded. Games on multiple platforms were only counted once, based on their lowest score. So yes, I'm surprised that Survive didn't make the cut!

Instead we have the questionable Super Seducer: How to Talk to Girls, which was pulled from the PlayStation Network before it released, with a Metacritic score of 35. And then there's the unfortunate Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn with a score of 36. A game that many of us knew would be bad, but not Metacritic bad. It did not live up to the hype and expectations of it's predecessor. Some of these titles you may not have heard of, such as The Quiet Man. Developed by Square Enix and Human Head Studios, the game currently boasts a 29 rating, with only 13% of Google users liking the game. Ouch. You play the game as a deaf person in this action-adventure, very CGI-heavy game. Most of the content is told through cutscenes and live action, with little gameplay. The common thread from the reviews is that the game's story and design choices were it's downfall.

So enjoy this list from Metacritic as a lovely reminder that Fallout: 76 was no where near as bad to end up on it.

Monday, January 07, 2019

The 'Ellie' Account Setting Back eSports for Women

If you have been following anything Overwatch related, you're most likely aware of the 'Ellie' situation that has unfolded over the past few weeks. As Overwatch Contenders ramped up their season, in November and December teams had scouted out and added players to their roster. Contenders is essentially the B-team to the Overwatch League. It's for those players who are looking to go pro and be in the main League. Some of the Contenders teams are owned by the League teams, and some are independent. There are multiple teams around the world, including South America and Australia whom are not in the League.

Mid-December, the Contenders team Second Wind announced on their Twitter feed on December 21 that they had added a new female player to their roster: 'Ellie.' The person in question didn't have an online presence. They were rising quickly in the Overwatch leaderboards for competitive matches. They didn't open up a Twitter account until becoming a member of Second Wind. Little to no verification methods were used to determine who this 'Ellie' was.

Contenders teams don't work the same way as the League. There isn't player housing or paychecks. No medical insurance or a 401k. People are able to play remotely and utilize Discord for meetings and practice sessions. 'Ellie' joined Second Wind on the condition of anonymity. 'Ellie' didn't want to do anything more than play the game with a good team. Players with Second Wind remarked that they didn't suspect anything unusual. When they had matches and meetings, 'Ellie' sounded like a woman. They assumed she was a private person and left it at that.

A few days later, 'Ellie's' Twitter account began highlighting some of the harassment she had received from Discord and other chat channels regarding her gender. The 'Ellie' Twitter is still live, but no posts have been made since January 2nd. That was the day that Second Wind stated that 'Ellie' had left "due to some unforeseen reactions." In questioning who 'Ellie' was, threats of doxxing, harassment, and sexism were hitting hard. People were starting Reddit threads and posting videos trying to verify 'Ellie.'

The unfortunate truth is that 'Ellie' never existed. It was an extensive scheme by a player with the handle Punisher. Why? We don't know. A person who knows Punisher's posted a video that it was a social experiment, but we don't know if that's completely true. Blizzard reached out to Second Wind to confirm that 'Ellie' was not real. It was an account created by a man. Punisher convinced female friends to speak for him while 'Ellie' streamed or talked in chat to Second Wind. In their rush to get the roster filled, Second Wind didn't follow-through in verifying their players.

The consequences of this are going to be longstanding for Overwatch and all eSports teams. A simple change for eSports will be the addition of rules to verify rosters and not allow fake, hacked, or cloned accounts to be considered for teams. While there is a luxury of being able to play anywhere, Contenders still need to verify players.

The biggest consequence from this situation is going to fall to women. Before 'Ellie' we were in a difficult position trying to prove that we can co-exist with men in eSports. Even those who have not experienced harassment in gaming, there is a very visible gender barrier. Take a look at any gaming roster and you'll see. 'Ellie' is likely to make it worse. Women are going to be expected to share their entire lives in order to prove to others that they are real. Any shred of privacy is going to be removed. Got a significant other? We'll need to make sure they are "real" too. People will question if women are actually playing the game. We'll need to see these women live stream all the time - even then viewers may not believe it (see League player Geguri).

Women already face an immense amount of opposition to playing video games on a professional level due to our gender. We're harassed for liking games. We're shunned for playing them. We're considered "not good enough" because we are women. After this incident with 'Ellie', it's very likely that we are going to be questioned at every turn to ensure that we are "really" women and "real" gamers. Women are going to need to prove our worth as a competitor by having our entire lives on display. Which won't stop the harassment or the doxxing threats/attempts. Those will still be an ever-present thorn in our sides. Searching Twitter right now with #overwatch it is an abysmal swamp of hate, misogyny, and systemic sexism on a level which the majority of male players will never experience. Being a women, we're told to have a "thick skin" in order to handle casual gaming. We won't have the same support as our male counterparts in the current climate.

Imagine the uproar if news broke that the entire Houston Outlaws team, composed of men, were being threatened with doxxing or harassed sexually? People would be furious. The tactics used by some gamers on YouTube, Reddit, and Discord to find out more about 'Ellie' were abhorrent. Threats of doxxing and sexual harassment should never be in the equation when researching another player.

Most of us don't care about fame or being an internet star. Like Geguri, some of us don't want to take up the mantle to be the shining beacon for all eSports female player. We just want to play with others at our level of expertise.

Whether or not 'Ellie' was real is no longer the point. The "social experiment" of 'Ellie' will likely set back future female eSports players.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Weekly Link Round Up

It's 2019 and the first Weekly Link Round Up of the Year!

Don't get too excited. Most "gaming" sites are still pushing their "top games of 2019" or "most anticipated games of 2019" lists. But there are a few news-worthy gems in the batch. Here is a collection of some of the gaming stories that highlighted the web...this week:

- The Silver Snipers are proof that age is only a number when it comes to video games. The eSports team is based in Sweden, where the average age of their team members is 67. Their game of choice is Counter-Strike, and yes they do compete. They train with their coach Tommy "Potti" Ingemarsson, a 10-time world champion at the game. The team has received invitations to join in events throughout Europe and recently in Russia.

- Slab video games are hitting Heritage Auction, one of the largest auctioneers. Classic games from the NES era such as Super Metroid will be up for sale soon with the Wata slab protection screen attached, and a Wata rating. These are video games that have been preserved with an extra layer to ensure longevity. Games may have been opened and used, only have the disc, or completely new in package and never opened. Slabbing is common with comic books and vinyl. It was only a matter of time until we saw them with video games and hitting the auction blocks.

- Amazon has released their list of the top selling video game products of 2018. Once you wade through the network payment cards and the accessories, you'll find that Nintendo and Mario are still king. In a year where Red Dead Redemption made headlines, people still want their Mario games. Why? Because with Nintendo you know you're going to get a quality product that works out of the box. You can't beat that.

Bethesda has recently resolved a lawsuit with Behaviour over their Westworld mobile game. The game is based on the popular HBO television show. In June, Bethesda filed a lawsuit that the mobile game was a "blatant rip-off" of their mobile title Fallout Shelter. Coincidentally, Behavior co-developed Fallout Shelter. Bethesda also sued Warner Bros. for inducing behavior to breech contract. Details of the resolution are not known, other than it was resolved amicably. More than likely if the Westworld game is still allowed to be downloaded and played, Warner Bros. will have to send a  royalty check to Bethesda.

- Gameranx has a fun list of 8 of the most frustrating video game trophies. One of them is from an MMO which, I don't know if that's a trophy or an achievement. Do you get achievement points in Elder Scrolls Online? You do in Final Fantasy XIV, which sometimes results in playful glamour gear. Still a number of these achievements and trophies are seemingly impossible. They require you to be the best of the best in the game, or to pull a Solid Snake and only sneak without killing an enemy. Needless to say, I won't be attempting any of these. Ever.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Nexon Shares For Sale With Big Sell-Off

South Korea's largest gaming empire, Nexon, is looking to sell. That's according to a tip reposted on Kotaku. Kim Jung-ju, the founder of Nexon, is planning to get rid of more than 98% of the company's shares, valued at over $10 billion USD.

The company is best known for browser based games in the 90's and early 00's. You probably heard of a game called Maple Story. Yeah, that's them. It has become the biggest gaming developer in South Korea. The selling of the shares is not only unexpected, but unheard of at this level. If Tencent Holdings is looking for a way to boost their revenue after China's regulatory issues, this would be the perfect opportunity for them.

Rumors regarding Kim's sale are circulating. Kim has been handling legal issues with a corruption case, which he was found innocent, and may be worn down by the increased video game regulations. NXC, the parent company, commented that the rumors are unfounded and they are currently verifying the sale.

What will this mean for gamers who play Nexon games? For the time being nothing is likely to happen. NXC is still a profitable business and there is no signs that Nexon, Nexon America, and Nexon Europe are faltering. Depending on who buys the shares, there may be gradual changes to the offering of products. But a complete overhaul of the games is unlikely. Continue to enjoy them to your heart's content.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

The Geek Spot 2018 Year in Review

2018 sucked. Like, really sucked. To the point of I'm impressed most of us are still alive and the world is turning. At least that is one thing we can be grateful for.

In the name of due-diligence and keeping with my schedule, it's time for the annual The Geek Spot Year in Review. Using Blogger's internal stat system as well as Stat Counter, I look back at the posts that tickled your fancy in 2018. Which stories stood out? What were the top search terms? What country is visiting my blog the most? It's always enjoyable to see what drives people to read this blog, and where they come from!

Top Searched Terms: "violent video games," "apb", "anime classroom", "anime", and once again "droopy dog."

I'm going to stop questioning what you all search. It makes no sense to me. It probably makes no sense to you. But thanks for keeping Droopy alive in our hearts.

Browser: 57% of you are using Chrome, followed by 34% on Firefox. Safari takes third place at 6%, which is most likely for mobile viewers. My blog is mobile-friendly! It's checked every month to make sure content is posting correctly for a mobile format, even if the Blogger app won't allow me to post remotely without issues. Chrome is likely to be the top browser for years to come.

Country: Every year the stats in this category amaze me. While the U.S. takes the top slot, 2-5 are always an interesting mix. This time around, Italy is 2nd, followed by France, Russia, and Germany. I don't know even know how I attract these audiences, but I'm assuming the additional content on gaming in Europe has probably struck a cord? Though Belgium is noticeably absent.

Most Viewed Posts:

The Feminist Stands on Bayonetta - 18,568. No surprise here. Let's just say this will always be the #1 post people read year after year.

Academic Anime - Anime in the Classroom - 14,221. Now this I'm still shocked to see on the list. I would have assumed by now that the interest dropped off. The post is based off of a panel presentation I gave at a convention years ago. The content, while relevant, is in need of updating. I guess if there's enough interest to still read this old post, I should probably make a new one.

"Toxic" Fandom and Gaslighting -10,157. I'm glad to see this post gained traction. While the events of 2018 and in recent years have been a nightmare with online harassment, the fact that we're addressing these concerns directly is a good thing. We need to call out bad behavior when it happens. We need to talk about it as it happens. And we also need to stop lumping everyone into one category. Being a fan of something does not automatically make you toxic. If you're a crappy person, then you'r toxic. Don't dismiss the entire fan-base for a few bad people.

Atlus Still Blocks Streaming of Persona 5 - 9,557. No joke, I was thinking about this post last night. I'm currently playing through Dragon Quest XI at a very leisurely pace. Yesterday I wanted to get to the end boss so I can start working on post-game content. The game cut my stream after defeating the big bad and for 20 minutes, my viewers only saw the blue Sony PS4 "no camera" screen. What made it more annoying is that this wasn't the end of the game! There is still more story to explore! Why SE decided to cut that specific section is something I'm still trying to wrap my head around. It makes no sense. Not when so many more super-spoiler content is after the boss dies.

So yes. Atlus is still blocking Persona 5 streams and it's still dumb. Glad to see many of you all agree!

Have a Happy New Year everyone, and be excellent  to each other.