Tag Archives: Mass Effect 3

Warring consoles

There are a few wars to look at, but the setting for the consoles is one that is shifty as hell. I have been outspoken against a certain brand whose name starts with ‘M‘ and ends with ‘icrosoft‘ for a few reasons, but that is not what it is about. It starts with the Sato. A writer for Siliconera giving us the sales of consoles for last week. The systems that matter for the week of 10th to the 16th of September in this are Nintendo Switch that sold 38,738 consoles, down from 43,513 last week. The PS4 12,057 down from 12,281 last week, the Xbox One 58, up from 19 last week, the PS4 pro 4,959 down from 7,442 and the Xbox One X 159 up from 30 last week (Japanese sales numbers). So we can go with the fact that Microsoft is the only one on the rise. We can go with the optional truth that Microsoft consoles (plural) merely represent 0.5% of the Nintendo Switch sales. I did not even consider News Nintendo DS systems in all this, the number would become laughingly small (and blow away whenever you open a window), if it has not done that already. Microsoft Xbox One systems are a mere 3% of the PlayStation 4 systems and that is not a good thing either (for Microsoft that is). Yet we must also acknowledge that Nintendo is a force of nature at present. You see, at present the Nintendo Switch might merely be at 45% of all the PS4 systems sold (normal and Pro), the fact that they did this in under 2 years is an amazing achievement and there is no stopping Nintendo. I expect that they will break additional records at both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year (as well as the Saint Nicholas festivities in one or two places).

It goes even further when we see the Nintendo games exploding on the screens when it comes to the revenue. This year alone, the revenue for Nintendo went up by a cool 100% to a net value of almost 10 billion dollars, that is a massive achievement in gaming and their growth is still enduring. With online play being free and Fortnite still on the rise and with 30 titles still arriving before the end of the year. It seems to me that Nintendo figured something out and Microsoft is paying a high price for the wisdom gained (Sony gets hurt too but much less).

So whilst Xbox UK is still hiding behind what I would clearly define as ‘deceptive conduct’, they might think that it is ‘innovative thinking’ we are merely confronted with a once growing game maker that is now becoming obsolete in its thinking.

So why deceptive conduct?

You see, the people were confronted with a tweet a mere three days ago. The tweet: “Play 500+ Classic Xbox & Xbox 360 titles on your Xbox One today… totally for free“, yet when we read down the tweets, we see the hitch. We see: “If you already own them – no need to buy again! Just download or put the disc in, and away you go“, news that is 2 years old and we are still confronted with a digital department that just does not get it. They did not tell us “We have upgraded our backwards compatibility program to 500+ games“, no that would be too honest. No we get: “Play 500+ Classic Xbox & Xbox 360 titles on your Xbox One today… totally for free“, it is not merely deceptive conduct, it is what I would personally call an open blatant lie. You see: “totally for free” would have been the setting if pre-owning the game was not a requirement, so some purchase was required, giving the setting one that is a an outright lie, as I personally see it.

Getting back to the sales I mentioned earlier, we need to realise that this is not global. The numbers come from merely a Japanese source, sales in Japan. Yet the setting is still clear (to some degree), Nintendo is here to stay and it is growing its influence on a global scale and when we see the mere achievement of 58 Xbox One systems over a week in a nation that is around 130 million people, whilst some sources give us that 50% of them are into gaming. We do not have a comprehensive data file that gives us a more complete picture. Yet we see that there are around 700 million online gamers, which is well over 40% of the online population, when you consider that, we see that the numbers and the setting is massively important. Venturebeat gave us in the past that spend per person is Japan (#1) with $120 per person, the US (#3) with $62 the UK and Australia in 4th and 5th, whilst they are on equal footing with $62 and $55 per person. So at that point do you still think that all this misrepresented loot box mess is merely about gambling? So when we were given: ‘Australian Senate inquiry extended after study calls loot boxes ‘psychologically akin to gambling’‘ merely three days ago as well as both “The Australian Senate inquiry into micro-transactions is taking into consideration a large-scale study that claims “loot boxes” are psychologically akin to gambling“, as well as “The paper is the result of a paid online survey among 7422 gamers. Curiously, over 6000 responses to the survey were discarded because the answers were either not serious or incomplete“, which is interesting because I never saw that link in any place and I have been a gamer since 1984, long before the word ‘gamer’ was cool. The article is actually good and gives us one part that I can stand behind: “recommends adjustments to the current game classification system advising “parental advisories for games that feature loot boxes” as well as “a descriptor outlining that the game itself features gambling content”“. I would be willing to take it one step further. I would demand that there are two additional parts. The first is that there needs to a clear path where we can earn loot boxes for free (not unlike the Mass Effect 3 setting), in addition we need to see a clear sticker on the front of the box stating that ‘no loot boxes are required to play or complete the game‘ Several games have clearly stated that in the past, yet adding this on the front of the cover is not the worst idea.

I still disagree that it is gambling, yet having a clear mention that loot boxes are set to chance and optionally the chances of getting a certain rarity is not the worst idea either. And in all this, the console war is now setting to a much larger stage, even as they all (partially correctly) point their finger at EA Games. Ubisoft has unlockable content (at a price as well, yet they ALWAYS clearly stated ‘this item can be unlocked through regular gameplay‘ as well. So it is not immoral that they offer it as an initial unlock for $5, it merely shows us that that person is not really a gamer, merely a player.

In this there is more to Ubisoft; it is clearly seen in their Assassins Creed games. Going back to Assassins Creed 2, they had the Ubiclub. You can buy things there. Unlocking premiums and extra’s (skins, backgrounds, outfits and weapons), to buy them you play the games and when you get to a stage, like completing a set of conditions, making it to a certain point in the game you get points, these points re kept in you profile and you can unlock them for any Ubisoft game you have, giving you more and more by merely playing. It opens up the need to complete, the drive to achieve and the option to get cool things. Here I clearly state: ‘Well done Ubisoft!‘ and this is still an ongoing stage with badges and cool stuff with every additional game that they release. So as I state that loot boxes are not gambling, I am for the most not against the setting: ‘Study urges games with Loot Boxes to be Restricted to Players old enough to Gamble‘, which is not the same. The question is not merely on how to check it; the issue will soon be that abuse is harder to check. Even if they cannot be merely bought online, even when the loot box cash needs to be bought in the store, we will see the irresponsible act of the parent giving in to ‘junior’ buying more and more loot boxes. It is important to raise the issue as more and more consoles are confronted with games that depend on loot boxes, and that is not nearly the beginning. We see part of this in Eurogamer (at https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2018-07-23-fifa-player-uses-gdpr-to-find-out-everything-ea-has-on-him-realises-hes-spent-over-usd10-000-in-two-years-on-ultimate-team), when we are given “Michael was sent a data dump by EA via two PDF files each over 100 pages long. This amounted to a huge number of files, which include engagement data, FIFA 18 stats, device information and more than 10 audio files (these are recordings of his calls to EA support). It also included details of every player Michael bought and sold over the past two years in FUT“, so beyond the setting of “EA also provided data relating to how much real world money (in dollars) Michael had spent on FIFA Points, and he told Eurogamer he was “gobsmacked” to discover he’d spent over $10,000 in just two years“. Apart from the fact that you are losing your screws, the mere fact that you are not aware wasting cash to such a degree is one part, yet in this, the part that everyone ignores is “30 days later, Michael was sent a data dump by EA via two PDF files each over 100 pages long. This amounted to a huge number of files, which include engagement data“. I never played FIFA, yet when Microsoft remained in denial that 5 GB in 10 days was uploaded without my consent or knowledge into the Azure cloud, they merely pointed at the internet provider and stated that this is their responsibility (whilst I had not played any multiplayer games), and now we see what EA collects, in all this, the collected data is not an issue in any of this?

And the console wars are not done, not by a close margin. This goes beyond which system is popular, with system has loot boxes. This is about data and with all these systems being online and optionally ending up collecting personal data, there is a larger for not merely gamers and players. It is about classifying people and the setting of how bankable have we become? We saw this a few months ago with ‘Esports streamers and gamers are among the most bankable influencers, pitching to a new generation of consumers that don’t track traditional‘, it is about finding money people, those who propel the brand and when we realise that we seem to have a few additional problems and the fact that no attention is given to that part in the equation is equally a problem.

 

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A short sighted Senate?

This was always going to happen. Whenever there is a political setting, it will always be about the money. In this, I will be trying to have a field day. So, a paper will be drawn, demanding that the Australian psychiatrists and researchers will have to sign; they will not get a choice in the matter. They do not deserve a choice in the matter. It will be fun for them to openly condemn Telstra, Apple, Amazon, JB Hi-fi, David Jones and a few other places, because in the end they are all linked in this, even though they do not even realise that yet. It is as I see it, the consequence of a biased setting and we need to make sure that these people will not merely get the limelight, they will, in this setting be responsible for the economic fallout. That is as I personally see it the consequence of greed driven bias.

You see, it is clear that this is about money. The fact that we see the flock gather around a person, who is so stupid that I equally demand that this British person, who is clearly too stupid for his own thoughts must be barred from credit cards for life! If he cannot control himself to that degree, we must protect him from being that stupid ever again.

You see, you think that it is an emotional part, but it is not. Even as I accept “Video games have generally been considered games of skill rather than games of chance and thus are unregulated under most gambling laws, but researchers from New Zealand and Australia, writing in Nature Human Behaviour, concluded that “loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling”“, a setting that I do not agree with (explanation to follow), the quote coming from Aaron Drummond and James D Sauer, which was published in ‘Nature human behaviour‘, I feel uncertain to comment on, or oppose that part as I lack the proper psychological education in this.

Why is it not gambling?

That is the important part. Yes, there is a setting of luck, but ever loot box has a similar setting. We see one rare element, 2-3 uncommon elements and the rest will be common elements. So how did this come to be? For that we need to look at the father of loot boxes, the game Magic the gathering. Consider that on a piece of paper (size A0) cards are printed. An A0 page (841 x 1189 mm) will fit 12 cards per row, and 12 rows. The cards (usually 63 x 88 mm) get 144 cards on one page. In this setting we work with 288 cards, and if printed on 4 pages, we get 576 cards. So here we see the initial setting where we see that on these pages, the rare cards would be printed once, for example, two columns of 12 per page, in total 96 cards, the uncommon would be there twice, which gets us 192 cards and the remaining cards three times getting us the 576 cards, a set of 288 cards. So we always know that we get a certain combination, but we merely cannot tell which one. So this Australian government that allegedly is ruled through law, sets the stage (at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-02/crown-casino-pokies-maker-aristocrat-court-decision/9387168), where pokies are not deceptive, whilst loot boxes are?

Am I digressing?

No, you see, in the CCG we see that there is a physical part to all the cards, with the virtual loot box it is not entirely the same setting. So even when we consider the ABC Quote “It argued the Dolphin Treasure machine, which is manufactured by Aristocrat and available to players at Crown, had been deceptively designed to give players the impression they had won, when they had in fact lost money“, yet in that same light, we see that a loot box, always gives a price, yet is it the price the buyer wanted? In this case I revert to the previous setting, now we add what is called a booster box. In a box are 35 packs (can be 30-36 depending on the CCG game), so we could argue that when we buy 3 boxes, we should have the complete set, yet with the 105 packs, we do get 105 rare items, but in that same setting, over the 96 rare items needed, if only 10% is double, we no longer get the complete set and we will have to swap with others. With physical cards that is an option, with virtual items that is not always possible. This is indeed the trap, yet is that gambling? When we know that we get a rare item, yet we cannot guarantee that item is that gambling? That is the question, yet in the case of the Crown Casino, the judges stated that that there was no deceptive conduct, and neither is there in this case. With Loot boxes you are ALWAYS a winner, but is winning and winning the price you want enough difference to warrant it gambling?

The economic setting

That is also part of this, because some power players are all about facilitating towards casino’s (go to Barangaroo if you doubt me), and we are also treated to “This is a win for 140,000 Australians who have jobs because of poker machines,“, as well as “Every year Victorians lose more than $2.6 billion on the state’s 27,000 poker machines that operate outside of Crown Casino“. This hypocritical setting is about money, plain and simple. This is a setting where the loot boxes are funds that go directly to the makers of those games and they are not in Australia. Unlike the other setting where we see “The State Government receives more than $1 billion in tax revenue from pokies every year“, yes all things are definitely not equal!

Are there issues?

Well, the quote “Games with loot box mechanics have long proven controversial” is actually true. There are two settings. Loot boxes you can earn and those you can buy. We will forever hear the argument of the game Mass Effect 3, for all, the golden standard. They could be bought, or won, the same loot box. Earn enough points in the game in multiplayer mode and you had the option to buy a golden box with earned points, instead of purchased credits. That was the best of all settings. Now we have these boxes that can be bought only, yet the foundation is that the game can be played and completed WITHOUT EVER buying a loot box, so those people are merely buying the boxes to get the insane chance of getting an over the top powerful item, which is weird in some ways. In support of some we must also acknowledge that EA Games as one of the players in all this decided to cut themselves in the finger and that is all on them. End Gadget gives u that (at https://www.engadget.com/2018/06/13/electronic-arts-loot-box-mea-culpa-e3/), so when we see ‘How EA talks about loot boxes depends on who’s listening‘, which might be good business practice, but it is really really stupid. You see, with “EA wants you to know that it has changed; that it isn’t the same company that put pay-to-win progression systems and loot boxes in two of its biggest games last fall. “We are always trying to learn and listen, and are striving to be better,” CEO Andrew Wilson said before closing out the keynote address“, we see one side, and with: “He thanked the investor for his question, saying that EA was working with “all the industry associations globally” and talking with regulators in territories where loot boxes had been deemed gambling, without naming any specific regions. He said that his company and the regulatory bodies concluded that Ultimate Team wasn’t gambling. Since players know they’ll get a certain amount of cards in each pack, and that the distribution of each pack is the same (i.e. one rare footballer, three uncommon, two common in each) it doesn’t break any laws“, here we see the part that I partially agree with, but it also shows that EA Games is all about the money and the ‘FIFA Ultimate Team‘ part of all this represents billions, billions that they do not want to lose.

There are two big parts in all of this, that is aside for that one person who could optionally be the most stupid person in the United Kingdom, especially when he ‘discovers’ he’s spent £7,500+ on FUT Ultimate Team cards (source: Daily Star 29th July 2018). The first is that FIFA is a game played by non-adults, so they will desire to optionally spend on these cards. The fact that there is no limit set is optionally an issue, if EA Games has set the stage where per month no more than £25 would be spend, that is close to half the cost of the full game, so it might need to be lowered. The second is the chance to swap any double won, so the fact that you are missing a Beckham, but have two Pele’s, you can seek someone who had the opposite setting. That could have saved a lot of issues, possibly all issues and EA Games merely made it harder by (as I personally see it) being stupid. That evidence is seen (at https://www.fifauteam.com/best-packs-fifa-18-ultimate-team/), Yet is also gives us that EA Games has free packs and they also give us “FREE PACKS. Not available to purchase on the store. They are assigned to you in the beginning of the game, as daily gifts and as draft, SBC, FUT Champions, objectives and seasons rewards“, so if free packs can be won, why is the entire matter still an issue? We also are given “Jumbo Premium Gold pack and Silver Upgrade pack both cost 15,000 coins but the first one may be purchased with 300 FIFA Points while for the second we only need 50 FIFA Points. Players should also pay attention to this aspect“, Yet I am also given “You can earn FUT Coins by playing FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) and trading within the Transfer Market, but you can’t buy them. Buying coins from a third party, promoting coin buying, or coin distribution is against our rules“, so we can transfer? Then again, why is there an issue, when there are so many factors that are not funds driven?

There is an interesting video on this (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=25&v=Igs5Ca9Nw4M), the man talks too fast for his own good, but it is very informative, giving us a clear view that there is a clear way to get items and players making it weird on how someone would have paid £7,500+ on FUT Ultimate Team cards. I do not doubt that this was done, yet it asks a few additional serious questions on the mental status of some video gamers. In all this I see several issues on both sides, but for the most, the entire setting is gambling and with the options for free packs and transfers, there is less and less a setting of gambling, merely the oversized need of greed by a government wanting non-taxable parts to stop. Yet at the bottom of the FIFA team page is also a comments section and we see the most interesting part that was also on the video.

Q: You say that we can buy coins directly?

A (Admin): My main suggestion is to trade. Buying low and selling higher is easier than most of the people think.

All given actions based on common sense, a part that someone paying £7,500+ for these cards is the setting of a person lacking common sense in spades, diamond and in clubs, basically the buyer was seemingly without hearts and common sense. Reverting to overspending and hiding behind gambling statements when there are trades and free options is overly unbalanced.

Yet I agree that this is all mostly based on FIFA, so how does that fare in other parts? With Overwatch (at http://overwatch.wikia.com/wiki/Loot_Box), we see that they are bought, yet they are also awarded.

  • One Loot Box is earned every time a player levels up.
  • One seasonal Loot Box is earned for the first time accessing the game in a seasonal event.
  • One Loot Box is earned for the first time winning some game modes in the Arcade, for example 1v1 Mystery Duel or 3v3 Elimination.
  • One Loot Box is earned for the 3rd, 6th, and 9th winning by playing Arcade game modes within the time between 2 resets. This cycle resets every week whether or not you win 9 games.

So these are options that do not require funds (yet can also be bought). It merely requires you to be a decent player. A decent player will have the option to three boxes a week by winning enough times, in all this, we see skill based progression.

This is the setting that we are faced with, and in this I wonder how thoroughly is the issue investigated, or will this merely be a senate exercise on lost (read: non-taxable) revenue?

In the end, when we move back to the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/aug/17/video-game-loot-boxes-addictive-and-a-form-of-simulated-gambling-senate-inquiry-told) and we see no mention whatsoever that loot boxes could be earned, or are optional (under the right setting free), what other parts is the writer Patrick Lum not informing us on? In addition, when I see “Australian psychiatrists and researchers have called for greater regulation of video games that encourage players to purchase chance-based items“, whilst there is no mention on the earning option, or the initial free options that pretty much every game seems to have offered. When that part is equally missing, how fair will this inquiry be?

The article has two additional issues. the first is seen with: “The Office of the eSafety Commissioner estimated that 34% of young people made in-game purchases in the 12 months before June 2017, while the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia cited research finding that around 20% of simulated gambling players moved on to online commercial gambling and 5% of young Australians would develop gambling problems before they were 25 years old“. When we see ‘estimated‘, it should be made clear that this is not factual evidence, more important, what was the estimation based on? We are unlikely to get clearly informed on that part. In addition, the part ‘the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia cited research finding that around 20% of simulated gambling players moved on to online commercial gambling‘, is under scrutiny, because in that regard, I would want those so called ‘Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia‘ to produce the evidence and the raw data on how the ”around 20%” was obtained.

The second issue is seen with “Dr Marcus Carter, a former president of the Digital Games Research Association of Australia, argued that “predatory” practices were “pervasive”, citing potential variable odds manipulation, push notifications about limited-time offers and other player retention mechanics“, although I find his setting a much better one, there are still issues with the use of ‘potential’ in that, without evidence it is merely highly speculative and even as I would accept the danger of ‘variable odds manipulation‘, that part can be addressed clearly enough. The requirement is that there needs to be evidence that this is happening and a pre-emptive setting of making the optional issue of ‘variable odds manipulation‘ unacceptable in legislation is not wrong, yet requires proof. In addition, the entire setting of ‘push notifications about limited-time offers and other player retention mechanics‘ is equally valid, but can be stopped by an opt-in setting, in addition if that is addressed, we need to accept that all ‘limited-time offers’ in advertisement on media and TV are to be equally banned, because we could optionally get a ‘buy a new pair of shoes’ addiction (for a limited time that is). If that is to be accepted (cheating small time businesses out of advertising as well as taxable advertisement funds go right ahead, Or perhaps make it illegal to have ‘limited-time mobile offers‘, and we leave Dr Marcus Carter to explain that change to mobile providers, who will be crying over lost revenue. You see, when all players are equal there is no setting of fair play at all, merely the setting of expedited needs, in this case the government. All that when it was made aware of lines like “EA earns $1.68 billion in micro transactions in FY2017“, that whilst Australia’s biggest super villain (read: Taxman) never got a cent of any of that.

That is the actual setting and that got all those trying to set this all to gambling. Including the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and now Australia, they are all about getting a slice of that micro transaction pie, all that could have been prevented 15-20 years ago by them using their brains. Yet at that time ego and greed got the better of them and they were unwilling to kick Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and all other e-store players where it would have hurt, they were in my personal view mere cowards letting actual physical shops fend for themselves, as their business was pushed online and away from them. Now we see patch upon patch, all players trying to get as much of the cream as possible whilst trying to hide the fact that they had no backbone in the first place, all merely equipped with paper backs ready for recycling.

The mere setting of ‘All online items are GST set and paid for in the country of the purchasing consume by that nations legal setting‘ would have sorted 98% of all this, but the politicians in those global nations were, in the end merely as ‘solid’ and morally strong as wet tissue paper.

So in all this there is a huge issue with the loot box and gambling setting, merely from the point of view that I have that this is not about gambling, it is about non-taxable income, a very different issue to say the least.

 

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That one place

There is a place where everyone is the same, where it does not matter what your convictions are, what your gender is or how you swing your love life. That is the one thing I always believed, I remain faithful to the notion that games and gaming is the one place where it does not matter what you are, who you are and how you are, as long as you are fine that is. I grew up with games, I reviewed and tested games for well over a decade and played them for additional decades beyond that. I was already a gamer when the term did not even exist.

I always believed that games had, in those days two distinct powers. One was to entertain the person playing; the other was to lower the threshold of using computers, I ended up being correct on both counts. I started my gaming life in 1982, almost 36 years ago. I started with a Commodore VIC-20, after that a Commodore 64 and after that I was off to the races. So, the VIC-20, CBM-64, Atari 2600, CD-32, Atari ST, Amiga 500, PC, MAC, Nintendo-64, Sega Megadrive, Sega Dreamcast, PlayStation 1, 2, 3, and 4, Xbox, Xbox360 and Xbox One. I had them all and played them all. I saw games evolve from blocks; I played Pong and many arcade games. I always hoped that the women would not keep on considering it ‘an act too nerdy’ and behold, in the beginning of the second millennia I saw more and more women taking up gaming to some extent. I always thought that gaming was a true equaliser and to some extent it became one, so I was a little upset to see ‘eSports analyst receives death threats after thanking men on women’s day‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/mar/09/soembie-soe-gschwind-penski-overwatch-league), there she is on the article smiling and announcing the Blizzard event, looking like an overwatch player. Soe Gschwind-Penski was not the pesky Peski adversarial player that was up against people, she was hosting the event as the excellent eSports commentator she is regarded to be. So, the lady born in the land of Cheese and Chocolate gave the tweet: “It’s #InternationalWomensDay I’d like to give a special shoutout to all the men in our lives who have supported us, gave us a voice when we had none, fought for our cause and treated us the way we all ought to treat each other…like a fellow human being – no race, no gender.” as @Soembie she gave us all a nice tweet, all positive in every direction giving a voice to an international day. So for the utter life of me, I cannot comprehend the fact that people hand out responses that lead to: ““Ive gotten death threats and hundreds of hate messages the past 20 minutes because I thanked men for treating me as their equal, on a day which is all about womens struggle for equality,” Gschwind-Penski posted. “Hate, because I am grateful for the men in our lives who fight alongside us for our rights.”“, from my point of view that could not have been done by anyone who is an actual real gamer. I see it as actions from people pretending to be ‘gamers’; pretending to know anything at all. Like those people claiming that they finished ‘Dead Space in Impossible mode in two hours‘, or something as ridiculous like that. They tend to use cheats and god mode codes or alterations so that they can run through a game not getting hurt by anything, they are not and never will be players. I never had any regard or respect for them. So am I a great gamer? Nope! I am a good gamer and I like to enjoy games, so I will never run through an RPG. What is the purpose of running through Skyrim, or Fallout 4 and missing on the magnificent views the game offers? I even admire the fact that Fallout 4 can be played as a pacifist. I never did that, but the fact that it is there is just awesome, it makes for a gamer to be an actual gamer (cause for a golden Achievement; Hint, hint). I am not one for multiple shooting games. I used to like it, but Unreal Tournament spoiled that for me. All people hopping like kangaroos through the game, it was just too weird for me. Still, there is plenty of awesomeness in going down the throat of Diablo 3 with three other players. A game I loved since the very first Diablo and my team of 7 hardcore mode level 70 characters are decent evidence of that.

So in that setting the entire abuse of Soe Gschwind-Penski makes no sense at all. Even when we see: “The two-year-old OWL did make headlines last month when South Korean teenager Kim Se-yeon signed with the Shanghai Dragons to become the league’s first female player. But high-profile eSports competitions remain a male-dominated space: Gschwind-Penski is the only female member of OWL’s full-time commentary team.

You see, for the most finding female gamers, serious gamers are still a rare thing. So even as there might be a case in regards to the fact that ‘Gschwind-Penski is the only female member of OWL’s full-time commentary team‘, we must equally realise that for the longest time, even today that a high estimate from my speculative view is that the women in gaming are set to a mere 10% at best (I apologise if I am wrong). So we are happy that people like Soe Gschwind-Penski, Aoife Wilson (@AoifeLockhart) from Eurogamer, Stephanie Claire Bendixsen (aka Hex), and Anita Sarkeesian. The list is way too short and we can point fingers at the reasons, but in the end I am not certain if there is an actual real culprit. If there is one than I might blame the makers of these review sites and channels as the culprit for not hiring more women, or is that actually the non-capability of finding more women?

You see, I started gaming in the age when nearly all women remained in enthusiastic denial of games for well over a decade. I know that because in those days woman in gaming was extremely rare. Roberta Williams was one of the very few. Jane Jensen would not appear until a decade later and the writing she did on EcoQuest and Police Quest 3 put her on the map (both excellent games). Yet the last two were two of a very small group of game designers, not game critics or reviewers (or hosts). Yet, I still believe that women are as welcome in the gaming industry and the gaming world as much as anyone else. Anyone who does not agree with that view is of course allowed to disagree, but he is not an actual gamer plain and simple!

You see, it truly does not matter what you are or who you are in gaming. It is merely the setting that you can hold your own in that virtual team, once you do you are in it for life! There are several women that I have met who can hold their own in Mass Effect 3 multiplayer on platinum level. That is all it requires and even as the settings change per game, they are all about being able to hold your own and strengthen the multiplayer (MP) team. So in all this I have absolutely no clue why anyone would give death threats to any female gamer and I feel certain that this was not dome by any real gamer, at best a wannabe, and optionally merely a game hater and we have no real use for each of these two groups.

It is my view that it needs to be dealt with. It is in that regard that I remember an article (and found it) which was from 2014. The Guardian gave us (at https://www.theguardian.com/culture/australia-culture-blog/2014/nov/28/alanah-pearce-tells-on-her-internet-trolls-to-their-mothers) , so when we read the tweet “Sometimes young boys on Facebook send me rape threats, so I’ve started telling their mothers“, most actual gamers would be laughing out loud and when we read the results “more than 11,000 users had retweeted her comment, and more than 20,000 had favourited it, eight hours after Pearce made her original post” game reviewer Alanah Pearce struck gold! Actually, in my view it does not really matter how young or old the person is, when it comes to the threats that Soe Gschwind-Penski was exposed to, it should be standard practise to tell on them to their mommy’s. For them to be exposed as the utter disappointment they show themselves to be to others might not be a bad thing. The wannabe’s will stop pretending to be gamers and hide in a corner, the rest will get a quick moral adjustment they desperately needed.

In my view gaming is for all and everyone. It does not matter what your gender, religion orientation or conviction is. The world of gaming is about the gaming world you enter, whether that is in the depths of a cathedral in Diablo, the house in Overwatch, the landing site on Mass Effect 3, or the power chamber in Unreal Tournament. You only have to hold your own. If you cannot do that, choose a lower level and get there, or get better. It is the one part that every player can do and that is why gaming will remain a world of inclusion, it is the only place where your inclusion only relies on you doing your part which is awesome in nearly everyone’s view. And the nicest part is that if you are not ready today, you can practice, get better and return, gender was never an issue.

Yet, there is still a long way to go, not because of gamers or gender, the fact that the President of the United States is still a few cans short of a six pack and that evidence is shown in light of “Donald Trump will host executives from the video game industry at the White House on Thursday, resurrecting a debate over the link between violent video games and gun-related deaths in the aftermath of the Parkland high school shooting“, so how long until women (and some men) will turn away from Overwatch out of fear for being seen as an aspiring psychopath?

Do you think I am kidding?

The foundation of all this is values and inherent choices. The choice an abuser makes is seen in two settings. Psychology Today gives us the 5 types of abuse:

– Emotional (killing pet, playing mind games)
– Verbal (calling names)
– Technological (GPS system /Face book sabotage)
– Sexual (forcing sex while sleep or based on the bible)
– Physical (killing, punching, choking)

The issue is seen in the first two, emotional, and then verbal after that we get the physical one. Yet in gaming this is all in a virtual setting and the gamer knows this. So they know that the person they fight with is a virtual person, and in games like Half-Life counter-strike we know that the opposing person is a virtual one too. The issue is that every psychopath might be a gamer to some extent, but that person will not be able to tell the virtual world and the real world apart. They merely want to hurt people, to actually abuse them, a gamer never does. It was that same article that gave me something that I did not know. Did you know that an actual abuser ‘Holds very rigid gender roles‘? So basically these threatening people might be actual abusers and reporting them becomes a duty for every gamer, not merely every women threatened. This person, usually a male regards himself as ‘King of the Castle’, it is her duty to cater (and service) him. As I am not like that, I had no idea, but that becomes a worry and Trump is not making it easier. If anything he is currently catering to abusers and psychopaths. This could be a comforting notion if the entire issue was not that worrying, but it actually is.

Then we get the worrying part, worrying because it is a dangerous step. As we see ‘Treatment for this population‘, we get to see “Group Therapy is important because it allows the batterer to be confronted by his peers on his behavior. I’ve facilitated groups with 16 men in the room at times it would become very confrontational but it was important for the men to be held accountable for their behavior by other men and group facilitators so this might translate into “making them a group of inclusion, allow and accept them in our midst and calling them openly out on every transgression they make“. I for one am happy to shun abusers and never letting them in our midst, but I recognise that I would make matters worse, in my defence, I feel more compelled to protect my fellow gamer, whether he is a man or a woman, because quality gamers are rare and I feel that their protection is more important than curing a non-gamer in the gaming world. This is merely my personal view.

In the end I would call to my fellow gamers to call out those who attack gamers like Soe Gschwind-Penski because our population of true gamers is not that large when we compare 2-3 million on a total of 8 billion. I would love for that number to double the next few years, so as we grow we will hopefully see more women join our ranks.

In opposition

There is however a part I need to mention. I never agreed with it, but it is a view we must not ignore. In 2013 (at https://www.newstatesman.com/if-you-love-games-you-are-not-a-gamer), in the New Statesman there was a piece. In its origin the New Statesman is a British political and cultural magazine published in London. Founded as a weekly review of politics and literature on 12 April 1913, so a magazine from before WW1, gave us “The idea of the ‘gaming community’ needs to die“, it is one view. You see, as gamers we segregate ourselves, I am happy to do just that because I am proud to be a gamer, I always have been. One quote applies to the origin of the gamers (in the 80’s). With: “gamers are depicted as the contemporary nerd group, a mildly downtrodden crowd, shunned by the jocks and achievers. Gamers are the losers who spend their days in darkened bedrooms furiously tapping on controllers or keyboards in a solitary pursuit that sits close to masturbation in the mind“, in the old days that was certainly true as the image presented of gamers as others saw them. Yet is that true now? Now the gaming industry is a $100+ billion a year. Now we see that people group and identify with the worlds of Skyrim, post-apocalyptic USA and as other groups are formed around successful games like GTA5, Far Cry, League of Legends and Overwatch that image is not only no longer true, it is in opposition of all those developers called by the need of $$$ (and their developing powers). So when we see “Within the next century ‘gamers’ will be a term that encompasses every gay and transgender person, every girl and woman, every politician in the cabinet, everyone with a title in the House of Lords, every teacher, nurse, banker, social worker, dustman and paedophile“, which is an unsettling truth. It is unsettling because even as we all want our fellow gamers to be merely gamers regardless of gender, we cannot (and perhaps should not) see what they are in real life. So it is not impossible that the serial killer hides in GTA5 multiplayer, killing whatever he/she can until the call for real blood is needed. So my view is in opposition of President Trump, he is stating that every rectangle is a square, whilst I identify that every square is a rectangle, as well as proving him wrong at the same time. It is not the same but there is a foundation and a foundation where a person can hide in anonymity. I belief it is a good thing, but it could be abused by those who have in ‘the core of the matter’ no business being there. In that part the Statesman does not make the case but the call for the cancellation of any community is not overtly evil. It is a non-invalid view, especially when we see “the urge to form groups with like-minded people is a universal one. But when that collective power is turned against those on the margins of the group“, so even as we are gamers, and we unite and think alike, but when that makes us a target, is the call valid to endanger some of us? I believe that when we unite we are more than ready for those attacking us, even if we merely start protecting our fellow gamers by calling the mommy and daddy of their attackers, no matter what age they have.

In the end I hope that people like Soe Gschwind-Penski realise that every real gamer is happy that she is around and that we have no qualms about her presence, even if she, in addition, defeats us in the most humiliating way. It merely ups the ante for us to get better, and that is in the core of multiplayer gaming, a drive to improve, a fellow gamer that makes any of us a better gamer, how great is such a life?

Live it to find out!

 

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Forced Discomfort

It is a term you might not know, but this term is central in the current Xbox One debacle. You see the Windows 10 update came with a massive setback, you now have to be online to validate your profile and to play games. The first of a few steps that Microsoft is undertaking, undoing the events of 2013 and to get back on track. Now if you look at Xbox support, you will find that the Xbox now has an ‘offline mode’.

The page (at http://support.xbox.com/en-AU/xbox-one/networking/using-xbox-one-offline), shows several parts, let me show just two that matter:

You need to be online to experience everything Xbox One has to offer, but when you’re offline, you can still:

  • Sign in to your profile, but only if you’ve signed in online before. This includes the Kinect automatic sign-in mode, if you set that up while you were online.
  • Play games, if you have a disk or you’re on your home console (see About My home Xbox to learn more).

Now the second part, a side that was NEVER an issue before:

There are some capabilities that you need to be online to use, such as:

Playing games that require online sign-in, even for a single player.

Now, this has happened with games that came from the Microsoft Store that is not a secret, but is that the only occasion?

As for the steps to do this:

How to go offline

  • Scroll left on the ‘Home‘ screen to open the guide.
  • Select ‘Settings‘.
  • Select ‘All Settings‘.
  • Select ‘Network‘.
  • Select ‘Network settings‘, and then select ‘Go offline‘.

Your network status will change to offline. To go back online, follow the previous steps, but in ‘Network settings‘ select ‘Go online‘.

Here is the massive issue as I see it. With computers and laptops this was never an issue. You go home, you either connect the network cable or the router could be automatically found. No interaction required. The Xbox360 had exactly the same parts. If I wanted to be inline, I connected the network cable for the time that it was needed. It was never an issue. In my case I had one network cable and one free connection and two consoles, this is why I did that. Even today I am faced with this on the PS4 and the Xbox One. In addition, I see no reason to be ‘connected’ all the time. So why is this now such an issue?

As I see it, this mandatory online is not really mandatory, but as I see it Microsoft is forcing us online, or to be connected and by changing the premise by having to set the network offline and online, we will eventually tire and be connected all the time. We do not win here, only Microsoft does!

This is called ‘forced discomfort‘. Which comes from the Forced Choice Scale of Discomfort. This we get from the 1987 work of J. H. Bernardin in the Academy of Management Journal, 30, 162-173. Development and Validation of a Forced Choice Scale to Measure Job-Related Discomfort Among Customer Service Representatives. This is only one approach to it all, but it is the foundation of what we often face today. The man is a decently brilliant Psychologist and has worked on many projects. In this specific case we use a force choice scale, which was developed to measure discomfort based on characteristics of a specific job. You get to choose 2 scenarios, which causes the most discomfort. For example:

  1. Having to listen to someone’s point of view with which you disagree (perhaps this blog).
  2. Your work is closely monitored (loads of examples).

Now knowing the forced scale will influence our reaction to the situation and Microsoft was entirely unpleased with our desire to remain offline when we prefer it. They prefer a steady stream of data. Now take the previous setting and consider the following statements

  1. Having to patch a game regularly.
    b. constantly adjusting your network settings.
    c. Having to synch save games.
    d. Having to change the disc of a game whilst playing.
    e. Switching the batteries in your controller.

Which two would be your most discomfortable ones? Now, in all fairness I should have added 15 more items, but the chances are really great that network settings would score high, which is what we face now on the Xbox One. There was no need for any of this on the Xbox 360, the PS3 and the PS4, so why is this an Xbox One issue?

Because Microsoft wants to return to the 2013 issue that they need data of many kinds. Even if they are not privacy driven. For them to know exactly how many gamers are online playing, the amounts of hours connected is all data they would love to have. None of it goes back to your identity, so there is no privacy issue, but that level of data details one that they can charge game makers for, and they could end up charging a lot.

This is why I am so angry with Microsoft, because as a consumer I feel betrayed! Now consider your desktop and laptop (if you have them), do you need to switch your settings to offline? No you don’t! So if Microsoft can figure this out on those systems as well as the Xbox 360, why make us go through these events?

As I see it, the only conclusion I get is that they have ulterior motives, motives that are not for the consumers that they should be serving as the consumer paid for the device. In this regard we could consider another paper by John Bernardin, namely ‘Conscientiousness and agreeableness as predictors of rating leniency’, you can probably guess the next part. Why should we show leniency towards Microsoft in any way, shape or form? Was their act of backwards compatibility a way to create agreeableness?

And as Microsoft stated on the 12thwe put fans at the centre of everything we do and wanted to make some big changes‘ (at http://news.xbox.com/2015/11/12/new-xbox-one-experience-begins-today/), then why do you keep on pushing for mandatory login through forced discomfort? It seems that you never had any ‘fan’ in the centre, only your own greedy need for a stable stream of connection data! The fact that the press remains oblivious to all this makes me wonder what else we might be forced to face and a third test will be done next week to ascertain a few more items. I do not know what the effect will be but I will explain that fully in the next (and perhaps final part) of all this.

I have no idea whether people will catch on before thanksgiving and Christmas in the US. Even purely Windows 10 has a few issues. Forbes reported: “While the option to disable is nice, ‘Windows Update Delivery Optimization’ (WUDO) is another example of where Microsoft should be more transparent with Windows 10 and let them know upfront what their devices will be doing behind their backs by default” (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2015/08/02/windows-10-vs-windows-8-vs-windows-7-whats-the-difference/), so what else does the new Xbox OS push for and Microsoft has not been upfront about it?

I still have an issue with non-stop online. This might be my own paranoia, yet as we see computers getting hacked into (often due to stupidity of the user), having a power core at your disposal as they turn your console into a botnet. Is that such a stretch? No!

Consider the following data: “the slides from Frank Savage’s presentation at Build 2014 along with the audio of the same. We noticed the fact that Xbox One runs Windows 8” Now this will be Windows 10, so having an app that becomes a remote botnet is not a stretch and by the time people start to consider that their console is doing a lot more than walk ‘the wasteland’, we are confronted with a few hundred thousand consoles, all playing ‘spam the neighbour’. Now I am not stating that Microsoft is not taking precautions, but so far every windows version has been breached multiple times. Soon consoles will be also forced to consider additional apps to protect against such intrusions, it is the price of being always online!

Is it an immediate danger? No it is not! I am not stating, suggesting or implying this, but we know that EVERY Windows system has had its flaws and so will the Xbox One. Often not dangerously, but when a console is always reachable that danger just increases. This is my personal issue with always being connected. It is why I am sparingly connected (and because I have one wire for more than one console).

But I diverged from the initial issue of forced discomfort, I did so intentionally so that you realise that consoles have many sides, they often have more options and powers than the average gamer realises. This is not a bad thing, but in all this that realisation is also linked to the sequence of events as they are now playing.

When you realise that your system can do more than you realise, it will give on the other side of the coin the statement: ‘you can lose more than you think because you never realised that you could have lost it’.

That requires a little explaining. Consider ‘you cannot lose what you never knew you had’ and ‘things can be removed from you when you realise that it was an implied gift, not an actual one’. The first one is often shaped into: “you knew what you had, you just never thought you’d lose it“, a statement that might be true, but I do not agree with it. You see in my view, when you lose you never knew you had, you stop your own evolution. The realisation of new is at the core of growth, which takes me to the second part. An implied gift is still a gift, having it taken away is not wrong of debatably criminal, it is merely an act that stops your evolution. For as you lost elements of growth, your actions become empty. This is why I am so against the entire situation. For the most, I was never a multiplayer man, so I never missed multiplayer, yet I learned that Mass Effect 3 came with plenty of grudges and complaints, yet it also came with the best multiplayer experience ever! Mass Effect 3 was the founding father of me remaining a Gold Live member. Even if I no longer play that game in any way shape or form, that game put Gold on the map for me and as such I evolved due to a part I never knew I had. In that same instance, the implied ownership is still an issue, because even though I no longer play it, the Mass Effect 3 Cerberus system is an implied gift, not an actual one. At some point Mass Effect 3 will no longer be multiplayer, no longer work online. At that point our multiplayer evolution stops (until the next game comes along). Even as I ‘demand’ that my single player game will forever play on the intended console, I will never expect a service like multiplayer to remain active. In that same light I expect a game or preowned game to always unreservedly work on the console version it was made for, but in that same light I see multiplayer as a service, which means that a separate multiplayer is not transferable. This is my personal handle on the things that play, so in that same light, being able to play offline without forced discomfort is a given right, not a managed service. As Microsoft is pushing us to be all online (in the approach given to us in 2013), we should all lash out against Microsoft for leaving us betrayed.

There is also an additional issue when we consider ‘section 7b’ of Microsoft’s Services EULA where we see “may automatically check your version of the software and download software update or configuration changes, including those that prevent you from accessing the Services, playing counterfeit games, or using unauthorised hardware peripheral devices“, I do not have an issue with that. I buy my games, all my games! Yet these changes also allow for hunting those who ‘alter’ their Xbox so that they can do something that is called jailbreaking on iOS. These people (to the larger extent) are not interested in pirated games. These people want to play the latest games the moment they are released in Tokyo or the US. They do not want to wait a year for the ‘altered’ edition, they want to full Japanese experience. I get that and I am partially on their side too!

But these changes will not only make those acts no longer possible (which is debatable whether it should be allowed or not), but the second hand gaming world could in equal measure be blocked soon thereafter. Whether this will come true cannot be predicted, yet as Microsoft broke its word on not online gaming, what else will they regard as ‘flexible’?

The fact that the press is still not regarding the online login push as a fact is also a worry, because this was at the heart of the 2013 slump in pre-orders for the Xbox One. So why is no one else picking this up? One friend of mine did state that most people are always online and they do not care. Which is fair enough, yet those people chose this, so why force the others? Is that not a valid question too?

This all links to the premise behind this all. Microsoft marketing might state: “Microsoft will do what is best for you”, but from my evolutionary mind, the premise should be “I know what is best for me“, Microsoft has no clue what my needs are and they will never realise what they are when they push me for setting I am unsettled with, how can that lead to a good experience? I came from DOS, VMS and MVS and I grew into Windows 95 (and Mac OS), we all grew from one system into another one, yet if you allow yourself to be pushed into a system you do not understand, at that point we can only harm ourselves or what we represent (our data and our actions). So as we get pushed into a new system with new rules and changing terms of service we must start to realise that remaining agreeable and lenient is no longer an option, especially as the press is extremely willing to side with whomever advertises the most. Now it is time to address my own implied issues. You see, from my point of view this is not a mere issue, how come that the press is not all over it? I can’t be the only one who saw this element, I am not the only one confronted with the issues as presented with the latest OS update on the Xbox One. So why is no one seeing this? It could all just be me, but if that is the case, we could play online and offline by merely switching off a router and be able to play again without having to login, but that is not the reality I see. What I see is forced discomfort, is it just me or are you realising that switching off your Xbox router comes with setbacks and why is that?

We all need to start asking questions and Microsoft should give us some straight answers.

 

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Redo from start?

I have been considering the games that are, that are soon to come and those we wish to see again. I feel that I am not unique, I am one of many who feels the same way many gamers feel. It all started with a simple pre-order notice I saw at JB-Hifi. The order was not for Mass Effect 4, but for Mass Effect, which seemed a little odd. Soon I found a few less reliable mentions of a possible upcoming re-release of Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 for Nextgen (Xbox One and PS4). I got excited, because overall the Mass Effect series are nothing short of a marvellous achievement. Consider that Mass Effect is one of the earliest Xbox360 releases, it still hold a storyline that was amazing to play. Yes, we will replay and we will know certain key parts, but that is still not an issue for those who love Mass Effect.

The revamped version of the last of us seemed to have instilled a desire for games on Nextgen that should make developers happy. Is that because the lack of good games or is that because the new games are leaving us cold? I think it is a little bit of both. As studios tried to play the ‘marketing game’ they are now learning harshly that playing that game on gamers is a sure way to see your product get smashed. The outrage that Assassins Creed Unity brought is only one of the elements. I will go one step further, a relaunch with upgrades to the story of Assassins Creed 1, 2 and brotherhood would very likely be more successful than the next Assassins Creed. This for the simple reason that the makers seem to have lost their way (the fact that Unity is regarded by many as the worst Nextgen release does not help any).

Even a relaunch of System Shock (1+2) is likely to draw in a much larger crowd than the likely disappointments new PS4 RPG’s are going to bring. The added issues is not just the game, the problem is for the most the marketing division for these developers; a decent example is the Division by Ubisoft. My issue is that so far the game might look good and could even become great, but in their approach to feed the hungry hordes of journalists and to remain ‘visible’, the people at E3 2014 got to see something that is now not coming until 2016, even the Q1 part here is currently under debate, so as the gamer is promised a game that is now 19 months from its initial ‘presentation’ the people are wondering whether to trust the game because of the mental link we all make between presentation and delivery. It leaves many of us with the thought ‘how many bugs do they need to fix‘? Now, that thought might not be the correct one, but when 10,000+ people think it, some outspoken nitwit will scream it on YouTube, which results in many players moving away from what could be a good game. An example here is Elder Scrolls online, which is a marketing disaster, yet when we see the review from ChaosD1 (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=2082&v=csY7RYF4rKQ), which is excellent and might change the minds of those who walked away from Elder Scrolls Online.

We the players now want to move to games we know, we trust and believe in, which gives added weight to relaunched games. Let’s not forget that Borderlands, The Last of Us and God of War 3 were excellent games. There is however another form of relaunch, one that is not actually a relaunch, but a new evolution of the game. Elite, the legendary game from the BBC Micro B, might have made its fame on the CBM64, it is the upcoming console version which left some parts intact that is now the talk of many towns and even more gamer communities. It shows a new air and an approach to a ‘sandbox’ world many are eager to get onto. As Elite upped the game by mapping the galaxy, with the added wink to legendary science fiction moments, which they did by adding Vulcan and the Leonard Nimoy Space Station as well as Pratchett’s Disc Starport. It is still many years away (as he is in good health), but the moment will come when we will get a place like Badger’s station or the President Lampkin’s station of justice as Mark Sheppard joins the legendary ranks in Elite: Dangerous. You might wonder what does it matter, but it does! You see, as the gamer identifies with moments of his own ‘reality’, the things he/she is passionate about! The game becomes more fun and we will see that people connect more to a game. The danger is that when the threshold lowers and too many ‘legends’ are added, it could drive down the sentiment overall, but the sentiment remains! This will not hinder the upcoming No Man’s sky and both titles will very likely appeal to many players. In that same air we should see the upcoming Shadow of the Beast. What was a scrolling game with slashing on the Amiga/Atari ST, is showing itself to be a Nextgen blood dripping slice and dice extravaganza. This is a new group where the makers can relaunch their original idea and many gamers will love them. So, as the ‘new’ games don’t hack it, the gamers will get treated to a game that did and will do so again. The benefit here is that game makers will need to up their game by a lot to get out there. In the end the gamer wins no matter what! (Don’t you just love that?)

So they will pray at the ‘shrine of Pong‘ to replay System Shock, which does not hinder others either. When we consider Paradroid, or even some games for a chosen crowd like Sierra Entertainment’s games called Manhunter New York and Manhunter 2: San Francisco. They were well above average games then and could now get vamped into truly awesome games tomorrow. Perhaps we will actually live to see the conclusion of part 3 in London. It will be up to Activision to decide and as I see it, it just takes one visionary view within Activision to unlock that revenue! That same feeling is there for the Ultima series. Even though game 10 was an experience released too soon, the idea of an ‘Elder scrolls World’ that is Britannia could be massive. The fact that a developed ‘world’ is scanned and transferred to a first person environment complete with quests, side quests and upgraded storyline could give way to a new generation of gamers, let’s not forget that those who played the original are now regarded to be in the ‘old’ section (yes, that includes me), whilst the young section will experience something completely original in a new jacket. A world where you get Ultima 4, 5 and 6 in one game on the same world with the challenges to master is not only new and novel, pulling it off would raise the bar of gaming considerably. Something all gamers desire!

We became complacent in gaming as we played the Assassins Creed series, which for the most was just ‘more’ (specifically 2, Brotherhood and Revelations). Shadow of the Beast and Elite: Dangerous are now showing that ‘more’ can be an entire new range in evolution, a part many gamers (and developers) have not truly contemplated. As those behind the developers, learn to look behind them on what was and what can be great again, we learn, actually as I see it, it is the gamer taught the developer that games can be recycled.

Yet, we must also consider that it is not about the open world part, a trap I myself tend to fall into. The immersing part of being trapped in a house and surviving it, or as some will call it Alien: Isolation is basically redoing what was great and leaving the player with a replayable challenge. Which is the holy grail of gaming! I believe that more could be coming. I still regard Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2 (GameCube games) as one of the most amazing games Nintendo ever released, they did on 3” DVD what many developers could not achieve on a 4.7” Blu-ray, which is truly amazing.

On the other side we see the failures, the hype that was Watchdogs is regarded by some as a failure and a joke. I do not completely agree, but overall the game is not the titan it was heralded to be, but it could be the introduction to a second game that is really awesome (Assassins Creed 1 + 2 are evidence of that), I am just willing to see the glass half full in the case of Watchdogs and I am willing to give Ubisoft a little slack in this game, especially as they do not deserve any slack for butchering the Assassins Creed series (yes, I am slightly obsessed with that). On that same line I tend to set Thief! It was not great, but decent, I do not regret getting the game when I did.

What will come next? Well, that is the question, so as many stare at the horizon for Fallout 4 and Mass Effect 4, we should not hesitate to look behind us to see new (and hopefully improved versions) of Tenchu and Mega-lo-Mania. In my view as all the developers are focussing on multi-player and micro transactions, they forget that the bulk of ALL gamers need moments of escapism, where they need not weigh anything, but focus on just having fun. This is why Minecraft is so bloody addictive. Diablo again shows levels of fulfilment. It is basically why people on Facebook keep a game like Zombie Slayer around. It has no mental need (minimal) it has decent graphics (images) and it shows progress. I will take it one step further, especially as I am not that much of a zombie fan. It is in my view one of the reasons why some of these games will always survive, when we add Pokémon to the mix we see that part even further. It is only because of the technological flaw that Sapphire and Ruby could no longer be played, yet now, with the 3DS editions, we see the power of that formula. Those who played before still love what can be played again, so as some stare forward to the horizon of new games due to technology, do not forget about the treasures behind us. Now some do not feel that ‘vigour’ when they play Colonization, a Sid Meier masterpiece, because it is board like and turn based, but what happens when the mastery of Colonization gets blended with the freedom of play that Seven Cities of Gold on the CBM-64 brought? Evolution, re-playability and challenge all in one go! I would really be curious to see such a result. I believe that within 95% of all gamers is a casual gamer that just wants to have fun, which is why Diablo and Minecraft will survive forever, we will do the multi thing in Mass Effect 3 for periods of time (best multi player experience EVER!), yet we will always return to the games that mentally satisfy, the part that scripted games cannot deliver, a niche market with long term gaming fun many developers seem to ignore.

Let the games begin!

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Why do we bother?

This article is not for the faint of heart, or for those who ‘believe’ in equal rights. This piece is as misogynistic as it gets, for the simple reason that being nice, being considerate sounds like an idea, but in the end, it seems to me that

  1. No one cares
  2. The prosecuting side of the law at large seems to be ill equipped.

What brought this on?

It’s been going on for a little while. Usually in the form of these ‘innocuous’ advertisements through Facebook linked pages and other sourced forms of mass marketing.

You might have seen them, pictures of photo shopped women, ready and posing to be ‘coitussed’, with added statement like ‘Male Gamers Only‘ (EDGE, by UDM), an advertisement for a game called Wartune, with the ‘warning’ Adult content! It is all promoted by a site called ‘utterlypettable.com’ (one of several places), in this case regarding the 21 most deadly animals. So can anyone explain how a transgression on sexual discrimination is not being prosecuted? Because they are just ‘facilitators’?

It seems to me that those facilitating mass advertising have a lot to explain for. To just get through and to just get the revenue in, they will overlook many issues. Of course these pages are usually linked to advertisements like ‘Hurry before this video is banned‘ and ‘Rich people Do Everything To Ban This‘. I normally ignore them all, but in this light, I decided to take a gander on the idiotic side, which now links to ‘Free money’ sites with additional spamming scripts. The fact that pressing the button to close that window steals the act and forces you to submenus only give way to the dangers that these places present. You see, if they were all on the up and up, they would not resort to these tactics and closing the window would not be hijacked. A world limited to Hijacking and Misogyny. It all goes even further when we consider the damage Facebook is handing out (from https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/26915213/stop-being-selfish-outrage-over-anti-c-section-facebook-page/). This shows us A Facebook page criticising women who have given birth by caesarean section. How is this ‘freedom’ of speech? So as we see the reasoning for this need, which is “A Caesarean section is often performed when a vaginal delivery would put the baby’s or mother’s life or health at risk“, we should ask how we can condone ‘freedom’ of speech, attacking people for diminishing a person’s health, in this case both mother and baby. Yes, there is a growing concern that more women ask for it and not always is there a health danger, but that is between the upcoming mother and her physician as I see it.  My question becomes, the ‘offender’ known as the Disciples of the New Dawn, how many of them are man and what percentage of this group is female?

At this point I must also illustrate that this is not a new issue. The guardian had an opinion piece in May 2013 (at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/23/facebook-violently-sexist-pages-twitter-fbrape) called ‘Facebook’s violently sexist pages are an opportunity for feminists’, directly stated, not only do I disagree, these pages are a lot more dangerous than both genders realise. When we see eBay pages, selling T-Shirts stating ‘I’m feeling rapey we can honestly state that there are massive issues. The 2013 offensive T-shirt “Keep Calm and Rape A Lot” being the clearest of these transgressions. The article explained on how the automated phrase was in the hands of ‘Solid Gold Bomb’ and as they stated ‘these shirts were computer-generated and we didn’t even know we had a shirt that says that‘. The article does not touch on the part on how the phrases were collected, if we take the logic on the event that the act required someone to type it in, it would take thousands of people to type the phrase to get detected by these algorithms, which means that there is a larger problem hidden behind the issue which was not addressed by the press at large either.

This is partially seen in the UK where domestic Violence is at a massive high. At this point I want to mention an article I mentioned in the past (at http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/13/domestic-abuse-violence-victims-crime-survey-figures). Here we see ‘Domestic violence experienced by 30% of female population, survey shows‘, if this is anywhere near the truth, then tomorrow, when you get into the Underground and look at the women on route to their destination, then consider that over time it is likely that out of every 4 women you see, there is a small chance that one of them has not yet experienced abuse. Now ask yourself if you can live with that number, one out of four!

So when we see Jeri Ryan as the Female Borg, we can consider that being 7 of nine, that she could be one of 7 currently receiving domestic abuse. These are not nice statistics and the failing of the law is getting ever clearer and ever more unacceptable.

All this is propelled from the statement ‘Male Gamers Only‘, one of the most unacceptable calls for a game. I have played online many times, several friends on the multi-player Mass Effect 3 are women and they are quite good too! Games are a great channel, there we need to be part of the pack, part of the group and there the gender, age and religion has no bearing, only that you are part of the team, propelling victory for the entire group. The most unbiased of acts, to be together and just have a fun time. So when we see a T-Shirt stating “You provoked me” and “I was drunk“, we should worry on how this was regarded as ‘freedom of speech’. When we see the dreadful statistics of domestic violence, those ‘slogans’ have no place in this society and merely removing the page from eBay just does not cut it in my train of thought.

So when we see the quote “T-shirts that make a joke of rape are still available, of course, even on the biggest retailer of all, Amazon, but Laura Bates at Everyday Sexism has vowed to keep fighting to stop rape being regarded as a joke, rather than the violent crime it is“, we have to ask more than serious questions, we should ask whether a retailer like Amazon would be allowed to continue to cater to any Commonwealth nation. In my view, removing fields of revenue tends to be a great motivator to start being actually correct (in comparison to being ‘feigned politically correct’).

As stated, these events are not opportunities for feminists, they are just dangerous grounds for additional victims, which brings us to the second part of all this, the act of trivialisation. There are two kinds, there are at times trivialised moments when we have a vocal ‘spas’ with friends, we all say some things that are way outside the realm of politically correct. Men will giggle when we hear (as I did) the words of one woman saying to the other ‘No knickers? Laundry day or lunch with Mr Big?‘ (At Paddy’s market, Sydney). The mention is essential because it is a simple dialogue between two women I passed whilst looking for a polo shirt. Is objectification wrong when female friends do it among themselves? Was there objectification, or was ‘Mr Big’ about to get himself objectified over ‘lunch plus’. I feel unable to answer as there are too many unknown variables. Yet, linked to something I do know is the article ‘If you want to write about feminism online, be ready to take on the haters‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2015/apr/01/if-you-want-write-abaout-feminism-online-be-ready-to-eal-with-the-haters). You see, in my view, the photo is part of the issue. Three women wearing ‘no more page three‘ texts. I for one was never against page three (being a guy and all), but moreover, I always felt that those women used the Murdoch system to hopefully get ahead. Was that wrong? I do not know, but it was their choice to make, just like it is the right of these women to oppose page three. I mentioned the issue before. You see, when we see Keeley Hazell, who became known for working with charities, which include those working for animal rights and breast cancer awareness, we should wonder how bad the act was. There are not too many examples like these, so over 4 decades we can wonder on the numbers of good versus evil, but in my view, it is not about feminism, it is about the causes that matter. I am not convinced that page three led to domestic violence, but all this effort on a page in a paper that has been faltering versus the national issue that plays in more than one Commonwealth nation makes me wonder whether energy and effort are pushed into the right direction. There I have my questions and I am not convinced. The article does mention my feelings in a way when it raises the paragraph ‘There are more important issues to worry about’, which is exactly the issue I have. It is also for that reason that I am such a fan of the effort Emma Watson who is bringing us ‘HeForShe‘. I disagree with The Age (at http://www.theage.com.au/comment/emma-watson-speech-hardly-a-gamechanger-20140925-10lhz9.html), where Clementine Ford (a woman) is stating that it is hardly a game-changer. I disagree, As Hermione Granger she spoke to the imagination and reverence of an entire generation, a generation that now entered the real of young adult. A generation that consists of both man and women. She had an opportunity and she is forging a change from within this generation. That is not ‘hardly a game-changer’, this is huge and as far as I can tell, almost unique in our history, which makes it even bigger. There is a part I feel uneasy about. The quote “Gender inequality comes as a direct result of the enforcement of patriarchal structures. Although men are impacted negatively by it, they are not impacted in the same ways or to the same drastically violent extent as women“, is not wrong, but as I see it, it is incorrect. You see, a lot has changed, many changes that started in the last two decades are now coming to fruition. So as I see some women ‘whine’ about inequality (not judging right or wrong), I see that it is not wrongly seen, but wrongly shown in dimension. At University, now as I complete my Masters in Law, I see that the gender gap is no longer equal, I see that the man are now a minority, moreover, the people becoming partners and the higher echelons of law are slowly being replaced by women, who have completed the journey from legal aid to where they are now. This was not a simple task, these women excelled in law for a long time and now, those women get the positions. This is not a patriarch side, this is an evolving side. Now as the changes come over the next decade, women are more likely to be in charge in many fields, not because they are women, but because over time they had proven themselves to be equals. The second part of the article I disagree with is “Men have always been welcome to ‘participate in the conversation’, most notably when that participation involves action, change and acknowledgement of their own privilege and power“. That was (as I see it) never the case. I remember at VNU (Dutch publication house) that there was a guy who offered several pieces on promoting IT and IT skills for women. He literally got laughed out by those working at the Cosmopolitan editorial. So do not come to me with ‘welcome to participate’, because that was not the case. I am not making a judgment whether the act then was valid or not. Change took a long time and we are not there yet, but the wheel has turned and the acts of Emma Watson and women like her will be essential in propelling it all forward. So as we allow the issues of some advertisements, some T-shirts and on trivialised domestic violence, I wonder what fights still need to be fought.

So in the end, why do we bother?

Because within ourselves we acknowledge that moving forward requires equilibrium and equality, they are one and the same in our mental position and championing this position will end to be good for all. This is exactly why I am all for women in gaming. Not because they are women, but because I want a better game and it has been proven again and again that originality is found when new views are added to the table, in an age of mediocre sequels, originality is the essential ingredient. I look at it from the world of gaming, because I know this world the best, in IT it does not matter what gender the person is as long as there is skill and innovation. The result there is never seen in gender, if you doubt that, then list the names of all who worked on either Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel or Adobe Photoshop. There is the simplest shape of evidence. Here we do not care, who did it, as long as it works, the ultimate equaliser of gender.

 

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As we trusted games

There is an interesting article in the Guardian I had an issue with to some degree. There is nothing wrong with the article itself, Keith Stuart made a good piece and it reads well (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/nov/13/games-reviews-are-changing-from-product-assessments-to-tourist-guides), so it came out last week and I only saw it just now.

First paragraph: “A decade ago, a games publisher would send out early copies of its latest release to magazines and websites. It would arrive with some sort of embargo restricting the date of any subsequent review coverage. Then, before the game hit the shelves, there would be range of critical responses to read through. That’s how games reviewing worked for 30 years“, well apart from the embargo, which I was never got. That is pretty much how it went. I started my reviewing in 1988. The age of CBM-64,  Atari ST, CBM Amiga and the IBM PC, which had something graphically ‘state of the art’ called ‘EGA’, the enhanced graphic adapter, which added up to the 15” resolution roughly the same of the average low level smart phone today. Games were in CGA and even though the quality of graphics was low, the quality of gaming was exceptionally high (for what we knew in those days). Roberta Williams (Sierra-on-Line), Peter Molyneux (Bullfrog), Richard Garriott (Origin) and Sid Meijer (Microprose) were the titans of gaming; they are the most profound, but not the only ones from those days.

The second part is the first part I disagree with “Now, it’s so much more complicated. Publishers don’t like releasing code early. It’s not just about protecting sales of mediocre titles (though that happens): they worry about piracy; they worry about major spoilers that could put players off purchasing a game that is highly narrative driven“, I personally believe that it is about mediocre titles. The worry of piracy is less an issue, for the reasons that consoles don’t really allow for piracy any more (compared to the days of Atari ST and Amiga), PC Games need more and more internet authentication (like 99.99% of them), and there is a truth in narrative driven games. When a $50 MGS Zero can be played in less than 30 minutes (according to Gamespot), you know that there is an issue. I go for the mediocre side, because in case of Ubisoft, we saw Watchdogs, AC Unity and now Far Cry 4, Far Cry 4 might have gotten themselves a 85% rating (only 70% on Gamespot), yet this is below par (for such a triple-A title), it means that Ubisoft failed to deliver a main title with a 90% plus game review this year, which is a really bad thing. In addition, Destiny didn’t make the high numbers and on the PlayStation 4, the only titles that truly showed the rating was ‘The last of us’ an amazing game originally released on PS3. From my point of view, it is one of the worst release years in a long while. No matter how new Nextgen consoles are, there is a level of competency lacking more and more.

This links directly to the next part of the article “With triple-A releases now costing $30-50m a pop, no wonder the companies responsible want to control the dissemination of their data and messaging. As in movies, everything is geared toward that opening week – millions of dollars of marketing, the acres of shelf space bought at key retailers – everything has to work just right“, if everything has to work just right, it made me wonder why quality assurance was not managed in better ways. If we see the failing that Assassins Creed Unity shows, gaming is overdue for an overhaul, especially considering the cost of such a triple-A game.

It saddens me to say, as a Sony fan, it did hurt me to see that PS4 gamers have not met the high octane game quality I had expected, I was personally more impressed with several titles exclusive on the Xbox One.

The next part is one I do completely agree with “And then the games themselves have changed. Most new titles have intricate and extensive online multiplayer elements – or they require you to be online just to download updates and/or because publishers want to keep an eye on you“, even though in several regards online play is less and less appealing, or just plainly inferior, the updates are more and more an issue. GTA-V, which is regarded as a good game ended up having a day one 1 Gb+ update need. Which is not the worst, but it shows a level of pressure to market deadlines and not quality. Our broadband internet connections seem to have removed the need of quality testing and fixing before release.

Then we get the part that is indeed an issue “The industry is always telling us that games aren’t products anymore, they are services. You get the initial release, but after that, you get updates, downloadable content, new modes, missions and experiences … So what are you reviewing when a game comes out? It’s potential? It’s raw functionality? You are not reviewing the complete experience anymore” Keith is nailing the nail on the head with a massive hammer, we are now getting a service, not software, but if we see the option that a bought game is nothing more than a service or a potential, how can we be treated fairly as a consumer, when we do not know the full article we are buying? It is a dangerous development when we buy not a game, but a concept. We are not there yet, but the danger is slowly creeping towards the installation drive of the computer we use for gaming, and with that approach is a larger and larger danger that the PC/console will get invaded in a hostile way and how can we be protected when not the system, but the game becomes the backdoor into our private lives, because that is a danger that several parties are not yet looking at (as far as I know).

The rest of the article, you should just read on the Guardian site. I do not completely agree, but Keith gives a good view of his reasoning and it is sound and well worth reading. The question becomes where will we go next? There is more and more indication that people (gamers), are less and less interested in the MMO/multiplayer experience and more into a quality solo play game. There is also a feeling from many that Multiplayer is more and more about micro transactions and less about quality fun. Most will accept micro transactions in free multiplayer games like ‘Blacklight’ and ‘War frame’, we can accept micro transactions to get the weapons that really pack a punch, yet with $90 games, people are not interested in additional charges. Even though in the situation of Black Flag, the additional $4 to get the weapons or technology advantage is nice, and the option clearly states that the upgrades can be gotten in the game whilst playing it. It is left to the person to choose. There is nothing bad about it, but when we see AC: Unity, where micro transactions can get up to $100, questions should be asked, even if those parts can be unlocked through playing. Now, I am not judging the $100 micro transactions, but there is a worry why such a purchase is even offered, how much can be leaped through? The worry is not with Ubisoft’s Assassins Creed: Unity, but after the ‘lessons’ many players were taught through Forza 5 how unsettling micro transactions were. Yet, in all honesty (as I am not an Xbox one user), can they be normally unlocked? If so, the issue is not really there, yet the value of high end cars, when we consider that in Forza 5 you get driver payouts of 35,000. However, some cars go into the millions, you need 285 level updates to be able to afford the 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO and that is only one of many cars, which seems to be an unacceptable way to push people towards micro transactions, it left many players with a bad taste in their mouths. If we look at the issues we see, no matter how we feel about a game, there are sides we’d not agree with and there are sides we are truly against. This varies per player, and as such we need to balance view and feelings, because there is no denying that gaming and games are all about emotions. We go for the games that drive our passion. I myself have been a massive RPG fan, yet when I look at the Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) game, I see little interest to continue this path, yet when I look at Mass Effect 3 and Diablo 3, I see and I experienced the best multi-player ever. To illuminate, ME3 has micro transactions, yet the boxes can be gotten by playing multi-player games, each round gets you credits and the higher leveled you played, the more coins you would get, and then you buy a box with random stuff, some good, some amazing and some average. Diablo has no micro transactions; multi-player there is just great and makes the bosses harder, which gives you better loot. There are not the only good games, there are more, and there are many games are nowhere near this good.

In the end it is about good gaming and plenty of games have it, but my issue is as mentioned earlier, overall quality is down, more often not properly tested, whilst as Keith Stuart states it, newer games seem to be about buying the concept, not the finished product. How games get higher in graphical quality, yet not in gaming quality. Is it just about the new systems, or are we faced with a new level of designers, that cannot stand up to the older titans, the actual visionaries. Titles like System Shock (1+2) can, when graphically updated, compete with the RPG games that were released almost 20 years later. If you want to consider First Person Shooters, then in my mind, Metroid Prime 1+2 are top notch achievements that have not been equaled. They were released on a system inferior to the PS3 and Xbox 360, so why are there no games of that calibre? Well, that would not be honest, they have games of that calibre, but they are equals at best, two games, and the first one 12 years old.

This shows the issue I have with the statements some make. ‘A new game each year’, now we must allow for the fact that marketeers will make wild statements at any given place to keep the press at bay and well fed, so we should not overly ‘analyse’ that part. An example can be found when we look at the Tomb raider series, a series that has seen highs and less so. The series also illuminates a flaw in the gaming industry, when we consider the earlier games we see an amount of gaming that is unparalleled, especially when we consider the first two games. No matter the graphic levels, the games were truly large in comparison and some of the levels were amazing in design. The cistern in the first one and the ship in the second one show a level of design the last one cannot even compete with. What took days in the first two games, took a mere 15 hours in the last game. I will agree that the graphics were amazingly unreal in that game, the game looks large but the levels are in the end small. I saw it as opportunities missed on several levels, but not for the quality of graphics. the interesting side is that Tomb Raider shows the gaming industry as it moved from storyline and innovation towards graphics and narration, which is not that big a mystery. Yet in that shift we have lost levels and game time. Which is why the appeal of RPG is vastly growing, the option to play long times, to visit places and go it your own way and speed, not hindered by narration, scripted events and scripting is more and more appealing to the gamers at large.

Even though many are focusing on the next generation of systems, the next level of gaming is not ready. As I see it, 2015 will show a large rise in quality of gaming, but the true gems will not come until 2016. Mass Effect 4 could be such a game, but will we see true innovation, or will we see a sliding line as the Assassins Creed series have shown. This thought also has a drawback. Good gaming is based on vision, a franchise is about evolutions and forward momentum, but visionary is not a given, but for good gaming an essential need. This is where the wheels tend to come off the wagon. God of War 3 brought that, the AC series did not, it brought iteration. Mass Effect might, and so far, the hype of No man’s sky is likely to bring new boundaries in gaming, but the reality is not always a given and as such, we can only wait and keep faith with the developers, which is why their change and their approach to gaming is so essential to us. There are of course issues with other approaches too. Even though the title ‘Whore of the Orient‘ sounds appealingly original, but will it be so? Time will tell! The danger isn’t what will be good and what won’t be. The issue is that we know how rare visionaries in gaming are. The last proven one was Markus Persson (maker of Minecraft) and Microsoft bought his idea for a mere 2 billion (it’s not that much when you say it fast), which is the highest amount paid for a gaming IP EVER! Consider Microsoft paying that much for one title and you know how rare visionaries in this field are, which is exactly why games are not set in one year increments, and why franchises seem to be key for gaming, but there is a new iteration that some forgot. The upcoming release of Elite, a revamp from the original game decades old, shows that good games are rare and will stand the test of time. The initial interest for Elite could be regarded as proof for that.

So is this about trusted games, trusted developers or new endeavours?

I have one thought, but I keep it to myself, it is important that you the reading gamer make up your own mind. I have given my thoughts on that what I experienced and what I value. I ignored some parts as they are not my cup of gaming, which we all have, out there are leagues of GTA lovers; I am not one of them. I do not debate the 90%+ score, gaming is for gamers and there is space for all of us, no matter which part we run to, from Silent Hills to Mario land. there is space for all of us, some will slaughter in the world of Unity, some crush in the lands of Diablo, we have our preferred places, yet the overall issue is not where we play or who we play as, but the quality of what we play is now in question, it has been in question for some time now and it seems to be getting more and more visible as the industry is pushing for revenue on 5 systems. My direct worry is that we end up with a product based on a 60% effort, which is something none of us had signed on for.

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