Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Shantae: Half Genie Hero - All the Fun with Half the Fat!


Hey everyone! I hope you're all enjoying the holiday season! I'm back to drop a quick post regarding the release of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. The game came out officially on December 20, 2016 for PlayStation 4. The Wii U version will also be available on December 27, 2016.

I was fortunate to have gotten my backer code about a week earlier, so I made sure to hit it hardcore and I have to say that I truly enjoyed every moment of it, even the parts where I got slightly frustrated trying to figure out how to progress. (A platformer actually challenged me! Gasp!) Utilizing Shantae's transformations in tandem is absolutely crucial and from time to time, you may forget that she has a specialty for certain situations. (At one point in the final level, I kept trying to do a "Flappy Bird" subtle tap through a spike death trap using the harpy dance, failing spectacularly, each time I might add, for several minutes...forgetting I could've used another transformation entirely specific for that EXACT scenario saving a boatload of time...).

The music composed by Jake Kauffman is absolutely brilliant, catchy, and upbeat. I started humming the theme as I went along. There is a fair bit of backtracking throughout the levels, but the warp dance makes it far less cumbersome to explore the new areas you could not reach before and there were some really clever level design mechanics. There were plenty of comedic moments and times where I wished the game had been a wee bit longer. Overall, it's a fantastic adventure.

The only thing I could think of that I would have liked to have seen would have been Shantae doing an aerial somersault. I think that should be a move in her repertoire *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge* (I wanted SO badly to do one...).

In all seriousness though, I felt that a mild in-game tutorial of sorts would've benefited newcomers to the series. (It took me about an hour or so to realize that Shantae had a menu option using the PS4's touchpad...and the game completely floored me when there were options to deselect power-ups and that there were consumable items). Also, I wish that if there was only one thing only to take away from the Mighty Number 9 project, it would have been the search-and-highlight option for backer's names. Other than that, this was an excellent game and I heartily encourage everyone to give it a try!

Review Score: 9.0/10.0 A-
Definite Buy!

Please take a moment today (and perhaps a few throughout the week, if you can manage it) to post or retweet videos, fan art, reviews...or make use of the Fan Kit available here. Anything you can do to help promote the game that WayForward has worked so hard on, would be greatly appreciated!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Crashing the Party: Crash Bandicoot: N.Sane Trilogy's First Trailer At PlayStation Experience 2016

Activision has recently revealed a new trailer for Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy, the upcoming remake of the first three Crash Bandicoot titles, at PlayStation Experience 2016.

Some of the improvements to the original games include a unified checkpointing & save game system. (This includes manual and auto-saving.) Also featured is an additional unified menu system, as well as Time Trials in all three games!

Arguably most impressive is the inclusion of a “fully-remastered game soundtrack, packed with all the didgeridoos, xylophones and thumpin’ bass lines you can handle, as well as newly recorded dialogue from some of the familiar voice actors who appear in the original Crash Bandicoot games, including Jess Harnell and Lex Lang, among others.”

It's been 20 years (two decades!) since the original Crash Bandicoot was released on the PlayStation One console (September 9, 1996). I look forward to getting my hands on this collection as soon as possible, if only for nostalgia's sake.



Works Cited:
S. (2016, December 03). Crash Bandicoot: N.Sane Trilogy Gets Its First Trailer At PlayStation Experience 2016 - Siliconera. Retrieved December 04, 2016, from http://www.siliconera.com/2016/12/03/crash-bandicoot-n-sane-trilogy-gets-its-first-trailer-at-playstation-experience-2016/

Gach, E. (2016, December 03). New Details On The Crash Bandicoot Trilogy Remaster. Retrieved December 04, 2016, from http://kotaku.com/new-details-on-the-crash-bandicoot-trilogy-remaster-1789644491 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Video Games & Violence



The following is an essay I had typed up for my Seminar in American Politics course which I had completed on April 11, 2013. It was a paper in regards to video games and politics.





Violent Video Games and Public Policy: A Diffusion of Innovation


Introduction:


Many Americans families today own home entertainment systems. Most of which include a video game console, Smartphone device, or Personal Computer (PC). It is a common occurrence to see youth and adults playing video games throughout the week and they have become a staple part of our Western culture. However, with advances in gaming technology, the depictions of violence, blood, and gore are becoming increasingly more realistic. As such, an ever growing concern among parents, educators, and legislators is that children and young adults will begin to act upon these stimuli, especially considering the large magnitude of school shootings that have occurred since their origin beginning in the mid-60’s to the early 80’s. A majority of these games started off modestly as text-based adventures, such as Zork while others were simpler concepts such as moving a small white ball back and forth using paddles, namely Pong (Anders, 1999, 270).


Interestingly enough, many children and minors are playing games that are simply not suitable for their age. Whether or not this is a fault of the ranking system created by the voluntary and self-regulating organization, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (referred commonly to as the ESRB), a problem involving individual retailers themselves (such as GameStop), or if this is a problem concerning misinformed or uninformed parents on this particular system is up to critical debate. Another possible explanation is perhaps the tact of the industry giants to manipulate advertising to appeal to youths (despite claims that their target audience is that of a much older generation) through the usage of excessively violent imagery that still manages to appeal to them. There are two questions one must ask however, particularly when dealing with this topic of discussion. First, is there significant evidence that determines that violent video games increase aggressive behaviors (which could result in more mass shootings)? Secondly, is there a causal linkage between violent video games and violence? Finally, if there is sufficient evidence, does our Federal Government have the authority to regulate such violent media despite being a potentially protected freedom of speech and expression under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution? If so, what has been done to curb the violence?


There are three different types of studies used in determining whether or not media violence has a significant impact on aggressive behavior: experimental research, cross-sectional co-relational analysis, and longitudinal studies. Ideally, a longitudinal study would be the most conclusive type of research, able to accurately determine the long-term effect of exposure to violent video games by requesting participants to play a randomly designated violent or non-violent game for weeks, months, or years at a time. However, there are practical and ethical ramifications with regards to conducting such extensive research (Bushman et al., 2013, 227). It may be due to the more prominent interactive nature of video games compared to television and movie viewing, and the fact that this is a relatively new form of media, that research is still remarkably limited. However, continuous efforts have been made to shed some light upon this issue and raise awareness.


Method


Psychological research and meta-analytical reviews into the effects of violence on youth are vital to determining the policy implications that one must consider. Meta-analysis focuses on combining and contrasting results from multiple studies, with the expectation of identifying patterns among the results, the bases of disagreements among those results, or other significant correlations that may be exposed in the context of several studies. Meta-analysis uses a common measure of effect size, where a weighted average might be used related to sample sizes within each of the individual studies.


The most referenced and leading meta-analytical review, conducted by Craig A. Anderson and Brad J. Bushman, used research studies available in the PsychINFO database (that were listed up through 2000) based upon their search of specific keywords (video*, computer, arcade, game, attack*, fight*, aggress*, violen*, hostil*, ang*, arous*, pro-social, or help*). Their initial search revealed 35 reports that included 54 independent participant samples. A total of 4,262 participants were included within these studies with roughly 46% (approximately 1,960.52) of those being under 18 years of age. Anderson and Bushman contacted the authors of the reports in order to request missing information so that they would be able to provide and calculate a proper effect-size estimate (Bushman and Anderson, 2001, 356). To account for relevance, they considered a study pertinent only if “they examined the effects of playing violent video games on the aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, aggressive behavior, physiological arousal, or pro-social behavior.” Those studies that were excluded were those that had participants that only watched others play a game. For those that had half of the participants play and half watch, the results were collapsed across a play/watch variable. The sample size was divided in half using the collapsed results when Anderson and Bushman could not estimate the effect for “play” participants (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 356).


Results


Condensed into perhaps a bi-variate model, the independent variable would be the studies listed in the PsychINFO database matching the aforementioned terms and the dependant variable would be participant behavior with the individuals themselves being the unit of analysis. Anderson and Bushman describe their own five dependent variables as: aggression, pro-social (or “helping”) behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, and arousal.


Regarding aggressive behavior, it was determined that “across the 33 independent tests of the relation between video-game violence and aggression, involving 3,033 participants, the average effect size was positive and significant, Pearson’s r value of 0.19”. When considering Pearson’s r, one must recall that it is a measure of the strength of linear dependency between two variables. Thus, for a “rejection of the null hypothesis” to occur, (the relationship between the independent and dependent variables being significant) the Pearson’s r value must be less than 0.05. Also, one must recall that the R-squared value is the percentage of variation in the dependent variable, accounted for by the independent variable.


A moderator analysis of factors such as age, type of study, and publication status revealed that there were no significant effects on the dependent measures of aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 357). Anderson and Bushman determined that short-term exposure to violent video games causes a temporary increase in aggression through the use of separately calculated effect-sizes for each of the 21 experimental studies and the average effect was an r = 0.18, with a 95% confidence interval (0.13, 0.24). Regarding the 13 non-experimental tests, the average effect was r = 0.19 with confidence intervals of .15, and .23. As such, Anderson and Bushman claim that “exposure to violent video games is correlated with aggression in the real world” (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 357).


Non-experimental tests were divided by Anderson and Bushman into three categories: time spent playing video games, preference for violent games, or time spent playing video games in general (regardless of game content) in order to measure exposure (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 357). According to them, in all three cases, the average correlations with aggression were statistically significant and positive (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 357).


Experimental tests were also divided into two categories based upon whether or not the target of aggression was another individual. Thus, the magnitude of the effect was dependent upon the aggression target (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 357-358). When it came to the dependent variable of pro-social behavior, “The eight independent tests of the relation between violent video games and pro-social behavior, involving 676 participants, yielded an average effect that was both negative and significant, there was a negative r = 0.16” (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 358). Unfortunately, a moderator analysis was not possible due to a lack of a sufficient number of studies involved with this aspect. Physiological arousal was determined by measuring systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate. It was ascertained that the type of measure did not significantly influence the results (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 358).


They concluded that exposure to violent video games has a positive association with increased levels of aggression in both young adults and children, including tests of experimental and non-experimental design (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 358). Appropriately noted however, was that longitudinal research was desperately needed and despite the slim possibility that repeat exposure to violent video games would not increase aggression in the long-term, sound evidence to support such a claim would be most desirable (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 359).


New attempts have been made to further research into the effects of video game violence on society, by Brad J. Bushman, Laurent Bègue, Youssef Hasan, and Michael Scharkow with their longitudinal study of the effect of violent video games on the cumulative effects of violent video games on hostile expectations of violence, they did find evidence to suggest that hostile expectation of violence did increase over time with violent video game exposure (20 min per session), but that study itself only covered a span of three days. Bushman et al. claim that although they recognize that their study was limited in scope, they noted that it is difficult to do longitudinal studies because of practical and ethical reasons (One cannot force participants to play the same game for weeks months, or years on end without a multitude of repercussions) (Bushman et al., 2013).


In another study, by Nicholas L. Carnagey, Craig A. Anderson, and Brad J. Bushman, they discovered through participants’ heart rates and galvanized skin responses, that players became desensitized to real-world depictions of violence (Carnagey, Anderson, and Bushman, 2007). Despite the assertions that Anderson and Bushman (2001) claim with their meta-analytical review of existing research, there are still no definitive studies available that adequately determines a causal relationship between violent video games and violent acts or crime. Yet, media journalists and parents continue use violent video games as a political scapegoat for our violent culture despite a lack of etiological evidence.


Following the Colombine Shootings, President Clinton (on June 1, 1999) requested that the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice conduct studies of the marketing of violent entertainment media to youths and apportioned $1 million dollars of federal funding towards such research (Grier 2001, 123). The Federal Trade Commission’s initial report seems to concur with such findings of increased aggressive behaviors & expectations. Their study was not merely limited solely to violent video games as it included other similar forms of violent media such as movies and television. In the FTC’s review of the Effects of Media Violence on Youth, (issued by President Clinton at the time) found that “there was a high correlation between exposure to media violence and aggressive and/or violent behavior” (Grier, 2001, 124). Yet, regarding causation, the evidence from the studies reviewed was deemed less than conclusive (Grier, 2001, 125).


The rating system established by the ESRB is designed to inform and educate both players and parents alike as to the content of the game in generally applicable terms that can be applied universally to all video games. Essentially, it provides parents with the power to dictate which games are appropriate for their children or other family members through easily identifiable icons and content descriptions. The most current ratings provided by the ESRB are as follows:





Early Childhood (EC): Games with this rating are intended for children ages 3 and above. These games often contain highly educational material.






Everyone (E): This content is generally suitable for all ages. It may however, contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.






Everyone 10+ (E 10+): The content found in video games with this rating are considered to be generally suitable for children age 10 and up. These games may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes than the previous tier however.






Teen (T): The content found in these titles is generally suitable for youth ages 13 and up. These games may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal amounts of blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.






Mature (M): The content found in these games is generally suitable for those 17 years old and up. These games often contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.






Adults Only (AO): This content is suitable only for adults ages 18 and up. It may include but is not limited to, prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content and/or gambling with real currency.






Rating Pending (RP): These are video games that have not yet been assigned an official final ESRB rating. This rating appears only in advertising, marketing and promotional materials related to a game that is expected to carry an ESRB rating, and is often replaced by a game's official rating once it has been assigned. (ESRB website)






The criteria and ratings have been modified over time. In 1999, according to Kelly Anders article, more than 5,000 titles had been rated by the ESRB and of those, 3% had an EC (Early Childhood) rating, 71% had a K-A (Kids-Adults) or E (Everyone) rating, 19% had a rating of T for teen, 7% of which had a rating of M or Mature, and with less than 1% of the total number of games rated in the AO or Adults Only category.


A large majority of what is considered mild is up to the discretion of the members of the ESRB however, and parents may not necessarily agree with their criteria. Additional problems abound especially when considering that ratings are printed so small on the packaging that they are easily ignored by children and overlooked by adults who purchase the games (Anders 1999, 272). Nonetheless, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2007 Report to Congress, “the ESRB continues to lead all three electronic entertainment media industries [music, movies, and games] in providing clear and prominent disclosures of rating information in television, print, and online advertising.” (Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress, 2007)


Anders acknowledged that seven states had taken it upon themselves to regulate violent video games through their proposed regulatory policies (Anders 1999, 271). These seven states were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Many legislative attempts have been made since, from other states such as California (which will be discussed momentarily), but to date, none have succeeded. These numerous failures are perhaps reflective of a perception of Spitzer’s book, as he recognizes that “repetitive political scenarios play themselves out with great fury, but astonishingly little effect”, a trait that is predominant in his outrage-action-reaction model (Spitzer, 2008, 13).


According to Jack L. Walker’s The Diffusion of Innovations among the American States the definition of innovation is any “program or policy which is new to the states adopting it, no matter how old the program may be or how many other states have adopted it” (Walker, 881). This diffusion or transmission of ideas is keenly applicable to regulatory policy on the economic marketing and distribution of these violent video games towards youth.


This is especially true when applying this concept to those aforementioned states and the ten regulatory proposals introduced in 1999 to the House of Representatives and the Senate, all of which failed spectacularly across the board (Anders, 1999, 272). Each policy is regulatory in nature and it’s rather peculiar that none of the state legislature conceived a notion of perhaps a distributive policy in increasing public knowledge or awareness of the already implemented ESRB system (through the distribution of more educational materials). The ten proposals are listed as follows:



Alabama (House Bill 726) had introduced a policy to prohibit the sale, lease, and/or renting of video games to those under the age of 18 and would have appointed the attorney general to establish all ratings of video games.






Arkansas (Senate Bill 925) would have prohibited the public display of violent video games. After the Jonesboro incident, a governor’s group formed which advocated that that the state target violent media and send medical personnel into the homes of teenage mothers to deter their children of crime. In addition, this group proposed to conduct public service announcements, fundraisers, statewide conferences, and local seminars aimed at teaching parents and children of the harmful effects of violent media.






Florida (House Bill 225, Senate Bill 820) intended to create the Children’s Protection from Violence Act, restricting the public display or exhibition of graphically violent video games in certain specified places. The bill proposed would also forbid those who consciously operate a business (with displays of graphically violent video games) from allowing anyone under 18 years of age to visit, patronize, or loiter in the vicinity.






Minnesota (House Bills 2394 and 2395, Senate Bills 2171 and 2172) attempted to ban the sale of violent video games to children and restrict the public display of these games in specified areas as well. A second bill would require the Department of Children, Families and Learning to report on methods of juvenile access to violent video games and require scientific studies on how these games increase aggressive behaviors in juveniles.






New York (Assembly Bill 8420, Senate Bill 5625) had a proposal to restrict minor’s access to certain video games. The state wanted to establish its own rating labeling system for video games (including those found in arcades), with a second bill forming the Advisory Council on Interactive Media and Youth Violence, the Parent/Teacher Anti-Violence Co-Operative Program, and the Parent/Teacher Anti-Violence Awareness Fund.






Pennsylvania (House Bills 1509 and 1672, Senate Bill 960) would have established its own Video Game Rating Panel and the School Violence Fund. In addition, it would make it an offense to sell or provide a minor with a violent video game.






Washington (House Bill 1315) would have mandated that the Department of Health arrange a report on the most effective method for parents to control juvenile access to violent video games and would have forced the Department of Revenue to conduct research on how to generate appropriate user fees on the rental and sale of unrated video games, those rated Adult or Mature, and those that are already restricted. (Anders, 1999, 272)






All of these proposals were, in essence, attempting to remove power from the Interactive Digital Software Association (ISDA) and the self-regulated Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) and grant that power to the individual state legislatures (or perhaps the Federal Government itself) because it was felt as though the organization was inept at fulfilling its responsibilities. (The Interactive Digital Software Association, a trade association, was founded in 1994 and had undergone a name change in 2003. It is now commonly referred to as the Entertainment Software Association and established the ESRB also in 1994.) (Anders, 1999).


This sentiment is exacerbated when considering the aftermath of the Columbine School Shootings in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999 which was committed by two gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. They murdered 13 people (twelve classmates and one teacher) and wounded 23 others before turning their guns upon themselves. The major relation between this violent act and video games was that Harris and Klebold both played the widely popular game Doom. In fact, Harris created a modified version of the game himself and added elements such as unlimited ammunition and enemies that could not retaliate even when fired upon, thus effectively creating his own victims (Anderson and Bushman 2001, 353) (Anders, 270). The similarities between the nature of the game and the school shooting were eerily similar and raised etiological questions of whether or not the game itself caused such an aggressive outburst. More recently, on December 14, 2012 the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut had rekindled public interest on restricting access of violent games.


As such, these tragic and unfortunate episodes can quite possibly be referred to as “focusing events”, a term coined by Thomas A. Birkland to explain phenomena (examples include, but are not limited to, industrial accidents or natural disasters) that “change the dominant issues on the agenda in a policy domain” and “can lead to interest group mobilization” (Birkland, 1998, 53). Focusing events are sudden and relatively uncommon, are defined as harmful, reveal the possibility of future harms to the public, and are “concentrated in a particular geographical area or community of interest” (Birkland, 1998, 54). He continues to state that these focusing events are exposed to both the public and law makers simultaneously (Birkland, 1998, 54). In fact, the manner in which these numerously erratic shootings arise is reflective of Robert J. Spitzer’s “Outrage-Action-Reaction” model (Spitzer, 2008, 13-15). The Outrage-Action-Reaction model essentially describes how the policy agenda becomes focused on issues after some sort of public outcry (from focusing events like school shootings), the action that takes place is the formation of a new policy, often regulatory in stature, with a reaction from anti-regulatory organizations (Spitzer uses the National Rifle Association in his example, whereas I would argue that the Entertainment Software Association would take on that role). As such, questions are raised as to whether this cycle can produce rational policies, and whether these focusing events are just isolated incidences, or if they are truly indicative of a larger issue. (Spitzer, 2008, 13-15)


Additionally, “groups actively seek to expand or contain issues after a focusing event” as these events are often sporadic and are unique in that they act as “potential triggers” for policy change (Birkland, 1998, 53). Birkland also states that these local events have the capacity to gain national and world attention. As such, outside communities often help to form new coalitions under the premise of preventing future incidents from affecting themselves, as well as others (Birkland, 1998, 55). Thus, concerned educators, parents, consumers, and state legislators, operate as organized interest groups in an attempt to confront the ESRB and ESA and they seek to inform legislators of their concerns.


First Amendment Protection


If there have been numerous attempts to regulate this form of media, why is it that they have all failed? For one possible answer to this question, we must turn to the more recent and monumental court ruling, Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (formerly known as Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 2011) which struck down a 2005 California law which not only banned the sale of violent video games to anyone under age 18, but required clear labeling beyond the existing ESRB rating system. The law would have created a maximum fine of $1,000 per violation. In addition, it attempted to use a variation of the Miller Test (used in Miller v. California, 1973) to define when certain forms of speech are not protected under the First Amendment. The Miller Test essentially set up a new standard, establishing three major criteria which must be met on all levels, in order for a medium of speech to be subject to legitimate government regulation:


1. “Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards (not national standards, as some prior tests required), would have to find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;


2. whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law; and


3. whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” - (Miller v. California 1973)






The prurient interest being arousing sentiments of sexuality, obscenity, or other forms of unwholesome desire.


Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the court and using precedent from a previous case, United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc., argued that:


“Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages—through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection. Under our Constitution, “esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature . . . are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority.” United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc., 529 U. S. 803, 818 (2000).” (Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 2011).






In addition, the Justice Scalia (rather comically) determined that violence is not obscene and that California’s law could open gateways for further regulation on depictions of violence that could be potentially render publishers (of both video games and other forms of media) into a near catatonic state if left unaltered and he uses the example of iconic fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel to illustrate the point that although the main characters in that story, children no less, kill their captor by pushing her into an oven meant for them, a moral of not wandering into stranger’s homes is established (Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 2011). Thus, these violent games are not without some merit of value through careful consideration.


Ultimately, the Court acknowledged that “The Video Software Dealers Association encourages retailers to prominently display information about the ESRB system in their stores; to refrain from renting or selling adults only games to minors; and to rent or sell “M” rated games to minors only with parental consent.” and determined that:



“This system does much to ensure that minors cannot purchase seriously violent games on their own, and that parents who care about the matter can readily evaluate the games their children bring home. Filling the remaining modest gap in concerned-parents’ control can hardly be a compelling state interest.” (Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 2011).









The compelling state interest being referred to is most likely the notion of “parens patriae”, a term that literally translates to “parent of the country”; wherefore a state may assume the legal responsibility, care, protection and custody of a child within its jurisdiction. It is essentially the right of the government to take care of minors and youths that cannot take care of themselves, in order to prevent them from future and further harms (Hess, Orthman, and Wright, 6th edition, 2013, 418).

Overall, the issues regarding violent video games (and other violent media for that matter) and the regulation of such, is a hot button issue. Such debate has elements of maintaining equal protections on freedoms of speech, while also protecting citizens and youth from potential stimuli of violence. While significant strides have been made to prevent the sale of inappropriate media to minors through the usage of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board’s criteria, it may be the parents that are ultimately responsible for monitoring their child’s access to violent content.





Annotated Bibliography


1. Anders, Kelly. 1999. "Marketing and Policy Considerations for Violent Video Games." Journal of Public Policy & Marketing Fall. 270-73.


This article is significant in that it provides information regarding policies that were under consideration during the Clinton Administration that are related to violent video games and their distribution to minors. It also provides for a few statistics that demonstrate the past recommended ratings by the ESRB as well as what those recommended ratings represent. Market practices, the Columbine High School shootings, and Federal Trade Commission are mentioned as focal points for consideration. Anders essentially sets up the argument of “parens patriae” as a precedent for policy regarding marketing of violent video games. Essentially, it is the responsibility of the state to protect adolescents from harm.






2. Anderson, Craig A., and Brad J. Bushman. 2001. "Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior, Aggressive Cognition, Aggressive Affect, Physiological Arousal, and Prosocial Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature." Psychological Science. September. 353-59.


This article also mentions the Columbine High School shooting in addition to a few others that were under investigation as it seemed that an underlying cause of these heinous mass murder events. Then it attempts to relate aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and physiological arousal to exposure to violent video games. It also is useful in that it provides a single-episode and multiple-episode version of the General Aggression Model which is significant to my research. I intend to specifically target the state policies mentioned in future research gathering and determine which were passed and those that were not.






3. Bushman, B. J., and C. A. Anderson. 2002. "Violent Video Games and Hostile Expectations: A Test of the General Aggression Model." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. December. 1679-1686.


This article from the Iowa State University puts the General Aggression Model through further tests in order to test the expectation of violence in potential conflict situations. Students were essentially asked to play a game for 20 minutes and then were asked what they believed would occur in three story stems and what they believed the main character in each scenario would think, do, or say. They use four different games of each type (non-violent and violent) in order to maintain a control group. What they found essentially was that those that played the violent video games prior to answering these questions would expect a more violent approach than those that did not.






4. Carnagey, Nicholas L., Craig A. Anderson, and Brad J. Bushman. 2007. "The Effect of Video Game Violence on Physiological Desensitization to Real-life Violence." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 43.3. 489-96.


This academic journal article suggests that video game violence desensitizes people to real-world violence. Researchers conducted experiments and monitored participants’ heart rates and galvanized skin responses. A few of the games used were Mortal Kombat, Glider Pro, Carmaggedon, and Duke Nukem, which were featured in other experiments in the aforementioned articles. Thus, it relevant to the studies correlating violent media (in this regard video games) with aggressive behaviors which, in turn, may lead to violent crime.


5. Desai, Rani A., Suchitra Krisnan-Sarin, Dana Cavallo, and Marc N. Potenza. 2010. "Video-Gaming Among High School Students: Health Correlates, Gender Differences, and Problematic Gaming." American Academy of Pediatrics. e1414-e1424.


This particular article focuses on high school students (which are part of the target age demographic for my argument that violent media should not be advertised to such youths). It differentiates between normal video gaming and problematic gaming. The research was done with gender as a potentially significant variable and with risk behaviors as a potential indicator of poor gaming habits. In addition, the research reflected the market for video games as the data indicated that more males that females play regularly and this may be those females that are attracted to gaming are more aggressive and find it as a recreational activity that allows the alleviation of those tendencies. It shows that females have increa






6. Engelhardt, Christopher R., Bruce D. Bartholow, Geoffrey T. Kerr, and Brad J. Bushman. 2011. "This Is Your Brain on Violent Video Games: Neural Desensitization to Violence Predicts Increased Aggression following Violent Video Game Exposure." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 47.5. 1033-036.


This research is similar to that of Anderson et al. work in relating violent video games and desensitization but this research takes on a different approach. They research how willing an individual is to inflict pain upon another during a “competitive reaction time task” through sound blasts. They determined that those that had played a violent video game were more likely to inflict longer and more intense sound blasts to their “opponent” (in reality, there was no opponent, just a computer randomly generating sound blasts at different intensities). The data from this adds to the initial findings of the Anderson et al. trial.






7. Federal Trade Commission. 2007. Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children: A Fifth Follow-Up Review of Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording & Electronic Game Industries: A Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress. April.


This report essentially provides detailed analysis of the marketing practices and effectiveness of the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) (a self-regulatory organization) rating system. In addition it provides more current information regarding the distribution of those ratings. This information is absolutely crucial to establishing violent media (i.e. violent video games) as a serious domestic policy issue. It rates the overall satisfaction of parents with the ratings system as well as the familiarity of the parents to it and the awareness of the content descriptors.






8. Cunningham, A. Scott & Engelstätter, Benjamin and; Ward, Michael R. 2011.
"Understanding the effects of violent video games on violent crime,"
ZEW Discussion Papers 11-042, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.


In this research investigate the relationship between the prevalence of violent video games and violent crimes. The data seems to indicate that violent video games may actually lead to decreases in violent crime. It also utilizes the GAM (General Aggression Model) as a guideline. This article also makes references to the Federal Trade Commission reports for 2009. Granted, the one I’ve listed above is for 2007, it is still fairly recent and pertinent. In particular, this study dealt with the effects of video game sales on violent crimes using time variation in sales data of the top selling games in relation to the violent criminal offenses listed in the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for each week starting from 2005-2008.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Iron Banner Supremacy - A Broken Blade?

In an article titled Iron Banner Highlights Big Issues With ‘Destiny’s’ Multiplayer

by By Collin MacGregor, the Destiny community’s PvP (Player vs. Player) Iron Banner Supremacy mode comes under strict scrutiny by the author.

In the Iron Banner's Supremacy mode, two teams of six are tasked with shooting each other for “Crests”, which are engrams that are dropped after each successful kill. If a player runs or walks over it, their character picks that crest up. After an immediate kill, it will add a point to their individual scoreboard and a point to the team total. If another player manages to gather your crests after you have bested your opponent, they get one point for the retrieval and you get a kill point. It is ideal to pick up your downed allies' crest engrams as it is vital to prevent the opposing team from collecting them.

The first team to 150 points, or the team with the most points by the end of the round will win the match. This game mode is vaguely reminiscent of the "Kill Confirmed" archetype from the Call of Duty franchise. However, the exception in Destiny: Rise of Iron is that no points are awarded for the actual take-downs. The points are awarded solely upon crest retrieval.


Where MacGregor and I differ is in our opinion of the balancing of the game mode for this month's Iron Banner. According him the game has shifted the


"...balance of Destiny’s multiplayer considerably in the favor of certain classes. Support or distance based powers such as Nightstalker, Sunsinger, and Gunslinger feels shoved aside for the close quarters powerhouses like Striker, Bladedancer, and Stormcaller. Bungie has been trying since the games inception to find some sort of balance between all of the different guns and sub-classes, but this is the first time it’s truly felt broken. Now, I’m not asking for the entire game to revolve around snipers or allowing players to just camp in the back the entire match. However, one shouldn’t feel like entire gun archetypes are not viable due to everyone running exceedingly aggressive builds."

This is where Collin MacGregor and I disagree. I typically play as a Nightstalker Hunter in most PvP game modes (I'm honestly never really in the mood to switch) and I personally never saw any problem with the Nightstalker bow being used. In fact, it was IDEAL in the close quarter maps as I would be able to tether multiple opponents at once, gaining the "Wild Hunt" accolade nearly every time I unleashed it. I have seen many additional hunters utilizing the same effective strategy to circumvent the Stormcaller Warlocks and the Sunbreaker Titans. To me, what really seems broken is the lag time between picking up a crest engram and it disappearing from view. (I can't count how many times I've dashed towards a crest I thought was there, only to find out that someone had already picked it up.)

If anything, the lag and lack of partial credit towards kills is what has cause the balance in Destiny's latest game mode to be a bit skewed. I would rather have a top score of 250 with a point awarded for a kill, two for getting a crest, and perhaps three to four for the kill and retrieval of a particular crest.

I do agree with MacGregor with regards to the individual maps being a bit of a clincher on the game balancing front. Last Exit, Icarus, and Skyline are indeed full of narrow hallways and passages. As such, close combat tactics are preferred and encouraged. If other maps were rotated more frequently, we might see a drastic change in how the players respond in certain combat scenarios. However, with Rise of Iron only being  seventeen days old from the time of this post (September 20, 2016 is when Rise of Iron launched), this latest game mode being front and center for the new and improved Iron Banner is to be expected.

When I say "new and improved" I'm referring to the welcome addition of the female Iron Lord Efrideet as the head of the Iron Banner (via a nice introductory cinematic I might add!). The bounties for the Iron Banner now apply for the entire week and do not refresh daily, but now that the Tempered buff is no longer in play, it's far easier to rank up reputation levels. (I managed to get to rank 3 in the span of about an hour or two.)

My issue is that during battle, with everyone clustering together in an attempt to ensure crest pickup, it makes allies far easier targets for chain effects like that of the Zhalo Supercell and Stormcaller Warlocks. I can't count the number of times I've sneaked behind enemy lines just to flank the entire team and throw them off guard. So, perhaps spreading out a little bit wouldn't hurt on the teamwork.




Works Cited:
 MacGregor, C. (2016, October 05). Iron Banner Highlights Big Issues With ‘Destiny’s’ Multiplayer. Retrieved October 7, 2016, from http://heavy.com/games/2016/10/iron-banner-highlights-biggest-issue-destinys-multiplayer-balance-shotguns-snipers/ 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

When the Best Laid Plans Often Go Awry

Hey everyone! How've you been? So, I hit a bit of a snag. I had intended to do a full on space exploration video journal/blog series of my excapades in "No Man's Sky" but unfortunately, my expectations for that particular title were in a galaxy far, far, away so to speak. The game is unfortunately not as engaging as I had hoped and in many ways, uninspired. Despite my initial uneasiness about the procedurally generated planets, I has sort of hoped for a relative balance of interesting flora and fauna on every planet.

That hope was severely crushed, time, and time again. Playing the game involves a lot of resource gathering (which is fine), however, it would seem that all players do is destroy in order to craft upgrades. There seems to be little to no constructive elements that benefit the planets the player lands on. This was a dismal disappointment to say the least. As I discovered, there are Atlas interfaces that travelers of the stars can interact with and earn Atlas stones. Something is said to happen once ten of them have been stored in your inventory, but through a fumble of my own, I ended up rejecting the Atlas path and solemnly had to travel the path to the galactic core with the disdain of Nada and Polo ever looming each time I bumped into them during my journey. I completely botched the "secret option" as such, their kindness felt very empty, as if I had dishonored them with no means of ever redeeming myself.

Well, so I thought. Apparently, I've stumbled upon and re-established the path to the Atlas interfaces. Unfortunately, it would appear that the path is leading me further AWAY from the center of the universe, rather than towards it. In addition, I have the maximum hyperdrive upgrade available to me, and I've been zipping along the galaxy on this connected path, but have yet to regain any knowledge of how far away I am from my nearest meeting point.

I think my biggest concern is that I'm getting dreadfully bored of this game. I now have the full 48 slots in my jetpack backpack so I can hold a plethora of upgrades and equipment (although, conversely, I still have an incredibly small ship). So I no longer need to earn as much currency for upgrades to that interface. I still need a much larger ship, but I can take a far more leisurely approach to selling and trading than before as it would occur without my own persistence. (I'll need to buy and sell elements and items anyway for travel between planets.) As such, I can also be more meticulous in my endeavors to acquire a ship that is both appealing visually and provides enough storage space.

I've already spoiled the ending for myself (or perhaps only one possible version of it). As such, it's rather soured my continuance for playing. So much so, that I actually bought the DLC for Destiny. I said it. No Man's Sky is WORSE than Destiny.

So, I'll be doing a live stream (regrettably) for Rise of Iron when it comes out on September 20th. Way to go Hello Games...you've managed to take my dreams of space exploration and grind them into the dirt.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Dragon Quest X’s Development For Nintendo NX Alongside The PS4 Version - A Formula For Success

For those of you that have been reading this blog which I started back in 2011, the first post I did for the new year (2012) was regarding Dragon Quest X Online: Rise Of The Five Tribes (Dragon Quest X: Mezameshi Itsutsu no Shuzoku Online). It was a game I was eagerly awaiting here in the United States, but in never got localized. However, a recent article by DualShockers (and reposted by Siliconera), has rekindled my interest in this game due, in part, to the latest issue of Weekly Famitsu which included an interview with Dragon Quest X Producer Yosuke Saito and Director Chikara Saito, giving several updates on the state of the game.



The online MMORPG is currently in development for Nintendo NX, alongside the already confirmed PS4 version. This has me absolutely ecstatic as my friends and I can all play this on the PS4 (although, if I really enjoy this, I might purchase it for the Nintendo NX as well, assuming that I'll be picking up that console and the game makes it over to North America...)

Even if Dragon Quest X is only released in Japan, it may be possible to import a copy as the PS4 is region-free (unlike most of Nintendo's consoles which are region-locked).

Fingers crossed that we'll finally be able to play after a four to five year wait!!!




Works Cited

Nelva, Giuseppe. "Nintendo NX Version of Dragon Quest X Confirmed in Development Alongside PS4 Version | DualShockers." Nintendo NX Version of Dragon Quest X Confirmed in Development Alongside PS4 Version | DualShockers. N.p., 7 Aug. 2016. Web. 13 Aug. 2016.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Suicide Squad - Review

Movie: The Suicide Squad



Rating:
PG-13 (for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language)

Genre:
Action & Adventure

Directed By:
David Ayer

Written By:
David Ayer

In Theaters:
Aug 5, 2016 Worldwide

Runtime:
123 minutes

Studio:
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Suicide Squad is a story from the DC Comic universe that depicts convicted criminals such as Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, and Killer Croc (among others) as reluctant heroes.

The movie's pacing (to me at least) felt very...off. I would've preferred a bit more screentime into each character's backstory (in particular, Adam Beach's character "Slipknot" also known as Christopher Weiss who, SPOILER ALERT, ends up proving that Amanda Waller wasn't kidding about the bombs in everyone's necks).

Amanda Waller (portrayed by Viola Davis) and Captain Rick Flag (portrayed by Joel Kinnaman) manage to make the unlikely heroes seem more human than the media lets on as the move progresses. The problem I had with this movie is that from my moderate understanding of Amanda Waller's character, it was far too predictable for her to be the cause and solution to the plot's premise.

*SPOILERS FOLLOW*

It was somewhat similar to the Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014) animated film in that the Enchantress, ends up being an asset and a liability much like the Riddler would've been in the Asylum. Thus, she sends Task Force X to essentially "eliminate" the problem that she herself had a hand in creating. So, it was a bit predictable to me after about a third of the way through the film.

Other than that, I enjoyed watching. Well, for the most part, I suppose. To be honest, I had a largely mixed reaction (much to my chagrin). I had to really ponder whether or not the time was well spent on the production. (Also, I decided to see the film in 3D because if fit my own personal schedule far better than a later viewing time so that may have put my perspective in a more positive light.) There was quite a bit of action and I rather liked the dialogue at times from characters such as Will Smith's Deadshot and surprisingly enough, Jay Hernandez's Diablo, however, many of the problems from the film end up being due to poor execution. Katana doesn't appear until the action just about starts.

The Joker felt far too homicidal and not so much "Clown Prince of Crime". I would've preferred more cynical comedy rather than a poor imitation of violent Heath Ledger.

Overall, it's definitely worth a rental, but I'm not so certain about say, a DVD or Blu-ray purchase for repeated viewing. On a scale of 1.0-10.0 I'd give it a 6.5 (D+ grade).

Monday, August 1, 2016

No Man's Sky - Captain's Log (Blogger Edition)

Hey folks! This is Dave, here to give you guys a bit of an impromptu update. So, my good friend Matthew and I ended up purchasing a game called "No Man's Sky" by the developer Hello Games. We'll be picking up our copies together on August 9th for the midnight launch at our local Gamestop. The game itself is essentially a space exploration title with survival and discovery in mind.

Since this is one of the few times I've purchased an open world game (especially of this size and depth) I figured it would be fun to make a playthrough series of sorts on here, documenting my adventures. I'll be role-playing as Captain Valcrith Fletcher, describing in detail the adventures and peril one would face in this game as if it were happening in real-time.

I intend to get to the center of the universe (the game's main premise) on a relaxed pace. This will allow for more content to be shared with you my readers. I intend to do somewhere between 20-30 of these data entries depending upon how long it takes me to finish.

This will be something that will happen whenever I play, with videos and pictures up when I get the chance to gather my thoughts. I'm hoping that the journey we take will be an enlightening one. Please look forward to my Captain's Logs!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Go! Go! Go! Pokémon Go! - Augmented Fun Gets Exercise Done

Pokemon Go is an augmented reality based mobile app developed by Niantic which has surged in popularity since its release on July 6, 2016. The game is available for iOS and Android in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. (It was later made available in Japan on July 22, 2016).
Pokemon Go allows players to capture, battle, and train virtual Pokémon which appear in the real world via computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphic imagery. It makes use of mobile GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) location technology and the cameras of compatible devices.



Despite being a free-to-play application, it does support in-app purchases of additional gameplay items. Pokémon Go Plus, an optional companion Bluetooth wearable device, is planned for a future release and will alert users when Pokémon are nearby.

After logging into the app for the first time, the player creates their own personal avatars. They can choose the avatar's style, hair, skin, and eye color, and outfit. Players begin the game with a brief introduction by Professor Willow, who explains the mechanics of the game and guides you through catching your choice of the three starter pokémon — either a Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur, which should all be familiar to Pokémon regulars. If players decide that they do not wish to have the original starter Pokémon, they can bypass them and attempt to capture Pikachu as their first companion.

There are three basic parts to Pokémon Go: Catching Pokémon, visiting Pokéstops, and battling gyms.

In order to capture a Pokémon, you simply walk around with the app open on your phone, which will buzz (providing force-feedback) when Pokémon are nearby. Tap on the Pokémon on the map, and you’ll switch to the catching interface. The color of the ring surrounding the pokémon helps determine how easy it is to catch — green is easiest, yellow is of intermediate difficulty, and red is the most difficult.

Pokémon are found at different CP (Combat Power) levels, which determines how powerful the pokémon will be. To raise a pokémon's CP, you'll need two resources: stardust, a generic item you obtain with each pokémon that you catch, and the pokémon's specific candy, which can be obtained by catching duplicates of that particular pokémon.


For example, to level up a Meowth’s CP, you’ll need stardust and Meowth candies. Similarly, to evolve your Pokémon, you’ll need to use more of that Pokémon’s candies, which will also dramatically raise the CP of that Pokémon. As your character level increases, you’ll encounter higher level Pokémon in the wild and be able to level up the CP level of your Pokémon more.

Pokémon Go is unlike any other installment in the Pokémon series, as players do not battle wild Pokémon in order to capture them. Rather, the game relies on a unique capture system where the player must throw a Poké Ball with the proper force at the right time in order to make a successful capture.

PokéStops and Pokémon Gyms


PokéStops and Pokémon gyms are typically located at popular meeting places, such as memorials, places of worship, parks, and tourist attractions.

Pokéstops in particular, are places in Pokemon Go that allow players to collect items such as eggs, Poke Balls (to capture more Pokemon), or other additional items to help on one's journey. Their location is indicated on the map with blue spinning Pokéball icons.

After you've collected items from a PokeStop, the icon's color will change to purple, and you will not be able to collect items from it again until it refreshes to blue, which takes about five minutes. Players do not need to travel away from the PokeStop for it to refresh. This is convenient if you live or work on a PokeStop because you can get items often!

PokeStops typically grants players three to four items at a time. Until a player has reached level 5, PokeStops will grant them Pokéballs and Pokemon Eggs exclusively. Once they have achieved level 5 status, PokeStops will occasionally generate up to six Pokeballs, and other items such as Revives or Potions for use. Trainers can only access Gyms and battle other Pokemon once they have ranked up to that level.

PokéStops can only be interacted with once a person is within range of the stop - if you are on a bus or other form of transit, you may not be able to sync up with the servers and GPS location data in order to interact with it in time, unless the vehicle is slowing or stopped.

If a player purchases one of the Lure Modules from the in-game Shop, the player can place it at any PokeStop to increase the amount of Pokémon who will gravitate to that area thus, benefiting any other players in the immediate area.
A PokéStop is shown to be under the influence of a Lure Module on the map by a showering of pink petals, and interacting with the PokéStop will produce an icon that details who used the lure.

Players earn experience points for various in-game activities which allow them to rise in level. At level five, the player is able to join one of three teams (red for Team Valor, which uses Moltres as their mascot; blue for Team Mystic, which uses Articuno as their mascot; or yellow for Team Instinct, which uses Zapdos as their mascot). These teams act as large factions within the Pokémon Go world. If a player enters a Pokémon gym that is controlled by a player that is not part of their team, they can challenge the leader to lower the gym's "prestige". Once the prestige of a gym is lowered to zero then the player will take control of the gym and is able to deposit one Pokémon to defend it. Conversely, a team can upgrade the prestige of a gym under their control by battling their gym leader.

Battling in Pokémon Go is basically a simplified version of the classic Game Boy game. Pokémon face off one-on-one, and can use one of two attacks — tapping on the enemy pokémon to do a low-damage light attack, and tap-and-holding to unleash a special attack once your meter has filled. Additionally, you can dodge enemy attacks by swiping left and right. Battles continue until one of the pokémon has fainted. And of course, standard pokémon damage type rules are in effect: water pokémon are effective against fire types, fire against grass, etc. Pokémon can be healed or revived using potions and revives that you can obtain from visiting pokéstops.



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mighty No. 9 - Is it Truly Mighty, or is it a Feeble Folly?



Mighty No. 9 , a game developed by Keiji Inafune and his new company Comcept, has finally launched after a lengthy series of rather frustrating delays and a distasteful commercial pitch. However, does it live up to all the hype?

The short answer to that question is a depressingly solid "no". As a backer (or "becker" as we we were called) supporters of the Kickstarter campaign were well knowledgeable about Inafune's past successes with Capcom and their famous blue bomber Megaman. So, suffice to say, we were eager to support him with his new spiritual successor.

The game was crowdfunded with nearly $4 million dollars worth of funds collected in 2013. All of the stretch goals were met, but with frequent delays and the promise of multi-platform compatibility across last gen as well as current gen consoles, Inafune ended up biting off more than he could chew. With such an ambitious undertaking, there were bound to be complications.

Unfortunately, the reviews that have come in after Mighty No. 9's launch have been far from pleasant. I myself felt no emotional connection to the characters. We're sort of jettisoned from the start into fighting as Beck without much knowledge of his creator, his female counterpart Call, or any of the other characters (at least in the opening level) let alone what motivates them or why. Voice acting in particular for Beck's (potential) rival Ray was, from my perspective, a rather poor performance.

One of the most concerning aspects of the game though is that there are long, black loading screens (on the Wii U version at least) which occur for extended periods of time even after you've died and are waiting for the last checkpoint. These constantly remind me of the sad emptiness that is the void of life.



Most morbidly perhaps is that I somehow never got notified that the survey for entering your name into the credits had even been sent. Apparently, the e-mail was dated Friday November 21, 2014 at 3:49 AM. I had gone all this time under the assumption that I had already completed the survey and everything was set in motion. However, considering the length of time it took to produce, one would've thought a reminder e-mail or some sort of official announcement would have been made ensuring that fans who donated towards that reward tier were getting what they were paying for. I'm partially at fault for not checking my e-mail inbox for it specifically, but the message was sent on the week of my birthday so arguably, I would've been far more preoccupied with the celebration than my spam filter. (I'm sort of hoping that I am not the only person who did not get their name featured and I'm hoping that future updates may provide the opportunity to correct this predicament, but considering the negative backlash from the gaming community, maybe it is best for me not to have my name listed as a supporter at all.)

I'm right there...and I paid to have my name included...*sigh*

For what it's worth (to me at least) the game still plays like a traditional Megaman game. The nostalgia is still there, but it just seems a bit unpolished. (I've never been very good at Megaman X or the classic 8-bit series) It's not as aesthetically pleasing nor does it have the same charm, but it has the same gameplay mechanics.

Comcept previously spoke of a possible anime or sequel based on Mighty No. 9. It may not get that depending on how well the game sells.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Destiny: Rise of Iron - It is Time to Be Reforged?




The new expansion for Destiny has officially been revealed, making it the first big addition to Destiny since The Taken King, and it's only going to be available for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. That puts Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 Destiny players in a rather difficult situation: To upgrade, or not to upgrade?, that is the question.

Players will still be able to play Destiny (at least, for the foreseeable future) on last-gen consoles (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360), but no additionally new content will be made available for those particular versions of the game. The various players' characters on last-generation consoles will carry over to the current-gen versions of the game so long as those players are upgrading within the same console family (So, if a player decides to upgrade from the PlayStation 3 to a PlayStation 4 for example, their save-file data will resume from where they last left off. However, moving from say an Xbox 360 to a PlayStation 4 account will not work).

When the month of August arrives however, character progress on last-gen and current-gen consoles will also become entirely separate entities, meaning any progress made after August on last-gen versions of the game will not be carried over to the current-gen version of the game. So, unfortunately, this means that there is a deadline for player to make their decisions.

Asking fans of the game to spend hundreds of dollars on a new console and to re-purchase Destiny (and thus, all of the expansions) in order to continue playing, is an extremely bitter pill for many consumers to swallow. (I'm fortunate enough to have begun my journey on the PlayStation 4 thereby circumventing all of this frustration.) Fortunately, Bungie and Activision claim that they are attempting to work out some kind of program to make the transition a bit smoother.

“We are exploring potential options for players to upgrade Destiny from last-gen to next-gen and will have more to say about that with our hardware partners soon...” an official statement from Bungie reads. Perhaps we will know more during their E3 2016 presentation.



As for the expansion itself, titled Destiny: Rise Of Iron, there will be a brand-new playable area known as "the Plaguelands", which encompasses a devastated and dangerous part of what used to be Russia. Players will be introduced to a new breed of mutated Fallen.

Perhaps one of the saving graces about this new DLC is that the beloved Gjallarhorn rocket launcher is becoming a viable weapon once more. This time, it will reemerge with a new black and silver motif. The Twitch reveal stream promised new weapons and armor (a staple for any expansion at this point) a new campaign, new patrol areas, new social spaces, new PvP content, and a whole new raid.

However, all of this just means more of the same in a sense...more monotonous grinding on the same chapters of the story, more of the same weekly strikes and nightfall challenges repeated in a vicious cycle, and "new" raid rewards that are not worth the hours spent constantly fighting against the same enemies, in the same pattern.

The only aspect worth mentioning is the potential narrative this expansion could bring forth. I would prefer quality storytelling and plot-driven dialogue to any of the recently announced gameplay elements.

With Destiny 2, rumored to be released in the Fall of 2017, one has to ask whether or not it is truly worthwhile to partake in this expansion at all.

CRITIQUE

As for myself, I've had a very tiresome, love/hate relationship with Destiny.

Pros:

  • Cayde-6 is voiced by Nathan Fillion.
  • It's a well made shooter, but rather poor MMORPG because our customized characters have severely limited options, no options for dialogue, and no questioning of their initial revival. (What killed our guardians in the first place? How long were they dead? How are Guardians brought back to life? What causes perma-death?)
  • Each gun managed to feel unique, with different recoil, spray, and design attributes.
  • Boss battles seem to be rather epic in scale and ferocity making their defeat that much more entertaining.



Cons (Oh boy there are a lot of them...):
  • The single greatest weakness of the original "vanilla" version of Destiny was its failure to use and adequately communicate the game's surprisingly extensive lore, unfortunately delegating all of the amazing character backstories and weapon analysis to trading cards that were only accessible online via Bungie's website. This was slightly improved with The Taken King's cinematics, but not enough to fully immerse players (and thereby restoring all of those that bought their initial copies to active engagement).
  • The game has no matchmaking for raids whatsoever so unless you have six friends that can consistently play online, on a regular basis, coordinating responsibilities effectively, you'll be missing out on opportunities to earn the higher level and exotic gear only available through those raids, which often take several hours and do not guarantee anything worthwhile, ever. In addition, your progress resets every Tuesday rendering even the tiniest checkpoint uneventful. What I can't grasp is why Bungie refuses to include matchmaking. If you throw enough bodies at a door, it'll eventually open. Players will come to learn their roles in the raid much more quickly and they'll take far less time through trial and error.
  • The solution to the aforementioned problem is to join an LFG (Looking For Group) website in the slim hopes of establishing a well-balanced team, getting stuck with an even more poorly coordinated group of players with constant dropouts and further mixed results.
  • There are no options for private lobbies where you could customize the game types or play solely against your friends.
  • The lore and truly flavorful elements of hte game are confined to cards called Grimoire, which are only accessible via Bungie.net which means one has to exit the game to get the full effect of the story's campaign.
  • Clans have disbanded due to the constant repetitive and monotonous nature of this game.
  • You can't rotate the character when you are at the character customization screen.
  • You can't alter your character once it has been made. You must delete that character and start over from the beginning if you truly dislike their appearance.
  • Players can't try a gun before purchasing it with Legendary Marks or Strange coins.
  • Players STILL can not trade gear. If I happen to get more than one exotic weapon or piece of armor, I can not trade the duplicate to a friend of mine who has been trying desperately to obtain that item. It's absolutely ludicrous.
  • Customization has become a nuisance due to the "Light" system, which has gone through several dozen revisions up to the sub-par current standard we have now.
  • Every expansion's enemies are just re-tooled versions of existing ones. For example, the "Taken" in the Taken King were just shadowy-versions of pre-existing Fallen, Hive, Cabal, and Vex with shakier animations. The latest Rise of Iron enemies are just redder versions of existing Fallen. It seems to be very bland and unoriginal. Often I feel like this latest trailer exemplifies the lack of content with its frozen, barren landscape in the background.
  • The so-called "social-spaces" are anything but social. They're just central hubs where players can store their loot, pick up bounties, cash in engrams in a feeble attempt at gaining a higher light level, and marketplaces for a few obsolete guns. Xur occasionally has what players need, but even he runs on a random number sequence.
  • The whole game is online. Which means if you have a shotty internet connection or the game's servers are no longer in use, you essentially have a $60.00 frisbee.

Conclusion:

Now to those wondering, I've played a combined total of 563 hours (which equals 3 weeks 2 days 11 hours 44 minutes and 4 seconds) with all three of my characters on Destiny as of the time of this article. Comparatively, my best friend and clan leader ("The Seven Deadly Wins" is our Clan) played for a total combined time of 240 hours (1 week 3 days 53 minutes 52 seconds) with his characters and my other colleague just barely clocking in at 197 hours (1 week 1 day 5 hours 40 minutes 48 seconds). So, I've had far more game time than they have, yet both of them are refusing to play into Bungie's hands for the next expansion's asking price as am I.

Many argue that how many hours you have gotten out of Destiny is equal to the amount you've spent purchasing the game. However, my counter-argument to that is "how many of those hours were not wasted effort getting mediocre gear or grinding until you had to set the controller down and turn off the console from frustration? Was the game worth the full value of the $140.00 you've spent?" If the answer is not an IMMEDIATE yes, then there was a problem.

My qualm: $59.99 for the base game, $39.99 for the first two expansions (if you bought the season pass like I did as a year one owner) Dark Below and House of Wolves, an additional $39.99 for The Taken King, and now $29.99 for Rise of Iron. Grand total of $169.96 plus tax. Was it worth it?

When one thinks about the art of video games, it should be considered as an investment that players get some sort of fulfillment and joy out of, whether it be a great journey, a story that captivates, or some overarching sense of satisfaction or accomplishment. They game itself is far too much a lottery in that the random number generator determines the player's ambition.

Frankly, we as the players need to view this title with a bit more scrutiny. We need to be asking the harder hitting questions like "Why does the moon have the same gravity as Earth? Shouldn't Guardians be falling slowly after leaping into the air to dodge oncoming fire?" (The only classes of Guardians that make it seem "authentic" are the Warlocks and Titans).

Destiny: Rise of Iron is expected to debut on September 20, 2016. Hopefully it won't be full of empty promises and disappointments. My ONE hope is that Bungie has considered all of their faults and misgivings about what this game was versus what it could have been, applying that to the sequel in a proper and cohesive manner.



Works Cited:

Craft, Scott. "'Destiny: Rise Of Iron' Splits Progression For Current And Last-Gen Consoles." IDigitalTimes.com. IBT Media Inc., 10 June 2016. Web. 10 June 2016.

Koch, Cameron. "Bungie Is Looking To Help Last-Gen 'Destiny' Players Upgrade To Current-Gen For Rise Of Iron Expansion." Tech Times RSS. TechTimes Inc., 10 June 2016. Web. 10 June 2016.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bandai Namco Announces Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 - Counting Down 2 E3




Bandai Namco announced today, (Tuesday, May 17, 2016) that Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is releasing in 2016 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

According to the press release:

Santa Clara, Calif., (May 17, 2016) – "BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment America Inc. the premier publisher of anime video games today announces DRAGON BALL® XENOVERSE 2, the most expansive Dragon Ball® videogame experience to-date. DRAGON BALL XENOVERSE 2 is currently in development at famed Osaka, Japan based video game developer, DIMPS and will be available for the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, Xbox One, and STEAM® for PC.
DRAGON BALL XENOVERSE 2 is scheduled to launch in the Americas in 2016. Developed to fully utilize the power of current generation gaming consoles and PCs; Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 builds upon the highly popular Dragon Ball Xenoverse with enhanced graphics that will further immerse players into the largest and most detailed Dragon Ball world ever developed.  
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 will deliver a new hub city and the most character customization choices to date among a multitude of new features and special upgrades.The Dragon Ball franchise is a crown jewel and a perennial fan-favorite of Bandai Namco Entertainment’s robust anime videogame portfolio and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 will build upon that illustrious legacy.” said Eric Hartness, Vice President of Marketing at Bandai Namco Entertainment America Inc.
“With Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, we’re working diligently with the Dimps team to pull out all the stops and push the Dragon Ball videogame experience to new heights.” 

Additional details and features pertaining to DRAGON BALL XENOVERSE 2 will be revealed at E3 2016 (June 14-16, 2016) in BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment America Inc.’s demo theaters, located in rooms 303 A and B in the South Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

You can watch the announcement trailer down below.



I'm looking forward to seeing the gameplay in action at this year's E3 convention, but I am cautiously optimistic, especially since I wasn't really content with the combat system the first game had implemented. You can read my thorough review of Dragon Ball Xenoverse here. I'm eager to fight against Towa and Mira once more, but if key components of the game are still left unchecked, I may pass on this title.


Works Cited:

Schreier, J. (2016, May 17). Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 Announced, Coming This Year. Retrieved May 17, 2016, from http://kotaku.com/dragon-ball-xenoverse-2-announced-coming-this-year-1777060267



Saturday, April 16, 2016

Widening the Divide - Ubisoft Punishing Players Who Exploit a Glitch During The Division’s First Boss Battle

On April 12, 2016, Tom Clancy's: The Division received a free content update, the game's first Incursion, titled "Falcon Lost" in which players confronted the Last Man Battalion in a water-treatment facility.

The "Falcon Lost" storyline has two difficulties: Hard mode, which is recommended for players who have a gear score that is equivalent to level 31 or higher; and challenge mode, which is far more difficult. In addition, there are no checkpoints in Falcon Lost; if your team goes down, you'll have to restart from the beginning. This is reminiscent of Destiny's initial Nightfall activities where players were expelled back into Orbit upon a total party wipe (before certain updates were put into effect). Gamers can replay Falcon Lost and other upcoming Incursions as many times as you want and still be rewarded with new loot each playthrough.

Clever participants have discovered a rather unique method of defeating the boss and avoiding several waves of enemies. The process involves using the mobile cover skill to clip through a wall. Doing so prevents the game from registering that players are in the room, meaning a group can fire upon the boss without it retaliating in kind.


Ubisoft's community manager, Natchai Stappers responded to this issue on the game's forums claiming that it's working on a fix for this particular glitch. However, he also mentions that those that took part in the exploit violated Ubisoft's code of conduct. Thus, the developer is "looking into what can be done in terms of punishment" which is, in my mind, not the proper course of action.

When Destiny had an exploit known as the "loot cave" they fixed the issue promptly, and then acknowledged the error by making a tribute to the players for bringing the lack of loot to light. They did this by providing a tribute to Rahool, the Cryptarch of the Tower and official engram decoder. Bungie honored (by the transitive property) the players by creating a special Easter egg. They placed the remains of the countless Hive creatures in the caves and permitted players to "disturb them" with a cryptic message bellowing "A million deaths are not enough for Master Rahool." It was a nice nod to guardians who were shooting at a rock formation for several hours instead of partaking in other, less rewarding activities. What Ubisoft plans on doing is placing unnecessary sanctions upon players for their own negligence.

I believe that players should only be reprimanded if they're utilizing an external device (such as "lag switching") or outside software to give themselves an unfair advantage in competitive play (this includes hacking). I believe also that if they're using profanity or sexually explicit imagery in customizable settings there should be some form of repercussion in place. When the game itself is flawed, players should have free reign until the developer patches it accordingly. Ubisoft is forgetting their role. They set the parameters for the game. If they miss something crucial to the stability of the rules of the game, the blame should lie upon them, not that of the players.If this were Dungeons & Dragons for example, Ubisoft would be the Dungeon Master (DM) setting up the campaign, with the setting and scenarios in place. The players, if they outwit the DM should be praised and rewarded, not chastised. The DM would merely adjust encounters for the next playthrough if the party managed to do something out of the realm of his or her intended guidelines.

This may have a detrimental impact on the Division's fanbase, especially for those that have moved on from Bungie's monumental success. Previously, violators had been handed out a 3-day ban and the matter wasn’t pursued any further. However, Ubisoft can also wipe a player’s stats completely if they so desire, rendering a player's time and effort, worthless.



Works Cited


Ayres, S. (2016, April 16). Ubisoft Will Punish People Who Exploited a Glitch During The Division’s First Boss Battle. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.gamnesia.com/news/ubisoft-will-punish-people-who-exploited-a-glitch-during-the-divisions-firs

Makedonski, B. (201, April 15). Ubisoft's looking into how to punish people who glitch The Division's toughest new boss. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.destructoid.com/ubisoft-s-looking-into-how-to-punish-people-who-glitch-the-division-s-toughest-new-boss-355632.phtml


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ellen Baker Steps Up to the Challenge!

Happy April everyone! I hope everyone's had a good laugh for the first of the month, so to continue that spirit of mischief, I've decided to deviate from talking about video games today to tell you about a meme that I absolutely adore.

What's a meme you ask? Well, essentially it is "an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture" (Merriam-Webster). I tend to refer to them as "internet jokes" or "trending events". In any case, recently one such meme has been brought to my attention, one that may or may not spark some extreme controversy.

Ellen Baker (Japanese: エレン・ベーカー) is a fictional tutor character featured in the 2016-2019 edition of New Horizon. New Horizon is a Japanese to English language textbook published by Tokyo Shosek that is used in middle schools as part of their language curriculum. In the fictitious setting of the book, Ellen Baker instructs her students at Midori Junior High School.

On April 5th 2016, Twitter user @haiyore_audio uploaded several pictures of the characters (Ellen Baker included) from his younger brother's textbook. Within the first 24 hours, the tweet generated over 45,000 likes and a whopping 50,000 retweets, with many people expressing adoration for the charmingly cute female character.

Now, for a bit of context, the Internet has a rather poor habit of perversion when it comes to any particular topic, popular or unpopular, real or fictional. What I'm referring to (for those of you that are unaware) is Rule #34 of the Internet which essentially states that:

"...pornography or sexually related material exists for any conceivable subject. Therefore, if it exists, there is porn of it. If there isn't, there will be, as there are no exceptions."


On April 7th, 2016, Buzzfeed Japan published an interview with Denchubou (電柱棒), the Japanese illustrator for the New Horizon textbook. In the interview he mentioned that:


"Of course, I do welcome the situation (regarding the massive rise in popularity). But…this is a textbook. I’m worried if parents will start to grow a bad impression, or if people start to forget its educational purpose."
- Translated from Japanese (Know Your Meme)

You can check out more of Denchubou's impressive illustrations here.




Now that there has been a massive amount of global exposure with this character, fan sketches of Ellen Baker have sprung up in a wide range of scenarios, some of which are tasteful and humorous, with others being of the more lewd and provocative variety. After images of Ellen Baker went viral on Twitter, articles for her were submitted to Nico Nico Pedia and the Pixiv Encyclopedia, sparking more than 200 illustrations by enthusiasts (Know Your Meme).


Friday, March 18, 2016

Miitomo - The Best Nintendo App for You and Mii

As of March 17, 2016 Miitomo released in Japan. A new video in English has surfaced, courtesy of TiLMENDOMiNATiON (via YouTube, shown below) detailing the app. The video gives viewers a brief look at Mii customization, the Miitomo Shop, and many other features.

Miitomo is an app for iOS and Android devices created for people to interact with others via their Miis. Miis are personal avatars created by Nintendo first seen on the Nintendo Wii Entertainment System.


The app also has a "Miiphoto" function, which lets players create different kinds of pictures featuring Miis. These can then be shared through multiple social media network platforms (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Miitomo will be available in eight languages which include Japanese, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and Russian.

It will be made available for Japan, the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Luxemburg, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand.




Works Cited:

C. (2016, March 17). Miitomo Video Shows Us A Demonstration Of Its Features And How They Work - Siliconera. Retrieved March 18, 2016, from http://www.siliconera.com/2016/03/17/miitomo-video-shows-us-demonstration-features-work/

S. (2016, February 02). My Nintendo’s Points Program Rewards With Discounts, Digital Content And More - Siliconera. Retrieved March 18, 2016, from http://www.siliconera.com/2016/02/03/nintendos-points-program-rewards-discounts-digital-content/

S. (2015, October 28). Nintendo Reveals Their First Smartphone App Miitomo, And Nintendo Account Service - Siliconera. Retrieved March 18, 2016, from http://www.siliconera.com/2015/10/28/nintendo-reveals-their-first-smartphone-app-miitomo-and-nintendo-account-service/