At dinner with a friend last night, I was asked what games I’ve been playing lately. It forced me to vocalize something I had been bothered by and not wanting to say out loud to anyone – I hadn’t played any of the new games I bought over a month ago. The plan was to become a tumor on the couch and breeze through Rise of the Tomb Raider, Undertale, Fallout 4, and a bunch more I purchased but didn’t have the time to play until after my semester ended. Alas – none of that happened.
What happened instead was I also purchased the Legendary edition of Destiny to try and get back into the game (I gave up on vanilla around level 20, a few missions short of the end of the main storyline of the game) by playing with friends. And get back into the game I did. It’s been the first MMO I’ve been really hooked on (despite trying World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2). A few days ago I spent all day farming bounties and getting resources for upgrades and a sword. Most of my winter break from school was spent farming levels to get my first character somewhere reasonable for strikes and the first few raids.
So this friend asked me what I’d been playing and I had to say “I’ve been playing nothing but Destiny and Smite.” Smite is a 3rd person MOBA made by Hi-Rez Studios, and is the first MOBA I’ve ever been hooked on. Late last year I succumbed to peer pressure and tried to play a big friendy in-house of DoTA 2 and hated it. My conclusion was DoTA 2 is for smart people, and Smite is for us common folk. Before that encounter, I tried League of Legends a few times in years past and never got into it – going back to it for a few games with friends in my program it’s pace didn’t capture my interest like Smite did, I would assume because of the camera angle.
This is the first time in my life I’ve been stuck in a spiral of live, online games that don’t just end. This is also the first time in my life I’ve had friends I felt comfortable playing games online with. But even so, my all day farm session in Destiny recently was solo, intentionally, and I was so happy for it to be so. I do a lot of solo queueing in Smite because I don’t play a lot of their traditional 5 v 5 map (the rage from sub-par players toward all the rest of us sub-par players is too aggravating for what should just be a game). I finally did join a clan but the few times I’ve been online since joining, anyone that asks to queue together, I just ignore.
This also boils down to deeper considerations like, why do I feel guilty enjoying a game, even if I dump hundreds of hours into it? Why is that bad, when to some, it’s the most cost efficient game I’ve ever purchased? I’m sure part of it goes to being in a game design master’s program. Like all disciplines, you have to be well versed in it to have the most tools at your disposal to create new and/or interesting things within that discipline. I.e. read often and widely to write, watch often and widely to create films, and play often and widely to make games. But here I am, returning to the same killing fields over and over and over again every day.
So in the academic sense, is there a parallel to playing these games incessantly that’s akin to reading deeply? Analyzing texts requires becoming immersed in all the minutiae of the text. Can I claim analyzing the minutiae of the game, which requires playing nothing else? Maybe. If I were really doing that. Smite lends itself to that, as a competitive eSport. It demands to be analyzed to improve or be halfway decent at – if I didn’t learn something deeper about the game 90% of the time I played then I would be getting stomped every game. And I take pride in saying I only get stomped in 50% of the games I play. Ha HA!
Spiraling deeper into this rabbit hole of self-reflection, I also acknowledge that I don’t play games very deeply in general. My introspection is around the level of “why was this enjoyable? What did it do well? What could it improve on?” not “What was the intent behind these systems to inform my player experience?” Throughout my program, I’ve been adamant that I am not a game designer. Mostly because true game design positions are a lot of spreadsheets, testing variable changes in slight directions, and seeing how those effects propagate out through the game. I don’t have the patience for that. Give me a to-do list, and I will become possessed with the notion of getting list completed (again, part of my recent infatuation with Destiny) regardless of what the end product actually is, so long as it actually fits the quality benchmark set forth at the start of the project.
That infatuation also speaks to some my addictive tendencies. Why can’t I enjoy an hour a day of a game and move on to another game? For me, that will be a learned skill at some point. I feel the height of immersion at around the 4th hour. So jumping in for an hour and jumping out just doesn’t seem worth it to me. I definitely play video games for escapism; due to that, immersion is my preferred state of game playing. And that is a state easily achieved when I have an infinite number of checklists, ala Destiny.
In the end, what am I saying? Mostly nothing. Just rambling my thoughts because I realized recently I missed this site. Ultimately, I know I shouldn’t feel bad about playing whatever I want, even if it’s the same thing day in and day out. I should’t feel guilty about not getting through my Steam/console/mobile backlog, regardless of my student status. Having said that, it’s not a bad thing to consider taking a break from games that offer little novelty and diving into critically acclaimed alternatives, even if it requires forcing myself to do so. If for no other reason, it’ll give me more fodder to come back to this page with.
Do you guys struggle with this phenomenon? What do you attribute it to? I’m genuinely curious to hear your experiences and thoughts on this topic – it’s one I’ve wrestled with a lot the past few months.
Why raise money for sick kids? I mean sure, sick kids. That’s a pretty good standalone reason. But it is kind of a random thing to jump on board with. As I was examining my own motives the other day, I remembered when I was hospitalized with Crohn’s disease 7 years ago. Poo talk coming in the following retrospective; you are forewarned.
I was 17, had no medical snafus in my life (or even in my family) until I had 6 weeks of debilitating symptoms. For me, one of the worst symptoms I experience with Crohn’s disease is urgency. I don’t mind going to the bathroom a lot, and I don’t even mind if going to the bathroom is painful, but when I wake up multiple times a night to go to the bathroom, every night, for weeks on end, it starts to feel like your mind is fraying. On top of that, I was incredibly anemic so combined with little sleep, I remember parking my car and closing my eyes to sleep for five minutes before having to go in to school, and skipping classes just to sleep in my car, and getting home from classes and falling asleep on the couch every afternoon, waking up to eat, do whatever homework I needed to, then falling asleep again until the morning.
The breaking point was Memorial day weekend, and after a visit to an walk-in clinic, my parents made the executive decision to take me to the ER. When I got taken back to a room, I remember feeling isolated just looking at the arrangement. There was a single bed in the middle of the room. After some initial tests, the nurse told us that I’d be getting some more tests in the morning, and they needed to keep the IV in me over night. My parents left to get some sleep at our house, the nurses left, and I was alone on an island.
The treatment and care I got at the hospital was phenomenal, I don’t want to knock that. And to be fair, my disease is really minimal. I also had health insurance and my parents were equipped to take care of me. I cannot imagine the hurdles for more care-intensive illnesses, a worse condition, inadequate health insurance, or being any younger and having to deal with what happened.
I know that Primary Children’s hospital, the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals, and Extra Life are making the first experiences for kids going to hospitals safe and comforting. I know these organizations are supporting family members and friends to feel empowered and like they can make it through some of the worst times of their lives, and the lives of those they love. I can’t imagine one of my nieces or nephews entering a hospital at any age and feeling isolated and alone, faced with a single bed in the middle of a stark white room. With support, facilities like Primary Children’s hospital will continue to operate and provide the reinforcements kids, families, and friends need in their darkest times.
That’s why I’m involved. That’s why, although I’d never do it for any other cause (and never have), I’m asking for your donations to help kids in their scariest times. If you could change your scariest childhood memory into something warm and kind, would you? We can do that for kids, with a few bucks, no minimum requirement.
Thanks for reading, and a huge thanks to those who have already donated. Don’t worry – the 24 hours of livestreaming gaming on October 25th will be a lot less heavy than this blog post 🙂
Remember when I talked about a game-a-thon for charity awhile ago? It was a terrible, meandering post about just losing meaning in my life a little bit (maybe the post wasn’t so much about that, but in hindsight that’s the attitude it was written in). This is about that.
I recently tried to get more involved in the Rooster Teeth community. It has . . . been going okay, still haven’t worked up the courage to game with anyone on the site even though I joined a couple of groups for that specifically. Slowly but surely! The best connection thus far has been a Salt Lake City group. One proactive site user in the Salt Lake area has started a team for Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, as a part of Extra Life, and I joined!
The link above explains the details of Extra Life, if you haven’t heard of it before. My donation page is here.
Why donate? Why am I doing this?
A) I feel really strongly that all charities should give 100% of their proceeds to who they’re trying to benefit. Check, Extra Life does that.
B) The Children’s Miracle Network of Hospitals uses all of its money to let patients stay at their facilities cost free. On the list of noble causes, that’s pretty high up there. They deserve some help for that, doncha think?
C) I get to play video games for 24 hours in a really cool locale, Gamerz Funk.
I understand that part of the challenge of getting donations is that it’s for a very specific, local hospital. The factor that I think could transcend geography is that it’s helping kids, right? You might not know a kid in Salt Lake City, but they exist right? Kids that need help. So if you have a couple bucks and want to encourage me to last the full 24 hours, consider clicking the link above and donating towards my modest $200 goal. The SLC team I’m a part of has a $5,000 goal that my $200 will contribute towards.
Thanks, you know I love you all despite my absence in the blog-o-sphere,
To my fellow LoL addicts,
We can probably think of nothing better than playing a competitive game of League, and have subconsciously convinced ourselves that we are becoming better human beings by doing so. But is it really any good for us?
Since it’s already what we believe, we should first discuss the benefits. While there are many, the one that seemed the most impressive was a study carried out by surgeons who played League of Legends (obviously not while in surgery). Results showed that 27% of surgeons were faster and made 37% less errors than surgeons who did not play LoL. I know, most of you aren’t surgeons and this is not applicable, but it’s the principle behind this statistic which is outstanding, that playing of League was able to enhance concentration! As all LoL players are familiar, it takes a high degree of concentration, one that is not matched by any other game, so much so that the concentration translates to other aspects of life. Great, huh? While the next statistic is fairly generalized, it applies nonetheless; gaming reduces stress levels by 17%. Yes, League of Legends is a game, so it does apply. There is nothing better than coming home from a stressful day at work and unwinding by screaming at teammates, telling them that they do not know what they’re doing. That’s the life.
Now to the segment we had all been dreading. I could pretend that there aren’t any cons and we could all live in our peaceful and delusional world but alas – I cannot. I’m sure the most common disadvantage of League is that it’s time consuming. After a few games, hours have flown by. Although this is all down to the player, it is extremely easy to lose track of time, especially with the inability to see the time on the monitor while in game. Riot Games has managed to put out a very polished final product, which they were kind enough to make free to the public. The irony is that their graciousness comes at a price. The implementation of riot points has made it almost impossible to be successful at the game without spending any money. Whether through champions or runes, you will end up purchasing something in game.
Although I wasn’t able to cover all areas of pros and cons, I hope this overview gives you a great enough insight as to whether or not League of Legends is good for you, as long as you play in moderation, I’ll allow you to make that conclusion yourself.
Written by Jamal Asskoumi. All facts and figures from http://www.cie-cnc.ca/health-benefits-from-playing-league-of-legends/
A) Can I just rant about the spam comments on WordPress? Double digits! Every day! Spambots, relax, I know you are fake, please leave me alone.
B) Just a quick post today because I actually have some huge deadlines at work looming (hence the lack of post on Friday) but my co-worker and I were just chit chatting about Minecraft and he told me this story and it warmed my heart so I thought I’d share.
My co-worker is married, has one little baby, thoroughly enjoys video games but doesn’t have a ton of down time and would love to play games with his wife rather than spend their precious time together, separated. I’ve met his wife a few times and she seems like a wonderful woman. That is further supported by the occasional story he’ll come in with, like “We bought a random trivia game on Xbox Live last night and she played with me for awhile; she liked it all right! We had a good time.” Small spouse gaming victories like that are always heartwarming to me because I’ve always seen gaming as something that brings me closer to people (my brother, new friends, internet strangers who become friends, cashiers at fast food restaurants [true story]) so when I hear tales of the opposite variety, “My wife/husband plays Skyrim nonstop and I hate video games!” I get sad.
This morning my co-worker stumbled in, told us how he had been sick all weekend, and had told his wife Sunday would have to be a lazy, in-bed kind of day because he felt so terrible. So he started trying the Minecraft demo, having never played extensively before, and so did she, to keep him company. Sure enough, she fell in love with the game, as did he. Of course they bought it.
I laughed at his funny explanations of their botched attempts to build and farm and do other things in their first bout of playing the game. He told us about a sheep that wandered into their home that they couldn’t get rid of so eventually he proposed harvesting it for food, to which his wife exclaimed, “NO! You can’t kill Lamby!” I followed up all of this with the comment, “Well that is awesome that you guys can enjoy that together” to which he said “Yeah, that really is the best part.” D’awwwwww!
Hit me with your sappy, togetherness stories that gaming facilitated! I love to read ’em, I want to read ’em, and I want to celebrate what gaming can create, not what it can break when applied incorrectly.
Originally published on 1/23/13
I realized tonight, after my weekly D&D session (yes, I am that awesome) that my opinion post yesterday missed some vital points. Someone pointed out that guilds are wonderful communities and when you get in a good one, you’re in it to stay and people are family. I hope my opinion didn’t offend any guild members. Although, if it did, I’d encourage you to comment and rebut my statements, heh.
The other particularly huge exception was tabletop gaming! How could I have left out this entirely vast and wonderful world of gaming! Again, I was thinking about gaming with others tonight in particular because I got together with five good friends like I do every week and we raided a dungeon and some of us collected the teeth of our enemies, and some of us pet werebears, and some of us got poofy, supernatural hair, and some of us tried to knock a swarm of bugs prone. We’re a varied, and ridiculous bunch, all the more when we get together to comb dungeons and slay dragons. It’s a wonderful, wonderful few hours of my week, and I thoroughly enjoy getting to be a part of it.
Aside from what many would deem nerd tabletop games, I also love board games (which many would still deem nerd games). I love watching the YouTube show “Tabletop” by Geek & Sundry that showcases awesome games I might’ve heard of before, but have never tried or seen, or games I’ve never heard of, and get to see and be intrigued by. Since embracing the expansive world of board games past Monopoly and Risk, I’ve played Munchkin, Fantastique, Small World, Shadows Over Camelot, Sentinels of the Multiverse, a ton more that I’m forgetting, and I have a game gifted to me called Race for the Galaxy that I need to bust out and play finally.
The point is that my post last week was a little hasty. Sure, there are things I really despise about playing with others. But there are things I also love, and wouldn’t give up for anything. I guess like all worthwhile things in life, you take some bad with the good, but it all averages out to awesome in the end.
*cue moral-of-the-story sitcom music
Originally published on 1/16/13
So I’ve discussed this a few times with people, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Gaming with others, either physically or digitally: helpful or distracting?
I s’pose I should clarify the term “helpful.” I mean, do you feel like you’re deeper in a game when you know there are others roaming the countryside around you, or are you constantly thinking about their experience as well as your own?
After multiple conversations about this, I feel like I am in the minority. I must say that MMOs are not my jam, because when I see real live people running around all over my screen, I think about them as people, on the other side of a monitor or console, judging me or living their own lives. I don’t think about their character(s) in relation to my character; I think of them in relation to me. And it takes me so far out of the game, I just don’t want to play. Obviously this is a weird function of some self-esteem problems, if I’m assuming strangers in Guild Wars 2 are judging my Charr as I run by, but hey. It is what it is. Maybe I’ll sort it out one day.
As for me, I love the single player experience. I let myself completely become who I’m playing and suddenly realize I’ve been playing for five hours. The world, with all of it’s imperfections and impracticality, becomes totally real. If someone is there with me? I feel about the same as I do when I play MMOs. Certainly they must be scrutinizing my skill, my technique, and my know-how. Certainly they must be deciding to never play with me again, or that my gamer street cred is an inflated joke.
There are a few exceptions to this, but they’re few and far between. Hopefully I’ll get to a point where I can move past this, but as it stands for right now, I thoroughly enjoy playing by myself and try to avoid all multiplayer situations.
What about you guys? Do you prefer single player or multiplayer, particularly from the viewpoint of immersion in a video game? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Originally published on 10/30/12
So this is old rage by now, because this draft has been sitting, waiting to be finished, for at least a week, but you know me and my ability to hold on to rage . . .
I saw GameSpot.com tweet an article with some inflammatory lead-in like “Are all gamers stupid?” or something ridiculous, so naturally I took the linkbait and then watched a GameSpot.com video feature Edmund McMillan, Cliff Bleszinski, and a number of other prominent gaming names, articulating their opinions about whether or not games are getting dumber.
I was almost instantly incensed. What kind of dumb generalization is that, “all games are being dumbed down”?! Of COURSE “all games” aren’t being dumbed down. Are some? Naturally. There’s a huge market for the less intelligent who also love video games. And really, you know what, I shouldn’t even be that dismissive. Really, there are people that buy from that pool of games because they don’t want to think when they play video games. And I’ve been there, I get that. Sometimes you’d rather mindlessly kill things than work through puzzles or an emotionally compelling story. That doesn’t mean you’re missing brain cells, it means you just want a relaxing, thought-free evening every once in awhile.
I wrote out paragraphs and paragraphs of a tangent, but I reigned myself back eventually to what my point is (you’re welcome): the gaming community and industry is now too big to say crap like this. Back in the day, you could make sweeping generalizations about gaming and video games and your exceptions would be one or two titles, so people got away with it. Now? There are hundreds of games released in a year. Potentially thousands, depending on what you’re counting. Some people enjoy “dumbed down” games, some people only enjoy those games once in awhile, and really, those games that appeal to the lowest common denominator of gamers are the biggest cash cows for publishers, so yeah, they get a lot of face time in the media (and some games get media time because they’re just awesome and not dumbed down, like Dishonored).
But there is so much more out there! And the sad thing to me about the video was that Edmund McMillan (co-creator of Super Meat Boy, arguably one of the hardest games of its generation) and Cliff Bleszinski know that. I know they know that. But they must be seeing the games that demand more out of players as exceptions rather than norms. And really, I’m not sure there is a gaming norm any more. Again, the industry is too big for generalizations.
We’re seeing factions and pockets of specific gamers pop up all over the place. Indie gamers, racing gamers, only platformers, only MMO players, only FPS players. There are all kinds, and I’m grateful, because it takes all kinds to make this beautiful gaming world go round. When you get that kind of genre passion, that leads to experimentation to take something you love so deeply to another level, just to see what can happen. And that innovation elevates the industry, despite any of the “dumbed down” games that some think are ruining it.
I guess in the end my rage was really just sadness. I’m sad that from the inside out, the industry is being hated on from people that a) worked to change it in the first place and b) have seen it’s growth and should know better than to generalize such a diverse place. For shame E and Cliffy B. For shame.
Whoa! I’m alive! For what it’s worth, sometimes I write personal thoughts on gettribal.blogspot.com. So more recently, I’ve taken to that transmission vector. Mainly because I’ve gamed so little in the past few months. So. little. It’s depressing. But about a month ago, my brother took the initiative to set up a weekly gaming date for us so we can get our game on and spend some time “together.” Good times! We’ve moved on to playing Halo 4 (fun, horrendous storyline, post forthcoming about that) but we started playing Iron Brigade, by Double Fine and so I thought I’d pass along a little ditty about that since weeds have started to grow over this blog . . .
This is confusing to buy on Xbox Live Arcade because when the game was originally released in 2011, it was called Trenched. A month later, due to copyright issues, the title was changed to Iron Brigade. It’s a third-person tower defense game, set in the mid-1900s but to an alternate history. Frank Woodruff (good guy) creates a new military tool, mechs (called trenches) that soldiers can equip and upgrade to fight in the field, as well as set emplacements to defend military points. Vladimir Farnsworth (bad guy) tried to push his technology, Monovision, to let everyone see whatever they want, but from the comfort of their homes (hur hur hur, social commentary . . .). He disseminates his vision via “devices” called Tubes, who you are trying to kill because you don’t believe in Monovision. That’s . . . a really, really rough synopsis, but that’s essentially what’s happening. Killing Tubes, stopping the forward progress of Monovision, stopping your once ally/friend, Vladimir.
You saw my rave review of Orcs Must Die! so you know how I thoroughly enjoy third-person tower defense games. I like the strategy, and the army you create for yourself with emplacements, on top of getting to get your hands dirty and jump in the action yourself. Iron Brigade has some great mechanics to force you to compromise strength for speed and emplacements. It made a lot more sense to play this with other people than trying to tackle it solo. Some trench chassis allow you to use “heavy” emplacements that do tons of damage, but cost more scrap (the currency essentially of the game) to place, whereas chassis that tend to have more armor and can equip more weapons have less emplacements slots, and out of those slots, no heavy emplacement slots.
It goes without saying that the dialogue and artwork were superb. We’re talking about Double Fine! Very funny narration, good voice acting, funny animation, and great art between action. Without a doubt, this was worth the $5-$10 I paid for it. Short, not incredibly difficult, but fun achievements to keep you coming out, and a great experience to play with more than one person.