BONUS CONTENT: Immersion in Gaming: Believing the Fantasy

This is something that I’ve discussed in many of my reviews and discussions in the past but have never really explained. I thought this week I would delve into what immersion is, how it can be achieved as well as examples both good and bad.

Immersion is just that, how immersed into a game the player can be. Believing in the fantasy and feeling as though the player is really in the game. Be it racing at Le Mans or storming the beaches of Normandy or exploring the furthest reaches of space. The are also the type of games that leave an impact on the play both while they are playing and after they have walked away from it.

So what makes a game immersive? I think the most important characteristic for creating immersion is believability. You can have the best graphics, the best gameplay but it means nothing if the player doesn’t believe they are there. For example if a game’s frame rate drops to a level where the games movements suffer from lag or if bugs cause the game to act strangely such as objects clipping into each other or animations not working as they should, they break the fantasy being built up by the player causing players to disconnect with the game. The game also has to entice the player into the game, be that an expansive gaming world/universe dripping in lore, a gripping & engaging story, fluid & smooth gameplay or something completely different.

Now, how about some examples? An example of a game lacking in immersion is Fallout 3. The story drew you in and the gameplay was smooth but with the bugs and the creepy stare everyone gives the play when talking to them breaks any believability the game has. On the other hand, both Red Dead Redemption games oozed with immersion. Everything about the game was made to lure the player in and keep them there.

Immersion is what separates a good game from a great game but on the other hand it also won’t make a bad game into a good game. For example, icing a cake will make it taste better but icing a turd will still make it a turd.

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BONUS CONTENT: My PlayStation Wrap-Up 2020

With 2020 well as truly behind us. I’m going to look back at my PlayStation round up of 2020. A year where unlike most people who got to sit around at home and play video games. As a “key worker” I didn’t get this privilege, I instead went into work as usually helping make sure hospitals, care homes and the like were getting the equipment they needed to do the real work in saving lives. Anyway enough about that, lets look at my downtime.

That’s a new game about every week and a half
I have good taste. Some pretty excellent games if I do say so myself
That is a constant month of gaming (depending on the month)
I don’t play well with others.
Lets face it, who doesn’t love a lazy Saturday afternoon?
This would explain the mid week blues
I thought it would have been lower to be honest.
What!? No Platinum Trophies!? I’m ashamed of myself

And with that, that’s the end of the tour. If you would like to get your own you can sign up here. Just sign in to your PlayStation account before March 2nd, you can also redeem a few theme for your PS4 in doing so too.

If you like what you read and would like to support further pieces then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon or Buy me a Coffee. Your continued support will be most appreciated. Also for regular updates please like and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

The D and D Resurgence: Why is Dungeons and Dragons more popular than ever?

A step out of the video game lane this week to talk about another sort of game. Dungeons & Dragons is a game that I have only gotten into more recently. Looking at the sales figures of the source material it seems I’m not the only one. In 2020 Wizards of the Coast (The game’s Publishers) announced that 2019 was the companies 6th year of growth in a row. One of the source books (Volo’s Guide To Monsters) managed to get into the New York Times best sellers list in November 2016. This week I’ll be looking into what factors have helped this rise in popularity.

For those who are unaware, Dungeons & Dragons is a table top game created by Dave Arneson & Gary Gygax back in 1970. The game was created as a medieval battle table top game under the name Chainmail. Later revisions added that players controlled individual characters instead of armies as well as the story telling aspect, races, classes etc. It was Gygax’s 2-year-old that decided on the name “Dungeons & Dragons”. When her father pitched her a selection of potential names she replied “Oh Daddy, I like Dungeons & Dragons best!”. Through the years the game has gone through several rule revision with the current 5th Edition rules being the most current, being released in 2014. The game consists of 1 player who is the Dungeon or Game Master (DM or GM) who is the narrator and referee of the game. The rest of the players are Playable Characters (PC’s) who play characters within the game. The DM builds the scene for the PC’s, the PC’s will then choose the course of the game and the DM will build the story in response to the other players actions.

The 5th Edition Rules

Speaking of the 5th Edition of the rules, they are probably one of the reasons for the soring popularity of the game. The previous 4th Edition was not well received with current players. The 4th Edition was essentially a rebuild of D&D from the ground up to cut a lot of the chaff that had accumulated in the previous editions, to Wizards of the Coast (who had bought publishing rights to the game in 1997) nothing in the game was sacred and all aspects were up fro review. In doing this they lost a lot of what long time players loved about the game which fractured the D&D community. A lot of players didn’t move across to the 4th Edition, instead remaining with edition 3.5 having invested in the game already being only released 5 years earlier. Others moved to other fantasy table top games such as Pathfinder or moved back to previous edition of the game.

The 5th Edition was developed in order to bring back to the fold a lot of the players they lost by returning some of the elements from previous editions that were cut but keep the simplicity of the 4th edition for new players to not feel too lost. This was done by modulating each section of the game. Where 4e focused a lot on the rules of combat and glanced over a lot of the other aspects, 5e had specific ruling and guidelines for all aspects of the game allowing the game to be better tailored to each game session or campaign. This means a lot more work for DM’s but PC’s still get a streamlined experience that is new player friendly.

The Internet

We live in an age where information is but a click or a finger press away. This has done wonders for the D&D community. People can gather, discuss the game and share their own homebrewed campaigns or characters. Also because of the ever increasing popularity of YouTube & Twitch it’s easier than ever to sample the game by watching other play. In fact in 2017 over 9million users watched a D&D stream. This allows people easy access to the game if they are interested in checking out before they jump in. Sites such as Roll20 or Owlbear Rodeo allow players to play with others all over the world meaning people are no longer limited to playing with people in their local area or with friends/family.

geek culture

Geek is in. Video games, Manga/Anime, Comic books, all the shit that kids were beaten up for when we were kids is now what all the cool kids like. This includes Dungeons & Dragons. This can be seen in the number of celebrities that openly discussed playing D&D. This list includes Drew Barrymore, Dame Judi Dench, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Chester Bennington, Steven Spielberg, Robin Williams, Marilyn Manson, George R.R. Martin, Elon Musk are but to name a few. This increases the exposure of the game to further demographics. In inclusion in modern culture too helps the reach of the game such as it’s inclusion in the Nexflix show Stranger Things as well as other TV shows like Futurama, The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons & even My Little Pony. Wizards of the Coast has actually capitalised on this and has beginner sets based off of the characters used by the characters in Stranger Things as well as a Rick & Morty themed set.

These are but a few of the main reasons in my opinions. If you have any others feel free to leave a comment and discuss them.

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BONUS CONTENT: The Scalper Blight: How not to buy a PS5.

So long as there’s demand for something there will be someone somewhere who will try and make a profit off of it. This can be seen with the sheer number of PS5’s & XBox X/S series being sold on sites such as eBay & Facebook Marketplace by people in bulk. These scalpers are taking advantage of the high demand by shorting the supply even more by buying as many as possible in order to increase the “street price” by up to 3 times the sale price. It’s not a new concept, ask any festival goer and they will tell you all about scalpers, but what damage is this doing on the industry and how can we stop it? This is what I will look at answering today.

Scalping is when products are bought (usually but not exclusive to shares or tickets) in order to be quickly sold for a profit. This is usually done as in buying up products, especially in bulk, it will increase demand and as such increase the price people will be willing to pay. This is evident in the current situation surrounding the next-gen consoles. Scalping is not illegal but it is very much frowned upon by the general community as it seen as a way for those who have the capital to purchase several consoles to profit from those who don’t .

Now why is this such a bad thing? First and foremost, it means that there are less consoles available for people like you and me that want one to use and play on. This creates a greater demand and as such elevates prices as less PS5’s become available. Next is the effect on the manufacturer, now I can imagine at some point people will be thinking “If consoles are being sold, be them to ordinary users or scalpers Sony is still profiting from them aren’t they?”. Normally this would be true but in the case with games consoles it’s not. This is because consoles, especially at launch are sold at a loss to the manufacturer. The loss is offset by the sale of games, which is why you usually find consoles after release being bundled with several games and added products such as extra hardware or films. Given that each console in the hands of a scalper means that there is 1 less person buying games for that console, the more consoles being held in storage, the less games are being sold. In fact stats show that in Japan by the end of December PS5 games were being sold at a rate for 1 game for every 3 consoles sold. It’s true that these figures only included physical disks and not digital games but that still wouldn’t account for the dramatic short fall.

So what can be done to stop scalpers? The UK government is looking into measures to put measures in place to stop the inflation of prices of used hardware given the rise of not just private scalpers but even UK based second hand goods chain CEX started advertising PS5’s for up to £900 a console. In order to have the best chance of buying as many consoles as quickly as possible scalpers will tend to use buying bots that are programmed to wait in online queues and buy the consoles once the queues open or to. Each group of scalpers can have hundreds of these bots waiting in queues across many online retailers. Some retailers (although very little) are taking steps to counter scalpers. UK based video game retailer Game, have committed to fighting against scalpers after a twitter user bragged about managing to purchase over 2000 PS5’s from the retailer. Since then all pre-orders from game are subject to 1 unit per customer and all pre-orders are checked after order confirmation has been sent with the retailer having the right to cancel any suspicious orders.

What can we do as consumers against the scalper blight. Sadly, we can do very little. As mentioned before there isn’t any laws against scalping itself, although some online platforms won’t allow scalpers to use their services, as such the best thing to do is report these sellers removing their selling platforms. Apart from this the only other thing we can do is to not buy from scalpers. If the scalpers have no one to sell to they will stop what they are doing. I can imagine it’ll be hard for some people, especially if pressured by a child or loved one, but in the end these leeches prey on those pressures to make money. These people do not deserve your hard earned money. Do not let them win.

If you like what you read and would like to support further pieces then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon or Buy me a Coffee. Your continued support will be most appreciated. Also for regular updates please like and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

BONUS CONTENT: Are game disks a dying breed?

In recent years we have seen an insurgence in digital media in most entertainment industries. Both the film & music industries are seeing more people making digital purchases compared to their physical counterpart. Video games are also following suit with the introduction of Steam back in 2003 and with consoles joining later with the introduction of the Xbox Games Store, Playstation Store & Nintendo Store. This growth came to a head in 2013 when digital game purchases overtook that of physical copies for the first time in history (54% Digital, 46% Physical). The most recent figure I can find comes from 2018 where it was believed that 83% of all games purchased were done digitally. Now the question is does this mean that there will be one day where the game disk will become a thing of the past? It’s the direction that the market seems to be going in but I still think we will still see video games on our shelves at least until the next generations of consoles.

The main advantage I see to physical games is in purchasing and cost. There are so many more places you can buy physical copies of games compared to it’s digital counterpart, the huge number of online and high street stores would take me an article of it’s own to dictate. This means people can shop around to get the best deal and save money, with digital games the player is very much at the mercy of the market. This is less true with PC games than consoles given the rising number of distribution platforms on PC such as Steam, Origin, Gog, Epic Games Store etc. Physical copies have another advantage in that they can be loaned to others and bought & sold on the used market. However, mainly with online multiplayer games a game bought used may require an online pass to be bought as well as the game disk in order to play. There is also the convenience that comes with buying digital games, you can buy a game and install it there and then. No having to go out to the store or waiting on deliveries, this is especially advantageous when it comes to new releases as some platforms allow for digital pre-orders to be installed and ready to play by the time of release.

Some digital providers sometimes offer games for free for a limited time. The Epic Game Store offers some games for free and EA’s Origin also did for a while. PSPlus subscribers as well allows players to purchase selected games for free and allow free play of them so long as they remain PSPlus subsribers. There is also an argument to be made that digital games have a longer shelf life due to damage and wear-and-tear to disks as games are swapped and age. However, there is a lifespan of digital games too depending on the digital vendor. Since your purchase will be registered to you via the provider, if that provider were to go out of business and their servers are shut down you would loose access to all the games you purchased and because you only purchased the right to play the games on the server as opposed to the game itself you wouldn’t be eligible for any kind of compensation.

I’m made a lot of mention as to how the different mediums effect the player but what about the developer? The rise of digital providers offers opportunities to indie developers to distribute their games to a greater audience than they could if they were restricted to having to sell their games using disks or cartridges which can be an expensive process to create. This however has caused it’s own problems, as the number of indie games available on the likes of Steam means that it’s becoming harder and harder to have your game stick out from the crowd. Doing some research, I have found that Steam has over 10,000 games as of Dec 2020 and with 40% of them in the Indie Genre it’s hard for a new developer to get their name out without a current fan base.

Personally I buy both physical copies and digital copies. I tend to shop around and try and get the best deal I can. This usually means buying physically copies of new releases and then waiting for sales for games that have been released for a while. Sadly given my current situation I don’t have the luxury to be able to buy every game I wish as soon as it’s release nor would I have the luxury of time to play them all if I did. This means I have to pick and choose my game purchases, as such I prefer buying physical copies of games as being able to shop around and the used game market helps me get as many games for the lowest price. Although if this wasn’t the case I would probably prefer digital copies due to the convenience of not having to go out or wait for delivery.

Videogame Violence: From the Screen to Real Life

An argument as old as video games themselves and one that will continue until we are naught but dust. It’s my firm belief that so long as their are at least 2 people on the planet there will be arguments about 2 things. The portrayal of violence in video games and the real life implications this brings about and who gets to eat the last Rolo. For a blog first I have actually done some research into this and haven’t just assumed I was right and proceeded to spew words to that effect.

DISCLAIMER: Before I start in earnest I would like to make it known that I am not an expert in this field (or in any field for that matter), therefore anything of my beliefs or opinions on this matter are not to be taken as fact.

The subject on whether violent video games make people violent or not is no way near a new topic. It’s one that has been going on continuously, popping in and out of public interest with each school shooting, act of terrorism as well as other types of horrible tragedy. In fact if you expand the subject matter out to entertainment and literature the argument stretches back even further. In fact the US government passed The Federal Anti-Obscenity Act (Comstock Law) all the way back in 1873 to ban literature that contained “obscene,” “filthy,” or “inappropriate” material, so by the time video games came along the idea of banning things you didn’t like was well established.

Having looked into the subject I can’t help but be staggered by the number of acts of violence and horrific tragedies that have been blamed by violent video games in one way or another. I also can’t help but think that for every one of these incidents there are hundreds if not thousands more incidents that will never see print. Most of them going along the lines of person X liked doing activity Y before committing tragedy Z so Y must be the cause. There is a simplistic crooked logic behind this way of thinking and it scares me that people gravitate to it without question. I mean we could probably find a specific breakfast cereal that is preferred by murderers but that doesn’t mean Coco Pops make a person want to kill another person.

So why point the finger at video games? Personally I think it’s because they are an easy target. People enjoying a medium where you control a violent person committing violent acts then going out and committing violent acts themselves, simple right? However, like the rest of the world we live in the answer is never this simple. To say that stopping violent video games with stop these incidents is both short sighted and naive. There are too many variable to be able to point at one thing and go “There’s your problem” like a plumber fixing your pipes.

One incident that came up a lot in my research was that of the Columbine High School massacre. I’m sure you are all aware but to those that are not, the Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting in Colorado in April 1999 in which 2 student killed 13 students and staff as well as themselves and injured 24 others. It was well documented that the 2 students were fans of the video games Doom & Duke Nukem 3D, both of these games fall into the class of violent video games. So as you’d expect calls for banning these games and their ilk we made. In fact there was a lawsuit against the developers for causing the massacre as were the makers and distributors of the films Natural Born Killers & The Basketball Diaries, Marilyn Manson and 2 pornographic websites. All the suits were unsuccessful and the calls for banning violent video games were denied mainly because video games are protected under The First Amendment (right to freedom of speech).

On looking into the matter, there is certainly an argument to be made that video games in some way had a role in these events (It was believed by journals that the 2 Columbine shooters gained inspiration from Duke Nukem 3D to use pipe bombs during the massacre) but I do not believe that they were in any way, shape or form the cause of these incidents. I personally find video games to be a refuge, a port in the storm for when life gets hectic or when I’m not feeling all that great about things. They act as an escapism for me and I can imagine a lot of people too. A lot of the perpetrators I’ve looking into when researching this topic felt betrayed and let down by life and society so it only makes sense for them to find an escape from these feelings. Elements from these games will get woven into their acts and from that the blame is cast against them.*

These are some very extreme cases but what about everyday acts of aggression, can video games be blamed for lesser everyday violence? I personally think sometimes they can, however I also believe that the violence portrayed in violent video games is not the main culprit either. Looking back to when I was younger there were more than a few moments that I would become violent during playing video games (these acts never escalated beyond me punching pillows for throwing controllers at inanimate objects). This was because I would be frustrated at not being able to get past a certain point of a game. I’d be upset over my own inability to do something and being too immature to accept my own short comings I’d lash out.

To clarify, there is no one video game out there that can flick a so-called “Hulk switch” in any person that plays it and suddenly makes them more aggressive. Then again, I can’t say that it will never happen to someone. Yes, there will be people that will be influenced by violent games and think that copying them is cool. This tends to be seen in children and people who have lower levels of mental maturity. To prevent these influences and protect them is the reason why games have age classifications, it’s a flawed system (as it assumes people of the same age are all as mentally mature as each other) but they do act as guidelines at the very least.

Banning violent video games will never stop acts of violence, we are not suddenly going to ascend to a utopian society by banning violent video games. The only true cures are education, reform, understanding, tolerance and acceptance. Then again as flawed beings I don’t think we will ever reach such a high moral plain as a species so I guess we are doomed to suffer until the end of our days. I do hope that I am wrong about this but I suppose only time will tell.

*I would like to make it clear that I certainly DO NOT sympathise with the perpetrators of these acts. It is my view that the reasons I mentioned are never justification for acts of violence, cruelty, injury or death. I also do not condone any actions undertaken or any actions similar in relation to this.

BONUS CONTENT: Ludo-Narrative Dissonance: Saying One Thing, Doing Another

Lets start with a definition for those who aren’t aware. Ludo-Narrative Dissonance was coined by the game designer Clint Hocking in a blog post in 2007. The term is used to describe the difference between the narrative told by a games story and the narrative of it’s gameplay. In his post Hocking singled out Bioshock where he explained that the narrated story demands the player be selfless but all the while the gameplay mechanics enforce a selfishness and the pursuit of power.

This was something I was thinking about as I wrote up my review for The Last of Us Part II. How Ellie would stab, shoot and blow up several people just so she could kill one person for killing another. Any kind of self-reflection would tell her that if it wasn’t for the camera crew following her around she would be the bad guy in this story. Abby by contrast is on a mission to kill someone who slaughtered her father as well as many others and succeeds in doing so without anyone else dying. This in contrast to the Ludo-Narrative consistency of the first game was one of the few things that rubbed me the wrong way about the game.

Another example that comes to me is that of the Tomb Raider remake. Again this was a game that I thoroughly enjoyed and had it not been for The Last of Us would have been my Game of the Year. There was a moment in the game where Lara kills her first person. You can see the terror in her and see the very moment that a piece of her soul breaks. This as a scene in isolation really brought depth to Lara’s character, However from that point on she starts gunning, stabbing, exploding people like it’s going out of fashion rendering her early breakdown almost meaningless.

The use of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance isn’t always something to avoid and if used properly can be a powerful story telling tool. To illustrate this lets look at Spec Ops: The Line where the use of ludo-narrative dissonance was a conscious choice. The actions of Walker are seen as a horrible warning to enforce the games message of “War is bad and you should feel ashamed for enjoying this game”. The game uses the hypocrisy of the playable character to reinforce the message of the story. This is how the Ludo-Narrative Dissonance differs from that in Spec Ops then it does in both The Last of Us Part II & Tomb Raider. Ellie & Lara never get that revelation that what they are doing is a bad thing, Walker on the other hand gets to the end of the game and it’s brought to light everything he’s done in the game and he realises his actions cannot be justified.

So to sum everything up, if your game is show signs of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance you can do one of 2 things. 1) Fix the inconsistencies by either adjusting the narrative or gameplay elements so that both elements go hand in hand; or 2) Highlight these difference in such a way that the contract makes the player question their in game choices and actions. The latter is more difficult to pull of but if managed successfully can make for a deeper gaming experience and give the player something to ponder once the gaming is done.

BONUS CONTENT: 5 Cult Games Worth Playing

We all get that once and a while. We find a gem of a game that we think is absolutely brilliant only for it not to get the recognition it deserves among the wider audience, be it due to mainstream critics who have missed the point of the game or the narrow demographic of the game itself. These are 5 games that I believe never got the credit they deserved, in no particular order.

Spec Ops: The Line:

This was a game that surprised me in a very good way. I originally went into it expecting a traditional modern 3rd person shooter, never to give the game a second thought after putting it do. Instead I’m still talking about it 8 years after it’s release. It’s story is nothing short of sublime and has yet to be topped by any shooter since. It’s obvious playing the game that the developers went into this game with a message to say, that war is not as black and white as previous games make it out to be. The game was let down a bit by it’s generic 3rd person gameplay style and it’s needlessly added bland multiplayer game but the strength of this game and one that gives it it’s cult following is it’s ability to put the gun in our hands then hold up the mirror to show us that there are no heroes in this story, just a different shade of grey.

Valkyria Chronicles:

Valkyria Chronicles was one of the first games I’d reviewed and it is one that has stuck with me since. The art style, the soundtrack, the gameplay, the story, there wasn’t all that many aspect of the game I didn’t enjoy. The lack of auto-save and the overabundance of unskipable cut scenes being the main two I can think of. Despite it’s mainly positive reviews the game never got the sales figures befitting of said reviews. I personally feel that this was because Sega didn’t have much faith in the game to be a success. With little to no marketing and being released within days of Fallout 3 and other major AAA titles doomed the game to be overlooked which given the quality of the game is more than a little unfair.

9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors:

I spoke about this briefly in my Zero Escape trilogy review. The game itself felt a little stop-start and the gameplay felt very one dimensional, but the solid story, well rounded characters and the fun and interesting puzzles kept the game from becoming stale. Since it’s initial release on the DS, the game has now been released on PS4 & PC making more accessible to new players.

Hogs of War:

If you can find a copy of this game I strongly suggest you play it. If I were to describe it in a couple of words it would be “absolutely nuts”. The voice acting as well as the voice over from the dearly departed Rik Mayall are absolutely side-splitting and adds to it’s endearing antics. The game is over 20 years old and sadly it shows it, feeling particularly out dated when compared to games from the time.

Grim Fandango:

I’m finding it hard to find the words to accurately describe Grim Fandango. It was a brilliant written, brilliantly executed story wrapped up in moments of drama and ludicrousness. Despite critical acclaim and a number of awards the game’s sales suffered due to the rise in popularity of more action based games at it’s time of release. This shift in the market meant that adventure games such as Grim Fandango & Monkey Island wouldn’t get the popularity I felt they deserved. A re-mastered version was released a few years ago to bring the experience to a new generation of gamers.

BONUS CONTENT: Player Personalities: What Gamers Want From Their Games

With my Game of the Year backlog done with, I can move on and discuss some more learned and thought provoking topics. For my bonus post this week I will be delving into The Bartle taxonomy of player types and scratching the surface as to what different gamer types enjoy the most from a game.

Richard Bartle is a British writer, professor and game researcher. In 1996 he wrote a research paper in response to what gameplay elements specific gamer types wanted from a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon). Since then, this breakdown can be used to look at player habits in both MMO’s and single player games. Bartle broke down gamers into 4 distinct different categories depending on whether a player acts or interacts when playing and whether this occurs with either the world or other players. For anything finding it difficult to follow, here is a helpful chart to help you follow.

You can see in the chart that each quarter represents a different category. Bartle originally assigned each of these categories as aa playing card suit. Achievers were Diamonds, Explorers were Spades, Socialisers were Hearts & Killers were Clubs. I’ve taken this concept even further and assigned them each a Hogwarts house as well. Achievers are Griffindor, Explorers are Ravenclaw, Socialisers are Hufflepuff & Killers are Slitherin.

(note: Achievers and Explorers have traits of both Ravenclaw and Griffindor and I had trouble deciding which way round to put them, I decided on this way in the end because it was my original thought and makes me feel a little bit happier being that way)

Achievers are the hard workers of gaming, enjoying the completing of tasks and objectives. They are the ones found trying to max out their achievements/trophies, getting the highest score, the best equipment or maximising their level. They tend to gravitate towards games with a bit more rigidity and structure, usually games that are more linear with less creative freedom. They usually be found grinding experience or equipment in games such as World of Warcraft or trying to get to the top of the leader board in games such as Call of Duty.

Explorers (such as myself) are the seekers of gaming. They are the ones that are found hunting the unexplored finding Easter Eggs or uncovering secrets of the game or world being played in, peeling back the veil to find the secrets that live within. We tend to enjoy games that feed that sense of exploration and discovery, large open games with lots of secrets or lore to discover. Games such as The Elder Scrolls or The Witcher are perfect for Explorer style gamers. Explorers tend to get bored of games quite quickly when they start to feel like a chore.

Socialisers are the extroverts of gaming and love games with more of a social aspect like meeting up with clan members in World of Warcraft or visiting friends in Animal Crossing. Socialisers tend to congregate with other Socialisers so sometimes you might find Socialisers spending more time as an active member of a games forum than actually playing the game.

Finally Killers are the trolls of gaming. They tend to be found making other players miserable and aren’t usually happy unless another playing is cursing them somewhere in the world. Killers are completely self-indulgent and treat the game as an ego trip & power-play a way to cement themselves as the best. They can usually be found picking off newly spawned players in Call of Duty or inhabiting an MMO’s weaker player areas killing off lower level players.

Developers will decide when making a game on what kind of balance they want to achieve . As an unbalanced game can lead to an unbalanced player base which will increase the longer the issue remains unsolved, for example an over abundance of Killer type players can put off a lot or Achiever and Socialiser type gamers.

There are many general correlations between how the rise and hall of each player base effects the others but as this can be a bit complex and this is just an overview I may leave that for another time. I hope that this will give some food for thought and that any new and aspiring game developers reading this will gain a better understanding into making a game more accessible for all types of players.

Micro-transactions: The Real Cost of Video Games

The video games industry has seen a huge rise in the number of games containing micro-transaction in the last 10 years, so much so that they are starting to become a norm. Although, what effect are they having on the industry? Are they being used to heighten the gaming experience or are they a cash grab to ring out as much money from the player as possible?

Micro-transaction are an in-game option where the player can purchase in-game items such as loot boxes, player skins, in game currency etc. for real world currency. They are predominantly popular in free-to-play games but have made their way in recent years over to larger AAA games. Depending on the items or the game in question these purchases can range from a few pence to hundreds of pounds.

There have been many problems with Micro-transactions through the years, however the biggest problem I have with micro-transactions is the cost of some of them. I have played games where prices for micro-transactions have gone into the hundreds of pounds (cost that high kind of defeats the point of the ‘micro’ part of micro-transactions). I get that there will be people out there to whom a few hundred pounds is pocket change but to the rest of us mere mortals £100 is a significant amount of money and not an amount I would spend on purchasing a whole game let along items within a game. This is especially a problem when you consider that there are micro-transactions of this value in games that are also aimed at kids. There have been so many horror stories about children taking thousands from their parents accounts when playing games such as FIFA or GTA. In fact I personally know of someone who spent nearly £200 of their parents money in micro-transactions on GTA Online not knowing that they were spending real money.

Another major problem I have with them is the pressure some players are under to make micro-transactions. The 2 greatest pressures are gameplay pressures and social pressures. Gameplay pressure can be found a lot in pay-to-win games where players who pay have an advantage over those who don’t which leads to paying players getting better rewards which gives them more of an advantage with the cycle growing exponentially the longer the game is played leading to a larger gap between paying and non-paying players. I found this first hand when I played FIFA Ultimate Team in FIFA 18. It got to the point where no matter how much I played I couldn’t improve my team because I couldn’t beat other teams who had world class players in order to gain the rewards that included the packs that these world class players were in. The only way it seemed was to pay for the packs directly, the pack with the greatest odds of me getting the best players in the game cost roughly about £70 and after doing some research I saw that these packs only had a 2.5% chance of getting the best cards. You’d need 20 packs to have a 50% chance of getting a world class card, which would cost you £1400. It was because I was stuck in progressing my team & refusing to pay for any of the packs that the game lost all interest for me and I quit playing soon after. I also never bought a FIFA game since nor have I had the desire to. Social pressure comes from other players influencing the player to make purchases. As in games such as Fortnite players using default or free skins are usually labelled as being financially poor or bad at the game. These social pressures play on peoples insecurities and will cause people to make purchases they might not particularly want to or can’t afford in order to fit in.

As I stated in my previous posts I see why developers are including micro transactions in video games. The idea that it allows those people who can afford to pay more for video games can in a way subsidise the price for those who aren’t as well off. Sadly however, this doesn’t seem to be the case. A survey carried out by Parent Zone on 1001 children in the U.K. between the ages of 10-16 found that 76% of them agreed that online games try and make players spend as much money as possible. Personally I think a few developers rip off their players because they can get away with it. Not that I am painting all developers with the same brush, there are some examples of how micro-transactions can be implemented correctly but sadly they get overshadowed by the numbers of occasions that they are used unfairly. Fallout Shelter is one of my prime examples of good use of micro-transactions, players can buy lunchboxes which contain extra game items such as weapons, armour and characters. Lunchboxes can also be gained by grinding in-game too. This means that although micro-transactions are available the game is still totally playable without needing to purchase them, they become more a tool of convenience than a necessary part of the game.

Whether you love them or hate them, I don’t think micro-transactions are going anyway any time soon. They are too much of a cash cow, in fact in 2016 EA recorded over $1.3billion in revenue from micro-transactions across their entire catalogue that year. These levels of revenue also means that developers would rather prolong the life of existing games that is making money than take a risk on new IP’s that could potentially make a loss financially. This can be seen in GTAV, despite being 7 years since it’s initial release on the 360 and PS3, the game (especially GTAOnline) continues to generate massive revenues, according to Tweak Town in 2019 GTAOnline generated $595million in revenue through digital in-game content alone. This will only increase with the release of the game on the PS5 & Xbox Series S/X later in the year. Looking at it this way you can see why they are not putting a rush on GTA6. I just hope that the industry doesn’t start to stagnate because of this. Although looking back at the games I’ve reviewed from this year I don’t think it’s going to be too far off.