Tuesday, March 27, 2007

MMO addiction fears overrated

Game Politics has a quick roundup of a new study that says fears about addictions to MMOs are overrated. Conducted by the University of Bolton (UK) School of Health, the doctors concluded that "incidences of addiction could be 10% lower than some currently accepted classification schemes suggest."

Which is not to say that addiction isn't real, or that it doesn't cause serious problems for some people (just as the lead researchers point out) - just that mass hysteria over MMOs taking over people's lives is probably just a wee bit uncalled for.

Study: MMO Addiction Fears Overrated [Game Politics]

Monday, March 26, 2007

Research on kids, video games, and aggression

A quick roundup of a new book out on video games, teenagers, and aggression is over at Game Politics - seems like they're not stating anything new (cartoonish violence or realistic bloody gore both 'increase aggressive tendencies', etc etc), but no one has yet managed to say whether or not people with more positive outlooks on violence are more likely to pick up violent video games.

I have to say that even though I love me some samurai hack n slashes, I've not yet had the urge to take a bushido approach to my life, nor have many many hours with RPGs that involve killing lots of things encouraged me to round up a pack of friends and go be hostile to animals and other people. I have little doubt that there is some sort of linkage between aggressive behavior & violent media of all sorts, but it's a chicken-or-egg question.

I mean, Katamari is listed for 'fantasy violence' & I have a hard time believing rolling up the world is going to cause a sudden increase in aggressive behavior.

New Book Cites Research on Video Games, Kids & Aggression [Game Politics]

Rethinking the MMO

Interesting article up over at Gamasutra by Neil Sorens on the subject of MMOs, specifically subscription-based games like WoW and the like, which he terms Persistent Entity Games, or PEGs. He outlines six problems he sees as plaguing the genre: boring gameplay, level grinding, "Advancement-holics Anonymous" (treating the ultimate goal of the game as character building & heading up the levels), making players feel ordinary, domineering design, and exorbitant time requirements. He also outlines some potential solutions to all these problems.

I'm not a MMO player myself, mostly because the concept doesn't appeal to me & I find some of the issues Sorens raises to be quite off putting, but I think the following goes for all facets of the game industry, not just MMOs/PEGs:

As long as developers and publishers do nothing but copy what is successful, they—and gamers—will continue to miss out on these games’ staggeringly awesome potential. And as long as PEGs are designed by and for stat geeks (whom I know and love and sometimes am) with little regard for traditional game design fundamentals, they will continue to waste that potential.

Rethinking the MMO [Gamasutra]

Edging into complex gaming territory via simplicity

Business Week has an article up on Nexon, the Korean company responsible for MapleStory & KartRider, and other companies edging into the territory of more 'hardcore' MMOs with a different game structure (less complex! more casual! no need to kill stuff!) and a different fee structure - instead of paying monthly to play, the companies bet that users will spring for virtual items and make their money via virtual merchandising.

Seems like it's working so far - certainly in Asia, home of these games, and now in America, where "in February ... players spent $1.6 million on 600,000 virtual products within MapleStory."

East Asia in general has a lock on the "OMFG CUTE" aspect that much as you try and resist, tends to seep into your being. Or maybe it's just living here, surrounding by way cute things? Regardless, first thing I think when I check out Nexon's Taiwanese homepage is "Oooooh, CUUUUUUTE!" Cute goes a long way to selling things, I just wonder how long it can last in America (or can these Asian companies start a 可愛 revolution? We'll find out).

The New Avatar in Town [Business Week]

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Overheating a 360 to bring it back to life

I don't know if I'd be brave enough to try what Robert Hansing (and a lot of other people) did & purposely overheat a game console to bring it back to life, but like the mythical phoenix, his 360 sprung back to life after the experiment (and no real fires, ashes, or fire extinguishers required).

I un-wrapped it and turned it off . . . the towels weren't all that hot . . . I was on the verge of becoming angry at my inability to properly over-heat my 360 and contemplating researching at what temperature plastic starts to melt and possibly throwing it in the oven . . . but then my hand touched the surface of the Xbox . . . the *plastic* surface. It was freaking hot! Like fry an egg hot! And it was emitting an un-pleasant odor from the vents . . . the un-good my 'electronics are unhappy' smell. I could barely hold it long enough to unwrap . . . but I gently removed the towels from underneath the 360 and I let it cool for approximately 1.5 - 2 hours. Around 1am it felt cool to the touch again . . . and I decided to summons the 360 using my Harmony remote one last time before bed. My receiver turned on as did the TV . . . but not the Xbox . . . a brief moment of panic ensued . . . had I perhaps gone too far this time? I tentatively reached for the power button and well . .

I'm great at breaking electronics without so much as lifting a finger, so I'd really be afraid the thing was going to melt on me. I guess a lot of people have fixed their 360s with three flashing lights of doom this way ... I'd still be afraid of having one melted 360 & one hell of a mess on my living room floor.

Personal Jesus ... [Robert Hensing's Blog]

The discomfort of 'playing for the other team'

Continuing with the posts on avatars, there's yet another interesting post over on getluky.net dealing with "militainment" and people not wanting to play for the bad guys.

I’d never considered before that players might be switching to the US side in a video game due to ethical problems with playing “the enemy.” I began to wonder if he was alone, or if these moral problems with playing as enemy avatars could explain why there was such a built-in preference for the home teams.

Also discussed is a related problem Counterstrike tried to address while being sensitive to the aftermath of September 11, namely in the way of renaming teams & actions to be less reminiscent of terrorists and counter-terrorists.

When is a video game just a video game & when is it not?

Playing from the Other Side: the Discomfort of Militainment Avatars [getluky.net]

Group Petitions Bono to Cancel Mercs 2 Over Venezuelan Missions

As reported by Game Politics, a group calling themselves the Venezuelan Solidarity Network is asking U2's Bono to stop the upcoming release of Mercenaries 2: World in Flames because:

The aim of the video game is full devastation, so any ‘person’ who moves should be ’shot,’ and all the buildings, such as the headquarters of PDVSA, the Venezuelan public oil company, can be ‘destroyed.’ Our concern is that this game will only deepen an already antagonistic relationship between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments. Millions of Venezuelans fear an invasion from the U.S.; knowing that a company that works for the US military has created a game in which their country is completely destroyed will increase those concerns.

I sometimes wish video games had this much meaning & power, but I tend to agree with a Pandemic executive who told Gamespot, "While we’re flattered that people think Mercenaries 2 is a commentary on the real world, it is just a video game ...." The idea that a video game is going to encourage antagonistic responses on a government level seems unlikely, to say the least.

I also love the overuse of random quote marks. If a 'person' is actually a bunch of 'pixels' does that still make it a 'person'? Or should we be saying 'pixels on a screen with the appearance of a 'humanoid''?

Group Petitions Bono to Cancel Mercs 2 Over Venezuelan Missions [Game Politics]