Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Gaming Addiction ( and the Internet is just part of the reason )


Bumped into any trees lately in search of your next PokeMon?

Yeah, me either but it's brought the topic of technology addiction or for our purposes video game addiction back to the forefront.

You can't call yourself a "Real" gamer unless you've obsessed, at least once, over a video game.  It doesn't matter if it was Sonic the Hedgehog on Genesis or Skyrim on the PC.  Every die-hard gamer has at least one story of a lost weekend whose ingredients included a lack of sleep, poor personal hygiene and angry loved ones.

But what happens when it goes too far.  When the lost weekend becomes a lost week, month or worse.

What if your entire world view is framed in the context of your game.  

Good guys, bad guys.  Noobs and gods.  Nothing else matters.

Video games, especially today, offer a level of immersion and potential power unimaginable in the real world.  So is it any wonder that some are addicted to them?

Even if you aren't an "addict" dedicated players often get life confused with the context of the game they play.  They tend to distill everyone down to skills and abilities with little regard for those that don't share their passion.

It's a self-absorbed cycle of isolation.  

One that's fed by developers giving achievements for kills, time iplayed and skills used.  All of those take time.  A lot of it....

The hype machine incessantly urges the player on toward their virtual glory to the exclusion of all else.  

It's a certainty that nobody with 2000 hours in Star Wars Battlefront has much of a social life outside the chat menu.

Games have always gone after the ego.  Rewarding for doing well, Damning for your failure.  But something is different.

Mix in Augmented Reality and even the real world becomes just another "Map."  

It's an incessant push to be better than the other guy.  That requires commitment with the appropriate Pavlovian treats along the way to keep you coming back for more.

Yes, I'm a gamer but I'm other things too.  I'm a friend, Car nut, Computer guy and a host of other things.  I enjoy games but I know when to push away from the keyboard.  

There's a time to play and a time to pay.  

That's the other dangling carrot.  The so-called Pro-gamer.  The vindication for all those wasted hours spent climbing the leader boards.  Gaming can be an occupation now.  Which to me is ridiculous.  

But I'm "old" as they say.  I don't get it I suppose.

Except I do, which is why I'm so concerned.  

I worry that people are taking gaming way too seriously to get any real benefit out of it.  Call me an alarmist but if gaming becomes a profession then what's the point of playing for the rest of us?

Gaming is supposed to be a release, fun, escapism.  But when we build our lives around such a shallow premise we give up more than we know.

Which is why I blame game developers at least in part for the addiction.  They tug at the ego demanding more and more.  Buy the DLC, Get the Pre-order or be ostracized.  

You loser with the base game....

It commands the environment and offers empty promises.  

Sure, if you're good maybe you can get a successful YouTube channel going.  If it gets big enough your "fans" will shower you with money on your Patreon page.  Soon you'll be bitch-slapping those naysayers who told you that you were wasting your time playing games!

Well, that's the dream at least.  One held by you and a million others of like mind.  

Back in the day video games were either crude console affairs hooked up to an old fuzzy TV or something in an arcade.  

You played the game, had your fun then found something else to do.  It was an amusement not a lifestyle.  

Everybody loved the old video game arcades but nobody wanted to live there.  It was like going to movies or hanging out with friends.  A pastime.  No more than that.

Today we're so connected that we've never been more alone.  Anonymous voices shouting unwanted diatribe.  The world is in the palm of our hands but we really don't care.  Facebook, Twitter,
Game lobbies.  They're all built on the superficial.  Popularity comes from conformity.   Worse, as a gamer you're pigeonholed into an even smaller sandbox.  Your Gamer Tag may be obnoxious but the ground you're walking is well worn.  Don't fool yourself, you're no anti-hero regardless of the hype.

Aha! you say, but here, here is a place where we can be kings!

But we're not kings, we're pretenders to the throne.  Achieving nothing but the mad scratches on a condemned prisoners wall as he counts the days to his end.  We're just consumers of a product.  That's all it is regardless of how open the world or how challenging the AI.

I don't deny that video games are so much more than they used to be.  They tell wonderful tales and let us experience fantastical worlds but at some point we have to put down the controller.

Developers need to stop feeding the beast.  Make your games but don't pretend that they're anything but an amusement.  That's all they are.  Packaged, Promoted, Product.

Stop trapping us in fake social contexts with people we don't know. 

Stop creating a hostile environment that breeds racism, sexism and narcissism.  Games are supposed to enrich not denigrate and you...YOU are responsible EA, Activision, Ubisoft...All of YOU!

Addiction is profitable to the pusher.  Drug cartels count on repeat business and what you've done is apply that model to a susceptible population. It's a business model that trades on mental illness and I have a problem with that.  

That's why I rant and rave. 

Sometimes to the point where I'm literally assaulted with the query, " Why do you even play games? "  

It's the saddest question anyone could ask me because most don't understand the answer.

"I just want to have some fun for a little while...."

They look at me strangely.  I shrug and feel the world grow a bit colder.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Latest EA Freebie: Battlefield 4 Naval Strike!

I've been waiting for this...

The last Free BF4 DLC has just dropped.

Naval Strike is now "On the House" so get it while you can!

Check your Origin Client today, go to "Store" and choose "On the House" and you'll see the free BF4

This free DLC will finally get you into all those servers that have been blocked because you didn't have this last piece of DLC.

Why Dice blocks players from an entire server instead of just kicking them out seems stupid to me but if you've been paying attention, that won't be a problem.

Of course there's always this... now you can go try to find the Megladon!

Happy hunting!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

GTA 5: Cunning Stunts are making this game interesting

Grand Theft Auto 5 is intriguing.  Still one of the most popular games of its genre, whatever that is, thousands crowd its servers everyday to partake in virtual debauchery.  

Which makes things a little dangerous at times when some 12 year old with a mod decides to take out the entire map.  

Rockstar tries to head off that kind of thing but unlike other games they tread softly on the ban hammer.  

This is a world built on crime and petty vanity after all.  The argument could even be made that it's all part of the realism.

If things didn't change much to distract all those murderous pre-teens and frustrated millennials the game would have died years ago.  

Which is why DLC is released on a regular basis.  Which brings me to this latest batch: Cunning Stunts.

Stunts have been a relatively minor element in the main game (and one I still haven't quite figured out) but there's a strong following for it.  Spawning Rockstar and fan created events, it's a game mode that changes the online experience.

Cunning Stunts introduces a mode of play that still allows your online competition to act like complete asses but makes it difficult for anyone to dominate.  

The tracks are well designed, entertaining to play and remind me of  one of my favorite video game experiences from a decade ago.  That being the stunts in the BugBear classics, Flatout and Flatout2.

What made Flatout stunts so much fun is the same thing that makes Cunning Stunts so satisfying.  That being well designed tracks, beautiful scenery and challenging races.

I've been playing through a few of the new tracks over the past weekend and recorded a few to give you a taste of what it's like to play this new DLC.