Disappointing results? Try changing your position.

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Your gaming position I mean, what did you think I meant?

 

Somewhere out there exists the perfect chair. This chair is not a throne made of gold nor a lounge made of silk, it is simply a chair which, due to its ergonomic design, increases my kill to death ratio. Sadly, my sofa is not this chair.

My sofa is too deep, too inviting and much too squishy. When I play a game I like to taper off the edge of my seat with mere inches between me and my long-since-hoovered floor. I like to have my feet at shoulders width, solid and immovable, with my elbows planted firmly on my knees. I like to learn forward expectantly, body weight threatening to carry my arse off the seat. I like to sit like this, but my my sofa wont let me. Its troubling me.

I believe resolutely that my ability to play a game is greatly affected by the way in which I arrange my lanky excuse for a body. Listen to a professional gamer talk about how they gear up for a big tournament which could win them thousands of monies and they blabber about caffeine intake and how much sleep they achieved yet they never mention how they sit which is foolish, because its important.

I took to the internet to make sure I wasnt the only one who placed so much stock in they way I sit. After a (not half as difficult as I thought it would be) Google search I discovered a forum brimming with fellow gamers who swear by the power of positioning (title is a work in progress). I notice it myself particularly when an able-fingered friend takes up the controller during a local competitive match. Much like when a combatant clicks his knuckles before a fight or when Ash Ketchum rotates his hat, its a ritual that implies Im giving it my all and my opponent better do the same.

I was eager to discover if there was any scientific reasons as to why sitting upright might help you beat that tricky boss that youve been struggling with for so long you lazy slouching bugger. Heres what I found:

EasterEgg

 

Nothing. At least to begin with I found nothing. The only study directly exploring how gamers sit found that within five minutes their participants regress[ed] to the least energy-demanding position i.e. slumped. I was unable to ascertain what game they were playing, but I bet it was easy. Moving on.

In order to look at the physical benefits of posture I turned to something I know little about yoga. Thats right, yoga (bear with me). Those who preach the benefits of yoga suggest how certain postures increase lung capacity and therefore oxygenation of the brain and muscles. Sounds fancy but its hardly conclusive. Although research into yoga is a bit thin on the ground, there has been work indicating how yoga can reduce stress and increase performance at cognitive-behavioural tasks.

Not a bad start and then I stumbled upon a study which suggested that your positioning can directly affect your vision. Obviously vision is important when playing a game, suffice to say Sony and Microsoft arent furiously competing over the blind demographic. Sitting up and leaning forward not only gets you closer to the screen but may also improve your ability to see. The study found intraocular pressure increases when body position is changed from sitting erect to supine and since the retina is affected by changes in blood pressure, your vision decreases. If you sit up, pressure goes down and vision improves.

Even more interesting were the studies I found after this. One experiment demonstrated how upright participants persisted longer in a puzzle-solving task than their crumpled counterparts. It could be a case that by sitting up youre more likely to put in more effort than if you were slouching try hard and you will succeed. Another study found that participants were prouder of test scores after sitting upright; perhaps we also remember our performance in a more favourable light when we sit erect.

Whatever the case this evidence suggests that not only is your performance improved when sitting erect you also enjoy things more. Therefore if you are currently bored or otherwise disapproving of this article your posture, not my writing, is obviously the issue (science says so). It could also go a little way as to explaining why these people are so happy:

So next time youre inclined on your couch and taking a virtual beating try sitting up and giving it another go. Even if your performance doesnt improve, your perception of it might. Now Im off to get a new sofa.

Thanks very much for reading. If you thought of anything I didnt or just want to share your thoughts, please do comment.

Why every Call of Duty player has had sex with my mother

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Anonymity and Dehumanization, why every Call of Duty player has had sex with my mother

 

They havent! Ive asked, and to be honest I was ever so slightly dubious as to how my mother hid her insatiable desire for 14 year old PlayStation users from the rest of the family. Nevertheless there's been so many insisting they've had relations of an intimate nature with my otherwise flawless mother that I had started to doubt her virtue. But wait! Turns out some people on the internet are quick to offend.

 

The idea of someone barely into puberty giving you grief over a headset has become somewhat cliché due to it's frighteningly common occurrence. When I do happen to get profanity flung in my direction while I'm waiting in a lobby it usually reduces me to tears of laughter however not all insults over the internet are quite as entertaining. Following a balance patch for Black Ops II which reduced the fire rate and damage of a few of the guns, the developers have been verbally assaulted and received threats of violence from unhappy members of the community who took to twitter to express their displeasure.

 

Some of the comments were as genuinely horrible as the grammar they used and it hardly made for light reading. The trash talking Twitterers either felt incredibly strongly about the changes or were simply exploiting the opportunity to use their favourite swear words. Either way it's surprising to many that people can express such vitriolic anger at such arguably trivial changes. So what is it exactly about communication over the internet, specifically in regard to gaming that can lead to such anger?

 

The internet isn't the only place in which incongruous ire takes place. Thousands of well mannered people turn into slobbering swear machines when placed behind the wheel of a car and a few parallels can be drawn.

 

A rather influential psychologist by the name of Kohlberg suggested a moral development theory in which the first and most basic stage sees a person's idea of right and wrong determined by punishment. We don't steal from the cookie jar because if we were caught we'd be put on the naughty step. The reason you don't tell a stranger to go kill himself on twitter because he altered the reload speed of a rifle by 0.2 of a second, is because he would likely punch you in the face.

 

Now because it's happening over the internet your victim may well be on another continent therefore the likelihood of getting a black eye for suggesting suicide to said stranger is somewhat lessened. As with cars with their tempered glass and comfy air bags, the internet gives us a feeling of safety in which the repercussions for our actions seem far away.

 

This is encouraged by the feeling of anonymity which is particularly convincing when it comes to any service with usernames such as gamertags. Obscurity on the internet is a falsehood however many of us have had it so ingrained in us that when we replace our real names with gamertags we believe it would require pursuit skills found only in Taken to track us down.

 

Sitting behind a computer screen already distances you from your actions and having a username is akin to putting on a mask. Rather than doing the obvious and using this slight anonymity to fight crime people find themselves insulting and threatening people they've never met with the belief there's no consequences.

 

What's more is when you talk or post through your computer or console you don't get to see the reaction of others. Thanks to mirror neurons when we see someone else in pain or discomfort we genuinely feel a reflection of the same emotion ourselves yet the inability to see the power your words have on people's faces means you wont feel guilt.

 

Guilt is something we've already become experts at avoiding. One of the ways we do it is by telling ourselves the victim is undeserving of our guilt by, for instance, viewing them as less than human or telling ourselves that they deserve what is happening to them.

 

A certain Dr. Zimbardo demonstrated this when he carried out an infamous psychological study known as the Stamford Prison experiment. By dividing students into two groups and naming one group guards and the other group prisoners, the guards carried out extremely questionable acts on the prisoners, to the point where the study had to be shut down after only 6 days. It demonstrated how easily we can conform to roles and act without guilt.

 

When I'm playing Call of Duty we're often divided into two groups and told to hinder the opposing team. Already that causes a rift between us and furthermore you see very few human qualities in your opponents. Now I'm sure the majority of gamers are well grounded enough to realise that we are playing against people and they do have normal human feelings but I think for some it's easy to forget when theres a screen between us and they start to view human opponents as the enemy.

 

Another theory as to why people experience road rage is because apparently we're all very territorial and when someone invades our little patch of the road we can lash out to defend it. It's probably not too great a leap to suggest we can become territorial within a video game and even protective of certain objectives or equipment. It goes some way to explaining the reaction when the gun's rules were altered in Black Ops II.

 

What's more is when we're driving the red mist is said to particularly descend when someone intentionally or unwittingly impedes our progress. During competitive multiplayer such as that found in COD progression is rife whether it's working towards the next rank or unlock, capturing an objective, or earning a kill streak. If you are gunned down with an accomplishment just seconds away then that can lead to frustration and eventually anger.

 

The combination of frustration caused by hampered progress paired with the lack of guilt and feelings of safety means that it's actually easy to see why insults are so common. I'm not by any stretch excusing these actions however it gives me hope that there are situational reasons as to why these individuals act they way they do rather than it simply being because they're dicks.

 

Unfortunately if there's one thing I've learned from my so-far brief incursion into social psychology is that we copy the actions of those around us monkey see, monkey do so it's fair to say the aggression and insults arent going anywhere any time soon. The good news to come of all this? My mother's honour is in tact.

 

E3 2013 - Day 0 Summary

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E3 kicked off today with 4 conferences and as I write at 4.00am I am grinning from ear to ear and its all because of Sony.

Microsoft

The conference opened with Don Mattrick announcing that the Xbox One is all about games and showed a few good looking titles but only one game is making me pause before writing off the Xbox completely.

  • On the plus side there was almost no mention of TV or sports and no games forcing the use of Kinect.
  • Announcement of a PlayStation Plus-esque model in which gold members get access to two free games a month.
  • Lots of Smartglass functionality.
  • A good looking launch title following a Roman soldier with a few clever group mechanics called Ryse was shown however the quick time events required for every kill produced an audible groan even over the screams of wounded soldiers.
  • New IP Sunset Overdraft looks like it could be stupidly good fun but not much was shown of the game.
  • Metal Gear Solid V Phantom Pain looks like it will be just as good as MGS 4 however it is not exclusive to the Xbox.
  • The Witcher 3 is set to be the next Skyrim however it is also not exclusive.
  • Dead Rising 3 is exclusive and looks both technically impressive and a lot of fun.
  • A new Xbox 360 was announced and hundreds of new titles promised.
  • World of Tanks, an extremely successful multiplayer game in Russia and Asia, is coming to Xbox to try and breach the Western market.
  • Minecraft for Xbox One. Confirmed.
  • Partnership with Twitch announced allowing live streaming straight from the Xbox One as well as a video editing feature to allow you to share game-play with your friends.
  • Halo 5 with Master Chief briefly teased.
  • Launching in September with a price of £429 and $499.
  • New FPS Titanfall looks absolutely fantastic! Gameplay showed a multiplayer match (no word of a single player campaign) however the multiplayer was enough to make me rue the conception of exclusives.


EA

Between some cringe worthy scripted exchanges between celebrities and producers EA managed to show off some very promising games and a few not-so-promising titles along with a few teasers.

  • Plants vs Zombies will be returning even in third person shooter form.
  • Dragon Age 3: Inquisition teased.
  • An extremely short, yet unbelievably effective, Battlefront teaser.
  • Mirrors Edge 2 Coming when its ready so probably in about 5 years.
  • Sports! Nothing particularly revolutionary in Fifa however a few large changes to NBA announced. Claims stated that the new UFC game will make you experience what its like to be punched in the face.
  • Need for Speed Rivals announced with smartglass support as well as footage from the filming of the need for speed movie.
  • The Battlefield 4 online multiplayer looks absolutely stunning. 64 players on consoles and a skyscraper was toppled, enough said.


Ubisoft

Despite a host with seemingly feigned excitement and horrible jokes the game trailers had plenty of humour to make up for it as well as some an ambitious new Tom Clancy title.

  • Mighty Quest for Epic Loot had a very funny trailer which had me laughing throughout yet they revealed almost nothing about the game.
  • South Park appears to have brought the series humour seamlessly to consoles.
  • Rayman Legends looks great however the only female character had boobs which appeared to be peculiarly affected by physics. I smell feminism, best of luck Ubisoft.
  • Splinter Cell is returning however didnt look particularly impressive and the trailer focused a bit too much on action rather than stealth.
  • Trials will be coming to both next gen consoles as well as mobile devices.
  • Open world, mutiplayer driving game The Crew stands out from the avalanche of racing games.
  • More cinematics from Assassins Creed Black Flag yet still no raw gameplay shown. Also something about parrots.
  • And in the interest of fairness a Just Dance game was announced and some Rabbids thing or whatever..
  • Massive Entertainment announced a third person, online, open world RPG from a Tom Clancys universe which looks fantastic despite being a third person shooter (please see my previous post).



Sony

Sony absolutely blew Microsoft out of the water. Despite technical issues and a slow start, the services offered by Sony are miles ahead of the competition. Whats more is they finally laid to rest speculation as to their plans on a few hot topics which went down incredibly well, as did the price tag.

    • They showed the console! It is pretty.
    • Continued investment in PS3 titles such as Arkham Origins.
    • New Naughty Dog title for PS4 hinted.
    • Very brief overview of music and video streaming services called Unlimited and mention of Skype.
    • Even briefer recap of games announced back in February such as Killzone Shadow Fall and Knack.
    • A very impressive and amusing tech demo featuring the old guys face from February.
    • A cascade of indie titles announced including new Rays the Dead and not-so-new Dont Starve.
    • Final Fantasy XV shown with stunning graphics and real time action.
    • Kingdom of Hearts 3 in development!
    • Actual gameplay from AC Black Flag and Watch Dogs.
    • Sports.
    • Trailer for Elder Scrolls Online and announcement that the beta will be available first on PS4.
    • Teaser for a Mad Max game.
    • Then after all this Sony slapped Microsoft in the face and announced there will be no used game fees and no requirement to be connected online and milked it for all it was worth.
    • Publishers will be able to self publish which is fantastic for the indie game industry.
    • Features formally exclusive to Xbox such as cross game voice chat are no longer exclusive.
    • Gameplay of Destiny shown (note: not exclusive) which despite the performers terrible aim, was a joy to watch. Release in 2014.
    • Launching for the low, low price of £349 and $399.

The Lack of Cover Based Shooters at E3 2013, and about Time!

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With E3 kicking off today and new consoles tantalisingly close its a good time to sit back and take a peek at what the games industry has in store for us over the next few years. One thing Ive found myself relieved to see so far at E3 is the presence of cover based shooters.

Weve already seen the cover mechanic in a few up-and-coming games such as Killzone Shadow Fall so its safe to assume it isn't something that is going to disappear completely but the shooters based entirely around the mechanic, specifically third person shooters, are somewhat non existent . With this in mind I thought it would be proper to see them off with a bit of history and explain a few reasons why Im hoping this is the case.

The game that kicked off the cover based shooting mechanic was undoubtedly Gears of War, released all the way back in 2006 (yep, it does seem like yesterday). At the time it was pretty revolutionary but as GameSpots review pointed out it wasn't the first to do it but added no game has made this sort of gameplay quite so exciting. Part of the reason it was so successful is that it feels really cool. Popping in and out of cover makes the game tense and makes you feel like you're behaving like a real army-man. It has been implemented in some really great games such as Mass Effect, Uncharted and GTA V yet its interesting to note that while these games were all highly praised for features such as their plots and characterisation, the shooting is - although fun - an aspect which was never really held in high regard.

I Recently I played Spec Ops: The Line and to me, although the game is half decent, it shows the inherent flaws in cover based shooters. Hiding behind a wall to shelter from gunfire seems like the right thing to do however it creates a rather big problem. If enemies did the same then nothing would happen and the game would become very boring, very quickly just look at trench warfare in World War 1. Honestly the only reason they weren't having fun was the bombs or mustard gas it was the boredom. If more had happened it would be remembered fondly probably. In order to make the game more fun you have to have something to shoot at so some developers resort to sending lots and lots of arguably stupid human shaped targets in your direction. The game is quickly reduced to a few simple rules. In cover you dont lose heath and stay in cover long enough the AI will pop their heads up for you to shoot them. It quickly becomes a test of reaction times and pattern recognition more than anything else.

Part of the problem is the regenerating health trend that is currently the go-to design for shooters. You've stayed out of cover too long to shoot that pesky soldier who keeps ducking at inopportune times and all the while his many buddies have been filling you with bullets. Your screen has gone black and white, theres some blurring complemented by some blood on the screen and the sound is a bit muted. Best way to stay alive is you guessed it get back behind cover until your health restores. Rinse and repeat.The only times I remember dying playing Spec Ops was when I was impatient and started shooting before my health was regenerated.

All of this serves to discourage movement and some of the most successful cover based shooters of recent years are those which employ mechanics to actively encourage it. Feeling like a real army-man might be cool but sliding around the ground in slow motion propelled by rockets as you do in Vanquish is even cooler. The same goes for Max Payne 3 in which I often used cover as a mere rest stop between diving through the air while firing dual pistols. The cover mechanic was new to the Max Payne series and a substantial part of the fan base were opposed to the cover system as they felt it took a lot of the fun from running around like a headless chicken - a headless chicken with guns and a slow mo. ability.

Vanquish was a whiff of fresh air amongst all the stagnation by actively encouraging movement and it's odd that the most enjoyable shooter with a cover mechanic is one that urges you not to use it. Cover based shooters are a genre which I've thoroughly enjoyed over the last few years but to me they are the epitome of genre-fatigue. With this I mind the less of them I see at E3, the better.

Used game fees might look bad, but we shouldn't have to care

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I, like the majority of you I'm sure, will do my absolute best to spend as little of my money (or more often than not my parents money) on any individual game so I can play more while paying less. Because of this when I first heard the Xbox One will have a fee for used games I found myself glancing at my bank balance in desperation but I've started to think us gamers can gain from it as much as developers/publishers and the only ones really losing out are the retailers who facilitate and profit from the selling of used games.

If you're primarily a console gamer such as I theres really only two ways to get a game cheaper and its either wait a few weeks then buy a used copy or wait a few months until the price drops and buy a new copy. My original fear when I heard about used game fees was that by introducing a fee stores such as Amazon and Play would feel less pressure to reduce their prices over time as the competition from used games would be lessened. I might find myself having to wait even longer to get a bargain; Not that I'm a business major so I'm hoping I'm wrong.

What's more is that I have saved a large amount of money in the past by trading games directly with friends. I always felt ripped off when trading games in with a retailer such as GameStop but with friends there was no middle man to take a cut. Now I would find Microsoft (or possibly Sony) muscling in on our trading. However I also use my laptop to game but its not particularly high spec so I only really use it for indie titles that are PC exclusive. One thing I've noticed is that after a year I am yet to buy a solid copy of a disc. My service of choice is Steam and I'm always astounded as to how cheap the games are so I would love to have a similar facility on my console.

I'm sure you're aware there's a lot of evidence to suggest both Microsoft and Sony are really encouraging consumers to favour digital downloads. Microsoft announced the Xbox One will have 500GB storage and although Sony are yet to announce the PS4s storage, I would be surprised if it wasn't of a similar size. This is a pretty large increase when compared to the original 40GB PS3 and 500GB of storage is still somewhat expensive so its obvious both Sony and Microsoft are expecting that were going to need it. What's more is that the PS4 has a secondary chip which allows games to be downloaded when playing another game and I have also been informed of some kind of technical wizardry allowing almost instant gameplay when you buy off the store.

I've heard that the benefit for them is clear: When a game is sold for the first time a proportion goes to the developers and producers but when a game is re-sold through Amazon or GameStop then the only ones making money are the retailers. A digital download of a game obviously can't be resold and online passes were a way of discouraging consumers from buying used games and I think in the long run it could also stand to benefit gamers as well. For those reading who have used Steam I'm sure you agree with me as to how cheap it can be. As no one is losing out due to games being resold without them getting a cut they can afford to lower the price and throw crazy, cheap offers in our direction. And thats not all.

One of the few topics that has the majority of gamers united is the hatred for day one DLC. Its one of the few debates where Xbox and PlayStation users unite and put aside our differences in favour of a common enemy yet its almost a necessity in order for developers to make money off consumers who insist on buying used games. DLC has to be bought by each user and cant be resold and call me an optimist but Id like to believe if the selling of used games were a thing off the past then free DLC would be a lot more common.

Unfortunately this is mostly hypothetical and somewhat optimistic. Theres a bit of leap before a Steam-esque utopia can be found on consoles at its made somewhat clear by the various pricing of Far Cry 3. Far Cry was released in November 2012 and in this time Amazon.co.uk has reduced the price to £15.00 for a physical disc nevertheless the PlayStation Store is still charging a whopping £59.99. Its hard to excuse when Steam is charging £20.00 for a digital download where the only difference is the platform.

I've heard people argue that you can't compare consoles to computers but I'm not entirely sure why anymore. Steam offers controller support for games, a friends list and achievements which were all features previously only seen on consoles. What's more the recent big picture mode allows full controller support while browsing the store, library and community pages. Combined with the fact that consoles are now favouring architecture similar to that seen in PCs it looks like the gap between platforms is shrinking. Its therefore surprising that the business model of selling and distributing games is so different when the platforms are becoming so alike.

The worst case scenario as I see it is a horrible mid-ground in which cheap solid copies sold by retailers will be gone and in its place will be the Microsoft and PlayStation store which insist on charging full price as we are currently are seeing. The alternative is cheaper prices on release and instant downloads (hopefully with a few mind boggling sales thrown in).

I'm not sure about everyone else but I am really excited about the future of gaming over the next year or so (if not slightly tentative) and I was probably in the minority to be saddened by EAs announcement of the abolishment of online passes. That being said I do think that Microsoft's attempts to reduce used game sales by simply announcing a fee for an unlock was somewhat heavy handed. Offering competitively priced alternatives on their store in order to encourage people to want to buy digitally rather than forcing them to would have got a much better reception. Also an appeal or two speaking directly to gamers with a bit of explanation as to why used game sales are so damaging to them - and what benefits we as consumers would see - could've gone a long way.

Procrastination

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So right now I should probably (definitely) be studying but that all seems like hard work so I thought I'd start reviewing a few games and posting some of my thoughts on news developments in order to convince myself that when I turn on my PS3 or log into Steam that I'm doing it for research and it is therefore necessary. Writing a review is productive right?

So now I'm going to go research Max Payne 3 a bit more, you know, for productive reasons.