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Common sense is uncommon in My Horse Prince.

With Valentine’s Day come and gone, it seems appropriate as ever to deep dive into dating sim games. They’ve really been having a moment in the past couple years.

And let me be clear: I dig dating sims. The richer and more nuanced the story, the better. Especially when there’s more emphasis on actual relationship-building that doesn’t feel like this hollow collection of stats.  Emily Grace Buck came on the GWYB podcast to discuss relationship-building and how it’s important to show romantic relationships in different stages while most media only focuses on young people just starting a relationship. Showing relationships at older ages and different stages in life is both important and rarely portrayed, such as finding love after divorce or the death of a spouse which was prevalent in Dream Daddy.

It’s also fantastic that we’re starting to see games with more diversity as far as having queer options goes, or entirely queer settings. Ladykiller in a Bind was the subject of controversy regarding its highly sexual content and scenes where characters didn’t consent, but it was also praised because the intended audience clearly wasn’t the straight male demographic that has been the gold standard for video game marketing for decades.

But with the birth of a game genre, there comes the games that work all of the common tropes to a T and either stay formulaic or perhaps blow the player’s expectations with a few mechanic changes here and there. Then comes the inevitable afterbirth: the games that blatantly poke fun at it.

A dating game all about pigeons took the world by storm. Then it was a game about teenage girls serving as an allegory for wanting to fuck military equipment in Japan. There’s also a game where you play as a human girl pursuing an equine eldritch abomination. Now we’ve got one about REFRIGERATORS in the works.

Cold Hearts - Teaser #1 - YouTube

 

With the numerous ways that game genres have been satirized or just plain experimented with and expanded, what is it about pushing the envelope with dating sims that seems to spark the most conversation?

A Little History on Dating Sims

It’s always a good idea to take a look at history to gain appropriate context for the present.  Previously, I got into games with highly sexual content and the reception and distribution problems they’ve had in the past up to present day. To paraphrase, dating sims weren’t initially a thing in the US until the mid-90s or so. Not until JAST USA took on Junai Monogatari (True Love) and localized it for American audiences who’d never seen a game like it before so it wound up becoming a cult classic. The game wasn’t all that out of the ordinary in its native Japan so it didn’t really go over there the way it did here, as dating sim games and eroge visual novels had already been de riguer for Japanese audiences for some time.

Branching visual novels and dating sims are two distinct genres, which may or may not contain erotic content. Both Japanese and Western developers started bringing the two genres together by focusing solely on relationship-building or on a blend of stats and relationship-building instead of solely on stats as many later Western sim games would center (like the numerous offshoots found on Newgrounds in the early aughts.)

What’s officially considered by many to be the first dating sim is Dōkyūsei, Japanese for “classmate”, which came out in 1994.

The game got a sequel and also had a related original anime that ran for a couple seasons. The premise was not that dissimilar to what you see in several modern dating games: you’re off from school in the summer and got a couple girls you can chase after (who might not necessarily be your classmates, despite the title.) Romantically and/or sexually pursuing classmates in high school or college has become a staple for dating sims period, especially in the bishojo genre which is the classic straight male perspective. Otome games for straight women then started to follow suit albeit with little or no erotic content, then “all pairing” games such as Winter Wolves’ Roommates where you can choose a queer pairing.

The Tokimeki Memorial series was another notable series for the genre, but interest outside Japan didn’t really explode until Junai Monogatari/True Love. Where it was a mix of both the gameplay and expanding the concept of sexual pursuit with actual story and relationship-building, combined with the incredibly hyperbolic localization that made the main character out to be a snarkier and more profane and perverted version than the original developers probably intended.

Come the mid-aughts when game distribution was still largely a wild yonder, there were only a handful of developers making visual novel style and dating sim style games and often merged the two together. Hanako Games comes to mind with Fatal Hearts and Summer Session, the former being a visual novel with a low fantasy setting where you have a few romantic options while the latter was a “pure” dating sim that was heavily stat-based in a collegiate setting.

Like many other dating sims and visual novels produced outside of Japan that would follow suit, Fatal Hearts stayed true to both the branching format and anime visual style even though the characters have American names and largely use western frames of reference.

Throw in the utterly wild developments in independent game creation concurrent to the way indie games get distributed and discussed nowadays, and it was only a matter of time before incredible developments in dating sims--and satirical pokes--would arrive.

Or is it REALLY any different than yet another game with human characters?

I think that we have all these out-there dating sims as a response to both avoidance of reinventing the wheel when it comes to game design, and misplaced satiation of a hunger for meaningful romantic and sexual narratives.

Have the “too many games” debate all you want: the rise of totally batshit dating sims runs the gamut of loving parody to social commentary on something deeply personal or that needs to be said. Cold Hearts hits you over the head with this premise where sure, your first reaction is to laugh at a game about dating refrigerators and making sexual puns about putting food inside them but it’s also meant to serve as an allegory for loneliness and how Americans don’t really address or discuss it in our culture.

But the whole “pursue a bunch of people you go to school with” schematic has utterly been done to death. Something that goes unsaid in how those early Japanese bishojo games, you didn’t necessarily always pursue classmates. In Junai Monogatari for instance, your teacher and a few classmates are options but so are women you meet outside of that setting. Speaking from a game design perspective though, the reason why the “try to date a classmate” setting persists is because it often resonates with younger audiences who may not have gotten out in the world to as deep an extent, and it’s just easier to have this closed-in setting and premise for knowing these people. Schools are simply easier game worlds to create and you don’t need additional justification for constantly running into these people.

Even though My Horse Prince made me knock back more boxed wine than the average human being was meant to ingest and I seriously wondered if the Southern Poverty Law Center was keeping tabs on content this disturbing, I’ll give it this: at least the setting wasn’t a school or workplace.

No, the setting is about to be a therapist’s couch after a trip to the liquor store.

It’s definitely awesome to see these games get made, even if they’re everything from hilarious to disturbing depending on the context. But seeing how a game like Dream Daddy really went over, it’s obvious that players are hungry for more than well-written dialog and relationship-building. Not that most of us are going to object to laughing at a game that treads Catherine the Great territory or playing a meaningful dating sim about refrigerators, but it’s like grabbing a bowl of a fruit and a bag of chips when you really just want a balanced dinner. These things are fantastic on their own or satisfying if you want a bite, but if you need more than that they don’t leave you satisfied.

Out-of-this-world dating sims feel representative of the flux state that indie games are in, along with society itself.

Not gonna lie, having a fridge come to me in the middle of the night when I get dehydrated sounds pretty fucking sweet.

The world is in this whole flux state. Global fascism is ascendant and the US itself is crumbling faster than New York’s subways. People are afraid and hurting, others are hopeful and fighting for them. One way of fighting back is changing the narrative on what kind of media gets the most attention: creating media for the marginalized in mind in the first place, then watching those games get spotlight and discussion.

Games by devs of color, disabled game devs, queer devs, and women and nonbinary devs and how their experiences have shaped the game worlds they’re creating. Because even if it’s a setting that’s used as often as a school, we need more portrayals of how a multiply marginalized person navigates these settings. How would they fit into something semi-realistic or a fantasy setting and how does sex and romance tie in? (See: the absurd amount of people who are incredulous that disabled people get laid, racist encounters on dating apps, and the list goes on.)

That’s the thing that feels just a tad hurtful watching dating games with these totally far out concepts get more attention than visual novel and dating sim type games containing more marginalized perspectives: it’s as if a human-faced horse or dating pigeons feels more realistic to audiences than say, a straight woman who has casual sex without getting punished for it or a queer character who faces the same joy and pain as a straight character would.

In a world where satire feels really, truly dead?

We’ll see what 2020 brings us. The batshittery of 2019 has only just begun and I don’t think it’s that out there to consider that this wave of surrealistic dating sims is just a precursor to how crazy things will get before they better--if they do--and it would behoove us to think more about which games get more attention and why.

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With the holiday shopping season in full swing as Christmas looms just two weeks away, this seems like a good time to reflect on consumer behavior and culture and what these things have to say about us and society. And of course, the role and context that shopping and malls in particular have within video games.

In many parts of America, once-illustrious corporate retail behemoths slouched then crumbled due to economic and cultural shifts, with one anchor store after another closing like a snake shedding its old skin. Tens of thousands of square feet lay barren with VR arcades providing a little revitalization, but the former zeniths of consumerism are being turned into everything from data centers to new high schools, and even senior housing if they’re not demolished.

To get TOTALLY meta on your ass in a piece about malls in games, this also seems like a good time to mention Bloomberg even commissioned a short game just this year about the mallpocalypse.

But in other parts of the country and world, the constant bleating from newspapers and magazines about malls coughing out their dying breaths seem ludicrous. The first suburban-style indoor mall in the Bronx only opened in 2014, and it continues to grow and get more visitors every year. It’s impossible to get an outbound bus from that side of Co-Op City that doesn’t resemble a sardine can regardless of what time of day it is. Mall of America is still the largest mall in the nation that gets 40 million visitors every year with one-third traveling over 150 miles to get there. These mammoth spaces don’t seem starved for cash or foot traffic.

How does this translate from games of olde to today?

Prominent Portrayals of Malls in Games

Given that I was raised on adventure games, the Galaxy Galleria in Space Quest IV is the most prolific memory I have of going to a mall in a game. Say what you will about how easy it was to die in the zero-gravity skating part of the game, this entire segment perfectly encapsulated the aesthetic of how we all thought the future was going to look in 1990.

30-something me still wants every single outfit in this room, and to go to a store and/or nightclub that looks just like this.

Space Quest IV was a brilliant kitchen sink of sci-fi tropes and intergalactic adventures and translated these elements to a mall beautifully. The mall looked sizable but not cavernous from outer space, and the breadth of the areas you actually got to enter and interact with didn’t fill me with that “I wish I could go to this place and interact with it!” feeling I’d usually get playing other Sierra adventures. To the younger players, it also felt pretty emblematic of being dragged to real-life malls with our parents: you’re wandering around with no pants and no money. You’ve got your standard collection of stores and you can’t leave the mall or else the Sequel Police would kill you on sight, but to my eight-year-old brain this read as “Roger died because he can’t shop.” Much older me says “Woah, Roger Wilco was pretty anti-capitalist. Why wouldn’t he be after all he goes through over several games?!”

The Galaxy Galleria stands out the most to me personally, along with a lesser-known edutainment title called Math Shop where you serve customers with the power of arithmetic in a mini-mall setting. But those are far from the only games well-known and obscure that contain malls where you use them for what’s mostly their intended purpose: to shop and browse goods or in the case of Math Shop, to work at those stores.

Exploration and having a large space to work with is usually why a mall factors into a game’s design, with Vice City, Left Behind, and Dead Rising coming to mind which serve as a stark contrast to the now seemingly ironically-named Galaxy Galleria. If these game malls aren’t gaping in size, they’re these scary post-apocalyptic settings that more or less fit in with mall management companies’ constant bemoaning in business news outlets. Night in the Woods also has a short sequence with the Fort Lucenne Mall that more or less fits this modern expectation where the characters comment that it looks like a ghost town because people are mostly buying online now.

While this whole “malls as a Mad Max setting” seems to be expected nowadays while older games showed malls as lively or just serving their intended purpose, it actually runs a little deeper than that. Some games that were quite ahead of their time. Did you know that long before vaporwave memes lampooned empty consumerist platitudes of the 80s and 90s then news outlets frothed at the mouth about malls falling face-first into their own gaudy fountains, Ubisoft’s Zombi had humble beginnings as a Dawn of the Dead-inspired action adventure in this totally desolate and zombie-infested mall?

The horror aesthetics aside where some element of desolation is expected, keep in mind that this game came out when mall culture was flowing into its peak. You had to go to a mall or free-standing shop if you wanted to buy anything, mail ordering wasn’t ubiquitous like Amazon and small businesses powered by Shopify and sundry. Even if you wanted to buy games, you were feeding those arcade machines quarters at the mall or some semblance of one like a parking meter long before words like “microtransaction” and “freemium” would muddy up linguistics. Or if you weren’t picking up the latest AAA thrillers from big box stores like Walmart, you had to walk into your local Egghead, Babbage’s, CompUSA, or Electronics Boutique which relied heavily on foot traffic from malls.

It’s interesting that of all the places zombies could’ve infested, the devs chose a mall. Zombi came out in 1986 around the time Reagan passed a massive tax overhaul similarly egregious to the 2018 tax reform with respect to it being this massive giveaway to the wealthy, a year before the infamous “greed is good” mantra was taken to heart after hearing it repeated by Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. It was a fractured time when one group of people had an admirable amount of disposable income and blowing it at malls while others were turning to thrift chic because they were broke, and junk bonds were the equivalent of Bitcoin.

What the hell does all that have to do with using a mall in a video game? Well, it’s because mall culture and games culture have this strange duality and games totally serve as a window into that culture.

Mall Culture Then and Now

Let’s go hop into the Sequel Police’s time travel pod and go back to the 90s. Specifically, to girl games of the 90s.

Sierra games and Saturday morning cartoons were what I lived for every weekend and “girl games” were very slowly and awkwardly being introduced to computers and consoles alike at the time. While I don’t remember seeing computer games I played on TV, I do recall nonstop commercials for these board games that blatantly perpetuated gender stereotypes and encouraged materialism in young girls. I make that statement with one-third with nostalgic fondness for those saccharine neon pink game toys and game pieces, one-third with my eyebrow raised as an adult who lived through the Great Recession, and one-third fascinated as a game designer.

This is just begging to be made into bad vaporwave art.

Buzzfeed already did a lengthy takedown of Mall Madness and other shamelessly gendered board games targeted at girls from the same era, and felt it was worth pointing out that this game likely contributed to further confusion concerning money management since you used both credit cards and cash to advance. But it’s worth pointing out this game and how it relates to these portrayals of malls in computer and video games that were still seen as a boys’ town so you had to inject a shopping mechanic to make it appeal to girls if you weren’t going to pinkwash the entire goddman thing.

Ironically enough both in real life and other media, going to the mall was seen as this very gendered thing: it was where every girl was expected to want to spend her free time. It was hurled as a pejorative frequently, like “I know Becky would rather be at the mall than studying for this test.” Simultaneously though, malls also served as a major social outlet in suburban areas that didn’t have anywhere else for young people to go. Despite the negative connotation from coding mall-going as female, mall managers and store owners saw their cash drawers steadily stuff and wanted to build on them as aspirational and social destinations. Malls became the places to be if you wanted to be seen or just drop all your money, and it’s no shock that a board game encouraging spending both dead presidents and plastic came out around this time. The economy was good (for some, at least) and it was all spend, spend, spend baby.

Contrast this to today where despite malls having booming growth in some areas like the northeast Bronx and east Asia, saying that you’re going to the mall doesn’t carry weight like it did twenty-some years ago. People of all ages are looking for different kinds of social spaces that aren’t necessarily predicated on consumerism. Bragging about expensive things you bought is done on Instagram or unboxing videos. Malls are dying in some areas but others have thrived by providing attractions and experiences that a few clicks on Amazon can’t offer. Samir Khan of SIR VR came on the Game with Your Brain podcast to discuss the success that VR developers and malls alike have had with using incredibly large spaces to create VR experiences people can’t replicate at home.

Zombi was a notable exception for showing a mall as this desolate place when spending time at the mall was seen as aspirational. A simple homage to George Romero or a bold statement on what constantly encouraging people to brainlessly spend would result in? I’ll let you decide that.

Malls as a Game Mechanic

Malls simply make sense from a game design standpoint in that you don't have to create a ton of assets to represent a large environment or the player character entering this colossal area. Having to create only one game room with a couple clickable hotspots, or maybe three or four rooms with small arrays and not having to create gigabytes of bespoke assets? Oh god, yes. You can also go the opposite direction and use a mall as this enormous open world and a way to people-watch not much unlike real life.

I was dragged to my mother’s monthly pilgrimages to Franklin Mills, now Philadelphia Mills, throughout the early and mid 90s and the leviathan space was laterally laid out opposed to the isometric view with multiple floors I’d seen in most other malls. Apparently, it was supposed to be lightning bolt shaped in honor of the infamous electricity experiment. I not only wished that the place had conveyor belt floors like in Space Quest IV, but realized that the lateral layout made it seem so much bigger than an isometric view built on height.

There were different color segments like green, red, and orange instead of floors and each one had distinctly different flooring and decor. To my overactive childhood imagination that was bored to tears on shopping trips, it felt like exploring different parts of an adventure game.

Revisiting those memories made me realize it’s not much different than applying horizontalism in a game narrative, where you’re telling essentially the same story through different characters or paths, and it adds a different type of depth than simply making it longer with more content.

It was Ben Franklin themed complete with this creepy animatronic hanging head in the dead center of the mall, but the entrances were pretty cool. The red one had a Liberty Bell. Totally added to the adventure game element.

Malls in games can center around exploration, a place to just buy supplies, where the characters socialize-- the sky’s the limit. They can be areas you visit just once or function as an entire map of places to go where it’s a significant backdrop to the game or merely a place to get that one item or mission.

It’s still curious to me that two of the most profound examples from malls’ heyday are this bright pink board game employing a zenith of fiscal irresponsibility to advance and this seedy, abandoned maze full of zombies. No matter your shopping preferences and economic leanings, mall culture and the way it’s seen and works around games has definitely been a fascinating observation throughout the decades.

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Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Merry Christmas from the Overwatch Squad!

Quick Jump

Every year, as the days inch closer and closer to Christmas and the New Year, there is always a sense of happiness in the air. Whether people look forward to a new year, and a fresh start, or they’ve had a brilliant year and hope it continues, nearly everyone looks forward to Christmas. Partly due to no work or school, and partly because of the Christmas presents. Yes, everyone obviously enjoys spending quality time with friends and/or family, but no one is going to say no to a couple of brilliant presents, are they? While one isn’t obligated to buy gifts for their friends and/or family, its generally expected of most people to buy something as a token of appreciation. This always leads to some problems, the biggest being what to buy for their friends. This question has driven many a man and woman to insanity. Socks? Shirts? A coffee machine? It’s nigh impossible to predict exactly what they’ll want or need.

If they play video games though, you may be in luck. Gamers aren’t that hard to please, as long as one does a bit of research into what genre they are interested in. If they’re interested in action-packed adventures, then look into getting them an action game, and if they’re more into casual, relaxing games, look more into indie and puzzle-solving titles. The possibilities are endless. But time is short, and you need those precious hours to find and buy these titles for your friends. As a result, I’ve decided to compile a list of games, and companion accessories that people can consult for a good gift for any of their gaming friends.

Gifts for the Adventurer

Your friend is a man who likes a good story, and a big ole world to explore. Running, riding, or racing through an entirely new world and enjoying entirely new experiences appeals to this person like no other. Luckily, there is a bevy of adventure games to buy this holiday season, and we’re going to run through a couple big titles.

Legend of the Wild West: Red Dead Redemption 2

The protagonist of Red Dead Redemption 2, Arthur Morgan

Your friend has definitely heard of this game. At this point who hasn’t? Red Dead had the biggest opening weekend in the history of entertainment, grossing $725 million in just three days. Receiving rave reviews from a variety of gaming publications, the game takes place in the early 1900s in the wild west of America. You play as Arthur Morgan, a senior member of the Van Der Linde gang, led by Dutch Van Der Linde. You lie, steal, and cheat your way across America as the Van Der Linde gang moves in search of bigger scores and heists.

The game itself allows near-unlimited exploration, with a lot of locations and situations not blatantly shown on the world map unless you actually come across them as Arthur. The world is massive, complete with day and night cycles as well as interactive NPC’s strewn about the game. There’s no shortage of activities to do in the Wild West either. You can go hunting, play Poker, challenge someone to a duel… the world will react and interact with your actions in ways that are surprising and interactive. The story is impressive, rivaling most blockbuster movies to the point where the NY Times had an opinion article citing Red Dead as true art (for an argument as to why games deserve to be considered an art form, click here). It is console-only, so don’t waste your money if your friend only has a PC. If your friend is looking for an immersive experience that’ll burn away his time, and leave him thinking about horses, revolvers, and the wild west of America for days on end, pick this game up.

A Romp through Time : The Assassin’s Creed Franchise  

Your character travels the world of Greece in a story modeled after a Greek tragedy, which doesn’t take away from the beauty of the game.

If the wild west and gunslingers aren’t up your friend’s alley, and he’s more of the ancient history type, look no further than the Assassin’s Creed franchise. With releases since 2007, Assassin’s Creed has dominated the ancient history adventure genre for over a decade now. Their games have taken players across land, sea and time, ranging from the Holy Land in the Crusades, the British industrial revolution, Italy during the renaissance, and the open seas of the Caribbean during the golden age of Piracy. Their newest title, Odyssey takes players into Ancient Greece during the Peloponnesian war.

Players take the role of a Mercenary as they take jobs across the expansive Greek world, and expansive is an understatement. The world is massive, and Ubisoft has painstakingly recreated ancient Greece in great detail. The giant Greek statues, beautiful forest and living, breathing cities make for an immersive experience like no other. The franchise is sold both on computers, and for consoles, which does make it much easier in terms of figuring out what to buy. If you’re looking to escape into ancient history, marvelling at the accomplishments of humanity, while exploring and experiencing the beauty of the old world, Assassin’s Creed is the game for you.

Silver for Monsters: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Main protagonist, Geralt of Rivia faces off against a Griffin

If the human world, wild west or old history don’t appeal, and fantasy, with magic, sword fighting, and mystery appeal instead, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is your best bet. Released in 2015, the Witcher 3 is often considered one of the greatest games of all time. The game itself takes place in an entirely fictious universe, complete with griffin’s, dragons, wraiths, and vampires. You play as Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher, whose sole job is to eliminate these monsters, by any means necessary. The world, like the previous two titles mentioned are enormous, with three different districts, more if your purchase downloadable content.

The Witcher focuses heavily on narrative, complete with dialogue choices that affect the world around you, in ways that you won’t realize until it’s too late. Many video game publications found that the Witcher’s side-quests rivalled full game quests in their excellent storytelling and world building. As you complete quests and events in the world of the Witcher, Geralt gains experience points and gold, allowing him to acquire stronger weapons, and learn new abilities, ranging from alchemy and bomb-making, to magic, like telekinetic blasts, and fire. The size of the world is probably the most impressive point of the game however, due to its sheer size and impressiveness.  There’s a strange sort of beauty as you ride your horse through a forest at midnight, sword at the ready for any monsters lying in wait. Like Assassin’s Creed, the game is sold both on consoles and PC. The Witcher 3 has been out for several years now, so your friend most likely has the game. If he hasn’t though, pick it up. You, or him won’t regret it.

Those are just some of the big titles out there right now, and there are plenty more out there that haven’t been discussed. Here’s a small list of some other adventure titles that might appeal if the above games haven’t piqued interests.

Gifts for the Sports Lover

Your friend plays lots, and lots of sports. Even when he’s not playing football or basketball outside, he’s gotta be playing it at home. Luckily enough, there’s consistent releases of various sports titles for them to enjoy.

Still the Champ: FIFA 19 and NBA 2K19

If your friend is a soccer fan, hardcore or casual, I would be amazed if he hasn’t played the FIFA series. The game has released every year (thus the 19), and despite a small drop since 2018, FIFA 19 is the biggest game of the year in the UK. The game has steadily become a larger spectacle, with the newest release including composer Hans Zimmer (of Inception and Dunkirk fame) to compose music for their game. The game includes more stadiums to play in, more signature moves, and more teams for the player. There’s even a story-based mode if your friend has some adventure blood in him. A continuation of the story that began in FIFA 17, you play as Alex Hunter as he rises from small beginnings to becoming a superstar.

NBA 2K19 is the basketball equivalent, complete with story-mode as well, featuring authentic mandarin commentary as your custom created character progresses through the Chinese Basketball Association, a first in the series. Both FIFA and 2K have consistently iterated on their previous titles, so every new title is slightly more polished than the last. If your friend is a fan of sports, pick these titles up. If basketball or football aren’t up their alley, here’s a list of some others that may work.

Gifts for the Competitive Lover

Your friend loves some good competition. Nothing gets them more excited than taking an enemy down and watching the victory screen flash over the TV or PC. There’s a lot of these games out there, so we’re going to talk about two of the more popular ones out there right now.

The Cavalry’s Here! Overwatch

The poster child of Overwatch, Tracer

If your friend loves team-based shooters with a variety of characters ranging from a teleporting pilot, a robot monk, a man with a bow, to a hamster, they’ll love Overwatch. The characters range from simple, to difficult, allowing gamers of all skill levels to hop in and contribute to their team. Separating all players into two teams of six, players select their character and work together with their team to accomplish various objectives, defeating the enemy team as they do so. Overwatch received a substantial amount of media coverage, and within a week of its 2016 launch had over seven million players. To this day, Overwatch remains one of the only games to overtake the juggernaut League of Legends as the most played game in South Korea’s gaming cafés.

The game itself has received lots of praise for its gameplay, as well as its commitment to diversity when it comes to their characters. It’s competitive scene has grown, with Blizzard studios the creators of Overwatch unveiling a professional league, the OWL (Overwatch League), with the League garnering hundreds of thousands of viewers every time teams compete. If that isn’t a sign that the game is competitive, I don’t know what is. Overwatch is widely renowned for being one of the greatest multiplayer games of all time, and it’s still going on strong, so if you’re into competitive team shooters, pick it up!

Breach Charge Ready! : Rainbow Six: Siege

Three characters in their elite skins, from Left to Right: Sledge, Thermite, and Kapkan

Moving on from the more fantastical elements of Overwatch, if your friends are into more of a realistic experience, with emphasis on information gathering and tight shooting, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege is a good game for you. Tom Clancy was a famous author, and he was known for his very detailed books regarding spies, and military tactics. The games that were inspired in his name aim to do the same, and Siege is no different. While Siege had a bit of a rocky start, Ubisoft continued to improve and fix issues with the game, and their love and care has done wonders. The tense multiplayer is second to none, and largely focuses on tactics rather than simple run and gun. Over a long period of careful planning, and attention to the little things, Siege has grown from a relatively quiet launch to over 40 million players.

Siege has become something of a sleeper hit among multiplayer gamers, who either have played or heard of the game amongst their community. It’s more hardcore than Call of Duty or Battlefield, which may turn off the more casual, but it has fostered a passionate and growing community that has caused the game to grow to its size today. If your friend’s a fan of intense situations, pulling out incredible tactics and plays to defeat the enemy in the blink of an eye, grab Rainbow Six: Siege on consoles, or on PC.

Of course, these are only two specific games in a sea of multiplayer titles that could appeal. There are non-shooter multiplayer games, non-competitive multiplayer games… There’s a lot of multiplayer games out there, so we’ve once again included a small list of games to look out for.

Gifts for the Casual Game Lover

If your friend isn’t a fan of any of that, and he just wants a relaxed experience, one where he can just kick back, and chill for the rest of his day, fret not, there are games for that too. These games don’t require a ton of input, they’re often quite simple, yet they manage a nice need to be doing something very, very well.

Farming, but really fun farming!: Stardew Valley

For a game where the majority of what you do is tend a farm, and make it look nice and pretty, Stardew Valley is one of the most addicting games out there once one gets in to it. The story is quite simple, your character gets away from a boring office job to take over their late grandfathers farm in the location of Stardew valley. There, you raise animals, tend crops, mine iron, and meet and fall in love with new people as you continue to expand your farm. Without a definite ending, or a required progression system, players can jump in and jump out whenever they see fit. The calm music, and simple ambience and graphics really help build Stardew Valley’s motif of a relaxed, away from the hustle and bustle experience.

This indie game exploded, becoming one of the best-selling games on steam, selling over a million copies, even coming to iOS devices. It’s like Minecraft in how it simply gives players the reins, and allows them to explore, mine, and understand the world by themselves. There’s no intense fight scenes, or pulse-pounding gunfights, it’s just you, your shovel, and your farm. If your friend just wants to escape the stress and pressure of work into a calm, lovely and simple experience, Stardew Valley is right up your alley.

You Must Construct Additional Pylons: Astroneer

This title is just like Stardew Valley in terms of relaxation. You’re essentially a space farmer. Rather than tend to animals, you terraform land and craft structures and buildings as you venture forth in the name of exploration. The graphics are very cute, and the quaintness of space exploration combined with the excellent soundtrack make for one of the most peaceful experiences in gaming possible. It’s hard to explain, but going on a deserted rocky planet, picking up small minerals and resources, looking them over as you plan for your various structures is incredibly relaxing, and almost cathartic in some way. There’s no real ending, so you can explore and terraform the procedurally-generated worlds to your hearts content. Kick back with a drink, and maybe a sandwich as you move your cute little astronaut across land, sea, and space.

The title is still early access, which means it hasn’t reached a full 1.0 version until February 2019. However, developers have continued to add features, and it’s already available to purchase. It’s simply a delightful game, and it reminds one of Minecraft, but with different graphics and a bit more focus in terms of exploration and sci-fi. Either way, if you enjoy relaxing experiences, or making your very own space community, pick up Astroneer, and..

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Hearthstone, another title released by Blizzard that has made it’s way to iOS and Android

Mobile games, some people love it, some people hate it, but everyone’s at least gotten their hands on a mobile game once in their lives. With the prevalence of phones in the current society, it’s no surprise that mobile games have also grown in popularity as well. Unsurprisingly, it has led some larger developers to turn from consoles and PC’s to dip their toes into the mobile genre. Popular games like Fortnite, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Hitman are some examples. There are some developers, however, that have pushed too far, a prime example being the recent Diablo Immortal announcement by Blizzard. Since the announcement, there’s been a lot of debate on why AAA developers seem to be inching closer to the mobile game industry. Whether it’s good, or bad is anybody’s guess, but it certainly has had the gaming world in a furor.

Mortal Reminder

The now-infamous release of Diablo Immortal shocked fans, and not in a good way.

With a few simple words, Blizzard shocked and upset the gaming world with their unveiling of a new Diablo title: Diablo Immortal. Announced at BlizzCon 2018, the annual convention held by Blizzard, the title was reviled, to the point where some people thought that the whole release was “an out of season April fools’ joke”. Why? Diablo Immortal, unlike the rest of the Diablo franchise, was mobile-only.

            For most people, this isn’t too big of a deal. It’s a mobile game, there are hundreds of thousands of people playing them nowadays. Why should Blizzard get so much flack? All of what’s said above is true, but when looking at the other side, it’s easy to understand just why the hardcore Blizzard customers and fans are upset. Blizzard, and by extension Diablo has been primarily known for their PC releases. They are almost always released on PC first before porting over to consoles. Overwatch was, in fact, the rare one amongst Blizzard games, being released on PC and consoles simultaneously. From Blizzard’s track record, one assumes that their games are mostly released on the PC. Imagine the fans reaction when they were told that the next Diablo game, one that fans had anticipated for years since Diablo 3’s release in 2012 was not only a mobile game, but it was mobile only, and wouldn’t be released on PC or consoles.

 The uproar was fast and unrelenting as people hitched onto a now infamous line that the principal designer Wyatt Cheng made during a Q&A session for the game. “Do you guys not have phones?”. It’s hard to put into words just how upset the fanbase was, but in terms of numbers, after the announcement of Immortal, Activision Blizzard’s stock fell by 7%. Their announcement video on YouTube garnered so many dislikes that they had to delete and re-upload the video, which further infuriated the fanbase. All in all, the release was nothing short of a disaster.

Cash Cow

Why did Blizzard make a mobile game in the first place? The answer is quite clear. Money. The mobile games industry garners an impressive amount of revenue, up to an incredible 40.6 billion USD in 2017. Game developers can clearly see the benefits of entering the mobile market. They won’t have as much cost to develop their game, but they can reach infinitely more people. Another reason is that the rules, and culture behind microtransactions haven’t been defined in the mobile industry yet. When it comes to AAA titles, gamers are quick to discover and denounce micro-transactions or gambling (Read more about a discussion of microtransactions here.)

Forcing customers to pay in order to play is predatory, and just all around not good for the consumer.

In mobile titles, however, the cultural stigma behind their titles don’t really affect them very much. This allows them to consistently nickel-and-dime their customers, squeezing every last cent so that players have to pay to progress or even play their games.  The price may seem small at first, maybe a dollar to “replenish your energy”, but they stack up. These games prey on younger children, hoping that they’ll throw caution, and their parents' credit cards to the wind as they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to continue playing.

Furthermore, the very nature of mobile games is one of gaming in short bursts. It’s rare to have people sit and play mobile games for hours on end, and mobile game developers focus on getting that quick fix while on a daily commute or some such. People who play Diablo want a big, in-depth and deep title that was like the previous titles beforehand, yet they were given a mobile game, which in most cases is unable to hit any of those marks.

One can’t really say that Blizzard is at fault for attempting a mobile game. Immediately assuming malice from a studio that has released incredible titles for decades might be a bit of an overreaction, even if Immortal may have been a mistake. The crux of this debacle lies in a misunderstanding between the fans and Blizzard. Fans were hoping for a new entry to the Diablo series, made for them to continue their adventure and have another experience in a similar way. Blizzard however, wanted to attract more people outside of the diehard Diablo fans, and the higher-ups at Blizzard seemed to have agreed, thus pushing for a mobile game. The game itself could still be successful despite the backlash, but it probably wasn’t a good idea to announce Immortal at a convention for the most die-hard of die-hard blizzard fans.

A Trend, or an Anomaly?

Blizzard may be representative of a growing trend within the industry. While mobile gaming has certainly been prevalent for a long time, it’s understandable that AAA developers want to get a piece of the pie. Console and PC titles, while they occupy a massive share of the market, don’t attract audiences from outside of the core “gamer” population. Mobile games however, have the potential to do so. Mobile games don’t require one to drop hundreds of dollars on a console or a desktop, and all they need is the phone which you most likely already have.

Many AAA developers have had mobile applications, but mostly as companion apps for their main game, but recently more developers have made either mobile ports or completely mobile games.

Ubisoft industries is an example, releasing several mobile-exclusive Assassin’s Creed games. Other developers have followed suit, with Fortnite and PUBG being ported to Android and iOS. However, all of these games have been released as companion pieces to the main game, or as a port of the main game existing on consoles or PC in the first place. Diablo Immortal looks to be the first to be a pseudo-replacement for a AAA title, as Blizzard didn’t announce any other Diablo related news. Had they announced work on Diablo 4, this whole debacle would not have existed.

It’s a complicated situation, one that consists of people misinterpreting situations on both sides. Blizzard isn’t deliberately trying to incense fans, but the audience at Blizzcon was definitely the wrong place to announce Immortal. On the other side, the hardcore fans have the right to be disappointed, but it shouldn’t give them the right to berate and send death threats to Blizzard developers. Knowing your fans, and managing their wants and needs along with continuing to make a profit and gain more customers at the same time is a mammoth task, yet Blizzard has done so for the past few years with only a few slip-ups. Now however, Blizzard may face their biggest challenge yet. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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An official screenshot, way more epic than anything you’ll see in-game.

As I mentioned in my last article I’ve been playing Heroes and Generals on an off since its beta days, back when the game was a browser game. Nearly 600 hours in, this is my opinion on the current state of the game. I’ll go over 4 categories. The game concept, the gameplay experience, the Graphics and the Audio.

I’ll finish with a summary and a few things I would change or fix to enhance the experience if I could.

Concept

In this section I’ll talk about the unique loadout system, the ‘war’ system and the character classes within the game.

Loadout system

Heroes and Generals brings a fresh, new loadout concept to the table. Instead of the traditional loadout system where you’re forced to carry a primary weapon, pistol and one or two special items, Heroes and Generals simply uses a point system.


  • Want to equip two primary weapons? Sure. Want to carry just a pistol and a massive amount of explosives? Can do! Want to carry 4 knives and go around shanking people? Yep.

  • Different classes have a different number of points. Infantry has the most at 10, recon gets 7, and the other classes get 6 each.

  • You can change the amount of ammo you get with a weapon too! You can remove all the spare ammo a weapon has (You only get what’s in the loaded magazine) to make the weapon 1 point lighter, or you can double the amount of spare ammo for one more point. There’s also a perk that gives you extra ammo.

Some of the different loadouts possible in Heroes and Generals.

War system

The other unique feature in the game is the ‘War’ system. Once you’re a high enough rank (It doesn’t take long) you can participate in war battles. War battles are entirely player controlled. Generals move units around towns/cities on a map of Europe, and players fight in battles where forces meet. The resources in the matches are not balanced (They’re completely player driven), and some interesting fights can occur. I’ve seen plenty of matches where one team might just have some scattered infantry, and the other side has many tanks and planes, only for the underdog to wipe the floor with them.

  • Regular infantry ‘Heroes’ (The FPS side of the game) can control a maximum of 2 assault teams in the RTS side of the game (Once they reach the appropriate rank).

  • Generals have a much higher command limit, which increases as they level up.

  • Assault teams level up and can be upgraded into better teams as they gain XP. (Mostly from winning battles)

  • The first nation to control 15 major cities wins the war.

Classes

The different classes in the game all have different strengths and weaknesses.

  • Infantry is the most basic and common class. They can use most weapons, have a fair vehicle selection and have the largest equipment allowance. They’re dirt cheap and have a huge amount of spawns.

  • Recon are the sniper class of the game, they have access to improved bolt action upgrades, and a unique scout vehicle. They have a low amount of spawns.

  • Paratroopers are... Paratroopers. They can parachute from aircraft to land anywhere on the map, and are great at taking strategic points. They have an average amount of spawns.

  • Tankers can spawn tanks. Tanks are great at breaking up and stalling enemy infantry, fighting other tanks, and defending points. They can’t fit into many capture points, so they may not do so well at capturing. They have a low number of spawns.

  • Pilots can spawn aircraft. They can shoot down enemy aircraft and harass ground units. They have very fast movement speed in the RTS aspect of the game. They have a low amount of spawns.

  • Generals cannot join the FPS side (‘Action Game’) of the game. Instead they focus entirely on the RTS aspect. They can control many more assault teams than the other classes.

Asides from these features, Heroes and Generals is a fairly typical FPS game. You shoot enemies, capture objectives and try to drive the enemies points down. The capture side of things is a little more linear which is nice. Control points are connected in rows and must be captured in a certain order, this makes the battles a little more focused and intense in these areas. Spawn points are tied into what territory you currently control.

For the concept category, I give Heroes and Generals an 8 out of 10.


Gameplay

Here I’ll talk about how the game plays from a pure gameplay experience. I’ll talk about how the concept plays out in reality, the combined arms aspect, gameplay mechanics and balance.

Gameplay in the action side of Heroes and Generals is fairly standard, kill the bad guys and take their points. The combined arms aspect makes the game fun and dynamic in war battles, with battles often being a completely different experience even on the same map. Although often they’re exactly the same thing over and over.

Combined arms

The combined arms aspect of the game makes gameplay interesting and fun much of the time. It can be very enjoyable when you get a good team working together as a group. The ability to switch between available soldiers in a match is great when you get bored or frustrated with one of your characters. Have you been sniped by the same guy a few times and getting annoyed? Switch to your recon character and go snipe him right back.

Gunplay

The game uses a trajectory based system for bullets, rather than the more standard hitscan system present in other games. This gives fights at medium to long range a bit more flavour, however, the gunplay at short range can be a bit poor and finicky at times due to this system. You need to select the right range for your sights to be as precise as possible (Which I think is neat, and adds a bit more realism and immersion).

The sights on some guns are almost unusable however, due to the low zoom/weird field of view used. The K98k pictured is a good example of this. This rifle is almost unusable without a scope.

The K98k’s sights. Keep in mind this is a best case scenario for contrast, looking at the sky. Aiming at anything on the ground, in bushes, or indoors is far harder to do.

The spawn system

The spawn system in the current version (1.12.1 as of writing this) is quite frustrating. You are often spawned in a small group of trees, with large fields all around you that you need to cross (Under enemy fire much of the time) to get anywhere. You’ll often spawn and immediately die as you come out of the spawn protection. You’ll regularly be running for a solid 3-4 minutes only to be one-shot by a sniper, or cut down by an enemy tank. If you’ve got a fairly heavy inventory, or are using a more specialized class, you may find yourself waiting a couple of minutes before you can respawn.


Balance

Balance within the game is almost non-existent. Each faction only has 2-3 weapons that are worth using, and the United States generally has the best gear overall. In the current build (Again, 1.12.1), tanks are VASTLY overpowered. It’s not uncommon to see matches where literally half or more of an enemy team is tanks (In the ‘war’ gamemode). This is very frustrating to play against, even if you have your team also has tank spam.

It can be very difficult for infantry to take out any tanks stronger than a light tank, simply because of how much damage they can soak up. Even if you build a soldier specifically specced for anti-tank, you’ll more often than not run out of explosives before you actually get to kill the enemy tank. If you don’t get the kill, or kill assist, you’ve just wasted a whole lot of money because those explosives cost a lot. The payouts for damaging tanks are far too low to cover the cost of the explosives without getting the kill or assist.

However, playing as tanker can also be frustrating, because you can’t hear or see infantry coming up to you and placing explosives on you anywhere except where your sights are aimed. There are no periscopes you can use, you can go third person, but in doing so you expose your character to getting shot by enemy infantry and machine guns, which will immediately lose you the tank. This forces tankers to camp as far away from infantry as possible, which results in a poorer experience for everyone (Getting killed by an HE shell from a tank at the very edge of the map isn’t fun at all).

Tank-on-tank battles are also very frustrating and RNG (random number generator) dependent in the current state. It takes a very long time for two similar tanks to duke it out. A medium tank vs medium tank fight could last several minutes with both players sitting there smashing left click as fast as they can, requiring 20+ hits most of the time. Sometimes the first hit you take will destroy your gun breech, which means that you’ve already lost the battle, and unless you can get away in time (rare with most tanks, that are too slow) you’ll simply be sitting there waiting to die.

The balancing issues are also present in the RTS aspect. The United States has won every single war in the 3 weeks since we started playing the game again. I speculate that this is due to the United States’ better equipment, and the fact that they seem to have more generals now. We reached out to Reto Moto on Twitter to ask about the issue, but they did not immediately respond.

Network performance

The networking/netcode in the game is.. Poor. There aren’t enough players to choose only matches with good ping. I can’t even really say much about it, it just doesn’t work well much of the time. Players stutter around, shots don’t register, you’ll die randomly long after you’ve run to cover.. It’s a poor experience. This has more to do with their servers and low server population however so I can’t blame the game itself for that.

Movement

Now I hate to consistently rag on a game, but the character movement is also a bit of a let down. Unless you carry a pistol or rifle and nothing else, your character can only sprint for 5-10 seconds. There is a badge which increases your sprint time however. The characters feel like they’re in knee-high water all the time, the movement is heavy and sluggish. This is probably done due to realism, which is understandable, but maybe it could be toned down a little.  

In all, I give the Gameplay side of Heroes and Generals 5 out of 10. Sorry, there’s just a few too many issues there.


Graphics

Graphics... Graphics are average at best. I’m not sure what engine the game uses, but it’s quite old and dated looking, which is fine. The game is quite old after all. It can be very difficult to see enemies at mid range, or in bushes, as the game is very dark, and has very low contrast and color depth. The pop-in of the different Level of Detail for trees and bushes and grass means that it may seem like you’re hidden, but you’re really not at long range (Trees and bushes are far more transparent at range).

Spotting enemies can be very difficult even when they’re firing. All you’ll see is a tiny puff of smoke (If you see anything at all), and no muzzle flash. Which is realistic, but makes it quite frustrating to figure out where the guy who’s shooting at you is.

Texture tiling is fairly poor and could use some work. It’s only really noticeable in open areas or from the air but it still shows quite well.

Texture tiling in Heroes and Generals

The UI is quite poor. You need 2 separate windows open just to access the loadout and generals screen (The main window, and a console called ‘H&G Sync’) , with a third window popping up for the action gameplay when you’re in a match. It would be great to see all of these windows combined into one, just to make alt-tabbing a little easier.

The UI often glitches out, or becomes unresponsive. I’m not sure if this is due to the UI design, or because of the poor networking in the game.

Heroes and Generals’ graphics receive a fair 5 out of 10 from me.


SoundSound effects

Sound, oh man. The sound in this game is very poor. The sound effects are very low quality and repetitive. There are only like five or six different gunfire sound effects used. Four or five tank gun sound effects. Two explosion sound effects.

The volume leveling is very poor. Vehicle engines are very loud, and gunfire is whisper quiet. You’ll either have to change your volume fairly regularly (Depending on what you’re doing) or just forget about hearing quieter sounds all together.

Sound glitches and delays

The worst part however, is that the sound effects don’t even work half the time! You’ll be wandering through a capture point when suddenly you lose health. Huh? What happened? Then you’ll hear a grunt from your character and loose more health. You’ll look around looking for a sniper in the distance only to get killed by.. A guy right behind you whose gun made no sounds. It happens often, and it’s very frustrating. It’s not just gunshots, tank cannons, grenades going off, footsteps, all sorts of things don’t make sound half the time. This makes using sounds to your advantage almost pointless, you just can’t rely on it. This is probably my number one issue with this game at this point.

The sound category for Heroes and Generals receives a 2 out of 10. I mean they work, but.. Not very well. I play without the sound much of the time and listen to music instead because it’s just too unreliable.


ConclusionScoring

Adding up the scores, this game receives a 5 out of 10. This is just my personal rating from personal experience so far. There are quite a few problems that need to be addressed for this game to become truly good.


Recommendations for the Developers

Fix the sound! This is the most irritating thing in the game at the moment in my opinion. I don’t mean just fix the minor issues, I mean fix the ‘Sounds not even playing half the time’ issue.

Rework vehicles (Again). While the 1.12 patch is still very new, I’m certain there will be hotfixes and patches to come. I’m hoping that the vehicles get reworked a bit to make them easier to take out. Jeeps being stronger than light tanks were in the older version is quite over the top.

Balance the game! The balance between vehicles is very poor (I’m looking at you M10 and M18). Reduce the turret rotation speed, slightly nerf the top speed and reduce the health of the M10 and M18. They currently perform like light tanks with top tier medium tank health and heavy tank firepower.

Combine the three windows required into one. Add the generals tab to a menu available even in action matches. I partially understand why the loadout/launcher window is separate but combing them would be far more fluid and simple.

Do a little work on the graphics. Maybe try to reduce the texture tiling seams. I don’t know if its possible with the game engine but better anti aliasing would be nice, considering the ranges involved and the low zoom weapons have. Improve the color a bit, and improve the contrast so we can actually see.


Heroes and Generals is free-to-play can be downloaded through Steam or Reto Moto’s Website.




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Video Games have been a consistency amongst our culture for a long time now. Their potential is limitless in what they can do for people. For some, they prove to be a welcome escape from work or school. After a tiring day, it’s a reward to jump into another world, be it 1900s outlaw country in Red Dead Redemption II, or fantastical experiences like the Assassin’s Creed Series. Some others use it to connect with their friends and have a good time. These games come in great variety, like the PC MOBA game League of Legends, or the tactical shooter Rainbow Six: Siege. It is this connection that is quite incredible, and an often-unrealized aspect of video games that makes gaming sometimes an unforgettable experience. Some people enter a game and find friends for life, sometimes, love. Others enter into a single-player narrative and come out wholly different, better men or women. Stories like the ones that are below show proof that gaming can really bring us all together, sometimes in completely unexpected ways.

Destiny 2 recently released a refer-a-friend mode, that’s been warmly received. They’re not the only ones either. Many games have included perks for bringing more friends into playing with you. It’s also just fun!

Adventures in Warcraft, and eventually, romance

It comes as no surprise that the biggest connections in gaming stem from MMO’s like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, or EVE Online. The acronym massively multiplayer online is placed onto these games for a reason. These games encourage interaction and communication, and often times make friends out of completely random situations.

That was the case of Brittany, or “Brittmunch”. She’d been a gamer since she was young, starting off with the NES and Sega Genesis. As she dealt with anxiety since birth, video games have always been a safe place for her to unwind and relax. Being able to communicate and interact with people while being in the safety of her own home has done wonders for her. She admits that sometimes, “I feel more at home behind a screen than in person.” As she grew older, she joined with the growing fads of the time, and in 2006, it was the current gaming sensation, World of Warcraft.

Warcraft recently released a new expansion, Battle for Azeroth, that has helped re-establish Warcraft as the dominant western MMO.

World of Warcraft was and still is one of the most famous games of all time. Created by Blizzard Entertainment, Warcraft popularized the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) genre in the western world. The game itself is synonymous with high fantasy games and has set many standards for RPG’s that many other games have strived to reach in the future.  The game itself used to occupy so much space in the MMORPG world that it occupied a staggering 62 percent of the MMO market during its heyday. Ask any person who has played, or currently plays video games, and they will have either played, or know someone who’s played.  In Brittany’s case, it was her friend who got her into Warcraft. She’d made an account already and urged Brittany to take a chance. It was then she logged in, made a human warlock, and “never looked back.”

Moving forward several years, and Brittany is already knee-deep into the world of Azeroth. Part of WoW is finding a guild (it’s quite a big deal, as it helps players group up for activities), and while she and her friend were looking for a while, they had no luck. So, they did the next best thing and created one. Naming their guild “Of the Shire” to reflect their love of Lord of The Rings, they patiently waited for fresh recruits to fill their ranks. For a couple of weeks, however, no one joined. That was fine for Brittany and her friend, who were content with the three of them (Her friend’s SO was also part of the guild). Late one night, however, Brittany’s friend squealed with delight, telling Brittany the good news.

“Brittany! Someone actually signed up to join our clan!”

It was a level 90 Druid with the username Neanderthal. Both were excited at seeing that a max-leveled player had decided to join their guild. In order to get to know each other, the guild spent several hours running dungeons. When questioned about why he joined their clan, the Druid replied saying that he loved the movies. His name was Chad, and he was going to change Brittany’s life for the better.

Warcraft gave her an activity that she could do with her new-found friend. They talked about music, life, and everything in between while they slew monsters and went on quests together. Brittany’s friend could tell something was going on and let the two people grow closer and closer.  Her curiosity got the better of her, and she stalked this mysterious druid on Facebook. Her first thoughts were immediately one of disappointment. It wasn’t that he didn’t look good. It was that he looked too good.

Brittany states that the moment she saw him, her immediate thoughts were, “He’s out of my league.”

She didn’t think that someone like him would ever be interested. However, she knew that she liked this man, and she had a sneaking suspicion that he liked her too, and Brittany decided to take a leap of faith. As it turns out, he was not in fact, out of her league.

Within two months of them becoming Facebook friends, the two were meeting up in real life. She was incredibly nervous. There were so many things that could have gone wrong. He could have been different in real life, they may not have meshed as well, there were a host of problems and anxieties that were racing through Brittany’s head. However, as she finally met him (closely followed by his young sister, who also played WoW with them), her fears melted away. They moved in a month later, and as the saying goes, lived happily ever after. Just several weeks ago, they celebrated their 4-year anniversary.

Brittany hasn’t stopped playing video games since meeting Chad either. They’ve delved into various other markets, like Guild Wars 2, Diablo, Hearthstone¸ and a plethora of console games. She’s met more friends on Warcraft and is aiming to meet them in a couple of months as well. The one constant in her life, however, is Chad. They continue to take on problems in the game and in life together.

When Brittany first entered into video games, she could never have imagined meeting a great friend, let alone the love of her life while playing. She and Chad show that for all the unfortunate incidents that are popularized by the media, there are really positive stories out there. Without WoW, she may have never found him, and Brittany affirmatively states that “I don’t dare to consider where I would be right now if he hadn’t found me.”

Friendship, across Land and Sea

Justin asked that we use this picture, as he and his friends frequently play these champions. From Left to Right: Ezreal, Lee Sin, Lux, Teemo, and Leona.

Our next story features Justin, a 20-year-old from Hong Kong, currently studying in the United States. He’s a veritable veteran of the gaming and loves everything from single-player experiences like the recently released Red Dead Redemption 2 to multiplayer focused games like the Call of Duty series. He’s been playing games since he was a child, surfing around on free browser game sites before graduating to Metal Slug 3, one of the original shoot-em-up games. Afterwards, he moved on to consoles like the XBOX 360, then finally settling on computers and his current game, League of Legends. However, the reason he loves League isn’t because of the normal reasons (although he likes it for the simple reasons too!). Rather, he loves it because it has given him some incredible memories, along with allowing him to remain connected to his friends back home.

               For some context, League of Legends is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game that has been one of the most popular titles in history.  (See a retrospective here) As of 2016, the game boasts over 100 million active players worldwide. Their recent world championship, seen by many as the most exciting and unpredictable worlds competition ever drew more viewership than the super bowl. Since it’s release, League has dominated the PC player base, and it continues to stand strong among gaming giants. For Justin however, League of Legends proved to be more than just a game.

  When Justin first arrived in the States for college, it wasn’t easy for him to make friends. Coming from another continent, the cultural differences and barriers proved to be quite an obstacle to overcome. However, League remained a place where he could relax, and make friends without worrying about those barriers. Eventually, he made some friends while playing, and it turned into cathartic sessions for him.

Justin was able to talk to people about his loneliness, and the issues that were currently plaguing him. His friends did the same, and it was liberating. No strings attached to actually meeting anyone, none of the judgement calls that people make when they see each other. Just friends without baggage. Justin began to open up, and his confidence grew and allowed him to help others who were as nervous and scared as he was when he first came to the US.

One memory he shared was a time a friend he’d met on League came to him with the troubling news that she’d been laid off. Justin took his time to console her, being there emotionally to ensure that she was going to be all right.

Art of League of Legends. The game itself tends to require a lot of co-operation as a 5v5 (sometimes it doesn’t work out)

“I felt strange, because I’d never actually met her in person. Yet I could be there for her as if I was right there. It felt really good to be there for a friend, even if I wasn’t actually present.”

He’s cited League and other games as factors behind why he was able to remain close to his friends back home in Hong Kong. After he finished high school, his best friends scattered across the world, from New Zealand to the United Kingdom. Yet they are all able to communicate, at least once or twice a week. League has been a great tool for him to keep in touch with them, and Justin stays as close as ever to his friends.

He says, “The memories that I’ve made while playing games with my friends from back home equally as memorable and important to me as the ones I’ve made with friends in real life.” From playing Left 4 Dead 2 custom maps and surviving to making the grind on the ranked ladder on League of Legends, he has, and always will cherish the memories that he has received.

Art of the SKT 2016 Championship skins. This team famously won the League of Legends world championships an astounding 3 times and are a brilliant example of communication and success in gaming.

Justin’s story is integral for many people who don’t understand the value of gaming. For him, gaming let him stay grounded to his friends back home, ensuring that those valuable relationships that he had made with the people in Hong Kong remained strong, and a pillar of strength during his time in college. Gaming’s also allowed him to break out of his shell and become a confident man, helping him be that mediator and helper for those who are in need. It’s changed his life for the better, and even through his continued passage through life, he always makes time for a quick game of League with his friends.

One Man’s Odyssey

               It seems only appropriate to have the final story take place mostly around one person. While the previous two people, Brittany and Justin have had gaming help them make connections in friendship and love, our final example, Benjamin is a great showing of just how gaming can help someone relax, and escape to a different reality, even if he’s doing it completely alone.  Ben’s been playing games since he was a young boy, watching his father slot in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 into the XBOX 360. Instead of heading into the multiplayer, duking it out with the millions of players around the world, young Ben found himself enthralled with the single-player, depicting several protagonists as they defended their countries from internal and external threats. So, as he grew older, Ben continued his passion for the single-player genre. Ben’s father was always interested in the military, and it has been a bonding experience for father and son as they went through various games together.

               As Ben grew older, and found himself in college, he found the constant hustle and bustle of people sometimes quite overwhelming. For an introvert, it was very difficult for him to constantly attend and talk to people. Games became even more valuable, not only as a way to have fun, but a way for him to regain his energy, and let him become more sociable after spending some time by himself.

Perhaps one of the biggest games in the western world, Modern Warfare 2 took the world by storm.

“I think that escaping into a different reality is a huge deal for me. Being able to jump into a different world and become a bad-ass Viking, or a legendary special ops soldier is something that games can do really well, and that’s really exciting. It’s sometimes hard for me to just keep going and talking to people, so having that ability of tuning out and just being someone else is so valuable.”

Ben cites video games as a big reason behind how he’s matured as a person. To him, gaming is an experience that teaches, entertains, and informs all at the same time. Moving from the Call of Duty franchise, he’s grown towards more focused single-player games like Skyrim and trying his hand at other franchises like Tom Clancy’s The Division. He’s even tried more existential experiences like the Bioshock series, and Spec Ops: The Line. He particularly enjoyed Spec Ops due to the games different attitude towards traditional military shooters.

               This ability that games have to immerse one into a completely different world is unparalleled amongst various other mediums. While movies, art and music can immerse you, games are a mix of all three with a healthy dose of interaction that invests you into whatever situation you find yourself doing. For example, take the massively successful open-world series, Assassin’s Creed. (For a more in-depth look into open-world titles, look here). The titles have brought players to incredible moments in human history, from the Peloponnesian War of Greece, to the Crusades in Jerusalem, the renaissance in Italy, and the Victorian era of London. Each game has been faithfully recreated, bringing players a sense of wonder and awe as they take a look at each building and structure. Unsurprisingly, Ben is a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, purchasing nearly every title, citing its attention to detail and immersive history as a big reason behind why he’s bought the games.

An impressive wallpaper of Tom Clancy’s The Division, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic New York. The game itself had an interesting premise, that Ben cites as one of “the more interesting titles I’ve played.”

However, even Ben has seen the value of games in connecting to various people. With games like The Division, and Destiny 2, he has found himself making friends and partners-in-crime as they co-operate to achieve various goals that he couldn’t have achieved alone.

 “It’s definitely fun to co-operate with people, especially with games like Destiny 2, where there are some things that you simply can’t do yourself. It’s really satisfying to just get through a raid, or a big event with a bunch of people working hard together. There’s really no feeling like it.”

When asked about the value of gaming, Ben was fully for gaming as a fun and enjoyable activity. “I wouldn’t say it’s…peaceful? When I’m playing, I’m not very tranquil, but I’m excited and I’m happy to be in a different world, or a different planet. It’s something that I could never do in real life, and the ability to do that, even for a short while and through a computer screen is something that’s just awesome to me.”

Eye of The Beholder

               We’ve gone across land and sea to find three wonderful examples of gamers in our current world. Yet they aren’t totally representative of the gaming industry. There are tens of thousands of other brilliant stories that are out there. Despite many years of stigma and prejudice against it, gaming has come a long way, and it has helped many people, physically and emotionally. Brittany entered World of Warcraft to relax and found herself in love. Justin started playing video games in order to keep from feeling isolated, and blossomed into a confident and kind man, looking to make sure that no one else feels lonely. For Ben, gaming’s evolved from being just a simple activity to a safe haven, a place where he can retreat to regroup, and build up his energy to face whatever the world has to throw at him. Three entirely different people, with three entirely different stories, yet they all understand the incredible value of video games.

               Video Games have come a long way from “poisoning kids minds”. They’ve become fun, interactive communities and activities that anybody can participate in. While there have certainly been hiccups, and unfortunate situations that have sometimes marred video games and gamer’s reputations, one must admit that gaming has truly grown into a juggernaut of the industry. With a growing competitive scene, brilliant games, and wonderful people, the future is truly bright for gaming, and it is people like Brittany, Justin, and Ben who will continue to make it shine.

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Video Games have been a consistency amongst our culture for a long time now. Their potential is limitless in what they can do for people. For some, they prove to be a welcome escape from work or school. After a tiring day, it’s a reward to jump into another world, be it 1900s outlaw country in Red Dead Redemption II, or fantastical experiences like the Assassin’s Creed Series. Some others use it to connect with their friends and have a good time. These games come in great variety, like the PC MOBA game League of Legends, or the tactical shooter Rainbow Six: Siege. It is this connection that is quite incredible, and an often-unrealized aspect of video games that makes gaming sometimes an unforgettable experience. Some people enter a game and find friends for life, sometimes, love. Others enter into a single-player narrative and come out wholly different, better men or women. Stories like the ones that are below show proof that gaming can really bring us all together, sometimes in completely unexpected ways.

Destiny 2 recently released a refer-a-friend mode, that’s been warmly received. They’re not the only ones either. Many games have included perks for bringing more friends into playing with you. It’s also just fun!

Adventures in Warcraft, and eventually, romance

It comes as no surprise that the biggest connections in gaming stem from MMO’s like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, or EVE Online. The acronym massively multiplayer online is placed onto these games for a reason. These games encourage interaction and communication, and often times make friends out of completely random situations.

That was the case of Brittany, or “Brittmunch”. She’d been a gamer since she was young, starting off with the NES and Sega Genesis. As she dealt with anxiety since birth, video games have always been a safe place for her to unwind and relax. Being able to communicate and interact with people while being in the safety of her own home has done wonders for her. She admits that sometimes, “I feel more at home behind a screen than in person.” As she grew older, she joined with the growing fads of the time, and in 2006, it was the current gaming sensation, World of Warcraft.

Warcraft recently released a new expansion, Battle for Azeroth, that has helped re-establish Warcraft as the dominant western MMO.

World of Warcraft was and still is one of the most famous games of all time. Created by Blizzard Entertainment, Warcraft popularized the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) genre in the western world. The game itself is synonymous with high fantasy games and has set many standards for RPG’s that many other games have strived to reach in the future.  The game itself used to occupy so much space in the MMORPG world that it occupied a staggering 62 percent of the MMO market during its heyday. Ask any person who has played, or currently plays video games, and they will have either played, or know someone who’s played.  In Brittany’s case, it was her friend who got her into Warcraft. She’d made an account already and urged Brittany to take a chance. It was then she logged in, made a human warlock, and “never looked back.”

Moving forward several years, and Brittany is already knee-deep into the world of Azeroth. Part of WoW is finding a guild (it’s quite a big deal, as it helps players group up for activities), and while she and her friend were looking for a while, they had no luck. So, they did the next best thing and created one. Naming their guild “Of the Shire” to reflect their love of Lord of The Rings, they patiently waited for fresh recruits to fill their ranks. For a couple of weeks, however, no one joined. That was fine for Brittany and her friend, who were content with the three of them (Her friend’s SO was also part of the guild). Late one night, however, Brittany’s friend squealed with delight, telling Brittany the good news.

“Brittany! Someone actually signed up to join our clan!”

It was a level 90 Druid with the username Neanderthal. Both were excited at seeing that a max-leveled player had decided to join their guild. In order to get to know each other, the guild spent several hours running dungeons. When questioned about why he joined their clan, the Druid replied saying that he loved the movies. His name was Chad, and he was going to change Brittany’s life for the better.

Warcraft gave her an activity that she could do with her new-found friend. They talked about music, life, and everything in between while they slew monsters and went on quests together. Brittany’s friend could tell something was going on and let the two people grow closer and closer.  Her curiosity got the better of her, and she stalked this mysterious druid on Facebook. Her first thoughts were immediately one of disappointment. It wasn’t that he didn’t look good. It was that he looked too good.

Brittany states that the moment she saw him, her immediate thoughts were, “He’s out of my league.”

She didn’t think that someone like him would ever be interested. However, she knew that she liked this man, and she had a sneaking suspicion that he liked her too, and Brittany decided to take a leap of faith. As it turns out, he was not in fact, out of her league.

Within two months of them becoming Facebook friends, the two were meeting up in real life. She was incredibly nervous. There were so many things that could have gone wrong. He could have been different in real life, they may not have meshed as well, there were a host of problems and anxieties that were racing through Brittany’s head. However, as she finally met him (closely followed by his young sister, who also played WoW with them), her fears melted away. They moved in a month later, and as the saying goes, lived happily ever after. Just several weeks ago, they celebrated their 4-year anniversary.

Brittany hasn’t stopped playing video games since meeting Chad either. They’ve delved into various other markets, like Guild Wars 2, Diablo, Hearthstone¸ and a plethora of console games. She’s met more friends on Warcraft and is aiming to meet them in a couple of months as well. The one constant in her life, however, is Chad. They continue to take on problems in the game and in life together.

When Brittany first entered into video games, she could never have imagined meeting a great friend, let alone the love of her life while playing. She and Chad show that for all the unfortunate incidents that are popularized by the media, there are really positive stories out there. Without WoW, she may have never found him, and Brittany affirmatively states that “I don’t dare to consider where I would be right now if he hadn’t found me.”

Friendship, across Land and Sea

Justin asked that we use this picture, as he and his friends frequently play these champions. From Left to Right: Ezreal, Lee Sin, Lux, Teemo, and Leona.

Our next story features Justin, a 20-year-old from Hong Kong, currently studying in the United States. He’s a veritable veteran of the gaming and loves everything from single-player experiences like the recently released Red Dead Redemption 2 to multiplayer focused games like the Call of Duty series. He’s been playing games since he was a child, surfing around on free browser game sites before graduating to Metal Slug 3, one of the original shoot-em-up games. Afterwards, he moved on to consoles like the XBOX 360, then finally settling on computers and his current game, League of Legends. However, the reason he loves League isn’t because of the normal reasons (although he likes it for the simple reasons too!). Rather, he loves it because it has given him some incredible memories, along with allowing him to remain connected to his friends back home.

               For some context, League of Legends is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game that has been one of the most popular titles in history.  (See a retrospective here) As of 2016, the game boasts over 100 million active players worldwide. Their recent world championship, seen by many as the most exciting and unpredictable worlds competition ever drew more viewership than the super bowl. Since it’s release, League has dominated the PC player base, and it continues to stand strong among gaming giants. For Justin however, League of Legends proved to be more than just a game.

  When Justin first arrived in the States for college, it wasn’t easy for him to make friends. Coming from another continent, the cultural differences and barriers proved to be quite an obstacle to overcome. However, League remained a place where he could relax, and make friends without worrying about those barriers. Eventually, he made some friends while playing, and it turned into cathartic sessions for him.

Justin was able to talk to people about his loneliness, and the issues that were currently plaguing him. His friends did the same, and it was liberating. No strings attached to actually meeting anyone, none of the judgement calls that people make when they see each other. Just friends without baggage. Justin began to open up, and his confidence grew and allowed him to help others who were as nervous and scared as he was when he first came to the US.

One memory he shared was a time a friend he’d met on League came to him with the troubling news that she’d been laid off. Justin took his time to console her, being there emotionally to ensure that she was going to be all right.

Art of League of Legends. The game itself tends to require a lot of co-operation as a 5v5 (sometimes it doesn’t work out)

“I felt strange, because I’d never actually met her in person. Yet I could be there for her as if I was right there. It felt really good to be there for a friend, even if I wasn’t actually present.”

He’s cited League and other games as factors behind why he was able to remain close to his friends back home in Hong Kong. After he finished high school, his best friends scattered across the world, from New Zealand to the United Kingdom. Yet they are all able to communicate, at least once or twice a week. League has been a great tool for him to keep in touch with them, and Justin stays as close as ever to his friends.

He says, “The memories that I’ve made while playing games with my friends from back home equally as memorable and important to me as the ones I’ve made with friends in real life.” From playing Left 4 Dead 2 custom maps and surviving to making the grind on the ranked ladder on League of Legends, he has, and always will cherish the memories that he has received.

Art of the SKT 2016 Championship skins. This team famously won the League of Legends world championships an astounding 3 times and are a brilliant example of communication and success in gaming.

Justin’s story is integral for many people who don’t understand the value of gaming. For him, gaming let him stay grounded to his friends back home, ensuring that those valuable relationships that he had made with the people in Hong Kong remained strong, and a pillar of strength during his time in college. Gaming’s also allowed him to break out of his shell and become a confident man, helping him be that mediator and helper for those who are in need. It’s changed his life for the better, and even through his continued passage through life, he always makes time for a quick game of League with his friends.

One Man’s Odyssey

               It seems only appropriate to have the final story take place mostly around one person. While the previous two people, Brittany and Justin have had gaming help them make connections in friendship and love, our final example, Benjamin is a great showing of just how gaming can help someone relax, and escape to a different reality, even if he’s doing it completely alone.  Ben’s been playing games since he was a young boy, watching his father slot in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 into the XBOX 360. Instead of heading into the multiplayer, duking it out with the millions of players around the world, young Ben found himself enthralled with the single-player, depicting several protagonists as they defended their countries from internal and external threats. So, as he grew older, Ben continued his passion for the single-player genre. Ben’s father was always interested in the military, and it has been a bonding experience for father and son as they went through various games together.

               As Ben grew older, and found himself in college, he found the constant hustle and bustle of people sometimes quite overwhelming. For an introvert, it was very difficult for him to constantly attend and talk to people. Games became even more valuable, not only as a way to have fun, but a way for him to regain his energy, and let him become more sociable after spending some time by himself.

Perhaps one of the biggest games in the western world, Modern Warfare 2 took the world by storm.

“I think that escaping into a different reality is a huge deal for me. Being able to jump into a different world and become a bad-ass Viking, or a legendary special ops soldier is something that games can do really well, and that’s really exciting. It’s sometimes hard for me to just keep going and talking to people, so having that ability of tuning out and just being someone else is so valuable.”

Ben cites video games as a big reason behind how he’s matured as a person. To him, gaming is an experience that teaches, entertains, and informs all at the same time. Moving from the Call of Duty franchise, he’s grown towards more focused single-player games like Skyrim and trying his hand at other franchises like Tom Clancy’s The Division. He’s even tried more existential experiences like the Bioshock series, and Spec Ops: The Line. He particularly enjoyed Spec Ops due to the games different attitude towards traditional military shooters.

               This ability that games have to immerse one into a completely different world is unparalleled amongst various other mediums. While movies, art and music can immerse you, games are a mix of all three with a healthy dose of interaction that invests you into whatever situation you find yourself doing. For example, take the massively successful open-world series, Assassin’s Creed. (For a more in-depth look into open-world titles, look here). The titles have brought players to incredible moments in human history, from the Peloponnesian War of Greece, to the Crusades in Jerusalem, the renaissance in Italy, and the Victorian era of London. Each game has been faithfully recreated, bringing players a sense of wonder and awe as they take a look at each building and structure. Unsurprisingly, Ben is a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, purchasing nearly every title, citing its attention to detail and immersive history as a big reason behind why he’s bought the games.

An impressive wallpaper of Tom Clancy’s The Division, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic New York. The game itself had an interesting premise, that Ben cites as one of “the more interesting titles I’ve played.”

However, even Ben has seen the value of games in connecting to various people. With games like The Division, and Destiny 2, he has found himself making friends and partners-in-crime as they co-operate to achieve various goals that he couldn’t have achieved alone.

 “It’s definitely fun to co-operate with people, especially with games like Destiny 2, where there are some things that you simply can’t do yourself. It’s really satisfying to just get through a raid, or a big event with a bunch of people working hard together. There’s really no feeling like it.”

When asked about the value of gaming, Ben was fully for gaming as a fun and enjoyable activity. “I wouldn’t say it’s…peaceful? When I’m playing, I’m not very tranquil, but I’m excited and I’m happy to be in a different world, or a different planet. It’s something that I could never do in real life, and the ability to do that, even for a short while and through a computer screen is something that’s just awesome to me.”

Eye of The Beholder

               We’ve gone across land and sea to find three wonderful examples of gamers in our current world. Yet they aren’t totally representative of the gaming industry. There are tens of thousands of other brilliant stories that are out there. Despite many years of stigma and prejudice against it, gaming has come a long way, and it has helped many people, physically and emotionally. Brittany entered World of Warcraft to relax and found herself in love. Justin started playing video games in order to keep from feeling isolated, and blossomed into a confident and kind man, looking to make sure that no one else feels lonely. For Ben, gaming’s evolved from being just a simple activity to a safe haven, a place where he can retreat to regroup, and build up his energy to face whatever the world has to throw at him. Three entirely different people, with three entirely different stories, yet they all understand the incredible value of video games.

               Video Games have come a long way from “poisoning kids minds”. They’ve become fun, interactive communities and activities that anybody can participate in. While there have certainly been hiccups, and unfortunate situations that have sometimes marred video games and gamer’s reputations, one must admit that gaming has truly grown into a juggernaut of the industry. With a growing competitive scene, brilliant games, and wonderful people, the future is truly bright for gaming, and it is people like Brittany, Justin, and Ben who will continue to make it shine.

..
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Check this out, I think Valdez just spent $2,000 on mines!

The power of spreadsheets!

I started playing Heroes and Generals again recently, and I was browsing a few threads looking for the best way to make money when I came across this spreadsheet.

It's a fairly complete guide to repair costs for everything you’ll be spending money on in Heroes and Generals. It's a very good resource for deciding what upgrades or vehicles to use in order to maximize profit. While it isn’t entirely up to date or perfect, it serves as a good rule of thumb.

For those of you can’t or don’t want to look at the spreadsheet, the basic points are:

Use as few weapon mods as possible!
  • An unmodded MP40 costs 0.1 silver per bullet fired. A fully modded MP40 can increase that repair cost to 5-8 silver per round! Dumping a full magazine from that MP40 could cost you upwards of 224 silver, the same magazine in a stock MP40 only costs 3.2 silver.

  • A scoped bolt action rifle modded to one-hit kill can easily cost upwards of 50 silver per shot!

  • Adding a scope to a weapon greatly increases its repair costs (Around 7 silver per round for semi automatic and assault rifles, and up to 27 silver per round for bolt action rifles)

Most (But not all) vehicles are expensive!
  • Cars are cheap at around 30 silver per spawn, but that price adds up over time!

  • Tanks and aircraft are very expensive to spawn. Tier 1 light tanks and scout aircraft are cheap however(14 and 55 silver each respectively)

  • Using motorbikes, halftracks, and the other mid size vehicles can be very expensive. The trucks generally cost about a third of the halftracks to spawn, so I would recommend using those for mobile spawning unless you need that extra durability and machine gun.

  • If you’re good at an expensive vehicle, and you do well with it, don’t be afraid to spawn it! Having fun is more important than making the most money you can.

Explosives aren’t cheap either.
  • Don’t use grenades at all unless you’re working towards a badge (They cost 153 silver each)

  • Don’t use anti personnel mines! They’re suuuper expensive! (781 silver each!)

  • I’m not certain where the rewards stand in the new armor update, but I generally find that unless you’re going to get a kill or kill assist on a vehicle with explosives, its not worth using them on it. The payout for damaging vehicles without killing them seems to be very poor, and you’re going to have a much harder time killing anything stronger than a light tank in one pass.

    • You’re much better off wearing them down with Panzerfausts (The ones you pick up off the map), or utilizing a nearby AA gun on soft spots if you can.

    • If those options aren’t available, Anti-Tank mines are the most cost-effective option you can equip.

Don’t forget vehicle ammunition costs.

APCR ammo is costly. Using APCR on vehicles your standard AP can penetrate is a waste of money (it can cost up to 3x as much).

HE is very costly! Using HE on infantry really isn’t worthwhile unless you really need to. You will almost always lose money doing that. Use your machine gun instead.

Supply crates on your vehicle cost you money too, but you normally make your cash back from other players using them (If they do).

So those are my basic pointers for making money in Heroes and Generals!

It’s a shame that so many things are too costly to use in 95% of scenarios.

Don’t eagle eye the numbers too hard though, having fun is the most important thing after all.

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Video games have highly evolved since their inception. The evolution isn’t just in the production values where beeps and static upgraded to film-quality soundtracks and those plasticene 3D character models that flopped around like rag dolls became more expressive and life-like. It’s also been in games’ stories and messages they may send.

There’s game stories that are inherently political like Papers, Please while others are simply more political in nature than the average game; even if they don’t necessarily make the game world’s political environment front and center, but just throw more shade than Chrissy Teigen.

Then you have The Politically Incorrect Adventures of Gewt Ningrich.

This image speaks volumes regarding the differences in satirizing American politics over two decades.

I stumbled across this game that lives up to its namesake when I was browsing Classic Reload one night. Much to my delight, this site is full of old Mac shareware and I was actually looking for an old Mac game about Bill Clinton to show a Twitter friend. The Monica Lewinsky story was constantly being retold on social and traditional media in the face of the Kavanaugh hearings, and it made me recall an old shareware title I forgot the name of that heavily snarked on Clinton’s reputation as a womanizer. And this game was one of many that came out around the same time when I was in eighth grade, and they were still far from the first instances of politics in games or games serving as political commentary.

But political commentary in games didn’t start with issues like climate change and civil rights movements being tacitly (or even overtly) injected into labyrinthine AAA narratives by the mid-aughts. Politics have been present in games a lot longer than you think.

Yesteryear’s games have historical value because they serve as a lens into then-contemporary politics and culture, as well as the state of game design and any role games played in political commentary.

I didn’t discover The Politically Incorrect Adventures of Gewt Ningrich until recently but recalled the numerous humor games about Bill Clinton that came out for Macs around the same time this game was made. Often, they were Whack-a-Mole or Space Invaders clones that used pictures of people from the Clinton administration. But in the numerous shareware discs that littered my middle school desk, sometimes there’d be games with little stories or missions relating to Clinton’s numerous sex scandals as well as political issues of the time like the formation of NAFTA and Clinton’s role in trying to attain peace between Palestine and Israel.

One of the most prominent political games in my memory was the seemingly Monopoly-inspired game Pork Barrel by Gypsy King Software where the premise is that you’re the president who has to keep various campaign promises while going on luck-based, dice-driven quests and maintaining your approval rating. Game mechanics wise, it was full of intense decision-making where there was a strong chance that all of your available choices would piss off one group or another.

Of course, politics were present in games in some way before this. There was a little-known first-person adventurish type of game taking place in an alternate history where JFK survives the assassination attempt and I’m sure if you keep browsing Classic Reload or GOG you’ll find tons more games about Reagan and the Iran Contra Affair, the FDR administration during WWII, or strategy games with smaller leadership roles like governor or mayor.

But you don’t want to keep hearing about the indie games of yore, even though I could rant about them all day. What if I blew your mind and told you that Oregon Trail was a political indictment and you had NO fucking idea?

Of course you’re starting the game with almost no food so it’ll speed up dying from dysentery, colonizer.

Politics, history, culture, and economics are all inexorably linked. The media we consume often serves as commentary on these things whether we realize it or not. Not just in what they say like numerous games about political figures or the slightly more in-your-face commentary on the consequences of rampant capitalism that you can see in more recent adventure games like Shardlight and Lamplight City, but also in what they don’t say.

There is so much nuanced discussion I could have about the Oregon Trail franchise, but many academics and game historians already heavily scrutinized this beloved childhood favorite where we shoot buffalo and die of dysentery en route to the wild west. The politics in this game aren’t as baldly apparent as the other games discussed so far but rather, the political undertones lay in what’s not shown. If you played any version of this game in your youth, do you remember having a context for it?

Oregon Trail was a trailblazer (pun unintended) that played a major role in how games are used in children’s education at home and school. Even though games have evolved so much since the first versions of MECC’s landmark titles, designing edutainment for kids is always a delicate balancing act. For many people in the generations that grew up playing Oregon Trail, we just didn’t have context for why we were filling up wagons and traveling to the Willamette Valley risking dysentery, drowning, cholera, and loads of other gruesome ways to die. I was left to my own devices with the Apple II version at school and the deluxe version shown in the screenshot above at home, followed by the intense overhaul that is Oregon Trail II. Oregon Trail II was an incredible feat of mid-90s game development but despite having the assistance of a PhD in American history, its political statement lies in the lack of context: that you’re going out west because of Manifest Destiny, a concept that was initially uttered by a newspaper editor but was later embraced by political figures favoring continentalism. Figures like former president Andrew Jackson, who pushed “American exceptionalism” with the Trail of Tears among other atrocities.

So yes, there’s only so much a game meant to be educational and aimed at children can tell you about the violence that settlers committed against indigenous people who were being driven out of their ancestral homes. Save for a few stray trading posts, there wasn’t even any mention that the Oregon Trail itself was initially a trade route until the Peoria Party blazed it with the intent to colonize Oregon.

But whether you like it or not, playing as a settler/colonist totally represents politics in a game.

Political figures, elections, and ideologies don’t need to be at the forefront in order for a game to be political.

You really think there’s ZERO political subtext to this?

All art is political. The “are games art” debate has been raging for a little under a decade now, but messages that games can absolutely have a political subtext. Many often do whether the audience realizes it or not: game developers get castigated on social media for discussing laws and policies that affect their lives and ability to make games for a living. Yet many of the same people will turn around and play Call of Duty later without realizing the political context there is in lionizing the military as much as America does.

A game doesn’t need to have a super complex narrative or politics being a major backdrop in the story in order to provide commentary on historical or contemporary public policy, or the role of politics in one’s life.

Oregon Trail was just one example with what went unsaid, Call of Duty for what it represents. Now think about how prominently medieval settings with feudalistic societies are represented in all genres of games. Stories about royal families, kingdoms, and subsequent conflicts have been at the forefront for decades. They might seem like apolitical fantasy at first glance, but let’s get real: this type of setting isn’t just about the aesthetics. For some developers, it’s a matter of their subconsciouses depicting that the country they live in certainly feels like feudal society but at least here’s a prettier and simpler portrayal of it. For others, it’s a matter of wondering if other forms of society would be better than the one they live in. Having kings and queens who are born or marry into rulership can just plain seem easier than worrying about campaign promises and fair elections.

You’d be surprised at how much political subtext lurks in many seemingly-innocuous games.

 Video games themselves have been a political scapegoat.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman during a 1993 Congressional hearing on violence in video games.

Back in the 90s, Mortal Kombat became a political hot potato overnight. Even if the game never entered your household, it was discussed at every dinner table and boardroom from Spokane to Miami. Other games with gory and/or sexual content were thrown onto the table and dissected by academics, media watchdogs, parents, faith leaders, and lawmakers. Video games were still such an unexplored yonder that these groups completely lost their shit at the realization that the major game publishers of the era predominantly marketed to children, so sensitive content could end up in the wrong hands. There was worry that video games with disturbing content were the culprit for increases in violent crimes.

 

Game historian Kevin Impellizeri deep-dove into the violent crimes and activism that led to Senator Joseph Lieberman holding up Night Trap and Mortal Kombat as games that were encouraging violent crimes among young people, and wanted to hold game publishers responsible for irresponsibly marketing to minors. Lieberman introduced the Video Game Rating Act of 1994 which died in the committee once the Entertainment Software Association was born. With that came the ESRB so that content warnings would be put on games with violence and/or a passable amount of sex to be rated M for mature or T for teen, while more minor-friendly titles got E for everyone or K-A for kids to adults. You otherwise got the retail suicide rating of AO, adults only.

 

We’re coming up on the 25th anniversary of the ESRB’s inception and at the time of writing, 297 mass shootings have occurred in America in 2018 alone. Games are still being blamed for the pandemic of gun violence even though a majority of the same games that get scapegoated are available in other countries. Despite how much more ubiquitous games have become in society and the numerous applications they’re used in, with 67% of all Americans playing video games to some extent? Everyone from lawmakers to think tanks to the neighborhood busybody is still placing the blame on video games not just for escalating gun violence, but for antisocial behaviors and becoming more withdrawn and isolated from the world.

 

It’s a little ironic that games are still blamed for this when it’s politics that creates the conditions in which we live in that isolates people by design.

 

Not only have games of all types have brought people together-- couples, friends, entire communities-- but in addition to developers using games to make both intentional and covert political statements, people have turned to games of all types as a form of comfort through incredibly rough political climates. Fulfillment can be found in a game that’s silly and light-hearted with zero political messaging whatsoever, and it can also be found in a long and twisty narrative-driven game that feels like a punch to the gut.

 

But you can’t say that politics have to stay out of games when game developers’ very ability to make a living depends on public policy, such as the ability to get healthcare without being moored to a job and get our work funded. Did you know that game developers don’t even have an industry classification code from the government? That indie developer making games out of their apartment has to use the same code as Microsoft, which has a ripple effect on policies concerning both the arts and business of games.

 

It’s also impossible for politics to be independent of games when lawmakers and pundits alike clearly did not learn anything from the hearings and have instead put more onus on game publishers as well as the victims of both gun violence and a society that is increasingly fractured by precarity, inequality, bigotry, and overall feelings of hopelessness.

 

And whether it’s a game about cute animals that helps you forget about that searing dumpster fire of hopelessness or a story about immigration policy told through pixels, games will continue to be political so long as the medium exists.

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No Good Deed

Over the past couple of days, it has been impossible to traverse the video game world without coming across the new juggernaut from Rockstar Games, Red Dead Redemption II. Taking the world by storm, the game has sold made more than $725 Million in the three days since it’s been released. It’s no surprise considering how well the first game performed, both in terms of critical response and sales. Fans have been clamouring for a sequel since the original Red Dead Redemption released in 2010. However, even though Rockstar Games has released their long-awaited follow-up title, both games still remain missing on the PC platform. The game isn’t exactly an exclusive, but the fact that the games haven’t been released on PC have sparked discussion across the gaming world about the why’s and why not’s of exclusives among the games industry. Many have begged Rockstar Games to give them some information on a possible PC port, but they seem to have remained quiet on the situation, other than some leaked information in the companion app that seemed to point towards a PC version.

               This isn’t the first time Rockstar Games has remained rather quiet on whether their titles would come to the PC. Several of their notable games, like L.A Noire and Grand Theft Auto V took a while before they came to PC. The original Red Dead Redemption still hasn’t made an appearance on people’s computers. From games like Halo and Uncharted, console exclusives have been a constant in the gaming world for a long time. There are many reasons behind why those games stay on the XBOX, PC or PS4, some of them reasonable, some of them downright confusing, but all of them interesting. Let’s delve into the world of exclusives, and what they mean to the gaming world.

Nathan Drake, John-117, and Spider-Man Walk into a Bar

The characters mentioned above are all protagonists of console exclusive games. Spider-Man was in his titular game, released by Insomniac Games exclusively on PS4. John-117, better known as the Master Chief was (and still technically is) the protagonist of the massively popular Halo series, and Nathan Drake is the wise-cracking, ass-kicking hero of the also popular Uncharted series. All of these games sold very well, yet the argument can be made that they could have sold better if they were included on other consoles. So why didn’t they?

The Halo series was originally produced by Bungie studios, who’ve gone on to make Destiny and Destiny 2 (A full recount of the halo series can be found here). However, in 1998, Bungie weren’t the massive company that they are now. To make a game with the scope and scale of Halo would have required money that they did not possess. So, they cut a deal with Microsoft Studios. Microsoft would lend its considerable expertise and load of cash to Bungie studios, and in exchange, Halo would be under Microsoft’s umbrella. The Uncharted series weren’t very different, with Sony having owned Naughty Dog studios since the early 2000s. It’s no surprise that these games won’t release on different consoles. The owners of the studios want more people to buy their respective consoles, and having their best games be exclusives only encourages customers to buy a PS4, or an XBOX. The developers would of course want their games to be released to as many people as possible, but if they have to take being an exclusive with the security of being under a massive company like Sony, or Microsoft, one wouldn’t be surprised that they’d simply take that hit.

 

The Master Race

There are other games, however that have remained exclusives on PC for years now, not due to ownership rights, but simply due to how difficult it would be to port the game to consoles. One massive game that has never reached consoles is the MOBA game, League of Legends.

Released in 2009, the game has dominated computers all over the world for years. Their main competitor, DOTA 2 is also a PC exclusive. Both of these games draw millions of people worldwide and have massive esports scenes that have grown at an exponential level. For a while, some people would ask why these games tried to come over the consoles, but the answer is quite simple. One only needs to play the game to realize that anyone using a controller to play League of Legends would be at an obscene disadvantage to anybody on a mouse and keyboard. Furthermore, both of these games aren’t graphically intensive, which means that most people can use any laptop or desktop to play them. Their exclusivity hasn’t really hampered their successes either. League of Legends still remains a juggernaut in the gaming industry, with at least several million players concurrently playing at any given time. DOTA 2 isn’t anything to laugh at either, with their recent esports final, The International 2018, drawing the largest cash pool in esports history at an astounding $25 Million. When you already have a gift horse, why move to another platform?

Warzone

               Of course, the debate on whether console exclusives are good or bad rage on amongst gamers. Some people don’t find a problem with it. People who own PS4’s are happy with their plethora of incredible exclusives like Horizon: Zero Dawn or God of War. XBOX users might be satisfied with Halo, Gears of War, and Forza. PC users enjoy the possibility of increased graphic fidelity on non-exclusives, as well as access to massively popular games like League of Legends or World of Warcraft.

However, there is definitely a group of people that want to experience games that are unfortunately locked behind other consoles. Be it financially difficult or simply unwise to purchase another console for one or two video games, these people just want to experience a brilliant game, yet are unable to due to their choice of console. That is simply a shame. It does boil down to the publishers themselves to weigh the pros and cons of publishing their game on multiple platforms. There are definitely positives to be a console exclusive, as if they’re owned by the parent company they can enjoy move freedom and financial security to reach higher goals, as well as the fact that they don’t need to focus on ensuring that the game can work on multiple platforms. However, there are certainly negatives as well. Publishers are blatantly alienating a significant portion of the population from playing the game, and these consumers would (justifiably) be quite upset that they can’t access a game because they bought and XBOX or a PS4 long before the consequences of their choices hit them. However, it’s hard for developers to independently produce a game without putting a lot of their eggs in one basket. One alternative is timed exclusives, a recent development where on certain consoles, an activity or game would be released first before being released on other platforms.

Destiny 2 is a prime example of the timed exclusive, with some content being exclusive to PS4’s for several months before being rolled out on PC and XBOX. Mentioned in the introduction, GTA V was also first released on consoles before being dropped on PC with more features etc, which points to Rockstar Games needing time to develop the game for the PC. To make a long story short, the debate between console and platform exclusives is complicated. It’s hard for developers to strike out on their own, yet it seems like the publishers could earn even more money if they were released on multiple consoles. For better or for worse though, it seems like exclusives are here to stay.

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