Video games have evolved from a childhood activity to a pastime for adults. These games are becoming more common and enjoyed in old age, outselling music and film. Now, a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found playing video games can shape the brain — for better or for worse.
“We focused on how the brain reacts to video game exposure, but these effects do not always translate to real-life changes,” said Marc Palaus, first author of the study, in a statement.
Researchers from Open University of Catalonia in Spain and Massachusetts General Hospital noted gamers experience a change in brain activity, and even structure. In the systematic review, playing video games was found to affect attention with gamers showing improvements in sustained attention and selective attention. Moreover, brain regions involved in attention were more efficient in gamers, requiring less activation to stay focused on demanding tasks.
Playing video games requires a high level of attention and hand-eye coordination. Over time, the part of the brain that looks after attention span and hand-eye coordination is able to communicate better, and perform at a higher level among gamers. They enhance the functionality of the brain, and even alter the size of structures related to visuospatial skills.
The brain’s right hippocampus — associated with complex learning and memory — was enlarged in both long-term gamers and volunteers following a video game training program. Video games that involve some problem solving and some more spatially complex tasks train the hippocampus to remember things like lost keys or new names. This helps gain more memory muscle.
The researchers also focused on the possible negative effects of gaming — addiction. The team found functional and structural changes in the neural reward system in gaming addicts. They monitored gamers’ neural responses when exposed to gaming cues that cause cravings.
For example, frequent gamers tend to be faster at making decisions while playing, and their brains tend to show more activity in the reward circuit when they lose. This suggests losing is seen as a reward for frequent gamers, because it entices them to keep on playing, even if they keep losing. This triggers an addictive behavior.
Previous research done by Iowa State University found roughly 8.5 percent of children who play video games in the U.S. are addicted. Across the world, estimates of gaming addiction in children were between 4 and 10 percent. Researchers believe the technology’s increased availability is a risk factor for addiction.
Upon analyzing results from 116 scientific studies, (22 looked at structural changes in the brain, and 100 looked at changes in brain functionality and/or behavior) Palaus and his colleagues agree video games are still new; this means research on what aspects of games affect which brain regions and how is still in its infancy.
“It’s likely that video games have both positive (on attention, visual and motor skills) and negative aspects (risk of addiction), and it is essential we embrace this complexity,” he said.
Overall, it seems video games influence our brain in both both beneficial and harmful ways.
Source: Palaus M, Marron EM, Viejo-Sobera R et al. Neural Basis of Video Gaming: A Systematic Review. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 2017.
From Skyrim to Pokemon, even the best games can have the worst rewards.
By IGN Staff
Many games features collectibles, secret endings, or unlockable power weapons as a reward for completing a campaign or demonstrating mastery of a game’s mechanics. Some, like Nacht Der Untoten surpass all expectations and give players a whole new reason to keep players. Others…well they can’t all be winners can they? These are the worst rewards in video game history.
10) Pokemon – Pokedex Completion Diploma
The mission statement of the Pokemon games and series as a whole is “Gotta catch em all!” And while we concede that any reward would feel trivial in the context of such a lofty and overbearing goal, Game Freak certainly could have done better than this. A reward screen with two sentences of compulsory text. A diploma is a diploma, but something about this one just feels insignificant and obligatory, like countless trainers have come before you, and innumerable others will be awarded this unfeeling accolade long after you’re dead. The fleeting nature of this completion screen doesn’t help either. If you were so inclined to capture this moment forever you could of course print out the diploma on the Gameboy printer and carry it around with you wherever you went… that is until you mistake thin paper for a receipt and throw it in the trash where it belongs.
9) Skyrim – Prowler’s Profit
The world of Skyrim is filled with eldritch dungeons and ancient mysteries, but no objects are more arbitrarily distributed and cruelly scattered than the Stones of Barenzaih. Tracking down all twenty-four requires venturing to virtually every corner of the map, pledging allegiance to multiple guilds and vanquishing more than a few high level foes. Which makes the reward for all this trouble perplexing. When the gems have been socketed into the crown of Barenziah you’ll be blessed with the Prowler’s Profit a passive effect, increasing your chances at finding additional gems from chests and other loot stashes. The problem with this apparently useful effect is that it isn’t achievable by normal means until late into the game, at which point money is much less of an issue, and most of the chests that would benefit from the Prowler’s Profit have already been opened.
8) Gex – 20 Minute Berating
Mix a lethargic lizard with competent platforming, and add a twisted sense of humor and you’ve got Gex, the 1995 flagship title for the seldom-mentioned Panasonic 3DO. Each of Gex’s eclectic levels are capped off with a bonus round, perfect completion of each will result in the ability to play the game a second time in what’s called Planet X. Defeat the final boss of Planet X and you’ll be treated to a twenty minute gauntlet of verbal abuse accented by the agonizing glow of television static. Expect such gems as “Do you have a life or just play games all day? Just think what you could have done today instead…You could have found a cure for cancer…You could have cut a hit grunge album…” Thanks Gex.
7) Destiny – Stranger’s Rifle
Rewarding players for completing a narrative campaign in a multiplayer focused RPG like Destiny can be a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, give players too powerful an item and it diminishes the treasures that await them in the ensuing end-game content, on the other, too weak a weapon simply feels like a slap in the face. And in the original Destiny, that slap in the face took the form of the Strangers Rifle, which was hilariously underpowered relative to the player’s probable light level at the time of campaign completion. But this minor mistake was rectified in a later patch, and the once rare quality Stranger Rifle is now a legendary.
6) Super Mario 64 – 120 Stars, Yoshi Meeting
Don’t get us wrong: the journey that is collecting all 120 stars in Super Mario 64 is one of the all-time greatest in video games. It takes incredible skill to conquer Mario’s first 3D adventure, so you’d expect that the reward would fit the accomplishment. And at first, the prospect of a cannon opening up that can blast you onto the roof of Princess Peach’s Castle is rife with potential. Better yet, once you get up there, you’re greeted by your old pal Yoshi! Does that mean we get to ride the dino across the entirety of the Mushroom Kingdom? No. It doesn’t. All that happens is Yoshi delivers a dumb message and gives you 100 lives, which are literally useless considering that we’ve already done everything in the game. But let’s not forget about the sparkles.
5) Earthbound – Beak Point
From New Age Retro Hippies to sentient piles of vomit, EarthBound is chock full of some of the weirdest things video games. But perhaps none are stranger than the tiny cottage nestled along the western coast of Onett, mostly because it’s the only piece of property in the game you can actually buy. The $7500 price tag is insanely steep when you first stumble upon it early on in your adventure, so one would assume that some amazing treasure, killer weapon, or crazy-powerful boss resides inside. But once you finally fork over the cash, you realize that the place is in complete shambles, with the entire back wall missing. All you get is a strange magazine and a photo-op to perfectly capture your shame and disappointment.
4) Breath of the Wild – Hestu’s Gift
When it comes to rewards for monumental achievements the line between terrible and brilliant is often blurred. Since Breath of the Wild’s release Korok seeds have become synonymous with the unrelenting and tedious task of gathering all 900. In the short-term, collecting the seeds are immediately rewarding, turning in one seed in to Hestu means one permanently expanded portion of Link’s inventory with exponentially increasing costs. But if for some reason the player becomes obsessed enough to track down all 900, the reward is satirical gold: a literal piece of crap. While initially baffling, the idea of this boisterous, blissfully innocent korok forking over a handful of his golden experiment is too endearing an act to hold a grudge.
3) Shadow of the Colossus – That Fruit
Featured in the ending cutscene of Shadow of the Colossus, the Secret Garden near the top of the Shrine of Worship appeared to be a promising end-game goal. The woman Wander fought so hard for ends up there along with his beloved horse, Agro, after all. To survive the treacherous climb up the wall, players must complete a staggering four playthroughs and collect an enormity of lizards to max out Wander’s stamina. But players who ascend to the Secret Garden are met with only a grove of fruit trees. Though not as desirable as a secret ending, it seems a fine consolation prize, as fruit in the Forbidden Lands permanently increase Wander’s max health… but these fruit permanently and significantly decrease Wander’s health bar instead. To make things worse, players are forced to consume all the fruit in the secret garden to achieve the Cornucopia Trophy in the PS3 version. Shadow of the Colossus director Fumito Ueda provides a legitimate explanation for the rotten reward: “The fruit in the ancient land was set to get you closer to a non-human existence. The (secret garden’s) fruit was set to return you to a human one.” While a nice narrative motive, gameplay-wise a permanent decrease in HP for so much effort feels like a slap in the face.
2) Peter Molyneux’s Curiosity – Nothing
Curiosity – What’s Inside the Cube? This ponderous prospect and the pedigree behind its proposal amassed an audience of tens of thousands of players. After tapping at billions of cubes with a plethora of premium items the grand prize was finally unearthed. What was inside, was promised by the acclaimed developer of Fable: Peter Molyneux, to be amazing and life changing. A truly spectacular prize. The prize was in fact as incredible as Peter Molyneux himself. Winner Bryan Henderson was promised fame in the form of digital godhood, fortune in the form a revenue share, and the ability to intrinsically affect the rules by which 22 Cans’ next multiplayer game Godus was played. But Bryan as of June 23rd 2017 hasn’t received a thing, in a quote from Molyneux “in terms of pure profit, actually Godus has not quite even broken even.” Whether Bryan’s revenue share will begin after that happens is unclear, but with no multiplayer in sight and Molyneux moved onto other projects the prospects don’t look good.
1) Everquest’s Kerafyrm the Sleeper – Nothing
The original Everquest was a formative time for the MMO audience, the line between impossible and very difficult was open to interpretation. Invincible and indomitable, lore super heavyweight Kerafyrm the Sleeper was designed to destroy those that awakened him and rampage across the virtual world of Norrath, advancing the server to the next stage of it’s storyline. But long after other servers had tried and failed to defeat the Sleeper, the warring factions of a PVP realm called Rallos Zek banded together and did the unthinkable. Four hours of tedious but terrifying combat resulted in the supposedly unbeatable Kerafyrm clinging onto life with a quarter of his HP. This was not Sony Online Entertainment’s design, and as such a server GM despawned the boss before it could be killed. The Everquest player-base was furious, rather than relinquishing control of its narrative SOE had undone countless hours of player effort. Under intense criticism, the developers respawned the beast which finally met its end at the hands of hundreds of skilled players, heralding the worst reward in video game history… absolutely nothing. The unkillable super boss didn’t drop any loot.
These were our picks for the 10 worst rewards in games. What’s your (least) favorite?
I didn’t get to play any of these, but they sure do look like they’re going to be fun.
God of War
PlayStation’s angry god killer Kratos has a new geography in the new game, expected early in 2018. He’s gone north, to the land of the Norse gods, and finds himself vulnerable because he doesn’t understand the order of things or the language. It’s a perfect setup to explore his humanity through his relationship with his son, Atreus, who becomes not only a companion but who acts as translator.
Kratos has ditched his Blade of Athena swords for an axe inspired by Thor’s hammer, and it opens up new combat opportunities for the protagonist. Game director Cory Barlog of Santa Monica Studio explained that although the new game has a linear narrative, there are other side levels that can be discovered through exploration with the more open world. It’s an attempt to give the player more control over the game in the hope that they will appreciate the magic that comes from discovery.
Monster Hunter World
Capcom’s endearing Monster Hunter franchise is exactly what its title promises. In the games, you hunt monsters. Well, really just different types of animals, many of which may seem like monsters but which are perfectly logical dwellers in the Jurassic-like forest setting. Some of these creatures are herbivores, some are carnivores or omnivores, and each provides a different kind of challenge to your hunter. After completing your objective, you harvest your kills, taking resources to be used for sustenance or to create and improve weapons, clothing, and gear.
Monster Hunter World is developed for the newer consoles, PS4 and Xbox One, and Windows. These systems provide enough power for an open world to be created and a fascinating ecosystem to be developed—one in which you may find that when hunting a creature, you’re competing with a nasty natural predator.
While there’s a new Spider-Man film hitting theatres this summer, the new game starring the superhero is not a move tie-in. Instead, the developers at Insomniac Games are creating an entirely separate and original story that exists in its own universe and is not part of existing canon. That liberates the studio from a tight timeline imposed by another product and allows for sufficient development time to create something special.
The game’s combat is clearly inspired by Rocksteady Studio’s work with the Batman Arkham series, which is smart. And swinging through Manhattan on webs looks to be as exhilarating as you want it to be.
Insomniac spokespeople also said that although Miles Morales, who in the comics becomes Spider-Man, appears in the trailer for the game that was revealed at E3, players will be Peter Parker in this particular game. And don’t be thrown by the white spider logo on Peter’s costume. Insomniac says there’s a very good reason for it. We just have to wait until 2018 to learn what it is.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas
Developed by Ubisoft Toronto, this game is all about spaceships, both flying them and configuring them. It’s also a toys-to-life game, in which the spaceship components you can interact with in real life become part of the game. The studio has come up with a finely balanced stand for the spaceship that clips onto your game controller and into which you put a pilot. Then you create a spaceship around that pilot, switching chassis, wings, guns, and more, to create your own ship. You can switch any of these components on the fly, too, reconfiguring to adjust your speed and manoeuvreability, armour, and weapons to match the enemy you happen to be fighting.
Producer Matthew Rose explained that the game takes place in the Atlas system, which the developers have imagined as being in the Pleiades cluster, and that all seven worlds in the game are fully realized and completely open to players for exploration. Your ships will be used for much more than combat, too, as they will be used to scan the world and collect samples and resources to further the game.
Starlink was built with drop-in and -out split-screen co-op, too. And because your ship components exist physically and digitally, you can share the different pilots and parts, so households don’t need to purchase ships for all their kids. Rose said that Ubisoft has created the game without any gates or walls that require specific pilots or ships. Although they have created additional toys they hope gamers will want to purchase and collect, Rose added, you will be able to complete the entire game with only the starter pack, if you wish.
The first six months of Donald Trump’s presidency have seen a new era of American politics reflected on our screens. House of Cards, Veep and The Handmaid’s Tale have all adjusted to a new cultural mood. Even Wolverine’s latest big-screen outing was a downbeat affair that saw everyone’s favourite X-Man try to cross the border with a young Mexican girl.
It’s not just TV and film, though — video games are also adapting to a new political dawn, from DIY indie titles to AAA blockbusters.
Logan’s immigration themes are also explored in Borders, a lo-fi arcade game that challenges players to help an 8-bit Mexican stick figure cross over to American soil, avoiding patrols of armed soldiers, hiding in bushes along the way.
“Borders came to me while I was sketching and hearing about Trump,” says its creator, 23-year-old artist Gonzalo Alvarez, from Texas.
Gonzalo Alvarez with with Borders arcade booth
“His campaign brought out a lot of fear and hate, especifically towards foreigners and immigrants. It upset me because I’m the son of two immigrants who crossed illegally 20 years ago. Without them doing so, I wouldn’t be here. I thought if I could make a game where you simulate what it’s like to cross, maybe players could gain a new perspective.”
As well as being available to download, Borders has toured the US as an old-school arcade booth in an art installation — and every player has left a mark on the game world.
“Wherever a player dies, a skeleton will be permanently left behind in the game so that future players are able to see those who failed before them,” Alvarez explains.
“It displays how many people die crossing the border and how hard it is to do. Our save file has more than 2,300 skeletons. I want people to see them and reflect on the hundreds of unnamed skeletons in the Mexican desert. My father told me the story of when he saw a skeleton of another human on his way to America. He said it’s the one thing he has never forgotten.”
Alvarez isn’t the only one who’s turned identity politics into thought-provoking gameplay. Honolulu-based developer Andrew Wang, 41, is the creator of The Cat in the Hijab — a game whose cutesy pastel-shaded graphics contrast with gameplay, where the player reacts to discrimination on a subway journey.
“The increasing brazen acts of hate speech, racism, bigotry and discrimination was really troubling me, and the bad example certain politicians and leaders had been setting,” Wang says, adding that American Muslims “are among the kindest and most generous Americans I’ve ever met.”
Like Borders, the inspiration for The Cat in the Hijab sprang from something more personal.
“I was a bystander in an incident almost two decades ago in which I did nothing to help, and that haunted me,” explains Wang. “I wanted to plant a tiny seed in players’ minds, so that when they’re in a situation where they see someone being harassed they will act and speak with a little more empathy.”
For Wang, that’s where games can connect even more deeply than films or TV: empathy.
“Games allow the player to live life as someone else and put you in their shoes,” he says. “You can replay different choices and explore ‘what if’ scenarios. Games can put the player as the decision maker, forcing them to confront issues.”
While small indie titles have less to lose by zoning in on political issues, even big-budget mainstream games are reflecting America’s new reality. Ubisoft’s first-person shooter series Far Cry is defined by its open-world freedom, and the playground in the forthcoming fifth entry is America’s rural heartland.
Where Call of Duty: Modern Warfare fought terrorism in the Middle East and Russia a decade ago, Far Cry 5 has players battling a weaponised religious cult, the Project at Eden’s Gate, under the blue skies of Montana. It was in development before Trump’s rise to power but already feels undeniably relevant.
“I began to get the sense that America was ready for a Far Cry,” producer Dan Hay said when the game was announced. “In the last year and a half I got that feeling back [similar to the Cold War], like we’re riding a wave and something is going to happen. Like there’s going to be a calamity and a collapse.”
It’s already been controversial. A Change.org petition asking Ubisoft to “Cancel Far Cry 5” labelled the game “an insult”, though it drew more headlines than signatures. Players will have to wait until February 2018 to see how far Far Cry 5 skewers extreme American conservatism — but its existence is proof that video games can be just as engaged with the real world as your TV.
Zoie Burgher gamed the YouTube celebrity system hard. It took her just a few months to rack up her first million subscribers, something that has taken other aspiring YouTubers years. Burgher’s next challenge will prove a bit more difficult: becoming a successful media CEO. She’s launching a new company that will be part gaming team, part media brand, and part talent agency. She’s got a lot more riding on this one, too: she’s convinced a group of women to drop everything and join her, and she’s thrown her own money behind it.
So far, Burgher’s company, Luxe Gaming, has one main project: Luxe House. Team members (right now there are six of them, including Burgher) live together in a house and post episodic vlogs of their daily lives to YouTube. While many reality shows sequester their contestants away from the outside world, on YouTube, Luxe offers the opposite approach: constant, real-time fan feedback.
Basically, Burgher says, Luxe House will be like The Real World, but populated only by young women, with a little bit of Call of Duty.
“Social media stars are made from reality TV shows,” Burgher said. “We decided that [making our own reality program] would be the best way to showcase ourselves and draw attention to our personal brands and help us gain recognition.”
This isn’t Burgher’s first shot at fame. Before YouTube, she was a Twitch streamer, where she had thousands of followers and was frequently banned for her semi-provocative videos. (Wearing bikinis. Twerking.) In August 2016, she was suspended from the platform for what she said was the fourth time for “sexually explicit or pornographic content.” Burgher claimed she was being targeted by Twitch, whose community guidelines vaguely prohibit “inappropriate broadcaster behavior and attire,” because the company was embarrassed to be associated with her.
A Twitch spokesperson told The Verge the company doesn’t comment on terms of service violations.
In retaliation, Burgher moved her show to YouTube, where she posted captured footage of the Twitch stream that had previously gotten her banned. That video earned her an immediate following, and an interview on the popular YouTube gossip show DramaAlert. The host, Keemstar, asked her how she managed to get 650,000 subscribers in less than a month. Rather than talk about hard work or the importance of good lighting, Burgher demonstrated her twerking technique. As it had on Twitch, Burgher’s trade-off of skin for views irked other YouTubers, several of whom tried and failed to get her banned from the platform.
When she wasn’t banned, many YouTubers turned to “call out” videos to air their grievances to whoever would listen. In a video called “Zoie Burgher is destroying YouTube,” 20-year-old gamer Pyrotechnical says, “If you guys haven’t gotten it already, I’m trying to make the point that no one would give a shit about [Burgher] if she didn’t show cleavage.” The video responses were seething and bitter. Kotaku reporter Patricia Hernandez wrote in 2016 that the negative reactions were likely “a misplaced jealousy” over Burgher’s meteoric rise, as viewers felt like they were being “tricked into watching Burgher’s content or that she’s cutting corners to get a fame she does not ‘deserve.’”
On a video about Burger from the gamer TBets, a commenter going by Noah wrote: “Man fuck all u haters, u just mad she gained more subs than u. She’s not a bad streamer.”
In the Luxe Gaming announcement video, Burgher and her friend Abigale Mandler go over some hazy details about the project: from now on, the two announce, they’ll be going by “Luxe Zoie” and “Luxe Abigale,” adopting their brand’s name as their own. The backyard that they’re standing in — situated somewhere between Los Angeles and San Diego, with views of pristine suburban homes nestled among foggy mountains — is where the members of Luxe Gaming’s reality show will live.
“We like to tell people we’re from Los Angeles,” Mandler says. “But we just couldn’t find a big enough house [there] to fit all of the girls without paying an extreme amount of money.”
Mandler has known Burgher for a few years now. They were roommates in Utah when Burgher first began to earn a following on Twitch and YouTube. Eventually, Burgher helped Mandler start her own YouTube channel, teaching her how to set up a greenscreen and where to stick the “10 million wires” required for shooting and streaming.
When Burgher pitched Luxe Gaming to her last fall, Mandler was working as a medical transcriptionist, and she was nervous to ditch her steady paycheck to chase the whims of a content-hungry internet.
“It was a total change for me. I was kind of scared,” Mandler says. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t just leave my job for this crazy life,’ but I’m so glad that I did it.”
To get inside Luxe House, potential members have to go through an online application process, which requires that applicants be over 18 and female, though there is no age maximum. Applicants are asked to provide links to their social media accounts and evaluate statements like “I have a desire to be well-known,” “Hate speech bothers me,” and “My family supports me emotionally” on a scale that ranges from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” Judging by the current participants, it’s also clear it would benefit applicants to meet a particular standard of beauty, although the application promises there are “no requirements for sexuality.”
Mandler says that, often, women in the gaming community are forced to choose between being sex objects or being sexless, with little room for a middle ground. “It’s hard for girls to be accepted into the gaming community when they act like the pretty girl,” Mandler says. “If you want to make it in the community, you often have to be the tough girl.”
Not all of Luxe’s members come from the gaming world. Mandler’s personal channel features Resident Evil gameplay streams, but also hosts videos like “ASMR Detention Teacher Role Play” and “Sexy Baking With Abigale Mandler.” Jelzy is a Twitch streamer who is into cosplay, Linda is an 18-year-old beauty vlogger, and Kiran is a gamer from Canada who moved to LA this month just to live in the Luxe House. There’s also Hitomi, who exists online only as an anonymous artist represented by an animated avatar. She won’t be living in Luxe House, but she supports the team from the online sidelines, and benefits from its growing audience. In a recent Twitter poll, Hitomi asks her followers how they discovered her art; the majority, 38 percent, said Luxe.
In an announcement video about joining the team, Hitomi says her fans might not understand her decision, but she’s impressed by what Burgher is trying to do. “It’s not unfathomable to think that you can shake your ass and have an intelligent conversation and enjoy video games all at the same time.”
Burgher’s fans seem to agree. A 20-year-old Luxe Gaming fan named Olivia told The Verge she admires Burgher’s persistence in the face of controversy. “Zoie rocked the YouTube and Twitch world,” Olivia said. “She showed she wasn’t afraid to do what she had to do to get where she wanted, and she got there.”
A young gamer named Jessica told The Verge that she sees herself in Luxe’s members. “It shows that the gaming industry is not just overrun by males,” Jessica wrote over Twitter DM. “I even look up to people like Zoie and Abigale. I’ve been a big gamer since I was really young and seeing a girl gaming group inspires me and maybe one day I can join the Luxe family.”
Lux Gaming isn’t the first all-female gaming group, or the first set of gamers to test the cohabitation model. Last year, six members of the e-sports team FaZe Clan moved into a mansion together in Los Angeles — FaZe House LA — and documented their daily lives. But their vlogs felt tangential to their main project: like any traditional sports team, FaZe’s money comes from winning competitions. According to ESports Earnings, the entire FaZe roster has earned more than $1.4 million over 134 tournaments.
Luxe is still testing its business model, which relies largely on funding from fans, media partnerships, and sponsorships. The team just returned from the gaming convention E3 — a trip that was fully paid for by a generous gaming chair company, according to Mandler, that she wouldn’t name. A few weeks ago, Burgher announced that she would be going on tour to meet her fans, and hinted at the possibility of other Luxe members would be coming with her. The tour is being funded by Fullscreen Inc., a company that helps YouTube creators find ways to monetize their content. Eventually, Burgher hopes Luxe Gaming’s YouTube channel will bring in revenue as well.
Burgher also has a Patreon account, where fans can tip her anywhere from $5 to $200 per month in exchange for rewards based on how much money they give. Rewards include access to “exclusive cleavage/bikini selfies,” access to Burgher’s private Snapchat account, and personalized nude photos. On the Patreon page, Burgher has listed two goals: paying off her student loans and “Buying a bigger ass,” where she asks fans to “Donate to the cause of increased fapability.”
Abigale, Jelzy, Kiran, Linda, and Hitomi all have their own, smaller, Patreon accounts, too. Their rewards are similar to, if less explicitly sexual than, Burgher’s. Mandler is vague about her rewards, but stipulates that her patrons must be 18 or older. Kiran and Jelzy both offer cosplay photos (rabbit ears and a lace bodysuit, a sexy Sailor Moon uniform) to fans; Kiran also sells a “one-on-one private stream” to patrons paying $250 or more per month, but she explicitly notes it will be “non sexual.” Linda’s rewards include a “cheeky lace bodysuit” photo while Hitomi sticks to NSFW illustrations.
Patreon can be a significant source of income, but it poses its own set of problems. With around 320 patrons, Burgher has the largest number of people paying for her rewards, but there’s a public Zoie Burgher subreddit where users have been posting her exclusive Patreon photos for anyone to see for free.
When I asked who was bankrolling Luxe Gaming — was there a mysterious angel investor? — Burgher responded, “I fund everything.” This means paying rent on what is at least a five-bedroom home with an in-ground pool somewhere in California, buying camera equipment, and even covering groceries. “Sometimes we pay for our own [food] and sometimes we don’t,” Mandler says.
Mandler says most of the deals come through Zoie, who hasn’t asked Luxe’s members to throw down any cash yet. “[The women in the house] usually come from very modest means, so I wouldn’t just expect them to come into a mansion and pay for it,” she says.
In the five weeks since the their launch announcement, Luxe House has produced one episode titled, “The Luxe House Ep. 1: Bird is the Word,” which was posted on May 19th. In it, Zoie, Abigale, Linda, and Jelzy hang around the house and talk to the camera, confession booth-style. Burgher sees Luxe House as a new kind of sorority, filmed and edited for public consumption. Mandler describes it like a more modern version of Big Brother. The episode currently has around 72,800 views.
Other than the whole living-in-a-mansion thing, the daily lives of Luxe’s members don’t seem much different from any 20-something without a 9 to 5 job. “We wake up, we eat breakfast, we go to the gym,” Mandler says. They take selfies in the pool, sit around a fire pit, and smoke hookah.
Though it is a mansion, the house looks sparse and unfurnished; a few of the rooms still don’t have furniture in them. “I don’t think we realized how difficult it would be to fill this place up,” Mandler says. On the Luxe House Snapchat account, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of the house’s interior: a gray sectional sofa, some wooden chairs, a sun room with huge floor-to-ceiling windows. Oh, and the Wi-Fi sucks. Mandler says the poor connection has made vlogging close to impossible in the past couple of weeks. “Where we live, we get the shittiest internet.”
To solve the problem of shitty mountain internet, the Luxe team is also renting an apartment in a nearby town, which they plan to use as an office and primary vlogging space. So Luxe House will take place in at least two settings: a big mansion in the hills, and a secret side spot with a stronger Wi-Fi signal.
From a viewer perspective, the show in its current state feels as cobbled together as its backdrop. Without much of a plot, its first episode falls a bit flat, instead resting on orchestrated drama that doesn’t feel particularly dramatic. The episode, which caps out at 10 minutes, is meandering and goofy, soundtracked by a simple guitar twang that could’ve been plucked from a children’s television show. After some brief introductions, they get to the heart of the episode: earlier in the day, a bird flew into one of their sliding glass doors. It was injured, but it didn’t die. So Zoie killed it — maybe.
“They killed a bird in front of me,” Jelzy says to the camera, straight-faced. The camera cuts to Zoie: “I did not kill that fucking bird.” And then Abigale: “Zoie Burgher lifted a 5-pound rock over her head and smashed it down on this poor, defenseless bird.” No one seems exactly upset about the bird slaughter, but they seem to understand the possibility that they could be upset plays better for the cameras.
Near the end of the episode, the camera pans to a champagne toast and Jelzy asks the kind of question that might’ve been immortalized on a T-shirt during MTV’s reality show heyday: “Is this champagne gluten free?” Everyone laughs, and repeats the question, the way you do when one of your friends says something unintentionally funny.
For all its attempts to emulate a mainstream reality TV show, Luxe House feels uniquely made for YouTube. When the women clink champagne flutes, Burgher asks, “Is this the thumbnail?” referring to the still image that represents a video while it’s not being played. “No,” Mandler replies, “the lighting’s shit.” It is shit, and it’s also obvious that the women are shooting everything themselves. The camera jostles and spins as members pass it around; imagine The Blair Witch Project as a selfie.
Burgher says the majority of the people who watch and comment on her videos are men, but she thinks women are watching, but they’re just more skittish about commenting. But that’s exactly what Luxe Gaming, according to Burgher, intends to change. “From a young age I understood that girls were underrepresented in the gaming industry,” Burgher says. “And seeing female influencers grow, especially in the gaming community, is a novelty.”
Luxe Gaming does seem poised to grow: in about a month of existence, the team’s YouTube channel has amassed around 21,000 subscribers. But, it’s been more than a month since the crew has posted an episode of Luxe House — an eternity for a platform that rewards daily vlogging — and their personal channels have been similarly quiet. This week, the women appeared in their first live gameplay stream, playing Black Ops 3; the video was hosted on Burgher’s channel. Burgher says they’ll eventually move the streams over to the Luxe Gaming channel, once her subscribers are on board.
It’s too early to say if Luxe House will succeed or fail, and even Burgher doesn’t seem entirely sure of her vision. When asked what the end of Luxe House looks like — A big finale? Tearful goodbyes? — Burgher said, “All good things come to an end and the key is to evolve and grow with the changes, especially technological and algorithmic.”
If she’s not a CEO yet, at least she sounds like one.
LONDON, June 29, 2017 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ —
LONDON, June 29, 2017 /PRNewswire/ —
TIGA, the network for games developers and digital publishers and the trade association representing the video games industry, today published Brexit and Beyond:Priorities for the UK Video Games Industry (June 2017). TIGA’s substantive reports sets out a policy agenda for Government, Parliament and policy makers to consider as the UK negotiates its departure from the European Union.
“TIGA’s Brexit and Beyond:Priorities for the UK Video Games Industry, sets out a cogent, coherent and constructive agenda for ensuring the UK games sector is a leading player in an industry that is predicted to be worth approximately $100 billion by 2018. If the UK creates a favourable tax environment with an enhanced Games Tax Relief, improves access to finance and enables studios to access talent, then the UK video games industry will both survive and thrive in a post-Brexit world.”
The UK video games industry already contributes £1.2 billion to UK GDP. This contribution will increase with the right policy environment in place. TIGA’s Brexit:Priorities for the UK Video Games Industry, has ten key themes:
1. The UK needs a favourable tax environment to encourage businesses to invest in the UK. The Government should consider:
increasing the rate of Video Games Tax Relief from 25 to 27.5 or 30 per cent.
2. Access to finance: The UK Government should:
introduce a Video Games Investment Fund to provide pound for pound match funding up to a maximum of £200,000 to enable more studios to grow;
maintain the UK Games Fund so that start-ups can access funding for prototypes; and
increase the amount of money that a company can raise via SEIS investment from £150,000 to £200,000.
The Government should also consider the following options:
negotiate a general reciprocal freedom of movement rights for workers with a job offer;
negotiate an agreement which retains reciprocal freedom of movement rights for workers in the video games industry;
provide approximately 500 Work Permits per annum for the UK video games industry;
add roles (e.g. Games Analyst and Engine Programmer) to the Shortage Occupation List where there is a specific skills shortage so that employers can recruit the employees they need without undue delay;
ensure that any new immigration arrangements are not complex or costly for business.
4. Exports, trade agreements and tariffs: The UK Government should:
negotiate a trade deal with the EU that avoids quotas, tariffs and other barriers to trade to the greatest possible extent;
maintain free trade in video games;
negotiate trade deals with growing economies;
examine the potential for incentivising more businesses to export through the tax system.
5. Intellectual Property: The UK Government should:
consider introducing arrangements for the conversion or extension of a EU trademark or registered community design to cover the UK.
6 . Data Protection: The UK Government should:
adopt and adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to ensure that companies based in the UK and doing business in the EU can continue to smoothly transfer information and data.
7 . Higher Education: The UK Government should:
make up any short-fall in funding following the UK’s departure from the EU and ensure that any new visa system governing migration does not impair the ability of UK universities to recruit either academic staff or students from the EU.
8 . Skills and Training: The advent of Brexit increases the importance of developing a well-educated and highly skilled workforce. The UK Government could consider:
conducting a cost/benefit analysis of extending the life of the Skills Investment Fund to maximise investment in skills in the creative industries;
allowing the proceeds of the Apprenticeship Levy to be available to fund a variety of good quality courses and not solely apprenticeships so that employers can choose the right training programme to benefit their employees and their businesses;
working closely with industry to increase diversity within the sector so that studios can access the widest possible range of skills;
examining the case for the introduction of a pilot Training Tax Relief for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to offset expenditure on training against corporation tax.
9. Fiscal policy: The UK Government should consider:
increasing investment in infrastructure, including transport and fibre optic broadband, to cushion the UK from the shock of Brexit and to enhance the country’s long term competitiveness, if economic growth falters.
10. A British Games Institute: The UK Government should consider:
introducing a British Games Institute (BGI) to drive the video games sector forward. The BGI would focus on: managing TIGA’s long standing proposal for a Games Investment Fund; promoting British games culture; and increasing productivity in the industry.
TIGA is the network for games developers and digital publishers and the trade association representing the video games industry. Since 2010, TIGA has won 24 business awards and commendations and has been successfully accredited as an Investors in People organisation three times. TIGA focuses on three sets of activities:
This enhances the competitiveness of our members by providing benefits that make a material difference to their businesses, including a reduction in costs and improved commercial opportunities. It also means our members’ voices are heard in the corridors of power and positively represented in national, broadcast and UK video games trade media.
to host Cannons Friday and Legion Post 241 on Saturday
by Stephen Blue
The Deltaville Deltas entered the toughest part of their schedule last week, with 9 games over a 12-day stretch. The Deltas were successful in winning 3 of the first 4 games, moving to a 8-2 record on the season, and maintaining first place in the Richmond NABA league standings.
This weekend the Deltas host a rare Friday night game against the York Cannons at 7:30 p.m. on June 30 at historic Deltaville Ballpark.
On Saturday, July 1, a full evening at the ballpark will feature the second annual Deltas-Legion ballpark fundraiser doubleheader. The Blue and Gray junior teams of American Legion Post 241 will face off at 5 p.m., followed by the nightcap of the Deltas versus the Post 241 senior team at 7:30 p.m.
Paul Jones struck out 13 and Chris Blake broke open a tied game with a 3-run home run as the Deltas defeated the Richmond Tigers 10-3 on June 21.
The Tigers and Deltas traded runs early, playing to a 3-3 tie after 4 complete innings. In the 5th, Scott Crump and Mason Phillips singled, and Blake followed with a blast to right field to give Deltaville the lead.
The Deltas added insurance runs in the 7th inning to seal the victory.
Devin Sisson started on the mound for the Deltas, pitching 4 2/3 innings. Jones was credited with the win in relief, coming in with 2 outs in the 5th. He proceeded to strike out 13 of the next 16 batters.
Kinston Carson led the Deltas offense going 3-for-3 with 3 RBIs.
The Deltas locked into a battle on June 22 in Richmond, falling in the final inning to the Blue Jays.
The Deltas struck first, plating a run on back-to-back doubles by Alexander Crittenden and Kinston Carson, and extended their lead to 2-0 in the 2nd inning when Travis Crump singled home Brandon Walker.
The Blue Jays responded in the 3rd, stringing together 4 hits to score 3 runs to take a 3-2 lead. Deltaville fired back in the 4th with a 2-run single from Cory Peel to retake the lead 4-3.
The score remained there until the 6th, when the first of 3 costly Deltaville defensive errors allowed the Blue Jays to tie the game at 4-4. Two more errors in the bottom of the 8th allowed the Blue Jays to take the lead and win the game.
Crittenden led the Deltas offense with 2 hits. Jack Jett took the pitching loss in relief, despite all 3 runs he allowed being unearned. Jay Moore started and pitching 5 solid innings.
The offense pounded out 13 hits while the pitching staff allowed just 2 hits as the Deltas cruised to a 10-0 victory over the Richmond Braves on June 24 in Deltaville.
Deltaville plated 3 runs in the 1st inning, and repeated that again in the 3rd inning to take a 6-0 lead. Meanwhile, pitchers Kinston Carson and Jason Wood combined to strike out 9 batters while allowing just 1 hit in the first 6 innings.
The Deltas plated 3 more runs in the 7th, and another in the 8th to complete their offensive attack. Alex Fitchett and Cory Peel each pitched an inning of scoreless relief to seal the game.
Travis Crump led the offense with 3 hits, while Scott Crump and Brandon Walker were each responsible for driving in 3 runs. Wood was the winning pitcher.
Six Deltas batters had multi-hit games and combined for 17 hits as Deltaville rolled past the Richmond Orioles by the score of 14-6 on June 25.
A five-run 1st inning onslaught was capped by a 2-run triple by Jack Jett, and Deltaville would go on to score at least one run in each of the first 5 innings. By the end of the 5th, Deltaville held a 13-1 lead.
The Orioles did not go quietly, scoring 5 runs over the final 4 innings; however, it was not nearly enough to eclipse the lead the Deltas had built.
Walker was joined by Scott Crump in driving in 4 runs each in the game to lead the Deltaville offense, while Jacob Houston led all hitters with a 3-hit game.
Mason Phillips was the winning pitcher, starting on the mound and allowing just 1 run on 2 hits.
Deltaville’s Alexander Crittenden slides safely into 3rd base during Saturday’s win over the Richmond Braves. (Photo by Stephen Blue)
Ok so maybe I am the only one who thinks about this, but I wish more video game characters could sit down in chairs and interact with NPC’s, food and beverages. I actually would like to see more options to just enjoy the environments these game creators create. So this is how I see this game mechanic working in Red Dead Redemption 2. I am using RD2 as an example. You could apply this to Elder Scrolls series or dragon age series or pretty much any game with tavern/bar type areas.
You walk into a saloon/tavern the piano man is playing his tune and you walk up to the bar, table or any sitting area and press x to sit down. This happens seamlessly and once in the seated position you have button prompts that can do different actions. Press y to whistle for a waitress and order a beverage or food. The food and brink are brought to the table where you can literally press a button to take a sip and press a button to eat while enjoying the music and atmosphere of the saloon. Take it even further. Press RB to pull out a deck of cards and challenge NPC’s , Press LB to pull out your knife to play five finger discount, another button to call for a new song. My point is I think it would be really neat for a game to put that kind of detail into the sitting mechanics. Most games have chairs in bars and buildings but you cannot sit in them or do anything while sitting if you can. It is my dream for a video game to make the sitting mechanics I am describing. I think this mechanic would add a very deep level of immersion into a game.
New Delhi: The notion that playing video games make people lazy and drives them away from physical activity, as it turns out, is a bit exaggerated. Recent studies show that playing video games have various health benefits too. They can boost attention, improve cognitive skills, and can keep you in shape as well. So if you are crazy about Subway Surfer and like to play it while commuting back home from work, during lunch break or before going to bed, it might actually be good for you.
Interestingly, video games are increasingly being played by adults. According to Statista, a German market research and statistics company, the average age of gamers is now 35 years. Smartphones have made accessing games easier for many. They are easier to carry, unlike a laptop which is bigger in size or a console which works with a TV screen. This has created a new breed of casual gamers who like playing when they have some free time at hand. Here are some of the benefits of video games.
Rewiring your brain
Researchers from Open University of Catalonia, Spain, examined 116 previous studies about the impact of video games on the functioning and structure of human brain. Their findings, published in June 2017, show that brain regions involved in attention are more efficient in gamers when it comes to sustaining attention for demanding tasks.
Also, video games can increase the size and efficiency of brain regions related to visuospatial skills. It is a set of skills which allows people to create visual memories of things they see. The right hippocampus, a region in brain responsible for emotions and long-term memory, was also found to be enlarged in gamers after a video gaming session.
Another study carried out at RMIT University, Melbourne, published in August 2016, found that teenagers who played online video games showed improvement in problem-solving skills and performed better at their studies too.
A Penn University study, published in February 2016, found that participants who played a golf game using Nintendo Wii motion controller also performed better in real-world putting compared to participants who had no video game training.
Physical exercise through games
According to a Minnesota-based Healthcare company United Group, video games can boost physical activity levels in overweight children undergoing weight management programs. Researchers from North Carolina State University, in one of their studies which was published in March 2016, found that senior citizens who played games on Nintendo Wii were more physically active, cheerful and social than non-gamers.
A study from University of Sydney, published in May 2017, claims that VR games can make up for lack of physical exercise. The researchers monitored the heart rates of participants while they played VR games and found that their heart rate was equivalent to light exercise such as walking with games such as Fruit Ninja and at par with moderate exercises such as dancing with games like Holopoint. The study also points out that if the VR games are more engaging people don’t mind the physical exercise.
How video games can help in treatment
A joint study by researchers from the University of Washington and University of California, San Francisco, published in January 2017, found that people suffering from depression responded better through mobile games compared to those who received traditional problem-solving therapy.
Not only they reported improved moods but also showed improvement in attention span and ability to function.
VR gaming is still in a nascent stage, but its ability to simulate three-dimensional scenarios allowing users to experience the visuals as if they are part of the action can be very effective in such treatments. The simulations also feel more believable than scenarios created through conversation-based therapy.
A British study published in March 2017 suggests that VR-generated environments can help people undergoing psychological treatment identify problems by simulating their problematic situations. Researchers examined 285 empirical studies on mental disorders and found that VR-based treatments can alleviate anxiety disorders more effectively.
Video games have never been cooler than with Video Games Live, an immersive experience complete with music, lights and videos.
Photo courtesy of the Houston Symphony
Gamers, put down the controller and get over to the Houston Symphony for Video Games Live on July 14 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Bank of America Summer Series at Jones Hall. Show creator Tommy Tallarico will host and play guitar alongside conductor Emmanuel Fratianni and the Houston Symphony Chorus for this immersive experience.
Escape to the land of fantasy and imagination as your favorite video games are brought to life in a one-of-a-kind multimedia concert experience with live music, solo performers, and exclusive video footage on three giant screens with synchronized lighting and live action. You’ll see great games like never before: from Final Fantasy to Zelda, Skyrim, Donkey Kong Country, Warcraft, Shadow of the Colossus, Pokémon, Mario and many more.
Tallarico says the concert blends many different elements to create a stunning experience. “We have all the power and emotion of a symphony orchestra but combined with the energy of a rock concert, interactive visuals, technology and the fun video games provide. It’s not just a tuxedo on stage. It’s synchronized to a stage show production, interactive elements, and rock and roll lighting.”
A career in entertainment seemed almost fated for him. The music gene runs in his family. His cousin is Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. He’s been involved in the video game industry since the age of 21, when he left his home of Springfield, Massachusetts and moved to Southern California.
Since then, his career has exploded. He has worked on more than 300 video games, and he helped transition the beeps and bloops sound effects of older games like Tetris and Pong to the fully orchestrated games today’s millennials are accustomed to playing.
That transition of the old music to the video game music of today sums up the point of this concert.
“As a composer, I wanted to prove to the world how culturally significant video games have become. And my other goal was to usher in a new generation of young people to appreciate the arts and symphony,” he said.
Tommy Tallarico jams out to some of the most well-known music from video games.
Photo courtesy of Houston Symphony
Looking at the numbers, he has succeeded in this quest. His first concert drew 11,000 people to the Hollywood Bowl. Guinness World Records recognized him three times for his achievements in gaming. In 2012 during the Game Developers Conference, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award and is also in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. for his contributions to the game industry.
Another measure of success for Tallarico’s show is captured in the phrase, “Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.” He says three copycat shows have emerged since Video Games Live launched. They focus around the Pokémon, Final Fantasy and Zelda soundtracks. Nothing says, “You’ve made it!” quite like seeing someone else imitate your product.
Nowadays, Tallarico says he sees lines of young people spilling out into the streets as they try to buy tickets to see the symphony show – a feat not quite duplicated by the fare of standard symphony programming of deceased composers.
The Houston Symphony, though, is not your average performing arts organization. It was one of the first to reach out to Tallarico when he debuted Video Games Live, and it is known for bringing other exciting, modern programming like The Music of Prince, which plays the day after Video Games Live. The group also recently concluded a season of speaking engagements in partnership with National Geographic.
“It was the Houston Symphony that really took a chance on this thing, and that was indicative of what they do. They’re always ahead of the curve. They’re always cutting-edge,” said Tallarico.
A career in the video game and music industry has served him well. Video Games Live has run for more than a decade and has been performed on five continents. The Houston performance will mark show number 412.
He also mentions that each show has its own style and flavor. He polls locals to see what songs they want to hear incorporated into the show, so no two song sets are ever exactly the same.
Just to add to the fun, there will also be a costume contest before the show in which the audience votes on the winners. There is also a VIP experience for the most dedicated fans.
With the previous success of this show, trust us when we say you’ll want to buy your tickets now. There’s a good chance this one will sell out.
Video Games Live playsFriday, July 14, at the Houston Symphony, 615 Louisiana. Tickets range from $23 to $95 and can be purchased at houstonsymphony.org or by calling 713-224-7575.