Month: October 2017

Game on! Parenting with video games

Posted on October 31, 2017  in Video Games

Kids spend a lot of time playing video games and parents spend a lot of time worrying about how much time their kid plays video games. But Consumer Reports says rather than constantly telling your child to put their tablet down, get in the game and use it as a way to power up communication.

Arizona State University’s Center for Games and Impact agrees, claiming well-crafted video games foster “critical skills necessary for navigating an interconnected, rapidly changing 21st Century world.”

You can ask questions about why does the character go there, why is it important to pick up these power-ups. Kids love to explain, they love to teach and they love to feel like you respect them as an intelligent person.

And, of course, even if you are playing with your kids, you still want to monitor the amount of screen time they’re getting and make sure the content is age appropriate.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit

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Month: October 2017

If you like horror-based video games, you need to check out this one

Posted on October 31, 2017  in Video Games

Welcome to 2084.
Welcome to 2084.
Image: Bloober Team

It seems like all we hear about these days are hacks: the Democratic National Committee, Equifax, Sony, and a slew of other major groups have dealt with data theft in recent years. As technology becomes a more integral part of our daily routines, how will hacks evolve? Will hackers eventually be able to get into our minds?

That’s a topic the new game >observer_ aims to explore. Specifically: what would happen if your fears were hacked? 

In this new 2084-set cyberpunk horror game from Bloober Team (the geniuses behind 2016’s Layers of Fear), you play an elite “neural detective” (known as an Observer) named Dan Lazarski who hacks and enters the minds of police suspects. You’ll relive their darkest fears to the point where you’ll begin to question your own reality. 

If you’re a fan of all things dark and dystopian, >observer_ is the cyberpunk-horror game for you. The largest world yet featured in a Bloober Team game, this one lets you explore the year 2084 along with the plagues, war, and squalor that have ravaged humanity. Plus, Rutger Hauer of Blade Runner fame voices the protagonist.

So far, >observer_ has stellar reviews across the board: 9/10 from Gamespot, 9/10 from Rely On Horror, and 4.5/5 from Windows Central. Game Informer even named it a Top 10 Cyberpunk Game of All-Time. It’s shaping up to be the indie hit of the year — so get on it now and brag to your friends later when they miss the boat.

Buy your copy now for $22.99, a solid discount of 23% off $29.99 for a limited time. Mashable readers can also save an additional 10% when they enter in coupon code: observer10 at checkout.

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Month: October 2017

OUR SAY: Rediscovering my love of video games

Posted on October 31, 2017  in Video Games

THERE’S nothing quite like rediscovering a childhood pleasure.

So the other day I wracked my brains for hours (okay, about 20 minutes, but it felt like a long time) trying to remember the name of one of the games I used to play on the computer when I was a child.

My brother and I were only young when we got into the game and after more than 20 years, my brain had given up storing such information.

But luckily I texted my brother and he remembered.

It was called Warlords.

And guess what?

At the App Store there is a new version of the game for iPhones.

Now my brain tells me I’m too old to relive my childhood obsession with this game, but my heart says otherwise.

This comes five years after I relived another childhood video game obsession – but that one was a lot more expensive.

Back then I decided to reignite my love affair with Super Nintendo.

Of course Super Nintendos were practically obsolete so I had to hunt one down on eBay, make sure it was usable, and then pay even more for some of my favourite games.

Games like Super Mario Bros, Killer Instinct and Donkey Kong, oh my.

Then my parents moved and the Super Nintendo, along with the games, disappeared into the ether.

Just talking about it is making me nostalgic.

Maybe I’ll have a search downstairs after work tonight …

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Month: October 2017

The Venezuelan Crisis Understood Through Video Games

Posted on October 31, 2017  in Video Games

Screenshot of the page hosting the games under #VzlaCrisisJam

Protests against a multi-pronged national crisis in Venezuela have seen citizens pour onto the streets in their thousands, but anti-government sentiment has also found other less typical outlets.

In June and July this year a group of programmers and digital culture enthusiasts gathered to design collaboratively a series of video games focusing on the Venezuelan crisis. Thus was born#VzlaCrisisJam, a “game jam” brainstorming session to create computer games that reflected the nature of the crisis.

The first “game jam” in Venezuela took place in the capital Caracas in 2009 and around 80 online video games have been made through similar events.

The organizers of the politically-themed Crisis Game Jam said:

Cualquier plataforma es bienvenida, pero creo que por motivos de difusión la distribución debería ser fácil de llevar: juegos de desktop (ya sea Linux, Windows o Mac), juegos para navegador que usen html5. Juegos móviles no estaría mal si ya disponen de las facilidades para publicarlo en una store.

Any platform is welcome, but I believe that in order to have a better outreach [the platform] should be easy to access: desktop games (either Linux, Windows or Mac), or games for html5. Mobile games wouldn’t be bad if [the developers] have the possibility to put it on a ‘store’.

Among the creations of the #VzlaCrisisJam, that can be viewed here, is “Faces of the Guaire” (the Guaire river flows through Caracas). The setting is the day of the April 19 protest that took place on the Francisco Fajardo highway, adjacent to the river.  Protesters were famously forced to jump into the water to escape from tear gas attacks on that day.

Another game  created by the jam was “The Economy of an Arepa”, the typical Venezuelan dish, in which players run a virtual restaurant and need to deal with the rapid soaring prizes of products (due mostly to inflation) and the difficulties of finding them. Two of the games, “Reality Revealed” and “Vzla2017″, a game that recreates the protests and the represion; and finally, “Feria” centers on a character: a soldier that needs to keep the order in front of a group of people asking for food and medicine:

A game prototype where you, as the military, must distribute the basic products among the population. But there are some things you most certainly cannot distribute. Click the military with the mouse and drag back to launch the product. Right click to invert the next product you’ll launch with the one after. Click on the queue to send repression.

In total, the jam produced 15 blueprints, of which six can be played online and nine can be downloaded and played on Windows. The goal is to offer different looks inside of a crisis that affects different parts of the population in a wide diversity of ways that are not always understood for the different parts in conflict.

According to one of the promoters of the project:

En este momento estamos enfocados en darle difusión a los juegos y tener colaboraciones. En función de los comentarios y de la retroalimentación que obtengamos de la comunidad en general podremos decidir si repetiremos la experiencia. Invito a las personas a que prueben al menos uno de los juegos, el que más llame su atención, y compartan su opinión en la misma página 

Right now we’re focusing on the outreach of the games and in collaboration. If the comments and the feedback are generally positive we can repeat the experience. I invite people to try at least one of the games, the one that calls their attention the most, and to leave a comment on that page.

This post was originally published on Rafael Uzcátegui‘s blog and has been re-edited by Global Voices with his permission.

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Month: October 2017

This week in video games, October 30, 2017: EA closes Visceral Games and moves Star Wars game to Vancouver

Posted on October 31, 2017  in Video Games

This week, there’s no way there’s enough time in the day for you to play all the games that have just arrived. Assassins’ Creed Origins puts you in ancient Egypt, while Wolfenstein II has you resisting Nazis in America, and Mario goes on an epic quest. Plus, 13 of the best Xbox games are now compatible with the Xbox One, just in time for the release of the Xbox One X. But first, the latest on the Star Wars game that EA just moved from Visceral to EA Vancouver.

Electronic Arts’ Burnaby studio taking over lead development on Star Wars game

Electronic Arts surprised the game industry last week when the company revealed it was closing developer Visceral Games.

The studio, which created the outstanding Dead Space franchise, was working on an “action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe”, according to a post from EA executive vice president Patrick Söderlund, who is in charge of the company’s development teams.

Amy Hennig (pictured above), was the creative director on that Star Wars project. She created the Uncharted series for Sony while with Naughty Dog, and it was expected that she was doing something similar with the Star Wars universe.

Söderlund explained that the game was “shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game” that needed to “pivot” to respond to “fundamental shifts in the marketplace” so the game would “deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come”.

Development on the game will now be led by a team at EA Vancouver, which is based at the Burnaby campus.

EA Vancouver would not divulge any further info at this time.

Gamers and video-game media have been speculating on what really happened at Visceral and what it means, with some speculating that EA is no longer interested in developing expensive single-player games that gamers play once and set aside.

On the Waypoint Radio podcast, former employee Manveer Heir, who worked on the Mass Effect franchise developed by Bioware for EA, claims that the company is focusing on open-world games that can be monetized.

13 Original Xbox games now playable on Xbox One

Backwards compatibility is a hallmark of the Xbox gaming systems, and last week Microsoft announced a list of 13 games originally developed for the first Xbox that are playable on the Xbox One.

Among my favourites are:

  • BloodRayne 2
  • Crimson Skies
  • Ninja Gaiden Black
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
  • Psychonauts
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

These aren’t remasters, so online modes from the original games are not supported, but all offline co-op and system-link play will work as they did more than 10 years ago.

Most of these games were developed with old-timey aspect ratio of 4:3, so they will display with black sidebars on your nouveau HD screen.

You simply use the disc you already own. Some of us held onto those original discs and cases, but if you didn’t, you can purchase digital versions for a pretty low price. These games are worth it.

This is all part of the lead-up to the release of Xbox One X, of course. These 13 games will look better on all Xbox Ones, but they will look even more impressive on the Xbox One X, up to 16 times more pixels than what was displayed on the original Xbox.

Four Xbox 360 games will also have enhanced visuals when played on the Xbox One X:

  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Fallout 3
  • Halo 3
  • Oblivion

Take a tour of Ancient Egypt, the setting of Assassin’s Creed Origins

The new Assassin’s Creed game came out on Friday. Origins—available for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One—is set in ancient Egypt, and to give players a sense of the historical detail that developers have built into the game, Ubisoft is giving you a chance to experience the world.

There are three online tours on which you can embark. Extreme Egypt puts you in a sandstorm and on the side of the Great Pyramid. Into the Nile shows off the wildlife in the game as well as the different ways you’ll navigate, including by boat and on horseback. And Mysteries of the Ancient Kingdom takes you deep into the tombs.

As on any good tour, you can take pictures that you can save to a travel diary and share on your social networks.

Wolfenstein II’s alternate timeline has players resisting Nazis in the United States

With what’s been going on in the United States you could be forgiven for thinking that Wolfenstein II is a contemporary game, but in fact The New Colossus is actually set in an alternate universe in which the Nazis won the Second World War and are running America.

It’s 1961, and as BJ Blazkowicz, it’s up to you to resist and liberate the small towns and iconic cities.

Available for PS4, Windows, Xbox One, The New Colossus is not for the faint of heart. It’s unabashedly violent, encouraging players to equip intense weapons in order to “kill every Nazi in sight”.

Games released or releasing

  • Play a free trial of South Park: The Fractured But Whole, a new role-playing adventure set in the world of the adult cartoon. You can play the first hour of the game for free on PS4 and Xbox One, and if you choose to purchase the game at that point you can keep your progress.
  • Destiny 2, the outstanding shooter from Bungie and Activision, is now available on Windows.
  • Super Mario Odyssey, for the Nintendo Switch, is a delight.

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Month: October 2017

2 Review ‘Mario Odyssey’ is a reminder of how fun video games can be

Posted on October 31, 2017  in Video Games

Mario Odyssey
Developed by: Nintendo
Published by: Nintendo
Available on: Nintendo Switch

I can’t think of another 2017 title that has given me as much pure delight as “Mario Odyssey,” the new game for Nintendo Switch. In fact, I might have to look all the way back to “Mario 64” (1996), the game that did so much to popularize 3-D virtual environments, to find another entry in the series to elicit such a giddy reaction. I’ve been fortunate enough to play through other works that have done more to enlarge the medium’s thematic scope (“Night in the Woods,” “Everything,” “Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice” to name a few), but I have not come across anything else of late that has made such a monumental effort to remind players how fun video games can be.

Upon first loading up “Mario Odyssey,” I was met with a message that asked me to try to play the game with one of the Switch’s detachable controllers or Joy Cons in each hand. This caused an inner groan because I knew it meant the game was trying to push motion controls over a traditional gamepad configuration. It’s not that I hate all motion controls — I quite enjoy my Oculus Touch controllers, for example — it’s that I was never fully enamored with Nintendo’s last serious foray in this direction during the Wii-era. (I remember playing” Zelda: Twilight Princess” and feeling as though I could do without having to twirl the Wii-mote.) That said, I almost immediately took to “Odyssey’s” recommended control setup which I found to be as finely calibrated as just about everything else in the game … except its story.

A friend of mine who also writes about video games told me he was disappointed to see that, once again, Mario is set in motion by Bowser’s umpteenth kindnapping of Princess Peach. Honestly, before I played the game, I thought he might have been making too much of the trope until I saw that Bowser wants to force Peach to marry him. The narrative designers might have done well to come up with something else because really, why raise the specter of consent or lack thereof in a Mario game? Thankfully, in every other way the designers’ work is stellar.

At its best, the Mario series is known for its innovative gameplay. I’ll never forget how astonishing it was to run along the ceiling of World 1-2, in the original “Super Mario Bros,” to discover the Warp Pipes for the first time; or how people who didn’t even play video games used to drop by my college dorm room to stare for hours at “Mario 64” as if they’d tumbled through the looking glass. In “Odyssey,” the major innovation is the capture system. Mario can throw his sentient cap, “Cappy” onto an enemy to become him. So, for much of the game, adversaries are potential tools, making the environments that much more playful. When I became a mustachioed dinosaur early on, I had a feeling that I was in for a treat. By the time I was a goomba (basically an angry mushroom) jumping on a threatening tomato much later in the game, I felt gloriously ensconced in top-grade absurdity.

It says something of the game’s ingenuity that the episode with the mushroom and the tomato happened in the Luncheon Kingdom, a lava level. “Odyssey” places its stamp on one of the more overused settings in gaming by eschewing fiery-red for candy-pink magma and giving Mario the ability to steal the form of a Lava Bubble and swim in it. Wrapping the whole level around a cooking theme to emphasize that a familiar sight has been given a new flavor, adds the perfect touch.

Old timers take note: “Odyssey” channels the history of the eighties Mario games in wonderful ways. I felt nothing but warm fuzzies seeing 3-D Mario go through a pipe, which jutted out of a rock wall, and then appear in 2-D form in a mini-level that scrolled along the wall’s surface where enemies moved from 2-D to 3-D as they edged along and then out of the wall. And then there is the showstopping bit in the Metro Kingdom (a cartoon version of Manhattan), where Mario runs along the surface of buildings in an homage to his earliest adventure, “Donkey Kong” (1981). “Odyssey” is filled with curiosities that I was all too happy to discover. And I rejoice in the knowledge that I have plenty of nooks to find.

This is one of the closest things to the fountain of youth that I expect to come across.

Christopher Byrd is a Brooklyn-based writer who has been playing video games since the days of the Atari 2600. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Barnes & Noble Review, Al Jazeera America, the Guardian and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Byrd.

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‘The Invisible Hours’ gives new hope to those who might have started to sour on VR games

‘Cuphead’ is really hard but learning its tricks is awfully fun

‘Figment’: A bright adventure through the human mind

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Month: October 2017

GAME deals and voucher codes: Video games under £20 including Assassin’s Creed, plus PS4 bundles

Posted on October 31, 2017  in Video Games

As many gamers will know, buying all the latest gear doesn’t come cheap, so scouting out a good deal can make a big difference to your bank account.

And there’s no time quite like the present, with GAME currently hosting an array of top gaming deals ahead of November’s Black Friday bonanza, where we’re expecting lots of top deals from Game.

But the gaming retailer has already got started on the bargains, we’ve listed out the bet of the best below.

Games for under £20

Including Assassin’s Creed the Ezio collection, Fallout 4, Resident Evil 7 Biohazard and Tom Clancy’s The Division, there’s plenty of bargain games to get your hands on this winter.

£25 off PS4 bundle

Game are also offering a generous £25 off their PS4 bundle, which includes the 500GB console, gran turismo sport and an extra dualshock controller, all for £259.99.

Neighbour Steals PlayStation
GAME console prices start at £169.99

£44 off Xbox One S bundle

In this multibuy offer, you’ll get the brand new Assassin’s Creed Origins, three games, a Now TV two month pass and the 500GB console, all for only £229.99.

Xbox One
Xbox console prices at GAME begin at £159.99

£29 off Nintendo Switch bundle

With this Nintendo Switch Mario bundle, you’ll get a limited edition console, Super Mari Odyssey and Mario and Rabbids Kingdom Battle, all for £349.99.

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Gaming deals

Looking for more bargains?

Game store
Don’t underestimate the clearance section

Consider buying pre-loved games. They’re massively cheaper, and the only difference is they don’t come in the shiny packaging. There’s also currently 3 for 2 on selected pre-owned games.

You may stumble upon some bargain finds in GAME’s clearance section . While the latest games certainly won’t be there, it’s the prime place to shop if you’re looking for new gaming equipment. Headsets, controllers and cables regularly feature in the clearance for much cheaper than you’ll find in other shops. See what’s on offer at the moment here.

Find more GAME voucher codes

Voucher codes websites like, Voucher Cloud and MyVoucherCodes are handy for finding up-to-the-minute GAME deals and discount codes.

Or order your items through a cashback website like TopCashback or Quidco (they’re free to join) to earn money back on your order.

How much is delivery?

UK delivery is completely FREE. Standard delivery which takes three to five working days costs nothing at all. Next day delivery will set you back £3.95, or is free if you spend over £150.

See even more of their postage prices and options here .

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Month: October 2017

GameStop basically just turned itself into a Blockbuster for video games

Posted on October 30, 2017  in Video Games

Image: Powers Imagery/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

GameStop has launched an in-store rental service called PowerPass. Remember Blockbuster Video? It’s like that, except instead of VHS tapes, you’re renting used video games.

The only difference here is, you pay up front. A six-month subscription costs $60, and allows you to swap games anytime you want, at no additional cost. However, you can only have one game checked out at a time.

The program will launch during the looming holiday season, with only the six-month plan available. There’s a reason for that: At the end of a subscription, you’ll be able to choose one game to keep, for free.

There’s one more condition. Only GameStop’s Power-Up Rewards members can participate, though both the free membership and the paid memberships ($14.99 or $29.99 per year, depending on your tier preferences) allow you to sign up. All you really need to do is create an account on the retailer’s website.

Sign-ups for PowerPass begin on Nov. 19, according to an email from the retailer.

This is an unexpected play by GameStop, but a seemingly sensible one. As the video game space continues to shift toward online sales, there’s likely a shrinking secondhand market to go along with it. 

PowerPass may be a good thing for the company, but that’s the message between the lines: GameStop is looking for new ways to monetize its assuredly massive overstock of secondhand games. A program like this — which, at this point, has the feel of a public beta test — could help to shrink that stock while creating a new subscription-based source of income.

It might be tempting to compare this service to GameFly, but really, the Blockbuster comparison is more apt.

GameFly’s service resembles the early days of Netflix, when you would rent a DVD by mail and keep it until you mailed it back. PowerPass, on the other hand, has more of an old-school video store vibe: You go to a brick-and-mortar GameStop to pick up and return rented games.

UPDATED Oct. 29 9:30 p.m. ET An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that signing up for a PowerPass subscription also required a paid Power-Up Rewards subscription. As GameStop clarified in an email, all you need is a Power-Up Rewards account — which is free to create. 19f4 440d%2fthumb%2f00001

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Month: October 2017

Official Site**Indianapolis Colts vs Cincinnati Bengals Live Stream Online Football Games Online Video Channel

Posted on October 30, 2017  in Video Games

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Month: October 2017

Loot box brouhaha: Are video games becoming too much like gambling?

Posted on October 30, 2017  in Video Games

One of the most enticing elements of Overwatch, the massively popular multiplayer shooter that launched in 2016, are its loot boxes.

Every time you level up, you are rewarded with an unassuming, gunmetal grey crate. When you hold down a button to open it, the box begins to tremble and a bright ray of golden light spills out of the top.

The box opens, launching four tiny discs high into the air and revealing prizes such as alternate costumes or dance animations for your characters.

It’s a sensory rush of anticipation and excitement not unlike the thrill of ripping open the foil wrapper on a pack of Pokemon trading cards or rolling up the rim at Tim Hortons.

Overwatch loot box opening

The different colours of light emanating from the items in this Overwatch loot box denote its rarity. (Blizzard Entertainment/Activision)

But this thrill has led to an uncomfortable tension. While you can earn a loot box by simply playing for an hour or so, you can also just buy them.

Loot boxes aren’t strictly new. Similar micro-transaction systems are a regular feature of smartphone games that are initially free-to-play. But unlike free-to-play games, where players might chip in a few dollars for a game they enjoy, loot boxes are being introduced in games that already sell at a retail price of $80 Cdn.

Gamers have become increasingly critical of highly anticipated new releases — such as Forza Motorsport 7Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and Star Wars Battlefront II — locking items and features that in previous instalments were free.

Many players have likened it to gambling — and some are even calling for government regulation on the matter.

‘I’ve seen people literally spend $15,000’

Usually, loot boxes are paid for with virtual, in-game currency that you buy with real money. In Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, for example, you can buy a Gold War Chest, which contains Orc Followers to add to your army, for 200 Gold. You can buy a minimum of 500 Gold for $6.99 on the PlayStation Store, or in bulk packages all the way up to 12,000 Gold for $133.49.

Forza Motorsport 7 is a little more complicated. Right now, you can only earn loot boxes by playing the game. But Microsoft’s Turn 10 Studios told Ars Technica it plans to add real-money options to buy them in the future.

Electronic Arts’ sports games include an entire mode that revolves around loot boxes. The popular Ultimate Team mode, where players can buy and open digital trading card packs of players, earns the publisher $800 million US a year.

Manveer Heir, a game designer who previously worked with EA, told Vice’s gaming site Waypoint he had seen people “literally spend $15,000 on Mass Effect multiplayer cards.” He cited this as an example of a “whale,” or a player who spends far more than the average.

wroetoshaw FIFA FUT

Some gamers film their reactions to opening loot boxes, like this YouTuber opening a player pack in FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode. (Wroetoshaw/YouTube)

Jamie Madigan, a psychologist and author of Getting Gamers: The Psychology of Video Games and their Impact on the People Who Play Them, said that extra step of buying virtual currency is key in getting you to ultimately spend more.

“When you decouple the pain of spending money from the pleasure of getting the thing, people tend to spend more money. It sort of obfuscates how much money they’re spending. And people are lazy, so they don’t do to the mental conversion from Gold Coins and Diamonds to dollars. So they lose track of how much they’ve spent, and they spend more.”

Many industry analysts and psychologists agree that loot boxes and casino gambling use comparable tactics.

“I personally would argue that they are a form of gambling,” said Betsy Brey, games researcher and editor of First Person Scholar. “It very much plays into the gambler’s fallacy: ‘Well, I’ve been unlucky 10 times, so maybe on the 11th time, the chances have to be in my favour soon.'”

Gabe Zichermann, an expert in gamification and people’s addiction to technology, said loot boxes use “operant conditioning,” doling out the most coveted rewards at irregular intervals, preventing us from recognizing a pattern.

“It is literally, exactly, a slot machine,” said Zichermann. “They’re all based on the same basic fundamental behaviour pattern: When people cannot predict how much they’re going to get, they often get very focused and fixated on it, and want to do it over and over again, past the point of rationality.”

Call for regulation

Some gamers, including a number of prominent gaming personalities on YouTube and Twitch, have called for either games ratings boards like the ESRB or even governments to regulate them like gambling in casinos.

Fan outcry became louder when boxes started including items that can give you a competitive advantage over other players online — such as a stronger weapon or armour modifications in Star Wars Battlefront II. This is often referred to as a “pay to win” situation.

“ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling,” the North American games ratings organization told Kotaku. “While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don’t want).”

The European games ratings board PEGI echoed that statement. “It’s not up to PEGI to decide whether something is considered gambling or not — this is defined by national gambling laws,” a representative told Eurogamer.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 02

Players voiced discontent when they learned that powerful equipment that could give players a competitive advantage could be found in Star Wars Battlefront II’s loot boxes, which contain ‘Star Cards.’ (DICE/Electronic Arts)

The discussion has even reached the British Parliament, after an MP asked the government “to help protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games.” The government replied by saying only games where items can be exchanged for real money would fall under the purview of Britain’s Gambling Commission.

Meanwhile, China’s ministry of culture instituted new rules for online gaming this spring, forcing game developers to reveal the odds and drop rates of items in their loot boxes. But this only applies to that geographic region — a Chinese player’s odds of getting a rare item in Overwatch or League of Legends could be different from the undisclosed rates of players in another country.

Skyrocketing budgets

According to developer Rami Ismail, whether you want to buy them or not, loot boxes change the design of a game.

“If you add loot boxes, you’re gonna have to adjust the game’s economy, and the game’s design, to make those interesting. Which means that you’re effectively designing a game for things that aren’t in it — unless you pay,” he said.

A report by Rolling Stone revealed that games publisher Activision is experimenting with how this might work. They were granted a patent for a system that would engineer scenarios in multiplayer online games that entice players to buy more in-game content.

One scenario sketched out in the patent would pair a novice player with an expert who uses higher-level equipment — the aim being to entice the novice into buying loot boxes that might have better-quality gear, like their opponent.

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Players in Middle-Earth: Shadow of War can bolster their army of Orc Followers by finding them in loot boxes. (Monolith Productions/WB Games)

Discontented gamers will likely have to get used to loot boxes for the foreseeable future. As the scope and emphasis on graphics quality in games increases, the cost of making them has skyrocketed.

“Loot boxes are effectively an SOS from the industry. The business models that we have do not work,” said Ismail.

“The demands are up and the budgets are up, but the business model doesn’t allow for growth. No gamer would accept a base game that was $120 — well, very few would. But that’s really where we are. That’s why you pay $60 (US) for a game and $30 for a season pass, and then $15 for the expansions that come after it, and some micro transactions just to cover that last part.”

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