10 Retro Game Gadgets That Scored an Extra Life

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Your favorite gaming memorabilia has taken on new life as upcycled products for your home and office.

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Game Review: Smite

First, let me start by saying that I’m a League of Legends (LoL) fangirl. I tell you this because when I say Smite might motivate me to leave LoL, it should have impact. Smite has all the things I like about LoL, but takes care of a few of the things I don’t; including the excessive number of trolls and flamers that Riot bans people for reporting. More on that another time. For now, let’s talk Smite!

I’ve always been interested in mythology; no secret there. I have written before about Joseph Campbell and his words of wisdom, not the least of which include the hero’s journey and the universality of myths as truths. Smite uses gods from a variety of mythologies (e.g., Greek, Hindu, Chinese, Egyptian, etc.) and turns them into mages and melee fighters. In teams of 5v5, you set off down the three lanes, all full of towers and minions (and yes, there are jungles too) all leading to your goal; the Minotaur. Take down the fierce golden Minotaur, and you claim victory for your team. Simple as that… in theory.

The view is third person, so it feels more like World of Warcraft than LoL in that respect. Movement is very familiar if you play WoW as well: WASD for running, number keys for abilities, and the mouse guiding your direction of travel. Like with LoL, you use favor (aka IP) or gems (the in-game currency that has to be purchased with actual money) to unlock gods and a variety of skins. There are some gods who excel at defense, some at magic use, and some at melee fighting; as in most any MOBA. And, of course, you can purchase a wide variety of items to passively buff any number of stats on each character. One of the great things about Smite (at least as compared to LoL) is the ability to have your items and abilities auto leveled for you. This means those who are consumed with trying NOT to nerf their team can focus on other things. As you’re entering the game, you simply unmark the boxes for either or both when you’re ready to customize your toon.

Since I’m sure you’re well versed in MOBAs by now, I’ll talk about particulars only briefly. The graphics for this game are phenomenal. The detail to the characters both in character select, in the animations for the skins, and in game play is breathtaking. The sounds for the game aren’t spectacular, but they’re not overwhelming either. The characters have their taunts and musings, and the voices are well done, but they are by no means meant to make or break the game. Something auditory, however, that I did find amusing/helpful was a verbal cue for team notifications. In other words, when someone is trying to warn you that the right lane that you’re trying to push is about to be ganked, a voice says, “Right lane under attack!” and whether you look at the map or read the chat log, you know what’s coming. To be honest, I prefer that to a “PING” any day. Especially when people are spamming the ping… but I digress.

In my opinion, the significant advantage this game has over LoL is the immersion. Because this game is done in third person point of view, the game is far more transportational than LoL is. There is no overhead view; you are IN the battlefield. This, of course, makes map awareness vital, but allies and opponents are labeled well from the third person view as well, so as long as they’re visible, you can easily weave your way through the jungles and lanes. Team fights are also facilitated well by the ease of map awareness and the point of view change. Another bonus (or frustration depending on how you play) is the immersion in fights. As a ranged character, every ability is a skill shot; you HAVE to aim your shots and be in range. However, you’re given an arrow to line your shots up with (making my life SO much easier). As a melee character, you can also see where your ability is going to hit (you can walk around with your ability range lit before you take the shot… VERY handy), but when you’re auto attacking, you have to stay oriented; much harder to do when you aren’t look on from above. 

From a psychological perspective, the social aspect of the game is definitely present; there are chat tabs that you’re constantly exposed to in the lobby (much like you are with WoW), and this is where you friend chats pop up as well. Anyone who has managed tabs on a web browser, can manage these. Though the game is in closed beta, current players have been given invitations to send to friends, and you can always request a game key directly from Hi-Rez (mine took only a few hours to arrive). Either way, the ability to play with friends is definitely a motivator for some to play this game. If your friends aren’t on the game (or you want to get REALLY good before you invite them… ahem…), there is still the team play socialization that facilitates cooperation, planning, leadership, and social adeptness. This game has levels, favor, and types of game play which become available only after reaching certain levels as a player; all of these become reinforcers and promote achievement based game play motivation. The increased immersion, thanks to the third person view, makes escapism and transportation easier and more fulfilling.

Whatever your reason for playing MOBAs, this game covers it well. If you’re a player who likes a laid back, stress free game there are solo training matches where you go one on one, and all characters are available for play. You don’t get favor here, but you get to try before you buy and you can get a feel for the game before you wade into the waters as a noob in the pvp realm. Once you get really good, there are ranked games with more game play styles being released soon. Now is a great time to start playing. If you like MOBAs, my guess is you’ll love this one; it’s not out with the old, in with the new. It’s, “Now here’s something we hope you’ll REALLY like!”

The Birthday Massacre

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Not only do I love the idea of SoundCloud, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this group! They remind me of Tangerine Dream but with a modern twist. Please check them out!

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Research Review: First-Person Shooter Games as a Way of Connecting to People: “Brothers in Blood”

I love this article. There are a few reasons for this. First, in the disclosure statement there is a note about how no competing funding was provided for this research. That is important because there have been other researchers (who I won’t name, but I REALLY want to) who have accepted monies for their research which may have been influential in the results of their research. This makes their research controversial and more pseudo science than psychology. So, I appreciate that this research was done without “competing financial interests”. Second, the findings of this back up a lot of my favorite gaming research and it was done in a much different way than the others. Allow me to illuminate.

Frostling-Henningsson studied players in Stockholm in two online-gaming centers (yes, I know we don’t use them much anymore here, but this is a great place for qualitative research). She spent time from September 2006 to February 2007 observing gaming sessions, and interviewing gamers. Her participants were 19 males and 4 females between the age of 12 and 26 years old. These ages are slightly younger than typical gamers, but seem to be more accurate of typical FPS players.

She found themes of motivation for play in the responses of the participants. The first one she found was communication. Players like to socialize. This is nothing new to us. Other research I’ve reviewed here has shown the same theme in EQ and WoW players as well. The second theme she found was connection in ways that were unanticipated. In other words, players enjoyed the fact that real world identifiers (i.e., age, gender, sexuality, or appearance) don’t affect whether we are willing to connect with others. Rather, things like personality, kindness, support, maturity, and game skill/cooperation inform our connections. This is a very positive theme in gaming. It means that gaming transcends borders and boundaries that tend to stop us in real life. It makes us less biased and allows us to judge based on more solid grounds; things that matter. This is consistent with what Chayko (2008) says of virtual connections as well; our sociomental connections (i.e., connections we make in mental spaces and not physical, face to face spaces) are a more real kind of real and tend to be more intimate because we invest more time and energy into them.

The third theme Frostling-Henningsson found was that there is a feeling associated with gaming that participants experience. One unlike that of reading (though described to be similar to that type of immersion) or movies, tv or real life. Gaming allows us access to experiences that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to; running through the Sphinx, or shooting up a hospital whose only inhabitants happen to be brain munching zombies. These things don’t happen, they’re not experiences we’re ever likely to have. Yet gaming allows us to experience them. One of my favorite thoughts in the article come from this section as well. The comment is made by one of the participants that he feels relaxed when he is playing CS but his girlfriend says it’s really just a way for him to take out his aggression. Do you think expressing or expelling pent up emotions is or can be a form of relaxation? I certainly do, but I just might have to research this and let you all know what I find out.

The fourth motivational theme found was that of teamwork and cooperation. Gamers preferred to work together, even when they were on opposing teams. Think of all the meta rules implemented when you and your friends game, “Let’s kill everyone else first, then square off one on one,” or “NO CAMPING, YOU NEWB!” The fifth theme was gaming allowed for an escape from the anxieties and stressors of the real world. However, some of the participants mention that they play CS rather than WoW because they feel some sense of control over just exactly how immersed (or ‘sucked in’) they end up being. I’ve heard that plenty of times, but I’m not so sure my CS playing compatriots are any less ‘sucked in’ than I am by League of Legends, or my brother is by World of Warcraft. Could there be personality, perception, or motivational differences in who gets consumed by which games? Another item on my research “to do” list, I assure you.

Finally, Frostling-Henningsson found that gamers like to play because they feel like the virtual world is a real world, just a different real world. This is consistent with research that says virtual worlds are just as real, if not seemingly more real, as the offline real world. People can become different selves, try on personalities, let their hair down, as it were, and become disinhibited all without worrying about real world consequences. Don’t believe me? Check out last week’s article about permeability between virtual and real worlds. The bottom line is that we’re social beings who love, live for, and grow from all kinds of exciting experiences; real, virtual, or otherwise.

References:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Frostling-Henningsson, M. (2009). First-person shooter games as a way of connecting to people: “Brothers in blood”. CyberPsychology & Behavior12(5), 557-562. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2008.0345

Desperately Seeking Future

This is the portion of the show where we contemplate what our dream social technology would do. I’m not great at dreaming big (the hazard of being a realist). I am, however, great at explaining why I like what I like; we start there.

First and foremost, my favorite social media is Google; all of it. The reason being that there are so many ways to connect, types of uses, and useful media all under one roof. That being said, Google doesn’t work under one application (at least on my phone), so moving from one to the other can be challenging. Google, as a company, seems to be mindful of ways in which the internet COULD be used better, rather than just coming up with more options for current use (although Google+ did kinda do that).

I love Skype because it allows me to see and hear friends who are far away (same reason I enjoy Google Hangouts). I like Twitter because it allows me to connect with people I don’t otherwise know via networking and like-minded communities. Most of my new friends come from Twitter. Twitter, for the record, is also where my secret venting account is. Control over who sees you ginger rage is good. Facebook allows me to keep contact with friends from long ago, keep up on current events (because that’s where they get posted… sadly), and keep in (distant) touch with family that is, well… family. StumbleUpon and Pinterest allow me to explore sites and places on the interwebs that I would likely never find on my own, as well as connect with people who are like minded. Foursquare feeds my competitive side while I’m out doing chores I would be doing otherwise, helps me connect with people in my community who frequent similar places, and gives great access to great tips and discounts. I love texting because it allows me to have instant access to my friends and let’s me word things deliberately. Email gives me a similar outlet, but I tend to use it more formally, and typically when I don’t need an immediate response. I love Pandora because it let’s me discover new music for when I’m studying or gaming, as well as let’s me customize a playlist of music I don’t necessarily own. Dropbox allows me to share things that I don’t want everyone else to see. Gaming let’s me socialize, achieve, and escape. And I love the skills I develop from gaming as well. Finally, WordPress, of course, gives me a place to share my passion, as nerdy as they tend to be. 😉

So, now that I’ve nearly exhausted my list of social technologies I love already, what can be better? Having them all in one place. While the cell phone is nearly that (and allows for immediate and mobile access to boot), I’m talking about an all in one, open source (Apple and Microsoft give me a headache with their exclusivity and partnering), simply designed but fully customizable, social technology that allows for all of my contacts, venting, exploring, connecting,  sharing, etc.

Oh… and here’s the kicker; the reason it’s a dream: I want it to be ad free. No sponsors begging me to allow them to control all of my doohickies… none of that.  I know it’s a lot to ask. But this is MY dream, right?

OOH! And since we ARE dreaming… I want it all to be in an AR contact lens that allows me to drive and still wear my vision correcting lenses. 🙂

Augmented Reality: Don’t Worry, It Won’t Bite

Though augmented reality (AR) is becoming more and more predominate in the gaming community, it isn’t likely to replace gaming as it stands now. Henry Jenkins (2008) notes that one of the most common fears of media based companies is the advent of new media. He reminds them that new media compliments- not replaces- existing media. This, I believe, is the same idea behind AR’s place in gaming. Still to this day, games built on 64 and even 8 bit graphics are very popular. Gamers tend to be motivated by the content of the game and less by the visual appeal (Yee, 2006). That being said, and in light of the fact that this is obviously a personal preference thing, immersion is absolutely a motivational factor for game play. However, the game has to be done right. Think of it in terms of The Lord of the Rings has to have a good plot, not just good computer graphics.

A good example of this is the  Spider-Man AR app. There are levels/missions that can be unlocked and achievements to be had by going through a variety of activities. Some of these activities involve computers, and some involve going to stores to interact with merchandise; a brilliant way to create consumer loyalty, resonance, and solidify brand identity. Though this game appeals to a variety of motivational types in gaming, (including immersion and achievement), it doesn’t quite fulfill all of them. We’ve seen how a variety of gaming styles, platforms, and media can be- and often are- used simultaneously or thoughtfully chosen between. The Wii didn’t bring an end to controllers and neither did the Kinect. The PS2 didn’t cause every N64 to evaporate off the face of the earth. Similarly, there are still several reasons why someone would choose the XBox 360 game over the AR app; not the least of which is the desire for escapism. Let’s be honest, combining your world with a different world doesn’t exactly let you ESCAPE your world, does it?

Don’t get me wrong, being able to put a contact lens in my eye in order to apprehend the Second Life style bad guy who happens to be running through the super market as I go shopping doesn’t sound like a terrible addition to my sometimes mundane life. But history has told us that retro never goes out of style with gaming, and sometimes you need the click of the mouse, the mashing of the a, b, x, and y buttons, or the “strumming” of the fake guitar to wash away your IRL blues.

References:

Jenkins, H. (2008). Convergence culture where old and new media collide. New York; London: New York University Press.
Yee, N. (2006). Motivations for play in online games. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 9(6), 772-775.

LoL Raging: Disinhibition Effect at its Most Toxic

I have two mains: Sona and Galio.

Though I tend to experience benign disinhibition online (e.g. flirting more than normal, or sharing personal things/venting where I typically wouldn’t), I try to avoid toxic disinhibition no matter what the circumstance (Joinson, 2007). Though I may be a member of an out-group in that way, a person would be hard pressed to find a gamer that agrees with the assertions that gaming causes aggression. But you would also be hard pressed to find a gamer who doesn’t agree there is a fairly significant amount of disinhibition inherent in games. My favorite example of this is my favorite game, League of Legends (LoL).

League of Legends is a game that is played online either with personal friends, or strangers. In game, there is a chat bar which allows communication between teammates, or with the opposing team. This chat box is supposed to allow for strategy, but typically turns into a flaming war zone (Joinson, 2007). Disinhibited gamers, when provoked by “noobs” or “trolls”, often become belligerent, authoritative, and downright vicious. Nearly all effects of disinhibition can be found (Gackenbach & von Stackleberg, 2007): dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, dissociative imagination, and minimization of status and authority.

You know you hear Michael Dorn’s voice in your head…

When I play LoL, I try to play by the Golden Rule; if I don’t have something nice (or productive) to say, I don’t say anything. However, there are those who become so angry with other players, that they begin flaming (e.g., calling people names, threatening to rage quit, intentionally helping the other team to win, etc.) (Joinson, 2007). It is a widely accepted concept in the LoL community that everyone has a bad game. Be that as it may, however, it is rare that a player will escape unscathed by the hateful words of effected teammates. I have been on the receiving end of this harassment. I remember one time I was so hurt and angered by the comments made, that I cried. Another time, I witnessed someone being so rude in game to someone else (not even to me), that I didn’t touch the game for three weeks. Though the people in game tend to be strangers, the effects of the online interaction are just as hurtful as they would be offline (Chayko, 2008). By the same token, however, when you have a good game, and you “carry” your team to victory, the praise and status are reinforcing and motivating; the pride you feel is real and validating.

Though these are not true of every gaming experience, every game, or every gamer, they are accepted memes in the gaming world. There are very few people immune to it. And gamers who would otherwise be very kind and would never think of being belligerent or aggressive face-to-face, allow themselves to unwind in game. I have several friends who do this, some of which admit they play so that they have a safe place to release aggression- something that Joinson (2007) suggests may account for what is typically thought to be disinhibition. What gamers, and all online users, must remember, is that no matter where the aggression takes place, it is negatively affecting someone.

References:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities: The social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. New York: SUNY Press.

Gackenbach, J., & von Stackelberg, H. (2007). Self online: Personality and demographic implications. In J. Gachenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. (55-73). New York, Academic Press.

Joinson, A. N. (2007). Disinhibition and the internet. In J. Gachenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. (75-92). New York: Academic Press.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

As I consider the chapters for this week’s post- the paths of the waves of information contained in each, and how they are relevant to me- it occurs to me that these Chayko and Shayo et al. are discussing different sides of the same coin. 

Chayko (2008) explains the parts of the whole. The individual phenomena that are a result of the post modern ‘information highway’ that is the current technological explosion. She discusses how post modern work and personal relationships may be similar to, or an advancement of, more traditional relationship development. She also presents reasons for these developments (e.g., how social media functionally support close emotional bonds in which physical spheres need never be the same). She is able to articulate how we process this new technology, and how it is able to work its way into our social norms. In other words, Chayko presents us with the ingredients to our virtual society 7-layer dip.

Shayo et al. (2007) may be described as the sum of its parts. In other words, explaining that we’re headed for a virtual society, where it comes from, where it is headed, what the challenges that come from it are, and what we can do with it. They have effectively zoomed out from Chayko’s perspective. Understanding that virtual societies need specific support and have specific roots, but facilitate a vast array of activities within work and social organizations and communities, allows us to help mediate these developments.

In my life, personally, I have experienced astounding changes in the way I approach school, relationships, and even work. Being able to attend Fielding is one example of how virtual organizations and communities work. Last semester I worked on a project with my friend Crystal. I met Crystal via classes at Fielding, we began skyping and building cognitive resonance. When the opportunity to begin a team project came up, we took it, having found that we get along very well, and even have complementary strengths. Using only virtual tools (e.g., Skype, Google docs, SMS, and Prezi), we were able to create a presentation that we were both very proud of. In previous posts, I’ve discussed my long distance relationship with my best friend. I successfully directed our court in the 3 Barons Renaissance Fair with the help of several types of media, thus creating a virtual community with which to share information, documents, immersive storytelling opportunities, and more.

Chayko (2008) recognizes that cyberspace is a place that we go to; not unlike the library, zoo, theatre, or school. We have learned- and continue to learn- to use a variety of media to achieve the desired results, to nearly every task we undertake. In my opinion, it is important to understand all sides of this coin; to comprehend the pieces, causes, results, and uses to the virtual society and sociomental spaces that are created by web 2.0 and all of it’s co-conspirators (i.e., mobile phones, applications, email, etc.) if for no other reason than the dissolution of borders and prejudices.

Happiness is a Sweet Dream

The following is a break from the norm. A game related article will be posted within the next week. So keep your eyes peeled!

As a result of my previous semester’s coursework, I have been writing stories of one sort or another. The following the is result of my random motivation. Charisma, it should be pointed out, is my character in the 3 Barons Renaissance Fair.

 Friends and Courtiers dear, I did have the most amazing dream upon the night past. The baroness was not in my dream, howe’er I was pleasantly surprised to note that she was, instead, not in existence.

In this dream, I was tending to the duties my Lord hath given me with my usual vigor and expedience. One of my duties being somewhat novel in nature, for I was to seek out Mistress Rosemary Larkspur.

Ne’er before had my Baron sent me on such a task, she being one who uses her skills to address wounds and inflictions experienced by the Iron Wolves. Howe’er, I did do as asked, and upon arriving in the mistresses… domain… did find the most awe-inspiring carnation upon her wall. The color was of the deepest purple, having teal edges protecting the beautiful flower’s integrity. As I inquired as to the purpose for my arrival at the most unusual shop, Mistress Rosemary did claim the flower from the wall and hand it to me, the stem of which was fashioned with the most fetching black ribbon I’d ever seen. Tied into which was a silver ring of the most exquisite composition. She did warn me that this was an incredibly important ring, and that the baron awaited it most impatiently. “The Baron, it would appear, is about to provide the Glades with a new baroness. And, in my opinion, it is about time. It’s almost as though he was waiting for LOVE or some such nonsense. Fair thee well!” With those words, she returned her attentions to the vile smelling concoction upon the table in front of her.

Having several other duties to perform, which my Lord had explained were of immense import, I did continue upon my way, contemplating the words which the Mistress had spoken. Surely, as my Baron’s most trusted servant, I would know if he had found a baroness. Surely, I, as his Steward, would know of the preparations, having likely overseen them myself, would be aware of coming nuptials. Mayhap the Baron had finally seen through the thinly veiled attempts at hiding my deep and consuming love for him. The more I thought on the picturesque flower in my pouch, the more I despised it. For I was not ready to bow to another “love”, just because Victor thought it of benefit to his station or wealth. Admittedly, my step did slow upon the intrusion of these disparaging thoughts, and yet somehow I found myself approaching the Baron’s Chamber Council room, dreading the inhabitants therein; their ridiculous grins and congratulations which would provide the fodder for hours of tears that were inevitably in my immediate future.
As I approached, the LeGuard brothers greeted me most kindly. Smiles upon their faces betrayed a secret which I had yet to be privy to. This disconcerted me greatly, as I am typically the purveyor of such knowledge while still in its infancy. Still, I pushed through the doors which were opened for me. Before the doors were opened completely, Lady Aibhlinn greeted me with a hug and proceeded to knowingly ask for the flower. My relief was, I am confident, visible upon my visage. The ring was for Aibhlinn. How could I be so foolish. Victor would never marry for love. I, better than anyone, should know that, and it might be added, would do well to keep it under advisement for the good of my sanity. Aibhlinn beckoned for me to join her near my usual place at the council table, and I did follow accordingly. As I approached, my Baron stood and smiled at me. Such things were not done outside his quarters, and certainly not in front of the council chamber. Mayhap he was ill.

“Charisma, approach me.”

“As thou wishest, my Lord.”

“I see that you did see to the errand I sent thee on. What kept thee? Thou wast given this task nigh unto an hour ago, and thou art only now returning. Explain thyself.” His voice was gruff, but he did not wear the hardened expression most often accompanying this tone.

“My Baron, thou didst also give me duties which thou didst say were of the utmost urgency, and, as the direness of this task was communicated by Mistress Larkspur, I supposed it more appropriate to see to the tasks that thou didst order quickly done. Please forgive my confusion, my Lord.”

“Hmm.. Yes. Well played, Charisma.” Then, looking to his beloved daughter, ordered, “Aibhlinn, come here, darling.” Aibhlinn complied and handed my Lord the flower. As she did so, a loud noise filled the council hall. Startled, I looked to the other council members, to find they were standing and beginning to lower into a bow… In my direction. I turned to my Baron for clarification, for I was understandably unable to comprehend what was happening. As I did, I noticed him loosing the tie on the flower.

“Papa, may I keep the flower? It is so lovely. I wish to dry it and preserve its beauty. Please, Papa? Please?!”

“That, shall be up to Charisma, my dear. For it belongs to her.” As he spoke, he slid the impressive silver ring off the ribbon, and took my hand in his. He slipped the ring onto my finger. “Thanks, in no small part to your constant dissertations on the importance of marrying for love, I have come to appreciate the value in it, and have decided to do so. I trust you have no objections to becoming my wife.”

From somewhere in the distance, I heard the Chamberlain shout, “Hip hip!” and the response filled the room and echoed in mine ears. It was in this instance that an overwhelming wave of emotion so intense I was scarcely able to breath, did wash completely over my body, and I did stumble, cursing my suddenly weak knees. My betrothed did take me in his arms, kiss me furiously, the call for the LeGuard brothers, ordering them to accompany me to his quarters. A flurry of orders were dispersed which were presumably in preparation for the upcoming wedding. I, howe’er was unable to comprehend them, as my brain was busy trying to calm my heart in order to preserve my precious consciousness. Seeming to fail in it’s task, I felt my head go dizzy, heard a LeGuard brother, Codell I believe, call out my name, and everything went black.

As in all of the most bittersweet dreams, it was in the instance before by complete happiness was realized that I did awaken.

I can say that there is nothing this day, that nearly satisfies my happiness in comparison to the happiness I did feel upon the eve last. And the sadness that accompanies the realization that I shall ne’er experience this happiness.

Twitter Rant Pt 3 (I had nothing to do with this)