TW for sexual abuse: My thoughts on the sexual abuse allegations in esports (especially StarCraft 2)

I wrote this for /r/starcraft, because I want people, especially younger people in the scene to see it. Not really a super nuanced take, but I figure if someone sees it here too, good.

"Hey guys. Like many others here, I have been reading both the allegations of sexual assault and the comments from our community. I have some thoughts and I would like to share them with you all. I ask anyone reading this, please, do not go on the defensive immediately. I am not trying to tell you you’re a shitty person by defending Rapid. I most certainly would have in the past and HAVE in response to similar situations. I just want to explain why I feel this is not an appropriate response right now. These are my experiences, and obviously they aren’t universal.

For many years I struggled to accept many things including racism, sexism, and sexual abuse. When you hear a phrase like “rape culture” or “systemic racism” or something like that, you are being told you are part of the problem. As someone who would never consciously perpetrate a racist act, or sexual abuse, I felt this unfair. Why am I being targeted by something I would NOT DO. I think when this is your reaction, it becomes very easy to thing “man, this stuff isn’t real, or is massively exaggerated”, because surely if you wouldn’t do this stuff it makes no sense that people like you are contributing to the issue. And I get it. I still find it really hard to think of things that I do that contribute to systemic racism, even though I now believe in its existence. I also think that the way these things are brought up makes them harder to accept for many people, especially young men. Instead of feeling concern, or worry when you hear about them, you are trained to feel shame, which evolves to anger, which evolves to denial. This was true for me at least. I felt so ashamed that I told I was contributing to sexism. When there was a dissonance between my actions and what I was told was occuring, I felt angry someone would assume I was contributing to this issue, then thought it must just not be real. I don’t really blame anyone for feeling this way, because I think it’s super common to do so. I wonder if many people here might identify with some of these points, because for myself and many of my friends I think they hold true. The dissonance between your actions and what you are told, and the context that you live in can make it hard to accept these things.

I’ve seen a few arguments here about why we should maintain Rapid’s/Avilo innocence or whatever, and while I am by no means an expert about sexual abuse, rape culture etc. I want to share some thoughts (even if they might not be the most nuanced).

Something I saw a few times was the idea that it took these victim years to come forward and share the information or that she was a grown adult and should be able to remove herself from what appears to be an obviously toxic relationship, both of which discredit the allegations. I am a medical student and have now witnessed many abusive relationships. If a woman or man comes in to a doctor out of an abusive relationship, whether it be physical, sexual, emotional, financial that has been going on for years, can you imagine if the doctor said "Man, clearly this person has been manipulating you for years, why didn’t you tell me earlier?!” or “You’re an adult, why didn’t you just leave?”. This is so obviously wrong in a medical context, so much so that I’m sure most people reading this would be totally shocked if they saw or heard of something like that happening. Why is it any different here? You may have heard the phrase victim blaming, and this is a perfect example of what that is. There are countless reasons abused people do not come forward. They might fear it will not be received well. They might be scared for their safety, or the safety of those around them. They might not be in a mental state to understand the abuse being perpetrated to them in that moment. A power dynamic, such as the one between a relatively successful streamer in Avilo and his victim, can really supress someone’s ability to come forward with the truth - If he was a bit more likeable, people would certainly be jumping to defend him, making it even more challenging for the victim. Don’t blame victims for the circumstances in which they are divulging this information. It is often really hard for them to do, and I think when you start to bring up concerns about the timing etc., it really helps push people into silence – why share such a story when you will be condemned for doing so?

Something I also see a lot is the idea that these allegations are brought forward for money. Honestly, this is an argument I think could be reasonable for super famous people, where there is a lot to gain… But I also think that someone rich enough for this be to be a factor has the money to have legal support such that these claims are very, very unlikely to materialize. So why are we discussing it here? Like do we really believe that Rapid, a StarCraft commentator that has done like 10 days of GSL a year ago, is rich enough for financial compensation to matter? Do we really believe that it is more likely that this woman brought this forward for money, than Rapid saying a bunch of creepy stuff to her? Probably not. I can almost guarantee that Rapid isn’t bathing in money (is anyone in StarCraft esports??).

I think the idea that such claims are brought forward to ruin someone’s reputation makes more sense. In the age of “cancel culture” this stuff actually does happen. But if you objectively examine the reasons for why she might do this, does it really make sense? Like the victim clearly knows that she will face hate, disbelief, efforts to discredit her etc. All for the cost of destroying a D tier StarCraft commentator career? Hardly seems worth it to me. And on the off chance that this was some effort to destroy his career because of a personal quabble, there seem to be many more lies or avenues that would be more effective at doing this than just saying Rapid talked about his penis a bunch. And I know there is better “evidence” in the Avilo accusations, but I do find it interesting to think about what if there had not been. Like if the evidence against Rapid and Avilo were the same, I believe that people would have been willing to take Avilo down, while we still would have seen defenders of Rapid. The way you perceive people, and what you believe them to be massively impacts how willing you are to hear allegations against them.

The last thing I keep seeing here is the idea of “innocence until proven guilty”. I’m certainly no lawyer, so I don’t know if I have a nuanced take here, but I have a few small thoughts. One, individual testimonies ARE considered evidence in a criminal court. He said, she said type stuff is evidence, and a jury does make convictions based on such statements and who the believe to be more credible. But at the end of the day, I am not a lawyer, and you most likely aren’t either. So why is the bar we’ve set here the binary guilty or innocent? If you follow csgo, there was some allegations against a commentator (HenryG) there this week. While I do not think myself, or anyone else, knows enough to say he was innocent or guilty either way, whatever conspired was enough to make me think something went wrong there. He did something shitty. Something I would not be comfortable happening to me, my friends, my family, my colleagues, or anyone else for that matter. And so why isn’t that enough? I believe the victims here, and even if it doesn’t constitute a crime or whatever who gives a fuck? I don’t want to associate myself with these people, and I don’t want esports orgs or tournaments to associate with them. And to people saying “Let law enforcement deal with it”… How’s that been working the last few weeks eh?

Thanks for reading guys. Please try to be open to learning, hearing all sides of stories, and supporting people who experience abuse and other shitty situations."

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Balancing An Oppressive Atmosphere With Fun

Single player games serve two primary purposes to me. They provide a fun, relaxing experience that I consume for enjoyment. For example, something like Mario Odyssey distills this essence, a game that strives to achieve no more than to provide a joyous space to explore. Games also provide me with opportunities to learn, experience and challenge myself. This can come in many forms, such as the explicit social and ethical conundrums that a game like Paper’s Please presents, to more nuanced human issues in RPGs like the Witcher. I also think that an opportunity to learn and challenge the player can come from the atmosphere of the game, not just the content. A game that seeks to make the player feel a certain way – the isolation and claustrophobia of Bioshock, the emptiness of the desert in Assassin’s Creed Origins.

The interplay between these 2 components of games is a source of struggle for me as a player. I want experiences that mentally challenge me, but when the atmosphere begins to detract from the fun of the game, or make it actively stressful, it can become hard to play. A game that failed in this regard for me was Resident Evil 7. I know it might seem like a stupid example because it is clearly designed to be scary, but the tension was just too much for me. I wanted to learn the story and explore the house, but each time the game gave me a chance to take a break or quit it was all too easy to do so, and even more difficult to relaunch.

The game I really want to talk about today is Dishonored 2. Aside from the incredible creative freedom the game gives you in your approach to gameplay (Arkane is second to none in this regard), the great accomplishment of Dishonored 2 is the balance the game manages to find. The game gives you an impenetrable world to explore. With sheer fortresses, sharp edges, guards at every turn, the world strikes both fear and awe in the player as you investigate a dense police state. It is an intimidating place both from a gameplay perspective and a mental one. There are few moments of levity and joy to be found, and the depressing, grim tone is omnipresent in your interactions and exploration. I found it to be a challenging world to explore, as it is tiring and stressful experiencing such an oppressive world from the viewpoint of a silent assassin. More than a few times I had to pause to take a deep breath during my time with the game.

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Despite all this, I think Dishonored 2 mitigates the oppressive atmosphere very successfully. Travel to a new assassination destination occurs on a boat. On this boat you wake up, write in your journal, speak to the crew, and have a few moments to collect yourself between expeditions. I really feel there is a lot of value in having a safe space within the world that the player can exist in and interact with without the fear of death and without a gameplay challenge to deal with. These pockets exist in the levels too, such as an elevator here, or a small closet there, and this break in the tension helps make the game easier to pick up each session. Another factor is the difficulty – Dishonored 2 is an easy game. While it is nice to have to think about how to approach a situation, the stakes for failure are relatively low, and you can usually fight or run from anything challenging. While the feeling of isolation and scale can feel intimidating, the gameplay usually did not. While maintaining some sense of importance for gameplay decisions with the chaos and detection systems but providing many lanes of escape, I think the difficulty level made the game far less stressful to play. Finally, I think the environmental design plays an important role. Having a diverse colour palette, bright levels and varied non-hostile NPC populations made the game visually appealing even though the context that the environment existed in was far more hostile.

Usually I bounce of games that I find stressful. But I did not bounce off of Dishonored 2. At times I found it mentally challenging to play and the experience wasn’t always “fun” (often due to oppression in the world and feeling it gave me)… But ultimately, I think that the oppressive atmosphere is what challenged me as a player, provided the most interesting experience and elevated it from being merely a good immersive sim.

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Enjoying games during school/work - the constraints of time.

It’s no secret that video games reward time in a way most hobbies do not – the more you play the more interesting content one gets to see, the more immersed one becomes in the setting of a game, the better one gets at it, and the mechanics become more intricate and interesting. But I find, especially during school/study, it becomes increasingly hard to both play games and to enjoy them. I go through phases of what I want to play – for a week I feel like a competitive shooter, other weeks I feel like an RPG, and this too can be an obstacle in terms of my capacity to enjoy games. What do I play? How can I stick with a over an extended period of time? It’s hard to have a hobby that demands time like games do, but I think it is important to find time to enjoy and maintain hobbies.

How do you pick a game? I’ve talked to my friends about this a lot, and it seems like a common experience is opening up Steam or the Xbox dash, seeing the massive list of games, and just closing it all down to watch Netflix. It can be overwhelming. When I was younger (or in summers) I just play whatever I want because I know I can get to everything. When time becomes a precious resource, it feels too overwhelming to choose. I’ve circumvented this by just playing. I don’t try to think too much about it. I was bored this week and had a minute, so I just randomly booted up State of Decay 2 because I was feeling a zombie game. Just make the call quickly. I’ve found that this really does help me to move past the indecision.

In my current situation revisiting games after weeks, or even months, is a necessity. This is frustrating on a number of levels. Not only is it overwhelming to jump back in to a story if you don’t recall it perfectly, but learning controls again is a killer. Honestly, I don’t have a good solution for this one. I always open the quest log and try to read as much as I can, hoping that I can recall past events and play sessions. I google the controls and mess around for a bit until I remember them. But its hard. It’s frustrating to be bad at a game, and it does diminish the value of narratives to not remember the small details and the nuance. Gaming indecision is very real, especially when the constant nagging thought of “will I ever be able to finish this game” is on my mind, but I’ve just tried to get way less cerebral with how I treat games – there isn’t an obligation to beat stuff, or play certain games. Just have fun.

I’ve come to realize that I need to be happier with small sessions. I can’t beat the entire mission in one sitting or finish an entire quest chain. This drove me away from many games for a long time, and it took me playing World of Warcraft again to realize that this was a me issue, not a games issue. MMOs set tiny, granular goals for you to reach, which makes them fun in long sessions or in very short ones. I began trying to do this for myself in all games. What am I going to do today – perhaps just walk over to the next city where the quest is, or do a small mission, or play one match. Setting small, contained goals allowed me to enjoy my play sessions more and not think about how I don’t have the time I want to play through larger portions of games.

Finally, I think delegating specific times to play games was really helpful. It always feels like there is more I can be doing for school, study, work… The only way I found myself playing games was if I scheduled myself time each day. From 9-11 I can do whatever I want. This is a good tactic for all hobbies, not just games. If you don’t delegate the time, relaxing can cause guilt and stress. So I try to be conscious of maintaining times each week to read, play games or relax.

@aiomon/@libraryloadtime on twitter.

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Exploration mode in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey?

If you read my blog from last Christmas, you’ll recall that I loved Assassin’s Creed Origins. I’ve always been a huge fan of Greek history, and I remember loving the setting in the old Sierra city builder Zeus: Master of Olympus. So of course, I am playing Odyssey. While I am enjoying the game, I tend to feel the game is too bloated. The mountain of relatively uninteresting systems layered onto the Origins formula certainly does drag the average quality of the content down. That said still think it is a good game. ANYWAY, I am writing today not to talk about the intricacies of the game, or to review it as a whole, but to discuss one thing specifically: exploration mode.

When I was reading pre-release coverage and reviews of the game, they all made a note of the exploration mode. The mode, which can be toggled on/off, removes the on-screen quest markers for most quests. The UI instead displays directions that the player has learned from the quest giver and other NPCs, things such as “the house is west of Athens, and in a valley”. When one finds the location detailed, Icaros (the bird that serves as a flying Battlefield-esque spotter), will reveal the quest location with a marker. Andy Kelly of PC Gamer said “…exploration mode that’s really made me fall in love with this thing—and reignited my passion for open world games in general. Because it’s reminded me of how joyful exploration can be when you aren’t switching your brain off and following yet another flashing quest marker.” This sentiment is something I saw echoed in many reviews and forum posts. And I just don’t get it at all.

I pinky promise you, the hints are pointing you to that question mark.
I pinky promise you, the hints are pointing you to that question mark.

I started the game in exploration mode. As soon as I read the directional hints, I followed the same routine each time – open the map, find the exclamation point on map closest to the region detailed in the hints, select it, and walk. Nine times out of ten the location I sought was already marked on the map as a point of interest, but not illuminated as the quest location. This is literally all exploration mode added for me… I got to spend 45 seconds in the map every time I wanted to do a quest and I never felt challenged. I never felt like I was discovering areas that I otherwise wouldn’t have if I had just beelined directly towards a quest marker at the location. I mean I was literally doing it anyway, but instead of a golden square, it was my personal waypoint. When I finally turned exploration mode off, the game felt the exact same. Aside from the marker appearing (which effectively saved me a few seconds in the menus), the game was identical. While one could argue the persistent UI marker would break immersion, this isn’t a game that supports immersive play anyway; it’s a Ubisoft game at heart, with massive checklists to complete and countless outposts to formulaically capture. More than anything, this half-baked attempt to incorporate some organic discovery into a game that isn’t about exploration of the landscape just felt disrespectful of my time. It didn’t add value, didn’t impart a new or interesting experience, and added time with no added challenge. It felt much like the rest of the game does, and this is to say a Greek Origins clone with the content padded out to increase the playtime. While I’m certainly not mad the mode is included, I am truly confused about why it received such universal praise.

Aidan (@aiomon)

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Applicant - 5, 4, 2, 0

I should have gotten into medicine. By all accounts I am an ideal candidate on paper: social, strong resume, an average of 3.97, an MCAT in the 93rd percentile. I applied to 5 schools. I interviewed at 4. I got waitlisted at 2. I did not receive an offer of admission. I’m not complaining, trying to argue that I should have gotten in given my interview performance. I’m just trying to say that things don’t always come easily, even if you prepare well for them. Sometimes small mistakes, moments of surprise and seemingly insignificant mistakes can add up. The crushing defeat as years of work feels meaningless is difficult to deal with. The lifestyle and mindset of a failed applicant is foreign, daunting and scary. What do I do? Do I still have a chance? How should I feel? How should I react? These are all things I want to talk about over the next few months.

I am going to write more. Learning how to concisely explain the way one feels things is an extremely valuable tool in understanding why one feels them. Over the next few weeks, months, I am going to write (hopefully most Mondays) about the process of application, failure and working towards Medical School.

Aidan

And to get things out of the way, because I’m sure most people reading this will ask… I am in Canada, my GPA is 3.97 (or 89.2%) and my MCAT is 128/127/128/131.

www.libraryloadtime.wordpress.com

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World War 2 Fatigue?

I was probably 8 years old when my friend John put Medal of Honor: Frontline into the GameCube in his basement with me. We had just “borrowed” it from his older sister and figured it would be a welcomed break from the Mario Kart we’d been playing all day. I still remember storming the beach at Normandy for the first time. My experience with FPS was basically relegated to my cousin’s house, or friend’s basement until Modern Warfare came out. Some of my friends, at the age of 11, were finally old enough to finally get shooters for themselves.

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I bring this up because I feel like I’ve heard ubiquitous boredom for the World War 2 setting amongst gaming critics and twitter alike. Something I hear almost every time the setting of Battlefield V or Call of Duty WW2 are discussed is a collective sigh as everyone says that there are dozens of WW2 shooters already, and that the cliché scenes of Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan have been played out extensively in games. And while this might be true, has there really been all that many modern WW2 shooters lately? The last WW2 Call of Duty prior to the 2017 release was in 2008. That’s 10 years ago. Battlefield 1943 came out nearly a decade ago. Brothers in Arms doesn’t really exist anymore, and even Medal of Honor took a break from the WW2 setting for the 5 years before its presumably final release. So where are all the WW2 games? Aside from niche shooters such as Red Orchestra, there really haven’t been all that many until now.

The idea that the D-Day invasion has been played out in games isn’t necessarily wrong. I can imagine that all games set in the era open with such a scene. But to me the setting is nostalgic and relatively unexplored. There aren’t all that many modern World War 2 games, and for me and most of my peers (I am 22) the WW2 games predated our ability to buy and play FPS. I grew up on Modern Combat games - Modern Warfare, Bad Company. But at the same time media like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers were part of my upbringing. I want to visit these settings in modern games. And I think that the notion that the setting has been played out and can no longer be interesting is rooted in a fatigue that an audience slightly younger than the average games writer does not have.

What do you think about the WW2 setting in games?

Aidan (@aiomon)

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Ubisoft at E3 2018

Ubisoft is the McDonalds of developers. All of their games are good, but never exciting. Occasionally they have a very good offering (Assassins Creed: Origins), but at the end of the day most of their products are very similar. This is generally fine, but I want something more out of them. I did not get something more with this press conference. But I did get to see a ton of games that I’ll probably enjoy playing, so I guess that’ll do.

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Hold on just a second… As I typed that first little bit up, I realized that this show started with Beyond Good and Evil 2. THIS is what I wanted. I didn’t play the 1st game, but boy do I want to play this. The trailer, which featured a massive space ship and a cast of detailed, zany characters was immediately entrancing. It was weird but not stupid, and the sense of expansiveness it invoked was genuinely powerful. Many discussions about outer space that I was a part of throughout the physics classes of my undergraduate degree evoked a very specific feeling – a twitchy anxiety because the sense of scale is truly impossible to comprehend. Very rarely do I see settings in games or movies that can evoke even a fraction of that feeling, but this trailer did just that. This narrative RPG (with coop possibilities) is something that I cannot wait to see more of, and the setting and aesthetic were extremely impressive to me.

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I continue to be impressed by Ubisoft’s support of their existing titles. Rainbow Six: Siege, For Honor and Mario and Rabids all had significant stage time, and the new content they are introducing seems relevant and interesting. I really find it fascinating that two games that did poorly (at least in terms of perception) when released (in Siege and For Honor) seem to have dedicated, active communities. Super cool to see that Ubi’s outstanding support can raise games up to being far better than they have any right to be.

Skull and Bones looks beautiful. The ships look dingy and menacing, and the pirates themselves all have a distinct character to them. The customization of the ship’s sails, wheel and other facets was genuinely appealing to me. Being able to have a ship that is truly my own is enticing, and really makes you wonder “What were the Sea of Thieves devs doing?” I hated the ship combat in the Assassins Creed series, so I was skeptical about what it would fell like here. Ship combat generally feels unresponsive, sluggish and boring compared to faster paced shooters, and while perhaps it’s me, not them, it’s not something that I’m looking for out of games. Fortunately, Skull and Bones looked snappier, the targeting reticles moved quickly and there seemed to be a wide array of attacks. Hopefully I get my own ship, so I don’t need to rally 3 other friends just to set sail. Speaking of rallying friends, the Division 2 certainly looks like more of the Division! As Destiny, The Division, Ghost Recon and many more have all come out in rapid succession, my interest in playing coop loot shooters is basically zero. That said, there is something attractive about the Division 2 that makes me care more than I should. Perhaps it’s just the beautiful environments?

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While Ubi talked about tons of other stuff (Star Link, Trials, Crew 2) it’s about time I just say it – ASSASSINS CREED ODYSSEY IS GONNA BE AMAZING. Origins is a very good game. The setting felt rich and fresh, the combat was decent, and the gameplay loop was addictive and enjoyable. Also had some of the best writing in the series. Odyssey appears to be very similar to Origins, but now has more RPG elements including dialogue options. This is exactly what I want from a new AC game. Greece is an iconic setting for the series to move to, and if Odyssey is literally just Greek Origins with dialogue choices, I will play and love it. It was so vibrant and colourful too, a delight to look at.

Ubisoft put on a fun show with musicals performances, stupid banter, a motorcycle and lots of games. And it was good.

Aidan(@aiomon)

www.libraryloadtime.wordpress.com

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Bethesda at E3 2018

Both the publishing arm and developments studios of Bethesda have had sound track records in recent memory. Churning out plenty of critically acclaimed games, it is unsurprising that most of their press conferences stuck to their roots. Wait… What?! You’re telling me the new Fallout is an always online survival game? Pardon me, B.J. Blaskowitz isn’t the playable character in the new Wolfenstein? Prey is getting a rogue-like mode?

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I don’t generally enjoy single player FPS campaigns. I find them stressful and repetitive. I did, however, like Rage 1. It was manageable enough that I never got stressed, and damn did the guns feel good. Open world garbage aside, it was a good shooter. Rage 2 has a very different tone, but if it retains any of the gun mechanics, I’ll definitely be looking to give it a try. The combat arenas showcased in the press conference reminded me of Doom (2016), but the guns looked to shoot much as in a Call of Duty. The action was fast paced and exciting, and the environments looked varied. The textures looked a little bland and drab, but it’s hard to tell if they will look that way in game (being on stream and all). It’s cool to see a forgotten franchise get a second chance, and I really hope this game is good. The Bethesda first person franchises continued to surprise with a Doom (2016) sequel set on a hellish earth, a procedurally generated rogue-like mode for Prey and a Wolfenstein game featuring B.J. Blazkowicz’s twin daughters. While I didn’t play Doom or Wolfenstein, people seem to love those games, so I have no doubt that they were on the list at some point... But I am surprised to see both so soon, especially as the Wolfenstein games feel like critical darlings but poor performers. I feel like there is a piece missing here. Perhaps Wolfenstein is a smaller game, the Far Cry: Blood Dragon of the franchise.

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It was a small part of the show, but apparently Elder Scrolls: Legends is getting a full visual overhaul. This is absolutely massive for that game. I want to talk more about this in a later post, but the mechanics and card design of ESL are top notch, and when the game came out it was my favourite online CCG. An increasingly overwhelming storefront and barely functional interface really hurt the game, and I think that an improved form of ESL could do VERY well, and be very good. The complexity, skill and good design are there, but almost everything around the edges is falling apart. I also want to write more about MMOs in the near future but let me say this now – Elder Scrolls Online is the best MMO right now, and you should play it. Especially since it’s on Game Pass now. And it’s getting a consistent stream of very high-quality content.

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Fallout 76 is the game I never wanted. It is a game that I could hear almost anything about and still not touch. I hate survival games. They seem so disrespectful of the players time. Too complicated to zone out and watch a movie, but simple enough to be boring, they demand that players do insane amounts of work to progress. They feel like MMOs without the addictive * beep * as you level up. I just have no interest in them, and with plenty of them coming out (including the recent State of Decay 2), I feel like Fallout 76 would have to do a lot for me to care. I go to BGS games for the story, the writing. It’s frustrating to me as a Bethesda fan to get this out of a franchise I adore. Todd Howard is a great presenter, and perhaps I’ll come around on 76, but with the next BGS project being considered a “next generation” title, and Elder Scrolls 6 coming after that, it seems as though the game I want from BGS is far away indeed. But the game did look good and was presented in a fun way at the show. So maybe I’m just being a downer.

Whatever, at least I can play Skyrim on my fridge.

Aidan (@aiomon)

www.libraryloadtime.wordpress.com

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Microsoft at EA 2018

I am a PC and Xbox gamer. When I first purchased by Xbox 2 years ago, the Masterchief Collection, Gears of War and the controller form were driving factors. Since my purchase, I’m not sure there has been any large exclusives aside from Halo Wars 2. As the platform has improved massively over the last year, going into this Microsoft show I was looking for one thing, and one thing alone – games.

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Microsoft showed their commitment to exclusives by announcing 5 studio acquisitions: A new Santa Monica studio, Undead Labs (State of Decay series), Playground (Forza, and maybe Fable?), Ninja Theory (Devil May Cry, Hellblade) and Compulsion Games (We Happy Few). While Ninja Theory and Compulsion are the only 2 unexpected acquisitions, this is certainly welcome news. Apparently, We Happy Few has shifted to a more linear, narrative game with survival elements, a welcome change that I hope can encapsulate the atmosphere the original trailer did back in 2015. These studios aside, there weren’t many actual exclusives announced. Crackdown 3 had another trailer, Gears of War 5 was confirmed, a Gears of War brand X-Com clone was teased briefly, Ori and the Blind Forest: Will of the Wisps had another trailer and Forza Horizon 4, a new Battletoads and Halo: Infinite were revealed. These games are all either small in scope, or games that everyone assumed were in development. No surprises. I really feel like Xbox needs a breakthrough exclusive, something more than another Halo or Gears. Something in the vein of a Horizon: Zero Dawn, or a God of War. That said, the huge investment in first party studios is definitely a sign of commitment, and (while I’ve said this every year for the last 4 years) I think that E3 2019 will be an incredible showing for Xbox.

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Another thing I noticed during the show was the commitment to both the Xbox One X and Game Pass. Every trailer featured an “Enhanced for Xbox One X” logo, something that I think is integral for such a product to exist and flourish. When the PS4 Pro was released, there was confusion about nature of the improvements that people would see in games, and I think that the Xbox branding around their half-step console is much more digestible and omnipresent. Driving home the fact that the X is truly the most luxurious way to play console games is important for a non-essential such as the X, and I do feel like Microsoft has carved out a dedicated space for the X and continue to make it a valuable console to own.

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Likewise, EVERY Windows architecture exclusive had the “Free day 1 with Game Pass” logo. Game Pass is a very appealing product for me. For $11 CAD a month I have access to a ton of games, and installation/use is effortless and convenient. New games go for $80 in Canada, and that’s a steep ask, especially when I’m not sure I will like a game enough to commit that much money. At roughly $120 a year, it becomes so much easier to commit to playing all Xbox exclusives. Game Pass is truly a consumer-friendly service, and I hope that the 1st party support is enough to drive subscriptions to a place where it can become a Netflix for games not just in concept, but also content.

Despite the exclusive presence feeling low-key at the show, Microsoft DID show games, and seem to have very relevant marketing deals. Given the public perception of the Xbox brand being undeniable worse than Sony, I do think that big marketing deals are important. Seeing The Division 2, Metro: Exodus, Kingdom Hearts 3, Devil May Cry 5 and Cyberpunk 2077 alongside the Xbox logo is important. It makes me associate games with the Xbox brand, not just the numerous issues with the platform. And for more casual viewers, I believe that marketing deals can certainly sells consoles. Last year Xbox lacked exclusives and marketing deals, and I feel like the Xbox brand wasn’t in the public eye nearly as much as PlayStation was. Exclusives, Xbox, Sony, Microsoft and anything else aside, this conference just made me want to play games. And at the end of the day, there is some power in that too.

Also god damn, Dying Light 2 looks fuckin’ rad.

Aidan (@aiomon)

www.libraryloadtime.wordpress.com

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EA at E3 2018

Hey. I’m going to write about E3! EA kicked of the press conference lineup with a relatively sterile, unexciting, but acceptable show.

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Battlefield games make for great openers to a conference. The destruction, explosions and haven’t lost their ability to leave me impressed, and I must admit I drooled a tiny bit when I saw a pile of snow roll down the roof of a collapsing house. But there really didn’t seem to be much substance here. There was limited multiplayer footage, no campaign footage, and I feel like I didn’t really get to see anything new. It looks like a Battlefield game. They did dedicate some time to ensure that viewers knew there was no loot boxes or a season pass, which I do appreciate. Especially in light of the Battlefront controversy, I think this is something they needed to get out in front of. Most of my more casual gaming friends were aware of the fiasco that was the BF2 lootboxes, and when public perception is in the dumps even to the most casual of fans, you know you’ve fucked up. No season pass definitely makes me wonder what the content they sell will take the form of, but I am optimistic about the future and success of BFV. Speaking of lootboxes, the Battlefront content shown wasn’t enough to make me want to play that game, and until it’s on EA Access, I likely won’t touch it. Oh, and I guess there is another Star Wars game in the works that we’ll see next year?? After checking my Facebook messenger chats after this segment, the only message I saw was “lol battlefield had battle royale.” – So I guess that’s where people are at with the franchise.

Unravel 2 is out. This was the first “AND IT’S OUT TODAY!” from recent E3s, and it’s unfortunate it was wasted on such a low-profile game. That said, I love that EA gave as much time to Unravel as they did. The first game was so close to being good, but the platforming lacked the tight controls that make platformers so satisfying. The second game, while maintaining the beautiful art style of the first, seems more mechanically complex and varied. Made for local coop (but still allowing single player), the two person grappling mechanics reminded me of a more fleshed out Lara Croft and the Guardian of Osiris. The game looked fun, and for $20 it seems like it would make an enjoyable afternoon for me and my roommate. EA moved into another EA Originals project, Sea of Solitude. As the clearly nervous lady on stage spilled her heart to the audience, warm colours filled an abstract world. The game, about loneliness, has a unique and alluring aesthetic. While it was never explained exactly what the game was, I am certainly curious to hear more. I love that EA scouts out independent studios with unique and ambitious games. It really does make EA more likeable, and the more backing that creative indies can get, the better.

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Yup. Mobile C&C was the only game that got a positive response from my friends. I was impressed by this showing. While the “esports at a press conference” shtick was only barely made better by the fantastic StarCraft personalities they included, the game looked fun. Much like Clash Royale distilled the core of RTS into an accessible game, C&C Rivals appeared to do the same. I can certainly see myself playing a short-form mobile strategy game, but I need to see how it is monetized first. While Clash Royale was a fantastic game, it was marred by abusive microtransactions and matchmaking. I saw an overwhelmingly negative reaction to this game on twitter during the show, which I was surprised by. I get people have great love and nostalgia for the older C&C games, but do people really want a new PC RTS? Without dramatic changes I’m not sure a classic base building RTS really has a place in the todays market. If anything StarCraft has proven that: accessible coop, fantastic campaigns, fun multiplayer (and all FREE) but still a slowly declining player base indicate that RTS just aren’t what people want to play. I really hope this game turns out well, because a competitive game that I could play a match of here or there would be a welcome addition to my installed apps.

EA closed with Anthem. This game should be an amazing showcase game at a press conference – huge, intricate environments, Bioware writing and budget, mechs… But boy did it show poorly. Repeating concept art montages were the backdrop to nonspecific story blabbering began the presentation. There was no in-game story content displayed, leaving me to wonder how Bioware intends to deal with the story. Will Anthem have a dialogue wheel? Will it have a linear, Destiny-esque story? When they finally got around to showing gameplay, it appeared to be a Destiny-like shooter with more mobility. The HUD literally had a “Destroy 6 items” indicator on the top right. I’m sure that Anthem will be a fine game at worst, but boy, this presentation was boring and drab, and I can’t help but feel like a huge opportunity to showcase an exciting game was squandered.

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Perhaps it says volumes about the quality of the press conference that the most exciting thing to me was the talk of an improved EA/Origin Access service (a fantastic subscription, especially for Xbox users). It wasn’t bad, but there was so little gameplay and information. If this continues for the other press conferences, the identity and relevance of E3 will continue to be questioned – Why did we need these conferences, and what value does they really have over smaller, independent streams?

Aidan

@aiomon

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