Hey, gang, this is absolutely wonderful. Activision has filed and been granted a patent for software designed to push you into buying cash shop crappies through the most insidious means possible. The breakdown is fairly straightforward: Once you buy something, the game’s matchmaking software will push you to a match where that something would be very effective or where another player’s purchases would influence your purchases, thus creating positive feedback and inspiring you to buy more! Isn’t that grand?
For those keeping track at home, this is starting to cross the line from gambling over to extortion, which is not a pleasant road to be walking. If you thought microtransactions amounted to a cash shop wholly separate from gameplay and you never had to worry about it influencing anything else, you were wrong.
Activision’s official statement is that this was simply a patent filed for exploratory software and it has not been implemented in any games. Said statement does not include phrases like “will not,” of course, so draw your own conclusions about when and whether it will show up. You can also draw your own conclusions about how shady it is, but the answer is pretty decidedly “super shady.”
This past weekend was not the first time I have attended a developer’s convention, but Frontier Expo 2017 was one of only a very few times when I have been able to attend the first one of its kind. Last weekend, I got to witness the birth of Frontier Developments’ fan convention, held in London, UK. At 1500 attendees, it may have been a relatively small gathering compared to conventions like PAX or other more established cons, but it was still great. In fact, it offered fans a few firsts of their own! Besides your classic meeting-and-greeting, game announcements with reveals, and after parties (including live entertainment by Jim Guthrie, the musician who created the Planet Coaster music), folks got to try their hand at the studio’s really old games on their original equipment in the Frontier Developments museum.
Even more than that, attendees got to meet and listen to world-renowned experts in the fields of paleontology and astrobiology. Not because these would sell the game, but just because they are subjects of interest to fans. How many studios have offered that?
Now there were understandably a few bumps and learning experiences in this first endeavor, but in all, I say the inaugural FX2017 was a resounding success! It was easily the most chill convention experience I have ever had, and I look forward to next year’s show (and hanging out with the space loach more!). Let’s dig in!
We’ve been complaining about lockboxes a lot lately as an unwelcome psychological trick in gaming, so this morning, I wanted to talk about a welcome one. To do so, let me invoke the wisdom of blog The Psychology of Video Games. Author Jamie Madigan discusses “automatic helping behaviors” that studios can take advantage of to combat toxicity; he notes that researchers have found your attitude doesn’t always control your actions – you can often be tricked into an attitude based on your actions.
So if a game like Guild Wars 2 finds a way to incentivize you into resurrecting other players and helping them in combat, you begin to perceive yourself as the kind of person who helps – and you might just begin reflexively helping elsewhere, even when you don’t have to. That leads to situations, at least in GW2, where people will actually stop fighting to rush over to res a stranger, perpetuating that warm fuzzy feeling.
In a game like Overwatch, it’s even more automatic, as your character fires off compliments when characters nearby perform well. See and hear “yourself” do that enough and suddenly, that’s the kind of player you are.
Are you a fan of MMOs that employ this “trick” to encourage cooperation and community building? Where else have you seen it used to good effect?
While those of us who write for MassivelyOP do try give you all the scientific resources we can to help you fight back against your family, friends, and co-workers who may still not get your hobby or why you may let your child participate in gaming culture, it’s not our primary function – that’d be covering and analyzing the MMO genre.
Enter SmartSocialGamers.org, an “online resource that provides guidance, tips and expert advice for everyone to have a positive social games experience.” While I’d normally smirk and wonder who really thinks he or she has the clout to do something like that, in digging through it I found that Dr. Rachel Kowert, of The Video Game Debate fame, penned several of the top tips, including one that starts off using Quantic Foundry’s Gamer Motivation Model. That’s some clout. Let’s take a look!
It is not going to shock you to hear that lockboxes are kind of evil. We here at Massively OP have been beating on that drum for years now. But studios keep selling them and players keep buying them, so on the drum beat goes.
If you’ve brushed off the insidious nature of lockboxes so far, it might behoove you to read this piece from PC Gamer that takes an unflinching look at how game designers use specific, targeted elements to prey upon players’ psychology and brain chemistry — and that many of these techniques are the same ones employed by gambling establishments.
Why do lockboxes work so well? Something called “variable rate reinforcement” factors into it, says Dr. Luke Clark of the Center for Gambling Research: “The player is basically working for reward by making a series of responses, but the rewards are delivered unpredictably. We know that the dopamine system, which is targeted by drugs of abuse, is also very interested in unpredictable rewards. Dopamine cells are most active when there is maximum uncertainty, and the dopamine system responds more to an uncertain reward than the same reward delivered on a predictable basis.”
Source: PC Gamer
. Thanks Agemyth and Pierre!
Here is a question for you to ponder: Do MMOs make you feel more productive than your main job or school? If so, it might not be an accident.
In an essay over at the Talk Amongst Yourselves Kinja, author @CleonWrites notes how video games have started to fill people’s needs for productivity and world fulfillment when they can’t get it in the real world. And you might be getting a hit of this emotional high when you jump into your favorite MMO.
“Using MMORPG’s as an example, [game designer Jane] McGonigal notes that games can offer a certain satisfaction in doing work,” the essay says. “‘Work’ in games commonly take the form of quests, or objectives, which the player is asked to complete. On completion of these tasks, players can be rewarded through experience points, better armour, and in particular, more quests. This constant repetition of easily completable tasks, and increasingly common rewards, drives home a feeling of productivity in the player.”
Have you heard in passing this “Project Discovery
” thing in EVE Online
and wondered what it is all about? CCP put together a new tutorial video that explains the purpose behind Project Discovery, how players can help, and what they will earn for their troubles.
Project Discovery is a collaborative, crowdsourced effort to reward players in-game for helping out on what are effectively “citizen science” projects. Last year’s program tasked players with identifying cell structures to assist the Human Genome Project. This particular leg of the program, first revealed at last spring’s EVE Fanfest in Iceland, sets players to work hunting for exoplanets in other solar systems. Players have the option of analyzing a star’s luminosity to see if there are any dips, signifying that a planet has crossed between the star and the telescope. The more accurate a player is in his or her analysis (compared to the rest of the EVE community), the more experience points will be doled out for a special reward track.
A new Japanese study in the acclaimed science journal Nature suggests that Pokemon Go players experienced a drop in “psychological distress” because of the game. The paper gives psychological distress a specific definition, but it’s easier to explain it as the amount of “vigor” someone has compared to depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
While the study had a control group of non-players and used a total sample size of 2,500 fully employed Japanese workers, at this point in the research game, I’ve started to become less impressed. While I’d love to sing praises of POGO, there’s a reason most people look at the game as a fad, and the research here only reinforced this. Let’s take a look at the study and what it really means.
Dota 2’s The International 7 tournament is over, having concluded this weekend by crowning EU group Team Liquid — which arrived to the finals by way of the loser’s bracket — champions. Liquid walks off with over $10M in earnings.
But perhaps the most interesting bit for folks who don’t follow Dota 2 closely came on Friday when the ubiquitous Elon Musk revealed his company’s Dota 2 bot, which he says learned a lifetime’s worth of game skills in just two weeks. To prove it, he pitted the bot against pro player Danylo “Dendi” Ishutin in a demo match… and the bot won easily twice.
Lest you think Musk has aims to take over the world, recall that his company OpenAI was founded to stop the AI from taking over the world, meaning this demo was ostensibly another high-profile attempt to provoke regulation.
Does your brain feel a little lighter or heavier this week? It could be because of your gaming habits.
A recent study on video games hosted by the University of Montreal took a group of people and subjected them to either first-person shooters or Super Mario Bros. It turns out that there was “statistically significant” less grey matter in the hippocampus after 10 weeks than those who indulged in FPS games than platformers, who actually gained more.
So what does this mean? The researchers speculated on why some video games cause growth while others incur shrinkage in the old noggin’. One theory is that action games’ navigation systems do the thinking for the players in favor of a reward system. Platformers may require more active thought to navigating obstacles while FPS are more about reflexes in linear fights.
Still, there’s not really any cause for concern. “I would never interpret this finding as a big warning against action video games,” a neural plasticity researcher Simone Kuhn says.
Gaming analysis firm SuperData is touting a new report for marketers today, shedding some light on the shape of the industry so far in 2017 — for everyone. Yep, today’s report is free, as long as you’re willing to hand over a mailing address, so let’s run down the highlights:
- 46% of US gamers are now women.
- 665 million people glue their eyeballs to gaming videos and streams — more than HBO, Netflix, ESPN, and Hulu combined.
- “The global market for games and interactive media will grow 12% this year,” for the first time crossing the $100B threshold.
- A streadily increasing percentage of that dough is coming from digital console revenue.
- By 2020, SuperData argues, “players will spend $4.5B on immersive gaming — more than 20 times what they do today.”
- “Rocket League shows that console gamers are willing to spend on optional cosmetic items in multiplayer games.” Stop buying lockboxes, people.
Quantic Foundry researcher and long-time MMO academic Nick Yee has an intriguing blog post out this week titled Dispelling Myths about Female Gamers in which he purports to do just that. Yee has been shuffling the data from over 300,000 submissions to the Gamer Motivation Model project to see what they reveal about female gamers. “Over and over again, we have noticed that cursory examinations of the data often support a gender-normative narrative,” he writes, “but diving deeper into the data reveals far more surprising (and interesting) relationships between gender and gameplay.”
For example, consider the lazy stereotype that women are innately averse to violence or competition in online games, a claim often used to dismiss female-dominated games as casual or not “real” games.
“At first glance, gaming motivations among men and women seem to align with gender stereotypes: Men are primarily motivated by competition and destruction, while women’s primary motivations are completion and fantasy. But this is only part of the story. For example, consider competition—the motivation that varies the most between male and female gamers – for which, it turns out, age accounts for twice the statistical variance than gender does. Or, to put it another way, the delta in the appeal of competition between younger men and older men is much bigger than the delta between men and women.”
Gamers talk a big talk about horse armor DLC and pay-to-win and the evils of cash shops, but y’all keep buying anyway.
That’s according to gaming research analysis firm SuperData, which today released an excerpt from its pricey report on digital console revenue for 2017. More than half of all digital console revenue this year, the firm says, will come from “additional content” like DLC and cash-shop microtransactions. That number is half again as high for the top-earning console games from the last few years.
Fully “39% of first-year additional content revenue for all titles is made in the first 3-to-6 months, leaving game publishers with a tight time frame to release new content,” argues SuperData. “Digital console consumers are hungry for more content as soon as they are done with the core gameplay. Most single player games have a gameplay timeframe between 10-to-40 hours within their single-player mode. It is not hard to see why over a third of console players believe that publishers should release content every 3-to-6 months. Over a fourth of them believe additional content should be released at least once a month. Publishers are warned to be wary of releasing content too close to the release date, since consumers see that tactic as profiting off content that should otherwise have been released with the full game.”