for science

Academics and addiction experts weigh in on ‘pay-to-loot’ gambleboxes and lockboxes:

“Pay-to-win” is old news now — game designers’ new plan for hoovering all the cash out of our wallets is “pay-to-loot.”

According to IGN’s Nathan Lawrence, who dives into the topic today, that’s the term game psychologists are using to describe what online gamers have been derisively referring to as gambleboxes and lockboxes for years: You’re essentially buying chances at a thing, paying to roll the dice and let the RNG gods determine your reward, padding the game’s coffers all the while.

The gambling references aren’t accidental; one expert calls lootboxes a “poker machine-like experience,” while another points to the phenomenon as an exploitation of human nature:

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Leaderboard: Are you part of SuperData’s cohort of ‘gaming video content viewers’?

SuperData released a report this week arguing that the video gaming video content business is booming, even “outpacing earnings from some traditional sports leagues.” The whole paper is a mere $2,499 if you want to read it all, but the summary includes everything from Twitch to YouTube and intriguingly suggests that the viewing audience is almost half female.

“Additionally, gaming live streams are replacing primetime TV viewing with 27% of live stream viewers watching most often during weekday evenings. The Gaming Video Content audience on YouTube and Amazon’s Twitch, 517 million and 185 million people in 2016 respectively, surpasses mainstream channels like ESPN and HBO, further shaking up the traditional media landscape.”

E-sports and stream viewers, the analysts claim, “watch more than four hours of content per week,” while almost half of US gaming video content viewers are hooked to “walkthroughs, trailers and humor videos,” meaning that both the casual and hardcore audiences are being served.

Are you among them? That’s what today’s Leaderboard means to find out.

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What virtual reality immersion researchers are up to will ‘shock’ you – literally

OK, virtual reality fans and frenemies, here’s a fun thought process: How do you simulate haptic feedback when your arms are waving around in the air? When you pretend to grab a mug of coffee, pick up a ball, or clock someone in the jaw, how does the game world sell immersion to you?

One answer might be electric muscle stimulation — yep, they’re gonna shock you. Researchers at the Hasso-Plattner Institute in Germany are apparently trying to mimic the muscle response and feel of touching, pushing, or lifting items in virtual reality with micro-shocks in actual reality.

It’s not really as “shocking” as it sounds, as anyone’s who’s ever experienced this sort of thing in its existing form as muscle therapy can attest (I can, and it actually worked, I’m still surprised to say). At its worst, it sort of feels like weird tingling or zingy pressure, not pain. It’s a cheap process, but it’s also goofy as heck, and if you were annoyed at having to plop on a giant headset for virtual reality, just wait until you have to tape a bunch of electrical nodes up and down your arms.

Source: Plopes via Motherboard via Slashdot. Thanks, Sally! No regrets on the headline.

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Study claims playing Pokemon Go is associated with happiness attributes

A research team from the University of Wisconsin–Madison has a paper out this month purporting to show that Pokemon Go play essentially makes people happier, or more specifically, is associated with being happy. Having surveyed 399 US adults last summer, the team concludes that playing the game “was associated with various positive responses (increased positive affect, nostalgic reverie, friendship formation, friendship intensification, and walking), most of which predicted enhanced well-being” and that “two indirect effects of gameplay were moderated by social anxiety.”

According to the University, the researchers asked

“questions about [subjects’] emotional and social lives and levels of physical activity before segueing into Pokemon. More than 40 percent of their respondents turned out to be Pokemon Go players, and those people were more likely to be exercising — walking briskly, at least — and more likely to be experiencing positive emotions and nostalgia. […] They were also more social. Players were more likely than nonplayers to be making new friends and deepening old friendships.”

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SuperData predicts huge gains for virtual reality over the next four years

SuperData was rather famously quoted all throughout the industry at the end of 2016 following its research-backed proclamation that virtual reality was the “biggest loser” of the holiday gaming sales season. But this week, the company has issued an infographic suggesting that VR is now “on the rise” and its best days are ahead of it.

Last November, the research firm adjusted its original estimates for VR sales after both Sony and Google saw significantly fewer than anticipated VR headsets sold to consumers. However, SuperData explained at the time that headsets were suffering from “supply inconsistencies,” poor sales tactics during the holidays, and the absence of high-demand games and apps to drive sales — none of which was irreversible.

The new infographic anticipates a “steep rise” in VR adoption over the next few years, though it’ll be one still vastly overshadowed by the use of TV, phones, and PCs. While SuperData suggests most of the profits are in the devices themselves right now, it predicts that by 2020, revenue from VR will near $40B US and eventually be more evenly distributed over hardware and software.

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SuperData examines gambling practices across the online gaming industry

Gambling in video games has been a huge topic for devoted MMORPG players over the last year or so, as core MMOs like Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Elder Scrolls Online have added or tweaked lockboxes, Path of Exile has raised the bar on lockbox transparency, Valve has been hassled by regulatory bodies for enabling underage gambling, and countries have considered classifying certain MMO practices as gambling for the purposes of regulation.

But it’s probably worth remembering that there is a very real and legitimized online gambling gaming industry out there competing for your dollars (in fact, some of them occasionally pop up in our remnant ads, depending on where you live, and we have to get out the mallet).

It’s all explained in a new report the analysts at SuperData prepared for the Dutch government as an overview of gambling practices in digital games, from the “social casinos” of Zynga and trading card games to e-sports bets and in-game item wagering.

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Introducing the Massively Overpowered Objectivity Guide and App

Friends, enemies, ladies, gentlemen, morphean blobs, and colours out of space, we know that the most pressing question on your mind when you read this site is how you know everything is objective. Objectivity is one of the highest goals of Massively Overpowered, specifically because we set up a tall shelf and put a piece of paper that says “objectivity” on the top of it. It is very high off of the ground. Bree and Justin rely on the rest of us to assure them that yes, it is in fact there.

But how do you, the reader, know that this is the case? How can you be certain that no trace of subjectivity is tainting your article and that everything you read here is entirely verifiable by objective reality? It’s a problem that we sat up long nights considering.

So we’re happy to announce the introduction of the new Massively Overpowered Objectivity Guide and App. Read on to find out how this new feature of the site will ensure that everything you read on the site is safe and entirely objective, whether you’re on mobile or on your desktop.

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Massively Overthinking: Competition vs. community in MMOs

Quantic Foundry, the games research group we’ve been tracking ever since it posted its original Gamer Motivation Model, has a new piece out this month on competition and community.

Dr Nick Yee (yes that Nick Yee) explains that one of the things his team’s survey and resulting model have demonstrated is that commonly held assumptions about the “spectrum” of MMO players — that is, “warm, fuzzy, social care bears on one end” and “cold, anti-social, competitive griefers” on the other — are wrong. In fact, he argues, the model shows that competition is not the opposite of community; on the contrary, “there is a strong positive correlation between competition and community,” disassociated from the gender and age of the respondents. This is the kind of stuff a lot of our readers are going to love, especially since the researchers are smashing related assumptions (like that ganking is PvP or that competition necessitates conflict).

So for this week’s Overthinking, I sent the summary of the research to our writers and asked them to discuss whether Yee’s results match their experiences when it comes to community and competition.

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SuperData February 2017: World of Tanks perks up, Hearthstone is sinking

Happy SuperData day! That’s the monthly holiday when we pore over the market analysis report, freak out over something doing well, freak over something doing poorly, and then fight over definitions, the evils of trusting paywalled science, and why more MMOs aren’t on the current list. This round, there’s lots to bicker over — but also some bits to celebrate in the February 2017 charts of top-grossing game titles.

On PC, while League of Legends, Crossfire, and Dungeon Fighter Online continue their top-three dominance, the rest of the roster has seen a bit of a shake-up, as Overwatch has fallen from #4 to #6 and World of Tanks has pushed past it as well as World of Warcraft. WoW’s status is a tad confusing; last month, SuperData began reporting Western and Eastern WoW separately, even though it does not appear to be doing that for any other game. This month, it’s omitted the West/East tags but still has two entries for WoW, so we’re left to assume to top one is still West as it was last month.

On console, ARK: Survival Evolved has fallen from its #4 spot to #6. As always, we point out that ARK: Survival Evolved has yet to formally launch, and it’s absurd that it’s on this list at all, but fools and their money and all that.

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Researchers study ArcheAge’s beta wipe for real-world apocalypse behavior

If the world was to end this week, how would people react? That’s an interesting question to ponder in the abstract, but researchers took this hypothetical one step further by looking at an MMORPG wipe to map out the behavior of players at the end of their virtual world.

In a recent study, a research team looked at a massive amount of data — over 270 million player records — from the conclusion of ArcheAge’s beta. The purpose was to try to get a feel for human behavior during “end times” and draw possible parallels to what might happen in our world. While there was some anarchy and nasty behavior, the study notes that a majority of people mostly played out their remaining time in the social sphere. Quests and other progression paths were abandoned, while more players simply grouped up for fun and to take on interesting challenges.

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Elite: Dangerous is adding in the Trappist-1 system… which was already almost there

If you care at all about space (and you should, because we’re all in it), you probably heard about NASA’s discovery of the Trappist-1 system with seven rocky exoplanets at the right range for water and life. It’s incredibly cool news, and it’s made even cooler by the fact that Elite: Dangerous is adding in the data for a system at the right location and distance to ensure that you can fly out there and explore it for yourself.

Of course, that’s less of an accomplishment than it might seem, because it turns out the star and the planets were already there.

All right, that’s not exactly true, but Elite: Dangerous did have a star system in just about the same place, with almost the same star and close to the right number of planets. It’s all based on the game’s predictive system, which tries to guess at what’s out there in the void even when we don’t know about it. The location will be brought in line with what we now know to be true in the next patch, but still, how nifty is it that the two line up so well?

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EVE Online’s new ‘citizen science’ project will ‘refine the search for exoplanets’

Those of you who’ve known me a while probably know that my husband is an astrophysicist, which means that astronomy is a passion in my house, and I’m thrilled when his field overlaps with mine as it does today: CCP Games has announced a new “citizen science” project, whereby it will work with multiple universities and the Massively Multiplayer Online Science group to put players to “work” hunting for exoplanets — not in New Eden, but in our real universe.

“Within EVE’s virtual universe, players will interact with real-world astronomical data provided by the University of Geneva through a fully integrated part of the EVE Online game experience called Project Discovery. Once enough players reach comparative consensus on classification of the data, it will be sent back to the University of Geneva for use in refining the search for exoplanets.”

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Take a look at how EVE Online made a game mechanic out of scientific research

You doubtlessly have a pretty clear idea of what goes on in EVE Online at this point. Players mine resources, build ships, screw one another out of money and resources, and complete scientific research projects as a group. If you didn’t know about that last one, though, perhaps you’d like to take a look at how the game integrated research work for the Human Protein Atlas into the game’s ongoing stories and got players to do a huge amount of scientific work while playing the game.

The short version, of course, is that this is exactly the way that crowd-sourced science can work, allowing lots of people to do the hard number crunching and producing results without taking up high-end research time. The article recounts previous attempts at crowdsourcing scientific work such as Folding@home, with CCP Games aiming to make the experience feel like satisfying gameplay without removing the scientific component. So it turns out that you weren’t just killing miners for their resources, you were doing so for science.

Or at least you would have been doing it for science if that had been part of the project. But the thought is still there.

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