for science

Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Online games and internet addiction

Massively OP’s overview of Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate last month was just the beginning of our coverage of the topics contained within it. I advised MMO players and writers to pick up the book and read it for themselves, but for those who don’t, today I’ll break down some of the ideas expressed in various chapters of the book and try to relate them to the world of MMOs specifically.

We’ll be starting with chapter five by Mark D. Griffiths. The topic? Gaming and internet addiction.

Image attribution: Damien du Toit

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Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Modern online game research

Late last year, I published on Massively-that-was a set of articles addressing current research on the relationship between shyness and online game friendships, including a detailed interview with Dr. Rachel Kowert, a lead researcher on the related paper. Kowert and University of Münster colleague Thorsten Quandt have now collected and published their work and work by other academics into a new book now available called The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games.

Kowert generously provided me with an early draft of the book to discuss here. Her goal, she says, was to make an accessible book about modern game research for the public, but the results are a little depressing, even though the work and research done make me wish I had enough money to buy a copy and send it to everyone in the professional games and media businesses.

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Eco as an academic tool: Educating with PvE survival and permadeath

Like the idea of survival games, but not PvP? Wish your class involved video games? Maybe you want to doom humanity to choking itself on its own filth?

Well, good news for all of you: Eco made its initial Kickstarter goal!

The game is basically a PvE survival game launching with player made governments where players use server-provided data on the environment (such as number of deer, population over the past month, and cause of death) to make laws. These laws aren’t just ideals but server enforced rules created and voted on by players, so if people choose to allow players to kill only three deer a day, the game prevents you from killing a fourth. Over harvesting leads to extinction, not just of that species but others related to it, which can eventually lead to the death of a world (read: server-wide permadeath via PvE). The emphasis on social tools, data use, and environmental balance isn’t a coincidence, however; Eco is built to be used as an educational game.
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Hearthstone dominates digital CCG market with $20M monthly sales

As the digital card game market continues to outpace its physical counterpart, Hearthstone is coming out on top as one of the dominant forces in the genre. A recent Superdata report found that the game is raking in around $20 million every month.

Expanding to include the smartphone market was one of Hearthstone’s strongest moves, as the card game’s revenue climbed 31% after making the jump to the platform. Superdata notes that Blizzard is recreating the circumstances with Hearthstone that made World of Warcraft a breakout hit: “Hearthstone managed to disrupt the category in the same way World of Warcraft transformed massively-multiplayer online games (MMOs). Blizzard’s first digital card game has deep mechanics, but it is more accessible and streamlined than long-running games like Magic: The Gathering.”

The site’s analysts predict that the global digital card market will grow 5% in revenue between now and 2018. You can check out a chart of Hearthstone’s revenue as tracked by platform after the break.

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SuperData’s Van Dreunen on tomorrow’s Heroes of the Storm launch

Tomorrow’s the big day for Blizzard’s entry into the crowded and uber-competitive MOBA market. Heroes of the Storm officially launches on June 2nd, and SuperData CEO Joost Van Dreunen has penned an editorial at that asks whether or not the new title can measure up to genre titans like League of Legends and Dota 2.

Van Dreunen predicts that HotS will capture a larger monthly active audience than Heroes of Newerth and SMITE, though he has nice things to say about the former, including the fact that its recent world championship featured a prize pool larger than LoL’s 2014 championship purse.

“During the initial marketing blitz and the June 2nd release it is likely that there will be a drop in monthly active users for all titles in the space,” Van Dreunen writes. “It’s possible that MOBA players will briefly indulge in the newcomer’s offering, only to return to the game they’re most familiar with and where their social connections are strongest,” he concludes.



Elite: Dangerous generates its galaxy with NASA data

Elite: Dangerous is a work of science fiction; that’s not under discussion. So as in all science fiction, the developers just created a galaxy by selecting random areas and dropping in planets or stars. By which we of course mean that the game has based as much of its space as possible on NASA data about what’s out there in the galaxy.

Obviously, NASA has only a picture of what’s present in a small portion of our galaxy. The game uses a bit of technology called Stellar Forge to take what data is available about points of the galaxy, however, and match it to in-game representations. So if you’re gliding through a system with four planets, one covered in ice and one a breathtaking gas giant, that’s meant to be as close as possible to what you’d see in the real world, assuming you could get there. Ain’t science grand?

In other Elite news, PC Gamer reports that space destruction derbies are back, so you can stop spamming Twitter with goat pictures now.

[Source: Gamesradar]


EVE Evolved: How many subscriptions does EVE have?

Two weeks ago, a mathemagician over at The Nosy Gamer published some interesting calculations showing that EVE Online‘s subscriptions may have dropped by around 18% in the past two years. CCP has always prided itself on the fact that EVE has grown year-on-year since release, but the last official number we heard was when it reached 500,000 subscriptions back in February 2013. Players have taken the company’s silence since then on the matter of subscriptions as an admission that subs have been falling or at least not growing for the past two years.

So where did this 18% figure come from? It was extrapolated from estimates of player participation in the last two CSM elections, and the reasoning behind the number seems pretty good in the absence of any official announcement. It will probably not come as a shock to anyone if this calculation turns out to be accurate, as EVE‘s concurrent player numbers have also seen a roughly 20% drop since 2013. As development on EVE has been very well-received over the past two years, I’m inclined to believe that the drop in activity has more to do with trends in today’s gaming habits and purchasing choices. Online gaming seems to be going through an evolution, and the mandatory subscription model may be becoming obsolete.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I run through a set of calculations to work out how many subscribers EVE really has, determine where the reported 18% drop is coming from, and ask whether this is a trend CCP can fight.

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Star Citizen’s sound designer weighs in on sound in space

In space, no one can hear you scream. Or yell, or fart, or blow up another ship. Sound doesn’t travel well in a vacuum, opting instead to not travel at all. This provides a bit of a dilemma for the Star Citizen developers, since having sound in space is dramatic and satisfying, but it’s also complete bunk in terms of actual science.

Sound designer Luke Hatton weighed in on this on the official forums, explaining that players will hear sounds from space, but they will be synthesized sounds from the computer of the ship, which will cut off when your ship takes enough damage. So you still get your dramatic sounds of ship destruction, but mostly because your onboard computer knows you want to hear it.

[Source: Forums, Thanks to Cardboard for the tip!]


Researcher studies City of Heroes memorymaking

City of Heroes players, did you ever think your beloved old world would be the subject of academic research? Olle Sköld from Uppsala University in Sweden recently examined the extant City of Heroes community in an “interpretative case study” in order to “explore how virtual world communities employ new media as a repository to record information about their past.” For seven months beginning with the shutdown announcement date on August 31st, 2012, Sköld analyzed everything written on the City of Heroes Reddit to see just how people in a digital space keep the spirit alive, document their adventures, and promulgate memorykeeping. Reddit, guys. For science. He kinda deserves an award just for that.

The principal finding of the study is that the CoH community, with varying levels of intentionality, documented a range of pasts on /r/cityofheroes, relating to CoH as a game world, a site of personal experience, a product, a nexus of narratives, and a game. The analysis also lays bare the community’s memory-making processes, in which the documented conceptions of CoH’s past were put to work in the present, informing community action and viewpoints.

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