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Xbox One and Call of Duty: Ghosts

Last night marked the introduction to Microsoft’s next generation console and what an intro! Though I’m not an Xbox guy, I will certainly consider it now! The new Xbox is a worthy opponent to Sony’s PS4, with new engines and graphics and all the things that make a console desirable… and then some. The new Xbox comes fully integrated with Kinect which allows for motion and voice commands! Yes you can tell your Xbox to turn on the TV or go to Netflix or something. Microsoft has attempted to fully control your living room with the Xbox One. Unfortunately, this system will most likely be extremely expensive, costing maybe $750 USD (Unconfirmed speculation). The PS4 may also be the same price for competitive reasons. I’m looking forward to seeing some competition!

But for me, the most important thing of the night was the debut of Call of Duty: Ghosts. This game is not at all what anyone expected. The game has little or nothing to do with the previous Modern Warfare series, but creates a new story and cast to captivate gamers. This game takes place in a time where the U.S. military is crippled and the world has gone to the dogs, and only you and your team – the ghosts – stand between saving it and chaos. So far, it looks like it has nothing to do with Ghost from the MW series, but maybe it does. Maybe the group is in honor of the lost hero, I don’t know. All I know is that it’s on my buy list without a doubt.

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Video Games, Addiction and Violence

addictionIn connection to a prior post regarding my opinion on the link between violence and video games (here) I want to talk about video games in regards to addiction.  I mean, clearly gaming is not like the addictive substances like nicotine and alcohol, but how can video games be compared to deadly substances that cause hundreds of thousands of deaths?

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In truth, they can’t. Not exactly. But they can be compared to other addictions like shopping, adrenaline, or even sex. They can wreck lives, and relationships when used in excess.  So ask yourself why you play video games. Of course most answers will be “Because it’s fun” but the science of it goes far deeper than that.

What got me thinking about video game addiction was when recently, I caught an episode of the talk show, “Katie” (Not that I watch that show, but it was on). The episode involved the case of a young man, who, as a teenager, shot both his parents, killing his mother and severely injuring his father. Throughout his high school career, he was a major athlete until an injury prevented him from playing at all. Lacking an outlet, he turned to video games. Over time he became intensely engrossed in the gaming world, spending on average 18 hours a day gaming; at one point, he spent 72 hours straight playing Xbox. This went on and on and his parents took notice of his withdrawn actions and lack of interest and banned him from playing video games in the house. Angry and distressed, he shot them both, killing his mother.

Many accredited his horrific actions to his constant use of violent video games, specifically Halo 3, an Xbox sci-fi shooter that is played by millions around the world. A psychologist on the show diagnosed the boy as being addicted to the games which then led to his severe misjudgment. The story was extremely sad and touching, however, it was far on the extreme end of the spectrum.  Few people actually play for several days on end, but it does get you thinking about what your brain does while playing video games.

braingamersSee the way our brains work is that they respond well to dopamine which is caused by or creates pleasure, depending on how you look at it. Many stimuli increase the body’s dopamine production; stimuli like drugs, sugar, sometimes exercise, depending on the person. Video games have also been shown to produce dopamine in many people; therefore people will continue to play video game, after all, who doesn’t like to have fun? But does this mean we will become addicts, or murderers? Not at all.

While listening to an NPR show called Radio Lab one day during an episode about psychotic killers and their mindset, I learned that there is a set of genes that, when activated, can cause a person to act without emotion, or get pleasure from certain things; including killing. This was tested in the vast majority of serial killers with the same results. The startling part was that a little over 9% of the U.S. population possesses this genetic code. But clearly there are not millions of serial killers running around… as far as I know.

In most people these genes remain dormant until activated. To be activated, the person must be subject to constant emotional trauma during early development (i.e. birth until late teenage years). This could range fro    m abuse, physical, sexual, or even verbal; watching a close family member die, or even being in a stressful environment.

Some consider violent video games to be a stimulus for these genes; that they can be traumatic enough to push someone over the edge of sanity. However this is not what happened to the boy mentioned above. After a lot of research, I concluded that this boy was simply suffering from some serious misjudgment after being hooked on video games for so long. When his parents banned him from doing what he was so used to doing, and with his house filled with guns (he lived in a hunting household), he made a judgment error and shot at his parents, killing one and wounding the other. Yes, the fact that the game he had been hooked on was a violent shooter probably contributed to his decision, but he was not suffering from the sociopathic murder rage that I described above. So this in no way shows that video games will trigger the serial killer genes. not at all. Many may argue that because the games are so addictive, they will increase the chance of an event like this happening. Well honestly, this event was caused by a lack of doing anything but gaming (albeit gaming on violent games). But constantly doing something that gives pleasure and then stopping cold turkey is shown to produce the misjudgment issues that can lead to murder.

But on the topic of violent games being traumatic: They aren’t. simple as that. I mean if you sit a four-year-old down in front of a game like Manhunt, then yeah, expect some problems down the road. But if someone had common sense like most of the world, that wont happen. Anyway, Video games just aren’t graphic and immersive enough to cause trauma equivalent of being abused constantly. In moderation, games are not harmful to the general public.SYN

My favorite argument against the anti-gamers is about a boy. A Manchester boy who loved to game, and began to make commentaries and put them on YouTube. As his fan base grew, he actually quit his job and left school to become a full on gamer. Yes guys I’m talking about Tom Cassell; Better known as the Syndicate Project. This guy is with out a doubt the best gamer I have ever seen! He must spend several hours a day gaming and does he look like a serial killer to you? No! He seems to me like one of the funniest, easy-going people in the world. he seems undisturbed by the stress and troubles of everyday life. After all, isn’t that why we all play video games? Yes, video games are possibly addictive but only when not moderated. So keep gaming!!!!

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Video Games, Grades, and Violence

If you ask most any modern parent, they’d tell you that video games are making kids dumb and cognitively slower. Hours of being in a state of unawareness and unresponsiveness could not possibly be good for kids. The violence that is endorsed in some games can be heavily influential in a child’s upbringing and can easily be blamed for the high crime rate in the world today. Is this true? Any gamer who is faced with this question will instantly answer no, but on what grounds? The grounds that they themselves have not been overly influenced by games, but does that apply to everyone? Of course not. Everyone is different. Studies have shown that hyper-violent video games affect children by making them more aggressive and irrational. Studies have also shown that several hours on video games noticeably decreases children’s’ test scores. however, Studies have also shown the converse of both assumptions. How can we reconcile the two opposites?

We first have to look at the studies. I, for one do not see studies against video games as a fair way to learn the effects, but many others do. Unfortunately, the results of the studies may be somewhat, if not greatly skewed. Why? because who pays for these studies? The majority of the time, they are funded by either side of the spectrum: the Gaming companies, or the Anti-violence conservative groups against video games (these groups are also lobby for laws restricting or regulation internet use). Here, I tip-toe in the boiling pool that is politics, but i tread with care. Anyway, the studies are almost never sponsored by a neutral party, and are therefore, on the whole, unreliable. The only way to honestly tell is by watching from afar at each video gaming individual – a task that is immoral, impossible, and unlikely to sit well with anyone.

The other thing is, that games do not always negatively affect a student’s grades. Of course, if someone spends the majority of their waking hours playing video games, and not studying, they’d probably get lower scores. But I, a moderate gamer, have learned much from games. For example; the Assassin’s Creed series contains alot of accurate historical information – information that greatly helped me in my AP World History class. The same with Call of Duty: Black Ops, the game contains many accurate historical figures, and events. Though this cannot be said for all games, these two popular games are somewhat educational. For more examples on why video games are not bad, see link here: http://gamer-madness.com/2013/03/12/5-health-benefits-of-playing-video-games/

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Multiplayer or Single Player

Some people play games for the joy of the storyline and gameplay that it contains – I’ve heard it described as “playing a movie.” Other gamers prefer playing and competing with friends. Games like Assassins Creed and God of War are more for the former grouping. These games are centered on storyline and either contain a low end, or completely lack a multiplayer mode. In fact, God of War Ascension is the first GOW with a multiplayer mode at all. As for the multiplayer games, Call of Duty and Halo both have remarkable storylines, but also pride themselves on their advanced multiplayer gameplay. I once played a game called MAG which is only multiplayer and has no story or campaign mode. I, myself generally keep a health balance between the two.

Frankly, more people play multiplayer for longer periods, for obvious reasons. In a single player campaign, there is a finite amount of things to do, even in open world games like Skyrim and Saints row.  Some games offer multiplayer campaigns, but I’ve never played one before, so I can’t give opinions on it. Some Call of Duty players I know say that they haven’t even finished the campaign yet, even though they’ve prestiged twice. In Zombies mode on Black Ops is never ending, even though there is technically a storyline, still most people play it more than campaign.

Does anyone else have a specific preference? Multiplayer or Single player? I’m available for a game sometime!

 

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First Person vs. Third Person

I don’t know about most of you all, but I was raised playing 3rd person shooters as opposed to the 1st person shooter. My first was Star Wars: Battlefront, which, to this day, is still one of my favorites. The thing that attracted me to the TPS (Third Person Shooter) was the ability to view your entire character, and the ability to look around corners without being exposed. Games like SOCCOM and Battlefront mildly require such visibility to complete objectives and fully get the experience of the game. I enjoyed watching my character move around and fire. Aiming down the sights while in Third Person would transfer into the ambiguous “second person” which is a view from behind the player’s left or right ear. When looking through a sniper scope, the view looks the same as First Person

Later in my gaming life, I acquired my first first-person-shooter; Medal of Honor. Now I was new to the FPS, but I soon got used to the lack of visibility and full view. This mad me shoot far more accurately and gave a life-like experience of warfare. Since then, I have stuck with the FPS, going to Call of Duty and more medal of honor. When I came back to the TPS, it was extremely difficult to get back in the swing of things. For some reason, The FPS was better for me.

What do you all think? I’m sure many of you will choose FPS games, but still I want to know if people are still on the TPS. Vote here and don’t forget to send feedback!

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Game Ratings (ESRB)

Has anyone ever looked at a game rating, played it, and looked at the game rating again, this time in disbelief? If you’re like me, than yes you have done this many times. The way ESRB rates games is annoying, and just simply useless. Ratings C through A is a very unneeded way to rank games.

C (children 3+) is probably the stupidest. what child of three actually knows how to handle mechanics of a console game? I can still trick my 3-year-old nephew into thinking he’s playing with me when there is only one controller! In addition, I  have never seen a C rated game in my life, and if there is, I’m sure it’s on the leap  frog system or something only toddlers use.

E (Everyone) and E10+ is also really pointless. E is defined as 6+. If there is a rating called “Everyone” than why is there a C? it seems very redundant. Some games that are rated E10 are done so for “comic mischief.” What the hell is that? Cartoons getting in trouble? Have you seen Tom and Jerry? On that show, they literally blow eachother up every other episode, and it is a kids show! In addition to that, my 7-year-old cousins are rocking Battlefield 3, AvP, and Black Ops 2 (All rated M). More proof that these ratings are in fact useless.

T for Teen is the least stupid of all the ratings. When I was eight and nine, my protective parents scrutinized the game ratings and if they were rated T, they sat and watched me play to see if it was “Appropriate.” My parents flipped out when there was a simple “hell” or “Damn” it was insane. sometimes they would look at the rating and instantly decide that the game was inappropriate. Things that make a game rated T is the single use of the word “Shit”. Just as in movie ratings. there is a simple line that movies and games cannot cross, the “S word” being one of them. Teen games also cannot contain much drugs or they would be rated M. This is another thing I hate about the rating system. Theoretically speaking a game can be bumped up from E to M if all the characters suddenly started smoking weed. It’s an imperfect system.

M for mature is not a truly fair rating, as it directly translates into 17+. However, as stated before, my cousins who are 10 years younger than that limit are constantly playing these games. When I was 13, my mom was only just getting over my playing T games (of course, as a dedicated gamer,  was secretly downloading M games to my PSP). The thing is, if you’re under 18 at gamestop, you’re not allowed to purchase rated M games without adult consent. That makes some sense, considering the way congress pressures game companies against violent games marketed toward children… but don’t get me started on the politics of it. To be honest, My parents saw me playing Modern Warfare 2 on my PS3 and they sat and watched for a good hour. Of course, they didn’t care about the actual gameplay as much as the rating. What does this say about the rating? It’s just what a bunch of outdated parameters.

A for adult only is a close second with C for children for the stupid ratings. A is classified as 18+. What kind of difference does a year make when it comes to maturity levels? Will the extra blood and extra boobs affect a teenage kid who’s probably been exposed to these things at a far younger age? I think not. For some reason, there is a notice that says “Sony does not publish A rated games.” I don’t even care because a rated A game is a dumb rating anyway!

Why is this rating system not changed? Society has changed in the last few decades and children are exposed to much more violence and sexuality at young ages even in real life! Will these ratings affect the digital generation? Why haven’t these changed? In my opinion a simple rating system based on user discretion should be enacted.

 

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New Game: Watch Dogs

So maybe you watched the official announcement of the PlayStation4, or maybe not, but I did. There were a lot of things in those two hours that intrigued me, especially the new Ubisoft game, Watch Dogs – a modern hacker-assassin type game that looks a lot like Assassins creed, but more on that later. The game’s debut gameplay at the event was enough to keep me interested in the game. take a look at what PlayStation’s YouTube channel just released:

 

If you saw the original video this would make more sense, but I digress.

Like I said before, the game reminds me of Assassins Creed, and if you ask me, it looks like it uses an engine similar to that of an Assassin’s Creed game. To me, this looks like a scrapped project for a modern set AC, but what do I know?

All in all, this looks like an exiting leap into the Next Gen console era, which as of now only includes the PlayStation4. Microsoft hasn’t yet confirmed suspicions about the Xbox720, but is rumored to do so this summer. Watch Dogs will most likely be released on all next gen consoles this holiday season, and I plan on pre-ordering it soon!

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