Nothing Succeeds like Switch

Nintendo released the Nintendo Switch in March of 2017 to much excitement and was quickly a commercial success. Just getting your hands on one of these handheld/console hybrids was nearly impossible for months, unless you were willing to shell out nearly double the original cost to an online reseller. With 2017 coming to a close stock issues have been long solved, and the system’s first holiday season was a triumph. But what has the Nintendo Switch done so right to sell so well?

The Hardware

I’m a lifelong lover and collector of Nintendo handhelds, and a lot of the Switch’s design stood out as new right away. The two small analog sticks are a welcomed addition to the handheld, as they feel and perform much better than the “Circle Pad” that has been present on the Nintendo’s 3DS line. The D-Pad typically found on the left side of Nintendo devices has been outright removed, instead replaced by another set of face buttons with directional arrows rather than the typical a,b,x,y. These are the first hint of the Switch’s hardware innovation. The system’s sides come off, allowing the system to be set up as a small monitor in “Tablet Mode” using the included kickstand. While the kickstand is unstable and only has one (less than perfect) viewing angle, this opens the possibility of handing off one of the system’s side sections as a complete controller. Giving players the ability to play multiplayer games without buying a second controller is huge. This is an even bigger deal considering Nintendo handhelds have almost exclusively featured multiplayer through multiple systems, whether it be with a link cable back in the days of the Gameboy, or through the DS and 3DS’ local wireless. Finally, the Switch can be placed into the included dock and “switch” to a home console. That means that with the purchase of any of the system’s games you are essentially getting a console and portable version.

The Games

All of these features would be worthless though, without great games. Nintendo didn’t disappoint, releasing a library consisting of plenty of titles from indie gems to first party steamrollers. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gave consumers everything they needed to believe that the Switch really could offer a console level experience in a handheld format. Players were immersed in a massive game world, unlike anything The Legend of Zelda has ever seen, and let loose. The amount of quality content to explore truly was breathtaking and gave players the long-lasting experience that the Switch needed to tie them over during the first few months of the system’s lifecycle. Excellent indie games available through the onboard Nintendo EShop and ports like Bethesda’s heavy-hitting first-person shooter, Doom, and expansive open-world adventure, Skyrim, provided enough content for most of the remainder of 2017 alongside some smaller first party titles. In time for the holiday season, Super Mario Odyssey hit store shelves and has been praised for bringing together and refining many of the greatest features from past 3D Mario platformers along with new innovations for a modern classic. Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild put Nintendo in a great position to take game of the year, and on December 7th at The Game Awards Breath of the Wild took it. This has left Nintendo with a tremendous amount of momentum and attention, so the pressure is on for them to follow up 2017 with an impressive new year.
 

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Who is The Batman?

Everyone who knows superheroes knows Batman. An often problematic character that has stood the test of time by morphing into whatever the times and form need him to be. In the case of Tell Tale’s Batman series, he is a mirror. A mirror that is not afraid to expose the blemishes on both the character and the player. A mirror that forces you to ask the question not often asked in the fiction of Batman who is Bruce Wayne and by extension who are you?.

The set up is simple, Batman has only been operating for a few years, rustling up a bad reputation for brutality and vigilante justice. Looking to do more than put goons behind bars Batman, as Bruce Wayne, tries to help long-time district attorney Harvey Dent campaign for mayor. Before long, things aren’t so simple and Bruce Wayne is forced to confront dark family secrets that call into question the validity of both the Wayne family and Batman. This, I believe, is where the blemishes and questions begin.

There have been many Batman games over the years that have allowed us to experience the power fantasy that comes with Bruce putting on the cowl, but Tell Tale’s Batman is an adventure game that is heavily focused on story, puzzle solving, player choice and more important consequence. You can no longer simply beat the living daylights out of a criminal without having to explain yourself to other characters in the game. An already difficult subject made even more stressful by the time limit imposed by the developers in almost every decision you make. This forces the player to ask themselves “What am I willing to do to save the lives of others?” instead of simply following the well-worn path of moralized torture. Similarly, as Bruce Wayne you can’t simply hold up in your bat cave during the day, waiting until night falls. When the mask comes. off you will be forced to confront the realities leading a life of privilege in a city where a group of elite controls the populace. Bruce’s well-known motivations of fighting crime for the sake of his murdered parents is also called into question.

The player can no longer hide behind the rationalizations made by generations of writers trying to justify the methods and existence of a character that was problematic from its inception. Tell Tale’s Batman instead embraces these problems to force the player to confront their own ideas about justice and morality in a world where morals seem to be in short supply.

Tell Tale’s Batman is currently one of the free games offered through Playstation Plus this month, make sure you check out this great game based on one of the most iconic superheroes of all time!

 


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Gabriel Planas is a writer from Ottawa, Ontario Canada who is passionate about video games, movies, punk rock and fantasy fiction. With over 20 years of experience playing video games, he is dedicated to spreading the word on the fledgling medium’s endless narrative potential.

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Gabriel Planas

Gabriel Planas is a writer from Ottawa, Ontario Canada who is passionate about video games, movies, punk rock and fantasy fiction. With over 20 years of experience playing video games, he is dedicated to spreading the word on the fledgling medium’s endless narrative potential.

From Glory to gory... Problems in the Esports scene

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Esports, as I’ve stated before, is still in its infancy. And Esports has gotten quite far: becoming much closer to regular, real-life sports in terms of popularity, rules and professionalism. And, when rules are broken, or suspicious/immoral activity are spotted, you bet that people are going to clamp down on the guilty parties and guarantee some type of punishment. Even if not directly punished by say, the tournament organizers of the game developers of the specific Esport in question, the community backlash can be more than enough to tarnish and ruin a player or organization’s reputation.

So what types of huge scandals or drama have caused such quakes in the community to make it common knowledge for those who follow the competitive scene? Why exactly are some of these scandals even scandals at all? It’s just a video-games right? Well, not really. Any time something or someone becomes popular and generates so much revenue, attention and acknowledgement, anything that might hurt the integrity of their brands will become public knowledge as soon as it comes to light. Think of all the recent scandals of real-world celebrities in the past couple of months. Esports personalities and players are also human, also capable of being disgusting cheaters and people. And this is what I’m here to talk about.

So when it comes to cheating, it’s quite difficult as a professional player to use external programs during official matches to give you a in-human advantage in the game. Most competitive Esports game these days have anti-cheat systems built in to automatically detect this type of activity and stop it from even happening. But there are other ways of playing the system, a much easier way to do so, and one that’s quite difficult to prove. Match-fixing.

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Match-fixing is the act of either a player or an organization going on a betting site that is holding bets for a match that they will be/are already playing and betting against yourself. Now why would people want to do that? To bet money on themselves if they want to win? Well that’s the issue: They don’t want to win the match. They want to win the money, and if the team that wants to get all of that money is expected to win the match, then anyone who bet against them will get a much bigger profit from betting on the team facing them.

This means that by betting for the team they are playing against, and intentionally ensuring that they lose the match, usually purposefully playing worse than expected, they guarantee themselves a lot of money, seeing as the normal odds of them losing to a team that may be significantly worse than them in skill were very low to begin with. Instead of making 1000$ by winning the next series of matches and the tournament overall, why not win 3000$ by betting against yourself on a high-risk, high-reward bet, when in reality you can guarantee that reward without any risk by intentionally losing the series? It’s the real life equivalent to being the coach of a very successful boxer going up against a very inexperienced and bad boxer, yet betting on your opponent, knowing that the good boxer you’re coaching will make sure to lose so that the money is guaranteed. It’s scummy and immoral: essentially trying to show that winning isn’t important. The views and passionate fans feel disrespected, as if the competitors that they spend their time watching and supporting are willing to throw all of that away just for a bit of extra change. It ruins the integrity of the sport/game they are representing, and is unacceptable.

A case of this happening in Esports happened in 2013, when a Russian Dota 2 player Alexei Berezen, of his online pro-name “Solo” had bet money against his own team during an official match, and purposefully played bad so that his team would lose, and he would receive a sum of money. The amount of money that he won from the bet was 322$ dollars, which might not seem like much, but that didn’t stop that scandal from becoming a PR nightmare for the organization hosting the tournament, Starladder, and the developers of Dota 2, Valve. Solo had been given a lifetime ban from playing in any Starladder tournament, which had later been brought down to only a one year ban, and for about the next two years found it very difficult to to play in multiple tournaments. Nobody wanted to play with someone like this, and the phrase “three-two-two” is a very common term used within the Dota 2 community, being thrown around in the chats of tournament Streams or during public matches whenever someone matches a questionably bad play. It’s become a standard when someone thinks of Dota 2’s competitive scene, and that’s never a good thing, for both Solo, and the organizations/companies involved.

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And as Esports continues to grow and become more mainstreamed and recognized as an actual sport, these match-fixing scandals and other drama of the like can very easily undermine them and act as a barrier: preventing them from being truly respected. But then again, the opposite can also be true, seeing as real sports like basketball and football have also had their fair share of match-fixing scandals. And in Esports, these things are treated just as seriously in most cases, opting life-time bans from playing in tournaments or in some extreme cases, having legal action taken against the guilty parties.

But what about drama that might completely change the way that we look at someone? That makes a person that was formerly respected and adored by the community be barated with pitchforks when evidence of either foul-play or of their true demeanor comes to light.

Image credit to Team Secret

Image credit to Team Secret

Well, again, focusing on the Dota 2 Esports scene, as it is one of the largest ones out there as well as the one that I’m more specialized in, there has been one notable scandal of this type that happened only about a year ago. Clement Ivanov, his online named being “Puppey”, is part owner of the Esports organization called "Team Secret", as well as being the captain of their Dota 2 team. He’s a highly skilled player who’s been in the Dota 2 competitive scene since its humble beginnings, having been one of the players on the winning team of the International 2011, the biggest Dota tournament at the time, winning his share of a million dollar prize pool.

And having always been considered to be an amazing captain, trustworthy and hard-working and all around great guy, things changed when Jacky Mao, a former Team Secret member, released a blog post in September of 2016, where he shed some light on the Team Secret organization, as well as on Clement himself and how he is as a person. After the blog was made public, other people who had been former team members of Puppey in the past also started to speak up about his true personality. The blog can be found here:

https://web.archive.org/web/20161009162806/http://npgame.gg/blog/himitsumonogatari.html

Long story short, the Team Secret organization had said that it was an organization that would provide players with food and housing when travelling to play in tournaments. This meant players wouldn’t have to pay for any of this, right? Well turns out, the Team Secret organization partook in particularly shady activity, including being late in paying their players their tournaments winnings, in some cases taking several months before being paid their thousands of dollars in hard-earned money. So that’s already a red-flag and very unprofessional, but that’s not even the worse part.

The organization that promised to pay for the team’s needs when going to tournaments was technically not paying for it from their own pockets. Team Secret was taking a 10% cut of their players’ tournament winnings and using that money to pay for those costs, without the players knowledge. In fact, the only player on the team of five players who knew about this practice was Clement/Puppey himself. This kind of thing is the real life equivalent of your friend taking you out to a restaurant and saying he’d pay for it, but actually paid the bill with money he stole from your wallet before even going out. It’s essentially stealing in a very scummy way. Not only that, but Puppey himself had been accused, with sizeable proof that he was a lazy captain, often times not even showing up to practice because he was too busy sleeping, or worse, sometimes being verbally abusive to his teammates, and threatening physical confrontations. You can read all of this in Jacky’s blog post, but this is just the more notable and awful things that Puppey has done, even though he had been seen and thought of as a true role-model in the Dota 2 scene.

And this surely wasn’t the first scandal of this sort, and it most likely won’t be the last. But the same is true with real-sports. But what’s going good for Esports right now is that it hasn’t reached that same standard as regular sports: it’s not as mediated and covered publicly, and the consequences given to the people who do engage in these scandals or cheating/fixing aren’t as shamed or shunned as would a sports-star or celebrity in similar circumstances. It won’t affect their long-term life outside of the Esports scene all that much if at all, and that’ll stay true for as long as Esports is still in its infancy.

But it is growing, and it’ll keep growing. Eventually, Esports will be respected and as popular as regular sports, or maybe even more so. And that’s when these scandals could become a far bigger deal and dangerous for the scene and the people involved. The viewerbase will rise higher and higher, and more people will know about these things as they come up. The people involved will then have to deal with their public image and reputation being ruined, and possibly even losing their career and loved ones. It’s not like it hasn’t happened in the past in real sports, and it could very easily happen in Esports. Those are the dangers of the rising media, but then again, any publicity, even bad, is good publicity. If Esports can start being talked about by even the people who don’t know anything about it, then the growth will never stop.

Here's a podcast by Dota 2 personalities giving their thoughts on scandals and match-fixing, and throwing around ideas on how to deal with it or punish it: "WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE" 

But Esports has so much more to offer than drama and scandals: it gives people an opportunity to follow their passion in multiple ways and feel accepted in a community. Gone are the days of kids in school being picked on because they are always alone playing video-games. They always have something to turn back to, and that’s the community of people that they have learned to appreciate and play with.

 


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When he’s not desperately trying to climb the Dota 2 MMR leaderboards, Francis can usually be seen playing on his Nintendo 3DS or Switch, or writing long and short fiction on his limited spare time. Oh, and he’s on Youtube 24/7.

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Francis Rochon

When he’s not desperately trying to climb the Dota 2 MMR leaderboards, Francis can usually be seen playing on his Nintendo 3DS or Switch, or writing long and short fiction on his limited spare time. Oh, and he’s on Youtube 24/7.

Online Trading Card Games, Are They Just Games?

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TCGs (Trading Card Games) aren’t a new concept – and you’ve probably heard of a few, like Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, or Pokémon – but the rise in online TCGs is a more recent fad. The TCG genre has made a name for itself in the gaming, and competitive community. What has made the online TCG stand out from the original is its ability to allow friends, or strangers, to play on a global scale rather than at a table, and the digital component has also allowed for animations, and sounds when cards are played, adding a little more aesthetic pleasure. I have had a lot of experience in the TCG field, including a limited amount of competitive, but before I go into my two favourite TCGs I’d like to give a brief definition of what a TCG is.   

A Brief Definition

 A TCG is usually defined as, a game where players build a collection of cards from in-game rewards for battle. The player constructs a deck from the cards in his/her collection based on the restrictions of the game or format. After construction, the player uses his/her deck to play against other players or AI’s in a turn based format. A player wins when he has met the conditions of the game/format, but generally involves reducing the other players health to zero using your cards. There are also a number of TCG sub-genres that add new elements to the standard TCG format, or combine TCGs with another game genres. TCGs involve a lot of strategy when constructing decks, or battling other players; your deck has to effectively use cards that work well together, and battling opponents requires you to plan out the whole match, rather than turn by turn.

Now for my two favourite TCGs, not to mention they’re also free to play.

Hearthstone

Hearthstone is the current leader when it comes to Online TCG games, some may say they even started the recent craze. In addition to the standard TCG experience, I particularly enjoy hearthstone for its quirkiness and fun style. They have a weekly brawl that adds a whole new rule set to the mix when you play, from randomly generated cards to bosses battling it out, it’s sure to keep things interesting. The game also features Arena, where they give you a random selection of cards, three at a time, to choose from in order to build a deck and challenge others; if you secure wins, you receive rewards. Overall, Hearthstone is for the both serious, and casual players.

Gwent 

 Gwent is a more recent addition to the TCG family, but has also made a name for itself. The game was originally a mini-game in the fantasy RPG, The Wither 3: Wild Hunt, but due to its popularity was made into a stand-alone game. The game differs from standard TCGs because it is played in short rounds, and doesn’t involve the gradual play of other games. Unlike other TCGs, Gwent lets you play any card from your hand, at any stage of the game. Victory is achieved by having the most power/strength on the board as a round ends, to win the match you must win two out of three rounds, so choose use your cards in each round carefully.      


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Shawn Bosnjak is a student in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. He is an avid writer, reader, gamer, and drummer, with a passion for anything fantasy or rock.

A Rough Start

Photo by Ben Neale on Unsplash

Photo by Ben Neale on Unsplash

Given the state of technology during the inception of digital gaming, it is no surprise that many games relied heavily on puzzles. The limited resources on screen need to be used in conjunction with the player’s mind to create the largest, most engaging experience possible. Some of these games used the limited visuals paired with action gameplay, like platforming in Super Mario Bros. or sword-fighting in The Legend of Zelda, to create a challenging experience. Other games, however, used the limited visuals to present challenges, or puzzle the player. 

Games like Lemmings and Tetris both present easy premises to the player, but put obstacles in the way to make the task difficult. In Lemmings players simply let a group of lemmings walk forward until they get to the gateway at the end of the level. This simple task of watching lemmings walk to the end of a level becomes much more difficult, however, when obstacles are put in the lemmings' way, like tunnels, cliffs, or even pits of lava. At that point the player must think of a way to safely advance beyond the obstacle, whether that be by building a platform for their lemmings or using a lemming to point others away from danger. 

Similarly, someone playing a game of Tetris is given a simple task. The player is tasked with guiding falling blocks of different shapes towards the bottom of the play area, a tall rectangle. They need to make a horizontal line all the way across the play area to break that line of blocks, and cannot let the blocks stack up past the top of the play area, or they lose. This is easy at first, but as more lines are broken the blocks fall faster and faster making survival impossible. Even the best players will eventually run out of time to get their blocks into the proper place.

With only very limited resources, and through extremely different means these games challenge the player’s mind to create a difficult experience that can be enjoyed by people regardless of skill level, but has the depth that allows players to master the game. This concept allowed puzzle games to be a huge part of early gaming by appealing to not only those who played early home consoles but also the high score chasers in arcades used to the likes of Pac-Man and Ghosts ‘n Goblins. If it weren’t for the hardware limitations of the past puzzle games would likely have been significantly less common, and the modern puzzle gaming landscape could be a much more barren one.


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Mitch is an avid player of role playing games, first person shooters, and retro classics. Running NES to PC and everything in between Mitch loves looking into what makes games great, and how that has and will change from the past to the future. Console, handheld, puzzle, or adventure, it’s all about the game.

Tips for Getting Started in The Monster Hunter World Beta!

What is it?

Monster Hunter is a 4 player co-operative action game centered around fighting monsters to make extremely over the top weapons and armor. This weekend from December 9th-12th you have the chance to try out a Beta version of the latest iteration of Monster Hunter: Monster Hunter World!

 

How to get it

The Beta requires a Playstation 4, and a subscription to the Playstation Plus service. This service allows you to play online games with other as well as get free games and demos like the Monster Hunter World Beta.

CHOOSE YOUR FRIGGING CAT!

 I’m not even kidding, check it out!

 

(Customization options are not available in the Beta)

Choose Your Weapon!

After selecting your gender and Palico the next big choice you will have to make is choosing which weapon you will use. There are a total of 14 weapons for you to choose from. Ranging from 6 foot great swords to nimble bows and arrows there is a weapon for every kind of play style, each with its strengths and weaknesses. The most important aspect of Monster Hunter World is teamwork, talk with your teammates and come up with devastating combinations of weapons. Will two of you take the vanguard with a lance and long sword, while the rest hail gunbow rounds on the monster from far away? Or will you all bounce around like grasshoppers with the insect glaive? The choice is yours!

 

Choose Your Monster!

  The Monster Hunter World Beta features 3 monsters ranging from easy to hard in their difficulty. The Great Jagras is a fairly easy lizard monster that has the ability to swallow other monsters whole. The second monster is called the Barroth, a large bipedal dinosaur that covers itself with a layer of mud armor. Watch out! This guy can take a hit! The last monster available in the beta is the Anjanath, a new monster to the series, keeping even veterans like me on our toes!

 

Experiment!

            With only 3 monsters covering 3 areas, you may think that this is a rather small beta to spread over 3 days. Fortunately, Monster Hunter has always been about experimentation and discovery through play. While there are a fun and substantial story campaigns in every Monster Hunter game, you will be fighting many of the same monsters a few times before the end. This gives you a unique opportunity to learn the mechanics of both your weapons and the monsters you fight inside and out. Furthermore, monsters have incredibly sophisticated AI and animation patterns that reveal new moves as well as behaviors even after hours of play.

Have Fun!

            Monster Hunter World can sometimes be a frustrating game at higher difficulties or when playing alone, so make sure to keep trying new strategies and find new ways to develop your character!


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Gabriel Planas is a writer from Ottawa, Ontario Canada who is passionate about video games, movies, punk rock and fantasy fiction. With over 20 years of experience playing video games, he is dedicated to spreading the word on the fledgling medium’s endless narrative potential.

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Gabriel Planas

Gabriel Planas is a writer from Ottawa, Ontario Canada who is passionate about video games, movies, punk rock and fantasy fiction. With over 20 years of experience playing video games, he is dedicated to spreading the word on the fledgling medium’s endless narrative potential.

A Jump Start to Competitive Gaming

Are you a serious player who has dreamed of standing in the spotlight? Or maybe, you’re just a beginner who really likes playing a specific game. The competitive gaming field is available to anyone. Whether you’re aiming for world champion or casual goer, you all have to start somewhere.

Choosing a Game

Though there are many games to choose from, it is best to single one out. I would recommend choosing the one you enjoy the most, as you will have to play a lot of it. Other considerations could include, the popularity of the game, if the game has any competitive directions, and how far you’d like to go competitively with the game. Most games have the potential to be played competitively, such as speed running, but lack an established community or team; this makes it much harder to get into the competitive field.

In my experience, games like Hearthstone, League of Legends, and Smash Bros. are great places to start when looking for competitivley succesful games. 

Putting in the Time

Most professional players spend a minimum of 6 hours a day practicing their game. If you fail to practice continually your skill will suffer, and you may lose your competitive edge. Think of the game as a full-time job, in order to get payed or be successful, you need to contribute your hours. The process could take months, even years, but it’s important to stay vigilant.

The Importance of a Community

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The next step is finding, or developing, your game’s community. Follow teams, Facebook groups, websites, and friends that share an interest in your game. These groups can be a great resource for information: The groups often share, tips and tricks to preforming better, discussion on changes and updates, information on local events, and upcoming tournaments, which brings us to the next step.

Getting Your Foot in the Door

Local events and tournaments are an increasing occurrence in cities and towns. The tournaments provide prizes and experience for both new and established players. If you are hoping to become a professional player, this is the place to start. Local tournaments give players a chance to experience a competitive field on a smaller scale, providing you with some confidence when you hit the big stage. Some events require you to obtain competitive points before you are eligible to enter, local tournaments and events are a great resource for accumulating status, and points towards the larger scenes.

Establishing a Reputation

Once you’ve achieved the necessary experience or points to enter larger scale events, it’s important for you to preform well. Not only do these events provide some publicity for fans, but could qualify you for championship events. Enter tournaments prepared and often. Put in the time to research your opponents and develop strategies to counter them, if possible watch other professional players to see how they play, these are all important steps in preparing for a tournament in order to get results.

Achievement Unlocked

Once you’ve achieved a reputation, sponsorships will become easier to obtain, and your career as a professional player will start. The best option at this point is to continue entering championship tournaments, and to start streaming. Streaming not only provides you with another source of income, but makes tournament invites and event opportunities more likely, while also boosting sponsorship interest.

Best of luck in your journey to becoming a professional gamer.   


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Shawn Bosnjak is a student in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. He is an avid writer, reader, gamer, and drummer, with a passion for anything fantasy or rock.

The hero that we need... but don't deserve

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When it comes to any kind of sport, it’s very easy for the viewers to see the players as the root of the team. All of points they score or game winning plays is done through their individual teamwork and skill, and the same thing goes for their mistakes and losses. It’s very easy to finger point at anyone, may it be sports or esports, based on their results, their attitude or the people they play with.

But when it comes to any competitive sport, one role is often times undervalued or unspoken. That one person who works the extra hours at the office because he’s just that passionate and wants to do everything he can to help his company. That one friend who’s always willing to talk to you if you’ve got an issue at three in the morning. Of course, I’m talking about the coaches.

Coaches are far more known about in the sports scene, as in most sports like hockey and basketball, they are actively participating in any given match. Although they aren’t skating on the ice and shooting pucks into a net, or dribbling the ball and going for a slam dunk, they sit on the sidelines, screaming at their players on what formation to take, the weakness in the enemies’ own formation, as well as deciding who is brought onto the ice or field at any given moment. They’re the ones who motivate their team, plan strategies and overall gameplan. Most coaches were players in their younger age, and as their age got the better of their reflexes and body, they moved to a coaching role to not only follow their passion, but to keep their legacy going.

In esports, coaching is not that far from what we see in traditional sports although having their own differences depending on the game. In most cases though, coaches allow individual players or teams to have a different perspective on the game or on their opponents, on what might be good, what might be bad, optimal play styles and what’s in the meta ( the optimal way to play the game in its current state ). Depending on the game, coaches may have other responsibilities, but in all games they serve the same purpose: to keep players focused and prepared.

For instance, in most single-player fighting games such as Streetfighter, Super Smash Brothers and Tekken, some players will have their own dedicated coach, often carrying out the role of an analyst, a advisor and even just a friend. Coaches for players in this game genre will help the player study on their opponents. They’ll take note of their playstyles, what characters they play the most and in what situation they might switch to these characters. They also study the player they’re coaching, pointing out flaws in some of their own playstyle, keeping them in a positive mental state and lifting a bit of the anxiety that these players might face. While the player focuses on improving on their individual skill and practice, the coach can focus on the extra studying and homework on the players they often meet up against in tournaments. It is beneficial to have a coach in almost every aspect because of this.

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In terms of multiplayer games, being first-person shooters like Counter Strike and Overwatch, or mobas like Dota 2 or League of Legends, coaches work differently depending on what the competitive scene of the game allows. Though this is the same for single-player games mentioned above, it isn’t as drastic.

For instance, Counter-Strike being a team-based shooter game, coaches of the teams are more similar to traditional sport coaches as they are allowed to be behind their players during actual tournament matches, telling their players what they should do in any given moment, giving out the opponent’s location and telling them what strategy or formation to take. It’s as if the is an extra pair of eyes and voice to the players, which allows them to focus more on their own game, while keeping an ear out for important info from both their teammates and the coach.

However, in large-scale games like Dota 2 and League of Legends, games can last between twenty minutes and an hour on average, and having a coach in the booth with the players as they play could be an incredibly huge advantage, what with being able to look at the captain’s notepads on the enemy team’s movements around the map at certain parts of the game or other important objectives. The player’s focus and individual ability to analyse the game is what should make them be able to play at such a high level, and not the person behind them telling them everything.

That, and not every team has the resources to have a coach. Already enough a team without a coach is at a disadvantage both time and resource wise, and having to face an opposing team of essentially six players, it can be seen as unfair. Instead, coaches, serving as the study-bot and life coach for the team, have only recently been given the option to go into the drafting phase inside of the player booth during professional games at events. It allows for an extra perspective and insight during probably the most vital five to ten minutes of a match: what you’ll be choosing to go up against your opponents. This is a rule that’s been added just in this competitive season, and Dota 2 has been an esport for about seven years now. Esports rules for different games are still evolving, as it is still in its infancy.

This Youtube like shows a half-hour documentary of two teams playing in the finals of a 3 Million dollar tournament, and although has a focus on the players, also gives us a unique perspective on the coaches of these two teams, the different on how they talk to their players and what they offer.

Yet here we are, with a viewership so huge and growing faster than all other sports due to the technology that we have today, esports continues to adapt and evolve based on current situations. Drama, just like in any media, is very prevalent and esports, and some of it can be a lot more positive than people might think when they see the word Drama go through their ears.... Till next time!


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When he’s not desperately trying to climb the Dota 2 MMR leaderboards, Francis can usually be seen playing on his Nintendo 3DS or Switch, or writing long and short fiction on his limited spare time. Oh, and he’s on Youtube 24/7.

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Francis Rochon

When he’s not desperately trying to climb the Dota 2 MMR leaderboards, Francis can usually be seen playing on his Nintendo 3DS or Switch, or writing long and short fiction on his limited spare time. Oh, and he’s on Youtube 24/7.

What is an RPG?

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Imagine an unfamiliar world that is open for you to explore, but you don’t know where to start? Maybe you find the closest town and have them guide you through tasks, maybe you find a cavern and delve into its depths seeking treasures, or maybe you just want to wander the world marking new locations on your map. Choice is what defines an RPG (Role Playing Game), but choices are not limited by exploration. RPGs also include questlines that involve choosing between options that flip stories in multiple directions as you progress. You could choose to show mercy and have the favour returned later. It could even involve dialogue options that change whether or not you get the information you need. Overall, the choices are what determine your outcome in the game.

 An RPG is broken down into multiple parts, Story, Setting, Exploration, Quests, Experience, and Combat.

The story acts as the main progression point, guiding the character to an ending. The story is almost always character driven, leading to multiple endings based on the choices the player made throughout the game. In my experience, it feels as though you’ve stumbled into a story book and have become the lead character.

 The setting is usually fantasy or sci-fi. This allows for creativity and surrealism in both the world and the character. It could take shape as a cat-person, or a magic world, the possibilities are endless. With a surreal setting, it also allows for exploration, made more enjoyable by the unfamiliarity.

 Exploration is a key element that makes RPGs unlike other genres. It could involve exploring buildings for loot, or caves for monsters. The ability to explore gives the player freedom in the game, not tying them down in a point A to B progression.

 Quests act as a guideline for players to follow, though it doesn’t always lead to main story progression. I like to think of it as an anchor for the player when they’re unsure of where to go next. Quests usually involve the completion of a task assigned by one of the NPC’s (Non-player character). It could be as simple as retrieving a spoon, to as complicated as removing a king from reign.

 The combat in RPGs varies from game to game, but generally involves slaying beast, or foes.  In combat, the player is usually gifted with special abilities that let them excel. Maybe you can cast fireballs, or have inhuman reflexes. The abilities assigned to character are unique and can often be developed as you progress.

 Experience is basically a reward system for completing quests, or slaying monsters. You often get experience for each quest completed, or monster slain, that tallies into levels once you collected enough. Levels act as a development system for your character such as, hitting level 5 rewards you with a new ability, or item. It lets your character develop and become stronger, often in a way you choose.

 Overall, in an RPG you make the choices that change your game experience and development. Without a doubt, it is my favourite genre.  


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Shawn Bosnjak is a student in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. He is an avid writer, reader, gamer, and drummer, with a passion for anything fantasy or rock.

Games That Pushed The Boundaries of Storytelling

Story is something that is simultaneously overrated and underrated by video game developers. Almost all games in the modern market have one, even sports games feel the need to give players a narrative reason to keep playing. Unfortunately, many of these games strive to replicate a style that was developed for books, TV, and movies which are all passive mediums that do not account for the audience’s participation in the story. Thus, as games have evolved, developers have slowly figured out how to include the audience in their stories and push the boundaries of storytelling within all mediums. These games, in my opinion, embody this evolution of video games from copying other forms of media to developing their own narrative techniques to become the unique medium that it is today.

Planescape: Torment (PC, Linux, IOS)

Planescape: Torment helps to close off the first generations of games grasping at how to tell a story within a basic structure. Up until this point, bar a few exceptions, game stories have always served as convenient excuse to make you kill things or participate in whatever shenanigans that drive the core gameplay.

Released in 1999, it is the culmination of now-defunct Black Ilse Studios works within the RPG genre at the time. Well versed in the tropes and expectations of the genre, the studio made the decision bring the story of the game to the forefront with combat taking a back seat for much of the game, depending on the choice of the player. Through the eyes of “The Nameless One” players assumed the role of a man who cannot die. Since your last death, your memory had been wiped, forcing you to confront decisions and actions you took in previous lives to an often gut-wrenching effect. This device also allowed players to explore, experience and define themselves in the strange world of Planescape on their own terms. On top of this depth of player choice and plot, Planescape: Torment has been wildly acclaimed for its quality of writing, being cited as one of the few games to possess the literary weight and depth of a novel.

Silent Hill 2 (PS2, PS3)

 Silent Hill is often cited as one of the scariest games of all time. Unfortunately, what is not normally mentioned in the same breath is that its sequel has one of the best stories told in the horror genre (aside from some very questionable dialogue and voice acting). Silent Hill 2 is a disturbing examination of human relationships and how we deal with the trauma we cause one another within them. This thematically rich plot is supported by a game world and characters that all feed directly back into the main character’s struggle with guilt and desire.

The developers use everything at their disposal to explore the themes brought up throughout the game, from enemies such as the iconic Pyramid-Head to portray the main character’s violent sexual desires and fears, to puzzles such as the hangman puzzle used to explore the ideas of guilt, judgment and justice. The game even features multiple endings based on how often and in which way the player interacts with certain characters and items. Unlike many current horror movies and games, everything in Silent Hill 2 has been done with a purpose. It understands that to be truly terrifying, to really get into someone’s head, you have to explore very real and very disturbing aspects of the human condition.

 

The Last of Us (Ps3, PS4)

The Last of Us is arguably one of the most successful video games of the last generation of consoles, and for good reason. While everything from the gameplay to major plot elements has been explored in games and other media before, what makes The Last of Us different, much like the developer’s Naughty Dog’s past work, is simply the level of quality the developers managed to achieve. Everything from the heart pumping, grounded gameplay to the heavily nuanced performances has a polish that few other media manages to accomplish. Though, it is worth noting that this is the game where the developers at Naughty Dog have become more experimental.

For example, while there are many cut-scenes in the game, most of the events that begin to form a bond between the two main characters of Joel and Ellie were done directly through gameplay allowing the player to form a bond with the characters as well. Naughty Dog also started experimenting with player choice, allowing the player to engage in conversations and actions with the non-playable character Ellie on their own terms. While this may not be the most ground-breaking experimentation in terms of design, the idea that player choice is seeping into games that many argue are of a higher quality than most novels and movies, it is certainly an exciting prospect.

 

Hellblade (PC, PS4)

On the surface, Hellblade shares many qualities of cinematic, story-driven games such as The Last of Us or Uncharted, with its weighty, intimate combat and camera perspective as well as a heavy focus on storytelling. What sets Hellblade apart is its themes and how it chooses to tell its story. Hellblade is a story of a Celtic Pict warrior named Senua who suffers from Psychosis. Through rigorous research, help from those who suffer from the condition and experts in the subject of psychosis developer; Ninja Theory manipulated the conventions of gameplay to place the player directly in the mind of someone who suffers from this condition. The game features haunting voices called The Furies that follow you throughout the game, accurately simulating auditory hallucinations reacting to almost everything you do. Other symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, mental blindness and increased pattern recognition are worked into the game as mechanics for the player to directly interact with. Which puts Hellblade in a unique position to allow players to form empathy for those who suffer from psychosis by simulating its symptoms. Hellblade isn’t necessarily what one would call a “fun” game because mental illness is not fun. More than anything Hellblade helps show what sets video games apart from other media. Through its interactive elements, a game can transcend story and narrative to become a tool to build empathy for subjects that are extremely nebulous and hard to discuss, such as mental illness.

All that being said, These are just my picks for games demonstrating the evolution of story in video games, what are your picks for the games that pushed games as a medium for storytelling? Let us know in the comments below!    


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Gabriel Planas is a writer from Ottawa, Ontario Canada who is passionate about video games, movies, punk rock and fantasy fiction. With over 20 years of experience playing video games, he is dedicated to spreading the word on the fledgling medium’s endless narrative potential.

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Gabriel Planas

Gabriel Planas is a writer from Ottawa, Ontario Canada who is passionate about video games, movies, punk rock and fantasy fiction. With over 20 years of experience playing video games, he is dedicated to spreading the word on the fledgling medium’s endless narrative potential.

Introduction to Esports: how gaming went pro

Photo Courtesy of flickr.com

Photo Courtesy of flickr.com

Sports are something that are covered widely around the world through television, internet, social media. Professional sports players typically grow a passion for their sport early in their life as a child, and that passion and their dedication and skill with the sport leads them to make it their actual career. But what if I told you that such a thing were true with video games?

That’s what esports is: professional gaming. And much like regular sports, the gamers that lead a career in esports as players often have a passion for gaming that can be traced back to when they were first introduced to video games at an early age. Professional gaming is not something that can be achieved with any game, though, and do meet some criteria. The games must be a player versus player game, where one or more players go up against one or more players respectively, bring a scope of competition and teamwork, and/or individual skill.

Many games fall into this genre. You have traditional fighting games, like Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros., along with strategy games like Starcraft, but Esports’ growth has definitely been affected the most by MOBA games (Multiplayer-Online-Battle-Arena), which are games that incentivise's teamwork and coordination above all else, much like traditional sports. The most popular esports in this genre are Dota 2 and League Of Legends.

So how do esports work? Where does the money come from? And do people really watch other people play video games for a living?

Well, esports works in much the same way as regular sports on the business side. When matches are played, there are casters who do play-by-play commentary of the game, people in the backlines doing all of the production for the media, either it be streamed online or broadcasted on television (which has/does happen). There are also coaches that help a player/teams and whose job is to study for the players, so that they can focus more on practicing strategies and communication, while the coach can play many roles. Maybe they help in the team’s chemistry, or sometimes they play more of researcher, making sure the players are prepared for the next tournament or planning and scheduling practice matches.

As for the money, it comes from sponsors and organizations funding money into a tournament prize pool. Big name companies like Monster Energy, SteelSeries and Razor, all of which are very well versed in the gaming and esports communities, sponsor a lot of individual players and teams. This money is then brought into the esports economy, paying for the casters, the talent that work at these events and so-on. Certain games allow their casual viewer base to support the tournaments through the purchase of in-game items and tickets.

And yes, in the same way that people watch others run around with a ball or what not on a large grassy field, playing a game that they may or may not play, people who spectate esports are in the same seat: watching someone play a game that they are passionate about. Routing for their favorite and most relatable personalities or players, supporting these people and the game that they enjoy. In recent years, esports has escalated to a level of mainstream media and appreciation, and the scene doesn’t seem to be in any rush to slow down anytime soon.

Visit http://www.espn.com/esports/ for regular esports news coverage. 

 


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When he’s not desperately trying to climb the Dota 2 MMR leaderboards, Francis can usually be seen playing on his Nintendo 3DS or Switch, or writing long and short fiction on his limited spare time. Oh, and he’s on Youtube 24/7.

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Francis Rochon

When he’s not desperately trying to climb the Dota 2 MMR leaderboards, Francis can usually be seen playing on his Nintendo 3DS or Switch, or writing long and short fiction on his limited spare time. Oh, and he’s on Youtube 24/7.

A Return to Form

Since the inception of video games in the early 70s, giant steps forward have been made in terms of technology. From higher resolution graphics and advanced physics engines to massive multiplayer capabilities developers are always trying to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Some developers, however, decide to take a step back and create a new gameplay experience using tried and true methods that have been around for decades.

This is easier said than done, however, and it’s a lot more than just copying old ideas. Without enough innovation, developers risk being labeled as lazy unoriginal creators. When yacht club games first launched their Kickstarter back in early 2013, Shovel Knight’s art style alone was enough to excite fans. Hoping to raise 75,000 over the course of a month Yacht Club instead amassed over 300,000. This is a common trend in the modern day of indie gaming. Through crowdsourcing, many devs end up with a far larger budget for their game than expected, and this can pose challenges of its own. If a developer’s expectations for their game differ too much from gamers’, then the audience can feel betrayed. This requirement for innovation seems only amplified by having to adapt a 75,000 dollar idea to 300,000 dollar expectations.

Using mechanics from successful retro games allows for big innovative ideas to be applied to a formula that’s established as fun and successful, even if it hasn’t been revisited in a while. Although Super Mario Bros. 2 seemed to have perfected the side-scrolling/overworld map formula decades ago, Shovel Knight’s usage of similar mechanics feels fresh and without compromise. Developers have the opportunity to create games today that deliver the type of anticipation that hasn’t been felt since someone’s childhood. The nostalgia that this generates means a game can not only target the gamers that remember similar retro games from their childhood but the younger audience of today as well. Dennaton Games’ Hotline Miami is a whole different story. Using the visual style and sound design of retro classics, but a mature, intense, unrelenting gameplay style, unlike anything that came before it. 

This is a great example of an uncommon type of game. A game that is unique and original, but created from an outdated starting point. The design of older games lent themselves well to the intuitive controls and the game’s visual style. Dennaton Games knew however that the top down twin-stick shooting mechanics could be turned up to 11, creating a high-octane shooter with a punishing, yet never unfair difficulty level. While the developer could have focused solely on mechanics and created a 3D top-down shooter with extremely impressive graphics, they instead took a look at what mechanics from the past could establish a unique experience. The result was a game that feels both new and inspires a strong sense of nostalgia.


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Mitch is an avid player of role playing games, first person shooters, and retro classics. Running NES to PC and everything in between Mitch loves looking into what makes games great, and how that has and will change from the past to the future. Console, handheld, puzzle, or adventure, it’s all about the game.


Game Boys

For those of you familiar with video games, Hello! For those of you who may not be in the loop, welcome! Video games have had a huge impact in people’s lives, either because you play a lot of them, or because it’s increasingly been introduced to regular media. Nearly everybody has played a video game these days, and whether you’re a veteran button masher, or happen to be friends with one, we hope to make your experience an amazing one regardless, as we explore Retro Games, RPGs, Esports and more.

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Francis Rochon

When he’s not desperately trying to climb the Dota 2 MMR leaderboards, Francis can usually be seen playing on his Nintendo 3DS or Switch, or writing long and short fiction on his limited spare time. Oh, and he’s on Youtube 24/7.