Why Do I Keep Buying Games I Should Be Taking A Stand Against?

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I find myself having the same conversation over and over again. It’s usually a lengthy debate that spins its tires on the same worn treads, but it basically goes like this:

Friend: You bought that game?

Me: Yeah.

Friend: Why would you give them your money after they (insert random shitty business tactic here)?

Me: Because I wanted to have fun playing a game I thought I’d enjoy?

Friend: That’s fine, but you should also forfeit any and all complaining about (insert random shitty business tactic here).

Me: I can’t play a game and still have a critical opinion about its negative aspects? Is it really that black and white?

Any time this comes up, I can’t help but give a defeatist sigh.

It’s worth talking about though, because I feel it represents a lot of the dominant conversations about ‘speaking with your wallet’ online. I mean, hell, I’ve got a website dedicated to sharing the seedy underbelly of AAA game development. That means I stand atop Mount Sinai, telling the masses that these companies – Bungie, Activision, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sony, etc. – are taking advantage of them, and that they should use the knowledge I impart to make educated decisions the next time they want to buy a game. And yet, I’ve bought games like Shadow of War, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Destiny, No Man’s Sky, and so many others.

Doesn’t that make me a hypocrite? Aren’t I sending the wrong message to these studios? The answers are obvious, so let’s ask a more open question: Why?
I love video games to pieces. I was born in 1982, so I was in on the ground floor. The Atari and its games were easily findable at yard sales, and I got to experience the glory of the Nintendo Entertainment System shortly after it had launched. As a young child, it was easy to build a massive library of games. A large chunk of my collection was acquired through yard sales. The handful of games I couldn’t afford otherwise, I was able to rent through Blockbuster Video. So, I grew up with the ability to play pretty much anything I wanted… which was pretty much everything.

This hobby turned into a passion. When I wasn’t playing games, I was talking about them, reading about them (oh hai, Gamepro!), or watching TV shows inspired by them. Over the years, I’ve developed a great wealth of knowledge, even about the stuff I didn’t own or didn’t particularly care for. Once the internet came to be, I finally had an outlet where I could discuss games and the industry they hail from with likeminded people.

Point 1 – The Community

Growing up, I was clearly spoiled. But more importantly, gaming, for me, has evolved into more than just sitting down and playing the games.

I like to be part of the conversation.

Game launches are a special time. It’s when months, if not years of analytical hype – for better or for worse – comes crashing down. In this respect, it doesn’t really matter how good or bad a game is, because people are going to break it all down with their praise, criticisms, and everything in between. It’s during this release window fervor that the gaming community feels most alive, and I genuinely love being a part of it.

Of course, upon entering these discussions, I realize the pools I’m wading through are far from pure. For example, certain fans have a tendency to praise most anything their beloved studio churns out, or people bash games they’ve never played because the hate train’s pulled into the station. It’s hard to stay away from these reactionary responses, but I also appreciate these opportunities to educate people.

Point 2 – Challenging Widely Accepted Perception

While I use reviews as a rough indicator, I never take them at face value. So, if a game receives universal praise or is shunned entirely, I’m compelled to check it out for myself. We all know that hype and hate trains exist, right? If I had listened to everyone back in 2014, I would have believed Shadow of Mordor was an amazing game… but it wasn’t (not bad, but average). Not for me. On the flip side of the coin, everyone berated The Order: 1886 for being short and too cinematic for its own good, and while it was flawed, it didn’t deserve the hatred that had been dredged from the bowels of the internet (at least, not in my opinion). So yes, I’m always curious to get hands-on with a divisive title so I can see what all the fuss is about.

Point 3 – But at the End of the Day…

This is where the more ‘human’ side of me begins to come out.

I can talk about bad business practices all day, but after all is said and done, I relent because I just want to have fun. With all the bickering over microtransactions and crappy DLC models, it’s easy to forget that video games are still pretty fun to play. Shadow of War may siren to other studios that, ‘hey, you can throw loot boxes into single player games now’, but I still want to play that experience. Same goes for Battlefront II, because I loved the last one and enjoyed the recent beta.

Hypocrite, I know.

But that’s also because I remember that video games were never perfect. People look back on the history of video games with rose colored glasses, saying, “There were never any microtransactions or DLC back in my day!” But if there were ways companies could suck money out of your wallet, they were doing it. Classic arcade games were cool, but you died every 15 seconds because they were designed to vacuum quarters out of your pocket. Gimmicky accessories were released in quick succession, and many of them didn’t work as advertised (as cool as the Power Glove looked, it was a real piece of crap). Nintendo introduced an add-on for the N64 in Japan (which was very short lived and a retro gaming collector’s dream to obtain). Corners were often cut during game development, and at times proved detrimental. And despite what many are lead to believe, games could often cost a bit more than $60.

Get my point?

Things have ALWAYS been shady. If I wanted to draw a strict line in the sand between their bullshit and my money, I wouldn’t have enjoyed a game in the last 30 years.

So for me, fun factor is what I value most. It’s only when crappy business decisions impact my fun in a big way that I begin to have serious problems.

How Does Supporting Games With Bad Business Models Make Me Feel?

Although ‘fun’ is my bottom line, that doesn’t mean I’m turning a blind eye to the practices that have infiltrated the gaming world. I’m well aware of the ‘slippery slope’ and how I’ve contributed to it. I’ll say that I rarely buy season passes, or even cosmetic items for that matter… but deep down inside, I know that’s not the best justification. When I buy even the base product, I’m telling studios I support what they’re doing, not to mention a potential customer for their DLC and microtransactions. Yes, that makes me feel dirty, and yes, I am, at times, disappointed in myself. I don’t like being part of the problem.

So why do I keep riding this merry go round? Well, because these are the choices I’m left with:

I can take a stand and never buy any of these exploitive games, but then I’d be sad I was missing out on the fun.

Or, I can continue to have fun playing the games that come out, but try and spread awareness about the things I see happening in the industry.

Obviously, I’ve chosen the latter.

I don’t believe that boycotting games or even particular studios is the answer. Because even though I haven’t bought the game, plenty of other people will. My sale won’t be missed. Casual gamers don’t care to delve into the stuff happening behind the scenes, so they’re going to buy whatever they like anyway.

And I can’t fault them for that. We pay to eat the sausage, not to see it being made, you know?
So, I’m going to keep eating that sausage, pretending that it’s primo meat and not just a bunch of leftover shit being ground into an intestinal shell. But if I notice something’s not right with it, I’m going to raise hell about it. I mean, what am I supposed to do, not eat sausage anymore? That’s effin’ lunacy.
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The ESRB Are Right: Loot Boxes Aren’t Gambling

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The ESRB has finally chimed in on all this loot box nonsense in our games:

“ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling,” “While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don’t want). We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you’ll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you’ve had your eye on for a while. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.”

Why have they made this statement? Well, because loot boxes are coming in virtually all of this holiday’s most anticipated games: Shadow of War, Battlefront 2, and even Assassin’s Creed: Origins (the latter of which won’t allow you to obtain these with real world money). As a result, online personalities like John ‘Totalbiscuit’ Bain have asked the ESRB to classify loot boxes as gambling. Fortunately, they’re not going to do so.

Before I continue, let me be clear: I don’t like loot boxes in my video games. I like the progression systems we’ve had just fine (levels, skill trees, etc.), and loot boxes are really only there to make the publisher a couple extra bucks. Lots of people wave loot boxes off by saying, “Well, who cares. The stuff they provide is cosmetic.” They aren’t, though. Not anymore. But for the sake of argument, let’s agree that all loot boxes are just a means of delivering cosmetic content. If a publisher is allowing you to purchase these things with real world money, that means the game you paid full price for has been artificially inflated. A game with padded runtime, all for the sake of having a loot box system in place, is a waste of your time. They WANT you to spend money in order to skip the grind. That’s why these systems exist in the first place. Now, also for the sake of argument, let’s look at games that have loot boxes, but don’t allow you to buy them with real world money. That’s still a game that treats grind as actual content… but what’s the point in that? Quality over quantity trumps these practices every time.

So yes, please, keep loot boxes out of my game. No, I’m not strong enough to stay away from games like Battlefront 2, whose loot boxes can be purchased AND offer clear advantages over other players in-game. At the end of the day, I want to play the games I know I’ll have fun playing. Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t say, “Hey, this game would be better if they…”

Now with that all in mind, I need to get something off my chest: I actually agree with the ESRB. Loot boxes should not be considered gambling.

No, really. They shouldn’t be considered gambling, and I wish people on the internet, especially people with large audiences behind them, would stop saying so. Let’s look at the definition of gambling (per Dictionary.com):

-The activity or practice of playing at a game of chance for money or other stakes.

-The act or practice of risking the loss of something important by taking a chance or acting recklessly

Gambling has a very specific definition. Yes, unpredictability and the triggering of a dopamine response (and even addiction) are major components of gambling, but to ‘gamble’, you’re putting up money, or something else you’d lose if things didn’t turn in your favor. Loot boxes, on the other hand, do not carry these stakes. As the ESRB have said, you’re always getting something in return, even if it’s not what you had wanted.

Dr Luke Clark, director at the Center for Gambling Research at the University of British Columbia, recently told PC Gamer: “The player is basically working for reward by making a series of responses, but the rewards are delivered unpredictably,” “We know that the dopamine system, which is targeted by drugs of abuse, is also very interested in unpredictable rewards. Dopamine cells are most active when there is maximum uncertainty, and the dopamine system responds more to an uncertain reward than the same reward delivered on a predictable basis.”

While loot boxes may engage similar activity in the brain, there’s still a distinction between loot boxes and gambling. They are not one and the same. If anything that triggered a dopamine response, especially triggered by uncertainty, were considered to be the same, then we’d have to start making other ridiculous statements, right? “Loot boxes are drugs!” But that’s silly, because we know they aren’t. And they also aren’t gambling.

OpenCritic has decided to note which games have loot boxes, as its CEO doesn’t care for this system at all: “You can call it gambling, you can call it gaming addiction, you can call it whatever you want. The problem is still the same.” He has a point. “The ESRB would say that violence is bad for society so violent video games get a higher rating. Gore is bad for society so gory video games get a higher rating. And nudity and cursing, those are bad so they get a higher rating. And yet something that really could have a serious impediment to the mental development of children, they’re saying ‘well it’s not technically gambling so we’re not going to make a stand here.” More good points, but ultimately, he lost me.

Loot boxes. Aren’t. Gambling.

I’ll certainly agree that they can lead to the same negative outcome, but the distinction is important because think of everything that would be screwed over if we allowed opinions on the internet to change the very definition of what gambling is…

If you declare loot boxes as gambling, then you have to consider the plastic egg machine that most of you have seen at your local supermarkets. You know the ones; you feed a quarter (or two, or three) into a machine, and it gives you a plastic egg with a tiny toy or trinket inside. You don’t know what’s inside, but that’s kind of what makes it exciting, right? Is THAT gambling? No, of course not. If there’s anything from the local arcades which could be considered gambling, it would be all those games of chance, especially the ‘money broom’, where a brush is always on the verge of pushing a bunch of coins over the edge. You say, “Gee, I bet my quarter will be the one to push ‘em all over!” So you pop your coin in, you get nothing, and you walk away with nothing. THAT’S gambling. You took a chance, you lost some money, and you have nothing to show for it. That happened to us all the time as kids, and were we traumatized? No. We walked away a little disappointed, and it helped build character.

But recreational outrages want you to believe that loot boxes are going to lead your kids to a life of drugs, mental illness, or worse. That’s taking things way, way too far.

What I do agree with is clearly labeling the games which contain the loot box mechanic. I mean, anything extra is usually labeled on the back of a game box. Need hard drive space? It’s listed. Need an internet connection? It’s listed. Require a PSVR headset or something? That’s listed. Mobile games especially will tell you if there are additional purchases involved, too. If loot boxes are involved, people should also know about that. Because yes, it’s a mechanic which people can get addicted to, and if their game is going to have it, they should be notified at the point of purchase in case they want to avoid it.

But let’s not hold our breath, because that won’t happen anytime soon.

When it comes to these practices, the industry is still in the wild west. Government hasn’t stepped in to make any rules or regulations yet… but it’s inevitable. Studios are earning a ton of money with microtransactions, DLC, and loot boxes, that it’s going to draw enough attention for regulation to become a consideration. It’s a shame it has to be that way, but AAA studios haven’t been able to help themselves… and gamers are the ones who suffer for it.

The sad thing, is that loot boxes don’t have to be inherently bad. The only reason why they are is because of corporate greed. If a game was designed with loot boxes in mind, didn’t charge real world money for them, and actually made the game an all-around rewarding experience without hours and hours of pointless grind, it could be fun… COULD be. But they aren’t, and here we are.

To those of you who avoid these games completely, I applaud you. Your resolve is strong. Again, some of us (like myself) still like to play the games we know we’ll have fun with, even if it means sending the wrong message. Life’s too short to not enjoy things… but I think we’re getting into something which can be a whole other article.

It Doesn’t Matter If Pewdiepie Didn’t Mean It

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Pewdiepie is in trouble for expressing racist sentiment. Again.

In the first half of 2017, Felix “Pewdiepie” Kjellberg came under fire for paying a couple of men to hold a banner which said “Death to all Jews.” He claims he did this to prove just how crazy the world is, as there’s a website – which I won’t mention here because, well, fuck them – where you can pay people $5 to do pretty much anything. Why that ‘thing’ had to be something so hateful and discriminating, I don’t know. He just as easily could have asked someone on this website to smack themselves in the dick with a hammer, but nope, he went straight for Nazi rhetoric. Anyway, as a result of this – as well as other racially or religious sensitive things that appeared on his channel before – Pewdiepie lost a deal with Disney’s Maker Studios, which canceled plans for TV, apps, and merchandise to be produced under his brand. Youtube also canceled the production of Scare Pewdiepie Season 2 (for Youtube Red), and his channel was also removed from Google Preferred.

You think he would have learned his lesson… but nope, he’s doubled down on his stupidity. Well, maybe tripled, because he also did a Hitler-esque video after all this.

But more recently while streaming, Pewdiepie was caught saying:

Pewdiepie: “What a fucking n****r! Jeez, oh my God, what the fuck. Sorry, but, what the fuck. What a fucking asshole. I don’t mean that in a bad (unintelligible and laughing a little). Why would he do that? Legit, why would he do that? Fuck sake.”

Immediately after those words escaped his mouth, he knew what he had done. His words that followed made that clear. But too bad, so sad, the damage has been done. Pewdiepie, already seen by many as anti-Semitic and racist, said the worst thing possible.

Now, it’s entirely possible that Pewdiepie is neither of those things. He very well may be a nice guy that just happened to use a racial slur while venting… which is still dumb. Very, very dumb. A lot of people say stupid things not because they’re evil, but because they lack a brain-to-mouth filter. I get that. And because I’m not one of those people that care about political correctness just for the sake of appeasing people, I don’t even care what he says or does in his personal life. If he wants to spout off the n-word from the comfort of his computer chair, then fine. That’s his prerogative. However, I’m also free to think and say whatever I want, so I also reserve the right to call Pewdiepie an epic piece of shit for doing so. I do think that you can joke about ANYTHING – some people in this life seriously need to lighten up – but Pewdiepie wasn’t making a joke. He let a racial slur slip out of his mouth because he was upset. At a video game. Who does that?

A lot of people have tried to justify this by saying, “Well, it wasn’t contextually insulting. He just said it because he was mad.” So, what are those people trying to say? That saying the n-word is cool just because you’re caught off guard and pissed off by something? That’s news to me! So I guess any time I stub my toe, hit my funny-bone, hit my head, my son spits up on me, or my foot falls asleep, I should let the n-word fly?

Here’s what it all boils down to: If Pewdiepie let this slip during a live stream, especially considering the history of racial insensitivity behind him, then that means he says this regularly, or at least regularly enough. It’s something he likely says when he’s playing away from prying eyes… which is shitty. I’ve never once uttered the phrase ‘check your privilege’, because it’s become synonymous with ‘white people can’t have an opinion’… but Pewdiepie is the kind of person that saying is meant for. Or at least ONE of the kinds of people it’s meant for. The n-word isn’t some ‘say it because you’re angry’ sort of thing. Most people I know use ‘shit’ or ‘fuck’. If you’re associating anger with the n-word… well, problems, son. Problems.

Youtubers generally use alternate personas for their channels. What you see on-screen is meant to entertain you, and doesn’t necessarily represent the person behind the gamer/entertainer tag. That’s all well and good, but if you’re not professional enough an entertainer to separate those two distinct personalities (one for home, one for work), then it becomes an issue… especially if you’re an idiot like this guy.

Now Pewdiepie is, predictably, being punished by others on the development side of things.

Sean Vanaman of Campo Santo games has stated they’ll be filing DMCA takedown notices for all of Pewdiepie’s Firewatch content, as well as any future Campo Santo games. His Tweet storm is as follows:

“There is a bit of leeway you have to have with the internet when u wake up every day and make video games. There’s also a breaking point. I am sick of this child getting more and more chances to make money off of what we make. He’s worse than a closeted racist: he’s a propagator of despicable garbage that does real damage to the culture around this industry. I’d urge other developers & will be reaching out to folks much larger than us to cut him off from the content that has made him a millionaire. Furthermore, we’re complicit: I’m sure we’ve made money off of the 5.7M views that video has and that’s something for us to think about. Lastly: I love streamers. I watch them daily and we sent out over 3000 keys to professional and amateur streamers of FW.”

This introduces another wrinkle though, and one that’s not actually problematic for Pewdiepie, but Campo Santo themselves. In the ‘about’ section on firewatchgame.com, there’s some intriguing information:

Can I stream this game? Can I make money off of those streams?

Yes. We love that people stream and share their experiences in the game. You are free to monetize your videos as well. It doesn’t hurt to let us know on Twitter when you’re live. We might show up in your chat!

But when questioned about the legality of using DMCA takedowns because of a racial slur used by a streamer, Sean had this to say:

“All streaming is infringement but devs and pubs allow it because it makes us money too.”

This, of course, has created a huge can of worms. The first thing some people have said in response is, WTFU, which stands for, ‘where’s the fair use’? This is something Youtubers have clung to each time a developer has issued a takedown for one of their videos. Word quickly spreads among the Youtuber community, and they band together in order to save their collective asses. “We can do what we want because fair use” isn’t exactly true, though. It’s more of a gray area. Criticism is specifically protected under fair use, but Let’s Plays are basically the wild west of content. Some lawyers, per some of John “Totalbiscuit” Bain’s tweets, believe developers can do whatever they want with Let’s Play videos:

Totalbiscuit: “Spoke to an actual lawyer. Opinion was Campo Santo is 100% within legal rights, DMCA applies, LPs (Let’s Plays) are not fair use. Website (referencing the ‘we like streamers’ bit on Firewatchgame.com) non-binding. So those arguments are basically out the window, leaving “should they shouldn’t they” which is up to them really. What a mess.”

But the interpretation of law seems to vary attorney by attorney, and judge by judge. So while the attorney Totalbiscuit was in touch with says LP’s aren’t protected by fair use, Leonard French, a respected legal interpreter on Youtube, believes this would be DMCA abuse. His argument is that, yes, posting the ‘ok to stream’ message on the Firewatch website grants Youtubers permission, and that they had more than enough time to request Pewdiepie’s video get taken down if they had a problem with it… except they didn’t. Until now. After Pewdiepie said something racist. On a video that had nothing to do with Firewatch. The argument is basically, ‘The video was legal, for years, until they didn’t like something Pewdiepie said on his own stream of a different game?’ And not only does Campo Santo likely not have any room for legal action at this point – especially since Pewdiepie undoubtedly received one of those keys direct from the developer – but if anyone had the right to issue copyright claims, it’s Pewdiepie, as he could target anyone using his gameplay footage without some form of criticism to accompany it (as criticism is expressly permitted under fair use).

See how sticky this whole thing gets?

But it gets worse. If you’re a fan of Youtube, regardless if you’re a viewer or content creator, things have been getting hairy.

Jim Sterling has pointed out that, at this point, Pewdiepie is a liability for the entire industry of gamers and Youtubers, and he’s absolutely correct.

Pewdiepie’s flub from earlier in the year is one of the many reasons why advertisers began to pull away from Youtube. Their ads could pop up during any video, regardless of the content it contained… but that creates a huge marketing problem. Advertisers are spending good money to shill their products, and they want to have the ability to decide what content their ads are appearing in. After all, that’s how it works on television. But Youtube never did much to appease the advertisers, so they started withdrawing their money after the Pewdiepie incident.

In an attempt to bring the advertisers back, Youtube finally made some changes, by way of allowing bots to flag inappropriate content. This impacted a lot of the major Youtubers we know and love, as much of their content was flagged for one reason or another. It was awful for anyone who relied solely on the money from Youtube ad views, although some planned ahead and have Patreons up for support. Still, it’s horrifying to think that all this content was being threatened to have monetization removed, merely because some bot heard one ‘fuck’ too many. This is something that should be done by a dedicated staff, not some bargain bin AI. Context should matter, and a bot can’t distinguish between an acceptable piece of content or something that’s truly objectionable. As a result, content creators suffer as a whole. This hands off approach is, frankly, disgusting. It’s the most despicable form of censorship I’ve seen.

Well, maybe censorship is the wrong word. Youtube still allows you to post your content… you just won’t be paid for it. And they, as a company, have every right to make that call. To be fair, Youtubers should understand that they’re not as ‘free enterprise’ as they believe. They’re relying on a hosting platform for a living. Unless they get a website and pay for their own traffic, they’re at the whim of whatever Youtube decides to do.

Anyway, Pewdiepie should have been smart enough to know that couldn’t play the system forever. He’s always used controversy as a way to gain subscribers, but he never took into consideration how his actions would affect everyone. He’s not the only Youtuber saying nasty or insensitive things – in fact, he’s quite tame compared to countless others – but whether he likes it or not, Pewdiepie shoulders more responsibility for his actions than others. With over 50 million subscribers, he represents Youtube, content creators, and gamers. People who don’t even game or watch Youtube all that often know who this guy is, so there was an especially heavy burden on him to remain professional at all times. But unfortunately, he didn’t, and now everyone else is paying the price.

That’s the worst part, honestly. Because of Pewdiepie’s decision to use shock value as a way to gain subscribers, content creators are sitting at the edge of their seats and biting their nails, wondering if DMCA takedowns will be abused more than ever and upheld by law. Even if Pewdiepie wins, it’s not exactly a positive for content creators, and Google/Youtube are most certainly looking at ways to better monitor and/or restrict content.

Good luck to all of the content creators out there…

 

Destiny 2 – The Grind (Pay To Win Sucks)


There’s been a lot of discussion lately about Destiny 2 and its inclusion of ‘pay to win’ microtransactions, as well as how the way shaders are sold and used have changed for the worst.
For those unfamiliar with what’s going on, shaders allow you to re-color your gear. In the original game, shaders were applied to all of your armor, and you could switch freely between them. In Destiny 2, however, shaders are now single-use consumables. No matter how you look at it, this isn’t good news. This franchise encourages you to continually upgrade your armor. This happens quite often as you level up, so the shader you just applied could be wasted on something you’ll barely get a chance to use. Want to re-color your next piece of armor? Better get grinding.

Or pull out your wallet.

That’s the largest problem with this whole ‘single-use’ thing in regards to shaders. If you don’t want to grind for them, you can spend real world money in order to obtain them. As a result, it’s reasonable to assume that the very reason this system ever changed in the first place, is so Bungie and Activision could make more money to sell you cosmetic nonsense.

Their response?

“Shaders are earned through gameplay: leveling, chests, engrams, vendors.” “We expect you’ll be flush w shaders as you continue to play. When you reach Level 20, shaders will drop more often: vendor rewards, destination play, and endgame activities.

“Shaders are now an ongoing reward for playing. Customization will inspire gameplay. Each planet has unique armor and shader rewards. With D2, we want statements like, ‘I want to run the Raid, Trials, or go back to Titan to get more of its Shader’ to be possible.”

So, basically, they’re reiterating what they’ve been saying since the first game: They want everything you collect in these games to have a story behind them, to be memorable. Single-use shaders are a way to keep you playing so you have more great tales to tell.

Anyone with two brain cells to rub together isn’t buying this excuse. This change has been implemented for financial reasons, pure and simple. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, you know? But that’s a motto rarely spoken in the business world. Instead, they ask, “How can we make more money out of this?”

You might say, “I don’t care. As long as it’s only cosmetic stuff. They’re entirely optional and don’t affect the game.”

Except they do. They really, really do.

I will take a 5-8 hour game as opposed to something that offers 30, but with 15 hours dedicated to grinding. The latter is done so much these days, ‘grinding’ has become synonymous with ‘content’… but why? Why do developers always bloat their games like this? It’s because they’re trying to strike a balance. They want to make a game’s mechanics fun enough to keep you playing, but the actual content juuuuust boring enough to incentivize you to spend money on stupid shit… like shaders. 

And that’s not OK. Leave that ‘grind or pay’ mechanic to crappy mobile games and leave it out of $60 AAA products. Maybe it’s just me, but quality trumps quantity every day of the week. There’s something to be said about games that don’t overstay their welcome. Namely, they won’t unnecessarily drag your gameplay out just to make a little money.

Bright engrams are also an issue, and specifically what’s introduced the whole ‘pay to win’ argument. Bright engrams are essentially loot boxes, and these include mods for armor and weapons. These mods give you additional abilities, such as an increased recharge rate of things you need to perform in combat, faster mobility, quick reloads, better weapon handling, and more. These can all be earned in game, but players also have the option of purchasing bright engrams… meaning they don’t have to earn these abilities, but can buy them instead.

Apologists insist that charging for bright engrams is OK because they don’t have to be bought with real-world money… that you can just earn them in game. That’s missing the point, though. In order to obtain everything you need, it could potentially take you hundreds of in-game hours. Even if it didn’t, someone is paying for a gameplay advantage that you’re still chugging along on to earn. That is the very definition of ‘pay to win’… spending money to get access to stuff sooner so you have an advantage over people.

What’s terrible about all this is that the gaming community can’t even agree whether this practice is OK or not. Some are justifying it, some are condemning it. Either way this game is going to make Activision and Bungie a lot of money, though, and as long as this continues to happen, studios will continue to take advantage of us. 

Not to mention lie to us. 

Bungie had made it pretty clear that there would never be pay to win items in Destiny. Does that just flit out the window now because this is the sequel? And why do gamers constantly rationalize this nonsense?

I am not entirely opposed to trying Destiny 2 for myself, so I can remain educated on how far the game has progressed since the original launched… but I am a massochist, so I don’t advise it. I also have too many games to play so I don’t foresee it happening. News like ‘pay to win’ is probably the largest ‘Destiny’ repellant I could have come across. 

Yes, This Is About Dean Takahashi Playing Cuphead

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I’ve never felt compelled to comment on the ‘video game journalists should be good at video games’ debate, because most of the time, I see a bunch of internet trolls doing what they do best (er, worst): lampooning a person who’s alright at games, just not one of the elite. You don’t have to write like Mozart to be a composer, you don’t need to make films like Spielberg to be a filmmaker, nor do you need to be the best gamer in the world to write about video games. That said, if you ARE writing about games, you should, at the very least, be a gamer.

But Dean Takahashi, a journalist with VentureBeat, doesn’t seem like one. His time with the Cuphead demo at Gamescom 2017 is the most cringe-inducing thing I’ve seen all year.

No, seriously. Cuphead is already notorious for being difficult, but Dean wasn’t playing some mid-game thumb-buster of a level. No, he was playing the tutorial. Badly. The first minute alone made me wonder if this guy had ever played a platformer before. The game walks you through some basics, such as jumping and the ability to jump and dash at the same time. It took Dean over two minutes to grasp this concept. He was supposed to reach a ledge too high off the ground, and he’d accomplish this, obviously, by jumping on the short platform behind him and then executing the ‘jump and dash’ move. He stayed on the ground though, jumping against a wall time and time again. Common sense should have dictated, “Hey, this isn’t working out for me. What am I doing wrong? That ledge is obviously too high from where I’m standing, so what can I do to gain some ground?” My 7 year old would crush this – you know, because he has common sense – but Dean, for some reason, just couldn’t figure it out. His justification for this?

Twitter: “It didn’t say, “Stand on rock, which is farther away, because dash will take you higher and farther than you can jump.””

If I didn’t know better, I’d say we were in The Twilight Zone… but this is reality. A very, very sad one, at that.

I don’t ask much from people who provide game footage to the masses, but Dean’s job is to write about video games. If he can’t pull off basic moves using mechanics which have been around since the Nintendo Entertainment System… I’m sorry, but that absolutely means his credibility deserves to be flushed down the toilet. His footage gives the impression that his experience with games is minimal at best, and if that’s true, nearly everything he writes is meaningless. While it isn’t important as a member of the gaming press to be a great gamer, what a writer in this industry absolutely MUST be is a SEASONED gamer. You know, someone who’s seen and played a wide range of titles and can, at the very least, understand and perform the basics. Dean, however, comes off looking like he’s never played a game before. I usually never advocate for someone in this industry to lose their job over their level of skill, but this seems like a fireable offense.

You could argue that because this footage was taken at Gamescom, Dean was probably distracted and also a little nervous because the devs were undoubtedly watching his every move. In return, I’d merely say you probably haven’t watched the video. Please do so. All of it. I’ve only talked about the first minute thus far, but in the rest he’s constantly running straight into enemies, leaping to his death, and even has trouble with aiming the spray gun (think Contra) the main character’s using.

You know what? Did I say this video was cringe-worthy? Let me rescind that. It’s the most hilarious unintentionally funny video of the year.

And the Twitter hilarity doesn’t end there, by the way. Dean Takahashi is also challenging people who are criticizing him to do better:

“spoken by someone who hasn’t played yet. Do me a favor and capture your first honest 26 minutes.”

I’ll tell you what, Dean. When I get my Xbox One X later this year, I’ll do just that. I’ll stream my first 26 minutes and I guarantee I’ll take way less time to beat the tutorial than you did.

But hold on gamers, I’m not done yet. I have to point the finger at you a moment.

While Dean has basically exposed himself to be full of crap with every key he strikes, one thing his video does not prove is that video game press as a whole is terrible at games. Unfortunately, a lot of gamers are condemning video game journalism as a whole due to this guy’s inability to leap on a platform and press two buttons. That’s like saying every director in Hollywood is a talentless hack just because you didn’t like Michael Bay.

One user on Twitter writes:

“Game journalists are incredibly bad at video games. It’s painful to watch this. How do they think they’re qualified to write about games?”

How can this be a serious question? Where does this idea come from, that all game journalists are incredibly bad at video games? The gaming community can, and should, do better than this. Say whatever you want about Dean Takahashi or that yahoo from Polygon that couldn’t play Doom that well, but jumping to extreme of labeling every journalist as ‘bad at games’ is a stretch that instantly illegitimates your comments. If you want your voice to be heard, throwing the ‘general’ blanket over everything isn’t going to get it done.