Archive for the ‘Opinion Piece’ Category


by Paul Tassi via Forbes

It’s starting to seem like Call of Duty’s next installment being Black Ops 4 is one of the worst kept secrets in gaming. The game has been whispered about for weeks now, still without any official confirmation from Activision or Treyarch, but this latest leak is probably the funniest one to date.

Houston Rockets star James Harden was spotted en route to a game yesterday wearing a full camo outfit and…a hat with what very much appears to be a Black Ops 4 logo.

The hat is a variation of the Black Ops 3 logo, the “III” symbol, but it appears that instead of going the actual Roman numeral route “IV,” they’re going with a tally mark system instead, as logo is one more notch, “IIII.”

After Harden was spotted wearing the hat, Kotaku checked with its sources who told them that yes, that really was the Black Ops 4 logo. It’s unclear why Harden has the hat, whether he’s part of the promotional campaign for the game or perhaps just a big Call of Duty fan wearing some swag a bit too early.

Kotaku also says that its sources say that Black Ops 4 will continue to be a “near-future” setting. That’s the first time I’ve heard that, and perhaps slightly worrisome to fans who were hoping the next game would continue the tradition of WWII and stay away from “future war.” That said, even if the setting is in the near future, it’s possible that the game will do away with high-speed movement like jetpacks and wallrunning, which fans seem to have grown sick of.

It definitely seems like it’s time for Activision to start talking. These rumors are turning into full-blown leaks, and this seems like the proper time to reveal this officially before even more details pour out of sources they shouldn’t.

Black Ops 4 would be set to square off against another military shooter that is now springing leaks, Battlefield V, which is a sequel to Battlefield 1, reportedly taking the game to World War II, where Call of Duty went last year. And both games will be up against Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar’s monster in the making that might end up eclipsing them both, if it can channel a bit of Grand Theft Auto 5 magic.

We are probably still a few months away from seeing a ton of info about Black Ops 4, which seems likely to be a large part of Sony’s E3 show in June, given the company’s ongoing relationship with Activision, who it stole away from Xbox in the last few years. Black Ops is the one remaining sub-series of Call of Duty that has survived and thrived into the modern era, and one that should put up significant sales, more so than usual, if Treyarch delivers. I’m guessing they will.

Just…start talking before Harden starts wearing a full Black Ops 4 tracksuit to games.

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People try to blame the Florida high school shooting on violent video games and other forms of media


by Christopher J. Ferguson, Professor of Psychology, Stetson University via The Conversation

In the wake of the Valentine’s Day shooting at a Broward County, Florida high school, a familiar trope has reemerged: Often, when a young man is the shooter, people try to blame the tragedy on violent video games and other forms of media. Florida lawmaker Jared Moskowitz made the connection the day after the shooting, saying the gunman “was prepared to pick off students like it’s a video game.”

In January, after two students were killed and many others wounded by a 15-year-old shooter in Benton, Kentucky, the state’s governor criticized popular culture, telling reporters, “We can’t celebrate death in video games, celebrate death in TV shows, celebrate death in movies, celebrate death in musical lyrics and remove any sense of morality and sense of higher authority and then expect that things like this are not going to happen.”

But, speaking as a researcher who has studied violent video games for almost 15 years, I can state that there is no evidence to support these claims that violent media and real-world violence are connected. As far back as 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that research did not find a clear connection between violent video games and aggressive behavior. Criminologists who study mass shootings specifically refer to those sorts of connections as a “myth.” And in 2017, the Media Psychology and Technology division of the American Psychological Association released a statement I helped craft, suggesting reporters and policymakers cease linking mass shootings to violent media, given the lack of evidence for a link.

A history of a moral panic

So why are so many policymakers inclined to blame violent video games for violence? There are two main reasons.

The first is the psychological research community’s efforts to market itself as strictly scientific. This led to a replication crisis instead, with researchers often unable to repeat the results of their studies. Now, psychology researchers are reassessing their analyses of a wide range of issues — not just violent video games, but implicit racismpower poses and more.

The other part of the answer lies in the troubled history of violent video game research specifically. Beginning in the early 2000s, some scholars, anti-media advocates and professional groups like the APA began working to connect a methodologically messyand often contradictory set of results to public health concerns about violence. This echoed historical patterns of moral panic, such as 1950s concerns about comic booksand Tipper Gore’s efforts to blame pop and rock music in the 1980s for violence, sex and satanism.

Particularly in the early 2000s, dubious evidence regarding violent video games was uncritically promoted. But over the years, confidence among scholars that violent video games influence aggression or violence has crumbled.

Reviewing all the scholarly literature

My own research has examined the degree to which violent video games can — or can’t — predict youth aggression and violence. In a 2015 meta-analysis, I examined 101 studies on the subject and found that violent video games had little impact on kids’ aggression, mood, helping behavior or grades.

Two years later, I found evidence that scholarly journals’ editorial biases had distorted the scientific record on violent video games. Experimental studies that found effects were more likely to be published than studies that had found none. This was consistent with others’ findings. As the Supreme Court noted, any impacts due to video games are nearly impossible to distinguish from the effects of other media, like cartoons and movies.

Any claims that there is consistent evidence that violent video games encourage aggression are simply false.

Spikes in violent video games’ popularity are well-known to correlate with substantial declines in youth violence — not increases. These correlations are very strong, stronger than most seen in behavioral research. More recent research suggests that the releases of highly popular violent video games are associated with immediate declinesin violent crime, hinting that the releases may cause the drop-off.

The role of professional groups

With so little evidence, why are people like Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin still trying to blame violent video games for mass shootings by young men? Can groups like the National Rifle Association seriously blame imaginary guns for gun violence?

A key element of that problem is the willingness of professional guild organizations such as the APA to promote false beliefs about violent video games. (I’m a fellow of the APA.) These groups mainly exist to promote a profession among news media, the public and policymakers, influencing licensing and insurance laws. They also make it easier to get grants and newspaper headlines. Psychologists and psychology researchers like myself pay them yearly dues to increase the public profile of psychology. But there is a risk the general public may mistake promotional positions for objective science.

In 2005 the APA released its first policy statement linking violent video games to aggression. However, my recent analysis of internal APA documents with criminologist Allen Copenhaver found that the APA ignored inconsistencies and methodological problems in the research data.

The APA updated its statement in 2015, but that sparked controversy immediately: More than 230 scholars wrote to the group asking it to stop releasing policy statements altogether. I and others objected to perceived conflicts of interest and lack of transparency tainting the process.

It’s bad enough that these statements misrepresent the actual scholarly research and misinform the public. But it’s worse when those falsehoods give advocacy groups like the NRA cover to shift blame for violence onto nonissues like video games. The resulting misunderstandings delay efforts to address mental illness and other issues that are actually related to gun violence.

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Like an old pair of your favorite blood-stained shoes


by Charlie Hall via Polygon

I had deep reservations about the port of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds for Xbox One, but after a long night on the couch I’m a believer. Battlegrounds feels great on a console. There’s clearly an awful lot of work left to do, but I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

The secret to Battlegrounds’ success on Xbox One is its controller support.

The team at PUBG Corporation were uncompromising in their implementation. The movement and inventory systems have been carried over in their entirety to the Xbox controller. It take a little bit of practice to get the hang of it, but after two or three solid rounds of play it’s no big deal.

But it’s in the subtleties that Xbox One controller support really shines. The turn rates, both in third- and first-person, are smooth. In the menus, players have the ability to fiddle with controller’s sensitivity at each of the different zoom lengths. Tracking where your shots fall is easy, even at 1080p, and it feels as though there’s just the slightest bit of aim assist at ranges over 200 meters.


Aiming with the Xbox controller was the hardest thing to figure out for me. You tap the left trigger to aim down the sights, and hold the left bumper to hold your breath. Changing from first to third-person also changes the functions of other buttons slightly. It takes some practice, but it’s dynamic and authentic to the PC experience. – PUBG Corp./Microsoft

Not only does it feel natural to move and fight, but all of the nuance of the PC game is there. Players still have the freedom to make tactical decisions, to move from third-person to first-person, to aim down sights, to free-look while parachuting or running around.

Perhaps the biggest improvement is in the game’s driving. No more pecking at the WASD keys to get your nose pointed in the right direction, as the analog sticks on the Xbox controller were literally made for this.

All that being said, there’s clearly some technical issues. Once, while I was in the top 20, I experienced a crash to a black screen that kicked me out of the game entirely. Texture pop is awful, especially in the opening few minutes of each round. I’ve also heard that there are serious issues with frame rate on the Xbox One X and at 4K.

But this is an early access game. These things should be expected.

All I know is that I can get a solid 30 minutes of highly technical, thrilling, PC-style shooter action from my living room couch. Battlegrounds’ port is an achievement. For their next trick, PUBG Corp. just needs to follow through and finish the game.

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by Jon Fingas via Engadget

Many a gamer has had regrets about their choice of username — xXxDeathCrusher420xXx might not be quite so appealing in adult life as it was in your teenage years. And for PlayStation fans, that’s been a big problem when your PSN name has always been set in stone. Sony may have seen the light, though. In an interview at PlayStation Experience, the company’s Shawn Layden said he hoped to have a name change option available by next year’s Experience. So what’s the holdup? Layden didn’t dive into specifics, but he said the technical solutions were “more complex than you think.”

As Gamespot notes, Layden said in 2014 (yes, 2014) that Sony had to take steps to prevent griefing. It didn’t want trolls to cause havoc in one game, change their name and promptly ruin someone else’s play session. There’s also the matter of making sure that all your friends see the change. It’s unclear whether or not Sony might ask you to pay to change your handle, as Microsoft does on Xbox Live (again to discourage griefing), but setting up those exchanges could involve some work as well.

There’s no guarantee that Sony will have name changes in place. As you might have noticed, it’s been talking about the idea for years. The narrow time frame suggests the feature is getting close, however, and it’s easy to see this becoming a higher priority given that a PSN account is increasingly vital to making full use of your PS4.

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by Paul Tassi via Forbes

The rivalry between Xbox One and PS4 Destiny players is years old at this point, with the Sony version of the game always ending up with more content thanks to a never-ending deal with Activision. Continuing into Destiny 2, this really works against both groups, seeing that things like a PS4-exclusive sniper rifle can never be sold by Xur, or a PS4-exclusive strike can never be the Nightfall, yet that’s not enough of an issue for this partnership to be dissolved.

I finally got fed up with missing content on Xbox One, so for Destiny 2 I switched over to PS4, which always happens to be where most of the playerbase resides, given the console’s massive marketshare. It’s been…fine. I haven’t really noticed a difference because once you have all those missing items, you just view them as part of the game, not some special bonus. This is opposed to just being sad about not having X thing on Xbox, which is a hallmark of a deal that really does nothing except upset half your playerbase.

But I won’t lay into this deal for the 50th time. Rather, this is about another issue, one that gives Xbox One players the upper hand for the first time in Destiny’s history.

They can actually play the damn game.

I’m not joking. Destiny 2 on PS4 is reaching a point where playing it is more exhausting than it’s worth because of one error specifically. I cannot reach the Tower without a maddening series of glitches, crashes and restarts.

Yesterday, over the course of about two hours, I desperately tried to reach the Tower to decrypt engrams and turn in faction tokens for Faction Rally to try and secure the last few pieces of armor I’m missing.


What followed was a comedy of errors. Either my ship would get stuck in an infinite loading loop, floating above earth or trapped in an endless tunnel of light and color, never reaching its destination even if it sat there for 5, 10, 20 minutes. Or if I was lucky, the game would just crash outright right away, at least sparing the sense of false hope that I might actually reach the Tower.

I ended up having to go to the Farm (the Farm!) for the first time since the story campaign. There I could load in just fine, and seeing how there were about 20 other level 20 people there, I assume this is a common workaround. But while you can support the lesser-known Cryptarch that lives there by having her decrypt your engrams, you still need to access to the Tower to reach all three Vanguard vendors, the Gunsmith, and most pressingly this week, all three Faction vendors.

I would say I was able to reach the Tower maybe one out of every three to five attempts yesterday. This is not just some minor error. Every time the game crashes or you get stuck in a loading loop, you have to restart Destiny 2, load the title screen, load the character selection, load to your ship, and set the destination again and hope it works this time. It is not a quick process, and by the fourth Tower failure in a row late in the day yesterday, I had to set down my controller and literally walk away from the game. This was just a waste of time.


Bungie and Sony are aware of this issue, or at least some version of it. Previously, there was an error where every time you logged out of the game either manually or through inactivity, Destiny 2 would blue screen crash. That was fixed in a new patch, but now Bungie says they’re working with Sony to resolve this Tower crash, and hopefully the infinite loading loop as well, which is almost worse.

The common thread here? This is a Sony-exclusive error. Every time I complain about it online, I get a dozen Xbox One players saying they’ve never had a problem loading into the Tower since launch, followed by a bunch of jokes about how this is karma for me switching to the “enemy console.”

They’re right! I hate this. I really do. Destiny is already a time consuming game already, but wrestling with the basic functionality of going to the most important social hub of the game makes me want to stop playing until the issue is fixed. To me, it feels like it’s getting worse. I’ve had some Tower issues before this, but never what I experienced yesterday.


I hope this is resolved soon, but until it is, Xbox One players, enjoy your temporary victory. Lord knows after all these years you deserve one.

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by Napier Lopez

The Oculus Rift sparked the virtual reality race, but so far, VR has mostly remained the realm of extreme enthusiasts and one-off gimmicks. Now Facebook is looking to achieve true mass market appeal with a standalone Oculus headset.

According to Bloomberg, Facebook is planning to unveil an Oculus headset later this year that relies on neither a cellphone (a la Google Cardboard or Gear VR) nor a powerful PC (like the Rift or Vive). The device – codenamed ‘Pacific’ – will be built by Xiaomi and cost around $200 when it ships next year.

The report isn’t particularly surprising. Mark Zuckerberg described standalone headsets as the VR “sweet spot” during last year’s Oculus conference, and basically confirmed one was in the works:

We don’t have a product to unveil at this time, however we can confirm we’re making several significant technology investments in the standalone VR category.

Going by Bloomberg’s description, Pacific will likely be similar to the Gear VR in overall function and capabilities. It shares a similar interface and can also be controlled with a wireless remote.

Despite the low price point (compared to buying a smartphone and the VR enclosure), the device is supposed to be lighter and more powerful (at least for gaming) than the current Gear VR options. It won’t include spatial tracking like the Rift at first, but that will arrive in a future version.

Oculus is also planning a headset that duplicates the functions of the Rift, but wirelessly. It would likely have a battery pack for powering the internal hardware, and beam data back and forth with your PC, as seen in some accessories for the Vive.

Standalone VR headsets are the logical end goal for VR. Though they won’t be as powerful as the ones requiring a PC, they’ll certainly be the most practical. Facebook envisions the Pacific as a headset that small and practical enough that people will be able to pull out it of their bag and use it to distract themselves during a flight.

It’s a future where you can teleport yourself to an IMAX theater during a boring seven-hour flight. That’s the world I want to live in.

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Sony can kill the Xbox One X

Posted: June 13, 2017 in Opinion Piece



The war is going to be over price

by Ben Kuchera via Polygon

Microsoft had a decision to make: Did it want to price the Xbox One X at $499.99 and just say that it had the most powerful console without selling the system in great numbers, or did it want to release the system at $399.99 and get competitive with Sony when it comes to the actual hardware?

The Xbox One X will be $499.99, and that means Sony can go in for the killing blow tonight. That price is a mistake.

The PlayStation 4 Pro is $399.99 at the time of this writing, and Sony can increase the price difference by dropping it to either $349.99 or $299.99, if the company really wants to get nasty. Sony has a history of twisting the knife when Microsoft exposes a vulnerability, and dropping the price of its most powerful console to make the Xbox One X seem even more expensive than it does right now would be an effective strategy.

Sony wants to continue outselling the Xbox, and dropping the price of the PlayStation 4 Pro is an easy way to keep its lead. If there’s a $150 or more difference in price between the Pro and the Xbox One X, the more expensive system doesn’t stand much of a chance to sell in high numbers.

“I think that the price point is too high,” Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter stated. “Consoles have historically failed at this price point, and consumers seem unwilling to accept anything over $399. The X will have even more trouble, because the S is at $249 and so is the PS4. A consumer could buy both the S and the PS4 for the cost of an X, so it makes it a tough decision for anyone who is budget conscious or constrained. I think it will resonate well with the wealthy few who buy it, but I think it’s too expensive.”

You can argue that the Xbox One X is more powerful — and you’d be right! — but it’s tricky to show that difference to players who don’t have a 4K television. There’s no clear, instantly recognizable advantage the Xbox One X provides based on everything we’ve seen so far. Both systems increase the visual fidelity of existing games, and the Xbox One S even delivers a variety of 4K features at a much lower price. Raw power and stats are likely to prove less powerful in the market than price and value, and Microsoft is about to find out the hard way.

 Sony may be comfortable in its lead right now, but dropping the price of the PlayStation 4 Pro would be an amazing dunk on Microsoft.

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