XBonX

I wasn’t intending on commenting this year’s E3 at all. Why? Life’s busy when you’re working your ass off and doing favours for friends. Nevertheless, here I am, repeating the same song I’ve been singing about Microsoft year after year; they need to get their shit together and move away from pushing PC gaming to console platform.

Let’s start with the beginning, the Xbox One X. If there’s something Microsoft and other console companies should learn from Nintendo is that naming your console is important as hell. The 3DS and Wii U both caused confound consumer confusion. Wii U was mixed as an update add-on for the Wii at its first unveiling. 3DS went well in comparison, but there was a period of confusion as well with those who aren’t Red Ocean consumers. The name is absolutely retarded. XBox One was backwards as hell and the title Xbone was well deserved. Xbox One X is a step towards the worse. You know have Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X on sale and Microsoft is talking about a console family. If there’s one thing that most people seem to agree about consoles is that they’re meant to simplify and straighten the whole business of playing games. This is the same shit that Valve did with Steam Machines and that went so damn well. At least give it a proper name to make it stand apart, like Xbox Scorpio or something. Having multiple systems for one console (family even, if you will) sure worked great for Sega. Certainly, the game market is different, but so is the economy and people are more savvy, generally speaking.

Hell, even the people on stage had to correct themselves first not to say Xbone. That tells quite a lot about how much people are respecting the brand and name of their flagship gaming console. Furthermore, why did they live through There’s no greater power than X? X+1 is greater than X. If they wanted to keep this philosophy going, they should’ve started naming their consoles after powers, like Xbox². Shit would’ve made more sense. Microsoft now also has a console with three Xs in there. Have fun with even more XXX jokes in the future.

The whole hardware centric mentality is computer gaming culture. It’s the same old song. History rhymes with itself, this time with 4k gaming. Remember when HD gaming was the next thing after the Fourth Generation of consoles? People still had their non-HD LCD television sets everywhere in their living rooms, CRT televisions were still a very common thing. Many miss the point that television sets costs loads of money and people are resistant on purchasing new hardware. Consumers will go their way out not to purchase extra hardware until something breaks down, unless they’re the forerunner technophiles that need to have the latest shit right away.

How much Microsoft pushed 4k as the defining trait of their software (and how this represented how XbonX was the most powerful console ever) tells how affairs are in a sad state. 4k is just becoming a standard with consumers (it’ll still take beyond 2020 before they’re widespread enough to be called common) but standard HD is something that’s just set in. The transition period is longer than what either Microsoft or Sony expects. I’ll give them this, future proofing their console is a decent idea, but it doesn’t really help when all your showcase games are either something that people have been playing on PC for some time now, or don’t look any better than what’s out right now. Microsoft is chasing behind Sony, but at least they’ve realised that VR is dead and weren’t pushing that. There were no gimmicks.

However, XbonX is the antithesis of current Ninth Generation that is the Switch. While XBonX emphasizes on living room gaming, the Switch’s hybrid status is where consumers have already gone. 4k means very little when people have a HD screen in their pockets to consume their time with. Microsoft is targeting the very core of Red Ocean consumer with their line of products. Xbox probably will stay successful only in the US, Europe and Asia just don’t give a damn about the aims Microsoft has for it. It doesn’t help that most of its games showcased were either ports of PC games or timed exclusives, meaning that the XbonX basically has no exclusives. Costing at $499 (I can guarantee that it’ll cost more in Europe) and having about fifteen multiplayer games prevously seen on PC and backwards compatibility with the first Xbox’s games, the price is far too high, especially when we can already foresee both Nintendo and Sony dropping their consoles’ prices just to give Microsoft the middle finger. Well, Nintendo doesn’t even need to, they just need to roll out some good software. Sony on the other hand needs distance themselves with the VR.

If there was one thing that further cemented the fact that Microsoft has their priorities mixed. Ten minutes of showcasing a damn car in an electronic entertainment expo is like promoting a new television show during an opera play. The whole Porche showcase was aimed at the hardcore racing and car fans. Sure, it’s always nice to see companies have licenses for real life cars for racing games, but this sort of masturbatory self-congratulations over getting a damn car taking your time away from games nothing short of short sighted. They should’ve just showcased it on-screen, introduce the driver and tell the people to check the car out on the stage floor and have a separate event there with further emphasize on the whole real-fucking-sportcar aspect.

Let’s not forget that most, if not all of the demos shows, were scripted from the get-go and will not represent the finished version. This tendency is unethical, no matter how much develops and publishers want to cover their assess with labels stating Does not represent finalised product or some shit. There was clearly an emphasize on certain titles over other.

Somehow watching all this has made me very weary. From a general perspective, there was nothing new. Those who follow modern PC gaming even a little bit have no need for the console, and Microsoft didn’t introduce anything worthwhile. Their emphasize of supporting the creative people who work in the industry and wanting to create the most powerful console to let these people to realize their dreams doesn’t help jack shit if they’re not going to listen to the consumer wants and wishes and only concentrate on mediocre trophy products. Hardware does not make or guarantee a good game. They’re not missing this point (though this can be doubted), but their market spiel is just overriding everything else.

ICD-11 proposal for gaming disorder has no basis

World Health Organization has a new proposal in the ICD-11 category, one which would add ‘Gaming disorder’ as a valid disease. The definition for this disease would be the impaired control over daily life in which video games would gain priority despite negative consequences. This is tied to Hazardous gaming, where a pattern of gaming that causes physical or mental harm to the individual or to people around of this individual. Hazardous gaming is essentially just a step towards gaming disorder.

I’m calling bullshit on this proposal as it is now.

You probably clicked the link above and read the short description for gaming disorder. Just from that alone we can surmise few problems the proposal has. First of all, the proposal includes only video games, leaving arcade and PC gaming alone, and hazardous gaming simply refers it as ‘gaming.‘ Granted, the terminology I’m using is more old fashioned in comparison, but using video game as an umbrella term for all electronic gaming is weak at best and shows the authors have little knowledge of the industry’s history. Because of this the proposal ignores the fact that games like pachislot, that is undeniably a video game if we were to use the modern umbrella term, are more dependent on gambling addiction than on the proposed form of gaming disorder.

To add to this, those who are playing video games as a career in some form would be singled out to have this disorder. Psychology as a soft science struggles with things like this, as case studies may not apply to the larger population and vice versa. Furthermore, what is considered harmful in these cases is somewhat open question again. The discussion about what is normal behaviour falls into behavioural psychology a bit too heavily and would be a discussion on its own. I would argue in this case that a person who would have symptoms of gaming disorder may simply be a person who is a hermit and finds solitude in his hobby instead of mingling with people. Whether or not he has a disorder would be questioned. Furthermore, if we were to change the hobby in an individual case like this to something like watching movies, would he then have movie viewing disorder? Such disorder does not exist in the papers and has never been proposed thus far.

There are no long-term studies that would support gaming disorder as proposed. Even short-term studies are hard to come by, and the few examples I had in my mind have eluded for me for the time being. However, the addictive action that electronic games offer is not much any different from other forms of similar activities, but these are not singled out as separate diseases for whatever reason. No other leisure activity like video games, or electronic gaming if you’re an old fart like me, has been singled out like this. While some could argue that gambling falls into this category as a singled out, the psychology of gambling is a bit too much to open here and has proper research basis to back it up.

Furthermore, 26 scholars have written an open letter, rebutting this proposal. You can read the whole thing at Research Gate. Their arguments is that inclusion for gaming disorder, even as a proposal, would have economic effects on the industry. Singling a media out like this would be akin to showcasing the harmful effects of tobacco, the difference here being tobacco’ negative effects had solid evidence behind them. Possible effects of this proposal would be adverse limitations on the industry at large. At worst, possible prohibitions and limitations of what sort of games and what content games could have could be realised. South Korea already employs harsh limitations on games as it is. Last UN’s CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) wanted to ban Japanese media that depicted sexual violence against women. Kumiko Yamada, the representative of Japanese wing of Women’s Institute of Contemporary Media Culture, responded to CEDAW’s proposal by stating that their view on the matter was an absolute No. Translated version on Niche Gamer. The reasoning to Japan’s response was that first of all, they are fiction and do not threaten real people. Second reason was that these fields are filled with women, and such ban would do the exact opposite what CEDAW’s aimed at, as disallowing these women to portray fiction whatever they wished would create new venues of sexism towards women. If this proposal about gaming disorder would pass, it would mean limitations and even bans similar to this would come to pass under the guise of population health concerns.

As the open letter states, passing the proposal could lead into a moral panic. Gaming in general is no foreign to these, as the industry’s history is well marked with controversies regarding violent games, and more recently about games with sexual content. This would tie itself to the aforementioned limitations and bans, when in reality no good evidence is backing up.

As such, if the proposal would to pass, it would be met with harsh criticism and high scepticism from both common population and scholars. The open letter goes even further and states that passing gaming disorder would harm WHO’s reputation and medical community in general, would dramatically reduce the utility of such a diagnosis, especially when it is not grounded in proper evidence base. Singling games out from the rest of the media out there would open a Pandora’s box of behavioural disorders, where any and all activities from sports to gardening could be diagnosed as a behavioural disorder, saturating and demeaning the whole field at large.

The question you may have now whether or not I am deluded enough to say that there is no disordered gaming. That answer would be No. There are numerous ways a person may end up playing games more that it is healthy, but in numerous researched I’ve read the core reason is more often than not somewhere else. An action in itself can be just a symptom, and singling our excessive gaming in itself disorder would put a patient in possible danger if the underlying reasons are not solved and properly treated. The proposal’s worst case scenario considering health could be treating a symptom while completely disregarding the cause.

Switch the talk from hardware

I really do sound like a broken record at this point. With the leaks about Switch being less powerful than the PlayStation 4, things have gotten on the overdrive again with calling it a failure on the launch. None of Nintendo’s more powerful consoles have been a success. As Yamauchi said, a game console is just a box to play games on.

Take a look at Nintendo’s history with consoles. NES was underpowered compared to its competitors, yet it came on the top. Well, except in Europe, where Nintendo fucked their marketing and Europeans had their computer games. SNES was ultimately weaker than the Mega Drive thanks to the addons and despite them still came to the top, not to mention the other competitors of the time. N64 failed despite having more powerful hardware than the PlayStation or Saturn. GameCube too was ultimately a failure despite topping the PS2. The Wii was a massive hit despite being weaker. The Wii U on the other hand had jack shit when it came to software (just like the N64) and had that huge controller nobody wanted. The same can be seen in the handheld market. The Game Boy slaughtered all of its competition as did the DS. The Vita could have trumped the 3DS if it had any software worth shit, but SONY repeated the exact same travesty they did with the PSP.

The common consumer doesn’t give jack shit about how strong a console is. Why? Because they know hardware does not mean better games. People absolutely hate paying for new hardware, because it’s the games that matter. The hardware race has always been part of the PC culture, not console. Consoles have been about software race. Tech fans no need to apply for console gaming, if we’re being brutally blunt here.

Because Super Mario Bros. was such a success, you saw a lieu of games trying to replicate its success, most notably Sonic the Hedgehog. The developers just need to do their job and optimise the games, and even better, design games from the ground up for the Switch and all is golden. Of course, because everything just runs on the same engine as everything else and nobody bothers doing any extensive optimisation to ensure the smoothest possible experience (or even know how to do that at worst case) we’ll just get sad and hastily put together ports.

Consumers never bought Nintendo consoles for them being Nintendo consoles. Not outside fanboys. People bought them for the software, for Mario and Zelda. People bought PlayStation for the same reason; it had games they wanted to play, not because the hardware. Nintendo is not a niche as some would assume because of their approach. No, on the contrary. Their consoles tended to be cheaper and smaller than the competitors’ because of matured technology. This is again one of those things we’ve gone over so many times, but seems like people are still ignoring the fact when Nintendo uses Gunpei Yokoi’s philosophy alongside Yamauchi’s, they strike gold. Nintendo, when they are at their best (NES, Game Boy, Wii) Nintendo is far from being a niche. Electronic games isn’t just a hobby of selected group of people, but something all can enjoy, and striking that Blue Ocean should be expected and even wanted, not the opposite. Losing hope over lack of hardware prowess is useless. Your life doesn’t depend on a game console, go outside camping sometimes.

Switch has few points going for it that most seem to ignore. One is the cartridges. This needs more fanfare, as it means the games themselves will be far more longlasting than the optical media. The lack of long loading times helps too. Oh now you care about hardware? Oh you. Secondly, the fact that the Switch is a hybrid also means the games are not required to be connected to the Internet all the damn time.

The biggest problem the Switch currently has is the fact that Nintendo isn’t showcasing any of that software. This is the sole reason why people are talking about Switch’s hardware to the extent they currently are and each and every bit of information is torn apart. There’s nothing else to talk about the Switch, and I haven’t seen anyone else to discuss its design either. The latest The Legend of Zelda got pushed back too, so the media can’t discuss that either. So, hardware it is for them to keep the clicks up. I guess I’m no better, commenting on the fact. Unless Nintendo rolls something significant on the software side with the Switch, there’s no valid reason for me to discuss it any further.

One of my New Year’s promises should be to throw this broken record to trash and just re-blog the sentence Software matters more than hardware whenever applicable.

Digital gambling?

It’s a thing you don’t hear much. I was reading a book this morning with family, and I heard something about games, be it digital or traditional (as they put) having an adverse effect on people who play them.  There was no true cohesion in what they were saying, talking about gambling and money games in general via mobile devices and such. Not until they started showcasing Counter Strike and talking about how that affects people too. They were speaking of esports.

It sounds so unnecessary. Electronic gaming seems to be a term these people do no simply use and in the views of those who handle addicted gamblers, digital gaming seems to be largely the same thing as their paper counterpart. What throws a spin to this whole thing is that the professional commentator of digital gaming in the show portrayed video and console games as a whole in the same light as gambling. All of them share the same points of decision-making and addictive qualities, she said. I had to question aloud whether or not this was an intentional narrative made to showcase that Super Mario Bros. is in the same league and Internet poker. In whatever game in general, be it soccer or the like, we go through similar thought patterns and have to discern the best outcome. We gamble and we may win or lose against the odds, there’s nothing special to it in of itself. Gambling addicts are a whole another thing, as are the people who sit days worth in front of the computer playing MMORPGs and start to get rotten feet.

The idea of labeling all electronic games under one banner is largely stupid, especially when digital game is, essentially, just a synonym for a video game. After all, a video game is a visual multimedia source that is combined with set rules and controls the player interact and commands, often to achieve a victory condition. Some form of money may be present, especially in modern mobile phone games, but that alone should not be contrasted to gambling.

The first thing I found about digital gaming as such was from Peluuri, an online site for gambling addicts. Without noticing it, those who consume electronic games in genera have been lumped together with gambling addicts. The reason isn’t hard to guess; news about some child dropping thousands into a mobile game for whatever reason still pop up frequently, and the fact that esports has brought the dimension of gambling into video game circuits.

Except, what the expert in the telly show was talking about the problems digital gaming brings with it, and the aforementioned website confirms her assertions. Problem gaming is defined excessive amount of time and/or money spend on money games, that have a negative effect on the person’s life, like his psychic or physical health, studies or work life, economy and/or human relations. …for those who consume computer games in large quantities, it was noted that they share similar problems with handling their emotions, channeling them properly or escapism via games similar to those who gamble. All this seems to give note that while site speaks mostly about gambling, the people who handle gambling addicts have dropped video game addicts into the same category because the majority of the addicts on either side share the same psychological problems.

Why the hell do people think games are the reason when even these help websites clearly say that’s in the person and not in the game that’s wrong?

Why the hell do they find a need to use digital gaming? What’s the point of using yet another term for something that already had two valid terms? There is now answer, but I’ll amuse myself this a bit. Video and computer games replaced electronic gaming at one point completely, and now that both of those terms have been dragged through the mud for a good couple of decades now, the current generation that doesn’t want to associate their research and intentions with any of have decided to choose a more diplomatic term. We do live in a digital age, after all.

The advent of esports of course seems to have played a rather large part in this. People gamble which team will win, and biased researchers will see whatever they want in the electronic/digital/computer/console game landscape. Is the person who contests in esports comparable to a person who gambles? Perhaps to a person who gambles at a tournament, but I’d make a comparison with a race driver more. Sponsors put money into the machines the competitor then puts all his efforts in. Esports is someone’s career after all, at least to some extent.

In the end, making it a game addiction when people don’t have any other outlet to channel their problems into is deceptive, blaming the thing that’s being used to channel things rather than accuse the person of wrongdoing. It’s the same with same when games are blamed to cause shootings. In the end, the individual person and his problems are always the key to everything. If gambling, video games, booze, driving, masturbation, rock climbing or any other activity worsens their life, why in the hell are their relatives and friends letting him ruin his life like that? Even adults needs help, sometimes forced.

Traditionally, gambling has been treated as its own thing while all other forms of addiction, be it sports or the like, have been their own thing. Mixing computer and console games give them the wrong connotation, and adding digital gaming as a new thing for the old doesn’t help. Not that the common consumer even cares about this, all they want is to have those drunkard failed gamblers off their block, and get those no-good video game nerds outside to breathe some fresh air and mingle with other people.

A lack of steam in a machine

Valve’s Steam Machines were launched some seven months ago. They’ve made no impact on the consumers’ habits or to the general scene. The industry expected them to have an impact or challenge the existing consoles, but the reality is, nobody outside hardcore Steam fans gave a damn about them.

Not even their controller has made a huge impact. They’ve sold about a half million Steam controllers according to themselves (which may or may not be an exaggerated number) and the number compared to the amount of Steam’s users is laughably low. The thing is, computer is the king of input devices. You can essentially add any input device you want and even build your own, and then hope for the best the games on Steam support it, and that their anti-piracy system doesn’t screw you over. But that’s the point; PC itself is that Wild West of every thing’s free, but Steam limits the user, and Valve trying to push the Steam controller is an example of further putting that console twist to what essentially is a digital console.

However, are all these controller sold separately? Without a doubt no. This half million sales figure most likely includes sold Steam Machines as well, which would mean that the Machines have probably sold less than a half million in six month’s sales period. There are no exact numbers anywhere, and we’ll most likely never hear any. Valve had partnered with numerous companies from Alienware to NEN to deliver their machines, a thing that caused more confusion to the general public than anything else.

People who already wanted to play console games on a power PC already had their gaming rig build and ready to go, and those who didn’t want to spend few thousands to build a supercomputer were satisfied with the console versions for their own reasons.

The Steam Machine is a physical iteration of a digital games console, and it showed that people aren’t willing to dish out money on yet another machine to play games when they have a computer to run Steam on. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbone sold over a million units on their first day back in 2013. To compare how well those two sold compared to Steam Machine, PS4 had sold 10.2 million units and Xbone 5.5 million in the same passing of time.

Steam Machine has been barely a splash in a puddle, comparable to any other dud console in the game history, especially with Valve’s status. If we’re completely honest, Steam OS is an idea worth jack shit as it supports no standards widely used. Linux is a nice thing but has its own problems, while Windows still rules as the standard OS across the world in most cases, followed and overtaken by Apple’s machines in certain fields. There is no reason for a consumer to move from their standard current setup to a dedicated Steam console. There are no benefits to do so, especially when Steam is free to download.

Steam Machines have nothing to do with PC gaming, much like how the only thing Steam has to do with PC gaming is that it’s a software on PC that functions like a game console. Giving Steam Machines any credit for driving Linux gaming is stupid, as Valve already released a version of Steam catered for Linux users before Steam Machines.

What appeal do the Steam Machines have? I have to ask this, as it seems that everything was against them. They had no exclusive deals that other consoles had as all titles that were offered through it were also available on the Windows Steam. The controller had put off a lot of people due to its general functions, especially in an environment where you can put a goddamn fleshlight into the USB jack and play games by using your hip movement. Their price range is rather on the high-end, starting from around five hundred dollars if their site is to be believed. That puts it automatically above the basic budget the common consumer wants to put into a game console, and both Xbone and PS4 are cheaper. Whatever capabilities the Steam OS is wasted on a  Steam Machine, when you probably have a computer sitting next to your desk.

Steam Machine baffles me. What was the point of it in the end? To make a computer more user-friendly for a console user?  If that was the intention, they’ve underestimated their consumer base in a major way.  A console is just a box to play games on, and without anything special on a particular console (especially in the price range they are in) Steam Machines withered fast. It doesn’t help that after the Steam Machines’ launch, Valve did exactly jack shit with them and their promotion has been worse than the new Ghostbusters’.

The only good thing from all this is the fact that Valve really is intending to push Linux gaming further, but as said, Valve had been pushing that before Steam Machines. Without a doubt they are one of the major reasons why they are doing it now, and perhaps had planned it beforehand. Valve should drop their nigh stupidly manical ideas of pushing a physical iteration of Steam any further or an Operating System dedicated to it, and stick with driving more Linux and OS compatible titles.

The last thing that shows that Valve failed with Steam Machines that there is no buzz about them. There is not discussion on the general level or even news about them. Occasionally you can see news about Xbox or PlayStation, even about the Wii U. People will discuss them and their games. Steam Machines will be a footnote on electronic gaming history alongside Atari Jaguar.

However, that controller of theirs has still something in it. It’s floating in the ether and pops up in discussion about controllers, but that seems to be it. Still a failure in the end.