Quest Length Leads to Gamer Addiction? (EuroGamer.net)

Huh. I didn’t really see this coming. I mean, often times quests only take five or 10 minutes each. I don’t think the actual length of a question has any bearing at all. No one plays 90 minutes on a single quest and “some” gamers is a very, very, very tiny percentage. Nothing like a shock statistic to get folks to rally around banning video games for our health.

Now, if we’re talking about raiding…that’s a completely different animal.

How much time do folks spend watching TV in a week? Oy.

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Cyber psychologist calls on MMORPG developers to shorten long quests

To help prevent addiction and potential government intervention.

A cyber psychologist has called on the developers of massively multiplayer online role-playing games to help prevent addiction by tweaking their design.

Dr Zaheer Hussain, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Derby, called on MMORPG designers to look into the structure of their games, and suggested shortening long quests.The recommendation was made in “Social responsibility in online videogaming: What should the videogame industry do?“, a new study authored by Dr Hussain, Dr Shumaila Yousafzai from the Cardiff Business School and Professor Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham Trent University and director of the International Gaming Research Unit.The study, published in the Addiction Research and Theory journal, recommended developers reconsider the structure of their games in order to avoid government intervention of a kind seen in Asia.

The study said some gamers play up to 90 hours a session, developing a “pathological” addiction. A distinction was made between video games with an ending and MMORPGs, which do not. The researchers said around seven to 11 per cent of players were considered “pathological” gamers.

Dr Hussain said: “As a first step online game developers and publishers need to look into the structural features of the game design, for example the character development, rapid absorption rate, and multiplayer features which could make them addictive and or problematic for some gamers.

“One idea could be to shorten long quests to minimise the time spent in the game obtaining a certain prized item.”

In a BBC report, UKIE boss Dr Jo Twist responded to the study, saying: “There is no medical diagnosis of game addiction but like anything enjoyable in life, some people play games excessively.”

This isn’t the first time game addiction, particularly in reference to MMORPGs, has hit the headlines, and Blizzard’s hugely popular World of Warcraft is often cited in these cases.

In December 2010 Panorama investigated the issue in a programme called “Addicted to Games?”. In it, Panorama reporter Raphael Rowe met a mother who cut off her internet connection at home because she was worried about the amount of time her 19-year-old son was spending playing World of Warcraft.

At the time, Blizzard issued Panorama the following statement: “Our games are designed to be fun… but like all forms of entertainment… day-to-day life should always take precedence. World of Warcraft contains practical tools that assist players and parents in monitoring playing time.”

And in August 2012 the issue re-emerged after CNN met with people who had been in South Korean treatment centers for gaming addiction.

Then, Blizzard issued another statement.

“Games are meant to be a source of entertainment, and as with movies, books, sports, and music, we recognise that different people participate for different durations. With any form of entertainment, we feel it’s important to exercise personal responsibility and be mindful of outside obligations. It’s never our intent for our players to play our games to the exclusion of other activities.

“We also feel that a person’s day-to-day life should take precedence over any form of entertainment and that it’s ultimately up to the individual game player or his or her parent or guardian to determine how long he or she should spend playing any game.

“It’s important to note that players are able to jump into our games and accomplish appreciable and fulfilling goals, such as competing in matches, completing quests or matches, purchasing or selling equipment for their characters, hunting monsters, and socialising with friends, in a short amount of time, making our games enjoyable with minimal time commitments.”

In China, the Ministry of Culture has imposed strict restrictions on online gaming, designed to regulate the amount of time young people spend playing. Simon Parkin investigated café fatalities in Taiwan in an article published on Eurogamer last year.

A useful resource on MMO game addiction and the motivations of play is The Daedalus Project, which is the work of social scientist Nick Yee. The Daedalus Project, currently in hibernation, was an online survey of more than 40,000 MMORPG players that looked into how people interacted and competed in virtual worlds. Yee found about 50 per cent of MMORPG players would consider themselves addicted to the game.

OUYA? The Little Console That Could – Maybe

If you’re like me, you’d never heard of OUYA until last week when the cops were called to the convention to settle a dispute over the legality of OUYA showing up outside of the convention hall and offering their own booths. The publicity did nothing but excite folks about OUYA and give it a ton more press than it would have otherwise received. Go competition!

So, what is OUYA and why all the fuss?

Hands-on with the Ouya destined for store shelves

Eurogamer.net offers an extensive review of the OUYA. Below are a few excerpts of their review.

Kickstarted to the tune of $8.5 million, the Ouya console is one of crowdfunding’s high-profile success stories. Depending on who you listen to, it’s also the system to pull the rug from beneath Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo and forever shake up the video game industry as we know it. It liberates players, empowers developers and creates a brave new world for interactive entertainment – or so we’re told, at least. The hyperbole that has been written about Ouya would make the most seasoned spin doctor blush, but before you allow yourself to become too swept up in the hype, it’s worth remembering that when all is said and done, Ouya is just Android in a set-top box – and we’ve already spoken about how potentially disappointing that particular reality could be.

In purely physical terms, Ouya is small. The first thing likely to strike you when you open the packaging and remove the touching “Thank You” note inserted by the team behind the console is just how diminutive the system is. Compared to traditional gaming hardware, it’s absolutely tiny, although at 300 grams it has a heft which makes it feel solid and expensive. Béhar’s design is destined to divide opinion: the minimalist appearance ensures it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb when placed next to your Blu-ray player and surround system, but a little more pizazz wouldn’t have gone amiss. Still, there’s a subtle, almost understated beauty to the machine, thanks to its glossy black top and sand-blasted aluminium casing. Around the back, you’ll find an array of ports and outputs. HDMI, USB, Micro USB, Ethernet and power cables all dock here.

Essentially an Android device without a screen, Ouya is based around Nvidia’s ageing Tegra 3 chipset, featuring a 1.7GHz quad-core CPU and GeForce graphics processor, encased in a small, fan-cooled cube-like package. Retailing for just £99/$99, it’s cheaper than your average entry-level Android handset, but lacks the same app and game support offered by other Android devices.

The controller is powered by two AA batteries, fitted behind metal panels which clip onto the main body of the pad via a set of magnets. The interface arrangement mimics that of the Xbox 360 controller, with the left-hand analogue stick raised slightly higher than the right-hand one in order to accommodate an eight-way digital pad. The face buttons adopt the now-standard diamond layout, and across the top there are four shoulder buttons – none of which offer analogue control, which could limit the machine’s suitability for hardcore racing simulators and FPS titles. The middle of the controller has a small capacitive touchpad which acts as a mouse pointer and can be used to negotiate certain menus, but it’s awkward to use and rarely provides the degree of accuracy you desire. Finally, there’s the Ouya button, which can be held down to jump back to the main menu from any point. It’s worth noting that by default, the Ouya is designed to run one application at a time – exiting back to the main menu will terminate the current game, so saving your progress is vital.

The Ouya pad’s design certainly isn’t unappealing, and it’s comfortable to use. There are some minor niggles to contend with, however. The “O” button sticks slightly when pressed down hard, and while the analogue stick dead zone issues are mostly resolved, the sticks themselves are still rather heavy to use, making precise aiming rather a chore.

Because it’s an Android device, adding peripherals to Ouya is blissfully easy. Bluetooth keyboards and mice can be paired with little fuss, making it much easier to input text and navigate menus. Additional Bluetooth gamepads can also be linked to the system, such as the official OnLive pad. OnLive is partnering with Ouya for the official launch, and while the unit we reviewed didn’t have the app pre-installed (it’s also absent from the Ouya store), we were able to sideload it onto the system and jump into a game of Batman: Arkham Asylum with the minimum of effort. By adding a USB hub, keyboard and mouse functionality is easily added and it’s here that Ouya surprises as a pretty neat little browsing device – a world away from the world of hardship, endurance and woe encountered when using the Raspberry Pi.

The console’s online store offers a selection of games, all of which are free to download and play, thanks to the manufacturer’s stipulation that all Ouya content offers gratis demos or free-to-play elements. For example, endless-runner Canabalt HD has a credit system which is renewed each day, with additional credits awarded for reaching 5000 metres in-game. Paying cash for the full version removes this limitation, as well as offering other bonuses, such as a different soundtrack and “classic” 2D visuals. It’s a mechanic which means you can jump straight into the action and decide for yourself if a game is worthy of your cash, but there are issues here, too. There’s no indication on the store listing page of how much each game costs – you only become notified at the point of purchase within the game itself. This is partly down to the fact that many of the games don’t expect you to shell out for the full version once you’ve sampled the demo, because you’re already playing the full version, and are expected to throw money at in-app purchases which grant more credit, items or time.

So, generally good stuff. Unfortunately, while the OUYA offers an extremely accessible entry fee of $99 and has solid Kidstarter funding and some positive press, I believe there are two major issues ahead for the OUYA.

First, it’s already got less than half the processing power of smartphones launched earlier this year. Phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the HTC One have a ton more processing power than the OUYA. A 1GHz processor is so…2011. A console has to launch with enough power to play the latest games and give developers reason to continue launching games on your platform. I think the OUYA is already struggling in this regard.

Second, consoles need incredible games to convince players they “need it”. While OUYA boasts support for 150 games (it dinged up from 149 earlier today), are any of those games individually reason enough to buy an OUYA? Here’s the official list of games supported by OUYA. However, given it’s an Android OS, that does mean OUYA can run regular smartphone apps, streaming, etc.

All that 1080p goodness isn’t just for gaming. OUYA brings all your favorite apps to the big screen, streaming shows, movies, and music directly into the living room. We’ve already partnered with Twitch.tv, Crunchyroll, iheartradio, TuneIn, XBMC, Plex and Flixster and are adding more to our list daily.

Unfortunately, without a HALO or Mario or The Last Of Us or real support from the major gaming studios, I don’t have a ton of confidence in the OUYA’s success. According to OUYAGamingSource.com, the best games at launch will be The Ball, Saturday Morning RPG, and Polarity, none of which really excite me. Just one of the blockbuster titles or franchises could mean a world of difference for OUYA.

That said, it’s not really all doom and gloom. Engadget’s hands-on last week left them with this:

Our latest experience with the Android-based gaming device has us feeling optimistic. While there’s certainly work left to be done, not the least of which is convincing consumers this is the console they need, it’s obvious that the company is taking customer feedback seriously. And that’s not something most companies can brag about.

What do you think? Are you looking to drop $99 just to investigate the hype? Is the low cost of entry something that makes OUYA more appealing? I’ve always been a fan of competition and usually root for the underdog. I think the concept is great, but to get me to drop off my PC gaming, I need more incentive. I’m definitely interested in how OUYA’s launch goes on June 25th. You can pre-order yours here.

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