YouGov: UK Majority Believes Video Games Cause Violence (Gamasutra.com)

Honestly, I feel like they’re asking all the wrong questions. Maybe the CDC’s investigation will return different results?

I do not believe normal, average people are going to be negatively impacted by violence in video games or TV or movies or paintball courses. I play violent video games, I still give to charity, and I’m still generous and loving with family and friends. It’s also extremely apparent that age is the biggest difference as to whether or not people believe if video games are a negative influence or not, which means public opinion should shift substantially over the next two decades.

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The debate surrounding whether video games cause real-world violence and aggression continues to rage on as it always has — especially with the launch of Grand Theft Auto V last week.

A new study from UK-based market research firm YouGov this week suggests that the more familiar a person is with video games in general, the less they believe that there is a connection between in-game violence and real-life violence.

Dr. Andrew Przybylski, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, surveyed nearly 2,000 adults in the UK, with a wide ranging mix of ages, beliefs and experience with video games. Of those surveyed, around 53 percent said they play games, with 19 percent saying they play games “most days.”

The survey found that 61 percent of UK residents believe that playing video games can be a cause of real-world violence and aggression.

Breaking down the data reveals far more interesting statistics, however. Take the age break-down, for example — most of the people surveyed between the ages of 18 and 39 disagreed that video games caused real-life aggression, while an overwhelming number of 60+ year olds said there was a link (79 percent, in fact).

Generation Gap 3.pngIn other words, the older the person surveyed, the more likely they were to believe that there’s a connection between video game violence and real-life violence. The older people surveyed also were more likely to disagree that video games can be utilized as an outlet for frustrations and aggression.

The experience and gender gaps

There were other notable gaps beside the age correlation — both gender and video game experience were picked out as part of the report.

71 percent of the women surveyed said that they believe violent video games can cause real-world aggression. This compared to 48 percent of men who agreed there was a connection.

And when looking at those people who have played games versus those who have no experience with games, the results are as you’d expect: 74 percent of those surveyed who don’t play games said games can cause aggression and violence, while 47 percent of those who play games agreed there was a connection.

Players who had experience with violent games, however, disagreed far more that there is a connection. 35 percent of people who play violent video games said violent games can lead to real-world violence.

2013 International Serious Play Award Winners (Gamasutra.com)

Gamers may not actually know many of these titles, but these games are “serious games geared toward teaching, business, health awareness, or advocacy”. Best In Show? MIT Game Lab’s Phantomation.

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The annual Serious Play Conference DigiPen Institute of Technology has announced the winning entries for its International Serious Play Awards, honoring serious games geared toward teaching, business, health awareness or advocacy.

MIT Game Lab’s educational game Phantomation, designed to teach animation students fundamentals of both key framing and real-time animation, was named Best in Show. Other studios were awarded medals for their submissions, including the Canadian Space Agency and Schell Games.

Here’s the full list of winners, via the Serious Play Conference:

  • Gold Medal awards
    • Play Forward: Elm City Stories, Schell Games and Digital Mill (Healthcare/Medical)
    • Cornak, Succubus Interactive (Business)
    • DragonBox Algebra 12, WeWantToKnow AS (Education)
    • Game Over Gopher, New Mexico State University Learning Games Lab (Education)
    • Planting the Seed, Canadian Space Agency (Education)
    • Practice Operations, Muzzy Lane Operations (Education)
    • Ratio Rumble, New Mexico State University Learning Games Lab (Education)
  • Silver Medal awards
    • Quandry, FableVision Studios (Education)
    • Thump The Ultimate Math Practice, Mathtoons Media Inc. (Education)
    • Tilt World, Nicole Lazzaro (Games for Good)
    • Tunnel Tail, BEST Foundation (Games for Good)
    • Cyber Awareness Challenge, Carney Inc and SAIC (Government/Military)
    • At Risk in Primary Care, Kognito Interactive (Healthcare/Medical)
    • Re-Mission 2, HopeLab (Healthcare/medical)
  • Bronze Medal awards
    • Special Operation Halo Jump, Inhance Digital (Government/Military)
    • Project Moonwalk, Project Whitecard Studios (Education)
    • VRUM – Aprendendo sobre o transito, ThinkBox Games (Education)

5 Takeaways From Gamescom 2013 (Gamasutra.com)

Indie games have long had cult followings so it’s no surprise that Gamasutra found an Indie-heavy presence at Gamescom. Read on to find out what the five biggest takeaways were for them at Gamescom.

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Five takeaways from GDC Europe 2013

The GDC Europe conference is over for another year (Gamasutra’s full coverage here), and as partner event Gamescom begins to wind down on the press front, I’ve been collating the various tidbits that I’ve taken away from this week.

There was already plenty to think about with regards to the various talks that were given over the last several days, but numerous conversations I had with developers, publishers et al also cemented a number of key points that appeared to brim to the surface on multiple occasions.

Here’s the five main talking points that I seemingly couldn’t escape from throughout the week.

1. Mobile is a massive market, but it’s not the be all and end all

There were, of course, hundreds of developers all eager to show off their mobile games during the show, and a good portion of the talks at GDC Europe centred around the mobile market.

But there was also notable unrest. Many developers I talked to, some who had dabbled in mobile and others who had not, were quite frankly feeling a little sick and tired of the sentiment that if you’re not making a game for mobile platforms, you face being irrelevant.

The team behind Nintendo 3DS game SteamWorld Dig, for example, had previously released a mobile game — and while it provided decent enough sales, the studio wasn’t really all that happy to eventually have its game lost to the destructive tide of mobile games that land on the iOS App Store every day.

The 3DS eShop has been a different story entirely for the Image and Form team. While there clearly aren’t as many potential consumers to hook, the fact that the team’s game was one of only a handful of titles that was made available during its launch week meant that visibility was high, and a feature on the front page of the eShop meant even more sales.

I heard a similar sentiment from plenty of other developers too, including Shadow of the Damneddirector Massimo Guarini. The industry veteran (who founded the studio Ovosonico) revealed his PS Vita game Murasaki Baby earlier this week, and he too doesn’t see the appeal of launching a game onto an online store where he’ll be battling against hundreds and thousands of other titles to rise to the top for a brief space of time.

Murasaki Baby.jpgMassimo Guarini’s Murasaki BabyThis isn’t anything new, of course — just last month Thomas Was Alone creator Mike Bithell noted that “the middle ground devs all ran off to mobile, and left the door unlocked for us.” He too announced a Sony partnership this week, as his upcoming game Volume will debut on PS4 and PS Vita.

But whereas these sorts of musings have been going on for a while, I really got the impression this week that, for many more developers, there’s acknowledgement that mobile isn’t the answer to everything.

2. The confusing indie console message

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that console manufacturers absolutely adore indie devs all of a sudden.

Jump back just a year ago, and The Big Three were touting their massive AAA releases on a regular basis. Throughout this week, there’s a notable indie movement, as there has been throughout 2013: Sony’s conference was packed full of indie games, Microsoft revealed its ID@Xbox self-publishing program, and Nintendo was bigging up a number of its indie games on Nintendo 3DS, including the aforementioned SteamWorld Dig.

But while it all sounds fantastic on the surface, I came away from this week rather confused about whether it’s all for show, or whether these console giants are truly positioning indie games as a main selling point.

Take the contrast between Sony’s conference and its Gamescom show floor display, for example. I’d set out to play as many of the indie games coming to Sony consoles as possible, but when I arrived at the massive Sony booth, it was rather difficult to actually find the indie games.

That’s because while the triple-A releases had each been granted massive space with a handful of monitors each, the indie games had been relegated to the edges and corners of the booth, with barely any signposting at all.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Sony should have thrown OlliOlliSpelunky or Metrico stands up right next to the potentially millions-selling triple-A PS3 and PS4 games that Sony has on the cards — I’d personally love if they’d have done so, but I’m not naive enough to expect that would have been the case.

But when I say that the indie games appeared to be a complete afterthought of the booth, I’m not exaggerating. You had to essentially skim around the outskirts of the Sony booth, away from all the main games, and then peer down at the scattered Vitas to actually find the games you wanted to play.

Multiple times I had to choose a landmark somewhere else in the room — “Let’s meet just next to the massive The Last of Us booth, then we can walk to my game from there” — because it was so difficult to find any individual indie games. Numerous of the devs that I talked to weren’t very happy about it either.

To be fair, at least I could find some indie games at the Sony booth. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong place, but I didn’t see a single indie game at either the massive Nintendo or Microsoft areas. Again, I stress that I wasn’t hugely surprised by this at all, but it does seem to clash somewhat with the indie pushes that appear to be happening online and during conferences.

From my perspective, it’s clear that these companies are well aware that indie games aren’t going to sell consoles to a certain segment of players, hence why the triple-A showing is still very much front and center. Still, it’s discouraging to see one message being pushing in one area, and then seeing an entirely different message in another.

3. Exciting and quirky new hardware still brings in the masses

People are always happy to queue up or stand around to see something a bit different, and this year was no different.

The lines to experience the Oculus Rift VR headset were lengthy, and I had plenty of conversations about how the new HD visuals looked and felt, and what could potentially be done with the technology.

I hadn’t tried the standard version of the Oculus Rift, but pretty much everyone I talked to who had sampled both the standard and HD versions said that there wasn’t a great deal of difference between the two. Still, it’s early days for the hardware, and no doubt numerous months before it will be made available to the public.

But it wasn’t just the Rift that was pulling in the crowds. Mikolaj Kaminski’s Achtung Arcade, an arcade machine packed full of smaller games from the dev, sat quietly in a corner until someone decided to pick up a controller — at which point a crowd would gather to see what all the fuss was about.

And the Luggatron was particularly exciting. Joon Van Hove from Glitchnap, who has previously created arcade-style machines in the most wackiest of places (for example, integrated into a baby carriage) wanted to bring another of his crazy machines to GDC Europe, but could only check one bag in.

This gave him the idea to build the Luggatron — an arcade machine built into a suitcase, with the monitor on the outside. It’s more than an impressive feat, and as you’d expect, plenty of people wanted to give it a try.

It’s remarkable to see this sort of innovation with your own eyes, and it’s no wonder that so many of these smaller indie shows like Wild Rumpus and Bit of Alright are growing so rapidly in popularity, when they have great ideas like these to enjoy.

4. Being an indie console launch title is not the same as being a AAA launch title

Whenever a new Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo console launch rolls around, we regularly hear the same studio names — Ubisoft, for example, are massive fans of early console adoptions, and always make sure to have at least a handful of titles ready for launch.

It’s obvious why, of course: Gamers want to pick up a small number of games with their new consoles, sometimes regardless of quality, and so having a wide spread of titles at launch that perhaps don’t incur as large production costs as normal can be very beneficial. Of course, your relationship with the manufacturer won’t exactly be harmed either.

And there’s the added bonus that the press wants to talk about each and every console launch game. If you’re launching alongside a games console, you are going to get articles all over the shop.

As it turns out, however, it may be the case that smaller indie games delivered at launch don’t see such benefits. As part of a talk earlier this year, Felix Bohatsch from Broken Rules revealed that his game Chasing Aurora had not received any sort of sales spike at the Wii U launch whatsoever.

I’m not going to pretend that Chasing Aurora was fantastic and essential — even Bohatsch himself admitted that the game needed more time, and it was rushed for release at launch — but the fact that the studio saw zero sales spike at launch, while triple-A companies churn out some awful stuff for console launches and still see enough of a spike to make it worthwhile, should really tell us something.

Bohatsch’s reasoning was that it was a combination of players picking up a handful of triple-A games and being satisfied enough with that, and a slightly high price point for the amount of content Broken Rules was offering. From my point of view, it does seem to make sense that more traditional players are going to be focusing on the likes of New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land instead of heading to the new eShop and plucking out games at random.

In fact, Bohatsch suggested that if he could go back and do it again, he’d instead launch a few months after the Wii U came out, in a bid to catch those people who had finished off all the triple-A titles, and were now hungry for me. It’s an angle well worth considering for any developers who are currently crunching hard to be ready for the upcoming Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launches.

5. The emotional game uprising

Although I don’t like to admit it, I regularly shed a tear or five when watching tear-jerker movies and TV shows. In contrast, I cried for the first time ever at a video game last year — the glorious The Walking Dead.

Stirring up emotion in players has never really been at the forefront of game design — well, unless you’re David Cage, of course — but the last year has definitely seen a surge of developers talking about injecting emotion and personality into their characters.

Take the recent Brothers, for example, which managed to stir up emotion in players simply through gameplay, rather than any real storyline. Telltale and Starbreeze aren’t the only studios exploring emotion either, as plenty of conversations I had this week involved making the player feel something for the characters and their tales.

Quantic Dream’s Cage was once again doling out the prize sentences as per usual, explaining in his GDC Europe talk that “we should learn from films” when it comes to injecting emotion into games.

But there were plenty of developers talking about emotional responses to non-film-like games too. Gone Home was mentioned numerous titles, for example, while the aforementioned Massimo Guarini is currently building an entire game around emotion, as players take his Murasaki Baby by the hand and guide her through fear and elation.

There’s still a long way to go, no doubt, until we can truly claim that video games stir up the range of emotions that other mediums have been mustering up for years. But the overall impression I got this week is that plenty of steps are being taken in the right direction.

Elder Scrolls Online: Subscription Model Revealed (Gamasutra.com)

Well, not exactly shocking. It never occurred for me that ESO would make a great F2P model as fun, fluffy costumes and such would seem really out of place. That said, ESO has announced a subscription fee: $15/month. That’s been the standard monthly fee for AAA MMOs for the past several years. Thanks to Gamasutra’s reporting of a German gaming website’s interview, we have plenty of the reasons why.

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With only a few big exceptions like World of Warcraft and EVE Online, the subscription model has largely been abandoned by MMO developers.

So it’s notable that one of the most highly-anticipated MMOs — Zenimax Online’s The Elder Scrolls Online — will be charging a $15 monthly fee (/€12.99/£8.99).

Zenimax Online general manager Matt Firor talked about it openly in a new interview with German website Gamestar, and a Zenimax rep confirmed as much with us.

“Charging a flat monthly fee means that we will offer players the game we set out to make, and the one that fans want to play,” Firor told the website. ESO will also include 30 days of play with the purchase of the game. “Going with any other model meant that we would have to make sacrifices and changes we weren’t willing to make.”

The decision flies in the face of current MMO trends, but Firor says the move is “not a referendum” on free-to-play business models, though he does imply that with subscription-based games comes a higher level of quality.

“F2P, B2P, etc. are valid, proven business models — but subscription is the one that fits ESO the best, given our commitment to freedom of gameplay, quality and long-term content delivery,” he said.

It’s a noble sentiment — to want to give players the keys to the castle for a flat (monthly repeating) rate. But players often storm the castle, do everything there is to do in the castle, and then are left twiddling their thumbs wondering what else there is to do, other than being resentful that they’re paying $15 a month. It’s players’ ability to burn through content faster than a developer can create it that gets certain kinds of subscription-based games in trouble.

Firor said for ESO, the plan is to “have new content available every four to six weeks.”

Star Wars: The Old Republic is the most obvious major example of a subscription model that failed. The game had the talent, resources and license to theoretically warrant $15 per month, but in the end, subscriptions dropped off rapidly after a strong launch, and the game adopted free-to-play. Other games like Rift and Tera are just a couple other examples of games that have made the subscription-to-free-to-play switch.

Firor said, “The fact that the word ‘monetized’ exists points to the heart of the issue for us: We don’t want the player to worry about which parts of the game to pay for – with our system, they get it all.”

ESO is slated to release on PC, Mac and next-gen consoles next year.

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