The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for sleeping through the night. Maybe? Hopefully? Finally? Please? I guess the day can still be about reading about videogames.

At PC Gamer, Alex Wiltshire – a frequent contributor round these parts – wrote about the psychology of loot boxes. There’s lots of good detail in here about the specific ways Blizzard design their loot boxes in Hearthstone and Overwatch. Personally, I like games with loot boxes you need to shoot with a gun to open. Also! This article includes my favourite pigeon anecdote.

This behaviour is actually common across many species: Skinner discovered in 1947 that even pigeons exhibit it. He observed that they’d practise little rituals in the hope that they’d cause food to appear, including turning around in their cages or nodding their heads, and yet the food was given to them at entirely regular intervals. The absence of any explanation of why the food appeared had conditioned them to believe their actions caused it. On a deep level, our own minds work the same way.

I enjoyed this wonderful piece by Chris Donlan at Eurogamer about how having a dog has turned his life into an RPG. Particularly because I live in Brighton now and crave the wisdom of older people.

Cricket has changed two things that, it turns out, do a lot for my experience of the outside world. When I go into town with her, I now discover that I am not allowed in most shops or restaurants. Most business in Brighton are now set decoration – like most businesses are in an RPG. And I also discover, as Cricket and I sit outside Waterstones while my wife and daughter go inside, that people want to come up and talk to me. You know, like in RPGs.

Mr. Biffo has come to the same conclusion as every parent: the Nintendo Switch is for old people and that’s why it’s awesome.

Nintendo feels real, feels genuine, feels like it doesn’t give a shit about being cool. Those days have passed, and – as I get older – I despair at anyone’s attempts to mask who or what they really are. Whether you’re a person or a games console, just be yourself and stop trying so bloody hard. You’re not for everyone, not everyone is going to like you, just accept that and be you so that you can be embraced by those whose tastes you match. That’s the Switch. Life’s too short for anything else.

Rich Stanton at Kotaku wrote about Starfox 2, the ‘lost’ Starfox sequel which had just been released with the SNES Mini. He appraises its qualities and faults in the context of the time it was made.

What’s happening here is that Starfox 2 has a structure that, at the time, must have seemed like a great idea. This is a game all about replay. That was a quality at the time it was made, but now almost works against it. I played on Normal and, without dying once, finished the game in around 40 minutes. What Starfox 2 now expects me to do is to play on Hard mode, try different combinations of pilots (you have six to choose from, and two can be active at any one time), ferret out the secrets and better my final ranking. You can’t criticise the game for that, not least because this is a well thought-out way of evolving Starfox’s multi-route structure. But I’m not going to be doing it.

Tim Rogers is making regular videos for Kotaku, and this past week tackled Plunkbat.

Polygon have launched a new regular series: Pat’s Pets. In it, they review animals from games, and the first episode is about Red Dead Redemption’s horses.

These photographs are wonderful.

Music this week is Aliquot by Poppy Ackroyd.

21 Comments

  1. gwop_the_derailer says:

    “This video contains scenes of extreme violence against virtual horses. If you’re not ready for that, mosey on.”

    Heh, how bad can it b – oh my God.

    Don’t let the horse people know!

    • MillieMoore says:

      I get paid over $95 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I’ve been doing… Click Here And Start Work

  2. gwop_the_derailer says:

    “This video contains scenes of extreme violence against virtual horses. If you’re not ready for that, mosey on.”

    Heh, how bad can it b – oh my God. Don’t let the horse people know!

  3. TheAngriestHobo says:

    Tim Rogers videos always hit me right in the funnybone. :)

    He also released one this week reviewing the original Mario Bros. from 1983. Well worth a gander.

    • Chairman_Meow says:

      I’m also a fan of tim rogers. He made a good video game called Videoball that sadly did not receive the laurels and praise it deserved. Player base never reached the level it should have, but I immensely enjoy his videos over on kotaku. The Plunkbat one is gold.

  4. Kollega says:

    I’m pretty sure that if “loot boxes” appeared in physical space, they would be treated as a variety of slot machines, and regulated similarly (or at least that would be the case where there is political will to regulate gambling). And yet, thanks to big-name developers like Valve and Blizzard normalizing this practice, the various flavours of gamble-crates are all over the place, and are here to stay. Yay, capitalism!

    Say what you will, but when TF2 introduced gamble-crates with real money payments, back in 2010, that felt like a spit in the soul. Even if that’s “mostly because” I personally find it offensive when someone puts unregulated gambling “in muh vidya”, as the kids say these days.

    DISCLOSURE: I have never, ever paid real money to open a single gamble-crate, and neither do I intend to. Gambling my money away “just isn’t me” – and that’s an honest opinion, as presumptious as it could sound.

    • fish99 says:

      I hate paid loot boxes too and consider every dev/publisher that uses them scummy. For all the hate DLC gets, at least you know what you’re getting. With loot boxes most of the time you get nothing of worth for your money, then you feel compelled to keep buying them until you get something good so you don’t feel like you wasted your money.

      I say that as someone who has never once spent a penny on them.

    • Rindan says:

      If loot boxes appear in real life, they would literally just be one of those crappy claw machines. As a society, we seem to have survived them. You can just not use them.

      In Overwatch, the loot boxes are completely and 100% cosmetic. You don’t ever need to buy one. You don’t even need to open up the skins menu as it has literally zero impact on the game. If you do buy them and spend more than you want, you have an addiction problem of some flavor. That sucks, but that is something you need to deal with, probably with professional help. You can’t expect the entire world to wrap itself in padded foam because you have a problem. You need to fix the problem within you, rather than demanding the world fix itself.

      • Kollega says:

        I would say that is true… but of course, that’s only if we forget how in Valve’s games you can win items worth hundreds of dollars through the gamble-crates, and everyone knows that you can do that. Crappy claw machines don’t normally let you win something worth hundreds of dollars. And let’s also remember that gamble-crates specifically target addictive behavior in disenfranchised adults with money to spend, while crappy claw machines are just for nickel-and-diming impatient kids.

        I mean, all other things aside, exploiting addictive behaviors by promising a sliver of a chance for a massive jackpot (which at least Valve games do, by letting you trade rare items you get and potentially sell them for lots of real money in a not-endorsed-but-not-banned-either way) is textbook gambling, isn’t it? And whether the gambling mechanic has gameplay impact is at best secondary these days.

  5. Wolfman says:

    Trading card games have had loot box style mechanic for years. They are not regulated because you can’t win cash. If they had cash in them it is instantly classes as gambling AFAIK.

    • Vandelay says:

      Don’t believe there is a requirement for the prize to necessarily be monetary. I’ve had a quick Google search and it seems that most are saying it can be monetary or material goods.

      But, yes, loot boxes really are the equivalent of saying trading card games, Kinder Eggs and MacDonald’s Happy Meals are gambling. Are we saying that only over 18s should be able to buy Pokemon cards?

      That isn’t to say that developers shouldn’t feel a need to put restrictions on the way these systems are used or ensuring that their customers have protections in place, particularly the young, but I don’t think smacking them down with a gambling law book is the right approach.

  6. Faldrath says:

    Graham, this is a small request, and I’m not sure it’s feasible… but would it be possible to not link to spotify or youtube or vimeo when you mention music? As far as the artist is concerned, it’s almost as if you linked to a piratebay page when you talk about a game.

    It would be much, much better if you could link to the artist’s official page, or bandcamp, or soundcloud. The artist would then have a vastly increased chance of making meaningful money from the visits.

    • Cederic says:

      Speaking as someone exploited by the music cartels, Graham you go do your best to hurt them. Please.

      (just today another 24 of my videos on Youtube have been monetised by the music cartels because of incidental background music that’s already been paid for three times)

    • jimmybones says:

      Fantastic suggestion, Faldrath! I’ll start:

      link to poppy.bandcamp.com

      You can listen for free, and should you decide you like it enough to support her efforts, the artist will see a few pounds rather than the few pence Spotify might pay her management for a handful of listens.

    • napoleonic says:

      The artist gets the choice to put their music on those platforms or not, don’t they?

      • Faldrath says:

        Not necessarily – sometimes their label does it whether the artist would like it or not, it depends on the contract. And that also applies to who gets the money from streaming. Some contracts – maybe most – only contemplate actual sales, so there are several cases of bands that don’t get a penny from streaming, only their labels do.

  7. Sunjammer says:

    The Switch is a superb console. I’ve always maintained that if you really want the best of modern gaming, you get yourself a nice PC and whatever Nintendo is doing. Nintendo are fantastic at those off moments when you just want the simple pleasures of gaming in a beautiful and tactile format, and PC’s cover literally everything else. It’s a wonderful marriage.

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