Browsing Category Gamer Culture

The magic of Pokemon Go

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Over the past few weeks people have been breaking their old habits and straying from their usual behavior. They have been taken to changing their normal routes home from work or to simply wandering the streets, parks and other public spaces, seemingly at random. However, these odd new movements are not random at all. They are actually quite the opposite because these people are chasing the invisible Pokémon that now have come to inhabit our cities.

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A pub in Portsmouth, England advertising a PokéStop location on the premises

The success of Pokémon Go, unforeseen even by it’s creators, is currently dominating the app world, claiming the focus of every social media site and shocking the stock market. Shares in Japan’s Nintendo soared as the phenomenal success of Pokémon Go has triggered massive buying in Nintendo shares. From a marketing point of view, this game opens a whole new door for smart business owners to come through. Many businesses have discovered the success of buying the in-game ‘Lure’ item which attracts Pokémon to your location for 30 minutes. This way you can tempt consumers through your doors at the low cost of £1.58 an hour. Pokémon Go has proven itself to have the power to control the movement of a vast amount of people. For this reason the potential effect of it’s business and marketing opportunities are staggering.

Pokémon_Go_-_screenshot_of_mapFor those of you who live under rocks: Pokémon Go is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game released in July this year. Making use of the GPS and camera of your phone, the game allows players to capture, battle, and train fictitious little creatures called Pokémon.

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Your Typical Esports Fan – Let’s call him Alex

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It’s Monday 8 am as I’m writing this post. This morning finds me in a favourite coffee shop of mine, not far from Trafalgar Square. Considering I’m off work today you might wonder what I am doing here so early (I know I am) or maybe you don’t care at all. Either way I will tell you. After a night of limited rest, instead of trying to fall asleep again I decided to come here and do some research on a topic that has interested me greatly the last few weeks. The subject in question is Esport – the Esport fan base to be precise.

Professional gaming has had my interest for a long time. However, my curiosity for the identity of it’s audience specifically was sparked when I came across some fascinating statistics. Did you know that in the year of 2013 – 32 million viewers tuned in to watch the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship whilst only 15.7 million watched the NCAA Basketball finals? Last year, according to LoL Esports, “peak concurrent viewership” (PCU – the highest number of fans tuned in at any one point) for League of Legend Worlds was 14 million. LoL Esports also claim that the overall unique viewer count for the Finals 2015 was 36 million.

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Why do these numbers excite me so much, you might wonder. Because Esport is still at it’s infancy. I can’t help but wonder about the potential of the industry and the effect it might come to have on the world of sports as we know it. What is clear is the considerable marketing opportunity this new industry provides. Esports have an audience of incredibly engaged fans who have proven challenging to reach through traditional media channels. Advertising through Esports is also done at a low cost in comparison to other marketing channels. This is because professional gaming is still a relatively new market to invest in. Though marketing strategies might not be as interesting to the average GD-reader as it is to me, I implore you to indulge me, just this once. I’ll even tell you why I find it is so deeply interesting, if you didn’t already close the page at the first sight of the words “marketing strategies”. Because if we start looking at the Esport scene from a marketing perspective, we need to ask ourselves: Who are these 36 million people tuning into the League of Legends Worlds last year? And all of a sudden it becomes relevant to you and I as well. Marketing teams need to know the identity of the audience because it’s important in order to get the most out of their money. You and I want to explore it because we are tired of the same drawn out stereotype defining a gamer in today’s society. So let’s do a bit of research and find out more about the Esport audience.

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Superstitions and MMO’s

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The Daedalus Project was an online survey of MMORPG players which is currently in hibernation, but the archives are still available. In relation to the survey Heather Sinclair, a member of the Dungeon and Dragons Online development team, made an interesting comment:

“From beta all the way through months into launch players were CONVINCED that if you used the diplomacy skill on a chest it would improve the loot you got..

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Are pro gamers athletes?

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Today I stumbled across the video below on YouTube. It made me wonder. Are gamers athletes? What defines an activity as a sport and a person as an athlete? Is it the physical effort? Strict rules and competition? Does the skill level have to be high? Does the person have to be a professional? The definition seems ambiguous at best. Golfing, dancing, curling and even chess are all activities considered sports yet most people outside the world of gaming would hesitate before calling a PC gamer and athlete based on his performance in a video game.

Oxford English Dictionary defines a sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” In this definition video games fall short, but so do other sports that are still socially accepted as an exception to the rule. Other activities such as Cheerleading (which has been determined by a federal judge to not qualify as a sport) should by the Oxford English Dictionary indeed classify and be up on the list together with football and basketball.

What’s your opinion? If you are (or hypothetically were) a professional gamer, would you call yourself an athlete?

Photo attribution: Photo derived from “Ases en la EPS” by artubr licensed under CC by 2.0

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Why do we care about fictional characters?

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Have you ever really cared for a character in a video game? There are those that pass us by unnoticed and then there are those we couldn’t detach from even if we tried. The gaming industry has now more than ever shown itself capable of creating bonds and meaningful relationships between us, the players, and the fictional characters we encounter. How do game developers pull this off? How do they make us care?

Researchers of the university of Middlsex mean to say that we are predetermined to care about these fictional characters.

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Team Ranked in SWTOR: Player Perspective and Insights

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The data collected in these articles comes from interviews with 12 Team Ranked players in SWTOR and from observing team’s successful or not so successful communication on streams. The information given is in accordance to patch 4.0.3. The players interviewed for these articles are:

Dakaru from TRE & TOFN
Gerikke from TRE & TOFN
Gladias from Harbinger
Jaq’n from TRE & TOFN
Larsson from TRE & TOFN
Molra from TOFN
Morvin from TOFN
Myzran from TRE & TOFN
Naid from TOFN
Terrikus from T3 & TOFN
Vara from Harbinger
Zherio from TRE & TOFN

These players were chosen to be interviewed for the purpose of representing a variety of roles, classes and levels of experience. This is to get more varied points of view in order to better understand the current state of team ranked in SWTOR. I conducted these interviews and watched many more hours of team ranked streams than I’d like to admit, all because I found myself curious of the ways in which communication might affect the win/loss ratio of team ranked arenas. In many situations in life it’s hard to measure the value of effective communication and so it is regularly underestimated. In team ranked however the positive impact of effective communication is suddenly clear when the difference between a win and a loss often comes down to something as small as a miscommunication regarding a stun. That said, when it comes to the two competences required (mechanical and communication skills) it needs to be said that they are completely co-dependent on each other. You cannot be great with only an understanding of one of the two. At the moment the pool of active team ranked players is very small which results in an intimidating environment for new players to enter. The purpose of this series of articles is to give insight to new players in the hope that it will make their learning curve a little less steep.

Because of the amount of information I ended up gathering I decided to split this article into five parts. These will be released successively over the next few weeks leading up to the start of season 7. Below you will find the links to each individual article.

1. Setup and strategy
2. Healing, tanking and deal damage in Team Ranked
3. Team Ranked Communication
4. Team Ranked Communication: What not to do
5. I want to try to make a ranked team but I have no experience. Where should I start?

Thank you to all of the players interviewed and to all of the streamers who have unknowingly helped me write these articles. Also, to the friends who helped me, a very special thanks to you for always being supportive through all of my crazy projects.

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Team Ranked in SWTOR: Part 5 – I want to try to make a ranked team but I have no experience. Where do I start?

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This is part five of my “Team Ranked in SWTOR: Player Perspective and Insights” series of articles. The content of this series is divided into five parts which will be released successively over the next few weeks leading up to the start of season 7. Thank you to all of the players interviewed (full list in the link above) and to all of the streamers who have unknowingly helped me write this article.

I want to try to make a ranked team but I have no experience. Where do I start?
In accordance to patch 4.0.3

In this fifth and last part of the series I will be going through advice from myself and the people I have interviewed in regards to what strategy to start out with as well as what classes to choose for each role. I will also go through some other basics such as how to set and use your focus target. Make sure to check out the list of team ranked streamers in the end of this article. If you have any questions regarding the terminology or anything else then please don’t hesitate to comment below or contact me here.

What strategy do we start with?
There are many different options revolving around the classes you are going to choose. That said, if we begin by zooming out and looking at the greater picture then we can start discussing strategy on a more general level. All classes have different specs which allow very different type of gameplay. The first question here becomes: Burst or pressure?

The Burst Approach
Hard swap is a term used to describe a team synchronizing their stuns, interrupts and their damage in a way that will allow them to swiftly burst an enemy target down while the enemy tank is incapacitated and unable to switch guard. It requires a lot of communication and synchronization between team members since the strategy revolves around creating a perfect moment to swap and burst a target. The hard swap tactic was discovered and mainly used for team ranked in older patches. The later patches introduced a shorter cooldown on breaker making this strategy less viable. Today you can still use a hard swap tactic but you need to adapt it to the current meta which is all about wearing the enemy healer down by splitting your damage on several targets. The way the hard swap has been adjusted to work in this patch is to go for constant kill pressure. Split damage and quick switches pressure the tank to focus more of their attention on guardswaps and positioning. CC’s are used to force defensive cooldowns and eventually lead to a kill. This type of strategy relies on all burst specs. Even your tank is likely to have to focus damage with you during the hard swaps to be able to get a kill since the sorcerer/sage heals are so strong at the moment. For inexperienced team ranked players this might not be the best way to go.

All players interviewed agreed that the best thing for new players is to start off with pressure comps (setups with focus on damage over time, i.e. DoT specs). This is because the strategy that comes with a burst comp can be straining to pull off even for experienced players who are not used to playing together. Burst classes and specs also have distinct weaknesses that can be exploited by more experienced players. In order for this to work your teamwork needs to be really sharp. Since effective communication in team ranked takes time to develop it is to your own advantage to start out with a composition that puts less strain on your communication and gives it room to improve.

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Team Ranked in SWTOR: Part 4 – Team Ranked Communication: What not to do

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This is part fourth of my “Team Ranked in SWTOR: Player Perspective and Insights” series of articles. The content of this series is divided into four parts which will be released successively over the next few weeks leading up to the start of season 7. Thank you to all of the players interviewed (full list in the link above) and to all of the streamers who have unknowingly helped me write this article.

Team Ranked Communication:
What not to do

This article will be using terminology explained in part 3 of this series. If you haven’t read it yet and find yourself lost follow the link above.

 

What not to say in a ranked arena match:

Example 2: The Team With the Many Target Callers
A team unused to playing together are trying out new setups. From time to time there is a lot of noise in the channel consisting of several people calling out tactics and plans of actions simultaneously (mistake no. 1). Mass taunts are being overlapped (mistake no. 2) and no one is interrupting the healer (mistake no. 3). At a crucial moment when the slinger of the team is very low on health the tank is distracted by communicating tactics with the other DPS. When the healer tries to call the tanks attention to the slinger needing a guard there is noise in the channel and the tank doesn’t hear him (mistake no. 4). By the time the slinger finally receives a guard it is too late and the enemy team kill him through the guard.

Mistake no. 1 – Agree on general tactics before going into the arena. Don’t change tactics mid game. If your team exists of a lot of personalities who like calling targets then decide on a target caller before queuing. All of the above is to avoid clogging up the communication channel with noise which is guaranteed to result in misunderstandings.
Mistake no. 2 – Always communicate and rotate mass taunts in order to maximise the damage reduction your taunts offer.
Mistake no. 3 – Don’t make it easy for the enemy healer to keep his team alive this way. Communicate interrupts. Agree on who will interrupt the healer in what order.
Mistake no. 4 – Reduce the noise in the channel!

 

What to avoid
Both Molra and Terrikus point out the importance of having an articulated plan before going into an arena. Don’t disrupt your focus by starting to question your strategy in the middle of the arena, you can do that after. Play it through and learn from your mistakes. In my interview with Vara he also cautions new teams against giving up on any one strategy too quickly. Just because it didn’t work the first time doesn’t mean that it’s an invalid strategy.

On the topic of what not to say during a ranked arena match, Gladias tells me:

“There’s a lot of stuff. I know this because I’ve done it myself. You should never yell at your team for an example. It demoralises them. It depends what kind of personalities you have on your team of course, some are fine but others it will really dishearten them. When you do that the player will just start playing worse so just speak calmly and maintain it – which is where I have to take a leaf out of my own book.” – Gladias

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Team Ranked in SWTOR: Part 3 – Team Ranked Communication

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This is part three of my “Team Ranked in SWTOR: Player Perspective and Insights” series of articles. The content of this series is divided into five parts which will be released successively over the next few weeks leading up to the start of season 7. Thank you to all of the players interviewed (full list in the link above) and to all of the streamers who have unknowingly helped me write this article.

Team Ranked Communication
“If you have two teams of equal skill the one with the better communication will always win.” – Gladias

 

Let me start by saying that from the streams I have watched it is clear that there is a direct correlation between miscommunications and a team’s win/loss ratio. Let me give you one example of what I have observed.

Example 1: The case of the long lost carbonize
A double PT team starts out with the upper hand, pushing their opponents into a defensive playstyle. Without any warning PT no. 1 call out “carbonizing, follow up” (mistake no. 1). PT no. 2 says “I’m mezzed, can’t carbo yet” (mistake no. 2). After the mezz is over PT no. 2 carbonizes anyway, sure they lost a little momentum by that failed double carbo but they will get the next one. They keep up really good play and by the time PT no. 1’s carbo is back up again they are almost close to a kill. “Carbonizing, follow up” says PT no. 1 again without warning (mistake no. 3). PT no. 2 says in frustration “Dude, my carbo isn’t up yet”. They lose their second double carbo window and start becoming pressured by the other team who has recovered health and is now playing aggressively. The players of the team with the failed carbos becomes overwhelmed and start exhausting their defensive cooldowns after which they are forced to use their next carbos defensively to survive. The moral of this story is nicely expressed as the team with the failed carbos lose the round to a team of a lot less experienced players than themselves.

Mistake no. 1 – Prepare your team in advance for important moments like carbonizes or switches by saying “I’m going to carbonize in a second, you ready?”
Mistake no. 2 – Call out when you’re mezzed
Mistake no. 3 = Mistake no. 1

This is a very clear example of miscommunication affecting the win/loss ratio of team ranked. Next I will briefly go into the basics of communication theory and how it relates to team ranked. If you don’t want to understand the why’s but simply want to know what to do and what not to do then you can jump ahead to “Communicating effectively with your team”.

Communication always fails!
Finnish scholar Osmo Antero Wiio coined 8 laws commonly referred to as “Wiio’s laws”. These are humoristically formulated serious observations about how human communication always fails – except rare occasion when it might succeed by accident. Though Wiio’s laws are entertainingly pessimistic there’s undeniable truth behind them. There are so many more ways a sentence or even a word can be interpreted than you and I comprehend when we say it out loud. We always assume that people understand what we are saying in the way that we intended them to.

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Parasocial relationships and the future of Gamers Decrypted

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Have you ever been saddened when coming to the end of a game you truly loved? The other day I was having a conversation with a friend who told me he just couldn’t make himself finish The Witcher 3. He has connected to the character and doesn’t want to let it go. He explained to me that he has had the same problem with a number of games he felt greatly immersed into. I have experienced this many times when reading. I get very invested in the characters of the books I read and when I get to the end of a new series I’ve grown to love the last pages tend to sadden me. I know I can reread the book but unless I know more of the same will be released I cannot be satisfied because I will never have new experiences with these characters again. It turns out however that caring about the disappearance of a fictional character is normal and even healthy according to scientists.

During the television writers’ strike of 2007–2008 a study called “How Do We React When Our Favorite Characters Are Taken Away? An Examination of a Temporary Parasocial Breakup” was carried out to examine reactions to the many television shows taking temporary breaks in their airtime. Moyer-Gusé (assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University and co-author of the study) said the results of this study suggest that the relationships some viewers have with their favorite television characters are indeed like what they have with real friends.

“While some participants felt real distress at the loss of their favourite TV shows, the distress is not comparable to the distress that comes from real breakups,” she said. “There are some aspects of relationships with TV characters that may be comparable to real relationships, but the intensity is generally much lower.”

What happens when we immerse ourselves in these fictional worlds is that we form real but parasocial relationships with these character who are not real. Strange, huh? A parasocial relationship is a one-sided relationship where one person extends some level of emotional commitment, interest, time or effort whilst the other person remains unaware of their existence. These parasocial relationships are most common with celebrities and even organizations such as sports teams.

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