Saturday, August 25, 2012

Downloadable Content Analysis DLC's - The Good, The Bad, and the Very Very Ugly

 (A custom picture I made showing the clash between physical media and digital downloads. We want the best of both worlds but currently DLCs are digital download only.)

So what is a D.L.C? Simply put, it's an extra add-on to a game that the game didn't originally come with. It doesn't have to cost money, as many free DLCs have been released before, but in general because the content costs money to produce, Game studios tend to charge for it.

Depending on the company, you either love, hate, or ignore DLC content altogether. Some companies have hard and fast rules against using DLCs and others revel in it, wanting customers to spend more money on downloaded content. 

But as with every new change in Gaming we should be responsible and ask questions about it first before jumping in wholeheartedly. Firstly, how should the game industry be treating DLCs and what practices should they follow? Secondly, do DLCs have a place in gaming and if so what is that place and what lines should the industry not cross? Finally, which companies have adhered to these principles and which are out there to simply make more profit?

We'll start off with a company that loves DLCs and analyze DLCs in general as we go along.

(For some companies, DLCs are angels sent from Heaven, regardless of how you distribute them.)

The first extreme example we have comes from BioWare who had their popular Mass Effect 3 game packaged with a day one DLC. As the name implies, if you're willing to pay extra for it, in this case it was 10 dollars (800 Microsoft points), you could get additional content that would make your gaming experience better.

Later on it was found that large parts of the DLC were on every disc sold to consumers and required a special key to unlock on the disc. The DLC was also found to be integral to the story of the game and interwoven into the whole second half of the game as well. 

To analyze the issue better though we need to speak more about DLCs in general.

Here is the first central rule to DLCs:

Principle 1 "Spirit of a D.L.C"

This is an unspoken rule in the gaming industry that implies if a DLC comes out it must not be central or vital to the core of a game. A game must be enjoyable and finished completely without a DLC, or it's like your charging customers extra for a piece to finish their unfinished game. Doing that reeks of a scam and smells of fraud because no one likes to be scammed and forced to buy unfinished games. The Spirit of a DLC is that it only provides fun content after the fact that tacks onto a game.


Bioware actually admits to this central tenet of DLCs. 
Casey Hudson Executive Producer of Mass Effect 3:

"The DLC, whether it’s day one or not, is always going to be sugar on top, the extra,” he told VentureBeat. “You know, the extra little bits of content that tell side stories.”

“But it’s always optional. We would never take stuff out of the core game and only have it in DLC.”

The whole gaming industry knows of this unspoken principle because they don't want to be labelled scammers or fraudsters. They don't want their customers to think of them as greedy tycoons out to suck ever penny out of them. But we have to remember that actions speak louder than words.

Some people break this rule and claim they don't; the key to remember is to analyze their action. So let's do that, let's look over the evidence with Mass Effect 3.

1. Day One DLC: The day the DLC is released is important because it tells you when the development company was working on it. If it's released on the same day as the game that means they were coding it, debugging it, and making it part the story of the gaming from its inception. It's very very hard to tack on extra content when at the same time you're making the game itself. There is a slippery slope that you may include something in the DLC that would make it critical to having it.

Also think of it from a game companies perspective. If this content is completely additional, why not just wait til we finish the game to code it and sell it a month or two later? We don't put these things in boxes or on discs so distribution and production is next to nothing.

Day one DLCS are really an issue because, as we saw with ME3, the DLC was vital to experiencing the game. Most Day one DLCs tend to have this issue and very rarely are small additions because they've been worked on for months alongside the game itself and a lot of planning has gone on behind the scenes.

This isn't my opinion, this is what Bioware says, and it completely agrees with me. When asked why large parts of the DLC were on the disc and why it seems like the game was built with it Bioware answered:

Mike Gamble of Bioware
“Because the plot of ME3 is so richly interwoven with the character interactions and moments, you simply cannot use a DLC module to ‘insert’ a new character,” he said. “As we’ve mentioned before, that character has to be planned and the framework has to be established ahead of time for us to build off of with the DLC module.”


Erik Kain from Forbes Magazine makes a great point about this topic:

"Imagine a band releases a 12-song album for $14.99. On the same exact day the same band offers a downloadable extra that has three songs not included on the album for an additional $4.99. Then the band says that those extra songs are just “sugar on top” and that they’re trying to release “awesome music” so fans should just stop complaining because “they don’t know what it’s like to record music.”
Now imagine that the same band had, in previous years, released 15 song albums for $14.99."

So as has clearly been decided by gamers, Day one DLC, while idealistically can be acceptable, tends to make games worse off as the DLC tends to be vital to the game itself. It's very difficult to create a cherry on top when you're making the cake at the same time.

So for the gamers sake developers need to know to release their DLCs and produce them at a later date.

2. On the Disc: As mentioned above, when a game is included on the disc or large parts of it are interwoven into the game, you know you've got a problem on your hands.

Theoretically you could still fashion a game from scratch that was only an addition and put it on the disc but this rarely occurs. The temptation by producers to make a chunk of the game that is vital to the story is increased, than if they were to create the DLC after they made the original finished game.

By then they had already created a finished product. There's no threat of adding on more content if you've already worked your hardest finishing up the original game.

3. Price - As a side note:  The price of a DLC is also something that should be scrutinized. Since it adds to a game and isn't a game in and of itself and requires that you buy the game to use it, the price is critical, regardless of how much content you provide.

Most games do not require other games to play. Even Mass effect 3 can be played if you've never owned Mass Effect 2. But this isn't the case with DLCs. You can never sell DLCs as they're always connected to your account, and you never get a box or a disc for them. They require an upfront $60 dollar purchase of a previous game and they should not be integral to the story or the playing of the first game. They are the digital cherry on top, so to speak.

Given all these facts we can deduce what DLCs should cost. I'll make this my second principle of DLCs:

Principle 2 "Price of a D.L.C"

We can all agree that charging the same price as a full game is completely unethical as you're not getting the same value as a full game. Even half the price of a full game is unheard of because DLCs do not add critical gameplay elements to any game; explained already because of principle 1.

So the red line in the sand for a DLC should be half of half the price of a game. Another way of putting that is 1/4 or 25% the price of a full game. Currently that's $15 dollars.

That doesn't mean every game should charge that much. It only means that should be the upper limit and no one should pay a dollar more. Only the best DLCs with the most content should even attempt to pay this much.


BioWare Verdict

So given that the DLC was day one, that large parts of it were on the disc, and that the DLC was integral to experiencing the game which violates the spirit of a DLC, BioWare completely botched their gaming experience and as a result paid for it.

They also botched the ending of the game and as a result had to give gamers a new set of endings that actually ended the game off properly. Hopefully Bioware has learned from its mistakes and other companies can learn from them as well.

(For other companies, DLCs are like this ugly dog; kept at a distance.)

The other extreme side of the spectrum is the gaming juggernaut Nintendo. The statements they've made leave hardly any room for discussion:

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata
 “Nintendo, as a software maker, does not plan to [run a business] where our consumers cannot know in advance which [product] will appear as the result of their payment,” Iwata said. “As a software maker, Nintendo believes that its packaged software should be sold to our consumers in a form so that the consumers will know in advance that they can enjoy playing the software they purchased just as it is.”

Reggie Fils-aime, President of Nintendo of America


Nintendo seems to be worrying about the slippery slope with DLCs and how game companies might start off with good intentions but might end up selling incomplete games with DLC.

Nintendo's zeal for their customers is impressive and even if it's only a P.R gimmick it still feels good to know a company wants to do everything they can to give you a fulfilling experience.

But Nintendo does need to realize that DLCs are here to stay and we are buying them because sometimes they're done extremely well and are extremely fun.

Some best selling well done DLCs are listed below:

Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare

This game literally added another 8 hours or so of a side story to the game of the year winner Read Dead Redemption. It also added a new mode to multiplayer that was survival oriented. It's simply the closest a DLC has ever come to a standalone game and it was worth every penny for those that bought it. Nintendo has to understand that a world without DLC would mean a world without this amazing game.

The 5 Fallout 3 DLCs

For a lot of people, it was Fallout 3 that introduced them to the idea of DLCs. Fallout 3 really popularized the idea and showed the hidden potential and profit for companies willing to take on the endeavor.

Broken steel became a must own when it continued the story and increased your level cap and Point lookout gave us a real taste of the south. If that wasn't enough, how about going on an Alient spaceship? Even if the first two were not must owns, the last 3 were extra experiences that gave the game hours more fun and another round of Fallout before Fallout New Vegas came out. Again if Nintendo owned the gaming industry, these gems would never have seen the light. 

Skyrim Dawnguard

As if Skyrim didn't already have enough content, we had even more added on top of it! I have to say though, the price of the addon was excessive at 20 dollars. But then again, you get so much content with Skyrim to begin with, in the long run, you've already made your money twice over. Skyrim definitely deserved more than $60 when we purchased it.


There are a ton of other great DLCs out there as well. GTA IV has two very popular ones and many of you have in mind examples of other great DLCs not mentioned. DLCs have a proven track record and while not every developer is good at making them, the fact that some can do so very well means that for gaming it's a product that will be with us, and should be, as gamers enjoy these add-ons.

Nintendo has seemed to sense this and in the middle of 2012 announced their first DLC for New Super Mario Brothes 2. It was inevitable that it would happen but no one knew that it would come months after the strongly negative statements they made at the beginning of 2012. So in that sense Nintendo is a bit hypocritical but it's all in the past now.

We all want Nintendo making DLCs and we know they'll raise the standard high because they refuse to release games that are unfinished, as we've seen with their statements. As DLCs did better and people saw their potential, companies like Nintendo had to realize that this was a market they had to get into and was what gamers demanded of them.

Final thoughts

So we've gone over the companies that hold DLC up like a holy grail and we've also gone over the very pessimistic ones like Nintendo. We've learned the two most important principles when making a DLC and what game makers should price them at. The future is bright for DLCs as it's an industry that has just started and been barely dabbled into.

Hopefully companies can get more creative with the ways they add onto games and possibly gamers as a result will hold onto their games longer knowing a DLC is imminent

What we need more of in DLCs is extra content from the games we love. What we need less of is gaming companies pawning off parts of their games and selling them unfinished, especially as Day One DLCS.

At the end of the day if game companies remember the key spirit of DLCs, they won't go wrong:

Spirit of D.L.Cs

An unspoken rule in the gaming industry that implies if a DLC comes out it must not be central or vital to the core of a game. A game must be enjoyable and finished completely without a DLC, or it's like your charging customers extra for a piece to finish their unfinished game. Doing that reeks of a scam and it smells of fraud because no one likes to be scammed and forced to buy unfinished games. The Spirit of a DLC is that it only provides fun content after the fact that tacks onto a game.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dark Souls Review - Short and Sweet

( Because this game does not deserve a long, lengthy, and graphically beautiful article, I will simply post my review notes for the game and leave it at that. )

Dark Souls is a game for Masochists. People that simply love pain. It's hard only because it's frustrating. Not because it's a game of the mind and tactics.

Combat is boring and stiff, not flexible and easy to use. Slow combat can be fun, like in Mount and Blade, but DS is not slow combat, it's stiff and boring and unresponsive.

Lack of proper saving forces players to REDO levels in an attempt to increase game time artifically. Dirty tactic game developers use to give a game the perception of being long, without ACTUALLY providing content.

Some games that limit saves still have many autosave areas, but in Dark Souls they are few and far between. Seeing one is like looking at heaven itself. Save points should not be THAT rare and lack of proper saving only makes the game FRUSTRATING, not HARD.

True hardness involves very strong enemies with intricate tactics, special weapon setups needed to be effective against bosses, lots of grinding and training needed to be strong enough for bosses, or SOMETHING that the player can control but CHOOSES not to do and as a result PAYS for it.
Being hard simply because the game mechanics are made childishly and haphazardly only means the designers artificially made the game annoying and frustrating, not actually CHALLENGING.

Lack of proper tutorial and explanation. No idea if souls are useful or not, and only later find out it's used as currency.


Very linear gameplay. Must follow a set determined path. Limits creativity, control, and exploration when forced to follow a singular path. Feels like a rat maze and being led on. Very childish. New games should not be so linear. This is the year 2011, those games should have died ages ago.

Luck involved in killing enemies. By sheer chance two mobs may hit you at the right time in which case you can't defend and will die very soon since healing is so restricted in this game. Sometimes LUCK is all you need to beat bosses or get through areas, not skill.

Lots of cheap deaths. Areas are littered with traps that can only be avoided once you've fallen in them or set them off. No way to avoid them without being psychic and knowing the future. Cheap deaths also add to the game difficulty, but not in a productive way; it simply makes the game frustrating for no reason. All the knowledge, patience, and tactics in the world cannot help you avoid cheap deaths in Dark souls.

Authors Note: Again these are just my writers notes for the article I wanted to write. But I found that this game did not deserve the time or energy it takes to write a longer article. So these are simply my short hand notes of my review.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Next Generation Console Analysis ~ Wii U / Xbox 720 / PS4

(A new Xbox is possibly on the horizon. Are you ready to shell out another 300 bucks though?)

A new article released by Gamespot seems to suggest a new Xbox is coming out in Late 2013 or early 2014. Being that we've heard the rumors for the past 4 years and there are still articles out there claiming the new consoles would come out in 2011[ :D ], we should take this bit of news with a grain of salt. For my younger readers that haven't heard that saying before, it simply means we should be more critical, and more skeptical, rather than believing this news wholeheartedly.

The announcement of new consoles brings up a Pandora's box of more question though. Assuming the news is true, are Gamers excited to see the new consoles hitting store shelves soon or are they weary over the last round of Console Wars? On another side question, who won the last console wars? Do Gamers even have enough cash to secure these new consoles if they come out? Will these consoles be more expensive; as we've seen happened with console prices jumping each generation? Do we even need new consoles? Has the PS3 really been pushed to its limits?

There are a thousand questions and I, like always, will try and answer them all thoroughly; just like all my other obnoxiously long articles :D. This is going to be a long read, so I hope you're comfortable and have some awesome cookies on hand.


Let's be honest here for a second, this really is all about price. Assuming the new consoles were going to be sold for $1, no one would keep their old Xbox, Ps3, and Wii. We wouldn't even be having this discussion. It's the price that's the big 1,000 pound elephant in the room, and it's our wallets that are running scared. That initial anxiety we feel when we hear about new consoles is always due to the insanely large amounts of money we pay, just to give us the opportunity to play the games we know we'll want to.

Now if you're a major PC gamer like I am, you slightly snicker and laugh like an evil Joker when you think of the console gamers having to buy a new console. But I can't join in this time as I feel their pain after many generations of console wars and I'm one of those suckers that ends up buying consoles as well.

From the news article mentioned above, it seems the price point for the new Xbox will be $300 dollars. That's good news, even if it causes a slight cringe. The original bare bones Xbox 360 was also $300 dollars and now years later as Technology has gotten even more affordable, we can reap those rewards and keep the same price for much higher technical specifications.

The PS3 on the other hand on launch was loosing money! It really was the Juggernaut of the console wars and you definitely got your moneys worth even if you paid $499 for the base version or $599 for the upgraded one. Both cost Sony nearly 800 dollars to make, and Sony saw it as an investment and was willing to take the nearly $2 billion dollars in losses to give its Gamers the most powerful console on the planet at the time.

No one really knows what the new Xbox or PS3 will cost, but I'm wagering that because Technology is becoming cheaper and because Gamers don't have the largest wallets, all companies will make a strong effort to keep prices down. My prediction will be that 500 dollars will be deemed unacceptable for a new console. This may not be the case, but with technology being how affordable it is, and Gamers being very picky in what they buy, manufacturers can simply not afford to alienate their consumers and charge exorbitant amounts for hardware. The PS4 may go for 400 but it would be a huge mistake to charge 500

Backwards Compatibility

Both consoles should make their consoles backwards compatible. Sony is notoriously known for not doing this for some versions of its console and it has lead to quite a few gamers being disillusioned and upset. When asked why some newer models of the PS3 could not play PS2 games, Sony simply told people to buy a PS2 and that it was still on sale. To be honest, it's cheaper to buy a PS2 and PS3 than to buy the expensive backwards compatible PS3's which I believe aren't even on sale anymore.

XBox 360 is also not backwards compatible with the vast majority of its games. When gamers buy a game they expect it to play on newer consoles as well, especially when the medium is the same. Both consoles used DVD interfaces. It's not like we went to a different type of cartridge.

The winner in all of these discussions is definitely Nintendo with their Wii. The Wii plays Gamecube games flawlessly and really shows how a next generation console should treat it's past generation sibling.

The DS also is a shining example of how to incorporate Gameboy games into a new handhelds lineup of entertainment.

Nintendo shows that developers can meet these issues if they truly want to. It's all about will and if willing Sony and Microsoft can make their consoles backwards compatible. Gamers across the world should protest if these demands aren't met especially because the gaming lineup on the Xbox360 and PS3 are tremendous and most people have hundreds of dollars invested in those games.

The PS2 btw was my favorite console and the feeling I got when I found out I couldn't play those games on my PS3 console was heart wrenching. It was extraordinarily brutal and as a result I ended up getting a PS2 to enjoy playing my favorite childhood games. But it's a feeling I never want to experience again. Gamers should not allow another console to be released without Full, and I emphasize the word FULL, backwards compatibility.

Who won the 7th Generation Console Wars

 If you just look at Worldwide sales numbers these are your figures:
  •     Xbox 360 – 67.2 million as of 31 March 2012
So you can see that Playstation and Xbox didn't get too much of a lead ahead of each other. It was really the Wii that destroyed the competition. I remember Wii fever when it struck. My family actually purchased the Wii first mainly because of my siblings. Plus the gaming lineup at the time was enough to satisfy the regular gamer. Sadly the gaming lineup of the Wii really dropped off a cliff only after a couple years and people really got discouraged by the Wii. A lot of people simply don't play their Wii anymore because there are no good games on them. All the best games sit comfortably with Sony and Microsoft.

Given that in depth analysis, you could say the Wii won early on but Sony and Microsoft have gotten the upper hand in the end even if they haven't sold enough consoles. Remember the Wii was sold to a demographic outside of just Gamers and that demographic doesn't need dedicated gaming consoles like the PS3 and Xbox. That's why there is such a disparity in sales numbers.

Has Nintendo alienated the common Gamer though for a more mainstream position? We'll know with the Wii U which is a much more powerful console and is already getting exclusives like ZimbiU that match the common Gamers taste.

Sales numbers though are only one metric for measuring success. Some say you can't even properly gauge who won the console wars; that there is no way to measure it. Given that all 3 consoles sell millions of games and make billions of dollars, I have to agree that it's very difficult to pick a winner when all 3 are living on cloud 9.

Do we need new Consoles?

There is a misconception I want to get out of the way when discussing if we need new consoles. The issue lies between data storage and processing power. Data storage is simply the ability of something to hold lots of information. Processing power though is the ability to sift through large amounts of information to get at some end goal. For your video card that means showing off those awesome graphics. For your CPU that means making sure you don't lag or stutter while playing the game.

Some people argue that because the PS3 has plenty of storage space at nearly 50 gigs on a two sided blu ray disc, we don't need to go to a new console. Storage space isn't the main reason why we buy consoles though. We want an amazing gameplay experience. As a result, people are willing to put in multiple discs if it means playing a game at a very high graphical setting.

So the real question is, how are the Xbox360 and PS3's video card and processor doing? Are they maxing out? Are they on their last leg?

Video card

The video card is probably the first thing that a new console will benefit from. Back in the mid 2000's video cards were VERY expensive. Even if you paid an exorbitant amount, you still got a subpar video card by today's standards. The GPU inside the video cards was also very old and dated.

Video cards nowadays are amazingly powerful and very cheap. Even getting an average one at 150 dollars will get you a super powerful 1 gigabyte stick of dedicated ram with a large GPU on the side.

So even if Sony and Microsoft get average video cards for their next consoles, that will still be a huge step up in graphical processing.


Processors have gotten even cheaper than video cards thanks to the smartphone revolution which forced manufacturers to go to extremes to satisfy our cell phoned creatures.

The Google Nexus, which is the leader in Tablet technology,  just as an example, has a quad core processor that runs at lightning speeds and has a 12 core GPU strapped in a tiny flat space.

All of this for only $199. That would have been unheard of in the early 2000's. Technology has really come light years from where we were and the main change has been Price. Price is important when it comes to consoles and it's the price of the new hardware that's so surprising.

This is huge for the next consoles because while their processors may not have been on their last legs, their video cards definitely were, and an upgrade in both would be a HUGE step up for gaming.


A 1 gig stick of ram used to cost more than 200 dollars. Then it become 100. Now, about a year ago, I bought 6 gigs of triple channel high quality ram for 100 bucks. Ram was a rare commodity and console makers had to decide on exactly what they could afford to put in there.

That's no longer an issue for new consoles. Lets take the Wii as an example. The original Wii had 88mb of RAM. The new WII U has 768MBs of ram which is nearly a full gig. That's almost a 10 fold increase!!

They could have put more but their GPU will do a lot of work without needing excess amounts of RAM.

The Xbox360 in comparison has 512 MBs of RAM and the PS3 has the same 512 MB. Both companies would have benefited from putting more but every bit you add increased costs dramatically. Nowadays since RAM is dirt cheap you don't have to make those sacrifices anymore.

Gaming Medium

Again we have to be honest here and mention that the gaming medium we've been playing on is finished. Its days are numbered because the DVD 9 which holds 9 gigs is simply not beefy enough. It needs to hold more and it can't. Some games have even been shipped on 3 discs.

Rage for instance is 3 discs on Xbox360 and 1 disc on PS3. The game was released last year. A lot of us love our Xbox consoles and like playing on Xbox Live as well but this gets all the more frustrating to do when you're juggling discs in the console. It also really breaks your immersion in a game when it asks you to switch discs.

Sony has the edge here because in 2008 it destroyed Toshiba's HD-DVD format competitor. Blu Ray won the format wars and as a result left Xbox and Microsoft with no competitors from which to buy from.

If Microsoft wants to have a larger disc from which to play games from it either needs to make a new format from scratch which would costs millions in Research and Development or it would need to license and pay Sony for the ability to use Blu Ray Discs.

Since Blu Ray discs are a long ways away from being maxed, Sony has no issues on the Gaming Medium front. But Xbox is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Predictably they will probably make their own format. It's hard to imagine them paying Sony for Blu Ray.

Gamer's Quandary

 Comics courtesy of BeUndertaker

The truth when it comes to the console wars is that Gamers don't want to choose. They're really in a quandary and their pockets get stabbed every time they delve into the issue of consoles.

Imagine for a second if you didn't have to choose. Imagine if all the console makers could come together and make one console that all games would be compatible with.

That's what Gamers want and that's why open source consoles like the Ouya are gaining popularity. It's probably never going to happen and profit margins as well as stock holders insist that making different consoles continues, but imagine a future where it was possible.

Even if we had to pay an extra 200 dollars the cost would be worth it because now you had one console for all your needs. Industry insiders agree that having one console is better for gaming in general as the linked Gamespot article explains.

Having many competing consoles has always been the Gamer's Quandary and as a result most gamers have to sacrifice one console for the other. For Gamers it was easy to sacrifice the Wii because of the gaming lineups of the Xbox and the PS3, but now that the Wii U has amazing console exclusives, this decision will simply get harder.

Most Gamers today do not own all 3 consoles. Myself and others are in the minority that own all 3. Which console will gamers sacrifice for the next generation? Might Gamers sacrifice two consoles, if triple A console exclusives dry up?

Final thoughts

What we've learned from this long discussion is that gamers really are split on enthusiasm for new consoles. On the one hand we have an issue with backwards compatibility and possibly having to say goodbye to our old generation games and on the other we have a very powerful system with great specs awaiting us.

Then we have the issue of worrying about prices, but then we think about all the new games we will get a chance to experience. For every positive there seems to be a negative and this has lead the gaming community to really fracture over the announcing of a new console.

Some of us are happy, others are slightly discontented, and others are simply numb. We buy consoles for the games so it's always one step removed from what we really love. No one really cares deeply about a processor or video card. They care about the memories they had with that amazing game which was silently rendered in the background by your console.

Gamers also would love to have a world where one one console reigned supreme and where all the console makers could work together to achieve some better end goal. But sadly such a world is just a mirage for now.

The final thought for Gamers is that they want the new consoles to come out well priced, with backwards compatibility, and with gaming in mind [Wii U controller and Motion controls are very much a fad].

If console makers keep these tenets to heart then maybe whenever the new consoles are finally officially announced, we'll be more excited and less apprehensive. The truth is our consoles are getting older and a replacement is due sometime soon in the next couple years.

My final advice to console gamers is to open up to PC gaming. Starcraft, Diablo, and more than a decade worth of amazingly fun games are there. Hopefully that can give solace to your wounds when deciding which console is right for you. Most gamers will not be buying 2 next gen consoles on launch day; let alone 3 being available in the future.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

E-Sports and Female Gamers - The Good, the Bad, and the Very Very Ugly

(Competitive gaming is here to stay. It's a part of who we are as people.)

As mentioned in a previous aricle, one of the main reason people choose to game is competition. Competition is the heart and soul of the London 2012 Olympics right now and it has sold thousands of seat for a premium, just to get people to see the action from a relatively close distance.

Competition fuels sports like Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Soccer, and it makes its greatest players a part of history by cementing them in Hall of Fame collections and archives.

Electronic Sports are the natural progression of competition. eSports already sponsors huge tournaments and has a number of its own leagues including the MLG (Major League Gaming) and the IGN Pro League.

Gaming has long since left America as a past time for the few and now it's part of the fabric of the mainstream. Here are some stats to get you thinking:

  •  49% of U.S. households own a dedicated game console, and those that do, own an average of 2
  • Consumers spent $24.75 billion on video games, hardware and accessories in 2011.
  • 72% of households play computer or video games

Source: Entertainment Software Association (US statistics)

Gaming is here to stay and competition is simply in our blood. E-sports is taking advantage of that with games like:
  • Starcraft
  • League of Legends
  • Mount and Blade
  • World of Warcraft
  • Street Fighter
  • Popular FPS games like Call of Duty 

Source: Entertainment Software Association (US statistics)

Female Gamers

On a slightly different topic we'll explore the role of Women in Gaming and relate it back to E-Sports. Popular culture assumes male players make up the vast majority of gamers and that most gamers are just kids in their teens. We hear about the Call of Duty player with his Microphone on who sounds like he isn't a day older than 12 and we look at the most popular gamers and see lists of guys thinking that's the norm.

Nothing could be further from the truth:
  • 42% of gamers are women
  • Women aged 18+ represent a greater portion of game-playing population (37%) than boys aged 17 or younger (13%)
Source: Entertainment Software Association (US statistics)

Women love gaming just as much as anyone else. Speaking from personal experience, without advertising gaming, gaming in front of, or suggesting gaming as a past time, my own sister has become a devout video game player and has done so thanks to her Nintendo D.S.

The experience and pleasure it brought to her in her childhood remains with her and she sees it as a natural hobby, like tennis or rock climbing.

She's not the only female to enjoy gaming and although we tend not to mention it very much, Female gamers make up a huge piece of the gaming industry and share in it nearly as much as guys do. They outnumber those teenage gamers nearly 3 to 1, as you saw from the above statistic.


This is where the tone has to get more serious because we're dealing with real live people here. Because women will inevitably be a part of the community of gamers and because they're already a large portion of gamers, there is the possibility of a clash occurring between insensitive jerks and their innocent victims.

It turns out the eSports gaming community has a lot of insensitive jerks. I'm not going to name names because you'll find them in the links provided below, but simply put, these aren't a few minor deviants here and there; the gaming community has an epidemic of whiny and abusive males that can't professionally be around female gamers in a proper way.

There is a whole site dedicated to showing proof of harassment against female gamers called FatUglyorSlutty. Female Gamers take pictures of the types of harassment they receive and get a chance to pwn their idiotic aggressors. Here are some examples:

It was actually extremely hard trying to post pictures up since most of the examples were too toxic to be widely distributed. These pictures are actually the mildly bad ones.

Change Still Needed

The issue of women being harassed by gamers isn't  new and hasn't been getting better. Here's an article from a year ago complaining about the problem. Not much has changed since then.

Grace, one of the creators of the site Fatuglyorslutty,  says:
"I feel a little sad. For some of the ones that I feel are really blatantly harassing it seems to me that maybe there should be something harsher for it, but maybe not everybody agrees and maybe not even Microsoft agrees."

Microsoft has chosen not to aggressively combat harassment and many of the users featured on fatuglyorslutty are still active and still allowed to continue harassing others.

This past February Kotaku covered one such insensitive jerk actually recording his ongoing sexual harassment of a female gamer. The issue went viral and the initial reaction from the said jerk was that it was perfectly o.k. He even admitted that he harassed the female gamer and when he was asked "Can I get my Street Fighter without sexual harassment" the jerk responded with:
"You can't. You can't because they're one and the same thing. This is a community that's, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it's not the fighting game community—it's StarCraft. There's nothing wrong with StarCraft if you enjoy it, and there's nothing wrong with anything about eSports, but why would you want just one flavor of ice cream, you know? There's eSports for people who like eSports, and there's fighting games for people who like spicy food and like to have fun. There's no reason to turn them into the same thing, you know?"

He's right about it being part of the culture, but he's dead wrong in saying we have to enable it and allow it to thrive. It needs to be quashed and he needs to grow up and stop acting like an immature @#%#$. That's just me speaking frankly. :D :)

Just to remind everyone that there hasn't been enough traction and change in dealing with this problem, the BBC made a documentary recently in June of this year titled "Guns, Girls, and Games". It discusses the issue of Sexual Harassment in the Gaming community and comes along with an article detailing the problems women face when just trying to compete or play games on an equal stage as men.


Personalized View

On a final point it was helpful to get a personal view from one such female gamer that has gone through this, was deeply involved in the eSports arena, and can speak first hand about the issues Females face.

Hafu is a well known female gamer who has openly discussed some of the challenges that come with being a female Gamer. While writing this article she was actually Gaming live on with 500+ followers watching in the wings and commenting in her chat room.

Some of her achievements include:

World of Warcraft
1st - MLG Orlando 2008
1st - MLG Dallas 2008
1st - NA Blizzard Regionals 2008
3rd - Blizzcon 2008

Bloodline Champions
1st - Dreamhack Summer 2011

She's a top player in her field and wants to be known firstly as a top gamer and secondly as a female. In this way she rises against her male competitors instead of being told she's just a good "Female" gamer. On the contrary, she's a great Gamer period regardless of either gender.

When I asked her, "What one point should male gamers take to heart, before they make insensitive statements against women in gaming?" , she had this to say:
"I think the overarching problem is that people act with impunity behind the anonymity of the internet. Furthermore, it is much easier to talk smack to pixels than it is to someone's face. I wish people would remember that behind each avatar and username, is a person."

Final Thoughts

She makes a strong point here. If we would all remember that a real person and a real life is in front of us, that our words are powerful and can do a lot of harm, and that we need to be responsible and mature in how we act, we will never want or desire to harass anyone regardless of their gender.

You can help stop this epidemic next time you pick up a microphone and hear someone blasting off inappropriate comments to women. Tell him to politely, "shut his insensitive mouth", and leave it at that. In time things will change because we, as gamers, and decent human beings. have to make them change, for the betterment of our sisters in gaming.