Gameseuticals!  How Video Games Could ‘Theoretically’ Replace Pharmaceuticals!
May 17th, 2013

gaming-might-actually-reduce-stress-and-depressionNext time someone gives you grief for playing video games or for working in the video game industry, be sure to let them know that video games are not only epically awesome, but they have hidden health benefits as well.  People are often quick to judge ‘gamers’ and many parents often worry about their children’s health due to a lack of physical activity.  However, did you ever stop and think about the positive health benefits of playing video games?  According to the Yahoo! article 7 health benefits of playing video games written by Danny Gallagher, there are more positives than people may realize when it comes to playing games.

In a study released by The University of Utah in 2012, children with chronic illnesses such as autism, depression and Parkinson’s disease who played video games, specifically one that was designed for the study, showed signs of improvement in “resilience, empowerment, and a ‘fighting spirit’”.  Researchers believe that the reason behind this was the fact that the games evoked positive emotions as well as the built-in reward system which assisted the children in their daily battles and struggles.  Video games have also been referenced in helping improve preschoolers’ motor skills based off of research done by Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.  According to the study, the children who played interactive games had better object control motor skills than the children who didn’t.  So don’t sweat it if your little one loves to play games on your smart phone, it’s not always a bad thing!

In addition to benefits for children, video games have also been mentioned to help with issues such as stress and depression in adults.  Video games can be a good outlet for people who suffer from mental health issues such as stress and depression by allowing them to vent their frustration and aggression.  Games can also help with physical pain, due to the good old trick of distraction.  Psychologists at the University of Washington developed a game that helps hospital patients suffering from immense physical pain.  What’s the game you ask? Simple.  “Snow World” features a virtual reality artic world where the user throws an endless supply of snowballs at a series of targets.  This game was even used in military hospitals, where it was found to assist soldiers recovering from battlefield wounds, requiring less pain medication during recovery.

Remember how your Mom always told you not to sit so close to the TV when you were young because it was bad for your eyes?  Well, it turns out that’s not always the case!  For people with cataracts, first-person shooter games like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty helped to improve their vision according to Dr. Daphen Maurer of the Visual Development Lab of Ontario’s McMaster University.  The improvement is attributed to these games fast-paced nature which requires the player to focus, helping to train the visually impaired in-order to see things more sharply.  The fast-paced nature of games is also great when it comes to decision making.  The split second choices that are required to play games successfully, often between virtual life and death, have been said to assist in decision making in the real world.  This discovery came from a study conducted by Cognitive neuroscientists at the University of Rochester in New York where they claimed that the process of taking in information about their surroundings and forcing a specific reaction was good for the brain.

Last but not least, video games have been attributed to keeping spirits higher in old age.  Researchers from North Carolina State University took a look at our aging population and came up with the conclusion that senior citizens, who played video games, even on a rare occasion, reported a higher level of happiness.

So, what did you learn today?  Video games are more than just cool characters, story lines and realistic environments.  They can actually be helpful to people both old and young, ailing or healthy.  So continue to play with pride!  And for you video game developers out there, you should take pride also, because your games can be helping people more than you know.

 

Calling all Gamers: Learn How to Turn Passion into Profession
February 15th, 2013

Xbox Controller

So, you like to play video games, huh?  Lucky for you, thanks to the rapidly growing and ever-evolving video game industry, you can turn your video game hobby into a solid career.  Gone are the days when being a ‘gamer’ is viewed as a negative thing.  Gamers used to be labeled as antisocial kids who spent countless hours in a dark room staring at a screen eating Doritos and drinking Mountain Dew.  While that still can be the case sometimes, those ‘gamers’ that people used to make fun of could now be making tons of money working in the video game industry.  Win? …Win!

A great article, titled “Great Careers for Video Game Lovers”, was recently written by Gamersmom, a concerned Mother who wanted to look into the possibility of her son finding a job where he could turn his love for video games into a career.  She explores the video game job market, types of jobs in the industry, as well as schools to help achieve a successful career in gaming.  Ok, we admit it’s a little humorous that someone’s mom had to do this for them, but she is certainly onto something.  Thanks, Gamersmom!

What kinds of jobs are available in the video game industry?  There are lots of different opportunities out there.  Ever heard of the saying, it takes a village to raise a child?  Well, it absolutely takes a ‘village’ or team to create the super high-tech games out there available on the shelves today.  On one end of the spectrum, for those individuals who have artistic talent (drawing an awesome stick figure doesn’t count), there are jobs such as storyboard artists, character artists, animators and texture artists available that could utilize such skills.  But fear not if you aren’t an artistic person, because on the other end, you have the hard-core programmers that deal with video game engines and artificial intelligence.  In between these two types of jobs, there are also job titles such as game designers, producers, writers and of course, quality assurance/game testers, which can help if you are looking to get your foot in the door and can lead to other opportunities in the industry.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves; there is a step in between being a gamer and turning it into a career to pay the bills: school.  Video game related degrees used to be as elusive as Big Foot, but now there are a lot of schools that offer degrees in the gaming field, ranging from 2 year associate degree or certificate programs to bachelor degree programs at 4-year colleges.  These 4-year programs in the art and technology of video game design are offered at schools such as Columbia College, DigiPen, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Full Sail University, just to name a few.  If a career in gaming is something you are really thinking about, taking the time to look into different schools and degrees offered is a must!  As it turns out, mom does know best.  Thanks again, Gamersmom!  Don’t worry though.  Just because you have a fancy degree when you graduate from one of these schools, you can still drink Mountain Dew and eat Doritos in your corner office while you help design the next AAA game, like Gears of War.

If you are already in the industry and would like to further your career please contact us!

 

How The Internet Can Boost or Hurt Your Business
January 15th, 2013

I recently read a fantastic article on Linkedin by Henry Blodget that elaborates on the future of internet business. How, exactly, has the internet changed the way consumers purchase items? As stated in the article, “one-third of the world’s population is now online…and that one-third of humans earn about 85% of the world’s income.” For business owners, this means that your customers are now looking to purchase your product on-line. Have you made sure to accomodate them? If you have yet to account for a significant portion of your business coming from on-line formats, then, as this article alludes to, you MUST start to forcast for it. For consumers, you can expect a dramatic increase in applications for smartphones and tablets that will allow you to easily navigate the internet and purchase anything you want, with the touch of a finger and decent 4G access.

How has this shift happened over the last 3-4 years? Well, according to this article, since early 2010, the sale of smartphones and tablets has boomed. In fact, the sale of smartphones and tablets has left sales of personal computers in the dust. PC sales have remained constant and flat since 2008, while smartphone and tablet sales have seen a 300% increase in the same time frame. Mobile access to the internet is now a constant. People are able to access the internet from any location near a cell tower. There’s also an expected rise of 4G in 2013 which means mobile data speeds could increase from 3 megabits to 5 megabits of data per second and more. Faster speed, a significant increase in data, and a dramatic rise in the sale of smartphones and tablets means that the future of business and sales on the internet is certainly the wave of the future. Get your surfboards ready if you want to be on it.

Make sure, if you have a business, that you are utilizing this medium to stay competitive in the market. Of course, if you decide that you will stick with alternative outlets, like the newspaper, you and your business will find an alternative benefit. You will find yourself with a dramatic increase in free time to play games and take long walks on the beach, because you will be out of business. According to this article, “the internet has already demolished the newspaper business. The question now is whether TV is next.” The printing press, while historically significant, has gone the way of the dinosaur. The touchscreen tablet has taken its place. The market has spoken loudly. Are you listening? The huge boom in the sale of smartphones and tablets is pointing you in one direction. Onward to the internet! Make sure you have a significant online presence that allows for easy navigation. In the immortal words of one of my favorite movies, “if you build it, they will come.”

How video games are becoming the next great North American spectator sport

After struggling for decades, competitive gaming finally takes off in the West.

Source: ARS Technica by   –  Sept 28 2012, 10:45am EDT
Full Article found here: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/09/how-video-games-are-becoming-next-great-north-america-spectator-sport/

 

A panoramic shot of the capacity crowd at PAX’s League of Legends finals

I’m standing on the edge of a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd—the kind of crowd where you have to apologize to seven people just to move a few feet—frantically snapping pictures, because I’ve got the distinct feeling that what I’m looking at is one of the stories of the year in video gaming.

It’s a video game tournament, but it looks more like a rock concert, complete with a huge stage up front, tons of lighting equipment overhead, and a large merchandise booth off to the side. As the tournament reaches the finals, the crowd continues to flow in until every seat, aisle and empty corner of the two linked ballrooms of the Seattle Convention Center is filled with a throng comprising thousands and thousands of people. Even when the room seems completely full, the people don’t stop coming, and the hallways outside of the ballroom begin to clog as fans continue streaming up from the lower floors of the Penny Arcade Expo.

They’re all here to watch professional gaming teams battle it out in the North American regional finals in League of Legends, a PC action-strategy game that has exploded in the competitive video gaming scene over the past year. The tournament’s winning team will take home $40,000 and a trip to the World Championship in October, where the victor will net $2 million and international fame.

A tipping point

Starcraft II competitions are popular enough to be considered the national pastime in South Korea, but for most of the last two decades the idea of gaming as a popular spectator competition in the West has been little more than the butt of jokes. In the last year or so, though, eSports has undergone a sudden exponential growth. The Major League Gaming Spring Championship in June (which featured tournaments in four high-profile games like Starcraft II and Mortal Kombat) attracted 4.7 million online viewers over three days in June, peaking at 437,000 concurrent viewers. That’s substantially more than all of their 2011 events combined. Over 2.2 million viewers tuned in to Ustream internet broadcast of the 2011 EVO fighting game championships from a packed ballroom in Las Vegas.

These competitions aren’t just popular with loners sitting and watching at their computers, but also with crowds of people that gather to watch the events live. After the packed crowds at the PAX Regionals in Seattle, last week League of Legends officially sold out its second annual World Championship in Los Angeles’ USC Basketball Arena (which has a seating capacity of 10,000, though it’s unclear if all those seats are being used for the tournament). A three-day playoff series at a smaller venue is also sold out about a month in advance.

After decades of struggle, eSports are finally starting to attract significant attention in North America. The raw numbers might not compare well with well-established spectators sports like football and basketball, but that might be the wrong comparison to make. After all, you don’t need to be Lebron James to get a start in the NBA, you just need to be better than the low-ranking players. And eSports certainly show more fan excitement and growth potential than the least popular sports that currently get television coverage, such as late night poker or lacrosse. In many cases spectator gaming even rivals other up-and-coming sports leagues like Major League Soccer in terms of viewership.

Plus, these new digital spectator sports don’t really need to compete head-to-head with other established sports, because they’ve completely bypassed television distribution. Online streams let these eSports hunt down the key gamer demographic in their natural habitats—forums, social media, and video game websites— without the need for television exposure. The ability to offer free eSports programming to any curious gamer with a broadband connection has helped the concept spread virally, and paid HD subscriptions have become a much-needed revenue source as well.

A generational shift

Up until about 2011, eSports showed persistent but slow growth that bore the markings of a snail-like generational shift. Before eSports could become the force that it is evolving into today, it first needed a generation of potential viewers that grew up comfortable with the idea of watching digital competition in basements and rec rooms from a young age. Those lifelong gamers then needed to grow up, get jobs, and acquire disposable income for advertisers to chase after, a phenomenon that is finally starting to happen on a large enough scale to support a spectator sport.

In 2012, that slow-growing community support has finally gotten large enough to translate into significant advertising support from major brands. Dr. Pepper, Doritos, Red Bull, Bic razors, and all manner of gaming companies are turning out for the chance to advertise to a flock of eSports watchers in the key 18-30 year old male demographic.

 

 

The view from the standing room in the back wasn’t great, but the thrill of being in the crowd was electric.

The current limiting factor for the eSports movement is not the fact that it hasn’t been fully accepted by mainstream culture, but that it hasn’t even been fully accepted by the entire video game industry. The scene still excludes almost all of console gaming (save for the relatively niche fighting game genre), and scant few publishers have committed appreciable funding toward developing their competitive communities.

But this is starting to change. Activision, for instance, recently unveiled a spectator toolset for one of the biggest games in the world, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which will allow shoutcasters access to advanced camera and streaming tools to bring matches to viewers much more comprehensively (Shooters in particular have struggled to gain spectator appeal outside a hardcore niche because of the complexity of relaying action that takes place from so many perspective). The upcoming MMO/shooter Firefall and Valve’s League of Legends competitor Dota 2 are adding similar eSports-friendly tools. Halo 4 will also be playable to the public at a November Major League Gaming event just prior to its launch, showing how important Microsoft considers the audience of live eSports spectators.

If Microsoft and Sony include integrated support for eSports streaming services like Twitch.tv in their upcoming consoles then we could very well be on the verge of an even larger eSports boom.

The crowd

As I’m standing in the crowd at the PAX League of Legends finals, a player on Team SoloMid (the eventual champions) pulls off a surprise kill and the crowd goes wild in raucous applause and whoops. It’s at that moment that I realize the full appeal of eSports, just like traditional sports, comes through best with a live crowd. It doesn’t really matter whether the game that’s being played is soccer or Starcraft, there’s a human element of camaraderie that comes from sharing a moment of excitement with thousands of other individuals.

And that’s the true hope for the future of competitive video games. Traditional sports have reigned in North America for a hundred years, but as I stand watching this crowd cheer their hearts out, I wonder what the sporting world will look like in the future. Right now, eSports’ most populous demographic is an incredibly young 18-24 year old male. Meanwhile, new people are being born into a world where watching eSports is increasingly normal. What might the sporting world look like in 25 years when that a significant percent of the population has grown up with the idea of popular competitive gaming? In 100 years? What if game designers can create entirely new games that are built from the ground up to be thrilling for spectators?

We don’t yet know the answers to these questions, but it’s going to be incredibly exciting to watch them unfold. It seems possible now that the video game revolution that dawned in the ’70s could continue to shape our spectator-sports-crazy culture for decades to come.