So, Video Games Are Good for Your Mental Health? New Study Says “Yes”

When it comes to the mainstream media, video games don’t often receive the most positive press. Blamed for everything from isolation and depression to school shootings, games are still very much misunderstood as an entertainment medium.

It often seems like anything that reinforces that narrative gets amplified while everything else good about it gets drowned out.

Like how Games Done Quick has raised millions of dollars for charity or how vibrant some local gaming communities can be.

So when something good comes along about video games and, more importantly, the actual act of playing them, we’re here for it.

And it looks like research is starting to point in the direction of gaming being a good thing for your mental health, the New York Post reports.

A recent study done by none other than Oxford University in the United Kingdom shows that video games could actually be quite beneficial for your mental health as a gamer.

The Oxford Internet Institute worked with large video game publishers like EA to get data on things such as play length and a gamer’s relative enjoyment of that title. Unlike previous surveys that had relied upon gamer-reported data for time spent playing, this study uses precise measurements provided by the game makers in cooperation with the OII. 2,756 players of Animal Crossing: New Horizons were surveyed along with 518 Plants vs. Zombies players across the English-speaking world including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Animal Crossing, in particular, had a curious moment at the beginning of the year. The latest installment for the Nintendo Switch was embraced like few other titles in the series. It also happened to drop right around the beginning of many global lockdowns for what that is worth.

What they found is that simply playing games had a positive impact on the person’s mental health with the time element being of negligible contribution to the overall impact of the gaming (that is people did not report playing longer and being happier doing so in any significant number).

The Oxford Internet Institute’s director Andrew Przybylski told the New York Post, “Our findings show video games aren’t necessarily bad for your health; there are other psychological factors which have a significant effect on a persons’ well-being. In fact, play can be an activity that relates positively to people’s mental health – and regulating video games could withhold those benefits from players.”

That’s pretty good news for the industry as a whole which has had one of its best years ever. While many industries have lagged because of the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world economy, video games have thrived as more people embrace indoor activities.

Do you think video games are good for your mental health? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below.

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Marvel’s Avengers Sees Massive Drop in Number of Players on PC

One of the biggest gambles publishers and devs can make these days is on a game that needs to sustain a massive player base in order to make everything work right.

And it looks like Marvel’s Avengers might have a hard time maintaining momentum if recent reports on the drop in active players on the PC are anything to believe.

How bad is it? Apparently, some 98% of the PC players have ditched the game which only came out back in August.

Is this just the natural progression of things or is something else going on with this game?

Well, reviews weren’t that glowing to start. Many cited the repetitive nature of the gameplay as one of the factors that had turned them off by the end game. Although it is hard to imagine that being a bunch of superheroes could be boring, somehow the devs accomplished this feat. 

Where are people getting these numbers? None other than Steam it seems. While that might not be the most scientific analysis, some people are speculating that the numbers could be similar on consoles even though we don’t have numbers for that.

The reasons why we should take these figures with a grain of salt are numerous, least among them of which could be the vastly different audience on Steam versus consoles. Yet, doubts aside, that’s a pretty massive drop for any singular platform so it is hard to imagine that the game is somehow more compelling to users on others.

Aside from the questionable endgame gameplay, the game also seems to have turned fans off with an art style that doesn’t resemble the movies, a bizarrely dark story, and in-game bugs that continue this long after launch. In other words, it’s just your typical triple-A game mess that should have gotten cleaned up a long time ago back when people had patience.

Now they don’t. As to what effect this could have on any planned content coming for the game in the near future we don’t know because, again, this is all just a bunch of anecdotal conjecture at this point though veteran gamers know how this oft-told story ends.

Or it could just be that Marvel’s Avengers has a lot more competition out there in terms of games. The next-gen consoles have just arrived and it isn’t like we are starved for triple-A stuff. With Cyberpunk 2077 just around the corner, how much time did anyone think Marvel’s Avengers had anyway since it didn’t quite come roaring out of the gates at launch.

Have you picked up the Avengers game? What do you think of it? What are some of your issues with the game or what are some the things you enjoyed? How can they stem the tide of losses in their player base moving forward? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Atari’s Video Game Hotels Just One Part of Larger Movement to Take Gamer Culture Mainstream

One of the themes of 2020, aside from social isolation and COVID-19, is how popular video games are.

And we’re not just talking about the actual gaming aspect of things, either.

From live streams to conventions to adaptations, gaming is growing into its own as a major media and cultural force. For some of us, this is a shift that is long overdue. Yet for the wider public, it’s like they’re discovering games for the first time.

That said, there is one brand name that is a touchstone for pretty much everyone (especially OG gamers) and that is Atari.

Atari has gone in and out of business more times than we care to count and they have had so many gaming iterations it is hard to keep up with at the end of the day. One constant that threads through all of this and that is that Atari, for a largely (marketable) cohort, means video games.

Perhaps that’s why the concept of an Atari-themed hotel chain is not that outlandish, particularly when you look at the growth of eSports, the Games Done Quick series, and Nintendo’s partnership with Universal Studios for Super Nintendo World.

With outlets opening in Phoenix, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Austin, San Francisco, and San Jose, the Atari Hotels promise to offer guests a fully immersive gaming cultural experience with entertainment venues and game-themed bars and restaurants.

GSD Group’s Napoleon Smith, III, specifically cited nostalgia as one of the many forces that Atari hopes to tap into when guests arrive. The design aesthetic touted by the group so far shows off a retro 1980s look with nods towards gaming and cyberpunk motifs.

“It’s definitely a place for gamers, but it’s also for families. We always believe that a family that plays together stays together…We really want to bring some stuff that you only see in games to life.”

To that end, Atari hotels will come equipped for gaming and even events centered around gaming. That makes perfect sense seeing as how businesses that cater to gaming as a lifestyle are expected to post record growth numbers in the years to come.

“I think we [as a society] went too far digital in our entertainment, and now people are clamoring for something tactile, something that they can touch and be a part of…We want to see how much fun we can make one place for families and people who just want to feel that kid at heart that they’ve forgotten for a while. I think it’s kind of needed, especially after what we’ve gone through this past year.”

What do you think of the rise of eSports, films and shows about games, and destination locations like Super Nintendo World and the proposed Atari hotel? Let us know your thoughts on this in the comments section below if you like.

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Microsoft’s Latest Earnings Boom Driven in Part by Video Games

To call 2020 a strange year might be somewhat of an understatement. With COVID-19 wreaking economic chaos across much of the globe, it is hard to believe that anyone is “doing well” from a revenue standpoint right now.

But there has been one boom during the world’s collective shut-in saga, and that is the video game industry. Not only is it posting record revenues and profits but also the current growth trajectory puts it on pace to displace more traditional titans of entertainment.

The only question is whether any of this will last once people are allowed to socialize again. Analysts with some history of hitting things right on the head when it comes to predicting the often wild ride that is the video games industry say that growth will not only continue but accelerate.

Perhaps that’s why Microsoft was more than happy to take a long-term bet on gaming way back in the Gates era with its Xbox. Now they’re reaping the profits of that foresight as Redmond’s latest earnings reports not only showed a significant contribution from its other “visionary” initiatives like cloud computing but also from its Xbox gaming division.

The company just reported $37.2 billion in revenue, beating Wall Street expectations of $35.8 billion, with video games surging forward to help bring home the bacon.

Microsoft’s director of investor relations Kyle Vikstrom told CNN Business, “Gaming is one of the largest and fastest-growing forms of entertainment in the world. We expect there to be more than $200 billion of revenue in this industry in 2021…We’re seeing a really great early response to the console that’s going to launch next quarter.”

Aside from the Xbox, Microsoft also owns Minecraft and recently acquired Bethesda, maker of The Elder Scrolls and Fallout along with id Software’s DOOM series. Interestingly, Bill Gates wanted to acquire DOOM’s makers back in the early days of PC gaming because it, at one point, was more widespread than the Windows operating system itself. It looks like the company has finally fulfilled that wish.

Moving on to the next generation with Sony, Microsoft is putting forth two visions for the future of gaming, the “budget” Xbox Series S and the high-end Xbox Series X. There are also rumors that the company is putting out feelers to Japanese publishing houses in the hope of acquiring them and adding to the growing stable of developers and IP that Redmond is amassing. Perhaps noting that Sony’s strategy of high-quality, triple-A exclusives helped secure it the lead in the last generation, Microsoft’s strategy makes sense if the company sees gaming as a major contributor to the bottom line going forward.

What do you think of Microsoft’s next-gen plans? Are you planning on picking up one of the company’s systems? How do they stack up against Sony’s PS5? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below if you like.

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Ghost of Tsushima’s Free Co-Op Update Part of Awesome New Trend in Gaming

Ghost of Tsushima might have fooled many of us into thinking it was From Software’s latest masterpiece when it launched back in July of this year.

But Sucker Punch Entertainment not only showed us all that imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery but that, sometimes, the student can become a master in his own right.

That’s probably what makes this news of a free co-op mode for Ghost of Tsushima that much more exciting: It isn’t like the devs needed to give us anything else in what some already considered a pretty perfect game.

Yet this is the modern era of gaming and “pretty perfect” isn’t enough, at least by the developer’s own standards.

Now gamers that weren’t taken in with Ghost of Tsushima’s amazing action and breathtaking visuals have another reason to give the game a look and that is its awesome new co-op mode.

Basically you get the best of Ghost of Tsushima but this time with a friend along for the ride. So how does it work?

Well, if you already own the game, it’s a free download. For those who purchase it moving forward, it will be part of that deal, too.

In terms of what the new Legends adds to the game aside from co-op, there are four gameplay archetypes that players can select and that each corresponds to a type of in-game class system. They level separately though they can share loot and accumulated “ki.” In total, there will be 9 co-op stories for you and a friend to play through in this initial offering though there are Internet rumblings that more is to come given the wild reception this initial installment has received. These aren’t just dead-eyed grind fests, either. The 9 stories have voiceovers and each has a unique concept that underpins it from a gameplay perspective. There is no cutting corners here and that’s pretty much what anyone would expect for an add-on to one of the best games of 2020.

The whole concept reminds this writer of the Final Fantasy XV post-release add-on Comrades, a multiplayer-focused derivation of the main game’s engine. Though that was shut down in June of this year, the DLC lives on with NPC characters taking the place of human counterparts. What made it noteworthy was how much it changed to the game and, indeed, in how many fundamental ways it added to its post-launch life. While the DLC hamster wheel can become a bit tedious in the long run, most of us won’t complain that much if it happens to be attached to a massive blockbuster like Ghost of Tsushima. In other words, we hope to see more of this in the near future.

Have you picked up Ghost of Tsushima yet? Will this new co-op mode incentivize you to give it another look? If you own it, what do you think of this new content? Should more developers update and augment their games after launch with free – or paid – content? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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PC Cheaters Causing Cross-Play Havoc in COD: Black Ops Cold War Beta

Maybe we just can’t have nice things after all?

That seems to be the hot take from a recent report that says cross-play on COD: Black Ops Cold War is being hampered by rampant cheating on the part of PC players. Of course, that makes sense since modding a console is a little bit more difficult. Nonetheless, the vaunted cross-play feature in Activision’s money-printing machine is apparently not worth it for console gamers right now and many are choosing to eschew play with their PC counterparts altogether in order to avoid this issue.

So much for being able to pit gamers from different platforms against one another, eh?

For those of you that aren’t first-person shooter aficionados, cheating in those games mainly involves things like an aimbot, no clipping, and other overlays that show you player locations. In the case of the first method, a player’s reticule will focus automatically on a kill shot area on opposing players while no clipping and telling you where everyone is located are pretty self-explanatory cheats. That’s definitely not meant to be an exhaustive list of the ways people cheat in these games but they are some of the most common by far.

What makes all of this even more hilarious is that the cheating is occurring during BETA testing for the game’s multiplayer.

Like this YouTube video so poignantly asks, “who cheats in beta?”

As far as some gamers are concerned, though, this is really just indicative of a much wider-spread problem that makes these games miserable to play for both console and PC gamers. Eurogamer reports that a search of the web already reveals numerous hacks for sale for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War – a game that doesn’t come out until November 13. Eurogamer further reminds us that this problem also hit Warzone back in April and the plague of cheating on COD properties, in general, is a near-constant in the gaming press.

In the meantime, console gamers are simply turning off cross-play functions to avoid this issue. Not only is that a pragmatic solution, but it is also one that is easily implemented. But with the launch of the game right around the corner, some fans are wondering how smooth everything is going to be on day one if cheats are already this prevalent. And let’s not kid ourselves here. As much as gamers claim to enjoy the campaign, COD is one of those franchises that rises and falls on the success of its multiplayer. Hopefully Activision can work everything out between now and then.  

Do you play Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War multiplayer? Have you had issues with cross-play? Or have you encountered any cheaters from the PC side of things in other cross-play games? Let us know your thoughts on this in the comments section below. Also, before you leave, check out our other video game content here.

Riot Could be Making an Among Us Game

It looks like Riot is gauging interest in an Among Us style game, but using their League of Legends characters and themes.

Among Us has taken over twitch and social media, being one of the most played and viewed games in recent weeks. The game had been out since 2018, but didn’t gain as much traction as it suddenly did these passed several weeks. All the biggest streamers have been jumping on this game of social deduction.

There are other entries into the genre such as Project Winter and Deceit, but none of them blew up quite as much. The friendly graphics and accessibility of the game probably aided in its popularity. Among Us is free to download and play on your mobile device, while the Steam version costs just $4.99. It is quite easy to learn, but difficult to master, which invites new players to try it out.

Riot is always chasing the latest trends now that they are trying to rapidly expand from their base that is League of Legends. It looks like they want to jump on the social deduction train now as you can see by the survey they have sent out.

What do you guys think of a new deception game with League of Legends themes?


Valorant: Riot Adds Changes to Ranked Mode in Act 3

  • Riot tightened up the rank spread for team matchmaking again. So you have to be within 3 tiers so a Gold 1 and Queue with up to a Plat 1.
  • You can select your preferred server, so even though its not guaranteed , you should still experience more consistent ping overall.
  • Personal performance no longer matters in immortal or higher ranks. Your elo gain or loss will only be determined by the end result of winning or losing.

You can read the full notes here