Crowdfunding and Shenmue 3: Where We Are and What It Means

A couple years back I wrote an article about how Crowdfunding was increasingly a route for independent developers to use to jump start and create their passion products. I asked the question as to when we would see bigger developers and franchises turn towards crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe to revive beloved franchises that didn’t receive the financial response they needed to secure sequels. Well, that’s happened. The dream is real, and Shenmue 3 is now something that will be made.

qO727H4I could gush on for hours on why I am excited about Shenmue 3, but I won’t. The game’s announcement, however, has some historical importance I believe should be discussed. The game represents a shift in the gaming industry that may change how certain developers gain funds and support for titles. Yu Suzuki tentatively “announced” Shenmue 3 at the Sony E3 conference to gauge support for the game. Obviously support and interest was  there, as the 2 million goal was reached in less than 10 hours.  Once reached, backers (specifically Sony) agreed to contribute support to the game to ensure its development. Not only was it the fastest funded video game project yet, it looks like it may be the highest funded one when it concludes.

Why does this matter to sociology? With games like Shenmue 3, Yooka-Laylee, and the Mighty Number 9, developers have options to create games that may not otherwise  be made. Not only that, but with fans being a major force in backing the game the game really becomes by the fans for the fans. Yu Suzuki has stated that he will involve fans in numerous ways  during the development, including even potentially having major donors be characters or voices inside the game. This form of development creates a unique exchange between developer and fans and links the two more prominently than ever before. In doing so, this relationship between fans and developers creates a community around the game that may lead to a strengthening in development and experience. This community and exchange between developers and fans is a sociologically interesting one because it dramatically changes how we view and interact with the game’s we play.  Games and gaming developers are no longer entities that exist outside of the reach of gamers; we are all now apart of the process.Obviously we’re at the start of this process, but the prospects are quite exciting.

Beyond development, Shenmue 3 proves that a niche crowd in gaming, one that is vocal and proactive enough, can make their desires reality. That’s an important shift in gaming, one that can inspire other passion projects or long awaited sequels to see the light of day.

So, let’s start out on this new journey of an era in which no game’s development is out of the question.

SUPPORT THE KICKSTARTER HERE!

WATCH THE ANNOUNCEMENT VIDEO HERE!

Study Suggest 23% of Kids Consider Playing Video Games a Form of Physical Activity

The Youth Sports Trust, a group the does advocacy for physical education and physical well-being, has compiled a report on the status of today’s youth. The report is pretty well done, with a lot of insights about how technology is changing the way kids socialize, view physical activity, and interact with technology in physical activity, but there’s one piece of data that is grabbing more headlines than others. The report suggests that 23% of kids believe that playing video games is a form of physical activity.

Should we panic and throw out all video game consoles and computers for fear that our kids will inevitably become blobs? Probably not. Let’s consider what this data is actually suggesting, whether it’s an accurate claim, and how they might have come to this conclusion

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23% of kids believe video games can be a form of physical activity. This would be a bigger issue if this was 1995, but kids today have a much wider experience when it comes to playing their games.  If you’re in this age range of 5-16, you’re household more than likely has a console that has some sort of motion control component to it. The Wii itself was a     cultural phenomenon, so it’s unlikely that kids today haven’t seen or played a game that requires physical motion. With this in mind, it’s not insane to see where kids are making this claim from; some games require physical motion, they must be a form physical activity.

IT’S JUST LIKE MOVING!

Whether using the Kinect or Wii can be considered a “form of physical activity” is a subject up for debate for adults, but they undeniably require physical activity. Kids aren’t going to be able to define the difference between an activity specifically meant for physical fitness and an activity that simply requires physical activity; they’re kids, let’s not be silly.

Another consideration is that the poll was conducted using a likert scale, meaning they give the respondents the options between “agree, strongly agree, neither agree or disagree, disagree, or strongly disagree”. These types of polls are useful, but can lead to polling errors and over simplification of data.

Let’s think about it. If you’re a 7 year old child and you’re ask if you think games are a physical activity you’re going to draw on your knowledge of video games. You’re most likely thinking some games have physical activity involved (Wii Sports, Star Wars Kinect, etc), but the majority do not (Minecraft, Skylanders, etc). With a Likert scale, “Agree” and “Disagree” most closely relate to “Some, but not all”, but kids with some knowledge of physically active video games will probably tend on the side of agree, even if they only marginally agree with the statement. Thus we have a problem: likert scales lump people who only marginally agree in with people who agree to a greater extent, which wouldn’t be a problem if we weren’t making bold statements based on these scales.  It’s a minor nuisance in data collecting, but important nonetheless.

Also, some kids just like to pick the silliest options.

So maybe we shouldn’t be flabbergasted that video games are being considered physical activity; maybe they’re just evolving to become one. With VR on the way, it’s certainly looking that physical activity and gaming are tied together.

TLDR: GET OFF THESE KIDS’ BACKS.

It’s unfortunate that this singular question is the one sparking headlines and debate, because the report itself has a lot of interesting insights that are being overlooked as a result. With more and more public funding being cut to programs that support physical fitness and with the rise of technology being more closely tied to social and physical development, it’s important for us to understand and research how we can adapt to these new trends.

Madden 16 Will Add Female Fans to Their In-Game crowds

“We’re here to recognize the amazing milestone in gaming that EA Sports has undertaken with this year’s Madden 16. In a gaming climate where diversity and representation is an ongoing struggle, this brave gaming company has shown that they are willing to take a stand on the side of equality. I’m sure you’ve already heard about their tremendous feat, but it’s worth mentioning once again: This year’s Madden 16 will feature female fans in the in-game crowd. Let that sink in for a moment. So brave. So daring.” – Second Lady of the United States, Jill Biden*

Battling for the biggest non-news of the year, EA Sports felt it was necessary to make an announcement that the upcoming Madden 16 would feature female fans in the in-game crowds. You may be scratching your heads and asking “Why the hell haven’t there been female fans in the crowds in previous games?”. The answer, of course, is because only men like fruttttbrawwwll.

That’s a lot of dudes!

After EA Sports made waves  (They didn’t make waves) by announcing that they would feature  female soccer teams to the next FIFA game, the Madden developer stated that “We’re excited about FIFA adding women players, but we wouldn’t let them steal all the thunder…So we’ve added women to our crowds”. Great job, thunder achieved.

This is a non-addition to something that should have already been in place. Why they have chosen to not include female fans in the crowds in previous games is more news that them adding them in. It’s an odd announcement on the back of a somewhat less trivial announcement. STEP OF YOUR ANNOUNCEMENT NEWS EA.

I’m going to save EA some time and make some future trivial announcements for them:

-The next Battlefield Game will have 5 colors of camouflage!

-The next Sims game will let your character work a blue collar job!

-The next Plants Vs. Zombies game will feature zombies that were originally from minority groups!

*Not an actual quote, because why would it be?

Games That Make A Difference: Zoo U

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Wow, what a smart and creative title! – No one

It’s time to talk about games, but we’re not going to talk about any ol’ ordinary games; we’re going to talk about games that make a difference. These posts are going to be about games that have some sort of sociological significance; be it in the way they change the industry or in the way they change those that play them. So let’s dive in with our first game:

ZOO U

Zoo me? Zoo U.  Developed by 3C institute, Zoo U is an interactive game that seeks to help kids develop social and emotional skills. It does this by tracking and accessing players  skills as they play through the game. Players are given common day social situations that a child may come across in class, and then gives them options as to how to progress in those situation, all in a simulated virtual school setting. In doing so, it assess initial social skills and then assesses them as they progress to help instructors and parents gauge their child’s development.  The game focuses on six core social skills to : impulse control, empathy, initiation, communication, cooperation, and emotion regulation.

Warning: Your child may come out of the experience with expectations of wild animals living and playing inside schools.

Why does Zoo U make a difference? I haven’t played the game myself, but the game is reported to have positive effects on the social and emotional well being of the kids that play it. Developing social skills at a young age is important to a child’s  emotional well being,  their academic development, and their success in making friends.. Games like Zoo U can give a leg up to children that may be having a difficult time developing these skills by making the learning process fun and engaging. Likewise, at an early age repetition is important in the development of skills (It’s why they have you do your times tables so many times) but in social situations you may not always get that repetition that often need. Video games bridge that gap, as it gives the child unlimited opportunities to interact communicate with their in game peers.

Games like Zoo U certainly aren’t the first wave of educational games, but they’re some of the first to be targeted at specific skills. We can think back to our own youths and the educational games we may have played. Games like Zoo U are building off their the first wave of educational games in meaningful and focused ways. We’ll have to see how this efforts effect their participants in the long run.

Check out Zoo U’s website

That sound a bit like an advertisement, but I do think that games that are directed at developing social skills can be huge help in assisting kids who may have problems developing social or emotional skills. This stuff is important, as they really are the building blocks to being a emotional and socially healthy adult. We can all use some help sometimes, so why not make it a bit more fun with some Vidja Guymmeessssss

Now excuse me while I pitch Bioware a dark and gritty version of the game that gives you branching paths that all lead to the same silly ending.

The Strong Museum Announces First Inductees To Video Game Hall of Fame

The Strong Museum, also known as the National Museum of Play, has announced their inductees to their first few inductees to their video game hall of fame. Who made the cut? Spoiler: You won’t be surprised by their choices!

Let’s go game by game with what they had to say.

Super Mario Bros

Created by legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, Super Mario Bros. jumped onto the scene in 1985, quickly becoming one of the most recognizable games ever. Mario first appeared as Jumpman in the arcade game Donkey Kong but gained icon status through Super Mario Bros. Mario’s infectious, upbeat personality helped reinvigorate the struggling video game market. Since his introduction, the character of Mario has appeared in more than 200 games and on every Nintendo console ever created. Mario himself not only became the face of Nintendo, but also the face of the video game industry as a whole.

The most obvious of choices, Super Mario Bros. The franchise is the highest selling video game franchise of all time, and Mario is by far the most recognizable video game character of all time. Though my guess is that the franchise made it on Mario Pinball Land Alone.

Tetris

Tetris sprang from the Soviet Union in 1984 and spread to other Eastern European countries. In 1987, Tetris launched on PCs in North America and Europe. A rollicking Russian folk tune gave it an unforgettable soundtrack. And when the Japanese video game developer Nintendo packaged it with the debut of the Game Boy handheld system in 1989, it traveled to every corner of the globe, selling hundreds of millions of copies across a variety of platforms. It’s become such a cultural icon that the game has even been projected on the sides of buildings gracing the skylines of cities around the world

From Russia with fun, Tetris was one of the first games to popularize handheld gaming. It’s really the perfect game. Who doesn’t love a good ol’ game of Tetris? No one. Anyone that tells you otherwise is a liar and a thief.

Doom

DOOM exploded onto the video game landscape in 1993 and helped shape the course of gaming history by introducing the idea of a game “engine” (separating the game’s basic functions from other aspects, such as artwork), encouraging multiplayer interaction, and popularizing the first-person shooter genre. DOOM was a commercial success, but its most important legacy is the impact that it has had on the form, function, feel, and perception of so many games that followed, such as Half-Lifeand HaloDOOM also became a highly visible symbol of the widespread debate over the role of games and violence in society that emerged in the 1990s.

Doom is a clear choice for the representation of the PC gaming emergence. Not only did it stop thousands of employees from doing their job, but it also sparked a wide spread debate over the place of mature themes of violence in video games.

Pacman

Pac-Man, which debuted in 1980, pushed video games forward as a mass cultural phenomenon. The simple maze game captured the imagination of millions of people and became the best-selling arcade video game ever. At the same time, Pac-Man himself  became the first iconic ambassador of the video game era—at once symbolizing video gaming and transcending it as he crossed over into mass culture. The game launched the first massive video game licensing craze, spurring the sale of home consoles, handheld devices, toys, clothing, and even housewares. Since its release, Pac-Man and its many variations and sequels have munched their way into countless arcades, homes, and new digital spaces.

Pacman may still be the most popular arcade game. Everyone has played at least one round of Pacman. It also may be considered the first survival horror game of all time.

Pong

By most measures of popular impact, Pong (1972) launched the video game industry. A simple game involving two paddles and a ball, Pong introduced millions to the joys of playing video games. Although it was not the first electronic game, and the Magnavox Odyssey home console already featured a similar tennis game,Pong was the first game to grab wide-scale public attention. Its success propelled Atari into a preeminent role in the video game industry. Decades after its launch, Pong’s iconic sound, intuitive controls, and satisfying game play still resonate, inviting people to try their hand at keeping the ball bouncing as long as possible.

Pong is obvious choice for anyone who knows anything gaming. It may not be the first video game to be created, but it certainly was the first to popularize the medium. Also, those graphics are still insane (THE PADDLE RENDING IS AMAZING!)

World of Warcraft

By bringing tens of millions of people together in a compelling virtual universe, World of Warcraftcontinues to reshape the way people think about their online lives and communities. In this “massively multiplayer online role-playing game” (MMORPG), players create unique virtual avatars to represent themselves as they explore an open, constantly evolving world.  After its release by Blizzard Entertainment in 2004, World of Warcraft became the largest and best-selling MMORPG ever created. As of February 2015, the game boasted more than 10 million subscribers—only slightly reduced from its peak of 12 million in October 2010—with 100 million accounts created since the game’s release.

WOW is a cultural and social phenomenon that has connected people in ways people wouldn’t have guessed video games could do. Not only has it devoured the lives of many of its inhabitants, but it has created life long friendships, partnerships, and even romances. It’s pretty crazy; it truly is a world within a game.

So there you have them: The first few inductees into the video game hall of fame. All fairly easy and logical choices that won’t stir the pot. We’ll keep an eye out to see which other franchises will make the list.