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Are game reviews paid for?

What am I talking about?

There has been speculation in the gaming community for years that certain websites, namely, IGN, have received payment to positively review a video game. For obvious reasons this has raised some eyebrows and has created a lack of trust between consumers and reviewers. The review sites have obviously denied taking money for good reviews but it can sometimes be pretty obvious if the consumer actually reads the reviews. Reviews will be relatively unbiased pointing out the good and the bad. However, sometimes there are a decent number of flaws with the game mentioned in the text but the bottom line and what most consumers look at is the high score given to the game.

Is that our fault or theirs?

The poor ethical decision of the website is, of course, on them. That being said, the consumer is at least partially at fault if they base their purchase on the score of the review without reading the article. (Think MetaCritic scores.) It is easy to see a review and jump to the conclusion that it must be good or bad depending on the score because everyone assumes that a journalistic website would operate on a higher level of ethical decision making and be honest with their consumers. That is why I would recommend visiting to several review websites and reading at least a few of the full articles. (After all, the writers did work hard on those.)

#GamerGate

GamerGate may have started as a few people against a few people. But, however it started, it became a huge conflict between the gaming community and the press that was covering their favorite hobby. Essentially, in September 2014, the gaming community was pushed to the limit by the amount of seemingly corrupt policies being used by what should be trusted sources such as Kotaku (Gawker). Erik Kain said it best for Forbes,

“In the end, it’s about gamers upset with the status quo and demanding something better. It’s about a group of consumers and enthusiasts not simply feeling that their identity is threatened, but believing that they’re being poorly represented by an industry and press that grow more and more cliquish and remote every year. And it’s about the ad hoc, messy series of uncoordinated events that got us here.”

Since then policies have changed and companies have been more transparent if there is a potential conflict of interest between their writers and editors, but the trust has never fully recovered.

Micro-transactions in Video Games

Like it or not, micro-transactions are here to stay. Micro-transactions are transactions between player and developer for items within a game. For example, some games may offer experience point bonuses for players for a small cost or access to certain cosmetic items that change how your character looks in the game. The business practice has proven to be very successful, and will likely be staying whether gamers like it or not.

However, Electronic Arts has taken it to the next level. The issue, as laid out by Lilo’s Lair #76 is that EA, who is developing Star Wars Battlefront II, was going to charge an exorbitant amount of money for players to play as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker which are two staples to the franchise. This is, of course, is a cost that is added on after the customer buys a fully priced game of $60-$80. Reddit responded by downvoting an official EA response to the issue over 675,000 times, shattering the previous record of 25,000.

EA is not the first company to incorporate purchasable “loot boxes” within their game, and they will not be the last. However, many games that feature “loot boxes” use them to reward purely cosmetic, meaning no game-play advantage, items, or are free to play to begin with, meaning they ONLY make money on in-game micro-transactions. An example would be Blizzard’s Overwatch which has had a wildly successful loot box system that players don’t mind because no advantages are given to those willing to spend the money on them.

The issue of loot boxes is gaining a lot of attention recently thanks to EA. So much so, that some governments are looking into considering them a form of gambling since the player doesn’t know what they will get when they buy them. This seems like a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to the situation, but if it does gain traction it could mean a world of hurt for game developers that rely on this form of micro-transaction, which would be a lot of indie and mobile developers. EA is the least popular company in the gaming community from a consumer standpoint, and if their greed gets loot boxes banned from video games, they may be hated by the entire industry.

Hearthstone Launch Screen

How to build a successful Hearthstone deck in three easy steps!

Having trouble in ranked play? Then you should take a closer look at your deck. Does it capitalize on the hero’s strength? Do the cards have good synergy? Does the mana curve make sense for what you want to do with the deck?

Step One: Choose your hero.

Hearthstone Screenshot Hero Choice

Hearthstone Hero Deck Choice

Each hero has their own hero power along with strengths and  weaknesses in deck building. A good deck builds on the strengths of the class while minimizing its weakness.

Warrior

Power: Armor Up!

Give your hero two armor.

Strength: Board Control

Uses weapons and enraged minions to devastate the enemy.

Weakness: Aggression

Enraging your minions often leaves them vulnerable to an easy removal.

Shaman

Power: Totemic Call

Summon a random totem with that gives utility.

Strength: Adaptability

Overload spells allow powerful spells to be cast for very little mana. However, it sacrifices mana for your next turn as well.

Weakness: Mana Overload

The sacrificed mana from Overload can add up so Overload cards must be played carefully.

Rogue

Power: Dagger Mastery

Equip a 1/2 dagger.

Strength: Aggression

Rogues have a variety of low cost cards with the Combo feature. By playing multiple cards per turn the rogue gains extra damage, buffs, or board control.

Weakness: The Long Game

Since most of their cards are cheap, rogues desire to end the match quickly rather than get stuck against their opponents high cost minions.

Paladin

Power: Reinforce

Summon a 1/1 Silver Hand Recruit minion.

Strength: Diversity

Paladin decks can easily be made to control the tempo or outlast the opponent.

Weakness: Jack of all trades, master of none.

The paladin’s diversity also causes the deck builder to lose focus on what they want the deck to accomplish.

Hunter

Power: Steady Shot

Deal two damage to the enemy hero.

Strength: Aggression

The hero power allows you to deal damage to the enemy hero regardless of taunt cards, so their decks are often focused on dealing damage early in the game so that Steady Shot can finish them off.

Weakness: Control

With somewhat of a lack of class taunt cards, hunters can find themselves outnumbered on the board in the late game.

Druid

Power: Shapeshift

Hero gains one attack and one armor.

Strength: Mana

Druids can gain mana crystals faster than other classes, allowing them to play stronger cards earlier.

Weakness: Lengthy games.

Druids lose their advantage in the late game because the other hero inevitably catches up in available mana.

Warlock

Power: Life Tap

Deal two damage to self and draw a card.

Strength: Card advantage.

By being able to draw an extra card each turn, at the cost of 2 health, the Warlock will hold more cards in his hand and will likely have an answer for whatever the other player chooses to do.

Weakness: Healing

The warlock must include minions with healing battlecries or lifesteal in order to make up for the self-inflicted damage due from Life Tap.

Mage

Power: Fireblast

Deal 1 damage to chosen enemy. (Minion or Hero)

Strength: Board Control

Mages have an answer for any minion the enemy uses. In the early game, Fireblast can be used to clear away 1 health minions to keep your own minions healthy. Then, in the later game spells like Flamestrike can clear an entire enemy board at once.

Weakness: Buffing classes

Classes that can heal or buff their minions out of the damage range of the mage’s board clearing spells can cause problems for an unprepared mage.

Priest

Power: Lesser Heal

Restore two health. (Can choose anyone. Even an enemy.)

Strength: Outlast

Priests have the utility to outlast their opponent through buffing and healing their minions and destroying the enemy’s.

Weakness: Consistency

Priests are very great at dealing with certain decks which makes them struggle against others.

Step Two: Look for synergies.

Hearthstone Screenshot Synergy

Hearthstone Combo Synergy Examples

Make sure you read all of the cards you put in your deck and start thinking about how they might work together.

To demo deck building, I have chosen to create a rogue deck. The rogue’s main synergy is in the use of “combo” cards. If a different card is played before a combo card, the combo card gains an additional effect. This means along with class cards, I want low cost neutral cards to help me flesh out my deck and help me maintain my combos.

Step Three: Mind the mana curve.

The mana curve is a reference to the amount of cards you have at each mana cost. It creates a wave, or curve, when graphed out. Depending on your class and your intended play-style, the curve could lean left for an aggressive deck, a more central curve for a balanced attack, and a right lean for a control or late game attack.

Hearthstone Screenshot Mana Curve

Hearthstone Mana Curve

For an aggressive rogue deck built to take advantage of the Combo cards we mentioned earlier the graph has it’s curve much earlier; favoring cards that cost one or two mana. This tells us that we should prioritize the low cost cards when we mulligan our starting cards so that we can pump out as much damage as we can as soon as we can, because we don’t have much to deal with later threats. It is easy to see all of your combo possibilities and want to hoard them and use them all at once, but if you do that, you’ll likely dig yourself into a whole it will be difficult to climb out of later.

 

How I became a video game nerd

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My cousin and I were in the basement of my grandparents’ home waiting for the school bus. Hooked up to the TV was a Super Nintendo and a Sega Genesis both of which saw plenty of use when we weren’t rollerblading on the spacious, but unfinished, concrete floor. We shared turns either speeding through levels as Sonic the Hedgehog or strategically jumping through obstacles as Mario and Luigi. Until the inevitable call that the bus was coming. I had no idea at the time, but the seed was planted.

My love for video games evolved from there. Soon, my friend and I had a Nintendo 64 in our bedrooms so one of us would pack up a controller and head to the other’s house to play Goldeneye, Madden, Mario Kart 64, Banjo Kazooie, and just about any other game you can imagine on the console.

My gaming habit evolved along with each new generation of console. As the game systems got more powerful so did my craving for video games. Then along came World of Warcraft. I, along with my friends from school and new friends I met through the game, met up almost every night to progress through the game, defeat bosses, and obtain the best loot. This is where my hobby turned into what some might consider an obsession. We spent YEARS inside this world and each time we left we eventually ended up jumping back in be it a month or a two year long break.

Now, after the majority of my life has been spent playing video games I hope to make a career out of it by writing about the industry news, reviewing the latest and greatest games, and even streaming content on Twitch. Video games have become main stream, and I hope to cash in on it if I can.