Video Games and Attitude

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We have a rule in Hall household that goes something like this:

When you start to get angry or frustrated at a video game, you need to turn it off and take a break.

This rule applies to myself and to my son. Years of playing video games has taught me that taking a break, when angry or frustrated, is beneficial. Even when you are so frustrated that all you want to do is keep pushing through, I’ve found that it is best to stop. There is something taking a break does to the brain. As a kid, I remember pausing a game overnight and then being able to destroy a boss, that was previously impossible, the next day.

But what about when a game causes attitude? Anger that one can’t play longer or even has to quit? I remember a period when I was playing Mass Effect 2 a few years ago. I’d play the game late into the night, ignoring my bride, who would end up giving up and going to bed. I felt a pull while playing that game, a drive to see where the story went. Mass Effect 2 had it’s hooks in me just as World of Warcraft did years before.

I know that I can have issues with some games. Even though I haven’t been hooked on a game in awhile, I know that the right combination of design elements can take me down.

The same is true with my son. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild pushed all the right buttons for him. It was all that he and the kids at church were talking about. I’d constantly hear about the Divine Powers:

  • Revali’s Gale
  • Daruk’s Protection
  • Mipha’s Grace
  • Urbosa’s Fury

I’d hear so much about Breath of the Wild that I thought I was going to go nuts. And the attitude that came with the game, whenever he had to quit, was frustrating.

Tabitha and I find ourselves at the same attitude point again with Fortnite. But this time it’s a little different due to gaming elements Fortnite embraces (your child is being manipulated):

  1. The Store with Artificial Demand – When you log into the game, you can easily tab over to the Fortnite store. Here you can look/obsess/covet the latest in Fortnite cosmetics. Some of these cosmetics are available for a limited time, playing into an artificial demand where kids think they have to purchase something before it is gone.
  2. The Subscription with a Shady Pay-to-Win-with-Time Formula – Once you buy the $10 Battle Pass, Fortnite is all about unlocking tiers, which then unlock different cosmetics/skins/cool looking things. Fortnite developers Epic Games boasts on their website that the Battle Pass equals: 100 tiers, 100 rewards. One marketing bullet point states that it takes 75-150 hours worth of gameplay to unlock everything in the Battle Pass. Fortnite encourages players to dump as much time as they can into the game through their shady tier/unlock scheme. A pay-to-win-with-time formula, aimed at children.
  3. The Feedback Loop – A typical match takes 20 minutes to play. Unless you are knocked out of the match, in which case you can just jump into another match… and another match… and another match. This creates a feel good feedback loop for your brain. Just one more match, mom.

What is a parent to do? Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • On the Nintendo Switch, you can set a screen time timer to help manage your child’s play. There are several options to choose from when the timer runs out, including shutting down the console (if you are feeling evil; Do not provoke your children… – Ephesians 6:4). Each console has different parental settings, read up on them, empower yourself.
  • Parent. Talk to your child about their attitude. Be ready to follow through with consequences (don’t offer empty threats). Also don’t be afraid to have your child take a day off a game.

Gaming attitude is something our parents did not have to deal with as much as we have to–although I say that while clearly remembering my Mom taking away the NES controllers–. So set some boundaries/consequences and read up/educate yourself on the tools you have at your disposal. Learn about the game your child is playing, the one you are growing to hate because of their attitude. You never know, you might learn something about your child and be able to help them set healthy boundaries to use later on in their adult lives.

You are the parent. You do not deal nor negotiate with emotional terrorism.

Gaming is a privilege, not a right. (I can’t believe I just wrote that as a dad who games.)

How are you working through your child’s attitude when it comes to games?

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My Top 10 Games List of All Time

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I’ve been gaming since well before 1989 and yet I’ve never compiled a list of my top games, until now. In no particular order, you’ll find these games listed below.

Race the Sun is the Book of John of video games for me. Which is to say Race the Sun is the first game I pull out when I have someone over who is new to gaming. The simplicity of controls and the pure speed of it all wins people over every single time.

BioShock Infinite is not a perfect game. The game’s gunplay is an absolute mess. Turn the difficulty setting down though and you have a front row seat to a Disneyland gone awry. Infinite allowed me to overcome horror elements due to the world constantly being soaked in sunlight. The story told gave me a glimpse of a world of possibilities impacted by the choices we make.

“I loved The Final Station. The level design reminded me of the army bases I used to draw as a kid. Tunnels, secret bunkers, pathways into the darkness. Imagination allowed to run wild.”

One word comes to mind when thinking about Super Mario Odyssey, joy. I love this game! However, I’m not a fan of the collectathon gameplay that occurs after the credits roll.

Metroid Fusion was my first Metroid game. Helped me understand the Metroid mindset.

Super Mario Galaxy was the first game my wife and I ever beat together thanks to the great co-op feature. Animal Crossing: Wild World should probably share this spot too.

Mass Effect 2 hooked me hard. To this day, due to how much I played, my wife will still say, “I am KROGAN!”

Final Fantasy VII will always hold a special place in my heart as will Final Fantasy XV. Nothing like sharing games with family.

Ezio was the man. Loved playing through his life in Assassin’s Creed 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, not so much).

Nathan Drake (Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune) got me back into gaming at a time I was ready to quit playing. Will never forget rounding the corner in the jungle and seeing a submarine just sitting there.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Castles II: Siege & Conquest
  • Diablo II
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening
  • Fire Watch
  • God of War
  • Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne
  • RollerCoaster Tycoon
  • Super Mario Land
  • Tales from the Borderlands
  • That Dragon, Cancer
  • The Journeyman Project
  • The Movies
  • World of Warcraft

Wednesday Poll: What Game Should I Play Next?

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Mass Effect 2

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Press Start:

In Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepherd is tasked with recruiting the ultimate team in an effort to battle the Collectors. Most of the game is spent:

  • Exploring the galaxies/ collecting resources
  • Completing the individual story lines for each team member acquired
  • Shooting lots and lots of bullets
  • Listening to Grunt repeat his battle cry, “I AM KROGAN!”

Throughout the game, Shepherd must make choices that impact both immediate and future situations. Your actions, his actions, can often mean the difference between life and death.

I had a total love/hate relationship with Miranda. Ultimately, my choices doomed her to die.

Ideology/ Worldview:

As I mentioned above, Mass Effect 2 is all about choices. The two types of choices you are allowed to make are Paragon (good) and Renegade (evil, sly, Han Solo-ish). Depending on which route/mixture you end up choosing, the worldview of the game plays out in that manner.

Relationships, however, are a completely different matter in Mass Effect 2. Throughout the game, in-between missions, you walk the decks of your ship chatting it up with the crew. The more you pay attention to a specific crew member the more dialogue options open up during your conversations. Eventually, with enough flirting, this will lead to a romantic rendezvous in  Commander Shepherd’s quarters. Relationships are cheap in Mass Effect 2. If you don’t like the current person you are sleeping with, you can go off and pursue another. I would like to note that I did not, as much as I wanted to, bring a relationship to fruition in the game. There are places, as a Christian, I just don’t need to tread. Plus, you don’t need to pursue romantic relationships in the game in order to complete it (though there is an achievement for bedding someone down).

As a side note, Mass Effect 2 portrays women in an interesting light. The only times, that I can remember, the f-word being used in the game was by a female. I’m not sure what grand statement the game was trying to make in this regard, if any. I came away from it with the knowledge that the more wild women in this universe have potty mouths.

This is Mordin. Mordin talks like the coroner on the new Hawaii Five-O. Love this guy!

Interaction/ Gameplay:

Watch a cinema. Talk to the crew. Shoot a ton of people. Repeat.

In the End:

I played Mass Effect 2 for over 28 hours. I haven’t done this with a game in quite sometime. There was something about the storyline, role playing, and shooter elements that just seemed to gel with me. Would I recommend this series to someone else? Yes. Yes, with the caveat that the player in question is old enough to play a game that is rated M for mature. For all the games cons (minor language, romantic sidequests), there are endless galaxies to explore. I rarely wish that a game would just go on, but Mass Effect 2 is certainly one of those experiences.

An amazing experience!

– Level of Impact Rating –

Medium: Mission structure allows you to complete a mission in a short amount of time.

Surf Report – 2/5/2012

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Welcome to the Sunday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God :

Saturday, I met with my accountability partner for the first time. We walked 2 miles, discussed the pre-determined scripture we were supposed to read (1 & 2 Peter), and went through the following list of questions:

  1.  Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and actions?
  2.  Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?
  3.  Have you lacked any integrity in your financial dealings this week, or coveted something that does not belong to you?
  4.  Have you been honoring, understanding and generous in your important relationships this past week?
  5.  Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?
  6.  Have you given in to an addictive behavior this week? Explain.
  7.  Have you continued to remain angry toward another?
  8.  Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune so that you might excel?
  9.  Did you finish your reading this week and hear from the Lord? What are you going to do about it?
  10.  Have you been completely honest with me?
I have to say that some of these questions are pretty intense! I know that this week I’m going to be living in light that I am going to be asked some tough questions related to my actions. This should be good.
.: Life :

I‘ve had a cold for the past two weeks now. This hasn’t made me feel too active or wanting to do too much (like writing). I have, however, slowly continued reading through Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. The book has made me hate Steve Jobs for how terrible he could be to those around him while at the same time admire his drive and ambition; the book has also made me want to buy a Mac.

.: Gaming :

I beat Mass Effect 2 this past week. A total of 28 hours (including DLC) of traveling with Commander Shepherd and the crew of the Normandy. The game surprised me by how much it sucked me in with it’s storyline and voice acting. Not sure what I think of its abrupt ending or whether I’ll be suiting up again for Mass Effect 3. Rest in peace Miranda.

That’s it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!

The Star Wars of Video Games

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Out of the now six Star Wars movies, The Empire Strikes Back remains my most favorite. I love the epic battle of Hoth, main characters parting ways, and the overall darker tone of the film. Life, in the shadow of the Empire, is harsh and cruel for those serving the Rebellion–as it should be!–. The events in this middle film leave you wondering how much worse things can get for Luke Skywalker and his ragtag group.

Lately, I’ve been playing through Mass Effect 2. Like The Empire Strikes Back, Mass Effect 2 is the middle chapter in an epic space trilogy. Currently I’ve played the game for over 18 hours. So far, Mass Effect 2 has largely been about constructing the perfect A-Team. The typical structure of the game has been: 1) Hunt down new team member, 2) Recruit them and take them back to the Normandy, 3) Eventually work through a “personal” mission to gain their loyalty. Wash, rinse, repeat. Yet, somehow, I have been pulled into this world filled with Krogans, Reapers, and a man named Shepherd.

What made The Empire Strikes Back so phenomenal, was that it took characters you had grown emotionally attached to in Star Wars and then took them to the breaking point. In doing so, a deeper emotional attachment occurred, one that would eventually  allow you to be able to sit through The Return of the Jedi. Mass Effect 2, while seemingly built on emotion, often feels false and empty. I can’t quite put my finger on it but something is off. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed my time playing the game. I just think that my disconnect with the characters may have something to do with only playing about 5 hours of the first game before quitting.

The Normandy SR2

I keep waiting for that Empire moment in Mass Effect 2; I keep waiting for that moment when I am more emotionally bonded with the characters, like in a good book. As it stands, if the Normandy blew up again, with the entire crew inside, I don’t think I’d care. I’d slowly put down the controller and wonder why I had wasted so much time.