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Playstation Plus logo

It seems like everyone is starting their own premium gaming service these days. It can be tough for parents to be able to tell the difference between Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, and all the others. We can’t let that stand here at EFG so we wrote up a big ol’ guide for all of the premium services so our readers can tell them all apart and understand the costs and benefits of each one.

Take a look below for our guide to PlayStation Plus!

The Pitch

PlayStation Plus is a subscription service for PlayStation that is required in order to play online multiplayer games over the PlayStation Network. The service also includes periodic discounts on digital purchases through the PlayStation Network. It also includes a suite of free PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3, PlayStation  Vita, and PlayStation VR games that are available for free each month.

How Does it Work?

PlayStation Plus is a subscription service that must be maintained in order to keep using it. The service grants its members access to the following:

  • Online Multiplayer gaming using the PlayStation Network platform
  • A suite of free games available for download each month for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. These games can be downloaded to the PlayStation 4 hard drive at any time, but you can only play them if you have an active PlayStation Plus subscription.
  • Periodic discounts on digital games sold on the PlayStation Marketplace. The games you purchase using a discount made available during a PlayStation Plus subscription will remain playable even after the subscription expires.

How Much Does it Cost?

PlayStation Plus can be purchased yearly, every three months, or monthly.

Advice

There isn’t much advice to give. If your family owns a PlayStation 4 console then this is required for online play. It is, however, a pretty good value because over the course of a year the free games available through the program will add up to a significant value.

Other Guides

There are a ton of other premium video game services out there so we wrote guides for all of them.  Take a look below:

A Parent’s Guide to EA Access

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Live Gold

A Parent’s Guide to Xbox Game Pass

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Now

A Parent’s Guide to EA Origin’s Access


Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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xbox-game-pass

It seems like everyone is starting their own premium gaming service these days. It can be tough for parents to be able to tell the difference between Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, and all the others. We can’t let that stand here at EFG so we wrote up a big ol’ guide for all of the premium services so our readers can tell them all apart and understand the costs and benefits of each one.

Take a look below for our guide to Xbox Game Pass!

The Pitch

Xbox Game Pass is a service that allows unlimited downloads of a wide range of games on the Xbox One for a relatively low monthly fee.

How Does it Work?

Subscribers have access to a roster of more than 100 games. They can download as many of them as they want as often as they want for as long as they maintain their subscription. This isn’t a gimmick or a trap either. Subscribers can download, with very few exceptions, the complete version of every game on the service to their Xbox One hard drive. This means that they don’t have to depend on streaming the games over the internet like they would have to using PlayStation Now.

In addition, Game Pass subscribers are given a 20% discount on the digital purchase of games that are included in the Game Pass game list. They also get a 10% discount on DLC for games on the game list. This is relevant for players who decide to purchase a Game Pass game so they can play it after they end their subscription. One unfortunate “loophole” that you will also need to consider is the inherent risk is purchasing DLC for a game you only have access to through the Game Pass subscription. Buying DLC for a game that you technically don’t own is definitely risky.

Microsoft made a significant update to the program recently. Starting on March 20th, Xbox Game Pass subscribers will have access to first party new releases on the same day that they are available in stores! This will add up to a significant value each year as Microsoft is bound to release at least a few games each year. In 2018, for example, they plan to release Sea of Thieves, Crackdown 3, and State of Decay 2.  It hasn’t been announced yet, but it is safe to assume that a Forza racing game will find its way out at some point this fall. The fact that subscribers will have a chance to play all of these games at no additional charge is a very big deal.

How Much Does it Cost?


Xbox One Owners are entitled to a 14-day trial. After that has been used up the service can be purchased for $9.99 a month. Microsoft has stated that starting on March 20, 2018 they will have 6-month subscription cards available at retail partners for $59.99.

Xbox Game Pass vs Xbox Live Gold

Xbox Game Pass has only been around for a year or so, but it is often confused with Xbox Live Gold by people who don’t pay a lot of attention to games.

They are not interchangeable services. Xbox Live Gold is a subscription that provides access to Online Multiplayer gaming and a limited suite of free games each month. Xbox Game Pass gives access to a large list of games for free for the duration of the subscription. Game Pass does NOT, however, give access to online multiplayer gaming on those free games.

Advice

The Xbox Game Pass isn’t for everyone. It does have a few issues that interested families should consider.

  • Many of the games available on the service are rated M. This won’t be a problem for parents who are engaged and interested in the games their kids play. But, it does reduce the overall value of the service for families where only younger kids play video games.
  • The service is expensive. It may not be prohibitively so, but $120 dollars for 12 months is the price of two full price games.
  • Downloading all those games will fill a hard drive up VERY fast. The biggest drive available on an Xbox One is 1 TB so subscribers will want to put some thought into purchasing external memory so you don’t have to delete games every time you want to try something new. We recommend this Seagate External Hard Drive for this purpose.
  • Games aren’t guaranteed to remain on the service forever. Microsoft hasn’t confirmed that their first party games will remain on the service indefinitely, but I think it is pretty safe that they will remain. But, games from companies like Ubisoft and Rockstar Games aren’t under the same protection. They can leave at any time just like shows on Netflix. Its not all bad news though. Microsoft has been adding new games to the service regularly since it was first announced.

Other Guides

There are a ton of other premium video game services out there so we wrote guides for all of them.  Take a look below:

A Parent’s Guide to EA Origins Access

A Parent’s Guide to EA Access

A Parent’s Guide to the Xbox Live Gold

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Now

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Plus


Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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xbox live gold

It seems like everyone is starting their own premium gaming service these days. It can be tough for parents to be able to tell the difference between Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, and all the others. We can’t let that stand here at EFG so we wrote up a big ol’ guide for all of the premium services so our readers can tell them all apart and understand the costs and benefits of each one.

Take a look below for our guide to Xbox Live Gold!

The Pitch

Xbox Live Gold is a subscription service for Xbox that is required in order to play online multiplayer games over Xbox Live. The service also includes periodic discounts on digital purchases through the Xbox Marketplace. It also includes a suite of free Xbox One and Xbox 360 games that are available for free each month.

How Does it Work?

Xbox Live Gold is a subscription service that must be maintained in order to keep using it. The service grants its members access to the following:

  • Online Multiplayer gaming using the Xbox Live platform
  • A suite of free games available for download each month for the Xbox One and Xbox 360. Typically, the suite of free games will include two for each system, but all of the Xbox 360 games released for the service will also be available on Xbox One via backwards compatibility. These games can be downloaded to the Xbox One hard drive at any time, but you can only play them if you have an active Xbox Live Gold subscription.
  • Periodic discounts on digital games sold on the Xbox Marketplace. The games you purchase using a discount made available during a Xbox Live Gold subscription will remain playable even after the subscription expires.

How Much Does it Cost?

Xbox Live Gold can be purchased yearly, every six months, every 3 months, or monthly.

Parental Controls

The Xbox One has comprehensive parental controls that allow you to set age limits on the games your children can play. This age limitation will even block the downloads for free games purchased through this service. It will be useful to keep that in mind if you purchase Xbox Live Gold on your child’s account as it can reduce the value of the subscription. A workaround for this would be to purchase Xbox Live Gold on your account with your child set up as a Microsoft Family Member.

Xbox Game Pass vs Xbox Live Gold

Xbox Game Pass has only been around for a year or so, but it is often confused with Xbox Live Gold by people who don’t pay a lot of attention to games.

They are not interchangeable services. Xbox Live Gold is a subscription that provides access to Online Multiplayer gaming and a limited suite of free games each month. Xbox Game Pass gives access to a large list of games for free for the duration of the subscription. Game Pass does NOT, however, give access to online multiplayer gaming on those free games.

Advice

There isn’t much advice to give. If your family owns an Xbox One console then this is required for online play. It is, however, a pretty good value because over the course of a year the free games available through the program will add up to a significant value.

Other Guides

There are a ton of other premium video game services out there so we wrote guides for all of them.  Take a look below:

A Parent’s Guide to EA Origins Access

A Parent’s Guide to EA Access

A Parent’s Guide to the Xbox Game Pass

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Now

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Plus


 

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

Follow us on Facebook!

Like us on Twitter!

Follow us on Instagram!

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

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The video game marketplace is very different now than it was when many of us where kids. We remember things like strolling through Blockbuster to rent a game for the weekend or wandering around Toys’R’Us looking to purchase a new game with birthday money. That world is all over now. Blockbuster was all but dismantled by Netflix. Toys’R’Us is closing its doors. And you don’t even have to leave your house to buy games anymore thanks to digital storefronts.

The rise of digital marketplaces has brought with it a great debate between gamers who will only purchase “physical” games on discs and cartridges and those who will only buy them digitally. Both sides of the battle have their merits, but it can lead some parents very confused. This is especially true for those of us who remember when buying games was simple.

This article is intended to lift the curtain on the debate between buying physical and digital games to help you make the best decisions for your family. I know that sounds dramatic… after all we are still buying games whether they come in a box or come through the internet. I don’t mean to make it sound serious, but I do believe that this is a topic that is worth thoughtful consideration. Making the right decision for your family can save you a lot of frustration and money. (And who doesn’t love that?)

Definitions

“Physical Games” are games that are purchases in a retail store or purchased through on online retailer. The game itself is stored on either a disc or a cartridge. You might be able to download additional content for the game online, but the bulk of the game is available on the physical media.

“Digital Games” are games purchases entirely online. There is no disc or cartridge at all. Instead, you simply buy them game from a digital marketplace and download it to your device. Most of us are used to this model on our phones and there are some games that are only released digitally for consoles and for PC. But, the truth is that just about every major video game is available for digital purchase.

Physical Games – Pros and Cons

Pro

  • Used Games – The strongest case for physical games is that you can purchase those games used at a lower price. This is a fundamental part of the games industry. Buying and selling used games is keeping Game Stop afloat and has been for years.
  • Sharing – Physical games aren’t locked to a specific console so they can easily be shared with friends and family.
  • Trading/Selling – Physically purchased games can be traded in to game stores like Game Stop or sold second hand.

Con

  • Space – Physical games and their boxes take up space and can create a lot of clutter. This might not not matter to everyone, but parents who cringe when they see a stack of game cases
  • Durability – Physical game cartridges and discs can be damaged, lost, or stolen.

Digital Games – Pros and Cons

Pro

  • Cheap Games – The games can be deeply discounted because they don’t need to be sold at a price that includes the cost of the disc or cartridge it is stored on.
  • Cleanliness – There are no discs or cartridges which leads to less clutter
  • Availability – Digital purchases allow you to have access to a game  at all times. This is a pretty big deal for handheld systems like the Nintendo 3DS or the Nintendo Switch. You’ll have those games in your library everywhere you go.

Con

  • Ownership vs Licensing – You don’t actually own the games you buy digitally. Instead, you are purchasing a license to download it and play. This means that the developer or publisher can alter or remove the game from the market at any time.
  • Non-shareable – You don’t have a disc or cartridge to loan, trade, or give away.
  • Download Size – Many modern games take up a LOT of space because of their large file sizes. Hard drives that come built in on modern consoles don’t have unlimited space.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Teachable Moments – PewDiePie, That Word, and Bad Influencers

Yesterday, Felix Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie, used a racial slur while streaming a game of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (or PUBG as it is often called). The internet and even one independent developer are taking PDP to task (and rightfully so) for his use of the N-word. But, it appears that many of his fans have come to his defense. Facebook pages and Twitter feeds that mention the incident are being bombarded by his defenders (among other people) who are claiming that it just isn’t a big deal. Not only do I wholeheartedly disagree with this, I think this is something that parents need to look at closely. This is a teachable moment the likes of which we might not see for a while.

Mr. Kjellberg didn’t set out to turn himself into a role model. He is just a man with a good camera, a strong internet connection, and an interest in weird video games that he decided to share on YouTube. He built a HUGE (57 million and counting) subscriber count over the years. He is a millionaire who was profiled by ESPN Magazine among other outlets. All of this comes with one thing… influence. The term “influencer” might be a marketing cliché at this point, but it isn’t because it’s wrong. People who generate content on the web can’t help but influence the people who consume it. Whether he likes it or not every word he says on camera has more weight to it than the average person’s words.

What makes his use of the N-word all the more troubling is that a huge portion of his audience is made up of children and young teens. They watch his videos. They emulate his style. They dream of becoming YouTubers like him. Doesn’t it stand to reason that the words he uses might have an impact on them too? If something is bad, but not so bad that PewDiePie won’t say it…  does that make it just a little bit more OK?

(Editor’s note: If you NEED some context as to why the word in question is bad it has been written about at length. This is a thoughtful opinion piece that was published in the New York Times on the subject.)

This is an opportunity for us, as parents, to step in and talk to our kids about the fact that words have power. I’m a game critic, so I’d be going way out of my wheelhouse to get into WHY some words are bad and others aren’t. But, some words, the N-word included, are abhorrent and should not be used. Period. Full Stop. Even if you choose not to expose your child to this specific incident, it is an important conversation to be had.

Our children consume tons of content from online personalities every day. They aren’t public figures held to ethical constraints by their employers. Professional Athletes can be fined. Journalists can be fired. But, YouTubers are self-employed, are only beholden to their audience, and many of them only care about the advertising dollars they generate. Our children need to taught to think critically about what they are watching. They need to know that sometimes people online will say bad things and that that doesn’t make it ok to repeat them. They also need to know that if someone does say bad things and they continue to watch them, then they are actively supporting offensive behavior.

PewDiePie is a public figure with enough reach, especially amongst young people, that our kids will likely have seen this video or at least heard about it (or him). Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.  Both of you will be better for it.

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Bringing Your Kid to Their First Comic-Con or Geek Convention!

Geek culture and gaming conventions are everywhere. They are incredibly popular and every time I think the bubble is going to burst another Con pops up. These are exciting events and a lot of parents want to bring their children, but are afraid to because they aren’t sure how to keep them safe and to ensure that everyone has a good time.

Before we get started let me just remind everyone that’s going to Comic Con in Vegas in June to head over here to help control costs! 

Take a look below for some advice from convention going parents who have brought their children along for the ride and loved every minute of it!

Safety

The biggest concern on most parents lists when it comes to bring their kids to conventions is safety. Cons are large, crowded, and full of bright lights and distractions. This makes it super easy for a child to get lost. Fortunately there are some tactics you can use to help make sure you all get reconnected if you and your child happen to become separated.

Make sure that your child has your phone number.

You’ll note that I didn’t say they should “know” your number here. They can have your number memorized all they want, but even the most level headed kid can forget it in a stressful scenario like being lost at a convention with thousands of people.

Make sure your phone number is in their backpack, on the back of their badge, and even written on their arm in magic marker. Put it everywhere to make sure it will get found regardless of the circumstances.

Introduce Them to the Staff

Every convention has paid (or volunteer) staff members who are there to ensure everyone is safe and has a good time. In most cases they will all have special badges or t-shirts announcing their positions. (PAX events for example have Enforcers who are often wearing red t-shirts that say ENF on them.)  The first thing you should do when entering the building is introduce your child to a member of the staff and to make sure they know what the uniform or badge looks like. That will help your child feel comfortable asking for help.

Communication

A lot of kids these days already have cell phones. If your child has one, then make sure they bring it and have a means of charging it in an emergency.

All is not lost if they don’t have a cellphone though. Most convention centers have WiFi so you can bring an old iPhone or tablet and hook them up to the network when you get there. You can instruct them to take out their device and send you an email telling you where they are in the event that you are separated.

Don’t Move!

The reality is that there is no such thing as a plan that survives contact with the enemy. You and your child may get separated and they may not have an easy way to each you. The most important thing to impress upon your child is that they shouldn’t move. The worst thing they can do is panic and start running around the convention center. This will make it all that much harder to find them.

The only exception is if you agree to a central meeting location ahead of time. For example, many cons have signs hanging from the ceiling that can be used as landmarks from just about anywhere in the hall. You could agree to meet at the Nintendo booth at just about any video game related con because their signs are massive and easy to see.

Supplies

We wrote about what you should pack for your first convention in a separate article. Most of the same rules apply for your kids. Weight is especially important for you to pay attention to because since they are smaller everything will be proportionally heavier to them. Some of the things you should include for them are:

  • Sweatshirt
  • Water Bottle
  • Snacks
  • Their communication device/charger
  • Small amount of emergency cash (you never know)

Take lots of breaks

Conventions are intense so you need to make sure that you give your child a chance to rest in a quiet spot away from the wild crowds and the loud noises. You know your children better than we do, but it is safe to assume they will need more breaks than you normally would. And trust us, the last thing you want to do is spend the time, money, and energy to bring them along only to have them melt down with overstimulation in the middle of the day.


These are our tips and advice for bringing your child to their first convention or Comic-Con. But, we know tat our readers have their own tips and tricks. Hop into the comments and share them!

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nintendo-switch-logo

 

The Nintendo Switch is, without question, a family oriented console. Part of this is based on Nintendo’s sparkling reputation and history. The other part comes from their upcoming Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app.

Nintendo announced at their Switch reveal event that they would be releasing an app alongside the Nintendo Switch that would give parents a significant level of control over the games their children play.

The app gives parents enhanced control over their children’s gameplay in three primary ways.

Age Limits/Social Media Access

Parents have the ability to limit the content that their children can access based on ESRB ratings. They can also limit what types of sharing they can do on social media channels that may be linked to their Switch.

Time Limits

First, it gives parents the ability to set a time limit on their children’s playtime. This timer can be set on a per day basis and changed at any time. For example, you could give your child more time to play on Saturdays and you can manually adjust the game time if you want to reward them for good behavior.

The timer just pops a message up on the screen by default. But, parents will have the option to have the game system go into a sleep mode when the timer goes off. That puts an end to the kid’s gaming session immediately.

Reporting

The app will also provide parents with reports about the Switch’s usage. This way you’ll know what games and apps were accessed during a given period of time. This may be somewhat less helpful if multiple people share the same Switch. But, families with only one user will be able to enjoy detailed reports. Knowing the games that your kids enjoy is a great way to help pick new games and to help discuss the games they love.

The fact that Nintendo has gone out of their way to create a legitimate app to help provide more control over children’s gaming is impressive. This puts them head and shoulders above the other gaming companies when it comes to providing a gaming experience parents can feel comfortable about.

Stay tuned to EFG for more info about the Nintendo Switch as we get closer to launch!

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MOBAs: Why Are They So Popular?

MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games) are popular, in large part, because they have a lot in common with team sports like soccer and basketball. I know. I know. That statement sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Soccer (football everywhere else in the world) and basketball have nearly universal appeal the world over because of a handful of traits.

  1. They have a low barrier of entry.
  2. They are accessible, while still being rewarding at a high level.
  3. They are, at least in certain circumstances, just as fun and engaging to watch as they are to play.

Now, these aren’t the only traits these games have that make them so ubiquitous around the world, but they are some of the most prominent. They also happen to be traits that are shared between some of the world’s favorite sports and MOBAs.

Low Barrier of Entry

We have all seen the stories of kids the world over gathering around a single ball that one of them own to play soccer or basketball. This low barrier of entry means that more of these gifted athletes born in impoverished communities can still participate.

Video games are a luxury item and are, obviously, far more expensive than a ball. I’m not confusing that. But, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 83% of the households in America have computers. Many of those computers are used, at least occasionally, for gaming. MOBA designers like Valve and Riot know this and have gone out of their way to create games that will run on a variety of computer specs and don’t require a high powered rig to be workable. This increases their potential audience by A LOT.

Most MOBAs are also free to play, which means that anyone with access to a computer and an internet connection can play these games for much as they want.

Accessibility

This one might trip up some MOBA players who are reading this. But, I believe that MOBAs are, in and of themselves, an accessible genre. What I mean is that it is not difficult to actually play the game. The controls are often straightforward and most hero characters in these games only have a handful of different powers. The objectives aren’t even that difficult to comprehend as there are literal LANES for players to run down seeking enemies to defeat and towers to destroy.

MOBA fans are likely fuming at me right now because of how easy to it to play poorly and hurt your team. This is definitely true. But, that is one of the hallmarks of the genre. It is very easy to get into and learn the basics. But, it can take years of practice and study to truly master a MOBA.

Anyone who has ever sat through a tee-ball game where they don’t even keep score can attest: They are playing the same basic game as the professionals, but they are played very differently. This isn’t a bad thing though. If everyone reached the mastery level in Baseball in a week, it wouldn’t be terribly entertaining to watch professionals do “amazing” things… they just wouldn’t be all that amazing.

“Watchability”

Head to Twitch.tv at any time and you will likely find thousands of players watching MOBA matches. This isn’t an accident as MOBA developers like Valve and Riot have gone out of their way to make their games easy to watch and understand. Most games are played on the same map, and the different heroes all have distinct aesthetics. This makes it easy to tell who is on what team and what their goals are right from the beginning.

A Brief History

MOBAs are all derived from a series of user created modifications (Mods) to the real time strategy games Warcraft III. One of the most popular mods to the game was called Defense of the Ancients. It gave players control of a specific hero unit to move around the battlefield as opposed to control over the entire army. This mode quickly rose in popularity to the point where it was only a matter of time before a company stepped in and recreated it as a new game.

The first MOBA to be released is a game called League of Legends. The game still thrives today.

The MOBAs You Can Play Today

The massive popularity of League of Legends has lured a lot of different companies into making their own entry to the genre. Unfortunately, many of these games have failed because they were not able to compete with the juggernauts below.

League of Legends

Riot Games

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League is one of the biggest and most popular games on Earth. Riot Games recently reported that over 100 million people play League. That is almost 2% of the Earth’s total population. Crazy huh?

It is the oldest original game in the genre and helped set the standard for how MOBAs should play. Gameplay features two teams of five players that compete to destroy the other team’s home base.

One of leagues biggest draws is that it is free to play. There is a HUGE list of playable characters in the game. Players can either choose to play from characters among a rotating list of free characters, or spend in game currency (or money) on unlocking characters permanently.

DOTA 2

Valve

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DOTA is actually shorthand for “Defense of the Ancients” so this game has a very long history and a rabid fan base. It boasts a list of over 200 characters, but all of the games are played on a single game map. This is done to help make it more of a sport by removing some of the random elements that come from playing on random maps.

All of the characters in DOTA 2 are unlocked for play immediately at no cost. Valve, instead, charges for cosmetic upgrades like character skins (alternative graphical representations of characters).

DOTA 2is a huge part of the world eSports scene. They hold an event called “The International” every year where the best DOTA teams in the world compete for millions of dollars in prize money.

Heroes of the Storm

Activision/Blizzard

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It really was only a matter of time before Blizzard got involved in the MOBA genre. They have too many iconic characters involved in their different games to have been able to resist. I also can’t imagine that it hurt that the genre sprung from a mod for one of their classic games.

Blizzard’s strong suit is taking genres that are very popular and stripping out the most complicated elements while keeping the game fun. World of Warcraft was born when they improved on the MMO genre. Hearthstone is the result of their improvements to the digital card game genre. Overwatch is their take on the team based multiplayer shooter. Heroes of the Storm follows suit.

There are two main differences between HoTS (Heroes of the Storm) and other games in the genre.

  1. The game features multiple different maps. Each of them has their own unique features and gameplay mechanics. This stands in stark contrast to DOTA 2 that is played on a single map.
  2. Teams level together. Most other MOBAs reward (and penalize) individual performance. If you are getting a lot of kills then you will gain more levels and gold to buy better equipment. HoTS works differently. Teams will gain levels together as they complete objectives and earn kills.

Smite

Hi-Rez

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Smite takes the lane based combat from other MOBAs and turns it on its head by giving players direct control of one of dozens of Gods as they battle it out for supremacy.

The Gods included in the Smite roster are very diverse and include a number of ancient pantheons. The pantheons represented include the Greek, the Roman, the Norse, the Japanese, and several more.

The different gods are all well designed and have interesting animations for movement and attack. It is worth noting that the character models for the females tend to be a bit skimpy when it comes to clothes and armor. This can, obviously, be a turnoff for some people.

Smite stands apart from the competition by being more action oriented. Players move their Gods directly as opposed to relying on clicking on a map and essentially telling them where to go. This makes some group combats play out more like a match in a fighting game than in other games.

Smite is free to play on PC, MAC, Xbox One, and PS4. There are a lot of things players can buy over time like access to different Gods, character skins, and experience boosts. They also sell a Founder’s Pack for $39.99 that unlocks every God in the game and all future Gods that are released, If you play Smite and enjoy it, then this is really a must purchase just for the freedom it gives you when you play.

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What is No Man’s Sky Anyways?

If you even dip your toes into social media and interact with anyone in the video game space, then you have undoubtedly heard at least a little about No Man’s Sky. It has been one of the most hotly anticipated video games there is ever since it was announced back in November of 2013. This is a game that has been so highly anticipated that its delay from June 2016 to August 2016 was met with death threats from fans towards the game’s developers.

I don’t support those actions at all, but I can appreciate them for what they are. They are a barometer for the insane expectations that this game has been building up.

No Man’s Sky was finally released on August 9th for the PS4, and will release shortly for PC. It could be the recent release hype, but it feels like everyone in the gaming space is excited about this game. There is a ton of content being made about it. Most sites have released impressions articles, but very few have published reviews (We’re in the same boat. Our review is incoming, but will be a while.)

With all that said, I’ve been asked more than a few times what this game is all about in the first place.

No Man’s Sky is a first person exploration game where you take on the role of an unnamed pilot and explore a practically unlimited universe. The “goal” of the game is to reach the center of the known galaxy. This requires exploring planets to gather resources that you can either sell or use to stay alive.  The size of the galaxy is the real trick here. Hello Games has created this game to be all but infinite in scope. They are over 18 Quintillion planets to explore in the game. That is so many planets that if you visited one every second for the rest of your life you still wouldn’t see them all.

They do this using a process called procedural generation. This means their game created all of these planets (and the lifeforms on them) using math equations to help sort out all of the different variables and present them to the players. This means that there are going to be corners of this galaxy that will never be seen. It also means that the vast majority of the game hasn’t even been seen by the people at Hello Games. They have, in essence, created a universe.

That freedom and sense of true exploration has captivated a lot of people.  They feel like No Man’s Sky allows them to boldly go where no one has gone before (Yeah. I said it. It works here. )

No Man’s Sky Gameplay Videos

Here are a few videos showing off the games aesthetic and revealing some of the gameplay elements:

 

For sake of full disclosure, I have not played this game yet. But its success leads me to believe that this game will have a long tail. And there is no doubt it will have an impact on a lot of players. Some writers even believe that this game could rekindle the love for space exploration in an entire generation. And I don’t think that is too unreasonable of an idea.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments! Share your thoughts on the game and what it might lead to if it is successful.

 

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Our sons first Friday Night Magic

A few weeks back, Flagship Comics and Games in Southington, CT closed after being in operation for a number of years. I spent a lot of time playing in Friday Night Magic tournaments there and I wanted to help celebrate with them as they ended their run.

As the weeks ran down to the event Evan chimed in and told me that he would like to play. I, honestly, hadn’t thought that he would have any interest in card tournaments yet, but who was I to question him? We set out immediately to build him a deck worthy of a true champion and started practicing every night in order to get ready.

The day finally came and I decided to forgo playing in the tournament myself in order to get a chance to watch him play and record it for posterity. I figured… I have a website, so why not take advantage.

He decided that he wanted to play with humans, so we build him a green/white deck that followed the template of decks online (more or less). He practiced with it a bunch, and was feeling very comfortable with it by the time FNM came around.

I’m going to try my hand at writing this up like a tournament report that the Magic Pros write. If for nothing else it should be entertaining to write. Here’s hoping it is also interesting to read.

Evan 4

Decklist:

Evan’s Dudes

Creatures:

  • Thraben Inspector – 4
  • Dragon Hunter – 4
  • Town Gossipmonger – 4
  • Expedition Envoy – 1
  • Consul’s Lieutenant – 1
  • Hanweird Militia Captain – 4
  • Duskwatch Recruiter – 4
  • Sylvan Advocate – 1
  • Heron’s Grace Champion – 1

Spells:

  • Gryff’s Boon – 4
  • Always Watching – 3
  • Stasis Snare – 4
  • Declaration in Stone – 2

Land:

  • Plains – 11
  • Forest – 5
  • Fortified Village 4

If we’re being honest with ourselves, this isn’t the best deck out there., but it was built based on what we had and Evan loved it.

He almost got a bye for the first round, but the tournament organizer reset everything to make sure he played. Evan was actually a little bummed because he knew a bye would help him, but he soldiered on.

Round One

Blue/Black Allies

This was neat because Evan’s first opponent was a younger kid who was  very excited to be playing. Evan lost, but he wasn’t intimidated or frustrated.

Evan opened very strong with a pair of Dragon hunters in game one. But, his opponent responded very quickly with several allies that drained his life quickly and eliminated his life lead. It was all over after that. Evan learned pretty quickly that swinging into a crowded board is dangerous. He DID have a very good play where he Stasis Snared a seemingly random critter on his opponents turn in order to be able to use declaration in Stone the next turn and exile two of his opponents creatures on the next turn.

Game two Evan elected to draw which was an odd play for sure. An early Drana, Liberator of Malakir was game over really fast.

Round Two

Mirror

His opponent here was a younger guy in his twenties. I’m honestly so sure about his age to be honest, but he was vaping so he definitely wasn’t a kid. This player was nice enough, but he didn’t really interact with Evan at all. I got the feeling initially that Evan was a little intimidated, but he just played the game as I expected him to.

A few combat misplays hurt Evan during game one after he got out to a blistering lead. Bottom line? Trample is a very strong effect when played against creatures with very little toughness.

The same thing happened during the second round.

Evan and I had a little coaching session afterwards where I talked about how he needed to be more aware of both his cards and his opponent’s cards.

Round Three

Black/Red Madness

HIs opponent was a very nice older guy who was there with his son. He was exactly the kind of player I was hoping my son would go up against because he was patient, and took the time to explain the effects of whatever he was doing to my son. This was a tough match for Evan, but I think he learned the most out of all of his games here because his opponent was playing a lot of creatures that were of similar size.

Evan won his first game here on the back of a very fast creature rush. His opponent couldn’t keep up and conceded early.

His second game didn’t go nearly as well because of a lack of white mana. His opponent, on the other hand, had no such problem.

They went to game three which ended up being a slugfest that lasted a very long time. Evan had to make a lot of really hard decisions in combat like who to block and what to attack. He made most of his decisions correctly, but eventually he swing his only two humans into an impenetrable wall and gave his opponent the win.

Round 4

Bye

He was, unfortunately, the only person with an 0-3 record so the computer sat him with the bye. He was ok with it though, because it gave him a chance to sit back and watch how the other games were played and look at some cards.

He didn’t do well enough to earn any prizes at the end, but he was thrilled to have participated. The whole ride home he was talking about building decks and when he could go to another Friday Night Magic.

We both learned a lot from the experience.

He learned about the value of friendly competition. He learned how to keep a cool head, even when he was losing, and just enjoy playing the game. I was very proud of the fact that he didn’t look beaten down even after being so badly beaten on.

The lesson I learned that night was pretty simple. Tournaments, especially Friday Night Magic, is a great place to help build excitement for a game like Magic. Everyone wants to be there and is excited to get a chance to play. This excitement can be felt throughout the room as rounds start and people get to their seats. It can’t help but infect anxious players and get them amped up to play again.

If you want to bring your family to an event like this go here to help locate a card shop near you that holds them!

Tired at the end of it all!

Tired at the end of it all!

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