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Amanda Farough

Every other week the EFG staff will be defining a gaming term that is either confusing or ill-defined. Please leave a comment with any terms you are confused by and we will try to include them in future editions!

The gaming definition this week is a term that is applicable to video games: Compulsion Loop

Compulsion Loop describes a series of gameplay actions designed to be repeated multiple times. offering feedback in such a way as to encourage constant, continued play and discouraging or penalizing shorter play sessions.

The compulsion loop was first defined in game design by John Hopson, then a researcher at Bungie (now a business intelligence analyst at NCSoft), in a Gamasutra article about Behavioural Game Design. Compulsion loops are often confused with core loops, which is the loop that defines the gameplay experience. However, Adam Crowe defines a compulsion loop as “a habitual, designed chain of activities that will be repeated to gain neurochemical reward: a feeling of pleasure and/or a relief from pain.”

Compulsion loops are composed of three stages: take an action, gain a reward to trigger a biological response with either dopamine or serotonin, and build anticipation.

The key in compulsion loops is the biological response, which is how the game establishes the compulsion. Many mobile and free-to-play (F2P) games have compulsion loops built-in to ensure that players come back over and over again, otherwise known as user retention. It’s important to note that everyone is susceptible to this because of the biological response that the compulsion loops elicit.

For children and vulnerable players, compulsion loops can be particularly challenging to break out of, especially if the rewards might be locked behind paywalls or hefty in-game currency.

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

You can also look at our other video game definitions from previous weeks here!

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

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Disclaimer: These are the indie games that have come out already and we’ve had the opportunity to play. It’s an evolving list!

Alekon: In some alternate universe that we didn’t get New Pokemon Snap in 2021, Alekon would’ve been the most sought-after Snap-alike on the market. That doesn’t mean that Alekon isn’t worth paying attention to. As you move your way through Alekon’s lush landscapes, taking inspired photos of beautiful, unique creatures, you can unlock mini-games to playback at the game’s hub. Each creature has a fun personality to uncover, much like in New Pokemon Snap. And at $19.99, it’s a joyful (and affordable) alternative to Nintendo’s New Pokemon Snap.

An Airport For Aliens Currently Run by Dogs: If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Self, I wish I were playing one of the weirdest and most delightful indie games out there, but also please make sure there are dogs,” then you’re in luck. An Airport for Aliens Currently Run by Dogs is a witty, strange, and hilarious indie game that has you flying all around the (un)known universe as the last human. Well, and your wife. This game is beyond categorization and classification, but if you loved the quirky beauty of Hypnospace Outlaw, you’ll love this.

Beasts of Maravilla Island: Two Snap-alikes in one year? Clearly, we’ve all been thinking about how much we wanted a new Pokemon Snap game and between Alekon and Beasts of Maravilla, we’re all set! You follow a young wildlife photographer as she traverses Maravilla Island, taking photos of the magical wildlife and learn all about their personalities. In this year of 2021, with everything being what it is, the pursuit of restoring magic to the world is an incredibly tantalizing prospect, which is exactly what you’re set to do on Maravilla. It’s a delight.

Chicory: A Colorful Tale: The world has lost all of its colour and Chicory, the master of a magical paintbrush, has gone missing. It’s up to you, an anthropomorphic dog, to pick up your employer’s (no, really) mantle and try to fight back the darkness. You’ll meet friends to help, puzzles to solve with your colourful skills, and enemies to defeat along the way. Can you save the world from the darkness? Can you make cool clothes? You’ll figure it out and have a blast doing so.

Cozy Grove: Animal Crossing: New Horizons kind of fell apart with content updates during the pandemic, which means that those of us who love those kinds of farming and social simulation games have been kind of left in a lurch. Cozy Grove is all about that slow, slow burn. Also, it’s a little spooky. You play a Spirit Scout, stranded on a haunted island that can’t seem to make up its mind about what it is. As a Spirit Scout, you help the resident spooks and find hidden secrets along the way. Best part of Cozy Grove? It’s designed to be played in 30-60 minute chunks. Bliss.

Embr: Saving people and putting out fires – that’s what we’re doing at Embr Corp! You can dial up Embr and, much like how Door Dash sends out delivery folks to pick up your food, a team of (un)qualified firefighters will come and save the day. They definitely won’t screw up, let the house burn down, neglect to save everyone, or steal a bunch of cash. That would never happen. But if it did happen, it wouldn’t be Embr’s fault. Embr did its due diligence and you’re on your own, bud. Good luck.

Knockout City: Don’t let the game’s title fool you – Knockout City is a dodgeball game. No, it’s a three-versus-three dodgeBRAWL game. There are special dodgeballs, fun cosmetics (yes, there are microtransactions), and whole teams of people for you and your family to knock into a whole other dimension. You can throw dodgeballs, become a dodgeball and be thrown by your team (or your opponents, so be careful there), and hang-glide from spot to spot, dodging and catching and bopping along the way. Knockout City is surefire way to get your family to bond over smacking down the competition, but make it cute and wholesome.

Lost Words: When we’re young, the whole world is magic. The possibilities are endless. It’s doubly so when you’re a burgeoning writer, diving into your talents and discovering your voice. Lost Words is an exploration of youthful creativity and coming to terms with immense loss. It’s a gorgeous side-scrolling platformer that relies on using words to help propel your intrepid heroine towards her goal. We get to help Izzy, the game’s protagonist, as she moves through her grief using her creativity to process how she feels. It’s a beautiful, heart-wrenching experience.

Overcooked: All You Can Eat: Overcooked is an absolutely frenetic, bonkers-town multiplayer game that puts you and your family (and friends) in a kitchen to serve hungry, sometimes impatient customers, on your way to save the world. Learn how to cook dishes, move as a single unit (or not), clean dishes, and traverse bizarre kitchen layouts in this grand collection of every Overcooked game and its DLC. (No yolk! It’s real!) Be ready for shouts, jabs, and laughter as you win (and fail) together.

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion: I’m a blueberry!

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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In another life, this week would have been E3 2020 at the Los Angeles Convention Centre. The glitz, the hubbub — all of it would be laid out to reveal what to expect from the hotly anticipated fall releases of the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5. Xbox gave us a nibble of third-party games in its previous showcase, y’know, as a treat. Unfortunately, the vast majority of what Xbox put on display was rated M.

But Sony gave us the whole (mostly kid-friendly) meal.

The console’s design, mostly shown standing upright but it will be able to lay flat, while being subject to some rather hilarious memes, is sleek and beautiful in white, black, and blue, reminiscent of Mass Effect’s aesthetic. The new DualShock controller will match. The PlayStation 5’s additional peripherals (not seeing a PlayStation VR headset yet) will also be in white, including controller chargers, a 3D audio headset to take advantage of the PS5’s built-in 3D audio, and a new PlayStation camera.

Sony revealed that there will be two PlayStation 5’s available at launch, one with disc-drive and one without. Microsoft has yet to confirm whether or not an all-digital edition (much like the Xbox One S All Digital) will be available at launch, meaning that Sony’s ahead of the game there. 

Sadly, there is no word on pricing for either flavor of the PS5, meaning that we can’t even pre-order the darn thing just yet. 

But! It wasn’t just a day for the console’s form factor or how much it may cost at launch. It was also a day about games.

In case you didn’t catch the stream, here’s what we can anticipate for kid-friendly and teen games on PlayStation 5. 

For Teens

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales

We’re finally seeing Miles Morales firmly taking the reins in the follow-up to 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man. Insomniac’s interpretation of Spidey brought in some serious accolades (and certainly stoked our infinite hype train). Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales will be coming out this holiday season, although we don’t know if it will be considered a launch title or will be released shortly thereafter. 

Miles Morales, the Spider-Man from Earth-1610 in the Marvel Comic Universe, is primed to take over for Peter Parker in the video game space, especially after his exceptional appearance in the much beloved animated film, Into the Spiderverse. We’re looking forward to taking to New York City with Miles’ new powerset at our fingertips.

Note: Sony has clarified that Miles’ new game is a stand alone expansion similar in scope to Uncharted: Lost Legacy.

Horizon: Forbidden West

Believe it or not, Horizon Zero Dawn, released in 2017 on PlayStation 4, is rated T. Yes, Aloy’s treacherous journey through the beautiful tech-infested wilderness, is a T-rated game. Sony revealed today that Aloy’s next adventure, Horizon: Forbidden West, will be coming to PlayStation 5. Aloy will be facing even more arduous challenges in unforgiving terrain. There’s currently no release date for Forbidden West, but if you haven’t had a chance to play Zero Dawn, now is the time. The first game, Horizon Zero Dawn, will be coming to Steam sometime this summer and is currently available on PlayStation 4. 

Gran Turismo 7

Gran Turismo has long been a PlayStation staple — much longer than Forza has been the racing game for Xbox. But there hasn’t been a numbered Gran Turismo game since Gran Turismo 6 on the PlayStation 3. (We got Gran Turismo Sport on PlayStation 4.) Gran Turismo 7 appears to be an homage to the most beloved, in this writer’s opinion anyway, entry in the series: Gran Turismo 3, which came out for the PlayStation 2. 

Gran Turismo 7 is, much like its predecessors, breathtaking. It’s certainly putting the ray-tracing capabilities of the PlayStation 5 through its paces. As of the June showcase, there is no release date available for Gran Turismo 7

Goodbye Volcano High

Who doesn’t love a coming-of-age story about anthropomorphic dinosaurs? Goodbye Volcano High, a game from Ko_op Mode, is a “cinematic narrative game” and, of course, a love story. And no teen love story is complete without a great soundtrack, which Goodbye Volcano High will have. The game will be available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and Steam in 2021. Want more? Check out their website

Destruction Allstars

Vehicular mayhem sans visceral violence means that Destruction Allstars, from Lucid Games, is likely going to be a T-rated game, even if it’s on the more mature end of the T-range. (We’re looking at you, Final Fantasy VII Remake). With a future-tech Mad Max vibe and Burnout levels of carnage, Destruction Allstars is definitely going on our wishlist as a must-play high-intensity romp. 

For Kids

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

We knew that the PlayStation 5 would have to bring us some Ratchet & Clank, but we weren’t sure if it would be a launch title or if we would be getting it somewhere down the line. Well, Insomniac’s beloved anthropomorphic-robot buddy action-adventure platformer doesn’t have a release date yet, but the next installment in the series, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, does look beautiful. 

Rift Apart follows in the narrative footsteps of 2016’s Ratchet & Clank, so if you were a little lost on what’s going on with the story, you can pick that game up today on PlayStation 4. 

Sackboy: A Big Adventure

Sackboy is back! Who knew that we would miss the little guy so much? We’ve been hanging out in Sackboy’s world since 2008’s debut title, LittleBigPlanet, for the PlayStation 3. But this next adventure looks a little different than any of the previous installments in the series — it’s a full 3D platformer now! (Remember that LBP is a mostly 2D side-scrolling platformer.) 

Sackboy: A Big Adventure will still allow you to play with up to three of our friends (or family), but we don’t know much more than that at the moment. There is no release date announced as of the conference.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

There is something so wholesome and welcoming about a lush green forest, magic, and furry puffball friends to keep safe. Kena: Bridge of Spirits is exactly the kind of game that we love to see geared towards kids, too. Kena is a story-driven action-adventure game. According to the developers, Ember Labs, the main protagonist (Kena) needs to “find and grow a team of tiny spirit companions called the Rot, enhancing their abilities and creating new ways to manipulate the environment.”

It’s a breathtaking game that will definitely tug on our collective heartstrings. No release date is available, but we’re crossing our fingers for 2021.

Astro’s Playroom

There is almost nothing we can say about this game, other than Astro’s Playroom is building on the utter adorableness of Astro Bot Rescue Mission, a PlayStation VR game that came out in 2018. Astro’s Playroom trailer is light on gameplay and what the game is actually about, but it definitely got us excited about the return of Astro Bot! 


This is probably one of the weirdest games included in the PlayStation 5 stream, but don’t let that deter you. Bugsnax, from the studio that made Octodad, is achingly cute… albeit odd. Who knew that half-snack, half-animal creatures could cause one woman to squeak in sheer delight? Well, not this writer. Not until after the trailer, anyway. 

According to Sony’s blog, Bugsnax is all about investigating the “mysterious Snacktooth Island, home of the legendary half-bug, half-snack creatures.” Bugsnax will be available this holiday season, but it’s unclear as to whether or not it will be a launch title or just within the launch window.

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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