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Stephen Duetzmann

Every 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!

This week we are going to define pixels! Pixels aren’t talked about very often, but they are relevant when we talk about resolutions on modern consoles and the art on older games.

But… What are pixels exactly? Why were they called pixels in the first place?

Pixels

The term Pixel has a number of different definitions depending on the context. In general though, pixels are the basic building blocks of digital images.

The word “pixel” was first published by Frederic C. Billingsley of JPL in 1965. He used the term to help describe the different picture elements of video images from space probes to the Moon and Mars. You see, these pictures and images from back then weren’t exactly the hi-res images we get from Mars. They weren’t even as good as the images we received from the Rosetta probe as it crashed into a comet. He used the term Pixel (“pix” being short for “pics” and “el” being short for “element”) to help refer to the component parts of the images they received.

The volume of pixels in an image help to determine how clear the image is. More pixels also gives a greater likelihood that the captured image will be accurate compared to the subject.

More pixels means better-looking images and more clear animations. Just compare an image of Super Mario running in the original Super Mario Bros. Game and compare it to the same animation in New Super Mario Bros. Wii U. The Wii U is a much more powerful machine so it can display more pixels on the screen. As a result, Mario’s run animation is clearer.

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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Every 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!

This week we are going to define the game design term “gameplay loop.” This is, admittedly, a heavier word than we have defined before, but understanding what a gameplay loop is will help understand the games that our kids (and we) play a great deal!


A Gameplay Loop is a game design term that is used to describe the repetitive activities that a player will take while playing a game. It, essentially, defines what the player DOES while playing. Every level you complete in Super Mario Run, Pokemon you catch in Pokemon Go, and level you gain in Final Fantasy XV is an example of one (or more) gameplay loops.

Example

One gameplay loop example from a shooting game might work like this: (Shout out to Morten Grauballe for the killer example.)

  • a target appears
  • you aim at the target
  • you pull the trigger
  • the projectile moves towards the target
  • you hit the target
  • the target loses life

This is a “core” gameplay loop because, with a shooter, this is the activity that a player will be doing most often. It is worth noting, though, that games will often have more than one loop going at the same time. This is especially true in more complex games like RPGs.

Take a look a this example of a gameplay loop you might take from the game World of Warcraft. This is very complex game so each of these steps might include several other smaller loops that players would complete in the process.

  • You enter a new zone
  • You gather all of the quests from all of the different NPCs in the first quest hub
  • You move around the zone completing quest objectives
  • You return to the quest hub
  • You turn in all of the quests you have completed and collect your rewards
  • You move to the next quest hub
  • … and so on.

Thinking critically about the games our kids play and the way that our kids play them provides great insight. It is also a great way to connect with them. You’ll understand the games they enjoy better. You might even enjoy them a little better too!

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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Every 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!


Video games, especially online games, provide players with great opportunities for self-expression.

  • Players can create avatars that look like them (or not).
  • Players can obtain skins to give those avatars exactly the style they want.
  • They can also obtain Emotes.

Emoting, at least in the context of acting, is all about expressing emotions and Emotes in games serve that very purpose. They can help express the joy of victory, the agony of defeat, the bond of friendship and much, much more.



Some emotes, like the infamous dances in Fortnite are more complex, (Look, I’m not a psychologist) but they are certainly an espression of SOMETHING, even if it is just a party.

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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Every 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!


An avatar is a graphical representation of a user or the user’s persona. Avatars can be two-dimentional (like a profile picture) or a three-dimensional forms in games like Fortnite or World of Warcraft.

The term has Hindu origins where it refers to the “descent” of a deity into an earthly form. But, it was adapted to video game and computer culture by Richard Garriot (the man behind the Ultima franchise) in 1985. He used the term in an Ultima game to encourage players to imagine their character within the game to be an extension of themselves within the game world. He felt that this would force players to express their own ethics and morals through the challenges he put into the game.

The emergence (and dominance) of online games has likewise increased the importance of avatars in daily life. Our kids spend hours and hours collecting bells in Animal Crossing so they can buy the perfect outfit from the Able sisters. They’ve asked us (frequently) for money so they can buy Vbucks in Fortnite so they can grab the latest skins.

These avatars give players a wonderful opportunity for self-expression. It lets them see themselves within the game as they are OR as they want to be.

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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This week Stephen and Amanda talked about video games! Its time to talk about Xbox Series X and PS5.

This podcast is sponsored by:

The Virtual Economy Podcast 

The EFG Facebook Community

Around the Horn

Amanda

Star Renegades

Avengers

Stephen

WWE 2k Battlegrounds

Topic

Next Gen Shenanigans

Music from https://filmmusic.io

“Android Sock Hop” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com)License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Our podcasts are also available on Spotify!!

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!

The EFG Essentials

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Every 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!


This week we chose the term “Skins.” Free to play games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Rocket League are dominant right now and this dominance shows no signs of slowing down. All of these free games make up for their incredibly low price by selling what are often referred to as “Skins.”

A “skin” is a kind of item that players can acquire in games. They change the appearance of the players avatar (the character on the screen that represents the player). Skins can be as simple as a change in color scheme (often referred to as a Palette Swap), or as complex as a new avatar with different lighting effects and animations. Most companies are very careful to make sure these skins don’t effect the actual gameplay though. The characters will still play the same. They will just look different doing so.


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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We talk a lot about ESRB ratings on all of our reviews and podcasts. Savvy parents are quick to check the game box for the rating to make sure their kids are playing games that are appropriate for them. ESRB ratings aren’t limited to just a letter though. There are, in fact, three different parts to every rating.

The three parts are listed below:

Rating Categories

This is the part we all know about. Each game reviewed by the ESRB is assigned a “Rating Category” that suggests its age appropriateness.

  • E
  • E10+
  • T
  • M

Content Descriptors

These descriptors are short phrases that identify what elements of the game caused an age rating to be assigned. Some examples might be Violence, Drug use, etc. These are, in my opinion, the most important part of the rating. Every family is different and every parent has different priorities regarding the kinds of content they want to let their kids see. These categories help with that!

Interactive Elements

These are point of interest in the mechanics of a game that are noteworthy, but don’t necessarily impact the age appropriateness of the game. Some examples of these types of elements are:

  • Online interactions
  • Online purchases
  • User information being available to other users

These three components make up an ESRB rating, and all of them are important for parents who want to control the games their kids play.

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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Every 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!

This week we are going to define the term “Generation” with regards to how it is used in the video game space.


Video game consoles have been around since the late 70s and have increased in power exponentially as time has passed. One inescapable problem with home consoles is that you can’t really upgrade them over time. Some companies have tried to circumvent it (the Nintendo 64 released a RAM expansion pack that you could plug into it), but it has never really been successful.

As a result, console manufacturers will release a new system and then throw all of their support behind it for a number of years before moving on to a new piece of technology and forcing consumers to upgrade.

This pattern has been playing out for decades. At this point, consumers generally understand that their systems will only last a certain number of years before a console manufacturer will replace it with something new and more powerful that they will need to buy in order to play the latest and greatest games. (This wasn’t always the case though. There was a great deal of outcry against the Super Nintendo because people did not originally understand that it wasn’t just a slightly different Nintendo Entertainment System.)

Console manufacturers tend to release new consoles all at once (or at least over a short span of time). This behavior has lasted almost as long as consoles have. So gamers and game historians have taken to referring to the time that a set of consoles is available as a “generation.”

There have been eight generations of video game consoles so far (and we are about to step into the ninth). The list below includes the major consoles included in each generation. Game historians may argue some of the finer points regarding what might be included in each generation, but this list is generally accepted as accurate.

  • First Generation: Magnavox Odyssey, Pong, etc.
  • Second Generation: Colecovision, Atari 2600, Atari 5600
  • Third Generation: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
  • Fourth Generation: Nintendo SNES, Sega Genesis
  • Fifth Generation: Nintendo N64, Sony PlayStation , Sega Saturn
  • Sixth Generation: Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft  Xbox, Sega Dreamcast
  • Seventh Generation: Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft  Xbox 360
  • Eighth Generation : Nintendo WiiU, Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft  Xbox One
  • Ninth Generation: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S/X

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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The traditional WWE 2K series may be taking a break this year, but all is not lost in video game land for wrestling fans. WWE 2K Battlegrounds by Saber interactive is an arcade-style party fighting game. In short, its more Super Smash Bros. than Street Fighter V.

It will be released on September 18th for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Pre-orders are available right now (and include Edge).

2K was gracious enough to give team EFG a chance to play an early build of the game so we could have a turn with the insane multiplayer action.

The Family That Brawls Together…

Anyone looking for a complex, technical fighting experience should probably look elsewhere. Battlegrounds is designed from the top down to simplify the fighting experience as much as possible. All of your attacks, throws, and special moves can be completed with a handful of button presses. This is perfect considering the game’s casual focus.

We had four players in our demo of varying skill levels and all of us felt competitive in the matches we played. It took almost no time to pick up the controls and rain down havoc on each other. It was glorious.

Let’s Get Bananas

I’ve played a lot of wrestling games in my time, and all of my favorites have been the games that lean into the absurdity of WWE programming. I knew that this was going to be a good fit as soon as my sun button-mashed and inadvertently tossed me into an alligator’s snapping jaws.

Every match we played included at least one improbably insane moment. My wife played as the Rock (because OF COURSE she did) and threw me under a car that had been lifted, only to knock it down on my Xavier Woods. I was also reminded that Stephanie McMahon uses the Pedigree as her finisher when she caught me on fire while using it.

The final version of the game will include both more crazy levels and more superstars so I’m certain that the madness doesn’t stop here (and we can’t wait).

Game Modes

The full game will be loaded with different game modes, but our preview included two of them. We got a chance to play the Fatal Four Way and the 2v2 Cage Match.

Our favorite between the two of them was the Fatal Four Way. It was partially because of the wild shenanigans that we could all pull while fighting three different players.

The cage match was a bit of a different story. In “real” WWE a cage match awards the victory to whoever climbs out of the cage first. That wouldn’t make sense in a non-scripted competition. Saber Interactive makes up for that by having you try to fill up a “money” meter to earn your way out of the ring. We struggled because of the need to escape. It disincentivizes fighting. and forces us to try and escape combat whenever possible (which is complicated in a game without a ton of movement options inside the cage).

Our Not-So-Final Final Conclusions

We haven’t played anywhere near enough of the game to review it. But, we have played enough that we think there is something here. WWE fans that love to laugh while they throw their friends around a digital ring will definitely want to keep an eye on this one.

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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Wizards of the Coast has announced the next expansion for its venerated collectible card game franchise: Zendikar Rising. This is a set based on the plane of Zendikar. It is a wild, and largely unexplored place dominated by a magical phenomenon called “The Roil.” The Roil causes geologic changes that are sudden, frequent, and drastic. The result is a harsh world full of adventurers searching for secrets to help quell the Roil’s effect and massive beasts that feed off of the chaos.

Returning gameplay mechanics

As per usual there are two returning mechanics in the Zendikar Rising set:

Kicker

Kicker is a keyword ability that allows the player to pay an optional cost when casting a spell to achieve an additional effect. For example. you might be able to spend extra mana to deal more damage with a burn spell or put +1/+1 counters on a creature.

Landfall

Landfall is an ability word that signals triggered abilities that respond to a Land entering the Battlefield under the control of the player with the Landfall card.

New Gameplay Mechanics

There are two new mechanics in the set as well. They are:

Party

Party is a batching mechanic. As you play creatures you build a “Party” that consists of up to one each of four classes: Cleric, Rogue, Warrior, and Wizard. You control a full party if you control four creatures with all of these types among them. Cards with this keyword have effects on them that depend on the number of creatures in your party when the cards is played.

Modal Double-Faced Cards

Modal double-faced cards (MDFCs) have two card faces, one on each side of the card. When you play a modal double-faced card, you choose which face you’re playing. This is a great idea because there are lands that are also spells. Which means you can plan more spells without risking drawing too few lands.

The Zendikar Rising set will be released on MTG Arena September 17 and September 25 for paper magic.

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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