Bogus achievements and subtle changes to the way games are presented today maximize the dopamine hits the average gamer will receive so that they return to play habitually. This is taking advantage of human biology, and it’s unethical.
It’s just a part of human nature. When you accomplish something, your body releases the hormone dopamine to make you feel good about what you just did. Normally, this would be for things like a successful hunt, or watching a crop grow successfully, or scoring a goal in soccer, or managing to get more than a stammer out to the lady at Safeway whom you constantly forget is paid to smile at you. Increasingly, social media is actively trying to exploit the human dopamine reward system by pushing meaningless notifications – that’s right, just getting notifications is enough to give you your pleasure hormone for the day.
But that’s been written about enough. Let’s talk about the way video games have been trying so hard to brainwash you into returning to play.
First of all, achievement trophies are total bullshit. They’re immaterial titles that were once reserved for actual challenges and accomplishments, and now are awarded for as much as buying the video game. I’m not kidding, that’s an achievement. Executives and marketing teams and whatever bullshit hacks realized they could trigger our desire to keep playing without actually rewarding the player with anything. Once, completing levels and challenges unlocked cool content or bonuses for the players, and this is increasingly harder to find in video games. The best video games continue to reward the player with substance.
Turns out it’s hard to hit the gym, but not so hard to hit the pokemon gym.
I broke up with my ex-girl a few months ago, and nothing made me happier than to see my cheating ex-girlfriend balloon up into epic proportions. I’m not sure if she started eating her feelings or sum’n because i don’t talk to that trifling bitch, but she definitely packed on at least 30 pounds, if not more. I’m not one to hold long grudges though, and now I kinda feel bad. She used to be an athlete, one of those girls who were in shape from playing soccer and lacrosse in high school. The freshman 15 from reduced physical activity and a lot more binge drinking is okay on almost everyone. But if that isn’t kept under control, there’s also the sophomore 15, and now, my-boyfriend-broke-up-with-me 20. She was kinda cute, and now she is most certainly not kinda cute.
I’m super okay with her not looking good and struggling significantly harder romantically, but I also don’t want her to have like, health complications. Wishing heart attacks on people is some serious bad karma. Over the months, I had seen her post shit from mapmyrun onto facebook, but she’s not going fast, far, or even out period like more than once a week, so that isn’t really gonna do shit for her. Hopefully she never tried signing up for a gym, because those always lock you into yearlong contracts that she was clearly not utilizing.
But now, Pokemon Go has been released. You gotta go outside to catch em all, and a lot of sedentary fucks have finally gotten off their asses to go grind some pokemon. The most fit-encouraging feature I’ve seen is that you’ve literally gotta walk miles to hatch eggs and apparently she’s been at it because she’s posting screenshots like:
I’ve gone out to play myself a few times and don’t have a single Pokemon over 200 CP, and I’m someone who likes to go on walks for no damn reason. But now, a significant amount of the smartphone population and going out to walk a few miles a day. My fat ex aside, this game can do wonders for those who think the have no other reason to get exercise than to catch em’ all.
Blizzard’s Overwatch has a very cool aesthetic and bunch of characters, and it’s simply lots of fun. Blizzard produces another multiplayer hit in its foray into the world of competitive-oriented shooters.
After a slightly disappointing finale to Starcraft 2 and a capricious but rather stale product in Heroes of the Storm (though it IS free to play), Overwatch is easily the coolest product among Blizzard’s recently released games. Not to mention the really fun artwork people are coming up with these days.
The comparison to Team Fortress is easy, but Overwatch is very different from the Valve production. Blizzard succeeded in creating a really cool game that benefits a lot from Blizzard’s usual knack for balance and polish. The game is well optimized and manages to look good even on lower settings. And for a multiplayer only game, Blizzard managed to create riveting backstories for most of their characters with accompanying cinematics.
Each hero offers something different to the game, and depending on your team’s composition you’ll find the hero’s roles shifting constantly. Strengths and weaknesses of characters are immediately apparent, and hitboxes are forgiving enough to keep the game fun but not make it too casual easy. But being a team-oriented game, having bad teammates can have adverse effects on your experience. So team up with five other nerds if you want to maximize your teamwork!
There IS a slight learning curve involved with each character, but the game is easy enough that even people who are intimidated by first-person-shooters should have no problem playing well and having fun. I really think there’s a character for everyone out there.
A special positive in Overwatch is the cinematic quality of battles – this game is very aesthetically pleasing. Character abilities can create some stunning visuals from time to time, almost like choreographed action. There’s something really fun and immersive about watching a d.Va mech fly by while a Tracer dashes by, Pharah’s rockets screaming past you and your teammates. And then, of course, are the ultimate abilities that set up a-Mei-zing plays like this:
Overwatch is also only $40. For a multiplayer-only game that has offered me nigh-limited joy these past couple of weeks, I’d say it’s worth a pretty penny. Blizzard is very meticulous about their active games, so expect the game to change greatly over time. I’ve got my personal gripes with the online community, particularly those who insist upon playing one character, those that treat the game like a deathmatch style shooter a la Call of Duty Black Ops 2, and people who choose the same character as me. Stop it, man. But those things don’t necessarily detract from the Overwatch experience.
Overall, Overwatch is tremendous fun; even when I’m losing I’m having some fun. I do find myself wanting for a story mode, multiplayer or not. Also more game types – three just isn’t cutting it. Don’t take it from me, Blizzard, but maybe a Counter-Strike style plant-the-bomb style map could be fun. Think about it. Ranked play is slated to have a mid-to-late-June release, so expect a patch at high noon soon. I give it a solid 4/5 stars, and definitely recommend everyone to play it.
Follow matt on Twitter @bokchoifresh ask him to play and he probably will (slide into his DMs if you want his b.net ID)