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In an article titled “Are eSports Going To Replace The Beautiful Game?” British GQ contributor Andy Mitten spins a yarn about going somewhere where there are no Manchester United fans. Where are all the sports-hungry young men, he wonders? This is where the esports hook comes in, a full twelve paragraphs after the article has begun.
Listen: this is just an interview with Sam Mathews, founder and chairman of Fnatic, with some opinions from the attendees of the Lisbon Web Summit thrown in. You have probably read something like it before about esports, or video games in general, or board games or comics: Bam, Biff, Pow, Comic Books Aren’t For Kids Anymore. These are all hobbies that a lot of people enjoy except for when it comes time for a forty-year-old dude to write about it, and that’s fine. Your mom emails these articles to you, and it’s nice that she pays attention to your interests.
There’s this one super fucking weird sentence in Mitten’s article, though. When he describes esports athletes, he says:
“They make millions through prizes, appearance fees or merchandise. They have fans and fan clubs who sing about and chant names of star players. There are transfers between teams. Some of the athletes even look like they’ve had consensual sex.”
It’s just a sentence that makes you stop and think, “Where was this man’s editor?” And also, “Can you share your facial recognition technology that could help prevent rapes?” First of all, esports dudes fuck, a lot, and Compete has been there every step of the way to let you know about it. Second of all, this sentence implies that up until this point Andy Mitten thought that all esports athletes were probably rapists. Somewhere between writing eleven books, as noted in his Twitter bio, and now, he thought to himself: huh, I bet people who play Counter-Strike professionally also constantly rape people.
Esports athletes are just, you know, some guys? These are normal people who just happen to be really fucking good at League of Legends. Even if they didn’t have sex, they’d still be great at video games. I dunno, I’m also gonna wager a guess that most of them aren’t going around raping people all the time. Esports doesn’t necessarily have a more or less healthy relationship with sex than non-esports scenes. They have one that’s equivalent with the rest of the world. The value of these men isn’t measured by how many times they have put their genitals on, in or around another person. And on the flip side, it’s not like your sex organs fall off if you’ve played Candy Crush in your lifetime.
Remember high school band? Band kids didn’t care about being cool—or they did in the jazz way where you talk about records all the time but not do the cool things jazz musicians did, like smoke weed. Me and my emo kid friends would laugh at their earnestness and make fun of them for being virgins, despite being virgins ourselves. It turns out, I would have had better luck catching a dick with them than among my friends who loved Taking Back Sunday and crying about how girls are mean. It was because these people knew what they liked and weren’t ashamed of it. It’s way easier to get someone to have sex with you if you’re not caked in a layer of ironic detachment. People who have a passion are pretty hot, even if that passion is MOBAs.
There are plenty of things in life that young people do that I don’t get. I have never much liked EDM, I don’t use Snapchat, I can’t understand Discord and to be honest I really, really don’t get esports. But when I struggle with a Snapchat filter, I don’t wonder about whether or not people who use Snapchat have consensual sex.
For a limited time, you can choose from all three lengths (there’s a guide to help you pick on the product page) for 25% off with promo code M89UHFGT. If you aren’t familiar, these ease eyestrain when watching TV at night, improve your TV’s perceived contrast, and just look really cool. Needless to say, this would make for a creative holiday gift as well.
The PowerCore+ 26800 is one of the few battery packs on the market with USB-C Power Delivery up to 27W. That means it can charge a 12" MacBook at nearly full speed, a Nintendo Switch at full power while you’re playing Zelda on a plane, or an iPad Pro significantly faster than the charger it came with (if you have a USB-C to Lightning cable).
Power Delivery works both ways too, so you can actually recharge the entire battery pack in just 4.5 hours with the included 27W USB-C wall charger, compared to over 11 hours with a standard 2A USB charger. When you’re trying to juice up before a flight, every minute counts.
The PowerCore+ also includes two high speed standard USB ports that you can use simultaneously, which is good, because this thing has enough power to share. We had a hands on with the pack when it launched back in April, and you can see our impressions here.
This battery almost always sells for $110, and $87 is the best price we’ve ever seen.
If you aren’t familiar, the Harmony Hub is a little puck that blasts out RF signals like a TV remote to control all of your devices (Logitech’s database has nearly 300,000; it’s pretty comprehensive). Normally, this would work with a Harmony remote to control devices that are hidden behind cabinet doors, but it’ll also work with just your voice if you own an Alexa device.
So, for example, you could say “Alexa, turn on the TV” to turn on your TV, change to the correct input, turn on your cable box, or whatever else you programmed it to do. The same holds true for your smartphone; just open the Harmony app, and you’ll have full control over your entire home theater.
Just press one button, and an electric arc forms on the backside of of the flashlight that can light small items on fire, even in the wind. This spark is created with the same battery that powers the light, so unlike a traditional lighter, there’s no butane required. That makes it handy for camping, backyard s’mores nights, or just lighting candles around the house. Plus, it’s just cool as hell, nobody denies this.
#7: Boots Under $100
Having the proper footwear is the difference between spending the day working and spending the day in the Emergency Room. If you’ve been living dangerously lately, why not invest in a pair of work boots that won’t have you fighting for workers’ comp? Amazon is marking down work and safety boots to under $100, but it’s today only, so you should probably get to work.
Giant plugs that cover up half the outlets on your power strip should be outlawed, but until that day arrives, these short extension cords will have to do. $14 gets you a pack of 10, which should be enough for even the most advanced home theater setups.
Layoffs at EVE Online publisher CCP Games weren’t supposed to affect players, but they have led to the cancellation of a popular fan tournament.
The Anger Games, a player-organized tournament with a massive pile of in-game credits at stake for the winners, was supposed to have its third annual run last weekend. Set up in the spirit of the official CCP-run Alliance Tournament, The Anger Games seeks to provide one of the most rare things possible in EVE—a fair fight. For the games, all players are given the maximum skill levels in all applicable skills, and a shared set of ship building restrictions to ensure that both teams are on the same power level at the start of the match.
But before things could begin, disaster struck. On October 30, CCP Games said that the company would undergo a “restructuring” that would see two development studios close and layoffs worldwide. CCP assured concerned EVE players that its intent was to reduce its spending on VR games and pursue an “increased focus” in PC and mobile gaming. In a statement, it said that there would be “no changes to ongoing plans for EVE Online.”
But as more and more of the names of the laid-off employees became public, it became clear that the vast majority of CCP’s Community Team were a part of the nearly 100 employees being let go. A full list of the layoffs was not published, but a former CSM said on Reddit that at the end of the day, only four members of the community staff remained with the company. This list of layoffs included a fan-favorite community developer CCP Logibro. Among Logibro’s duties were helping players organize and run PvP tournaments, like Anger Games, on a sterile test server called Thunderdome to ensure the balance of the tournaments were preserved.
Logibro assisted tournament organizers and team captains in getting all participants enabled and prepared to play on Thunderdome, and would generally be around during tournament play to make sure everything went smoothly. Even after finding out about his upcoming termination, CCP Logibro apparently did what he could to make sure that players’ plans for the tournament would go ahead. Anger Games organizer Sothrasil informed teams via Reddit that Logibro had emailed him on the day of the layoffs to assure him that the server would be updated prior to the matches, as planned.
Unfortunately, just three days before the tournament was supposed to start, Sothrasil was forced to send a disappointed message to each of the team captains. Due to the chaos surrounding the layoffs, EVE senior game designer CCP Fozzie had to inform Sothrasil that he was unable to make the necessary upgrades to the Thunderdome server in time for the tournament. This left no choice but to cancel the tournament just days before it was set to start.
As the news made the rounds, players from many different teams vented their frustrations in a Reddit thread posted by a disgruntled player. CCP Falcon, one of the few members of EVE’s community team that avoided the layoffs, responded to the posts, and apologized for the cancellation: “Sorry we weren’t able to support this as planned 😦 At the minute, we’re currently working on prioritizing quite a few community projects and getting our heads together to resume regular service, but unfortunately the Anger Games happened to be too close to recent events for us to be able to assist.”
Most posters seem to take some solace in Falcon’s words, but a few took the opportunity to remind CCP of its promise that EVE would not be adversely affected by the layoffs.
This event has placed a cloud of doubt over the EVE community, and caused a rift between some players and the remaining members of the community team. Tournaments like the Anger Games provide a unique way for EVE players to display their skills and require months of dedication and practice to prepare for. Seeing that time wasted through no action of their own has left the tournament staff and participants feeling like CCP dropped the ball.It’s likely that in time, the players will forgive, the teams will reassemble, and, assuming CCP is willing, the Anger Games will continue. But for now, those pilots will have to find other ways to vent their in-game aggressions.
When there’s no usable television in sight or your eyes just aren’t good enough to share the Nintendo Switch’s 6.2 inch screen with a friend, a portable gaming monitor is a nice thing to have around.
I’ve spent the past couple of weeks fiddling with Hori’s aptly-named Universal HD Gaming monitor, a 15.6 inch 720p LCD monitor that comes with its own leatherette carrying case/stand. It kind of looks like a really thick tablet when folded for storage.
While it’s as wide, tall and nearly as thick as a standard 15-inch laptop, the Universal HD Monitor is surprisingly light. Hori says the unit weighs around three pounds. It feels much lighter, thanks to its primarily plastic construction. The low weight and bulky plastic make the unit feel more like a toy than a piece of tech, but it also increases the odds of surviving drops and backpack bumps.
To use it, all one has to do is prop it up via its two-position stand, plug in the power adapter, and attach a gaming system or other source to one of the unit’s two HDMI ports.
It’s not the greatest monitor in the world. It’s a little dim, the viewing angles are tight (two players have to squeeze in close) and the built-in speakers produce sound that could be coming from a particularly spacious tin can.
Thing is, it’s not supposed to be the greatest. It’s suposed to be portable and it’s supposed give users a means to play games or watch video content when no better option is available. It checks those boxes readily.
While I mainly played with my Switch on the Hori portable monitor, I also hooked up my PlayStation 4 for a little Hatsune Miku rhythm game action. I am very finicky about control sensitivity on Project Diva Future Tone, adjusting button timing every time I connect to a new display. I figured I might have to adjust the delay to account for monitor lag jumping from my dedicated desktop display to this portable unit. To my surprise, I didn’t have to adjust a thing.
As an added bonus, the Hori Universal HD Monitor also displays games that aren’t North American ports of Japanese rhythm games. While I wouldn’t suggest playing Call of Duty: World War II at a serious competitive level on a portable 720p screen, it’s good for campaign mode and practicing against bots while you wait for the servers to come up.
At $200, the Hori Universal HD Monitor is on the pricier side of portable monitors—you can easily find a smaller television for the same price. But a smaller television isn’t built for travel. This is something I can slip into my backpack and carry about town, just in case I find someone willing to recreate those fancy Nintendo Switch commercials with my near-blind self.
Have you ever been a jerk or cheated in Counter-Strike? No? What about in other Steam games? Now, that might come back to bite you, thanks to CSGO’s “Trust Factor” matchmaking system.
The Trust Factor system arrived late yesterday as part of a game update. Valve’s goal here is simple: to match you with people you enjoy playing with and against, which it measures, in part, by how long you stay in matches and the number of reports (or, hopefully, lack thereof) submitted against you.
In a blog post, Valve explained that the Trust Factor system does this by gathering information from “observed behaviors and attributes of [a player’s] Steam account, including the overall amount of time they had spent playing CSGO, how frequently they were reported for cheating, [and] time spent playing other games on their Steam account.”
Valve refrained from going too deep into specifics for fear of stressing players out while they’re playing, and also because the system is “constantly updating,” which they say would render a list of factors obsolete pretty quickly. Valve clarified, however, that as long as you stick to the straight and narrow, you should be fine. “We want to make sure that all you have to do to improve your matchmaking experience is continue to play CSGO and other Steam games legitimately,” Valve wrote.
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LEGO’s 1969 piece Saturn V Apollo kit is almost never in stock anywhere (seriously, go look at the markup on eBay), but Amazonand Target both have it for its $120 MSRP right now. For this kit, that qualifies as a deal.
A post on the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation’s Facebook page earlier today purported to show photographic proof that the US was aiding ISIS fighters in Syria. It turns out that one of the photographs included was from a video game.
According to the post, Russian air power was used to help Syrian troops take back the town of Abu Kamal from ISIS control. During the operation, the Ministry of Defense claimed it had learned US aircrafts were trying to provide cover for an ISIS convoy. Part of the “irrefutable proof” included in the Facebook post was actually an image from a promotional video for a mobile game called AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron.
A message in the top right corner of the video reads “Development footage. This is a work in progress. All content is subject to change.” The screencap used by the Defense Ministry failed to clip out the “all content” part.
AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron tasks players with providing air support to troops on the ground during the Vietnam War. It’s not a very well-known mobile game, and the studio behind it, Byte Conveyor, hasn’t updated its Facebook page since December of 2015. The graphics certainly looks realistic, though.
The Humble Care Package Bundle is a little different than what you’re used to. There’s only one tier, it costs $30, and availability is limited. In fact, it could very well sell out today. But that gets you a whopping 27 different PC games, including gems like Pyschonauts, Shadowrun Returns, Stardew Valley, and Starbound, just for starters.
When I heard that the 2011 detective game L.A. Noire was getting remastered for current consoles, my first thought was, “Oh, cool! That was an interesting game.” Then I remembered that L.A. Noire was a very weird game, and one I didn’t even like back when I first played it.
A thousand years ago in 2011, I reviewedL.A. Noire for the outlet Kill Screen. I found the game profoundly odd. It felt like I was starring in a Twilight Zone episode, where the twist at the end reveals that the protagonist was trapped in purgatory the whole time. (Note: that does not actually happen in L.A. Noire.)
Here’s what I wrote at the time:
As I ambled exhaustedly along, I decided that L.A. Noire is not a detective story at all. It is a parable about death and purgatory, a story of forgiveness. A man named Phelps went to war. He had his share of flaws, and in the midst of battle he made some bad decisions. Those decisions had repercussions that no one could have anticipated. Some of them were terrible, but then, war is terrible.
Phelps died at Okinawa, and his soul became lost. He couldn’t move on until he found his own justice, acted out his part in a morality play born of his own cowardice and insecurity. So now he wanders a half-remembered vision of his home city, playing detective, solving cases over which he has no real control.
Cole Phelps is not looking for criminals; he is looking for absolution. He must make peace with his failings before he can finally let them go, and this gauzy straitjacket of a city will not let him rest until he has done so. L.A. Noire asks not for players’ help or guidance in this matter; it asks only if they would like to tag along.
Nowadays when I think about L.A. Noire, I think about that killer soundtrack. I think about those men in their fedoras, out solving crimes. My memory probably mixes in some scenes from L.A. Confidential. Then I stop myself and really think about it, and I remember the strangely empty city, those disjointed interrogations, and the uncanny jolt of seeing familiar TV actors’ faces stretched onto puppet-like digital bodies.
I remember how the whole thing was basically just a straightforward point-and-click adventure game dressed up in big-budget open-world clothes. That’s hardly a knock against it, but it highlights its awkward place in history. L.A. Noire was published by Rockstar Games but created by the now-defunct Australian studio Team Bondi, in what was reportedly an extraordinary rocky development process. Rockstar’s own Grand Theft Auto IV had come out three years prior, in 2008. Its sequel, Grand Theft Auto V, was already in development and would come out two years later, in 2013. Open-world games in 2011 were about to go the way of GTA V and its lucrative online counterpart; the way of multiplayer sandboxes and perpetually updated games as a service. L.A. Noire was an unlikely, ultimately incorrect guess about what might have been.
In the spring of 2012, Telltale Games released the groundbreaking first season of their Walking Dead adventure series. Like L.A. Noire, it focused primarily on dialogue and storytelling. Unlike L.A. Noire, it didn’t attempt to stretch its story over an expensive-looking, largely empty open world, nor did the developers use high-tech cameras to graft actors’ faces onto the characters in the game.
The Walking Dead won over critics and fans, and even went on to beat out Journey for a couple of 2012 Game of the Year awards. It also set the template for what a mainstream, console-friendly adventure game could look like. Its example has been followed by other licensed Telltale games like Tales from the Borderlands, Game of Thrones and The Wolf Among Us, as well as Dontnod’s terrific Life Is Strange series.
After five years dominated by the Telltale template, L.A. Noire feels like more of a historical oddity than ever. As a dialogue-heavy living-room adventure game, it was ahead of its time. As an open-world cops and robbers game, it was a miscalibrated failure. As an actual interactive detective story, it was all over the place.
My sense is that L.A. Noire has maintained a hold on our collective consciousness thanks mainly to the fact that no subsequent games have tried to replicate or improve on its formula. Every so often (including this morning) I’ll fire the game up on PC and play a bit before remembering, oh yeah, this game is weird as hell. I’m sure that with fresh eyes and a dedicated playthrough, I’d find new things to appreciate. My colleague Heather Alexandra recently streamed the game on our Twitch channel and found plenty to criticize but also plenty to like. She praised the homicide investigations, which I recall strongly disliking, and also found the ending to be a perfect noir finale.
Rockstar’s new remaster, which brings a few changes like some new (or at least re-labeled) interrogation options, might make the game feel more coherent. Certainly it will be a novelty to play it portably on the Nintendo Switch. And perhaps, with the game newly at the forefront of game designers’ minds, some intrepid individual will take fresh inspiration for a new game we’ll play years down the line.
For now: Cole Phelps is not actually a detective in L.A., he’s a dead soldier suffering through purgatory in order to atone for his sins in life. Crackpot theory, or fair reading of a deeply strange game? You decide.