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Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are developing new policies to require games to disclose loot box odds on Xbox One, PS4 and Switch. Loot boxes are common in games such as Overwatch, Call of Duty, Middle-earth: Shadow of War and NBA 2k18. Originally developed for monetizing free-to-play mobile games, they are virtual tools that can be bought in the digital world. Full implementation of this feature is expected in 2020. Some loot box items are cosmetic with no influence on gaming success; however, others are designed to induce players who spend money to succeed. Example: The 2017 game Star-Wars Battlefront II has been criticized for loot boxes requiring full retail prices while not providing the items as expected. Previous industry efforts to limit loot box problems included ratings and password-protected spending controls. The new loot box odds will be presented in a clear and understandable way according to the Entertainment Software Association.

Here’s a quick summary of what’s happening with these new and exciting games.

  • Total Party Kill is a survival battle game based on the classic The Lost Vikings game. It involves leading three heroes safely through dangerous environments. Sacrificing one of the heroes is necessary for at least one hero to survive.
  • Learn to Walk is a hilarious stilt walking game featuring a goat on stilts.
  • Mighty Quest for Epic Loot has a user guide a knight to plunder by sliding a single finger or thumb.
  • Meridian 157 is a mystery problem-solving game in which the user must search for a solution to a power outage.
  • Tharsis is a iOS game about a disaster-prone research ship.
  • Minit is a throwback game filled with puzzles and combat.
  • Serial Cleaner is a 1970s-based crime investigation game.
  • Dr. Mario World is a health game involving killing viruses by releasing capsules.
America’s epidemic of gun violence has been linked to video games by President Trump and some commentators.  The data suggests otherwise.  Naturally, the first to object was Stanley Pierre Louis, President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association who claimed that video games have a positive influence on society. He cited examples of video games being used to support health and education efforts. He also claimed that scientific studies showed that there’s no link between videogames and violence.  What studies? Benjamin Burroughs, a professor of emerging media at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas says, “There are no longitudinal studies that show a link between violence and video games. Certainly, there is no linkage to gun violence.” An AP article in the subject states, “Indiana University researchers found [in a small study] that teenagers who played violent video games showed higher levels of emotional arousal but less activity in the parts of the brain associated with the ability to plan, control and direct thoughts and behavior.” Research by Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University, led him to conclude, “The general story is people who play video games right after might be a little hopped up and jerky but it doesn’t fundamentally alter who they are. It is like going to see a sad movie. It might make you cry but it doesn’t make you clinically depressed.” It is pretty clear the video games do not lead to gun violence.  Still, some of these games can be disturbing to young kids and teens.  Their parents have a monitoring role to play. To help them, since 1994 The Education Software Rating Board has provided ratings designed to help parents decide what games are appropriate for their children with ratings that range from “E″ for “Everyone” to “Adults Only” for those 18 and older.  Reviews of games designed for parents can be found through Common Sense Media.

Nintendo is close to delivering on last year’s promise to put Mario Kart on mobile devices.  The game is already being played on PCs, but it’s time for Nintendo to follow its audience to the phone where they increasingly live and breathe. Just how they adapt this well known game to the mobile medium will be interesting…what elements will they keep and what will they drop as they live within the phone’s restrictions.  The fun will be playing the new versions of Rainbow Road or Koopa Troopa Beach on your phone.

The beta version is said to be close to release, but in a break from the past, it will be available on Android devices first, which puts iOS users at the back of the line.  While nothing quite beats the classic N64 version of Mario Kart, having the ability to compete with this timeless title on your phone will be a fresh experience. Check back in for more updates on Mario Kart as the beta release unfolds.

The Fortnite gaming series recently had its first ever world-cup. The tournament winner, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, a 16 year old from Pennsylvania, beat millions of players on his path to the companionship. He had to win six battle royal matches to emerge as the champion and take home the $3 million winner’s prize.  When asked what he’d do with the money, he was quoted as saying he wanted to buy a new desk.

All one hundred competitors were guaranteed at least $50,000 for their participation. Four of them received seven figure rewards including Argentina’s Thiago “King” Lapp, a 13 year old who got $900,000 for his fifth place finish.

The event demonstrates the big money flowing into e-sports. The first ever Fortnite World Cup reward budget of $30 million matched that of the FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer budget and the winner’s prize is comparable to the Men’s and Women’s US Open Tennis Championship prize money. Meanwhile, the premier e-sporting competition, The International,has an even bigger reward budget than the Fortnite World Cup. If you are over 20, you are over the e-sports hill.  Go home.