How Crowdfunding Video Games is Invigorating the Industry

LoadingHuman_UE_lab_07

I love crowdfunding. Sure, I’ve had a few duds among the projects I’ve backed, but for the most part, it’s been a positive experience. There’s nothing quite like knowing you were part of the creative process of some wonderful new project or seeing your name listed in the “special thanks” section in a game’s end credits.

But backing these projects is about more than personal satisfaction. Crowdfunding video games helps ensure that risky titles—those that push against mainstream ideas about what games are or can be—keep the industry thriving and innovative. Without crowdfunding, we wouldn’t have the Oculus Rift, Shovel Knight, or FTL, three of the most exciting creations of the past few years.

It’s not just about getting games funded, either. Crowdfunding is also a barometer for consumer interest, and high popularity can spur publishers to pick a game up and bring it to the attention of an even broader audience. There are few things more inspiring than a good rags-to-riches (or indie-to-classic) success story, and sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer fertile ground where the first seeds of such stories can take root.

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Don’t Forget It’s Not Real: VR and Suspension of Disbelief

Loading Human is a prime example of what VR games have to offer

When I was younger, sometimes I would lay down to sleep after an evening spent rotating blocks in Tetris and have a hard time turning off my brain. Behind my eyelids, in the dark of the night, I could still see a familiar pattern of falling geometric shapes. My brain was trying to solve a puzzle that wasn’t there anymore.

Virtual reality is a wonderful, immersive tool that can provide us with hours of realistic, believable entertainment. But what happens when we turn it off? If Tetris can lodge itself firmly in a ten-year old’s mind, you can be sure VR’s going to have an impact that lasts long after you’ve taken off the headset. Continue reading

The Psychology of Video Game Interaction and Immersion

BioShock Infinite Bathroom

If you see a toilet in a game, it must be flushable.

Rarely does an in-game toilet have any bearing whatsoever on gameplay, but if there’s a toilet in a game, you better believe I will try to flush it. Portal begins with an attempt to flush the radio. In Gone Home, I made sure every one of those toilets got flushed. Even in Fallout, proper post-apocalyptic flushing practices must be observed.

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Depth in VR: How Three Dimensions Make Virtual Reality Feel Real

Believable NPCs in VR Games

At this year’s PAX West, there was a singular moment when I discovered how powerful virtual reality could be. I was playing a demo for a VR title and found myself struggling with the controls, repeatedly moving my hand while trying to interact with an object. After a couple of failures, it dawned on me what the problem was—I was only thinking in two dimensions, not three. Sure enough, I extended my hand a little further and hit the sweet spot, allowing me to continue with the game.

Suddenly, it was like somebody had flipped a switch in my brain. This is what VR can do that no other gaming form can. I’ve traversed a multitude of gaming worlds, appreciated small details in any number of gorgeously-rendered titles, and engaged with more expertly-crafted environments and cohesive worldbuilding than I dare try to count—but never have I felt as though I, personally, was really, physically there. Continue reading

Virtual Vacations: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to VR

Virtual VR Vacations

How many cities have you visited in your life?

Ten? Twenty? A hundred? No matter how many you’ve seen, it’s a miniscule number compared to the variety that planet Earth has to offer. This is to say nothing of all the incredibly uncharted locations around the world—rich, thick Amazonian jungle, snowy arctic fjords, and vast, arid deserts that no human has ever fully explored.

With virtual reality, gamers have the opportunity to see the world, all from the comfort of their own living room. Beyond real world locales, it’s even possible to play the tourist in an imaginary setting, traversing Middle Earth or exploring the galaxy. Continue reading

The Big Bluff: Believable Peril in VR Video Games

Peril in VR Video Games

You can’t die in a video game, right?

As much as developers try to make games feel authentic and immersive, players are always aware that what they’re going through has no real-world consequences. The stakes in a video game won’t carry into real life, and it’s hard to forget that.

With VR, there’s an opportunity to give players a more immersive experience than ever before. Continue reading

Five PlayStation VR Launch Titles to Get Excited About

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The PlayStation VR is nearly here, and it’s coming with some of the most exciting and innovative games of the year.

While there are plenty of titles to choose from, some stand out more than others as a perfect introduction to virtual reality and all of the wonders that the technology holds. But with so many brand new game franchises debuting with the PS VR, it’s hard to know which launch titles are going to deliver the most enjoyable experience. Continue reading

Five Classic Video Game Characters We’d Love to See (or Be) in VR

Game characters we'd love to see in VR

Have you ever come across a video game character you loved so much, you wished they were real?

Imagine carrying out a genuine conversation with your favorite NPC, watching them react to you as if you’re actually in the same room together. Or, perhaps you’d rather take on their persona for yourself, inhabiting their body and gaining their powers and attributes, seeing through their eyes as you explore their home world. Continue reading

How Different Storytelling Arcs in Games Shape Player Responses

Loft in VR video game Loading Human

Most stories tend to fall into similar structures. One of the best-known is the inverted check mark, something my writing instructors really hammered into my brain. You start with exposition, move into rising action, peak at the climax, and fall slowly into resolution. This formula, despite its very formal structure, allows for a lot of freedom in its implementation, especially when you consider that not all media need adhere to it in the same way.

Take video games, for example. It’s not out of the ordinary to spend a hundred or more hours in the same game, which can make for a rather strangely-formatted inverted check mark. That’s why games often do things a bit differently. While the traditional storytelling arc might still appear, it often deviates from the way it tends to manifest in books or movies. As games take on new release structures—such as the episodic format—alternate models surface alongside them. The three-act structure and inverted check mark simply won’t work for every story. But how do these varying structures impact the way players feel? Is there really any distinction between each form, or are they all just the same thing wrapped up in different packages?

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