EVO 2017: A Spectacle Worth Seeing!

That’s right! I attended the annual Evolution Championship Series this past weekend! I traveled from Indianapolis, Indiana to Las Vegas, Nevada; my adventure actually started with me sleeping at the Indianapolis International Airport in order to board my 6am flight on time and save money. It would have been a $60 Uber for me at 4:30am in the morning if my friend did not take me, so I must thank my friend and colleague for the help!

Anywho, I attended EVO 2017 not just as a fan and lover of fighting videogames, but as a researcher. I am working on a research project related to the fighting game community. I cannot divulge too many details, but it involved me attending EVO and interviewing several attendees and/or competitors. I was accompanied by two of my friends – both gamers and avid players of fighting videogames.

After my friends and I checked into the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Resort, we grabbed something to eat at the (expensive) food court, and proceeded to the convention hall. Once we entered, almost on cue, my friend and I both uttered, “Holy shit!” Immediately we were thrust into nerd mecha with EVO-related merchandise being sold at the very front entrance. Deeper into the convention I passed the Pokken Tournament for Nintendo Switch play area. The Dragon Ball FighterZ play area was adjacent to the Capcom booth with 100 people already gathered around to play this upcoming title. Once you get through the merchandising, one may stop and gaze at all the pools  that were around. For those who are unaware, ‘pools’ are matches that players need to win to be in the semi-finals. This means that some people could be playing against 10+ opponents in a single day.

As mentioned before, I was at EVO 2017 to observe and conduct interviews.

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I have several pages of hand written notes ranging from topics related to the diverse population within the space to the way players hold and use their joy stick on their fighting sticks. Fighting sticks are portable arcade cabinet controllers that rest on one’s lap. Most competitors use fight sticks, but do not necessarily have to use one to compete. I spent an hour just observing how players gripped their joy stick on the fighting sticks. That in it of itself could be a study since I noted at least five different ways to handle them.

Throughout EVO, I got to see some of my favorite players, both old and new. I saw Kitana Prime walking around quite bit, as well as commentating on a few matches. I also met SonicFox thanks to my friend pointing him out to me. Unfortunately, I did not converse with him because he look exhausted from pools. I almost got a picture with competitor Hayatei, but just before I got the picture Kitana Prime told him he was up next to play. Hayatei apologized and went to play. Again, this is a tournament so anyone who is competing needs to be in the area ready to play at any moment. IMG_20170714_2201101 Some matches end earlier than others, so I understood that he had to rush and leave. Maybe next time. I also got to take a picture with the legendary Justin Wong again. The list goes on who else I saw there, but it was exciting just to be in the same room as them.

 

Attending the Grand Finals at the Mandalay Bay convention center on Sunday was exhilarating. Once you walk inside to take a seat, the gigantic monitors live streaming the event immediately captures your attention. The competitors also play on a LCD platform in the shape of the EVO logo that have several smaller monitors displayed on the sides for people in court side seating to watch. I enjoyed watching all the matches in each game, but seeing the top 8 competitors fight in Street Fighter V was definitely the highlight of the event for me. It was Punk and Tokido in the Street Fighter V Grand Finals and the pressure was on. Most of the crowd was rooting for Punk, with his mother cheering him on every minute. The crowd was in an uproar whenever Punk took a round, but gasped everytime Tokido took a match. Tokido won 3-0 against Punk. You know Punk was devastated, since you could see the look of disappointment consume him. However, he kept his head high and received his medal while the crowd uncontrollably praised him for his valiant fight against Tokido.

EVO and the fighting game community (FGC) is special, at least that is feeling that was communicated to me via the interviews. I left EVO with the impression that people thoroughly love being a part of this community.  The FGC spans the entire globe with fighters coming from Mexico, Japan, Canada, Europe, etc.

 

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If you can go to EVO one day, then please go! If you can go with friends, then even better. I feel even more a part of the FGC since attending EVO. Definitely an event worth seeing in person and maybe one day competing in person as well!

Also, the after-party was lit! Seeing people go from beating each other in-game to the dance floor is a worthwhile sight!

E3 2017: The Games I Want Arrive in 2018

The annual celebration of all things videogames wrapped up in Los Angeles on June 15 and videogames are yet again going to new heights! Games such as Detroit: Become Human premiered a full length demo of the game introducing new characters and more details on its narrative. God of War showed off some awesome gameplay at the Sony briefing which included seeing Kratos’s son use a weapon against enemy combatants. This confirms that his son is a useful ally instead of a…. well a burden. Lastly, Spider-Man closed out the Sony briefing with a roughly 9-minute gameplay demonstration. Needless to say, I am excited to get my hands on these games.

However, the previously mentioned videogames and many others will not be released until 2018 or later. Quite frankly, a good portion of these games won’t see the day of light until the end of this year, if not early next year. One could have arrived at that conclusion late 2016 or early 2017. Even games that were shown off or unveiled during E3 2016 did not make an appearance this time around. Hideo Kojima’s new scifi game Death Stranding had no showing and Red Dead Redemption 2 was a no-show as well. Lastly, the biggest game on my radar, Cyberpunk 2077, is still completely shrouded in mystery.

I understand that developers want their games tight lipped because it builds anticipation and they can show off a near finished product instead a concept video. I really appreciate that mindset for a game can be shown off at E3 as one thing, then be completely different at launch. I am looking at you Assassin’s Creed: Unity.

So why are a lot of the big titles releasing next year instead of this year?

First, this is nothing new. I would argue this happens at every E3. Take Batman: Arkham Knight for example. Announced in March of 2014 and released on June 23, 2015. For Honor was announced E3 2015 and released on February 14 on this year. Franchise games like Halo are typically announced at E3 and will not release for another year and half such as Halo 4. Halo 4 was announced at E3 2011 and released on November 6, 2012. Hell, The Last Guardian was in development since 2007 and released a decade later in November of last year!

Secondly, some of these games have been delayed until 2018 or will have delays in 2018. Nowadays, this is just how it is. Personally, I do not mind if a game is delayed to make it better. 2014 to 2015 had several games being released almost unplayable either on PC or console. I’m looking at you Batman: Arkham Knight and of course again at Assassin’s Creed: Unity. So developers, take your time.

Not every game announced at E3 2017 is waiting to be released in 2018, but waiting a year for the games I want can be a struggle. You can look at this Gamespot.com list of games releasing in 2018 and later here.

E3 2017 was definitely fun to watch and we will all need to wait a bit longer before we get to have fun playing them too.

 

There is no “Respawn” option in Life

There is no respawn option is life

 

Every day I reflect. I reflect on what it means to be me; what it means to be a gamer; what it means to be a student; what it means to be black; what it means to be male, or an older brother, or a friend. I have the power to reflect on these identities because I have time to do so. Every day is a new opportunity to reevaluate and contemplate.

Videogames also incorporate moments of reflection, of pondering, starting anew, or continuing where one left off.  I can always gain a new level in Overwatch because the work I put in was saved. That saved data does not get rewritten until I, the player, choose to continue my progress. It waits for me to finish what I started. It waits for me to continue to reach new objectives and learn more in order to progress in its virtual world.

Just like life, videogames are full of bewilderment. I can be a formidable opponent against a ferocious dragon, therefore earning the opportunity to slay the beast. I could be late for an exam, therefore I must work with the little time I have been given to complete it. Both required preparation and a mastery of tools I possessed to complete the objectives swiftly and efficiently. However, there is a big difference between playing a life in virtual space and living life in real space.

Life has no respawn.

There is no press button to pause life. There is only continue.

We as people get one chance. One time to live. It is a crime against humanity when someone decides to strip away that life, especially without justification, reason, cause, or merit.

Lt. Richard Collins III was stabbed and killed on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 3 a.m. near a bus stop on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park. Collins was at our campus preparing to graduate from Bowie State University that upcoming Tuesday.

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To those of you who do not know, UMD is my alma mater. I did not know him personally, but his death has impacted me. From the location of where he was slain to the person currently in police custody, it makes me…reflect.

As a gamer, I am used to witnessing the simulation of death. Generally, I am then afforded the chance to begin anew, and continue my path; all I have to do is press “A” to continue from the last checkpoint. However, reality is not coded that way; there are no cheat codes for death or life, and there are no patch updates that fix the many wrongs in this world. The game of life is set of the hardest difficultly, that continuously generates new hurdles, obstacles, challenges, and enemies. Life is also a horribly imbalanced system. Too much to even list why it’s so cruel and unjust.

There is no respawn.

Death is a life experience that we confront daily – either by watching it on the television, seeing it on your timeline, or simply being at the wrong place at that time. For there is never a right time for death.

There is no respawn. Just one life. A life we should preserve as long as we can. Let us share our experience with others in hopes of conquering the bigger challenges in life as well. Even if one player falls, their ideas, hopes, and dreams should carry others forward.

Lt. Collins III Rest in Paradise. May your spirit influence others to continue playing and being brave and strategic in the game of life.

 

Road to the PhD: Year One

“Road to the PhD” is a new short blog series comprised of reflections of my woes, accomplishments, up and downs, as I try to ascertain the coveted PhD. I am PhD student in Informatics in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University, Bloomington. This is a brief, but concrete reflection of my first year in this program. Hopefully, these reflections will benefit those who are interested in being a games researcher and want to know what that experience is like at the graduate level.

Road to the PhD- Year One

And with the submissions of my final papers and final grades for my students, I have successfully completed my first in my PhD program. Thank goodness! I am so relieved that finals (HELL) week is over! Of course, at the graduate level I feel it starts earlier because one must budget time and energy to drafting papers, starting or finishing projects, and meeting with students to discuss their grades, if you have students. Honestly, it lasted for a good month for me because of the amount of students I had to grade upon my own work that had to get done. However, I learned a lot within the past year about what kind of student I am and the direction I want to go? Also, the balance of becoming a games scholar and scholar who still plays games during free time? A very interesting position that I have yet again place myself in.

When I first arrived at Indiana University I had very little knowledge of the other graduate students who worked on and/or with videogames. I just knew that I needed to meet them and learn about their particular interest in gaming culture. After a week or so, I met one of them in the shared PhD area where most of the PhD students have their desks. During my second week I met Alex who is interested in gaming distribution platforms such as Steam, Blizzard App, and Origin. Alex and I were also taking the same social media course as well, so we developed a nice rapport with each other fairly quickly.

Later on that month, I met Iris who is also fascinated about the culture of gaming and very much into building connections on and off campus with other game enthusiasts. Iris, Alex, and I have since played Overwatch with each other several times and currently creating a games research group and another project that I hope pans out well.

Why did I mentioned these people? Well, it’s not the people that I wanted to highlight, though they both are awesome people. I wanted to highlight this amazing collaborative journey that I have embarked on. Studying videogames as an academic interest and hopefully career, so far is proving to be intriguing, fascinating, and lots of work. Intriguing because I have involved myself from simply reading books on games to utilizing them for academic papers. Fascinating because I get to discuss at any moment between buffs and nerfs in Overwatch to the representation of marginalized identities in some videogames with others in my PhD cohort. Lastly, this is a lot of work to do because the field is still growing, and their are so many directions yet unexplored, and so many questions yet to be asked.

This first year has challenged me as a gamer as well. I now cherish games like Overwatch because I can play a few rounds and feel as though I am accomplishing something fairly quickly, as well as, being actively engaged in combat without a long wait time to find and fight my foes. Do not get me wrong, I love my Skyrim and Mafia 3, but those games require a lot more of my time. I feel sad at times because I know I need to spend at least  3 to 4 hours in the realm of Dragon Age: Inquisition to get that same sense of accomplishment like in Overwatch.  However, school makes that very challenging for me. Yes, two very different genres that appeal to different kind of gamers. However, one cannot deny the fact both require different amounts of time to accomplish certain tasks in these games. I am still working on finding that balance between work and play.

During year one, I was yet again confronted with the reality of what it means to be one of few in a particular space. I am a Black male going to a PWI (predominantly white institution) which does not bother me because my alma mater, University of Maryland, College Park, is one as well. Within in the Informatics side of the School of Informatics and Computing I have yet to see a black faculty member. This is may or may not be true, but after being their for 10 months I am pretty sure I would have seen someone. However, the lack of representation within my department does not faze as much because I expected this because of where the school is located, and seeing various ethnic groups in the space does not make me feel alone. Race has and will forever play a role in how I see, interact, and interpret things, but I refuse to let it stand in my way to what I want to accomplish. That lesson has become a abundantly clear with me graduating from UMD last year and currently attending IU.

Year one is finally completed and I could not be happier. I am excited to see what year  two has in store because gaming is taking me to new places and meeting new people. I am attending EVO 2017 in Las Vegas to conduct some research, so stay tuned for that. It is an immense privilege to be in school and be able to invest my time and energy into research I want to do. Let’s just hope I can accomplish even more since during my 2nd year.

A “Target” Moment of Reflection

A Target Moment of Reflection

It was a Wednesday afternoon, I had just left campus, and I needed some me time. Me time generally consisted of watching Netflix, sleeping, or playing videogames. However, since I started school at Indiana University, I occasionally stroll through the local mall that is down the street from my apartment. Generally, I just walk around and buy one or two small items. A part of the mall is the good ‘ole Target! I like Target, for it usually has what I am looking for and the stores that I have visited are pretty clean. As I am walking around, picking up non-essential stuff, I see in the distance a child playing on the publicly accessible Xbox One that is in the Target. He was a young black male who had to be no older than 7 or 8 years old.  I was a distance away, but I saw how laser focused he was going through the obstacle course in Forza Horizon 3.

For the few seconds that I watched him, multiple memories of my childhood flashed through my mind, specifically one’s related to gaming. One of the memories was of when I was playing SonicThe Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis. I remember the many fun and frustrating times I had with that game. Kick’in butt and taking names in “Green Hill Zone” to getting pummeled in those annoying boss battles with Eggman. I am still slightly annoyed that I never beat the game.

Anywho, after those couple of seconds went by I snapped out it and started to proceed towards another direction in the store. However, I could not help put things into context. Here is a 7 or 8 year old black male child playing on an Xbox One. I am not knocking his intelligence, but I will assume he had very little understanding of the computational complexity of what it takes to run a videogame, let alone running in 1080p resolution between 30 to 60 frames per seconds (fps). Sure, in today’s computer market that is pretty mediocre, however, I reflect back to the days of the Playstation 2, Nintendo Gamecube, etc. At one point in time, those consoles were the future of gaming. This kid was playing an Xbox One at 7 or 8, so gaming will look incredibly different once he is in his 20’s.

Anywho, I walked through the aisle of pasta and sauces, and landed back in the middle of the store. As I looked at the electronic section at the end of the aisle, the kid was still actively engaged in the game, but with onlookers. The onlookers included a middle-aged couple and a woman, who I believed to be his mother. All 3 were just watching him play this game. I could not tell if he was beating the AI opponents like crazy or crashing into everything for I was too far away. This reminded me of the few times my mother and aunt would watch my cousins, my brother, and I play Mario Kart: Double Dash for the Nintendo Gamecube. Even today when people watch me play, I feel like I must perform my best at all times with no mistakes. If I do mess up, then I typically play it off as if I meant to make the mistake from the beginning.

That kid will never know that he made a 22-year-old black male graduate student reflect about his young gaming childhood days. That gamer will never realize that their is a future in gaming, until someone puts that idea into his head. That future scholar will not fully see the roadblocks ahead of him until they happen. Hopefully, he will soon learn how to create games that are intriguing, awe-inspiring, educational, fun, and thought provoking, and maybe even ponder a future in which being a gamer is not only his hobby, but a passion.

Thanks kid!

A Gamer’s Validation: An Uplifting Spring Break

crowd-2045499_1280Instead of going to Cancun or visiting my cousins in Florida for Spring Break, I left Indiana University and went back to my home state of Maryland. I was able to hang out with friends and see my charming mother and brother again. Beyond sharing food and pleasantries with the people I love, I had the opportunity to attend  The 18th annual National Conference for McNair Scholars and Undergraduate Research. The McNair program is an intensive undergraduate research program in which students conduct research through guided mentorship from a faculty member(s) and learn about the graduate school process. This is all to encourage students to apply to graduate school to ascertain their PhD. I am an alum of the McNair program from the University of Maryland, College Park, which is where this particular conference is held every year.

I was invited back to be a panelist for the graduate student panel. Three other graduate students and I, each at various stages in graduate school, spoke to our experiences and answered questions from the audience. Of course, I let it be known that I am a gamer who is a PhD student studying video game culture.  Though the conversation that I engaged in was fun, I want to jump to what happened after the panel was over. Following the graduate student panel, there is always a graduate school fair, which has about 50 or so colleges/universities from all over the country that come to share information about their graduate programs. As I meandered through the fair, a student approached me with the utmost enthusiasm and interest in my academic journey and asked how I ended up studying what I do in graduate school. I briefly informed him on the series of events that took place that allowed me to study video game culture. He was astonished. It was at that moment that I felt validated in my academic career.

I am not going to lie, this semester has really pushed me to think in new ways, but the stress of coursework and being a teaching assistant has been taxing. For almost a month, I felt defeated, exhausted, and just plain stupid. I had to convince myself not to skip class almost every morning.

So when that student expressed excitement and slight bewilderment, I felt uplifted, and that feeling lasted throughout the entire conference. It felt great to have a fellow gamer applaud my efforts of turning my hobby of gaming into an academic pursuit. To have my work acknowledged by someone who is a part of the community that I am researching not only validates myself as a gamer-identified person, but also my work as an academic.

It is possible to study what you want and attend academic settings that cater to your interests. In this case, this setting was highly multidisciplinary! Although this was an environment that I was familiar with, returning as a freshly minted PhD student was a different experience. I look forward to attending the McNair conference next year, as well as future conferences as a gamer with a doctorate degree.

 

E3 is Open to the Public!

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E3 has finally gone public! The general public now has the opportunity to attend the biggest event in all of videogame culture! This is fantastic news for anyone who has always wanted to attend the event but unable to because of having no ties to the media industry and/or academic institutions in some form. So the details:

  1. 15, 000 tickets will go on sale February 13, 2017 at 12pm EST/9am PST
  2. First 1,000 tickets will be available for $150
  3. After the 1,000 tickets are sold the price jumps to $250
  4. According to IGN.com, “Owners of the passes will get  access                                               to the E3 show floor and other events including “gamer events                                      and discussions with leading video game figures at LA Live”                                     through a partnership between the Entertainment Software                                     Association (ESA) and Geoff Keighley.”

This is great. My dream came true when I attended E3 in 2015! It was one of the best moments of my life. I tested out some of the newest games coming out within that year or in the future. I was able to play StarWars: Battlefront when it was still in its infancy. I got to meet and greet with some of the biggest names in gaming; Gregg Miller, Danny O’Dwyer, Nick Scarpino, Justin Wong, etc. Just wow!

Everytime E3 roles around there is always chatter about is E3 relevant!? Do we still need a big event showcasing the latest in videogames and videogame technology if the public can simply watch what is happening on the show floor via the many livestreams that occur during the event? Why pay hundreds of dollars to test out games that may never see the light of day beyond that week at E3? These are valid questions and quite frankly I do not have the answers. What I can say is that at least attending the event is a very interesting experience. It was a life changing experience for me because I was surrounded by industry professionals and publishers. I was able to ask questions and have conversations with game developers myself instead of watching a YouTube video of someone else asking the questions. I was able to be at an event full of people who, in some regard like me, a gamer.

If you can attend the event, then please do! Go with friends! Unfortunately, I was unable to do that, but I did make a new friend when I was there. E3 is ultimately what you make it. So attend and try to have some fun! Hopefully, it will be an experience of a lifetime!

 

Jaystonee’s Videogame Picks for 2017!

2017 is here! So now is the time to take a quick glance at the new videogames hitting the market (hopefully) this year. This is not an exhaustive list, but a few games that have piqued my interest for quite sometime. So let’s begin.

Horizon: Zero Dawn by Guerrilla Games is an open-world action rpg (role-playing) game horizon-zero-dawn-wallpaper-picturesthat took my breath away when it was announced at E3 2015. I was in attendance for E3 2015, but Horizon was shown behind closed doors. A little upsetting because at the time I knew I was getting the game, so I really wanted to test it myself. Now, Horizon is a month away and several trailers have highlighted the gorgeous world the protagonist, Aloy, has to survive in. Yes, I do mean “survive”. Aloy lives in a post-apocalyptic world in which machines have transcended well beyond simple humanoid robots, but have taken the form of prehistoric creatures. I know, pretty cool indeed. I cannot wait to get my hands on this game!

Nintendo Switch releases in March. This is Nintendo’s next chance to regain some momentum in the gaming market. They need it.the-legend-of-zelda-breath-of-the-wild Nintendo has been struggling for quite sometime due to poor decision making and bad marketing. Hopefully the switch comes with a strong lineup of games than can put Nintendo back on the map. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild looks very promising. Come on Nintendo, you can do this!

injustice-2I love fighting games, so of course I have been having my eyes on Injustice 2. I skipped Injustice for reasons unknown. I should have gotten it by now, but other games distracted me. Guess I will pick it up when another Steam sales happens. Injustice 2 add news character to the fray with the addition of Blue Beetle, Supergirl, Gorilla Grood, and others. I’m excited to yet again try to be the best competitor, until 2 weeks pass by and everyone in the world knows every combo and mix up imaginable. But I will try!

detroit-become-humanI love sci-fi games. I love “freedom of choice” games. Detroit: Become Human nestles these components in one package to tell a mutli-character narrative. From what I have read and observed from the trailers, Kara and Connor are androids who play pivotal roles in the game’s narrative. A narrative that is influenced the decisions the players makes in the game. Undoubtedly, there may be a larger conspiracy happening for one of the trailers showcases Connor trying to stop a rogue android from killing a little girl. I cannot wait to see more and then hopefully get it in my hands sometime this year.

0a7c6b1a-bc3e-4003-b4b9-2edc104cccb0Lastly, I was going to put Platinum Games’s Scalebound in this list, but unfortunately Microsoft is starting 2017 off with cancelling Scalebound. So let us all pay tribute to the fallen! Scalebound, you showed great promise! You showcased a world full of dragons, creatures, and magic with an upbeat protagonist who enjoyed slaying beasts just as much as I do. You will be missed.

Again, not an exhaustive list, but these games are my top picks for 2017! So here is hoping that they live up to the hype. Most importantly, release on time!

2017, dazzle me!

 

 

Nintendo Switch arrives March 3!

I had a feeling that my 100th blog post would be special. Nintendo finally shed more light on their upcoming console, the Nintendo Switch. On January 12 around 8pm PT/ 11pm EST, Nintendo held a press conference (link to press conference here) revealing more information about the console. Nintendo Switch releases March 3, 2017 which is very soon retailing for $299.99 in the U.S. nintendo-switch-presentation-bannerThe console will come package with a Nintendo Switch, the dock, left and right JoyCon controllers, the game pad to connect the controllers, two wrist attachments for when you play with the controllers separately, an AC adapter, and a HDMI cable. The console has three modes; TV mode (playing videogames via hdmi to your TV), Tabletop (playing with the Nintendo Switch tablet with the JoyCon controllers disconnected form the tablet), and Handheld mode (to play games on the go).

A lot of other details were given as well. The Nintendo Switch when disconnected from the dock has a battery life ranging from 2 and half hours to 6 and half hours depending on the game. So, don’t stray too far from home. nintendo-switch-specs

Source: Gamespot.com

Gamespot confirmed that the Nintendo Switch will be a 720p display, 32GB of internal storage, will use game cartridges that resemble the size of 3DS games. The JoyCon controller has an upgraded “HD” rumble technology to really take the sense of realism to the next level. Also, Nintendo Switch supports 8-player LAN (local area network) connection for multiplayer games.

Speaking of games, a lot were announced. ARMS is a “fighting sports game” in which the fighters have extendable arms used to knock each other out. Also, 1-2 Switch  is a party game in which 2 people using one of the controllers shoot it out in a Western fast draw. It’s weird, I know. Hey, that’s Nintendo in a nutshell. Both games are meant to highlight the precision of the JoyCon controllers sensors, motion control, and feel of playing with a single controller.

Beyond that, Nintendo yet again announced that there are “80” games in development for Nintendo Switch. Splatoon 2 was announced and has a Summer 2017 release window. A new Mario Sandbox game called, Super Mario Odyssey, is slated to release during the 2017 holiday season. Todd Howard from Bethesda Softworks confirmed that the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will be on Nintendo Switch. No release date was given. There were a few more interesting titles shown off or teased as well.

I am excited! The Nintendo Switch grabbed my attention in the Fall and soon will be grabbing my money on March 3, 2017! Did I fail to mention that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has a release date. It is being released the same time as the Nintendo Switch, March 3! the-legend-of-zelda-breath-of-the-wild

I am already lined up in front of the Gamestop! I should of brought a jacket. It’s cold outside!

Jaystonee’s Year in Review 2016

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Before I get started, I just want to say 2016 was a good year for me, but it was not a good year for the world. I shed more tears of sadness and despair in 2016 than in recent years. I discussed racial and gender issues almost on a daily basis not just in academic settings, but with friends and family outside of that setting. I felt for the first time an actual fear for my life by simply walking, looking, speaking, and living while black. The world is in need of a upgrade, a fresh restart, or something. Hopefully 2017 will bring a brighter, safer, and more comfortable future for all people in the world.  With that said, time to briefly reflect on how gaming impacted my life in 2016.

I graduated from college! After 4 arduous years, I am finally a graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park. It was there that I firmly came to grips with the direction I wanted to go in my life. That direction meant taking my gamer identity and using that as my launching pad into a career in academia and/or industry. I am still at a lost for words because ascertaining that degree meant a lot to me and I can only imagine how my family felt seeing me walk across that stage.

Next, I moved and went back to school! I am now an Informatics PhD student at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana studying videogame culture. Yes, I know it’s broad, but I still have sometime before I narrow down my particular interest(s) in gaming culture. I have already completed my first semester and it was awesome. It took me a while to fully realize that I am in school to learn, study, and at times play videogames as an academic pursuit. All I can say is I take gaming seriously. Videogames can teach people about other people, places, and ourselves. Academia gives me a direct pipeline to disseminate scholarly information and expand my knowledge of an already familiar subject. This is a five year program, so hopefully more people will hear or see about my endeavors on a grander scale! Stay tuned for that!

Gaming in 2016 brought me closer to people than ever before. Square Enix’s Life is Strange engaged me and other friends so much in it’s narrative that we shared our thoughts and feelings about the characters in the game and our own emotional connections to the characters. Golf with Friends is a very basic causal 3D golfing game that, as the title suggests, allows you play with friends. I never took myself as a golf player, but this definitely proved that my talents are better suited for research purposes. I just need to work on flicking my wrist more or aiming better with the mouse. Lastly, the popular team-based shooter Overwatch was definitely my go to game since its release. I am not a competitive person, mainly because I can never find the time to practice to be a competitive player. At least for me, Overwatch was different because I felt that every match I played I ended up learning something new. I learned more about which characters are better suited for certain maps and team compositions. I saw, heard, and almost felt when I head shotted an enemy with Zenyatta’s orbs or when I got nearly one-shotted by a Widowmaker. Playing with my friends allowed me to feel apart of a team of jovial people, as well as catch up with friends I have not heard from in a while.

2016 was an emotional roller coaster for me! I had sad times and happy times. I went through times of loneliness. I also hung out with friends more than I ever did back at my alma mater. I got snowed in with 3 friends in January of 2016. That was incredibly fun. Even with all the upsides and downsides, one of the constants in my life was videogames. Even if I was not playing a game, I was reading an article about the next game I should pick up or be on the look out for.

2016 you are done and definitely will be a year that I and many others will never forget. Let 2017 be the year of positive change, let it be the year of a social revolution, and let it be the year that helps launch me into the heart of gaming culture through my research! Now it is time to press start on a whole new adventure!