[Well, That Was Interesting is our weekly look back at a few interesting and notable items from around the internet. Full credit is paid to authors with links to their full articles provided in an effort to highlight important ideas that don’t always have to relate to the world of videogames. We provide our opinion on selected pieces and why we think they are worth your time. You can follow the links to read the full articles. This week we’ve added a new feature, entitled So Where is This All Going?, where we about talk net neutrality and why it matters, all stemming from PewDiePie and his popularity.]
This post-E3 week was rather interesting, more so than one would expect with so many still recovering from the Expo.
In this week’s Big Four we take a look at Mojang’s evolving stance on third-party server hosting and the money they’ve been making off of Minecraft. Speaking of money, Felix Kjellberg – aka PewDiePie – is officially a millionaire and the face of online media – how the hell did that happen? Moreover, how did one Aevee Bee manage to avoid all of the E3 media coverage except for checking her Twitter wall? And who knew that way back in 1996 there was another Witcher game in development, one that could have prevented the modern series from existing?
E3 week is a weird time of year when the public willingly subjects itself to the bombardment of corporate gaming propaganda and hype over the future of videogames. Every year fans wait with baited breath in anticipation to see if their console of choice will make the right moves to gain a better position in an imaginary race. It was hard to avoid the swell of news as social media bends the knee to the highest trending events, and E3 dominated Twitter. Aevee Bee did her best to avoid and coverage of the trade show outside of checking for Twitter updates. She presents a humorous second hand retelling of her E3 experience and she’s surprisingly accurate, enjoy.
Finally, who doesn’t love to hear about what could have been? If past decisions were made differently history would be radically different and the world as we know it could be a very different place. It is almost scary to think about. The Witcher franchise prides itself on these types of choices, ones that can radically redefine the rest of the game for an individual player. These choices are part of the reason the games have become so popular, when what you think would only be a small choice at the start of the game will carry over to the ending and have a dramatic outcome. Well it seems the games themselves have been subject to the weird winds of history as well. As far back in 1996 a Polish developer had just started their version of The Witcher, a game that would not be. Fans of the series should check out Eurogamer’s Robert Purchese’s piece on the game that was, and what could have been.
So Where is this all Going?
This has been a great post E3 week as the internet is slowly returning to normal, but the PewDiePie news has created a considerable amount of drama as many who don’t “get” him lash out in protest of his salary. However, there is a deeper current running through this story, the rise of internet media that is rapidly replacing television.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to you that cable subscriptions are on the down turn in areas with fast internet connectivity. This is one of the many reasons that the cost of cable subscriptions have steadily increased over the past few years outside of their normal increases, as companies are trying to offset their losses on their remaining clientele. Many have opted for the much cheaper Netflix, Hulu, Twitch, and YouTube media content rather than the overpriced cable packages.
Internet streaming is the future and it is one where you as a viewer can pay for only what you want to watch, rather than paying for a host of channels that you’ll never see. YouTube and Twitch now gain higher ratings than most sporting events here in the States, but the advertising revenue has yet to catch up to the popularity of these portals. Major media companies know that eventually the money will move more to internet media outlets and away from traditional television channels.
The battle over net neutrality is being fought over clamping down on the rise of streaming entertainment that admittedly do use up more bandwidth, in an attempt to raise cost and eventually prices on the consumers for the product. This is also an effort to slow down online services by making it more expensive to operate, and this will further prevent new companies from starting up. It is no surprise that this issue has divided many corporations against each other as they fight to protect the already unbroken system against any changes.
While this is only one slice of this debate, it is one that is important to online media and streaming of digital content. We’ve said in past Well, That Was Interesting posts that this issue is coming for videogames as the industry has shifted dramatically towards a digital marketplace. Many modern games are always online or have an extra focus in multiplayer mechanics, and at this year’s E3 many of the big games doubled down on these concepts. We’re not trying to be alarmist here but we are trying to draw more of attention to this issue in the hopes that the community at large can take more of an active role in this fight.
Simply posting on Reddit and Twitter that you are opposed to the planned changes is simply not enough to stop it, a more active role will be needed.
And as always, here’s to another interesting week. Cheers.
The Big Four
For lack of anything better to do, I tear up a vegetable patch. Thrash, thrash, goes my club of a right arm: green matter flies, satisfyingly. With a pop! a large carrot appears in my hand––so now I’m armed. I mount tiers of grass and stone, and find myself in some kind of settlement, a jigsaw of low wooden buildings. I hear a sound—hawnh! … hawnh!—a muttered, skeptical little half honk, and turn to locate its source. A human figure is pottering toward me in apparent curiosity. Hawnh! I hit him with my carrot. He recoils—hawnh!—his entire body flashing red as if at the violation of some exquisite social instinct. Ashamed, I hit him again. Then I move to the left, fall into a small pond, and drown. It’s my first day in Minecraft.
Some context here: I am a 46-year-old man, congenitally resistant to gaming, viral videos, BoingBoing.net, Gawker.com, the future, the present, all of it. I don’t blog. I don’t tweet. I have no Facebook account. The global suck, the virtual slurp—I resist it. When a gentleman buttonholed me in Starbucks last week, speaking of connectivity and community, his desire to mesh networks, swap sources, link with me on LinkedIn, I resisted him. (“Remember this moment,” he said, “when you denied yourself this possibility.”) And I resisted Minecraft, even as my 11-year-old son apprenticed himself to it with a passion that in almost any other context I would have found quite wonderful. “Get off the damn computer!,” I would patiently suggest. “Off! Close it!” Suddenly he was spending chunks of his day inside this game, tippy-tapping, minecrafting, playing it. His friends were all playing it too, and the children of my friends. But was this really play, in the proper, Edwardian sense? It was so absorptive, so immobilizing. In the game itself I took, of course, no interest whatsoever: for the first couple of months I thought it was called Minecraft. I simply registered it as a threat, another child-stealing innovation secreted into our world by the enormous locusts who dwell behind the dimensional curtain.
There has been a lot of news lately on the changes being made to Minecraft and the outrage from fans, but some mainstream press has started to take notice of the game for very different reasons. Minecraft is incredibly popular, 100 mil unique player accounts popular. It has taken the world by storm and it has become the game of a generation that many of us “older” gamers are standing on the outside of and scratching our heads at. But kids, adults, teens, tweens, moms, dads, and the whole family can play Minecraft on a wide range of devices, giving it an incredibly wide reach. James Parker recounts his opening experiences with the game and why he thinks it has become so popular, and we tend to agree with his reasons.
It was bound to happen eventually: PewDiePie’s annual salary has been released through an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Felix Kjellberg, as he’s known in real life, isn’t going away and neither is online television or the watching of videogames. It’s become a massive business through both Twitch and YouTube, and Kjellberg rode the wave at the right time to become a media sensation.
Watching other people play video games is growing increasingly popular these days. Sites like Twitch—where people can tune in to watch other people play games, eSports, and so forth—have exploded in popularity.
In fact, Twitch ranks fourth in peak US internet traffic, ahead of sites like Facebook and Amazon. If anyone doubted that video games were a spectator sport, that should be evidence enough to the contrary.
But revelations that YouTuber ‘PewDiePie’ is raking in $4 million a year for his gaming videos should hammer the nail home.
PewDiePie—Felix Kjellberg—plays games while talking, screaming, and swearing, and it’s earned him 27 million subscribers, more than established gaming channels like Machinima, which has just under 11.5 million.
According to the Wall Street Journal, ”The 24-year-old Mr. Kjellberg, who created PewDiePie five years ago, has parlayed his persona into a brand name that pulls in the equivalent of $4 million in ad sales a year, most of it pure profit.”
These are not polished videos by any means. Kjellberg has a shtick that apparently appeals to many, but will leave many more equally baffled or disgusted. But what he may lack in taste, PewDiePie makes up for with a knack for this brave new world of social media and interaction with his audience.
I don’t write about the business side of games very often, but I think about it a lot. I’m a little embarrassed about it, more so even than my obviously frivolous writing on, say, compulsory heterosexuality in anime. But then I like to take a frivolous thing and treat it seriously; I don’t especially want to encourage video games marketing by taking it seriously when that is the very opposite of its problem.
But I’ll write it down because I was thinking about it anyway and it was fun for me, so why not? I’ll leave my apology for it up there as punishment to me for thinking it was necessary.
I did not watch E3, but I did check my twitter timeline during it, so I have a pretty good idea of what went on. It’s going to sound like such a painful and ironic thing to suggest you literally not watch E3 and instead just watch your friends livetweet it but I sure did enjoy it a heck of a lot better than being directly exposed to E3. The expo itself is so terrifyingly relentless and oppressively physical that you cannot experience it with any kind of distance. I am philosophically and ethically opposed to marketing but the reality is marketing is effective, at least in that it affects you. I don’t think it has the intended effect on me because I think cringing and disgust were not the emotions most of those games were going for, but that almost doesn’t matter. Whether you want it there or not, that trailer is going directly into your brain and that is all they want. They do not care if it hurts you.
In all the hubbub at E3 surrounding The Witcher 3 – many people’s game of the show – it was surprising for me to discover that there was another Witcher game, a long time ago, that I had no idea existed. It wasn’t made by CD Projekt Red – in fact it didn’t have anything to do with CD Projekt – but it was being made in Poland.
It was being made by Adrian Chmielarz, the developer best known for leading People Can Fly and Bulletstorm. Long before the PCF days he worked at another studio that he co-founded with a school friend – a studio called Metropolis. And it’s here that in 1996 and 1997 – six years before developer CD Projekt Red was founded – a game called The Witcher was being made.
Like many people in Poland, Chmielarz loved the short “Wiedźmin” stories written by a man I’ve heard described as Poland’s Tolkien, Andrzej Sapkowski. And Chmielarz knew him. He’d met him at sci-fi conventions throughout the ’80s and ’90s – places where the strict Polish rule of addressing strangers as “Mr” or “Mrs” wasn’t welcome. At conventions you addressed people as “you” – a friendly term. It was a big deal, Chmielarz assures me. It meant you could stand face to face with your literary idol and talk like friends. “So I just knew Sapkowski,” he almost shrugs, and he wanted to use the Wiedźmin fantasy for a game.
Obligatory Game of Thrones Commentary
We will keep our commentary spoiler free for your reading pleasure.
Well Game of Thrones has just concluded its fourth season with a bang and you would have to be hiding under a rock to have dodged the social media bombardment of spoilers and reactions. While the internet is still coming to terms with the noticeable absence of a fan favorite character from what appeared to be the proper place to make their appearance, we here at Continue Play rather enjoyed the season finally. This might have been the best season since the first one, even though it was hit with some weird placement of filler content that drew focus away from other areas that needed more focus. But when the show had to hit the nail on the head it did so with a sledgehammer, and the highest main character body count in the series was the result.
If you are a fan of the series and looking for further evaluation and reinforcement of your own geeky desires we’ve provided another article to help provide extra context.
WARNING the article will contain HEAVY BOOK AND SHOW SPOILERS, you’ve been warned to read at your own risk.
One of the reasons the book series A Song of Ice and Fire and the show a Game of Thrones is so popular is that the writers – GRRM and D&D – are not afraid to change things up and give popular characters the axe. This forces the story to constantly reinvent itself and take on a new identity as lesser characters are thrust into the spotlight once filled by a now deceased body. But we’ve hit a point in the show that the books had a hard time crossing as so many of the main characters have found their way into an early grave, who is left to continue the story?
The show is attempting to avoid the problems that the books have run into with some creative differences in the plot from the books. Ben Kuchera has an amazing piece on the future of the franchise and he does an excellent job relating it to the videogame industry and the lack of innovation.
The Game That Time Forgot
Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture E3 Trailer
The Far Lands or Bust – 335
Game of the Week
Packing more Final Fantasy into the 3DS than Final Fantasy XV probably ever will.
Extra Study Material
Minecraft developer Mojang has long ignored the host of third-party private servers charging money for content and modifications, but this week they announced that they’ll be cracking down on these servers. Colin Campbell over at Polygon explains what went down and why fans are upset with these changes. “Why some fans are battling with Notch over Minecraft changes”
Well the FIFA World Cup is underway and many American’s are pretending to care or know what they are talking about when it comes to the world’s game. Alan Burdick sat down to watch a few games with his wife when she asked “Does cheating happen a lot?” “Cheating the Beautiful Game”
Wearable peripherals are all the rage right now coming out of the videogame industry, and they have the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with our entertainment should it be executed properly. Ryan Smith over at A.V. Club went to E3 and tested any device he could find and now he’s giving us his opinion on what he saw. “The future will be strapped on: Testing wearable tech at E3”