8/25/2014

Quickie #3: Attacks on PSN, Battle.net and others

My first thought when I heard that was "okay, but why do that?" Then, of course, my thoughts kept wandering. It didn't really make me all that angry or scared. If it's "just" DDoS, then my credit card info should be safe as far as I know and yes, it does suck that I can't purchase and download a new game online, but... But I immediately thought that it is just an opportunity to catch up with the dozens of games that I've already installed or have in boxes or clutter my Steam Library. Seriously, I could probably live and play happily for a year or two without really missing the online services.

But... That's just an approach of a guy who grew up without internet. For all the players that base their entertainment on online rivalry or developing their artificial life in WoW, attacks on such services are like a kick between their legs. Imagine what would happen if all these online junkies wouldn't get their fix for a month. Would gaming really have nothing to offer them? All these kids writing "multiplayer or gtfo" under every gameplay trailer would actually have to gtfo and play some football or chess or something.

The image barely makes sense here, but I couldn't resist anyway.
I am far from justifying or giving meaning to what was most probably just an act of a group of extremely bored teenagers, but if there actually was a message behind this, what would it be? For me it would be something like this: "Play a game for the story once in a while. Instead of running, shooting and shouting in CoD, check out what happened in Dubai in Spec Ops: The Line. Instead of cheesing through a choke in Starcraft, check out how Kerrigan became what she became. Instead of spending 10 hours a day in WoW, well... Play just any other game that came out in the last 10 years."

8/22/2014

GamesCom in the eyes of a GameDev

Hey everyone! Last year I described my first GamesCom experience. It was a... simpler time. Last year I've only been there over the weekend and my job was to do a stage show two times a day and look after the cosplayers my company hired. It has still left me plenty of time to look around and soak in all the stuff, even though getting from one hall to another took ages. 

This year was different. Extremely different. I arrived in Cologne on Monday evening to help set everything up on Tuesday. We had 20 PC's in the public area and another 6 in the business area to show off our game, Lords of the Fallen. All of them were provided by our partner, so we had to check if our game works stable enough on those. Luckily there was no major issues and we were able to wrap it up within maybe four hours. Tuesday has passed relatively smoothly.

Media room ready for the visitors
Wednesday. Media and development day, GamesCom is still closed to general public. Everything starts at 9:00 a.m., but we arrive at the venue around 7:30 a.m. to double-check everything and get ready. Even though general public theoretically can't enter the fair yet, the public area is already pretty lively. Some clearly underaged peeps are running around, amateur cosplayers have also most probably confused the dates, but oh well, who really cares, as long as they don't get their hands on the 18+ stuff, right?

The business area is getting crowded. Our BizDevs are having one meeting after another while my job is to help out the press representatives with the controls of our game. Repeating the same controls over and over every ten minutes I fail to notice that the last time I ate something was around 6:30 a.m. and it's almost noon. Luckily, our booth in the business area comes with catering, so I am able to grab a cheese and ham toast, wash it down with a glass of coke and get back to my controls mantra. Every other visitor needs some help with the game or asks some questions, so I end up going back and forth between them.

When they finish playing, they usually have questions and those questions take anywhere from three minutes to half an hour. Most of them walk out happy, complimenting our game - makes a gamedev happy. In the early afternoon someone wants to shoot a video interview - usually with our Executive Producer (EP). "Sorry, busy, you do it" I hear. Allright, let's pop a cherry, shall we? The first interview starts awful, but gets better with each question. It's time for another toast when it's over. They're out of toasts, so I grab some fruit snacks that I swallow together with another glass of coke and that's what keeps me going till 7 p.m. Our community manager comes back from the public area to share what was happening there and I realize I didn't even have time to check out the showfloor.

20 stations occupied for 10 hour straight in the public area
The next day, Thursday, turns out to be almost the exact copy of Wednesday for me. Luckily, this time we can arrive just before 9:00 a.m. Explaining controls, answering questions, guiding the guys who are playing, showing the advanced stuff in the game, answering more questions, giving interviews, grabbing two toasts before they disappear, sitting down to close my eyes in tiny breaks before someone new comes in. This time video interviews get a lot easier - there's no question that you haven't already answered a dozen times already. Thurday is the first day with general public on the showfloor. The line to play our game is between one and two hours long. We're closing the booth at 7 p.m. again. There's supposed to be a party tonight. None of us wants to go, everyone just wants some peace and quiet.

Friday, the same drill. At 9 a.m. we get first visitors, more controls explanation, more interviews of all kinds. There's a twist though - at 4 PM we're going on Twitch, yay. Somehow I managed not to die and the video is already roaming the web. People seem to like it, challenge Near the end of the day we gather the stuff we don't want thrown out, erase the game from the PC's and head to the hotel - the business area is going to be no more within hours.


We have our flight back on Saturday evening, so we have a whole day to finally attend GamesCom public area, check out what's going on, soak in all the gaming coolness. We arrive early again to take advantage of our exhibitor's passes. We get in 15 minutes before the general public is even let in to stand in line to check out Bloodborne. We're first in line. We get in exactly at 9:00 a.m. and after more or less 10 minutes it's over. We head towards our public booth, where we spend less than an hour checking out if everything is okay. After spending 10 hours a day for three days straight watching people play our game we don't really feel like doing the same on day four. We split to take a look around.


Thanks to a VIP pass I got to see Alien: Isolation. First five minutes left me unimpressed. Then I got a basic hang of the alien management mechanic and I have to say that even though the game is definitely not my cup of tea, I enjoyed it quite a lot and will gladly check it out once it releases. Then I took a walk around the shopping area, taking photos of merchandise and looking for a gift for the girl I left at home for almost a week. With the shopping done I looked at my watch... 11:00 a.m. I take a brief look at the Nintendo zone, get a glimpse of Final Fantasy IV, check out what Sony offers and get amazed how much free space EA has paid for and... And I didn't even feel like visiting all the halls. I just met up with our EP and around noon we both decided to just head for the airport.

Imagine how exhausted an avid gamer has to be to prefer sitting at the airport for a few hours instead of spending them on the biggest consumer gaming convention of the year. A week of rest and... already preparing to leave for PAX.


8/11/2014

Get paid thanks to games: A game journalist

In the previous part of the series I wrote about game blogging and vlogging. Today I will be continuing on the subject, by moving on to game journalism. I believe many conservative guys who write about games for living will get a bito offended, but... a difference between a game journalist and a game blogger is getting more blurry with every passing year and both professions have a lot in common.

Let's face it, it's not the 90's anymore. Paper magazines are dying, the online gaming sites have become a much more successful substitute and with the embedded videos and hourly updates, there's no way in hell paper magazines will get back on that horse. Game journalism, that was once a profession of the selected few, has become a free for all job market. There's almost no entry barrier. You should know how to write, but we all read these online magazines and we all know that not everyone there meets this requirement.

With the entry barrier practically non-existent, you can guess - there's a lot of people who want in. And whenever the market gets saturated and the supply of work keeps growing, there's only one reaction you can expect: the labor becomes cheaper. So while inthe 90's these relatively few people who wrote about games were able to support themselves doing this, nowadays the vast majority of game journalists have to treat it like an additional (and usually poor) source of income.


There's a nice article on GamesRadar that gives a rough overview of how much the game journalists can actually earn. Please keep in mind that the article seems to only take into account the guys that have actually succeeded in networking and manage to publish quite a number of articles. When you start out, you'll be lucky to get one or two reviews published a month, and that won't give you anywhere near the tens of thousands of dollars a year.

How do you get into the zone and make it possible to live off the game journalism then? Here's ten steps that will help you get there. Of course the sooner you start, the better:

1) Learn to write. Write well. The fact that you grew up with your language and were taught it at school means nothing. Read a lot - not only gaming sites, but good, well-edited books. Analyze the language. Learn to use it, learn to write.

2) If you're not from an English-speaking country, learn English. Yes, you will probably be writing in your native tongue, but eventually you will want to do some research on the global level and most of the news and info is first available in English. Also, how do you expect to get an interview with a foreign game maker when you can't communicate?

3) You have to learn to play a variety of games. Having 15 max level characters in WoW or having a 1000 hours of playtime in Call of Duty won't get you far. You need variety. You need to derive pleasure from exploring and discovering new games. Versatility and being interested in the whole industry are the key to success.


4) When you finally learn to read and write and play something other than StarCraft 2, start a blog or a vlog. Here you can find some tips how to go about it. It's important that the blog doesn't only consist of classic reviews. Any form of originality is great - screenshot-based stories, essays, your own drawings to illustrate the text... Some of the big gaming sites let their users start blogs there. If your blog is supposed to be your foot in the door, why not place this foot closer to your target?

5) When your blog or vlog has enough entries to make it possible to assess your skill, attack the offices of the game magazines and portals, offering your services. If you skipped the blogging step, you will have to send them some examples of your writing via e-mail. Seriously, it's as easy as "Hey! I was wondering, maybe you guys need some more content for your website? Here's a taste of my writing". It's of course easier to start with smaller sites - most often they just require less experience.

6) If you've been successful in the previous step, don't pat yourself on the back just yet. Well... maybe a little pat won't hurt. Still, you're just getting started. A few bucks for your review is great when you're 16, but you won't support a family with it. Continue to learn more about the industry, about the process of making games. It's time for learning from your older journalist colleagues and polishing your writing skill. Don't get discouraged, if you don't get many assignments or they aren't overly ambitious. These can't be avoid even in the next steps.

7) When you'll gain some notable experience working with the editor-in-chief and quite a few published articles, you should repeat step 5. You should get out there and offer your services to as many magazines and portals as possible. This time, trying the biggest ones as well. In most cases, nobody minds if you work with more than one magazine.


8) In a bigger and more "professional" team, you have to be prepared to be a newbie for a while. Newbies don't attend international game conferences, don't interview the game making stars. They put together uninspired top tens, they write reviews of second-rate games and trash articles on the evolution of Lara's boobs or which DoA girl has a skimpier outfit. These articles generate pageviews. You still shouldn't expect to make any good money at this stage. If you're lucky, it'll be enough to get by during your college days.

9) When you finally manage to get past the newbie step, you get a shot at more serious reviews. Older colleagues might take you to watch and learn during some interviews. Because your goal here is still to learn. It's easy to end your career on step 8 or 9 - there's lots of journalists like that. These are the guys that keep writing stock reviews, mumbling something about engines and middleware they have no idea about. If you want to get to the top, you will need to show a lot of commitment: visiting all game-related events you possibly can, being active in your editorial office and constantly increasing your qualifications.

10) Congrats. If you managed to get to step 10, there's a big chance that the reviews of the top titles, interviews with game developers, stories from game events and game industry articles let you make enough money to support yourself. And it's a high time - most likely you're already too old to delay starting a family anymore.


It's very important to be original. Articles that stand out can easily end up for example on digg.com - writing articles with such potential is a desired skill. Of course, the center of attention will always be reviews and news and your editor-in-chief will not always give you complete creative freedom. If you can write and keep learning more about the industry, you don't have to finish your career as a journalist or editor. PR departments of game studios constantly need people who know the industry and write well. Working at a gamedev studio is a whole other topic though.

Many thanks to Mielu from gram.pl for help and insight.

7/16/2014

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite - Controls design analysis

Hey guys and gals! Taking a break from the games for education topics, I wanted to perform an in-depth analysis of the control scheme of the Monster Hunter game I recently purchased and tried to get into. I haven't played any other MH games, I took on this one to feed my curiosity - everyone around kept telling me how good this franchise was, not many of them actually played it though.

For those of you who don't know, Monster Hunter games came out on a variety of platforms: PS2, PSP, PS Vita, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, 3DS, iOS and PC. I will be analyzing the Freedom Unite for PSP. 


The game is stunningly deep and immensely satisfying. It took me several hours to get past the tutorial, a few next hours to get at least some decent skill to finish my first mission, but when I finally did slay that monster, wow. That's what I call satisfying. Then I get to upgrade my gears with the spoils from the hunted creature and it gives me a visible boost. Brilliant. Deep crafting and combining mechanics and this feeling of really going for a difficult hunt, preparing yourself, studying your target's habits... Even killing bosses in Dark Souls isn't this satisfying.

However, the game has one big flaw, and if you ask anyone who played MH, he/she will tell you the same: "the camera is a bitch". No matter if who you ask is a seasoned MH veteran who loves every bit of the game or a noob that gets killed by everything there - the camera is a bitch for all of them and the number one reason for people ragequitting. There are some guys that try to argue that the camera is an element adding to the game's difficulty and that's by design. 

Terrible camera as a difficulty element? Don't make me laugh. Camera can be used for showing off nice things (Final Fantasy XIII) or adding to the mystery (Resident Evil), but treating it as a factor of a difficulty setting is just straightforward bad design that frustrates the player and does nothing else. In a game as deep as Monster Hunter, if the designers wanted to make it more difficult, they would play around with dozens of other parameters that were a lot less frustrating. And I honestly don't think that was the reason for having the camera act the way it does.

But the camera problem in MH is actually a part of something way bigger. It's the controls. And the way they work on PSP is just some big misunderstanding. After an hour in the game or so I was able to design a much more user-friendly controls layout for the game. What is the control problem in MH all about?

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite controls.
Take a close look at the controls and see if you can see what problems these controls bring. Done? Okay, let me list mine:
1) There is 4 buttons responsible for the camera (the whole D-pad) + L button that resets the camera to the direction our character is facing. With PSP having a limited number of buttons, wasting so many on the camera control is unforgivable.
2) The camera controls (D-pad) and the movement (Analog Stick) are all supposed to be controlled by the left thumb, which means you either look around or run, never both at the same time. 
3) Having the select button for the kick action pretty much guarantees nobody will use it. 
4) To select an item from a list you need to hold the L button then browse through the list using Square and Circle (why these?!) and release the L button when you are done, then press Square to use the item.
5) There are controls dedicated specifically to ranged weapon classes only, useless with well over a half of the weapons.

Look how easy it would be to fix:
- assign camera control to L and R to make it possible to look around while running
- assign the camera zoom to select, as most of the time you just set a zoom level once per quest and you don't have to reach to that button too often.
This already makes us use 3 buttons instead of 5 for the camera movements. The two extra ones can be now assigned to something useful. For example we could assign "left" and "right" on the D-Pad to the item selection without the need to hold L button while doing the selection. This way the player player wouldn't use an item using Square when what he wanted was to select a different item with L+Square.

The only problem it would spawn would be the dash button, but that could easily be assigned to the Circle button. It could then retain its cancel selection function and the examine + climb ledges functions could be taken over by the X button as these are only contextual controls. The game already differentiates between weapon drawn and weapon sheathed states, so there wouldn't be a situation where you want to dash and instead start climbing or picking flowers. 

This all lets us:
- select the items more easily
- move, run and look around simultaneously
- retain all functionalities of the previous control scheme
And we are still left with the "up" and "down" D-pad buttons to use for whatever the designers want to put there, like selecting the bottles and ammo for gunners or whatever.


Would it make the game easier? No. Less frustrating? Yes. Would they loose their fanbase if they introduced a new control scheme? No, the fanbase complains about the camera controls as much as anyone else. I am quite sure many of the designers that actually worked on Monster Hunter could have come up with a similar solution, probably even a better one. Why didn't they implement it then? Now what I will do here is just a wild guess, but lets me show you how a game studio works. What could have happened was:

1) The control scheme could have just been put there as a first draft and then the whole team got used to it and didn't see anyting unnatural about it for a few years and a few games (happens more often than you might think).
2) There might have been a lead designer with enough power to be able to push towards a control scheme that felt good to him and not let anyone change it.
3) The producers could have simply forgot to plan the task of revising the controls or assumed that the controls from the previous games are good enough since the games sold and established a fanbase. 
4) The producers could have cut the controls tweaking out of the schedule when the delivery date was approaching way too soon.

Whatever was the real reason, the end result is a great game with tons of depth and a control scheme that looks like it's been designed by some three-handed mutant design intern having a feud with logic. I really hope that other platforms got much better controls than PSP. 

7/13/2014

Get paid thanks to games: A game blogger / vlogger

Today we're continuing with the second part of the last part of... Uhh, that got complicated, didn't it? So, this is the second part of the "Get paid thanks to games" series. "Get paid thanks to games" are actually the third and last part of bigger series, which is "Stop wasting your time with games". Now that this confusion is just a tad less confusing than before, let's proceed to the actual topic. Last time I've written a bit about pro gamers, and today it's time for...

Game bloggers / vloggers 

This is a career with an extremely low entry barrier. Practically everyone can do it and frankly, I would encourage everyone with sufficient skill to try it. YouTube channels are free. Blog hosting is free. Your only investment is your time. Here's some tips how to avoid most common mistakes:

Generate your own content. I cannot stress it enough. If you want to deliver game news, don't copy news from other sites, seek, rewrite and compile them with your own style. If you want to review games, give your opinion, not repeat after others. Original content is a beautiful thing. Uncredited copy-pasting is just stealing someone else's work and it should be punished with cutting off the thief’s hand.


Almost as important as the previous one. Seriously, don't start writing if you don't know how. Don't go making videos when all you do is mumble to yourself. Nobody will be able to read that. Nobody will be able to watch that. Spare everyone the time. Be a valuable voice in the discussion. If you have nothing to say, just don't write, don't make videos. The world will be better off without it. You will have more time to do something more productive. Win-win.


Decide who your audience is. Decide what you want to deliver. Do you want to be the number 1 source of knowledge about one specific game? Do you want to review racing games? Do you just want to play a bunch of games and talk about them? Whichever you decide on, it's best to stick to it until it succeeds or fails.

Know, how to sell yourself. Bloggers and vloggers are rarely successful without serious marketing skills. Network, share your link, comment on others, link others. Be visible in the community. Support it and make it fuller.


Also, mostly for vloggers - please look decent. Heal your acne before showing your face. Wear a clean t-shirt. Clean the part of your room that's going to be visible. You don't have to be pretty or handsome, you don't have to wear stylish clothes and horn-rimmed glasses. You don't need to shave and don't need to grow a beard. You don't need a ton of makeup. It might be a good idea to find a cool look for yourself, as people seem to respond to that, but above all, just look clean. And open your mouth while trying to speak and know what you want to say instead of umming and erming.

Success is easily measured - if your blog or channel gets enough followers, you can start trying to get in some revenue from the ads. If it is enough to put food on your table, congrats - you have succeeded. The most successful vloggers are currently earning serious cash and can set trends as successfully as the leading gaming sites. They no longer do simple videos. They're employing people to deliver well-developed entertainment. It's enough to check out the Angry Joe's website to see what I mean. Lately, my studio invited the most popular game vlogger in my country to show him the game. He came with his team of 9 more people to check it out.

If, however, you weren't able to gather enough audience, your work wasn't necessarily all in vain. If it shows you can easily and fluently pass on your opinions that aren't a complete bullshit, your blog or vlog can easily be your portfolio for some other game-related project or job, like a journalist or a junior developer. For example, the blog of yours truly has a relatively low audience, but thanks to the content, I've already been asked to publish my articles in several places around the web. 


Sometimes opportunities can present themselves quite unexpectedly. The most popular Dark Souls streamer – EpicNameBro - was asked to help prepare the Dark Souls 2 strategy guide and test DS2 way before beta tests were open. In the age where gaming communities are growing in power, being an active and outstanding member of your favourite game's community can lead to working with the developers. And then, beta testing and community management can open you even more doors.

What do you need to become a decent blogger / vlogger?
- an idea for your own, original content;
- a lot of insight into whichever piece of the field you want to dig into;
- patience, as you'll be doing a lot for free for an extended amount of time;
- great writing and language skills;
- great presentation skills (mostly for vloggers, but doesn’t hurt in a blog as well);
- ability to network, if you want your online baby to reach a wide audience.

7/04/2014

Get paid thanks to games: A Pro Gamer

I grew up in a relatively small town in Poland, in the 80's and 90's (they were pretty much like 70's and 80's in the US). Games were just something that we played and some companies in the far away USA and Japan were making. Sure, there was maybe one or two games developed in Poland, but it was still in a city far, far away. Careers I could think of were either being a writer with no guarantee of any real income or a lawyer, an economist or some other suit to be able to support my family.

It took me a while to realize that hundreds of hours I have spent on games can literally pay off. The passion for gaming, the titles I could reference, the conclusion I was able to draw from what I've seen in games landed me a job in the industry and are now paying my bills.


With this short introduction I welcome you to the third and the final part of my "stop wasting your time with games" games for education rant. In previous parts I've described how games can enrich our lives and teach us skills useful in real life. This time, I am going to get to the ultimate argument how games can be the very opposite of a waste of time - how they can turn into a career. Unlike in the first two parts, now I will be harsh. Skills can be learned pretty easily and widely applied to many situations. Career connected with games is far from a piece of cake though. Let's get started with...

Since a career in the gaming industry is an extremely broad topic, part three of the "stop wasting your time with games" gets to become 4 separate articles. Today it'll be about pro gaming. Next articles will touch game blogging and vlogging, game journalism and finally a broad description of game development career. Without further ado...

A professional gamer
Who doesn't dream about getting paid for just playing games? Lately, I have even seen news materials about "kids who earn lots of money for playing in tournaments". They vaguely mentioned the hard work required, they never really showed the scale of competition, they focused on hundreds of thousands of dollars these gamers earn. So... How do you become a pro gamer?

Above everything else, you have to find a game you are extremely good at. By extremely, I mean beating all your friends 100 to 0 in five minutes while blindfolded and hanging upside down. If anyone you know in real life can give you any kind of challenge, you are not good enough. You have to compete with the whole world. Struggling on the level of your neighborhood is just not gonna cut it.


What's more, the game of your choice needs to have a league. And games with worthwhile leagues are the biggest, most popular multiplayer titles: Starcraft 2, League of Legends, Counter Strike, FIFA, DOTA 2. Farmville, WoW and Minecraft might be the most popular games on the globe, but no matter how great you are, you won’t go pro there.

Pro gamers spend at least 8 to 10 hours a day on one and the same game over and over for... well, years. Top players are already adults. They started early, played since they can remember, but... they did finish schools. Being a pro gamer doesn't mean flushing your education down the toilet. It's a job like any other - sometimes monotonous and frustrating. It's important to invest in hardware as well. Good gaming PC with a gaming mouse and keyboard fit for professionals is needed. Obviously, good, communicative knowledge of English is a must as well. You also have to control your language and actions. No good team will invite a raging hater that risks being banned in every single match.


Pro gaming is a career in which your only kind of promotion is to get higher in rankings. That's pretty much the only ladder you are going to climb. Luckily, with e-sport becoming more and more popular, there are many options for the pro gamers that know when to quit. There are pro gamers like Fatal1ty, who design or at least promote lines of gaming hardware. There are pro gamers who get hired by gaming companies as representatives. Still, you have to be aware that the game you are so good at sooner or later will die. Some other game will take its place. Some other game you might be good at, but never good enough to go pro again.

While preparing for this job you have to focus on one specific game (or - only sometimes - on one type of a game). Research it, get in deep. Really deep. There will most probably be no time for any other games. Once you find a game you might go pro with, you will miss a lot of other titles over the course of a few years. If you get high enough in the leagues, if you manage to win some tournaments (not regional ones - we're talking nationals), make more friends than enemies, you might eventually get invited to go pro. Once you agree, you will start getting paid for exactly the same thing you've been doing for the past years. Playing the same game over and over for many hours every day.

And lastly, when choosing this path you have to always remember it's like playing in a band. Most of them bands never get out of their garage, very little become a one-hit wonders and pretty much one in a million really sells albums and tickets.


Summing up, you will need:
- an early start - trying to go pro when you're 40 and have never used a computer might be tricky;
- extreme talent and knowledge in a game you want to go pro in;
- tons of determination and time spent on the the game;
- great communication skills and (if you are a foreigner) good knowledge of English language;
- decent gaming hardware to start with before you get better stuff from sponsors;
- lots of tolerance and support from your family and friends, be it parents or life partners, as rarely anyone will take your career choice seriously.

6/06/2014

"Stop wasting your time with games" - part 2

Back with the topic of what games can give the player other than just entertainment. Previous part was about how games can enrich our lives with new experiences. Today, I will be touching the topic of skills acquired in the games.

It was back in the summer of 1998 when I think I have heard this sentence the most - "stop wasting your time with games". I have "wasted" over 80 hours of my life playing Final Fantasy VII. But you know what happened next? After a month of school, my parents got asked by my English teacher "Did he attend some intensive course over the summer?". And then it dawned on them. No, all their kid did was "waste time" over a video game. A video game that gave me way more vocabulary in 80 hours that I have learned at school over a few years.

Teaching a language is an obvious perk if you're not a native speaker, but there are tons of other skills that can be learnt through games. These skills will be the main topic this time. Not all of these skills are so obvious and not every game teaches them. Also, to really benefit from them, once again, while playing - you have to pay attention.


Here's a bunch of skills you can quite commonly learn in games:

Communication 
Learning a language is actually the tip of the iceberg. Single player games teach us, through predetermined responses from the NPC's, how various people might react to different situations and our dialogue choices, but it's multiplayer games where communication really can be learnt. From coordinating attacks with the rest of your squad, through bowing before a duel in Dark Souls to simple chirping in Journey - all of this increases our communication skills.


Problem solving
Games have a unique way of putting us in abstract situations, giving us complex tasks and the tools to solve them. Even kids that don't consider themselves bright are able to find solutions to these problems. That's extremely valuable for personal development. Lets a person know that given some pieces of the puzzle, they can attempt to solve it. Every type of a game can teach problem solving - from extremely robust strategies to the simplest shooters. Where there's data, objective and obstacles, there's always a harder or easier problem to solve.






Cooperation
Strongly connected to communication. What you can achieve alone in most games is far from what you can do with a group. Many online games push you very strongly towards cooperation, making many tasks simply impossible to do when playing alone. Cooperation lurks in everything from setting up a balanced squad through battle tactics, to loot distribution. In many cases, when you can't be a team player, nobody will want to team up with you. Learning to cooperate is pretty much forced onto players in the online environment.


Competition
Where there's a game, there's a competition. Many games show leaderboards and statistics, many encourage to post and compare them online. Even before the internet age video games thrived on competition. Who will get farther? Who will get there faster? Who will get somewhere on first try? Who will beat the game without dying? Possibilities are endless and if you take a look at the challenges people themselves force upon them, you would be amazed what amount of self-improvement and self-proving games can induce.


Leadership and people management
This is mostly true for online games, but not only. In real life, we rarely get a chance to be a leader. At school, at work, most of us are just cogs in the machine. In online games, we get to lead squads to battle. Even if we are shy and feeling unimportant in real life,  in online games we get a chance to manage the whole guilds of hundreds of people. To make the guild successful, leaders need to assemble a real management team - recruiters, event managers, battle advisors, finance managers... And before every battle, the leaders get to speak to all of the guild members to motivate them to victory. How often do you get to experience or practice something like that in the real world?



Innovation and creativity
Games are becoming more and more open, letting players explore their creativity. In the 90's many games included a map editor that let players create their own experiences in the games. Now games like Minecraft or Little Big Planet are all about creating your own worlds. As long as games have existed, players have used their mechanics to do things these games were never designed for. Playing with physics systems, "breaking" the game mechanics to create amusing situations - every game is a potential tool for exploring your creativity.




Logical thinking
Games are based on systems. Systems, in order to work, need to be based on logic. If the player wants to succeed in a game, he needs to at least instinctively follow this logic, as going against it will almost always mean failure. Whether you like it or not, every game, even the most abstract one, will force you to use logic to progress in it. Be it solving a complicated puzzle or just a simple task of ammo management, it's always based on logic.




Planning and optimization
This is actually something that I will probably write a whole separate article about, but the general idea goes like this: Every game has a goal. Even if it doesn't, like Minecraft, it lets us easily come up with a goal for ourselves. This goal is most of the time very specific and well-defined and we do get the right tools to reach it. Based on these tools, the player consciously and naturally optimizes the time spent in the game, planning his build, his next quest, how to spend his money or experience, in order to reach this goal. Now think how useful it would be to apply this skill to real life.


Reflexes and precission
Majority of games includes a fast-paced action requiring incredible reflexes to master. Fighting games, sport games, platformers, racing games, strategy games... Even simplest games like Tetris or Pac-Man need extreme hand-to-eye coordination if you are to master them. Research has shown that "Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference." - Daphne Bavelier, cognitive researcher (source).




Art skills:
Depending on the interests and perceptiveness of the player, games can teach incredibly many artistic things. They are a fast-developing visual medium, with often amazing art direction. They also focus more and more on story, creating compelling characters and interesting storylines. Many kids start drawing thanks to the games. Many kids try writing because of games. Many kids listen to game music. Of course not all of them will become world-class artists, but I personally know quite a few who got interested in various kinds of art this way and are now making their living thanks to that.



This is by no means a complete list of skills the games can teach. Every new game that comes out has a chance to have some new mechanics with a potential to teach something new. Also, I most probably forgot about many of them, quite possibly very obvious ones too. Purpose of this article was not to list them all though. It was to show you, how games can teach you things without you even knowing you are learning. There are two requirements for you to meet if you want to really benefit from games in such way.

First and I cannot stress enough how important, is pay attention. Yes, I know I am repeating myself. It's just that important. If you pay attention during your online sessions, you will learn how to effectively lead and communicate, how to apply correct tactics to every situation and solve new problems, how to improve yourself through competition. If you don't pay attention, you are just jumping around, shooting stuff and even if you happen to win a match or two, you are loosing a lot that the game has to offer.


Second is to realize how you can transition these skills to real life. All to often, we are unable to make the connection between what we learn in games and its applications outside of them. Have you ever realized that you can make tons of virtual money in an MMO, but for some reason you are not doing it in real world? I know that the real life is much more complex than any game can possibly be, but on the other hand, have you realized, that in games you are able to solve complicated problems and in your life you are struggling with the simple ones?

So once again - play games, pay attention, and once in a while stop and think how what you learned can help you make your life better. I guarantee it can. So far I've covered how the games can enrich your life as a medium and what skills they can teach you without you even realizing it. In the next and the final part of this article series I will touch the topic of how the games can actually become your career. And yes, you guessed it. A big part of it will be paying attention ;)

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Polish version of the article available on zgranarodzina.edu.pl