New Entries

New Entries: Double Games Month!

It’s time for another new entry.

Wait, hang on, no it’s not! We’ve done our five entries for this month, haven’t we?

So, what’s going on? Well, its a new year, and we thought we’d celebrate this momentous occasion by having a Double Games Month! If your new year’s resolution is to really start to get a grip on your children’s media habits, then we are here to help. Understanding exactly what is in a game is fundamental to deciding whether it is suitable for your family. We worked hard over the Christmas break to put a whole load more games into the GameHub database, so you now have even more titles to pick from. Whether you are looking up a game you already are interested in, or browsing for ideas, we have over 100 games on file and are adding new ones all the time. So, stay tunes for another five games being added to that list by the end of the month! Ten games! Ten whole games! 2016 is off to a great start!

Hub Stuff

New for 2016: Shareable GameHub Pins

GameHub has a Pinterest account. Did you forget? If you did, that’s a shame for you, because we have an entire board of picture of cute puppies you are missing out on.

puppyimg
PUPPY!

Another thing you would be missing out on by not following our Pinterest boards is brand new. As of today, every single game added to GameHub will also be posted to a special Pinterest board in handy, shareable pin form. This is especially helpful if you have a gift planning board. Remembering exactly which game your son or daughter liked the look of can be a massive headache. At a glance, they really all do look the same!

Was it that one? Wait, no, maybe that one... CREDIT: VentureBeat
Was it that one? Wait, no, maybe that one…
CREDIT: VentureBeat

Just like on gamehubHQ.com, we put the most commonly used box art/icon front and centre, so even if you can’t remember the name, (or the name is so stupidly long no normal person would remember it – Super Mario Bros. Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3, anybody?) you can still look for it by it’s most identifable image. Big rectangles of Dudes With Explosions are not helpful, so we try to space it out and put a focus on the unique sections of the image you might remember better. We hope you find it useful.

pinterest logo
Check it out here!

 

 

Words Worth Knowing

Words Worth Knowing: Buzzfeed Ran A Quiz

Buzzfeed ran a quiz. And, to be honest, it wasn’t too bad. Though clearly written for kicks, it isn’t as straight-up nasty as I feared it might be. “Parents don’t know what these complicated, highly specialised acronyms mean, ha ha ha” is not a great premise for an article, but they do make an effort to explain the words, which is appreciated, and the eye-rolling is kept to a minimum. I just feel a bit unsure about how helpful this kind of content is. Mere information is not enough – now you know, but you were made to feel stupid in the process. Empowerment, feeling good about your new-found knowledge, should also be part of it, and that feels pretty lacking here. So, ho-hum. Could be better, could be worse.

We asked our parents to guess what these gaming terms mean
I score this Buzzfeed quiz a 6/10. Could be less patronising, but could also be a lot worse.

Words Worth Knowing, our Monday gaming term explanation column, will return in February 2016 after taking a New Year’s rest. So if you don’t know your AFK from your DLC, stay tuned.

Words Worth Knowing

Words Worth Knowing: FOW

One of the most challenging aspects of video-games culture for a newcomer, especially for a busy parent, is trying to learn and understand the many, many acronyms and specialised terms. GameHub HQ entries are jargon-free, so you can get the information you need as easily and painlessly as possible, but there are still some words worth knowing. Every Monday, we break down one Word Worth Knowing from the world of gaming.

Last week we tackled FOV. This week, we look at FOW. Simiar, and yet different.

What It Is: FOW = Fog of War

What It Means: Fog of War is a convention used in many strategy games, whereby unexplored portions of the map are hidden under artificial fog. Only by venturing out into those areas can the player discover what is there and disperse the fog.

Why You Care: Fog of War allows game designers to hide surprises, tests and challenges for the player. Strategy games are all about the player planning and executing a series of winning moves, but the Fog of War forces the player to think of their feet and be reactive to new and unexpected events. An army may be lurking in the mists, or a new city waiting to be conquered. Fog of War keeps the player guessing and forces them to be prepared at all time. Games such as Warlock: Master of the Arcane use FOW mechanics to keep players on their toes.

Games Culture

Developers Slam “Out-Dated Relic” Video-Game Age-Ratings System In The UK & EU.

Uncomfortably named game industry business site Gamasutra has published a fascinating think-piece on how games developers view the content ratings systems in the EU. Gamasutra is a major games industry portal for exchanging ideas, technical expertise and up-to-the-minute industry gossip, and is one of the rare places online where the comments are as much worth reading as the main article. If you have time this weekend, take a few minutes to browse through.

How Paying For Content Ratings Is Hurting Devs Who Release In Europe

One thing that may particularly stand out to you is the fact that the EU ratings board PEGI do not play all the games they are given to rate through from start to finish. Instead, developers are expected to self-report their game’s content to a thinktank in the Netherlands. As the organisation (Netherlands Institute for the Classification of Audiovisual Media) was originally created to review films rather than interactive games, the submission has to be done by creating a video.

Mainly for me it is just time-consuming and frustrating,” he added. “You also have to create a highlight reel showing all the most egregious blood/language/sexual content in the game, and it takes them a while to process the whole thing. Since I’m a solo dev it means all development stops as I’m doing it.”

In the EU, developers also have to pay high costs to get their games rating on the official boards. In the U.S., under the ESRB system (most boxed games you buy on the UK high-street show both symbols,) developers can get their games rates for free. ESRB representatives also rely on developers to self-report, and enforce million dollar fines against creators who misrepresent their games. Some games require a film, whilst others are assessed simply by filling out an online questionnaire. Only a handful of games submitted each year are actually played, as part of a “random sample.”

Here’s the pitch: IARC (International Age Ratings Coalition) is a process whereby you fill out a questionnaire and receive an auto-generated content rating for all ratings boards participating in IARC (notably the ESRB, USK, and PEGI)

Neither board updates their ratings to accommodate new updates or additional content to the game. Neither board covers user created content, such as mods or conversations in chat-rooms. The rating given to the game at pre-launch, the point on a video-game’s life when it has the least game-play content, is when it is rated, meaning the rating is out of date on the day on the same day as the game is made available for sale. (NB: This does not mean it is necessarily wrong.) And this is both harming consumer confidence in the age-ratings systems and the creators of the games themselves. Developers are disincentivised to list their game with the PEGI rating board because of the costs involved, which eat into their profit margins.

PEGI cost is probably going to eat up a substantial amount of what we make in Europe. It’s not enough to not do it, but it hurts.”

This means fewer games available to the UK and EU market. For games with niche appeal- children’s games, educational games, non-violent and/or non-strategic games, where revenue is already squeezed, this is a serious concern. It could be the difference between deciding to keep making the games they love, or looking to alternative projects in other sectors. So it’s a topic of interest to everyone, both creators and consumers, as to where age rating systems in the UK go next.

Words Worth Knowing

Words Worth Knowing *BONUS POST* – Floppy Corpses and Parental Concerns

You may have noticed that all of our games have a topic in the Violence & Gore subsection that asks the question “Does this game contain ‘ragdolling’ corpses?” Now, some of you may be wanting to know, what on earth is ragdolling?

Ragdolling on GameHub
Ragdolling on GameHub

The short answer is this is ragdolling:

Ragdolling is a way of dealing with death and injury in video-game animation. Ragdolling is a process whereby, on impact with an object, such as a bullet or sword swipe, the target object,(in this case a human form) responds in accordance with physics. Rather than falling flat to the floor and vanishing, or displaying one of a specially crafted set of “death animations” the body of the character reacts to the force applied to it –  a small shove may cause a topple, but a big hit could cause them to go flying. If no new forces come into play, the body just crumples into a heap. If the character or object is large and heavy, the player may not be able to move it, but if the object is smaller, or is not capable of creating a powerful enough resisting force, impacts may cause it to fall or move a long way. This is particularly relevant when a character dies, and all the physical forces attached to them as a living object, standing upright and exerting control over their body, are suddenly lost. If that loss coincides with a big new pressure on their form, such as a grenade hit or baseball bat swing, the resulting jangling of simulated physics can cause some fairly visually interesting and unexpected results.

As it can produce comedic results, ragdolling is a favoured tool of developers making light-hearted games, such as Goat Simulator. Gifs and images of silly ragdoll physics mishaps often “go viral” on social media

whilst the modding creation tool Gary’s Mod allows players to play with ragdoll physics to create games, animations and films.

Ragdolling can sometimes cause parents some concerns. The affects of physical forces on the characters’ bodies can sometimes look quite visceral

or extreme

or, when things go wrong, downright disturbing!

If a game contains ragdoll physics, we record that fact in the GameHub report, so that you know what kind of things you are likely to see. Ragdolling is a popular gameplay feature amongst gamers, and a prominent feature of games such as The Elder Scrolls Skyrim and Goat Simulator.

Parents should be aware that some players will take advantage of ragdoll physics to pose corpses in compromising positions, such as simulated sex acts. This is a player-created action and thus is not covered under age-rating systems such as the ESRB or PEGI. These boards also do not cover modding, where ragdoll physics systems are often exacerbated or enhanced for player entertainment.

Some players will dispassionately kill a character many times in a row, displaying a kind of morbid fascination with how the ragdoll physics system works, or trying to set up an amusing shot to share with their friends. As ragdoll physics is at its most extreme when there are strong dynamic forces acting upon a body, this often entails hurling a character from a high height or into fast-moving machinery. This activity, when viewed as an observer, can be extremely alarming to watch a player do over and over again. In video-gaming’s often disappointingly seedy early history, Lara Croft, built like a Barbie doll with long gangly limbs and more weight assigned to the chest and upper thigh areas, would often be a point of fascination.

The designers of the more modern Lara Croft games worked around this uncomfortable issue by giving Lara personalised death animations, whilst retaining some ragdoll physics for enemy characters. These new, gory, personal and at times distressing animations encouraged the player to aim to preserve Lara from bodily harm by their actions, rather than treating her a ragdoll toy to throw into painful situations.

GameHub Concierge

GameHub Concierge: Minecraft, All Minecraft!

“I don’t see the obsession with Minecraft. My DD 10 (soon to be 11) uses the IPAD to play Minecraft and watch the irritating videos on YouTube.
With her birthday being in the summer hols, I like to buy her something which I know she will get good use of. I was all set to get her an IPAD MINI….however she says she is hoping for a bloody XBOX so she can play Minecraft.
I am so annoyed. We had an XBOX last year but only kept it for 2 months as no one understood how to operate it!
Is Minecraft really any different on the XBOX than the APP? She says she will need headphones to chat with other players. Not sure I am liking the idea of this.
Please educate me – I am very naive with technology ” via  Mumsnet

Sounds like a job for GameHub Concierge! Minecraft on the Ipad is a different experience from Minecraft on the Xbox. Here’s some of what we said:

“If your daughter is showing an interest in gaming, a 2nd hand Xbox would be a great place to start. Minecraft is the perfect sort of game for her age group. And its great to see her wanting to make the move from Ipad to Xbox, it shows she is really passionate about the game and looking for the best experience.
For young girls, I would really strongly advise putting your foot down very firmly on the headset idea – it’s not a good plan. I would be extremely wary of her using her own voice, its likely to cause a lot of upset and unpleasantness which may well put you both off gaming. Ask her to use the typed chat option instead, and have a solid chat about keeping her account settings private, not giving out her age or gender and so on.”

I also offered to help our Mumsnetter through any queries she might have with the installation process, setting up the hardware and the Xbox Live account, and asked her to talk about some of her daughter’s other hobbies in order to suggest additional games.

Got a question for the Concierge? Contact us.

Hub Stuff

Only You Know Your Child

GameHub was designed for parents, using information, ideas, feedback and suggestions from parents. I know we bang on about this a bit, but it’s something we’re really proud of. GameHub was built, not as a patronising, paternalistic overlord, telling you how to parent with numbers and rules, but as an aid and a guide to allow you to make the right decisions for your family. Every child is different. Every parent is different. Every family is different. We believe that nobody is better suited to parent a child than their parent (or guardian) because nobody knows your child better than you.

You know their fears, you know their ambitions, you know what they like, they love, they loathe. You’ve seen them change, you’re watching them mature. You know when they are ready for something a bit more challenging, or if they are more sensitive and find would find it scary. You know that anything with dinosaurs will go down a storm, but please leave the dolls at home, thank-you. You know they could use some extra support with maths, but it’d be better if they didn’t realise they were getting it!

We don’t know your child. We don’t pretend to. What we know is games. We love video-games, we eat, sleep and breathe them. And we recognise that games bring with them, due to their interactive element, a unique set of challenges for parents – the complicated technical terms, the concern about addiction, the cost of the equipment. We are here to support you and your family by giving you the information you need to make informed choices about what your children are playing. We do this one-to-one vis GameHub Concerige, and more generally via the GameHub database. If you need a non-frightening maths game with dinosaurs, we’ve got you covered. If you want to know how to guard yourself against unexpected credit card bills due to in-app purchases, we can help with that. Having a family feud over Grand Theft Auto – we sort these out all the time! Anything new related to video-games, we are there, for you, as a guide and a helper, with carefully researched facts and first-hand experience.

We play every game we feature. We research every statement we make. We take our own screenshots, we write our own entries. We test the claims of every press release, we look up every stat. You can count on us to give you reliable, accurate, easy to understand information, so you don’t need to be an expert at video-games, you just need to focus on doing what you are good at, being an expert on your own child.

Words Worth Knowing

Words Worth Knowing: NPC

One of the most challenging aspects of video-games culture for a newcomer, especially for a busy parent, is trying to learn and understand the many, many acronyms and specialised terms. GameHub HQ entries are jargon-free, so you can get the information you need as easily and painlessly as possible, but there are still some words worth knowing. Every Monday, we break down one Word Worth Knowing from the world of gaming.

For our second word, we are going to look at an acronym unique to gaming. What is an NPC, what do you need to know and why do you need to care?

What It Is: NPC = Non-Playable Character

What It Means: All the characters that occur in the game that the player cannot directly control. This includes pedestrians and passers-by in large open-world games, other racers in driving games, and, in games where the player is part of a group, their character’s friends, companions or gang.
Why You Care: Non-playable characters make up all the other people in a game world aside from the player. The NPCs are controlled by the computer. They may interact with the player in a meaningful way, as friends, team members or lovers, or they may be unimportant passers-by, enemy soldiers or simply members of a crowd. The ways in which the game allows the player to interact with NPCs may affect how you perceive the game’s content. For example, some games punish or prohibit the player from killing “innocent bystander” NPCs, whilst other actively encourage the player to terrorise a game’s inhabitants. A game may allow a player to have sexual relationships with one of their NPC companions, or allow the player to pick up NPC prostitutes for sex. How a game allows the player to interact with its digital citizens will depend broadly on it’s genre, but with a thousand subtle differences from title to individual title.
If a player, or their parent/guardian, has a question or concern about the freedoms they will be given to act with regard to NPCs, get in touch and we’ll try to answer your questions!

Admin

Hello World!

Welcome to the (new and improved*) GameHub blog.

We are GameHub and this is the GameHub blog. It’s the companion to our main site over at www.GameHubHQ.com, which if you haven’t checked out yet you really must, we are super proud of it and we hope you like it. We deal with video-games, but we don’t deal with video-games in the manner you might expect. We are not a fan site, we don’t do news or reviews, no “unboxings” or “Let’s Play.” We are a video-game advice service for parents.

Video-games are an integral part of the lives of most children and families, particularly with the rise of Minecraft, and the resources available to parents to understand this enormous, complicated world of interactive entertainment are just not good enough. We want to change that, by giving parents the information they need to be informed and empowered regarding interactive entertainment. Through our site at GameHub HQ and through this supporting blog, we aim to give parents reassurance and guidance so they can make the decisions that are right for their family.

We hope you like what we do here and we always, always welcome your feedback, so please get in touch through comments, email or social media. Ready, Player One? Then let’s get started…

*Actually New and actually Improved. Not like when they “new and improved” your favourite brand of crisps and now they are tasteless and with 25% fewer in each bag.