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Gavin’s personal video game blog!!!

Riot Games “The Rise of eSports”


Riot Games is an American-based Chinese video game publisher that was established in 2006 and is a subsidiary of Tencent Corps. The $927 million dollar company was founded by: CEO Brandon Beck, and President Marc Merrill, two friends that aspired to run the most player-focused game company in the world. Their main office is located in Santa Monica, California near esteemed competitor Activision Blizzard the creators of the massively popular MMORPG World of WarCraft. They currently have additional offices around the world in places like St. Luis, Dublin, Seoul, Sao Paulo, Istanbul, Moscow, Sydney, and Taipei. Riot shares many business models and philosophies with Blizzard including a healthily competitive work environment for both companies. Because of this Business Insider named Riot Games #4 on its list of top 25 technology companies to work for in 2013. Riot Games is different than any other video game company in the world and resembles a sports league in some ways like the NHL or MLB. This is because they have only produced a single game in their illustrious history. League of Legends released on October 27, 2009 in North America and Europe and quickly spread around the world. League of Legends otherwise known as LoL, was developed as a sport and is played by over 67 million users every month and the number continues to rise globally. Currently Riot is considered the fastest growing manufacturer of high quality online games.

What is really exciting about League of Legends is that the game was built from the ground up to be a sport. It’s a competitive five-on-five, team-based competition and can last from 35 to 45 minute matches. Riot streams all professional games around the world through the LCS (North American) and OGN (South Korea) networks. These games are streamed across multiple online sites in real time. These networks are complimented by the spectator crowed located at the tournament venues around the world. There are full seasons, playoffs, and championship games hosted on these private networks. Many other web sites like Twitch TV and YouTube offer replay videos at no cost. The game is well on its way to crossing the bridge between team sports and video games, with a healthily increasing audience and diligent live spectator crowd. League of Legends has become the world’s most played PC game, surpassing World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and MineCraft combined. The game eclipsed more than a billion hours of game time in a year, which is an incredible testament to its success.

The game is very complex but is presented in a very simplistic way so that it is easy to learn, even from the beginning tutorial as a level one Summoner. The audio portion of the game is barely noticeable because it so seamlessly integrates itself with the surroundings of the game in intricate fashion. Pings are a system of warnings that can be issued by players in the game and come in the form of four varieties. The four options are: going here, help me, missing enemy, and danger. These four simple commands can be used in very strategic ways to change the flow of the map dramatically. Awareness is the key element of this game and the audio supports all the important local events happing across the map. Destroyed turrets, defeated champions, and base infiltration are all notified by the in game announcer audio. While this audio usage is not innovative it is objectively simplified in such a way that it never interferes with the flow on the fields of justice but enhances the experience. The musical score in league of legends comprises of two individual songs and is turned off by most players who spend a decent amount of time in the game. The game has never been about music at its core. The alert notifications and champion sound effects must be turned on though because they are pivotal elements of gameplay. Champion sound effects are numerous in this game and can designate many different situations to be prepared for. The game requires extreme dexterity and control over time periods that can last between less than a second. Because of that champion sound effects are usually quick and concise lasting no longer than a second at most.

League offers over 100 unique characters with simple to use abilities that can each be mastered much like riding a bike. This makes the game simple to play because there are really only four main commands (keys: qwer), which are placed in an easy to use place on the keyboard in synchronization with the game mouse. Many players would compare it to a chess like unit game that requires careful planning and strategic coordination. The main difference being that it requires a team to win a game and not an individual player. The game is free to play but offers extra champion outfits and upgrades in exchange for money, this usually amounts to the longer time spent playing the more money contributed. Riot utilizes the free to play method perhaps better than any company currently on the market. By allowing free use of the product they can invest on creating spectacular content that their fan base is excited for, unlike many console games where players become disgruntled about purchasing DLC. By giving players nearly unlimited access to gameplay with no charge except to enrich the experience, LoL can be played by anyone with a computer. Those even with limited operating system have the opportunity to play the game on Riots impressively low settings options. Like most sports though equipment and quality of the gear makes a huge difference. There are still some phenomenal teen players out there who use “nerfed” computers and can still compete against those with better upgrades. The game is especially popular among student aged children and young adults which has seriously opened the debate of video game addiction, a much more prevalent issue in todays society. This is another similarity to Activision Blizzard and the various controversies regarding World of Warcraft. Online gaming addiction is responsible in the case of 13 deaths across the world. This addiction affects thousands of gamers and no real research has been dedicated to this serious and recent trend.


While there is plenty of controversy and questions regarding the future of eSports, some things are certain. Sports franchises usually must avoid negative attention to wade through layers of public scrutiny and cultural awareness. Addiction and sports can both be mentioned in the same grey area of what defines a game. League of Legends entertains millions while pushing the boundaries of globalization and competition. Riots dedication to its pro and casual players makes it the most prominent video game company in recent history. Video games and developers have been front news media on many websites regarding the portrayal of female characters in games. Riot has been ahead of the curve for some time on this topic though and already offers a huge cast of iconic female characters. League of Legends leads the charge for video games in 2014 with players from across the world mingling in competitive spirit. The company is about to release its highly anticipated “Summoner’s Rift” update arena which could be compared to creating a new stadium in real sports. The new LoL is going to be an upgrade in visual displays making sure to retain the core elements of the original game. The mini map used in many games to locate surroundings is as important as your character display. One of the big noticeable differences between newer and experienced players is that “noobs” are considered narrow sighted not being able to fully process their surroundings. Because the fog of war is so important in this game, extra vision is perhaps the main strategy in the whole game. This tactic is known as warding and it creates small areas on the map that can forecast an incoming flank from an enemy. This rule is frequently ignored in the North America region because buying player upgrades is considered more essential for conflict. Using the “Ping” audio and utilizing correct warding placements can result in very complex team plays. Other important visual heads up include visual pings and nearby invisible enemy alerts. The HUD is Diablo like in its simplicity and shows limited but important information. One of the innovative display formats in league is the ability to see what your opponent is purchasing for items. The relationship between champions and item builds can be very mathematical and many debates ensue about the viability for different meta builds. Being able to counter build enemies or synergize team builds is dependent on keeping track of the game progress periodically. It is important to note that the game added meaning to the word meta by refereeing to the way champions fluctuate over the weeks and months and how well they do among the pros. Riot patches and updates the game regularly, so some champions are considered flavor of the month like many real life sports team players. Pros and players stream everyday with millions of non-player viewers being added to streams regularly. Would any of this have ever happened if not for a book about Hobbits and a game with a turbulent past like Dungeons & Dragons?



Works Cited

Jon Robinson “’League of Legends,’ eSports growing”, Aug 8 2012

Jenna Pitcher “Samsung White wins $1M League of Legends 2014 World

Anonymous college administrator “Students and Video Game Addiction” Insider Higher ED, Dec 13 2012

Paresh Dave “Online game League of Legends star gets U.S. visa as pro athlete” Los Angeles Times, Aug 7 2013

Eddie Makuch “US government recognizes League of Legends players as pro athletes” Gamespot, 12 July 2013

Marshall Lemon “League of Legends Topples World of Warcraft as Most Played PC Game” The Escapist, July 11 2013


ESRB Rating Implications – Player Vs. Developers


Player –

As a younger player I always thought of the ESRB implimintation as something that was oppressing the creativity and innovation uniquely associated with  video games and its players. One of my favorite franchises in the arcade renaissance was Mortal Kombat. Despite my enthusiasm, parents and just about any adult I met during this time seemed to think my opinion was largely unimportant in how I viewed Mortal Kombat and other video games at the time. Make no mistake Night Trap and Mortal Kombat were not the only games getting public and political heat, nearly every “gamer” and “developer” during this time was being belittled and ashamed publicly. Times have sense changed and video games do not hold the same negative connotation they use to, largely because all the studies that have been published to scapegoat and vilify games have failed. Thanks in part to the passionate and active internet community that supports and protects the video games industry from all corners of the world. Personally I enjoy video games that push the boundaries of society and ask harder questions for the gamer to personally answer for themselves. Video games have been and still are much different than movies, music, and books. While there is a tremendous push in the video game industry to make more AAA games cinematic in appearance, it is important to look at some of the important milestones games have made in the past and build off those accomplishments. The ESRB must be considered a tipping point for when video games deservingly entered the stage of politics and in light of scrutiny held on to industry independence. I am proud as a gamer of how far the players, developers, and the industry as a whole has come sense these times.


Developer –

The ESRB is much different to me now, I do not view it as an oppressive system but as the contractual bridge that keeps very real and depressing restrictions and limitations on games federally. Thankfully there are so many avenues that games have entered now that it would be nearly impossible to regulate them any more than the ESRB already does. It is very important for parents to have a basic understanding of the themes and struggles their child may experience while playing a game and right now they can. I always advocate for parents to watch some small gameplay videos or look up user reviews before purchasing a game for their child, but that is the parents job not the developers. The ESRB enforces consumer awareness and has continually lowered the ability of minors to obtain inappropriate games every year. With the threat of federal regulations looming, all the major game publishers at the time including Acclaim, EA, Nintendo, and Sega, formed a political trade group to debate self-regulatory frameworks for assessing and rating video games. This cooperation between bitter business rivals paved the way for all future video game development, while protecting all developers for the forseable future. Developers now have a choice of targeting certain ratings to be placed on their games and have a neutral party to send them back any critical areas that might have been overlooked. I must admit though paying fines for easter eggs seems like a shady and under the table kind of deal. Perhaps in the future the ESRB will find a more savory ways to communicate with developers regarding this area of production. I think the ESRB offers the perfect amount of limitation for developers and has bred true mastery from those who abide by its regulation.

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Donkey Kong Vs. Space Invaders


Donkey Kong is the first example of a complete narrative told in video game form, and like 1980’s Pac-Man it uses cut-scenes to advance the plot. The game opens with Kong climbing a pair of ladders to the top of a construction site. He sets Pauline the damsel in distress down and stomps his feet, then moves to his final perch and sneers. This brief animation sets the scene and adds context to the gameplay, a first for video games. Upon reaching the end of the stage, another cut-scene begins. A heart appears between Mario and Pauline, but Donkey Kong quickly interrupts by grabbing the poor maiden and climbing higher. The narrative concludes when Mario reaches the end of the fourth stage. Mario and Pauline are reunited, and a short intermission plays. The gameplay then loops from the beginning at a higher level of difficulty. The game is divided into four different single-screen stages. Each represents twenty-five meters of the structure Donkey Kong has climbed, one stage being twenty-five meters higher than the previous. The final stage occurs at 100 meters. The name of Jumpman, a name originally chosen for its likeness to popular brands Walkman and Pac-Man, was eventually changed to Mario in likeness of Mario Segale, Nintendo’s office landlord. The game was a breakthrough effort by Nintendo, successfully attracting the North American market. Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo’s president at the time, assigned the project to a first-time video game designer named Shigeru Miyamoto. Miyamoto himself had high hopes for his new project. Donkey Kong spawned the sequels Donkey Kong Jr, Donkey Kong Country, as well as the mega popular franchise spin-off Super Mario Bros.


Arcade games often have short levels and simple intuitive control schemes with rapidly increasing difficulty. This is due to the environment of the Arcade, where the players essentially rent games for as long as their in-game avatar can stay alive.  Competitive video gamers and referees stress Donkey Kong’s high level of difficulty compared to other classic arcade games of the Golden Age. Winning the game requires patience and the ability to accurately time the accent of Mario carefully and methodically. The 22nd level is known as the kill screen similar to Pac Man, due to an error in the game’s programming that kills Mario after a few seconds, effectively ending the game. The game became massively popular in the early 80’s thanks in part to Twin Galaxies national scoreboard where pop culture celebrity and E-sports innovator Billy Mitchel self proclaimed himself “The King of Kong” because of his specialty in this specific game.

Space Invaders logo

Space Invaders is a two-dimensional fixed shooter game in which the player controls a laser cannon by moving it horizontally across the bottom of the screen and firing at descending aliens. It was the top selling video gaming of the 70’s and helped expand the video game industry from a novelty to a global industry. Tomohiro Nishikado designed the game and developed the necessary hardware to produce it in a year. While programming, Nishikado discovered that the processor was able to render the alien graphics faster as the player destroyed them. Rather than design the game to compensate for the speed increase, he decided to keep it as a challenging gameplay mechanic.  Despite its simplicity, the music to Space Invaders was revolutionary in the gaming industry. The music interacts with on screen animation to influence the emotions of the player. The music popularized the notion of variability the idea that music can change in accordance with the ongoing narrative. This innovative concept influenced every video game to follow it. The space thematic of Space Invaders was inspired by the Star Wars movies as stated by Nishikado.


Game designer Shigeru Miyamoto considered Space Invaders a game that revolutionized the video game industry; stating he was never interested in video games before seeing it. So without Space Invaders, Donkey Kong would have never existed, and likely Nintendo would have not invested in further video game production. Space Invaders showed that video games could compete against the major entertainment media at the time: movies, music, and television. Its worldwide success created a demand for a wide variety of science fiction games, inspiring the development of arcade games, such as Atari’s Asteroids, Williams Electronics’ Defender, and Namco’s Galaga, which were modeled after Space Invaders’s gameplay and design.

Author: Gavin Johnston

catch me on Twitch for more walkthroughs, comedy, and discussions


Mechanized Gender Disadvantages


New or old-school, hero or side-kick, female video game characters like Princess Peach are too often designed as stereotypically feminine. We most often see female video game characters featured in dresses, skirts or skimpy clothing, wearing bows and make-up, and maintaining dainty, delicate, or over-sexualized dispositions. These features make any character disadvantaged in race or combat. Such stereotypical signifiers, which were specifically drawn into the design of the characters, are then mechanized as disadvantages. These characters not only stereotype women, but also send the message that qualities specific to females are limitations to a character’s ability. The lack of strong female characters present in video games is due to the fact that there’s a sense in the industry that games with female heroes won’t sell. However, it seems that this is only true because of the manner in which female video game characters are designed. It is less the female character that wouldn’t sell, but what is currently designed as the female character. The predominantly male community of game developers designs their female characters as weak, distracted, and as having vices. Male or female, it is obvious that such a hero would never sell. By ignoring the ‘damsel in distress’ connotation from female video game characters and designing female characters that are as capable and badass does work. Women could easily take the role of the hero and could absolutely sell video games in new uncharted territory. My favorite recent example of a strong female protagonist comes from the Sep 4th 2014 release, Velocity 2X starring Lt. Kai Tana.


GamerGate has opened the debate for gamers and developers everywhere to speak their opinions on the matter. There has been some negative and positive results from this and game makers continue to try and open up the market to more users globally. The connotation of women in the video game industry is a polarizing issue that perpetuates itself. With more awareness on the issue than ever it seems like there will be some dramatic shifts in the industry to address the prominent issue. Myself as a developer take all of these allegations very seriously and hope to bring more maturity and acceptane in the workplace. While women in the workforce is an issue in itself, creating exciting and innovative female protagonists should be the first goal. If developers can create dynamic characters for people to latch onto, this will inturn create an environment where women want to work and support the corporate vision. Video games can be anything so it is important that some big companies begin to support this stance and speak out on the manner actively and aggresivly. Gamers will never be the same after the implications of GamerGate but perhaps that is for the best. Like Anita Sarkeesian says in each of here videos “remember that it is both possible and even necessary to simultaneously enjoy medi while also being critical of it’s more problematic or pernacious aspects. Video games must be treated in the manner going forward in all regards and I applaud Anita Sarkessian for her bravery and dedication to stand up and lead the charge on this issue.

Author: Gavin Johnston

catch me on Twitch for more walkthroughs, comedy, and discussions


What defines a Game?

“What is a Game?”

            Creating an all-encompassing definition for the elusive nature of a game can be daunting task, but I believe I have developed a definition that can help shed illumination on this shrouded topic. Most people can agree that we play games because they are fun. But what is fun? Raph Koster veteran game designer and author of “A Theory of Fun“ wrote: “Fun arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension. It is the act of solving puzzles that make games fun. With games, learning is the drug.”  Our brains have the ability to grow in learning and that is what drives us to play games. Learning supplies us with tools to overcome the challenges that are part of life, and overcoming challenges gives us a sense of achievement. The best game is a game that constantly challenges the player and forces them to learn. So part of the definition of a game must include that learning is at the core of why we play. Albert Einstein even once noted that play is the highest form of research, so who is going to argue with Einstein?

Another key element of games is rules and components. In most games the rules are usually more significant than the components, but there are some games where the roles are reversed. An example of the components being more important than the rules is trading card games like Pokémon and Magic the Gathering. Additionally all game rules are defined by goal conditions which can be described in two major principles. The victory condition requirements and the strategy needed to win the game. There are thousands of games, but only a small number of game goals. That means that most games share the same goal. The goal should be relatively simple to measure, and easily depicted.

There is a plethora of other elements that could be described but for the sake of this paper I will end on competition and equality. All games demonstrate competition; there are winners and losers. Even in cooperative games or when players work as a team, competition exists. The competition and the measurement of the game results are limits on how a game can convey certain feelings of emotion. This is one of the big differences between games and their media counter parts books, movies, and music. For example, love, freedom, harmony, pain, sorrow, etc. The criteria “competition” is also the reason why it is so difficult to develop games that are not aggressive or violent in nature. As I digress it is important to note that all games treat the players as equals in having the same chance to win. This is one of the reasons children love to play games, because in a game with adults, they are equal partners.

Author: Gavin Johnston

catch me on Twitch for more walkthroughs, comedy, and discussions


Works Cited

Raph Koster “A Theory of Fun” O’Reilly Media, December 2 2013

Nils Pettersson “What is a game and why do we play?” Gamasutra, January 16 2013

Wolfgang Kramer “What is a Game?” The game Journal, December 2000

8 Bit Girlz Documentary

This is a video I made at school with my Micro Fun House team, its about the portrayal of female video game developers and characters. Hope you enjoy!

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Inforgraphic “8-Bit Girlz”


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Go (Wei Ch’i) Vs. Tafl (Hnafatafl)


Go (Wei Ch’i) and Tafl (Hnaffatafl) were both games established before 400 AD in entirely different regions of the world. While both share some rules and qualities like capturing units by surround them, they are considered in essence entirely different in their strategy and purpose. I will try and give a brief recap highlighting some of the reasons why these games are similar and contrasting, and perhaps we can all obtain a greater understanding of the meaning and purpose behind these ancient chess variants.


Hnefatafl meaning “the king’s board” was a precursor to modern day chess and was played throughout northern Europe. The main player base were Scandinavian Norsemen but the game also gained popularity in Iceland, Britain, Ireland and Wales. Like Go it has a variety of board sizes ranging from beginner to expert, the typical sizes are 7×7, 13×13, and traditionally 19×19. Also like Go the pieces are depicted by black (attacking) and white (defending). The game represents the mentality of the Viking people in spirit. Starting positions reflect the technique favored by Viking sailors of northern Europe, a sudden assault to overcome outnumbered enemies. Players take turns moving individual pieces across the board but each player’s goal is different. Each player is required too decided at the start whether they will play the role of attacker or defender unlike Go in which each players goal is the same. Defender is defined by the King piece that starts in the center of the board and is surrounded by eight defenders. The goal of the defender is to get the king to safety off the edge of the board. Attacker is defined by the sixteen outside surrounding units placed along the edge of the board. The attackers goal is to stop the king by surrounding him on all sides. It is important to note that while attacker and defender play pieces amounts may vary, fare games are considered to have a 2:1 ratio of attackers to defenders. The main gameplay elements include movement like pawns and rooks from classic chess, and piece capture which happens by trapping units between two enemy pieces in a straight line. There is a plethora of other strategies as well that include safe placements, multiple piece capture, and kiting techniques. Tafl is nearly extinct in modern times as it was replaced by chess during the 11th and 12th century.

go-game-1-360x240            Wei Ch’i is considered by most Oriental game experts to be the greatest strategic skill game, far surpassing Chess in its complexity and scope. Most people who have played it would agree with this conclusion and, unlike chess no computer program has yet been written which as been able to compete with the best Go players. Originating in ancient China more than 2,500 years ago it is considered one of the four essential arts of a cultured Chinese scholar in antiquity. The Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans all have dedicated schools where people devote their entire lives to the game and a grading system similar to martial arts. At first the game was played only by upper class but it gradually filtered down to the educated lower classes over time. The pieces are white and black lens shaped stones and the wood boards are made from Kaya, a wood that is very expensive and comes from trees in Miyazaki Japan and can age over 700 years. Like Tafl the traditional board size is 19×19 with smaller boards used for beginners. It is a game based on territorial capture where the goal is to capture the most territory by the end of the game. Players take turns starting with black placing stones on the intersecting lines of the board, creating “groups” and “liberty” the core mechanics of the game. Go has very few rules and yet the game itself is extremely challenging. A group is a set of stones in the same color that connect orthogonally, empty points adjacent to a group of stones is a liberty of that group. Single stones alone form four liberties around them by the nature of the board. Groups that no longer have liberties are considered captured. There are many strategies in Go like using squared groups to create eyes in the middle to prevent capture, having a group with two eyes can make large groups that are invulnerable to capture. Other tactical plays include the ko, seki, sente, atari, and dame along with other special local situations. Go also uses a handicapping scheme for weaker players, awarding starting stones based on the level of handicap, which goes up to nine levels. The initial starting phases of Go are considered the most important because players must scope out territory for development and spread out while keeping a balance of nearby groups that can be used as defense against attacks. Eventually the players agree that no more stones can be played since all territory is claimed and all local battles have been concluded. Most professional games are decided from two games with players taking turns using black because of the first turn advantage and counting total territory collected from both games to decide the winner.


Go and Tafl have many similarities for example they both use the same color orientation of black and white pieces along with turn based playing. Both games also use the same size board and capturing technique of surrounding units. While Go is considered universally more strategic than Tafl, both contain simple rules yet complicated structure and tactics. They both originated in completely different areas of the world but it is easy to see how they are somewhat derivative of each other in concept. The main difference between the two is the philosophy in which the games are presented. Tafl has two unique playing styles of attacker and defender and characterizes the emotional brute force enjoyment of battle and conquest. Tafl also has an equality imbalance due to the separate play positions, and while Go may seem more balanced in essence the vast difference in experience can create very imbalanced play sessions hence the handicap system. Go uses much more subtle messages of expansion and deceit to lure enemies into submission. Go also prioritizes territory expansion and treasure hording as its main reward elements while Tafl uses obvious domination of opponents as a means of reward. Out of both games Wei Ch’i has stood the test of time and continues to be played competitively around the world today, while Hnaffatafl lives only in memory through the modern iteration of classic Chess made popular through the European countries after its creation in India.

Author: Gavin Johnston

catch me on Twitch for more walkthroughs, comedy, and discussions

Works Cited

Michael Wolffauer “Introduction to GO” Masters Games, 1999

Parlett David “The Oxford History of Board Games” Oxford University Press, 1999

Luk “The Viking Game of Tafl” Games for Your Mind, 2009

James Masters “Go Information and History” The Online Guide to Traditional Games, 1997

Pokemon X and Y Review


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