Quinn Pitcock’s Struggle to Tackle His Video Game Addiction

I’ve never really thought I had a problem with video games. Well, I still can’t beat Mike Tyson in “Punch-Out,” and the only reason I’ve ever gotten past that driving level in “Mafia” is by cheating, but what I mean is that I’ve never felt like I’ve ever had trouble balancing games with the rest of my life. While gaming is one of my great passions, I’ve been fortunate enough to find other passions in life that made it impossible to think about spending all of my waking time with just one of them.

However, I do realize that video game addiction is a problem that exists. For former NFL defensive lineman Quinn Pitcock, it’s a very real problem that may keep him out of the league.

Pitcock refers to himself as an introvert who can spend 18 hours a day playing “Call of Duty.” He says that, “The only way I could get my endorphins was by playing video games.” Realizing the depths of his addiction, he has gone to such dramatic lengths as physically breaking his games to try to make up for not being able to stop playing via his own will. Yet for all of his efforts, he has so far been unable to break his crippling addiction.

More than just register as a gross personal flaw, though, this is a problem that may permanently affect Pitcock’s career. That’s because he retired from football in 2008, after a somewhat impressive rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts, and has made two different unsuccessful attempts at a comeback since. Pitcock says he immediately regretted his decision to retire originally, but instead of refocusing his efforts to get back into the game, he instead sank deeper into his drug of choice. While he does play for the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League (and the Indianapolis Colts helped him find a psychologist to help with his addiction), he now has recently revealed that he has a legitimate worry that NFL teams will not trust him to be successful in his recovery efforts.

“They’re more comfortable with a drug addiction,” Pitcock says. “It’s unfortunate. It definitely hinders my chances.”

While that may sound like a ludicrous statement to some, the fact is that video game addiction is a mental addiction, which is considered much more problematic to break than a physical one. Let’s not forget the plight of one of the most talented football players of all time, Ricky Williams, whose addiction to marijuana was so severe that he once stated that his desire to smoke marijuana was greater than his desire to play football. Marijuana, like video games, is not a drug that is considered to be supremely addictive or inherently dangerous. Yet to the right mindset, both can be just as dangerous as any other substance.

I almost wrote this piece as a humorous article. The NFL player who’d rather play “Madden”…something like that. But the truth is that it’s hard not to feel sympathetic to Quinn Pitcock. Like I said, I’ve been lucky enough to find other passions that have kept my life from revolving around video games entirely, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t brief flirtations with having it become a problem.

To make it to the NFL, it takes an almost inhuman mix of skill and dedication. It’s obvious that on some level Quinn Pitcock still has both. However, as Voltaire said, “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.” Hopefully, Pitcock will be able to able to find the right balance in his life for all of his passions, and live without those chains.

Team Fortress 2 and Other Games That Would Make Great TV Series

If you head over to Adult Swim’s website right now, you’ll find an interesting teaser. Apparently, next week Valve and Adult Swim are going to be revealing a collaboration that they describe as “their video game peanut butter… our network chocolate” and “something that you’ll probably enjoy.” The picture accompanying the announcement makes it pretty clear that this is something “Team Fortress 2“-related, and speculation everywhere has it at everything from the long-awaited “Meet the Pyro” episode of the “Meet the Team” series, to a full-on new TV series based on the insanely popular online shooter.

Considering that “Team Fortress 2″ is one of the most purely entertaining games of all time, with a comic style and personality that is unmatched in its medium, and that those “Meet the Team” videos are some of the funniest things ever produced in relation to a video game, whatever comes of this announcement is sure be a bonafide success.

Personally, I’m hoping for a “Red vs Blue” style online miniseries.

It is odd, though, that video games and television shows are two mediums that don’t have much of a celebrated history, or anticipated future of collaboration. Video games made into movies have been a popular subject of discussion for years, but for some reason very few people ever consider the potential for games as TV shows. While “Team Fortress 2” might be the strongest argument for the games to series transition in the history of video games, the truth is that I think there are at least five other titles that would do very well in an episodic format.

“Fallout”

How It Would Work: Three letters. H-B-O. The world of the “Fallout” series is one of the most brutal, bleak and terrifying of all time. Around every corner waits a new horror and atrocity, and just about every person left has become a hardened bastard because it’s the only thing that’s allowed them to survive.

It’s the perfect world for HBO’s no limit programming.

More than the violence, though, this show would need HBO’s creative freedom to really showcase the  ”Fallout” series’ biggest success, and that’s the world it takes place in. The 50s style atmosphere, mixed with the total apocalypse, is the thing that made the series stand out above all others, and it leads to some of the greatest dark humor in any medium. From the always gleeful “Fallout Boy” mascot to the incredibly inappropriate yet oddly fitting classic soundtrack, there is so much in this series that you wouldn’t have to change a bit of to make it shine as something truly unique and incredible.

What’s better is that you wouldn’t be stuck with the parameters of the series story either. There are so many tales waiting to be told that you could just borrow ideas from the established parts of the series and have more than enough foundation for even a mediocre script writer to build something truly compelling with.

In fact, with the possible exception of “Team Fortress 2,” “Fallout” is the series perhaps most primed for television. Just please… no Deathclaws. They scared me enough in the game already when I accidentally found Old Oney too early, and I certainly don’t need any more of them.

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GAME REVIEW: Resonance

Once banished to the “back in the day” wing of the video game hall of fame, adventure games have seen an increase in popularity in the last couple of years due to titles ranging from the evolutionary equivalent (“Heavy Rain“) to the pure point and click (the Telltale collection).

Resonance,” from Wadjeteye Games, is part of the latter. Rather than try to update and gentrify the genre for a new audience, though, the developers have gone the route of nostalgia and created an experience that is artistically and fundamentally similar to the original crop of adventure titles that helped popularize the genre in the early 90s.

“Resonance” is the story of four people (that you control, anyway) who find their lives intertwined by the search for a brilliant scientist’s prototype for a new electrical device that looks to have caused mass destruction in several major cities across the globe. Their reasons for the pursuit are all different, but it becomes clear very quickly that all of them will need each other, not just for their own benefits, but for the greater good as well.

More than any technical aspects like graphics (though the art style is quite good for what it is), the biggest draw of any good adventure title has always been a great story, and that’s why I’m happy to report that “Resonance’s” plot is indeed a great one. It contains all of the twists, turns, and old fashioned intrigue you would expect from such a conspiracy setup, and it constantly manages to move the player and its characters from interesting scenario to interesting scenario with very few lulls. The real driving force of the game’s story is its characters. You control each of them independently and in groups throughout the game, and along the way you really do get a great feel for their unique circumstances and individual motivations behind their journeys. I hate to use the old cop out, but to go into any further detail would ruin the number one reason to play this game.

Unfortunately, the quality writing of the overall plot does not extend to the game’s dialogue. While there are clever lines and quips sprinkled here and there, the actual script seems weak and relies mostly on predictable and heavy-handed lines and poorly-timed jokes. A good part of the title is voice acted, but the performances do little to cover for the weak script. It’s not like any of them are horrific, but you will rarely meet a character that doesn’t come across like they’re reading straight from a script. Considering the great narrative the game is working with, the actual conversations that build it should have been stronger. Maybe I’m spoiled by classic adventure tiles like “Grim Fandango” and ”Curse of Monkey Island” having some of the best dialogue bits in gaming, but there is still little here that makes itself memorable.

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A Possible Leak From Microsoft May Reveal the Future of Xbox

While the Wii U has been making its publicity tour, including an awkward appearance on “The Jimmy Fallon Show,” there has been a very shocking dearth of information from Sony and Microsoft concerning their next generation plans. That is, until now.

Well… possibly.

There is this absolutely massive 56-page report that is currently making its rounds on the front page of most major gaming websites.  Its contents are various, but the general summary of it is a detailed “game plan” of sorts for Microsoft’s next console launch, including features, a price point, and a broad ranged analysis of the console market both at the time of the documents origins and how it will look by 2013 (the next console’s supposed launch date) and beyond.

Now, this report is being classified as a “leak” as it apparently made its rounds internally around Microsoft back in 2010. However, while Microsoft is naturally remaining mum on the subject of its origins and accuracy, there are many who believe the report to be more or less a hoax, albeit a very detailed and professional one. Nevertheless, the most eye-grabbing bits of the report are the specific features of the alleged new console (which is named Xbox 720 in the report). Among them are:

- Blu-ray functionality (oh come on Microsoft, giving up on HD-DVD so easily?)

- Enhanced Kinect support, including the expansion of the system to allow up to four players and a new sensor all together

- A $299 price point

- Cloud support for taking your multimedia files anywhere

- Potential tablet integration

- Enhanced reality glasses, dubbed Fortaleza, that provide features such as heads-up displays and other virtual reality aspects

- Games that are “4x to 6x better looking than current titles”

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Are Video Games Losing Money?

The figures for video game sales in the month of May are starting to break, and the news is not good.

Compared to the same time last year, sales are down 28% (from $718.9 million to $516.5 million) overall. This is being attributed to a number of factors, including the advantage May had last year with Nintendo’s 3DS price drop, and the rise of online free to play games as possible reasons for this drop off.

What’s even more disturbing is the follow up by the Seattle Times that reveals that this is merely the latest entry in a six month tailspin of sales figures the video game industry has posted.

While most of the time I would dismiss these figures as this is traditionally accepted as the slow time of the year for games, and a big release like the next “GTA” or the equivalent would quickly turn these numbers around, its troubling that in a month that included highly anticipated sequels (“Diablo 3″ and “Max Payne 3″) as well as exciting new projects (“Dragon’s Dogma”) that sales would still drop to such a degree.

The truly frightening part is that these numbers are following a weak E3 showing that was criticized for its lack of original properties and exciting ideas. If sales continue to plummet like this, we could be in for a long and frightening stretch of big developers playing it safe, and indie developers struggling for a chance, and the industry could begin to regress instead of using its unprecedented popularity as a platform to push forward on.

For the sake of all gamers, I hope that isn’t true.

Is This One of “Arkham City’s” Undiscovered Secrets?

*”ARKHAM ASYLUM”/”ARKHAM CITY” SPOILERS AHEAD*

As a rule, I try not to get caught up in conspiracy theories, but as a mega fan of the “Batman: Arkham Asylum” games (especially “Batman: Arkham City”), it’s hard not to find this one intriguing.

First, some backstory. Recently, developer Rocksteady announced that for all of the fan devotion in finding “Arkham City” Easter eggs, and there is a large devotion to this subject, there are still undiscovered secrets in the game. What lends particular excitement to that statement is that it took months after “Arkham Asylum’s” release before anyone discovered that the game’s biggest secret, a hidden office, was still undiscovered. When the office was found, it was revealed that it contained a blueprint that outlined the idea for an “Arkham City” section of Gotham, essentially alerting fans of what the next game was going to be.

Because of the large nature of that particular secret, the hunt for sequel clues has been a Day One priority for “Arkham City” fans, and has so far yielded a plethora of potential hints that come in the form of Harley Quinn’s left behind pregnancy test, odd tape recordings, an identity thief’s master plan to look like Bruce Wayne, a secret boat apparently in use by Scarecrow, and many more. If you want some idea of the trail so far, this video does a good job of giving the highlights.

While the hunt for sequel clues has felt all-inclusive, today a video appeared on YouTube that may yield the biggest hint of them all… if it can be believed. The video shows a puddle in the Arkham City museum (Penguin’s hideout) with an interesting reflection. If you look at it right, you can see a skyline in the puddle that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere in the room, or in the entire game world for that matter. In fact, the closest thing the image does resemble is the far-off skyline of Gotham City that you can view along the game’s edges. The nature of the mysterious reflection is exasperated by the fact that it is located next to a book that is otherwise illegible except for the word “Gotham” and a plaque that reveals the words “Sanity Fighting the Madness,” which was also a saying that appeared throughout “Arkham Asylum” in connection with warden Quincy Sharp.

Put it all together and you have a new theory in the works that says the next game will take place in Batman’s traditional stomping grounds of Gotham City.

Now, the uploader does point out that this puddle is a reused texture that is actually repeated throughout the game, but it is odd that the reflection is not as clear in other places as it is in that particular location with the Gotham book and Sharp’s mantra. While this is, admittedly, a pretty weak theory based solely on this evidence, there has long been the idea that the next game will take place in Gotham based off of the games’ other hints and the fact that there is little else to take the series.

If nothing else, it does make for an interesting “huh” moment to your day, as well as the excuse to play “Arkham City” again and scour every last detail.

The 2012 E3 Awards

Is another E3 already almost behind us?

Yes, yes it is. With as much that’s changed in the world of video games over the years, its somehow comforting to know that E3 is still around to exhibit the best of the industry in a big atmosphere way. Unfortunatley the age is starting to show on the old gal, and the show hasn’t been as captivating the last couple of years as it probably should have been. While this years was more of the same, there was still enough on exhibit to be worth talking about. It’s not quite done yet, but I’ve seen enough to start naming the best, worst, and most memorable of E3 2012.

Best Presentation – Sony

This is more of a choice made out of necessity than something I absolutely fell in love with. While there was very little mind blowing here, Sony managed to put together a tight presentation that was loaded with games that people actually came to see. While the storybook segment was a complete bomb, in the end Sony managed to show better than any other company that they have plenty of sure fire greatness ready for their fans. If only “The Last Guardian” had made a surprise appearance, this one might have been more memorable.

Worst Presentation – Microsoft

Poor Microsoft. Sure their market share an income is absurdly large, but they cannot seem to put together an E3 presentation that doesn’t make their fans feel awkward. While this years showing wasn’t as bad as last years Kinect centric, child actor filled disaster, it’s scarily close. Bad celebrity appearances, uninspiring game footage, and boring presentations more at home at lame board meetings than the world’s most extravagant trade show for your industry were the unfortunate highlights of this years Xbox showing.

Biggest Surefire Hit – “Assasins Creed 3″

“Assassins Creed” has been a money in the bank franchise since the series second installment. So far it looks like there is absolutely no reason to suspect any less out of the “Assassin’s Creed III”. What I love most about it is that Ubisoft has found a perfect way to make the franchise feel fresh again, by changing the time period and location to the rarely explored American Revolution, they also seem intent on really making everything that was great about the series perform at its absolute best. The jaw dropping E3 footage only confirms that this will most likely be the smoothest and most exciting “Assassin’s Creed” yet. Unlike the British troops in the game, this one isn’t likely to miss.

Biggest Surprise – “Watch Dogs”

Ubisoft strikes again. Garnering no real press prior to the event, the demo for Ubisoft’s “Watch Dogs” showcased something truly intriguing. You play as a man who has an incredible array of technological abilities that essentially give him super powers over the modern gadget obsessed world. The idea is cool enough, but the way that it seems to be implemented creates so much potential for amazing moments. The world of the game is also absolutely gorgeous, and begs you to re-watch the demo several times to gather all the little details. There is nothing like a fresh idea from an established developer, and Ubisoft seems to have exactly that.

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Hitman’s Greatest Hits

While most of the industry is withholding news until E3, an exciting new bit of game release info has managed to break through. Eurogamer.net stumbled upon an Italian retail site, 16games, that may have accidentally broke the news that Eidos’s “Hitman HD Collection” (containing “Hitman 2: Silent Assassin”, “Hitman: Contracts”, and “Hitman: Blood Money”) is coming out October 15th. The release date makes sense considering that the fifth game in the series, “Hitman: Absolution” is set for a November 20th release.

Much like other trilogy collections for “Splinter Cell“, “Metal Gear Solid“, and “Prince of Persia” this is a hell of a deal that anyone unfamiliar with the series, or looking to relieve it, should jump on. In fact, top to bottom quality wise this may be the best of the trilogy collections so far as the Hitman series got its successful formula down pat with “Hitman 2: Silent Assassin”, and has only been improving since.

Just like how the news of Max Payne 3 got me reminiscing, so does this. Here then are some of the best missions available from the installments featured on the upcoming greatest hits collection.

St. Petersburg Stakeout

“Hitman 2″ may have the best overall missions in all of the series. Many of them though are like this one and are actually half brilliant, half frustrating. For most of this mission you are sneaking through the sewers and avoiding sentries behind cars. It’s not a mission that really gives you the “kill em’ all” option if you desire. It’s the actual hit that makes it memorable though, as you have to kill a very specific target at a meeting…but you don’t know what he looks like. As your contact feeds you bits of information they have on the man, you must decide who at the meeting the real target is before it ends. The situation really puts you into the moments and leaves you walking away from the level feeling that it was a job truly well done.

Jacuzzi Job

Home invasion missions are “Hitman’s” bread and butter assignments, and this is one of the best. It’s one of the few missions without a briefing preceding it, and instead just tosses you into the fray. Scale wise the level is very small, but it offers quite a few ways to go about your business. Though it’s not the preferred method, there are few options more rewarding than simply busting through the door to the targets room and putting one in his head as he sits in his jacuzzi making you feel like a true hitter. It becomes one of the games most replayable assignments as it has no slow portions, and doesn’t punish you in any real way for however you choose to play it. Just as all the missions should be.

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