Category Archives: Gaming News

It was a quite a while back I first found out about Project Cars –

I can’t remember where or when exactly, but at the time I remember casually thinking I’d probably pick it up on Xbox 360 or whatever console I happened to have at the time it arrived – I do enjoy a good racing game, after all.

Fast forward a few years, and after numerous delays Project cars is here, and whilst it has since left older generations of console behind (sorry Wii-U lovers, that includes you too), Project Cars is finally here and has so far had a positive reception from most.

Hailing from plucky British startup Slightly Mad Studios, Project Cars resorted to crowd-funding on Kickstarter, which – like other crowd-funded success stories – has since amassed a growing community of loyal fans, who became deeply involved in the game’s development process.

Backers had the opportunity to choose which cars, racing formulae and tracks would be included in the finished product, and ultimately helped shape the finished product which I was finally lucky enough to get my hands on a few weeks back.

With a next-gen game such as this to review, I even gave my PC a fresh pair of graphical legs in the form of a very powerful GTX 970 graphics card – but as I quickly found out, power isn’t everything (more on this later).

Project Cars is as close to a simulator as you’re likely to get in a modern racing game, with Assetto Corsa being the only rival on PC; whereas console owners have the more arcade-like, but equally brilliant Forza Motorsport 5 to turn to on Xbox One, PS4 owners are rather more unfortunately lumped with the horrendously unfinished DriveClub.

Whilst on the surface Project Cars is a slightly more home-brewed affair, underneath lurks a behemoth of a game, featuring incredibly lifelike recreations of some of the world’s finest tracks, such as Germany’s full Nurburgring Nordschleife, Le Mans, Monza, Spa and Britain’s Silverstone, Brands Hatch and many more.

The whole gamut of racing formula are catered for, from go-karts to LMP1 endurance racing and Formula A single-seater cars (notice, they’re not called Formula 1 – likely because of the huge cost of licensing).  Whether you’d prefer to race an Caterham 7 or an Aerial Atom, a Ford Focus or a Maclaren P1, you’ll get your fix with this particular racer.

Fortunately, there’s little dictation as to where you can start the game’s career mode.  You could either start off in go karts and work your way up, taking offers of participation in open events along the way, or – if you feel you have the skill – you can jump straight into the top flight and compete in the top flight of motor racing.

If you would rather take it a little easier, then Project Cars offers a free practice mode where you can pick the car and track of your choice, and blast away ’til your heart’s content; or alternatively settle in for a quick race weekend in the class of your choice.

The online game mode lets you jump into a race with other drivers, or create your own – should you prefer.  Be warned though, you’ll need to pay close attention to the cars other drivers are choosing and make sure you pick something suitable to keep up.  If you think you’ll get away with Need For Speed-esque corner cutting, you’ll be sorely mistaken; commit racing crimes such as these and your power will be cut, or you’ll lose out on a lap-time.

Creating your own race allows you to choose which driver aids are allowed, the class of cars that are eligible, and which tracks you’ll be competing on – perfect for groups of friends and online car clubs alike.

The Driver Network is Project Cars’ online playground, where you’re given the chance to compete with ghost times of other racers in the community on daily or weekly challenges across a variety of classes and tracks.  I found this more fun than the outright online mode, partly because competing on a kind of time-trial basis always seemed to be more fun and fair.

For those of you looking for the ultimate racing experience with wheel and all, you can set up the game to suit your exact level of skill, but if you’re a bit of a Sunday driver, then fortunately there is a vast array of driver aids which can be turned on.  AI can also be tweaked so that you can ensure your opponents are of a similar driving skill to your own, rather than feeling left behind – or indeed leaving them for dust.

Unlike Forza, GRID and other modern console racers, the racing is a little less forgiving as there is no rewind options – if you mess up, you’ll simply have to swallow your pride and get on with it, or restart the session and try again.

There are no experience points to worry about though, progression is made through the results you attain, which opens up offers from teams in the higher formulae with options available at the end of each season for you to choose your next logical progression.

The look and feel of Project Cars is its biggest attraction; not only does it look absolutely gorgeous (provided you’ve got a powerful enough PC), but the feedback you get from each car is incredibly realistic – even with the Xbox 360 pad I was using (sorry, I don’t have the budget for the proper wheel setup I’d really want).

Every rumble, kerb and bump in the road seems to come through the controller with vivid realism – a feature I’m told is even more pronounced on the Xbox One pad.  These subtle nuances make each type of car feel markedly different to control, meaning you simply can’t jump straight from a kart to a performance car, and master the handling in each straight away. This is why I decided to start off in karts and climb my way up the ladder.

The visuals most definitely seal the deal when it comes to accurately recreating the thrill of Eau Rouge at Spa Francorchamps, or the Porsche curves of Le Mans.  The weather effects are thoroughly next-gen and the detail of each car is quite stunning, especially in the cockpit view.

There are moments where the limited budget shines through, but it’s largely in the fit and finish of the game rather than the actual content than underpins it.

For many people, part of the joy of owning a high-end gaming PC is that you can whack all the settings up to their highest, sit back, and enjoy the console-crushing graphical quality.  Project Cars was the first game to eat my PC alive – and that was after I’d dropped over £250 on a brand new NVIDIA GTX 970 graphics card to play it with.

I first let NVIDIA’s own software set the game to the settings it thought my PC could handle, and I was slightly disappointed to see the visual quality slider bar be below half way; still I fired up Project Cars and got stuck into a couple of blasts in the quick play mode.

Unfortunately, NVIDIA had still been a little optimistic – or so I thought. I fiddled with the settings and turned down things I thought wouldn’t be necessary, and slowly started to see Project Cars change from a 2015’s most beautiful racing simulator into something more reminiscent of 2010.

After further fiddling, I seemed to be getting nowhere, and was becoming increasingly infuriated by a maddening judder that occurred throughout some – but not all -of the races.  After turning to a variety of forums for help, I checked various things – was my CPU bottlenecking performance? Not really.  Was my PC overheating? Nope.

After trying various other suggestions, I went back to fiddling myself, and decided to take the wild decision of turning V-Sync on.  I jumped back into a game and immediately I could see the difference.  Seemingly the game engine was getting too ahead of itself and not synchronising the frame-rate correctly, which made sense considering the annoying juddering, rather than lack of out-right frame rate I was experiencing.

So with v-sync on, and a little more testing, I finally started to get a much more playable experience, but still not with all the settings on that I had thought would be possible.  From all that I’ve read on forums, it ultimately seems that Project Cars has been poorly optimised for the wide range of PC specifications out there, and for some people with AMD GPUs, has been a bit of a nightmare.

These frustrations were a big of a blow for me – and many others – after waiting so long for this game to arrive.  Console gamers are reporting considerably less issues – as you’d expect on the standardised machines they’re playing on.  When you’re playing a game on PC that boasts so much potential – including 4K graphics if you’ve got many thousands of pounds worth of equipment – having to turn settings down and mess around so much to get a playable experience rather spoilt it.

Of course, for all those out there experiencing issues, there are many who have had a delightfully problem-free experience with Project Cars.  If you take into account the stunning visuals, perfect handling and wide assortment of tracks and cars, Project Cars stands way above any of its competitors.

If you are a console gamer then Project Cars is the closest you’ll get to a racing simulator, and has considerably more to offer than most. With PC patches promised and additional content a certainty, I’ll hang on with Project Cars, and hope that the slight performance issues that marred my experience are soon ironed out.

By Ben Stinson

Put on your wellies and dungarees. Farming Simulator 2015 has arrived on Xbox One and Xbox 360!

Take to the fields on your own and turn a few plots of land into a sprawling countryside business, or join up to five of your friends in online multiplayer to split the workload, and the rewards!

The Farming Simulator games have been around on PC since 2007, but this has been my first experience with the series. The build up prior to the games release had been a little hit and miss in terms of reaction from gamers ranging from the entire concept being mocked and laughed at by most, to what I have to say seemed like a bizarre level of excitement from others. It was that excited group who simply couldn’t wait for Farming Simulator 2015 to arrive that peaked my own interest – there had to be something enjoyable about this, and that has proved to be the case.

 

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I have absolutely no interest in farming but what I do enjoy are strategy and simulation games, and Farming Simulator 2015 combines the best of both genres and does a great job of it too. Such a good job in fact that it’s very easy to completely forget yourself, and to forget the fact that you’re quite simply driving a Combine Harvester up and down a field, straight line after straight line, and before you know it your dinner is cold. The cup of tea my girlfriend brought me is stone cold. Hours have passed by and you had absolutely no idea!

There are two game modes for you to choose from. In Career mode you go it alone starting with just three fields, in your choice of two destinations (one in the USA and one slap bang in the middle of Scandinavia). Depending on the difficulty setting you have chosen the assets you begin with will differ. Being new to the series I chose to take the easy option, but even then I was in debt to the bank from the very start! On the plus side I had a ready-to-harvest field of wheat and after a short tutorial process getting me to grips with vehicle controls and selling crops, my farming career had begun.

 

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The game is not as simple as planting seeds, waiting for them to grow, harvesting them and then selling your yield. It is much more in-depth than that… much, much more, in-depth. There are a variety of seeds you can plant in your fields. You may find yourself needing new vehicle parts, or entirely new vehicles, to harvest different crops and there are well over 100 different vehicles in the game allowing you to start up a number of income streams. Stick to fields and crops, opt to herd cattle and keep chickens and sheep too. When you have money to burn, which will take some time, you can place Solar Panels on your lands which will earn you a healthy daily return and the same can be said of Wind Turbines, which cost a measly 1.25 million. Bargain right?

Whatever you choose to do you will need to use your head to plan what needs to be done and in what order to get the best return from your efforts. For example while you harvest a field, you can hire a worker to use another tractor to come along behind you cultivating so the field is ready for more seeds – and behind him, hire another worker to sow those seeds! A little bit of thinking and strategy can play a big part in your success, or failure.

If you get a little lonely, don’t panic! Farming Simulator 2015 supports up to six player multiplayer, allowing you to split the workload and the rewards with your Xbox Live friends. Jump into a party and lose yourselves as you discuss who’s doing what, decide on important purchases which will benefit your farm or just do what our News Editor did last night, and face-plant your tractor into the floor while attempting to pull wheelies. The point is whatever you decide to do in multiplayer there is plenty of fun to be had despite the fact that you’re all just driving around in tractors and other farm equipment. With no interest in farming before this game, I too thought this had no right to be enjoyable, but it has proved me completely wrong.

 

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One criticism of the multiplayer mode, for now at least, is the stability. Personally I’ve had next to no lag issues whatsoever, but a few others who I’ve been playing with have done – and at times it seems to be quite bad. Hopefully that will improve in the near future.

When the hard work is done, you need to cash in on your goods. There are a number of buildings and outlets scattered around the open world maps which all have unique uses. Take your harvest to the Train Station to sell, head to the Shop to collect any new farm vehicles or equipment you buy or to sell old machines you no longer need, head to the Petrol Stations to fill up your Tractors and Harvesters before they’re off the road or head to the Job Boards to see if there are any urgent, well paying orders that you and your workers or friends could fulfil. You’ll also come across Warehouses, Diners, Biogas Plants, Restaurants, Lumber yards, Biomass Heating Plants, Garden Centres and Flour Mills.

The in-game visuals are nothing special by today’s standards, but they are plenty good enough to keep your interest from waning. Frame-rates can at times leave you with slightly jaded animation too but again, it’s really not noticeable enough to detract from the games appeal. The sound on the other hand is quite impressive, with different vehicles sounding different which certainly adds to the feeling of being there on an actual working farm. The controls can be a little tricky to master at first, but Farming Simulator 2015 does a great job of helping you from the very start showing you clearly what buttons do what in each vehicle and once you’ve got them down, you can turn off the automatic tips.

Personally I will be going back to Farming Simulator 2015 again and again. It’s strangely therapeutic and great to play with friends. I will eventually go back to Career Mode too and try to bag some achievements, which at first glimpse sound like a real challenge, but who doesn’t like a challenge?!

So if you’re looking for something a little different to give yourself a breather and some time away from the Battlefield Hardline, the Dying Light, the Destiny, and you’ve enjoyed tycoon games in the past, Farming Simulator 2015 is exactly what you need.

Out now on XBox One and Xbox 360 (both tested) and PS4, PS3 and PC, Mac, PSVita and 3DS

By Scott Hutcheson

Can’t wait till October for a new Assassin’s game? Now you don’t need to!

Ubisoft, ever trying to expand the game universe of Assassin’s Creed, has delivered the first of three games in this ‘chronicles’ set. They are a set of 2.5D adventures in various historical settings, telling us new stories from the Assassin’s Creed universe. This first title in the series is set in China and features a young girl called Shau Jun, the last remaining assassin in China. She of the short film ‘Embers’.

If you were to ask us to cut to the chase to describe this game it would be… Stealth Inc meets Spiderman on the original DS, meets the art style of LostWinds from the Wii and maybe a challenge map from a recent Batman game. Of course the game has Assassin’s Creed’s gameplay mechanics, especially for the combat, and acrobatics but the core gameplay is not like Assassin’s Creed at all.

Of course this might be refreshing for you, and to be fair as the game feels most alike Stealth Inc, (and to be fair Mark of the Ninja, released a while back) this means that the template it follows is reliable and proven. Chronicles does deliver, whilst it’s not game of the year, it is a satisfying challenge. The word ‘fun’ might be pushing the limits of description, but a satisfying challenge feels right. Each level is in effect a series of rooms to work through with one main mission with sub missions (collect 3 of this, 5 of that), alongside. Work through a room, and then run through into the next space.

 

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Each space is setup with guards patrolling. You can use the Eagle vision to see their routes, or just watch them over time. Each guard is a like a security camera in that they have a cone of vision. This moves as they move, and they can look up or down. If they hear a sound, they investigate, but after around 10 seconds any alert they are responding to ends, should you find a way of going back into the shadows. They will then revert back to their patrol. The game at times pushes the acrobatic element of the series, encouraging you to run through areas, and sometimes even gives you a choice in routes or how to tackle a room.

Combat itself is based on that in the series, but where as in the original games it is possible to be a pretty good fighter, here you really can’t take on more than two enemies at once. This game is all about hiding and assassinating, not brawling. Don’t think that just because it is 2.5D you can swish around the place like the recent Strider remake. You cannot. In ACC: China you need plan your routes and utilise sound to distract guards. Become too reckless and you’ll be quickly killed.

Overall we recommend this game. The sound design is good and the art style is lovely. Not only that but when compared to it’s big brethren it seems bug free! Overall a good start to this trio of games. However time will tell if game 2 and 3 will simply be level packs with a change in art setting. For now check out Assassin’s Creed Chronicles China on Xbox One. Also out on PSN and PC.

By Steven Gurevits. Thanks to Xbox for providing the review copy.

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The Swapper is an extraordinary game puzzle game that is fascinating and brilliant.

The sheer joy of solving the complex puzzles will surely bring a smile to any gamer’s face. Introducing new mechanics to puzzle games are usually hit and miss, but it works wonderfully in The Swapper. Believe me when I say this; it’s nothing like you’ve experienced before.

The Swapper borrows a few things from 8 and 16 bit platformers and transforms the style to make the game what it is. With the art style (The main character was hand crafted in clay) being as detailed as it is, the environment is truly beautiful and makes the story stand out that much more. The Swapper’s plot begins as a stereotypical story set in space with a mysterious voice speaking strange phrases as you go into certain areas. At first, you’ll be confused at what’s happening and on the surface, it may seem extremely complex, but it’s surprisingly easy to follow. As the game continues, you will ruin into memory terminals that reveal the history of what has happened and give you some idea of what exactly occurred. The great thing I love about The Swapper is that the story doesn’t feel tacked on, or rather, an afterthought with the great gameplay. It flows perfectly with the setting of the game.

I’ll say this once again; The Swapper is one damn beautiful game. With the main character crafted from clay, it blends perfectly with the lighting and makes the atmosphere that much more engrossing. The game suffers no hiccups or frame rate drops when swapping to your clones or doing the simple platforming the game requires you to do. The world of The Swapper is so overpowering visually that it’s worth it to stop solving the puzzle and admire the area around you. The sound, like the graphics, is superb. The voices are a bit uneasy, but it is supposed to be that way. It is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable and lead to something spectacular at the end. The music of The Swapper is something that works wonders, the subtle glitching ties in with the eerie piano perfectly giving nice ambiance that is something equally sci-fi and classical at the same time.

The Swapper’s main mechanic revolves around a gun (named the swapper), and it allows you to make up to four clones and the ability to swap to a specific clone. These clones mirror exactly what you do. For instance, if you move right, all your clones will move right. You jump, they jump, etc. By using these clones correctly, you can solve the puzzles that you couldn’t do on your own. These puzzles usually consists stepping on a special plate to activate numerous things such as turning off lights, opening barriers, etc. In addition, there are coloured lights within certain puzzles that will not let you simply create clones and swapping to them. That’s where the beauty of the game shines. It never seems too difficult or too easy and it makes great use of the different mechanics that you are taught going through the game. The feeling one gets after solving a difficult puzzle is so rewarding that you’ll be looking forward to the next puzzle. Another mechanic to note when you use the swapper gun, time slows down around you. You could be falling to your death and with a quick pull of the trigger, you can add a clone and swap safely on a platform to avoid your untimely death. These mechanics may seem simple on the surface, but they are deep when used properly to solve the hardest of puzzles.

 

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After finishing The Swapper, there was a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Not only did I absorb everything the game threw at me puzzle wise, but I felt that all the work with the storytelling, graphics and sound were presently perfectly. Many puzzle games nowadays usually get a few things right and the story isn’t one of them. Thankfully that’s not the case with The Swapper. It is a beautiful game with a fantastic story and even better gameplay. You will not be disappointed.

By Scott Hutcheson

Welcome To the Community

It has to be said that a more technological world has many benefits across all walks of life, and as a gamer those benefits are many. To see a closet fanbase transform in to a worldwide community over the space of a decade really is something to be immensely proud to be a part of. There are many things that we as gamers owe our thanks to, but on the whole, it is we the gamers that have completely transformed the world that we live and game in. It’s hard not to be amazed for instance that people can make a living playing games when not even five years ago that would not even have been possible. The evolution of the world around us has aided in our progression to becoming one of the most lucrative entertainment industries in the world.

It seems that at its core, the community itself was the initial catalyst for change. That initial competition between long standing console king, the PlayStation and the new kid on the block Xbox saw the real start of a new age in gaming. Sure, there had been developments, arcade style had been practically phased out with a shift more towards story based journeys as well as playing with new physics engines. The almost comic approach to video games moving further in to the more gritty and darker sides. The First Person Shooter for instance transitioning from the classic styling of Doom and Quake to a thoroughly 3D and physics heavy world in Half-Life really changed the pace. On top of that, with the technology giant Microsoft jumping on board with the Xbox, far more funding was pumped in to the production cycle, seeing a whole new generation begin with titles like Halo CE. The financial risks were there, and both Sony and Microsoft alike were taking financial gambles funnelling quite so much in to the games industry, but it proved to be an absolute success. From the Halo franchise to one off titles like Shadows of the Colossus, not only were games starting to prove that they were more than just a cheesy gimmick, but they had now found an absolute cult following, spawning fan bases that still exist today. In the arcade era, there was no guarantee that a game would last long at all, some got lucky and some just vanished, and as much as that is still the case today even with AAA titles, the legacy that each game leaves is far more pronounced.

With the increase in business that the industry found in its hands, there was absolutely a need to expand, meeting the demand and looking to stretch the possibilities yet further. Many companies now started hiring from within their fan bases, seeing an industry funded now more than ever not only by money, but by a love of the experience both pre and post production. Like the world of comic books, kids who were inspired by the graphical styles in games would grow to become concept artists and designers. Musicians would look towards the game soundtrack to find their new destiny. With each corner of the process receiving more attention and love, the quality would increase blasting the love and support yet further in to overdrive. It wasn’t just the improvement of available technology that aided this growth, it was the skill of those who were entering the industry itself. There is now an expansion to support almost all aspects that you could wish to play with. Fast paced FPS could stand beside Rhythm games and even puzzles as equally loved and supported genres. And even though the life cycles of these genres may vary, there can be no denying their potency, each leaving its mark on the industry.

The world is changing with gaming sitting snuggly right in the heart of it all, finally earning the respect it deserved all those years ago. With many now willing to see games as an art form for instance, there is a greater sense of legitimacy on a professional level and with the entrance of e-sports and the YouTube/Twitch culture, a completely new way of life has begun. Here therefore stands the second part of what’s needing thanks, and strangely it’s Google. Now that’s not to say that YouTube gaming didn’t exist before Google bought YouTube, but when they did, it ushered in ad revenue and so the possibility to make real money from the content that you do create.  This didn’t just benefit gamers either, from vloggers to animators, this opened up a whole new platform not only to be seen and heard through, but all to gain a following and make a living from. Companies from SourceFed to Rooster Teeth are blatant examples of companies gaining a foothold thanks to the YouTube platform. Even ignoring the companies, it’s hard to miss the presence of the solo content creators, and who better to look at than PewDiePie, the most subscribed channel on YouTube and one of the biggest YouTube success stories, not only able to support himself while making videos from his room, but moving out to Italy and now the UK and being responsible for a very iconic style of content creation even within the gaming side of YouTube. This new lifestyle still manages to baffle many, the concept of being paid to play games for a living doesn’t seem to make sense to the older generations, and yet we have found a way to make doing what you love a feasible lifestyle.

COD clearly benefited from the rise of the Youtube and social media, connected generation

YouTube was just the first wave however, because there was still another few steps yet to come. Pre-recording content and editing to release on the YouTube platform was one thing, but Twitch really called in to play the next stage of this journey, live streaming. Although this may seem like the same gig, it is subtly different. With edited videos, you have the luxury of cutting out content that kills pace or just isn’t interesting, keeping the final product engaging from beginning to end, and yet with live streamed content you don’t have that safety net, people see that whole process and your success hinges on your ability to hold your energy consistently and remain engaging to the audience. People can come and go when they so choose, but with the chat system accompanying the streams, it’s created small sub communities within the larger one, with people flocking back sometimes daily to see their favourite streamers play a game. Even then, it’s still more than that however, you’re not just watching a game be played, you’re taking part in the experience, sharing the journey with the streamer and often adding to it with the chat interaction. Thanks to the way that Twitch was set up, it’s also possible to make a living playing games live now as well and so the foothold we have as an industry and as a community just gets stronger and stronger. From sponsorships to ad revenue and even subscriptions, the pool of possible incomes is growing steadily allowing thousands of gamers the world over to find their place sharing their joy and their mastery of games with others as a permanent lifestyle.

At the top of this system currently stands e-sports, the pinnacle of the gamer pedigree. This isn’t simply gaming for the sake of gaming, this is the best of the best facing off for glory and some serious prize money. A heavily slated concept outside of the gaming spheres, e-sports are rapidly proving themselves to be a hugely successful venture, bringing in not hundreds, but thousands to witness the events live, filling stadiums and then thousands more again watching it all on live streams. Seemingly defying the TV and film model of building a viewership, the e-sports industry has taken the world by storm, causing the need for dedicated e-sport arenas to be built. The argument built against e-sports seemed to be wouldn’t you rather play the game yourself than watch others play it? This having been put forward by the likes of BBC Sport when doing a feature about the rise of e-sports, despite the fact that the same question could be asked of any sport. Like rugby and football for instance, going to a stadium to watch these pros doesn’t take away from the desire to play, you go there to see professionals, people at the top of their game playing in a way that you could never experience just in a casual lobby. This is a whole other level of gamer, those willing to dedicate hours of every day to perfecting their craft for the honour of competing on a global stage with players who have proved themselves by building some of the most impressive stats and skills you will ever witness.

Minecraft, officially the most popular game on Youtube.

Having said all that, what truly binds all of this together and gives it the real meaning is the community itself. From the professionals to the casuals, the creators and the consumers, this is one of the most cherished and powerful families around. We have our hiccups, unfinished paid pre-alpha titles being a prime example. What shouts even louder than our failings however is what we have achieved, our love causes a desire to create and to expand, which in turn will develop more love elsewhere. Gaming is not just a gift that keeps on giving, it is a way of life. Games have inspired people to dream of something more and actually work towards making it a reality. Gaming brought to the table social issues that had to be addressed and actually tackled them. Gaming came from technological developments and now in turn it gives back by creating its own technological gifts. Gaming isn’t just great because you can lose some hours in to a good story, gaming is great because it has created so much more. As a community we have already achieved so much and we’re so far from being done with that kind of progression. It is with no surprise that I can have such pride in being a part of the community, as a consumer, as a writer and as a streamer. It is for the love of the game that we came together and it has made us stronger, so from one gamer to another, welcome to the community.

by Gareth Druyii Hansford