inGame Update 7/2018

Although our blogging has been on a bit of a hiatus… inGame is in great shape these days.

Updates

Spring 2018 semester was marked by several events and achievements of note:

  • inGame participated in Gaming @ IU’s eSports ‘meet and greet’ event on January 18th  in the Franklin Hall commons. There, we met several on-campus groups and educators working to institutionalize eSports on campus. It was nice to introduce ourselves and say ‘hello!’
  • Tespa Spring Series: Overwatch – Arena
    • Our local contingent of Overwatch players participated in Tespa’s Spring tournament, finishing 145th out of 278 competing teams (rank: 1196, 5W – 3L). Having played together for the better part of a year, our experience cooperating as a team showed marked improvement. Our practice sessions on Saturdays have incorporated more tactical analysis and situational strategy assessment, and we’ve developed a more consistent shot-calling system to improve the team’s focus. Though our participation in the single-elimination tournament was short, we did not lose sleep over it knowing this was our first match-up against several Top 500 players in North America!
  • Ballantine’s Scepter, our DOTA 2 team, has finished their season with a game win record of 6-10 in Conference 10. We worked on coming together as a team and each of us become much more comfortable in our roles. Shot calling and team strategy is something that we continue to work on, as we see it improves our play. While we did not make the playoff bracket we did take games off of the top teams in our bracket, and every loss was a hard fought battle. We look forward to next semester and making the playoffs!
  • LuddyFest
    • The inauguration of Luddy Hall, the new building for the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering (SICE), was marked by a week long coordination of events. Some highlighted existing research going on within the School, including the “Video Game Night” event that our group hosted. SICE helped us in sponsoring a dinner, Overwatch League viewing party, and emulated game arcade experience. This also included a series of ‘lightning talks’ by scholars on campus studying video games in some way. We invited Jess Thompson, Stephen Tsung-Han Sher, Yu Ra Kim, Brian Harper, Iris Bull, Lucas Kempe-Cook, Javon Goard, and Tristan Gohring to discuss their research.
    • Iris, Lucas, Javon, and Tristan recorded audio of their panel discussion about toxicity in online gaming environments. You can access and listen to that recording here. This presentation reflects a paper we’ve been collaborating on while working and playing together while part of inGame. The paper was recently accepted to the 8th Annual International Symposium on Digital Ethics and awarded Top Student Paper; we will submit it to the Journal of Media Ethics by the end of the year.
    • After the panel session, the ingame Overwatch team matched up with folks over at the University of Nevada-Reno for some skirmishes. Gaming at IU was kind enough to spectate a fly-over of the game, which you can watch here. We also recorded one perspective of the warm-up and custom game here.

We have principally enjoyed our summer months gaming together on Saturdays at 10am in Franklin Hall. Of course, everyone is welcome to attend these sessions. We regularly have 6-7 grouping up for casual games of Overwatch, and we continue to recruit others from courses we’re involved in teaching and taking this summer session. We are also working on planning more friendly competitive games with other schools, and taking field trips to eSports-related places around the state of Indiana. More recently (June 23) we took an invitation to visit the Game On eSports Center in Westfield, Indiana.

Traveling to Game On was a 180 mile round trip, and we had a lot of fun carpooling because it was an opportunity to talk about (among other things) current Overwatch meta strategies (what with the release of new characters into the game). None of us were sure what to expect, so for the most part we were looking to have some fun playing casually on different rigs and soaking in the arcade-like atmosphere of the venue. In the best case scenario, we were hoping to find a venue where we could host tournament or competitive gaming sessions with other teams in the Midwest.

Even though this information is posted on their website, most of us were not aware that the venue was adjoined to The Pacers Athletic Center. We were a little surprised to find an eSports-focused venue saddled next to a massive gymnasium, where kids and parents were clearly engaged in some kind of summer basketball camp. When we arrived the large open room was warm and relatively empty, but everything looked well-lit and comfortable for an extended gaming session. Each rig had a large monitor and very comfortable chair, and an easy access port for plugging in your own peripheral. A row of Xbox consoles lined one wall, while several rows of PCs filled the middle of the room. A stream/casting station sat on an elevated platform in the back of the room, with a camera and basic light kit in full display. A staff and concessions stand occupied one of the back corners. We could by candy bars and hot pockets if our hearts so desired.

We arrived to welcoming staff who encouraged us to work at their most stable bank of computers. Staff provided us with administrative access to the consoles and comped our fee for playing for the day. Some of us were surprised to learn that the computers were crypto-mining by default (explaining why the room was so warm), but staff disabled the miners before we started playing so that they wouldn’t interfere with the software we intended to use. Still, almost everyone had some problem with Overwatch when they launched the game, if they could manage to launch the game at all. Alex and Everett had trouble logging into their Battle.net accounts and launching the game; both ended up needing to reinstall the game before achieving some mild success, but in both cases they ended up moving to different machines because the game still wasn’t stable after re-installation. Iris and Trae didn’t have any trouble logging in, but the screen tear and latency on the machines was absolutely nauseating at first. Iris had a particularly bad time at first because she was trying to stream the game, and it took her a while to realize that the rig she was working on had an i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM installed (very insufficient for that kind of task). After doing some investigating, we figured out that the machines were neither standardized in terms of hardware installed, nor consistently optimized for particularly routine gaming tasks. Lucas, our resident tournament specialist, noted that the monitors would not meet regulation for DOTA 2 tournaments because they were larger than the standard 24″ required. Additionally, some monitors were capable of 144 hz, but configured to 60 hz by default; some computers had 8GB of RAM installed, some had 16GB. Staff, while as helpful and friendly as they could possibly be, were not trained on the specific configurations of the computers, and didn’t really understand the significance of the specs required for achieving a high degree of performance integrity. In the end, we spent half of our time there learning about and troubleshooting the machines themselves, trying to optimize the equipment we had specifically for Overwatch play.

Recording of our session at Game On  [Part 1] [Part 2]

Still, we had some fun and we took the opportunity on the way home to stop in for some Ethiopian cuisine for dinner. All in all, a very successful and educational trip. We are so thankful for the invitation to visit Game On!

Looking Forward

Now that it is July and summer is basically over (/sarcasm), most of us at inGame are in the middle of moving residences, taking qualifying exams, and gaming everyday. We intend to start ramping up efforts to recruit new members in August. One of our goals this year is to invite speakers to campus and host more intellectual discussions related to game development and game playing. Oh yeah, and work on updating our website with more pictures and information about what we’re doing all the time.

I think we’re making progress!

Javon is planning to present his work at Blerdcon 2018 on July 29th — looks to be an excellent panel presentation on gamifying blackness. Alex is performing archival work as a research fellow at the Strong National Museum of Play in the months of July and August. Lucas, Iris, Javon, and Tristan will be presenting their work on toxicity in gaming again at GenCon this coming August, as well.  We are also looking forward to the 8th Annual International Symposium on Digital Ethics this coming November. Much to look forward to!

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