Two weeks ago, U.S. senator Josh Hawley of Missouri announced an intention to bring legislation against video game loot boxes being allowed in games for minors. The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act, or PCAGA, has been formally filed today and the text of the bill has been made available to the public for the first time, answering some questions but leaving a lot of wiggle room for many others.

You can find the full text of the bill here and a FAQ for it here. As it has not been formally read on the floor, it does not yet have a senate bill name, but it does have support from Republicans like Hawley as well as Democrats such as Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn). The bill does set out to do what Hawley described a few weeks ago, in that it establishes fines for any video game containing loot boxes or pay-to-win mechanics and even defines what those things look like.

From the bill’s text:

(8) LOOT BOX.—The term ‘‘loot box’’ means an add-on transaction to an interactive digital entertainment product that—
(A) in a randomized or partially randomized fashion—
(i) unlocks a feature of the product;
(ii) adds to or enhances the entertainment value of the product; or
(B) allows the user to make 1 or more additional add-on transactions—
(i) that the user could not have made without making the first add-on transaction; and
(ii) the content of which is unknown to the user until after the user has made the first add-on transaction.

That makes logical sense for how loot boxes work. Pay-to-win starts getting a little broad, however.

(A) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘‘pay-to-win microtransaction’’ means an add-on transaction to a
[sic] interactive digital entertainment product that—
(i) with respect to an interactive digital entertainment product that, from the perspective of a reasonable user of the product, is a game offering a scoring system, a set of goals to achieve, a set of rewards, or a sense of interactive progression through the product’s content including but not limited to narrative progression—
(I) eases a user’s progression through content otherwise available within the game without the purchase of such transaction;
(II) assists a user in accomplishing an achievement within the game that can otherwise be accomplished without the purchase of such transaction;
(III) assists a user in receiving an award associated with the game that is otherwise available in association with the game without the purchase of such transaction; or
(IV) permits a user to continue to access content of the game that had previously been accessible to the user but has been made inaccessible after the expiration of a timer or a number of gameplay attempts; or
(ii) with respect to an interactive digital entertainment product that, from the perspective of a reasonable user of the product, is a game featuring competition with other users, provides a user with a competitive advantage with respect to the game’s competitive aspects over users who do not make such a transaction. 

In essence, this part of the bill is extremely broad, and seems to paint multiple grievances with a wide brush. Starting from the bottom, banning microtransactions that provide competitive advantages in multiplayer games absolutely makes sense. The part about anything that makes narrative games easier being purchasable is rather strange, however. In this instance, DLC that includes weapons stronger than the base game (as a hypothetical example, let’s say Bloodborne’s Old Hunters DLC) could be caught in the same net as a mobile game that gives you stronger weapons for a transactional fee.

Perhaps the most concerning part, however, is the part of the bill that defines what makes a game aimed at minors.

(5) MINOR-ORIENTED GAME.—The term‘‘minor-oriented video game’’ means an interactive digital entertainment product for which the target audience is individuals under the age of 18, as may be demonstrated by—
(A) the subject matter of the product; 
(B) the visual content of the product;
(C) the music or audio content of the product;
(D) the use of animated characters or activities that appeal to individuals under the age of 18;
(E) the age of the characters or models in the product; (F) the presence in the product of—
(i) celebrities who are under the age of 18; or
(ii) celebrities who appeal to individuals under the age of 18;
(G) the language used in the product;
(H) the content of materials used to advertise the product and the platforms on which such materials appear;
(I) the content of any advertising materials that appear in the product;
(J) other reliable empirical evidence relating to—
(i) the composition of the audience of the product; or 
(ii) the audience of the product, as in tended by the publisher or distributor of the product; or
(K) other evidence demonstrating that the product is targeted at individuals under the age of 18.

Despite all the caveats and walls, this is absolutely not well-defined. The text of the bill defines any game that targets minors as anything all-ages, anything with celebrities that are themselves under the age of 18 or appeal to people under the age of 18, any game with cartoon characters, or ill-defined music, visuals, or subject criteria. What it doesn’t use as a definition for games sold to minors is any reference to the industry-regulated Entertainment Ratings Software Board, or ESRB.

The big problem here is that the definition of “games sold to minors” is at the heart of this bill. It is outwardly stating that loot boxes can not be in video games sold to minors, but this definition is so open to interpretation that most games can be included in this if someone squints hard enough. Which might be the point, an elimination of loot boxes and pay-to-win mechanics as a whole, but I am unsure that getting there through blurry and ill-defined passages actually accomplishes much good in the end.

While the bill has been filed, the Senate must approve a unanimous request to bring it to the floor or pass a motion to proceed. From there, the bill can be edited, amendments added, and the overall text discussed among the entire U.S. Senate.

This Monday, the Japanese apparel retailer Uniqlo revealed the winners of their annual T-Shirt design competition, with 2019’s theme being Pokémon. The winner, Li Wen Pei with his totem Magikarp and Gyrados design, would see his design in-game as a wearable T-shirt within the upcoming Pokémon Sword and Shield. However, following news that Li had previously made the design for phone cases before the contest, his design has been disqualified.

The contest’s rules state that submitted designs must be made specifically for the contest, which Li’s design unfortunately breaches.

Furthermore, no other contestants will receive the grand prize or see their designs in-game. The second prize is still second, third is still third, and so on.

[Source: Uniqlo via Serebii]

Netflix’s Marvel era is coming to an end, and Jessica Jones will be its last hurrah. After the cancellation of Luke Cage, Daredevil, and The Punisher, Netflix has confirmed in a YouTube promo that Jessica Jones’ third and final season will be coming in the first half of June. 

While very few details have been shared about what is to come, Rachel Taylor (Trish Walker), Eka Darville (Malcolm Ducasse), and Carrie Anne-Moss (Jeri Hogarth) will be returning alongside Krysten Ritter as the titular super-powered private eye. It’s safe to expect a trailer to drop sometime in the coming days. 

Netflix has been cancelling its Marvel shows in anticipation of Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+, taking over Marvel TV production. Disney has already confirmed shows about Loki, Scarlet Witch and Vision, and Hawkeye. More shows in the Marvel universe are planned for the next few years.

[Source: GameSpot]

Panache Digital Games’ Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, a game that tasks you with playing as a clan of apes through several generations, is releasing this summer for PC and in the winter for consoles.

This is the first title from Panache. The project is headed by Patrice Désilets, who is best known as the creative director of Assassin’s Creed titles up until Brotherhood. Ancestors is about survival, as you travel through Africa in both its forestry and savannas. You use your instincts and skills to ward off predators and learn new ways to stay alive.

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Ancestors releases for PC via the Epic Games store on August 27. As for consoles (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), it arrives in December. You can read our preview from earlier this year by heading here.

The idea of the preloaded console is not anything new, even before the days of licensed-but-why mini-Genesis units dusting up the floor of your local Target and Nintendo putting NES Minis on store shelves at their own personal whims. Consoles with preloaded libraries of time-release games are a little more novel, however, and consoles with preloaded libraries of time-release games with a crank are actually genuinely new.

Thus we come to the PlayDate, an all-yellow handheld from app developer Panic, whom you might know better as the publishers for Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game. Abruptly on Twitter today, the company revealed the new system, a Gameboy-like unit that comes with 12 games that release over a period of 12 weeks from developers like Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi and Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy creator, uh, Bennett Foddy.

The crank on the system doesn’t actually power it in anyway, in case you had ideas in your head of being outside and running low on battery and churning it to buy another few minutes of gameplay. It is actually a control mechanism which some games will use and others will not and acts as an addition to the D-Pad and two face buttons on the front.

Panic says they have been working on this item for four years now and plan to release it later in 2019, though they claim there are more surprises coming down the pike. Considering every game in it is a secret, I imagine surprises are this thing’s raison d’etre to begin with.

Note: Some mild spoilers for both Observation and the 2018 horror film Hereditary 

There’s this nugget of wisdom that writers like to say whenever the subject of innovation comes up: every story has already been told. The statement is probably right, but it isn’t even one of defeat. Instead, what it implies is that even though every story has been told, the real, exhilarating challenge for creators is finding new ways to tell the story. My Own Private Idaho, for example, is a version of Henry IV that uses Portland and modern language to tackle universal themes about duty, betrayal, and friendship. Or, for something more gamey, I think there’s a sound argument to be made that The Last Of Us is just another version of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. The specificity of the events in each story is different but the broad strokes are the same in the end: two characters traversing an unkind world, struggling to find a connection with one another as much as they are struggling to survive. 

Horror, perhaps like no other genre, bears the brunt of that distressing statement more than any other. How can you scare someone when their eyes are already searching the shadows for the boogeyman waiting to leap out, when they’ve seen 27 variations of this particular plot play out in other movies before, when they’ve become so desensitized to knives through the eyeballs and heads cleaved from necks? There are only so many stories about monsters and people and the shapes they come in, and yet in spite of that deficit of so-called innovation, horror persists, and it persists wonderfully.

Take Observation, the recently-released sci-fi horror adventure game from No Code. Observation approaches the traditional sci-fi horror staple of Artificial Intelligence Gone Awry from a fresh point of view: that of the artificial intelligence itself. Observation’s S.A.M. challenges the concept of the coldly detached sociopathic A.I. like Alien’s Mother or 2001‘s HAL by simply the virtue of you, a human being, playing the role. This novel twist lays the foundation for all of Observation’s strengths. Instead of being a weakling human running through the corridors of a broken space station, you’re the demigod trying to help (or harm?) that weakling.

Ari Aster’s film Hereditary

Observation excels because instead of taking power away from you and shoving you in a dangerous space, it lets you operate from a traditionally safe standpoint. You’re an A.I.: it’s impossible for you to suffer bodily harm. That’s a huge risk that No Code makes, making you not worry about your own safety but the safety of your human companion, Doctor Emma Fisher. This is a huge departure from horror games, where jump scares and monsters pursuing you to the ends of the earth serve as the traditional model of what a scary game should be. However, what I like most about Observation is that it packs its thrills and unsettling moments into its conceit in a natural, slow-burn way that mimics Emma and S.A.M’s co-dependent relationship as questions slowly unfold during your journey.

Just how did the space station fall apart? Who is responsible for all the troubles that Emma and her crew are suffering? Was it S.A.M, whose memory banks are conveniently wiped before the game begins, or something else? Can Emma trust you? Can you trust yourself?  The player, like S.A.M. and Emma, must face these questions head-on as they progress through the game and the pair’s relationship. Observation lurches into paranoia, eschewing jump scares for deeply unsettling paradoxes and stomach-churning plights of the soul. And during that time, the horror and possibility of danger emerges from the emotional tether you have to Emma. In the end, Observation is what the brilliant but flawed SOMA should have been: a game that has no need for actual roving monsters because its story, characters, mechanics, and setting all work together to present a powerfully disturbing and enticing experience.

In a lot of ways, Observation reminds me of Hereditary, a movie that marries grief to a Polanski-style descent into raving lunacy. For me, Hereditary‘s most powerful moment had nothing to do with blood or death but instead an argument screamed over a dinner scene where two people unleash their resentments and grief on another. It’s a raw, powerful sequence that really gives life to Hereditary’s despairing stance that family is not a place of sanctuary but instead one of doom. The movie reckons with the idea that family brings us into an existence where we’re doomed to die, where curses swim in our blood. The notion of generational curses in any medium is not new (One Hundred Years Of Solitude, An American Haunting, so on) since they’re rooted in folklore of various cultures. However, Hereditary mines that anxiety that we’re on trial for the sins and failures of our parents (and that our children will likely be on trial for our own failures) in a visceral way. Observation approaches the notion of surveillance and the idea that we’re completely removed from danger if we’re operating from a place of power in a similar, topsy-turvy fashion where nothing is sacred or safe no matter how powerful we think we are.

I truly believe that horror is probably the hardest genre to pull off because it requires its creator to be a skilled illusionist and manipulator, tricking their audience into thinking the same old story they’ve seen a hundred times is in fact something startling and new. Observation is a masterclass lesson in that particular art, and one that I hope the developers of tomorrow’s horror games take to bloody heart.

The massive success of Fortnite is old news, but sports icons like Michael Jordan are still able to capitalize on its continued popularity with its latest promotion deal. “Game Recognize Game”, Fortnite’s sneak peak slogan for the mash-up, couldn’t describe the deal better.

Following up the Avengers and John Wick, the Fortnite x Jordan event is showing what both parties can bring to the table. In the latest LTM, Downtown Drop, new cosmetics have hit the Fortnite store including the highly famed shoes. Though Michael Jordan has his name on this, the theme aims more towards skateboarding rather than basketball. Along with new character items, the event comes with an exclusive set of free challenges that give you rewards limited to this Michael Jordan promotion.

The event is currently live and ending on June 3rd at 5 pm CT. 

[Source: Eurogamer]

Just Cause 4 review screens

Following in the footsteps of Detective Pikachu, Rico Rodriguez is next to recieve the movie treatment. 

German production company Constantin Film has acquired the rights to the Just Cause game franchise, eyeing the potential for a film franchise. Coming just a day after the announcement of John Wick 4, John Wick creator and writer Derek Kolstad has been signed to pen the script. Just Cause isn’t the first Square Enix adaptation Kolstad has been attached to, either. In 2017, he was attached to write the pilot for a Hitman TV series for Hulu, though there is no word on the show’s current status. 

This is not Constantin Film’s first foray into the world of game adaptation, as the company is responsible for Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil franchise, which has netted over 1.2 billion dollars worldwide. This news also follows the $300 million dollar success of Warner Bros.’ Detective Pikachu

The movie will closely follow the game’s story, as Rico Rodriguez struggles to dismantle a lethal mercenary group called ‘The Black Hand’. While the casting for the film has not been announced, Aquaman star Jason Momoa was slated to fill Rico’s shoes as far back as 2017, and no announcements have been made as to whether or not he is still attached to the project. 

Filming is set to begin in 2020. 

[Source: Variety]

At the 2015 Game Awards, Psychonauts 2 was announced to the surprise and delight of many. At the same time, a crowdfunding campaign went along with it for a $3.3 million dollar goal, a small amount for a game of that size, and eventually hit $4 million by the end of the campaign. In the last four years, despite fairly frequent videos from the developers, there hasn’t been a particularly extensive blitz of footage and information about the game for the wider audience. That looks to be changing with an E3 panel next month.

The panel will be hosted by Tim Schafer, head of Double Fine, and Jack Black, who I believe is some sort of up-and-coming video game YouTuber that won a contest. It will be hosted by Geoff Keighley, who himself is host and chief of The Game Awards, and be a part of the E3 Coliseum. The group plans to talk about the game’s ongoing development and share new gameplay footage from the title, though it has not currently been said when it will take place.

Psychonauts 2 is theoretically being published by Starbreeze, though that future is very much in doubt. When asked, Schafer has previously said he believes Psychonauts 2 could find another publisher easily, so there’s probably not a lot of concern that the game will eventually come out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

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Frontier has just announced its ambitious Planet Coaster: Ghostbusters DLC for PC. The studio seems to be going all out for the new content pack to bring players an authentic Ghostbusters experience.

The content pack is said to include a fully-voiced, narrative campaign, featuring Dan Aykroyd and William Atherton themselves. It also comes with new in-game items such as, the interactive ghostbusting ride called ‘The Ghostbusting Experience’ and a slimer-themed kiddie coaster called the ‘RollerGhoster’.

Classic Ghostbuster characters also make an appearance, including Raymond Stantz, Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and a few more surprise faces. Lastly, it includes authentic scenery pieces and sounds right out of the original film, such as the Ghostbusters HQ, Ecto-1, and Ray Parker J’s unforgettable Ghostbusters theme.

Throughout the campaign, Dan Aykroyd mentors the players and helps them build their park and fight off ghostly issues that are thrown their way. Though nostalgia is a key factor in this DLC, players who have grown up without the classic movie can still find satisfaction in the campaign and build a strong coaster park with the new items.

Planet Coaster is no stranger to creating eccentrically themed parks, check out our cover of YouTuber Brad Hamilton’s Dishonored Planet Coaster build.