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2019 L.A. Games Conference: Games Happenings at the Next Level!

Introduction to the 2019 L.A. Games Conference

The L.A. Games Conference is an annual event where the movers and shakers in the gaming and technology industry meet to discuss topics that range from how best to monetize gaming ventures, to the different types of gaming to diversity as well as the inclusion of women in this multi-billion dollar industry.  

The conference was held on May 7, 2019 at the W Hotel located in Hollywood, California. In this information-filled one day conference,  you get the opportunity to be among and even network with the top-decision-makers in gaming. I attended to cover the event for allgames.com; however, if I had chosen to go on my own -- I would have been required to spend upwards to $1,000 to do so. After attending, I will add the cost would have probably been worth it.

A few years ago when I attended the L.A. Games Conference, the focus was on virtual reality, mobile gaming and ways to monetize gaming.  There was even a panel of venture capitalists at the conference discussing the monetizing aspects of gaming. This year, even though virtual reality was touched upon as a discussion topic, the focus seemed to have shifted to eSports. Of course monetizing remained a topic of interest as well.  Other topics discussed by various panelists included diversity and women in gaming.

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Virtual Hollywood Panel Discussion

The highlight of this panel discussion was how to get into a sustainable gaming business.  It really boils down to what customers want. In other words, it is not enough to just put “stuff” out there, but it must be something that locks in with the audience.  A key word used in this discussion was "adoption." Audiences not only have to want what is put before them but they will also have to adopt it as well.

Of course, it’s still true that content is king.  There was a lot of discussion in the area of exactly who one would want to work with on a new game. It seemed to be the consensus that “experience counts.”  In other words, to ensure a game or venture is a success, it is best to obtain skilled, experienced people, or someone who has done a similar job before. This is not a quick process. For example, it is not unheard of for projects to take years before they finally come to fruition.

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Not to leave the new people entering the gaming business out -- industry is interested in budding talent as well.  However, during the discussion it seemed as if the agreement among the panelists was that hiring and retaining talented and experienced personnel was a win-win situation.  In hiring experienced people, it was pointed out to choose risk takers as well, or those who have a plethora of failure as a means to learn from those type scenarios.

On a technical note, Virtual Reality (VR) versus Extended Reality (XR) was discussed. It was mentioned the difference between the two is social and one is not as isolated as the other.

Moving on to the business side, a problem sited was that people mesh the sale of a product and marketing together. Ted Schilowitz, Futurist from Paramount indicated these two entities should be kept separate. Additionally there needs to be a means to build new revenue. The art of storytelling is important as well in VR.

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Women in Gaming

Several women on the panel discussed how they entered or were introduced to the gaming industry.  Two of the five women stated they sort of “fell in to it.” There was an interesting discussion about being labeled or called a “gamer”, with several women saying that they considered themselves gamers, even though there may be a stigma surrounding this term. 

All of the women did not “fall” into gaming.  One of the women decision-makers on the panel stated she started as an intern at her company and moved up to management. One woman had no actual gaming experience, but spent 12 years in mobile gaming which she indicated is now her passion.

In my opinion, wise words spoken were that it is great to have women in the gaming industry, but there must be a culture of support.  Additionally, the culture has to be created where women are welcome and where they feel comfortable to work. On the other side of the coin, it was pointed out that women need to have the confidence to speak up -- even if they may be the only woman at a meeting, gathering, etc.  From industry's perspective, it’s important to pay attention to the mix of personnel in the gaming workplace as well.

Additionally, a sense of community is needed.  One panelist stated that get-togethers do not always have to involve gaming tournaments, but other avenues can be used to bring people together -- such as movie nights, ping pong matches, etc.

Unfortunately, culture remains an issue in gaming.  Even though women comprise over 50% of the population, including those who play video games, gaming continues to be male dominated and women are under-represented. However, according to one panelist -- there appears to be change on the horizon where more people including women are now in leadership positions. She said the stigma around being called a gamer is changing also.

On a positive note, the future is exciting according to LIsa Anderson , SVP, Studio Operations of Jam City.  An example given was that Jam City’s landscape is changing as well as its outlook especially at senior leadership levels. Another example of things changing for the better is that the Game Developers Conference (GDC) used to be attended only by men; however it’s different now.

A question asked from the audience was with the advent of women in gaming, will there be more casual video games.  The answer provided was that for regular type games, gamers need to make gaming a “safe place for women.” It was stated most women see gaming as not being a safe place. Consequently, they do not feel safe in certain gaming environments. An audience member added that globally, in some areas there is a culture push-back against women in gaming as well.

On the issue of diversity, an inquiry was made regarding how to get more people of diversity in gaming.  The response was to create a safe space for women including affording them an environment to speak  up. Still it seems that males are the decision-makers. It’s also important to listen to people. It was mentioned that there should be a culture of trust which holds true not only for women, but for everyone.

The same audience questioner asked a more direct question of how to get diverse people within the next 48 hours.  Some suggestions mentioned were to reach out to various colleges, but it seemed as if the consensus was that there was no one right answer to this question.

Almost as an appeasement to this discussion, an audience member suggested that the same group of women panelists return next year to discuss women in gaming further under the title of “A View From The Top” -- which garnered applause from the audience.

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eSports

eSports took up the bulk of the agenda at some of the meetings.  There were other panel discussions on gaming; however, the largest crowd seemed to be at the eSports meetings.

Regarding monetizing, a suggestion was made to integrate the message with the product. For example, in order to get a certain skin for a video game, the consumer must purchase a new Samsung phone.  This strategy worked for Samsung, since it seemed some gamers wanted the skin and was willing to get another phone as a by-product of having access to the video game skin.

Core Demographics of Gamers

Demographics of who the video game industry  is trying to attract was discussed. The age group mentioned was 18 - 34 year old males.

A comparison was made between someone attending an actual sporting event at a sports  arena and playing an eSports video game. Looks like the non-virtual game attendant/participant spends about $50 - $60 during the event -- while  the video gamer spends only $4. The gaming industry sees this disparity as an incentive to try to come up with ways to catch up or close the gap between money made at actual sports games.

The counter to this comparison of actual sports games making more money was that video gamers sometime spend more when you consider downloadable code, and other peripheral that comes at a cost to playing video games.

This discussion led to the importance of metrics and identifying which metrics matter. There was a point made that the actual TV broadcaster may have more information as to the demographics of who is watching a sports game vice the gaming industry when it comes to knowing who is playing an eSports video game.  Along with metrics of course was engagement of players to the game. The gist of the discussion was in studying the demographics, plan to stay a long time and you have to make commitments to connect to players’ communities as well.

Hollywood and Games

The connection between Hollywood and video games goes back to Atari games  The difference between video games then and now was that no longer can one make a video game and let it sit on a shelf.  Now there must be continuous improvements or downloadable code ( DLC) as well as added or updated content. Interesting enough, it was mentioned that the new school is now the old school -- with some millennials and others wanting to experience a time before they were born. During this discussion, the demographics mentioned was younger than those of eSports -- 15 - 34 year olds as opposed to 18 - 34 year olds for eSports.

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Game Influencers

The use of influencers was brought up during this panel discussion. An influencer, Mari “Atomic Man” Takahashi Co-Founder, SMOSH Games as well as Javon Frazier, EVP Strategy & Business Development,  Studio 71 were on the panel. The representative from YouTube, Lester Chen, Head of Gaming Content Partnerships Americas stated that YouTube is 95% supported by ads; however, they want to move from this and attempt to give more money to creators.

Regarding selecting certain influencers, it was mentioned there has to be a good fit. “How do you  pick someone as a good fit?” -- you may ask. The word “stalker” was widely used in this discussion and in answering this question.  For example, it was stated YouTube checks the influencer’s social media accounts, takes in account how many followers he or she has, etc. to determine if the influencer is a good fit.

Takahashi, the influencer stated that there is a need to be authentic but also to have creative freedom. In response to a question of how to determine if an ad  campaign is successful, her answer was when people do not know that it is an ad. In fact, the influencer stated that during one campaign, it was difficult to determine if the scenario was an ad or not.  The legal person on the panel stated that it must be clear to viewers whether or not an influencer is being paid by advertisers.

A point brought up was that influencers can be “good” on the creative side, but not so “good” on the business side.  However, the Studio 71 representative stated that when a company can get the right partner -- it can be a win-win situation for everyone. Advice from the influencer was to find your true fans. Bottom line was that an ad is successful when customers are satisfied.

Relative to stalking, the question was asked which is the ideal platform to use.  The Youtube representative jokingly said that everyone there wanted to answer "YouTube"-- which brought  a laugh from the audience. However, after more discussion it was stated that all social media platforms are good for stalking.

Another question asked was if there Is a strategy to be more successful. The answer is yes. If you can create a network effect, the game will be successful. Also in gaming, plan not only for success but for failure as well and last but not least -- do your homework.

A View from the Top - Monetizing the Next Wave of eSports

This panel discussed eSports and how to monetize the next wave of eSports. The demographics mentioned in this segment was 18 - 30 year old males.  It was stated that eSports has a 380 million viewership, is growing and will present huge opportunities. The comparison between money made on real sports ($50 this time) as opposed to virtual sports $4 was mentioned.

Jeff Liboon, Co-Founder and President, ESP Gaming stated that engagement was  important and you need to have a great partnership with developers.

Chris Hopper, Head of eSports for North America, Riot Games mentioned there are non-traditional eSports like Candy Crush. He added that eSports can blend in with a wider range of communities. eSports even crosses over to music according to Kent Wakeford, Co-Founder & COO, Gen. G eSports, such as the  K-Pop bands. In other words, there is a cultural shift as to how people are engaging in eSports.

eSports is also branching out. One of the panelists mentioned he overhead a 14 year old boy refer to a video game as a sport -- dropping the “e”. Additionally you will see more partnerships and ownerships of baseball teams, etc.  Also, full college scholarship are being offered for eSports team members.

Firechat with eLeague and Warner Bros. Entertainment

The Firechat panel consisted of Jennifer Dill and Bonn Kosling.  Actually, they were interviewing each other regarding eSports partnerships. The takeaway from this discussion was that building relationships is important.  The eSports space is becoming crowded, and you do not want to be just noise.

A specific video game, Mortal Kombat X was discussed as well as how eSports can improve the game. Another video game mentioned was Injustice 2 where eSports’ content will be used to appeal to a broader audience. Currently efforts are being made to help keep the game relevant, by not only identifying the best players but recognizing casual players who may not be an expert at the video game.  Another aspect is to build characters around the players which can also drive the DLC.

Another aspect is to build communities in eSports by providing ways for gamers to showcase their skills as well as ways to engage the communities.

It was mentioned that there was a time synchronization between the release on Injustice 2 and the Justice League movie -- even though the panelist stated that this was not planned.

Mortal Kombat 11 which was released two weeks before the conference is one of the biggest releases for eSports.  The plan is to build a pro competition followed by a contest. Aim is to find ways for more people to play the video game. Additionally, the push is to have more people play the game competitively and make it an easy game for non-pro players as well. The game will also become more like a show and focus on entertainment.

It was stated the game should create moments as well. There is also a need to add stories to the content. Additionally, the person playing the game has to have a lot of personality rather than just be someone playing a video game. An example provided was Sonic Fox who is said to be the face of eSports when the discussion top was building content around a character.

The panel discussion concluded with a statement made that eSports value communities. Each panelist stated their focuses paraphrased as follow: Bonn Kosling: (1) Best Plays (2) Amount of content and (3) Engagement and Marketers.

Jennifer Dill: (1) Competition (2) How to Innovate and (3) Show you can create -- it’s about bringing personalities to life.

Wrap Up

There is the notion that if I tell you what I know -- coupled with what you already know -- you will probably come out ahead.  Of course it is beneficial to share information; however, I think the amount of information sharing at this conference was calculated.  After all, in business, we learn that businesses (for profit) must try to gain competitive advantages over other businesses. If information is shared too freely, one may lose what little competitive advantage the business may be  enjoying at the moment. 

With that in mind, I found the L.A. Games Conference to be informative on a micro level; however, I would be stoked to be a fly on the wall during some of the interactive networking sessions and other venues where there are  opportunities to share vital information -- if they chose to do so.

Without a doubt, the  L.A. Games Conference held an informative panel-driven event given by those in the industry who can truly control and steer the direction and fortitude of gaming in the present as well as the future years to come.  A day at the L.A. Games Conference put on by Digital Media Wire -- was a day well spent. 

Awesome Con 2019 - The Place to Be!

Introduction to Awesome Con 2019

 Awesome Con  is an annual event where people with like interests converge upon the Washington Convention Center in anticipation of the fun to be had.  Some come as they are -- dressed casually; while others may choose to dress up as their favorite movie, tv, comic book, video game or other character/hero.  Awesome Con carried on this tradition in 2019.

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Fun Atmosphere at Awesome Con

As a recap -- Awesome Con is a three day event that occurred April 26 - 28, 2019.  It seemed like it was only yesterday that I had one of my best times ever at last year’s event.  They say that time flies when you're having fun -- which is the signature stamp of Awesome Con.  There seems to be something magical about a group of people getting together to celebrate and enjoy some of the things that they may have a passion for or are interested in.

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Creativity of Cosplayers at Awesome Con

I did not have to walk far to come across some of the most creative cosplays I’ve seen in quite some time. One of the cosplayers that stood out to me was Silver Surfer who was carrying a silver surfboard (of course), but even more interesting -- he was completely covered in silver paint --  including his face.  Now that's what I call pure dedication to bringing a character to life at Awesome Con.

On the more subdued side of creativity when it comes to cosplayers, there was an interesting take that I noticed of Wonder Woman.  Have you ever seen Wonder Woman while she's enjoying a  relaxing evening -- taking a break from saving the world? Well I did at Awesome Con 2019, and I must say this was something I did not expect.

That is the draw of Awesome Con.  Unless you actually go and participate or just be present at some of the events -- you never know what you may see, learn or experience.

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Administrative Aspects  at Awesome Con

Now let's talk about how organized Awesome Con 2019 was.  I think this year there may have been more staff involved in organizational activities of Awesome Con.  I say this mainly because I saw plenty of people who wore “Awesome Con” staff shirts or attire. This of course is a good thing since the more staff available, the more likely event-goers have someone to turn to if they have questions, inquiries etc. 

However, I think some of the staff (not all) may have been over zealous about making sure everyone was out of the convention center by closing time -- at least on Saturday, April 27, 2019.  I saw some exhibitors on the main floor start covering up their displays as early as 7:00 p.m. This put a damper on things to me mainly because i had become accustomed to taking my time at previous Awesome Cons --  trying to cover as much as I could in the time available.  

However, on Saturday I was informed that a whole section of the exhibit hall was  “closed” even though the event had at least 45 minutes before actual closing time.  I know it takes time to close down -- but I think that some of the staff may have been overly focused on making sure everyone one was out -- way before the event was scheduled to close. Lessons learned for future Awesome Cons -- get there early and plan to leave at least an hour or so before closing time.

On the plus side, there have been improvements on how the media personnel obtain their press badges. The process was seamless with me this year.  I went to a particular room at the Convention Center, my name was checked from a list and pronto, I was given my press badge and a convention book in probably less than 5 minutes. I think this may have been the easier registration I've experienced since I’ve been covering Awesome Con for Allgames.com.

Lineup of Guests

I did not get a chance to check out the guest line up in person due to the rush to close down the event on Saturday.  However, I did review the list of guests and they were varied -- but unfortunately, no really big name stars that i can recall.  There was the usual Artists row with noted graphic designers, etc. and others. There was also some actors from the cast of The Princess Bride movie which is one of my favorite movies of all time; but the absence of Robin Wright as a guest to stand alongside Cary Elwes did not quite cut it for me. I know everyone has busy schedules -- so  maybe for some reason the organization could not make this happen.

Here’s hoping next year’s event include even more bigger name stars to raise Awesome Con to another level.

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The Main Exhibit Floor at Awesome Con 2019

The main exhibit floor is where most of the people congregate, even though events are held throughout the building and even in the building across from the Convention Center.  Awesome Con provides a handy-dandy booklet to help steer you through the exciting events scheduled. Of course there was the usual stands with merchants selling their wares including comic books, t-shirts, grab bags and other articles of interest.

I always seem to notice something unusual on the exhibit floor. Check out my Awesome Con 2018 report from last year to find out what it was at that time. 

During Awesome Con 2019 -- I was not disappointed with the array of exhibits.  An unusual one that stuck with me this year had to do with mousepads. I saw an exhibit where the mousepads were being displayed as art. Some of the mousepads were small in size, while others were as large as a small painting.  I thought that this was an interesting, creative take on mousepads. 

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Assessment of Awesome Con

 If you plan to attend Awesome Con -- I think you have  to be in a mindset to have a fun time -- as I was. As soon as I got near the convention center and saw the cosplayers and others with their Awesome Con badges, Awesome Con bags, etc., I could not wait to join the fun.  That being said, my advice to anyone planning to attend is to allow enough time early in the day to experience as much fun as you can before you are literally ushered and herded out by the staffers. In fact -- my advice to the exit staffers is to “Lighten up.”

Now that Awesome Con 2019 has come and gone -- I’m even more anxious to see what’s in store for the next Awesome Con. As the saying goes -- Onwards and upwards!

Avengers: Endgame Movie Review by Ms. H

Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are mine alone and do not represent those of allgames.com.

Introduction to the Avengers: Endgame Movie Review by Ms. H

Just when I thought the Avengers Marvel film series had reached its peak in excellence -- the Avengers: Endgame movie comes along. If you want to see a movie with action, adventure, intrigue, drama and last but not least -- humor -- the  Avengers: Endgame movie is one that you do not want to miss.

Avengers: Endgame: Marvel’s Magic Touch

I have yet to see a Marvel Avengers movie that was not entertaining. A recent movie example is Avengers: Infinity War.  I would go so far as to say that Marvel movies seem to have the magic touch.  This “magic touch” may cause you to smile and laugh at some scenes in the movie while at the same time taking in some of the movie’s “serious” parts” as well.  Additionally, I found the Avengers: Endgame’s storyline interesting  -- without any need for twists, turns or other methods filmmakers sometimes use in an attempt to keep an audience’s attention.

Dialogue of Avengers: Endgame Movie

I think the Avengers: Endgame movie is one that the whole family can enjoy - notwithstanding some of the language.  Unfortunately, the writers decided to include profanity in some of the dialogue-- which I thought was unnecessary.  This was overshadowed by the interesting, attention-grabbing storyline and did not affect my overall rating for the Avengers: Endgame movie.

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Avengers: Endgame Movie Highlights

No worries.  I will not reveal any spoilers here but will speak in general terms.  In my opinion, the Avengers: Endgame movie was entertaining, so much so that at some spots during and even after the movie, the audience could not resist the urge to applaud -- even though it is afterall only a movie.  

Furthermore, I think the writers did an outstanding job of including an adequate mix of various Marvel superheroes.  If you have a favorite Marvel superhero, you will probably see him or her in the Avengers: Endgame movie.

Assessment of the Avengers: Endgame Movie

You probably have heard or know that the Avengers: Endgame movie has a long running time -- lasting a total of 3 hours and 1 minute.  Do not fret and let the movie length keep you from seeing the Avengers: Endgame movie.   Once the movie starts, I think you will get so absorbed with the film, the time will lightly just fly by -- like it did for me.

Based on my enjoyment of the previous Marvel movies I’ve seen, I knew the Avengers: Endgame would not disappoint.  I am always impressed with the high quality of writing, acting and directing that is evident in the Marvel movies. Falling into this same pattern of quality film-making is the Avengers: Endgame movie.

To put it simply -- the Avengers: Endgame is a good -- must-see movie and is one that you will probably surely enjoy.

Rating of the Avengers: Endgame Movie

Based on a rating of 1 star to 5 stars with 5 stars being the highest, I rate the Avengers: Endgame Movie 5 stars.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKStYmMgNRA

 

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