In-app purchase games are out of line

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What’s to blame: tech-company trickery or poor parenting?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 21, 2015

On October 9, Kanye West took to Twitter to give mobile game developers a little piece of his mind: “That makes no sense!!! We give the iPad to our child and every five minutes there’s a new purchase!!!” He added: “If a game is made for a two-year-old, just allow them to have fun and give the parents a break for Christ sake.” Empathic and on point as West was, he also neglected to mention that the mother of his child has one of the most lucrative mobile games on the market. I’m speaking of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a game where you get to prepare the reality TV star for the red carpet.

It’s hard to sympathize with West, because… well, who gives a shit what he does financially. However, many parents out there are facing the same problem as the multi-millionaire rapper. They give their kids an iPad, as a replacement for a doll, a toy car, or a deck of Yu-gi-oh! cards, and expect them to have fun and be responsible. Now, I don’t know too many two-year-olds that are able to conceptualize virtual money, because many adults still aren’t able to. Check around to see how many of your grown-up friends have credit card debt. It’s unfair to put the onus on children to be responsible while playing, so who should take the blame?

We blame cigarette companies for giving us cancer, we blame fast food companies for making us fat, and of course we should blame mobile game companies for leaking money out of our virtual wallets. Some consider the freemium-style of business brilliant, while others consider it trickery. In terms of games, it begins as a sample, usually free, to get the user hooked, and then they up the price once the player is addicted. While I believe the game companies have done a brilliant job in harnessing this, I don’t believe their intentions were malicious. And, as a businessman, West should know that it’s just supply and demand. If the player wants to skip a level, earn more stock, or gain leverage over an opponent—but they don’t want to put in the time—they can upgrade with a monetary solution.

Surprise, your kids are going to cost you money! Freemium games aren’t the culprit, they are just another avenue for your money to be lost. The same way you don’t give your children your credit card and PIN at the toy store, you shouldn’t give them an iPad with full access until they understand that the reality of their purchases. Educate your children about frivolousness and how each $0.99 click adds up.

You cannot stop businesses from creating products for profit, even if they do target children. Don’t believe me? Look at McDonald’s. You can’t win that way. What you can do is pull the iPad away from your child if he or she abuses it. Be a good parent and teach your children from an early age the value of money, and how it relates to the technology they are using. Organizations aren’t going to educate your children for you… or maybe there is an app for that.

Will Virtual Sports Ever Win Their Way onto the Olympic Podium?

Virtual sports, like many Olympic events, require endurance, determination, precision and hours upon hours of training. But in the athletic community, the idea of video games being placed into the same category as hockey, track and field and gymnastic is laughable. There is a notion that any sport where the participant can compete while sitting on their couch or computer chair cannot be considered a real sport.

Still, all around the world, fans and spectators gather to watch the best video game players battle it out for virtual sports supremacy. These pro-gamers can earn accolades and up to six-figures playing the games they love.

Now with big name corporations such as Microsoft and Sony integrating online streaming platforms such as Twitch, video game fanatics can subscribe to channels and watch gamers compete, the same way sport fanatics would watch hockey and soccer games. With over five million people viewing these channels a day, there is no doubt that video games have a larger demographic than many other forgotten sports currently in the Olympics (handball, anyone?).

Concentration, rapid reflexes and well-thought-out strategies are the foundation of any good athlete and so it goes with gamers. While video games might not be physically draining, it does require a lot of mental stamina, like the kind it takes to play poker or chess, which has been recognized as a mind sport.

But the unique problem that video games face is that the games are constantly changing. Video games are a product of technology and technology evolves, quickly. New innovative games are being created everyday. And since Olympics only occur once every four years it’s hard to determine which games is deemed worthy of competition.

After all what games are timeless like chess, soccer, and high jump? The answer is none; even the most popular games go out of fashion and replaced by the new generations. That is why there are 20 versions of Need for Speed, over 10 different series of Street Fighter, and every year EA Sports produces a new sport game. Video games are ephemeral, like a book or a movie, when it’s done you put it on the shelf and anticipate the next one.

On the other hand, Olympic sports are subjected to minor changes every four years. Even though the athletics are the same, the course, the judging and the rules are often adjusted for practical reasons. For example, this year in Sochi, Russia, the hockey games are played on international-ice size (61m by 30.5m), meaning it’s 4.5 metres wider than the previous Olympic in Vancouver where it was NHL size (61m by 26m). Regardless, the athletes competing are on the same surface, and the objective is still to put the puck in the net.

It’s the same with video games. Sure, maybe there won’t be a specific game chosen for the Olympics, but there could definitely be a genre of games. Racing games never change, shooting games never change, fighting games never change—when you look at the big picture, video games often follow the same structure. You have to be first or to kill as many zombies, soldiers, or aliens as possible.

In the Olympics, different racing distances are rewarded different medals. You don’t categorize the sprinters with the marathon runners. Virtual sports can also be split up into different groups, one event can test gamers’ strategic planning such as StarCraft, one can test the gamers’ handling and maneuverability skills such as Grand Turismo, and one can test gamers’ accuracy and precision such as Wolfenstein 3D (remember Wolfenstien 3D?). Different factors can determine the best players, whether it’s through real-time strategy, first-person shooter, or even a basic fighting game like Mortal Kombat.

To the jock’s chagrin, video game manufacturers are starting to integrate physical aspects to video games. Since the dawn of Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero and Nintendo Wii, gamers are starting to be more engaged with video games that motivate them to get up and moving. Xbox Kinect and other motion sensing input devices are changing the way people play video games. Perhaps these games can one day alter certain people’s opinions and debunk the stereotype that only fat, lazy and pathetic people play video games.

It’s true: not everyone can hit a homerun, catch a touchdown pass and score a game-winning goal. But then again, not everyone can be an elite video game player. There is a skill set required and a learning curve to over come.

To many the idea of virtual sports being a part of the Olympic Games is insulting, but then again, technology advancement is inevitable—so you never know, we might be celebrating an Olympian in Mario Kart come 2020.

Be a sport


Will motor/virtual sports ever be Olympic events?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb 18, 2014


Competitiveness, athleticism, and focus, I believe those are three necessary requirements of a sport. Other people will have a different definition for it, but generally we can agree what is a sport and what isn’t.

Running is a sport, Temple Run is a mobile game, and sleep running is a disorder; but jokes aside, I believe that like technology, sports are changing, and athletes can be nerds, gear heads, and jocks.

In the 1900 Olympics, auto racing was a demonstration sport showcasing its appeal to the world. But like floor hockey, American football, and korfball, the International Olympics Committee rejected it as an official event. It’s hard to say how the committee decides which sports to include and which to forgo. It’s definitely not about appeal, since motorsports have a large following in North America, Europe, and Asia.

A common argument against motorsport as an Olympic event is that driving is not an athletic feat, and that the cars and the mechanics who built them are actually doing most of the work, not the drivers. For those who have never tried to maneuver around another vehicle going 200 miles per hour, they wouldn’t understand the control and concentration a driver must have. Ever avoid a collision in traffic and felt your heartbeat? The experience is not so different from letting in a last-minute goal or running the last leg of a marathon.

Driving comes with a huge learning curve, and it takes years for one to master; the same is true for tennis, hockey, and javelin. Motorsports are not just an achievement in modern engineering. They’re also respectable sports, sports of maturity.

Virtual sports are harder to advocate for, because globally there is still this notion that any sport played on a computer chair or a couch is not a sport. Honestly, I feel that physical exertion can come in many positions. The type of strain a virtual athlete goes through is not in the form of sprinting or rowing, but rather through rapid reflexes and precision. Like archery, video games take an insane amount of focus in order to succeed at an elite level. Also, video games aren’t always brief; they can last for hours and require endurance, in addition to concentration.

Virtual sports’ popularity is undeniable, even if the athletic community shuns it. Spectators gather from all around the world to watch professionals play a game that anybody can play, but few achieve superiority. Like the World Cup, Olympics, and the Super Bowl, virtual sporting events attract a large and passionate demographic. As technology advances and new physical interactions are enabled, such as the Xbox Kinect, I foresee a stronger group of gamers petitioning for respect in the sporting world, which can often feel like the gym class in high school.

Don’t worry gamers and gear heads, I’ve got your back, you won’t be picked last forever—after all, nerds and white-collar professionals are the new popular kids. Don’t be surprised to see an Olympic gold medalist in StarCraft, Street Fighter, and drag racing in the not too distant future.

Qriket Shares Profits with Users with Gamified App to Promote Local Business


Posted by Elliot Chan on Jan 27, 2014

Formerly published by Techvibes.

Free money! Now that I have your attention, let me tell you about Toronto-based Qriket, an app that goes against the grain and offer users an opportunity to win real money—not game tokens, not experience points, but real money.

Don’t be too skeptical, because Qriket functions as a very rational marketing tool for local businesses and brands. Instead of bombarding a wide audience with media and static ads, Qriket’s partners enable users to choose what they want to consume and their price. Whether by clicking on content located on the “Qriket feed” or venturing out to find QR codes, users can earn gaming credits or “wands” to play various games and earn, you got it, money.

So far, users have won $1.44 million from the Toronto-based company.

“We want to gamify the consumption of media on a mobile device,” Jonny Comparelli, founder and CEO of Qriket, explained to Techvibes. “We want to make it worthwhile for people to communicate with brands, and get deals offers and promos.”

Starting out as a simple QR code scavenger hunt app and then evolving into the daily revenue sharing platform it is today was a long five-year journey for Comparelli and the team at Qriket. The objective and original vision has not change though and that was to bridge the gap between digital media and out of home media. The way they have achieved that is by bringing it close to home.

Qriket in-store allows participating retailers to print out dynamic QR codes and encourage customers to engage with them every time they make a purchase. After buying a cup of coffee or a sandwich, users will see a code on the bottom of their receipt. They can then snap it with the Qriket QR scanner and earn anywhere from 5% to 200% cash back on any purchase.

“For the hyper local level it has turned out to be a great alternative for these small businesses,” said Comparelli. “You can use the giants like Facebook and Twitter if you are a brand and you can command that audience. But if you are Joe’s coffee shop on Queen Street it’s very hard to utilize digital market to your advantage.”

Qriket fills the gap by partnering with companies that are willing to spend anywhere from a dollar to a half-a-million in advertising. Functioning as a performance-based marketing platform, Qriket doesn’t charge their partners anything for impression (cost per clicks). That way the business involved will be able to tell their story to a larger audience in a larger region and only pay for those that are opting to engage with them. If the audience doesn’t want to engage, well, that’s fine—everyday they are offered free chances to win money by spinning a colour wheel.

Whether you are a diehard Qriket user or a simply someone testing out the water earning a little bit each day for partaking in incentives, Qriket wants to be a platform users will check on a daily bases for benefits.

“No matter where you are [Qriket] can be this great umbrella loyalty program for businesses,” said Comparelli. “It doesn’t require any software or hardware and we are actually printing those dynamic QR codes for businesses to sign up for this loyalty program that is just cash back everywhere you spend. And we tie it in to the Qriket vision which is to allow all our users to share in the revenue made from their interaction and their engagement—and I think that is what’s missing in the tech-landscape today.”

While some may believe that QR codes are obsolete and out of fashion, Qriket is not worried about the fate of any linking code as they make plans to expand to the US and five major cities on the east coast; already the startup boasts nearly 110,000 monthly users and revenues of almost $3 million.

“The QR code is nothing more than a digital engagement token,” noted Comparelli. “For us it was never about saving the QR code—if the time comes when something else is more prevalent or more accessible or cheaper to implement than a 2D-printed QR code than that’s what Qriket will use to tie your profile to what you are spending. Otherwise, it’s about coming up with creative ideas for what the technology actually is, as opposed to linking a URL and thinking we’ve hit the jackpot in engagement.”

GamePress Lets Gamers’ Imagination Run Wild with New Game Creation Platform

Formerly published in Techvibes. 

GamePress co-founder Murtaza Sadaat and his brother and cousin Hamed and Behroz Sadaat grew up like most game-loving children” envisioning fantastical worlds and the possibility they have from the tips of their finger to the virtual screen.

As adults they have taken their childhood whimsy, combined it with modern day technology, and created a mobile platform that offers users the freedom to build, modify and share unique games.

Based in London, Ontario, GamePress transforms the complexities of game programming into an interactive, touch, drag and drop interface that gamers can utilize to build original games on their iPad. Physics simulations, game logic, animations, special effects and artificial intelligence are the brush strokes on each game canvas. Graphic designers, game developers and inventive children alike will now be able to use the mobile platform to construct their own pastime.

“Thinking back to when we were young playing games,” says Murtaza Sadaat, “we’d say Mario is awesome, but I would love a level like this or a level like that. I feel everybody has a mindset to be creative and bringing games to another level. They just don’t usually have the opportunity to do that.”

Above all else, fun is the objective. A quality game does not have to look the best or have a lengthy storyline or the newest graphics or technology; it all comes down to the game play. Sadaat believes that some of the best games are the simple ones that can engage an audience with a worthwhile experience.

From the early days of Atari to the current mobile devices era, games have been in a constant evolution. Playstation, Nintendo and Xbox are not going extinct any time soon even though mobile is gaining more presence. The consol gaming experience is not rivaling the mobile experience. Sadaat is not convinced that the two will merge, but instead remain two separate brand of entertainment.

“There is a different type of control scheme, different type of input and just a whole different game style that works on tablets and mobile devices,” Sadaat told Techvibes. “With GamePress we give our users total freedom. They can do whatever they want with the touch screen or the tilt control. We leave it up to the users to come up with the best game play, so the next generation of users who are growing up on tablets and smartphones will know what feels natural for them.”

YouTube has created a whole market for user-generated content; GamePress’s attitude is not so different. GamePress enables creators the ability to share their work on a network called the GamePress Arcade, a community of user-generated games. GamePress is also developing a publishing service to help compelling, high-quality games be sold on App Stores, Google Play, etc.

“We want to create a platform where you can create games, share them and if the opportunity arises—even make money off the platform,” Sadaat added.

GamePress is currently free to download at the Apps Store. And in the future, the app will introduce social features permitting users the option to leave comments, collaborate on projects and purchase and sell assets. This will allow musicians and other artists the chance to sell their content to game creators.

On Saturday 22, 2013, GamePress will be presenting their app at Project Play, a gaming event in the London, Ontario community. In addition, GamePress is hosting a game-creating competition, Greatest Game Challenge submission deadline will be on November 1, and with the first place prize being a PS4, the game featured in app stores and GamePress Arcade, Facebook page and the GamePress website.