Mortal Kombat 11 will bring back Kabal, the fighter who first appeared in 1995’s Mortal Kombat 3 but skipped the previous game in the franchise, Mortal Kombat X.
Kabal’s return isn’t a surprise for anyone who watched Mortal Kombat 11’s reveal event. Developer NetherRealm Studios briefly teased the fighter last month, and officially confirmed him Tuesday during a Kombat Kast livestream.
Kabal will wield his signature dual hooked blades in Mortal Kombat 11, and moves like the Nomad Dash stun (aka Raging Flash) and Buzzsaw projectiles will return. He’ll also have some reworked moves, including poisonous gas attacks. According to NetherRealm, using Mortal Kombat 11’s custom character loadouts, players will be able to build a version of Kabal that suits their play style. But NetherRealm’s Steve Brownback said that he’ll be easier to pick up and play than in previous games. Brownback described the new Kabal as a mid-range to long-range fighter who uses overhead attacks as key mixup tools.
You can see Kabal in action in Mortal Kombat 11 — and see his Fatal Blow and Fatality — in the character reveal trailer above.
After today’s Kombat Kast, NetherRealm revealed another returning character: D’Vorah, the insectoid fighter from Mortal Kombat X.
Joining Kabal and D’Vorah in Mortal Kombat 11 will be another classic character, Kano. NetherRealm confirmed Kano’s appearance during a reveal event in Brazil last week. In sadder news, NetherRealm also officially denied that Shaggy from Scooby-Doo will appear in Mortal Kombat 11, despite an outcry of meme-fueled interest.
Mortal Kombat 11 is coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One on April 23.
One of Apex Legends’ most interesting features is the ability to respawn allies who’ve died in battle.
In battle royale games, you want to stay alive as long as possible — to be the last player standing. But if you or your teammate gets knocked down, and can’t be revived in time, there’s still hope.
While not particularly complicated, this process can be tough to pull off in the heat of the moment. In this guide we’ll run you through the basics of squad revival.
Step 1: Grab the tag
Once a teammate goes down, you have a short period of time to revive them from their downed position. If they get executed or bleed out, you’ll then have about two minutes to grab their tag before it expires.
Find your friend’s dead body, which is looks like a loot box. It should be pretty easy to spot on your HUD. Run up to their box and interact with it. Instead of immediately looting their stuff, you’ll grab their tag and your character will hold it up to the camera.
Feel free to rummage through their belongings now. They’re going to owe you in a second.
Step 2: Find a respawn beacon
Scattered around the map — usually in particularly open places — you’ll find respawn beacons. They look like red tripods with a green light shooting out of them. On the map they’re displayed as green dots. If you have a tag with you, you can also peer into the sky to find a pillar of light showing you the way.
Run up to one of these beacons, tags in hand, and interact with the beacon for a few seconds. Once the process is complete, your ally will fly back in with a dropship. But you aren’t done yet.
Step 3: Bring them back to speed
This is the toughest part. Big ships flying through the sky are easy to spit, and the beacons are in the open. It takes a few seconds for your ally to reach the ground, and they’ll have no gear when they touch down. If you don’t want them to go down again, you’ll need to defend yourself and them as soon as they land.
At this point it’s a wise idea to give the newly respawned member of your team some gear. If you’re still carrying the gear they had before, even better. If not, you may need to give them some of your own stuff so that they have a fighting chance. Otherwise they’ll have to do some looting, which, late in the game, can be a death sentence.
Electronic Arts may have suffered a disappointing financial quarter, but at least the company has games in two fan-favorite series coming within the next fiscal year. EA chief operating and financial officer Blake Jorgenson announced to investors that new Plants vs. Zombies and Need for Speed games are in the works, due out by April 2020.
“We’re making adjustments to improve execution and we’re refocusing R&D,” Jorgenson said in a news release attached to EA’s third-quarter fiscal 2019 earnings. “Looking forward, we’re delighted to launch Anthem, our new IP, to grow Apex Legends and related Titanfall experiences, to deliver new Plants vs. Zombies and Need for Speed titles, and to add Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order to our sports titles in the fall.”
This is the first mention of new entries in the puzzle and racing franchises, respectively, and they’ve been a long time coming: Plants vs. Zombies’ most recent console release was Garden Warfare 2 in February 2016, while Need for Speed Paybacklaunched in November 2017. (Plants vs. Zombies Heroes came to iOS and Android in October 2016.)
Perhaps these smaller franchises won’t buff up the 2019-20 fiscal year as much as a new FIFA or the surprise release of Apex Legends will, but both are cult favorites that will likely get some EA fans very excited.
Apex Legends is a hero-based battle royale game. Players select from a pool of characters before every match. Legends are unique, and each has its own passive, tactical, and ultimate ability.
Only one specific Legend can exist on each team at once, and squads cap out at three, meaning you’ll need to have at least three Legends you’re comfortable with if you want to succeed.
The Legends in Apex Legends all bring something to the table, and will continue to do so as new weapons and Legends are added over the next year. But for now, that should be everything you need to know before hoping into a game with your chosen Legend.
In this guide, we’ll detail each of the Legends to give you some insight into how each plays and which will fit your playstyle best.
Bangalore is the de facto soldier Legend in Apex Legends. Everything she has affords her a better chance to kill or quickly escape. If you’re into running, gunning, and playing aggressively, Bangalore is a good pick for you.
Passive: Double Time
When being shot or shot at, Bangalore’s movement speed increases.
Tactical: Smoke Launcher
Bangalore’s active ability launches a cloud of smoke that covers an area and conceals enemies and allies inside.
Ultimate: Rolling Thunder
Bangalore calls in an artillery strike that blankets a large area in missiles over a long period of time.
Bloodhound is the scout class, able to see through walls and track enemies for their allies while giving enhanced information about the environment. Bloodhound is perfect for the cautious player, someone who wants to have all the information about a fight before going into it.
Bloodhound sees footprints on the ground where enemies recently walked.
Tactical: Eye of the Allfather
Bloodhound scans in a small area, revealing the shapes of enemies through walls.
Ultimate: Beast of the Hunt
Beast of the Hunt lets Bloodhound go into a frenzy, allowing them to see through objects in real time and move faster. Enemies are highlighted.
Caustic is the poison expert of the Apex Legends crew. He can set smoke traps down to catch enemies in an area or slowly poison them to death. Caustic is for the patient player, someone who wants to sit back and set a trap, rather than seek out a firefight.
Passive: Nox Vision
Caustic sees enemies through his Nox gas.
Tactical: Nox Gas Trap
Caustic drops a canister of gas on the ground, which you can shoot to create a poison cloud.
Ultimate: Nox Gas Grenade
Caustic throws out a Nox grenade that covers a large area in poison.
Gibraltar is a wall against his enemies and a shield for his allies. He’s a defense-focused character capable of fighting for a long time without going down. Gibraltar is perfect for someone who wants to be the frontline and take attention away from his more fragile friends.
Passive: Gun Shield
When aiming, Gibraltar creates a shield in front of him that absorbs gunfire.
Tactical: Dome of Protection
Gibraltar throws down a bubble shield that blocks all incoming enemy attacks for 15 seconds and protects anyone inside.
Ultimate: Defensive Bombardment
Gibraltar activates a short range, focused mortar strike that blows up nearby foes.
Lifeline is Apex Legends’ medic character. She can provide battlefield healing to her allies, as well as spawn in powerful items for survival. Lifeline is ideal for someone more interested in supporting allies than racking up kills. She can be a competent fighter and great aim will always help, but she’s the perfect choice for players just looking to help out the team.
Passive: Combat Medic
Lifeline revives her allies faster than other characters while a shield protects her.
Tactical: D.O.C. Heal Drone
Lifeline drops a healing drone that sits stationary and pumps health into a single nearby ally.
Ultimate: Care Package
Lifeline calls a drop pod down from the sky filled with medkits, armor, and other defense-oriented items.
Mirage is Apex Legends’ trickster character. Full of personality and himself, Mirage can make decoys that travel the world and fool allies. Mirage is for the player who likes to get in the heads of their enemies. If you want to try to out-think the competition, Mirage is your man.
When Mirage is knocked down and bleeding out, he spawns a decoy of himself nearby and also cloaks for five seconds — making him invisible.
Tactical: Psyche Out
Mirage creates a duplicate of himself who’ll run forward and hopefully confuse nearby enemies.
Ultimate: Vanishing Act
Mirage turns himself invisible while sending out many copies of himself to confuse enemies.
Pathfinder is a kindly robot scout who moves around the map quickly. He uses grappling hooks and can scan parts of the map to reveal the circle. His verticality also makes him tougher for enemies to spot. He’s a great hybrid for someone who wants to move fast and be hyper aggressive.
Passive: Insider Knowledge
Pathfinder locates survey beacons in the world, scan them, and learn where the circle’s location will move to next.
Tactical: Grappling Hook
Pathfinder shoots out a grappling hook that latches onto nearby structures and reels him in.
Ultimate: Zipline Gun
Pathfinder creates his own zip line that any of his teammates can use.
Wraith is all about escaping, moving quickly, and repositioning safely in fights. She can move around the battlefield easily to surprise enemies. Wraith is great for players who want to weave in and out of fights, who know when they’re bested and when to push the advantage.
Passive: Voices from the Void
When an enemy is aiming at her, Wraith receives a warning.
Tactical: Into the Void
Wraith warps out of existence — becoming invisible and invincible — for a few seconds.
Ultimate: Dimensional Rift
Wraith opens up a portal connecting two locations. She and her allies can use them to jump between areas for a short time.
You’ve probably heard by now thatOverwatch’s new Paris map has a fully playable piano. You might have even heard somebody play “All Star” by Smash Mouth on it, because that song—a shimmering monument to the idea of unearned confidence—will outlive us all. Now, one player has taken things a step further.
Overwatch fan Zbnone rigged up a MIDI keyboard so that it can play the Paris map’s in-game piano key-for-key. It’s pretty impressive:
Given that Overwatch is a first-person shooter in which players can only directly interact with objects in the environment using their weapons, you might be wondering how Zbnone did this. It involves what they’ve taken to calling a “PianoAimBot.”
“I wrote the ‘PianoAimBot’ in Python,” they said on Reddit. “You can actually play anything you want live on it (no macros). You can also load and play midi files.”
They added that you have to be standing almost perfectly in the middle of the in-game piano for it to work, but it has a calibration feature to make that less of a headache.
It’s an inventive setup, but there’s just one problem: it might technically count as cheating. Blizzard explicitly forbids “using third-party programs to automate any facet of the game,” and this is an aimbot, meaning that it automates aim. Unless the game’s next hero is a sentient piano (fingers crossed), I don’t see this program conferring an unfair advantage, so hopefully Blizzard lets it slide.
Kingdom Hearts III is an overwhelming melting pot of Disney cheer and anime excess. The franchise has previously included Square-Enix characters, and while they don’t make an appearance here, the game does include an extended gag trailer that pokes fun at the series’ direction and potentially teases what’s to come.
Kingdom Hearts III shows a lot more self-awareness than previous entries and even pokes fun at some of its own conventions. Early on, the game showed a title card referring to the opening segments of the game as Kingdom Hearts 2.9, which was a fun bait and switch for players who thought they were finally playing Kingdom Hearts III (the title card for that shows up later). The title card also riffed on the numerical stylings of other series titles, like Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. The game’s biggest moment of meta-awareness comes in the introduction of the Toy Story-themed world, which features a faux-advertisement for a game that brings to mind the troubled Final Fantasy Versus XIII. The reveal of this fictional game within the world of KHIII also sets up a surprising (and confusing) reveal in the secret ending.
When the player first arrives at the Toy Box world, they’re treated to a fake television commercial for a video game called Verum Rex. The hyper-stylized trailer is made up of highly detailed full-motion video and shows a silver-haired hero fighting in a modern city, battling giant robots alongside some familiar looking bros. One of these bros is a red-haired pretty boy who seems a bit like Final Fantasy XV’s Prompto, while another bespectacled pal looks a lot like Ignis “I’ve Come Up With A New Recipe!” Scientia. There’s even a buff dude who looks a lot like Gladio. In the trailer, the heroes are shown to be attempting to rescue a magical maiden. The scenario looks like a jumbled mix of elements from the ill-fated Final Fantasy Versus XIII, a project which Kingdom Hearts III director Tetsuya Nomura directed and which eventually became Final Fantasy XV. The girl in the trailer even looks like Stella Nox Fleuret, a female character featured prominently in trailers for Versus XIII who was later replaced with the slightly more demure Lunafreya Nox Fleuret. They even make the Verum Rex protagonist Yazora slouch on the box art in the same position that Noctis does Final Fantasy XV key art.
At first, it’s not even clear that this trailer for Verum Rex is taking place within the world of Kingdom Hearts III. When the commercial ends, the cutscene continues, revealing that Rex from Toy Story was watching it on TV. But the Verum Rex trailer’s extreme detail left me, my coworkers, and many Kingdom Hearts fans wondering what was up.
“When I saw the Square-Enix logo on Verum Rex, I was like ‘uh oh,’” my colleague Tim Rogers told me. “This is probably not a fake game.”
It would make sense for Nomura to sneak an over-the-top reference to his time working on Versus XIII and Final Fantasy XV into Kingdom Hearts III. The project was in development for over a decade, releasing under the direction of Hajime Tabata once Nomura left to work on Kingdom HeartsIII. But Verum Rex alsocomes crashing back in the game’s hidden ending, which players can unlock by finding enough lucky emblems.
The secret ending features Sora and Riku walking around a modern city which appears to be Tokyo, since it also features the iconic 109 department store found in Shibuya. By itself, this could trigger a lot of speculation. Are they in the modern world? Have they crossed over into The World Ends With You? Both that game and this ending have a 104 building and not the 109. Kingdom Hearts fans have been speculating about secret endings ever since the first game’s “Another Side, Another Story” video. What makes this new video stand out is a peculiar character: the hero from the Verum Rex trailer, Yozora. What the hell is he doing here?
If you’ve played through the Toy Story level, you will recall that when the Toy Story crew meets Sora, they assume he is an action figure from Verum Rex. When Sora, Donald, and Goofy see the Verum Rex box art, they acknowledge that Sora does look a bit like Yazora, the game’s hero. But Yazora also looks a lot like Riku.
Later in the Toy Story world, Sora gets chucked into a television and into the world of Verum Rex for a few minutes. He has to endure an extended robot battle against waves of enemies before he can escape the world of Verum Rex and return to his new Toy Story friends. After defeating that initial Verum Rex level, players can head back in and play it again if they want to get a high score. None of the characters from the trailer pop up, though. This whole setup invites a lot of questions. Where do Sora and Riku exist, exactly? The real world, inside the Verum Rex video game, in an actual world with Yazora and his buds?
I have no idea, but Kingdom Hearts special endings do tend to set up characters and motifs that will then appear in future Kingdom Hearts games. Maybe Yazora will play a part in whatever comes next, whether that’s a future Kingdom Hearts, or a real-life Verum Rex game. Maybe Nomura’s produced the most expensive joke in the history of forever. It’s hard to say, but I do know that if Verum Rex was real, I’d definitely play it.
All Switch developers can now license the voice-chat software that powers the Switch version of Fortnite, the company behind the tech said today. That means an easy solution for developers who want to let you chat in Switch games using a headset plugged into the console, and not Nintendo’s bizarro-world phone app.
Vivox, a tech company that focuses on voice and text chat in online games, said today that any authorized Switch developers can now integrate its Vivox SDK software kit into their game, helping pave the way for Switch owners to play video games more like everyone on literally every other major gaming platform.
In games that use Vivox SDK, players will be able to communicate out loud with one another simply by plugging in a headset with a mic into the Switch’s existing audio jack. Epic Games’ Fortnite already does this, and Vivox said today that Hi-Rez Studio will be bringing the same feature to Smite and Paladins in future updates. The chat tools will also extend to Switch games that incorporate cross-play with PC, Xbox One, or PlayStation 4. Gone will be the days of trying to coordinate high-level strategies in team-based competitive games through in-game gestures and pings alone.
When Splatoon 2 launched on the Switch in July 2017, Nintendo debuted the Nintendo Switch online app for smartphones as its official solution for players that wished to communicate with one another during online play. Instead of having in-game voice chat, like in every other online shooter, Splatoon 2 required players to link up through the app and communicate using the mics on their smartphones. It was not good.
In June 2018, Fortnite launched on the Switch with normal, in-game voice chat, raising the question of why other games couldn’t do something similar. Increasingly, they have been. When Warframe launched last fall, it also included in-game voice chat. Arena of Valor, a free-to-play MOBA, released last fall without voice chat, though its developers said they were working on adding it—an understandable priority given that one of the game’s genres listed on its Nintendo page is “communication.”
In addition to Splatoon 2, a few other games now utilize the Nintendo Switch Online app for the purposes of voice chat as well, including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a solution Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime told Kotaku in a 2017 interview would “deliver a better, more robust execution.”
Fortunately, it seems like going forward, more games will have better options for letting people talk with each other. Like just plugging a headset into the Switch, for example.
Axiom Soccer looks to take that a step further. The title, which is set to launch on PC in 2019, offers a spectating experience that links directly into the game. Inspired by traditional sports, viewers can interact in-game with the action via visuals, banners, and overlays. The goal is to combine the passion and community around real-world sports with the accessibility and energy of Twitch chat.
Axiom Soccer is much like Rocket League, in that the player controls electrically powered drones that are attempting to propel a ball around a field to score on the opponent, while defending their own net in turn. The gameplay is meant to take the foundation of Rocket League-style physics and add shooter elements as the main way to maneuver and propel the ball, an addition that is meant to add an extra expression of skill.
Developed by Earthbound Games, Axiom Soccer’s spectating system is ambitious to the point of being the main selling point of the game. The Scottish game studio creating it is looking to bring in the same energy as real-world football matches. This will manifest through banners in the crowd or advertisements on the big screen. Overlays can appear on stream, or plumes of smoke can arc over the field. Camera shots like reaction cams of the players will be added, giving the players a platform to showcase their personality, and hopefully build a brand that can be eventually monetized.
The spectators will essentially work as an in-game crowd in the stadium, and Twitch integration is meant to allow them to leave a visual mark on the field and provide similar encouragement — or hearty boos, or cheeky jabs — as their real-world equivalent.
The team at Earthbound have their pedigree in titles from Rockstar Games, Microsoft, Sony, and more, suggesting that they might be up to the task. The idea is to create an ecosystem where personalities can reign large over the field. It’s a game that is meant to draw in streamers, competitive players, and glory hounds, and the spectator system gives those players instant feedback after a stylish play or big win.
Earthbound Games says it’s also aware of the potential drawbacks of such a situation. Twitch chat is often known for its quick moving spam, vulgar images, and even hateful slurs. Axiom Soccer will have a moderation system designed to quash that before it hits the stands; viewers won’t be able to display, say, a giant phallus to the enemy team in a show of defiance.
Twitch has evolved over the years to introduce new ways for audiences to participate in and reap rewards from streams. Some games offer “drops”, which grant in-game cosmetics. In 2014, Twitch Plays Pokémon kickstarted a genre of audience-run adventures. Axiom Soccer intends to make a similar ambitious swing for the fences; it’ll be fascinating to see if Earthbound Games connects with a crowd.
The optimal system for chopping, arranging, and serving cucumber sushi in Overcooked 2 exists only in my dreams. Lately, I’ve had those dreams a lot.
Even if I’ve only played an hour of the strategy cooking game before bed, by the time I get into REM sleep I’m frantically dumping my sous-chef’s hot rice on a plate and rolling digital maki. Sometimes, accomplishing these dream tasks is satisfying. Other times, I wake up wishing I’d just dreamed about my teeth falling out.
One morning, visions of sushi still dancing in my head, I turned to my partner, who had just woken up, and asked him if he’d ever dreamed about video games. It turns out that, in his dreams, events in his over-cluttered Google Calendar are often mapped onto Magic: The Gathering Arena cards, which he assiduously arranges into plays. “Sometimes there are some actual Magic cards in there too,” he said, laughing.
For people who spend a lot of time plugging inputs into video games, the game doesn’t end when their head hits the pillow. The more gamers I asked, the more I learned how widespread video game dreams are. Speaking to psychologists and dream analysts, I found that this widespread phenomenon says a lot about gamers’ unconscious minds and neural wiring.
“Dreams are about integrating our conscious and unconscious lives,” said psychologist Anthony Bean over a call last week. Bean was very much in the mood to talk about the work of the early 20th century psychiatrist Carl Jung, who modernized the study of dreams and believed the same dream can mean different things for different dreamers depending on how their individual lives played out.
Dreams, Bean said, help us process what we did the previous day and what we’ll be doing the next day. If you do something for eight hours straight, like play Overcooked 2, it’s likely to be prominent enough in your mind that your brain doesn’t just forget about it when you’re asleep. Games are especially great candidates for dream topics, Bean says, because they have a “heavy immersion quality.”
“If you see something on television and think it’s really interesting, your consciousness and unconscious are going to continue to process it and how it applies to you,” he said. And since games are by definition interactive, they have even more immersion quality than TV. What surprised me as I spoke with people who dream about games was that their dreams often were not wish fulfillment or best-case scenarios, but instead massively stressful.
“I think I dream about these games because I don’t give myself much unwind time from playtime to sleep time,” said Andy Wright, a 34-year-old software tester, who usually dreams about XCOM 2 and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on Sunday nights after “marathon sessions.” Combined with stressing over the upcoming work week, he said, it all “coalesces into a restless night of still ‘playing.’”
“Even after I’m done playing, I’m still thinking—consciously or not—of how I would have done things differently,” Wright said. “Should I have moved here? Should I have shot there? How can I improve my next run?”
Liam Dotson, who lives in Virginia and works in politics, told me about a Fallout 76 dream in which he and his wife were searching for nuclear launch codes. “We worked hard and collected them all and returned to our northern Virginia apartment,” he said. “But our two 20-pound cats, who are always up to no good, chewed the red wire and it all blew up.”
Dotson said he could see how his real-life anxieties and gaming habits were combining themselves in this dream. “Under [Trump] we’ve never felt more anxious about any number of things, nukes included,” he said. “And our cats just love chewing on plastic.”
By far, the most common type of gaming dreams that people told me about concerned strategy and puzzle games. Jay Shah told me he dreams about the financial investment spreadsheets he made for the MMORPG EVE Online. Brett Adams told me that, in his dreams, he’s making color matches in Puzzle Quest. Lexi dreams about Tetris bricks. So does Ted. Matt dreams about tactical simulations in Fire Emblem, and Josh dreams of Final Fantasy Tactics.
It’s not that these dreamers were simulating specific gameplay problems and solving them with the same detailed mechanics they would when actually playing the game that day. Often, the in-dream Tetris puzzles were just blurs of color. Shah’s spreadsheets were “definitely gibberish.” Strategy game dreams seem to be more about problem-solving in the most general sense, which is what I experienced with my Overcooked 2 dreams—and before that, dreams about the Switch strategy game Into The Breach.
“Jungian theory would say it’s not necessarily about the text, but the actions happening in a dream,” psychologist Bean said. “If you’re bound by the text you’re being told what to think about the dream rather than let it explore what it means that to that person individually.”
Rachel Kowert, a psychologist who specializes in video games and runs the analytics firm Kitsune Analytics, says that dreaming about strategy games in particular might mean something beyond simply processing what you’ve done that day.
“The function of the dream is solving a problem,” Kowert said. Years of research on dreams shows that one of their primary functions is to find solutions to puzzles we may experience when we’re awake, like planning a wedding or figuring out the right words with which to confront someone. Sometimes, for gamers, those puzzles we go to bed without having solved are more concrete. “For games where problem solving is the primary play mechanic, it’s possible that they’re more likely to be dreamt about, because the evolutionary function of dreams is to solve problems.”
Kowert also said that dreams function to help people remember their waking lives, which is why your dream about Magic cards might also have Google Calendar overlaid on them. “Games are organized things we play, and if that helps you organize memories from your day, it makes sense they would be superimposed on that,” she said.
Your gaming dreams might even make you a better player. Jane Anderson is a full-time dream analyst who has published six books about dreaming. She told Kotaku that dreams about games might help your performance in the game in ways that waking practice wouldn’t. “Your dreaming brain and mind will process any issues that came up for you in playing the game,” she said. “For example, your competitive attitudes, perfectionist issues, conflict issues, any issue that is touched upon or triggered through playing the game.”
“Often your dreams will process these issues without reference to the game itself,” she said, “using different symbols and different dramas.” Once you wake up, you might find yourself better at the game even if you don’t realize how it happened. “When you ‘sleep on it’ you often wake up with the solution to the problem even if you don’t remember the dream,” she said.
Formal studies on how gaming affects dreams, and on how gaming-related dreams impact our daily lives, are few and far between. Although there’s no data-driven evidence that says what my anecdotal research has found—that strategy games are very popular dream fodder—there are studies corroborating the idea that gamers dream differently from non-gamers. According to research by Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta who specializes in lucid dreaming, gamers are more likely to report having lucid dreams, or dreams in which the dreamer has a high level of control over what happens.
People who play a lot of video games seem to have a special talent for disarming violent situations in their sleep, like kicking a gun out of an aggressor’s hands, Gackenbach said. In one study conducted with veteran gamers who struggled with PTSD, -a demographic highly susceptible to nightmares, the subjects were more capable than the average person of getting through hardship scenarios in dreams. Unlike in a real-world war, in which a soldier’s not terribly sure whether they’ll live or die, gamers in games only face digital repercussions for their decisions, which can be empowering when translated into dreams.
“The most common scenario in a nightmare is some kind of chase,” she said. “You can’t get out of it and you wake up and you’re terrified.” Subjects who have played a lot of first-person shooters, she said, do better with these types of nightmares. “With a gamer, when they’re being chased or attacked, they’ve been being chased and attacked for two hours before they went to bed,” she said. “They’ve learned the skill of when to fight back.”
That sense of dream agency can also come from role-playing games, or any sort of “hero’s journey” where the player is hyper-powerful and has total control over their actions. In real life, we can’t just swing an ax at a brick and destroy it, enter every home we pass, run twenty miles, and then defeat a gargantuan dragon. Exercising that level of control is the stuff of dreams. When psychologist Bean talks to his therapy clients about their personal lives and personal goals, he said he always asks them about where the “hero component” is.
“Everything in a game goes into creating the hero who eventually wins,” he said. “If we look at the storylines and types of protagonists [in these games] and put them into the context of the ‘hero’s journey,’ it makes sense why we have these types of dreams.”
“If you identify with a character in a game, your dreaming mind may use that character to symbolise that aspect of yourself, or to try to work out your issues,” said dream analyst Anderson. “Other game characters appearing in your dreams most probably represent how their energies (as you see them) appear in your life, and how you deal with these. Dark or ‘bad’ characters may represent aspects of yourself that you judge as being dark or bad.”
Dreams aren’t just random movies played by your brain. They’re all somehow meaningful, although that meaning isn’t always clear. If you dream about Ganondorf, maybe he’s your dad. Maybe he’s you. Or maybe he’s just Ganondorf and your brain is telling you it wants to play Ocarina again. One thing’s for sure: I’m no closer to figuring out why I dreamed about grabbing the fire extinguisher when I meant to grab the pizza in Overcooked 2.
Titanfall development studio Respawn’s free-to-play battle royale game, Apex Legends, came out yesterday afternoon for PC, Xbox One, and PS4. I played it into the night and was intrigued by the ways it tweaks the battle royale format.
Apex Legends is set on a futuristic map full of mountains, rivers, and clusters of buildings. There’s a backstory featuring a world of mercenaries and outlaws and the “Apex Games,” the battle royale that 20 squads of three take part in. While the story adds color to the characters and facilitates the presence of an in-game announcer, the basics are like any other battle royale: You and and your squad drop into a map (the currently only available map is called Kings Canyon, though more may be added in the future according to the game’s FAQ), scrounge up all the weapons you can, and try to eliminate other teams as a damage-dealing ring steadily closes in.
Apex Legends diverges from battle royale heavyweights PUBG and Fortnite by offering a playable roster that’s more akin to what you’d find in a hero shooter like Overwatch. Characters (here called Legends) include the likes of a robot scout called Pathfinder, a hulking heavy known as Gibraltar, and a skirmisher named Wraith who is surrounded by interdimensional sparks. They play different roles, like stealth, healer, or scout. In addition to a special passive ability, Legends have a tactical move and an ultimate, both on cooldowns. As a lifelong support player, I enjoyed playing as Lifeline, the medic whose tactical move launches a healing drone and whose ultimate calls down a supply drop of shields and other defense gear. Other characters can queue up airstrikes, see hints of where other players have been, or create ziplines. As players grow more familiar with the game and its characters, I’m sure interesting strategies will emerge around the combinations. For now, it’s just fun to see what everyone could do.
After you choose your character, you’re shown the identity of the upcoming match’s “champion,” a higher-ranking opponent who rewards you with more experience points if you kill them. Their image, along with the player in the match with the most kills, are projected on screens around the world. It’s tough to say what this adds to a game where it’s hard to find, much less identify, a specific player. It’s also unclear whether a match’s champion deserves that honor. In one match, I was thoroughly carried by my more-skilled teammates, but I killed the champion in a firefight and we went on to win. I became champion in my next match, and it was terrifying to know every other player now had a target out for me—but that terror quickly waned when I remembered that’s the crux of the battle royale genre itself. I was promptly killed in a busy drop zone and moved on with my life. It feels like a lot of affectation, especially given my preference for the hands-off nature of PUBG’s world, or Fortnite’s unexplained cartooniness.
Apex Legends’ other new twists on the battle royale genre impressed me more. Instead of leaping from the dropship into the map as you please, one player is randomly appointed the “jumpmaster,” deciding where the squad will land. You can pass off this duty—in one game I played with Kotaku contributor Zack Zwiezen, my squad passed the jumpmaster role among us like a game of Hot Potato. Once you’re running around in the map, you can communicate over voice, but also by pinging locations, enemies, and loot with a button press. In the matches I played with strangers this was immensely useful, and even after I ran out of ammo I was still able to target enemies for my squadmates.
The game’s other twist, which is my favorite so far, is its revive mechanic. When you die, your squad has a certain amount of time to get to you and revive you. If they don’t make it in time, they can still collect your “banner,” a customizable image that represents your character. At any point during the match they can run to a respawn beacon and insert your banner, which will respawn you in a dropship so you can rejoin the game. There’s a risk to this—using the beacon takes time and leaves you exposed—but it’s a clever step beyond the standard respawn. In one match I was killed almost immediately when I couldn’t find a weapon in an active drop point. My teammate couldn’t reach me during the respawn window, but waited until the area calmed down to retrieve my banner and revive me. In the matches I played, people took advantage of this mechanic more often than not, and it was an added incentive to stick around in a match after I died.
My deaths came, as they do in many battle royales, either almost immediately or in the late game. My success felt dependent on where I dropped into the map. I learned it was better at least on day one, to drop on the map’s forested outskirts or in a crumbling city later along the dropship’s route. I died a lot simply by landing in too-crowded areas and not snatching up a gun in time. If my squad had a quiet drop, we were able to last pretty long looting our way across the map.
Racing around the map feels wonderful. There aren’t any mechs or wall-running as in Titanfall, but your character moves quickly. You can slide across the ground or down slopes, and you don’t take fall damage. Movement is clean and delightful, and sometimes I was more interested in sliding down hills than finding better gear.
I’ve never been very interested in the nitty-gritty of loadouts in battle royales, and I found the amount of items in Apex—shields regenerators, different grenades, different healing items—and their different locations in my inventory overwhelming. I wasn’t alone. In one match, one of my teammates barked orders about specific item names and loadouts until my other squadmate replied desperately, “This game just came out, man!”
The community is still finding its footing in Apex Legends, and it’s exciting to see what the game will become. The roadmap suggests seasons and a battle pass. There’s already a store full of currency, cosmetics, and loot boxes called Apex packs that advertise their loot percentages before you open them. As the game goes on, I’m sure we’ll see people customizing their characters, finding favorite skins and voice lines, and creating a meta through different squad combinations. For now, Apex Legends can feel cluttered, but, at its core, it’s a lot of fun.