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September 2017 Retro Gaming Article

September 5, 2017 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Data mining video games is like finding your hidden presents weeks before Christmas- not in a good way

data mining video games
We live in a society, trained to expect immediacy to our every query, concern and urge. Why can't we chill out and be pleasantly surprised?
Data mining in video games has taken on an interesting extension of the notion that all information is available NOW! Decades ago, I used to frequently check the gaming area in Sears to see what new Atari games might be available. There was no internet and by the time such info was in print, it was old news. My, how times have changed.

The internet has long given us great access to massive amounts of information. Smart phones let us access that info from almost anywhere. In the 90s I'd grow impatient listening to the 2400 modem tones (soon to be 9600 and 14.4 after saving up for new equipment) as I connected to online sites like Prodigy, Delphi, and CompuServe. Destinations like these, along with BBSs, offered info and insights about many of my passions. But finding that info took a lot of time.

What the internet has evolved into today would be incomprehensible to that 90s version of me who trudged through info via modem. Today we can find almost anything instantly. Isn't it strange that capability isn't enough for some folks? They have to know everything now!

Data mining takes us into the lines of code that make up our favorite games, and digital wonders, giving us a sneak peak into things to come. I suppose once I buy a game, I can hack into it's innards to see what mysteries might be revealed, but do I really need that info? Does anyone need that info? I think there are some folks who thrive in doing things simply because they can.

Ruining Christmas And Data Mining

long ago in my childhood, I begged my parents for a G.I. Joe Training Center playset. It was three feet tall and came with a zip line. As a G.I. Joe fanatic, this was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. I was excited about it, but still had enough smarts to know I might not get it. Santa might forget or Dad might not be able to find it at the store.

As I anguished about this playset uncertainty, a friend suggested I look around the house. If my parents bought it, it had to be somewhere. At three feet tall how hard could it be to find it. My friend was right and I was elated to confirm that fabulous amenity would soon be added to my arsenal of G.I. Joe stuff.

Data mining video games seems more invasive than useful. The end-game is inevitable!
Then a funny thing happened over the next few weeks before Christmas. The magic was gone. Sure I was going to play the Hell out of that enormous tower and send all my Joes down the zip line, but something was missing. As much as my anxiety stressed me out, I missed that giddy feeling of the unknown. I never went snooping for another Christmas (or any other) present again!

When my son marveled at the Halloween release of Eye Brawl for Skylanders on our Wii, I explained to him how the character had always been "part of the original game" we bought. Activision simply waited until the following October to release the character. Data mining would have told us of Eye Brawl many months in advance, but like my Christmas debacle, that info would have ruined the surprise.

Lately, I'm reading about data mining efforts for a variety of games and what these snoops have discovered. New layouts and weapons in Splatoon 2 seemed like a predictable find. That info is dispersing across social media as though it was news. For the game to remain viable, new stuff has to be added. No worthy discovery there. Now and then an interesting nugget surfaces, but typically, mined info simply ruins an upcoming surprise.

What irks me most is those who feel data mining is some guerilla form of journalism or discovery. It really isn't. You may possess a talent allowing you access to hidden info, but dispensing it doesn't necessarily serve an interest.

Enjoy the game you paid hard-earned money for. Explore it. Play the Hell out of it. Earn the right to gain more from it, by advancing and honing your skills.

Having a new Splatoon maps will be awesome, but the game is a lot of fun right now. New maps will add to is as I delve farther in and improve my ranking. Knowing other maps exist is superfluous, unrewarding, and has no effect on the game play today. Chill out and play your games. That's the best thing you can do with a game - play it often!

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