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Updated: 41 weeks 3 days ago

Someone's Gotta Design All Those Game Logos

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 10:30

Omer Younas is a veteran games artist who specializes in 2D stuff like logo design and menus. He’s worked on games like Battlefield 1, Metal Gear Solid V and the Crysis series.

You can more of Omer’s work at his personal site.

To see the images in their native resolution, click on the “expand” button in the top-left corner.

Fine Art is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios. If you’re in the business and have some concept, environment, promotional or character art you’d like to share, drop us a line!

Replay Red Dead Revolver On Your PS4 For $10

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 10:09
Red Dead Revolver [PS4], $10

You could sit quietly in a chair, staring at a wall until the moment Red Dead Redemption 2 comes out, or you could pass the time by replaying the original Red Dead Revolver, available on PS4 for $10.

Can Grieving Mothers Stop The Public From Forgetting The NFL's Brain-Trauma Crisis?

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 09:54
Photo credit: Debbie Pyka

On Monday afternoon, a group of mothers and other family members of men who have died with chronic traumatic encephalopathy gathered in a room at a hotel in Houston to hold a press conference announcing CTE Awareness Day and promoting their group’s eponymous website, Faces of CTE.

They brought life-sized cardboard cutouts of their family members or other notable people who have been found to have CTE, like Dave Duerson, the former Chicago Bears safety. They talked about their main project, a collaboration with the Mayo Clinic which would aid CTE research by coordinating with families to send the brains of the recently deceased to Mayo. They had Larry Mallory, who played for the New York Giants from 1976-1978, speak at the event about an initiative he leads to foster and promote flag football for players below the age of 14.

In front of them were a total of three media members.

The low attendance didn’t bother the women who organized the event, they said. Instead, it was a pilgrimage of pride. Through the grief they shared over their dead sons, they had shown up and stood up in the Super Bowl’s backyard.

Faces of CTE is headed by Kim Archie and Debbie Pyka, women whose young sons were found to have CTE pathology after they died, and primarily aims to share their stories of loss and provide a support group for parents and families in the same position. Through the community they’re building, the group advocates for concrete action: They want the brains of people who played contact sports to be given to researchers, and they want players below 14 to play flag football.

Archie’s son, Paul Bright, was only 24 years old when he died on September 1, 2014 in Los Angeles after being hit by a car while he was riding his motorcycle at a high speed. Archie had been an advocate for increased safety regulations for youth sports—particularly cheerleading—for years before her son’s death, and sent her son’s brain to be examined by Dr. Ann McKee, at the industry-leading Boston University CTE Center. Though Bright had only played football as a child, and the only until the ninth grade, McKee returned a diagnosis of Stage 1 CTE in his brain. By that time, Archie knew that CTE was marked by impulsive, reckless behavior, along with other signs of mental deterioration, which she connects to her son’s purchasing of and reckless driving of his motorcycle.

Two years earlier, and halfway across the country in Wisconsin, Debbie Pyka had buried her son, Joseph Chernach, after he’d hung himself in her backyard tool shed. Like Bright’s, Chernach’s brain was examined by McKee, who found somewhere between Stage 2 and Stage 3 CTE in his 25-year-old brain. Chernach played football from fifth grade until his graduation from high school, but never at the collegiate or professional levels. He came from a family of die-hard Green Bay Packers fans; his brothers Tyler and Seth still root for their team while mourning their brother.

Archie and Pyka met online in late 2014, after both mothers decided to turn their pain into passion and try to raise awareness about contact sports, brain injury, and CTE. (Archie first learned of Pyka and her son Joseph after I wrote about them in 2014.)

Eventually, Pyka and Archie would each go on to sue Pop Warner. Pyka sued for wrongful death, and settled the suit in March 2016; Archie filed a class-action lawsuit in September 2016 with Jo Cornell, whose son also played football and was found to have CTE. Pop Warner was also sued by Donnovan Hill, who was paralyzed at age 13 after going into a block with his head down. His lawsuit was settled in January 2016; Hill died five months later at age 18.

Archie and Pyka are notable members of what I call, with their permission, “CTE Twitter.” In their circle, information, research, and support are passed around like currency; cross them or denigrate their cause at your own risk. Through their online community, they naturally began to combine their resources and networks and organize information as a group.

Pyka, Archie, Karen Zegel, and Katherine Snedaker attended Brain Injury Awareness day on Capitol Hill in March 2016, and continued to make contacts with women who’ve also lost family members to brain injury and CTE. Eventually, plans for a book were put into the works. It will be a collection of essays from 16 families, Archie says, and they plan to call it Faces of CTE.

“People have such short attention spans they’re more likely to read a chapter for each family,” she told me earlier this week. “Perhaps people can see their family member’s symptoms in one of ours. Each family has something in common, but we each have something unique to share.”

Soon, they decided to go all-out and head to Houston and announce CTE Awareness Day on January 30.

“I said, Let’s do it at Super Bowl. Let’s go to Houston and whether we get one media person in there or 100 it’s the symbolism of being here and having the nerve to stand up to the NFL,” Archie said.

In total, 13 people were able to make it to Houston, which required a pooling of resources during the price-inflated Super Bowl week.

Among them was Mary Seau, sister of Junior Seau, whose suicide and subsequent diagnosis became a turning point in the public awareness of CTE. After Junior drove off a cliff in 2010, Seau says, she visited her younger brother in the hospital and pushed him to tell her what was going on in his head.

“When I went to visit him at the hospital after the cliff, I said, What’s going on with you, what’s wrong? And he was kind of like this big old man, shrunk like a little child, and I had to put my head in front of his face and say No, really, what’s going on?

Junior never gave his sister the answer she sought. Now she is working to raise support for research that could help alleviate some of the pain of CTE before it’s too late.

CTE research is still limited, and the bulk of it falls to Dr. McKee at Boston University. As part of their initiative, Archie and Pyka want to help expand that network, and intend to have Faces of CTE operate as something of a middleman between families who have lost a family member who had CTE symptomatology and researchers.

Mayo stepped into CTE research in 2013, when researcher Kevin Bieniek went through Mayo’s backlog of brains to identify which had been exposed to contact sports. In 66 brains, Bieniek found CTE pathology in 21 of them. In 200 brains that had not been exposed to contact sports, Bieniek found zero cases of CTE pathology. Bieniek published the results of his study in November 2015.

While the subject at hand is by nature serious, Pyka and Archie are comfortable joking about the power of a scorned mother—or, in this case, scorned mothers.

“I think a mother’s bond is something that when it’s broken, and it’s because of the death of your child, you’re gonna do anything you can to help someone who’s in the same situation,” Pyka told me.

She adds that football and CTE have “destroyed the deceased, it’s destroyed our families, and it’s destroyed our lives. You don’t get a second chance with your brain.”

Archie says the plan for Faces of CTE is to “really look at it from a business perspective, and how can we as family members who have powerful stories how can we have strength in numbers? (Which we kinda stole from the Warriors—it’s kinda been our mantra.)

“Each of us are powerful and can facilitate change,” she says. “If we all get together and keep adding and adding we’re like a wave instead of a trickle.”

A Look at How Batman Has Totally Taken Over One Batfan’s Life

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 09:30

Before you start to worry, the subject of the Being Batman short film clearly states he knows the difference between reality and fiction. Still, this ultra-dedicated Batfan says he’s “out there every night” catching criminals.

For years, the identity of the mystery man driving a Batmobile down the streets of Brampton, Ontario, was a secret. The Canadian Dark Knight revealed his true identity recently but aims to preserve the mystique in the short film produced by Lossless Creative. This Batman operates on a mix of compulsion and obsession, which is a whole lot like the character he embodies.

'We Are All Scared For Our Jobs': GameStop Employees Share Their Circle Of Life Stories

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 09:30
Illustration by Sam Woolley

GameStop employees have always been pushy, but an aggressive new policy at the video game retail chain is taking their forcefulness to a new level. And some GameStop staff say it’s making them feel like they have to lie to customers or lose their jobs.

For a decade now, GameStop has subscribed to a company strategy that they call “Circle of Life.” The idea is that customers should buy games, trade them back into GameStop, and use the proceeds of those trades to buy more games. GameStop’s profit margin for used games is way higher than it is for new games, so it’s always been in the company’s best interest to push used products.

Last fall, however, the company ramped up their goals with a far more aggressive policy that assigns each employee (and each store) a Circle of Life score based on several quotas, including pre-owned sales. Because the pre-owned quota is based on a percentage of the employee’s total dollar transactions, this policy has punished GameStop staff for selling new games and systems.

Since reporting on GameStop’s controversial Circle of Life program Wednesday, I’ve heard from nearly 100 current and former employees with thoughts and stories. Some wanted to point out that they would never intentionally deceive customers. Others admitted that they felt pressured to do so. A few wanted to defend GameStop, but almost all of them said that the Circle of Life program was making their jobs far more miserable.

For this article, I’ve rounded up around 20 of those employees’ accounts, with a variety of stories and opinions. All of these employees spoke anonymously in the interest of protecting their careers, but I’ve verified that each one works or worked at GameStop. E-mails have been edited for brevity and clarity. Bolded emphasis mine.

Current assistant manager:

Your source was absolutely right when they talked about lying to guests. None of us like to do it, but we are all scared for our jobs. I worked two jobs myself until I hit [Assistant Store Leader] just because I didn’t get paid enough to support my family, and then shortly after I received my promotion and quit my other job, they roll out COL, and effectively tell us we’re used car salesmen now (a term which leadership previously used as a negative to describe attempting to sell a guest something they don’t want or need).

I don’t want this to sound like a sob story or anything, but my situation is the norm. I have employees who work at GameStop full time, and every time they sell a new console, or a day like January 24th rolls around where you have multiple new titles releasing at the same time, they all get extremely nervous about whether or not they’re going to hit their numbers. The worst part is the fact that all of my staff wants to do right by the guests, and we all try to do that as much as possible, but when we’re faced with either losing our jobs or selling a product that the guest doesn’t want, 9 times out of 10 we’ll sell something other than what the guests want.

The only people in my store who aren’t currently “used car salesmen” are the people who, like me, have put in their two week notice. This kind of stuff is super frustrating to the guests, that goes without saying, but it makes us feel like shit when we feel the need to lie to our regulars about what we have in stock just to try to keep our numbers up.

Another current assistant manager:

I just wanted to let you know that your GameStop article is spot on - I’m an assistant manager at a midwest GameStop and let me tell you, we ARE directed by higher management to mislead customers.

It might not be corporate, but it’s pretty damn close. During an “assistant leader” conference call earlier this week, an employee from another store asked why GameStop won’t lower prices of its pre-owned inventory to undercut sales on new items—and what we could do to overcome such hurdles to improve our COL.

Our District Leader straight up told her to direct our guests to the pre-owned items in question, talk up the value of buying pre-owned, and simply omit mentioning any sale prices. In the specific example she used (Watch Dogs 2), our guest would have wound up spending 25 dollars more than they had to! Maximize sales and profit while making service matter my ass.

Current employee:

I don’t partake in some of the more extreme measures represented but I do in fact think that we are incentivized to do so because of the truly awful way that we are treated as employees. It hasn’t been expressed in as many words but the threat of losing jobs over the “circle of life” is a very real thing that myself and my colleagues have discussed.

On top of all of the COL nonsense we’ve been pushed into a culture of selling that actively neglects the parts of the business that do not allow us to in fact sell. We’re constantly asked to forget about processing shipments and the like to help customers. While this isn’t a problem, the problem comes when we are chastised and reprimanded for not processing the shipment. I’ve had an entire back room full of unprocessed merchandise and then yelled at about it when I was doing as I was asked. This would be possible with more hours but we operate with something less than bare minimum. After my Store Manager and I take our 80 or so hours out of the equation we are left with less than 40 hours to apply to everyone else. This makes for an incredibly frustrating environment.

Current senior game associate:

I’m happy at GameStop for the most part, I absolutely love my regular customers and the conversations that I get to have, and love helping people. My store does things with a pretty unspoken code of ethics. We know not to lie to our people, because them being happy matters more than our numbers.

It feels like the company is hurting big time though. People (at least in my district) are quitting or getting fired left and right. Morale is absolutely horrible, and it (in my opinion) all boils down to there being a new crisis every few weeks. One week, we desperately need trades. The next few weeks, we need to focus on preowned. Then because we focused on trades and preowned, we didn’t get preorders.

So I think focusing on the COL was their way of trying to do everything at once. That focus just put intense pressure on us within the last month. I get 10-20 hours a week in my store now because they cut hours so much, and they expect me to have the responsibility, accountability, and performance on par with my managers who are there almost 40 hours a week.

I’m a student, and I love the people I work with and the perks that working at GameStop sometimes brings, but man I hope things improve from this story breaking. I’m kind of afraid employees will be blamed for it. I’ve been with the company for a over two years, and I can personally say that it feels as if we get less praise & incentives by the month.

From upper management’s point of view, we should feel lucky to even work at GameStop, talking about the things we love and dealing with games all day. They say that during conference calls, and those kinds of messages appear on our TVs when we open and close. The dichotomy of getting paid $1 over minimum wage for being “management,” yet being expected to act like a car salesman accountable for my sales shouldn’t be lost on them, but it is, and that’s perhaps the most frustrating thing. They can’t have it all, but they want it all.

Former assistant manager:

I was an assistant manager at a GameStop until last Thursday (I had enough of the company.) Circle of Life (COL) was something that has been always a part of GameStop but got revamped around October for the holidays. The goals for our store were as follows.

  • Reservations: 11%
  • PUR Pro Renewals: 13%
  • Pre-owned sales: 34%
  • Trades: 22%
  • GPG (Game Protection Guarantee) 20%
  • PRP (hardware warranty) 33%

These goals had to be met everyday or we would get a call from our District Manager (or District Leader, as GameStop would have you call him) to alert us about our low numbers and warn us. Our DL would routinely threaten our jobs over low performance so much so that he fired all the employees at one location (admittedly, this location had been a trouble location. But to fire the entire staff?)

Current employee:

I have worked at GameStop for over 7 years now. The comments you’ve received, I can almost guarantee you are edge cases. GameStop has an open door policy with its leadership, and the discussion and instruction around new policies comes straight from Paul Raines all the way down to the lowest level.

COL is one of the more strict selling behaviors this company has enforced, but it’s not out of bounds. Trade and pre-owned are where we make our most profit, with PRO Cards and Reservation growing the ecosystem. While those are always our biggest focus, company policy is, and always has been, customer first. Always offer customers the best value.

In our training videos for COL, they specifically stated situations where new is a better value, and how the bottom line should be helping the guest. Any district leaders forcing inappropriate behaviors around COL are acting strictly out of line, and I have seen these behaviors get them fired.

As far as being fired for COL, as I said, it is strict, but not without reason. GameStop needs to stay focused on generating profit, and we do so best with COL. If someone is fired over their COL score, it’s over months of bad scores, with monitoring. District and Regional leaders are now required to spend enough time in stores coaching specific employees that have room to grow. If their behaviors don’t change, actions are taken, but it’s not done without time and effort. As I said earlier, District Leaders encouraging incorrect behaviors around COL are at risk of immediate termination.

And in regards to not selling new products just to push pre-owned, that’s an easy way to tank your store. Labor hours allocation is based strictly on trade and net sales, not pre-owned. We still make profit from new sales, otherwise why would we offer new product. Anyone pushing sales away is purely acting that way, because they’re already not performing well.

And it doubly doesn’t make sense with new releases. Pre-order numbers and percentages are some of the most largely emphasized and tracked stats in the company, but for every pre-order we get, we get negatively affected in the end by pick-up ratio. If you get a bunch of people to pre-order Tekken 7, but then 40% of those customers pick-up, your pre-orders mostly end up hurting you. The company puts a focus on quality reserves, not just getting pre-orders to have them.

I hope you can add some of this perspective to the narrative. I know it’s cool to hate on Gamestop, but they’re still a large part of the gaming industry, and there are still a lot of honest, hard workers here. I’m sure you’ve seen the stats on the amount of new games we sell through pre-orders, and how much we drive trade incentives towards pre-orders. Also, people forget that niche retail is extremely competitive with not-the-highest job security, either. It just comes with the territory.

Former store manager:

I worked for GameStop for over 12 years and was a GameStop store manager for the last eight. Emphasis on “was.” I was just fired from the company over this exact program two weeks ago. During the holidays, my staff was afraid of being fired because of this program, so what I did was pass off my transactions to them that would improve their COL score while I took the transactions that would otherwise harm their COL scores. I did it to help ease their minds and the pressures from corporate. I thought I was safe because of my excellent track record with the company and the overall COL score for the store was above the company average.

Unfortunately, they fired me because “I was not an effective leader by not leading by example.” I did what I felt was right to my employees and I don’t regret it. This program led to my employees going into the back stockroom when they knew a customer only wanted new items, didn’t have a Pro card, trade, or didn’t want to reserve something... and I know my store was not the only one like this. People in general deserve a better place than GameStop to buy their games.

Current employee:

First, while not every associate at GameStop uses these dishonest practices, I know many who do. I have worked at 2 different stores (in both management and non management positions) and have seen people outright lie about things that would be in games to get people to preorder. Another thing people do is get people who don’t work often (8-10 hours a week) to do transactions under other associates’ names so as not to hurt the store’s numbers. These associates can’t possibly make their quotas, due to the limited number of hours they work, therefore they have to hurt someone else’s.

Believe me, we are all very tired of the COL, and it hurts morale overall.

Former employee:

Hello there Jason, I just read your article on GameStop’s Circle of Life program and I’d like to inject my thoughts on the matter. Yes, I’m a former GameStop employee and I do agree the COL is not perfect by any means. It’s true GameStop corporate is expecting employees to have a minimal of 75% a day/week, but they will average your scores if I remember every six weeks. In this average, if your score falls bellow 45%, shit starts happening.

Now, I’m not new to retail, I’ve been in the retail/service workforce for seven years plus it’s a numbers game I know that by heart. There is more to the store than just the COL. It’s all about store profitability and COL is tied directly to it. I can’t speak for all Gamestop stores, but the one I worked at we never turned down a customer who wanted a new game or system. Yes, it doesn’t add anything to the COL but there is another thing that corporate looks at with a magnifying glass and that is customer surveys. On the bottom of every receipt there is a survey link with a chance to win a gift card thing. Those reviews if a customer has filled out carries weight and one of my old managers at the end of every transaction as a friendly reminder encourages the customer to fill it out. He ends the conversation like this, “I like working here” or if I was working along side with him he would do the same thing with my customers. Just take out the I and replace it with me :).

I was disciplined for having a low COL score and that basically was that I couldn’t work the register for a couple of days. Which I kinda broke that rule out of necessity but I left the company soon afterwards. I was working a second job at the time and I got a better deal with my current employer. In conclusion the COL is not perfect and it does pit employees in a desperate situation cause it assumes that every day is going to be a perfect day. At the end of the day it’s all about numbers and having strong numbers is always good. GameStop at a corporate level that’s all they see and look at are numbers.

Current game advisor:

I have been written up for both having a low COL and for “not pursuing potentially key COL sales.” I was most recently talked to this Sunday because I allowed a customer to return a sale that hurt our score.

Our store has not kept new games hidden, at least to my knowledge, however we do “juggle” sales in order to play the numbers. For instance, if a customer comes in and purchases a used PlayStation, games, etc from me, they will give me a positive Pre-Owned score. From then on, I will be the employee that deals with all New sales for the rest of the day, because my personal numbers can take it. We have even gone so far that my co-worker has given me their computer login, so that a positive purchase from me will even out their numbers, and vice-versa.

We do this so that we don’t have to do something like turn a customer away, but we have been told several times by corporate managers (mostly district manager) to cease doing this.

Current employee:

You pretty much nailed that on the Circle of Life. I’ve been a employee of Gamestop for about 7 years and this isn’t a really new program. It’s been around for years but around the holidays they revamped it and enforced it. It’s honestly the most ridiculous thing that GameStop has forced. The company has been trending in a downward spiral. Out of all the categories the only one that is feasible, should be the preowned sales. Mainly because that’s the majority of their revenue. But other ones are solely on the customers, and employees will ask.

In my district in Massachusetts, individuals are to be at 50% without facing punishment. I was actually told by my manager that our district manager wanted to get rid of me for having a 0% during the holiday season. It was absolutely ridiculous, my manager did not agree with her. But I was somewhat punished by my manager just to appease the district manager. What you did say about employees lying about certain things to get their numbers up or keeping them up. We refer them as “padding numbers,” and there is some shady stuff that employees do. In all the years of working there, not 1 of their programs have ever been about customer satisfaction.

Current SGA:

Your article was honestly pretty accurate in regards as to how COL works. That being said, I feel that (while sometimes warranted) it paints us employees in a bad light. Of course, I cannot speak for all stores, but within my district, I am very lucky to have leaders that are kind and understanding. We push COL as hard as every other district, but the punishments are less severe. No one has lost their job due to their performance. And as employees, we will not lie to a customer to up our score. If someone wants a new PS4, and I can’t talk them into a pre-owned PS4, then so be it. I take the $300 hit. And that’s okay. Since I’m in such a forgiving store/district, I will do this as much as I need to, if it means the customer gets a better deal.

My store’s employees consistently hit 50% or above weekly, not because we deceive our customers, but because we work hard to push recommended products in an honest manner. We are able to keep our score by constantly checking COL, and distributing sales to who needs more of a category, or letting someone take the hit for someone who is already under in a category. COL hurts us all, as myself and many of my associates genuinely care about customers and meeting their needs, but are discouraged to do so by our own company.

So, tl;dr: COL sucks, it stresses everyone out immensely, but the average employee is not as scummy as the article seems to portray us. We care about the customers, we just want to also keep our jobs. It’s really scary to know that I could lose my job for working in the customer’s best interest, and it’s beginning to drive away a lot of my staff from the company. Honestly, I’m scared for what comes next in GameStop’s money making plans.

Current employee:

I won’t do any of the shady practices they basically tell us to do, without actually saying it.

But the COL does force us to push products on our customers since we are essentially threatened with termination every day via emails. They want sales numbers but don’t offer any commission system. I know they aren’t breaking any laws with our pay but I’ve been here 4 years, I’m a key holder (SGA), and I only make $10.25 in the state of NY. That’s only 50 cents higher than minimum wage. They also keep us at a skeleton crew but tell us it’s our fault if we don’t take our lunch breaks, and that we will be fired for it. There are days where I’m the only one in the store until I’m scheduled to leave, making it impossible to take my breaks or lunches. This is because they cut store hours to the bare minimum to keep us open. I can’t even use the restroom without closing the store down temporarily.

Current manager:

I’m sure you’ve received a lot of emails since posting the article on the GameStop Circle of Life metrics, but if you wanted more insight into it I am a Store Leader at a store that consistently ranks top 10% of the company in the Circle of Life and I hate it. The goals can be met without lying to guests but they cannot be met without some sort of gaming the system. My own District Leader has flat out told me to have employees that are weak on performance ignore guests that come into the store and never step foot behind a register to prevent scores from dropping.

Monday through Wednesday have brought about guilt trip calls, and conversations questioning whether or not my employees “really want to work for GameStop or are just wasting our time” because they got excited about Resident Evil last week, sold us completely out of copies, and tanked our pre-owned numbers.

Current employee:

Very much in line with what you said, the pressure on us to hit numbers goals is real. According to corporate policy, being below 50% on COL for 3 consecutive weeks is supposed to result in termination. Some district managers may enforce this, some may not. Mine does. So very often we are forced to do whatever we have to do to get these numbers, but it goes beyond lying about new/used game stock. A good example is preorders, if a guest has no preorders and doesn’t preorder something that hurts our numbers. If the guest preorders a game that obviously helps. If the guest has a preorder and makes a payment on it, it has a null effect on our preorder percentage.

So, last week my DM taught me to add a penny to every preorder a person already has because nobody notices an extra penny and it boosts my numbers, even though it isn’t very ethical. COL promotes a poor selling culture. As a employee that receives few hours as is, one bad week of COL could cause me to go a week with no hours, or greatly reduced hours. So I’m in a situation where sometimes I tell people I can’t do transactions if they don’t have trades, I may trade shifts with someone on days a major title releases (like recently with RE7), or preorder games for guests when there is a trade bump toward that game even if they have no intention of preordering it (causing them to have to cancel later and hurt one of my co-workers). It sucks to do, but it keeps my job.

Former employee:

I worked as an SGA or Senior Game Advisor from May of 2016 to November of 2016. I was there when the revamped “Circle of Life” was put into place. Although I cannot speak for GameStop as a whole I can say that at the store that I worked at I never once felt pressured to lie to or mislead my customers nor did I ever feel pressured by upper management to mislead anyone as well.

I know GameStop has been known for misleading their customers and some of its practices I don’t agree with such as selling games that are already opened as new as well as ten years ago when I first worked for the company and the pressure I faced when having to sell Edge Cards/Power Up Rewards memberships to people or otherwise your job was on the line.

I agree that the current metrics are rather absurd for the Circle of Life. Each metric is 25% of your overall 100% goal and we even had contests each month to try and hit those numbers which could also be the reason why a lot of employees across the company were misleading customers to try and win a contest. Not to mention there was a contest where depending on how well you did on your COL score your Store Manager would win prize money as well.

That is where I believe the problem lies, is that the incentives for Store Managers and employees were so good that it could’ve caused employees to want to mislead customers so that COL scores would be great. I can also confirm that you did indeed only need a 75% or a 3/4 on your COL score in order to succeed. It can be a lot of pressure to try and hit those numbers especially when you are sold out of say pre-owned PS4's and then go to sell a new one which really hurts and can tank your COL score.

Current manager:

I can confirm some of these behaviors. All GameStop employees are sick and tired of this COL metric, and sick and tired of corporate threatening our jobs over this… The COL score has directly impacted my store in just a couple ways. Everyone seems to be worried about if they’re going to be at the percentage mark whenever I print out the last days/week to date COL scores, and that worrying directly impacts their performance on the sales floor. Either they see that they’re in a good spot and just try to coast out on it and stop trying or they see that they’re below what they should be and then they try harder, which sounds good, but it’s that frantic and desperate trying because they know that their jobs are literally on the line and they just seem too overly pushy and you can see the uneasiness in some of the customers eyes when my employee is trying desperately to get an reserve, or a Pro card, or talk them into a used item when they really want new.

And we’ve been told, as Store Leaders, to cherry pick transactions if our COL score is too low. Like literally take transactions from our employees if we know there’s gonna be a reserve or a Pro card, or even if someone is trading in a lot of things to take the transaction from them to boost our pre-owned percentage. Which, I don’t do and I don’t know of many who will do that, but we’ve been told to do it.

But the COL also keeps us from actually being happy to make a large sale anymore. My Regional Manager sent out an email because someone at a store made a little over $1k sale, but everything was new but the 5 used games he managed to sell with the purchase. It was a good sale, but the only thing that helped his COL was those used games, and the PS4 and the VR headset he sold hurt him. I sold $1400 in one transaction during the holidays, but instead of feeling good and proud about doing it, all I could think was, “Well, there goes my COL score.”

This whole COL fiasco has made us all feel expendable and pretty much useless. They remind you on a almost daily basis that they will terminate you for low enough consecutive COL score, and that we need to be writing up and pushing out the employees at our stores who can’t keep a high enough COL score.

Seasonal worker:

I worked at EB Games/GameStop from Oct 2016-Dec 30th 2016 as a seasonal “Floor only Associate.”

I was first introduced to the “new direction” (as my manager liked to call it) when WW 2K17 was coming out. It was the day before release and we just started opening up boxes of cellophane wrapped games. My manager then starts to tell me to start tearing off all the cellophane wrap from every single disc and to take the disc out, and use the empty case as an “extra source for marketing fill space.” However I was also told when customers were to come in the next day requesting a new copy of WW 2K17, we were to grab 1 of the discs that was already out and opened up, and to put it back in 1 of the already opened game cases with a 1" piece of round tape sealing it after. If we did not sell all opened “new” games in the next few days. My manager would enter them into the system as pre owned then apply the green sticker on them, and continue to sell them at a used price.

Remember reading/writing about how Gamestop had broken some records for pre-orders for Pokemon Sun/Moon? Well when I first started, our district manager had come by to check up on the store and urged everybody working at each location to pre-order 2-3 copies of Sun/Moon each, whether we were interested in the game or not. In fact my manager basically told me I was not being a team player if I didn’t pre order more than 2 copies of the game. Apparently this was going around at every district. After the games shipped, 2/3 of employee cancelled the pre orders.

...The last thing I will mention is that time and time again, my manager would tell customers that they could only get a copy of the game from us if they pre ordered the game. If a new game was not pre ordered and the day of release someone came to buy that game, my manager would refuse a sale, and tell him to pre order the game next time... or he could buy a pre owned version for 20% higher price.

Current assistant manager:

As a current assistant manager at a GameStop store in NY I can promptly tell you that almost everything that was brought up in the initial article was absolute bullshit being complained about by shitty employees who were also probably just shitty people in general. Those kind of employees make up a very small minority of GS associates and honestly give the rest of us a bad name. No one ever gets threatened to be fired for that kind of stuff unless they have been lacking for months on end. And it’s never even a majority of the staff that gets threatened. It’s always the store managers first because they set the tone of the store and frankly if they can’t get their employees to do their jobs then they are either terrible managers and shouldn’t be running a store in the first place or should fire the staff and get people who will actually put the effort in and do the work.

I love working here. Are there times when they tell us we absolutely have to do certain things or meet certain numbers? Of course. It’s a business. For some reason people just like picking on GameStop as a business because they have had bad experiences with bad employees. But it happens, thats normal in any business. COL is not something new. It’s been around forever. It’s what makes GameStop run as a company. Best Buy, Walmart, Target, etc. they all have the same shit. If you don’t help grow the business or you are losing the company money you’re gonna get fired. That’s how the world works. Does it sometimes suck? Sure, but you can’t complain about a business doing what it has to do to make money.

Current SGA:

Just chiming in as an SGA/keyholder. The first article seems mostly accurate. Personally, I have deceived guests before on a few occasions because this program has bad incentives. For instance, when DOOM was on sale new for $30, somebody asked me what the price was and I said “I think it’s $60" and he bought the PO copy for $54.99 just to not hurt my numbers. I have never said “we don’t have this in stock (when we actually do, that’s a new one!). Other occasions, somebody comes in to buy Rocksmith for XB1 and I once tried to get him to take this used 360 copy which somebody left here (GS doesn’t take it in for trade) but he still wanted a new copy so I sold it to him.

...As far as job threatening, I have had this occur multiple times over the past year for different reasons but numbers hasn’t been one of those until the COL metric came in to play. Now, my DM is telling us that anybody who has a 0% COL score for the week should not be working for the company, which is understandable. However, his attitude is what gripes me and he is treating us as if it’s a commission based job in terms of how aggressive and competitive it is when the only “incentive” (lol) we have is to not get yelled at or fired for poor performance. If I wanted to be yelled at about numbers, I’d go work for a company that will pay me commission and a living wage.

Current employee:

I obviously don’t know everything you’ve been told, but your articles are pretty spot on. I’ve been with the company for nearly 5 years and never have they pushed COL so hard. It’s always been a part of the culture, but most of us have never feared losing our jobs over not making the right score.

First, thank you for reporting this. Our company is turning into a sinking ship, and everyone but corporate seems to see it.

Second, I’d like to point out that not all of us are going to lie to customers. A good bit of us simply won’t. However, there are are lot of people who, out of fear of being fired, will. There are district leaders who even encourage their stores to apply a game warranty without first asking the customer. It used to be “would you like to add it” and now it’s turned into “Your total with the game warranty is x.xx”.

The company also took away our employee information hub for about a week last year, claiming later it was to “help us focus through the holiday weekend” (holiday was father’s day, by the way) but originally telling us it was because we weren’t doing our jobs well enough. So this new push for COL is only among things worse. I’ve watched my store leader go from someone who liked his job to someone who can barely find it in himself to interact with even his favorite customers because he’s constantly being scolded about things out of his control.

GameStop used to be a great place to work, but now we all bond over the fact that corporate is determined to drag us down with them, blaming us the whole way.

Oculus' John Carmack Has Serious Doubts About $500 Million Lawsuit’s Expert Witness [UPDATE]

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 09:00
John Carmack by Nick Ut/AP Images

Oculus CTO and renowned Quake and Doom programmer John Carmack slammed a Dallas jury’s Wednesday decision against Oculus in a $500 million copyright and non-disclosure agreement lawsuit. On Facebook, Carmack specifically takes issue with an expert witness whose testimony, he says, is “just not true.”

For two years, Oculus has battled allegations of intellectual property theft. Entertainment company Zenimax accuses the Facebook-owned virtual reality company of stealing their source code. The case alleges that Carmack developed much of the Oculus Rift headset technology while employed at Zenimax and violated an NDA. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey countered that he developed it himself. Yesterday, Oculus was ordered to pay half a billion dollars, even though the Dallas jury decided Oculus didn’t appropriate trade secrets.

After Zenimax won the suit, Carmack on Facebook yesterday ripped into Zenimax’s expert witness. “I never tried to hide or wipe any evidence, and all of my data is accounted for, contrary to some stories being spread,” Carmack wrote. He counters that an expert witness was wrong that Oculus had “non-literally copied” his source code.

Essentially, an expert witness testified that he was “absolutely certain” the finalized Oculus Rift source code closely resembled code Carmack had previously developed while at Zenimax. “By the end, after seven cases of ‘absolutely certain’, I was wondering if gangsters had kidnapped his grandchildren and were holding them for ransom,” Carmack wrote. “If the code examples were released publicly, the internet would have viciously mocked the analysis.”

On Wednesday, Oculus told Kotaku reporter Nathan Grayson that they will appeal the decision. To Polygon, Zenimax said they may seek an injunction preventing Oculus and Facebook from continuing to sell “our misappropriated technology.”

[Update—12:20 PM]: Responding to Carmack’s statement, Zenimax told Gamasutra, “In addition to expert testimony finding both literal and non-literal copying, Oculus programmers themselves admitted using Zenimax’s copyrighted code . . . The Oculus Rift was built on a foundation of Zenimax technology. . . As for the denial of wiping, the Court’s independent expert found 92 percent of Carmack’s hard drive was wiped—all data was permanently destroyed, right after Carmack got notice of the lawsuit, and that his affidavit denying the wiping was false. Those are the hard facts.”

American Truck Simulator’s next map expansion will feature New Mexico, SCS announced yesterday.

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 08:25

American Truck Simulator’s next map expansion will feature New Mexico, SCS announced yesterday. The roads draw ever closer to my house. Excellent.

Cut The Cord With Your Choice of Bluetooth Headphone Deals

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 08:14
J and L Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds, $10 with code Q73GWW55 | Sony Bluetooth On-Ear Headphones, $45 | Mpow Thor Bluetooth Headphones, $19 with code PTQAXDOZ

It’s pretty clear by now that wired headphones are a thing of the past for all but the most serious audiophiles. Luckily, Bluetooth headphones are ubiquitous and affordable, and we’ve spotted three different deals today, including on a pair from Sony.

Fire Emblem Heroes Fans Are Deleting And Reinstalling The Game For Better Characters

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 07:30

Fire Emblem Heroes, Nintendo’s free mobile strategy game, released yesterday afternoon in the U.S. Instead of actually playing the game, many are finding themselves repeating the opening sections over and over again, in the hopes of cheating the system a little.

You see, Heroes is a Gacha game, meaning it is full of random potential Fire Emblem characters that can be added to your party. “Summoning” heroes into your game requires “Orbs,” an in-game currency. You can earn Orbs by playing through the game normally, or you can purchase them. The more Orbs you have, the more you can summon, and the more you summon, the less the next summon costs—so there’s incentive to summon a bunch of heroes in one go.

Fire Emblem Heroes grants you free orbs at the start of the game, allowing you to pull a handful of characters from the get-go. This is where things get messy. People don’t want to recruit whatever characters they can get. People want good characters, with noteworthy stats. Like the RPGs before it, Heroes assigns characteristics such as Attack, Defense, and Speed, but these numbers are totally random—you can get two of the exact same heroes, at the same level, with different stats. Heroes also come packed with differing degrees of potential growth, equipment, and abilities, all denoted by stars: a one-star Tharja is not the same as a five star Tharja, basically.

Over the years, fans have grown fond of specific Fire Emblem personalities, which they’ll want to pull during summoning in Heroes. And it makes sense, really: nobody is about to get psyched about a random character from a game they’ve never played. If all of this sounds exploitative, it kinda is. The system is designed to entice you into spending more Orbs for the characters you want, but the chances of getting a desired character are low enough that many will be tempted to spend money just to improve the odds.

Fire Emblem fans are a resourceful bunch, however, and instead of dropping cash, they’re taking advantage of the system meant to hook them. Many are electing to “reroll” until they get something decent, as is tradition in gacha games. The method involves starting the game, going through the tutorial, redeeming your orbs, and summoning immediately. If you get what you want, you keep going. If you don’t, you delete your data, uninstall the game, and then re-download and go through the entire process once again. Despite being a time-consuming practice, it is a very common ritual right now, judging by social media:

A player with the handle mrhappyismissing even started speedrunning the whole thing:

I for one didn’t realize this was possible, and am too far into my current game to try it—but admittedly, I would have been tempted. Momma needs Camilla!

Today's Best Deals: External Storage, Waste King, Sony Bluetooth Headphones, and More

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 07:19

An ultra-powerful garbage disposal, 4TB hard drive, and wireless headphones lead off Friday’s best deals from around the web.

Bookmark Kinja Deals and follow us on Twitter to never miss a deal. Don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter.

Top DealsSeagate Backup Plus 4TB, $110

Update: The WD is sold out, but this Wirecutter-recommended Seagate Backup Plus 4TB is available for the same price.

Whether you need to be better about backing up your computer, or are just so excited that the PS4 is finally adding external hard drive support, you can get a WD My Passport 4TB drive for just $110 today for Prime members on Amazon, the best price they’ve ever listed.

It wasn’t that long ago that drives over 2TB required an extra power supply, but that’s not the case here; just plug it into a USB port, and it’s good to go.

Waste King L-8000 Garbage Disposal, $100

If you want to install a garbage disposal, your search can begin and end with the Waste King line.

You don’t see a ton of products on Amazon with over 5,000 reviews, but this 1 HP Waste King model manages a 4.6 star average from a boatload of customers, and it’s marked down to $100 right now on Amazon. We’ve seen it slightly cheaper on a handful of occasions, but this is the best deal since the holiday season, and definitely on the low end of its price range.

Bosch 2.7 Gallon Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater, $148 after $10 coupon

If your kitchen or bathroom sink takes too long to get hot water from your existing water heater, there’s a surprisingly simple solution: Give it its own water heater! This 2.7 gallon Bosch heater installs directly under your sink, and plugs into a standard power outlet, giving you instant access to all the hot water you need.

Its current $158 price tag is an all-time low on its own, but an additional $10 clippable coupon on the product page makes this deal even sweeter. It might seem a little indulgent, but waiting 30 seconds for hot water multiple times per day really adds up.

Logitech Harmony Smart Control, $70

This seemingly basic remote might not look like much at first blush, but it can actually control eight of your favorite home theater devices, and even turn your smartphone and your Amazon Echo into into universal remotes as well.

You’re probably used to seeing Logitech Harmony remotes with screens built-in, but it turns out that you already carry a much better screen in your pocket. So in addition to controlling your TV, cable box, game console, stereo, and more from the remote itself, the Logitech Harmony Smart Control can now do the same from your iPhone or Android from anywhere in the house. That’s especially handy when your favorite show is about to start and you can’t find the remote anywhere. Today’s $70 price is the best we’ve ever seen, but it’s already backordered, so lock yours in ASAP.

Quilted Northern Ultra Plush Toilet Paper, 48 Rolls, $21 after $6 coupon

You need toilet paper anyway, so you might as well spend as little as possible on it. While supplies last, you can get a whopping 48 rolls of Quilted Northern Ultra Plush for just $21 with a $6 Amazon coupon. Just note that you won’t see the final price until checkout, so don’t flush this opportunity down the drain.

25% off local Groupons, promo code WINTER25

Today only, Groupon is taking an extra 25% off all local offers with promo code WINTER25, up to a maximum $50 discount. That includes restaurants, movie tickets, oil changes, and everything in between in the city of your choice.

Lansky BladeMedic, $8

No matter how great your kitchen knives are, they all need some tender loving care from time to time. This $8 sharpening tool includes two v-sharpeners, a fold-out sharpening rod, and a ceramic sharpening edge for serrated knives, all in a handheld package that can fit into any kitchen drawer. If you still aren’t convinced, check out the reviews, where nearly 3,000 Amazon customers have given it a 4.6 star average.

Free shipping on your entire order with purchase of select denim

Uniqlo’s shipping fees are usually a big deterrent, but right now, you can bypass them when you add some denim to your cart. Uniqlo’s jeans are super high-quality for their price and I’m sure you’ve been meaning to a replace a pair or two, so this is a win-win. Plus, a lot of their denim is on sale as well.

Buy Five Items, Get Free Shipping

Amazon’s Prime Pantry service has kicked off February with a pair of free shipping promotions.

If the $6-per-box Prime Pantry delivery fee is scaring you off, it’s easy to avoid by including any five items from this page in your box. There are hundreds of eligible products from across every major category, so you should have no trouble finding five that you were going to buy anyway. If you meet this requirement, you’ll see the $6 shipping fee waived at checkout.

If you somehow don’t find five items that you want, you can also add some from this “Made For Super Bowl” promotion. You won’t get your items by Sunday, but there’s never a bad time to eat Stacy’s Pita Chips. It’s the same free shipping offer, but you could combine items from both pages to get the deal.

The best part? If you have a Prime Pantry shipping credit on your Amazon account for choosing no-rush shipping on a previous order, that will stack with this deal, saving you an extra $6.

Aukey Apple Watch Charging Stand with Suction Cup, $6 with code AUKEYLYU

There are probably thousands of Apple Watch charging stands out there, but basically every one I’ve seen shares the same problem: They slide all over your nightstand when you try to pull the watch off its magnetic charger.

Aukey seems to have solved that with an ingeniously simple suction cup on the bottom of its new stand. It’s a little thing, but you’ll appreciate it every night, and what’s $6 to someone who spent $270+ on an Apple Watch?

Note: This doesn’t include any actual charging hardware: Like most Apple Watch charging stands, it’s basically just housing for the included charger.

Vansky Motion-Activated Under-Bed Night Light, $18 with code SJMFQK08

Finally, someone made the Glow Bowl, but for everywhere else in your home. This motion-sensing light strip is billed as an under-bed night light, but you could just as easily attach it under your bathroom counter, along a railing, beneath your baby’s crib, or anywhere else you might need to venture in the middle of the night. For a limited time, you can get one for just $18 with code SJMFQK08, matching an all-time low.

Tronsmart 42W 3-Port USB Charger with 6' Cable, $8 with code 3USBWALL

Update 2: Working now. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Update: Code doesn’t appear to be working. We’ll update this post if we figure it out.

Quick Charge gear used to carry a fairly significant price premium, but now, there’s no reason not to upgrade all of your USB chargers (assuming you have a compatible phone). Today on Amazon, $8 gets you a three-port wall charger (one of which is a QC 2.0 port), plus a 6' charging cable from Tronsmart, one of the most popular brands in this space.

Samsung 60" 4K TV, $598

Samsung’s 6000-series TVs were some of the most popular 4K sets we listed in 2016, and now Walmart has knocked the 60" model down below $600 for the first time ever, just in time for the Super Bowl. Just note that this is the 6270, which lacks Bluetooth and a few legacy ports that you’d find in the 6300.

Hisense 50" 4K Smart TV, $300

Hisense isn’t the most well known TV company out there, but they’re generally well respected, and it’s tough to find much fault with a 50" 4K smart TV with HDR processing for $300. This is the entry level model of the company’s 2016 lineup, and its black levels are apparently a step or two behind its more expensive brethren, but this price is still about $100 less than you’ll see elsewhere, and a great bargain any way you slice it.

Aukey Car Mount, $6 with code AUKEYLYU

Aukey’s simple magnetic smartphone vent holder is one of the most popular car mounts out there, and from personal experience, I can tell you it’s awesome for taking on vacation for use in a rental car as well. For $6, go ahead, give it a try.

Xbox One S Battlefield 1 Bundle, $230

If you somehow missed out on all of the Black Friday Xbox One price drops, you’re in luck, because the Battlefield 1 Xbox One S bundle is down to just $230 today, with no sales tax for most buyers. There aren’t any included extras to speak of here (other than a copy of Battlefield 1 and a month of EA Access), but this is one of the best pure cash discounts we’ve seen.

Red Dead Revolver [PS4], $10

You could sit quietly in a chair, staring at a wall until the moment Red Dead Redemption 2 comes out, or you could pass the time by replaying the original Red Dead Revolver, available on PS4 for $10.

The Last Wish: Introducing The Witcher [Kindle], $3

It’s not unusual to see terrible spin-off novels based on hit video game series, but The Witcher is actually a hit video game series spun off of a fantastic series of novels. The first chapter in the series, The Last Wish, is only $3 on Kindle today. Even if you haven’t played the games, it’s a great introduction to the lore, so don’t worry if you don’t know your botchlings from your bilge hags.

OxyLED D01 Doorbell Kit, $10 with code OXYD0199

We’ve posted our fair share of deals on wireless doorbells, motion sensor lights, emergency flashlights, and security alarms, but this is the only product we’ve seen that performs all of those functions on its own.

Upstairs at the White House [Kindle], $1

For those of us that would like to read something pleasant about Washington for a change, Upstairs at the White House seems like a great palate cleanser for $1 on Kindle.

J. B. West, chief usher of the White House, directed the operations and maintenance of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue—and coordinated its daily life—at the request of the president and his family. He directed state functions; planned parties, weddings and funerals, gardens and playgrounds, and extensive renovations; and, with a large staff, supervised every activity in the presidential home. For twenty-eight years, first as assistant to the chief usher, then as chief usher, he witnessed national crises and triumphs, and interacted daily with six consecutive presidents and first ladies, as well as their parents, children and grandchildren, and houseguests—including friends, relatives, and heads of state.

J. B. West, whom Jackie Kennedy called “one of the most extraordinary men I have ever met,” provides an absorbing, one-of-a-kind history of life among the first ladies. Alive with anecdotes ranging from Eleanor Roosevelt’s fascinating political strategies to Jackie Kennedy’s tragic loss and the personal struggles of Pat Nixon, Upstairs at the White House is a rich account of a slice of American history that usually remains behind closed doors.

J and L Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds, $10 with code Q73GWW55 | Sony Bluetooth On-Ear Headphones, $45 | Mpow Thor Bluetooth Headphones, $19 with code PTQAXDOZ

It’s pretty clear by now that wired headphones are a thing of the past for all but the most serious audiophiles. Luckily, Bluetooth headphones are ubiquitous and affordable, and we’ve spotted three different deals today, including on a pair from Sony.

Additional 30% off sale items

Club Monaco is one of those stores that you frequently stare at but never purchase from. With an additional 30% off sale items, no code needed, Club Monaco is about to sing you a siren song. Buy this peacoat or that cocktail dress. It’s an extra 30% off. Just go for it.

10% off Valentine’s Day Chocolate

I get it; Valentine’s Day was invented by corporations to profit off of love and the whole thing is contrived and the restaurant crowds are terrible and how can we be talking about Valentine’s Day while the country is ripping apart at the seams? I know, I’m with you.

But that being said, you still probably have to buy chocolate, and Amazon will deliver several options to your door for 10% off (discount shown at checkout).

GTA V’s campaign is great, and its online mode is still incredibly active, so its no wonder that the game has been relatively immune from downward price pressure, even years after release. Today though, you can get a PS4 download code from Amazon for $30, matching the best deal we’ve seen.

Taken 3-Movie Collection, $15

If you preorder the Taken 3-movie collection for an all-time low $15 now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will scold you.

Breville Lift & Look Slot Toaster, $40

Look, I’ve got nothing against toaster ovens. I own a fancy one, and I use it all the time. But the fact is, even a cheap slot toaster produces better toast than the best oven, and one of the best you can buy just went on sale.

$40 gets you the Breville Lift & Look, which features motorized slots, a one-touch button to toast for a little bit longer, and a dedicated bagel mode that only toasts on the inside. This thing has sold pretty consistently for $80 since it launched, and $40 is the best deal Amazon’s ever offered.

DualShock 4, $40

When Sony rolled out the new PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro, they also quietly tweaked the DualShock 4 controller, and here’s another chance to get it for $40.

This is basically the same gamepad you know and love, but with a futuristic looking light bar at the top of the touchpad, and the ability to communicate over USB when plugged into your console for lag-free input. We see $40 deals on the black model from time to time, so this is a great opportunity if you’re smitten with silver.

Contigo AUTOSEAL Transit, $14

This Contigo travel mug is very similar to the Autoseal West Loop, your overwhelming favorite mug on Kinja Co-Op, but with a rubberized non-slip grip. $14 matches a Gold Box deal from last week, so if you missed out on that all-time low price, this is a great second chance.

Target wants to be your home goods destination with three pretty big home deals to choose from.

There’s a lot to digest, so here’s a quick summary. First, take 10% off $25 worth of Valentine’s day decorations and supplies. Good for stocking up on cards for your kids’ class and other cutesy things. Then, save 25% on select bedding, furniture, and decor, plus buy one, get one 50% off window treatments.

Lorell Sit to Stand Monitor Riser, $148

So you want to try a standing desk, but you’re not ready to commit to it for eight hours a day...what do you do? You buy this Lorell monitor riser for $148, an all-time low.

This riser arrives fully assembled, and just sits on top of your existing desk. Put your monitor(s) on the top shelf, your keyboard and mouse on the bottom, and use its integrated spring system to raise the entire setup from a sitting to standing position within seconds. I own a very similar product from Varidesk (which was much more expensive, by the way), and I absolutely love it.

I can tell you from experience that you’ll definitely want a good anti-fatigue mat for standing. This one has great reviews, but whatever you choose, make sure it’s at least 3/4" thick.

25% off Chemical Guys Products

Chemical Guys makes some of the most popular car detailing products on the market, and Amazon’s currently taking 25% off several soaps, sealants, scents, and more. Just note that the prices listed on this page don’t include the discount, so you won’t see the deal until checkout.

WenTop Digital Programmable Timer Outlet Switch, $11

This WenTop outlet switch can’t take orders from Alexa or integrate with IFTTT like Wi-Fi connected smart plugs, but it’s far cheaper at $11, and can be pre-scheduled to turn on and off up to eight times per day. That means you can wake up to a well-lit house, never worry about forgetting to turn off the lights at night, and even deter thieves while you’re away from home.

Oster Electric Wine Opener with Foil Cutter, $16

If you struggle with manual wine openers, or just need an easy gift idea for someone else, Oster’s top-selling electric wine opener is just $16 today, complete with a foil cutter.

6-Pack Suave Men’s Shampoo, $8 after 20% coupon

If you’ve got the space under your bathroom sink, there’s no good reason not to buy six bottles of Suave men’s shampoo for $8. Note that it’s listed as an add-on item, but it’ll still ship free with any Subscribe & Save delivery.

Etekcity Dimmable LED Desk Lamp, $25

$25 is a solid great price for any LED desk lamp, but it’s one of the best we’ve ever seen for a model that includes a USB charging port and adjustable color temperature, which can seriously boost your productivity.

Hoover TwinTank Steam Mop, $45

When it comes to cleaning hard floors, you’ve basically got three options to choose from, if you don’t want to get down on your hands and knees:

  • A regular old mop, which can leave your floors wet for hours.
  • A Swiffer WetJet, or any similar product that uses chemical spray that can leave a residue, and disposable (i.e. expensive) cleaning pads.
  • A steam mop, which cleans using regular old water that dries within seconds.

Now, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but the choice seems rather obvious to me, especially when you can get a highly rated Hoover steam mop for just $45 today only on Amazon. That’s the best price ever listed, and $10 less than our previous mention.

Aukey USB Wall Charger, $6 with code ZOERF9IO

You know the little charging brick that came with your phone? Throw it out, and spend $6 on this replacement from Aukey (white only with code ZOERF9IO). It’s basically the same size as Apple’s standard iPhone charger, but it includes two ports, folding prongs, and 2.4A of current (shared between the ports) to charge your devices faster.

Eneloop Pro AA 8-Pack, $28

Eneloops are far and away our readers’ favorite rechargeable batteries, and the higher capacity Eneloop Pros are on sale today.

$28 gets you eight pre-charged AAs. That’s still a price premium over the standard Eneloops (an 8-pack without a charger is still on sale for $18), but it’s the best price Amazon’s ever listed, and worth it if you want your batteries to last longer per charge.

Netgear Nighthawk R6700, $100 after $20 coupon

If your home network has more holes than Swiss cheese, Netgear’s Nighthawk R6700 features beamforming, USB ports, and up to 1750 Mbps maximum throughput, meaning it’s more than enough router for most homes. You can save an additional $20 by clipping the on-page coupon, which brings it down to just $100.

Wet & Dry Amopé, $26 with coupon

The Amopé is an electric foot file that literally files down the gross calluses on your feet until they slightly resemble that of a modern human. Clip the coupon and get $15 off the Wet & Dry Amopé. Unlike the original, this can also be used in the shower, so you can easily wash all your foot shavings down the drain. Pick one up and start taking better care of your treads.

Cymas Vegetable Slicer, $15

This inexpensive mandoline slicer can chop all of your favorite fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and fingers for just $15. Plus, its five interchangeable plates and three thickness settings mean it can adapt to many different ingredients and recipes. I have this and use it practically every time I cook.

RTIC 20 Soft Pack, $70 | RTIC 30 Soft Pack, $87

While convenient for keeping drinks chilled, lugging a hardside cooler everywhere is less-than-ideal. How about picking up one of RTIC’s softsided coolers, in either 20 or 30L for their best prices ever? Save some money and save your back.

$200 Gap Gift Card, $160

If you make a habit of shopping at Banana Republic, GAP, Old Navy, or Athleta, you can get 20% off this GAP Options card. Since it’s just a gift card, your savings will stack with any other deals or promotions the retailers offer as well.

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SecretLab Titan Review: A Big Gaming Chair For Big Gaming People

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 07:00

Standard office and gaming chairs are not built for big and tall people. They cower before our broad frames, shudder beneath our weight and generally fear us. The SecretLab Titan, built for the larger-than-guy-sized gamer, has no fear.

Finding a comfortable place to sit for long periods is not an easy task for the big and tall. I stand at 6'6" and have a very broad frame. I generally hover around 300 pounds, depending on how much of a damn I am giving about my weight. I have killed many a flimsy folding chair in my time, and my office seating tends to fall apart after a year or two of extended use.

To make matters worse, I have a very long torso and relatively short legs. At six and a half feet tall I have a 32-34 inch inseam, which is about the same as that of my foot-shorter wife. When everyone else in the airplane is resting their heads, my headrest tries to function as a just-below-the-shoulder-blades-rest. I do my best to score window seats so I have something to lean against that isn’t my fellow passengers.

Every couple of years the quest for a new chair begins, and I generally end up settling for something extra large from Office Depot. Then I sit incorrectly for the next two years, slouched forward so the headrest has a tiny hope of fulfilling its function. My current two-year-old chair is a wobbly mess of broken hydraulics and cable-eating wheels.

I’d read about Singapore-based gaming chair maker SecretLab from our colleagues over at Kotaku Australia, who had written about and quite liked one of the company’s smaller models. When the company announced it was starting to sell in North America, I started eyeing the more substantial Titan. Now I’ve put my ass all over it, and it’s almost everything I had hoped for.

What It Is

The SecretLab Titan is a gaming chair, which is a chair specifically designed for gaming. Often designed to resembled racing car seats, a gaming chair is specifically designed for long periods of sitting on one’s ass holding a game controller or hovering over a mouse and keyboard.

The Titan is a gaming chair designed for long periods of sitting on large, tall or weighty asses. The seat is designed to accommodate people as tall as 6'4" and 286 pounds, which to someone my size is close the hell enough.

Where many gaming chairs lean towards flash color combinations, most of SecretLab’s line is relatively subdued (the Throne model being the exception). Aside from the company name and logos on the seat, the Titan wouldn’t look too out of place in an office environment.

The Price

The Titan normally runs $490, but SecretLab has it up for preorder now on its U.S. website for $359 (you have to use access code EXCLUSIVE737 to shop, as they’re still in early access mode). SecretLab only sells direct.

I generally spend around $300 on an office chair ever couple of years, so it’s not that far outside of my personal range. Considering I spend at least 70 hours a week sitting in my office, it’s worth it.

What I Did With It

First I let the large box the Titan came in sit in my living room for a week as I made room in my smallish home office. My children used the box as an “imaginary trampoline” for a bit, though nothing seems to have been damaged by their childlike love of breaking all the things.

One evening, after those little monsters went to sleep, I spent about 30 minutes putting the Titan together, all by my lonesome. The box contained all the tools and parts I needed. I had a little trouble threading the plastic handles over the tilt and height adjustment bars under the seat, but otherwise everything went smoothly.

There aren’t many pictures of the chair in my office, as my office is a damn nightmare right now

It took me a couple of days to get used to using the Titan as my everyday office and gaming chair, though this wasn’t the Titan’s fault. I’ve just been sitting in shoddily-designed pieces of crap for so long that my back and legs were not used to proper sitting posture. It’s pretty sad when I write it out like that.

I’ve been buying chairs because they were large enough, but more often than not a large enough office chair is a glorified half-bucket with a back. Chairs like that really screw with your back and legs, plus sitting in a relaxed posture makes it far too easy to doze off after a long night writing a gaming chair review.

The Titan kept me upright and attentive, which seems like a good thing for a gaming chair to do. More on that as we get around to . . .

What I Liked

Strong and Stable: As mentioned previously, I kill office chairs, rendering even the most reinforced seat somewhat wobbly after a couple of weeks of use. I’m constantly shifting, turning, leaning, reaching, and otherwise putting a strain on these poor things. I used the Titan for a good month and change, and it was just as stable as it was the day I put it together.

It remains to be seen what happens to the Titan with prolonged use, but lasting a month underneath a man a couple dozen pounds heavier and two inches taller than its recommended specs sure is something.

Super Adjustable: While plenty comfortable in its default state, the Titan offers plenty of options for adjusting itself to your particular seating preference. The seat tilts. The back tilts independently, from 85 to 165 degrees. The armrests feature adjustable height, as well as inward and outward swivel. The seat raises and lowers smoothly on a class 4 hydraulic piston.

In other words, there are plenty of things to fiddle with while waiting on loading screens, matchmaking or long, boring planing meetings.

My Back Is In Love: Between the Titan’s ergonomic design and the built-in adjustable lumbar support, my back has never been happier than it has over the past month. The aches I regularly experienced after prolonged periods in my normal office chair were quickly forgotten. I did not even know lumbar support was a thing I needed. Now it’s hard to live without.

Keep in mind, this is me coming from a chair I’m most comfortable curling up in, so any chair promoting proper sitting posture would have the same effect. The Titan is not a magical back fixing device, but it’s definitely the sort of chair I should be sitting in.

Well-Constructed: The Titan is built on a steel frame, padded with shape-keeping cold-cure foam wrapped in hand-stitched synthetic leather. The whole thing rests on top of a strong aluminium frame rolling on rubber-coated wheels that have no trouble with my horrible carpet. It certainly doesn’t feel like something I assembled in my living room while watching Food Network.

Man, who doesn’t like giant golden Ts? It’s almost presidential.

Plus It Looks Nice: I am not a hot young esports personality, a wacky shouting streamer or a PR person trying to make their trade show booth as colorful as possible. I am a middle-aged man who sits in his office writing about video games all day long. The Titan’s subdued look fits my gaming personality to a stylized T.

What I Did Not Like

The Neck Pillow: It’s not a neck pillow, it’s a head pillow, and that’s not technically SecretLab’s fault. If I were two inches shorter, as recommended by the manufacturer, it would be fine. So not really a criticism of the chair, but lamentation over being some sort of mutant.

They look like hard plastic, but they’re actually firmly padded with a synthetic leather coating.

Maybe Let Those Armrests Adjust A Little Bit More: Again keeping in mind that I am a broad person, the armrests are a bit too close for comfort. A couple of screws on the bottom of the chair let the arms pull out another two centimeters on either side, which doesn’t help much. It’s not unbearable, but I would have been slightly more comfortable with another inch on either side. Yeah, I’m picking nits.

Final Thoughts

I’ve been sitting wrong for years, and it took SecretLab’s Titan to get that point across. Sure, I’ve been to gaming functions where gaming seats were all over the place, but always the regulation-sized ones, meant for the sort of people who look very sad when they realize they are seated next to me on an airplane.

The Titan showed me the way, and it did so with a lovely blend of solidity and style. Now that my eyes have been opened to the sitting joy of larger-sized gaming chairs I’ve got my eye out for similar products, but I’ll always remember my first. The SecretLab Titan is fine place to spend hours on your copious end.

Store 4TB of Files (or PS4 Games!) For $110, No Power Cord Required

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 06:56
Seagate Backup Plus 4TB, $110

Update: The WD is sold out, but this Wirecutter-recommended Seagate Backup Plus 4TB is available for the same price.

Whether you need to be better about backing up your computer, or are just so excited that the PS4 is finally adding external hard drive support, you can get a WD My Passport 4TB drive for just $110 today for Prime members on Amazon, the best price they’ve ever listed.

It wasn’t that long ago that drives over 2TB required an extra power supply, but that’s not the case here; just plug it into a USB port, and it’s good to go.

More Deals

When Pin-Ups Meet Harry Potter Cosplay

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 22:00
Cosplay by Ginny Di | Photo by Josh Randall

Kotaku cosplay regular Ginny Di returns here with a super cool tribute to Gil Elvgren’s iconic pin-up art, giving the 20th century illustrations a Harry Potter twist.

Photos by Josh Randall. You can see more of Ginny’s cosplay at her Facebook page.

Cosplay by Ginny Di | Photo by Josh Randall Cosplay by Ginny Di | Photo by Josh Randall Cosplay by Ginny Di | Photo by Josh Randall Cosplay by Ginny Di | Photo by Josh Randall Cosplay by Ginny Di | Photo by Josh Randall

Haha Look At This Dungeons & Dragons Thing

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 18:00

This is a massive and elaborate GM screen for your Dungeons & Dragons (or any other role-playing game) adventures. For those who want to flex on their tabletop crew.

I like Wyrmwood’s stuff, but this screen is on a whole other level, both in terms of how much it does (it does a lot) and how much it costs (the complete set costs a lot). There’s a screen, an initiative tracker, a dice tower, even some drawers to stash stuff in.

Everything you’re seeing up top actually comes apart and is sold separately, as individual purchases on a Kickstarter the company is running at the moment.

If you’re not familiar with Wyrmwood’s gear, it costs a lot because it’s all hand-made from premium wood in New England, and is aimed at the kind of gamer who looks at these prices, looks at the wood and doesn’t recoil in horror/close the tab.

The components of the screen come in different types of wood which vary in price; you can get just the screen in red oak for $50, or you can get the complete set in purpleheart for...$1570. Welp.

If you’re thinking that price is insane for something that looks so small, it’s...nowhere near as small as the pics make it look. Indeed, it’s freakin’ enormous.

The campaign was asking for $10,000. At time of posting it’s got over $200,000.

toco toco tv is a YouTube channel “where Japanese artists and creators introduce places in Japan tha

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 17:45

toco toco tv is a YouTube channel “where Japanese artists and creators introduce places in Japan that inspire them”. There are some cool video game people interviewed, like Suda51, Swery65 and pro gamer Fuudo.

 

Notorious Game Key Reseller G2A Gets Torn To Shreds In AMA

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 17:25

G2A is a site where people sell game keys. You’ve probably heard of it thanks to YouTubers/streamers who cut juicy sponsorship deals to promote it. However, the site’s also received widespread criticism for lax security, fraud, and making money at developers’ expense. G2A recently tried to hold an AMA. It did not go well.

People lobbed every question they could think of at G2A, and they didn’t skimp on the hostilities. Questions asked included, “Are you or are not not aware of how much harm you’ve done to the gaming industry?”, “If G2A is a legitimate company with legitimate keys and resellers, why can’t you offer buyer protection for free to your customers?”, and my personal favorite, “Which one of you thought that an AMA would go well on reddit, where so many people hate you?” G2A’s answers got downvoted so far that they had to tell users to change comment sorting in order to see them.

G2A tried to argue that developers don’t get hurt by their practices, and they have a strict verification process in place to maintain that. “Let’s clear that up. If the key is on G2A, that means that it came from the developer, which means they have already been paid,” G2A wrote. “If you want to buy that game on our marketplace, they won’t receive any additional money out of that (actually they could with G2A Direct, but let’s [not] go into that here).”

They also said they take the possibility of stolen keys (ones that are, for instance, purchased with stolen credit cards, after which developers get hit with charge-backs) very seriously.

“We have special departments in G2A (over 100 people) dedicated to protecting our marketplace,” G2A wrote. “We can’t disclose exactly how we search for these shady people, or what triggers our suspicions, because that would be giving them a possible roadmap as to how to try and get away with something. The problem is that sometimes the issue (unfortunately) starts on the developers’ own site, which can sometimes lack security. And in those situations, if the developer is not willing to work with us it gets a little complicated. In some situations, if a key was not reported to us as stolen and we weren’t told it was blacklisted or shown any proof, then there is little we can do.”

One user, however, went after G2A for that comment, seemingly contradicting G2A’s claims of difficult-to-bypass security entirely. They pointed out that getting a key verified isn’t difficult at all, and if you’ve done it before, you’re set indefinitely, meaning you could easily sell a few legit keys, then switch to selling non-legit ones. On top of that, keys seem to go up for sale immediately. G2A countered that the verification process happens behind the curtain, because they want it to be convenient. The user, however, then shared a screen of a key getting purchased almost immediately after it went up, before it received “verified” status. They then added a fake listing, which quickly passed the verification process, to drive the point home.

Instead of saying, “Oh shit, we should really patch up those holes,” like a reasonable service might, G2A responded by tracking down the user’s account and subjecting them to “stricter verification procedures.” What does this mean in practice? According to the user, “They blocked my ability to buy anything on G2A, basically when trying to purchase anything with my G2A wallet I receive ‘Transaction failed, user blocked’ and they also blocked my ability to pay out my money, basically they just stole all the money I have in my G2A wallet.”

Needless to say, other folks participating in the AMA didn’t love that. If you want to check out the full AMA, that’s here. Suffice it to say, G2A’s responses to concerns over illegitimate aspects of their business aren’t super convincing. We’ve heard about (and reported on) all sorts of fishiness wafting from G2A’s general direction, so probably steer clear for now.

Track: Europe Is Lost | Artist: Kate Tempest | Album: Let Them Eat Chaos

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 17:02

Track: Europe Is Lost | Artist: Kate Tempest | Album: Let Them Eat Chaos

Kotaku Soundtrack is a selection of the stuff we’re listening to at the moment.

I Cannot Play Horror Games, But I Wish I Could

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 16:30

Are you enjoying Resident Evil 7? Are you thrilling at the scares, reveling in the fear, shivering at the spooks? If yes, then know that I envy you.

I tried playing Resident Evil 7 last week. I didn’t really play Res 5 or 6, but remember loving Resident Evil 4, so was looking forward to it!

Yet I can’t play it. Well, I tried, for a little while, walking around an empty house picking up stuff and grossing out at some very gross food.

Once the horror stuff kicked in, though, I was done.

This is nothing new for me. I’ve been a video game “coward” for as long as I can remember. From Half-Life’s underwater sequence (I HATE SHARKS) to PT’s, well, everything, I’ve struggled through some of the biggest games, and in some cases I’ve been unable to even get started on them. I’m the same way with some horror movies. The Ring, Evil Dead, I can manage, but the really creepy stuff, no thank you.

I wish I wasn’t! I look around me, at my colleagues and my friends, and how they find enjoyment in terror. They obviously go through the standard response to such experiences: namely, that when confronted with horrifying imagery or frights, their bodies start releasing the “fight-or-flight” hormones adrenaline and cortisol, and as a result they feel more “alive”. It’s a rush. For them.

Get me the fuck away from this business.

Me, I don’t get the “rush”. Well, I do; I’ve experienced it in actual fight-or-flight situations, whether it’s been from car crashes, sports or, well, fights. But when it comes to horror in video games, I get sick, and dizzy, but not in a euphoric or liberating or relieving way. I just feel, well, sick, in a sucky, wish-I-wasn’t-feeling-like-this kind of way. Which is why I rarely play scary video games. If I’m not getting some kind of enjoyment out of it - and indeed, am feeling the opposite of enjoyment - why bother?

I don’t know if this is because I’ve got a few pieces of wiring wrong, or whether it’s just a difference in people’s reactions to media. Loads of people hate horror movies, for example, for similar reasons to my own.

But that’s what interests me about horror games, and my aversion to them. While plenty of folks will avoid horror movies, and be up-front about their reasons for it, I don’t see the same kind of talk around horror video games. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person on the internet who literally cannot play a scary video game.

I know it’s not because I can’t process genuine fear, as that’s something I’ve had to deal with countless times in the real world. My best theory (WARNING: I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL) is that it’s got something to do with control. In the real world, I guess I have some semblance of control over my actions and reactions to things around me.

So perhaps it’s the fact that when I’m playing a game or watching a movie, I’m locked into a ride, and have to experience what’s coming completely outside of my ability to escape it, avoid it or influence it (at least outside the developer’s limited options in the case of a game). Which part of me obviously cannot abide, to the point it makes me ill.

Which when you think about it is crazy. Lots of games, from loot-grabbers like Destiny and WoW to free-to-play mobile titles, play upon weaknesses and compulsions in the human mind, but how many other genres are so reliant on a physical response as horror games are?

And how many other genres/styles of game, then, can manage to exclude people from playing, not because of some thematic dislike but for reasons of physical aversion? (I can think of certain FPS games and those affected by motion-sickness, and...that’s it)

That kind of extra-sensory rush, beyond the usual gaming effects like a raised heart-rate, make me jealous of those who do/can enjoy horror games. It sounds exhilarating! The pleasures of regular gaming with an added and expanded physical rush!

So the next time you’re playing a horror game and the frights kick in, and you start to feel that exhilarating sensation, spare a thought for poor folks like me, who genuinely had to ask their lady friend for help in the Assassin’s Creed IV diving sequences (AGAIN, SHARKS) because they were too frozen to do it themselves...

This story was originally published in October 2014 for the release of Alien Isolation. It has been updated to reflect I am still a giant coward.

Behold, The Luckiest Yakuza 0 Player

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 15:34

Today on Highlight Reel we have claw game plays, For Honor kills, Rainbow 6 headshots, Widowmaker snipes and much more!

Watch the video then talk about your favorite highlight in the comments below. Be sure to check out, like, and share the original videos via the links below. Subscribe to Kotaku on YouTube for more!

Highlight Reel is Kotaku’s regular roundup of great plays, stunts, records and other great moments from around the gaming world. If you record an amazing feat while playing a game (here’s how to record a clip), send it to us with a message confirming that the clip is yours at highlightreel@kotaku.com. Or, if you see a great clip around that isn’t yours, encourage that person to send it in!