Father and son gaming on the living room couch
Entertainment | Tech and Innovation |

Five reasons from the experts to get your family into gaming

By Campbell Simpson June 30, 2020

Could gaming be good for you? More than that, could it be good for your family too? There’s plenty of evidence that gaming is linked to positive outcomes in education and social interaction for children, but families that game together also enjoy other benefits.

We know from our own experiences that gaming is better with friends and family, but we wanted to understand why. As it turns out, gaming with your child could even teach them how to teach you, or maybe even how to get along with a fractious sibling.

To get a better idea of the potential of family gaming, we talked to Dr. Marcus Carter from the University of Sydney. Dr Carter is Senior Lecturer in Digital Cultures, a Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) Fellow, and Degree Director at Sydney Uni’s Masters of Digital Culture and Communications course. He’s an expert when it comes to the science and academia of gaming, and a fountain of knowledge on the topic. 

Hi, Marcus. First up: how can families approach gaming together? Is gaming something to be enjoyed solo sometimes, as much as it can also be a social activity?

Co-play is a really great mediation strategy for digital games, and Minecraft Dungeons is a really great game for this because it’s so accessible to both new and experienced players.

The reason that co-play is a great way to approach your children’s gaming is that family participation with games facilitates social interactions and learning. Parent perspectives and behaviour while playing influences how children understand their media experience and react to things like loss, challenges, and how children develop important sportsmanship and teamwork skills. Digital games are also a great way for siblings to play together as most digital games are appealing to a broader range of ages than other media.

Parents playing games with their children is also great because it’s an opportunity for parents to let their kids be the expert and take on an educator role. Let your kids teach you how to play Minecraft to better understand what they find so fun and appealing about the game – and give them the opportunity to be the expert in the parent-child relationship for once!

There’s also nothing wrong – in moderation – with children playing games on their own. Even single-player games are social, as kids will often discuss them with their friends and school, just like we do with TV and movies.

Is competition or co-operation more useful for bringing a family together while they’re gaming? Is there a genre or style of game that lends itself to family interaction and gameplay?

Co-operative games are often thought to be better for family play because they don’t pit family members – particularly siblings! – against each other, but that doesn’t mean competitive games aren’t good too.

Some co-operative games might not be suitable for players of widely different skill levels, but well-designed competitive games can be great for creating social interactions and experiences outside of the game. Use competitive games to show your kids the right way to deal with winning and losing, and co-operative games to encourage teamwork and communication skills.

What would you say to parents who are worried that “games are addictive”? What are some of the positive impacts you see from exposing children and teens to the world of gaming? 

Just like books, radio, film and TV – which were all at some stage accused of being addictive for children – games are not ‘addictive’. They are an appealing hobby, enthusiastically engaged in, but parents shouldn’t misinterpret this desire as problematic compulsion or addiction. We wouldn’t call someone ‘addicted’ to books just because they wanted to read another chapter of Harry Potter after bedtime!

The risk of calling all video games addictive is that children might miss out on the benefits of playing games. We know that games are really good for children’s creativity and imagination, and are an engaging way to develop their problem-solving skills, spatial skills, and strategic decision-making abilities. Games are also challenging, and the skills that children develop to understand how to solve those problems are broadly applicable to the kinds of independent learning and digital literacy skills that see kids really succeed in schools.

But in addition to all these instrumental benefits, we’ve also got to remember that games are an enormous amount of fun, and kids need to have fun! Whether it’s to de-stress, relax, or have positive social experiences with friends, the play of digital games is – in moderation – as important as non-digital play.

How do skills acquired from games translate into the real world? How does playing games affect the rest of your world – are there parts of life that gamers are “better” at?  

Games are great for learning a wide variety of direct and indirect skills. Games help make kids comfortable and confident with computers, crucial for setting kids up for success in school and in later life. The skills children develop when they learn how to solve the problems they’re faced with in games are broadly applicable to the kinds of independent learning and digital literacy skills that see kids really succeed in schools. Single-player games can be fantastic ways for children to learn about the world, from topics like history to sport, and multiplayer games are also proven grounds for developing communication skills, teamwork, conflict resolution and leadership. You can learn all these things in other ways, but they probably aren’t as fun and engaging as games!

What would you say to the unfamiliar parent who wants to give games a go for themselves? Should they just pick up a controller and see what happens – or is there a better way to learn?

I always recommend to parents who want to learn more about how to play games to ask their children how to play! Think about how many times kids get to be the ‘expert’ with their parents, and how rare it is for a child to get to teach their parents how to do something. This is why playing games with your kids can be a really positive experience, because it’s an opportunity for your children to share something that is important and meaningful to them.

It doesn’t have to be something you just do with your kids either, plenty of parents are playing games too!  The controller can be intimidating at first, but after some practice it will fade away and you’ll be able to confidently play in virtual worlds alongside your kids, and on your own too.

Sea of Thieves - Xbox
Entertainment | Tech and Innovation |

Looking for games to take you away? My pick is Sea of Thieves

By Joshua Appadoo June 30, 2020

International travel used to be such a pleasant activity to look forward to, maybe once or twice a year. Since we’re mostly staying put around Australia that’s obviously not as easy at the moment, but it’s okay – because we have games to give us that sense of adventure!

This period of working and studying from home gives some of us time to polish off that backlog of games, or if you’re like me, to add more games to the backlog and hope to finish them at some vague point in time in the distant future. There are many great games that can help satisfy that wanderlust, such as Deliver Us The Moon, Disneyland Adventures and even Fishing Sim World Pro Tour.

What’s that on the horizon for me though? It’s Sea of Thieves! This “pirate life simulator” has had a massive overhaul since its release in 2018, with the inclusion of more life-like elements such as cooking, fishing and more diverse animal and plant life than the game originally featured. These are welcome additions that allow for a bit of downtime between the otherwise frantic action and treasure hunting.

When it comes to action, Sea of Thieves is definitely enjoyable as a solo playthrough – as long as you don’t mind a challenge. For the full experience, though – and to have the most fun – make sure to grab a mate or two (who also have an Xbox to play along) to give you a hand digging up all that wondrous loot.

Sea of Thieves includes a degree of character customisation that reminds us of casual RPG games, allowing you to choose and express yourself through your avatar’s appearance however you see fit! Once that’s sorted, it’s on to the high seas in your very own ship – which, like your character, also allows you to customise it how you’d like.

Sea of Thieves - Xbox

Don’t forget that as you sail around it is up to you to keep your ship repaired; make sure you fix up all those cannon-shot holes in the hull! Sea of Thieves has some elements of realism – repair and upgrade your ship with materials you will collect on your journey, and after a battle make sure to patch up those holes and dump that water back out to sea. If you don’t, you’ll find out what the ocean floor looks like.

Sea of Thieves’ beauty really shines when you realise just what kind of a multiplayer game it is – there is no correct way. Where some games will force you to play and act in certain ways, Sea of Thieves really gives you the freedom. Do you want to command a crew and rule like Blackbeard? – go for it! Do you want to be the solo lone wolf, surviving on the fringes, hunting where you see fit? – do it!

Sea of Thieves - Xbox

There really is a chest of treasure to be opened for every player in this game. If you want to give it a taste, you can enjoy it and many other travel adventures in the comfort of your home on Xbox Game Pass right now. If you don’t happen to have a gaming console of your own yet, you can get an Xbox One and Xbox Game Pass subscription together as part of our Xbox All Access offer – for one low monthly price, only with Telstra.

Minecraft Dungeons review: dungeon-crawling fun comes to Minecraft
Entertainment | Tech and Innovation |

Minecraft Dungeons review: dungeon-crawling fun comes to Minecraft

By Joshua Appadoo June 16, 2020

Minecraft has dominated gaming sales over the last decade, with almost 200 million copies sold worldwide – it definitely deserves that “top-selling game of all time” title. The creators of Minecraft are back again with a new game and a fresh spin on the classic Minecraft style: Minecraft Dungeons.

Taking its style cues from dungeon-crawling titles such as Diablo and randomly generated games like FTL: Faster Than Light, Minecraft Dungeons has emerged, giving both new players and long-time fans of Minecraft the opportunity to play through a brand new campaign filled with action, adventure and loot! If you are curious to see this game in action, check out some extended gameplay here.

This time around, our adventure through the world of Minecraft sees us plundering dungeons in an action-filled role-playing game genre – either by yourself, with your friends online, or with the family on the couch with up to three other players at once. This game is definitely an experience to be enjoyed with friends! In Dungeons, you move through the world on a mission rather than building a base like in the original game.

In Minecraft Dungeons, your player can take on mobs of enemies with a plethora of melee weapons and attacks – or take them out from afar with a vast array of ranged weapons, or even muscle your way through the mobs like a heavily armoured tank. The choice is yours – which like the original Minecraft, means that Minecraft Dungeons has very high replayability. This is a good thing – the near-limitless combinations of making no two playthroughs the same.

You can also personalise your character as you see fit! Unlock new items, weapons and enchantments that allow you to customise your character’s equipment to suit your play style. We know that kids love changing outfits in Minecraft, so it’s good to see this in Dungeons too.

Part of what makes the game fun is the goal of exploring every corner of each level – searching for loot, loot and more loot. There is plenty of treasure to be found on your journey to save and protect the villagers as you take down the evil Arch-Illager.

All in all, after spending a fair few hours with this game – and already being a pretty big Minecraft fan – it’s hard not to like Minecraft Dungeons. Taking out all the complicated character builds and difficult combat strategy that makes other games in the genre harder to get into, Minecraft Dungeons makes it an easy foray into the world of dungeon-crawling games. It’s a fun, yet challenging, game that’ll keep you playing and searching for that extra bit of loot for hours on end.

Minecraft Dungeons is available now on Xbox One and Xbox Game Pass, which you can get for yourself in Telstra’s Xbox All Access bundle. Find out more info about Xbox All Access here.

Apply to be the official Telstra Game Reviewer
Entertainment |

We want you to be our official game reviewer

By Nathan Gumley May 11, 2020

We’re searching for an official Telstra Game Reviewer – someone to play games (and get paid for it!) and share their thoughts with our audience using video and the written word.

You might not remember, but Telstra has a long history in gaming – right back to the days of our GameArena network and website in the early 2000s, which we started as a way for people to play together on the internet (often for the first time) and to engage as a community.

At one point we ran over 500 different servers for popular games like Battlefield and Counter-Strike, with a huge library of game downloads and updates maintained by our own infrastructure experts and engineers and a wonderful community of fans and participants.

The world is a different place now – and luckily you don’t have to download every single game update manually from a website anymore! – but we still love gaming. This includes being proud to be the exclusive Australian partner for Xbox All Access. There are thousands of avid gamers in our own Telstra family, and this is your chance to join in.

For this project, we’re looking for an enthusiastic and knowledgeable gamer. You’d better know your Minecraft from your Mass Effect, your Halo from your Hollow Knight, and your Gears from your GTA. If you can spot a Warthog from miles away and you know the fastest way to hit bedrock, we want to hear from you.

Apply here!

What’s involved?

This is a one-of-a-kind paid opportunity for you to create up to 10 video and written reviews for us from June to November, exploring the long list of games from Xbox Game Pass and getting hands-on with some of Telstra’s other upcoming gaming products.

We know gaming can be even more fun with a crew – and so can this! The successful applicant is free to feature other members of their household if they want to join in, including flatmates, couples living together or even an entire family (providing the applicant is a parent or guardian of any minors featured).

To enter, hopeful applicants should head to our application page for a full list of what we’re asking for. We want you to tell us about yourself and your gaming experience, but we also want to see what you’re like on camera. Applicants must share a link to a game review video that they have created (of a console, PC or mobile game), as well as a supporting feature article of around 300 words, telling us about their favourite parts of the game.

This is just a taste of what you’ll be doing if we pick you, so make sure you’re comfortable and enjoying yourself! Feel free to include any tips, hacks, or your thoughts on who might enjoy the game and why. We want to see your knowledge in action, and we also want to see how you handle the spotlight. Applications are open now until 11:59PM AEST on Wednesday 20 May.

We’ll be releasing episodes hosted by our Game Reviewer from early June, and you’ll have quite a following to impress across YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and here on Telstra Exchange. If you’ve wanted to break into the world of gaming and share your passion with others for a while, this might just be your chance.

Xbox All Access opens up gaming to more Australians, with a choice of Xbox One X or Xbox One S console and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription which includes all the benefits of Xbox Live Gold plus access to over 100 high-quality games. Telstra Customers can add the Xbox All Access package with the Xbox One X for $27/month (Min cost $648 when you stay connected for 24 months + your plan charges) with no upfront cost.  Find out more here.

Hardcore gaming fans can also soon expect the highly anticipated Xbox Series X, the next-generation console from Microsoft, to be available through Xbox All Access later this year. We’ll have more to announce soon and you can register for updates here.

Apply to be the official Telstra Game Reviewer
Entertainment |

Apply to be the official Telstra Game Reviewer

By Telstra News May 11, 2020

If you’re here, you’ve probably heard about our search for an official game reviewer. Does that sound like you? If it does, apply below.

Share with us your best review of a console, PC or mobile game. Your review should be submitted as a video link plus a 300-word supporting article. Consider including your thoughts on your favourite parts of the game, any history or interesting facts, some of your own gameplay, and who might enjoy the game and why.

We also want you to tell us about your technical skills – though none of these are deal-breakers! Do you know how to capture screenshots and screen recordings? Do you have any experience with video equipment or video editing? If so, let us know. If you’ve been featured in the media or if you’ve worked with any brand partners before, that’s worth including too.

Thanks, applications have now closed.

Click here for terms and conditions.