Archive for Videogames

Shared Pain and Flappy Bird

You’ve all played Flappy Bird by now, right?

Even any number of the eighty bajzillion clones out there can give you a similarly frustrating experience, so grab one and give it a try.

I’m serious.

Why?  Here’s the thing,  The Flappy Bird phenomenon was never about  the game itself.  It was/is an unbelievably difficult game to master.  7/10 times you die.  In fact, the top scores for this game, where you try to fly a gravitationally-challenged bird through a series of obstacles are probably in the mid-50′s.

Flappy Bird’s popularity is about a point of commonality between two people.

Have you ever put a group of people together from wildly different professions?  It’s hard to get the conversations rolling, right?  You have to chat and question and eventually find something people have in common.  Getting your *ss kicked by Flappy Bird, that’s a point from which you can start a conversation with almost anybody.  Even if you haven’t played it, you’ve heard of it, and if you have it on your device of choice, you are usually willing to drag somebody new into the Flappy Bird fold.

It’s a silly little game, but you know, we *all* suck at Flappy Bird.  And that gives us something to talk about.


Fallon channels Steve Irwin

He was a bit of a phenomenon, Steve Irwin.  Back when Crocodile Hunter was a big thing on Discovery Channel, there was a slew of other “animal capture” shows that cropped up around the same time, but none of them quite managed to hit the same tone as the crazy and brilliant Irwin and none of them achieved quite the same level of virality.

Jump forward a few years and we have two similar shows airing on Discovery Channel at the same time (Survivorman and Man vs Wild).  Both shows loosely based around the idea of “drop some well-trained b*stard into the wilderness in his underpants and see what he does”.  Both were good shows, but one became very popular, and the other was arguably a “better” show content-wise, but still never quite took off.

So what was it about the main figure in the shows that went viral?  They weren’t “better” shows, but they managed to strike some chord that made audiences come back over and over again.

In both (and many cases since) the answer seems to be enjoyment.  This “fun” factor, in fact, is changing the way that creatives of *all* stripes interact with their audiences. Because the thing we want to see most (even more than make-ups and break-ups and relationship trainwrecks and bad dye-jobs or busted lips) is that the content creators *love* their job.  It’s been leaking into the internet more and more these days, Chuck used to produces a whole series of behind the scenes livestreams of the actors mucking about behind the scenes.  Tom Hiddleston and Zachari Levy had an impromptu dance-off that made it to You Tube (both of whom grok their fanbase, as has been shown by the types of personal content they put out there), Adam Baldwin is either running a right-wing trollbot to handle his twitter feed or he’s genuinely having fun pissing off the internet.  Maureen Johnson has the most delightful twitter exchanges with her fanbase.  Ellen passed the HAT and made good on her promise for pizza (though truthfully, LADIES, we need more of this stuff from you all) as well as posting the selfie-seen-round-the-world.  And this goes for ALL content creators, not just actors, it applies to writers and you-tubers and painters and VFX artists and that guy who makes dragons out of old car-parts.

And now we have Jimmy Fallon taking over the Tonight Show and giving us this:

How can you not be an adoring fan of someone what is having the TIME OF THEIR LIFE doing some wacky send-up of their own (now Academy award winning) work?  I think the younger generation of actors has now picked up on this and are making it work.  As a bonus, a bunch of the more “old-school” pros like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen (Kevin Spacey is an up and coming example, just you watch) are starting to give us a glimpse behind the curtain as well.

Can these things be faked?  Yes, but people are perceptive.  We can tell when that glimpse through the keyhole is staged (we may choose to ignore it, but we still know it and it will color our perceptions going forward) and the ones who fake it don’t seem to be able to maintain it as long as those who are just having a ball.





Monetization at it’s not-finest

This kind of stuff simply frosts me.  Mobile games are still a bit on the Wild West side of things when it comes to game monetization.  I personally hit that sweet spot in game development, I’ve been a gamer for over 30 years now *and* I get to make games so I look at things through the dual lenses of consumer and producer.  This makes for some really long arguments some days.

Stuff like THIS though. this just frosts me.  I don’t mind paywalls in my games.  As a player, half the fun in trying to get around them.  What we have here, however, is a bait-and-switch.  And it’s not even a game.  This is the app for my kid’s Little League portal.  It’s free to download, but as soon as you open it up, it’s hits you with a charge.  It’s useless without paying the fee.  I don’t begrudge them the two dollars, but it’s the manner in which they have gone about it that pisses me off.  If I am going to go to the time and trouble of downloading the app (which they recommend we do) they should give me something.  Even if it’s just the league RSS feed.  Instead, I’m going back to Shutterfly to manage the team website and schedule.





Step Aside Hero!

There’s been this trend recently.  I’ll go so far as to blame JMS (Babylon 5) for starting it, but I suspect it has it’s roots even deeper.

There’s been a long history in media (games, movies and TV) where the secondary characters are there simply to provide comedic relief.  Even in a show with an ensemble cast, you usually have two main characters.  They might start out as one set of characters, then shift as the fan favorites become clear, but generally you have just a few leads that are the bad*sses of every episode.  Even if they are in a story with a “specialist” (say, the bomb-squad guy) one or both of those heroes magically (sometimes by random chance, sometimes because they are just that bad*ss) can do the exact thing that will save the day.

But over the past, say, five years, the shows I’ve been keeping an eye on have been making EXCELLENT use of their secondary characters.  When someone is good at something, the writers are less protective of their heros.  The guy on the team who is a professional sniper gets to take the shot, the “hero” gets tasked with something else.  The background character who spent seven years hunting down child slavers in the Sudan knows what she is talking about when twenty-five kids show up half-dead in a cargo container.  The The “B-Team” is kicking some serious *ss, and the writers are letting them do it.

As a recent example, we have Fusco from Person of Interest.  Somewhat pudgy, seriously jaded, reasonably good a physical comedy, he was a dead-ringer for the “funny” guy.  And he does a fair pass at comedic relief every so often.  But most recently, with the more serious turn in the show, when Fusco does show up, there’s some seriousness involved.   Rather than devolving into a doughnut eating punchline, they’ve exposed a very hardcore cop over the course of multiple storylines.

It makes the show as a whole more interesting, not only because we have more characters that are worth our time, but it really strikes the core point of having an “ensemble” cast.  Every character has strengths and weaknesses, and as we learn what those are, it give the writer a new tool to work with.

Annoyance Culture

Inow.  Car manufacturers have it down, videogame makers have it down, advertiave it down, smoke detectors have it down.  The idea that there is something pressing on you, ation taps into. On the iOS devices and android devices that you have push notificas that remind you, “Hey come backntually be deleted when you’ve forgot why you downloaded it in this is not a new thing, check the thrift shop for still-boxed PC games some pulled back again. hey connected to game makes a big difference is whether or not people will come back to the game on bechey’ve been annoyed into returning or because they generally have an interest in playin game again over time because gameta blergan funkeo palazza….

Well, crap, that’s the last time I use a dictation app to post a blog entry.  Let me try that again….