Archive for Videogames

Don’t be evil…



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Why don’t we trust Facebook to “not be evil” the way we trust (or seem to trust) Google?  Is it an outreach thing?  Is the faceless wall of Google less intimidating than the faceless wall of Facebook?

And now, we have the breaking (or broken) news emerging that Facebook has been experimenting on it’s users by hilighting posts in a specific stripe (depressing or uplifting, shall we generously say) to see how the readers will react.  But this kind of data collection is not new.  Not really.  Advertising agencies have spent decades testing out how their ads make people feel, they test  to see if the picture with the guy in the blue short sells more cookies than the picture of the guy in the red short (if you get deep into ad-psych you’ll find they’ve tested race, hairstyle, clothing style, background, should the person own a dog or a cat, etc. etc).

We do this kind of A/B testing in mobile apps all the time.  Know why so many icons on your phone have smiley, happy bobbleheads on them, even if they’re not in the game?  Yep.  We tested for that.  You like faces.  Go figure.

So I am given to wonder how deep this kerfluffle with Facebook goes.  Is this just a spin tactic layered over some garden-variety testing to see how users react to ad placements?  Or is it genuinely the kind of emotional manipulation that the headlines are touting?




If it jams, force it. If it breaks….


Image courtesy Core77

I have a special place in my heart for brute-force solutions.  I tend to have a “make it work, d*mnit” approach to many of the projects I take on.  If you peek under the cowling, it may not be all pretty, but the end product will do what it’s supposed to.



In-App Purchasing and FAIL


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I have the advantage of being in a job I love.  Working in the Games Industry, and these days in the Mobile Games Industry is really freaking maddening, but the GOOD kind of maddening, the kind that makes you obsess for days over hitting level 255 in PacMan or getting EVERY pair of socks you own to match up properly.

But make no mistake, I’m a gamer, heart and soul.  While my current poison of choice is the AAA powerhouse “Titanfall”, I’m also a sucker for free to play mobile games as well.  I use the word “sucker” somewhat ironically.

Most of the FtP games I stick with give me the option of either grinding or paying up in order to get the next cookie being dangled in front of me.  If I hit a hard paywall (i.e. pay or play), then I’m out.  I don’t mind watching an ad or two, but when the *only* option, halfway through the game is to pay-up?  That’s a bait and switch.  The game has to be *really* good in order to get around pissing me off like that.  As a game designer- I try to do the same thing, allow the player to have a choice.  Do they want to spend 10 hours killing rats to get a cookie?  Or do they want to push the BIG SHINY BUTTON, send me $0.99 and be on their way.

For a lot of people, $0.99 is easier.  It’s simpler.  It’s the way they want to game.

For me as a gamer though, the game is no longer the game (in mobile).  The game has become beating the IAP.  How quickly can I acquire this item without paying cash (in-app ads are okay, it’s just the direct transaction I am trying to beat).  It’s gone rather “meta”.

Which gets me wondering, as casual gamers become more sophisticated, is this going to start becoming the norm?  Are more players going to play, not to beat the game as designed, but to beat the larger game of how not to pay for IAP?  Or is it like sneaking in through the exit door at the movie theatre, does it lose it’s shine after a while and you just pay up for your tickets like everyone else?

Go Big or Go Home

I’ve had the privilege of knowing Sana Choudary for a couple of years now.  I took  my mobile start-up through the Yetizen accelerator program, so I know, first hand, that the issue of women in tech is something she feels needs to be, and CAN BE brought to parity.

She’s is putting together a new conference that focuses on how women can improve the way they do business NOW, is what is still a male-centric industry.  Not discuss, not protest, but rather develop strategies that are applicable to the business world in its current state.  The more of us that step up and make our businesses shine, the more of us there will be to serve as examples, as inspirations to the women that come next.

Go buy a ticket!



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.