Buying Games Used to be Convoluted, but Magical

Buying a game today is a non-event. You simply go to a store, pick up the game, walk to the checkout and pay for it. Some retailers, like Target or Walmart, keep them behind a display (CLASSY), which requires the extra step of asking a kind associate for assistance, that is if you can find one.

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GameStop keeps their games behind the checkout, so you need to ask for a copy, which in return they would ask if you pre-ordered it, which my response is was, NO I DIDN’T FUCKING PRE-ORDER IT, BUT YOU HAVE A STACK OF 100 OF THEM BACK THERE SO GIVE ME ONE GODDAMNIT! I have a love/hate relationship with GameStop. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t buy physical copies of games anymore and just download them, like a civilized person. I have also been told that I have a tendency of over reacting.

Back in the day however, there was a process that must be followed when purchasing a game. This was especially the case at Toys R Us, which was my retailer of choice to buy games when I was a kid.

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This unique process, employed by Toys R Us, has been embedded and buried into the depths of my mind. This memory was only uncovered recently after watching a documentary about Tony Robbins on Netflix late one evening.

During this documentary, Tony Robbins, motivational speaker, life coach, self-help guru, and cosmetic dentistry enthusiast, demonstrated an exercise that helps uncover long lost memories. These memories, often times deeply buried, are both positive and negative, but none-the-less, make you the person that you are today. These memories can be very powerful and one can harness them, helping to make you a stronger person.

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With that said, after trying this memory dredging exercise myself, I have no fucking idea why I remembered, and quite vividly I might add, the convoluted and confusing video game buying process employed by Toys R Us from when I was a child.  It’s apparent that my brain is broken. No memories of early vacations, or interactions with my grandparents, birthdays, holidays, or even traumatic events. Nope, I remembered how Toys R Us made the process of buying video games akin to a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

For those of you who are too young to remember, or may have forgotten, back in the 80’s and the early to mid-90’s, Toys R Us used a ticketing system for the majority of their large and or expensive products. One would walk down the aisle, find a display of the product they wanted to purchase, select a ticket, take it to the register, pay, and then someone would get you the product you purchased.  If you bought a bicycle, someone would bring you a box of an unassembled bicycle. If you bought swing set, someone would bring you a swing set, et cetera.

Many Toys R Us stores still employ this method, as it does make sense, and it is efficient for large bulky items. Toys R Us used this method for pricier things as well years ago, such as electronics and especially video games.

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As a child, I remember going down the video game aisle and seeing rows and rows of plastic flip cards for games.  The front had the box art and the back had some screen shots and a description. Essentially, it was a representation of the box.  And just below each game, there was a pouch with the fabled Toys R Us item ticket.

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I have vivid memories of going into Toys R Us with my mom or dad to pick up a particular game, only to encounter an empty ticket pouch stating that the game was out of stock and be an utterly devastated 8-year-old. Perhaps it was a mistake. Maybe some asshole took all the tickets and hid them somewhere in the store for some nefarious reason?  Maybe the store just got more in stock and didn’t replenish the tickets? A quick trip to customer service would always validate my fears. The game was indeed sold out.

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More often than not, the game that I wanted was in stock, and I would select my ticket and excitedly go to the front cash registers, like a demented Charlie Bucket, but instead of a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, I was buying what was most likely a forgettable and utterly average NES side scroller.

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After paying for the game at one of the cash registers, the cashier would staple your receipt to the ticket and that is where the magic begins. You then head off to what appeared to be as an excitable child, a plexiglass monolith of electronic and video game goodness. Sadly, all images of this structure no longer exists.  All my image searches came up empty. The image below is the closest representation I could find.

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Within the confines of this structure were stacks of every gaming console imaginable—NESs, Sega Master Systems, Gameboys, and random Atari garbage. Later on there would be the Genesis, SNES, TurboGrafx 16, and holy shit, was that a Neo Geo? Also housed in the clear monolith were games. Stacks upon stacks of games.

Eventually, a sales associate would be called down to get the game that you payed for. A lethargic and disinterested looking teenager would unlock the door, take your ticket, and then attempt to locate your purchased game among the stacks of other games. I say attempt, because they would inevitably pass over your game a half dozen times before zeroing in on it.

IT’S RIGHT OVER THERE MOTHERFUCKER!

…I totally would have said that—if my father wasn’t standing there and would have totally beaten the shit out of me, right there in the store. Remember, this was the 1980’s, parents got away with doing that, and if he got tired slapping me around in public, another parent would have come over and beat me while my father caught his breath.  It takes a village to raise children properly, you know.

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Eventually, the teenager would locate your game and hand it over.  I would stare at the box the entire car ride home.  Sometimes, I could not help myself and I would open it up to flip through the instruction manual. Those were the good old days, when games had instruction manuals. The best games had meaty manuals, that contained some back story and a list of enemies.

On a slightly darker side, I also clearly remembered how my friends and I used to scheme during lunch on an Ocean’s 11 caliber plan to infiltrate that plexiglass fortress and make off with all the goodies inside. It was our casino bank vault, ripe for the picking, that is of course if you had a good plan, the right people, and the guts to pull it off such an amazing heist.

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I bet you thought the Clooney version, right? Nope, I’m talking about the infinitely cooler Rat Pack Ocean’s 11.

There were even legends of kids who had found a way in and made off with a handful of carts (or even consoles, depending on who you asked).  These kids then conveniently moved away to other towns, cities and even states, so it could never be confirmed or denied if the story was true or even learn how they pulled it off. Sometimes the tales were cautionary and the kid got caught, sent to juvey and became a hardened criminal. These stories were all legends, who knew if there was any shred of truth to them. (DEFINITELY NOT)

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Risks of juvenile detention aside, my friends and I would speak in hushed tones and plan our caper. Danny would buy a cheap game so that someone would need to unlock the booth. Brucie would wait by the booth and fake a heart attack when the sales associate unlocks the door, causing a commotion and a distraction. Johnny would then go into the booth with a garbage bag and take as much as he can. He’ll then hand the haul off to Jimmy, who’s waiting outside on his bike. It was so crazy; it just might work!  SHHHHHHHH. A teacher’s aid was walking by, she’s onto us. CHANGE THE SUBJECT!

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Also, in the 80’s all of my friend’s names had to end in “-y” or ”-ie” for some reason.

We never did follow through with our plan. It was too risky, and too stupid. Deep down inside, we knew it would never work. We would have been caught in an instant, and our parents would have been called. They would then take turns beating the shit out of us in public.

It was the 80’s, after all. That’s how things were. It takes a village to raise children properly, you know.

I Played the Hillary 2016 Video Game, Now I Have Even Less Confidence in American Politics

As some of you may have heard, there’s a presidential election in the works here in the U.S. Things are going to get really heated between now and November 8.  The candidates are pulling out all the stops to get the vote, and some of them are going high tech.

This is the most interesting election I have ever encountered and not because we have two upstanding social servants vying for the highest office in the land.  Never in my life have I seen two candidates that are more unlikable and unqualified. On one end, there is the tallest and most aggressive Oompa Loompa the world has ever seen. On the other, there is a corrupt, untrustworthy, career politician, and carpet bagger. It doesn’t matter what happens in November, because the U.S. is doomed.

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But enough doom and gloom.  There is a bright side to all this.  Hillary’s campaign just released a video game for mobile devices. Everyone knows millennials love video games, just look at the Pokémon Go phenomenon. So those in Hillary’s campaign took five minutes (probably literally) to create a mobile game.

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Like most mobile games today, after downloading the game and launching it for the first time, you’re asked to create an account.

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No thanks. I’m good. I’d rather just play. I don’t want to get bombarded by spam.

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Then the game gently reminds you that if you want to play, you must create an account…

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Christ, you’re a pushy bastard, but if I must…

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All that the back and forth about creating an account was well worth it however.  Had I decided to simply decline and delete the game and move on with my life, then I would not have had the opportunity to witness the splendor of a virtual Hillary Clinton 2016 Campaign Office. Also, I used to burner Yahoo e-mail account because I’m not stupid.

Okay. Fake Yahoo e-mail address entered. Let’s get campaigning…. GODDAMMIT!

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Looks like I’m finally ready to play this game. Let’s get acquainted with my new campaign office. Just swipe up to turn on the lights. This is actually the first time I get to interact with this game.  This is also the pinnacle of the type of interactivity one can expect with this game.

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There’s not a lot going on in here.  I would expect to see more people working. Why am I here all alone? Where is everyone? Am I in some 28 Days Later post-apocalyptic zombie infested wasteland and I’m the last person alive? That sounds sweet!

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I’ve been playing for 15 minutes and my campaign office was never attacked by zombies. Perhaps I should find something to do.  How about a game of Trump or False?

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That sure was fun. Oh look, a plant needs watering. I can’t take the excitement!

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Oh look! There’s a store front.  I can buy some furniture, new walls, and posters for my campaign office. Posters that no one except me will ever see, and chairs that no one will ever sit it, sofas that no one will ever lounge in, and walls that no one will never, erm… be walled in by.

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I’m depressed now. I think I’m going to go take a nap.

During my nap I dreamed of a better world. A world that was peaceful and everyone was happy. I’m roused from my slumber by a chime from my phone. Looking at my phone, I noticed that I had a Push Notification from the Clinton 2016 app.  I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and opened the app, curious as to what the news may be.

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I’m confused. The app that I downloaded yesterday and have played for 20 minutes (which felt like an eternity) is now telling me to download the app. I’m reading this in the app’s news feed. What kind of Bizzaro World black magic is this?  Is this some kind of elaborate psychological experiment from some secret CIA Black Ops program meant to break my will? What is the ultimate goal of this app?

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Well that explains it.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here, nor am I ignorant as to what the ultimate goal of this app is.  The issue here is this app is a flaming pile of garbage and it has no redeeming qualities. This app makes the Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood game look like a masterpiece.

Even if you’re a Hillary supporter, I cannot recommend it. That’s why I give this one sad Robin Hood hat wearing Bernie Sanders supporter out of five.

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Enjoy the election!

Thanks for Ruining My Summer, Video Game Industry

Summer is a time of year that I look forward to.  The long days are perfect for spending time outside being active and on hot days I look forward to taking a ride to the beach, or down the shore, as we say in the Jerz.

Of course, the best thing about summer is grilling large amounts of red meat outside then trying to shove as much of as possible into my face while washing it down with a refreshing cold beer.

Because of all the outdoor activities that become available during the summer months, playing video games usually becomes a low priority. It also helps that video game makers avoid releasing video games during the summer months. It’s as if doing so would make them susceptible to bad humors which will give them the plague.

I never understood why publishers don’t release games during the summer months. Students who are in school are either on break or have greatly reduced schedules.  Those who are working can also expect additional time off for holidays, summer Fridays, and folks generally take time off for vacations. For the most part, people have more time in the summer, so one would think that publishers would take advantage of that.

The movie industry certainly takes advantage of this.  Summers are when big blockbusters are released. Big, stupid, action oriented popcorn flicks are a summertime staple as the studios generally save the more serious stuff for the holidays, which makes sense, right?

The gaming industry however, has been stuck in a rut of releasing everything worthwhile in this tiny 4-month window between September and December. Sure, you’ll want to capitalize on holiday gift giving, but all these big releases so close together causes cannibalization among the big budget titles and smaller titles get lost in the shuffle.

You would think that publishers would want to spread out their release calendar a bit. Why not give the consumer a steady stream of titles throughout the year, instead of a glut all at one time? It just makes sense. Who are these amazingly smart executives making the decisions at these big companies anyway?

Okay, that’s not fair, but I can’t help myself.

This year, however, I’ve noticed a shift. There are a decent amount of good games coming out this spring which is going to force me to play throughout the summer.

Uncharted 4, Doom, and Battleborn have already been released and are solid if not exceptional games. However, just over the horizon we have Overwatch coming out in late May, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst in early June, No Man’s Sky in late June, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided in late August.  All of these games are AAA titles, which is a rarity for the summer months.

Uncharted 4 is an awesome game that his lived up to all the hype and I’m thoroughly enjoying it right now.  Doom, a game in which many thought was going to be pure shit due to a review embargo has actually turned out to be more than decent and warrants a purchase. Not to mention, Doom and especially Overwatch, are solid multiplayer titles that will have long life spans.

Also, all the hype and general high praise for Overwatch during its beta has piqued my interest, and not just because Tracer has a beautiful rear end. I wonder what my good friend Pacino thinks?

Doom and Overwatch alone would have taken up my entire summer, but I had no idea that No Man’s Sky was scheduled for the summer. This title alone appears to be a total time suck just by the nature of this game’s style alone.

It’s actually a good thing that there are no big trips scheduled this summer and we just have “staycations” planned. Of course, my wife can make an executive decision at any time and pile us all into the car for a leisurely 26-hour road trip to god’s waiting room.

My plan is to lock myself into my game room, crank up the air conditioning and draw the blinds. Who knows, I may even take a break every once in a while to stuff grilled meats into my face and drink cold beer outside.

The FBI Wasted My Tax Dollars on a Video Game

The wife and I got a jump on our taxes this year. All of our tax forms from our employers, banks, and creditors have been sent off to our accountant. Hopefully, we get a decent return this year, which is never a guarantee. My hope is that it’s enough to put a stripper pole in the basement.

Every year, for eight years, when we send all of the forms to our accountant, I tell him to get me big refund by COOKING THE BOOKS. He then cordially reminds me that he is a reputable CPA. I also have no idea what cooking the books entails, but it sounds cool.

Eventually, we’ll get completed tax forms from the accountant to sign before submitting to Uncle Sam, and I marvel at how much money I paid in taxes both to the state as well as the federal government.

Where does all this money go?

Well, a portion of it went to the FBI, who spent it designing a website and a “video game,” with the aim of teaching teens the dangers of violent extremism. The money would have gone to better use if the feds used it to wipe their asses and then setting it on fire.

Have you ever encountered an instances where someone shows you something that they are very proud of, and you just smile, grit you teeth and nod, because you’re afraid to tell them that in actuality it’s total shit?  That’s the feeling I get when visiting the FBI website and right up front, on the page’s main carousel you’ll see “Don’t Be a Puppet: Pull Back the Curtain on Violent Extremism.”

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According to the FBI, “today like never before, violent extremists of all kinds are deliberately targeting our nation’s young people with poisonous propaganda—especially in cyberspace, where they are flooding social media with slick recruiting videos and persuasive calls to action.”

This is very true and terrifying. So the FBI’s plan to counter this is with a website using the slickest imagery and styles from 2003.

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The goal of the site, which can be viewed here, is to “teach teens recognize violent extremist messaging and become more resistant to self-radicalization and possible recruitment, through the use of activities, quizzes, videos, and other materials.”

This is a noble goal and it’s a shame that it was squandered on a such a horrible site that appears to be an perfect example of what out of touch beltway pundits believe teens find “cool.”

The ultimate goal for the user is to click on each section and complete small tasks.  These tasks are actually very informative and one can learn quite a bit.  After each task is completed, a string is cut on the puppet, freeing an appendage. Ultimately, you must free the puppet, so he can go home to his father, Geppetto and eventually become a REAL BOY…. probably.

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I’m not even sure what’s going on here. Where are we supposed to be? Is this some kind of post-apocalyptic safe house? I’m getting a Myst vibe. Click on any of the boxes and you’ll zoom into that area and get a definition and a task.

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That’s a sweet ass rig there. What is that? A 486 tower with floppy and CD-ROM! Damn, we’re going to be playing some original Wolfenstein tonight, kids.

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Holy shit that’s an original Gameboy! Do teens today even know what an original Gameboy is? I like to imagine that a group of old grizzled G-men sitting at a meeting and one them say, “When my son was teenager, he used to love playing with something called a Gameboy. Let make sure we have one on the site because teens love those things.”

It just so happens that this area will also allow you to play a game called “Slippery Slope” on that Gameboy.

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You play as a goat that must dodge obstacles and make it to the finish line. Make it to the finish line and you’ll get a message.

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Wow, that sure came out of nowhere. How does one go from playing, as a happy goat traipsing through the countryside avoiding obstacles to what appears to be a quote from Conan the Barbarian? That escalated quickly—slippery slope indeed.

In the end, I really didn’t want to shit all over this site, as it does have a noble goal. Terrorism and extremism is real and it is scary, and yes, they are targeting teenagers, who may vulnerable and can be impressionable.

But here’s the thing, teens may be impressionable, but they are not stupid. A site like this panders to them in a condescending way.  You don’t have to make things edgy, cool, or fun to get through to youth. This was the case when I was a teenager and it’s true today.

5 Things To Do in Amsterdam Other than Playing Games at Your Hotel

In full disclosure, I have never visited Amsterdam. I came close to going a couple of times, and my wife and I almost honeymooned there, before deciding on going elsewhere. Suffice it to say, going to Amsterdam is on my bucket list.

Before my wife and I decided to stay exclusively in Austria for our honeymoon, we did have a rough itinerary planned for Amsterdam.  There is a lot going on in that bohemian city. So why would anyone decided to hole themselves up in a hotel and play video games when there is so much more worthwhile things to do?

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The folks at the Arcade Hotel, however hope that’s exactly what you would do. To their credit, the place does sound cool and the price for a stay is reasonable with rates starting at about $70 per night. Its location appears to be on the outskirts of the city center in a trendy and hip area where the streets are named for Dutch master painters.

The hotel also appears to be relatively small with only 36 rooms, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Each room comes with a console and some games. Guests of the hotel can also borrow a handheld if that tickles their fancy or peruse the comic book library. The Arcade Hotel also maintains a fleet of loaner bikes, which is apparently the preferred mode of travel in Amsterdam.

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I certainly don’t want to poo poo this establishment, because it sounds appealing to me personally as a gamer. The problem is that I can’t see myself taking full advantage of this establishment when visiting a city with such an amazing reputation as Amsterdam.

This is sound like your typical Catch-22. Put a hotel like this out in the middle of nowhere, and you will fail because who want to be out in the middle of nowhere.  Put this hotel in an amazing city like Amsterdam, and people don’t take advantage of the amenities because who want to be holed up in a room playing games when they are vacationing.

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I hope that this place succeeds, and who know, maybe one day my wife and I will make it out to Amsterdam and get to stay at this place. We already have a list of things we wanted to see on our Honeymoon, such as:

5. Visit the Anne Frank House

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4. Go on a canal boat tour

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3. Go to various museums

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2. Go to a “Coffee Shop”

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1. Shop at the many open-air markets

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BONUS: Red Light District

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On a side note, my wife and I have this on-going debate that originated when we were considering going to Amsterdam on our honeymoon and I mentioned that we should visit the Red Light district. I believed (AND STILL DO) that a hand job from a lady of the night is fine as long as no kissing is involved. It’s essentially a massage right?  I don’t give her crap when some dude gives her a massage when she and her friends have one their spa days.

She disagreed and says that if I did, she would have our marriage annulled as soon as we got back from our honeymoon. In the end, it was one of the main reasons why she decided we would go to Vienna and Salzburg instead of Amsterdam.

 

Better with Age: Classic Games Just Look Better… For Now

I’m not a big fan of the term ‘better with age’ since many things are simply not better than age. Sure, things like wine, scotch, and some cheeses are better with some age. Technology? Not so much.

Ever notice that no one ever yearns for medicine of yesteryear? I’ve never met a person who looked fondly at the time when doctor’s prescribed Camel cigarettes for weight loss and bled people with leeches to release the body of bad humors.

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I’m not one to look back at videogames with rose-colored glasses either. Many folks make a big deal about how games were simply better than current generation titles, but that is not entirely true either. Also, many people who claim that that older games are just better dress like lumberjacks and like in Brooklyn. I don’t believe anything these people say.

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Take the original PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64 as examples. For the most part, the games on these systems don’t hold up well visually. At the time, we thought they looked amazing, as they were in 3D and everything was built on millions of polygons, but this was just a novelty as it was new and fresh after years of gaming on a 2D plane. Simply put, early 3D games looked horrible.

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Take Mario 64 for example. The game itself was amazing as it was the first iteration of a platformer to make the leap from 2D to 3D and not muck it up. It was groundbreaking, but looking at the game today, the years have not been kind. I’d rather look at Super Mario World on the SNES than Mario 64.

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And that’s the crux of it. Older games do look better, but you have to go back further to see it. In my humble opinion, the games from the 16-bit era, especially as that era was coming to close looked visually unique and amazing. The large colorful sprites really popped.

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Again, I’m not saying that games from the initial PlayStation to today are garbage, but quite the contrary actually. The PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64 took gaming into what I like to believe is the modern era of gaming, where 3D, innovative mechanics, story, and high production values became the norm. Unfortunately, it took some time for the visuals to catch up.

Personally speaking, even though classic games, in which I like to define as the 16-bit era and earlier, are more visually pleasing than the early 32-bit era of games, game play wise however, they have not held up very well.

From time to time, I’ll pick up a classic game, either running on an original console or emulated on a modern machine and I’m surprised at how bad I am at playing them. Keep in mind that many of these games are titles that I played years ago as a child and could run through them at ease. Maybe I’m really becoming an old man and my reflexes are going to shit? Or perhaps I’m just not as patient as I used to be and I’m not willing to put in the time to perfect my run through or memorize the maps.

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I remembered all the strategies and secrets, but could no longer execute them. I then become easily frustrated by the pixel perfect timed jumps, or the questionable hit detection and quickly return to more modern games. I find this a bit ironic actually. I’d rather look at a classic game than play it.

I suppose that this is not an extraordinary breakthrough. It’s not too dissimilar from classic movies actually. Take Citizen Kane as an example. Everyone agrees that this movie was groundbreaking and a classic, but ask me to watch it and I’ll cordially decline.

It took some time, but I would argue that we’re coming to a new golden age of gaming. We have gotten to the point where visually, gaming is getting near its apex. I say this because the leap in visuals from last generation to current generation was not all that groundbreaking. Yes, current generation games look amazing, but compare to last generation, the change in visuals are more evolutionary than revolutionary.

Take EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront as an example. It is perhaps one of the most visually impressive games I have ever scene, even though game play wise, the game is infuriatingly mediocre. It’s almost as if we’ve reached a point where creating a beautiful looking game is the easy part, yet making it innovative, fun, and memorable is where the true challenge lies.

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I reckon time will tell if my theory holds true. In the meantime, I’ll stick to watching people speed run through classics games. I’m retiring from playing the classics. I’ll leave that to the young whippersnappers.

The Silly World of Gaming Related Stock Photography

As someone who has been gaming for nearly 30 years, I’ve seen the medium go from children’s pastime to mainstream entertainment.  However, there is one thing that has not changed much, and it’s that many advertising agencies don’t understand gaming for shit.

This is coming from someone who has actually worked in and collaborates with ad agencies to this day, so I do have real world knowledge of this.  I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt that the vast majority of them simply do not understand the core concepts of video games.

Even fancy ones with giant face chairs and shit.

Even the fancy agencies with giant face chairs are clueless when it comes to games.

Now, there are exceptions.  There are (probably) plenty of agencies out there that specialize or have experience in video game marketing and advertising. These are the companies contracted by game makers directly. Many publishers develop their advertising internally, because who knows the product better than the ones who are creating it, right? RIGHT?!?

We’re not here to talk about those types of ads.  These are good ads from competent companies, for the most part.  We’re here to poke fun at the ads and stock photos of agencies that have no fucking clue what they’re talking about, because making fun of ignorant people is fun.

"This copy is good, but let's add some more stereotypical dialogue like EXTREME and RADICAL!"

“This copy is good, but let’s add some more stereotypical dialogue like EXTREME and RADICAL!”

Let’s take a relatively recent ad for the delicious and colon exploding savory confections known as Hot Pockets.


This commercial goes off the rails mainly because this is not how gaming works in the real world. Gaming will probably never work like this. However, in the minds of ad executives who probably never picked up a game pad in their lives, this is EXACTLY how games work.

That’s a recurring problem with many ads that have video games. The act of gaming is either extremely out dated or severely detached on how it actually works.

This isn’t just a problem with video games mind you. Agency folks have told me point blank that they tweak many things in order to make a point or capture the essence of an activity due to time constraints in the ad or to make something look more interesting.  However, there are many instances when the agencies and creative folk simply don’t give a fuck.

Take this image, for example:

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I first came across this image approximately 3 years ago while working at a large global consumer goods company.

I was walking to my desk, which just so happened to be near the design “gurus” when I noticed this image was posted on a very large poster with other Xbox branded items.  There were mock-ups of the Xbox Live dashboard, sample banner ads touting my company’s products, images of people enjoying our product, images of people gaming, various charts and graphs, and that fucking monstrosity above.

I went to one of the designers and asked what the poster was about. The designer, who was bearded, wearing a flannel shirt, and donning very expensive designer eyeglasses said that they were pitching Microsoft on a marketing partnership and that was part of their presentation.

Horrified, I told the “lumber sexual” designer that he couldn’t use that image of the controller. I explained to him that this controller does not exist, will never exist, is clearly a joke, and if they show that to Microsoft, they will get laughed out of the fucking room.

The designer, who was clearly trying to channel a myopic Paul Bunyan, annoyingly peered at me above the rims of his designer eyeglasses, sighed and stated that he wouldn’t know, because he never played a video game in his life (highly doubtful) and he thought that the image was fine, but he will chat with his boss about it.

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I was a fan of not playing video games before it was cool.

I don’t know if they ever changed the image, but I do know that my former company never formed a marketing partnership with Microsoft, at least, not at that time.

What’s even sadder is that this image was seared into my mind’s eye after all these years. When I decided to write this post I starting Googling images of controllers and after a short while, found it. It came from a PS4 fan site and is a knock on Microsoft. That would have gone over great with the folks at Microsoft.

Clearly, this was a dumb move on my former company’s part, but the truth is that even proper stock photography and video houses have tons of crappy gaming related images and video that they are selling to ad agencies and internal marketing departments of corporations who simply don’t know any better.

Here are just a few examples.

Generic Console

Stupid Hardware

These first two images are examples of stupid hardware.  Consider the first image and how ridiculously generic it is.  I realize that you cannot use the actual hardware with the Playstation of Xbox logos , but you can cover that shit up. These two images are just plain lazy.

Generic FamilyWhat a beautiful family. Look how close they are, huddled up together.  They must really love each other.  Too bad 3 out of 4 them appear to have never held an actual controller before.

This time with grandmaHey, let’s invite grandpa and grandma too.  By the way, why are the kids facing away from the TV, which is also not on? Is that how video games work? WHO CARES!

Close GamersI don’t know about you, but when I’m gaming with my buddies, this is exactly how we look. Practically on top of each other and we may or may not be wearing any pants.

For the ladiesGirls play games too you know.  Also, thanks to the Wii, people think that motion controls are now an integral part of every game ever made. The PS2 had motion control right?

Swaying in the WindWhy are they sitting on a table? Why are they swaying back and forth? Why are they yelling?

Now, you may be thinking that I combed through stock photo site after stock photo site looking for the worst of the worst and you would be wrong. First of all, I’m incredibly lazy, so I would never do that, these images were easy to find and secondly, they are all from reputable stock photography companies. You may have also noticed that these images are not cheap either.

It’s not just photography though. Stock video is just as bad if not worse.

Bask in the green glow of video games and technology. It’s so alien and possibly dangerous. Also, what is up with the girl in the back?


Overly expressive gesticulation. Also, do people still pass the controller back and forth like a joint?


Look at grandma and grandpa, play the Xbox Three Six Wii. This is a great example of using hardware incorrectly or in a way that does not makes sense to an actual gamer. Also, there is a very good chance that this video can be used for Cialis, Viagra, or any other pill that makes your dick hard when the time is juuuuust right.



This is wrong on many levels. It appears that at any moment they are going to swap partners and start eating each others genitals.


This girl is having a whirlwind of emotions. She may need to go on mood altering medication.


Lastly, you can cut the sexual tension here with a knife. These kids are clearly going to have unprotected sex any second here. Gaming is a gateway to sexual deviancy and children being born out of wedlock, everyone knows that.

Also, Shaggy McBeardy over there clearly has never picked up a controller before and this is turning his girlfriend on.

The people who created these stock images and videos are ignorant on so many levels its laughable. The concept of video games at this point is nothing novel, and yet people in the advertising world are still relatively clueless about how gaming actually works.

That brings me to a question for you. Has there ever been an ad that portrayed gaming so poorly, whether it was for a game related product or something completely unrelated that rubbed you the wrong way? Would this keep you from purchasing said product?  Let me know in the comments.

One for the road.

One for the road.

World of “Bat” Tanks

The late great comedian Rodney Dangerfield once said “I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.” I can relate. I once bought a game about Batman, and I was completely ready to play a game about being Batman, it just turns out that it’s a game about tanks.

No respect.

No respect.

There’s nothing wrong with tank combat in video games by the way. I wrote a blog post about my favorite game related tanks that was front-paged a little while back. Fighting in a tank against other tanks in a video game is a jolly good time and I highly recommend that everyone try it at least once.

There is just one issue though. I like to specifically engage with games where tank combat makes sense. A game like Call of Duty is going to have a tank level, guaranteed. The Battlefield series would be strange without a tank level. I would be remiss if I did not have the opportunity to play in a Scorpion in Halo. Tanks in these games make sense.

I was, however, not ready to engage in tank combat as Batman and this is something that you do a lot in Batman: Arkham Knight.

You better get used to this view.

You better get used to this view.

Now, I’ll be totally transparent and say that the tank combat in Arkham Knight is very competent and certainly fun. The problem is, being a Batman fan, there was never an instance when I said, and “You know what Batman needs MORE FUCKING TANKS!”

When I think of Batman, I see a haunted man, who uses his wealth and wits to become the ultimate detective who then beats the living shit out of bad guys with his bare hands. Sure, he has incredible gadgets, weapons, and vehicles, but a Batmobile that can turn into a tank on the fly?

I can suspend disbelief to an extent, this is a comic book character after all, but I feel like the whole Bat Tank function is bit contrived. My Bat senses tell me that developer Rocksteady depends on this functionality way too much in the game for my liking. It feels like a crutch—a way to pad out the game, or maybe force it into new directions, adding a new dimension to the gameplay and it is wholly unnecessary. There are far too many instances where the Dark Knight is piloting his stupid tank.

SPOILER ALERT BELOW

Spoiler Squirrel is looking out for you.

Spoiler Squirrel is looking out for you.

The fact that the storyline has to explicitly state that the tanks Batman battles against are unmanned drones, so he can blow them to smithereens with his 60-millimeter cannon is a bit of stretch. He can blow them the fuck up because he’s not killing anyone, which would be against his bat code. Isn’t it great how that works out in such a nice and tidy fashion? It’s also fortunate that the city is entirely abandoned by all civilians, so Batman doesn’t run anyone over accidentally or blow them up by his tank’s 60-millimeter cannon or the machine gun, because collateral damage is a bitch.

All in all, I’m enjoying Arkham Knight for what it is, and that’s fun video game. It just doesn’t seem to be a true Batman game. It’s too much of a departure, even if the mechanic it’s self is well done and well executed.

I mean, what will they think of next? A Bat motorcycle with sidecar?

bcycleShit.

Amazon Thinks I Have a Gaming Addiction

I do a lot of horrible gaming related things for your personal amusement. I mostly play horrible celebrity branded mobile phone games, but this time around, I decided to read a book about gaming addiction. This was not what I would call a pleasant experience.

Thank goodness that this is only a “book” in the most general sense, in that there are words in it, and those words are printed on a page, however there are not a lot actual pages to read. I’d say that this more like a pamphlet—a horribly written piece of garbage pamphlet, which will make you dumber if you actually take the time to read it. Also, this is actually an eBook, but now we’re just getting into semantics.

I happened upon this book a couple of weeks ago, when my company decided to send me away again for business. Luckily, the flight this time around was relatively short, so no need to purchase in-flight Internet access or rent Direct TV to keep me occupied. I can just do a little bit of reading and pound miniature bottles of vodka, just like Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack did, when air travel was GLAMOROUS. The only difference being that if I light up a cigarette or slap the “air waitress” on the ass for a job-well-done, the air marshal will crack my skull open with the butt of his Glock.

1950-Frank-Sinatra

So with the limited time available to me before my flight, I found a free Wi-Fi hotspot by the gate and went onto Amazon on my iPad to see what I can download cheaply. Since I read a fair amount of gaming and tech related stuff, one of Amazon’s recommendations was Gaming Addiction Cure: How to Overcome Gaming Addiction in 30 Days, by James Henry. Amazon apparently thinks that I have a problem. Luckily enough, the book was free and with time running out, I went ahead with the download. LET’S GET READING!

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The book starts off with an introduction from the author, the one and only James Henry. My comments added in ALL CAPs.

“Do you find yourself always playing games even when you have important things to do like hand in a project at work or even spend time with your kids? (I PLAY GAMES TO SPECIFICALLY AVOID THESE THINGS) Has your need to play games taken over your life such that you never even find time to do important things like eating and sleeping? (I FORGO GOING TO THE BATHROOM JUST TO PLAY GAMES, DOES THIS COUNT?) Have you wasted a lot of money buying all kinds of games just to get the thrill and adrenaline rush from playing such games? (YES, BUT NOT AS MUCH AS I WASTED ON HOOKERS AND BLOW) If you relate to any or all of these scenarios, then you definitely have a problem that needs to be addressed. The good thing is that all hope is not lost and with the strategies outlined in this book, you will overcome your gaming addiction and live a normal life. (PRAISE JEEZUS!)”

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Like any self-help book, the author has to cover his ass, so there is the requisite legalese.

“The information provided herein is stated to be truthful and consistent, in that any liability, in terms of inattention or otherwise, by any usage or abuse of any policies, processes, or directions contained within is the solitary and utter responsibility of the recipient reader. Under no circumstances will any legal responsibility or blame be held against the publisher for any reparation, damages, or monetary loss due to the information herein, either directly or indirectly. (SO THE HOOKERS AND BLOW COSTS ARE ALL ON ME?)”

The author goes onto explain the different types of games available for those who are reading the book on behalf of a loved one. Nothing ground breaking here. He defines single player games, multiplayer games, eSports, and mobile games. All these game types have something in common however, and that they are all HIGHLY ADDICTIVE!

This is all well and good, but you may be saying to yourself, “Surely, I don’t have a gaming problem.” But you would be wrong. DEAD WRONG!

The author goes onto to state that if you have done one or more of the following listed below, then you are officially a GAMEAHOLIC (TM by Spieler Dad, like just now).

*Being interrupted from your normal life pattern such as having to play at night and shifting to sleeping during the day. (VAMPIRA-GAMING, TM SPIELER DAD)

*If, to a certain extent, you risk or actually lose your job or drop out of school to play a digital game or online competition.

*If you require a bigger fix such as having to play for longer periods to enjoy same level of gaming. (OR DECIDE TO PLAY GAMES WITH NIPPLE CLIPS ON)

*If you experience withdrawal problems such as feeling anxious or irritable when you stop or disconnect from your playmates. (I PERSONALLY SCREAM AT THE DOG)

*Constant cravings i.e. a strong desire to play or go online even when far from gaming facilities. (THANK GOD NO ONE HAS INVENTED A WAY TO PLAY A GAME AWAY FROM THE HOME!?! THEY WOULD MAKE MILLIONS!)

So how does one avoid becoming addicted? The answer to that is that they don’t. Games are designed to be addicted.

“There are various causes of gaming addictions but one of the key reasons is that they are fundamentally designed to be addictive. The designers or creators of games are interested in making profit (BASTARDS!) thus they need to make addictive games to continue enjoying profits. Games are often made to be challenging so that you keep on trying without giving up and once you overcome a particular level, you have another level waiting for you. This is why you will keep on playing and since you cannot beat the game, you will be on a continuous journey of trying to beat the game, which is impossible.” (I CHOKED ON MY OWN SALIVA LAUGHING SO HARD ON THIS)

So, you have decided that you are addicted to gaming. What do you do now? Luckily the author gives you some options on how to do so.

Option 1 is to go Cold Turkey. For this to work, he recommends that you do the following:

“For this strategy to work, you have to do these steps almost immediately! Right now, delete all your video games from the computer, Smartphone or console. Do away with every sign of it. Do it now, even if it means throwing away those DVDs or disconnecting the Internet. Destruction of all video software and selling of gaming electronics helps a lot to gain immediate recovery. Later, if you feel like downloading or buying new game, you find it harder as you’d have to start from scratch.”

The second option is to slowly wean yourself off gaming. He recommends getting rid of everything except one console and begin limiting the time you spend on gaming. I say go ahead and pick up a Wii U. You’ll give up gaming in a matter of days. ZING!

Wii-U_pack_black_EUB-Kopie

The author’s last topic of discussion is a touchy one, as he goes into how games can impact children. However, all the tips he provides are very safe and common sense. He doesn’t provide anything groundbreaking.

His first bit of advice to parents is to restrict their children’s playtime to one hour or less in a day and to keep track on the total amount of time their children spend gaming. Again, this is common sense really, but there are stupid people out there who managed to procreate, so I’ll give him this one.

He also suggests that parents should be present for their children. Not sure what he means by this. Perhaps he’s suggesting to not leave them out in the wild where they can be raised by a pack of wolves?

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He ends his advice by suggesting that parents should closely monitor their children’s behavior. He goes onto to state that, “…A number of games have been attributed to causing negative attitude on kids, or other aggressive reactions towards ordinary issues. “ The author however doesn’t cite where he got this information. Did he just make that up?

One can assume that he’s referring to the multitude of studies that state that violent games “may” make children more aggressive. Also, he neglects to state that a parent shouldn’t allow a young child to play violent and mature games in the first place. One would think that should be his first point.

To conclude his guide, Mr. Henry wishes me luck on my journey to conquer gaming addiction. I have decided to deny that I even have a problem in the first place. Also, I can quit gaming anytime, thank you very much, SO DON’T JUDGE ME!

The author requests that I go onto Amazon and rate his book, which I can assure I will do no such thing. Going on Amazon and writing a scathing review on this so-called book would be pointless, like tits on a bull.

Yet, something just didn’t seem right about this book. The writing was too shoddy, the book too short, and the advice overly elementary. Also, who is this James Henry person?

Turns out that James Henry is the pen name for James Gurbutt. According to his profile online, he works in publishing, and enjoys windsurfing and long lunches (WHO DOESN’T?!?)

windsurfing

A search online brings up the following image below where he appears be enjoying himself.

happy

I think he’s the one in the middle.

In the end, James seems to be a good chap, so I’ll leave him alone, even though I feel he is not qualified to give advice on gaming addiction. However, I cannot recommend reading Gaming Addiction Cure: How to Overcome Gaming Addiction in 30 Days.

When all is said and done, I give Gaming Addiction Cure: How to Overcome Gaming Addiction in 30 Days 1 out of 5 Creepy Dudes in Vests.

creepy

If, for whatever reason, you want to read this book for yourself, you can download it from Amazon here.

Why do we still care about Backwards Compatibility?

E3 2015 has come and gone. The big corporations had their pressers, the unwashed masses got to try out the latest wares, and the Los Angeles area is free of game industry marketing reps and journalists, to concentrate on more important things, like not dying of thirst.

Out of all the big press events, Microsoft won, in my humble opinion, by a nose,  by slightly edging out Sony. So congratulations Microsoft, you win the Spieler Dad’s Sicilian Donkey Cart for Best E3 Presser – 2015!

donkey cart
To all the Sony fanatics out there, put your pitchforks and torches down. Sony had the thing won, up into the very end, when Andrew House starting talking about the Playstation Vue and Spotify of all fucking things. That’s an automatic disqualification.

Also, if Andrew House was to get a PhD, he can be called Dr. House, which would be neat.


dr_house

Microsoft had shown so many great things at their press event. Plenty of good looking games, cool looking exclusives titles, a new FANCY controller, and HoloLens, to name just a few. However, the thing that got everyone excited the most was the announcement that the Xbox One will now be backwards compatible with the Xbox 360.

Yay?

Yay?

For reasons that escape me, people deeply about backwards compatibility. On the surface, I can understand why this is a feature that would make sense—games are expensive and it would be nice to continue playing your older titles when a new generation comes around. Personally speaking however, I could care less.  I’ve always been about the new hotness. When a new console is released, I go all in. Sorry last generation, time to take you behind the shed and introduce you to Mr. Shotgun.


oldyeller

I thought we were finally passed the whole backwards compatibility debate. Microsoft released the Xbox One without backwards compatibility while Sony hitched it’s wagon to game streaming, by purchasing Gaikai for $380 million so one can pay through the nose and poorly stream PS3 games on the PS4.

Deep down inside, I can’t help but feel that the Microsoft’s plan to make the Xbox One backwards compatible is an elaborate form of corporate trolling.

...We then light the bag of shit on fire, ring the doorbell, and run.

…We then light the bag of shit on fire, ring the doorbell, and run.

In short, if you bought digital games on the 360, you’ll be able to download them again to your Xbox One, if they’re added to the compatibility list.  The same will apply to disc-based games that are added to the catalog. You just need to insert the disc and download the game. And the best part is that this is all free.

In one fell swoop, Microsoft made Sony’s Playstation Now streaming service look like a $380 million turd. This is quite remarkable, as Microsoft had dug themselves quite the hole after the initial Xbox One launch, but they are slowly starting to pull themselves out.

I doubt that Microsoft will be able to fully recover though, but it sure is fun watching them try. They also did something that I thought no one would be able to do, and that’s make me excited about backwards compatibility.

The one caveat is that not every title released for the Xbox 360 will be backwards compatible. It’s safe to say that many of the hits will be, but what about the niche titles? What about the crap titles?

Microsoft has stated that they are listening to their consumers and have created a site where people can vote on which titles get added in future updates. Not surprisingly, the list currently shows last gen AAA mainstays, with Red Dead Redemption rising to the top.

That’s why I propose that we have a little fun at Microsoft’s expense. I went ahead and did a little research on what is the worst Xbox 360 title ever released and propose that we all vote to have Ride to Hell: Retribution added to the backwards compatibility list.


RtH

Let’s ensure that future generations have the opportunity to play one of the shittiest games ever made. Together, we can do it.

CLICK HERE TO VOTE