Friday, July 25, 2014

That One Time Where the Fire Alarm Was Not a Drill…

(We had drills maybe once every 2-3 months. But it was constant enough that we generally ignored it, and kept working because it’s customer service. Who cares about us? They tested the alarms on weekends constantly. Luckily, I was out of Customer Service at this point. So the stories I share are from co-workers on that fateful day).

(Fire Alarm Blaring)

Agent #1: Sir, I’m so sorry. But I have to disconnect the call. The fire alarm is going off and it is not a drill.

Customer: What? Alarm? You’re supposed to help me!

Agent #1: I apologize, but I really have to hang up. There is a fire in the building. Please call back later.

Customer: You have to stay and help! I’ll file a complaint against you!

Agent #1: Go ahead then. My safety is more important. *hangs up*

(Fun fact: I heard later that this person did get a verbal warning for what was said to the customer…/sigh)

Agent #2: Ma’am, our fire alarm is going off. I’ll have to end this call.

Customer: Oh. It might be a drill. I can hold.

Agent #2: I don’t think this is a drill. Usually we stay when that happens.

Customer: It’s fine. Just put me on hold. I can wait.

Agent #2: Okay… (Flustered, he placed the woman on hold and left. Over an hour later when we could return, the customer was no longer on hold. The second the agent logged in…) *phone rings*

Customer: I thought it was just a drill! I was on hold forever!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fact Check!

Mark O’Mara, a CNN legal analyst, stated the following on July 16th via CCN Tonight:

"Literally, by the time a child is 18 years of age, they‘ve killed over 100,000 people in video games and other online things."

Literally!

I'm surprised that other gaming blogs haven't picked up on this. Possibly because it's kind of true, but it's also a gross overselling of an invalid fact. I.E. He has no proof. That's exactly what Pundit Fact wanted to find out. In doing so, they have stated some very obvious things that sadly bear repeating. Not EVERY kid PLAYS violent video games. Not every game is played the same way. Even the ESRB has no idea where O’Mara got his magical statistic. A player can run through Grand Theft Auto and never harm a single person, but still achieve the game's end goal.

O’Mara's spokesperson called it a "napkin calculation," but claims that the numbers should still be valid. Pundit did find gamers willing to confirm the claim, but some games have an even higher kill count then 100k.

Does that make them bad kids or adults? No. All of the comments have stated in some form or another that the players are able to delineate reality and fantasy. So the numbers are just that. Numbers. They mean nothing. Thanks Pundit Fact for posting results that make sense and not twisting this into a terror story that kids are becoming monsters because of video games. I'm looking at you Fox News.

Inclination for Discrimination

(This conversation takes place over the course of several emails. The email system we use does not reveal our full name, but our first name is applied to the bottom of messages.)

Customer: Your stores need better standards. I went into the one in Deluth today and all of the employees were women. I’d rather see a color guy behind the counter then a woman. They don’t know about video games. They should be fired and you all can give jobs to more good, honest, white men. So what are you all going to do about this?

(This normally would be filtered into the trash bin, but since he requested a response, we have to give one.)

Me: [blank] is a company that believes in diversity. We do not discriminate anyone based on age, race, gender, or religion. If someone is of legal age and wants to work for us, they can certainly apply. We appreciate your comments and will forward them to the store’s manager. If there’s anything else we can do to assist, please let us know.

Customer: I didn’t say I was racist! Keep the color folks. I just want the women gone!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Comic Book Fan's Quiet Rant Against Video Games

Normally I gloss over these, unless they are really funny in that sad-desperate attempt to catch page clicks, and deserve equally amusing cometary. But Lucas White is someone who I have followed off-hand throughout the years with Shonen Jump, and now TechnologyTell (focusing on the off-shoot articles for their section called GamerTell). He is honest in his responses, but also keeps an objective point of view, even when the product he's reviewing sucks. So his latest editorial "Dear Video Games: Comics can change, why can’t you?" caused me tilt my head to the side.

There are a few reasons for this. First of all, comic books has a century of market absorption compared to video games. Not a 5 year gap, but literally 100+ years. The first published comic book was in 1842. They have had a century plus to grow, change, and find their foothold in the entertainment medium. Video games were first developed in the 1940's, nearly 100 years after comic books, and they weren't popularized for consumer sales until the late 1970's. Video games have quite a bit of growing up to do when you attempt to equate them to comic books.

Second, I think White is intentionally overlooking the controversy and vocal concern from readers over current and past comic book changes that altered characters and story-lines to make them more diverse. Just a quick stroll through, oh, any forum, you'll find people on vehemently opposed to the changes with Thor and Captain America. Marvel has recently announced that Thor will be changing to a woman (which has happened once before!) and Cap will be Black. Even Time Magazine is calling the changes a gimmick on Marvel's part. But this isn't the first time. Remember when SpiderMan had a spin-off series? Peter Parker was replaced by Miles Morales, a black Hispanic teenager. Green Lantern Alan Scott came out gay in 2012. Heck, fans of comics have been upset at comic book movies for decades. It's not a new phenomenon. Is it great that we're getting diversity? Absolutely. But to claim that comic books are more progressive then video games completely ignores the other half of nerd experience: interacting with other fans. Sorry fanboys; you're bringing us down.

Third, while there are more options for comics on the market, it's not as rosey as White makes it out to be. You still have to dig to get to the stories that you want to read. They're not on that front wall that publishers covet. If you're not Marvel or DC, you're in the bins at the back. Video games are no different in this regard, but their perk is accessibility (as White points out). You don't need to have every call of Duty game to understand what the latest version is all about. In a culture of sequels, prequels, and trilogies, it's rare in video games to have games that are in succession. We can thank Mario for that. But the beauty of it is that this ease of jumping into games is allowing more people to play. That's great! We want to see more people game.

It doesn't make for more diversity though. It's the same with films, television, and radio. We see the same stereotypes and tropes over and over again. Comic books are no different. White wants to see a day where a Bat Girl game is on the front shelves of a GameStop store. Well, go to a comic book shop. I bet you won't find more then 1 female super hero comic on that coveted wall space. They'll be in the bins like the others. Is it right or fair? No. But it is the culture that we live in.

I'm not arguing against White wanting to have more diversity in video games. Without the independent and mobile game developers, we wouldn't have products that push our emotional and social standards to include heroes and heroines of all races, religions, and creeds. They're not commonplace, yet (which is why it's considered breaking boundaries that we're seeing these games and comics come out...kind of sad really-it should be NORMAL to have non-white males as heroes, not as eye candy or victims). But we still have a long way to go. We're finally getting a Wonder Woman movie, after 30+ years of comic book films not having a leading female character. Well...maybe. We know that WW will be in the Batman/Superman movie but that's about it. Speculation over a WW movie has been going on since 2008 and no updates or announcements have verified a full picture since announcing the lead actress last year.

Okay that Hailey Barry Catwoman movie technically counts as the first, but I'm more focusing on the Heroine part (villain stories aside). And fans were still not happy with the casting selection. It was also a really bad movie. Gal Gadot, the Israeli born model who was selected for the lead role, has been called everything in the book for "not fitting the Wonder Woman image". Sad. Fans. Grow up. You're seriously holding us back.

I think White is trying too hard to glorify comics. This was probably not intentional. Every entertainment medium has it's faults; yes even theater (do we need to go down the road of Black/White/Yellow face?) But in doing so, he's glossing over the important notes that both comics and video games share: the need to increase diversity. We want games for us. We want comics for us. Comics are just as fault about lacking in change/originality as video games.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Football Players Want NCAA Video Games Back!

That whole to-do with Electronic Arts and the NCAA about the franchise games? Well according to recent interviews and surveys by current SEC and ACC players say they really don't care about the litigation, nor about potential compensation. They just want NCAA Football '15.

Around this time last year, the NCAA ended their deal with EA for licensing out their brand for sports games due to ongoing lawsuits regarding current and former college player's likenesses being used without consent. Last month, the figures that EA would have to pay back to former NCAA players was released. This has been a "fight" years in the making and only recently came to a conclusion.

To the college football fans and players...this isn't an easy fix. Drafting up a new contract that both EA and the NCAA are content with will take a minimum of a year, and a lot of lawyers will be involved. This is assuming the NCAA hasn't already picked another publisher to go with. NCAA '15 is not going to happen. But I do find it interesting that of the few that argue what EA did was wrong, a number of the athletes that were "supposedly harmed" really don't give a crap. They just want their game back.

'Boston College center Andy Gallik said players sometimes discuss getting paid, "but at the same time we've come to the realization where I'm at a school where I don't have to pay a dime of my $250,000 for tuition. ... I'm a little disappointed the game is gone. Every year all of the college guys would be excited to see our faces in the college game and pretend to be ourselves." '

This is an argument that has been the center of attention over the past year: should college athletes be paid for the schools profiting from them, or are they being paid with a free education? (Well, not all of those athletes are being paid for their school courses. Ask the vollyball and rowing teams how little their scholarships cover.)

I doubt that the NCAA will be willing to go back to EA. They won't without asking for a larger cut of the sales, and blank slate players that look nothing like the young adults that are currently on the teams.

Prescription, Subscription

(Customer Service also helped manage mailing addresses for a gaming magazine that the company collaborates with. Here are a few favorite lines from customers over the years.)

Customer #1: Yeah, hi. I need to update my prescription address.

Customer #2: My prescription expired. How do I get more of the magazine?

Customer #3: Can I prescribe to the book?

Customer #4: I got a prescription expire thing in the mail. What do I do?

Customer #5: It says I have a subscription. But I thought it was a prescription?

Customer #6 (takes the cake): My prescription address needs to change.

Me: Okay. No problem. What is the old address?

Customer #6 *rattles off address*

Me: Hmm. I’m not able to find it. Is it under a different zip code maybe?

Customer #6: No. That’s where you guys send me my games.

Me: Your games? Do you mean from the [store] website?

Customer #6: Yeah. What else did you think I meant?

Me: So you need to update your mailing address for your online account, not for the magazine?

Customer #6: What magazine?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Weekly Link Roundup.

Link round-up today.

First up, how video games can prepare you for the zombie apocalypse. From fast zombies to the slowbe's.

And here's Blizzard apologizing for 20 years of under-representing everyone but the white male in their games.

And how video games are teaching compassion to it's players.

Have a good one, everybody!

Thou Shalt Not Buy

(A customer called in asking our return policy for a used item. It was a fairly normal conversation until…)

Customer: This game is for heathens!

Me: Ma’am?

Customer: Why would they put so much filth into a game? Games are meant for children.

Me: Well ma’am, it’s up to the developers on what they put in their products. And the parents can make decisions on what is appropriate for their child.

Customer: Heathens and sinners, I tell you. I can ‘not’ believe I was mislead to believe this was a family game!

Me: Ma’am, since it’s a used product, and you have your receipt, and you’re within 7 days, you can get a refund or a replacement of the game to something else. Your local store will take care of you.

Customer: How can I trust them when they can’t protect me from such demonizing games?

Me: Well ma’am, I apologize about that. But if you give them a chance, they’ll make it right. Our stores know the policies and can help you with a refund. Or if you don’t want to visit that location, any [blank] store will assist.

Customer: Killing and violence, it is just a sin what this game is showing. And such a Godly title should not have been used in vain. The Lord would be appalled if he could see this.

Me: May I ask what game this is?

Customer: God of War. Anything with God in the title has to be Christian, and I hope those men who made this game go to hell for their actions. They clearly hate God.

(I bit my tongue for the rest of the conversation, but apparently the muscular, half-naked man with bloody swords on the cover art was enough “good Christian values” to convince the customer to buy it. Wonder if she or her kids ever got to the naked women.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mobile Game's Rise...Through A Kardashian?

Wow. I'm talking about Kim Kardashian and Lindsey Lohan within the space of a week. Hey video games! Quit trying to be cool and cater to the normal people!

Jokes aside, blogging about video games I never expected to cross paths with these people. And maybe it's good that I did not see it coming. It means games are becoming more main stream, more involved, and easily accepted.

The game that I'm talking about is Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a mobile game developed by Glu Mobile. Since launching less then a month ago, June 25 to be exact, it has reportedly taken in over $200 million U.S. dollars. Holy. Crap. For a free to play model, no less. That's a lot for less then a month of release. EA would love numbers like that. And for a game that had a very short development cycle, it's a big win for the developers as well. Kardashian herself could walk away with up to 45% of the profits, according to the contract that one source claims to have seen. Whether that's true or not, we don't know. Kardashian did lend her voice to the game and her likeness.

It's a simple premise. You are a rising star or starlet, and Kardashian guides you though how to be a celebrity. This involves choosing your clothing and dodging mean tweats. Because...celebrities don't hire people to handle that for them.

We can rag on the fact that this is a game completely pandering to the greater public whom, for some reason we can not fathom, are interested in all things Kim Kardashian (a women who is famous simply by being famous). But we can also look at this as a powerful story on the growth of mobile gaming. It has clout. It needs to be taken seriously by big name developers. Gaming is evolving and moving to other mediums. Growth is a good thing, people.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fear the Girly Parts

(Note, this happened at least once a month, if not more often. The way the phone system works, any previous phone numbers that you picked up will filter to your queue to ensure repeat calls can be answered by the same agent.)

Me: Thank you for calling [blank], this is [blank]. How may I help you?

Caller: (A boy responds, sounded to be under the age of 16.) Um…er…yeah…um…nevermind. *hangs up*

(Phone rings again.)

Me: Thank you for calling [blank], this is [blank]. How may I help you?

Caller: Sh*t. *hangs up*

(Phone rings once more.)

Me: Thank you for calling [blank], this is [blank]. How may I help you?

Caller: Um...*hangs up*

(Phone rings, yet again. Caller ID confirms that it’s the same number.)

Me: Thank you for calling [blank], this is [blank]. Before you hang up, do you need to speak with this company are you accidentally pressing redial?

Caller: Damn! Why do I keep getting you?

Me: It’s the way our phone system works, sir. How can I help you?

Caller: Um…are there any dudes there?

Me: Yes there are, sir.

Caller: I want to talk to them.

Me: Just a moment.

(I placed him on hold for nearly 20 minutes until a male rep was available. He told the rep that he didn’t think a ‘girl’ could help him with a game question. What did he want? The store hours of his local shop.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Let It Be, Nerds. Let It Be.

Gentlemen, ladies, of all ages, races, and religion, when did nerd culture become stuck up its own ass?

For decades, centuries even, we were the outcasts. We weren’t accepted by popular society. Through movies and television by the other spectrum, the thespians, our image was relegated to stereotypes: skinny, short, large rimmed glasses, social outcasts with bad fashion senses, or the overweight 30 year old living in his parent’s basement playing World of Warcraft. While the world made fun of us, we ignored it. Let them have their silly visions. We knew the truth that these perceptions of geeks, nerds, and dweebs were far from the truth. And so we built a culture for ourselves. We were a haven for the unwanted, unknown, and unkempt. We were inclusive when the rest of the world wanted nothing to do with us.

And for a time, it was good.

Now the nerd empire is popular to today’s masses. Movies based off of comic books and tv shows from our youth. Video games have taken over as the most consumed entertainment medium. We live in a time where comic book stores were once dying, and now their businesses are reviving and thriving with new fans joining the circle. More people are interested in the Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate. Game of Thrones would not be as popular as it is now if it weren’t for the nerd community at large.

So why, fellow nerds, are we so obsessed with kicking these people out? Because they are not ‘true nerds?’ Because they watched The Avengers movie but haven’t read the comics that follow their story from day one? Because their knowledge of a lightsaber is “that think Luke and that Vader guy use to fight?” Because they didn’t get picked on and harassed in school for being different from everyone else? Because they didn’t spend years being tormented by bullies for liking Spiderman comics, watching Star Trek, and reading Lord of the Rings?

Like it or not, popular culture is helping keep the nerd fandoms alive as difficult as that is to believe. I would argue that nerds have always been selectively inclusive. Most circles of the geek realm held to equality. It didn’t matter if you were male, female, transgender, black, green, blue, purple, whatever. You like Superman? Cool. I do too. Welcome to the club. Other sectors make you jump through hoops to verify that you are, indeed, a true fan. What is the speed ratio of the NCC-1701 flying into a wormhole when compared to a Klingon Bird of Prey K’vort class? Yes that was a Star Trek question. Yes, I have been asked that to prove my worth. And yes, I shook my head and walked away to talk to someone who lived in the real world. But for the most part, nerds and geeks welcomed everyone who was a fan.

This has been changing. Now there are rules, made-up laws that require everyone to show their worth before being accepted. You need to know this, this, and that just to get into the line. There are more questions at the door. If you’re not a straight white male, don’t even bother trying.

Why are nerds so defensive in their position now? You all may not realize this, but we needed the general public to be aware that these things called video games, manga, fantasy novels, that they exist and have fantastic stories waiting to be told. I can easily name a dozen stores across my region that would have gone out of business had comic book movies not become such a big deal over the past decade. Thank you Blade and Men in Black for starting a wonderful trend. The general public caring about what’s happening with Thor is a good thing. People are going out to the stores and buying products. They’re asking for more plot lines. They want to see the series continue, and artists are responding with more content. It’s fantastic! We shouldn’t be shunning these people for becoming fans because of the movies and tv shows. We should be embracing them. Join in on the fun! See what you have been missing all these years by poking fun at us…

But that’s the problem here, isn’t it? Nerds are trying to protect their culture because it’s now being consumed by the very people that harassed us. The jocks that gave us wedgies, the ‘mean girls’ that spread rumors about our sexuality, the isolation from everyone at school for not fitting in – it’s all too familiar for so many of us. Being a nerd and having this circle to go to gave us hope that the future would get better. And it has. And now those same people who use to pick no us, well they think we’re okay. They want to know what we know. They want to get involved in Captain America’s back-story ad find out why The Hulk has had 3 actors over 3 films. And we’re not happy with this. Why couldn’t you accept us back then when this wasn’t cool? Why did you insist on tormenting us at school, home, and work because we loved to speak like Yoda? And now you’re interested in our culture because it’s the hip thing?

I get it nerds. I really do. Like you all, I know it seems unfair that these people didn’t have to suffer through the same passage of life like us. They weren’t teased mercifully for liking Star Wars when everyone was into The Backstreet Boys. Okay as a young girl, this was my trauma, but hopefully you grasp the meaning from this. At the same time, by making up these unnecessary rules and regulations to keep people out, we’re becoming the bullies of our past and present. Why does it matter if someone’s interest in Thor started because of the movies? Who gives a crap, really? They want to read more! They want to get into the comic books! That’s a great thing! Who cares where their interest began. Think of the now. Think of the new blood we can bring into the nerd empire and our people will thrive for generations. Because if we keep up with these rules, if we continue to push back and be bullies to our former foes, our breed will die. Not only are we better then are tormenters and the popular people, we are not a group of 30-50 year old, balding, skinny or overweight, single white men. And if we are, we are destined for doom.

Nerds. It’s time to grow up. Accept people and their fandom for what they are. Else, no more Iron Man for you or the small future of fans that will cease to be if we don’t open the doors. Stop asking the questions. Stop forcing wristbands onto “fans” and stop harassing the misinformed. Let it be.

When You're A Goat

Goat Simulator is stupidly entertaining.

I had no clue this game existed until watching a Rooster Teeth Let's Play, and instantly knew that this game was both dumb and brilliant. "You no longer have to fantasize about being a goat. Your dreams have finally come true!"

Swedish developers Coffee Stain Studio threw together a beta version of this product as a joke during a game jam, and the internet ran with it. 'Let's make a game where a goat does stupid things,' they said. And 10 weeks later, they had Goat Simulator. Of all of their products, this one has been the biggest seller for the company.

So what can you do in the game? Well you're a goat. You can head butt things. You can lick stuff (and due to an entertaining bug, can attach said tongue to just about anything). You can jump on trampolines and air vent fans. You can strap yourself to fireworks and rockets. You can run up walls. You can walk on your front legs. You can slip down water slides. You can turn on rag doll physics and slow motion. The whole goal of the game is to run around, be a goat, and do silly things for points: mostly destructive aspects. There are no deaths. People that you knock over will jump right back up and continue walking and running. There is no blood. Just Michael Bay-esque kabooms. In fact, that's one of the in-game goals: Blow up lots of things! It's even called a Michael Bay.

And that's it. A game that prides itself on it's short development time, low price, and high entertainment value. It's simple, easy, and capitalizes on the humor the internet craves. Anyone can play with the stripped down controls. And it's a game that the developers encourage to keep the bugs in. Why? Because it's funny to see a goat's tongue go through the city walls and cause unnecessary havoc. The only bugs they want reports on are the ones that literally prevent you from playing the game (which there is a Steam achievement for).

It's also a very stupid game. There is no divine meaning to take from it. You're running around as a goat, destroying things with a head butt. Sometimes the destruction is from a pitching machine strapped to your back. But overall, it's a game that would never compete on the level of The Last of Us in terms of character development and plot lines. And in it's simplicity, Coffee Stain has managed to capture a niche category that few will travel and created success that others wish to replicate. Beer Simulator (which recently hit over $100k on Kickstarter) is being developed under the same guise. Rock Simulator (originally a $500 goal is now over $1k), and Game Journalism Simulator (which may or may not be a ruse, I'm not certain). They are the type of games that are here for a few months, and quickly leave our minds.

But the point of the game was not to have long-lasting success. The very nature of the game supports the model many consumers follow in our technology-savy culture: it's quick, easy, and cheap. We want things now, not in another 5 years. We want products that are easy to consume and understand. And just as quickly they can be disposed of when we tire of them. Maybe we'll come back to Goat Simulator a year or two from now, and it'll just be as thrifty and forgotten then as it is now. Coffee Stain has hit it's market audience perfectly, and achieved success many indie teams dream of. Will the fad of quick games last? Eh, it has cycles. We'll be bored of them soon enough, and just when we think they're gone, we'll yearn once more and they'll return. Coffee Stain made a genius business decision for a stupid game.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

There is no F in Math

Me: Hi this is [blank] with customer service. I have a store issue sent in from a customer, and wanted to get more details.

Employee: Umm…is this the guy over the Buy 2, Get 1 deal?

Me: Known issue then?

Employee: Let me get the manager.

Manager: Hi there. So he filed a complaint, huh?

Me: Guess you are aware of it. From the way his complaint reads, you all denied him the deal without a valid reason. But I want to get your side of the story.

Manager: To put it bluntly, he failed at math.

Me: (snickers)

Manager: He came in for the deal and brought up 5 games to the counter. They all qualified, but again, only 5 games. My employee scanned them, gave him his total, and he started to make a ruckus that two of the games should have been free. My employee stated that it was buy 2, get 1 free, not a buy one get 1. The customer needed one more game to get one more for free, right? But the guy wasn’t getting it. I was called out to help and tried to explain it. I spread the games out on the counter and showed the customer how it all worked. You know that this game and this game he was buying, so this one was free. This game and that one are also being purchased but without a third, there was no free game. He started swearing and raising trouble, so I asked him to leave before he was kicked out by security.

Me: Got it. We’ll let the customer know that he does not have a valid complaint.

Manager: And that he needs to go back to third grade math class.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bringing Back The 'Aliens' Gang

For anyone who is into the Alien franchise, you may already have known about this but a good chunk of the original 1979 movie cast have reprised their roles for the video game Aliens:Isolation. This includes Sigourney Weaver's 'Ripley.' That's kind of nifty. I never got into Aliens, but I'm sure fans appreciate this additional detail to help make the game come to life.

The game will focus on Amanda, Ripley's daughter, and her trip to the space station where the initial "alien" was sighted. The game is set to release October 8th, and is being developed by Creative Assembly.