Thursday, July 31, 2014

Promo Codes Suck

(Here is one of a thousand reasons why I hate EA. The following is a summary of an email conversation with a customer – the email was escalated to me after the ‘bonus code’ team was unable to assist further.)

Original Message from Customer: I preorder Warhammer Online and didn’t get my beta code. I want my code.

(The follow-up messages were between customer service and the customer, getting his pre-order information and supplying him with a code. The turnaround was less than 24 hours, but the customer insisted on more “free stuff” because he wasn’t given the code instantly.)

Me: Dear [Customer]. We appreciate your patience in this matter. Due to the unexpected popularity of this pre-order, stores were not supplied with enough beta codes to go around, thus the need for customers to contact us instead. The process can take some time, as we need to verify that you did indeed pre-order the game through us and not a competitor. We only have so many beta codes to go around, and it would be unfair to all of our customers if we handed them out on a whim. I do show that you did receive your beta code, which I will attach to this message for you as well. (The rest of the message went over the code details, when the beta is active, etc.)

Customer Response: F*** you! I should have gotten a code immediately. I should get this game for free for your stupidity!

Me: Sir, while I apologize for the inconvenience, I’ll have to ask that you please do not use vulgar language in this conversation. Please keep in mind that this beta code is completely free, and in limited supply as mentioned in all of the advertisements, and even on your reservation receipt. There is no guarantee that you will receive a code. And because it is a free item, we cannot provide you with a free game as compensation for the delay. But as you can see in the previous emails, you did indeed receive your beta code, and you have not missed out on the beta at all. The beta will not begin until (XX Date-2 weeks later).

Customer Response: I don’t see a code. You owe me a code and a free game.

Me: Sir, here is your beta code: XXX     (And again I copy/paste the beta info after that).

Customer Response: It says it’s not valid. You gave me a bad code. This is the worse service ever! You all are morons!

Me: Sir, it states in the email that the beta does not begin until (XX Date). Your code will not work until then, just like everyone else. At this point, if you have no new questions, I will be unable to assist you further. Your code is XXX   The date the code will be valid is XXX. Any additional questions regarding the beta, please direct them to EA, the publisher.

Customer Response: But the code is not valid! F*** you guys!

(This went on for 2 weeks. I did stop replying and his messages were deleted. The last response was on the day of the beta where he wrote, “Oh, it works.” No apologies. -_- I hate bonus codes.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Google Twitch

VentureBeat is reporting that Google and Twitch may have reached a deal to have the streaming gaming service become another component of the Empire. I posted about the proposal back in May, and it's unsurprising that it is coming to fruition. Twitch is the NOW of gaming and it has a longevity that many developers are overlooking. Google sees the potential and they will be cashing in on it.

The purchase is rumored to be worth roughly $1 billion USD. Terms and conditions of the sale are still under wraps and we don't know what exactly will happen to Twitch. Well, obviously it's still going to be in business. If anything, the move will make the transition from Twitch to YouTube much easier, and gamers can benefit off of YouTube's higher quality output (720+, woo!). But it can come with a lot of strings. Maybe users will be forced to get a Google account to get onto Twitch. Maybe only certain recording software will be allowed, and it has to be a Google brand. Maybe Microsoft and Sony decide that this new move does not mesh with their company image and pull Twitch from their next-gen consoles. There are a myriad of questions without responses. Both Google and Twitch reps declined to comment on any article regarding the purchase.

I'm keeping a positive outlook on this. A seamless gaming experience is something gamers always want, and this is another step closer.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Are Developers Paying For Let's Play Videos?

We are all now accustomed to the barrage of video game, um, videos on YouTube via speed runs and Let's Play. Several aspiring individuals have become internet famous and developed a stable income from such ventures. A few developers have spoken against these videos and that said "one man businesses" making ad revenue from YouTube channels should be paying the dev's for a share of the profits. Why? Well, they're not making enough money from gamers playing their games. Duh.

And while there is growing concern that developers may be paying the bigger internet personalities to play their products, Gamasutra took the time to survey 325 developers to ask them if they pay for YouTube plays. Unsurprisingly most don't. Why? Well they haven't caught on to just how popular Let's Play videos are, and potential revenue it may generate. To note: the concern about dev's paying for a person to play a game is viewed in a similar light to a publisher asking a magazine to give a positive review to their product. While there are strict rules on the magazine/newspaper side, there are none for the internet. Some people may feel cheated by their internet heroes by promoting a game that might be crap.

The charts show just how little dev's are interested in Let's Play. They may not see the potential revenue from it, or some of the products are no longer in print (a number of Let's Play videos focus on retro games that can only be found on emulators or the occasional PSN, XBox Live, Nintendo Store. Few cover current games.) Only 5 developers paid a flat fee for YouTube gamers to play their products, and 2.1% for a revenue ad share. Just a bit over 19% of developers have considered it, but so few follow-through. On the other side, few have receive requests from said YouTuber's to get paid for playing.

I think most devs see paying someone to play their game akin to paying a reviewer to post something positive about their product. They won't do it because of the ethics behind it. At the same time, they don't have a problem with people playing their game. Right now the motto is: the less involvement, the better. But the survey does show that some devs are okay with paying for people to play their games, and promote them in such a manner. The shift may be starting soon where we see the next "GameGuy" being sponsored by Activision.

Monday, July 28, 2014

And Then There Was That Bomb Threat…

(Yep. We got those too. I was privy to 3 of these. One took place over half my shift on a Saturday.)

Supervisor: *speaking to the room* We need everyone to hang up their phones and leave the building as quickly as possible. Apologize to the customer. They’ll have to call back later.

(About 2-3 minutes in when most of us are off the phones and grabbing our immediate personal items…)

Customer Service Rep: [Supervisor], this customer refuses to get off the phone for the emergency.

Supervisor: Tell him you apologize, but that we have to leave the building. If he wants to complain, he can email us.

Customer Service Rep: [Relays the information.] He wants to talk to a supervisor.

Supervisor *picks up the handset from the agent*: Hello, sir? I’m the supervisor. Whatever your issue is, it will have to wait. (Waits as the customer continues to rant and drag on the minutes.) Sir. The reason is that we have had a bomb threat. Call back later and you can complain then. (He forced a disconnection of the phone by pulling out the phone cords).

(Here’s one from me after given the all clear to go back into the building.)

Me: [Blank] card support. This is [Blank].

Employee: Yeah this is [Blank] from Store #. You all must be busy today. It took a while to call in.

Me: Actually we had someone call in a bomb threat and we had to evacuate the building.

Employee: What? Really?

Me: Yep. It’s going to keep us busy for the rest of the day.

Employee: Wow. Who the heck would want to blow up the company?

Employee #2 (in background): Someone who didn’t get their damn beta key.

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."


I'm surprised that other gaming blogs haven't picked up on this. 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 have 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.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The ESRB Exists For a Reason

(The following are the myriad of one liners and notes I have received from customer complaints).

Customer #1, via Employee Written Store Issue: Customer is upset that he could not buy Halo 3. Customer is 12 years of age.

Customer #2 Email: Your STORE wouldn’t let me buy this game for my kid. And now you’ve ruined Christmas. I’m going to walmart to buy grand theft auto. They server their customers!  (not a mistype, I assure you.)
Customer #3 Email: I want this employee fired! He sold us this war game and I didn’t know it would be so violent for my son! He has corrupted my son and I want him gone! He even mocked me when he said “You didn’t see the guns, explosions, and blood on the front cover?” It’s his responsibility to inform me about my purchases!

Customer #4, via Employee Written Store Issue: The customer wants to know if we can change the ESRB rating on a game so he can buy it for his kid.

Customer #5, via Employee Written Store Issue: Customer wants to complain that the employee gave him too much information about the game’s content and the ESRB, and wants the product for free since “the story is now ruined.”

Customer #6 Email: im 28 and never asked id when I buy beer. why should I for games?

Customer #7-85 Email: Why is Halo rated M?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

So Not Lindsay

Last Wednesday, actress Lindsay Lohan filed a civil suit with the state supreme court of New York claiming that Rockstar and Take Two Interactive used her likeness for the character Lacey Jonas in GTAV. The lawsuit has been brewing since December, but lack of evidence kept it from being pushed forward until recently.

And I'm sure Rockstar offices are still laughing about it.

Lohan claims that it's not just the image of the character that looks "like her," but the character's actions, mannerisms, and even a mission where you have to protect the digital character from the paparazzi mirrors her life (as she claims). Rockstar also apparently stole items from Lohan's clothing and accessory line because, you know, no one else but her makes the off-shoulder sweaters and large bangles. Oh and selfies! Don't forget the selfies. She does a lot of that, and you can too in GTAV.

Rockstar and Take Two have yet to comment, and I doubt they will. The case is likely to be thrown out. Nothing about the digital version looks like Lohan, and the character is based on a Hollywood archetype. Sorry Lohan, but you are not the only celebrity in Hollywood with the same, um, "problems." A number of people could easily fit the Lacey Jonas character persona. Lohan would have better luck going after the tabloids invading her privacy then a video game that didn't use her likeness.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Sharknado Gets A Game

Sharknado 2, the sequal to Sharknado the runaway SyFy hit from last year, will be premiering on July 30th. And just to keep you shark/tornado fans busy long after the movie's release, an iOS game Sharknado: The Video Game will be available soon.

The Asylum approached SyFy with the project several months back once they announced a squeal to the movie, and the plan was set in motion. There is no release date on the game, but it should be soon given that July 30th date is nearing. The game is described as an "infinite runner." You run through the city as one of the main characters in a third person perspective, wielding weapons to stop sharknados. You can have broadswords, axes, even Gatling guns, and you can also pick up buckets of fish to toss at sharks lying on the side of the road to avoid them. Yeah...I haven't seen the movie so I'm going to assume that this is accurate to what happens in the movie. How do you stop a tornado of sharks with a broadsword?

Well, you Sharknado fans can stab and fling fish to your hearts content with the iOS game. Look for it under Asylum, or the publisher Majesco Entertainment through your app store.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

GameStop and Pre-Order Bonuses.

Fair warning. There will be swearing in this article.

I dislike pre-order bonuses when they involve in-game content. Why? Because I'm OCD and as someone who likes to complete things, I can never fully finish a game with full content because of "exclusive" store bonuses. This use to be only a costume or a weapon that would be good for 5 levels before it became worthless. But then they started to add on mini-games, maps, and short levels to make it impossible to ever truely finish the content of a game. Final Fantasy XIII-2, for example, had the standard fare of bonus costumes. But if you pre-ordered with Amazon, you got an extra dungeon and the secret Behemoth fight. Well OF COURSE I had to get it through Amazon. It had the bonus level! Le sigh .

Which is why seeing the news on Kotaku, and reading the full coverage on VentureBeat has made me weep for the future of games should this come to fruition.

The board at GameStop mentioned to investment company R. W. Baird in a recent meeting, that the company wants to expand it's foothold in gaming by getting involved in the development process.

[GamesStop] indicated that software publishers are more enthusiastic about partnering with it. For example, by offering exclusive content on each major game release, and longer term, future models may include GameStop offering exclusive game play.” - Colin Sebastian, Baird Annalist.

When asked for clarification, both Sebastian and GameStop confirmed that the company wants to get into the development process to offer exclusive content only if you buy [XX] game with GameStop. This could be anything from more clothing downloads to full levels, characters, even stories and mission development could alter the content of the game. Basically, GameStop could have control on how much of a game you see. If you want the half-ass version, buy it somewhere else. But if you want the FULL version of the game, you have to get it at GameStop.

Some people in the comments on the story around the internet seem okay with the premise. Most people get their games from GameStop, why not let them have some additional bonuses. Look, it's one thing if it's a digital costume or a physical t-shirt that you can wear. It's another when the story of the game is being developed for GameStop. They are not only changing the artistic, development, and creative side of the game, but they are withholding content from non-GameStop consumers.

I wonder if this is legal.

The only way developers might be able to get away with it is they released 2 versions of the same game. One priced much lower, because half of the content is not included, to all other retailers, and the GameStop version as the full game at the $59.99 retail price.

This seems like some form of a Monopoly, but not in the traditional method. By having control over the content, GameStop will effectively hold control over games and force consumers into choose to buy with them or not buy at all. I'm pretty sure that qualifies as a Monopoly, at least according to Wikipedia's definition. A Monopoly exists when a person or enterprise is the only supplier for a commodity. By controlling the development of games to create exclusive content, GameStop is effectively going to force other companies out of the business of selling games and become the sole supplier.

"But I would never buy from GameStop. Why should it matter to me?" Okay Mister Call of Duty fan. Let's say GameStop did get into the 2016 development cycle for the next CoD installment. Originally the game was going to have all 3 sides made available to gamers, American, British, and German. But wait, GameStop wants exclusive content, and they want the American story. So now you have one game with full access through GameStop and a second game with 2/3'rds of the content at other retailers (which will probably not get DLC to access the rest of the game). The last thing I would ever want is a business to dictate how I make a game. Well, second to last. I don't want a business to dictate how I care for my health. But I won't derail here.

It should never be the stocking store's decision about the content of a product. We should be allowed the choice, as consumers, to pick and choose what we want.

I'm also concerned from a creative level. To have a multinational company come in to my studio and start demanding how I should proceed on a project to fit their needs, because they can guarantee sales of the product, it would drain the creative juices. Games will become more staccato, less original. Projects will be tailored to fit GameStop's needs to push sales, and less innovation from the developers. Because people want guns, explosions, and half naked women! We don't want that other crap.

And that's a disturbing thought. I don't want games to be altered just to fit the needs to a retailer. They should be developed in whatever way the studio wants. Retailers should never be able to determine the content of a product. It's up to you as the consumer to figure out what YOU want. That's not our right as citizens of [XX] country, but a basic human right to make your own choices.

To that I say: Fuck. You. GameStop.

I hope this is not fulfilled, or I'm certain there will be legalities behind it. EA, be the bigger man for once, give GameStop the finger, a raspberry, and take your business elsewhere. You don't need GameStop Fuck them.

Additional Reading: Stop Pre-Ordering Video Games. Please.

All Fired Up

Me:[blank] this is [blank]. How can I help?

Employee: Yeah this is store XYZ. I need to do a balance transfer to a new [rewards card].

Me: No problem. Have the old card number?

Employee: It’s pretty banged up but I think it’s [blank].

Me: Customer name is [blank]?

Employee: Yeah. That’s him. He burned this up pretty bad.

Me: …he set the card on fire?

Employee: Yep. Said it was an accident, dropped it over a candle, but I don’t believe him. He was mad last week when we were out of stock of a game and threatened to not shop with us again. You know how that goes.

Me: Yeah.

Employee: Like half of this thing is melted, and the other half is charred. I think he held it over a stove and intentionally destroyed it.

Me: Because I have to ask, what makes you think that?

Employee: His right hand is covered in bandages. I guess he changed his mind when he remembered credit on the card.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Building A Better GTA Job

I spent my 4th of July weekend doing what everyone red-blooded U.S. American would do. Sit on my ass and play video games. There were other things accomplished as well, some crafting - mostly chores, but Friday was decompress day because has been a b and a half lately. So my friends and I opted to spend the day playing Grand Theft Auto V online, where Rockstar held a weekend event in honor of the 4th of July, full of limited edition weapons, clothing, vehicles, and special jobs.

It also gave me a chance to finally look into the Creator mode for GTA Online. For those who don't know, Creator allows you to make races, Death Match, and Collect modes while using the pre existing Los Santos map. It has given a number of people a license to immense amount of creativity, if you have the patience for it. I'm amazed at the number of things people have been able to create without breaking the GTA rules of logic and gravity. I still don't know how some designers were able to take objects and suspend them in air without breaking the game. There are a number of solid concepts that have been published so far, and have earned Rockstar verifications to make them permanent additions to GTA Online.

Which brings me to the point of this article: some of those jobs really sucks. And not just a little, but a lot. The Creator, as great of a tool for creativity it can be, is also an interesting experiment into the minds of gamers. In that, for as much as some of them complain and get cranky about games ("I can totally make a better game then that"), they sure as hell don't know how to put one together. To make a seemingly easy race course can take a minimum of an hour to build and test (because unlike Little Big Planet or other level designing tools, GTA Online requires you to play through your mission before it can be published online). You need to check for any errors with how you have set up your check-points, or if where you scattered weapons and boosts deters from the challenge of the race. And I have learned from LBP that most people are not meant to create game levels. So if you are one of those people who is interested in making missions for GTA Online, here are 5 tips to ensure you get a great map, lots of plays, and few negative remarks from other gamers.

1 - Just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should.

I know it's cool to make ramps, jumps, and cargo containers float in the air, but that doesn't make for a better race/death match/pick-up. It does the opposite of your intent: you go from "oh this is cool" to "this is frustrating" in less then 10 seconds when people can't make it to the first checkpoint after 5 minutes, and forcing them to quit and not provide you with a rating. Create a job that people CAN FINISH. If you are unable to complete your own creation without failing hundreds of times, you need to go back to the drawing board and start over.

(Tip: If you are looking for jobs online to add to your game, make sure to check their stats. Jobs will list the Positive, Negative, and # of Plays. If the # of Plays is 2-5 times larger then the Positive and Negative ticks, steer clear. It means the map was not made well and people have been unable to finish it.)

2 - Test your map until you are so sick of testing, that you need to test some more.

GTA Online isn't perfect. There are still glitches from time to time, the newest one being that when you "win" a Job, sometimes your character's hair and hat disappear and you're left with this weird, brown smudge on your head. Inevitably if you do choose to go through the route of making your job "flashy" you'll run into bugs. One that I experienced several times are with the over sized ramps for larger jumps. This is done by joining and stacking the ramps together. In doing so, invisible barriers will form between each piece that can cause the player to crash or come to a halt while at full speed. This can be fixed by adjusting the ramps, but some people opt to ignore the issue and post a dis-functioning job. You don't want a job that people will dislike because of fixable glitches, so test your stuff.

(Tip: If you are in one of those races with the large ass ramps, don't go down the center of the ramp. You're more likely to hit the invisible wall. Instead, stick to the outer edges.)

3 - Pimp Yourself Out if you want to get "Likes."

Just like anything in this world, if you want to be recognized, you need to share your job everywhere. IGN. GameFAQs. Wherever there is an audience spreading GTA5 Online Jobs, you need to go there and promote the crap out of your map. Join larger crews to get plays. You may even have to spend days spamming your map and getting random players to join in to play and rate it. You'll be sick of your map by that point, but if you want Rockstar to verify and make your map official, this is really the only way. And even then, it's not guaranteed. Friends and Crew can go a long way here.

4 - Be smart with your title, tags, and description.

"Weeeeee!" is not the way to win an audience. It's GTA. You can be funny and clever with your work, and it's encouraged. Make the title of your Job unique, but still within PG-13 guidelines. The description should explain exactly what the job is about, but without giving away too many details. And tags need to represent the Job. If your Job is not a race, don't tag it as such. If the Job has no gas tanks, then don't use that. Make your tags searchable, but not a false account of what is going on in the game.

5 - K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple, stupid. Don't embellish your death match with unnecessary objects that people will never use (why put down a golf club when people will go for the rail gun next to it?). Sometimes the best maps are the simplest in design. When you over think what you want to create, you loose the original intent of the design. And simpler does not mean easier. It means you have to take even more time to ensure every nook, cranny, and bug has been fixed so that it's as close to perfect for gamers as it can be. Because it seems easier, people are more likely to comment and poke at every little issue. Job's in GTA Online don't need to be grand affairs. Sometimes the simplest challenge will speak volumes over the sky jumps of doom.

Are these methods sure-fire ways of ensuring your content is seen by everyone? Of course not. Nothing is. Ultimately it's going down to you, promoting your custom created Job, and bribing friends and family in GTA to do the same. But the tips will help you along the way. People won't promote crappy maps, no matter how close of a friend they are. It's as simple as that.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Not Girly Enough

(Note: I'm going to mark these with the same tags of  "bad customer stories, video game stories, not always right" so they are easier to locate.)

Me: Thank you for calling [blank], how can I help you?

Customer: I want to make a complaint. This store won’t help me!

Me: Okay. What did you need assistance with? Maybe I can help you?

Customer: No! You’re a girl. You don’t know about games. Only a man can help.

Me: That’s fine, sir. What is your complaint against the store?

Customer: I bought this game and I didn’t like it. So I want to return it. But these guys won’t let me. Said I can’t. I can’t beat this one part and it’s too annoying to keep. I don’t want it anymore so I should get my money back.

Me: Sir, did you buy the game new or used?

Customer: Used. I think.

Me: When did you buy it?

Customer I dunno. Maybe like a month or so ago. I should be able to return it.

Me: Apologies but our policy clearly states that we are unable to offer a refund outside 30 days of purchase for a used product.. Now if you’re polite with the employee, they may allow you to exchange it for a different, used game, but a refund would not be allowed.
Customer: I knew it! I knew a girl wouldn’t get it. Let me talk to your supervisor. I need a man to help me.

Me: Certainly sir. One moment please. (I zoned out at this point. The “girl” argument was too common to me, and I transferred the call to one of the male supervisors available. 5 minutes later…)

Supervisor: Hey [blank]. Apparently he’s having trouble with a boss in Final Fantasy 10. Want the call back? (He snickers.)

Me: Please!

Supervisor: (loud enough for half the room to hear) Sir. I think we can help you. Let me transfer you to our expert in Final Fantasy games, who may be able to assist you with your problem.

Me: Thank you for holding. This is [blank]. So which boss is giving you trouble? I’ve been reading through the GameFaq’s forums that people believe Anima is the most difficult, but I think he’s quite easy to handle if you just do [this, this, and this].  (And yes, I gave myself a good 2 minutes to practice that.)

Customer: F*** you! (hangs up).

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Isolating Women In Game Tournaments Isn't The Solution

Today is a tad bit difficult to avoid the elephant in the room: A South Korean international video game tournament will be splitting men and women. There will be no unisex competition. Men will be able to play DoTA2, Hearthstone, Ultra, StarCraft 2, and Street Fighter IV. For women, it's Starcraft 2 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

Sh*t. If you're going to split it up at least give everyone the same games to play. Not only did you cut the gender lines, making it very clear that men and women game differently, but you knocked out most of the titles for really no reason. Why not Hearthstone? I personally know a number of women that play it, more then men. There's no logic behind the game cutting.

But according to the International eSports Federation, the splitting of the genders is to help promote eSports as a legitimate form of competition. Right. That makes sense; as in no sense at all.  They cite that Chess has had the gender divide for decades. Interesting that they fail to mention that the said same gender divide has been an issue since chess became an international competition. (According to IeSF statements, it's also a problem if a woman beats a man in a game because it would cause trouble, thus an additional need to separate the genders. Why? I don't know.  Maybe they're afraid of gamer rage.)
The concern is that the IeSF is assuming that men and women do not use their brains the same way when it comes to playing games. Cognative awareness, spatial reasoning, hand eye coordination, etc. However, studies over the years have shown that men and women are more alike in this area then anywhere else. The same applies to Chess. Why are we splitting genders in this way? It makes no sense, and it's insulting that they gave women only a fraction of the games to play (a strategy and a combat skills - why not a turn based puzzle or action MMO like the men are being provided?)

This isn't exactly encouraging to women. They are practically inferring that we are inferior and our brains can't handle higher thinking processes to play Hearthstone. IeSF is just not directly stating it.

Since coming under fire, the IeSF has changed their rules and will now have an Open tournament for all genders and the Female-Only will remain. But that's not solving the issue either. It's still stating that women have to have a separate section to game because we can't compete fairly with the men. Why should women get a separate tourney but not the men? Now they have reversed the gender discrimination from women to men. It's not sending the right message if you're truly for "equality." It needs to be an open tournament, nothing else, or no tournament at all. Splitting the divide with genders is not a solution, and further reinforces stereotypes that women can't play games (and can't play them with men).

Peter Moore: Core Gamers Causing Us To Lag

So Peter Moore, the COO of Electronic Arts, the bane of my existence, interviewed with Games Industry Biz. And while the article seems optimistic, the point that stands out, and a lot of people are harping on, is his statement that the core gaming group are going to be resistant to change.

And for once, I agree with him.

We are at a critical point in gaming. Not only are we changing tactics with telling stories and creating characters, but technology has made it so that anyone can play a game at any time, place, device, and price point. There is a game for you somewhere to fit your means. That's pretty nifty when you think about it. Not even 5 years ago would this have been possible, but companies like SquareEnix and Roxio pushing for cell phone games have made them so commonplace that you'd be hard pressed to find someone in a developed country that hasn't played a video game in some fashion.

Moore sees this as an opportunity for EA to grow their games-as-a-service model, offering players a unified experience (being able to play one game through multiple devices). As the industry grows and takes on new forms of the business (free to play, for example), Moore believes that the primary group of gamers are not ready for that type of change.

"There is a core--controversial statement coming from me, sadly--that just doesn't like that, because it's different. It's disruptive. It's not the way it used to be. I used to put my disc in the tray or my cartridge in the top, and I'd sit there and play. And all of these young people coming in, or God forbid, these old people coming into gaming!"

Actually that sounds like something Capcom would say.

And it's true. We see this daily through forums, blogs, and social media postings of "core" gamers responding back to publishers or arguing against people who are not exact copies of them who want change. I don't think I need to point you all to the myriad of posts made regarding women and minorities in gaming, do I? Let's move on then, shall we.

On this front, I do have to applaud Moore for finally pulling his head out of his butt and realizing that not all gamers are jackasses with microphones shouting on the internet. A majority of us have well thought out, constructive criticism, because we want games to get better. Which is why the Need for Speed franchise, another one of those EA games that releases on a yearly cycle, is taking a break in 2014. Because so many players were pushing for change and new, innovative things with NFS, it would be impossible to develop it on the schedule that the team is accustomed to. Easily a year of work, at minimum. So they pulled NFS off the schedule and they're going to make changes. That's great! Of course the "core" gamers had something to complain about that as well. "What? No NFS this year? EA is lame!" Then again, they'd also complain about the repetitive nature of it. Go fig. It's difficult to show "core" gamers that change is a good thing.

We have to embrace the change. Too many gaming companies are stuck in wanting to use the 1980's business model (a model that also helped speed the crash and the Atari Desert Dump), while companies like Roxio are taking over because they are doing things differently. You can still make the same games, hell we probably want another Resident Evil 10 and Uncharted 14, but the same business practices are just not going to work. Not with how fast technology is changing and growing. "Core" gamers, we know you're going to be the ones holding us back. But if EA can make the changes needed to keep propelling the industry forward, others will follow. Why EA? Because they are one of the largest in the world. If a company that size is willing to change the business, then others have to follow suit. We don't want games to be like the music industry. Look at how much it's altered in the short time between CD's and Napster. Overnight we saw people rebelling against a system that would not budge on it's practices. Now it's struggling to keep up in the age of digital. Games do not want to be like music. Or movies.

This is one of the few times I'm going to agree with Moore...don't get use to it. The full interview is a good read. Take a crack at it during your lunch break today. But actions speak louder then words. While he's saying that change is needed, we'll see what actually happens with EA over the years.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Heroes of Cosplay 1.5 Wrap-Up

My review of the Heroes of Cosplay 1.5 is done. Handed it in to the editor. Now! I can give my opinions. Huzzah! Marcus, if you’re reading this, I promise to keep it clean for re-posting.

I’m going to end up repeating myself a lot. Reality television is never “real.” Tens of thousands of hours of footage are recorded, and it’s up to the director and editor to take those tapes and create a story from it. Why? Because no one wants to watch 8 hours of a person sleeping, 2 hours of them eating, and their day to day normal routine. It’s boring. So the production team is going to take that footage and craft a story that will provide interest. Drama, fights, cattiness, backstabbing, pain, anxiety, fear: all of these factors make for a much attractive basis to start a story. And, as much as we dislike this, we are more inclined to watch something if it has that catty drama then a happy-go-lucky, everyone should be friends, plot. It’s an unfortunate fact of U.S. television. (Also, holy crap! Look at the number of staff for Heroes of Cosplay. Small crew my ass!) 

Having said all of that, and knowing that Heroes of Cosplay does indeed only showcase a tiny fraction of the spectrum of the hobby, I do have to say that I appreciate the direction of Season 1.5. I don’t know if it’s because of feedback from the community or from fans that enjoy the show in the first season, but the story telling has changed. It’s less about the fights and more focused on cosplayers being a community, helping one another, and general enjoyment of being in a costume/cosplay contest; versus Season 1 where it did harp more on conflict between certain people, cosplayers that didn’t get along, and out-of-context cosplayer bashing. This 1.5 break between seasons was nice. And it included more male cosplayers, who do make up a large portion of the community, despite what the internet would have you believe. Hell, we even got a Texas cosplayer in the mix. Rock on.

In an interview I had with Yaya Han for CosPod, she summed up her reaction to Heroes of Cosplay best: the fact that we have a show about cosplay on television shows just how far this hobby has come. We should be proud of that, and continue to work together as a community to bring a positive light to cosplay and cosplayers.  

Whether you follow Yaya Han, love her work, or dislike her after Heroes of Cosplay, she has a good point. Even a year ago, cosplay was considered a “thing” that some people did and we were still looked down upon by the general public (sometimes by the con-goers as well). But now that it’s out there, some people are more accepting of it. I have co-workers who would never consider talking about costuming who are now asking me questions to help out their kids who have become enamored by the show.

Another positive is the portrayal of the lead cosplayers in 1.5. Having met a number of these people on several occasions, I can say that they were given a more accurate representation on the show then in the last season. Yes, Chloe really is that nice and sweet. Yes, Holly and Jessica are like the odd married couple. Yes, Jesie is a funny smart ass, and I mean that in the nicest way possible, because smart asses can be hilarious people to hang around. But we don’t see enough of those moments on the show. We missed out on the cast members talking to other cosplayers, but at least we did get a more natural version of their personalities then what was presented in Season 1.

Now we get to the nitty gritty. The issues with the show.

The rumor mill on the internet started very early with Wizard World New Orleans, which was hosted in November of last year, where the last two episodes of Heroes of Cosplay took place. And just like Season 1, they split it into a 2-parter, claiming that the single and group contests were separate events on different days. They weren’t, so that’s one thing I wish SyFy would stop lying about. Most cons don’t split the single and group contests. The only ones that I’m aware of are the ultra big cons like SDCC and DragonCon (which I think has 5 different contests? I need to check the site again before I head out there). I only know of one, very small, local con that has separate dates for cosplay (single plus group) and skits. Otherwise, it’s unusual to have that occur. So just tell the truth SyFy. It was a one day event that took more than 6 hours to run through. There has to be SOME reality left in Reality Television. Quit altering a story so much that you have to make up how the sequence of events occurred.

And in prep for the misnomers in the episodes, Holly and Jessica of CrabCat were ready to go with their rebuttals via Tumblr to clear up confusion. There will be some people who will not believe them, and everyone is entitled to their own opinions. What it pairs down to is your personal point of view and trying to take in as much information as you can before you derive a conclusion.

The issues going on at Wizard World are mufti-faceted. It’s not just Heroes of Cosplay crew and cast, but the staff at the convention itself. Based on the Tumblr schmorgesborg post rebel666 was kind enough to compile from stories around the internet, it seems as though miscommunication was the biggest problem amongst everyone. This is where I have to point out that not all of the stories posted were bad. One was from a cosplayer who had a very real world approach to it: multiple parties were involved, so it’s not just one person/group to blame. Wizard World has received a large amount of criticism over the years across multiple events with how staff members treat convention goers and cosplayers, even having some insane photography rules (if your camera looks too professional you can’t go in, what?). Based on the accounts that have been posted online, I’m not surprised to read that so many people had problems with the costume contest. But Wizard World also has been featured on the show in Season 1 with Wizard World Portland. Is it any surprise that they want more marketing to the geeks of SyFy in turn for letting a camera crew in to film?

Money. It makes the world go round.

Not having been there to experience it, I don’t want to take a personal stance on the events of Wizard World New Orleans. But I do think the producers of the show need to take their heads out of their butt and stop lying about the chain of events. Please don’t try to convince me otherwise that they are not lying. When you blatantly state on the show that the individual contest is on one day, and the group is on another, but in the real world it’s not, that’s a lie. HOC could really use a nice injection of more reality, giving people a chance to see what actually happens at a costume contest, the waiting, the pain, and the frustration. Isn’t that what they were trying to go for anyway?

Because of these issues, and how heavily staged the contest felt, it almost seems like SyFy was cheating the home viewers on an opportunity to see a real cosplay show. Yes. Those contests did look set up to a point that I could not believe that what I was watching was a cosplay contest. (Has anyone else noticed that 1.5 focused more on comic book shows and less on anime cons? I’m wondering if it’s because comic shows are easier to transform and adjust to the show’s needs where as anime cons have structured rules and requirements for their contests.) Having competed in dozens of contests of different varieties and levels, worked staff, judging and press, this is what I can say was really weird about how those contests are featured on Heroes of Cosplay:

1.                Interviewing contestants on stage. 

This is odd. I have only been to one contest where this has happened in the past 9 years. And they only did this to help stretch out time. Five contestants entered, instead of the 20+ they were hoping for, and since they had the room for 2 hours, they gave the cosplayers a chance to talk to the audience about their process. Okay. That’s completely feasible given the small number of entries, and it was kind of cool to learn how people made their garments. When it’s 50+ contestants? No way. No time. That’s insane. What bothered me even more is that they only featured the HOC cast. We almost never saw the other contestants being asked questions, so it felt even more staged (did they even interview the other contestants on the stage or were they ushered off?)

In fact, the only contest where I saw judging  and stage display that is atypical of a convention was the Ottawa Pop Expo. That was a fairly normal scenario. 

2.                Hosts and judges special entrance.

When judges are announced, they will usually stand up from their seat at an unassuming table in the front of the audience, wave a hand, and sit back down. The same applies to the host of the show. They’ll get a round of applause and its back to business. Never is there a spectacle of introducing each one out to the stage. The final episode where Yaya Han got her own walk-on catered to her character to announce her as the co-host was unusual on a new realm. That is when I really felt the “this is staged” moment, because it no longer appeared like an authentic contest. It was too manufactured; too prettied up. Most big name starts in anime and comics don’t get that type of entrance – just an overhead announcement, stand up, wave, and sit back down. It felt like HOC was trying to push the specialness of SyFy being at the con. And having a professional cable tv crew there made the con more willing to bend to their needs.

 3.                On stage judges.

This does occur sometimes, but not as often as HOC made it out to be. I rarely see judges placed on the same stage as the contestants. Why? The event is about the cosplayers, not the judges. And in giving them that respect, the cosplayers are allowed full use of the stage to bring their costume to life. It’s not unheard of, and a few cons that I have attended would do this because of space issues (small room, lots of audience members), but more often than not, judges are out in the front row with the audience. And personally, I like that experience as a judge better. When you’re on the stage, you feel that more of the focus is on you, not just from the people viewing but the cosplayer themselves. They’re more interested in you and less likely to show off their garment to the people watching (because you have prizes, they don’t). It does their work disservice when they can’t perform to the audience. And as a judge in the crowd, you get a better understanding for the cosplayer when they act for everyone, not only to reserve themselves to the judges on the stage.

4.                Pre-set judges appearing at multiple cons.

Jason David Frank needs to be given a gold medal in his participation on the show. He was at several of the judging’s and man, by that last round he looked like he had been beaten down. I bet he was tired of the cameras constantly around him. This isn’t a rant against Frank. He is one of the coolest celebrities you will ever meet. Ever. Humble, honest, and loves having fun with his fans. There is no better person to hang with. But the constant badgering by the crew for judging a cosplay contest, surely annoying.

Anyway, it was odd that a lot of the same people made the rounds as judges for HOC. Ivy Doomkitty. Jason David Frank. Just to name a few. This isn’t meant to bash on them in particular, but this is almost unheard of to have a group of people consistently judge costume contests around the country. Mostly because we need variety, but even the best judges has some form of biased view. They’re more likely to choose the same set of winners or types of costumes. That’s why we like different types of judges: it gives everyone equal footing to win in the contest.  It appears that SyFy specifically requested those particular people and paid for that right, because they provide good content for the cameras. Just a thought…

And then you have the general complaints overall: Most cosplayers don’t wait until the week of the con to work on their costume. These guys aren’t real “heroes”; talk to the 501st or the Superheroes that visit children’s hospitals. People don’t stalk the front doors waiting on cosplayers to walk in and bombard them with photo requests (btw, SyFy, I’m sure there are other camera flash noises that you can use by now that is in the free library. Change it up a bit). I’d never been allowed late to a contest, and to leave at my leisure. Etc. I’m not going to rehash them. These are much stronger opinions that people hold and my point of view is not going to sway you one way or the other.

As a whole, HOC has improved. There will be controversy and lots of questions thrown about. Personally, I’m interested in seeing what will happen with Season 2 as it continues to develop as a series. I leave you with this parting through that I keep repeating (like I said I would be): if this show can convince one person to try cosplaying, then it has done its job.

If you'd like to read an alternate point of view from someone who was at the contest, I'd recommend this one from Nerd But Flirty that has been posted on a few Tumblr and Twitter feeds.