Photo: Lindsey Snow
I get paid to publish online stories. I love my job. But the harsh reality is my contributions cease to exist in the absence of power. Save for only a few printed artifacts, I don’t keep hardcopies of the hundreds of feature stories and thousands of blog posts I’ve written over the last decade.
I was humbled by that realization earlier this spring. The first two publications that ever paid me to write—Engadget’s gaming blog (Joystiq) and GigaOM—both shuttered within 30 days of each other. Their closures reminded me how impermanent life (and work) is. For now, my archives live on (here and here), but there’s no guarantee they’ll remain. They’ll be totally wiped out in a post-apocalyptic world like Mad Max: Fury Road (which you should run, not walk, to see right now).
Admittedly, I don’t sell life-altering work. I mostly help tech companies and media publications sell more widgets (i.e. products, services, or advertising) with believable stories that interest wide audiences. In any case, grasping your own insignificance is never easy. Big wheel keep on turning…
My wife and I watched Atari: Game Over last night on YouTube (part II here). It’s an hour long documentary about the fast rise and even faster demise of video games in the early ’80s and the misinformation surrounding their fall (the games, not the decade).
That’s just the pretext, however. The documentary is really about hurtful group think, toxic urban legends, and the unfair, if not tragic, treatment of Howard Warshaw, a talented and pioneering game designer that was ostracized for his largely innocent role.
Although the documentary handles some weighty baggage, director Zak Penn keeps it fun, fast-paced, and peppered with likable characters. When Warshaw is partially redeemed by the end of the movie, I was rattled with sympathy.
Atari: Game Over isn’t as fist-pumping fun as Kong of Kong, which you should watch posthaste if you haven’t already. But the former is more accurate and just as endearing. Furthermore, it challenges the viewer to scrutinize their beliefs before accepting them and encourages us to give others the benefit of the doubt.
Five stars out of five.
For any male readers born from the mid ’70s to early ’80s, listen up—Console Wars by Blake Harris has it all: your childhood, the answer to your next marketing challenge, cultural divides, innocence, under bellies, triumph, and loss.
It’s also the only book I’ve ever read that made me feel as young as I am old. Take these gems, for example:
- “There was no such thing as a magic touch, and it wouldn’t have mattered if there were, because the only thing it takes to sell toys, vitamins, magazines (or anything) is the power of story. That was the secret. That was the whole trick: to recognize that the world is nothing but chaos, and the only thing holding it (and us) together are stories… When you tell memorable, universal, intricate, and heartbreaking stories, anything is possible.”
- “Tony Harman was prepared to leave with his tail between his legs (smiling, though, as his thesis that western cultures can make great games too had made it all the way to the top), but he decided to try one more approach. “Let me just ask one more question,” he said, taking a step toward [Nintendo President] Yamauchi. “How many bad television commercials do we make each year?” Continue reading…
Reporting for CNN
Getting an exact date, even for something as recently as 25 years ago, is hard to do, reports Frank Cifaldi. Not only do the victors get to write history, they often do it with faulty memories.
That said, I gotta think that remembering history is a lot more exact depending on the significance of the event — say remembering when a first shot was fired compared to the unassuming release of an iconic video game.
Still, humanity is lousy about keeping records. I’m no different.
Recent things I’ve written:
It’s not really Indiana Jones, but it rips it off beautifully. And you can play it.
“I don’t read novels. I’m a novelist, but I don’t read. I don’t like reading. I love comics. I love reading comics. I can still read comics and write… But I come from a TV background.”—Gears of War 3 writer Karen Traviss, via Tom Chick
Nice to hear. For a while there I thought high-profile video games would start hiring writers who liked reading. Talk about dodging a bullet.
Notable feature stories I’ve written recently:
Similar to Madden NFL, the cable sports network now highlights the playmaker with a under-ring (as seen 1:05 into video). Me likey.
From one of the most brilliant minds of our time comes…
In the mid 2000s, live blogging was all the rage. Since streaming video was still in its infancy, a live blog was the only way you could get real-time updates of an event from a remote location. It was a great recourse, as onlookers could react, comment, and update each other in real-time.
Today, live blogging is mostly useless. Take this year’s E3, for example. Every game company either streamed their live press conference or had a partner do it for them, most of which could be embedded and streamed live to your own website or blog. Nevertheless, every major blog I came across continued to perpetuate the “live blog” like it was still an asset to the reader.
Unsurprisingly, comments have decreased on these live blogs because no one really cares anymore. The solution: Just slap a live video embed on your site and be done with it. You’ll still get all the reader participation you had before and cut down your workload.
<br /> <a href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/5115412/” mce_href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/5115412/”>In the next 5 years, what platform will you play the most video games on?</a><span style=”font-size:9px;” mce_style=”font-size:9px;”><a href=”http://polldaddy.com/features-surveys/” mce_href=”http://polldaddy.com/features-surveys/”>customer surveys</a></span><br />
Let me tell you.
Robot Unicorn Attack and Bejeweled 3. I’m hooked.
I’ve been playing with Kinect over the past few days, and I gotta say: It’s the most significant consumer product the company’s released since Windows 95. It’s not a home run—at least not yet. But it’s definitely a double stretching for a triple.
It’s also extraordinarily cool and brimming with promise. Continue reading…
Used video games have been around since the early ’80s. But they weren’t a problem in the eyes of developers until the middle of the decade, at which point game sales weren’t growing as fast as they used to.
Rather than blame the safe creative bets, bloated budgets, and $10 HD surcharge (yes, many games carry an MSRP of $60 these days) for the decline, developers set their sites on used game sales. “When the game’s bought used we get cheated,” echoed one senior official this week, the latest in a long line of whining.
In light of complaints, some game makers are including single use “unlock codes” in factory sealed games, which they have every right to do. Dumb, but legal.
Still, imagine if other tangible goods started stripping features at resale. For example, “Unless you buy this house new, we’ll section off a part of the home behind a cement wall.” Or, “To see the end of this DVD, you’ll need to enter your single use unlock code.” Or, “Power steering won’t work in this car unless purchased new.”
Is that what game-makers are really after? Is that serving the customer and engendering them to your brand? Do video games really expect immunity from the resale of packaged goods, even though that’s the right they transfer to consumers when selling merchandise? Because if so, that’s incredibly backwards. Unrealistic. Hypocritical. Ignorant.
Obviously the industry is still run by insecure nerds.
… than watching this. Usually (I make exceptions for high-profile sporting events and the occasional Netflix stream.)
Point is, DVR lowers your standards. You wouldn’t watch half that crap (and by “crap,” I mean poorly produced, written, and acted shows when compared to movies) if it were live. So why subject yourself to lesser entertainment? I’m sure some people use DVR as it was designed: to make it easier to watch the shows you used to watch live. But the majority of DVR users actually abuse the technology, and end up watching more television (i.e. settling) than they normally would.
In that sense, DVR is not better living through technology. It’s clouding our judgment. It’s reducing our ability to think critically.
After Tiger Woods took “extramarital affairs” to new lows this year, numerous sponsors canceled their contracts with the once role model, including Gatorade, AT&T, General Motors, Accenture, Tag Heuer, and Gillette. Out of all his major sponsors, only two “stood by” his sleaziness, including Nike and Electronic Arts.
Today, the latter is wishing it hadn’t. Continue reading…