The future of social media gaming

I don't see the future in facebook games yet. I have to imagine that it's possible to develop games that bridge the gap between people killing time with a casual game vs. people actively wanting to play games. 

I don't think the current batch of social games has really struck upon the key design mechanics and levels of development needed to cross that gap. They've clearly got a huge amount of penetration, and there are some people who spend tons of time on it, but it needs follow-up to turn it into a long-standing and significant branch of entertainment media, rather than a disparate mishmash of forgettable "one-off" games. I don't see the players of Angry Birds thinking of it as one of their hobbies, just something they use to kill time. I don't really hear them hunting around for a new game after they tire of their current one. When I imagine people 10 years from now looking back at these games, I think they'll see a passing fad like beanie-babies, pogs, parachute pants, snap-on bracelets, furby, tamagotchi, etc.

These social game developers have got a good thing going, but I'm watching for them to make a move that will grant this fad some real long-term staying power. I'm watching to see someone change people from saying, "I like to play Angry Birds" to saying "I like to play social media games" or even "I like playing games". Right now, despite all the people who've thrown some time into it, it's still just that thing they do when they're waiting for something or can't think of anything better to be doing. I think very few people rush home from work because they can't wait to play another round of Angry Birds. 

I think this trend is still in its infancy, I don't know if it'll grow or die from here. What do you guys think?


A life in gaming

It's strange to hear an old game from your childhood mentioned. It calls up a rush of vague memories, and a handful of vivid anecdotes. It's shocking how much of my time spent can be recalled with just a sentence, or a game title. Does anyone keep a gaming journal? It's shocking to stop and think about how many games you've played, so many little worlds you've explored.
A handful of moments I remember:

  • -Learning to bomb-jump up that goddamn tube in Metroid
  • -The first stage of Quake 1 (thanks to this week's bombcast)
  • -First stages of Doom1&2 (thanks to earlier bombcasts)
  • -Awesome one-hit kill crashes in Carmageddon, especially with that ridiculously OP cop car.
  • -Knocking over civilians in Carmageddon 2 by throwing the door open as I passed by them...then marveling at the newfangled "ragdoll" physics.
  • -The scene in Unreal where all the lights go out in the corridor and you're introduced to your first (skarjj?)
  • -Blowing a hole in the movie theater curtain in Duke3D
  • -Getting that rat tail in FF1/FF3 and becoming a bad-ass "adult"

Even just the name of old games you haven't thought about in a long while. Specifically the ones that failed to produce strong succeeding franchises and just sort of fell of your radar until the next time someone mentions it. I took a plunge in Wikipedia to throw out a list of some of my fondly remembered games that didn't franchise well:
  • Raptor
  • Leisure Suit Larry
  • Dungeon Keeper
  • Theme Hospital
  • X-Com (So many bad sequels, I don't know if this will ever change.
  • Might and Magic
  • Summoner
  • Stronghold (The awesome D&D kingdom game, not the castle defense one) 
  • Shogo 
  • Simcopter 
  • Crystalis
  • Tie Fighter
  • Streets of Rage
  • Virtual ON
  • Battletoads
  • Double Dragon
  • Star Tropic
  • Little Nemo
  • Road Rash
  • Star Control 2(Fuck yeah!)
  • Dune II
  • Syndicate
  • Jagged Alliance
  • Master of Magic
  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
  • Phantasmagoria
  • Carmageddon (Jeezus, I need MORE!)
  • Outcast
  • Soldier of Fortune
  • American McGee's Alice
  • ShadowWarrior, Blood, Redneck Rampage (These all kind of belong together)
  • Ascension
  • Jazz Jackrabbit
  • Wasteland
  • Betrayal at Krondor
  • Scorched Earth
  • Oni
  • Lost Vikings
  • Thief
  • Terminal Velocity
  • North and South
  • Super Dodgeball
  • EVO: Search for Eden
  • Earthworm Jim
  • Brave Fencer Musashi
  • Stunt Race FX

(Before any of you start, I'm aware some of these have had sequels, or have them in the making, or have a cult following)
Any games you guys are suddenly recalling now?

Rage against the (vending) machine

It ate my dollar. I had a 10 minute break from class to grab a quick snack. The pickings were pretty slim, no more pretzels, so I went with the M&Ms.
I watched that little spindle turn, and it caught at the very end. 
It's a dollar, I know. But god, I HATE BEING CHEATED. I'm not an angry person, I'm a quiet, laid-back, gentle guy. But nothing can send me from calm to blind RAGE like someone trying to cheat me. I suspect that they use those bullshit twisting spindles to maximize stuck objects, and encouraging people to buy a second item to free the hostage item. They could just as easily have used square plates as separators to cleanly push items off the ledge.  
I considered my options:
1) Smash the vending machine - Too many witnesses around, my first unarmed attacks rang throughout the lounge and into the lobby like gunshots. I'd have to grab a table or chair to open it properly and get my goddamn dollar's worth.
2) Push the machine over - It was snugly tucked into a niche, back against the wall. No room to rock it. Googling my options later on revealed that the machines are weighted to prevent tilting to recover items, apparently vending machines companies kill several people every year this way. 
3) Sabotage - There was no way I would get my dollar's worth back. The only way to get justice would be destruction of property to a) offset the dollar they stole from me, b) consider the loss of a dollar from me, and c) to punish them for designing their machines in a way to increase the volume of stuck objects. I considered that minor damages to reduce the machine's fair market value would be so minor that the damage would require addressing. At minimum, I would have to insert foreign objects into the coin slot, or place gum in the dollar slot. It was coincidental that a classmate offered me gum just as I was silently lamenting the fact that I didn't have any gum to jam into the machine. I considered smashing a TV in the lobby, but I recognized that this would be unacceptable collateral damage since I'm sure the school had no intention of cheating me and merely offered a standard vending machine for the convenience of the students.
Then doubt set in as I considered the possibility that damages could be billed to the school rather than the vending machine company. Presumably this is the most likely business arrangement.
So I had to simply deal with my rage without release. I missed at least 20 minutes of critical lecture material while my mind boiled over with frustration and anger. Still, some part of my mind was still rational enough to realize that this was just 1 dollar, and that I would probably waste that kind of money through inefficient purchasing decisions before the end of the day anyway. But it still stuck in my craw that these sons of bitches STOLE MY GODDAMN DOLLAR!!!! It's just a dollar, but it's MY GODDAMN DOLLAR!!!!
But I suppose I have to be an "adult" about it. Nothing came of the event, and I committed no crimes. I cooled off, and I guess I should be thankfully that the situation presented itself in a manner that prevented me from getting fined or arrested over a dollar.


First-time homebuyer

Contract closed at the end of April.

We've been spending an insane amount of time and money on the house. I'd really only been thinking about how it made financial sense to get into a home now while we were fortunate enough to be in a position to buy in a depressed market. I hadn't counted on how much work it would be.

-Spent 2 weekends measuring and planning out a kitchen, theme, and picking colors. 
-Met with 3 contractors, visited prior and current worksites for examples. 
-Hounded previous owner for 3 weeks to get him to cover his unpaid water bill. Had to track the guy down to his new house and show up on his doorstep since he was ducking my calls.
 -Researched appliances, materials, design, studied consumer reports, consumersearch, product reviews.
-Designed a kitchen and closet, picked specific paints, hardwood and laminate, countertops, cabinetry, lighting, adding kitchen ventilation. 
-Bought sofa sets for living room, and family room, refridgerator, washer, dryer, and stove hood.
-Still have to buy dining room sets, eat-in kitchen, entertainment center, tv stand, deck furniture, bedroom furniture, carpeting, rugs, bookshelves, computer desk, and stovetop
After that, then we actually begin to decorate... probably won't move in until mid-July!
Thank goodness my father is a home inspector, so unlike most home-buyers we weren't treated to any unpleasant surprise repairs lurking around. That sort of thing is a whole extra set of headaches for most new buyers. That isn't to say the house was perfect, but at least we were aware of what we were getting into so that we could have our contractor take care of the bigger issues before we move in. Now I can take my time doing the research and buying all the tools necessary for repairs as they come in, instead of drowning under a pile of repairs as soon as I step in. 


Losing my "cool"

The years are creeping in and I'm getting subtle hints that my contemporary "cool" has been left in the past. There's a surreal tinge to this revelation since this sort of thing has never been a real concern of mine.
Despite the obvious markers of adulthood it's the little things that serve as reminders of my aging. My growing disenchantment with the music on the radio, distaste for the newest social media, disregard for fashion trends have slowly built up over time. (I'll spare you my specific complaints). Of course, there are exceptions to all of these, but they only make it harder to recognize how out of touch I am with social trends. I can still see these things happening around me, and I understand their appeal perfectly well, but at some point I transitioned from youth culture to the seemingly endless  limbo that lies between college and full adulthood. I suppose I'm not alone in this feeling. I'm sure many of you also feel that everybody else has somehow grown up, while you've just been pretending to be an adult. 
I'm not blind, I can see that as society evolves, each generation goes on to denigrate the music and trends of succeeding generations. But I could never imagine how that change would come to me. Now I'm left wondering how the succeeding generation will see my own. I've had my share of laughs at the 70s, 80s, and the 90s, and I suppose that the "00's" will be my place in the history books.
Oh good grief, I just realized that my kids will categorize me as being from the "auto-tune" era.