Me: Hi, I'm your math teacher.
Student: I heard you have a live account.
Student: What do you play?
Me: Halo. Rock Band. Arcade games. Whatever.
Student: You any good?
Me: No? I mean, you know, not really.
Student: Oh, okay.
"You know, black is this year's pink."
A few months ago, I was driving to the airport in Louisville, Kentucky at about 7 in the morning. As the drive takes a little more than an hour, I turned on the radio in the hopes of finding some mainstream music with which I could sing along and pass the time. Anyone who listens to the radio at 7 in the morning on a weekday knows that there is little music and lots of talk. On this particular morning, the D.J.’s of some Kentuckian radio station were soliciting calls on “internet addiction.”
As the calls came in, a theme started to emerge. The callers weren’t just describing internet junkies, they were describing World of Warcraft players. Literally. One woman was divorcing her husband over the game because he completely ignored her and the kids, though he was seeking custody of the kids for some reason. Another lady, a more understanding soul, had a husband who quit his job so he could stay home and play WoW. They got on welfare and she had to work a second job just so they could feed the kids. This winner of a wife actually chuckled when the D.J. asked why she stayed with the guy. Naturally, she loved him and would support him no matter what. Besides, he got addicted to the game when his mother died. He just needed a way to cope. Okay, WoW. Is that love or stupidity?
Actually, I imagine it would technically be called “enabling” the addiction and I have been very guilty of that over the years. I don’t drink, smoke or use drugs, but I certainly never preach to anyone else on the mater. I’ve made Jell-o shots for parties. I’ve gone on cigarette runs for friends who were stuck working. When I walked into my best friend’s apartment to find that it reeked of pot, all I said was “Man, it smells like pot in here; let’s hang out somewhere else" when I was really thinking, "Don't you have to get drug-tested at work?"
And, I’ve certainly spent my own money on video games for boyfriends who couldn’t afford them. So I guess it’s not fair to fault the wife who lets her husband play WoW. But what about the moms? I had a friend tell me about a kid she knows who had to drop out of college because he stayed in his dorm room and played World of Warcraft all day and night, never went to classes and flunked everything. He moved back home and he still sits in his room and plays WoW all day. Why does his mother continue paying for the Internet? Why doesn’t she kick him out or at least make him get a job? Is it just another example of enabling or, at this point, does it become negligence?
Now, I should probably admit that I have plenty of my own crazy addictions. In fact, I would most assuredly classify my personality as “addictive.” But despite my obsession for live music shows, I think I missed a total of two classes in all four years of college. Even though I procrastinated studying by writing fanfiction, I never turned in an assignment late. Even though I let myself walk right up to the edge, I never let myself fall over. Is that because I’m responsible? Afraid of guilt? Smarter than the average bear?
SilverDragon1979 wrote a lovely series of posts called “Breaking the Addiction:”
I found this series particularly interesting because SilverDragon was able to do several things that other WoW addicts aren’t. First, he worked on his master’s degree and kept his job. Granted, he mentioned these things in his “worst ‘addict moments’” post, but even the fact that he recognizes these as negative occurrences, makes him somewhat unique. If you go back up a few paragraphs, I think you’ll find me congratulating myself on being able to juggle my addictions (really, I swear they're just hobbies) with maintaining a normal life.
Additionally, SilverDragon was able to walk away from World of Warcraft. It’s someone who can quit smoking cold turkey and never look back versus someone who can never quite break the habit. What is that? Is it psychological? Chemical? Is it the same thing that’s at the root of every addicted person’s obsessive thoughts? Or is there something unique about World of Warcraft? I have many more thoughts on the matter, but, for now, leave the questions hanging for you guys (and girls) to answer.
The morning after the Today Show aired their thought-provoking piece on women and Nintendo, I caught a teaser for a segment about what parents should know about video games. I didn’t watch the show, but when I looked it up later, I found an article and accompanying video. When I read the article and saw that the first tip basically advised parents to know what system their kids have—well, let’s just say there was some scoffing and eye rolling involved. I mean, duh. I skimmed the rest then clicked away from the site, wondering to whom Today would condescend next. The other day, I stumbled on the article again and this time, I went ahead and watched the video.
I expected this John Davison person to be some sort of right-wing evangelical type, condemning to Hell anyone who even glances at a video game, but the more I watched, the more I liked what he had to say. I then surfed over to his website, WhatTheyPlay.com, expecting something crazy like this, but instead I found straightforward breakdowns of video games.
According to Davison, the ESRB can “only list so much stuff” on the back of the box. His staff reviews a game by giving a little background and introducing the story. They then take the ESRB rating and break it down, without judgment, giving specific descriptions of each offensive item listed. Take the game, Condemned 2 for the Xbox 360, for example. The ESRB gives the game the rating M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Drugs and Alcohol. Compare that to this review and breakdown of Condemned 2. Additionally, the site provides screenshots and video for parents to peruse.
After each review, readers are then given a place for their opinions. Parents and kids alike can offer up their two cents. I couldn’t really tell if these comments were heavily moderated, but what was present seemed thoughtful and accurate. I also noticed a Community link at the top of the site that is currently inactive. If they get it up and running, it seems like it could be a great support center for parents and a safe place for kids to talk to other kids about games/parents/etc.
While I am not in favor of censorship, I think information is always a powerful tool. Any website that encourages parents to be parents is awesome in my book. The dialogue that could be spawned from a parent actually taking the time to understand something in which his/her child is interested is nearly infinite.
Nintendo is targeting the casual gaming demographic. Shocker, I know. But, it seems, Nintendo is really making an effort to court the ladies. From grannies to sexy, singles. From those who are already hardcore gamers to those with a tendency to turn the DS to steer in MarioKart. All these women get invited to parties by their “alpha female” acquaintances then they each get a free Nintendo DS.
But it’s not just “alpha females” and their friends who love the DS. Famous girls play, too!
For these busy ladies, the DS obviously provides a little solitary getaway from their hectic lives.
Fun, thought-provoking, relaxing. The Nintendo DS! Like a soothing massage that makes you giggle. A hobby that could lead you to a hubby. “Like a Tupperware party for the 21st century.” Wait a minute, Nintendo, you don’t have to give your product away. I could totally hock it for you.
Product parties are a rite of passage for most American females. It works like this: a friend or co-worker tells you she is having a party and invites you. She adds on that she will be selling Avon/Pampered Chef/Longaberger Baskets/Sex Toys at said party…but, don’t worry, you don’t have to buy anything. Then you go and eat the free food, looking through a catalogue for the cheapest item you can find because, despite her claim, you do feel obligated to buy something. A Pampered Chef ice cream scoop for $19.99? What a steal.
These parties serve the companies and hostesses well. The company gets people to sell their products without having to pay them anything up front. The hostess gets prizes and discounts for meeting certain quotas.
My suggestion to Nintendo is to start utilizing this business model. Though I have always secretly vowed never to host a product party, I would make an exception for Nintendo. Perhaps they could charge me $500 for a Nintendo At-Home Sales Starter Kit which would include 5 Pink Nintendo DS Lites, five games their marketing research shows would appeal to women, and a pretty catalogue featuring more games and Nintendo-certified accessories.
Nintendo could then let me earn a 15% commission from my sales. Like all those other companies bank on, they could be fairly confident that I would put my earned money back into Nintendo purchases.
Come on, Nintendo, it’s a win-win.
Unfortunately, this plan would never really work. While the target would be women, Nintendo couldn’t exclude men. We could have another generation of traveling salesmen introduced into society.
What other flaws do you see arising from Nintendo product parties? Or do you think parties like this could actually be a good thing? Would your girlfrien/mom/granny go to a Nintendo party? Ladies, would you want to host a party like this, especially if it meant getting kickbacks from Nintendo? Gentlemen, would you want to get in on it or would you be willing to leave it to the ladies?
In honor of E3, CNN is asking its band of i-reporters to send in stories about their favorite video games.
Check it out:
"Video game developers are gathering in Los Angeles for the E3 conference, where they'll unveil the hot new titles gamers will be clamoring for this holiday season.
Tell us about your favorite games.
Do you prefer the cutting-edge graphics and storytelling of the latest Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii titles?
Or are classics like "Donkey Kong," "Crazy Climber" and "Defender" more your thing?
Send us your old pictures from the video arcade, or blasting away on your Atari 2600, Intellivision or Sega Genesis too."
I clicked on a few stories that I saw on the first page and, needless to say, they were nothing like the high caliber posts made regularly by community members here at Destructoid.
This got me thinking that maybe some of you could search through your blogs for stories or pictures to submit to CNN. Even better, maybe someone should do a write-up about how one of the GTA games helped build your moral compass.
If you do decide to write something new for this little CNN challenge, don't forget to cross-post in your c-blog. And, please, drop me a comment with the link.
If nothing else, maybe reading what the "i-reporters" have to say will make you appreciate what you get to read around here regularly.
When I was in high school, my AP English teachers would always give us a list of essay topics to choose from, related to whatever we were reading at the time. I would always scan the list and instantly go for any topic that mentioned imagery, symbolism or extended metaphors. I always found it easy to draw connections between two items or ideas that might not normally be related. Girlfriends and Dreamcasts, for example.
Yeah, I don't know either, but it's funny, right?
Today, though, I'm going to do something a little different. I've been playing Patapon for the PSP. I won't bother sharing my impressions as I feel that Jim Sterling summed them up perfectly in his review.
Rather than present you with a diatribe about how Patapons are a symbol of the human condition (and, trust me, I thought about it), I would instead like to discuss an aspect of the game that I wish we could import into the real world: simple little songs with a potential plethora of meanings. At this point in my Patapon playing, I know of four songs/beats. Each one serves as a different battlefield command for the game's tiny little eyeball-shaped soldiers. I strongly believe that if all humans learned the songs from Patapon, the ease with which we communicate would increase tremendously.
Patapons in the office are the first step toward increased communication.
Pata Pata Pata Pon In the game, this beat/song tells your Patapons to move forward. I can just imagine the usefulness of this phrase when I am doing hall duty at work. Rather than screaming, "Let's go! Get to class!" I could simply walk up behind a group of students and croon, "Pata pata pata pon." It would be nice to get the added bonus of those students having to automatically obey, but I think that would go against the laws of physics and/or psychology.
My eyes really do turn read when I walk into school.
Pata, pata, pata, pon could also be used as words of encouragement to a friend who's a little down on his luck. It would be great in a greeting card. Keep going. Forward march. Hang in there. It would mean all that and more. What an inspiring little rhythm you are, Pata pata pata pon!
Pon Pon Pata Pon Though this is the attack command in the game, I imagine it to mean something more along the lines of "Let's do this!" It could also be a great pick up line. Or, in reference to a person who is a "real go-getter," except we could just call him a Ponponpataponner.
Additionally, it could be used as a euphemism for terrorism. A newscaster could report, "The London Underground was Ponponpataponned today." Along the same lines, ten-year-olds could scream it over their microphones while playing XBL, "You just got Ponponpataponned, you stupid noob!" Of course, they would spell it Ponponpatapwnd for effect. Pon pon pata pon, the catch all for passionate acts of any sort.
Chaka Chaka Pata Pon This command tells the eyeballs--I mean Patapon soldiers--to stick close together and defend. They put up their shields and fire less shots. For us, it would mean an apology of sorts. "Honey, I traded in the Wii for a PS3. I know how much you love Wii Sports, but the PS3 has a BluRay player and it's a much better investment. But, Chaka chaka pata pon."
Additionally, it would serve as a replacement for both "my bad" and "don't tase me bro." In fact, if you read Jim Sterling's review, you will notice the way he ingeniously slips it in at the very end. Perfect usage of the chant. Oh, and if you were one of the people that posted mean comments about Jim's review, all I can say is, "I'm not trying to pimp his review. I just thought it would be informative if you had no clue about Patapon. I also liked his last line. Chaka chaka pata pon, okay?"
Another good use of a semi-chaka chant. Well done, Sir.
Don-DonDon-DonDon So far in the game, all I've used this song for is to make the miracle of rain. I'm assuming I will be able to use it for more miracles later on. For practical use, I basically see this as the superlative form of the other three songs. When someone needs an extra dose of encouragement, "Come on, Peyton Manning, Don-dondon-dondon!" When a particularly serious attack occurs, "Today, the President was Don-dondon-dondonned." Or, if you need more protection than the Chaka chant can provide, "I know I gave the game a 6.5 and you're not happy with that. Don-dondon-dondon, everyone!"
Blink and you'll miss the Don-dondon-dondon moment.
Okay, so I know this idea is a bit mad. I guess I'm just trying to say that I'm intrigued by the idea that a few little nonsense phrases could so easily take the place of so many things we already say. Plus, like the Patapons, if we wanted to show understanding, all we would have to do is repeat back the song. There's something simplistically beautiful about that. I really, really wish I could incorporate these songs into my everyday vocabulary without people looking at me even more strangely than they already do. Maybe it's the red eyes.
This is why I think Rock Band is a "Gateway Game." It can be used to lure your friends and family--you know, the Wii demographic--into the very fun and awesome world that is "gaming." Gateway Games all share three qualities.
>>1. Simple Controls<< One thing any great Gateway Game must have is a simple control scheme. While the menus might be a slight challenge at first, once in the "quickplay" section of the game, my co-workers had no trouble picking and starting new songs. Beyond what's on the screen, the Rock Band peripherals are extremely easy to understand. The most trouble I saw someone have was not understanding that, when using the guitar, you don't have to push the button and strum at the exact same time. Honestly, though, I think that was more from lack of experience with a real guitar. After about three songs, this particular player got it down. In fact, she wouldn't give up the guitar for most of the night. I think she even moved up from "easy" to "medium."
If you're this awesome at playing a real guitar, you will have no trouble playing the Rock Band guitar. In other words, even if you completely and utterly suck, you can rock out in Rock Band.
I think a good rule of thumb is that if you can explain the controls to someone in less than ten seconds, with no more than two follow-up questions needed, then you have a Gateway Game.
>>2. Like Something in the Real World<< I see the ads all the time. Wii Sports. Wii Fit. But why don't I ever see Wii Dragon Slaying? Non-gamers need to be able to look at a game and instantly understand what it's about.
This is Wii bowling. What? Wii Bowling. What? Wii Bowling. Ohhh, we bowling!
Just like the non-gaming segment of the population isn't going to be willing to learn a complicated control scheme, they aren't going to want to try to understand the rules of a fantasy world. Imagine if you had to explain Twilight Princess to someone who had never even heard of Zelda. "And then you turn into a wolf. If you want to dig, just waggle your remote." Compare that to, "This is Rock Band." There's nothing to explain. They see the instruments and it instantly makes sense.
Any game that draws inspiration entirely from the real world has potential to be a Gateway Game.
>>3. Fun to Play Socially<< Peer pressure can be a positive thing.
I have no idea who these guys are, but I bet by the end of the night, the guy on the right was screaming, "Hooray Rock Band!"
When a game has a fun and easy multi-player mode, everyone wants to get in on it. They just can't resist. Mob mentality put to good use. If you let your non-gamer friends take a stab at Rock Band, more often than not, they will want to play it the next time they come over. The experience of the game is intertwined with the memory of the fun social experience.
Games that bring 'em back and keep 'em wanting more are definitely Gateway Games.
I'm certainly not implying that if you let your best friend play Rock Band, he'll instantly become a hardcore gamer. These things take time. But Gateway Games do break down people's walls and eliminate the stigma that video games create for some people, and there's nothing wrong with that.