Two days ago, a Redditor going by the name Lycerius posted the result of his playing the same game of Civilization II for almost ten years. In his words, “There are 3 remaining super nations in the year 3991 A.D, each competing for the scant resources left on the planet after dozens of nuclear wars have rendered vast swaths of the world uninhabitable wastelands.” His description is powerful, ominous, and hilarious, which seems a perfect microcosm of Reddit itself. The first thing that popped into my head was the post artfully spliced together the key themes of my two favorite novels, 1984 and Foundation. 1984 for the three super nations locked in an eternal struggle, told from the point of view of a communist totalitarian state, and Foundation for the process of running a model of human behavior into the future. The next thing that hit me was that the social graph may very well be the key to bringing order to the galaxy.
While the question of whether E3 is really social yet is undecided, for those of us going, there’s a lot to make sure we have locked down before we head over. The event has a lot in common with GDC, in that it’s great for developer business meetings, so many of the GDC guidelines remain the same. There’s really no need to rewrite what’s there, so I’m not going to. However, there are subtle differences with the shows, that affect how you handle this one.
E3 is supposed to be the big annual La-La Land showcase of the top games in the game industry. For the 90s and the 2000s, this was largely true. Console games and MMOs dominated the mindshare of what the game industry was. This was a time when casual online and mobile games lived in the ghetto. No longer. Some in social think it’s reversed, but they’re just as guilty of the same hubris. To be fair, they’re on par. But does E3 realize it?
Last week, the US government announced that DVDs and Blu-rays will all now have two more unskippable piracy warnings, of ten seconds each. As quoted in Ars Technica, the director of Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Morton says there’s a valid and noble purpose to this. ”Law enforcement must continue to expand how it combats criminal activity; public awareness and education are a critical part of that effort.” So this isn’t to directly combat piracy, but to educate the rest of us calmly and dutifully buying this product. Guess what I think of this.
Something extraordinary happened this weekend, that set off a cascade of thoughts and experiences that left me utterly humbled. But if I write about that now, I will be breaking my word to you, gentle reader, to respond to Shawn’s recent article asserting that the most successful games will be those that are designed to their platforms. And to be fair to the new topic, I do need a couple of days to process just what happened. But in the meantime, let’s take a look at this Social Game Darwinism approach. Shawn states that one cannot consistently have the same social game on both social networks and mobile and have them both be successful. Instead, the successful companies will be those that specifically build to mobile. He is not alone in this. I would say most social developers have adopted a specialist approach, narrowing down on platform with almost religious fervor. Crowdstar for one has converted from Orthodox Facebook to the Church of Latter-Day Mobile in the space of a few short months. I don’t mean to criticize the decision, certainly mobile has ongoing growth opportunities where social is more mature as a market. But the idea that developers must tailor their games to the platform to achieve true success is a philosophy that best serves the platform. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good platform, some of my best friends are platform people. But I prefer a philosophy that best serves the player.
Relative to Activision and Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Sony Computer Entertainment America have the misfortune of poorly timed geography. As mega-publishers and game platforms, all four are rich with proven game talent and invaluable experience, but also saddled with institutional hierarchy and now an ironic shift in employment stability. However, only EA and SCEA are a stone’s throw from the social mobile revolution, whose epicenter is San Francisco. Zynga, Kabam, and in full disclosure, the companies that Shawn and I work at, hire liberally from these and other traditional game companies in driving distance. Even with these rich resources at arm’s length, there’s scarcity in certain specific areas, causing recruiters to adopt increasingly audacious tactics to hit their target. The Bay Area is not enough. Seattle and LA are now fair game. Enter the Valve Handbook for New Employees. Please take a moment to read the recently released pamphlet, it’s a quick read, available here. I’ll wait.
First, EA BioWare’s Mass Effect 3 had an expanded gay plot line, causing gamers to give the game a 38 user rating on Metacritic, a game the actual critics gave an 89. Then the same studio got hit by a letter-writing campaign from the Florida Family Association for including gay characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic. EA and Lucasfilm responded with a Yoda-endorsed counter-campaign on Allout.org. The cynics among us might first think this is really a reaction to EA’s disastrous PR snafu in being named by the Consumerist as the worst company in the world. As far as I can tell, that result had more to do with a clunky debut of Origin, and people getting upset it’s not Amazon. EA’s PR had a nice bit of perspective about that, commenting that BP, AIG, Philip Morris, and Halliburton must have been glad they weren’t nominated. Granted, EA can’t say too much, or they come off a little sour grapes. Well, I don’t work there anymore, and I can say pretty much what I want now. And here’s what I think of all this.
Ah, taxes. They suck. They were even unconstitutional, until Congress cooked up a Constitutional amendment explicitly permitting the government to tax income. But for the purposes of what I want to talk about today, I’m going to let that go for now. We all have to file taxes or we get Willie Nelsoned. To be fair, the experience has improved. I downloaded TurboTax from Amazon, instead of buying the CD-ROM, although I noticed it was also available on Google Play for Android. I’m not sure I want to do my taxes on a tablet, but hey, choice is good. TurboTax ia also available through the browser, but I’m not sure I want to trust my tax preparation to the cloud. They already know everything about me already, but I’d like to have them jump through at least one hoop to get it. Doing taxes today is easy, but it still isn’t nice. The delivery and automation is 21st Century, but the user relationship is still very 19th Century. That’s what’s in the reticule today.
Last Sunday I was in the basement of Old Navy looking for size 4T basic pants. Girls’ clothes as well as men’s for that matter were relocated to the basement, during reconstruction of the third floor. And of course, they had nothing in stock in basic pants, other than capris and leggings. The rest of the selections were all swimwear, novelty T-shirts, and sandals. It’s 53 degrees out in San Francisco, and Old Navy wants me to think I want to buy summer clothes. It was then that the immortal words of Gary Whitta wafted back through my brain. No, not his brilliant dialogue from The Book of Eli. But rather, his pithy Google+ summation of IRL retail, “Best Buy is an awful, customer-unfriendly dinosaur that needs to die.”
Okay, enough of this crap. Ostensibly, Daylight Savings Time (“DST”) exists to move one hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, so we can do more in the evening. There’s also a lot of specious rationalizations about it improving energy efficiency and lowering the crime rate, but these reasons are patently nonsensical. Just because Ben Franklin thought it up, isn’t a reason to keep it around. It’s the 21st Century, we don’t need some hoary old wives’ tale governing our timing.