Monday, February 28, 2005

How far we've come...

An amusing observation I made while prepping my GDC schedule:

April Jones & Billy Cain have a session (which overlaps with mine) entitled:

"Developers are from Jupiter, Marketers are from Saturn: Learn the Secret Codes for Working with a Marketing Team"

At a GDC I attended (IIRC) 10 years ago, there was a session entitled:

"Product Development is from Mars, Product Marketing is from Uranus".

Nice to see we've moved a little closer to earth, and toward less confrontational metaphors :-)

GDC Prep

Heads down getting ready for GDC next week. Todo list is still a mile long...

In the meantime, as a sort of "mental sorbet" to prepare for siggraph, here's a little something in the school of "research groups with too much time on their hands" (courtesy slashdot)

Friday, February 25, 2005


This is way cool. And disturbing. And sad. And nifty.

Awesome Decore

You may have seen this linked off of slashdot. 4-story high mural of Mario scenes, done with post it's. Sweet!

Awesome decore Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Peek inside a Martyr's mind

Paul Steinberg, a co-worker of mine, just co-authored a book with his wife called The Road to Martyr's Square: A Journey into the Mind of the Suicide Bomber.

I haven't read it yet (just ordered it) but am giving it a plug anyway as it looks facinating. I have lunch with Paul from time to time and if anyone's capable of a fair and balanced view of both sides, he's the guy. The reviews on Amazon look pretty good too.

From the Amazon product description:

"...this memoir chronicles two interlocking, often clashing journeys--an exploration of the cult of martyrdom in the underground media of the intifada, on the one hand, and on the other, the struggle for friendship across seemingly impossible divides. The authors lived for six months with a Palestinian refugee family in the Gaza Strip at the beginning of the intifada, and then for the next six years, collected graffiti, videotapes, audiocassettes, posters, and other street media in over one hundred towns in the West Bank and Gaza. Their book is based on these primary materials (with 66 illustrations included) as well as dozens of interviews with leaders and followers, including a rare interview with a Hamas suicide bomber whose bomb failed to explode on an Israeli bus in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Quoted on Gamasutra

Gamasutra's been posting a decent feature lately, which is a "question of the week". Rather than just turning into a slashdot-style flame war of postings, they actually take responses, compile general trends & choice quotes.

Last week's question was about whether a PSP vs Nintendo DS war was brewing. My response was one of those posted.

They placed my response (It's the one that starts "While definitely positioned ...") in a "pro-nintendo" camp . For the record, I wasn't stating I thought Nintendo would win, I was just answering "yes, a war is of course brewing". The comment that put me in the pro-nintendo camp was a comment that better technology doesn't always win.

If I *must* predict a winner. Hmm... let's see:

Pro nintendo:
- HW has more possibilities for unique gameplay styles, and they have a better track record for doing stuff that's "different".
- Lower ASP
- Established user base, channel, content pipeline for handheld. Sony may be strong, but this is new territory for them.
- Nintendo has kids, and kids are a proven market for handheld.

Pro Sony:
- Better technology. More mips, and the screen is effing fantastic.
- It's a very sexy piece of consumer electronics
- MP3's
- Imagine a clint-eastwood-esque film in which a gunfighter is loading bullets into his sixgun before heading to the showdown. Bullet 1 is GTA:Handheld; bullet 2 is Katamari-da-handheld, bullet 3 is... you get the idea. Some very big properties to pull on that may be enough to take on Mario and the Pokemon gang.
- Sony won round 1 (PS1) by anticipating a trend and targetting adults as gamers were getting older. Have they predicted correctly again? Is a generation of gameboy owners itching to game while commuting or in class, and their Ngages aren't cutting it for them?
- Sony say jump, publisher say "how high?"

I dunno, it's a tough call. I give it to sony by a small margin, but it's going to be a fight for a while. Maybe both can be successful? Or is it like the Highlander line, "there can be... only ONE!"

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Blogging's Repercussions

Quiet day watching the little ones today, whilst my better half was out working. Did a little surfing during their nap time and was hit with a couple different tidbits related to blogging's implications & repercussions.

On the sticking-it-to-the-man front (yes, the pun that will later become apparent was intentional): If you haven't heard about the Jeff Gannon controversy, here's a synopsis: He's a white house reporter who is the latest victim of a blogger's "outing". He was exposed not only for having questionable credentials (he's a "reporter" for a far-right leaning web site, and that's about it), but also for the fact that he was (a) using an alias, (b) owns and runs a number of gay porn sites, and (c) moonlight as a gay prostitute. Well, how about that! Anyhow, great summaries & commentary can be seen:

On this Daily Show clip.

And on this Bill Maher clip.
(those clips courtesy of
Anyhow, aside from being a hilarious story, it's just awesome to see the pablum-spooning mediocrity that passes for press here in the US getting shaken up by the web.

On a more somber note, an article in the SF Chronicle about Justin Hall's blog-bow-out as of late. I met Justin through friends at GDC, and then had dinner & drinks with him at Tokyo Game show this past year. Justin's one of those incredibly smart, creative, and energetic people whose brains run faster than their mouths can, and so they seem like they are in a continual game of catch up. I really like people like that. Anyhow, Justin suffered a bit of a breakdown/burnout following a decade of living his life in full exposure. I hope that as this article predicts, he'll come back. His blog was interesting and provocative. It was also one of the reasons I started doing this :-)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Cool management blog

For those of you that manage people, or who plan to, this looks to be a good regular read.

Music makes the heart go wacka wacka wacka

Thanks to Mark for the link to the Video Game Audio quiz. Alas, I only scored 15/18. The shame of it! Oh well, I've always been a graphics guy. How about a nice game of "name the sprite"?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Peripheral romance

One day a PS2 controller caught the eye of a randy young blackberry and this was the result.

Only 25 days left to go...

21 days till GDC. 25 days left till my sabbatical. Then 10 weeks off. That's 70 days. Or almost 1700 hours.

Not that I'm excited or anything.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Aouai! Ca sent le seigneur!

Boy, little babies sure can produce large amounts of vomit with very powerful odors! :-(

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Go oogle google!

Holy Mapquest Busters! Check out Google Maps!

Monday, February 7, 2005

Happy Happy, joy, joy!!

Stayed late at the office tonight, came home to find Difficult Questions About Videogames had arrived from the UK. Oh, juicy reading!

Hey! *I* have difficult questions. Perhaps some of them are in the book and I will find the answers!

On top of it, my latest GDMag arrived.

Sure is fun to get something other than bills in the mail!

That's one funny blog!

Casey's Blog TOTALLY rocks the christ child!

Sunday, February 6, 2005

on why "hardcore marketing" to "hardcore gamers" is bad, m'k?

Robin recently posted some interesting thoughts on typical marketing to hardcore gamers, and implications of the gender- and age-specific marketing to “hardcore gamers“ that the industry frequently *scratch that* EXCLUSIVELY uses.

By industry, I mean the publishers, the developers (most of them, as they are influenced by the publishers and by status quo), the IHVs, the console vendors, the retailers, the press, and basically anyone else involved.

The discussion of what exactly comprises a “hardcore gamer” is a rathole. Is it number of hours played? Dollars spent on game SW? Dollars spent on Uber gaming rig? Is it the lengths one goes to in pursuit of gaming (“check yes if you missed an exam because you were playing Everquest“)? Is it gaming aptitude (“you aren't hardcore if you didn't make it to CPL quarter finals”). Regardless of the demographic definition, it doesn't really matter anyway, because most of the industry subscribes to a very deeply rooted stereotype: single male, teens to twenties, single (chronically so), socially challenged. ...Optionally extend to pasty-skinned, pimply, GWOR-concert-T-wearing and with pecs that don't exactly fill it out.

Is this, like other stereotypes, wrong? Yes. Data shows that gamers are a far more diverse group. Does the stereotype fit a large portion of the user base? Probably. So it follows that there are logical reasons that those selling to this market opt for the obvious marketing tactics: Shock value, violence, toilet humor, and of course, impossibly large chested women brandishing impossibly large guns or swords (pick your game genre).

Makes sense, right? So what's the problem? I'll get to it in a minute...

A while back, I was on an absolute tear of a rant about the SpikeTV Video Game Awards show. For those that missed it, here's the short version:

  • Very few game developers/publishers made it up on stage.
  • Most were seated at tables at the back, so front row tables could be occupied by hollywood celebs and rock musicians, some of whom admitted to never playing games.
  • Snoopdog hosted
  • Lingerie models were lowered in from the ceiling
  • There were intermission breaks with girls in lingerie reading cheat codes out loud (“Up, Up, Right, Down Down...“)
  • There were categories like “hottest babe in a game“ and such.

'nuff said. It totally pandered to base instincts, and totally sucked.

[hang on, I'm getting to my point soon... really...]

So while I was ranting to anyone that would give me an ear, a co-worker (who shall remain nameless), asked what was wrong with this type of marketing, and wished we'd participate or do some of it ourselves. In this person's mind, that's what the consumer likes, so sell'em what they like. They couldn't understand where my objection was coming from.

So, for those who care, here's the problem with this type of marketing (note, I'm going to use some other stereotypes here to make some points painfully obvious):

  • Its off-putting to more conservative consumers. (Gramma ain't going to buy Jimmy that game with Lara Croft on the cover)
  • It alienates those users that don't fit the stereotype. (Dad play's Jimmy's PS2, but he won't tell anyone about it because games are for teenage losers... this doesn't encourage him to show the Smiths next door Katamari next time they come over - they'll just stick to pictionary).
  • It alienates those POTENTIAL users that don't fit the stereotype (Jimmy tells Aunt Jenny that she'd LOVE The Sims, but she knows video games are for teenage losers, so she's not going to buy it - which means she's never going to BUY it).
  • Its off-putting to potential advertisers who care about their brand's image outside this audience. Many, many companies won't touch this market with a 10' pole. So while the industry's happy to get a little money from Axe fragrance or Playboy magazine, they don't realize they alienate Johnson & Johnson, Pampers, Skippy, etc, etc. And this extends beyond advertising. Gov'ts have been reluctant until recently to give grant money to games related fields, Academics have only recently accepted looking to the field and only in limited areas. In short, if you don't take yourself seriously, no one will take you seriously.

At the end of the day, I suppose it comes down to whether an advertiser would like to maximize near term revenue by targeting the core user; or whether they'd rather take some risk and stray from the beaten path in order to appeal to a wider audience and perhaps grow the segment in the long term. The latter is certainly a more noble goal, and one to which I wish more people/companies would aspire.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Ahhh.... Thirst Quenching!

...the company Koolaid that is. I'm at our sales conference this week, and boy oh boy am I drunk on the koolaid right now. It's nice to have a reminder once in a while that you work at a place that changes the world, and is geek mecca to boot.

Of course, I can't talk about what I heard there, so you'll just have to take my word for it.