June 11, 11

Since 1995 I’ve missed one E3.  The one in Atlanta, GA.  I wanted to go, but couldn’t get away long enough to attend.

This year it has finally become clear to me that my E3 experience is like Groundhog Day.  Same booths.  It seems like they are actually using the very same booth constructions, and since these are extremely expensive, and our economy is a soft floppy fish, it’s probably true that we are seeing the same walls and panels year after year.  You certainly can’t blame anyone.

We can always count on the crowds, but it’s a different mix these days.  We see the same licenses.  We see the same play formats.  A new controller with all the same games.  I don’t mean to sound too cranky, but it has all the feeling of a Groundhog experience.

This year everyone is waving wands or trying to dance like Michael Jackson or sing like they are on Glee.  I hope the Wal-Mart product buyers really can start to move like the King of Pop, and without knee replacement surgery.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for new controllers AND for getting active with games — but it seems like no one is really pushing the controllers to do new stuff.  They are just grafting motion controllers onto the same old games.  The only one that got me really smiling was Double Fine’s Once Upon a Monster.

It was a platter of interesting choices all the way around.  Nintendo has a new console!  But is everyone too broke to really care much?  A quote today in the LA Times mentioned that Nintendo could not understand why their stock continues to fall.

Sony showed their new portable — the Vita — for life, and it comes ready and waiting for an AT&T subscription package.

That’s what we all want, another carrier bill to sap our Vita.

You can actually have a conversation on the show floor now, because they re-wrote the booth sound rules.  It used to be like a rave, if I was cool enough to know what a rave is like.

Plenty of buyers from Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Gamestop.  Many booths now are largely areas of invite only, where they used to be fun places to mingle, talk games, and play stuff.

The Playstation booth was like a human habitrail of invitees climbing around in plastic tubes.  If you’re not cool enough to get into the little bubble pods for a quick chat, you stand against the glass with your greasy nose pressed out of shape hoping for a T-shirt.

As always, it’s going to be interesting.

Stacking by Double Fine Productions

February 08, 11

Check out this cool preview of the new Stacking game from Double Fine Productions (Brutal Legend).  I love the look.  It just telegraphs fun.  Using familiar objects in new ways (like popsicle sticks and cigars) gives it a stop motion world feel for us to enjoy. 

It’s definitely something different, which is highly prized in my book these days.  I’m really excited to see some movement back towards fun, adventure, and friendly material.  Did I mention I’ve been playing Deathspank?

It’s a well earned coffee break from the vampire pop culture ownage of late.  Zombies are fine, but sometimes you need to reset the meters by spending some time with Russian stacking dolls.   

The Triple F: the fun fun fun games!

November 19, 10


What makes a game worth playing? Fun. What makes life worth living? The pursuit and enjoyment of fun.

Why do we crank away like creaky Texas oil pumps working so much? Because we hope that our labors, after providing necessities (iPhone 4s are not necessities),  somehow will translate into fun.

If they don’t, we start to shrivel up pretty quickly. 

Fun is relative, sure. But you know it when you’re having it.

Maybe you like to play exotic Kurdish percussion instruments and multiplayer Call of Duty, and I like to hang glide in my Fat Albert shirt and shoot potato cannons off my roof at the neighbor’s RV that blocks the view of the lake. Maybe neither of us can resist legos or Bit-O-Honeys. 

So, fun fun fun games are what we’re all after. Let’s call it the magic Triple F. The Full-on Fun Factor. If not for fun, let’s take the bus home and pull some weeds or clean the bird bath. 

But how do you build a super fun game? Do you need 400 programmers, zoo animals, a waffle iron and the latest graphics card officially sanctioned by Giganta? No, but please keep the waffle iron handy. 

You just need to build up the saggy fun muscle (and explosions help too!).

Build up some fun with stuff you’ve got lying around you: 

RC cars. Pizza boxes. Fill some Coke cans with Slime and poke holes in them. Get some dry ice, fireworks and string. A few ramps (boards and bricks). Maybe some packing bubbles and carpet samples. Kitchen grease and garden hoses. Make some rules and then un-make them. Add some stuff, and then take it away. Use time pressure or forget it.

Delayed fuses. 

Everyone thinks you have to write Halo 4 in your bedroom.  You don’t.   

Fun starts with play. It isn’t some mystical thing.