MonthMay 2015

Video Games from Couch to Twitch

Why do people like watching other people play video games online?

Much has been written about the curiosity of things like Twitch. A service allowing players to stream video of them playing a game to the web from an Xbox One, Playstation 4 or Windows PC.

It allows others to watch that player and comment in a chat box or follow along with the action. Why do we do this? And more importantly, why do we watch others?

Marketing

It’s different for a lot of people. Recently, I found myself among hundreds of thousands of people watching Bungie show game-play from their new House of Wolves expansion to Destiny. It was a first-look at the new aspects of the game. What better way to see what it had in store for me, than to watch people play it?

Streaming video games can be a marketing tool. It’s better than a trailer. Instead of pre-rendered footage or marketing clips, it is real game-play by real people. So it will show off the product exactly as it is.

HowTos

Back in the dark ages of the Nintendo Entertainment System and later the Super NES, the talk of the lunch room and hallways were tips and tricks for Mario, Zelda and Metroid. Many of the secrets in the game came to us by word-of-mouth and friend-of-a-friend eyewitness accounts. Many of the feats are not real but there was no way to know.

I spent a lot of my youth at GameFAQs. A site dedicated to walk-through and FAQs about all different games. When I’d get stuck in a Final Fantasy quest, or need a refresher about where I was in the story, I’d consult the fan-compiled .txt files and ASCII artwork.

Today, I can spend 30 seconds and look up anything on YouTube and find a recorded stream of the person doing exactly what I’m trying to do. Where is this item? How do I complete that quest? How do I get to this specific area in a game with no map? It’s all there and it’s only seconds away.

What’s the analog?

A friend on Twitter asked about the analog to watching people play video games online. He’s done it. I’ve done it. And I think it’s sitting next to a friend or sibling on a couch and watching them play something where you had to take turns.

My brother and I spent hours playing through Final Fantasy II and III on the SNES. We’d take turns playing quests and helping each other through. There was nothing for the second person to do but watch and follow the story.

Early computer games like Command&Conquer could be played by two people. Over our blazing 26400bps modem, one of us would play the game, using the mouse and the other would spam our competitor with the text chat or enter keyboard commands.

We’d work as a team even though only one of us was really playing the game. There is something extremely social for me about playing games that stems from those long afternoon and nights of gaming with my brother.

We had a serious obsession with NBA JAM and would compile long lists of our records in notebooks. Most dunks, steals or three-pointers. How much could we blow the other team out? Could we hold them scoreless?

Social

Gaming is a social activity. I love cooperative games more than anything else. There’s nothing better than joining a team in person or online and working together to complete a quest or help a friend through a tricky part of the game.

I play with a core group of friends that work all varying shifts. When I get home in the evenings, they’ll just have gone to work and I will start a Twitch stream and share my game with them.

Destiny Team

It’s nice to chat with them over the game, even if they can’t respond in kind. I leave the chat window open on the side of my screen so we can talk. Which is a perfectly fun asynchronous way to chat while we’re both doing something else.

It’s no different from chatting over text message or a phone call with a distracted second party. It’s nice to hear a friendly voice when you’re stuck working on tedious tasks like data entry.

Board Games

Streaming games can be a lot of fun and it’s not limited to video games. Wil Wheaton hosts a show called TableTop where he invites friends to play board games. It’s a stellar show with explanations of the games beforehand and clarification throughout. It’s informed a lot of my board game purchases as my wife and I explore our growing love affair with them.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Dice Tower. My wife has watched hour of videos from them. They put together lists of games in all sorts of categories and play styles. It’s a great intro to a genre of games or if you’re just looking for something passed Scrabble and Parcheesi.

Windows Writing Environments

You know what I write in most days? Windows.

I like MarkdownPad because it’s simple. It lets me type away and see any styling in real-time. It shows the styles as I type.

It can do so much more than I need it to, but I ignore the extras and use it as a place for words. It’s free to use and $15 to upgrade and get a host of added, useful features like auto-saving and session-management.

It’s never crashed on me. knock wood. It’s a solid little app that does what I need it to do. I save files to .txt or .md and put them in Google Drive. I appreciate the app’s simplicity. It also pairs nicely with another app I love to write in.

Writemonkey is big, black canvas where I can put my words. There’s something about the black page and green text that reminds me of the old days of computing. It has a ton of options and plugins. But I use it as you see it. A big black page with lovely green text.

It feels comfortable to me. I am not saying this is the way all writing should be done. I am saying this works for me.

Find what works best for you and do it. I have found a color scheme and font that please me. It’s not a requirement for me to write. I don’t have to be seated just so with the proper writing tool in the perfect environment.

I just need time and head space to compose words. And these are the tools I’m using these days. On the Mac and iPhone, I have Byword set to the dark mode but I don’t remember the last time I used either.

The Glitch Mob – Behind The Blade

I don’t remember where I first learned about The Glitch Mob but it may have been the remixes from the Tron Soundtrack. I heard EDit’s Ants which is a spectacularly beautiful song and was curious to learn more. I found out he was 1/3 of The Glitch Mob so I gave them a listen and was hooked.

I saw them first at Bonnaroo at 2:15am and that was a magical experience. I saw them again in Washington, D.C. and really enjoyed them again. The music speaks to me and moves me.

Part of their act is The Blade. It’s an instrument / platform / space ship of music.

It’s something they’ve created themselves to house their instruments and program. I always wondered what went into it and now they’ve released a short documentary on it. Two laptops, two Mac minis, and 12 iPads are just the start of The Blade. I love knowing how things work and this didn’t disappoint.

2015’s Best Superheroine Movie

This is (so far) the best superheroine movie of the year.

Featuring:
Taylor Swift
Selena Gomez
Kendrick Lamar
Lena Dunham
Hailee Steinfield
Serayah
Gigi Hadid
Ellie Goulding
Martha Hunt
Cara Delevingne
Zendaya
Hayley Williams
lily Albridge
Karlie Kloss
Jessica Alba
Ellen Pompeo(Luna) & Mariska Hargitay(Justice)
Cindy Crawford

With props to Tomiwa Aina’s comments for the list. Click through to get the timestamps and links to each appearance.

I have everything I need to create something great

“You have everything you need to create something great. Something compelling. Something human, You also have what you need – the constraints – to make enough excuses to keep you from your work for the rest of your life, or to get creative and make something amazing. Something authentic.”
via Enough.

This is a new lesson I am learning as I start new projects.

First, with Origin Story I wanted to create a series of interviews with people about why they chose the screen names they use. But I waited. I thought why would anyone want to talk to me about their internet handles?

Lots of people! There has only been one person who has declined the invitation to take part. Everyone else has obliged my curiosity and contributed their Origin Stories.

I’m always looking for more people, get in touch!

The next project took two tries to get going. March2March is my 365-day photo project.

I wanted to do a project but I didn’t want to start January 1st. So the idea of running it from March to March got into my head and stuck.

After a false start last year, I got it going this year and have made it through everyday so far.

My latest project I wanted to be more tactile. I am taking part in The 100 Day Project. The idea is to make something for 100 days. I am making small post-it creations. The link goes to my Instagram feed, which is basically all Post-Its for now until I move them to my site for safekeeping.

It’s sometimes a small drawing. Other times it’s a saying or through for the day. Everyday it’s different. I let the mood of the day inspire me and go where it takes me.

It’s been a fun, finite project. It’s important to have an end date on some projects. Whether it be seasons or a number of days, I can’t keep up with everything forever.

Everything has to end.

I do not regret starting any of these projects. I have enjoyed them all and it makes me feel good to have made them.

They aren’t the best anything. They aren’t going to change the world or anyone’s life. But they make me happy and I enjoy them.

That’s success in my eyes.