Game-Changers

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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2011
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POSTMODERN
POSTPICKS
PLAYING WITH PUPPIES AT PETLAND
GAME-CHANGERS
New-age developers take video games to next level
Want some wet-nosed, tail-waggin’ fun? Go to Petland. It’s this insane place where there’s unlimited puppies, all of which go ga-ga for a little lovin’. And the awesome staff there lets you play with the pups all you want. Sure, the designated play areas may exist to sway doggie-lovers into actually buying the puppies, (as if any convincing is needed), however these furballs gotta play, and they gotta play with someone. Might as well be you; B-I-N-G-O. Come on, throw a dog a bone. —Steph Doan
THE FAIR CATCH KICK
College-aged Facebook users received a blast from the past earlier this month when The Learning Company released two games as applications for the social media platform. The Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? are the latest games adapted for Facebook or other nontraditional platforms. “We are adapting our games to Facebook because Facebook provides a platform for us to be completely interactive and social with other game players,” said Tony Bordon, president of The Learning Company. With companies such as Zynga valued as high as $10 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal, both gamers and designers are increasingly turning to Facebook and other app-based platforms. The business model used for these games, known as micro-transaction, is based on the expectation that users will want to ease or enhance their game experience. Instead of buying the game itself, individuals often play for free but purchase add-ons. “You can purchase on The Oregon Trail, for example, an enhanced wagon for when you’re socializing with your friends,” Bordon said. “They may show up and see your wagon is really sort of decked out as much as it could be in 1848.” John Bowditch, director of Ohio University’s GRID Lab, said the new business model has altered the way companies sell their games. “It’s kind of redefined the ‘You gotta give away the razors to sell the blades’ model,” Bowditch said. “In this case, the games have become the razors.” Bowditch added that he is surprised the microtransaction model has worked because gamers are effectively swapping real money for virtual goods. It works, however, because of the size of the purchases. “I think the reason it’s been so successful is because the transactions are so small. … When you break it down into $5 at a time, it doesn’t seem as much as spending $60 on a game at Walmart or GameStop,” Bowditch said. Designers who focus on Facebook and other app-dominated platforms want to increase interaction between users as well as draw feedback from them. After launching The Oregon Trail on Facebook, Bordon said The Learning Company heard both positive and negative feedback from players. As a result, the company could adapt the game to better fit what users wanted. “It allows us to further build out the game in a way that will accommodate our user behavior and what they’re asking for. … We literally collaborate through the social environment with our users to continually build the game to our customers’ liking,” Bordon said. Just as important to The Learning Company and other developers is the ability of gamers to interact with each other, whether during gameplay or by earning bragging rights. “Achievements like badges and trophies mean absolutely nothing in the real world, but they mean absolutely everything to a gamer,” Bowditch said. “Most gamers will play a game over and over again until all the achievements for that game are unlocked.” For games such as The Oregon Trail, these achievements are displayed on the users’ Facebook wall. Apple, meanwhile, has created the Game Center app, which allows multiple users to play the same game or view each other’s accomplishments. Kyle Perkins, a 2010 OU graduate, is a member of the company Lightborne Lore. The company developed and will soon release a game called Cracked for Android, the iPad and the iPhone. Cracked, which is about a thief apprentice trying to find his missing father and uncover a decadesold mystery, will incorporate a leaderboard allowing users to view each other’s progress in the game. “Gamers love to show off, and a lot of these marketplaces are creating ways to easily show your friends how many games you’ve played, how many hours of game you’ve played and different achievements you’ve gotten by playing those games,” Perkins said. Perkins added that instead of featuring the mi-
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Adam Wagner Culture Editor ———
ways to die on the Oregon Trail
Dysentery If you have never died of this gutbusting disease, you have not played Oregon Trail enough. Seriously. Death by dysentery is death with dignity on this two-dimensional road of the trailblazers. Call yourself an all-star if no one in your party has to take an outhouse break every five minutes. Pepto-Bismol, anyone? Snake Bite Succumbing to the snap of the slithering serpent is a frustrating path to Paradise. What’s even more exasperating than the protracted demise of a party member is that there isn’t much you can do to prevent a snake bite in the first place. Along with rest, try any remedy from ancient elixir to modern medicine to keep everyone above ground. Typhoid Fever Here’s some free advice: do not take any buffalo meat left by a previous traveler. If you are that desperate for free meat, or you are just too lazy to hunt, get off your laptop and work on your preparation and motivation skills, for goodness’ sake. Drowning With a number of rivers to ford and raft, opportunities abound to leave a companion swimmin’ with the fishes. Use good judgment when choosing your path and fork over the money to take a safer route when possible. You won’t want an unnecessary death on your conscience as winter approaches. Starvation Traveling swiftly on little rest is not fun. Neither is a food shortage. When combining the two, your posse begins to resemble Guantanamo Bay on wheels. Employ your self-preservation instincts and keep everyone healthy. We wouldn’t want to make your virtual spouse unhappy now, would we? —Michael Stainbrook
five
This gridiron gimmick is pure genius and has ‘game show’ written all over it. If a player makes a fair catch on an opponent’s kick, the receiving team has one chance to make an uncontested field goal from the spot of the catch. Because most teams prefer to take their chances with improving field position, the maneuver is rarely used. But when it is, typically on the final play of a half, Bob Barker should take over for Joe Buck in the broadcast booth. In NFL history, only 21 fair catch kicks have been attempted, and only five split the uprights — the last coming from the foot of San Diego’s Ray Wersching against Buffalo on Nov. 21, 1976. You know what the best thing was about 1976? Bob Barker was giving away cars on national television, and Joe Buck had no audience outside his first-grade classroom. —Michael Stainbrook
FACEBOOK MARRIAGES … TO BEST FRIENDS
We all know that Facebook runs not only our lives but our relationships. If it’s not Facebook official it’s not a real relationship. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling like I don’t want to get that personal with a webpage that is only to use for advertising money. The one iota of affection I will declare is for friends that I love. Facebook can be privy to that information. I am listed as married to one of my best friends at home. I think of that as an acceptable way to express my undying adoration, and now, whenever I want to lurk her Facebook, the link to her page is right on the top of the screen! It also spares you the embarrassment of real relationships that start and end so quickly the whole world knows of your failure. My Facebook wife and I have discussed if we would break up if we had real relationships … but for now, we’re wives forever. —Jessie Cadle
‘PERFECT COUPLES’
While NBC’s Thursday night comedy super block has plenty of well-established comedies, and some less than fantastic newer shows, its newest show, Perfect Couples, has grabbed my attention. It is centered on three different couples, each with its own personality. There’s the absurdly perky and almost too in love Rex and Leigh, Vance and Amy the constantly fighting pair who end up making out three seconds later and the more subdued, somewhat normal Dave and Julia. The interactions between each character and their respective partners are hilarious and cleverly written, and when all six characters are together something ridiculous is bound to happen, like the Edward 40-hands party they unintentionally throw on a Tuesday night. Each episode is full of memorable one liners and though the first few episodes were a little shaky, now that the show has found its footing it is likely to turn into a force to be reckoned with. —Bridget Mallon
PING CENTER’S WEIGHT ROOM (IN ONE MONTH)
cro-transaction model, Cracked would be episodic, meaning it will come as smaller one- or two-hourlong “episodes.” The advantages to that model are that once the first episode is completed, many of the elements are in place to quickly replicate the work in the future. “You have an engine, you have art aspects and you’ve got a lot of your code already written,” Perkins said. “Then more episodes can be produced for a fraction of the time and cost.” Bowditch said that while most big-budget games require several hundred people and two or three years of time, someone developing a downloadable game or app needs only about $100, a middle-ofthe-line computer, two or three people, and three to four months of time. “The best thing that’s happened to gaming with the introduction of mobile gaming and the introduction of social media games is the field has widened so much. … We’re exposed to games everywhere we look,” Bowditch said. “As a game instructor, I find that exciting. I think it’s going to really make for a very dynamic medium.”
aw333507@ohiou.edu @ThePostCulture
OU kids who lift weights at Ping every morning have something of a bond with each other. Daily at 8 a.m. the same ten or so compatriots pump iron, and with man-nods all around, the weight room is a nice place to be for early risers ... until now. Yes, worse than the “New Year’s Resolution” crowd is the “Spring Break Bro” crowd, and we early risers find ourselves surrounded by wannabes trying desperately to make a last minute beach build. Sorry, guys, no matter how much you try to lift the 10 pounders, stare at yourselves in the mirror and hit on the attendant, you won’t stop messing with my vibe. —Tristan Navera
aroundtown
TONIGHT
OU Improv Comedy Show, 9 p.m., Mitchell Auditorium, Seigfred Hall, free Corbin Marsh Band, 9 p.m., Jackie O’s, 24 W. Union St., cover Ed2010 & OUSPJ Present: Battle Of The Bands, 8 p.m., The Union, 18 W. State St., cover
FRIDAY
Zapaño, Damn Animals, and Vagrant Beat, 10 p.m., Smiling Skull Saloon, 108 W. Union St., cover Broken Ring & Tim Pfaff, 9 p.m., Donkey Coffee & Espresso, 17 1/2 W. Washington St., cover Miss Tess and The Bon Ton Parade & Fayble Family Band, 7 p.m., Casa Cantina, 4 W. State St., free
SATURDAY
Athens Open Mic, 8 p.m., The Front Room, Baker University Center, free Mind Fish, Earwig & You’re So Bossy, 9 p.m., The Union, 18 W. Union St., cover Carnevale, 10:30 p.m., Casa Cantina, 4 W. State St., cover
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