Category Archives: Opinions
As I’m posting this, Night 10, the final night of NBC’s nightly game show experience, The Million Second Quiz, has concluded. Questions were answered, people won cash, and the touted “Biggest cash prize in game show history” – Greed from 1999 would like a word with you – was won. I sat through all ten nights, playing along. Hell, I even have the GetGlue stickers to prove it. Now that it’s over, I wanna look back on this whole ride.
I had not heard of the Million Second Quiz until about a week or two before its premiere. Funny, considering the game show nut that I am, you would think I would have known about it months beforehand. I remember seeing an ad for the MSQ app while at PAX Prime in Seattle, which is baffling considering the average age of people who go to PAX are likely in their teens-early twenties. I don’t see them vying to download an iPhone/Android app and try on a game show.
The only other thing I remember about MSQ was talking with my friends on Skype about it. They’re big game show fans and even host their own versions of game shows on the air. Opinions on Night One from my friends on the East Coast was mixed, whereas my west coast self was mildly anticipating it.
Then, the show went live. The set, adorned with a several-story-tall hourglass, had a ticker on the top with the million seconds ticking down. Inside the hourglass set were three podiums, one of which had a seat with a round circle showing a cash value – the amount of money the person playing was winning at that moment. The moment a contestant was in that money chair, they accumulated $10/second, which suddenly reminded me of a different game show. The big-ass hourglass shows the New York City skyline in the background. Unless it’s raining like hell, in which they move the production to a smaller, closed stage that looks like it was done on a local NBC station.
While the camera sweeps down, host Ryan Seacrest greets the viewer for watching, and gives a recap of the player’s quest in the money chair up to that point. A random audience member is chosen to face off against the contestant in the money chair, and the game begins. Questions are asked, correct answers get points, most points wins and takes the money chair to make cash. At any time a contestant can challenge their opponent to answer to double the points, but they could double them back for four times the amount. Each game is timed, which is from 300-400 seconds depending on the bout.
Of course, there’s more to the game than that, but it seems to the average viewer that it didn’t click with them too well. They broke one of the simplest rules of a game show: Explain everything quick and concise. On Night One, they went right into it as if the show had been on the air for years, and only three game shows can get away with doing that: Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy!. I would’ve treated the first few nights a little more slowly and explain things more clearly, then streamline it as the show progresses. Think of many classic game shows, a lot of them started a bit slower to explain things to new viewers, then went into their more traditional format after a period of time on the air.
Even though the show ended at 9PM sharp, segueing into shows like The Voice, Seacrest exclaimed “The show continues at NBC.com!” …unless you lived on the West Coast like I do, in which case I saw the Winners Row players sleeping, or seeing a “stream will be back shortly” message like I did constantly. They continued to do online games with an off-screen host, for 500 seconds, each question equaling a point, and no doublers. It’s dumb to change the rules for the online streams compared to the TV broadcast, because in this bare-bones format, all it takes is two screw-ups and you’re done.
There are several problems with the Million Second Quiz. A lot of the questions are based on current events rather than pure trivia, which reminded me of The Challengers. There’s a boatload of sponsorship, from Hota Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford on Today to Carson Daly on The Voice to Steve Harvey’s talk show – not surprising since they’re all NBC/Universal shows. The inconsistency between the online games and the TV broadcasts. Finally, the rules constantly being glossed over or explained poorly for the sake of having more fancy camera pans and dramatic music cues. Surprisingly, Ryan Seacrest was not bad, he did fine with what he was given. I’ve seen bad game show hosts, even ones that could tell you the rules down pat but had the personality of a dull knife. Seacrest did fine as a host. Then again, I never understood his hate besides “He’s everywhere.” If that’s your argument, I take it you hated it when Dick Clark was hosting American Bandstand, Bloopers & Practical Jokes, The $25,000 Pyramid and a radio show at the same time as well?
Despite that, I couldn’t stop watching. I downloaded the app, playing along with the show and random strangers across the country. While I amassed enough points to qualify as a contestant, nobody from KGW (my local NBC station) was knocking at my door. Funny enough, the concept of “play along at home” game shows reminds me of my brief experiences playing along with lesser known game shows like Paranoia and webRIOT almost fifteen years ago. Maybe I’ll talk about those some time.
Million Second Quiz is a weird concept. It’s a generic quizzer focused on large sums of money, with added social interaction thanks to Twitter, Facebook and GetGlue. NBC wanted this to be their version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? – that game show that gets a lot of buzz and gets people talking. Alas, the show’s several faults turned people away, and likely won’t be returning for a second season. It’s sad, too, because I thought the idea was sound, just needed more polish. I’ve seen worse game shows in primetime – Identity, Set for Life, Show Me the Money – and the Million Second Quiz sits firmly in the middle: Not amazing, but not memorable either. At least Ryan Seacrest got to host another game show, even if it took him 14 years to do so.
Game shows are a fascinating thing to me. Ever since I watched those huge 6-to-8 hour blocks of game shows back on USA before they became “The Law and Order: SVU Network,” I’ve always loved them. Jenn Frank wrote a wonderful article on Infinite Lives about gaming the system. While largely about gaming in general, she mentions Roger Craig and his history from being a computer scientist to Jeopardy! champion, even mentioning his system on choosing subjects and categories. J.P. Grant wrote a fantastic response to her article about that incident on The Price is Right where somebody made a perfect bid on the showcases, only to find out that a former contestant gave him the exact price. (Interestingly enough, Ted, the guy who gave him the exact bid, later went on Price is Right fan site golden-road.net the day that it aired, slightly bragging about him giving the perfect bid.) These two articles made me think about the other ways game shows have been used to “game” the system.
One immediate thought of “gaming the system” on a game show came to a lesser-known example: A man by the name of Neil Bines appeared on the short-lived NBC game show Caesar’s Challenge around 1993. Caesar’s Challenge was an anagram game: A word of 7-9 letters appeared scrambled. Correctly answering a trivia question gave you a choice of a letter to place in the right spot. The player then had to guess what the word is, based on what letters are in place and the category associated with it. One of the letters was also designated “the lucky slot,” choosing the letter that fell into the lucky slot gave a chance for a player to win a jackpot that started at $500 each day and increased by $500 for each word it went unclaimed. Bines gamed the system by choosing the letter that’d go in the lucky slot, correctly guess the word, win upwards of $1,000-$2,000 for each successfully guessed word.
It’s more interesting during the bonus round. Letter balls rolled around in a cage and were chosen one letter at a time until a certifiable nine-letter word could be formed with those letters. The winner would then place one letter — more if they were a returning champion — and have 10 seconds to solve the word. Successfully solving it won you a car and retired you from the show. Naturally, Bines pulled it off. He walked away with over $38,700 in cash and prizes in a single day. Knowing his way around anagrams made him a big money winner on a simple little show. It’s a really fascinating watch, however the only video to surface is a highlight reel presumably by Bines or a friend of his.
There’s another one involving an 80s game show called “Wipeout.” (Not to be confused with the current game show with the big balls.) In the bonus round, a player had to choose six correct answers out of twelve to win a car. The player had 60 seconds to choose six of the answers they thought were correct, hit a button, and find out how many they have right. If they had all six, the car was theirs. This guy used a system of hitting six in a certain pattern, regardless of whether or not they were actually correct. He’d find out how many he had, go back and change only one, and either change it back if the number was lower or move on to the next one if it was higher. Note this wasn’t always foolproof, this guy was lucky they chose the six right answers in the right pattern. Likely if somebody tried the same strategy it wouldn’t be as perfect as this guy did it.
The last one is the famed incident on Press Your Luck featuring Michael Larson. Larson, a former ice cream truck driver, found out that the “random” board patterns on the giant board were actually predetermined, thus giving him an edge by knowing exactly when to hit the button and stop the board, on two important spaces that gave cash and an additional spin at the board. He ended up amassing $110,237, a staggering amount of cash in 1984. As a result, the producers were unsure if it was fixed or just dumb luck. They aired the episode in two parts, complete with host Peter Tomarken giving an interstitial between the two parts. Once Larson got the money however, he continued to scheme and scheme. One incident was him taking out all his money in $1 bills just to match a certain code on the bill that would award him a trip. With several bags of money in the house, someone broke in and robbed him of about $40,000. Years later, Larson got involved in illegal lotteries and thus was on the run from the IRS and the FBI. Larson died of throat cancer in 1999.
Larson’s trickery ties in very much to Frank’s article talking about “losing” the system. Larson thought he could get away with making more money after winning over $100,000. Unfortunately he lost the game when he tried again and subsequently was a fugitive of the law as a result. The episode where the incident occurs is an exciting moment to watch, but to know what happens afterwards makes it a depressing tale. Instead of a man that could be mentioned in a game show legacy in a positive light, he ends up being no better than the cheaters that Frank mentioned.
There are probably countless other incidents in game shows of people gaming the system, such as Charles Ingram, but I think what I’ve mentioned is enough. It’s really interesting to see people attempt gaming the system on a game show, and even find ways to master it. Hell, I own two books — “How to beat the Wheel of Fortune” and “How to get on Jeopardy! and Win” — that talk about professional game strategies for those respective shows. Despite the simplicity of game shows today, there is a way to use them to your advantage and basically “master” the game. But I think it’s more fun when somebody wins a car on The Price is Right by blind luck. That’s more interesting than somebody making that exact bid.
I like shoes. Probably more than a normal man like me should. I like the look, the feel, the designs… sometimes the right pair of shoes can make any person, man or woman, feel sexy. Then around 2-3 years ago I started seeing a new shoe cropping up. They were called “UGG boots,” a simple suede boot with a sheepskin lining. No need to wear socks, they’d keep you warm without them. I wanted to have them.
I am a guy, and I wanted Ugg boots.
I first bought some local knockoff brand. They were nice and black, but they were too tall and folding them over looked weird. I realized I wanted the real deal. So I went to a Nordstrom and tried on a pair of real Ugg branded boots. They felt so soft, warm, and looked cute on me. So I did one of the biggest impulse buys of my life and paid $125 for a pair of these wonderful Ugg boots.
I am a guy, and I now owned Ugg boots.
Thus, I wore my boots. Walked around in snow, mostly rain — I live in Portland, Oregon after all — and even during the coldest of nights. My feet kept warm, and I thought they looked real cute on me. I wasn’t the only one who agreed, many of my friends liked the boots too. But then I came to a horrible realization. While I had friends who liked my boots, there were people who thought differently. Ones who were jackasses wearing their shorts half-way down to their ass and wearing loose Adidas. They’d take a picture of me wearing them, no doubt to text or tweet “Look at this boot-wearing faggot” or similar insults.
I am a guy, and I started to regret owning Ugg boots.
But then I realized another thing. In spite of the mockery online and in real life, saying “they’re for girls” and that they look “uggly, hence why they’re called ugg boots,” I still liked them. I may not be the most fashionable person out there, but I thought my Ugg boots went good with my slacks. I did not feel like I had wasted $125 on something dumb. I didn’t care what others thought of me owning those brown suede fuzzy boots. Why should we limit ourselves to what’s “masculine” or “feminine?” Guys sometimes wear floofy skirts and fishnet tights. Some women go more for a punk tomboyish look. If a girl can look like a dude and not care about what others thought of their looks, then why should I care about what some teenage dickheads think about me wearing ugg boots? Men should get to wear these boots too.
I am a guy, and I love Ugg boots.
Granted, they’re not always practical — unless you live in constantly cold weather — and they tend to look a bit plain unless you mix-and-match your wardrobe with them. But I don’t care, I think more men should wear Ugg boots. They’re soft, comfy, and cute. You may be skeptical, that’s fine. But walk into a store that sells them and give them a try — no socks on, of course. You may become a believer, a fan, and a proud wearer of nice, comfy sheepskin boots. Girls already know about the greatness of sheepskin boots. We just need to convince the guys that they’re cool too.
(While we’re at it, hey Ugg Australia, you need to make those Cardy and Knit styles for men. They probably would work as great house slippers, you’re missing an opportunity when all us men can pick from is just the classic design.)
Last night, Spike TV had their annual video game awards show. For the past 5 or so years I have boycotted the event, saying it was a farce that was completely unfunny and felt like an insult to video games everywhere. I even wrote a blog on Destructoid saying what I want out of a video game awards show.
But Jason Schreier said it better than I could.
Basically, as I’ve said in the past: Don’t watch the video game awards. I got all the news following people on Twitter and IRC, and playing Modern Warfare 2 in the meantime. I bet it’s better if you watch it with friends so you can riff it MST3K-style. While drunk.
Lately I’ve been watching fan-made subtitled episodes of the Japanese TV series Game Center CX. The premise is that Shinya Arino, one half of a Japanese comedy duo, plays random old video games with the goal of completing them. These were usually Famicom (NES in the US) titles, some well-known such as Super Mario Bros. and Ninja Gaiden (the original on the NES), others that never came to the States like Umihara Kawase. Unlike some gamers, Arino is somewhat of an amateur, sometimes making the most simplest of mistakes. Kotaku, a site I’ve voiced my opinion of in the past, has been recently airing episodes of these under the title Retro Game Master, with a overdubbed announcer and subtitled everything else. Problem with their dubs is they’ve chosen games like Clock Tower and S.O.S., little known text-heavy games that they don’t translate the in-game text, which make it hard to follow. Not only that, they remove any segment that’s not part of the “Arino’s Challenge” of the show, so it’s basically castrated for American audiences. Avoid the Kotaku dub at all costs.
Anyway, a random episode I stumbled upon was Game Center CX tackling the Super Nintendo version of Jordan Mechner’s platforming classic Prince of Persia. The SNES version featured additional levels (20 levels to complete in two hours as opposed to the original’s 60), a remastered art design and a specially made soundtrack, making it feel like a “Deluxe Edition” of the original game. This lead me to watching a play through of the SNES Prince of Persia on another channel, then to me finding Mechner’s website, where he compiled all his old journal entries from 1986-1993, which mostly go over the history of him making Prince of Persia as well as his brief dabbling into scriptwriting. To realize that when I was a baby that this 20-something (at the time) man was making one of the more influential video games of the early 1990s is really fascinating. Unfortunately he stops before he goes into his later work, including The Last Express, which would probably be more of a fascinating tale today.
In addition to finding this stuff, I went out on a brief buying spree yesterday. Found two games, Illusion of Gaia and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask at a Goodwill for $7 total, and snagged The Running Man, Hard Boiled and Navy Seals on DVD for about $30 total. The games were because I thought they were both rare (they weren’t), and the movies are to start a more robust DVD/Blu-ray collection. I’ve also been wanting to do reviews/retrospectives on those action movies, which is another one of my ideas brewing in my head. Hopefully I’ll act out on it, I think it’s fascinating stuff.
It’s the tenth anniversary of the day when some religious extremists decided to hijack some of our airplanes and killed a bunch of people, destroyed one landmark and damaged one other. It’s a day that will live in modern infamy. I guess I’ll tell my story on what I saw that day, before I get into a little rant.
I was 15 years old, going through high school at the time. I wake up at 7AM, which was the normal time for me to be awake. Dad tells me to turn to channel 8 or 6 or one of the networks. I saw the first tower already attacked. I kept watching the news stories reporting this, stunned in horror at what was happening. I think I even saw the second plane hit the second tower. By then I was running late for school, so I had to get in the car and miss what happened after. Back then, it was harrowing to find out a tragic event has happened in your country and you were alive to see it.
That being said, it’s unfortunate for all the losses we suffered, as well as all the families who grieve for their losses daily. It annoys me that even ten years later I have to be constantly reminded of it every damn year. Sure, the first anniversary and the second I could let it slide, even remembering the tenth year of the tragedy. But every September 11th since the attacks, I’ve had people go “9/11 NEVER FORGET” and to remember who we lost and such. Haven’t we given enough of our condolences during the attack and in 2002 on its first anniversary? Why must we constantly remind ourselves of this every year? We don’t do this during the anniversary the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor during World War II, we don’t do this during the anniversary of one’s death, so why must I constantly be reminded to remember and grief for our losses every year for the past ten years?! In fact, I’d honestly rather forget that it happened. Telling someone who lost a family member in the attacks to remember 9/11 has to be even worse for them than for me, considering how much their life changed in that one instant. To me, it’s inconsiderate and insulting.
If you lost somebody on that fateful day, somebody you cared for, somebody you loved, I am terribly sorry for your loss. If you’re one who constantly beats that drum of “9/11 never forget,” forget about it already. We’re at that point where the 9/11 tragedy should be a footnote in a news story, and only remembered on specific anniversaries. If I didn’t see any more 9/11 dedications until 2016, that would be perfectly fine by me.
I’ve noticed while writing community blogs on Destructoid — as well as other places — that I write about Call of Duty (and its derivatives) a lot. And I mean a lot. Which means I must love Call of Duty, and you’re right. Yeah, I’m that person people hate because according to them I’m liking something that is contributing to the death of video games.
To these people, I’m the reason all shooters look the same. Funny enough, I’ve only played one of these three games and I play Team Fortress 2 more often than I do COD.
But you know what? As much as I’ve enjoyed the games in the series, I think I’m finally suffering from franchise fatigue. That problem where you’ve played the games in the series, but realized that the initial thrill and shock isn’t there anymore. That it lacks that excitement you remember playing Call of Duty 4 through the first time. It’s like taking a drug for the first time and getting that extreme rush and excitement, with each subsequent time making it duller to a point where you’re doing it out of habit more than for that initial high.
See, I was a guy who got into Call of Duty back when the first COD hit. Back when it felt more like a spiritual successor to Medal of Honor: Allied Assault than being Michael Bay: The Video Game. They were fun games, even the ones that weren’t received as well, like Call of Duty 2: Big Red One and Call of Duty 3. (I’m probably one of the few who actually liked COD3.) But it was Call of Duty 4 that brought me back to the franchise almost in full force. It was the first game I ever got for my PS3 back in 2008, and I had loads of fun with its campaign as well as the ridiculously fun multiplayer.
So I became a fan. I read the official sites, occasionally glanced at the communities, watched trailers and gameplay clips. I got World at War for my 360 in early 2009, and I even made this dumb video when I got Modern Warfare 2 later that year.
Pay no attention to the overexcited fan unboxing MW2 and throwing Wolfenstein (a decent but flawed game) aside.
I was a fan of Call of Duty. I loved it. But when I played through MW2, I felt like some of that thrill that I remembered with COD4 was lost. It had become like a crazy balls-out action flick, being more bombastic than even COD4 was. Explosions in space, a ridiculous plot that made less sense than an episode of NCIS, and a multiplayer that emphasized the absurd like tons of helicopters in the air and Tactical Nukes. While I was enjoying it for a while, I realized in retrospect that it wasn’t that good of a game.
Cut to this June. I got a GameFly subscription. I decided to pick up Treyarch’s newest COD installment, Black Ops. I had played through some of the campaign with a friend prior, and while it was an enjoyable experience, it had that same “80s-90s action movie” vibe, complete with homages to The Manchurian Candidate and Apocalypse Now. While the locations felt different than the sandy desert worlds of MW2, I was still shooting dudes as I pushed forward through this mostly linear path with ridiculous weapons like a pump-action grenade launcher and portable miniguns. It was goofy as all hell. Oh well, at least Gary Oldman and Ed Harris made the game more interesting, countering the sub-par performance by Sam Worthington as main character Alex Mason. I still think Worthington’s delivery of “You fucking sunovabitch” is the most hilarious thing I’ve heard in video game voice acting in years.
I’m surprised nobody told him to do another take. The voice acting is so amateur in this scene, making it almost like a B-movie.
Despite Black Ops adds some new stuff — zombies is back from World at War, and refining multiplayer so you buy things rather than kill 100 dudes to unlock a scope, as well as wager matches for those credits — it still had that feeling of shooting dudes with perks, getting killstreaks, and capturing objectives that I’d done years before. It started to feel old. Don’t get me wrong, Black Ops is definitely a good game and worth it if you’re into goofy action shooters that lump 70s and 80s weapons in a 1960s setting; but I’m not feeling it anymore. To me, COD has dulled me. That adrenaline rush and fun factor isn’t there anymore.
Which leads me to Modern Warfare 3. The demo featured at E3 felt like the same stuff from MW2, except with more rail shooting segments. It didn’t look too impressive, and felt similar to previous COD games, even the ones not by Infinity Ward. Whereas EA’s Battlefield 3 actually looked fucking spectacular despite cribbing several things from last year’s Bad Company 2. It just feels more fresh, whereas COD is almost rotten to a point where the smell is getting unbearable.
A lot of people wonder when the COD hype train’s gonna go down. Well, let’s go back a few years. Ten years ago (my god, has it been that long?), Medal of Honor was the top of the top when it came to shooters. People were hyped for that shit. Even MOH: Frontline and Allied Assault are considered classics. But what killed it was the same thing that’s gonna hurt COD: sub-par titles and yearly releases. MOH: Frontline was a fantastic game, but Rising Sun was considerably less so. As years went on, MOH games got to that point of mediocrity where it felt like they had done everything you could possibly do. Even with MOH: Heroes 2 on the Wii, which has some damn fine shooting controls for that system, felt old and tired. EA even gave it one last chance with the modern reboot last year, and it wasn’t doing COD numbers or anything close to a big success. If MW3 turns out to be a less-than-stellar game by the press and gamers at large, it won’t take long for gamers to drop COD like a bad habit and take the new hotness in whatever new game that catches their eye. All it needs is a subpar showing, that’s when it stops breaking sales records and starts being the subject of constant mockery.
It’s entirely possible that this year could be the end of the COD juggernaut. Or it’ll still be a critical and commercial success and COD keeps chugging on for a few more years. But I’m certainly done with it. I’m surprised I stayed with the series this long, I’m sure many of you left the club long before I did, or never got into the COD games period. At least I can stop writing about it, and focus on different things. Like hats in Team Fortress 2.
I used to write in my old blog how I had somewhat of a shoe obsession. I didn’t call it a shoe fetish as it wasn’t really a turn-on, just more of a fascination. Yesterday, while randomly visiting the Washington Square mall, I decided to try on this old classic:
Granted, I liked them, but I couldn’t afford them ($120) as I’m trying to save up money to afford a camping trip and the Penny Arcade Expo, both of which happen in August. Either way, I thought they were cool and complimented my button shirt and dress pants.
This made me think about my past random shoe obsessions. Four years ago, it was Converse Chuck Taylors, of which I still own and wear on occasion. Two years ago, it was Ugg Boots, of which I haven’t worn regularly in months. I suddenly noticed a trend in all three of these: They’re all considerably “tall,” at least above the calf. Granted, the Chucks only barely go past it, but the others definitely go up to mid-knee, at least. I wonder if this has to do with me not liking the look of bare feet, and having tall footwear as a solution to masking the look. I honestly don’t know for sure.
You know, sometimes I wonder if this is normal. It probably isn’t.
I’m going to start this blog post by saying I absolutely love and adore transpeople. Not that I’d want to be one — I value my manhood — but their stories of transitioning and the experiences they go through are very fascinating. Hell, I’m friends with a few trans people, online and off. But there’s one thing that worries me a lot: Trans discrimination.
About a week ago, a transgendered woman was beaten repeatedly by two customers at a McDonald’s restaurant in Baltimore, MD. She was dragged by her hair, pulled, and beaten repeatedly by these two women. McDonald’s employees stood there, filming the incident and saying to “Beat that Trans woman!” I found a link to this thanks to a petition that a Facebook friend posted. And I saw the video.
There’s not much I can say. It’s horrific. It’s scary. It’s something I actually worry about all the time to the trans people I know. This is about as bad as the murder of Matthew Shepard. At least the woman is still alive, although she will never be the same again.
There are times like these where I wish I could give people like her a hug, even though it wouldn’t fix all the damage and trauma she experienced. This really, really shouldn’t happen, people. Thank god action has already been taken: The two women involved in the assault have been arrested, and the employees involved who filmed the thing as well as insult the trans women have been fired, with McDonald’s making a statement that started with “There’s no room for violence under the golden arches.” Hopefully it’s not a hollow promise and that employees will be better trained to prevent this from happening again.
I might as well link to the petition here, if you want to sign it.
This is something I honestly worry about all the time. Gay rights are slowly being accepted into the national landscape, but I’m worried that Transgendered rights are going to do the same song and dance that gay people went through long ago. Why can’t we live in a society where it’s okay to be whatever you want to be? I guess you can’t fix stupid.
When I get a chance, I’m going to hug the next trans person I see, and continue to support trans rights. Because I don’t want to see trans people suffer. Ever.