October 2008

Shut all the blinds
You mighta been seen
Sittin’ alone
With your internet dream

Winning the race
For your digital fix
Living your life
With a clickity-click

“So every day I swear
I’m gonna go to bed at like eleven.
And all of a sudden its 4AM . . .
And I was just watching Youtube and
reading Wikipedia for five hours.
It’s like MAN . . . you ask me the
next day. I can’t even remember
what I was doin. Crazy.”

Tay Zonday “Internet Dream”
(writer of Chocolate Rain)

*author deftly opens his umbrella to protect himself against the thundering Chocolate Rain*

I have had the good fortune to attend a wide variety of so-called new media conferences, hear people who drive the “content market” speak about the present and future of the various “media distribution platforms”, how to “drive traffic” to your site, using Web 2.0 social networking sites to make friends where you would have previously just been tossing spam into the anonymous gray mass of stats , the importance of making your site interactive and sticky, how long visitors will wait for a page to load (3.2 seconds) and the importance of viral marketing.

They usually call out YouTube as the de facto turning point and how “anyone in America, and the world for that matter” can now “make movies with their cell phones” with the hopes that they will become the next “Chocolate Rain,” “Star Wars Kid,” “Lolcats,” “Tron Guy,” or that weird snaggle-toothed Japanese girl who just stares into her webcam and draws millions of views for doing seemingly nothing (it helps that she has a big rack).  Now a site like TubeMogul allows you to instantly upload your homemade insertion into the pantheon of filmmaking to virtually all the major “video aggregation and distribution sites” our there including Vimeo, MetaCafe, DailyMotion, How-To Cast, MySpace, Revver, and of course YouTube.

Jay Maynard is Tron Guy

Jay Maynard is Tron Guy

Have you caught on yet?  This blog entry is one big fat collection of keywords, something used in “SEO” (search engine optimization” and to promote higher “CTR” (click-through ratios) for my “affiliate ads” (but, you know this already) – another thing that they talk about behind the velvet curtain which now seems to enfold pretty much anyone else sitting at home bored and lonely and wondering how to get everyone’s attention.


And when they do, they realize they have not yet figured out how to “monetize” all this traffic.  ROFLcon, which took place at MIT this year was a conference for all the people who somehow managed to garner said attention for one reason or another and came together to figure out what to do when the general public shows up and says “Here we are now, entertain us.”  That’s all well and good but unfortunately the creators of these phenomena forgot to hire a door person with a cash box.

This is not leading to a discussion on “how to monetize you content” so much as it is underlining William Gibson‘s astute assertion that the very idea of Fame is becoming extinct due to it massive over inflation; if everyone is famous, then really, no one can truly be famous.   Everyone is broadcasting and those same people might be watching.  But are they watching, or are they trying to figure out how the hell these heat-seekers pulled it off?  Well that was then. So I get to my point: we now have this glut of Web 2.0 “guerilla marketing” -savvy ingenues who will stoop to progressively lower depths to grab a piece of the “eyeballs” / “asses in seats” pie.  It makes me feel like I ate way too much cotton candy with my mustard-covered hot dog.

It isn’t even the “content” that bothers me.  It’s that fact that everyone thinks that they can somehow pull the wool over everyone else’s eyes using the above mechanics.  It’s not just preaching to the choir, it is an infection in the culture.  It is indeed a virus in the system, that thrives at the expense of its host, adapts rapidly to any form of inoculation and then proliferates to any other candidate that comes within range.

Snap out of it folks, you’re having a bad fever dream.  You have tools at your disposal that defy the imagination of your former self ten years ago.  You are Marshall McLuhan‘s cautionary observation that the medium becomes the message – your very source has become your pitch, you are making trailers for things that don’t exist, like specters that haunt the territory where they died –  but lest you click-away at my posting yet one more iteration of that now tired cliche – recognize that I am appealing to you to bring something to the table. 

Forget viral marketing.  Forget spending your days and nights checking your visitor stats; these activities have supplanted the very act of creating itself!  Make things.  Make things that come from you.  If you still have something within that you can remember being distinctly your own, then call on it.  Viral videos are so DRM ago.

Have you had enough of viral videos,  or do you think we are just getting started? 

The Culturepin is about a lot of things, but it is primarily about contemporary culture.  I say this to allay any confusion that may arise in my readers about the recent pattern of discussing video games.  But if home video game consoles/entertainment centers are not a bona fide part of our daily life, then I don’t know what is.  Unless you’re Amish.  In which case you are not reading this blog.

I want to offer some insights into the gameplay of Peter Molyneaux’s pre-Fable 2 release: Pub Games that offers a Vegas-meets-Ren Faire scenario that after some investment of time affords an enormous amount of satisfaction.

The lure of Fable 2 Pub Games is the fact that money earned (“won”) can later be merged into your main character in the game (once it is released October 21st.)  Seemingly simple at first, certain complexities creep up as you delve deeper.  For example, the real money to be made comes from playing the tournaments which, mercifully, afford you 1000 gold of play money to get in and get you started.

I was immediately partial to Fortune’s Tower – a form of Poker wherein you place bets against the odds of an increasing number of cards that threaten to double up and knock you out of the proverbial ring.  The most important thing to know when playing Fortune’ Tower is that if your row of numbers does NOT equal 15 points or more, then you are losing money on that round.  However, if you are down more than a couple of rows and the GATE card has already been used, take what you can and get the hell out because you will likely bust.  So in spite of anything I say after this about how I bet, it follows the above strategy.

I found the most success taking my chances – betting high in the first of twelve rounds and tempting luck as far down the pyramid as I could go before busting.  If you manage to get to the bottom of the pyramid without having to call on your Gate card, that offers you a Hail Mary pass on any double-ups, you have a good chance of winning the value of all the cards on the table.  If I continued to lose with my high-roller bets as I went through the rounds, I would back my bets all the way back to the minimum by round six in order to prevent further annihalation.

Then there is the Roulette/craps hybrid that is my Achilles’ heal.  By pressing the left trigger you can see the odds against all positions on the table – I play this like I play real Roulette – insisting on my favorite numbers (usually loved ones’ birthdays), Pairs, Triples, Runs and Keystones and stick with that.  The reason being – if the dice roll in your favor you win big and likely finish in the top five which grants you the special item card you are going for.

One of the things it took me a second to figure out is how to level up.  You do this by playing solo and not in tournaments.  Evidently, the longer you gamble and the higher the stakes, the more XP you get.  I can tell you whther or not the amount you are betting is pegged to the amount of XP though; its like in Vegas – you stick at those slots long enough and you miraculously start receiving free drinks.  Stick with it and before you know, new game options will open up.

See that "A" button for "Spin?"  Learn to use it to win big.

See that A button? Learn to use it to win big.

But let’s get back to to the third type of tournament in the game: The Spinnerbox.  at first I could not for the life of me figure out how a game of pure chance could ever grant me the win.  Then I realized that you can stop the Spinner at any point by pressing the A button a second time, rather than wait for the slots to stop spinning.  In tournament mode, understanding this is key.  What is even more “key” is getting the hang of the sweet spot: as soon as you start the Spinner, watch the discs cock up and get ready to roll.  The instant before the spin, hit the A button again.  It’s a feel thing, but I swear on my life, once you grab that sweet spot, you will win every single time. I don’t know how this could be an exploit – it has to be built into the game or otherwise how would you win a tournament, which seems to be based on how many times in succession you actually manage to hit the sweet spot.

Give it a try. I assure you this is the way to win and win big.

Fable 2 promises to be a rich and evolved next-gen game.  Molyneaux himself has admitted that he doesn’t want it to be a game that you play multiple times but rather delve into deeply on the first and only pass.  They have programmed an exhaustive amount of complexity into how your character unfolds so that the ultimate climax to the story is a long way coming and the journey to it is as dense and interesting as possible.  Something, that I wish the creators of Spore had implemented.  I love Spore, but the urgency to get to the final stage left me wanting.

Exploring the deeper possibilities of the this mere Xbox Live teaser to Fable 2 means really good things are on the horizon.

Please be sure to leave your comments on this article – I am interested in hearing your own experiences at the Albion gaming tables.