Heroes in the half shell -- screengrab from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time"
Excerpted from a working draft:
In some ways, this new crop of games is a throwback to gaming’s early roots in the arcade, and not just in their relative simplicity. Take my favorite cabinet classic for instance: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. It only costs a quarter or two, each, for up to four players to take control of Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo in the side-scrolling basher. Compare that to the cost of the same game on a Super Nintendo cartridge for about $50. But then, one of you would succumb to the Foot Clan’s flurry of kung-fu kicks and throwing stars, and the flashing Insert Coin To Continue would replace your character’s depleted health bar.
One of my best memories involves spending $13 over the course of a rainy afternoon reviving fallen Turtles. I was not playing the game. I was watching other, older kids play, using my precious quarters to continue their quest. Arguably, they should have known better than to take advantage of an 11-year-old with spending cash. This was on a Boy Scout camping trip, by the way. Continue reading
Bogost's Cow Clicker
It’s been a busy week of background research on micropayments in games. To that end, this will be a short link round-up and update on the interview requests I’ve been sending out.
First up is this Gawker article from Sept, 2010, exposing Zynga’s secret “Platinum Purchase Program” for hardcore casual gamers. With a minimum wire transfer of $500, these folks must be serious about their digital farming.
Then there’s Ian Bogost’s classic Cow Clicker post. Professor Bogost is a game designer and teaches digital media at Georgia Tech. His four points on social gaming boil down its problems to their essence, and the paragraph on “Optionalism” really draws out what I’m going for in this piece.
Also, the AV Club’s Tasha Robinson reviewed Zombie Misfits for the Gameological Society. Her thoughts? “It would be well worth paying for if the designers had asked for cash up front. But the pay-to-win plan eventually becomes more offensive than a zombie horde.”
Money in the bag.
Interview requests have been sent to Bogost, the Gameological Society editors, and Robinson. I’ve also reached out to Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. of the Nerdist network’s The Indoor Kids podcast for their thoughts on micropayments in games.
When NPR’s On The Media tweeted this article into my consciousness, I cursed Sam Anderson for poaching my final paper topic for a New York Times Magazine puff feature. Then I played a couple minutes of the embedded Asteroids clone, Kick Ass, blasted his name and the rest of the Times off the screen, and felt a little bit better.
Anderson tackles casual games from a few different sociological perspectives, though, luckily — and somewhat short-sightedly, in my opinion, given his paranoia over the corporate-gamification of our everyday lives — not in the one main way I’m most interested in. Continue reading
Just finished the first chapter of Jesper Juul’s A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games And Their Players, about the simultaneous rise of games like Guitar Hero, Wii Bowling, and Dance Dance Revolution, alongside PC games like Bejeweled and Collapse!.
I’m glad that I picked it up, because it is making me think differently about the latest developments in casual games (social; in-app purchasing; etc.) and where they’re coming from. Continue reading