Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bad Places for Games

  • Operating rooms. Your surgeon's placed steel letters in your duodenum! Get an X-ray and unscramble the name of the life-saving prescription you need!

  • During an IRS audit. Two of the forms you've filled out are bogus, the third is real. You have ten questions to choose which before you're assessed bowel-shuddering damages and back payments!

  • The justice system. That waggish fanboy judge has hidden his name and a code in his ruling!

    Just because you're a professional doesn't mean you need to act professional. Apparently. Ahem.
  • Future Historic Blunders in Marketing, Console Edition

    The Nintendo Revolution has been renamed the Nintendo Wii.

    Pronounced "we." Or, when translated into accountantese, "what drugs did they force-feed the focus group that approved this?"

    Wii. Wii?

    What the fiick?

    Friday, April 21, 2006

    Life Imitates GREY'S ANATOMY

    No cute dedicated wife in red for this Hellraiser wannabe. He was high on meth when he attempted suicide. Yeah, sounds about right.

    Tuesday, April 18, 2006

    The Slow Burn

    Sir Bruce has updated his MMOGChart with subscriber data through the end of 2005. Getting accurate numbers for these games is notoriously difficult, not leastly because different games/companies have different definitions of what exactly a subscriber or player is.

    But one thing has been common to MMOG numbers for a long time: a game's biggest spike comes right after launch and tends to plateau or dip afterward, spiking again when a major expansion is released.

    World of Warcraft is throwing off the curve in all kinds of ways, but a subtler revolution to this conventional wisdom may be unfolding with Second Life.

    This anything-goes, DIY virtual world launched in 2003 and after a year had only about 10,000 users. Now, they're claiming 170,000 users and 20% growth a month.

    Again, Second Life's definition of a user may include those who've created free accounts rather than subscribing, but with the real-currency-for-Linden-dollars market, that doesn't mean that those apparent freeloaders aren't paying customers.

    The world (it's not really a game) has the benefit of a very engaged staff, regulars at industry conferences and events and on blogs, and much PR.

    Not all of this PR is positive: folks are no doubt checking out Second Life for salacious reasons, following up on juicy press about virtual call girls and players' using custom avatars to role-play age-taboo fantasies.

    Regardless, Second Life's healthy player base hasn't been the meteoric rise of some heavily-hyped MMOG, but has grown over time and shows no sign of slowing. Is this a sign of things to come for timelines to success for these games?

    Edit: Puzzle Pirates is another one of these slow burn MMOGs. It's been out a few years and is steadily growing, faster now that they've launched an experimental and successful new business model. Both companies, Linden Labs for SL and Three Rings for PP, are lean organizations, privately held, and target the larger and more casual markets outside the typical MMOG hardcore. Maybe those elements are part of the slow burn recipe.

    Friday, April 14, 2006

    I Heart the LOST Prop People

    Risotto or no, the Dharma Initiative drop-shipped some tweaked food. And I'm not even counting the two-gallon drums of ranch dressing.

    Last week, Sawyer's Faux-reos had "FULLY HYDROGENATED" blaring across the label.

    This week: Dharmalars! How great is that!

    I'm picturing Mallomars, but more, y'know, inexplicable and sinister with references to Ambrose Bierce.

    Spoofs and Synapses

    Scribosphere made man Craig Mazin discusses comedy and neurosurgery.

    Does this make him the McDreamy of parody movies?

    Wednesday, April 12, 2006

    The Tax Man, Yea-ah, I'm the Tax Man

    Actually, I'm done with mine, but am reprinting another vintage Girls on Film article due to anticipated light posting for the next few days. Too much to write, not enough time.

    Enjoy, and good luck with your W-2's and whatnot!

    Nice Work If You Can Get It

    It's lurking over there. On your desk. Your unfinished 1040 long form. Aaaiieee! Don't be scared. Procrastinate. In honor of tax season, here are two romantic comedies set in the workplace to keep you from itemizing your deductions for at least a few more hours.

    1957's DESK SET features the classic pairing of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Kate is Bunny Watson, head of the Federal Broadcasting Company's Reference Department. Staffed by extremely smart chicks, her office regularly fields inquiries on everything from baseball stats to "Song of Hiawatha," which Bunny can recite cold.

    Peg (Joan Blondell) is the resident zaftig wisecracker, constantly tweaking Bunny about her sometime beau Mike Cutler (Gig Young). Network exec Mike takes Bunny very much for granted, but she's content for now. More or less.

    Into this happily buzzing hive comes Tracy's Richard Sumner, an avuncular nutcase who turns out to be an efficiency expert. Uh oh. Armed with a degree from MIT and a tape measure, Richard gets underfoot as he makes plans to bring an "electronic brain" onto Bunny's home turf. Suddenly everyone's thinking pink slips. Despite this, our heroes begin to warm to each other. Richard, with his easygoing style and appreciation for intelligence and wit, has much more in common with Bunny than executron Mike.

    The computer, when it arrives, is a massive blooping, blinking contraption more on the order of the bridge of the Enterprise than today's beige boxes. But not to fear, the reference staff neatly cleans its clock, as the vaunted machine confuses Corfu and "curfew," spewing punch cards hither and yon. It's a little surprising that IBM worked so closely with this film: not only do computers (temporarily) fulfill everyone's fears of being replaced, but they screw up royally at their first chance out of the gate. Just like Windows!

    Another classic film couple star in 1940's HIS GIRL FRIDAY, Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant. You'll have to search a long time before you find a script this funny and sharp, delivered with such crackerjack timing.

    Russell is Hildy Johnson, ace reporter. News flash for her editor and ex-husband Walter Burns (Grant): she's quitting to get married. Tomorrow. The groom-to-be is affable but dull insurance salesman Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), who wants to whisk Hildy away, far from press rooms and late editions. Worse, Hildy apparently wants to be so whisked.

    Walter is none too happy to see her go: he hired a skywriter to announce, outside the divorce court, "HILDY -- DON'T BE HASTY -- REMEMBER MY DIMPLE." Grant has the charm cranked up to 11 as he keeps Hildy from getting on that train, mostly by repeatedly getting Bruce arrested. Walter is not going quietly into that Hildy-less night.

    As great a role as Walter Burns is, Russell's got the real showcase part. Hildy is a reporter nonpareil, equally able to give the "woman's touch" (cough, whatever) to a story and physically tackle a fleeing interview subject. She's no fool, either, seeing through Walter's attempts to bollix her impending marriage. The one thing she doesn't see coming is how much she loves her work, and that she's incapable of giving it up. A breaking story about an impending execution puts her and Walter to the test, as they both find out what -- and who -- is most important to them.

    The script goes beyond one-liners to deal with politics and corruption, and doesn't make any apologies for egregiously biased newspapers, or for the hyena-like behavior of cynical, misfortune-hungry reporters. HIS GIRL FRIDAY also sneaks in some in-jokes, such as Walter sending someone after Bruce, saying he looks like "that guy in the movies, Ralph Bellamy."

    Why don't films like this get written or made anymore? For that matter, I don't know of two contemporary actors who could handle such material as well as Grant and Russell. They don't call those the golden days of Hollywood for nothing.

    Now back to your Schedule ZX-1002 and Form 2p.4.L. The sooner you finish, the sooner you get your refund, the sooner you can blow it all on movie rentals. I know I will.

    Friday, April 07, 2006

    101 Greatest Screenplays

    The WGA just announced its list of the 101 Greatest Screenplays of all time. The top five:


    Hard to argue with any of those. EVE in particular is one of my very favorites.

    The list includes all sorts of genres (RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK! WHEN HARRY MET SALLY! Yay!), focusing mainly on American films from the 30s to the present. Among contemporary honorees, Charlie Kaufman scores the hat trick with ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, and ADAPTATION all appearing.

    There are about a dozen on the list I haven't seen. Time to hit Netflix!

    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    Et Tube, Brute?

    Entertainment Weekly had a recent TV-focused issue, which got me wondering.

    What is the scribosphere watching? All you writers of features, TV, games, whatnot-- what's on your playlist? Here's mine:






    DR. WHO


    Shows not on currently that I'll watch for sure when they return:


    There's also a couple of mid-seasoners I'll likely check out.

    Whew! Way to put the miles on the ol' TiVo.

    I'll occasionally watch the odd sitcom (MY NAME IS EARL, SCRUBS), but I'm clearly a drama girl.

    Your turn. What do you watch? What's good that the rest of us might be missing?

    Monday, April 03, 2006

    'Tis the Season

    The ever-entertaining and -informative Jane Espenson has on her blog the best and most complete reply yet to the classic TV writing question, "Just when the hell is staffing season?"

    Sunday, April 02, 2006

    Guildy as Charged

    In my wallet, nestled between my Tully's Coffee card and my Vons club card, is a shiny new WGA card.

    Yes, wiseacres, it's even got my name on it.

    While I haven't yet earned bona fide membership points, I did just join the WGA's New Media Caucus, which confers to non-WGA members a sort of observer nation status.

    I can't vote, but I get the publications, can use the members section of the website, get script registration at the member rate, and can attend certain events. Hide the scotch, Craig, John, John, Paul, and company -- I'm coming.

    Anyone out there who's written professionally for games or other types of creative digital projects, I suggest you check out the caucus as a great opportunity to connect with other writers of all media, and, in theory, abuse their open bars.

    More nifty news is that I was accepted into the advanced workshop on writing TV spec pilots at UCLA Extension this spring. Woot!

    I'm excited. It's a small class (fellow blogger Shawna among them), taught by Tom Blomquist, who has a slew of impressive credits on his CV including one of my favorite episodes of FARSCAPE.

    Here's hoping for a productive spring for everybody!