Thursday, 4 July 2013

5 Games That Define My Childhood

I've been a gamer all my life. My earliest childhood gaming memory involves me deftly leaping over crocodile infested waters in the first true 2D platformer 'Pitfall', which went on to be the 2nd biggest selling game on the Atari console (4 million); second only to the legendary Pac-Man. Other memories involve me standing behind my cousin and watching in awe as he commanded an army of 'Lemmings' on his PC, spending all my pocket money playing the 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' arcade machine with friends and spending countless hours bonding with my father as we played 'A Boy and his Blob' together on NES. It's these memories and more that make me smile when I reflect back on my younger years.

Games have always been a big part of my life and now the simple mention of a specific title can instantly evoke a number of nostalgic memories, all hinged on strong emotions. It's powerful stuff, even more powerful than other forms of media. Sure I remember dancing on my bed and trying to imitate Michael Jackson whilst watching him tear up the screen in the 'Black or White' music video and I will never forget the time I saw 'Jurassic Park' with my Dad at the movies.... but games... I hold them high, higher than everything else. You form a bond with games... a bond that is personal and unique. This is because everyone plays games their own way. You choose a path, go on a journey and come out with your own story to tell.

With that said, inspired by Mark Serrels from Kotaku, here is a list of 5 games that define my childhood...

1. Resident Evil 2 (Playstation)

I like to think of myself as a daredevil. As a child, I wasn't scared of anything. I grew up as a seemingly invincible kid. I would get injured every second week and my hospital file is now referred to by my parents as a tome. The first time I can legitimately say I felt true fear was when I played Resident Evil 2 in Big W. I remember gripping the controller with sweaty palms and looking around the store nervously, hoping nobody could tell that I was freaking out (and hoping staff wouldn't kick me off for breaking the 15 min time limit). From that point on, I was hooked. The adrenalin rush of opening a door and fearing the next room would contain flesh-eating zombies was addictive as hell. No game had ever made me feel like that before. 'Survival Horror' has been my favourite gaming genre ever since and I can honestly say that no game has ever even come close to toppling it from the pedestal I've put it on. I hope blood and gore splatters across my screen until I'm old and senile enough to resemble one of the zombies I so love to kill... with deadly accurate head shots.

2. All  4 Wrestling Games (Nintendo 64)

World Tour, Revenge, Wrestlemania 2000 & No Mercy

I have to group them because in my mind they all blend together to form a huge chunk of my childhood. Collectively, they were the games that inspired a young Goose to perform many stupid backyard maneuvers, like leaping off the fence into a pool whilst doing Eddie Guerrero's Frog Splash and trying to Rock Bottom a friend through a folding table. I would spend countless hours button mashing with my best mate in what can only be described as some of the most epic and brutal multiplayer encounters I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Winning one of these matches was like winning the Heavyweight Championship. I'd get up and prance around the room, taunting an invisible crowd and elevating myself to greatness. To do this day I've never had a more satisfying gaming "win". While I'm admittedly no longer a massive fan of wrestling, there are still remnants of a boy who once dreamed of being a wrestler residing somewhere deep in my psyche. One day, when someone really tests my patience, there's a Stone Cold Stunner just waiting to happen.


3. NBA Jam (Arcade & Sega Genesis)

Young Goose could never play basketball. He was too short and uncoordinated... and nothing has changed. What he could do (and still can do) was annihilate anyone and everyone in NBA Jam. That may sound cocky and arrogant, and it is, but I wouldn't make such a bold statement if it wasn't true. You see, I'm the first person to admit when I suck at a game. I will forever be a certifiable noob when it comes to hardcore shooters like COD and football games like FIFA. However, give me some Jam and I'll spread your remains all over the shiny court. NBA Jam was the first game that made me legitimately feel like a gaming God, and that felt bloody good. I loved this game so much my parents went out and bought me a real basketball ring, not knowing that I absolutely sucked at the real thing and felt like a complete loser when I tried to play. Somewhere along the line I was given a mini-basketball ring that I put up outside, near my dog's kennel. I would shoot hoops and jam that thing to oblivion; all to the delight of my dog Snowy, who would look at me strangely whenever I'd shout 'Boomshakalaka' at the top of my lungs...."Is it the shoes?"


4. Diablo & Diablo 2 (PC)

That frustratingly hard-to-kill, red-skinned and horned abomination of gaming has taken up more hours of my life than any other game. Who ever thought clicking a mouse over and over again like a drone would be so much fun? Diablo holds a special place in my heart. It made me fall in love with how games are crafted. It made me realise that games are an art form. Diablo also used to make my old high-school IT teacher (Mr. Ellis) scream out in uncontrollable fits of rage... which, in my mind, made him look like a real-life "end-of-level boss". For a couple of years at least, our IT class consisted solely of playing Diablo and Quake. Which is why it still baffles me that I managed to come 1st in the class every year! We would play secret LAN games behind the teacher's back, giggling every time he nearly caught us and softly swearing every time we got killed (remember the ears?). Diablo was also the first game that hooked me like a drug. Prior to Diablo, games were just mindless fun you played here and there. Diablo consumed me and haunted every waking moment of my life. Parents, school and friends were just obstacles in the way of me finding more loot in Diablo's many realms (long live the cows). Yes... Diablo basically ruined my life. Thank you Blizzard.

 5. Battletoads (NES)

There are two words that strike fear in the heart of every true gamer... "Turbo Tunnel". Battletoads is, without a doubt, one of the toughest games of all time and represents the relentless grind that all gamers go through when finishing a level becomes your only goal... when the primal human needs for eating food and going to the bathroom evaporate and the only thing you can focus on is getting to that next level or reaching that elusive checkpoint. I don't think I ever even finished Battletoads. Has anyone? Seriously. I remember spending countless afternoons after school hiking up to my friend's house to play Battletoads with him and his brother. All 3 of us would sit in front of his TV for hours, while his Mum delivered us a constant stream of nourishment. It was like going to work. It was like a job. This could have been the end of my gaming days. Battletoads could have left a sour taste in my mouth for gaming... but it didn't. Like sucking on a sour warhead, getting past the game's brutal exterior was all part of the fun. Battletoads taught me that games are better when they are equal parts fun and challenging, which is why I only ever play games on 'Hard' these days.



Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Avengers Movie Review

[This movie review is spoiler free]

5 Reasons Why The Avengers Kicks Ass

1. Hawkeye & Black Widow 
Joss Whedon dedicates lots of screen time to showcasing the characters Hawkeye (played by Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson), both of whom we've seen briefly in previous Marvel franchise movies. In Thor we were teased with a sneak peak at Hawkeye and in Iron Man 2 we were privileged enough to get a taste for how truly awesome Black Widow is.
 Hawkeye Jeremy Renner
In The Avengers, both Hawkeye and Black Widow are given as much airtime as their big 'super hero' brawler friends (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America & Hulk), which is a good thing because they are the easiest characters to identify with. Hawkeye and Black Widow have no superhuman powers, instead they rely on their unique combat skills to get the job done. Hawkeye and Black Widow keep the movie grounded and show the audience that you don't need super powers to make a difference; anyone can step up to the plate and take a swing!
Black Widow Scarlett Johansson 
As Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner commands the screen with his likeable swagger and cocky attitude. It's no wonder he's already taken over the Bourne (The Bourne Legacy) and Mission Impossible (Ghost Protocol) franchises. In The Avengers, Joss allows Hawkeye to show off his skills with a bow, leaving the audience breathless when he performs trick shots that defy the laws of gravity.

As Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson steals the spotlight with her deadly curves and impressive moves. The months of martial arts training Scarlett had to undergo has paid off, ten fold. I could of literally sat there and watched Black Widow kick the living crap out of bad guys for 2.5 hours and I still would have left the cinema giving this movie a big thumbs up.

2. Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk

Eric Bana and Edward Norton can take a seat. Of all the Hulks I've seen on the big screen, Mark Ruffalo is by far the most suited actor to play the jolly green giant.  Mark portrays Bruce Banner as a reserved, down-to-earth and humble genius (essentially the polar opposite of Robert Downey's Tony Stark).
Mark Ruffalo The Hulk aka Bruce Banner

 3. The Avengers is Hilarious

When you sit down to watch The Avengers over the next few weeks, be prepared to laugh. The Avengers is by far the most hilarious super hero movie ever made. Joss Whedon's unique brand of comedy and well-timed humour (see Firefly) is sprinkled throughout the movie in a way that keeps the audience in a good mood, from start to finish, unlike 'The Dark Knight'. There are action scenes in The Avengers so intense they leave you on the edge of your seat, breathless, and just when you least expect it one of the main characters will say something that sends the entire cinema into an uproar.
The Hulk, who, it can be argued, is historically the least funny super hero of all time, delivers the movie's two biggest laughs. Only Joss Whedon could take a character like that and utilise him in such a way that leaves the audience walking out of the cinema going "Remember when The Hulk did that...", instead of re-living the big action set pieces.

4. The Relationships

The Avengers is a huge ensemble movie with lots of interesting characters who, prior to this, have never interacted with each other on screen before. Joss somehow manages to carefully budget and juggle each minute of screen time to highlight the relationships formed by each of the characters. For example, Tony Stark has never met anyone who challenges him intellectually, until he runs into Bruce Banner. While Thor has never met anyone who can physically match him, until he goes up against Iron Man and The Hulk. Joss spends the first hour of the movie letting these relationships play out and it's an absolute treat to watch.
The Avengers Cast
5. No Girl Drama

Thankfully, the only "girlfriend" character that features in The Avengers is Pepper Potts (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), and she only gets a few minutes screen time. They touch on where Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman) is hiding, but that's about it. Joss checks the girl drama in at the door and rightly saves it for the standalone movies.
Thor and Jane Foster

Overall

The Avengers is the best Marvel-brand super hero movie of all time, and I'm not just saying that as a Joss Whedon groupie. It's not better than The Dark Knight (DC Comics), but it doesn't try to be either. The Dark Knight is technically a better movie, but The Avengers is loads more fun, packs the laughs and leaves you smiling as you walk out the door. Comparing them alongside each other in the super hero genre is pointless. Go and check it out!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Siri, Meet David 8

Have you been talking to Siri much lately? Sam has.
Siri is one of Apple's marketing hooks. Technically speaking, Siri is an "intelligent personal assistant" and "knowledge navigator" that functions as an app on the Apple iOS. Watching Mace Windu talk to his phone while he cooks Gazpacho would have looked crazy about 10 years ago, but now it just seems normal. It's amazing how far we've come in such a short time (my previous blog on Hologram Tupac is proof of that).

Siri is an application that could be loaded onto (or into) anything. Which means Apple could put Siri inside an android robot and "it" would function exactly the same. If Siri was an android, would we react to it differently? Yes. Would Apple be able to market it as effectively? No.

Creepy much?
It's the outside shell that society still has a problem with. As far as we've come, we still aren't ready to accept Androids as the norm. However, when it comes to what's inside the Android, the important stuff (AI), we're all quite happy to jump on board the Siri bandwagon and fill Apple's pockets with bucket loads of cash.
In South Korea, they've got Androids (Ever-3) advanced enough to sing, dance and act. Androids that could probably rock up on stage during The Voice and blow the judges away. Imagine the look on Seal's face when he spins the chair around to find an Android staring right back at him. Somehow I don't think "it" would make it to the next round.

If this is where we are now, where will be in another 10 years? Ridley Scott has been trying to shed some light on this for years and his upcoming movie "Prometheus" aims to provide us with a glimpse into the future. One of the major characters in Prometheus is David, who is an Android.

In what can only be described as a fantastic piece of viral digital marketing, Ridley Scott recently released a video that introduces the character of David in the form of an advertisement. Without further ado, I would like you to meet David 8:
 
Sign me up for a David 8! What are your thoughts on Androids? Post your thoughts in the comments section.

Now, out of 50 points, how did all of you score in my blog?
  • 10 Points - You have had a chat with Siri before
  • 10 Points - You know who Mace Windu is
  • 10 Points - You identified the robot pictured as being from the movie I,Robot
  • 10 Points - You know the name of the actor who plays David 8
  • 10 Points - You actually are an Android
- Digital Goose

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Hologram Tupac Fools My Girlfriend

If you haven't been living under a rock the last 48 hours, chances are you've already seen the mind-blowingly awesome surprise 3D holographic performance at Coachella 2012, featuring none other than the legend himself, Tupac Shakur (aka Makaveli).
 

The eery performance is enough to send chills down your spine, especially for rap fans like myself who still keep Pac's timeless tunes in heavy rotation. I can't imagine what is was like to be there and watch a holographic Tupac light up the stage and ignite fans, like he did all those years ago.

And here's what happened today....

To be transported back to rap's heyday, I load up the video on YouTube and switch it to full-screen. My girlfriend, a fellow Tupac groupie, sits next to me. Snoop Dogg struts on stage to perform '2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted' with a very energetic, if somewhat luminescent, Makaveli. My girlfriend remarks that "even back then, Snoop looked really old. I wonder how old is Snoop now?".

My girlfriend actually thought she was watching a classic performance of a 'very much alive' Tupac and who she believed was an 'ageless' Snoop Doggy Dog.

While I acknowledge that 3D holograms have been around for years, and I'm aware of the Holographic Elvis & Celine Dion duet on American Idol back in 2007, this "live" performance at Coachella is a game changer. It should be seen as a testament to how far we've come as a technologically advanced society. We now have the power to bring people back from the dead! And to think, this digital marvel took only 4 months and between $100k-400k to produce (kudos to the brilliant team at Digital Domain). How was it created? Read more over at the Wall Street Journal.
Hologram Tupac
What does this say for the future of the music industry, and touring in general? There has already been talk of Hologram Tupac going on tour with Dre & Snoop later in the year. A holographic artist wouldn't need management and wouldn't have a crazy list of back-stage demands, for a start...

I can't help but let my mind wander. I've already started to dream up concerts featuring artists who were taken from us way before their time was up. Kurt Cobain tearing up the stage again, with Dave Grohl in tow, in a Nirvana reunion is what instantly springs to mind. That's a concert I would pay good money to "experience". And what about a Beatles reunion? The list goes on.

Hologram Kurt Cobain
Of course, with all new advancements in technology, come the 'digital haters'. Should we, as a society, really be doing this? Isn't this wrong? Aren't we taking things a little too far? What's next, a Hologram Steve Jobs running the next Apple press conference? All of these questions will be raised and discussed at great length for weeks to come - and really, when it comes down to it, there is no right answer.

Personally, I'm all for this. Bring it on! What generation wouldn't want the next generation to experience famous artists of their time. This type of technology helps immortalise legends, and in my book, there's nothing wrong with that at all. They used to do it with statues and sculptures back in the day... we've just taken it a million or so steps further.

With that said, what are your thoughts? If you have an opinion on whether this is the right way forward or not, please post your thoughts in the comments section. 

Now, out of 50 points, how did all of you score in my blog?
  • 10 Points - You had already watched the video, before reading this blog
  • 10 Points - You actually know who Tupac is, and are aware of his greatness
  • 10 Points - You know how old Snoop is (40)
  • 10 Points - You started to dream up concerts too (which ones?)
  • 10 Points - You hope to one day be remembered in hologram format
- Digital Goose

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Using Digital Media to Mass Effect

When you have a hot property, brand, product or service, people will do just about anything to get their hands on it. As a marketer, you can leverage this unwavering 'want' by making the customer jump through hoops to get at it. Then once you've got them hooked, it's even easier to make the customer do the things you want them to do.

The brands that already know this (and exploit it to mass effect) are obvious. Apple is the first one that springs to mind, Rovio (makers of Angry Birds) come in second. Apple may not technically have the best tech on the market (not in my opinion anyway), but they sure as hell have the coolest. Forbes said it best only 2 weeks ago 'Apple Made the Rules and Can Break Them Whenever It Wants'.

These days though, it's all about making the customer jump through what I'll coin to be 'digital hoops'. These hoops can be as simple as making someone sign up to a newsletter or even upselling them when they've decided to checkout on your eCommerce site. The games industry has this process nailed to perfection. Let's take a look at what is arguably the hottest game on the planet right now 'Mass Effect 3' and how EA and BioWare have used digital media to get 'mass effect'...
Mass Effect (ME) is an extremely popular series of sci-fi RPG games that are developed by BioWare and published by EA. The first 2 instalments in the series went on to sell millions and received widespread critical acclaim. In a nutshell, ME is huge and equals big business for all involved. So fast forward to the latest instalment, ME 3, which also happens to be the final game in the series and promises to tie up all loose ends in the ME mythology (to all the nerds, I did say 'promises').

If you've played any of the previous ME games there is simply no way in hell you'd not consider buying Mass Effect 3. EA have it in the bag. They've already got a locked down market that are ready and willing to fork out the cash, their only challenge is making the game even bigger and reaching new untapped markets. But for now, let's focus on the ME fans, of which there are millions globally, because that's really what this blog is about. How to make the people who already have a 'want' do more than just purchase the product.

What's at the core of Mass Effect is a solid story, great writing and a world you never want to leave. Gamers truly do care about what happens to the characters and will literally scour the game's crevices to find anything and everything they can about the mythology. EA leverages this by releasing Mass Effect 3 with what is largely an incomplete story, but enough of a story to satisfy gamers who just purchase the game and do nothing else. But for those who want to know 'everything' and want to get their hands on the complete experience, they can do the following:

Firstly, head over to the iOS store and buy 'Mass Effect Infiltrator' for an extra $6.99. Doing this not only gives the gamer another cool, fun stand-alone experience, but it also impacts on Mass Effect 3 by unlocking extra in-game content and even gives you a better chance of survival in the game's closing battle sequence. An extra $7 isn't bad is it? It's also worth noting that this game was developed by an entirely different developer.

Now, while you're there, you might as well download the 'Mass Effect Datapad'. This again, is a pretty cool little app in itself, but also adds to the overall Mass Effect 3 experience by unlocking even more content, etc. But wait, it's free? Of course it is. Within the app is a feature that allows BioWare to send gamers news and updates about the Mass Effect universe, and about any other upcoming games or related content. Having the brand on the customer's device and being able to message them whenever you want... I'd call that a home run.
 
In the lead up to the game's big launch, EA asked fans on Facebook to use their 'Mass Effect Recruitment App' to share the game with friends and to complete a number of social objectives. Overall, this was a clever way of using fans to generate a buzz around the game.

Then there's the extra 'From Ashes' DLC (Downloadable Content) that can be purchased online for a cool $10 or included for free in the Collector's Edition (which again, costs a little more). While many gamers were outraged at being forced to purchase what is arguably a stripped out piece of the game's core storyline, millions still reached for their wallets and were delighted to extend their Mass Effect experience a little bit longer.

With Mass Effect 3, EA & BioWare hit gamers on all fronts, with a digital onslaught of content. Every piece of content was designed to achieve different objectives, ranging from generating extra revenue to creating a viral buzz. As a brand, if you've got a hot product or service that people want it's time to start leveraging digital media to get more out of the customer. I'm not suggesting brands simply milk customers, but instead brands should look at crafting digital experiences that are rewarding for the customer, whilst simultaneously ticking all the right marketing/business boxes.

Now, out of 50 points, how did all of you score in my blog?
  • 10 Points - You are a fan of Mass Effect
  • 10 Points - You are aware of the "ending controversy"
  • 10 Points - You are a sucker for this type of stuff
  • 10 Points - You agree with me that Garrus is the best ME character
  • 10 Points - You know what the term 'FemShep' means
- Digital Goose

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Digital Gun: What a Digital Marketer Really Does

Last weekend an engineer asked me what I do for a crust and in reply I told him I worked in digital marketing. He thought about it for a second, cocked his head to the side, laughed and said 'so you are on Facebook and Twitter all day long?', like it was the most hilarious joke in the world.

It's funny the way other people see us digital peeps.

What we are really doing all day long is learning, adapting and growing as specialists in our field. I truly believe digital marketers work in the most rapidly changing industry there is. The fast-paced world of digital is always changing and it's our job to keep on top of it all. Some days it feels like I'm Neo on the Nebuchadnezzar having information constantly downloaded right into my brain.

How can brands use Pinterest to directly impact sales? Download it.

How did Twitter recently change the way people use the @ symbol? Download it.

What does PTA mean for brands on Facebook, and why is it so damn important? Download it.

What's the drop off rate when you do a Facebook app that requires permissions? Download it.

How is Google going to force businesses/brands to start using G+? Download it.

How will Facebook's new timeline impact brand pages? Download it.

In my opinion, it's impossible for a digital marketer to know everything about the entire digital landscape, especially when it comes to utilising digital to achieve marketing objectives. There's just too much information out there for any one person to know. No-one can juggle that many balls and keep them all in the air. If you meet a digital marketer who thinks they are 'The One', just slap them - they are delusional.

Digital marketers who are worth their weight in pixels are usually specialists in certain areas. It's these people who are often referred to as 'Digital Guns'. Here are a few examples of digital guns in the industry and the areas they dominate:
The ideal digital marketing team, for big brands (who can afford the luxury) is compiled of a number of these so-called 'guns', all working in perfect synergy. It'll be someone in management who, when the time comes to do something digitally explosive, will say 'We need guns, lots of guns!'


Now, out of 100 points, how did all of you score in my blog?
  • 10 Points - You are already on Pinterest (you are so cool)
  • 10 Points - You know at least 2 of the 5 digital guns I called out
  • 10 Points - You are a Digital Gun (chk, chk, boom yo)
  • 10 Points - You've seen all 3 Matrix movies, and got all the references (geek much?)
  • 10 Points - You can juggle, like a boss!
  • 50 Points - You voted for me in the shootout!
- Digital Goose

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Fitness Game

In my last blog I talked about customers being born competitors, and used coffee consumption as an example of how a business can use gamification to blow on the competitive ember inside every customer and ignite their desire to be better. This is nothing new; I'm just stating the obvious. Brands all over the world have already proved, using gamification strategies, that turning the regular consumption (or purchase) of a product (be it coffee or hot dogs) into a game will motivate customers to be competitive and thus increase their propensity to consume more frequently and in turn, be more loyal to the brand. Aussie brands are also getting in on the action, with big brands like Wendy's jumping on the gamification bandwagon every day.
 
While this all sounds great for brands trying to flog their products, it's certainly not the only way businesses can benefit from gamification. Cue CrossFit... a fitness program with gamification at its core; where the product is gamification!

If you haven't already heard of CrossFit, you will. It's a fitness program that, in recent years, has exploded into a worldwide craze (yes, just like Zumba). At its most basic level, CrossFit is a strength and conditioning fitness program that combines a number of traditional activities, ranging from weightlifting to medicine ball training, and presents them in short high intensity workouts (called Workouts of the Day or WODs).

CrossFit was founded in 1995 by Greg Glassman, who used the program to help train a police department. CrossFit has since been used all over the world by fire departments, military organisations and law enforcement agencies. However, it wasn’t until CrossFit affiliates started using scoring and ranking systems (game mechanics), to transform the WODs into a game, that the everyday customer started taking notice and getting involved.
 
How does it work? CrossFit practitioners complete a set WOD as fast as they can (using correct methods) and are timed doing so. Their times are used to rank them against other ‘CrossFitters’ (like Jye Smith). The rankings act like a leaderboard at the gym and the times are used in regular conversation among CrossFitters, i.e. ‘How fast can you do this WOD?’

CrossFit turned fitness into a sport using gamification.

So successful (and addictive) is CrossFit that it has spawned its own version of the Olympic Games. The CrossFit Games started in 2007 and have increased in popularity ever since. Now, competitors from all over the world get involved for the chance to win up to $1 million in prize money, with Reebok as the sponsor. Its big business, for everyone involved!
CrossFit used gamification to put the call out for ‘Motivated People Only’ and what happened? Motivated people are turning up in droves, with cash in hand, just begging to be better customers. As a business, you need to put the call out to your customers and get them motivated, excited and involved!

And here's a bonus meme for all the CrossFitters out there. I know we've seen thousands of these over the last few weeks, and are sick to death of them, but one more won't hurt...
Now, out of 50 points, how did all of you score in my blog?
  • 10 Points - You know what kipping is...
  • 10 Points - You follow Jye Smith on Twitter
  • 10 Points - You knew the guy in the image was doing a 'Snatch' (not this)
  • 10 Points - You know what meme means, and are sick of 'What I Really Do'
  • 10 Points - You timed yourself reading this blog, then re-read it to improve
- Digital Goose