Tag Archives: gaming

Impressions of “Super Mario: How Nintento Conquered America,” by Jeff Ryan

Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America is a dull and non-insightful book you should avoid. Read another one instead. Or an article online. Skip it.

Jeff Ryan is the author of Super Marior: How Nintento Conqueered America, a book that was both superficial and dull. And Blake Harris was the author of Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation. But they are both writers with an interest in games. Both Ryan and Blake have active lefty twitter accounts. Both wrote histories of the console market that I grew up adoring.

But the books are very different. Console Wars is structured around a human history, and the author has either conducted extensive interviews or has fabricated an astonishing amount of material. Before reading Console Wars, “Sega” and “Nintendo” were just brands and machines: I grew to appreciate them as collections of people, with dreams and fears, armies that fought for my amusement. On his twitter feed earlier this year Blake Harris posted this, “There’s No Such Thing as Nintendo,” and this I think sums up the genius of Console Wars: using the messaging of pop brands to understand the human excitement, ambition, and struggle in the hidden real world.

Super Mario is almost the reverse. Very little in Ryan’s book exceeded what you can find in Wikipedia. While Blake’s Console Wars deconstructed Sonic the Hedgehog, taking the reader into the corporate politics of all who wanted to control it, Ryan reminds us it’s ridiculous for Mario to appear in a Sonic game! Console Wars included the perspective of industry titans who soured on the industry, and those who were booted out. Super Mario reminds us that Shigeru Miyamoto rode a bicycle to work!

Even though Console Wars primary follows Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinski, Nintendo is discussed in more depth in Blake’s book than Ryan’s! Indeed, a free postscript that Blake wrote for the Huffington Post arguably contains more about Nintendo’s inner workings than the whole of Ryan’s book.

Ryan’s work is also thematically inconsistent. Super Mario was published in 2012, just as gaming was entering its current culture war. It’s obvious the last few chapters of the book were written in that milleu, because only at the end of the book are the sort of faux-sociological explorations of sexism introduced. Console Wars, on the other hand, has a unity of tone and a real-life beginning which book-ends the real-life end. There’s an irony here: Ryan applauds what he imagines to be Nintendo’s efforts at avoiding the “Comic-Con” crowd: Harris wrote this a panel of the Nintendo and Sega leadership at Comic-Con.

As another blogger mentioend in a review:

There are bits of sarcasm and bite to his voice which are all-too common among the smug pop-culture journalist crowd, and there were times when it got to be a little much. Skip the parentheticals, and you’ll manage to dodge most of that (I seem to have picked a little something up from this book after all. Sorry, Jeff).

Give Super Mario a pass. Read Console Wars by Blake Harris instead.

Watching Twitch

$GOOG paid a billion dollars for twitch, a video streaming service. Unlike Youtube (which focuses on general audiences and miscellaneous niches), vimeo (which focuse on gorgeous cinematographic videos), or Daily motion (which focuses on being second place to Youtube), Twitch’s niche is gamers.

twitch_logo

Twitch is focused around games (live events) and channels (feeds of live events by specific gamers or groups). Yesterday, my wife and I watched navigated Twitch on Xbox One. Broadly, the two main types of games & channels appear to be competitive games and social games. Exmaples of competitive games include League of Legends (the most popular game in the world) and Starcraft II, while an example of a social game is Grand Theft Auto V.

twitch gsl announcers

Competitive games are organized like minor sports, such as women’s football, women’s basketball, or mixed martial arts. Not only are many of the trappings of major spots there (commentators, slick graphics, various functionaries) but minor spots have two elements major sports can lack: a sense of exclusivity and a proof of passion. Unlike major sports, identifying with a minor sport means identifying with a subculture to which you belong. And unlike major sports, few millionaires are made in minor sports, so a player is more likely to be following a calling as opposed to buying a beach house.

twitch xmoonliterose

My wife and I, however. enjoyed watching social games more. Many of these players/hosts were female, and combined competent gameplay with the personality of an effective radio disk jockey. Any flirting was PG, and you quickly felt that you were in the company of friends. For a fantasy game like Grand Theft Auto V, where play is self-directed and often absurd, watching someone play with friends can be even more relaxing than playing yourself (where the question of “what is to be done?” looms as large as in real life).

twitch creature talk

Twitch is a community — a billion dollar community — I was largely ignorant of a few days ago.

The world is vast, and there are such people in it…

Poker

sites have been comment-spamming tdaxp. Besides trying to get tdaxp readers to click on the links, these companies are trying to improve their search engine ratings. tdaxp is a pretty trusted site in Google, and if yahoo or other search engines see this site linking to online poker in comments, they will give those Texas Hold ‘Em as top results when people search for “gambling” or similar search terms.

So that’s why this post links to wikipedia articles on those subjects. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia and is a valid reference source. So if someone searches for poker, texas hold ’em, or other phrases, they will get real encyclopedia entries on those subjects and not the sites of spam commentators.

I would go on about how this is an example of civil society, flat networks, and the ultimate is networking. But that’d be rambling.

Take that spammers!

Update: Now I got comment spam about Pacific Poker from Razor Dude. The war continues…

Update 2: Don’t forget Texas Holdem and Party Poker

Update 3: Between Lawyers wonders if poker spammers are like tomb raiders. If so, would that make tomb raiders swarmers?