Month: November 2015

Ode to FishCenterLive

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If you have to ask me, right this very second “what am I watching on television?” or probably something along the lines of “what internet series do you enjoy?” I really just have to point you to Twitch.TV/AdultSwim for it’s afternoon line-up of irrelevant fun.

At the start of the morning you get “Stupid Morning Bullshit” (formally Amateur Hour) in which Sally and Jonothan traverse the internet looking for strange youtube videos, snapchats they have received and answering calls while playing video games or taking quizzes. It’s a call-in show, for audience members to participate, but most of the time is really Sally and Jonothan having a fun time sharing stories and getting to know random people, like Domino’s Pizza managers. Depending on the day, you could be seeing a game show, a daytime news show, or something in between, which is always a fun watch.

Then after a while break (unless you just woke up), they have an afternoon event, “Crosswords” with Dave and Max. They grab the new york times crossword puzzle from the day and try and solve it, with the help of audience participation. Most of the time, they are able to solve the crossword (it takes 30 minutes) so the second half of the show becomes a weird call-in “shout-out” love show called “Tender Touches”, where people spread the love to people over the internet, to “Maxterminds” in which the host, Max Simonet probes Dave, and viewers at home with philsophical and theoretical questions while audio and video blend over causing an audiovisual mess… which is also the same to their new show “Mystic Shadows”, which reminds viewers of the Adult Swim Series “off the air”, only with all the video bending and audio changing done on the fly, as a live show.

Then you have great events throughout the week, such as “Tuesday Tea” in which they bring in somebody from Williams Street or Adult Swim games to keep audiences updated on not just what’s going on with the Cartoon Network block, but in their own personal lives. Viewers however, do not get a viewing of the people, but of the tea itself. Is it Tazo? Lipton? Tune in each week to find out!

Another series is Human Race Wars, which takes place in the company office as employees risk their lives racing around cubicles and wires while on hoverscooters in the hopes of winning the golden helmet and bragging rights. Viewers at home can predict the winner to win a small prize. This is also similar to “Daytime Fighting League”, hosted by Max and Dave as well, in which local professional wrestlers get in actual fights, with strange gimmicks in the hopes of winning, and the viewers at home, the chance on helping out the main event show – Fish Center.

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FishCenter aka FishCenterLive is a really abstract show – what started as just footage of a fish tank being streamed, grew into what might just be the best talk-show on the internet, and one of the greatest game shows ever created. In each episode, ten fish compete against each other (possibly against their will or willing knowledge) in games of “coin quest” in the hopes of winning points. There are 5 coins scattered across the tank for +1 point in round 1, 3 +1s and 2 -1s in Round 2, and 2 +5s and 3 +1s in Round 3. At a random time in the 60-90 second contest a “Badass Coin” might pop-in which adds a layer of suspense to the action, as it could be worth 25 points, or costing 10 points, it won’t be revealed until the fish swims across it.

However, this is not the only game in town, as in-between these events, callers can call-in to give their thoughts on the proceedings, which fish they feel deserves it (Mimosa? Long Donovan? Dottie?) or be able to play one of the twisted games created to help a fish of their choice win or lose bonus points. Games such as “Apple Bobbing for Bobs With Numbers” asks players to pick a number, and then guess which famous Bob is behind the bushel of apples. Another game, “Bumble Berry” plays like concentration where callers try and match up cards to earn points. Or “Guess That Choekemon” where playersare given a silhouette and must identify a pokemon, given a pun off beloved host and judge, Andrew Choe. Sometimes, as a consolation to losing or as a bonus for winning, the “200” is played, where if a player can correctly guess which box between 1 and 200 has the “200 points”, they can give it to a fish of their choice (this is almost a guarantee that that player will advance to the Final Round on Friday, more on that later).

At the end of the Friday show, the two highest fish (or eel, if Hamburger somehow made it) compete against each other in a game of skill and smarts – Fish Tank Choe. The fish go back and forth hoping to secure three in a row on a tic-tac-toe board, with whoever getting the most points the advantage of going first, and winning in case of a tie-breaker. That fish is crowned “King of the Tank” and earns all the glory and prizes that come with it. But, it’s a weekly show, played per season. So someone will be crowned at the end of Autumn, Winter, Summer and Spring a “Super King” that is the overall champion of the game.

It’s an hour-long absurdist game show, but what makes the show interesting is the heavy balance between chaotic and peaceful. At one moment, you have just the fish swimming, calmly, the next moment, you have Dave yelling at Andrew or Matt Harrigan over the scoring, or not being able to fish his lunch during the lunch-break. You have bizarre videos and crazy sketches such as “Great Moments in Fishcenter History” or actually having the hosting present behind the scenes of the series, or the tank itself.

The callers either play into the crazy game, by trying to be forced characters (which is largely frowned upon and met with disappointment) to just regular joes with amazing backgrounds just having a good time and just having to root for a fish. Other times, you will get people who are die-hard fish fanatics complaining about the scoring, or hating on a particular fish wanting them to get flushed. And on the rarest of times, you get people complaining about Adult Swim programming, which is met with silence. It’s not a “Tim and Eric” sketch, it’s really just a fun call-in game show, with the lowest of stakes, but the highest of laughs.

There is so much entertainment involved in Fishcenter, that something as simple as “making a game show out of a fish tank”, is actually so complex and so enjoyable that you can’t miss it. And if you do, there are replays over at FishCenterLive.com or in a 15-minute “best-of” on Adult Swim every day.

But if you ask me, you need to watch the full hour, it’s the pacing of the show that makes it work, the exact amount of yin and yang, the exact amount of chaos and peace that make this show work. People will call in and make whatever they want, if it means points to Eel Hamburger, Yo Hal Look At That Tang, or Ol Blue (but between you and me, Blue is kind of a jerk.)

I salute Fish Center, for showing that Twitch and the internet can be more than just “playing video games” and “broadcasting tournaments”, it can actually be more simpler than that, it can be just as competitive, but equally as entertaining, which is why I love the show, and keep swimming back for more. 15 points for Long Donovan Follows for the Long Donovan twitter.

 

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Game of the Generation? Burnout Paradise.

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If you had to ask me what was the one video game that made the biggest impact in the “last generation” gaming market, there would be a handful of titles, I am currently thinking between Burnout Paradise, Rock Band 3 and Red Dead Redemption as those titles. But instead of trying to make this feel like a series, I am going to put those off for a while, and just get into the details on something that hopefully many people find true – Burnout Paradise is the ultimate game of the “PS3/Xbox 360” era.

I have been a fan of the Burnout series for a long time, including “Burnout 2: Point of Impact”, but to imagine a burnout game being open-world felt like a tough challenge, let alone one asking yourself questions like “how does it work?” and after being somewhat biased and admitting to buying it for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and even the PC (it’s on Steam, why not?)

And the answer to that is : flawlessly.

If you want to play online-mode, it’s as simple as simply pressing on the control stick. If you want to do a simple “race” against AI, you just park at the street corner, and if you want to compete against friends in the same race, you do both, or just challenge them.

The challenges when it came to a racing game, aren’t any different than that of your favorite “open world” action game. Knock Down a target, avoid the police, cause a bit of chaos, simple challenges. And there was even a map that pointed exactly to the points you need to turn in order to reach said events.

Electronic Arts somehow published a better open-world game than Ubisoft, a company that is notorious for having every game being open-world.

When it came to DLC, it wasn’t that bad, you had new cars, new trucks and even a new section (Big Surf Island) which provided more of what people enjoyed. And one of my favorite DLC packs of the generation – Burnout Party Mode.

Burnout Party Mode allows players to pass-and-play the controller and compete against each other in various challenges across the Burnout Paradise map. Completing a stunt, getting the fastest time, getting the farthest distance, surviving the longest and tons more.

When it comes to a soundtrack, it had a huge variety, from 80s Rock, to 2000s Pop and classic music from the Burnout series, that the biggest problem with the game isn’t a matter of “what” but a matter of “when”, that “when”, being the next Burnout game?

At no point during the game was there a loading screen, aside from the beginning world, which introduces you to “Paradise City” with the music of Guns’N’Roses… so if you screw up or need to retry, you have to finish the game or try a new challenge.

Everything about Burnout Paradise was every new mechanic of the generation – “in-game” branding, open-world aesthetic, DLC practices that weren’t nickel-and-dimeing the audience, the need for expansive multiplayer, the need to have a game be about having fun with friends and exploring as a team (or being a jerk and taking down people so you can see their reaction seconds before the crash)

It’s not the most perfect game, but it did pave the ground for just about every title available, and while you see Need For Speed games every other year and other driving games trying to be like Burnout Paradise, nobody was able to do it better.

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Oh, and Barack Obama used the game to sponsor his presidential campaign, so if that wasn’t a sign of “hope and change” and a game of the generation, I have no idea what is.

GBStv – Too Ahead Of It’s Time

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Recently, Joel Hodgson is on Kickstarter raising money to create a new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. This has come about due to a growing rise to the former series, including the special “Turkey Day” celebration they had last year from Shout Factory. The Turkey Day events are nothing new, Mystery Science Theater 3000 debuted on Thanksgiving, and quite frankly has always had some involvement on Thanksgiving.

But one of my most vivid memories actually came around the mid 2000s. Mystery Science Theater 3000 was off the air for good, not even reruns were broadcast on Sci-Fi. YouTube has yet become the powerhouse it was, and the only way to really watch it was through Kazaa or your torrent website of choice, but as a person who spent “:10bux:” to browse and post on a message board, I found a better solution – GBStv.

GBStv or “Goon Broadcasting System Television” was a play of the General Bullshit forums of Something Awful. It was a broadcast streaming website that allowed users of Something Awful to not only upload, but request videos to be broadcasted next on the network. Episodes of “Mega 64”, would clash alongside AMV Hell, as well as episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and actual in-house shows made for the channel.

It was probably one of the most sketchiest if you think about the copyright infringement, but it was also one of the biggest examples of Crowd-focused programming that has not returned even to this day. Sure, you have websites that would let you broadcast youtube videos in-sync with your friends. but rarely one that was going on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with a commitment to airing the weirdest videos available. It was where I actually remembered watching Rejected and immediately afterwards was some Windows Movie Maker videos of people smashing stuff with a hammer.

The server bills must’ve been expensive as well as the process in which to upload videos, to repeat, YouTube barely existed. But this was the website that got people a glimpse into “Bill Fillmaff’s Secret System” besides going to IGN. But what I felt made it such a unique idea was that everybody was in control of what aired, it could be something good, something bad, or just something weird, and you were in control of getting rid of it at any time.

Like a television channel, they had special live events, but unlike a television channel, everybody could be the executive in charge of putting up anything. Speed Runs were put on next to Aquabats Music Videos, and if you were bored with either, you could just upload or rate any of the shows involved. As off-the-wall and zany most livestreams can try to be, and as presenter-heavy as a regular person on Twitch is when it came to playing games. Nobody and Nothing can really capture the kind of irrelevance Something Awful Goons came up with, like WTF Chuck.

While the internet does make us stupid, and there are a few liveshows that are very unique, you rarely saw the equivalent of a public-access channel, a blank canvas for the weird, and the antithesis of internet media until GBS showed up. Sure, you had places like Loading Ready-Run and even the Angry Video Game Nerd beginning their webseries and webshows, but GBStv was the kind of service that was the fast-moving “if you liked this weird stuff, here’s some more weird stuff” that somehow always kept being interesting, until the ultimate slowdown in 2010.