Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What I learned about Facebook games from my Mother-in-Law

So, I have a new job. I'm a Senior User Researcher at Zynga Game Network.

I'll still continue to play a wide range of console, pc, indie, AAA, student, free, casual, and social games. But I'll just be restricting my actual work to games we're creating at Zynga.

I'd been doing a bunch of consulting and contracting at Zynga before we decided to formalize the relationship -- and I really couldn't be happier with my new job.

Anyhow, enough about me. Let me tell you a bit about Anita, my mother-in-law. We both use Facebook to keep up with friends and family from both near and far. We also both enjoy several different Facebook games. Sometimes we even play the same game. Either way, I can expect to hear complaints from Anita when there's a bug or something exceptionally frustrating or confusing about a game.

One thing that really caught my attention the other day was her comment that she had completed a game of Cube Crash (from MindJolt games) by wiping out all of the cubes... and she never got any kind of bonus reward.

She mentioned several types of award that she would have considered appropriate:
  • Some sort of "victory" animation and sound FX that congratulated her on her achievement (wiping the screen is actually not that easy to do in the game).
  • A chance to share her accomplishment by bragging to her friends who also played the game.
She had to resort to calling me on the phone to brag -- and to complain about the above points.

I just love, love, love the fact that we can talk about games together -- and that something as "hard core" as achievements and social bragging are now wide spread and cross the generational gap.

Can't wait to have kids and have to tell them to be sure to "gift drills to grandma" to thank her for their birthday presents :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Green Zone & Career Update

I just watched the movie Green Zone last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Something that emerged early on was a feeling that it was playing out like a cool mashup between a Bioware RPG and an Infinity Ward shooter.

There were key factions, all introducing themselves and seeking to influence and direct the main protagonist (Chief Miller). One after another they would approach him, give him a key piece of evidence designed to force a moral decision, and then send him on his way.

At several key plot points in the movie, Chief Miller's decision could have gone in any number of directions (well, about 3 -- perfect for a dialog tree...) and the results of his actions brought about interesting consequences that pushed the story along.

Throw in a bunch of cool, scripted, current day/near future firefight opportunities (cue Infinity Ward) and wow. You've got the makings of a great videogame.

... Spoiler Alert ...

What if Miller decided to side with Army brass instead of the CIA? What if he decided to kill Freddy to save the general? Maybe he could have fallen in love with the sexy reporter and helped her fake evidence so her reputation would have been saved...

... End Spoiler ...

Oh, and in other news I'm going to be announcing a career update later on today.