Monday, January 31, 2011

10 Games

I have a brother.  My only sibling in fact.  He was the younger making me the eldest.  We grew up in a house of traditional games.  When I say traditional I mean there were certain family games we played and that was pretty much it.  With the advent of computers gaming became more prevalent and yet less personal.  This persists today.  Games on computers and to a lesser extent consoles are a single player experience.  In my own family we have a couple of games that we don't mind playing, but by and large we are not a game playing family.  My brother in contrast has a game collection that would make Milton Bradley green with envy. 

This list is dedicated to him and his family.  These are the games I remember from my youth, it is not by any means all of them.  I will probably make a part 2 to this list because as I write it, I recall the other games we played.  I don't think I've played one of them in over 10 years with the exception of electronic versions.

10 - Sorry - I'll say sorry.  There was nothing to say BUT sorry about this hopped up version of Parcheesi.  Except you got to say 'SORRY' in a very obnoxious ironic voice as you put your opponent's pawns back home.  This game is very similar to Trouble (with pop-o-matic) but not quite as gimmicky.  Get your pawns home.  Funny thing, that's the point of 80% of games made around or before 1970.  Get your pawns home.  Sorry used a deck of cards instead of the standard dice.  That part was clever.  Unfortunately those cards would soon be so well known that everyone knew when you got the 4 spaces back card because it had that one bend in the corner.  4 players, but usually 3.  2 was not really much fun, but it was tried.

9 - Gnip Gnop - This game is a soft spot in my heart because it's what we started calling Egg-Nog.  The game involved a longish clear housing that held 6 ping pong balls and 3 large buttons on each side.  the object was to smack your buttons sending your pingpong balls through hoops in the middle of the game to your opponents side.  When you see the commercial, you'll get the idea.  The problem is, commercials of games like this are like watching Kung Fu movies that make you think fighting is a ballet of sorts.  You think the game is going to be fairly slow paced and well organized, but it just turns into a frenzy of pounding buttons until you break one.  Then the game is over.  You could salvage the pingpong balls at least.  Rats.

8 - Mousetrap - This game was based on the ever famous Rube Goldberg devices.  The idea to 'build a better mousetrap' that sprung up before world war 1.  The phrase itself is credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but he never actually wrote it.  He wrote something similar and that was close enough.  I could only hope one of my quotes becomes similarly famous.  This game involved putting together the pieces of a mousetrap that would then be sprung to catch the mice.  This game, unlike the others, was rarely played and was only put together for the gimmick.  Just because you put it together didn't mean it was going to work right.  there were a LOT of moving parts.  Lots of things to lose but really a terrific game to get you building your own mousetraps.

7 - Dark Tower - This game in it's entirety goes for over 100$ on ebay.  It was a marvel that was played on a board with an electronic tower.  The tower would tell you the outcome of your moves based on what you keyed into the bubble pad.  This was one of the more jealous moments I had as a youth as this game was given to my Brother.  Yes I got to play it, but I wanted badly to be it's master.  It was the DARK TOWER.  You can play this game online with all the original noises.  without the electronic features, the game was ok, but with the COMPUTER brain, it was amazing.

6 - Battleship - YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP!  Every kid that got battleship would loudly proclaim those words if his battleship was sunk the first time they got to play just so they could do it like the TV commercial.  Seems like war like games were the cool ones to have.  After all, there was the cold war and all the prior world wars and conflicts,  so what better way to play sea wolf than to hide your ships and try to sink those of your opponent?  This one could be duplicated on any kind of graph paper, but the real ships and the little pegs were the only way to play it.  Everyone tries the strategy of putting all your ships together to confuse your opponent.  That's a bad strategy.  Don't do it.  You'll lose.  Really.

5 - Life - The game of life was the first attempt to describe how life might be to a kid.  You start out either going to college or going straight to your career and then you navigate through an interesting field of paths and spaces simulating several of life's maladies.  Each turn was a spin of a brightly colored wheel.  You got kids and a spouse and you drove your car throughout life where you ended up in millionaire acres or the poor house.  There wasn't much strategy here except you could place side bets with your money on the wheel and win extra cash.  If you were falling behind, this was a good way to make sure you fell even further behind.  Are we learning anything yet?

4 - Monopoly - The Depression era grand daddy of them all!  Monopoly.  Or as I called it Monotony (I actually think my parents coined that phrase along with many others).  The object was to become as similar to Donald Trump as humanly possible such that by the end of the game the two of you are indistinguishable.  Buy and sell, go to jail (white collar crimes of course) and free parking.  We played this game a LOT.  Not sure why, I guess it must have been fun, but it was a long drawn out game.  For those of you that don't know it, the properties in monopoly are named after actual streets in Atlantic City.  You can visit them all.  I'm not sure I'd recommend it, Atlantic City is a hole, unless you are staying only in a casino.  Then it's still a hole, but everything is temperature controlled.
3 - Chess - We had chess boards.  I liked to look at chess pieces.  There was a special wooden chess set that we used to play with that was hand built.  For a while I liked chess.  Then I found out that it was such an organized event of a game that there were people that had entire strategies beginning to end planned.  My brain was not capable or interested in this kind of memorization.  I had a hard enough time with the 7's times tables.  I played from time to time.  But I lost more often than not.  I'm not a particularly gracious loser.  So I don't bother with this game anymore.  Because I'm really not good at it at all.

2 - Magnavox Odyssey- Wait a minute Mark, why is this thing here.  We excluded video games right?  Yes we did, but this was the Magnavox Odyssey.  This game system tried desperately to merge traditional board games and video displays that would turn your expensive console TV into a piece of furniture with a cabinet that had no real purpose.  You see, that game would burn images into the TV so fast that you could see the little Pong (came MUCH later) dot burned into the phosphors in the screen.  The game wasn't a game so much as it was 2 paddles 3 dots tall and a 'ball' 1 dot.  The 'graphics' were static video overlays that you unrolled and placed onto the screen.  Classic.  The Odyssey game in question was called BRAIN WAVE.  It was a very difficult game to understand but it was a part of a magical Christmas in Arkansas that I still remember fondly to this day.  Most of the game was played on the board with some aspects played on the tv with boxy controllers that looked like miniature toasters.  It was a great game.

1 - Memory - I think as a family we played this game more than any other.  Acquired during the same magical Christmas in Arkansas, simple blue cards that had pairs of pictures were put face down on the table and in turn you open 2 cards to see if you have a match.  If not, then the next player opens two cards and tries for a match.  If you got a match, you get another turn.  Sounds boring, but it was not.  it was a great game. During the many plays of the game we ended up making nick names for all of the cards because they had no captions.  Runaway Girl comes to mind.  Mom was the best at this game.

This post meant a lot to me.  I hope it was entertaining.  Tell your friends!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Top 10 Advertising ideas that are SO PLAYED! (That means they suck)

I like advertising.  Really, I do.  There are several reasons.  First, how would I know what to buy if it weren't for advertising?  I would sit in my empty house with my bank full of money and I would not have any fun stuff or stuff that I thought would be fun.  Second. Advertising might be the most challenging form of media entertainment that we have.  It's lightening fast but tries to get your attention AND evoke an emotional response before letting you go with the vain hope of keeping it's product or message on your mind.  Funny thing is, I often remember a commercial without being able to remember the product.  That is the hallmark of a good media company that makes crappy commercials.  Let me give you an example.  GREAT commercial.  Shake N Bake presents the product with a bunch of thick accented southerners (seriously, how much fried chicken do they eat in Minnesota?) and the tag line at the end 'It's shake n bake deddy an we haelped' has stuck with me throughout my life.  Have I ever actually purchased a box of the product?  no.  But it's in my head all the same.  There are several commercials that are like that for me.  I know both the commercial and the product.  Another example of the opposite.  The diamond commercial where the guy gives the girl a little box with a bow on it and she opens the box while her mouth opens at the same time with awe and amazement.  Who was that ad?  Beats me.  But If I see it again, I will want you to put my eyes out.

Here is the problem.  For all of the fun and creative commercials there are out there there are thousands of heavy handed hack commercials that only try to copy the success of another commercial.  I very much blame suits for this.  I can't blame a company for wanting to cut costs but in this case I see that there are a lot of themes that commercials have taken to the point of being annoying.

10.  Pro-Biotic - This apparently means good for your colon which invariably means good for poop.  My only question with this new BUZZ word is.  If I store my pro-biotic things next to my tubes of Neosporin, what will happen?  Yes, I know, painfully clever and yet just as clever as hearing PRO-BIOTIC all over the place.  I suppose it would mean a lot more to me if any given trip to the bathroom would make me want to give up national secrets.

9.  Green - SAVE THE PLANET!!!  I got news for ya.  We can't.  Doesn't matter who caused it (BTW if it was man made, it wasn't the cars that did it, it was the exhaling of all the collective breaths of all the creatures on the planet.)  Yes, I know all you Al Goreans are up in arms about this, but anyway...  Apparently enough people are convinced that this is important in a 'Give your change to the Salvation Army while people are looking' kind of way that it's a buzz word in advertising.  Now everything worth buying is worth buying GREEN.  yay.  If Green means more expensive, or doesn't work as well then it doesn't mean much to me and it will probably sway me off of your product anyway.

8.  Your a busy person - Duh, I know I'm busy.  Well I guess I'm not THAT busy because I'm writing this blog.  But I'm busy enough that when I see a commercial with a harried individual rushing about only to find that your product will save him precious minutes from his harried day I keep thinking Will this keep this person from being harried?  No.  This person (Typically a Type A or AA) will over fill their lives with other perceived obligations so they are just as harried as they were before the advent of your wonderful de-harri-ing device.  There, I believe I've used the word harried more times in one paragraph than anyone else in history.

7.  Men are idiots - This has been going on ever since I was a young kid.  When I was a kid, it was mostly Asian and Caucasian men that were idiots, but now in the enlightened new millennium men of all races colors and creeds are clueless morons.  Why?  Well because while we are probably not as dumb as they make us out to be, we are dumb enough to go to work and make money and not really have time to complain about it.  So that insult probably hurts twice.  Once because it's overstated, and once because it's true.  It doesn't mean I will appreciate seeing it over and over and over...and over again.

6.  Kids are smart - This is a corollary to the above mentioned Men are Idiots.  I often thought to myself hey, why aren't women the idiots?  The truth was, in the older days of advertising, men were the smarty pants always showing their women a better way.  Of course men also always wore suits and fedoras and even a bum had a fairly nice pair of shoes.  But I digress.  How can we make women the idiots in commercials?  Easy, bring the smartest beings in the universe into the commercial.  Kids.  Everyone knows that kids are smarter than mom and dad combined.  I got news for you.  Kids are idiots.  That's right.  Idiots.  They don't come up with anything new or original just because we haven't heard it before doesn't mean it hasn't been done a hundred times. We devise ways to make them look smart because as parents we all want to think that our kids are superior to other kids on the planet.  They aren't.  They are all about the same level of dumb.  How do I know this?  Because we spend a lot of money and time educating them and if they were smart we probably wouldn't bother, instead we would put them to work trying to figure out why they get more stupid with age and solving the problem so that future generations can remain smart..  We pound all the knowledge we can into their brains so they can function in society.  But in Advertising world, all humans start out as smart (even babies), grow to be stupid adults, and then age to be either even dumber old people, or hyper intelligent old people that have a handle on all of the things the smart young people are into.

5.  Mammals are smart, Insects are dumb - Did I say kids were smart?  Well step aside.  Animals can talk.  First it was just Smokey Bear (Why they INSIST on taking out the THE  that everyone likes to use is beyond me, but maybe it's because he's so damn smart).  He would wander around in his deep bear voice and tell us 'ONLY YOU' can prevent forest fires.  Pretty condescending for a bear I think.  But now we have all kinds of woodland creatures that are telling us what car to drive, what kind of material to recycle, and all kinds of other 'silly human' behaviors that we need to alter.  Furry mammals are actually just as smart as kids.  Insects on the other hands are the scheming scheisters of the commercial world. Smart, but only in a stupid henchman kind of way.  Oddly enough, when we deal with these insects, we usually have a MAN step in to kill them.  Whew!  I thought we had outlived our usefulness.

4.  Men are cavemen - Back to Men again.  Am I beating a dead horse?  Am I overly sensitive?  I don't think so.  If we stereo-typed anyone else to the level that advertising stereotypes men we would have protests all over the place (Taco bell dog, I'm looking at you).  You see, in advertising, men are only allowed to look smart in one of a several ways.  If they are talking to other men about their prostate.  If they are wearing a lab-coat.  If they are by themselves thinking about insurance (but not with their spouse, then they are back to stupid again).  So what about when men are being themselves?  Beer swilling womanizing one track minded bits of perverted flesh that are so easy to be sold to that really all we need is new ways of telling the same joke (Oh look, that guy developed another way of holding even more beer in his apartment, he must be the GENIUS of their species).  Sports men are the cavemen.  Driven to crush opposition in all its forms on or off the battlefield.  Tough men need a tough deodorant while they are driving their single frame  constructed hemispheric engine to their smart job managing the finances of the world afterward coming home to their prize wife that adores them and thinks of them as smart.  Unless, of course, he's not the subject of the commercial, then he's 'My husband, some hotshot, here's his ancient Chinese Secret...'

3.  Insurance is a product - I've noticed an increase in commercials that have insurance in boxes or envelopes along with visual themes of what insurance is doing.  I'll tell you what insurance is doing.  Taking your dollar and giving 85 cents back to you.  That's not a product, that's a scheme, or a casino, take your pick. 

2.  We understand medical terminology - Every drug ad out there will take so much time expressing the horrible side effects of their drug that it's far more entertaining than the actual ad itself.  'May induce explosive diarrhea in some patients.  If you experience abnormal nose growth for more than 2 hours see a physician as you may have a symptom of a more serious condition.  Side effects include but are not limited to dry mouth, third leg, bleached hair, excessive hair growth on the elbows or increased propensity for smart-ass remarks.'  Did our doctors ever tell us this stuff when they were giving us a prescription?  I don't think so.  In fact, I don't think they even told us the drug 1/2 the time.  We have to go to our ever trustworthy pharmacist for those little facts.

1.  Women are vain frail creatures that are just hairs breadth away from falling apart. - I had a bit about holiday advertising in this spot that really wasn't very good, as I was re-reading I realized I didn't put in a nod to the fairer sex.  You see, most advertising realizes that women hold the purse strings.  Since they hold the purse strings, we had better start aiming our stuff at them.  Some ads are more obvious than others.  The advertisers know more about women than the average man does (as do kids and animals).  The one thing they know, is their Achilles's heel - vanity.  vanity is of course different than the male counterpart ego.  It's more specialized to the area of looks.  So women are constantly shown pictures of other women that are younger, thinner and hotter than they are in order to sell them some miracle serum that will 'REVERSE THE AGING PROCESS'.  I got news for ya.  Beauty is like a job resume, a good one will get you an interview, but it won't get you the job.  The funny thing is, most women are painfully aware of the arena in which they compete and none of that matters.  The amount of the money in the industry proves it.  This is a lot of stress.  So much in fact that there are a lot of OTHER ads targeting women for pain relief of various sorts not to mention more serious ailments.  Depression is another one pretty much aimed at women.  'Do you show signs of depression?  Do you hate getting up in the morning?  Do you no longer enjoy activities you used to enjoy?'  These broad questions may in fact point to depression, OR they may point to a drug with some fantastic side effects that you can take because life got the better of you today.  I'm really not sure what women did one hundred years ago without all of these products to help prop them up.  Maybe men were smarter back then.

Well, I still love commercials as well as advertising.  I just think that it's time for most of them to be just a hair more creative.  Tell your friends!  Got an idea for a list of ten?  Tell me!