After months of waiting, the unfortunate fans of the former Inside Xbox finally get too see the results of their donations that went towards Inside Xbox's chief hair-geller, Dan Maher's crowdfunding campaign to produce a pilot for a new gaming show. That show being, "Thank You For Playing." Maybe it's a pun on, "thank you for paying?" seeing as the prospective viewership paid for it, be it with money, lost innocence or valuable time from watching it. One way or another, you're losing something from watching.
Thank You For Playing or TYFP -pronounced, "tie-fup"- for short, is a cut-and-shut of a show. On the surface you have an initially impressive visual interface, a title screen greets you to press start or continue and/or sign up. A nice change from the normal triangle in the centre of the screen and isn't horribly cluttered. Clicking start opens up another video game-esque interface, with "world 1" highlighted, instead of "episode 1" with the heading, "Together", so one can assume -just like the pitiful brain-farts that Maher and co produce for the Explosive Alan youtube channel, each episode of TYFP is to have a overall theme to each episode.
The very apt image of a generic theme park scrolls down in front of you. This is the way you view the show. See the five different landmarks in the theme park? Those are the individual chapters of TYFP that you can pick in any order you want to watch them in. Well, not until you've clicked on ENTER and sat through the tedious intro video, that Explosive Alan previewed at the end of last year, which gives you a hint of the type of content to expect. That being trendy- for the 90s- new games journalism bilge. In that respect, it does a great job of introducing you to the style over substance TYFP specialises in as Maher spends a couple of minutes talking about how he's reinventing the broken wheel of games media yet doesn't give any instructions on accessing the chapters or what they even are. Maybe Maher thought it was edgy and playful to allow viewers to discover everything on their own or he's just fucking lazy? Either way, when dealing with any new content, you really want to just get on with it. If TYFP wants to have a video game aesthetic, fair enough, but why emulate the experience of playing a game that comes with no instructions or indication of what means what? Was it really beyond Maher's ability to take up a valuable 15-20 seconds explaining the icons under the video players unlock extra content when you've finished watching? Now on to the actual content.
The hand displaying four fingers plays, "All Four One", TYFP's equivalent of a panel discussion show, if it was made in 1998. So it's set in some wanker pub in Camden/Soho/Hoxton (delete as appropriate) and is in black and white. Maher discusses the appeals of multiplayer gaming with IGN writer, champion Su Pollard look-a-like and GMA winner, Keza McDonald, deputy editor of VideoGamer.com and GMA winner, Neon Kelly and purveyor of shambolic insincerity, Julia Hardy. There's not much really to say about it other than it's a rehash of those panel discussions game magazines like to do and all the games mentioned are considered to be fun multiplayer experiences and either by miracle of the edit because she was distracted by all the alcohol on view, Julia Hardy's input is kept to a minimum. So not too painful.
Clicking on the haunted house plays "Together Alone." Introduced by the shrill drone of OXM staff writer, Aoife Wilson. Narrating footage of Journey like a female Mark Cousins, Wilson then appears with her admission that multiplayer games don't appeal to her, while walking along the backdrop of a tube station (or a set) at night, like she was presenting a Crimewatch reconstruction. Explaining how online multiplayer, with all it's facets breaks the suspension of disbelief of playing a game while others in the real world are shouting at you, your gaming skills condensed into cold statistics against anonymous usernames and a dig at the glut of military FPS games right now for good measure. "I want to feel a connection that's more than just statistical" Wilson ejaculates, before going on a verbal jill-off about Journey. How the nature of Journey's game play and communication creates a different multiplayer dynamic. Wilson's point being that it's not that gamer's are all exclusively fucking mean online. It's just multiplayers games almost always require the player to act like a amoral killer. She also mentions the co-op in Dark Souls and mix of helping and fucking over others in Day-Z. If you can tolerate Wilson's inability to keep her head still for one second, then you can't deny she makes a valid point. And self important presentation and actual support for shouty teenage twats on COD aside, you couldn't accuse Wilson of going for the lowest common denominator and cheapening games journalism in any way.
|Well, except for that|
Clicking on the roller coaster gives up an opinion piece, "Escort Service" .Preceded by a nicely made but badly voice-acted machinima intro, like the kind of video that made Machinima.com, before they deiced to be come IGN. Dan Maher spins a mediocre lament about one of gaming's biggest annoyances, escort missions. Maher sites Goldeneye on the N64 as the earliest example of this, well, he's not quite sure. But who needs research when there's tired and tested material to rehash? Granted it's a subject that hack game journos keep bringing up because game developers keep forcing unwarranted escort missions with broken AI upon us. And Danny Twat-beard at least has the common sense to show Ico as the best example of the escort mission done right, however he loses track as he deviates about NPCs that don't slow down but help your progress by mentioning Ellie from, The Last Of Us and Elizabeth from Bioshock: Infinite, two games Maher admits he had yet to play at the time yet misses out how a good NPC can also be a well rounded, relatable character you can have a emotional attachment to, like Clementine from The Walking Dead. And regardless of the instantly forgettable content, my only thought about this section is, if this is to become a ongoing series, will TYFP make a unfunny rip off of a million machinima videos as an intro for every one of these? Even if it's a serious subject like misogyny in gaming, a shooting linked to games or rape culture in sections of the games community? Oh, sorry, that was me imagining this bollocks could evolve beyond a gaming equivalent of observational comedy. What next Dan? A "hilarious" diatribe about why do game consoles have such odd names? Why do gamers get so upset when a major change happens to their favourite game? And just how many PR people do you have to pretend to be friends with to get a GMA nomination?
Next up, on the mountain, is a segment on "Fundraising Your Game: The secret to successful crowdfunding" which, as one would expect from Explosive Alan and its shower of skinny jean wearing dick-wrappers, is an attempted humorous look at the rise of crowdfunding game projects with advice from Six To Star CEO, Adrian Hon and the other one from Consolevania. So no investigations into the morality of established industry vets and companies financing projects through crowd funding or the perils of investment. Just some half serious examples of the advise from the talking heads, that strangely misses the best tactic for meeting your kickstarter target. Make it something that already exists and has a built in fanbase to draw money from, like Explosive Alan did. I wonder why they didn't make any joke about that?
The castle reveals "Sharing Stories," starring gaming's current miserable old bastard, Warren Spector. Who talks about his aversion to multiplayer because all multiplayer-based video games lack the collaborative storytelling that you get in Dungeons and Dragons. That genuine moral choices within gaming are so few and far between, that most gamers are sometimes stumped by then. That the statistical play elements of D&D are used in video games but none of the storytelling and plot aspects. Before telling us Epic Mickey, his attempt at doing a gritty reboot of Disney, is somehow doing that. or at least bravely attempting it, or "fail gloriously" as Spector describes it. Well he got the fail part right at least with the sequel. As always with Warren Spector, he has a decent point to make, but it's hard to make out under all the layers of smugness...why does that seem familiar to me?
And that's TYFP. Is it the worst video game content on the internet? No. Nor is it anywhere near the best. Despite all the flash and sizzle, there's no escaping that familiar feeling of desperate trendiness and boredom that came from watching Dan Maher et al on Xbox LIVE. So if you liked that benign twattle, you'll be right at home. Of course you still have to deal with the awkward interface, a unreliable video player that seems intent on grinding to a halt every six seconds (even on a recommended chrome browser) and the rather fake manner in which they brand cookies as "saving your progress" which doesn't really work and want you to sign up. In today's climate of streaming movies and TV shows in an instant online, wasting even a few seconds feels like a lifetime, when you have to sign up or else sit through that obnoxious fucking video of Dan Maher's slicked-back hair, vomiting his empty rhetoric at you.
If Explosive Alan honestly wants to tout TYFP as a TV pilot then a annoying website (that isn't even properly linked to Explosive Alan's own site for shits sake) and duff video playback isn't a issue. however the "core gamer" aimed content is gonna make every half decent (by which I mean well paying) TV channel will run a mile from TYFP', except maybe hire Aoife Wilson and make her do three minute reviews on casual-aimed games. And that's not because I think the content isn't any good, a sorry fact is that all the big stations still think video games is either cheap, late-night fodder where a female presenter is essential or a kids show. Anything not aimed at the people who play Angry Birds and hope the next Xbox comes with a new twist on Dance Central, then TV wont touch it with a ten-foot pole. Especially as Explosive Alan produces very similar content on their youtube channel and pulls in pitiful numbers. So all you fans that donated to bankroll this pilot may have to dig into your pocket again, because I don't envisage TYFP being commissioned for TV or for a gaming site that specialises in video content. Which is a bit of a cheek when Konami UK, and Turbine's head of PR is listed amongst the executive producers. So much for being totally independent, eh? If you were hoping for the second coming of GamesMaster, don't hold your breath and keep hold of your money