As Gamers Get Older, There’s a New Need for an Easy Button

As Gamers Get Older, There’s a New Need for an Easy Button (photo)

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“Splinter Cell Conviction,” the new stealth action title from Ubisoft, will be a hit. It’s currently boasting a Metacritic score of 86 and, once the NPD Group’s monthly video game sales charts hit in a few weeks, “Conviction”‘s numbers should make it one of April’s top-selling games.

Most critics agree that it’s a good (verging on great) game. But the reason SCC will be greeted warmly on hundreds of thousands of consoles isn’t only due to the game’s new mechanics like Mark & Execute and Last Known Position. Sam Fisher, the black ops agent who’s been the star of the Tom Clancy-created stealth series, is getting reinvented as he’s getting older.

That balancing act is something the players buying Fisher’s game are having to figure out, too. The average age of the first-wave hardcore gamer — the ones who’ve made successive generations of video game hardware and software in a multi-billion dollar business — falls somewhere in the early to mid-30s now. And their lives are changing. What “Splinter Cell” does in an uncanny subtextual fashion is mirror those changes in both plot and game design.

In the game’s opening levels, Sam’s motivation is to track down the men responsible for his daughter’s death, a narrative that resonates because lots of the hardcore players are hitting the age when they’re starting to plan families, if they don’t already have kids. The loss of a child gets used as a story beat often in adventure fiction, but a big chunk of the game’s audience is reaching the point in their own lives where that may hit home a little harder.

Then, as “Conviction” goes on, Sam uncovers a conspiracy to assassinate the Commander-In-Chief. It’s a been-there plot device, but one that echoes effectively in these days where Tea Party antics grab headlines and Facebook has pages where people pray for the President to die. Where it would’ve remained the province of make-believe in past years, the meme of political dissatisfaction turning into open revolt cuts a little deeper nowadays.

It’s not just plot elements that ping the thirtysomething audience, either. Those game mechanics mentioned above make “Conviction” less rigorous than its “Splinter Cell” forebears. Mark & Execute lets you tag multiple bad guys and dispatch them quickly with the press of a button, while Last Known Position generates a virtual decoy for enemies to shoot at, letting you skulk around them.

These features have generated a bit of disdain from some who say they make “Conviction” a too-easy installment in what was once a notoriously hard series. But, aside from being clever and well-implemented, they’re just what a time-crunched new parent needs to balance the challenge of the game. The mechanics give players an older, warier Sam Fisher who’s finding his footing in a new gameworld, just like the older, warier person controlling him may be navigating new financial or familial circumstances.

The common theme here, for Fisher and gamer, is that we have to change how we play as we get older. For most first-wave hardcore gamers, gone are the days of Mountain Dew-fueled all-night sessions. That Japanese RPG with more than 60 hours of playtime? Just not an option anymore, with a wife and/or kids. Yet, in defiance of all that, the faithful still want to squeeze some button-mashing into their lives. The tweaks in “Splinter Cell” create a way to scratch that itch without necessarily having to play the same thing over and over in frustration.

Still, Sam Fisher’s lethal brand of play isn’t one you can share with the wife and kids. For that, we still have Nintendo’s iconic Mario.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.