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IndieCade 2010: Gaijin Games Gives a Peek of Their “LaserLife” Concept

IndieCade 2010: Gaijin Games Gives a Peek of Their “LaserLife” Concept (photo)

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What if a video game could be someone’s biography? Not the melodramatic saga of a fictional character–that happens all the time, right?–but communication of moments from an actual person’s life.

That’s the most intriguing idea that came out of the indie dev’s presentation during IndieCade’s Project Next session. The session gathered several creators to show off in-development work, including big names like Ian Bogost, Jonathan Blow and Chris Hecker. Among those assembled were Gaijin Games, makers of the “Bit.Trip” retro series.

The Gaijin presentation was led by Alex Neuse, while studio partner Mike Roush ran the visuals from the front row of Culver City’s Ivy Substation. The first thing that struck the audience was the stark contrast “Laserlife”‘s sharp day-glo visuals offered when compared to “Bit.Trip”‘s retro 8-bit blocks. In the video that follows, Neuse talks about the creative process at Gaijin, details what the gameplay in “Laserlife” would look like and what else could be done with the game as a template. If you like what you see, shoot the Gaijin guys a note and tell them you want them to actually make “Laserlife.”

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

IndieCade 2010: Playstation Gives Indies Home Away From Home

IndieCade 2010: Playstation Gives Indies Home Away From Home (photo)

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The last thing I was expecting to see in Culver City was the Playstation brand’s significant presence at this year’s IndieCade. Now, it might’ve been blasphemous to the indie orthodox that Sony exec John Hight was on a panel about funding game development or that the awards ceremony happened in the huge lobby of the Sony Pictures corporate offices. But going to one of the festival’s gallery locations revealed that Sony’s enlisted the wit and ingenuity of indie dev studios to infuse its social hub with more flavor than it’s ever had before.

A virtual space where players could craft avatars and socialize each other, Playstation Home launched some months after the PS3 debuted and landed with a resounding thud. Though it sported better graphics than “Second Life”–on which it was clearly modeled–Home didn’t have enough by way of population or inherent quirkiness to compel people to stop by for more than the initial cursory visit. All you could really do was decorate a virtual abode, text chat and throw weird emotes at strangers. Yeah, jumping and dancing with other visitors was fun for the first three times you did it but felt real shallow real quick. For a virtual meeting space connected to a game console, Home lacked games of any real distinction.

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Insert Credit: “Bit.Trip.Beat”

Insert Credit: “Bit.Trip.Beat” (photo)

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Insert Credit endeavors to suss out where you should be allotting your video game allowance, sifting out a single title from many and crowning it as The One Game You Need to Get This Week. Don’t consider these reviews, gentle reader. Rather, think of Insert Credit as a mix of hands-on time, informed opinion and intuition.

For the week of September 27, 2010, you should insert credit into: “Bit.Trip.Beat”

There’s a lot to be said for simplicity. Video games nowadays have 5.1 Dolby surround sound, finely detailed realistic graphics and control schemes that demand serious dedication to master. And over the last few years, the retro games movement has responded with a blossoming of games that harken back to the days of the Atari 2600 or the NES. These games mine gamers’ collective memory with blocky graphics, 8-bit soundtracks and minimal controls. Mileage tends to vary as whether these titles exist as nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake or actually have clever new gameplay mechanics.

“Bit.Trip.Beat” is hardcore retro, in every meaning of the phrase. Crafted by Gaijin Games, it originally landed on Nintendo’s WiiWare download service last year. The version I’m recommending this week is the iOS iteration. “B.T.B” just debuted on the iTunes Store this week and it’s well worth your cash.

It’s basically an ode to “Pong,” which tasks players to rebound blocks that come from the right side of the screen. But the guys and gals at Gaijin add a few wrinkles that make the elementary gameplay more tense. Meters at the top and bottom measure your success and if you miss too any beats, then you go into the Nether Zone. This near-death overlay looks just like Pong did back in the day: black field with stark-white moving elements. Rebound enough beats in Nether and you win your way back to glorious color. The simple play of “B.T.B” gets thrown a few curves with beats that bend, come at angles and in double and triple formation. The electronic music is great and the difficulty is very challenging. Yet, the urge to create epic combos and notch ever-higher scores will keep you coming back.

Controls differ from iPhone and iPad. On the smaller iDevice, you tilt to control the cursor. In an odd way, this feels very reminiscent of spinning the paddles of the original Pong controllers. It’s tough to be as precise as required but that’s part of the challenge. “Bit.Trip.Beat HD” for the iPad lets players use a finger anywhere on the screen to move the cursor. This gives more precision but all the real estate on the screen makes the chaos feel a little less manageable. If you had to choose between the two, I’d go the iPod/iPhone version as it feels slightly more playable.

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