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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.

However, Playstation’s partnered up with several studios to develop original game experiences inside Home and they resemble nothing else available on the service. The first game I looked at was “Super Awesome Mountain RPG” by Codename Games.

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Producer Diana Hughes (pictured above with Jesse Vigil) explained that it’s a giant digital board game, but one where anything can explode, depending on how you roll the dice. The titular mountain was home to a crazy scientist who built a massive amusement open to all, only to have the enormous and suddenly self-aware mechanical dragon trap him on the peak. Your task is to climb the mountain and rescue the scientist. After picking a game piece–which come in the form of differently abled rogue, mage and knight doll figures–players progress along a tiled board where they can engage in monster combat, acquire weapons or pick up clockwork device power-ups. The boss fight against the dragon changes depending on which game piece you use and the one I saw for the mage had you playing a Simon Says-style minigame to cast a spell that won the day. Based in downtown LA, Codename started development on “Super Awesome Mountain RPG” this June and are aiming at a 2011 release date for the game. It’ll be a free demo at first and then will be available for purchase.

Where “Super Awesome Mountain” gives you characters to move around a game board, the Home offering by The Odd Gentlemen lets you use your existing avatar. The studio that made this year’s acclaimed “The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom” will be rolling out “Slaphappy Sam’s Stage Show” in December. “SSSS” offers up to six players the chance to compete in a rock, paper, scissors-style face-off. On a vaudeville stage that will be located on Home’s central plaza, you and others can secretly choose from one of three moves that can all potentially cancel each other out. Attack lets you punch slap or drop a piano on opponents, Block swats away Attacks and Reflect bounces Attack moves onto other players. However, if you choose Reflect when no one’s attacking you, you’ll take a lot of damage. Each player starts with 20 hit points and the goal is to be the last one left standing. The game’s a simple yet sticky bit of risk-vs.-reward game design that makes your Home avatar feel like more than a glorified paper doll. The Odd Gentleman’s Paul Bellezza said, “We wanted to use Home avatars and basically abuse them.” The subversive element doesn’t end when you get off the “Slaphappy” stage, either. You’ll be able to buy abuse items (like that piano) and keep them in your apartment. “Slaphappy” will offer custom emotes, too, so that you can unique animations to communicate with. “Slaphappy Sam’s Stage Show” will be out in December and will be free for the first month.

These two titles give an encouraging glimpse as to how indie game-making entities and corporate publishing outfits can benefit each other without either party becoming dysfunctional. The faster turnaround process for indie studios offers lower risk and investment while the huge reach of a platform like the PS3 enables indies to disseminate their work more widely. Here’s hoping Sony broadens its indie outreach in similarly smart ways as time goes on.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
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Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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