Game Dogs - The Show about Dogs Who Make Video Games!  

Posted by: Alena Koch:) in ,

Yes, you read that right! Game Dogs is The Escapist's newest animated series about dogs on a mission to make video games or get fired trying! This web based series from Creator Russ Pitts, and Co-Executive Producer Alexander Macris, features the voice talents of Jon Etheridge, Tony Schnur and Alena Koch (that's me!) I have the cool job of voicing Bethany and Jennifer. Game Dogs had its premiere episode on Thursday, January 14, 2010.

Pitts is also the Editor-in-Chief at The Escapist, winner of the 2009 Mashable Open Web Award for Best Online Magazine and the Webby Award for Best Videogame-Related Website two years in a row. I have the pleasure of being directed by him. He is very easy to get along with and very funny. Our recording sessions are a riot. We keep saying, or I keep saying, we should tape a behind the scenes video of the recording so followers can see what it is like and all the fun we have while doing it!

I recently came up with the Social Media 7, which is comprised of, you guessed it, seven interview questions! This is hopefully the beginning of a new feature for this blog. Pitts has graciously answered them.

1- What was your initial inspiration for Game Dogs?

Pitts: We started developing Game Dogs about a year ago, and the original direction from upstairs was simply “make something.” So we had a blank slate, which was nice. I knew I wanted to do a web video series about a small group of game programmers, drawing on my experiences covering the game industry, but originally I’d planned it as a sort of mocu-drama / “Mad Men” type of show, set in the 1980s. It was also originally going to be people, not dogs. It was going to be very moody and hip, and I’m certain it would have totally bombed.

After hashing the concept out with the team here at The Escapist for a few months, we finally decided a comedy would have more punch and so we modeled the new concept after something like “Seinfeld,” but about game developers, and while not set specifically in the 1980s, we definitely wanted it to have a sort of generic 80s vibe. Art-wise, Jessica and the creative team went for a kind of Scooby-Doo type of look and feel, computer animated, but with a distinctly 80s hand-drawn feel. From a story angle I wanted to cover the period of game history when these young guys came from nowhere and became videogame gods, like the creators of Doom. The show was always going to be about Chet and Roger and their rise from relative obscurity working at a software company, to eventually becoming successful game designers, and all the odd experiences they’d have along the way.

I wrote some scripts in March and it seemed to be coming together, but we were missing the spark that a good series really needs. That one thing that make the show memorable. None of us could put our fingers on it until our CEO, Alexander Macris came running out of his office one day shouting “They’re dogs! Who make games!” I laughed until I realized he was serious. Then I laughed some more. Then I stopped laughing. It was so ridiculous and pointless, I knew it just had to work. Why make them dogs? Well, why not? So that became the mantra of the show and the genesis of what, I think, took it from a goofy, but forgettable little show concept to something that had a real life and energy. From that point on we were all focused on the concept and it came together fairly quickly.

2- In the pilot episode, the characters are playing Dungeons and Dogs. What is your favorite character class in D & D and why?

Pitts: Oh wow. I have to preface this by saying I’ve been playing D & D since the early 80s, when I got a Basic box set for Christmas one year. I haven’t played too much of the newer versions, so my experience with some of the more exotic classes is pretty limited.

That said, my favorite has always been the Druid. Druids are always underestimated, in my opinion. Everyone always groans about the tree-hugging and animal familiars, but a good Druid character will kick some righteous ass, believe me. Also, they’re hilarious to roleplay.

(See the D & D Kills episode below.)

3- Who is your favorite character to write dialogue for?

Pitts: Gary. Each character has a special meaning to me, based, as they are, off of amalgams of people (or dogs) I’ve known throughout the years (Trivia: Roger was named after my old cockapoo Roger, who passed away a couple of years ago. I had him for over 10 years and traveled all over the country with him.) But Gary isn’t really based off of anybody. He’s more of a Platonic ideal of the perfect asshole boss. I kind of go off the rails writing for him and end up with pages and pages of him yelling at people, which is fun for me to write, but would get boring to watch after a while. I usually end up cutting about half of what I write for him.

4- What's Bethany idea of a perfect date?

Pitts: That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Bethany is the kind of gal who has a lot of trouble finding “the right guy” because she’s smarter than most of the guys she meets and doesn’t take any crap from anybody. So most guys are intimidated by her, or think of her as “one of the guys,” which is deathsville for romance. I don’t think Bethany has met her “perfect date” yet. But I’m guessing it will be a memorable moment when she does.

You can find out more about my character here.

5- Does Gary wear boxers or briefs?

Pitts: Well, he’d have to wear pants to begin with for that question to be relevant, honestly. 

Okay you got us there! :)

But assuming he did wear pants, I’m guessing he’d be a boxer man.

6 - What is your favorite video game?

Pitts: Depends on what you mean. If we’re going for my favorite game to play over and over, I’d say Civilization III. I could play that game any time anywhere and for days on end. But I have a lot of different “favorite” games based on different ways they made me feel. Chibi-Robo, for example, really opened my eyes to what a joyous and imaginative medium games can be, and having spent 400 or so hours playing Fallout 3, I’d have to also say it’s a favorite for various reasons. Mostly because post-apocalyptic scenarios and dark humor fascinate me. But like any true gamer, my current “favorite” game is usually the one that just came out. Mass Effect 2, for example, is my new favorite.

7- What is the geekiest thing you have ever done?

Pitts: I have done many, many geeky things, but the geekiest is probably marrying a girl I met at a gaming convention. I also proposed to her at another gaming convention, which would be the second geekiest thing. Third would be demonstrating IDE cable rounding on live television for The Screen Savers. 

Awwwww! The answer to question 7 is adorable!

Here is the latest episode of Game Dogs.

Be sure to check The Escapist every Thursday at 12 pm for the next episode! :)

Unwrapping Your Christmas Prank With Social Media  

Posted by: Alena Koch:) in , , ,

So, you have a great idea to prank a friend. You go through all the preparations and it is a success, but only a handful of people know about it. Now add a YouTube video and the power of social media sites like facebook, and the world gets to see the Christmas Prank that keeps on pranking!

Enter Adal Rifai and fellow improvisers, armed with 35 rolls of wrapping paper and eight hours of fun wrapping everything from Louie Saunder's clock on the wall, his sofa cushions, bath towels, and food in his fridge, among other things. Saunder's was out of town and gave Rifai a spare key. Little did Saunder's know doing that would result in a winter wonderland of Christmas at his Chicago apartment.

I first heard about the prank, when my friend Rifai posted it on his facebook page. I checked out the video on YouTube. At the time it had 311 hits. I thought it was hilarious and merrily executed. I posted it on my facebook page for my friends to see. A couple of days later I was talking about the prank and checked out the video again. At that time it had over 13,000 hits! At the time of writing this, it has 292,632 hits and the video was just posted on Dec. 13, 2009!

Because of the cleverness of the prank and the obvious timeliness, the video went viral. People have been twittering and facebooking the links. Then news organizations starting hearing about it. MTV contacted them, and CNN showcased it on a segment where they look at holiday videos on YouTube. Add to that, being featured in numerous blogs, and traditional mediums such as the Sun Times newspaper, the video is a huge hit! It is leaving many people wondering, how will Saunders retaliate!

This is just a prime example of how powerful social media can be. How will you harness the power?

Tuesday Question of the Week-How Do You Feel About Automated Twitter Responses?  

Posted by: Alena Koch:) in ,

So, you just followed someone and already got a direct message from them. Wow, that was fast! Then you realize that it was one of those automated Twitter responses. So, how do you feel about it?

Tuesday Question of the Week-How Much Money Did You Spend Online on Cyber Monday?  

Posted by: Alena Koch:) in ,

How much did you spend? If you bought stuff, what did you buy?

I myself ended up buying nothing this Cyber Monday. I looked at a few sites, but most of the deals I wanted were sold out by the time I went to look at them.

According to Coremetrics, the U.S. online retail sector reported strong sales results on Cyber Monday (Nov. 30) 2009 compared to the same period last year. Interestingly enough, sales were up 24.1% compared to Black Friday of this year.

Tuesday Question of the Week-Do You Wish There Was a Dislike button on Facebook?  

Posted by: Alena Koch:) in ,

Do you wish there was a "dislike" feature on facebook? Why?

Post your comments below. I want to know what you think. This is the start of a regular blog post called Tuesday Question of the Week (TQW.)

Gary Vaynerchuk's Bookstore Appearance  

Posted by: Alena Koch:) in ,

Gary Vaynerchuk author of Crushing It spoke candidly about his "spiel." He began with his beginnings, gratitude, and his mid-life crisis at 30.

I found his words very inspiring. Here is some great bullet points I took from the 30 minute video he posted on his twitter.

*"Content is at an all time high." Your personal brand is your most important brand. It will cost you mostly "sweat equity." Most people will not win at this because they don't have patience. Everybody is busy looking at their analytics and stats. When he first started his Wine Library TV, "nobody cared" for the first 18 months, but he never gave up.

*Content and customer service is most important, not twitter, facebook, and google wave... But you need to respect a thing like twitter and facebook if you are in business... Word of mouth is what closes in business, not advertising" 8 out of 10 times.

*In the end "the best storyteller wins."

*"The internet is the most underrated thing in our society...We should all be in the content business. Why let someone else have it." Now everybody's opinion counts and matters.

*"Your legacy is better than currency." What will your grandkids think of you? Because it will all be logged on the internet.

*"This is not an age game, it is a dna thing."

Check out the whole video here and let me know what you think. :)

Catch the Google Wave?  

Posted by: Alena Koch:) in

First you may be asking yourself, what the bleep is a google wave? A wave is a hosted conversation. According to the Google Wave page: 

"A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time."

A wave is best used for group projects, photo sharing, meeting notes, brainstorming, and interactive games. If you have 80 minutes to spare, there is a long video on what a google wave can do for you or your business. But if you are like me and want to see the shorter video first, check out this video.

Seems interesting for the right situation. Not sure how I feel about the twitter function on google wave. So far, I have not caught the google wave. Have you? What are your thoughts on it?