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Friday, December 18, 2009

Facebook's New Game Dashboard

Via VentureBeat:

Facebook is in the midst of redesigning how users find, interact with, and keep track of games on the social network. Called the “Game Dashboard,” the new feature is Facebook’s attempt to play nice with social game developers, serve the interests of gamers, and at the same time stop games from ruining the experience for everybody else.

The company is reining in the worst abuses of Facebook game companies, which have polluted the network’s communications with spam-like messages that general users have begun to ignore, such as “Joe Smith wants to thank you for chasing crows out of his pumpkin patch.” Facebook has announced that these “push notifications” will no longer be put into the stream of updates that you see on your main Facebook page, the news feed.

Hoo freakin's way. The Girl just showed me that you can specifically hide apps from the news feed, and I've been knocking them down left and right all morning. If I read about one more animal that stumbled into someone's something - I might scream.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How Stargate Universe Fails

We tried, we really tried to like the latest installment of Stargate, but they just make it so darn hard.

And look, if you're going to respond to this post with "but its all about the characters" or "the show is people!" then - well, just don't bother. I get that. In fact - that's the problem with the show. SGU is more about people than it is about science fiction. Or, sadly, storytelling in general.

Problem number one - the people just aren't very interesting. There's a very slim line between two basic types - slightly angry military types who are deeply burdened with a sense of responsibility and slightly neurotic civilians deeply burdened with a sense that they are all going to die. Tack on singular traits (geeky, cute, nervous, gay) and you have a pretty smooth curve when it comes to making characters distinct.

Which might actually work, in a slasher film kind of way, if the show had any guts about putting characters at risk. As mentioned previously, for a show about the horrible risks of venturing off into deep space - the show has about the same body count as Voyager, and so for all of the handheld camera shots ... comes off as about as vanilla and safe.

I'm still an episode behind, but let's take 'Time' as a perfect example of how the show stumbles on itself.

Spoiler alert.

So, you have this really decent sci fi premise: a time loop allowing characters to see their possible future. OK, great. However, it takes way too long to set this up because the show can't resist melodrama when melodrama might be portrayed, so we watch Eli getting annoyed with people and people getting annoyed with Eli, and all sorts of moaning and groaning shot via handycam until we get to the good stuff. Then, armed with this knowledge - we .... watch a lot more moaning and groaning until we finally get to step B of this plan which, if you take the hypothesis that the show is unwilling to risk getting its hands dirty - ends with a very predictable conclusion.

Next week? More moaning and groaning. This isn't Stargate Universe so much as it is Stargate Bitching About Space. It's the The View with teleporters.

For the show to succeed, it needs a real sense of dread - something the show it really wants to be, Battlestar Galactica managed quite well (though arguably lost it off and on).

Fans will say it is a "more human" show, which it is and if you enjoy these particular humans than this is the show for you. We'll be waiting for a show with less cliche, more dimensional and less predictable humans though.

2010 - you can do better sci fi than this.