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November 07, 2007

I Read The News Today, Oh Crap

As many have heard by now, EA Chicago is no more.

I can't go into any details about exactly what is happening, but I will say that EA Chicago was a wonderful place to work. I had the privilege of collaborating with a group of talented, passionate, awesome people, and I will sorely miss working alongside them each and every day.

That said, I'm optimistic about what lies ahead. Wish me (and all my Eachi peeps) luck. :)

EDIT: Since you're already here, feel free to check out my LinkedIn profile. And if you have any awesome openings in the video game industry, feel free to offer me one of 'em. :)

View Dan Matkowsky's profile on LinkedIn

November 05, 2007

We Were On A Break!

So yeah....
Took a break.
Had some stuff to do.
Back now, so let's get to it, shall we?

These days, when I get home from work in the evenings, my kids and I still play games almost every night, but since there's more homework to be done these days, our weeknight gaming sessions are much shorter than they used to be. Instead of, say, an hour and half playing a delightfully engrossing console game together, we'll usually have just 20-30 minutes before PJ time.

Now I don't know what that says to you, but to me, our new time constraints lead me to one inevitable conclusion regarding the best type of game to play - casual games. That's right, I said it. Casual games. You know 'em. You love 'em. And more and more with each passing day, you've played 'em.

For several years now, my kids and I have been playing casual games on RealArcade, Pogo, MSN Games, Yahoo Games, et al, and most recently, on Xbox Live Arcade.

Since I've been meaning to write about this topic during my little two-month hiatus, I don't have a list of specific games handy, but I'll start with a few that are top of mind, then add more in subsequent posts.

Diner Dash is one of the more successful casual games of recent vintage, and given the copycat nature of many casual games, several clones have popped up in the last couple years, with some being more successful** (Pizza Frenzy, Cake Mania, Teddy Factory) than others (Belle's Beauty Boutique, Big Island Blends).

** in terms of my family's enjoyment

My kids (my daughter especially) like this type of game a lot, because they find it both challenging and enjoyable, which, when they do well, is very rewarding. The one my daughter likes best is Sally's Salon. In making the natural comparison to Belle's Beauty Boutique, it isn't so much that Sally beats Belle in visuals, interface, characters, or even gameplay. Rather, it's the difficulty, stupid.

Belle just sets the bar too high. My daughter is pretty damn good at these games, and getting better every day. Yet invariably, even when she's in the zone, she can't reach the lofty goals set by Belle each time. And in fact, not that I'm God's gift to gaming, but damn it if I can't either. Sally's Salon, on the other hand, is challenging enough, but sets realistic goals that can be met with a combination of concentration and hand-eye coordination.

To the designers of games like these I'd ask them to please keep their audience in mind. As Chris Taylor said in an editorial that I posted about a few months ago, reward players, don't punish them. And while Sally offers the casual gamer the realistic goal of earning a carrot, all Belle gives you is yet more stick.