BrokenJPG

A Copywriter’s Blog
Idiocy in One Act Ben Levy 27, September

Brought to you by the NJ PATH, and today’s educational system.

Characters:

Urban Youth 1- An Urban Youth.

Urban Youth 2- Another Urban Youth

Educated Black Woman – A credit to the human race

Scene:

The back half of a train car, 9:30 am. The Educated Black Woman is wearing headphones and reading a book on law (seriously, I can’t make this shit up). Next to her sits Urban Youth 1. Urban Youth 2 is across the aisle. They are shouting at each other and laughing raucously.

Urban Youth 1: Yo! Yo yo yo yo, what I do is- yo what I do is, I stick my dick in her ass, then make her lick it off, then stick it back in!

(Urban Youth 2 laughs uproariously. It is clearly the funniest thing he’s ever heard)

Educated Black Woman: (to UY1) You’re being ignorant right now.

(Urban Youth 1 looks at the woman a moment, then addresses his contemporary across the aisle again)

Urban Youth 1: Ok, ok-ok, Avril Lavine, or Lady Gaga?

Urban Youth 2: (instantly) Lady Gaga!

Educated Black Woman: Thank you. Keep it at that level. You’re being ignorant. It’s too early in the morning for that.

Urban Youth 1: Yo, whatchoo listening too?

Educated Black Woman: NPR.

Urban Youth 2: NPR? Ya mean elevator music?

Urban Youth 1: Yo shut up.

Urban Youth 2: Wha? I lissen to all kinds of music. I’m just saying…

Urban Youth 1: (bragging to Educated Black Woman) Fool doesn’t even know who NPR is. I know who NPR is, I used to got NPR as my ringtone.

Fin.

Technical Difficulties Ben Levy 26, September

Post eaten by blog. Shall attempt to resubmit tomorrow.

Comments Off
Model Specimen Ben Levy 19, September

While shopping with The Wife today, I found a sweater/hoodie thing I liked at the Gap. The only problem was that they didn’t have the desired color in my size. Well, that’s not entirely true. The mannequin had it in my size. So I asked an employee if she could take it off ‘ol plastic nuts for me.

This required dislocating both arms and pulling them out through the sleeves. Which explains the opening line of the conversation that took place in the parking lot.

The Wife: Just make sure the arms aren’t stretched out.

Me: I don’t think they’ll be. It’ll get it’s shape back after I wash it anyhow. Plus, that mannequin’s arms weren’t much bigger than mine.

The Wife: (Patting me on the back) Uh huh. Sure honey.

Me: They weren’t!*           *Editor’s Note- I’ve been working out!

The Wife: No, they weren’t.

Me: I could take him.

The Wife: He was taller than you.

Me: Yeah, but he’s probably slow and stupid. Also, he had no head.

The Wife: Right.

Comments Off
Friday Feature: Yom Kippur Special Ben Levy 17, September

Tonight is the start of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Really puts you in the frame of mind to strive to be a morally upright and ethically just person.

Or else G-d might fix things so you get smote upside the head with a watermelon:

Seriously, though, it’s not a bad thing to take a day and think about what you could have done better in the past year, and to apologize for those ways you may have wronged others. Especially if one of those ways involved TADS:

Peace, y’all. May you be written in the Book of Life. And the book of No Watermelons Upside The Head.

Comments Off
Say it Unusually Ben Levy 12, September

There’s a commercial for some razor on TV right now. I could tell you about it, but I don’t have to. You’ve seen it. Or one like it.

There’s this guy in a towel. He’s shaving. Then someone asks him if that razor he’s using irritates him. He says that it does. Then someone hands him a new razor, assuring him it is much more comfortable than his old razor. He tries it and says that it is. Then a logo appears.

I don’t have to show you the spot. You don’t have to have seen the spot. Because the same spot aired six months ago.

Oh, perhaps the towel was different. Some graphics may have changed between then and now. The handle is a new color. But six months ago, that same brand assured me that they had engineered the smoothest razor ever. “It’s amazing. Glorious. Like rubbing your face on a baby’s ass, but the baby is a barber who shaves your beard while you’re rubbing” they say. Then all of a sudden it’s “What? No, no. That last razor was crap. Like shoving your face into a porcupine’s backside and then diving face-first into a cauldron of bubbling pitch. Who told you that last razor was good? But THIS one- this one is like getting facialized by a unicorn who’s playing the harpsichord and singing your favorite show tune. Assuming you’re into that sort of thing.”

Actually, if they said it like that, everything would be fine. The trouble is they’ve been saying the same exact thing forever. And even if it’s true, it’s no longer believable.

Look, there may in fact have been new, amazing advances in manual razors that we as a civilization could only dream of six months ago. But the whole damn category is talking about itself in exactly the same way it did twenty years go. I have literally heard it all before.

Every category has certain phrases and visual cues that have become so overused that our brains disengage the moment they’re exposed to them. If I see a guy in the bathroom staring at himself in a mirror, I’m out of there. If you use the words “smoother”, “sharper”, or “moisturizing strip”, I’ve already left for my own personal happy place. (Which incidentally, does not include ejaculating mythical equines)

As a copywriter, I think this is especially important. I feel like it’s my job to say things in ways you haven’t heard before. It’s why I talk a little funny. Why I write a little funny. And why I’m prone to sesquipedalian excess. It doesn’t always work, but that’s where I start from in an attempt not to sound like the forty campaigns for this client that came before.

In advertising, you’re rarely showing people something that’s completely new. But at least you can make people think or talk about it in a new way.

Metroid Other M Ben Levy 6, September

I bought Metroid Other M when it came out last week. It practically defies description. It’s a 3D side-scrolling(ish) adventure game with some puzzles. Except when it’s a first-person game, or a third-person “over the shoulder” style shooter. With a decent dose of platforming elements.

I’m not saying it combines genres. That would be terrible. If you combine genres, you get your basic Movie Franchise Video Game. In level one, you are stuck somewhere and must solve a puzzle to get out. Levels two and three have you running around in a first- or third-person POV. Level four is the racing level, where you are either trying to catch up to someone, or attempting to flee destruction. In levels five and six you have to jump on platforms. And it plays exactly like it sounds- like a discordant collection of genres mashed together.

The beauty behind Metroid isn’t that it combines genres. It’s that it ignores them. At almost any point the game can change from a side-scroller to a first-person shooter. That’s not tremendously cool by itself. I’ve occasionally seen that in games before. What really blows my mind is the camera work in Metroid. Not because the camera is always where it needs to be, but because the developers used it the way a movie director does- to change your mood and impart feeling.

Metroid-The-Other-M-not-Metroid-Dread

For example, there’s an alien that jumps around a lot. It’s easy to avoid being jumped on in side-scroller mode, but I can only shoot my missiles in first-person view. And this thing is really hard to kill without missiles. Which means you wind up avoiding it with a flourish (seen from afar for maximum effect) and then switch to a first person POV to blas it to hell. This is awesome, and it’s exactly how this scenario would go down in a movie:

From a vantage point near the ceiling, we see a wide angle shot of the hero dodging the alien. We watch her leap and roll in a complicated gymnastic display, then bring her gun around. The camera immediately switches to the hero’s point of view so that the audience feels as if they themselves are delivering the killing stroke.

metroid-other-m-screenshot-first-person-action

Now, there’s nothing that says I have to play the game that way. But the controls are set up with this perspective switch for a reason, and I’m rewarded for playing in both of them. It also adds an incredible cinematic feel to the game. Sure, some elements I can only see or get to in one perspective or another. But Other M rarely feels as though it’s forcing the choice on me.

Sometimes it does force me into a perspective. It’s clearly done for the same reasons I’ve mentioned. And those times that it does, it’s made me smile.

At one point I had killed enough baddies to trigger a cutscene. I watched my character look around cautiously. It was clearly quiet. Too quiet. Then the game let me take control, but forced me into a first-person view. At first I thought it was a glitch, then I figured out what they were doing. In a movie, this is exactly the sequence of camera angles calculated to build suspense.

We see the hero advance cautiously. They’re moving slowly, looking over their shoulder ever few steps. Then the camera pans back and forth across the area the room- as if we’re seeing it through the character’s eyes.

That’s exactly what was going on. Except I had control over where my eyes swept. The game was controlling the cutscene, but only to a point, allowing me to help write the script in small ways as we went along. Sure enough, something dramatic happened. And it was far more emotional watching it “through my own eyes” than it would have been watching it happen to a character on a screen.

I’m not saying this is perfect. There are times that the developers, in the hopes of creating a mood, disable character controls. And I think that sucks. There are rooms where you switch to a third-person over the shoulder view. There’s no enemies in these rooms, and you move with a cautious, slow walk, gun held at the ready. But you can’t jump. Or shoot. Pressing those buttons does nothing.

Why? Because they want me to respect something about this setting. In most shooters, you can always loose a couple of bullets at something. And that can really ruin a moment.

The hero dramatically enters the room where he will find a final clue. He sneaks around quietly, getting his bearings. Then, becoming bored, he unloads a clip of 9mm rounds into a glass mirror over the dresser, just to see if anything happens.

There goes your ambience.

Still, I’m against disabling buttons. I say replace them instead. Jump would become a lifting of the chin, bringing the ceiling into better focus. Shoot could be replaced by a request to interact with objects, like twisting a locked door handle or rifling through some papers. That would have enhanced the feeling of creepiness and solidtude without making me feel like I had been forcibly handicapped. Same number of options, just different ones appropriate to the scenario. The genius behind Other M is that while I’m seeing things the way the developers want me to, I still retain the ability to make decisions within those scenarios, effecting them in small ways. In these rooms I can’t. And that sucks.

metroid.other.m.080510-2-530px

People keep asking when video games will basically become playable movies. I feel like Metroid Other M is the first solid step in that direction. No matter what actions I take, the game is designed to try and make them look cool. It doesn’t always succeed, but the controls, gameplay, and perspective are all woven together in a way that creates the most movie-like experience I’ve had yet with a game.

Comments Off
Friday Feature: Propellerman Ben Levy 3, September