The initial goal was to raise $1 million in just 35 days to build a web version of the Reading Rainbow mobile app, provide a platform for teachers in over 1,500 classrooms, and allow free access for schools in need. Not only did they reach their goal in less than 12 hours, but with 33 days to go they have nearly tripled it!
Whether it’s through a classic TV show or a tablet in your child’s hand or in a classroom, Reading Rainbow’s goal has been the same for over 30 years; to encourage children to not only read but to develop a love of reading.
Having personally worked with the Reading Rainbow team for over a year, I am so proud of their success, and excited to continue watching the positive feedback pour in across all social media channels.
Congratulations to both LeVar and Reading Rainbow! We are rooting for you and cannot wait to see what else is in store for the future!
In case you haven’t been keeping up with what the kids are doing, the new phenom that’s hit the block these days is a little something called TwitchPlaysPokemon.
Twitch is a live-streaming video platform that allows gamers to broadcast themselves while viewers across the globe watch them play a variety of games, ranging from Battlefield, Rift, Defiance, Just Dance, to, you guessed it, Pokémon, amongst others (more about Twitch as a platform, click here). But what’s in it for the players, you may wonder?
Twitch pays partners and streamers for ad revenue and subscriptions, so incentive is high. Viewers are also encouraged to donate to broadcasters they watch frequently, so there is a sense of community that lets players continue doing what they love, while letting others in on the action too. What used to be a private form of entertainment reserved for the typically antisocial basement dweller has transformed into a community that allows players to watch, learn, converse, converge, and monetize. Players interact with viewers, and personal input is encouraged. Think of it as interacting with a Youtube video in real-time.
Recently, the Twitch community expanded its video stream with the introduction of TwitchPlaysPokemon. This stream is characterized by the ability of the Twitch community to enter commands in a chat box ranging from left, right, up, down, A, or B (basically, the commands from Gameboy, circa 1998). These commands direct the onscreen character and his Pokémon, whose hilarious names include “JLVWNOOOO” (referred to by the community as Jay Leno), and ABBBBBBK (Abby). TwitchPlaysPokemon is a self-described “social experiment” wherein the Twitch community has been challenged to play through the Gameboy version of Pokémon Red running via emulator.
It’s drawn a total of over 32 million views, with peak action hitting over 120,000 viewers. The challenge of the game is no longer to become the ultimate Pokémon Trainer alone, but to do so while being commandeered by hundreds of thousands of strangers. It’s like having 50,000 thumbs mashing all the keys on a Gameboy at once. A win for one is a win for all!
The stream was launched on February 12, 2014, and the community has, surprisingly, acquired 7 of the 16 gym badges in-game, a feat that players of the game (in its original incarnation) may not have even achieved. Despite its progress, the creator of TwitchPlaysPokemon has stated that he has little hope of seeing the game completed, despite its running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even still, the game has launched the creation of numerous memes, legends, and a reddit community. It even has its own religion.
The process seems entirely post-modern: the recycling of a beloved 90’s game in an effort to allow users from all over the globe to reminisce and re-embrace the IP in its original venue. From a viral marketing perspective, it’s genius. The difference now, of course, is that it’s no longer a single-player experience. When you think about it, the whole adventure seems a bit ludicrous in its imagination and execution (again, insert imagery of thousands of thumbs button-mashing simultaneously – chaos!), and yet fans all over the world are still captivated to see this experiment to completion.
Wait… is it April 1st? With some of the news coming out lately, I’ve found myself checking the calendar a few times more than normal. If you’re not exactly sure what news I’m referencing, let me share with you some of the hot news items out lately.
The Flappy Bird Saga
Now here’s a fascinating tale! Let me sum it up as quickly as I can. A Vietnamese indie game developer made an addictive, simple, tap-happy iOS game based on art from Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros, etc. He launched it in the Spring of 2013, and without a single drop of marketing funds spent, the game became a number one hit by December 2013. The creator, Dong Nguyen, has been accused of stealing art, game-creation and marketing/ranking fraud, and creating a terrible addiction for society. Subsequently, he has been threatened and trolled by the masses (which seems to be more and more of a growing trend). Despite making an estimated $50,000 per day on the wee lil game, he shook his fist at the gods and removed it permanently from app stores.
I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore.
Now smart phones (still carrying the popular game) have been appearing on the market for resale for those who missed the chance to download, and multiple game clones (both legit and dangerous hacker-versions) have been popping up in app stores. Flappy Bird: one moment popular yet hated and the next glorified & lamented!
Here’s the endearing kicker: Forbes had quoted Mr Nguyen as saying, “Flappy Bird was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed. But it happened to become an addictive product. I think it has become a problem. To solve that problem, it’s best to take down Flappy Bird. It’s gone forever.”
Well… imagine that! Morals & Social Media Bullying > Massive Income & Game Rankings.
Reddit creators (and trolls) should have a new meme soon: “Disappointing Good Guy Nguyen, Creates fun & engaging games, removes game when he sees it’s become a problem for society.” You can credit me for that, should any of you start that thread and get Reddit Gold.
No, I’m not insulting that franchise. Dumb Starbucks is a legitimate thing (or was until a few days ago). Described as a “Parody Art Project,” this silly cafe in Los Angeles has left people head-scratching with a smirk. I have to say, it really does shine a light on intellectual properties (IP’s), what’s legal, not legal, a gag, and legit business. Dumb Starbucks is like a tongue-in-cheek homage to something that soaks up most corner stores in all popular downtown areas across the nation. Needless to say, the Health Inspectors have already closed the location, citing issues with a valid health department permit [wonder who tipped them off to that, hmm?]. It’ll be interesting to see if any legal repercussions come from this (as Starbucks shared with USA Today in an email, “We are evaluating next steps and while we appreciate the humor, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark.” Whomp, whomp.).
Let me preface this with: I’ve stayed away from the “digital coin” news for months, as it seems a little too close to what is in Hasbro’s Monopoly boxesfor me. Don’t get me wrong! I love social and digital innovation. Truly, it’s so very interesting to me. But when Bitcoin gained popularity and traction in the news, I listened to logic from the brilliant people around me about the art of farming and where the value lends itself. I didn’t get it then, and I still don’t (perhaps, that’s where I fail). I had a long conversation with a beloved friend of mine who has relatively NO digital footprint whatsoever, and often rants about how the apocalypse is coming, and how he will survive NBC’s Revolutionstyle when the Internet collapses and everything “tech” is lost. Having heard about Bitcoin on his radio, this friend called me up and asked, “If this is a real thing, what is going to stop others from randomly creating currency?” To which I replied, “I’m not sure.”
Last week we published a fascinating post by our very own Matt Hostler about Dogecoin. Yes, it’s a digital currency related to Doge, the dog meme competitor to the infamous Cat/IHasCheesburger meme. As the current Blog Master of Metaverse Mod Squad (yes, you can complain to me about editorial/grammatical errors – I’m sorry!), I happily must read all posts prior to publishing on our glorious blog. The subject of Matt’s post made me want to cackle like a crazed loon. What has the world come to?! There are MULTIPLE digital coins that carry recognized value, beyond Bitcoin? Yes. They’re called “altcoins” and fall under the category of cryptocurrency.
I have to say, if 2014 carries on like this — we’re in for quite a ride folks. Here’s to the shenanigans yet to come, folks! And please share any additional news stories you’ve come across in 2014 that seem a little unbelievable, or chuckle-worthy.
Online games have thriving online communities. This much seems obvious even at a casual glance. Between forums, guilds, image boards, Twitter, and Facebook groups, there are a many ways for players to connect with other fans, and share their experiences. Many times, these experiences are great! There’s nothing a game developer wants more than to visit the official forums and see a plethora of positive interactions and fan-love coming their way. Sometimes, however, fans that have had bad experiences will vent publicly, and this behavior can turn potential customers away.
Developers can make a huge stride by taking the effort in fostering good will amongst their players and fans! Here are a few examples where a game company can turn a potentially bad situation into a great one:
1. Refunds. They are tricky business: a customer wants their money back, and yet the company exists to make money. It may seem like a refund is the exact opposite of the company’s goal, so why would they ever refund a purchase?
When you honor a refund request, customers feel acknowledged, and the pain or anger they had towards your brand is reduced. So often customers misjudge an impulse buy, or miss the fine details associated to a virtual purchase, or the dreaded “My child just spent $200 in your game without my permission. Fix this!”
By acknowledging their need and acquiescing to the request, the customer often feels vindicated and even appreciative of your company’s efforts. We, in Customer Service, have even seen customers continue to play and purchase additional content.
2. Don’t neglect the fan-sites! Official forums are great, but gamers are gravitating toward un-official, community-operated sites/groups. They’re havens of passionate, super-engaged people. If you want an open and honest opinion, you’re much more likely to find that opinion on an active fan site. One website that is home to a mini fan-site for almost every game is the notorious Reddit. Users create “subreddits” which function similarly to a forum devoted to a single game, or even a developer’s whole catalog.
Jeremy Gaffney, Executive Producer for upcoming big budget MMORPG Wildstar, is active in his game’s unsponsored, non-official subreddit. He’s a perfect example of a developer who cultivates and engages with his audience in an open environment. As one story goes, Mr. Gaffney read a post by a Reddit user who accidentally bought a game for $20 that looked similar to Wildstar, but was not the correct game. Since Wildstar was still in development at that time, the user clearly was misled. Mr. Gaffney refunded the user, regardless of the fact the game was not his, and the money spent originally did not go to his company. To add awesomeness to this action, he also offered a $20 bill with custom art by the game’s art team! Although Mr. Gaffney lost money with his actions, he gained large amounts of respect and good will from the fans.
Gamers are passionate, and they are very engaged with their fellow fans. True, such passion thrives along the “fine line between love and hate,” but ultimately it can be harnessed to create larger, deeper relationship between games, brands, and fans. It just takes a little effort and willingness to be understanding and engage with your audience, and go that extra mile. You’ll earn more than just a price of sale for it.
My Grandpa died in March of this year. He was in the Navy as a late teen, having lied about his age to get in early. He was stationed in the Pacific War and the Korean War, he was your James Dean/Jack Palace type of soldier that would rather go AWOL for a party weekend, start a fight instead of get promoted, or guard the nurses cabins on hot nights. He had tattoos of women’s names, most notably “Gert” (who is not my grandmother, mind you), which I never saw until he was in the hospital in February, when he made jokes about how skinny his legs were (“who the [censored]’s legs are those?”). It’s memorial day, and I can’t stop thinking about him.
I have a few beloved friends who were in the Marines and the Army, and I am always fascinated by their stories – of fear, triumph, hard work, friendships, camaraderie, pranks, death, tradition, heroes, and politics.