This blog is the chronicle of my experiences with Grandma, the video-game playing queen of her age-bracket and weight class. She will beat any PS2, XBox, GameCube, etc., console game put in front of her, just like she always has. These are her stories. She is absolutely real. She lives in Cleveland.
Friday, June 27, 2008
The Great EA Adventure
Gather 'round my children; grab a stool and a stoop of ale and hear of flying machines, lizards and beasts unknown; insane cab drivers with GPS devices and waitresses and drinking and other vices. Hear of directors and producers and freelance PA's. Hear of actors and actresses and NDA's.
Grandma auditioned for a commercial directed by Errol Morris promoting a new EA game (which we cannot talk about as the looming shadow of contractual obligation and confidentiality agreements stares at us from a readied attack position.) Her audition tape made the final cut, and she was chosen to fly to Orlando to be a part of the wonderful and fascinating realm in advertising known simply as Creative.
This is how it went down... Honestly, given the odds, we didn't expect a call. The audition tape was all kinds of fucked up, the audio was messy and the levels were too low, and we were emailed by advertising freelancers who had no doubt cast a giant net into the land of gaming to see what kind of crazy ass fish would respond. Grandma was happy to try out (she really does dig Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08, so it wasn't a soul-selling venture) and I was happy to help her.
The call came, as most things do, at Sam's Club- because there's nothing like a gross of Reese Cups and a crate of oatmeal to make a family feel secure in case the apocalypse comes within 72 servings of breakfast. As we walked down the aisle looking at all manner of bulk-priced portraits of Americana Consumerism; admiring the deal one could get on mayonnaise if only one buys it by the gallon, my cell phone rang. An Oregon call.
Grandma's tape was a hit.
They wanted to fly her down to L.A. at once for filming. "Could she come Tuesday?" It was Saturday. "Sure! No problem! Great!" "Wonderful! We'll arrange all the details."
Tuesday became Wednesday. Wednesday became Tuesday through Thursday. There were forms that needed to be filled out. Errol Morris was confirmed as the director. L.A. became Orlando a week from now. Before the end of day I wasn't quite sure what we had gotten ourselves into. Whatever was being filmed, it was being done fast. Travel arrangements were being cemented as soon as was possible, which sometimes wasn't possible until the day before travel. It was exciting.
We still didn't quite know the format of the commercial. Would it be an interview? Was it staged? Scripted? Would she play the game?
"Interrotron" I said simply. -"Excuse me?" Grandma asked. "Interrotron!" -"Interrotron." "It's the one of the main reasons they would have to hire someone as cool as Errol fucking Morris." -"Okay." "Fog of War." -"Robert McNamara." "Errol Morris. -"No shit!" "Mr. Death." -"Holocaust Denier Guy." "Errol Morris. -"I remember that." "All these documentaries where the person is looking RIGHT into the camera. He invented that. He directs that. Apple Switch Campaign." -"Which one?" "THE one. Girl looks into camera, talks about her PC crashing, Apple Logo." -"Errol Morris?" "Goddamn right."
A quick search on Wieden + Kennedy's website showed others. Wikipedia at least let me know I wasn't a complete jackass and hadn't thought of the wrong films. Another search on Moxie Pictures website (who represented Morris to W+K) revealed a snag in our theory. In one commercial, a dude is eating donuts in a workshop. Dude opens up a beer. Dude is conflicted, but only briefly. Voiceover: "Sometimes a MAN gets too hungry to clean his hands properly. The powdered sugar on this donut puts a semi-protective BARRIER between your fingerprint and your nutrition. But even if some grease DOES get on that donut, well.. that's just FLAVOR. To a HIGH LIFE MAN." Miller Logo. Fade to black.
This was more complicated than we thought.
"Well, fuck it," Grandma sighed. "At least it will be an adventure."
At least it will be an adventure.
Grandma rescheduled her doctor's appointments for that week. Her Coumadin levels check and a pain that flared up in her knee would wait until she got back. She packed what medication she would need for the two nights in Florida, a few changes of clothes and some mints.
I packed a PSP, both Kill Bill movies on UMD, my toothbrush, and a camera that I wouldn't get a chance to use.
Okay! Grandma will probably do another vCast pretty soon, but I'll preempt it with a bit of an update on how she's doing and what she's playing.
First up, because I know everybody's curious, Grand Theft Auto IV:
Solid fucking game. You empathize with the characters and the story. The over-the-shoulder shooting style rocks, particularly with the auto-aim feature. Gorgeous graphics yet- it's still GTA. Shit, even the radio stations are good.
For Grandma, though, the game has one major flaw. Well, it's not the game so much, and it's not a flaw- it's Grandma. She can't drive for shit.
And she's not the only one. A lot of people have been bitching about the driving physics in GTAIV, but you have to realize that- alright, if you're driving in a city, and you're on a straightaway and you pass an entire city block in a couple seconds, chances are you are going at such a speed that wouldn't quite allow for a 90° left turn into that narrow alley ahead of you.
Now, nobody wants to play a game where you assassinate a motherfucker, get seen by police, and drive 35mph to the nearest safehouse. But there are consequences in the decisions you make; decisions about which car to steal, the route, or following the GPS or just gunning it to make the boundary to lose the wanted level. And of all people, Grandma has learned to appreciate those decisions.
"Shit... Goddammit... No... GODDAMMIT- FUCK, now they're chasing me; cops are chasing me and I still have to stop THAT guy......... fucking minivan can't corner for shit. But if I hop out and steal a Banshee then this dude will get run over by the cops or I'll lose that other guy.... I quit."
"GARBAGE TRUCKS GO FASTER THAN THIS. This is BULLSHIT."
"I've tried this over and over again. I can't make it! There's no guy when I get there!" -"Yeah there is, he's in the tunnel. After you pick up the car from Little Jacob, get just before the GPS says you've reached the destination and there's a tunnel underneath the road. I couldn't find it either the first time." "Oh." [several minutes later, Grandma plows through the tunnel, killing everyone.] "I KILLED HIM! I FINALLY MADE IT BUT I KILLED THE GUY! Here, YOU do it."
Also, the helicopter and Grandma are not on good terms.
I think she's something like 75% completed with the main story, and just about done with the Brucie missions and the Assassination plot.
It's an on-again, off-again relationship.
Meanwhile, she's been into golf more than usual. She's played Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds near to DEATH on her PS3, maxing out every character and unlocking every course. She likes the game, although it's sort of cartoony, and not in the Outlaw Golf way. The character animations before each swing can get sort of tedious after awhile, and she was just getting used to Advance Shots when she got into Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08', also on her PS3.
It's a stark contrast to Hot Shots Golf for obvious reasons. More realistic courses and players, although the ability to apply spin while the ball is in the air kind of takes away from the ultimate skill of the thing. I'd pay MONEY to see Tiger Woods use his magical mind-powers to force a ball into spinning forward mid air after flopping the thing from a fairway. If lasers came out his eyes and storm clouds began to rumble over Pebble Beach, all the better.
But she'll have a lot more to say about those later.
Speaking of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08', she auditioned for a spot in EA's next run of commercials for their sports games- but who knows if that will happen. We were contacted by somebody at Wieden + Kennedy about the possibility a couple weeks ago. Grandma and I had talked about such things last year; if it came up- what to do; where we stood. Basically, if Grandma really digs a game she'd absolutely be thrilled with endorsing the thing, if someone really felt her endorsement would mean anything. Thing is: she wouldn't even consider it if the game was shit. Oh yeah, big talk from the lowest places of the internet. Who the fuck are we, really. But that's the way Grandma feels. And I agree with her!
Sure, she'd do a commercial. Fuck it. But she's got to honestly love the game. Otherwise, what's the point? She dig's Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08'. She loves that fucking game. Now, if they came to her and said "alright, we think you'd be great for a Madden '09 commercial", chances are she'd tilt her head slightly to the left and say "...but I suck at it."
Like I said, it probably doesn't matter because there are no doubt a lot of hats thrown into this particular ring, and a 72 year old woman in a commercial for an EA game directed by Errol Morris (from what I understand, Moxie Pictures is producing the creative for the broadcast portion of this particular campaign, and Morris would be the likely director) is probably not their first choice.
I could go into the reasons why perhaps it should, but that would be just another advertising rant about risk and demographics and I'm not going to pretend I know what I'm talking about when it comes to Wieden + Kennedy. That shit's intimidating.
If you'd like to see her audition video, well-
Here ya go!
You got to crank your speakers up for it, I had some audio levels issues with compression (my fault).
I think she did an awesome job. I decided to be a smartass and edit the thing like it was Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. If the commercials are going to be directed by Errol Morris, then goddammit we're allowed to be smartasses.
We'll let you know how it goes!
Also in the news of the awesome, Grandma did an interview with these guys via Skype a little while back. Fun fact for those of you who didn't know (because I didn't)- you can just plug your Xbox Live vision camera to a USB port on your computer and Skype just automatically picks it up and uses it perfectly. I'm kind of curious how it looked on their end, so if any of you Kiwis happen to see it on their show, let us know!
Grandma will update in a couple days with a vCast for everyone, I just wanted to say hi and let you know what was up.