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  • Michael Krakovskiy 8:51 pm on January 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Claw, Claw crane, Claw-free permutation, , commanding officer, , , Games, , , MIA CTO, , , , Video game arcade cabinet, , Waka Waka   

    The Claw or Playing Not So Hard 

    When I began my career hiring managers still said things like “we work hard, and we play hard”. The “playing hard” usually consisted of drinking tequila shots after work and having either a ping-pong table or an arcade machine or two in the office.

    Free tequila shots were always a crowd pleaser. Not so much with the games. The worst offender was the Packman machine. The silly little tune and “WAKA-WAKA WAKA-WAKA WAKA-WAKA” got old really fast. The ping-pong table was even worse: it’s hard to write code late in the evening in the middle of a death march project while system adminstrators click-clack the celluloid ball for hours. Both were gone quickly.

    The lone “play hard” straggler was the awesome APB arcade machine that was placed near restrooms. “Help, help”, “yeah, yeah” and the awesome mumbling of the commanding officer deeply etched in our collective brains.

    Besides insidious noise pollution, arcade machines make coders burn out even faster: staring into blinking phosphorus is not good after a long and hard day.

    So, how can a startup stay true to the Silicon Alley/Valley cliche? I think I figured out an answer. A claw machine otherwise known as a “skill crane”.

    My co-worker recently got obsessed with an obscure iphone game called Clawzilla. The original purchase price is a bit steep, but it includes free game tokens. The graphics suck big time, but the remote control functionality and responsiveness is top notch. In theory you can even claim toys caught by you by using a claim code and providing a few bucks for shipping, but that part did not really work for me.

    In any case, me an my co-workers somehow rediscovered that claw machines are awesome. I spotted a toy claw machine at a drugstore and could not resist buying it. I cut the wire to the speaker that blasted circus music, but it’s still a bit noisy (but not as bad as the video makes it sound) because of poor gear alignment. We filled it with memory sticks, a titanium spork, minifigs and other geek items, culminating in a business card of our MIA CTO.

    It’s still kind of lame. Unfortunately there are no affordable “real” mid-size claw machines on eBay: they were only created recently for prizes like the iPod. It’s kind of interesting: there’s a claw machine for iphone, and an iphone for a claw machine. In any case, these small machines can only be found brand new and cost several thousand dollars. Meanwhile, eBay is full of fully functional $500 claw machines.

    Those are great. Load it with old phones, unwanted swag for conferences, etc. Use the proceeds from the quarter slots for charity (be it beer for developers or a real charity), and watch your employees and friends unwind trying to grab that lobster harmonica. It’s a dumping ground for swag accumulating in the drawers as well as a way to refocus and rest your eyes.

    The best part? Have your designer make decal featuring local headcounts and localized title card and decorate your machine with them.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 7:56 pm on November 17, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Games, Horror fiction, , Plants vs. Zombies, , Undead, , , Zombie   

    Zombie-free Mac Children’s Games 

    I was born at the beginning of the age of information. I welcome the content deluge.

    I’m not a snob. I do not discriminate amongst the sources of content, gladly consuming books, television, movies, music, magazines, websites, wikis, and blogs. I like to think that thanks to technologies like ebook readers, blog aggregation, suggestion engines at Amazon and Netflix, and Tivo I limit my input to only the stuff that is “awesome” on the “Normal people” scale.

    I remember the time when the flow of information available to me was limited to my father’s sizable library and a few hours a week of interesting TV culled from the 3 horrible channels of Soviet television, and really don’t miss it.

    My 4 year old daughter is swimming in the sea of information together with me. We read books to her (the quality of children’s books these days is amazing), she watches dvd and tivo’d shows, youtube videos on a laptop. She really wants to play with a computer as well.

    Unfortunately the only game that I have is “Plants Vs. Zombies“. We play it together usually as a reward for good behavior. She enjoys the “zen garden” part of the game, as well as the regular “zombie” part. This, of course led to the questions on the nature of zombies (uhh), their diet (brains), the nature of brains, and the absence of female zombies in the game (uhhh).

    When Natalie was younger and I used to have a PC, there was a whole bunch of craptastic PC games (one even with a special keyboard, if I remember) that we used to play. These crashed often and were pretty retarded.

    Now that I have a Mac, I’m looking for some better, zombie-free games suitable for a 4 year old. Finding good computer games is much more difficult than finding good children’s books. Do you have any suggestions?

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 5:45 am on September 1, 2006 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Boris Akunin, Business card, , Games, , , metal business cards, metal cards, Pimp Programmer, , , , Walker Blue Lable   

    Here’s My Card 

    I want to have a personal business card. All the cool kids have one. The thing is, as you know from reading my blog, I am a bit eccentric. Just a plain ol’ boring business card won’t do.

    I ventured forth into the depth of Interweb to find out about fancy business cards. One of the more useful articles was found on Robert Scoble’s blog, of all places. He has some good pointers.

    Unfortunately I can’t do a card that will say “go and type in Michael into google and click 47234524th page of results”. It’s because I hope that you all will link to my blog and my pagerank will improve some day.

    Another famous type of a cool business card was popularized (or even probably invented) by JWZ: his cards often had a neat title – they varied from “Scientist” to “Hacker” to “Hacker Emeritus” to “Benevolent Dictator”. I am not cool enough to pull something like that off.

    The next though that came into my mind – titanium! There are companies that make metal business cards, and you can special order titanium.

    The problem with cards like that is that they are prohibitively expensive, and since I am not
    “King of All Pimps”, I simply can’t afford them.
    By evening, Itzler could be found at Cipriani, washing down plates of crushed lobster with yet another bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue label and making sure everyone got one of his signature titanium business cards engraved with NY Confidential’s singular motto: ROCKET FUEL FOR WINNERS.

    “Michael Krakovskiy – Pimp Programmer.” Hmm, that’s won’t work either. By the way, Jonny Walker Blue Lable sucks. Any decent single malt is much, much better.

    CD Rom business cards, while cool looking, are not that useful. Their unusual shape and thickness make them hard to keep, and nobody ever puts them in a cd rom. Ever. Well, almost.

    There’s another side effect of cards like this: they don’t work in and may break slot-loading cd rom drives, like those on some macs. I know this firsthand as one certain magazine ran a promotion with a small cd in one of the issues. I hear that it broke a few car cd players.

    The funniest type of cards that I could find is the chocolate one.

    These are wildly impractical, expensive and probably don’t taste good. And unlike cd rom and metal cards can’t even be used as deadly weapons.

    I even did some digging on Wikipedia. This Victorian card made me smile. I love the caption under the engraving.

    I also found amusing the entry screen for Boris Akunin’s works. It shows calling cards (similar but not the same thing as a business card) of two of his book characters separated by 100 years. You can clearly see the decline of the art of typography today :)

    Let me know if you have any ideas, as I seem to be stuck.

     
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