There was a story floating around in the late 70s that when Fonzie got his library card on the show Happy Days, U.S. libraries saw a 500 percent increase in the number of real life kids getting their own library cards.
Turns out the story is apocryphal, but it was totally believable because Fonzie was cool. That’s hard for the young’uns to believe now but it was true back then. With his leather jacket, motorcycle and jukebox fist bump, The Fonz was TV’s ur cool guy (followed by Michael Knight, then B.A. Baracus, but neither of the Simon brothers on Simon & Simon.)
Anyway, my 10 year old asked me the other day if I was cool.
A confident laugh and the word “no” sprang from my mouth before he could finish the question because I… am not cool. Wenowdis.
And that’s okay! I am a lot of things, but cool? No.
You know what else isn’t cool?
I don’t mean this as a put down or a highly-charged political statement, just more of a fact. Amazon is useful. Amazon is reliable. Amazon sees that there is so much life in you, and so much emotional larceny in these others.
Amazon, however, is not cool.
I bring it up because PC Gamer had a piece this week about how making good videogames is hard even for trillion-dollar tech corporations, singling out Google and, yes, Amazon.
Google shut down its Stadia development studio this week, after never producing a hit. And while Amazon hasn’t bowed out completely yet, after six years it too has yet to create a videogame franchise. In fact it canceled its big budget Crucible battle royale game last year because, well, no one played it.
No one played Amazon’s game because Amazon is not cool.
Cool is fickle, and despite the gargantuan amounts of money Amazon makes, cool is not something it can buy. Wenowdis.
But it’s not just an over abundance of money. Like people living in The Matrix, Amazon just sees the world as endless streams of data. It is built upon the idea of using that data to shave down any rough edges in any market it enters and make everything more efficient. Everything smooth. Sometimes it’s a win (Alexa). Sometimes it’s… not (the Fire Phone).
But sanding down the edges is not the way to make a great original videogame that everyone wants to play. Or to be cool.
I actually think Amazon should borrow from Facebook’s (also not cool) Sheryl Sandberg and lean into its uncoolness. Instead of trying to make games that are hip with the kids. Make games for people like, well, you. And me.
The older set. The 40 Bit set.
Yeah, that’s a little self-serving, I’m just saying at this point it couldn’t hurt. Spend a few million and make a game that targets people over 40. I’m not sure what that would look like, but I assume it would be called I Have a Half Hour Until the Rest of the Family Comes Back From Running Errands. It would involve a lot of button mashing and things blowing up and if you win you get a COVID vaccine and a plane ticket to somewhere warm.
Then again, I’m not cool, so maybe Amazon should look elsewhere for advice. ‘Aaayyyyyyyyyy! Maybe they could hit up Henry Winkler (who has remained cool thanks to Arrested Development and Barry.)
Oodles and Oodles of Marios
Look, it’s a bummer that we’re not all going to be able to pile onto a plane and celebrate Spring Break at Señor Frogs this year. (I know, you guyyyyyyyyyyyys!)
But maybe you can enjoy the next best thing, a virtual tour of the new Super Nintendo World theme park that was recently opened to a few people in Japan.
OK, well, it’s not the next best thing to getting on a plane, and it’s less of a virtual tour and more just a video of the full Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge ride — including the walk through the entire queue (you should definitely skip ahead). But it shows off how the augmented reality on the ride works, including shooting virtual turtle shells at other racers on the ride.
If I’m honest, the video stirs up a little ennui, because, you know, we’re still on pandemic time. But it makes me excited for all the things awaiting us once we can go out again!
FWIW, I’m kind of addicted to Kero Kero Bonito’s theme to the game Bugsnax (above). It’s a jaunty bit of harmless electro-pop music and I mean that in the best way.
That’s it for this week. Thank you for reading!
Stay cool. Have a great summer. Class of ’90 rulez.
-Chris @ 40 Bit