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The 2009 Booby Prizes on Game and Player

The 2009 Booby Prizes

The Editors  //  December 31, 2009

Watch, laugh, and try to learn.


ailure has a few redeeming qualities. First, if spectacular, it can be memorable. Second, if memorable, it can be instructive. Third, until the lesson has been learned, it can be made fodder for comedy. Game and Player's editors award, from deep within our carbide souls, the third annual Booby Prizes. Congratulations, you nincompoops!

Medal of Dishonor Award // Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

For every ten sensations, you unlock one controversy. Keep shooting!
For a game that markets itself as daring, mature and realistic, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 sure has a ridiculous storyline. Let's get this straight: the US military plucks an enlisted man from its ranks after he performs well in a training exercise, sends him off to infiltrate a terror cell and then seems surprised when the harebrained scheme backfires and causes World War Three? Without even acknowledging the disservice such a tale does the brave men and women throughout our (and our allies') armed forces, the never-ending stream of tripe Infinity Ward throws our way is as implausible as it is mind-numbing. It's a good thing the developer is so good at crafting multiplayer experiences — their original stories are some of the crummiest in the industry.

When Life Hands You Lemons Award // Microsoft Xbox 360

Don't you hate when your LCD collects so many dead pixels that the black constellations start to look more interesting than what's on the screen? Or when the rear wheel of your mountain bike slides off its axle while you're on a 30-degree incline? How about that fateful morning brew causing the heat to finally warp your stimulative covenant with Mr. Coffee? Chances are, you can't come up with an appropriate memory because these products generally don't meet catastrophic failures after a year or two of regular usage.

Even now, designers work feverishly to prevent such an iconic failure indicator from being installed in future consoles.
When Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 in 2005 it guaranteed full function for 90 days, which is a little like the captain going on the intercom to tell you he absolutely promises that the plane will at least make it to the end of the runway. Eighteen months later, after commiserating owners organized themselves into polling samples and realized nearly every one of them had sent a console in for repairs, a very lifelike Charlie McCarthy dummy named Todd Holmdahl told a Mercury News reporter that Hey, gamers love the 360, and I don't have the numbers on product failures but I bet they're real low, and the 360 loves gamers right back, and Wow, is it the end of this interview already? Two weeks after that, Microsoft dodecatupled the length of its warranty.

Four years on, and an order of techie Knights Hospitaller has risen, offering inexpensive repairs — or directions and cheap spare parts — to customers who aren't about to shell out a third of what they originally paid for a console that should have worked in the first place. That these amateurs appear to care more about the life of an Xbox 360 more than the product's creators, who rely on a competitive game library, begs a modern adage: German auto engineers know that the joy of driving has nothing to do with the road.

Redheaded Stepchild Award // Sony PSPgo

Everything you could ever want in a portable, if you ever wanted it.
Hey Sony, remember that product you launched back in October, a PSPgo or something? You don't? Well, neither do most people.

For something that was originally heralded as a messiah of the digital distribution movement, it seems as though the PSPgo has already been abandoned by not only Sony, but the gaming community at large. With a price-tag just shy of what it costs for PS3 these days, it begs the question: what exactly are we getting for our money? The answer: a lack of support, an awkwardly inconvenient "convenience" of acquiring digital only titles, and undeniable post-purchase dissonance.

Stage Fright Award // Felicia Day

Thanks, John! (Wild glances in several directions) Hi! I'm, uh, (hard swallow) Felicia Day! You might recognize me from a, uh, (anxious shuffle) popular webseries conveniently unencumbered with a live, studio audience! Uh, social networking, like, has ironically taken over my life, and

Stage confidence and rehearsal:
not just for squares.
with Facebook on Xbox Live, (pained smile) now you can your, for you, look at you, to your, for you! (Harder swallow) Really! Here's a picture of me! And here's my dog, Jitters. It's, uh, really cool. Isn't that cool? With (voice trembling) Facebook Connect, you can share screenshots and texts of games, including sports simulations featuring baby-faced, serial adulterers!

And (look of terror, quick recovery) I'm, uh, not done yet! Xbox Live is also bringing you (look of disinterest, quick recovery) Twitter! (Compensatory thumbs-up to polite applause) I've been known to walk into lampposts and fall off of treadmills, but (searching expression to zero laughter) this is not about me. (Look of the imminently condemned, quick recovery) Now, uh (gulps) you can have both on Xbox Live, coming this fall! Cool. Really! Thank you very much, (excruciating smile) it was a pleasure to be here, and I hope you hire me to obscure your products at E3 with partially restrained panic again! (Throwaway wave, about-face, runs offstage)

Dude, Where's My Pulitzer? Award // UGO Entertainment

That's such an officious shade of blue.
This year was a sad one for the gaming press — on top of further consolidation throughout the industry, we experienced the closure of EGM, one of North America's longest-running (and most trusted) publications devoted to gaming. While, publisher Ziff Davis's online portal for gaming news remains, it's but a shell of its former self thanks to the meddling of its new owners: UGO. Ironically, for every awkward video blog or untimely "exclusive" the poor survivors at 1up are forced to publish, another gamer jumps ship and turns to the growing number of independent news sources and zines. Perhaps the gaming press's future is a bright one after all.

Many Happy Returns Award // Jack Thompson

Once upon a time a lot of people wanted anti-gaming militant and sometimes attorney Jack Thompson to go away, but given the man's courtroom losing streak and spiraling declension, the matter may as well be whether the man is actually an agent provocateur. After a 2008 Florida state disbarment earned in part by presenting "swastikas, kangaroos in court, a reproduced dollar bill, cartoon squirrels . . . Ray Charles . . . a baby, Ed Bradley, Jack Nicholson, Justice Clarence Thomas, Julius Caesar, monkeys, and a house of cards" as part of a motion,

. . . Because undermining constitutional rights doesn't set a bad example at all.
Thompson proceeded earlier this year to alienate a sympathetic Utah state senator by bombarding him with e-mails, including one containing an attachment of a Grand Theft Auto IV lap dance, possibly demonstrating how lewd animated characters available for $59.99 at retail are far more insidious than, say, dirty videos anybody with a web browser can score for free.

At the beginning of this month, Entertainment Software Association President Michael D. Gallagher rhapsodized about comments from the Federal Trade Commission, to wit: "[o]f the three entertainment sectors, the electronic game industry continues to have the strongest self-regulatory code." That would be the same Entertainment Software Ratings Board Thompson implicated in "the distribution of pornography to minors." Heavens! Can industries and consumers identify values and make intelligent choices, especially under scrutiny? Maybe Jack Thompson's decadal shenanigans really did serve a purpose.

Alexandr Beran // January 1, 2010 // 10:22 PM

Hilarious... how can we get this segment to surface multiple times throughout the year. Here's a headstart: Natal!

Michael Ubaldi // January 2, 2010 // 2:02 PM

To answer your question, Alexandr: participation, yours being inferred and invited, along with all of our other contributors.

Maybe post-E3, as a mid-year counterpart?

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