Miller’s Crossing (1990) – scene breakdown

This one ALSO got blocked on YouTube for copyright. May have to stop posting there.

Also, since video is completely optional, you can check out the commentary as a podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever else you like to listen to podcasts.


It is time to talk about one of my favorite all time movies. One of the things that the Escape Pod is for, I am learning, is taking a microscopic look at something in one of these works and just slice the pastrami so thin you can see through it. Fatty, of course, but sliced thin! Anyway, here is my chat about just one scene in the great 1990 Coen brothers film Miller’s Crossing .


In another life I worked with attorneys who had represented real live mobsters. For better or worse, that was never my job,. But I got to enjoy a few very memorable dinners with these elite defense attorneys of the Philadelphia Bar and I got to hear some of their war stories from representing organized crime lieutenants and kingpins during Philadelphia’s violent 1980’s. At one of these dinners, the discussion turned to mob movies, and there was a lot of love for The Godfather and Goodfellas, of course.

But one of these attorneys, Robert Simone, who had been disbarred in state court, prosecuted and convicted on suspicion that he himself was an active member of Philadelphia’s organized crime syndicate, who kept on representing defendants in Philadelphia’s Federal Courts, who eschewed the exquisite custom tailored suits favored by most of the assembled, THE Bobby Simone said that his favorite mob movie was Miller’s Crossing. Most of the others at the table had never even heard of it.

Needless to say, this endeared me to Simone in a way I cannot begin to describe. Me, a young civil litigator, petrified of anything having to do with criminal court, could bond with this GIANT of the defense bar over one of the greatest movies ever made. Simone has long since passed, but I will never forget that moment and it made me love one of my favorite films all the more.

There is vast amount of scholarship available about the Coen brothers and certainly about this film in particular. I don’t know what any of that stuff says. I do know that my experience of this film is that it is perfectly constructed, an entire universe of script, edits, performances, lighting, wardrobe, music and camera angle where everything fits perfectly like a complex and decorative watch or an insanely detailed ship in a bottle. There is so much here, but nothing is wasted. All the gags work, the violence is brutally disturbing. The protagonist’s opacity, especially to himself is perfectly fine for the only partially resolved ending. John Torturro’s over-the-top whining and pleading for his life is no easier to watch today than it was when the film was first released three decades ago.

You could literally have a field day breaking down every scene and describing the details which make it special. I don’t have the energy for that. But I do want to delve pretty deeply into one particular scene, and it is not one of the many set over-the-top set pieces, like Albert Finney’s Tommy gun skills as mob boss Leo, or the aforementioned Turturro pleading with Gabriel Byrne to spare his life, or ANY of the scenes featuring Philadelphia’s own John Polito as rival gangster Johnny Casper. Polito, by the way, should have gotten an Oscar for this movie. He absolutely controls every scene he is in with such wit, timing and an amazing physical presence.

Judging from what you can find on YouTube, the scene described above are more popular than the one that is the subject of my discussion. Yet, when I knew I wanted to write something about Miller’s Crossing, the only thing I could think of was this relatively early scene between Gabriel Byrne’s Tom Reagan, the consigliere, and a young Marcia Gay Harden’, who is Albert Finney’s mob mol Verna. And by the way, Verna and Tom are carrying on a relationship behind but is also sleeping with Tom on the sly.

Tom is drunk and has mounting gambling debts. He is trying to avoid Leo going to war with Johnny Casper’s gang over Verna’s brother. Tom wants Verna to stop using Leo to protect her brother. We pick up the action at 21:37. Tom has had a bad meeting with Leo at the club and goes looking for Verna. This whole sequence is bookmarked with a literal ‘whoosh,’ as the camera pans through the club to the bar and Tom masculinely says “get me a stiff one.” The bartender, who is also Tom’s bookie, tells him Verna is in the Ladies Lounge.

The music rises as Tom steps away from the bar (without paying for his drink) and it sounds like a bit of period jazz orchestra.

As Tom enters the ladies room, camera movement and position continue to be essential. We see through his eyes as he comes in all ready for a tussle with Verna. All the pretty ladies in pastel rise and fly from the room as this predator invades their space. They regard him with annoyance, but they accept that he’s in charge. There is one shot of Tom walking in with the camera moving at the same rate, keeping a constant distance as Tom advances. The other shot is from Tom’s point of view, you see what he sees. Motion is constant and at the same speed for both cameras. The effect is kinetic. I know you can’t see the action on a podcast, but even just hearing the ‘whoosh’, the conversation with the bartender, the rising of the music and the bravado as Tom gets into the ladies room is worth it. Here it goes.

(BREAK to show the scene up to this point)

Now that Tom has reached Verna, the next chapter of this sequence can begin. Verna who is calmly applying makeup while seated in front of a large mirror. The camera settles behind Verna’s right shoulder with Tom sitting behind her left shoulder. We see her back, we see her front in the mirror, and we can see Tom’s front also reflected in the mirror. Plus, there is ANOTHER mirror that is behind them both. Funhouse, right? It seems complicated when you break it down, but the result is that they appear right next to each other in the frame. Because Tom is drunk and a little bit behind where Verna is seated, he comes across as somewhat out of focus.

The rat-a-tat dialog increases as Tom gets up to talk about intimidating Verna while trying to maximize his physical presence. She’s not impressed. Now we’re vacillating from a camera over Verna’s left shoulder, showing her front in the mirror and camera at approximately the same location, but aimed up at Tom who is now looming over Verna. Drunk Tom is getting more and more frustrated as Verna continues to blow him off (while also confirming his suspicions). But Verna can use Tom’s obvious attraction to her as leverage and he doesn’t want to admit that she has that leverage. So he puts his hands on her and yanks her out of the chair.

This is some old-school, hard-boiled Humphrey Bogart type stuff. While he is basically assaulting her, Tom comes in for a kiss. Despite their having been lovers the night before, Verna hauls off at Tom with a substantial right hook to the jaw. He is thrown back and stumbles into a rolling makeup cart, spilling some of the contents. He then takes his whiskey glass and hurls it at Verna’s head, smashing the mirror as she ducks out of the way. She straightens up, grabs her mink and calmly walks toward Tom:

I suppose you think you’ve raised hell.

Tom drunkenly rotates his body to watch her leave. He is defeated in this encounter, but he has the style and audacity to try and claim victory anyway. The camera is now moving, following Verna out from a very low angle, putting her butt, well silhouetted by her slinky green dress, in the center of the frame. As she approaches the door, you can start to hear the party music again.

Tom steadies himself against a chair and the camera pulls away at the same speed it was moving to show Verna’s departure. I guess the view from her butt. Tom says:

Sister. When I’ve raised hell you’ll know it.

And he rubs his chin where she decked him.

What has this scene had such a profound effect on me? Is it my love of strong women? Is it the snappy dialog that is so close to being a parody without going too far? Is it the fact that Verna is Jewish? I don’t think I worried too much about who was Jewish in movies back then, but maybe. Like, I didn’t know that the Start Trek guys (Shatner and Nimoy) were both Jewish back in 1990.

Well, I think the moving cameras are a big part of the attraction. The way we have multiple angles following characters at the same speed may be filmmaking 101, but it really strikes me in its use here.

The whole thing is over in about three minutes.

Jimi Hendrix – Lover Man (commentary)

This one got blocked on YouTube as a result of copyright claim. I’m sure I’ll be dealing with more of that in the future.

Also, since video is completely optional, you can check out the commentary as a podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever else you like to listen to podcasts.


You can’t really talk rock guitar without a bow to Hendrix. This is a look at a smaller, less well-known song that still gives clear insight into much of what made Hendrix so special. His passion and emotion often mask the amount of planning and precision and economy he was able to summon. This little tune lets us see all of it in a very tidy package. Here’s the written edition of my Hendrix essay:

This came up the other day and it highlighted for me how we take Jimi Hendrix for granted. There is no way that I, born in 1972, can imagine the hysteria and the revolution that happened when this man was alive and making new music. And to make my ignorance worse, during my formative years I rebelled against Hendrix because he was “too popular.” In junior high and in high school I ended up spending a lot more time listening to the people Hendrix had influenced and the people he was influenced by. In a way, I’ve been only enjoying the bread and missing out on the best part of the sandwich.

Someone with more knowledge than I could do a whole season worth of podcasts on different aspects of Hendrix’s music and life, but for now I just want to focus on this one song and even just this one version of this song.

Now, this was a live version from an album called Hendrix in the West. The studio version can be heard on Both Sides of the Sky, which is a posthumous release. Hendrix’s catalog has victimized by disputes over his estate, so it’s a little hard for someone like me who only has a peripheral knowledge of the history, to know what version is “definitive.”

This live version, however, just jumped out of a shuffle and really got to me, so that’s the one I’m talking about. It’s from a show at Berkley on 5/30/1970 and it’s with Billy Cox on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. This is the Cry of Love tour and the recording takes place about four months before Hendrix’s death. Based on YouTube videos from around the same time, Hendrix was regularly playing Love Man on this tour.

A lot of people think about Jimi’s epic (i.e. long) guitar solos, like Voodoo Chile and Machine Gun. We also tend to focus on the hits, like Hey Joe and Are You Experienced? But even in such an all-too-short career, Hendrix managed to cover a really diverse palette of music that was forward thinking, highly experimental, but also very organized and deliberate.

What makes Loverman worth talking about is that it is short at 3 minutes. It is structured somewhat like a twelve bar blues, but it has some easy decoration that makes it more of a rock or pop song rather than just a straight Blues interpretation. It has a great rock riff that anchors the song, but it also has a bridge at the end, which make it more of a narrative piece, rather than a blues that keeps going around the same progression. And this particular version has a few special moments that help highlight why I should have been listening to Hendrix from as soon as I could listen to music.

At three minutes, you might think there is not a lot to talk about, but when it comes to Hendrix, there are things that take literally two seconds that you can meditate over for hours and longer. It’s like what Talmudic study. And this it true all up and down the catalog, but there’s just a few things in this version of Lover Man that need mentioning.

The opening riff is the same as the studio version and has a classic Hendrix feel. That sequence takes seven seconds and then you are into the introductory Blues solo. It’s not a twelve bar, but just a one-four jam lasts about another six seconds. The solo (or fill, if you prefer) has a slow bluesy phrase, followed by some stinging right hand harmonics way up the neck and then darting back down to echo the opening riff right before the vocal starts. This is an example of how compact and efficient Hendrix’s play was. He could show you a Buddy Guy riff that was immediately followed by his disruptive technical innovations, and get right back to his blues all in the same phrase. That’s unequaled musical adroitness.

The verse has a twelve bar structure with Hendrix offhandedly doubling has vocal melody on guitar. There is no rhythm guitar, but the doubled notes (voice and saturated guitar) fill the space while giving extra deference to the rhythm section, which you couldn’t get with a second guitar.

After a second verse which basically repeats the structure and feel of the first, we get the intro riff again to prep for the solo. And what a solo. I think it’s much harder to really light up a solo in such a short space. There is no runway. Of course, to Hendrix this not a problem. Here we get the innovation of pedal effects that enhance the already distorted guitar without obscuring tone. As the extra distortion and sustain announce themselves, Hendrix slows way down – not to make silence, but to give the bends and sustain a chance to show themselves. Then we get the Octavia and more right hand harmonics to give us almost a San Francisco psychedelic amble. At the end of the first 12 bar cycle of the solo, Hendrix hits the Blues hard, very familiar turf to set up the very unfamiliar trick he’s about to attempt.

For the second part time through, Hendrix starts playing a grisly version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee. Although its a fairly ubiquitous piece of Classical music, it’s still Classical music! And yes this is a gimmick rehearsed with its own bass part and appearing similarly on other live recordings from this tour. But think about what this stands for. Hendrix is the Walt Whitman of rock guitar here – he contains multitudes. He hears all the music at the same time, it seems .- ALL the music. What’s so extraordinary and so hard to understand is that he could pretty much play it all at the same time too. I don’t want to dwell too much on the gimmick, but I think as we consider Hendrix’s legacy, this is inescapable proof that he was listening to and playing Classical music, even if its meant to be tongue in cheek.

After the stunt, we get a classic Hendrix innovation where he puts his stamp on the blues by going back to his I-IV jam (or I-IV-VII-IV), but this time for a vocal refrain instead of a guitar solo. This is Jimi inventing new music, creating a space for rock music that is based on existing forms, but still totally new and unique.

After this vocal jam there are some closing hits and a walk down, but they are merely transitions to Jimi doing his very special solo guitar trick, and by solo, I mean no bass and no drums. Just Jimi, Star Spangled Banner style. There are a lot of these moments, even in his too small recorded legacy. I don’t know if this type of expression grew out of Jimi’s competition with The Who to see who could get crazier at the end of songs, or what. I can, however, say with certainty that this is a trick that Jimi really enjoys and was really good at. It sounds like he can completely lose himself in these moments, almost like taking a victory lap to celebrate the end of the song. A lot of people have messed around with this paradigm. Stevie Ray gets pretty close. Neil Young did a whole album of these feedback endings,. But no one ever did it like Jimi. And the could do these several times per night, but they don’t get old or repetitive.

Whatever these solo bits are, and however you want to describe them, they are sonically astonishing. And the one that closes this version of Lover Man is no exception. Though modest in size, it has all the elements: Whammy bar, riffs to die for, just the right effects.

And that’s it. All that in jut three minutes of music. And the last thing you hear is Jimi tuning up to deploy the next masterpiece on his appreciative audience.

PUBG Mobile: escaping into a massive battle royale

During lockdown, I’ve started to play a lot of video games, which is a relatively new thing for me. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds mobile is a console-quality battle royale game/platform that I played on iPad for several months. It was a pretty surprising journey and I’ve enjoyed getting to know how PUBG and the similar Fortnite work.

If you are playing on the mobile platform and want to get together for some battle, the username is MPomy. I usually check in every couple days.

PODCAST

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Ah yes, the crowded and super successful Battle Royale sector of the video game market. Even if you don’t know the game titles, you have probably heard of the major players, in particular EPIC, which is responsible for Fortnite. This is not intended to be a news post and I don’t want to get into all the fascinating machinations of the feud between Apple (App Store) and Epic, but I’m Team Epic in this one. Apple has gone too far with their 30%, but that is a topic for a different podcast.

So, what does any of the have to do with the PUBG franchise? For a gaming noob like myself, these two games are very similar. They are third-person shooters that play out on a sizable and detailed virtual map, where the player drops onto the map basically unarmed, has to scrounge around for loot that can be used offensively, like guns and ammo, and defensively, like medical supplies and body armor. It’s everyone against everyone else and the last player (or team in ‘squad’ modes) left alive wins. All player are gradually herded into a smaller space as the game progresses so everyone is playing on a much smaller map by the end. Games seem to take between 15 and 30 minutes.

Alright, let’s take a step back and talk about guns and shooting games. I am a parent of an eight your old boy who is very energetic and emotional. Years ago, I told myself that when I became a parent, I would not allow my child to play with guns or idolize guns or fantasize about guns. But reality has a way of smacking you across the face. So first there was a Nerf gun, which I resisted and used as an important tool for positive incentive/reinforcement. Having a nerf gun in the house was not nearly as big a deal as I thought. My son routinely went through weeks when he wasn’t even interested in playing with it.

But the design of his and his friends’ guns comes, in part, comes from video games and video game tie-ins. This brought Fortnite front and center. Another thing I am very sensitive about, in addition to my distaste for guns in general is the toxic behavior people exhibit online. I don’t want to start ranting about the damage that Facebook and YouTube have caused, but I knew that interactions on Fortnite could be toxic. The game claims to be prohibited to those under the age of 12, but there is no enforcement. Kids as young as six are playing a lot, a probably younger kids too.

So, in another instance of leverage and positive reinforcement parenting, I got introduced to Fortnite. I guess this is the time to give a brief background on my own gaming career. I don’t really have one. I’m old enough to have been around at the dawn of consoles. Of course, my family always tried the product that was not most popular. So, instead of Atari, we had Intellivision. And I loved the football and baseball games, but that was pretty short-lived. I never had a Nintendo because I got too into music, listening, playing.

REAL RACING 3 AND FREE TO PLAY
With the advent of mobile phone games, MANY years later, I kept looking for something that could soak up my attention and give me a real escape. I guess I played some SimCity, which is a planning and strategy game where you attempt to grow a safe, prosperous and happy town. I was introduced to that title in high school where it was used to help explain the threat of unchecked population growth.

What I eventually found on the phone was Real Racing 3, which I still play today. It had a steep learning curve, but I still love the granular difference between cars and the realistic feeling of adrenaline banging around real race tracks throughout the world. I found the experience surprisingly satisfying on an actual phone, even though the bigger iPad screen seems like it would be even better.

Another note about Real Racing, which has existed in an unchanged state since about 2013. The economic model is “free-to-play, pay-to-win.” That means anyone can partake of a premium gaming experience so long as they have a compatible device with enough memory. The more you play, however, the harder the game gets and then you need to upgrade your cars to stay competitive. Upgrades are much easier to come by if you pay cash. Also, the better cars require vast amounts of in-game currency. Again, with some cash, you can realize your dream of owning a Porsche 917K Le Mans car or McLaren Senna, or pretty much anything else. So, if you are a car nut, the rewards are enticing. But they are also virtually impossible to come by through just playing and grinding and spending hour after hour playing. You can get pretty far with that, but it literally takes years.

This model has been around for a long time, so I’m thinking that, as longs as the rewards are good enough, the developers and game studios are making decent money. And for someone like me who likes to dip his toe in the water before committing ANY money to a game, you can get an idea of the experience. You can know fairly well in advance what your money will get you and how much you may have to spend.

FORTNITE AND SHIFTING INCENTIVES
I don’t know if Fortnite invented this new incentive structure, but it has clearly had the most success. Here’s how it works. All players start on equal footing, as I described earlier and skill is required to be the winner of a Battle Royale — what gear to get, how you use the topography, teamwork if you are in a squad game, how and when to use and save resources like ammo and medical supplies. Whether you play using default settings, or whether you have spent big money on the game, you have the same chance to win.

So how does Epic monetize its 350 million users? This game features a vast array of non-competitive items you can buy — things that are purely cosmetic. But they are so wonderful! A seemingly never-ending fountain off characters, costumes, and skins that change the appearance of weapons and other items you collect during the game. There are themes and tie-ins that come and go with updates. This year Epic submerged large portions of the map under water that gradually receded. Currently, there is a Marvel tie in, which means you can play as Thor, Tony Stark and others.

These updates are organized around ‘seasons’ for which users may purchase a Battle Pass. For the duration of the season, the Battle Pass makes a variety of goodies available to players who have lot of success at the game. The Battle Pass also grants you the privilege of paying additional cash (above the season pass’ cost) to get other goodies. None of this makes you better at the game, but it will make you the envy of those defaults who have to play in a boring skin.

Part of the success, and you can’t argue with the fact that this has been successful, is microtransactions. The Battle Pass is $10, but after that initial outlay, you can spend $2 or $3 bucks and get something additional, beyond the freebies that all Battle Pass buyers get. The name of the game is to outdo your neighbor, not only in skill but in appearance. I shit you not, there are even fashion shows.

A VERY REAL (and very BIG) SPACE
I started my journey to understand Fortnite during pandemic lockdown. One of the immediate aspects that appealed to me was the ability to interact with a bunch of people in a way that closely mimics stuff I might do in real life. Not like really shooting people, but certainly playing a very large game of paintball would compare. Your ability to interact with little details of your environment is vast and refreshing when you’ve been spending so much time inside. The map in Fortnite is about 7 square kilometers. There are interior and exterior spaces. There are hills and valleys and water and farms. There are a variety of vehicles you can use to get around if you don’t want to walk or run everywhere. These include boats, helicopters, cars and a golf cart. If you do spend a lot of time on your feet, you don’t get tired (which is one big difference between the game and reality), but as the game wears on, you have to stay in the safe zone or you start to take a lot of damage.

THE VIOLENCE
Another reason I didn’t want my 8-year old playing Fortnite was the violence. It’s not just the idea of inflicting pain and suffering on other people by means of firearms and other weapons, but the emotional toll of that along with the experience of being on the receiving end of those violent expressions. Of course, I’m also the same dad that let the boy watch Jaws at age six. I’m not here to give parenting advice, but Fortnite does a half decent job of toning down the violence so that it is more of a cartoon. It’s certainly way less blood and gore than Jaws. We can quibble with the euphemistic use of the term “eliminate” as a substitute for kill, but the game experience itself is not discomforting.

PIVOT TO PUBG
My personal experience with Fortnite is limited. I have played a bit on my iPad and enjoyed the intensity of battle, but I didn’t get hooked. One particular facet of Fortnite that I was unable or unwilling to indulge is “editing,” which means, building towers, walls and FORTifications (get it?). It’s an easy skill, but it seemed non-intuitive to me. I was able top run around the map and collect loot and encounter other players and shoot them very much as I would in a complicated paint ball event. But the idea of being able to instantly create towers and barriers stretched my brain a bit too far. That’s when the App Store algorithm steered me to PUBG.

As you can imagine, PUBG has no building/editing. You are stuck with the terrain and structures that are already on the map. Other than that, as I talked about earlier, the games are extremely similar. You parachute in, gear up and kill everybody else. Squads are four players in both games and you can work with friends or randoms.

Each of the games also acts as a social media platform, including baked-in voice chat that allows squad members to communicate in real time during the game. Voice chat is on by default for the entire 100 players that will participate in that particular match. You can limit it to just the four or two people in your squad. In fact, I’m not suer why you would want to listen to the whole room, but that’s the default. So, the first time I played, I turned up the volume (because sound is a big part of the game) and I was immediately greeted by simulated (?) sounds of coitus inflagrante. I luckily turned it down before nay son could ask what the hell was going on.

But the randos are actually part of the charm. On the one hand, simulated sex acts being aurally performed for six year olds is totally not OK. And I’ve also heard some VERY non-PC expressions that I would not tolerate in person. In those instances, I either bailed on my team or just kept quiet. Most often, people are quiet or don’t have the mics on, but I’ve had a few great experiences when I got schooled (kindly) by a more experienced player or got to share my accumulated knowledge with other less familiar with the game. PUBG even has a mentor program to match noobs with the OG community. I’ve never used that, but it’s definitely a cool idea.

THREE SKILLS
PUBG Mobile’s battle Royale requires three broad skillsets. The first is jumping out of the airplane and landing where you want when you want. The second skill is scrounging around for loot/gear and allocating resources. You can only carry two rifles, one pistol and only enough meds and other stuff that will fit in your bag. The final phase is the endgame, which involves getting to the last safe zone (smallest circle) and finding a place where you can eliminate the last player(s) before they kill you. If someone has a high power sniper rifle and a clear shot at you, it doesn’t matter how much armor you are wearing, you are not going to survive that confrontation.

From the moment you set foot on the ground, you are in danger. If you choose to land somewhere with lots of buildings (which means better chance for quality gear), you have a higher chance of being shot by someone who got there before you. That means you want to be quick and decisive on your way down. If you want to risk a very quick game, drop in somewhere really popular. If you want to increase your chances of surviving the first two minutes, then you risk not getting proper gear, which leaves you vulnerable to players and bots. Yes, there are bots roaming around the map.

In the end, high ground with good cover and excellent visibility is your best bet, although often not available. Being on a roof can work, but you can’t get on most roofs. There are periodic airdrops which can supply you with supreme camouflage (grille suit), but snipers routinely stake out the drops to pick off unsuspecting players hoping to grab an advantage.

LOSING AND WINNING
Each player has a bunch of hit points, which means they can take only so much damage before they are killed. Having a helmet and vest increase those hit points, but there is almost always someone who will get you before you see them. As with other battle royale games, there is an awkward in-between phase when you are ‘knocked down.’ This means that you have now taken enough damage that you can no longer use any gear, including medical supplies. All you can do when you’re knocked is crawl around pretty slowly. Also, getting knocked means you are on the clock. Yes, a teammate can come along and ‘revive’ you (and they somehow don’t need any medical supplies to do this), but it has to be fairly soon or your injuries will prove fatal.

Unlike other battle royale games, once you are dead, your game is over. In Fortnite, your teammates can resurrect your character at special ‘reboot’ stations, allowing you to get back in the fight, while also strengthening the social bonds of the team. Reviving and rebooting is an easy way to build closeness with gratitude inside the game’s social network, but in PUBG it limited to reviving. Once you’re dead, you’re dead.

Winning, whether you do it on your own or as part of a squad, is tremendously satisfying. In PUBG it increases the likelihood that you will get better cosmetic goodies. Predictably, you get more experience points when you win. As you rank up you get more goodies, but nothing that will give you much of an advantage in the battle.

ALGORITHM AND BLUES
I love finding new multi-player games that are free-to-play. There is a common algorithm that “matches” you with other players in order to provide the best “user experience.” Ah yes, I love that user experience. You can say what you want about the interface, the graphics, the overall look, sound and feel of that game — none of that compares to what really moves the need on “user experience.”

The best user experience is when you win.

A game like Fortnite or PUBG mobile presents a premium feel with amazing graphics and abundant features and context that you would expect to pay $40 or more to “experience.” How can they give that away for free?

The answer is to develop an algorithm that stimulates just enough serotonin to thrill you with YOUR OWN performance, while challenging you with enough so you will repeat to improve. While using the outfits as an incentive is good, making you think you can succeed at this game if you KEEP PLAYING is the real trick.

There are always a lot of new users that can help make your first few missions easier, but the developers have stacked the odds (in your favor!) with some characters in the game not being actual players. These bots may try to kill you if you find them in the field, but they don’t try very hard.

Yes, it’s a ruse, but after playing the game for a couple months, I approve the method. The bots have helped me develop some very basic skills, while also getting my ass blown off by more experienced players. I look at it as basically a hybrid continuation of the tutorial.

The usual algorithm formula is otherwise in place for matching. As you get better, you get matched with better players. After a bunch of frustrating games you will start getting some easier opponents. The push-pull continues so that your results will reach equilibrium in correlation to the amount of time you want to spend getting better.

ESCAPE WITH ME
Part of my mission with the Escape Pod is to get away from the persistent hellscape of reality. I would not think that the disturbing violence of PUBG Mobile would be much of an antidote, but the difference between me IRL and me online in these games is so vast that it feels cathartic. Do I have a secret love for these weapons of pain and destruction? Yes, and it’s not a secret. There is a conscious appreciation of the machines, like with exotic cars, where I like to know about the engineering and delight in the emotion and artistry, but I definitely don’t want one (or more) for myself. Like a racing game that lets me live out my fantasy of being a world champion driver, these games let me celebrate my love of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies in the 80’s.

I think there’s a lot of tedious and problematic and vey young people playing these games. I’m not sure how this level of simulation effects those people, but the concept of playing with people you already know (as opposed to algorithm-aided matching) is much more appealing and easily accommodated on the platform.

If you are already playing, or if you want to try, I will continue to be somewhat active on PUBG Mobile, and I would love for you to hit me up. I’m thrilled to have gotten to know some of the aspects of how these games work and why they are successful.

The MPOMY Escape Pod

I envisioned creating a multimedia platform where I could start with writing and build audio and video content on top of that. The video will never be “necessary” to fully experience the content, but nothing is real unless it’s on YouTube. And the last time I checked, YouTube is still a video platform.

So, now the Escape Pod is a reality. No politics. No pandemic. Just the music, movies, TV, and video games that help me escape from all the horror and conflict of real life.

You can now subscribe on Apple, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also subscribe to the YouTube channel or find all the content at mpomy.com.

Thanks for your interest, and I will see you in the Escape Pod.

Dribble Down Economics

08/27/2020

Last night the Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott their playoff game against the Orlando Magic in order to protest Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey’s shooting Jacob Blake seven times in the back. In a horrifying cell phone video, we can see the officer shoot Blake seven times in the back as Blake attempts to get into a car. After the Bucks took action, the NBA decided to cancel all three games. More and more NBA stars and coaches are saying that they cannot continue to play and entertain while this violence against Black people continues unabated….

READ MORE at LeftRightPolitics.com

More Conventional

08/26/2020

Not much to say about the RNC spectacle so far. My assessment from 50,000 feet is that day one was about some hard work to put Biden in his place and to show voters what is at stake. Day two now appears to have been more about what a sweet, caring and capable leader Trump has turned out to be. I think they did a better job on night two, but the issue addressed on night one – labeling Biden – is probably more important to help get Trump across the victory line in November (or December, or January)…

READ MORE at LeftRightPolitics.com

Use of Force

On Sunday, a Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back while Blake was trying to get into his car. There is reporting that Blake’s three children were in the car. The officer is white and Blake is Black. The entire event was captured on cell phone video and, not surprisingly, went viral right away. Blake is currently in an ICU and his condition is classified as ‘stable.’…

READ MORE at LeftRightPolitics.com

Tough Act to Follow

As Joe Biden finished his speech on Thursday night, I breathed a sigh of relief because the Democratic Convention was ending as a success. MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace described it, somewhat hyperbolically, as successfully constructing an airplane while it was flying. There is no need to list all the challenges that a ‘virtual’ convention faced, and despite the fact that it had never been done before, the Democrats totally pulled it off…

READ MORE at LeftRightPolitics.com

Liberators or Occupiers

Happy Friday, everyone. I’ve been wanting to do do this one for a while, but there is never a good time to “criticize” your “friends.” I’m using quotation marks because I’m not really criticizing and these folks are not my friends, despite our being joined for a common purpose. I am talking about the The Lincoln Project….

READ MORE at LeftRightPolitics.com

We are not done with this virus

6/10/2020

Every day I check a lot of websites that usually have stories and columns I don’t agree with. I look at the opinion section of the Wall Street Journal, plus the headlines on FoxNews, RedState, Drudgereport, Breitbart and the Daily Caller. On the one hand, this is me indulging in some flagrant “both sides-ism,” but I want to see what’s happening outside my elite, liberal echo chamber. Today, I can tell you what’s NOT happening: COVID-19…

READ MORE at leftrightpolitics.com