Saturday, January 02, 2010

What a wonderful age we live in

The wash of end of the year "Best Of" lists was made much worse this week by the one-two punch of the year and decade ending. I even issued a minor plea via Facebook to call off the onslaught of lists that took up time and space on web sites struggling to get anything up in the week between Christmas and New Years.

Sure, it's nothing new, but with the advent of embedded video, it seems like this is getting worse. Don't get me wrong, I'm more than guilty of the yearly, "What did it all mean" navel gazing that is behind these exercises, but just once I'd like a little more variety in my best of the decade lists.

Without any research whatsoever (yay!) aside from the handful of posts I skimmed, I can safely say the majority of these posts listed the iPod/iPhone, a major video game console, some sort of digital book reader and an extra smart phone thrown in for good measure. Add another five or so gadgets and you can stretch it to a top 10 list and be home for brunch.

While all of these things are wonderful - and I fully admit to a moment of wonder on a road trip this week when I realized just how amazing it was as my wife Googled a random question from her iPhone as my GPS hummed along and the iPod powered away for nearly two days of traveling - I would like to drill down a bit further.

Of course, I'm talking about the rewind feature on Forza Motorsport 3 for the Xbox 360.

If you are a gamer and you are a parent, this is perhaps the greatest thing to ever appear on your console. Forget the game-changing graphics and always excellent gameplay - this is the piece of the puzzle that's been missing for too many years.

Let me explain the problem. I'll be happily racing along when my wife needs to know where I hid something in the kitchen. In the few seconds it takes me to transition from death-defying 200-mph speed demon to figuring out where the paper towels went when we unloaded the car, I have temporarily forgotten that I am piloting a digital race car at high speed.

(Anyone who asks why I don't simply pause the game has never tried to execute such a complex maneuver in a high pressure situation involving a missing can of baby formula.)

About the time I realize my mistake, I have take that ground-based rocket and slammed it squarely into a retaining wall. If the car still runs, it won't turn and there's no way to get back into the race or get the previous 10 minutes back. This has led to unkind words in the past.

No more - borrowing a gimmick from games like Prince of Persia, you can now back the game up a few seconds (when your car is still in one piece and has its structural components in tact) and pick up where you left off. No muss, no fuss, no in game penalty.

Yes, there are much bigger tragedies in this world than turning a digital Mustang into a few thousand assorted parts strewn across the track, but try telling that to someone who now has to start over against that damned, cheating computer opponent who keeps kicking your ass in an obviously underpowered car. It's not rational, but trust me, it just is.

(Bonus points if this happens on the track at Laguna Seca, which is the bane of my digital racing existence.)

I cannot say enough about this feature. If Forza decides to repeal this feature in the future, they will have an angry letter sent the next day and a possible visit to their offices, depending on how centrally located they are to my home and/or place of business.

While Apple has certainly won the technology decade in the broad strokes, Forza (more specifically its developer, Turn 10) has won for day to day bliss. Mark myt words, in the end, this will save more marriages than Viagra.

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