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Towels and their Misconceptions

by Kimberly Unger on 06/28/10 11:32:00 am   Featured Blogs

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I just got back from a weekend camping trip and am hip-deep into the neverending pile of laundry that these sorts of "group" trips involve.  Just me and my kids, heck, they can wear the same shirt for three days, but go with a group of families you know and interact with on a regular basis and, hey, better have fresh shorts and socks for *every* day you are out in a tent.

Which brings me to the subject of towels.

Like any platinum level card-carrying geek, the first thing that pops into my head when staring at the pile of unwashed beach towels is, "always remember where your towel is".  The second thing that pops into my head is "wait, they had the wrong towels in the movie".  Referring of course to the recent 2005 Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy (as opposed to the metric oodle of other variations on the IP).

See, growing up near the ocean, we have these amazing beach towels.  Beach towels so large and luxurious you could potentially have sex on them, on the beach, and still not get sand in the works (so to speak).  So when the term "towel" shows up anywhere, this is the first type of towel that comes to mind. 

This is, in fact, the *perfect* kind of towel for travel, big enough to serve as a blanket if you end up sleeping in the back of a lorry, thick enough to dry off three kids, a spouse and the family dog if you get stuck in the rain, tough enough to allow you to sunbathe on a field of broken glass, were you to be so unfortunate to be stuck in such a place.  So, to me, naturally, if you need to know where your towel is, this is the towel you are going to be looking for.

But in the movie they had these panzy-a** little hotel towels.  The kind you don't feel bad about stealing because they are so chintzy and small that you'd be better of with a box of Kleenex and a wet-nap.  Okay, yes, they are portable, easy to stuff in a pocket, carrying a towel of this stripe around with you is most certainly a touch more on the side of the ludicrous than carrying something that might genuinely have purpose.

Which then brings me to preconceptions and misconceptions, and more particularly whether or not these things can ruin a game experience.  Advertising and product development have been aware of these kinds of things for a long time.  McDonalds, for example, puts mustard on their cheeze burgers in certain parts of the US, and in other places they may or may not use those nasty little diced onions.  In games we see "import" versions of games that can include different content than you might have in a US release (should the game in question actually have a US release).

With the market for games seemingly heading for a separation into ponderous, multi-year development AAA titles and smaller, nimbler, fast-release mobile/web titles, I'm starting to wonder if it might be an interesting move to regionalize these smaller games. 

Release one version of Castle Crashers in west Texas, but a slightly different version in NYC for example.  Similar things are being done.  As a current example, the new Dr Who game is only available in the UK, and you're blocked from downloading it if you live elsewhere.  (Yes, yes, I KNOW you can get your hands on it by other, slightly more nefarious means, but I'm taking a "high-road" approach here).

The question, I guess, would be in how you target the specific differences.  McDonalds knows (through focus group testing and trial and error) that BBQ sauce A fits the tastes of the Deep South better than BBQ sauce B.  Is it even possible to target games in such a specific manner, or does the historically more "global" nature of games mean that we've already begun to homogenize the gaming community to the point where these kinds of local differences are simply not worth the effort?

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