– A giant “don’t bother”

Over the Thanksmericangiving weekend Microsoft was running a “Free XBox 360 Gold” promotion, and along with that, NetFlix was offering 30 days of free streaming service. I figured why not try it out, maybe we’d find some interesting movies or TV series that we’d enjoy?

Signing up was reasonably easy, although I would suggest creating your account on your computer first rather than trying to type out a decent password on an XBox 360. Twice.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the selection. More specifically, the lack of selection. It took me a good 15 minutes of flipping through TV shows and movies to find something I would watch to test out the streaming video quality and functionality. No, not a show to actually sit down and watch, just something to try out to gauge the video quality.

I ended up watching about 5-10 minutes of Mythbusters episodes. You won’t have to worry about spoilers of new TV shows if you’re a bit behind on your PVR watching since the available TV episodes were years old.

Recalling how much money and resources Netflix puts into algorithmically determining user preferences I thought I’d give it a chance, so that evening I spent about 45 minutes on Netflix’s website telling Netflix all about my movie preferences, genres I enjoy (and not), rating movies it offered to help Netflix learn about me. I also installed the iPhone and iPad clients, thinking I might go watch a movie on the iPad. Unfortunately I still couldn’t find anything that interested me. The suggestions weren’t bad, but I’d seen the movies I wanted to see and literally couldn’t find anything that I hadn’t already seen that interested me.

I picked one and sat through about 15 minutes on the iPad. Video and audio quality was good, but the movie didn’t grab me enough to care so I went to bed.

I got Lori set up with Netflix on her iPhone too to check out the selection, she watched a few more shows than I did, but the month trial isn’t even over and neither of us can find anything to watch.

The video quality was good, the interface isn’t horrible, selection of clients was nice. Heck, it even streamed video over 3G, something Apple can’t manage on the iPhone 4 (although other video-calling capable phones have been doing it for years), but what’s the point when there isn’t anything you want to watch?

More annoyingly though, when canceling service is careful to spell out that they terminate your service immediately and you forfeit the remainder of the time you prepaid. Let me type that one again more slowly: Customer pays for service. Customer decides to not renew at the end of the agreed upon prepaid term. Netflix says “great, but don’t tell us until the last possible minute or we won’t bother to give you the service for which you paid.”

Sorry guys, but that’s a dickhead move and it pretty much guarantees I won’t bother trying Netflix again even if they ever get a decent selection of movies / TV shows.

(And yes, I’m aware that it was a trial and I’m not actually out any money. I plan on keeping it that way)

Let me play the game already, dangnabit

Coming up on a year ago I got an Xbox 360. This was a new one for me, I haven’t really gamed much in many years. I had a Playstation 2 which held my interest for a couple SOCOM games, but not much more jumped out at me, before that, think back to the Duke 3D/Shadow Warrior and even the glory of the DOOM days.

Since buying the Xbox 360 I’ve been gaming more then I expected.

For me, I play games for the (and I know this will be a shocker) gameplay. I’m not generally there for the storyline; I mostly just play games that involve killing things, if I wanted a story I’d go find a book or watch TV (okay, bad example) or watch a movie (okay, worse example, but you get my point)

Sure, there might be some underlying “rescue the hostage” or “save the world” or “kill the terrorist” plotline around some good gaming, but it’s usually as well thought out a plot as goes into most porn. Porn generally has better acting too, incidentally.

I don’t get emotionally involved enough in the hostage’s well-being to care whether I rescue said hostage or not, my only real motivation to not shoot the hostage is that it usually ends the game if you do.

Now don’t get me wrong, story isn’t all bad. I enjoyed BioShock which had more of a storyline then most of the games I’ve played in the past, I really enjoyed Fallout 3 too so I’m not entirely story-adverse, but when it comes to brainless shooters, the story just isn’t usually a focus.

What ruins a game for me is when a game makes me sit through multiple cut scenes or witless dialog (I’m looking at you Gears of War) over and over without offering a way to skip them after failing and restarting a difficult mission. I get it, I screwed up the mission and now I have to try it again, but do I really need to be punished by watching the damn cutscene again and again?

I can live with a game making me sit through the story once, but especially for “boss-levels”, put the damn checkpoint AFTER the cut-scene; I don’t need to see my AI(*) companions peeing their pants and discussing how the upcoming enemy probably smells as bad as he looks cheesy.

Is that so much to ask?

* I use the “I” in AI only for clarity since their intelligence is usually lacking.