Daily Doom 9/29/09

After much delay, here is the next installment in your increasingly un-daily Daily Doom:

DOOM

  • Want to feel great about life? Then don’t read this amazing report from Wired about the still active Soviet nuclear countermeasure system Perimeter—or, as it was more often known, Dead Hand. (The name choice once again reminds us that the Soviet military’s main failure was one of branding.) Perimeter is designed to launch an automatic nuclear attack on the US should the USSR be hit with a surprise attack. Of course the creators of Perimeter fell victim to a common blunder suffered by many who control doomsday devices: they’re only really effective as preventative weapons if you tell all your enemies about them. Secret doomsday devices, on the other hand, are just fucking terrifying.
  • “Let pandas die out,” says naturalist Chris Packham. He argues the resources we are dedicating to save pandas would be better spent on less adorable creatures that have some chance at survival without constant human intervention. Packham happens to be president of Britain’s Bat Conservation Trust, where he is dedicated to preserving only the ugliest of bats.

Exotic New Products from our Corporate Overlords:

NASA’s Latest Research

Crimes Foreign and Domestic

Three New(ish) Game Genres

While reading RSS feeds and chatting with Dan and Gen this morning (in Kai’s abandoned Palatial Pad), we’ve come upon three items of note relating to genres of video gaming.

Psychedelic Shooters: First, go look at this clip of Space Giraffe, and take it as one more piece of evidence that you ought to buy an Xbox 360 so you can be cool like me and Dan. When I told Gen I plan to buy this when I return to Philly, she asked me if I also plan on starting LSD. Maybe I’ll get to that after the seizures wear off.

Hoverboard Racers: Second, check out this post on Street Trace: NYC, another Xbox Live Arcade game. Kotaku writer Mike Fahey comments, “Street Trace: NYC is a new entry in my what could be favorite genre of all time: the hoverboard racer.” I figured this genre merited mention in a post here, seeing as how we’re still getting a decent amount of traffic on this site from people scouring the interweb for information on hoverboards.

3PS’s: And finally, we here at Doombot have decided that while FPS is an acceptable abbreviation of “first-person shooter,” TPS cannot adequately describe third-person shooters because of its associations with mindless paperwork. Therefore, we now officially promote the abbreviation 3PS (pronounced “THREE-pee-ess”), which is awesome because (a) it is shorter than the phrase “third-person shooter” and (b) it kind of reminds us of C-3PO. Wikipedia recognizes TPS and 3PS as acceptable abbreviations, so this is hardly a “new” game genre. Nevertheless, we feel that our considerable authority must be brought to bear on this pressing issue.

These are the things one discusses in the days following PAX.

Eat Your Heart Out, Segway

So, either we’re 17 years behind schedule or 9 years ahead of schedule. I’m not quite sure. Either way, I fully expect—demand, really— that the kinks be worked out of Hammacher Schlemmer’s Hover Scooter by 2015, so that I can finally cross off at least one of my childhood dreams (funders have unceremoniously rejected my plans to build a LazerTag arena, complete with bicycle ramps).

If you were a kid when Back to the Future II came out, you almost certainly heard the urban legend that Mattel had actually made hoverboards, though they couldn’t release them due to safety concerns. I remember spending hours daydreaming about how the hoverboard would work: where was its on/off switch? How would you control it? Did it come in colors other than pink and blue? Though Snopes debunks the rumor, its analysis leads me to conclude largely that Robert Zemeckis has been crushing childrens’ dreams since long before The Polar Express.

Robert Zemeckis, the film’s director and special effects genius, became fed up with people asking him how the hoverboard sequences were done, and, according to Michael J. Fox, he began answering, “What do you mean, how did we do it? It’s a real hover-board. It flies. Michael [J. Fox] just practiced a lot.” His exasperation-fueled flippancy only served to heighten the rumor; now even the director was confirming it!

The hoverboard’s failure to appear on toy store shelves was attributed to pressure brought to bear upon Mattel by parents’ groups concerned for the safety of children, and once again Zemeckis was right there to stir the pot: “Hoverboards have been around for years, but parents’ groups worry that kids will get hurt, so they’ve pressured the toy companies not to put them on the market,” he said. “We got our hands on some.”

Don’t you understand that we’re talking about people’s feelings, Bob? Their hopes and dreams? Maybe next you’ll tell us that Forrest Gump wasn’t real, just another figment of your power-induced imagination. Whatever, man.

I do, however, enjoy the temerity of the online order page, which blithely asks: “How many?” Granted, if you can afford one of the $17k hover scooters—say, if your intials happen to be R.Z., and you’re a fairly successful, if heartlessly cruel film director—you can probably afford two (unless you, like me, have been carefully putting all your spare change into a jar marked ‘Hoverboard Collection Fund’ since 1989). And fortunately, they’re offered in four colors, so you don’t get yours confused with your next-door neighbor’s hover scooter. Okay, Hammacher-Schlemmer, so you’ve got the hoverboard started. Any progress on that time-traveling DeLorean? Maybe you could start with a Pinto or something. No pressure.

Of course, unless Zemeckis lets me drive his, I’m probably going to need a bigger change jar.