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Smile or Die

There is something absurdly relatable about Smile Inc. If it isn’t the ceaseless coffee overconsumption, the avoidance of humdrum office parties, or the subliminal “be happy” messages decorating the virtual workplace, it is the overarching narrative of the game—to climb the corporate ladder or die a horrific death. Sounds about right. The indie gaming company [...]
Danny Hamen

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There is something absurdly relatable about Smile Inc.

If it isn’t the ceaseless coffee overconsumption, the avoidance of humdrum office parties, or the subliminal “be happy” messages decorating the virtual workplace, it is the overarching narrative of the game—to climb the corporate ladder or die a horrific death.

Sounds about right.

The indie gaming company Super Lame Games’ Smile Inc. exceeded 3 million downloads during their launch in late October, astonishingly surpassing a release by gaming colossus, EA Games, clinching the spot for the number one app worldwide.

Even though Smile Inc. is enjoyed from Toledo to Tokyo, it was developed in an unassuming office space in the Short North, right next to Condado Tacos.

The gameplay is fairly simple—your character runs through a booby-trapped office, floor by floor, evading obstacles like gigantic scissors, pencil barricades, and robotic sharks, all to the beat of a tacky elevator ditty. There are countless achievements and un-lockable accessories, a rewarding leveling system, and randomly generated floors, keeping the game satisfyingly fresh for an app that costs nothing.

But what gives the game its edge—at least from a marketing standpoint—is that the protagonist is none other than Columbus’s own YouTube prankster, Roman Atwood—and, if you get far enough, his girlfriend and two sons.

Super Lame Games began as partnership between Carl Zealer of Canal Winchester-based toy company Nowstalgic Toys, and Rainer Ziehm of Super77, a design boutique on North High Street. Ziehm and his team have been hard at work in Columbus for the past decade—from creating motion graphic animations for Honda and Nike to working on music videos for Red Hot Chili Peppers and RJD2, and a lot of things in between.

Eventually, Ziehm decided to create an offshoot of his company, dubbed Super88, to strictly create apps that serve as companion products with Zealer’s toys.

“When we started Super88 and Super Lame Games, it was always the toy first and app second, meaning that the app supported the toy,” Ziehm said. “Well, now we flipped it. Smile Inc. is our first venture into pure self-standing app that has toys to support it.”

The office of Super77 is wacky and exactly what you might expect out of hip design boutique—first pressing vinyl from 1977 decorate the walls alongside vintage game boxes and controllers; a Skee-Ball game sits in the break room alongside a foosball table, and a retro console collection prominently sits in the front lounge, complete with a leather couch and a large stone chair shaped as a hand.

Ziehm wanted to create a product that he and his team could call their own—a tangible product that isn’t sold away to branding executives and rock bands. That is when he decided to team up with Zealer and start developing games for mobile devices.

“The genesis of Smile Inc. started a few years back as a fun project where one of the Super77 designers, Andrew Mark, used dynamics and physics to manipulate characters in 3D, called ragdoll physics,” said Nate Reese, creative director. “He created a series of hilarious GIFS of people just being brutalized, ran over by cars, things of that nature. You can imagine there were specific clients that were bombarded with lots of things.”

Flash forward a few years, and the team got the green light to make a game—so they decided to use the physics engine created by Mark. “It was so funny to watch these stupid dummies beat up by these different objects,” Reese laughed. “Well, we thought, ‘what if we could take a traditional endless runner, and dial it up to an 11?’”

Well, much to their delight, their recent partnership with Zealer gave them access to Atwood, whose stomping grounds were adjacent to Zealer’s Canal Winchester toy factory. Atwood grew up admiring Zealer’s “fetishized car collection,” including a throwback DeLorean and a fully functioning Batmobile, making them fast friends.

“It has been refreshing to see how much Roman understood video games, and even mobile games, but also how in to contributing ideas he was. And they weren’t shitty ideas either,” Reese laughed.

In total transparency, I can’t stop playing the game. Sure, I can justify this time spent as research, but in actuality, this game is just addicting as hell. With every try, I get further and further, dodging saw blades and mousetraps, accumulating points and self-satisfaction along the way with every floor I complete.

Mobile games don’t have to be shitty. Yeah, they don’t have the depth of, say, the Baldur’s Gate trilogy, but they hold inherent value in their own way, serving as an accessible, on-the-go distraction from the monotony of everyday life, like a boring day of work.

Just like a real day at the office—except in their case there is a lot more pixelated blood.

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614NOW Survival Guide: Asian Festival

Mitch Hooper

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Every year, the beautiful and lush space at Franklin Park Conservatory plays host to The Asian Festival. It's a festival where Ohioans come together to celebrate all Asian cultures and cuisines ranging from China to India to Vietnam. Whether it's inspired dance, martial arts, or new-to-you desserts, this festival offers a chance to explore Columbus's rich Asian culture while enjoying a day at the Conservatory.

And before you head out this weekend, here are a few tips to making the most out of Asian Festival.

Let's Just Get This Out Of The Way Now: It's Free

Obviously, food and drinks, and anything else you want to purchase costs money, but it's totally free to hang out. Bring your little ones! This time you won't have to use the classic white lie to get free admission. You know the conversation I'm talking about: "Ok, today, you guys are all 10-years-old, got it?"

Hot From The Sun? Cool Off With Dessert

Asian Festival is mostly outdoors and Ohio's summers can be just as brutal as Ohio's winters. J-Pops are popsicles, but these send your local ice cream truck guy running home to his mom. These gourmet pops come in flavors like lemon basil or watermelon mint. On the other hand, options like Aloha Ice is your stop for shaved ice in a multitude of flavors. And of course, rolled ice cream courtesy of Simply Rolled Ice Cream LLC is your Insta-aesthetic option.

So You Think You Can... Art?

You don't have to be exclusive to being a spectator throughout the weekend, there's plenty of ways to participate. Saturday is loaded from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with craft-driven activities like Chinese calligraphy at 10 a.m., or paper animal construction at 4 p.m. Sunday keeps this ball rolling with activities like kimono design at 2 p.m.

Step Out Of Your Cuisine Comfort Zone!

The classic American/Midwesterner in you might only think of that takeout joint down the road from your house when you think of Asian cuisine, but I'm here to tell you, you're sorely mistaken and missing out. Asian food spans across many different countries. Do you love Ramen? Ok, admittedly, that's an easy one, but your kids will know it and probably love it* (*no promises, kids are unpredictable).

What about Bahn Mi? Never had it? It's a Vietnamese sandwich that will change your damn life. There's also the opportunity to try the popular Hawaiian dish, poke—a rice bowl that typically features raw fish with veggies and sauces. Even your vegan friends can find a delicious Indian meal from Flavors Of India.

Have A (Tea) Party!

Saturday also plays host to tea tastings for those looking for something new in their mugs. The first of the two is slated earlier in the day while the second will serve as one of the last events to cap off the first day of the festival.

Asian Festival is happening Saturday, June 25 from 10:00AM- 8:00PM and Sunday, June 26 from 10:00AM0 6:00PM at Franklin Park.

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614 Survival Guide: Dime-A-Dog Night

Mitch Hooper

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Warmer days are finally here and it's that time of the year everyone can't stop talking about. No, it isn't patio season. We aren't talking about summer festivals, either. We're talking baseball, and more specifically, we're talking hot dogs you can buy for just 10 pennies.

The Columbus Clipper's Dime-A-Dog Night is not only a chance to enjoy America's pastime, it's a chance to test your eating endurance. How many hot dogs can you put down in nine innings? To beer, or to not to beer; that is the potentially bloated question. And you do realize how many dogs you can get for $20 right? That's 200 dogs, dawg!

Surviving this madness, however, is an art unto itself. You can expect longer lines, but everyone is just getting hot dogs so you can also expect them to move relatively quickly. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, and we are here to help. Here's a six tips to making the most of Dime-A-Dog night.

6.) Bring the Tums, hun

Don't be a hero, bring the anti-acid. Hot dogs are hotbeds for hidden ingredients, and you don't know when one will drop a missile of indigestion upon you. Be prepared, pack the little chalky tablets.

5.) Bring The Little Ones

Dime-A-Dog night is a great way to change up the speed of things throughout your weekdays without having to tank a ton of money into entertainment. Beyond the insanely cheap Sugardale hot dogs, children under the age of 2 get in for free!

4.) Be Early (duh!)

This is a no brainer, but it pays to be in the know. For 7:05 p.m. starts, the gates will open 90 minutes prior to opening pitch. On the other hand for 6:35 p.m. starts, the gates open one hour before opening pitch. Being first in the gates means you have first crack at the fresh hot dogs that weren't made at lightening speed to keep up with orders. This leads me to my next point....

3.) Know The Flow

Dogs at the beginning of the game taste better than dogs later, but there is a Goldie Locks point. At a certain moment during the game, bellies are going to get full and the rush for more food slows down. This is when you should have your second wind. The hot dog slinging has slowed down and the lines aren't nearly as long. Take it easy on the first run through and save some room for dessert: more dime-a-dogs.

2.) Beer: Your Enemy, Or Friend?

This tip is more of a "check yourself before you wreck yourself" thing. For some people, beer is the magical elixir that allows them to devour hot dogs like Joey Chestnut (*not literally). If this is you, you know the fuel to your fire. For other people (me), beer and carbonation fills the stomach too quickly leaving no room for more hot dogs. If this is you, mixed drinks are your happy alternative.

1.) Go Crazy And Buy More Expensive Tickets

#NotAnAd. Seriously, though. Think of the money you'll be saving on dinner (and potentially breakfast the next day if you wear cargo shorts). Two quarters will get you five hot dogs and that's damn near an entire pack from the store. A few extra bucks could be the difference between catching a fly ball and never coming close. Protip: the seats along the third base line are nice, but make sure you bring your shades because that sun set shines directly in your eyes blocking your view... of more hot dogs.

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3 ways to fill Game of Thrones gap until next week

Mitch Hooper

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In the world where Netflix has made series available in its entirety for maximum binge-watching, waiting a week for the next episode of Game Of Throne feels something like an eternity. It seems like there's not enough fan theories to dig through, reviews to confirm your beliefs (or send you into spiraling rage), and the famous three words "Winter Is Here" is practically tattooed on your forehead.

Last night's first episode of the final season has taken the world by storm, and here's a few ways to get your fill of GoT until the next episode aires.

Game Of Thrones Pub Quiz at Fado Irish Pub | 4022 Townsfair Way
Monday, April 15, 7:00 PM

So you think you're the smartest fan in the city? Put your money where your mouth is then! Hit up Fado for their quiz night on all things GoT and finally prove all those hours on the fandom wikipedia page were worth it. If you're victorious, you'll win a the King's Feast which is dinner for eight. And $10 specials on buckets of beer is always a win in our books.

Game Of Thrones Night at Ruby Tuesday | 1978 Summit St.
Monday, April 15, 8:00 PM

Let's face it, anyone who doesn't watch the show (AKA most of your co-workers who don't pay for HBO) aren't really looking forward to your Monday morning ramblings recapping the latest episodes. Instead of being avoided at the office, stop by Ruby Tuesday to discuss in-depth all the rumblings and developments in each episode with all your other fellow fans. Your co-workers are already relieved, and Ruby Tuesday will have pizza and beer.

Game Of Thrones Dinner at 101 Beer Kitchen | 7509 Sawmill Rd.
Tuesday, April 16, 6:30 PM

It's a feast fit for royalty at 101 Beer Kitchen as they'll be hosting a large dinner akin to the Purple Wedding—hopefully your name isn't Joffrey Baratheon—for $75 a ticket. Your food and cocktail menu will include specialty GoT-themed entrées and drinks, and it's encouraged to wear a costume so you can have a chance to win prizes!

Looking for more ways to show off your fandom? Check back periodically for an updated look on what Game Of Thrones events and parties are going on in the city.

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