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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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Cedar Point, Kings Island are suing to get you back

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It just doesn’t seem fair, does it? Columbus Zoo & Aquarium are allowed to re-open but Cedar Point and Kings Island have been snubbed in Gov. Mike DeWine’s most recent announcement that Ohio’s entertainment venues were allowed to re-open.

After being left out of the party, Cedar Point, Kalahari Resort and Kings Island sued the director of the Ohio Department of Health Thursday, arguing that Dr. Amy Acton doesn’t have the authority to keep the state’s amusement parks and waterparks shut down and in doing so is violating the park’s rights.

The lawsuit was brought by attorney Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. The county health departments for both parks were also named in the lawsuit.

No word yet from the Ohio Department of Health as to when, or if, either amusement park will be allowed to open in June.

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Updated hours for North Market as first Farmers’ Market of the season opens Saturday

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Get excited Columbus foodies - this Saturday marks the beginning of North Market’s Farmers’ Market season! The Farmers’ Market will tantalize your taste buds every Saturday this summer through October, from 8 a.m. until noon at the North Market outdoor plaza at 59 Spruce Street.

During the coronavirus pandemic, North Market provided customers with fresh pick-up bundles. Now they’ve updated their operating hours to give consumers who want to shop again a chance to pick their own culinary delights.

"The hope is that a gradual reopening will strike a balance between the desire to serve the public and still respect the very real health concerns still shared by merchants, public, and staff," said Rick Harrison Wolfe, North Market's executive director, in a press release Thursday.

The updated hours, which will go into effect this Sat., June 6, are as follows:

  • Monday - Tuesday: closed
  • Wednesday - Friday, Sunday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Saturday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

All of those in attendance will have to observe the following guidelines as outlined in a press release by North Market:

  • North Market's mask requirement that applies to indoor merchants and guests will also apply to all outdoor vendors and guests.
  • Access to each farmers' market booth will be limited. Markings on ground will indicate this requirement and will show the distance required between people. Only one person/group traveling together may be in each box at a time.
  • Several farms and vendors will offer contact-free shopping and pre-orders. North Market asks that guests pre-order and plan out shopping trips when possible. This helps keep crowds to a minimum and lines moving smoothly.
  • Farms and vendors will provide hand sanitizer for guest use.
  • North Market farms and vendors are committed to helping prevent the spread of illness by washing hands frequently, covering coughs/sneezes, staying home when sick, and avoiding exposure to others who are sick. We ask that all guests follow the same protocols and do not visit North Market or the Farmers' Market if feeling ill.
  • North Market farms and vendors will continue to strictly follow all local public health guidelines, safety protocols, and best practices.

If you’re interested in which merchants will be open on what days, North Market has been dedicated to providing you with that information during the pandemic. You can find the list, which is updated daily, here.

Although there are still limitations on indoor seating, outdoor seating on the porch and the farmers’ market plaza are currently available.

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Weekend Getaway: Ohio State Park lodges reopen

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Cooped up inside of our homes for the past few months, everyone could use a change of scenery. Luckily for those that love the great outdoors of Ohio, the perfect getaway is now possible once again.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced on May 28 that all nine Ohio State Park lodges would be reopened by June 5.

The places where you can escape to are listed below in order of closest proximity to Columbus to furthest:

  • Deer Creek
  • Burr Oak
  • Mohican Lodge
  • Salt Fork Lodge
  • Shawnee 
  • Hueston Woods
  • Maumee Bay
  • Punderson Manor

Director of State Park Lodges Tom Arvan had this to say in the May 28 press release:

“Our staff has been working diligently to ensure that guests return to a safe and sanitized environment following the CDC safety guidelines. Our goal is for our guests to feel comfortable as they enjoy the fun activities and relax in the natural beauty of the lodges and all the state parks have to offer this summer.”

Visit https://www.greatohiolodges.com/ to secure your much-needed wilderness adventure today.

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