I am dissapoint, LOVEFiLM

October 31, 2010 § 2 Comments

You’ve all probably heard of the common idea that a bad customer experience sticks out far more than good one. Well, it’s true, and I’m going to prove it to you right here and now.

A few minutes ago I sent out two fairly irate tweets directed towards @LOVEFiLM on Twitter. I was pissed off. My DVD rental copy of Redbelt had gotten stuck around two-third’s of the way through, rendering an entire scene in the movie unplayable. Sure, to some people it might not be a big deal to miss a scene or two, but to me it’s unacceptable. That one scene could have been key to the motivations of a central character or been the focus of a major plot point. In my mind, it’s ruinous to the whole experience of watching a film.

"Why, LOVEFiLM?! Wherest art thou's CRM strategy? 😥

So, anyway, I started tweeting and got to thinking about just how many unplayable DVDs I’d sent back to LOVEFiLM over the years I’d been with them for. Turns out, they make this rather easy. They archive your history of rentals, and they send out an e-mail every time you report a faulty disc. Now, over time, I’d got to feeling that I must be receiving faulty discs about, oh, a quarter of the time; although, my point is that it had felt like this was happening more and more – like, way too often for comfort.

What did I actually find when I looked through my history and bank of e-mails, though?

Well, first off, I found out that I’ve been a subscriber since around late July 2008.

From that time I have received 211 discs through from LOVEFiLM, which includes mostly film DVDs but also Xbox 360 DVDs, and doesn’t include replacement discs.

I have reported only 11 cases of a DVD being faulty or unplayable.

While I’m no fancy mathematician, even I can work out that that’s a fault rate of around 5% over two years and roughly three months.

While it has to be said that that 5% doesn’t include the times I didn’t bother to report a faulty disc for whatever reason, that statistic is actually much lower than what I had expected it to be. I had the firm belief in my head, beyond almost all doubt, that it would be something closer to at least 25% – but no, I had only been receiving faulty discs close to, and probably just over, one-twentieth of the time. Yet, I was sure – so sure – that it was higher. And not only that, I was very ready and willing to spread that false belief all over the Internet. Inevitably, in my agitation, that’s exactly what I started to do.

Was LOVEFiLM listening to what was being said about them? No, apparently not, because I still haven’t heard from them. Perhaps I wouldn’t have even bothered writing this if they had. They could have apologised, offered me some compensation for the inconvenience, while also providing statistics demonstrating the low frequency of faulty disc reports. That would have been a great bit of customer service, and I may even have ended up relaying that information across to my friends and followers. They could have turned a negative customer experience into a positive one. Did they do that? No, they didn’t.

I guess this is the lesson to learn for businesses, one which they probably all know but that nonetheless bears repeating: your customer is irrational, impatient, quick to anger and, potentially, a risk to your reputation in this ever connected, digital world. That is not to say be afraid of your customer, but at the very least they need to be placated, and they need to feel heard when they’re not happy. When you’re offering a service, your perceived reputation is the difference between adoption and dismissal, between advocating and discouraging. Get your customers onside, keep them happy, and get them working for you, not against you.

(On a side note: from the fifty-five minutes I saw of Redbelt, I think it’s really good. Chiwetel is a criminally under appreciated actor, again delivering a charismatic, subtle performance. And if you’re one of those guys who really digs the nobility of a warrior/samurai code, this is absolutely going to rock your boat.)

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My problem with Shutter Island…

August 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

… is best explained with this quote from a review of another movie:

First it’s hard to connect with a movie when it tries so hard to ‘fool’ you or to keep you guessing; is this a dream, is it not, is it a dream within a dream? Who cares? Just commit to something and get on with it.

That said, I guess my issue is more to do with the film presenting the blindingly obvious twist (it’s all in his head) without actually saying it, and then proceeding to lead the audience down the garden path for the rest of the film until it says “STOP! Now, here’s the real answer.”

Here’s the kicker, though: the above quote is from a review of Inception by Michelle Alexandria, of Eclipse Magazine. And yet, I really loved Inception; couldn’t shut up about it, in fact. So I don’t know why I feel that the criticism applies so strongly here and not there, when they are quite similar movies – both dealing with shifting and unreliable realities, from the perspectives of troubled and traumatised narrators, and both coincidentally starring DiCaprio in the leading role. I really need to see Inception again, just to see if it holds up a second time round, and maybe so I can figure this paradox out.

WE NEED TO GO DEEPER!

Also, I couldn’t resist – from the same review:

The last 30 minutes was a complete mess, featuring three or four dreams all happening at once. I did think Call of Duty: Modern Warfare would make a pretty cool movie since one of the dreams was a blatant rip off of the game. I kept thinking, man I wish I was home playing some Spec Ops and not stuck here watching this movie. [My bold – ed.]

I’m glad I wasn’t the only person thinking this. Further, I think she’s right: the third layer (or as I like to call it, “The Snow Level”) is where I got bored, where it suddenly turns into a mindless action scene from a James Bond movie that drags on, and on, and on, and on, and– well, you get the gist.

As I said, I loved Inception, but I also think this review raises some interesting criticisms of the film.

The summer drought; finally my final impressions on Final Fantasy XIII; and so-called misogyny and misandry

June 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Well, the summer drought is well and truly here. Just looking at the GiantBomb release schedule for the UK, there looks to be very little in the way of major releases coming out in the next month or so. Got to say, it’s kind-of welcome, since I’ve quite a few games on my shelf I’ve been meaning to play more of. Bayonetta, in particular, is one regret of mine, and its presence on the “To do” pile is a symbol of great personal shame.

I’ve just managed to finish Final Fantasy XIII, and, I’ve got to tell ya, reviewing that game would be an absolute nightmare. Fortunately, someone’s done my job for me. That man is Chris Kohler from Game|Life, Wired’s online gaming publication, and you can read his review here. It’s definitely a weird one, FF XIII. In some areas it makes some rather brave steps forward, but they feel misjudged, yet it’s also a game trapped by its heritage and its conventions; and, not unlike the recent Alan Wake, it also looks like a game that started out as very ambitious in the original design but was then scaled back to fit time and financial constraints. So, a bit of a mixed bag, then.

From the gaming blogosphere, there have been two instances of controversy: one from Hoyden about Town, where they accuse the creators of the Xbox LIVE edutainment title Privates of misogyny; the second, a reaction against the satirical Hey Baby FPS game, in which you, playing as a woman, gun down dozens of men who are catcalling, harassing and chasing you through the streets of some modern day metropolis.

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'(500) Days of Summer' (2009) Impressions

March 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

I think it’s very easy to dismiss Days of Summer as being twee, overindulgent, contrived and unoriginal – i.e., worthless. Oh, all those adjectives do suit the film fairly well. (I mean, it is basically the old Annie Hall formula rehashed for a new generation.) However, I laughed at least a couple of times while watching it, and there were some genuinely touching moments. More importantly, when the script didn’t do a downward spiral into indie – “Oh, look how precious, weird and cute I am!” – land, the actors were given the material to make their characters believable. And, on the whole, they were. Both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel should absolutely feel pleased about their performances.

The problem is, for every scene that’s well-written, there’s another scene that’s stupid and implausible. For every scene you’re engaged and invested in the characters, there’s another where BOOM! We’re back in indie land. For example, the precocious kid thing? I hate that. It’s awful; it needs to stop. It has been done before, like, a million times already – very rarely successfully, because mostly it just looks plain dumb.

So yeah, it’s worth checking out. (Just remember to keep any knives, guns or any potentially lethal weapons out of reach when you do, just in case.)

Now is the time for a 'Road Avenger' HD remake

March 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Back in 1997, when video games were super awesome and not totally lame, Road Avenger was released for the Mega CD, Sega’s ill-fated add-on for the fairly popular at the time Mega Drive (or Genesis, if you’re a yank). It was an FMV-based interactive movie video game, similar to Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace. The plot was simple: you play a dude whose wife gets murdered by a biker gang; said dude then takes revenge by driving his big red sports car on a homicidal rampage, directly into the faces of evil crooks, thugs and, very probably, innocent people. (Collateral damage, y’know? Such a bitch.)

The gameplay was, what we would describe now, a series of Quick Time Events. No, really, it was literally just that. This isn’t the ol’ “Oh, Heavy Rain is just a series of QTEs, wah-wah-wah” line – this was the real deal. Honestly, it has to be seen to be believed (along with the intro):

It was a terrible game. But, to a kid at that time, who probably didn’t know any better, it was brilliant.

And now – I say – now is the time for a full-blown sequel/HD remake of the genre-defying, literary magnum opus that was the original Road Avenger. I present to you, the reader, a fully and completely rational, absolutely non-sentimental, three-point argument as to why this is the case.

  1. We have the storage space in our hands to make it possible: Think: PS3! Blu-ray! 50 gigs of empty space just dying to be filled by cheap, low-budget Japanese animation and god-awful 80s-throwback American rock! It’s the murder-filled, completely illogical and utterly nonsensical road-trip that never ends!
  2. Interactive movie-games are the new Wii Fit: look at how surprisingly well Heavy Rain is doing in terms of sales numbers. And then there’s Final Fantasy XIII, a game which is basically a movie with moving-game-parts soldered on in-between major plot developments, which surpassed the one million sales mark in the U.S. within a matter of days. The gaming public has spoken, and it has very wisely come to its senses and is finally ready to take that next revolutionary step forward – towards badly acted, poorly dubbed movie-games.
  3. Potential motion controller support: you can make car revving noises as you physically lean your way around corners while looking like an idiot in the comfort of your own living-room – and, really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

So, I implore you, e-mail G-mode, who now own the rights, and petition them for a sequel. Then, once you’ve done that, please let me know what their e-mail actually is (since their website’s written in Kanji, and I only speak the Queen’s English).

Chim-chimney cheerio for now, my lovelies. 😀

Site Update – 21/11/09

November 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

I just finished X-Men Origins: Wolverine this weekend and have found it to be a fairly entertaining experience. There are some small things that are quite forward thinking in that game, like the Statistics screen that tells you how far you off from getting certain achievements. The all-important combat mechanics are also very smoothly implemented, and the only flaw there is in the repetitive and unchallenging nature of the gameplay (which, if I am to be fair, is not an easy task to overcome given the genre). What I can’t forgive the game for is its level of bugginess that made me fail a boss fight a dozen times in a row and the constant re-use of level assets to pad out its length. That’s just not on, son.

I also watched Synecdoche, New York this afternoon. That film is a bit of an overlong mess, but in that way I think it helps reinforce the theme: of art imitating life, imitating art, devouring itself ad infinitum. It’s a touching film and just incredibly sad. I love it for its ambition and the way it beautifully expresses how we attempt to deconstruct and conceptualize our lives in such a way to have meaning, and the tragedy of never really being able to achieve that.

Speaking of meaningless human activity, I’ve started playing Borderlands. I’ve said it elsewhere, but I’ll repeat it here: it’s a rewards structure wrapped up in pretty packaging; it’s the gambler’s fallacy of believing in the possibility of something better being just around that corner – or, in this case, after completing that next quest. None of this, of course, makes it a bad game. What it does make it, is hollow. And the moment you realise the futility inherent in that type of gameplay is the moment you’ll stop playing and find something “better” to do with your time.

Or you can just shrug your shoulders, do like I do, and play for the sake of it. After all, what does it matter if you just think you’re having fun, anyway?

Site Update – 17/10/09

October 17, 2009 § Leave a comment

Got a cold, so I won’t be up to much this weekend. I will probably be attempting to finish off Halo Wars while starting Red Faction: Guerrilla on the 360. I’ll also be going back to Empire: Total War, since I’m kind of curious to see what all the updates inbetween have done to the game. I’ll also be watching The Lookout, which supposedly showcases rising-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s talents as a Proper Serious Actor in Hollywood. (I kid. If anything, Brick did that for him in 2005.)

I’m just going to say a quick few things about Halo Wars. I rented the game to see how well Ensemble succeeded in making a traditional RTS game for a console. The answer is that it’s pretty functional and, in the majority of times, works fairly well. However, when you need swift, nimble movement, when you need to select troops on an individual basis quickly and efficiently, the game can’t accomodate that. If only they’d hid this flaw better, but they actually created a level where you do have to be able to do this, and when the pathfinding fails and you aren’t able to react in time – through no fault of your own, but the controls – it’s a bit of downer.

Halo Wars is fun, and the presentation is really excellent, and Ensemble should be commended for their strong efforts, but this isn’t the game to revolutionise RTSs on a console.

Oh, and Peep Show was excellent last night. Best yet for the series.

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