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Shell Shock

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Last Thursday, I posted a tweet. A typical tweet, if you know me. I was bringing attention to a ridiculous iOS app I found: "Ninja Turtles" by Namphuong Star. All you need to see are the screenshots and read the description. Like, seriously, go look; I don't need to paste it here. For anyone who tracks new additions to the App Store, it's a fly in the ointment, but nothing out of the ordinary (and from what I gather, nothing but ordinary on Android Market). It's not to me -- I've seen a decent number of shitty apps made by anonymous shysters from all around greater Asia, but "Ninja Turtles" floored me. It has all the elements of top-shelf insanity: painted-over Contra background? Turtle-colored hero? Everybody's clothes made of gradients? This is special stuff, because even most of the awful copyright-infringing games at least have some sort of direction to them, like its makers know what they're ripping off. This, though, is especially hilariously bad. Not to mention $4.99.

And oh lordy, did this sprout legs. Usually when I tweet something that hits, it balloons to 20-ish retweets within half an hour, and quickly peters out. And, well, it was the same with this. I mean, I'm known, but not so known. So I expected that to be the end of it, though maybe one of my like-minded colleagues would pick it up for their blog like other times. As it turned out, when I wasn't paying attention, "Ninja Turtles" leapt off Twitter and hit the blogosphere, which may as well have been a dream come true: It was getting lots of attention, and none of it good, as it deserves. There was one curious commonality among all those that picked it up, though: except for GameSetWatch, where I've been reliably sourced before, no one outside Twitter linked to my original tweet, if anywhere else at all.

Despite how that sounds, this post is not me saying I should have been sourced. I don't care. And if I did, I'd still understand why I wasn't: 23 retweets is peanuts no matter how many more thousands of followers some of those RTers had, so in all likelihood, the biggest number of people who saw it in the first half of the day was probably from John Gruber's site, where he got it from the Twitter of developer/follower of mine Shaun Inman. That night, though, Namphuong's mutant "Ninja Turtles" made Kotaku, and all bets were off.

For me, the coverage instead added a new layer of amusement, based solely on the tones of the posts. GamePro: coated in sarcasm. Kotaku: analytical with an extra toe-dipping into Namphuong's catalog (brave!). GameSetWatch: bemusement; the most apt response. (Danny also has a keen eye for retarded rip-off apps.) Destructoid: 70% horror, 30% snark.

In contrast, the last sites to pick it up on Sunday and Monday -- VG24/7, Develop, MCV, Edge and GamePolitics -- filed bone-dry posts, all seemingly written with an inference that this game's appearance on the App Store was some sort of one-in-a-million fluke. But if anything, every one of these posts are great case studies in how these sites and their editorial voices treat a lot of their coverage. Develop even asked for comment!

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So, again, I'm not looking for a linkback; I'm more fascinated with a phenomenon that shows the real worth of a worthless game. Though if I do say so, I haven't noticed anything I brought up like that spread that far for... well, ever. And if you wanted to split hairs, you could say the real "source" is the App Store anyway.

I'm also not trying to denounce game journalism -- there are people much "better" at that -- although it is a little disconcerting to see the lengths to which the Sunday-Monday group went to try and push a story out of something that is A) not the least uncommon, even for the puritanical App Store, B) probably already covered by them in the past with different example(s) and C) best mocked into oblivion than warned against. And for all the sourcing these sites do do in much of their posts, the fact that some didn't bother or just ended up linking to the other guy with the same-sounding story is a slight fumble, especially when other tweets are linked to, copied, or screencapped all the time.

But right now I'm more concerned that we might not even be hitting the second wind yet. I'm half expecting this thing to show up on CNN.

Update: Shortly after this post was published today, "Ninja Turtles" was finally taken off the App Store. Damn! I changed the Store link to a Google-cached version. There's also a new notable piece of coverage from The Escapist, where they're apparently calling a few innocuous negative user reviews an "outrage." Uh, OK. It's sad to see, but Apple and the media at large have swiftly killed whatever joy there was to be had about this shameful little game.

Update 2: For an in-depth examination of Ninja Turtles, please see Hardcore Gaming 101's Kurt Kalata give you the skinny in this article.