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Media Consumption: Blitz Games' John Jarvis (Burger King Games)

Media Consumption this week turns to John Jarvis, Project Manager for UK-based Blitz Games on the recent Xbox Burger King advergames, who reveals similar titles are on the way, and picks his favorite media, from Less Than Jake through Kevin J. Anderson an
For this week’s Media Consumption, a column that looks at the media and art diets of our favourite industry personalities, we spoke to John Jarvis, Project Manager for Blitz Games on their recent Xbox Burger King titles. The three games - PocketBike Racer, Big Bumpin’ and Sneak King - were released in the US and Canada on November 19th of last year for just $3.99, and have since gone on to sell well over 2 million copies. Jarvis comments that the company has been “really pleased with the general response”, adding that the enthusiasm with which the titles have been received “makes all the long hours worthwhile”. “The games have made a big stir in the industry,” he continues, “and to see [British] magazines like Edge and GamesTM picking up on them - despite their availability in North America only - is an indication of how well they are doing.” The titles were developed by the Blitz Arcade division of the company, who are currently “working up several concepts with the goal of getting games launched on all services that offer downloadable games”. Jarvis notes that there are also “several really cool games under development”, though regretfully adds that he is unable to disclose more at this time. However, he does reveal that the company is “working on more games along the lines of the BK titles” and collectively feel that “the experience we gained from that project we are ideally positioned to use that knowledge and take adver-gaming forward”. We spoke to Jarvis recently in order to ask about the Triple Whoppers™ with Cheese in his media combo meals of late. Sounds: "Musically I'm definitely more into guitar bands than anything else. I'd much rather listen to a group of people playing their instruments than the sampled loops that dominate the hip-hop and dance scenes. Less Than Jake are a big favourite of mine, and their most recent album, In With the Out Crowd, is very good, if a little short of their classic older stuff like Hello Rockview and Borders and Boundaries. To be honest, Less Than Jake pretty much sum up my musical tastes: well paced stuff with a touch of ska and some rock punchiness thrown in there. I'm extremely interested in the emerging online distribution systems and the effect they are having on new music - it seems like the market has gotten that bit wider again. As more and more people use the web to download music it's really allowing new bands to come to the fore and find their own markets. I still think there's a role to be played by TV and radio in filtering the good from the bad, but generally it feels like a lot of barriers have been removed, and that can only have a positive effect in the long run. I mean, look at the Arctic Monkeys. They owe their success to the Internet. Decent album too, so you definitely get the feeling that the spheres of influence are starting to shift around a bit." Moving Pictures: "My favourite films? Well, as predictable as it might be, Star Wars has always been top of my list. When I first saw it at the age of six, I was just blown away by it all, the special effects, the characters, John Williams' iconic score and the sheer scale of the film made a huge impression on me. I think that was when my interest in sci-fi really started, and it's remained with me ever since. I'm still bitter about the prequels though. Lucas really damaged the franchise with some of the nonsense he introduced! I mean, Midiclorians? Do me a favour! Outside of science fiction, I really enjoyed The Shawshank Redemption. The story flows really well and the character's journey through the film pays off in a truly uplifting resolution at the end. I also like films with twist endings, so The Usual Suspects is a firm favourite of mine. The way it takes the viewers expectations and then turns them on their head in the end is really cleverly done. In fact, I think generally I like films that try and do something a bit unusual within the conventions of cinema, stuff like Memento. Presenting the narrative backwards, inter-cut with black and white exposition to explain the character's memory condition, created a really unusual story-telling dynamic, and again it plays out with a cool twist ending that you don't see coming. Other films I think deserve at least a mention: Serenity is the next best thing to Star Wars really, and it was great to see Firefly back in some shape or another, Dark City is a brilliantly dark and gothic vision, and I laughed myself sick at Team America." Words: "I read a lot of books; in fact I'm running out of space to put them all, my house is just full of books. Far too many to mention and I’m generally happy to read anything that takes my fancy so I don't really have any favourite genres. I've read a couple of Michael Crichton's novels, which attracted me with the mix of well-paced thriller and science fiction. I guess it’s my inner sci-fi geek coming out again. That's probably how I've ended up reading Kevin J Anderson's Seven Suns saga too! In the past I've read a few of Bill Bryson's books and I definitely enjoyed them. You get a good insight what the various cultures and countries of the world are really like. On top of which they are pretty damned funny too! Also good for when modern life gets you down is Is It Just Me, Or Is Everything Shit? which my girlfriend bought me for my birthday recently. One of the few books to really make me laugh out loud, it's a gloriously cynical extended whinge about all the little things that make life so irritating. Right now I've finally gotten round to reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. I've started it twice before but never really found the time to properly get my teeth into it. A few of my colleagues at work were discussing the way in which Stephenson's "metaverse" concept resembled Second Life. I can definitely see what they mean, the book is practically the blueprint for SL, and in a strange way it's making me want to try it out for myself." Games: "My all time favourite game is an old Capcom arcade game called Speed Rumbler. It was released in 1986, but no matter what new consoles are released and how advanced technology becomes, it never fails to put a smile on my face. I actually bought an arcade cabinet and the original PCB so I could play the game authentically in all its glory. The 2D visuals still hold up against the newer 2D games you see on the GBA and DS. If you compare early 3D stuff to a modern game nowadays, the advances are all too obvious, whereas 2D graphics seem to have a timeless quality, which definitely helps keep those old games alive. I'm not sure there are words to express how much I loved Beyond Good and Evil. I was hooked from start to finish - well, apart from the last boss I suppose. The sci-fi setting, the humour, the political sentiment behind the Iris network and the Alpha Section, everything about the game's premise was perfect for me; it was like Michel Ancel had designed a game just for me! Above all else, the game was just a joy to play, with tight controls and an excellent camera system. The "into the camera" rooftop section, with the heartbeat going and the slowdown effects was just amazing, and remains my all time best gaming moment. It proves you don't need incredible technology to make an incredible game. It's the drama of the moment that really makes it, and it definitely opened my eyes up to just what's possible in videogames nowadays. How it didn't get to the top of the charts I'll never know, but it’s a disgrace that it didn't. Come on Ubisoft, and Mr Ancel, it really deserves a sequel! I need a sequel! As for more recent games, I've been playing a pretty broad range the last few months. Zelda: Twilight Princess, Rainbow Six: Vegas, Wii Sports, Viva Piñata, Lost Planet and Gears of War have all been competing for my attention, and I'd recommend any of those, really."

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