You Got This, Brutadon is now available on your Alexa-enabled device

The game that I and my friends made for the Global Game Jam this year is now accessible on Alexa-enabled devices. If you have an Echo or an Echo Dot, you can find it on the Alexa Skills store. Just search for “brutadon” in your Alexa app. Like all Alexa skills, it is 100% free.

We’ve been having some trouble with people who want to install it via voice command. Because “brutadon” is not a real word that Alexa understands outside our app, the system doesn’t seem to be able to easily match that word to our app activation phrase (unless you’ve already got it installed on your device). The ways Alexa misunderstands the app name are pretty funny, though. (We had it hear “taco dog” at least once.)

If you get a chance to play it, please check it out and let me know what you liked or, better, didn’t like about it. One good place to leave a note is on our itch page.

I am very proud of this particular Amazon rating we got:



You got this, Brutadon! — Global Game Jam 2017

Last weekend, I once again drove up to Facebook’s Menlo Park campus to participate in the Global Game Jam. Facebook has a really, really cushy site– four catered meals, including beer and wine at dinner. A bunch of the people I like doing jams with live in the area (or work for Facebook), so it’s a good deal all around!

This year, Kent Sutherland, Rosstin Murphy, Kellie Medlin, Brook Nichols and I cracked out a game for the Amazon Alexa platform in two days. (Alexa is the platform that runs on Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot products.) Our game is called called “You Got This, Brutadon!” and it’s a voice-controlled adventure game where you play the hype man for a kaiju battle between your friend, Brutadon, and the hideous Gromulox. YGTB contains about fifty different randomized battle events written by me and Kent. There are two endings. We wanted to make a voice-controlled game that was centered around the experience of speaking or conversing– not just merely a combat game controlled with voice commands, but a game about talking. YGTB certainly lives up to our goals in that respect!

You can see a full playthrough of You Got This, Brutadon! here:

Although we haven’t passed Amazon’s certification process yet, we have uploaded a working build of our app to If you have an AWS account and an Alexa, you might be able to load the game onto your own device. If you wait a couple weeks, though, we’ll have a polished, sound-designed version of the app up on the Alexa app store.

If you own an Echo or Echo Dot and have ever taken a look at the “skills” store (“skills” is Alexa bullshit for “apps”), you’ll probably have noticed that the vast majority of Alexa apps suck. Since the Alexa store is not currently monetized, there’s no great incentive for anyone to put a lot of time and effort into polishing up a really good Alexa app. The “games” section is practically all trivia apps, and it seems like the vast majority of all Alexa apps, period, are “facts” apps– Bird Facts, Bacon Facts, Cat Facts, etc. These facts apps appear to be the “hello world” of Alexa development.

What I’m saying is that You Got This, Brutadon! is already better than, like… a conservative 90% of all Alexa games? I mean, I’m biased, but I and some of my teammates were really shocked with the low quality of the vast majority of Alexa apps. Lots of them just seem like stupid experiments, and a lot have extremely low utility. There’s a color wheel app that does almost nothing. This was one of the top ranked utility apps during the weekend we were making this game. I’m sorry, but this is pretty damn ridiculous!

Going through the certification process, I’ve also learned that Amazon has some pretty strict rules for user interactions. They contain some bizarre design restrictions– like, you’re not supposed to include any commands in the app that the app does not explicitly prompt the player to say. This means that they’re uncomfortable with apps where the player has to guess command intents. It should be possible to get some kinds of command-guessing gameplay in there without breaking the rules. Right now, however they’re already asking us to put command prompts into Brutadon in a few annoying ways.

The big thing that gets me right now is that a bunch of IF classics are focused around experimentation, command-guessing, and avoiding prompts, like Aisle. If something like Aisle could make it onto the Alexa app store easily, then I’d say the Echo would be in a good place for game development. (That said, I haven’t actually tried to make something like Aisle, so I don’t know how much pushback we’d get trying to do that.)

Oh– and they should let us make money with these goddamn apps. Until then, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to spend a lot of time seriously making a polished, content-dense game for this device.


When you watch the first teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode 7, you should watch it with your eyes closed.

I don’t mean that you should watch it with your eyes closed the first time you see it. That would be pointless. Watch it once, put it away for a few days, and then come back to it with your volume high and your back turned. Listen to the crabby little alien noises, the soccer-ball robot guy beeping and whirring, and that low wub wub wub sound that the fighters make over the water. This is Star Wars. The whole point of Star Wars is for enormous rusty machines and huge slavering monsters to groan and crackle at you in a huge dark movie theater.

If something does not go WUB WUB WUBWUBWUBwubwubwbububwubwbub at you in the first five minutes, then you might as well be watching action figures fight one another.

I have a lot of experience with Star Wars action figures. I was alive and conscious and basically sentient for the 1997 Star Wars theatrical re-release, and when I saw A New Hope in a crummy little Windsor theater with my best friend, it was the first time in my life that I had an ecstatic, worshipful response to a movie. I do not care about anyone’s shitty extra scenes controversy– the point is, I got to see these films in theaters at the tender age of eight, despite the fact that I wasn’t alive thirty years ago.

It is important to see films in theaters. It is important to see films with really good writing or sound design in theaters, because your entire body will shake with the explosions and you will feel all those words in your throat and the soles of your feet. With Star Wars, of course, it is the sound design. When I’m ancient and withered up and dying in a nursing home, I am sure that I will still sit up straight at the sound of those laser guns, at Chewbacca’s voice, and at the music of the cantina band. I am very picky about lightsaber hums, even still. I used to have an app that made lightsaber sounds, but I deleted it because they were not quite right. These sounds get into your blood.

And it is important to experience these sounds in a movie theater. It is also important to see the film as big and crazy as possible, theater-sized. While these huge sounds rumble and shake you, Luke’s nervous brow will glisten with sweat, and it will be something on the order of fifteen feet wide. When it explodes, the Death Star will be about the size of a small car, and when Luke and Han get silly medals put on them in front of an enormous crowd, the crowd will be actually enormous, and you will be able to see all the little people.

If you are eight, you will be cheering along with that crowd. It does not matter that the movie makes only a medium amount of sense, or that some of the dialogue is super dumb. Seeing the original movies in a theater can be a physical experience, like standing past the end of a runway when a plane takes off overhead. You may shiver in your chair. I remember that I came out of the theater feeling clammy and weak.

We had already seen the films, and we already knew we liked them, but after watching A New Hope in the theaters my friend and I developed a kind of personal cult of Star Wars. We played with a lot of action figures. We invented and memorized a rhyming song about Emperor Palpatine. We used to sit in my living room and watch the Endor speederbike chase scene over and over and over again for entire afternoons. Just that scene. I can still remember exactly what huge chunks of that scene sound like. I can still hear the speederbikes humming in my head. God, and the music! I clumsily learned how to play almost all the major songs from the original trilogy on the xylophone in middle school. The second CD I ever bought with my own money, after Graceland, was the soundtrack to A New Hope. I still own that physical CD. Binary Sunset forever, guys.

I do not watch Star Wars because I care about trade agreements between Coruscant’s various frog-headed aliens; I care about dudes getting zapped with force lightning while evil gnomish emperors cackle. There is no way that anything coming out of Anakin Skywalker’s mouth can be more interesting than the crazy OO-WA WABBA sounds coming out of Jabba the Hutt’s mouth. The only great thing that came out of the Prequels was the ridiculous chirping battle-droid dialogue.

Well, that, and the “NOOOOOO!!”

The final prequel came out when I was a sophomore in high school. My sister, my mother, and I went to see it with my family’s closest friends– my friend, my sister’s friend, and their mother– and I remember that on the way back the moms asked us whether we’d enjoyed the film. I was still kind of dazed by it all, pleased that they’d improved on Episode 2 but still unsure, after three films, how to feel about the fact that the things I’d worshiped as a kid were normal movies after all, normal shit that would never really mean anything to anyone. Ninety percent of everything humans make is crap. Almost all art is crap.

“I guess I enjoyed it,” I told my mom. “I mean, I’m not going to see it in theaters as many times as Lord of the Rings.”

We parked in front of my friend’s house, jumped out, and started pulling our bookbags out of the trunk of the car. I remember that someone started shouting “NOOOOOO!!”

So we all shouted “NOOOOOO!!” in the driveway for a little while. Not because it was a magnificent movie moment, of course. It figures that when I was a small child, Star Wars was an unassailable mass of perfect action flick– but by the time I could enjoy things ironically, Star Wars had started to suck. It was on my level.

These days, all I remember about the third prequel is the NOOOOO, Anakin’s voice when he cried with all his limbs cut off, and the annoying sound that Obi Wan’s (lizard? bird?) steed made when he was running around on that planet that I can’t remember anything about. Star Wars remains an audio experience for me, after all these years.