Class A Bugs and Live Performance – Bad Combo

In which Colin considers videogames as live performance alongside the inexorable horror of it all going wrong in public...


For someone that doesn’t like travelling I certainly seem to do a fair bit of it.  Not as much as I once did – that award would probably go to the year 2004 if memory serves, when I found myself doing laps of the US and Europe – but still more than I would choose to if it wasn’t part of what Denki needs me to do, for sure.

However, it’s not without its compensations as regardless of how efficiently my schedule is planned there will inevitably be periods where there’s time to take in the local tourist attractions, wherever I happen to find myself.  I’m currently on the West Coast of the US visiting Denki customers past, present and future and this provided a pleasant example of this.  On Tuesday this week I was able to take a few hours out to go and look around Universal Studios Theme Park in Los Angeles.  

What I wanted to see most (apart from the Back Lot Tour) was the famous “WaterWorld” live experience where they re-enact Kevin Costner’s infamous movie in minature – complete with jet-skiing baddies, explosions and crash-landing sea-planes.  Drama to the max!

It opened the same time as the movie in 1995 and since then it’s run twice a day for almost fifteen years.  That’s a *lot* of shows.  Even so,  after all those years of practice I watched in horror as the entire production came to a grinding halt due to ‘Technical Difficulties’. 

At first there was that feeling of “is this part of the show?”, but after a few minutes when the cast had all left the stage and a tannoy announcement confirmed the show had been halted because of said “Technical Difficulties” it became apparant this was the real deal.

Fifteen years of two shows a day and one of the park’s biggest attractions – possibly the clincher that made people want to come to the park in the first place – and they’re having ‘technical difficulties’?!? I understand it must be incredibly difficult to make all the pyros and effects work with 100% reliably, but surely that’s all the more reason to have “Plan B” ready to engage at a moment’s notice should things go off script?

If that was a computer game it would be like having a Class B bug (borderline Class A – they eventually managed to continue the show to the end, but without any of the ‘moments’ such as when the sea-plane comes crashing through the wall) after fifteen years of patching and downloadable content…

For me it was a great example of why computer games have much more in common with live theatre than films.  There was no ability to shout “cut” when the technical difficulties started to manifest, which makes it all the more important to ensure there are no show-stopping bugs in the first place.  

Of course, I have no way of knowing whether the bug that caused my WaterWorld experience to evaporate before my eyes manifests regularly, or whether that’s the first time it’s happened in fifteen years of working fine.  I’d like to give Universal Studios the benefit of the doubt and say it’s never happened before… but regardless of the statistics, it provides a vivid reminder to us all of why preparation is such an important part of delivering The End.

Next time I’m playing a Denki Game and something goes wrong I’m going to try imagining it happening in front of an audience of many hundreds of people as it did at WaterWorld on Tuesday – it provides a useful perspective.

Anyway, just wanted to share that with y’all – now I need to get back to some proper work.  I have a cocktail party to attend at the Beverly Wilshire in a few hours that I can’t possibly be late for… hi hoooo! 🙂

– Colin (@denkicolin)