revenge of the nerds

Silly grown-up–Kixeye is for kidz!

Published on Author DonaldD

So you’ve just graduated with a baccalaureate degree in Computer Science. Congratulations! After a long purgatory of being an awkward dateless loser, and assuming you’re not dumb enough to enter graduate school, you’re now on-track to being a decently well-paid professional. And who knows? Maybe with a little luck and the kind of haircuts you’ll soon be able to afford, you’ll even become attractive to the opposite sex.

But above all else, you’re about to have one of the sweetest experiences that come with a technical degree: that wonderfully vengeful feeling of superiority over the “popular kids” who tortured you in high school, who majored in Business, Communications, or (sigh) Business Communications, and now march, dense and aimless as they ever were, into a quiet, desperate life of skill-free paper-pushing for nominal remuneration.

Or you could apply to Kixeye, and work for those assholes.

So it seems, anyway, based on a recent recruitment video from the company, which Left Gamer Review saw at the Atlantic Wire by way of @femfreq. We’ve embedded it below, but don’t feel like you need to watch it. Actually, LGR recommends that you feel like you need to not watch it.

The Atlantic Wire piece does a pretty good job of slapping the lame-brained sexism of the vid, which seems especially dumb when you’re trying to, you know, get people to apply to your company. But as Kixeye’s senior VP for marketing elegantly put it: “Chicks who are hardcore gamers, they understand that kind of humor.” Hmm. More likely, perhaps, that “chicks” who are hardcore gamers have been forced to put up with that kind of humor, among other things. Being called “chicks,” for example.


Even leaving that aside, there’s an implicit assumption by Kixeye that the video will appeal to hardcore gamers. But the thing about gamers, hardcore or not, is that the thing that gamers like is games. Maybe they also like bro humor, foul-mouthed 8-year-olds, and working for people who dress up like fascists–but mostly it’s about games. And Kixeye’s ad doesn’t mention any, well, games. Or more precisely, the only games it mentions are satires (using the word in a certain spirit of generosity).

Turns out this might have been the smart move: for as much as the spot drips contempt for Facebook games and their developers–particularly the all-too-contemptible Zynga–Kixeye is…wait for it…a Facebook game developer. Seriously. One of the few genuinely funny bits in the video is a crack at the generic nature of Facebook games: a manager spins three word wheels to create “Zombie Castle Rescue.” Yet look at Kixeye’s offerings: Backyard Monsters, Battle Pirates, and War Commander. The only difference between these titles and “Zombie Castle Rescue” seems to be that somebody used two wheels instead of three.

Since we’re so hardcore here at LGR, we assigned our West Coast Operations Center to review not just one, not just two, but all three super-hardcore Kixeye games, in one monster session with an unprecedentedly hard core. So prepare an extra pair of big-girl underpants, because we’re about to take reviewing TO THE EXTREME!!!

War Commander and Battle Pirates are the same game, near as we can tell. Only one is on water mostly and one’s on land. But they’re identical: more or less tower defense, but you have little squads you can send out and do attacks or whatever, like an RTS. They’re basically trying to split the difference between tower defense and a proper game like Civilization or Starcraft. Oh, and War Commander has a sexy robot whom you “reprogram” (against her sexy robot will!) so that she’s your exclusive sexy robot. OMG SO HARDCORE.


Backyard Monsters is kind of in between War Commanderand a classic tower defense game, while being somehow less than either. You’re not in the same sort of “maze” that you usually see in tower defense, but you do have to build shit and defend it. Also there’s all kinds of, well, FarmVille-style waiting for things to build, waiting for “resources” to be harvested, etc. But it’s so much more hardcore thanFarmVille. FarmVille is for cat ladies in huge sweaters and adult diapers. THIS IS FACTS FROM THE INTERNETS.

Now oddly enough, Kixeye’s website doesn’t feature what is arguably its best game: the simple but nobleDesktop Defender, the Facebook sequel of its Flash-based browser game Desktop Tower Defense. It’s straightforward tower defense, but fairly well-executed. Of the four Kixeye games we played, it’s the only one we liked.

Actually, DTD is the game that made Kixeye famous–although at the time the company was called the Casual Collective, a name that scarcely invokes hardcoredness. And indeed, maybe this is something that should never have been invoked. For all of Kixeye’s bluster about being “hardcore”–much of which boils down to a closely-licked boorishness from its CEO–there’s something automatically slight about a game that exists in your little Facebook window. Facebook is, for most of us, what we do to waste time when life is too boring; and Facebook games are what we do to waste time when Facebook itself is too boring. Kixeye’s schemes are too grandiose to work as Facebook games, but not grandiose enough to impress the world outwith Facebook.