Erik Bates and Scott Hardie are the first site members to meet despite having no personal connections, when they learn they'll both be in Chicago on the same day in June 2006 and agree to spend it together, touring the city. But the first event that introduces site members for the express purpose of introducing site members comes when Steve Dunn issues a blanket invitation for anyone on the site to visit his Charlotte home for a weekend of NASCAR in May 2007. Scott is the only one to take him up on the offer, and the game has a mini-convention for two. The first night's conversation is all about the site, as Scott reveals his long-term intentions to Steve and is given back excellent advice about changes to such elements as the goo game's scoring system. The next day is spent at NASCAR, and it becomes memorable for an entirely different reason when Scott gets food poisoning and sprays his lunch all over Steve's van. The men quickly laugh it off, though Steve isn't laughing a few days later when he catches the same nasty bug. Through the site, Scott gains real-life friendships with Erik and Steve that all three appreciate.
Seeking to restore a connection from their youth, Derek Kendzor looks up his old friend Scott Hardie, finds the site, and the two resume talking. Derek even joins the site and participates in Tragic Comedy. This is one of many connections that site members have made with real-life acquaintances, though a few members have the misfortune to be looked up by people they wish to forget. The site helps to preserve numerous friendships and acquaintances that could have drifted apart, such as Dave Stoppenhagen and Lori Lancaster, or Matthew Preston and David Mitzman, or Scott and numerous members. Scott acknowledges this by creating a social-networking feature that diagrams the complex real-life relationships among the friends and family who use the site together.
The eternal, impossible quest for a perfect scoring system for Celebrity Goo Game takes a turn for the traditional when Round XXX is decided by a bracketed tournament. Twenty players are reduced to ten, then to five, then three, then two before a winner is decided. Some players don't like that they're eliminated by the speed of their guesses or by one simple error, but every previous scoring system had detractors, and this new one achieves its goals of producing one winner quickly from a field of many and providing drama along the way. David Mitzman earns his third victory in Round XXX, and Steve Dunn wins for the first time in Round XXXI despite inviting numerous friends and acquaintances Mike Rothstein, Greg Bair, Shawn Brandt, Vance Tucker, and Tom Leggett into the game to broaden the player body.
After nearly five months of work from Scott to code it, the site gains an exciting new game when Rock Block debuts late on a Sunday night, exploding in popularity the next day. Players collect cards depicting their favorite rock bands, then play against each other in mock battle to build their collections further. Proportionate to the rest of the site, the game is a monstrous hit from the beginning, with some players calling it "virtual crack" for its addictive nature, and several players wind up taking sick days during the first week due to exhaustion from staying up all night playing. There are a few missteps at launch, such as an auction system tied to the rest of the site and too few starting bands, but overall the game enjoys a very successful launch due to gestating in Scott's mind for seven years. It soon stabilizes, as the design quirks are ironed out and players figure out how to play a healthy amount of it each day. Players praise it as the best feature Scott has added since The World Game ten years earlier.
To boost participation in Rock Block, avid player Russ Wilhelm suggests a "Block Party," a daylong event for experienced players and newbies to play many short concerts at the same time, winning extra cards in the process. Only experienced players show up, but the idea is popular enough to spawn follow-up events every few months afterwards.
One month after its launch, Rock Block gets a popular new feature: A practice page called Heaven & Hell where members can challenge AI opponents to boost their playing skills. Angel plays simple games and is easy to defeat, but Devil cheats and captures cards that he shouldn't, giving players plenty of headaches trying to earn their first victory against him. The feature, intended by Scott from the beginning and aided by a suggestion from Denise Sawicki, proves that there's room for expansion of the game's narrow rock-music theme, and furthers the game's design model of players entertaining themselves without the need for regular updates from Scott.
On the morning of September 13, spontaneous glitches are Scott's only notice that his webhost has upgraded his software platform, breaking his site in the process. Once he updates his code to run differently, he discovers something even worse: An entire day of the site is lost. All of the discussions, concerts, goo guesses, and other content from September 12 is gone forever. Members get over the loss and Scott resolves to change webhosts as soon as possible, but more permanently, he also decides to prevent this from ever happening again, by developing a system to archive the site data independently of the webhost. Scott looks forward to the site's future, confident that its past will remain intact.
June 14, 2005: Competition in the now-daily goo game becomes so intense that victory seems a privilege reserved for a few dedicated experts, especially Mike Eberhart, Russ Wilhelm, Megan Baxter, Jerry Mathis, Elliot Farney, Denise Sawicki, Todd Brotsch, and Steve West. Read more...
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