The Internet sometimes gets a bad rap. There are still some quarters that find it little more than a rough-and-tumble amalgamation of porn, kittens and various time-wasters. That’s, of course, mostly untrue. But don’t look to HarryBalls.com as a counterpoint.
The mostly tongue-in-cheek site for video game news and reviews, interviews with game characters, and downloads of casual games recently started its first Web series, “The Doofuses Smoke & Mirrors,” an originally scripted animation parody of the media and venture investing businesses. The premise is solid — what better time to make fun of self-important venture capitalists who do bonehead things like plow $30 million into Color? — but the execution leaves much to be desired, even from a site by the name of HarryBalls.com.
The series creator and writer, John Busher, spent 16 years in the online marketing-technology business and witnessed firsthand the situations he’s spoofing. However, disappointment wasn’t far behind hitting the play button.
First, the plot. The main character, Dean, pitches his business, Smoke and Mirrors (get it?), to Mr. DooFuse, a venture capitalist who sits on the board of a leading search engine. The elevator pitch is a string of jargon about identifying forms of media that resonate with users, converting them to smoke, and delivering them in a clear plastic bag. “A no-brainer,” as Dean claims. Revenue is generated by wrapping the bags in advertising or by purchasing one of three subscription plans. This is less of a plot than a series of one-off gags that would make for a pretty funny skit in more capable hands. In fact, College Humor already did this with “Hardly Working Startup Guys.”
The animation comes courtesy of Xtranormal, the text-to-speech animation software behind such classics as “The Social Media Guru.” Xtranormal can be fun, but in the case of “The Doofuses,” it gets in the way of the script. The oddly paced dialog, a staple of Xtranormal videos, makes it difficult to digest the conversation between characters. Xtranormal doesn’t translate monetary references properly, so the astronomical revenue figures are spoken as, “Four dollars and fifty cents quadrillion,” killing the potential for even a half-hearted chuckle.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t make up for the odd presentation and dialog. Additionally, Xtranormal is already home to thousands of well-written shorts poking fun at everyday situations, with no shortage of them being about the tech world, vaporware, and an overabundance of acronyms that people don’t understand.
Poking fun at the advertising industry has also been a popular pastime among video creators. Thom Woodley, creator of the popular Web series “The Burg,” created this spoof of a pitch for Dallas BBQ, proving that taking a low-tech, low-production approach doesn’t need to water down the humor.
There’s simply no shortage of content created for and by gamers, making it a challenge to stand out no matter how good it is. For “The Doofuses,” there’s a difficult road ahead for the series to build an audience and maintain a following.
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