I admit to a little bit of disappointment and annoyance. These are rare emotions in me when it comes to a tech upgrade.
The other day, Jennifer and I went to one of our old haunts to get some dinner. This particular location has Buzztime, which is a gaming system designed for bars. If you’ve ever been to a bar and some of their televisions were showing trivia and/or poker, that’s Buzztime. (I’ve written about them before.) This location we were going to had undergone some renovation; among these renovations was an upgrade to the Buzztime system.
Before, Buzztime could be played by either a clunky plastic Playmaker unit with an LCD screen that would as often as not be broken or stop working during gameplay, or via a smartphone app on iOS or Android. As you might imagine, I preferred the latter. Now at post-upgrade locations, Buzztime is played using special tablets running what appear to be a custom version of Android, and with several single-player games in addition to the trivia and poker games. I even noted that the unit had a credit/debit card reader on it, for a reason that was not at all clear.
The thing that threw us at first, however, was that absolutely none of the televisions were showing Buzztime content. We kind of raised our eyebrows at that, as we began to wonder if they were actually using the Buzztime stuff. I had thought they were, as I had received an email regarding their having it. When the waitress walked by, we requested two Playmakers and for one of the televisions to be switched to Buzztime. The waitress informed us that the Buzztime content was entirely on the tablets.
She turned out to be right. When we received the tablets and signed on, we found that the trivia screens et al that would normally have appeared on the televisions were now on the tablet, and that you just pressed on the choice on the screen to indicate your answer.
That left it with two major problems, in my opinion. The first problem was that the mobile apps were now pretty much useless at these locations. I prefer playing using my own device, and while I had briefly launched the app when I arrived at the restaurant to see if our location was still listed, I didn’t check to see if the questions would appear on the screen on my phone as well. I decided to ask Buzztime’s Twitter account about it yesterday, and got this answer:
@drkbish Technically yes you could, but the Mobile App doesn't currently display the question. meant to supplement the TV, not substitute.
— NTN Buzztime, Inc. (@Buzztime) June 4, 2014
So, unless I’m at a location that hasn’t upgraded, I can’t use my phone anymore. That’s a bummer, considering my experiences with the previous generation of Playmakers.
The other problem is that it reduces the social aspect of the games. To use us as an example, before we would be looking up at either each other or at the televisions. We could even “share” while we were on separate games; Jennifer would be playing trivia, and I would be playing poker, and I could give her answer suggestions while she could get an idea of what was happening with the poker game. Now, though, our eyes are down on the tablets, concentrating entirely on our own games. If we were not playing the same game, she would need to show her screen to me if she wanted help or if I wanted to see how she was doing.
It’s a shame, really. I had wanted to like the upgrade, but now Buzztime seems a little less fun. I may give it another try or two, especially if they update their mobile apps to allow for playing in upgraded locations. Until then, I’m not as much in a hurry to get back and play as I used to be.