If you’ve ever wondered whether the process by which American TV shows are approved involves a board wired with levers and lights and a duck that’s been specially trained to keep pecking at it until a food pellet is dispensed, our current trend towards televised card games is a compelling point in favour. You really couldn’t pick a less-telegenic event. People who play the game well have mastered two skills: refusing to react visibly at any turn of events at any time during play, and instinctively navigating complex and highly dynamic probabilities. It’s not like other televised sports.
Even when Dale Earnhardt Junior is having a bad day at the racetrack he’s committed to putting on a good show for the viewers, making a big deal of leaping out of the car, running around the pit area and desperately punching his own head and torso to put out the flames. But you could rub poison ivy all over a poker player’s face and, at worst, he’d just pull his ballcap down a little lower so that none of the other players could see the red weeping sores on his face and suspect that for the next five or six hands he’ll be prone to fold.
Yet more and more of these shows keep popping up on cable, leading to a huge uptick in the game’s popularity. It’s spreading like a social disease, which is terrible news for me because I really have no idea how to play. I seem to be the only one at the table who isn’t studying the little “Rules Of Poker” card that came with the deck. And just when I’m starting to figure out that a flush beats a straight, the dealer will make a comment like “Second base has drawn two cowboys with a bullet”. I instantly realize that this isn’t my kind of table and that I’ll be spending most of the evening playing minigolf on my mobile phone, waiting for my ride home to lose the rest of his money so we can finally leave. “My kind of table” is the kind in which one of the women sees fit to ask if shoes count as articles of clothing and if they should be discarded singly or as a pair… and such opportunities are precious and rare.
Fortunately, Scenario Software has an excellent poker simulator called iPoker. The app can play more than a hundred different flavours of poker, including Five-Card Stud (played in every basement rec room) and No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em (favoured by the poor bastards on Celebrity Poker Showdown). I’m still not sure why a Straight is supposed to beat a Flush – somehow getting five cards to go in sequence is just a far more satisfying accomplishment than simply colour-coordinating them – but the point is that I have a cheap and available mechanism at hand for at least picking up enough of the procedure and lingo that I can prevent myself from yelling out “Go Fish!” when the rest of the table was just starting to think that I wasn’t a total girl.
Somewhere during my ninetieth hand of Anaconda Hi-Low it hit me that here lied an unrealized opportunity for Apple. The company got off to a hell of a strong start with iLife.
iPoker isn’t an official part of iLife but under the new parameters set by mould-breaking GarageBand, why couldn’t it be? iLife was and is being promoted as a suite of “lifestyle apps”. Well, having something better to do on a Friday night than arranging my Lord Of The Rings action figures into rude poses and photographing them for my Web site is an important part of my lifestyle – and I’m sorry to say that I had to go outside of the iLife suite to find a solution. Apple clearly needs to hop to it and bring iLife up to date.
iGrudge A major part of the modern digital lifestyle consists of cataloguing and tracking the many grudges, vendettas, and dark promises of retribution (both incoming and outgoing) that one acquires as we make our way through a typical day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if iCal were able to warn you that your 10:30am dental appointment is with a man whose son you once successfully sniped in an online auction for a Morecombe & Wise board game? If you had plans to catch a comedy show at a remote cinema, wouldn’t it be wonderful if a map popped up explaining that two of the many people Who’ve Wronged You live along the way and they both own houses with big trees that would look great with eight or nine rolls of toilet paper strung around them?
iLie As a kid, you were taught that there was really no advantage to lying because as time passes, you need to come up with new lies to support the first one, and eventually you’ll be caught out. Well, not if iLife tracks all of the half-truths, misdirections, and outright deceptions upon which you’ve based all of your professional and personal relationships! The moment you type www.livejournal.com to update your weblog, iLie throws a popup in the path of imminent disaster. “Warning,” it says. “This morning you told your client that your broadband connection was down and that you wouldn’t be able to email the finished project files – the ones you haven’t even started working on yet – today as promised. A man who can update his blog has the resources to email a file.”
iMom Chief responsibility is to keep telling you how fabulous you are, and that if those people were really your friends then they’d love you whether you had a 60-inch plasma TV and a four-controller Xbox or not. Advanced preferences allow you to turn off the bit where iMom keeps telling you how handsome/pretty you would be if you lost 20lbs and did something with your hair.
iDad The interface is a Bluetooth earpiece. iDad tells you that if you tip your bar waitress before she brings the drink, she’ll be sure to keep your glasses filled all night; that you really need to keep an eye on that engine oil gauge; that a little hard work never killed anybody, with the possible exception of the slave labour who put up the Pyramids; that the new bookcase you bought at the unfinished furniture store will never take a stain unless you apply a coat of wood sealant first… in a nutshell, iDad gives you all the benefits of having your Dad at your elbow, without having to suffer the emasculating move where he finally gets fed up, yanks the wrench out of your hand, and pushes you aside so he can show you “the right way” to do that.
Honestly, I’m really at a loss as to why Apple isn’t on this already. But of course, I’m probably making assumptions. Apple doesn’t comment on unannounced projects. And, remember, Steve Jobs was the sole beta-tester of Keynote throughout its development cycle. And if anyone on this planet might appear to be benefiting from an app that helps its user maintain super-redline levels of ego and self-confidence, it’s Steve. MW