The Return of Clippy

By James Fallows

See UPDATE below.

For better or worse, he's back. Microsoft introduces "Ribbon Hero 2: Clippy's Second Chance." See below for intro to the plot line (click for larger and more legible). Poor Clippy is laid off for being annoying, and is sent out into the world to earn his way back with useful functions.

Clippy.png


Ribbon Hero 2 is an add-on for Office (Windows versions only) that teaches you how to find elusive Office commands by making learning fun! I can't improve on the company's explanation:
"Yes, we turned Office into a game! If you're going to spend time immersed in the inner workings of Office, by golly it should be fun. In Ribbon Hero 2, you'll hop on board Clippy's stolen time machine and explore different time periods. With each time period, you get to explore a new game board with challenges you must complete to get to the next level. Each challenge takes you into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote to complete a task. Discover new Office features by actually using them, with a hint button to fall back on in case you get stuck. Race for a high score with colleagues, classmates and friends, or even put your score on your resume to show off your Office skills!"
Here is a question I wish I could answer: Is this Microsoft tone genuinely corny-earnest, reflecting the kind of middle-school pep-rally sensibility that you can only imagine Apple hipsters sneering and snickering at (making you want to punch the hipsters) and Google engineers looking at in amazement? Or is it triple-backflip hipsterism itself, an Onionesque by-golly mockery of corniness? I suppose this is one of the enduring mysteries of life. If you'd like to judge for yourself just how hep this new feature is, check out the video below. And even I have to admit that plucky little Clippy in the scenes above and below is winsomely appealing.

 

Thanks to Bruce Williams, a Microsoft veteran of the Clippy wars, for the tip. For reference, please see: Clippy's evil twin; the anthropology of Clippy; commemorating Clippy's demise; and a classic installment of Clippy v. Rove.

UPDATE: A friend on the Office Labs team sends news that the earnest tone is meant to come with an Onionesque wink. He says:
>>I just thought you should know we had a blast making this game. And yes, it is "triple-backflip hipsterism".We were trying to be tongue-in-cheek serious but knew that some people would take us as earnestly serious. If you have a few moments, you really should give the game a try - I think you'll be surprised how much fun you can have learning the features the Office team thinks people would like if only they knew about them. There are also many other moments of (dare I say) cleverness that people seem to enjoy embedded throughout the game.<<

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/04/the-return-of-clippy/238032/