Friday, December 30, 2005

Java perils and Kim's geekery

Steve Lacey points us to a great read: Joel on Software - The Perils of Java Schools.

I definitely suggest reading it, but in case you are too lazy, here's the one sentence synopsis: The trend of CS programs in schools to move to all-java programs, under the guise of being able to spend more time on software design principles and such, is dangerous because it fails to weed out those that will ultimately make poor programmers.

Relevant quote:
"All the kids who did great in high school writing pong games in BASIC for their Apple II would get to college, take CompSci 101, a data structures course, and when they hit the pointers business their brains would just totally explode, and the next thing you knew, they were majoring in Political Science because law school seemed like a better idea. "


For what it's worth, it's been my experience that this is absolutely the case. During my time managing people at Intel (I managed about 20 different people over the course of 5 years), ran into this twice: I 'inherited' (i.e. I didn't screen them) employees that had CS degrees from a Java-based program. In both cases they had taken some elementary C courses, but then the bulk of the program had been taught in Java. In both cases, when they had to pick up more complicated principles involving pointers and such, it just did not click. When you are doing low-level optimization work, you need to understand things like memory alignment, packing bits into registers in different arrangements, the cost of indirection, etc. (Both these people ended up in non-technical roles at Intel. They were great workers, and smart people, they just didn't belong in a programming role).

Due to my current role, I no longer hire programmers now, but if I did, I'd (a) test applicants from schools like this a lot more heavily, and (b) only consider them after I'd run out of other options.

Another quote from the article caught my eye:
"... there are two things traditionally taught in universities as a part of a computer science curriculum which many people just never really fully comprehend: pointers and recursion."

I thought about this a bit and realized that there's a corollary to this: An automatic qualifier of geek is anyone who is ecstatic after learning about pointers and recursion. And that includes me.

I've witnessed and exhibited many geeky things in my 36 years on this earth, but I can think of four that really stand out:

  • Learning long division: I think it was the 2nd or 3rd grade. When I learned how to do it, I became so enthralled that I started writing down the biggest problems I could (e.g. divide this random 4 digit number into this random 25 digit number). Eventually they wouldn't fit on the paper, so I was asking my mom for some of her sewing pattern paper because it was 36 inches across, and THAT could fit some serious long division problems.
  • Making my own gun powder: In the 7th grade, a friend showed me how, and how varying the ratio of sulphur/charcoal/saltpeter you could make smokebombs, stinkbombs, etc. Now this was chemistry with RESULTS!
  • Seeing BASIC for the first time. Also 7th grade. TRS80 model 4 in the school 'computer room'. I saw some guy type in a bunch of stuff I didn't understand, he hit enter, and a game (variant of snake, I guess you could say it was) popped up on the screen. I thought it was magic and I was hooked.
  • Learning and applying recursion. It wasn't till much later in life that I learned C (in night school while working at Matrox). The college I'd gone to, because it was an EE-type program taught all it's programming in assembly, since it wasn't about SW design, it was about understanding how the HW ticked. Anyhow, in this C course, we learned about recursion and I went right home and wrote an asteroids clone which used a recursive routine to render all the asteroids (which were stored in a tree structure). The idea that I could call a draw routine with a pointer to the root node was, as they say, da bomb!

Umm... I think I've said too much now. Geek number one signing out!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ooof! My achin' thighs!

First time out on the slopes this season today, as Alisa and I took the day off (leaving kiddies with grandparents) to do a little outing.

Went and had lunch at Salish Lodge (butternut squash gnocci = crazy delicious!) and then went skiing at Summit at Snoqualmie for the afternoon.

The bad news: It's not a great hill, and their coverage wasn't great, especially on the black diamond run we ended up on accidentally (and which Alisa actually took her skiis off for and slid down on her butt). It's better than most hills back in Quebec, but certainly no Mt Hood Meadows or Big White.

The good news: It's 49 minutes from our door to the ski resort parking lot. WoW! Way closer than it was in portland.

Anyhoo. Think I'll go lie immobile for a while now :-)

Kim's guest review

I did a guest review over on Dan's GameFam site.

In the future, these types of things might be a bit of a conflict of interest, and I won't do them if and when that's the case. However, in this case, Kim The Dad saw a great website for toddlers and wanted to point others to it. 'nuff said.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Great Honda ad

This is a great Honda ad.

I beleive that's a Honda Z50 at the beginning of it. That's the first motorbike I ever rode, and learned to shift on it. Man, that was a fun summer!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Random Observations

- Sorry to disappoint all you Sodoku fans out there, but I just don't get this game. If everyone had just taken programming 101 in their youth they'd see this as the simple algorithmic exercise that it is and we'd be done with this crazy trend that's going on right now. I guess there's something to seeing how quickly you can solve it, but apart from that, it just seems an exercise in tedium. It's logic Solitaire. Perhaps I should get rich starting an "eight queens" trend. Hmm...

- I went to the gym and also the grocery store yesterday and found it funny how "Athletic wear" (sweats, spandex/lycra, etc) seems to be worn out in public mainly by people at complete opposite ends of the physical fitness spectrum - those constantly exercising, or those to big to fit comfortably (or at all) in anything else. Athletic wear is the band-rejection filter of fashion.

- I tried and failed to watch Howard Stern's "Private Parts" movie from a few years back. I'd heard that it was a good insight into how the radio biz really works, but I just couldn't suffer through the movie so I deleted it. I noticed though that the first two actresses to appear in it are both on West Wing now. Coincidence or are the hooked up with the same management?

- I watched Metallica's Some Kind of Monster, which was an interesting insight into the process of creating an album. However, I don't know if I can accept all this "bands and their therapists" stuff. Whatever happened to bands working out their problems by trashing hotels and sleeping with groupies? Really, what's the world coming to!?!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Wordy Xmas goodness

Two bits of wordy goodness from Santa today:

- Super Scrabble, which is a variant of the game expanded from a 15x15 board to a 21x21 board, i.e. roughly double in size, with 200 tiles and 4x letter/word multipliers added to the 2x & 3x ones. Had a game tonight, and it was fun despite the fact that Alisa Bingo'd "Frocking" across BOTH triple- and quad-word scores giving her 18x3x4+50=266 points for that turn alone. Needless to say, the rest of us had no frocking chance after that!

- "The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable". Wow. Super find from my mum-in-law. I hadn't asked for it, but I imagine it will come in super useful. I'd certainly recommend it to anyone in the gaming biz as it's got a ton of useful stuff in there. Read the back cover description for more detail.

My goodies aside, the highlight was definitely seeing the kids go nuts for all their goodies under the tree. Thomas the Train, a doodle pro pad, and other goodies had them well occupied all day and they crashed pretty hard come bed-time. Tom woke up late this evening and when I asked what was wrong he said "go downstairs and play with presents". :-)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

On the dungeon siegin' wagon

I've officially kicked my addiction.... to dopamine.

The steady drip-drip-drip of dopamine fed to my brain through the steady click-click-clicking my way throught Dungeon Seige 2.


What was I thinking? Was I even thinking at all?

I played DS1 (how many years ago was that) and while it was good, I'd complained it was TOO long.

Now with my gaming time at a premium, I have a lapse in judgement and install DS2 that promises (a) much more of the same, so not much new to see in terms of game design and (b) it's a sequel, so they've probably made it longer.

And WOW, did they ever make it longer!

After sinking as much time into it as I'd taken to complete Psychonauts, I get to a big milestone along the lines of "congrats, you have found the second piece of the four pieces of the big-ass magic shield you'll need for The Big 60 Minute End-Boss Fight of Carpal Tunnel Certainty".

SECOND OF FOUR!?!? And I think there's a sword to get after that!

I'm done. Games are too effing long.

And what better reason to blow the install than a brand new shiny CTP Vista build to install! Yippee!

//homer voice on
Mmmm.... shiny gui... mmmagugugghhh (drool)
//homer voice off

As the kids would say these days, Vista is the bombdiggity.

Now, I have a backlog of games to play over the holidays:
- Prince of Persia 2: PC
- SSX on tour: Xbox (what can I say. I likes da boardin')
- Burnout Revenge: Xbox
- Spiderman 2: Xbox (a bit old, but I'd heard some people talking about the web-swining mechanic, so I want to check it out)
- I have a BIG list of casual titles I've been meaning to check out for work-related reasons

And just in case Santa's been good to me this year and got me a guitar hero, I'm going to play it, and then I'm going to contemplate hacking it >:-)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Begin the GameBiz podcasts

I've been toying with the idea of doing a podcast for a while now. I'll need to decide over the break whether I have time to fit it in, but I think it would be fun.

I started blogging almost a year ago as a learning exercise as much as anything, and I've definitely gotten more out of it than I've had to put in. Perhaps the same might be true for another medium? Hmm...

In the meantime, Chris Melissinos over at Sun has had the same idea and debuted his show GameON! yesterday. I gave it a listen in the car this morning, and give it a 3 out of 5 rating. Don't get me wrong, that might seem like a low score, but it's a great score for a first episode (edition? terminology uncertain to me).

What I liked: (1) Best intro theme EVAR! Taken from M.U.L.E. - I'd have picked the same and now will need to find something else, dang nab it. (2) Very well produced. Chris, you doing this at home? Or does Sun have a studio full of folks helping? Anyhow, well done. musical spacers to delineate segments, volume is all at a good level, audible without any clipping; minimal verbal stops (ummm, uhhh), (3) Chris is a good speaker and is easy to listen to. Some podcasts are intolerable for this reason alone.

What I didn't like: (1) drifting from the stated mission. Chris claimed he was going to talk about biz & impact on culture, interview folks in the industry, etc, but the bulk (not all) of the first episode was mainly game reviews, (2) the trip down memory lane-slash-bio at the beginning was WAY too long, but I guess I should forgive him for that as it IS the first episode after all.

So, that being said, it's earned a place on my MP3 player.

Chris, time to start embedding subliminal Java messaging in there to corrupt my microsoftie brain! :-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Oooohhh Canada!

Whilst America grapples with the War on Xmas, and it's courts decide on whether
"intelligent design" should be taught in schools, my homeland's courts ponder topics of a far graver nature:

Canadian Supreme Court OK's Group Sex

Oh Canada indeed.

Moralists, say what you will, but there's a far smaller number of people shooting one another up there!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Blue skies turn to grey... or pink?

While I might not see enough blue sky in games, I *am* getting a little tired of the blue sky on my desktop.

So thanks a BLOODY lot to Steve Lacey, for pointing me to some uber-cool desktop wallpapers via this flickr site, and as a result, costing me triple-digit-minutes of wallpaper browsing! ;-)

Still haven't picked something, but have linked on to others. Also recommend checking out:

Super awesome anime-styled wallpapers!

Worst of all, this may waste more time as I'm considering writing a little wallpaper rotator app. Maybe it could be a mood-ring thing that decides on your mood based on a running average of emoticon types in your email & IM messages :-)

The Hack beckoneth!

I haven't even picked up Guitar Hero yet and already I *REALLY* want to hack the controller.

It's just crying out for someone to rip the electronics out and jam them into a real guitar. That little plastic toy is NOT what a guitar feels like, folks!

My $75 Kramer garage-sale-special is looking at me sheepishly from the corner of the room like I'm Dennis Hopper or something.


Someone please do this hack before I do, or my Kramer will never be saved from the state of mind represented by the above emoti-text!

Narnia Rap!

I'm way behind on my movie watching. Usually will wait to rent, but some movies you want to see in the theater, and Kong, Narnia, Potter, Aeon Flux, etc, are all on that list.

So last night on a whim I decided to check out Chronicals of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I caught the late show at 10:30 which was nice because I was one of only a handful of people in the place and could get prime seating.

Anyhow, great movie. Most are saying it's "not lord of the rings great, but great". I'm not sure. I think I liked it better. Some parts weren't quite as good, and it was shorter. But then I think LOTR could have used an hour less "Hobbits looking desparingly over panning vistas". Also, I think that real (vs mythical) animals are probably harder to animate as we are accustomed to seeing them move in a particular way.

Anyhoo. I enjoyed it.

But what I REALLY enjoyed was watching the PVR'd SNL this evening and coming across the Narnia Rap. YOu can view it here.

Not only is it funny... it's actually good. I want the MP3!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Katamari Dilberty

Funny Katamari-inspired Dilbert comic this morning:

Gamers Revealed!

AWESOME side-by-side pix of gamers and their in-game avatars on the BBC website.

Thanks to Souris for the pointer.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Yet another sign games have "arrived"

The other night I went to a cocktail party with a bunch of 30- and 40-somethings. Very suburban, very yuppie. Lawyers, business owners, aerospace engineers... I was surprised that I was the only microsoft guy there.

So it's party gathering time in the kitchen, people are arriving, giving the hostess bottles of wine, fancy cheesecakes from high-end bakeries, cheeses from places whose name must be worked into the conversation in order to point out how much the cheese cost (and therefore how good it must be). I felt a little like John Cusack in High Fidelity in that scene with Catherine Zeta-Jones, only replace "music-loving counter-culture dude" with "game geek".

Anyhow, at one point someone goes into the den to say hi to the hostesses kids, comes out afterward and says "I see you have Dance Dance Revolution.", to which the hostest nods yes.

"So do you play it too?"

Hostest replies "Yes. And I'm pretty good. I play it at medium level".

And then everyone else chimes in about how they play too, what level they play at, what kind of game pad they use (same yuppie tone used for the camembert: "You really MUST get the metal pad. It's SO much better").

I chuckled to myself that the one game industry person in the room was the only one who's never played :-) (I'm holding off until my 360 purchase. Though the praise for Guitar Hero may have me getting that first).

Anyhow. If that's not a good example about games in the mainstream I don't know what is.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Will Wright video

CNet has a video up of a segment of Will Wright's "When 2.0" talk that I mentioned a while back.


Listen to this.

While watching this.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

From now on, everyone wears red shoes.


via Robin

Poker for Dummies

There is probably a book by that title. I haven't read it. Here's my couple-o-paragraphs version.

We had our "holiday party" at work this afternoon. We had a big poker tournament as part of it, what with the current texas hold-em craziness. Not for real money, fake money with some prizes for the top players at the end of it all.

So the secret is this: If you have to meet your wife and kids, and are desperately hoping to lose all your 'money', people can't freaking grok it and you have the ultimate bluff. I would bet big and people would say "Whoah! Kim's gonna be out quick!", to which I'd reply "yeah, I have to get out of here soon, so hopefully I'll lose all my money". Then people would think I was lying and would fold.

So before I know it, the 10 or so tables are down to 2 tables, I've got a huge pile of chips in front of me, and I've got to go!

So, I told my boss to take over and will get to blame him if he lost it all :-)

Now I know the real action doesn't happen until the final table, but it was still fun. It certainly was a lesson on a couple fronts:

- when playing with average players, playing aggressively has an advantage. It's amazing that even with FAKE money, people were intimidated by agressive bets.
- people watch WAY too much poker on TV. Everybody's trying to "read the tells" on other players and shit. One guy said to me "I could tell you had the flush by the way you tapped your fingers" - on a hand where I *no shit* had forgotten whether my second card was a spade or a club, but had gotten too far into the betting to care. It was either a flush or a bluff and it really didn't matter.

Next year I'll make sure I have time to see it through and we'll see whether my luck holds out!

Counter(feit) Strike

Something to chew on whilst I find time for longer/better post on other topics:

One has to wonder whether South Korea would continue to complain about the portrayal of North Korea in US Games if Americans paid for the in-game items on "Free" Korean MMOs using the counterfeit cash the US says North Korea is creating.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sweet cake

Best cake I've seen in a while: The Long Tail cake. Best one I've seen since Robin's b-day Katamari cake a Lulu's post-GDC shindig last spring.

Plus I love the phrase "we had a bake-off at the office". Sweet!

Attack of the Free MMOGs

We knew they were coming. We just didn't think they'd arrive in packs.

The Korean government just launched GamenGame, a US-targeted portal for Korean MMO's, trying to attract the US customer.

For what it's worth, I *love* the variety offered here. Enough with the 'men in tights' games. There's a baseball MMO, A golf MMO (which I referenced in my TGS report a while back)...

And all the MMOs are free to play, with the sell up being extra features or in-game items.

(BTW, I think it's pronounced game'n'game, though I prefer 'Gamen', like 'Ramen' for the first word. Perhaps 'RamenGame' will take off as a non-PC derogatory reference to cheap MMOs coming from Asia? :-/ )

Do you hear that shuffling sound?

It's Charles Schultz rolling over in his grave.


Addendum to last post

Someone pointed out some similarities between my last post and Raph Koster's Future of Content post. I hadn't read it until just now, but agree there's some overlap.

Raph's is certainly a better and more thought-out post, but I think mine makes a nice complement to it. His is the meal, mine is the appetizer or deser, depending on your preference.

Bon appetit!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Games Industry 2.0

Those with an interest the indie gaming scene would do well to keep an eye on the music industry.

Oh sure, you say. "Digital distribution killed retail" the obits will read. Happening in music, and will happen for games. So what!? Whether you stand on the "bah humbug!" or "viva la revolution!" side of the argument, there's nothing new to this discussion. It's been going on for years.

But look again. A little closer this time. You'll see there are bigger changes afoot. I'll get to that in a minute. First, let's talk about something else.

I've been bitten by the podcast bug as of late and have been listening to a number of them in the car, on the plane, and at the gym (when I can get my keister out of bed to get there, that is). Adam Curry's Daily Source Code, Rock and Roll Geek Show, ABritAbroad, The Rock Show, and a number of others that I've sampled but once or twice. And if there's one thing I'm gathering through listening, it's that there are more differences from traditional radio here than just the budget applied and the music played.

Digital distribution is only a piece of a much larger puzzle.

Retail is only the end-point of a very complex ecosystem that the music biz has built up over time - largely over the past 50 years. Retail was needed for the actual sale of media, but radio, print, tv appearances, MTV vids, etc, etc - all this informed people what was available, built their tastes for certain content, informed them where they could get it, and pushed them into the record stores to get it. Music Industry 1.0.

Today's digital distribution of music relies largely on that same infrastructure. Sure, you can download from iTunes, but your learned about iPod from Bono in the TV ads and then went there to download your U2 box set. I'd call this is "Music Industry 1.5".

If you look to the podcast scene, you see some of the other pieces of the infrastructure coming into place:

  • Podcasts replace radio. And with geographic limitations gone, and with content being time-shifted, it's allowing for a level of micro-niche proliferation that was never possible before. You could do an all-steel-drum, all-the-time podcast and probably find an audience for it. Jeez. RRGS pointed me to WhoreCast - talk about microniche - a podcast by and for sex-workers. Not my cup of tea but fascinating that it's there at all! You can even give your show a name to reflect the niche! How about "There are Jews in Alabama"! Yes, that's an actual podcast!
  • Sites like The Podsafe Music Network, Podsafe Audio, and others are providing a place to link artists and podcasters, and in turn link them to users. Plus, they are letting artists retain rights to their content in exchange for a reasonable cut of the action.
  • Laws around the world are being tested in ways that weren't imagined when they were authored, and undefined legal areas are being discovered. It's going to be a facinating journey, but painful for some, I'm sure.
  • New levels of collaboration are possible. Remember "We are the World" and all the other cloned of relief-for-africa celeb collaborations? Check out Podsafe for Peace. 32 artists from 9 countries collaborated over the web to do a Unicef benefit song. (That they turned out similar syruppy pablum to the celeb ones is beside the point). No flying-in-Michael-Jackson's-Unicorn-before-he'll-perform to deal with either!

I think when the dust settles, we'll see that Music Industry 2.0 doesn't kill 1.5, nor does it kill 1.0. All three will co-exist, though not necesarily happily. There will be cross over in both directions: Mainstream artists using guerilla marketing tactics to market their wares via the 2.0 channels; indie artists that "sell out" for mainstream label record deals, limos, groupies, and trashing hotel rooms. Radio will evolve just as AM wasn't killed by FM, and just as Video didn't kill the radio star (though maim may be a more apt verb). Bloggers are taking readers from the mainstream press and the mainstream press is blogging in reaction.

I beleive when the dust settles, we'll see that Music Industry 1.0 will be humbed a notch or two, but not killed. And Music Industry 1.5 will help keep it alive. Music Industry 2.0 will provide a viable alternative for works that wouldn't make sense elsewhere, and that wouldn't be viable in the 1.0 world. And that means two things: (1) Indie bands, who's prior options were to be starving artists, can actually make a modest (and will need to accept this!) living, and (2) more choice for consumers, which is a good thing.

So what does this have to do with gaming?

I think the *same* *exact* *thing* is happening in the games industry.

Cartridge/disk/CD/DVD Games at Retail: Games Industry 1.0

Digital distribution of existing content, or similar content, from existing players. Same traditional marketing, just distributed online rather than at retail: Games Industry 1.5. Adds a "long tail" but mainly as clearing house. The worlds biggest K-Tel discount rack.

Is today's casual games industry "Games Industry 2.0"? Not quite. Maybe 1.9. A few new genres and price models have appeared. The traditional retailer has been replaced, or at least complemented by, the Big Game Portal (Zone, Pogo, etc). New funding models have started popping up in a few places. And players like Steam, Garage Games, Multiverse, and others are providing the distribution infrastructure/tools. Bloggers are supplanting the gaming press and the press is blogging in reaction.

So what's missing? The last piece of the puzzle, in my mind, is Niche Proliferation. Once we have a way for people to make games that appeal to a very specific audience, and connect them to that audience automatically, then we have Games Industry 2.0.

And 2.0 is already being alpha-tested, if it isn't feature complete yet:

  • Steam is a step in the 2.0 direction. That their "niche" is significant enough to be extremely lucrative helps, but it's still a very specific type of audience.
  • Jay probably doesn't know it, but his site is very "2.0": A casual games site aimed specifically at game designers, with both a review of the game and a critique of the games aesthetics and mechanics.
  • Game Services and Service Clients (Steam, GameTap, etc) are the game & game info distribution equivalent to Podcasts+Podcatchers+RSS - letting the content come to the audience rather than the other way around. The difference of course is that right now every "podcast" in this case needs it's own proprietary "podcatcher".

There are certainly more signs of life than that. I don't think we are far off. The next steps are being laid out for us. You can listen to them on your way to work in your nearest podcast.

Alls well that ends well

Regarding my last post, the owner of the site has apologized and taken down all non-authorized content. Seems to have been a misguided but well intentioned effort. Kudos to him for righting the wrong so quickly.

//back to work

Contributor, my ass!

Hey kids. Look up at the address bar on your browser. Where are you reading this entry from?

If it's, great.

But if you are reading this from, then you are reading a site/blog that is snarfing RSS feeds from other folks blogs, mine included, and listing them as contributors. (Greg Costikyan, Sean Ryan, and Phil Steinmeyer, are also listed - I am in good company, it appears)

I have no problem with people referencing entries I've made or quoting me. However, aggregating entries directly and listing me as a "contributor" to the site? That's a no-no. For one thing, it's false. For another, it could get people in trouble with their employers (not an issue for me, but imagine they were snatching the RSS feed from a press person and their employer then said "hey, you are contributing to a competing site"!).

Guess I'll have to put up a disclaimer, putting my blog entries up under creative commons or something. My bad for not doing so to start with. Oh well.

Gee, I had no idea my ramblings were of value to others ;-)

A quick WhoIs on the above domain tells me it's owned by Duncan Gough, same guy that created (which looks to be a cool site) and (a girl-gaming site that has the look and feel of one that wasn't created by women :-). Though who knows who's really behind this nefarious internet activity!

In the meantime, I continue to be a humble contributor to a single URL.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

An attestation to my geekdom, gone.

I sole my M.A.M.E. arcade cabinet this morning. With the departure of my Ms Pacman cocktail, my Twinky pinball, and my SmashTV cabinets, this now means I have *no* arcade machines in my posession *sniff*

Sad to see it go, especially considering all the work I put into the conversion and the custom control panel, but there simply isn't room for it in the new house.

Perhaps using the money toward a new 360 would make me feel better?

At least I still have my Pong machine and ColecoVision! Ladybug anyone?

Friday, December 9, 2005

Figurines teaching you how to develop websites!

OMG! Coolest how-to article EVAR!

Why? Cause it's illustrated with figurines!



Thursday, December 8, 2005

They grow up so fast!

Seems just yesterday my kids were born as frail little two-pounders.

Tonight we were attending open-house for a pre-school we're considering for them for next September.

Man, time flies.

A scapegoat is born!

Game industry folk everywhere should rejoice, for the media has birthed another scapegoat for society's violence, and so soon games will no longer bear the wrath of the Right.

I speak of course of the blogging movement, that menace that threatens to turn your kids into violent murderers.

This article appeared on MSNBC today: When Murder Hits the Blogosphere. The main focus being around the murder of 14 year old Kara Borden's parents by an 18-year old she met through her blog on MySpace.

Once again, new media and new technology are at fault. Not bad parenting. Of course nothing to do with their self-avowed Chistian faith.

Would the same level of media coverage happen if they'd not met online, but say, in an arcade instead?

Silly me. Of course. Because then it'd be the video games that caused it.

Attending Casuality?

Hey Gang? Any readers attending the Casuality conference in Amsterdam in Feb?

Leave a comment or drop me a mail if you are!

Good notes Will Wright talk

I didn't attend, but Oren Sreebny's blog contains a good write-up of Will Wright's talk at the "When 2.0" conference going on in Palo Alto this week. It's a good quick read.

Thanks to Steve for the pointer.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Could the homeless hold the key to the future?

Not that we should make fun of the homeless, but we appear to be adopting their savvy biz skills.

This morning I saw two guys standing out on 148th ave in Bellevue holding homeless-beggar-style cardboard signs. I thought they were going to read "homeless, 8 kids, need money.." or such. Rather, they read:

"Seattle Start-ups! We want to Meet you! Meeting Dec 8 & 9 at...."

So I'm assuming some crafty-but-desparate VC's have adopted this fine method of laser-like focus.

Crazy world.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Victoria and her not-too-dirty Secret

Flipping channels tonight, I noticed that The Victoria's Secret fashion show was on prime time TV, on one of the major networks.


It's a pretty peculiar thing if you think about it.

With all of the uproar about cleaning up TV, Radio & Games, the various other moves of the far right, parental & family values, etc... here we all are, 20 million people or so watching waif-like girls parade around in their finerie.

Is there any other branch of fashion that has justified a mainstream TV viewing like this? No. So clearly it's about the T&A. But it's deemed acceptable. Clean enough for mainstream, risquee enough to feel naughty.

It's like a tenth of the country is huddled together readng a Judy Bloom book and snickering.

A boozy post

Ah, the dilemma of being a girl-drink drunk.

When we moved up from Portland, we had a problem: No bar.

Not to say there aren't bars in Seattle, there's bars a-plenty. Rather the problem is that our Portland house had a full wet-bar which I'd fully stocked with a full selection of booze.

The Bellevue house just doesn't have a good place to stock it all, so we've been getting rid of it the best way I know how - by drinking it! A little at a time, of course. All things in moderation and all that.

Anyhow. The problem is that, lightweight suburbanites that we are, we quickly got rid of the lightweight staples (Kalua, Baileys, Midori, etc, etc), and are now left with two groups of spirits: The hard stuff (whiskey, gin, etc) and the lesser-used-but-necesary-to-properly-stock-a-bar drinks (Galeano, Curacao's, Vermouth, etc), not to mention all kinds of mixers.

So I was tempted to buy some Kalua, which I enjoy in coffee or hot chocolate (especialement pour l'hiver!) but how could I when there's still so much other stuff in the house?

Well, surprise surprise, friends Adam & Stacey came up for a visit this past weekend, and came bearing gifts. They brought us a bottle of Starbucks Coffee Liquer.

YUMMY! It's of course very much like Kalua or Tia Maria or other coffee liquers, but they've added a stronger coffee taste to it. And if you know me, you know I likes my 'spresso!

Anyhow, I recommend picking up a bottle next time you are at the liquor store. Make your Happy Holidays just a wee bit happier!

Uncanny Valley Girl

Steve Lacey points us to this wired article, the first of what I would imagine will be many articles about next-gen consoles and the "uncanny valley". I do like the author's take on it though:

"My hat is off to whoever designed the new King Kong game for the Xbox 360, because they've crafted a genuinely horrific monster. When it first lurched out of the mysterious tropical cave and fixed its cadaverous eyes on me, I could barely look at the monstrosity.

"I'm speaking, of course, of Naomi Watts. "

How-to Wiki

This is a cool idea.

WikiHow is aiming to do to the How-to manual what Wikipedia has done to the encyclopedia. Very Cool indeed. I've got several past projects I'd like to write up. Not sure if I'll find the time, but we'll see.

It looks like Wikihow, or at least the sister site, eHow, is making ad revenue. If they could figure out a way to give a stipend back to contributors, they'd really turbocharge the rate of contribution, but I doubt we'll see them do that. sigh.

Monday, December 5, 2005

Man among geeks

There are geeks, and then there are geeks.

And then there are people whose communities pass laws to prevent them from building particle accelerators in their houses.


Jiminy Cricket!

Undies Showing! Player 1 Wins!

OK, it's a very strange world indeed. Link via Robin.

Book Review: The Meaning of it All

Richard Feynman was a great speaker. If you haven't had chance, check out the Feyman lectures on physics, and at a minimum, give the first 3 a try.

I also really enjoyed his more anecdotal books, "Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman" and "What Do You Care What Other People Think?". I was disappointed that there weren't more like them.

So what a pleasant surprise when I came across the title "The Meaning of it All" when browsing the local second hand book store.

The Meaning of it All is not a book he wrote, but rather the transcript of three lectures he gave at University of Washington in '63.

From the Amazon site's reviews:

"Many appreciate Richard P. Feynman's contributions to twentieth-century physics, but few realize how engaged he was with the world around him-how deeply and thoughtfully he considered the religious, political, and social issues of his day. Now a wonderful book-based on a previously unpublished, three-part public lecture he gave at the University of Washington in 1963-shows us this other side of Feynman, as he expounds on the inherent conflict between science and religion, on people's distrust of politicians, and on our universal fascination with flying saucers, faith healing, and mental telepathy."

It surprising how many things he talks about are still current-day issues. Culture of fear and use of fear by the far right to justify actions; dangers of dumbing down media; ethics in science... It makes me wonder how much these really are 'new' issues. Are they really constantly there and we fail to have the hind-sight to see that, or are they cyclical perhaps?

Anyhow, if you can find a copy, pick it up. It's a great, quick read that will help you frame some of your thinking, regardless of which side of the issues you stand on.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

On the 360 marketing campaign

Many have griped about it. Of course, armchair quarterbacking and 20/20 hindsight are both easy, and in combination they are extra strong.

John Porcaro on Xbox's marketing team (don't know him, just got pointed to his blog) pointed out some of the difficulties and thoughts that go into such a campaign and why it ended up where/how it did. Good read.


I agree 100%!

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Store water, gorp, and fetch my musket

It's snowing again tonight. Will be interesting to see how many people show up for work tommorrow if it keeps up. The office cleared out pretty early this afternoon in a panic over the 1/2" of snow that had fallen and the fourteen individual flakes that were rumored to have not melted somewhere on Seattle's highways, leaving a sense of imminent certain death in the air.

Years ago, when I first moved to Portland, I was shocked by the behavior of people in the Pacific Northwest when snow started to fall. Since then, I've realized it's because all of them can be grouped into one of two categories:

  • People that once lived in a place with snow-filled winters (eg. Montreal, NY, Denver, etc), or,
  • People that seize the conch, smash Piggy's glasses, and start to feast on the still-warm flesh of their soccer-playing teammates the moment white stuff starts to fall from the sky.

Jeez, people! Chill! (Pun intended, of course)

What's in a blog?

I saw that CMP launched GameSetWatch this week, which (ahem) "aims to pinpoint and succinctly link to the gems of video game coverage online".

Hmm... I'm not sure what to make of it. Certainly can't blame CMP for wanting to hop on the blogwagon (Hey, I can portmanteux with the rest of you), and they've certainly put together a good crew to do so, including EIC of GDMag Simon Carless, the creator of Geeks on Stun, and BBC-ette Alice (link on the right).

That being said, there's still something irking me a bit, and I'm not sure why. Here's a try at a couple things that are nagging at me:

  • Will Simon's job editing GSW improve or diminish the quality of GDMag. Will it let the mag focus on 'big picture' type features, or will juicy items need to get up there right away. Same goes for Gamasutra, btw.
  • Where does a blog end and a website begin? And does it matter? On the continuum of sites that goes from, say, a type format, to a slashdot, to a boingboing or engadget, to a gewgaw, what's really the difference? I guess I still cling to an antiquated concept that a blog is a personal thing, but I guess that doesn't hold much water. I dunno.
  • Will we lose the better personal coverage from some of this crew? For example, I frequent Alice's blog, but it seems that some things that she used to post now will clearly belong on GSW. Maybe the rest will still be compelling? Maybe GSW will be a better place to frequent?
  • Will a corporate charter lead to the same pressures that a lot of mags/sites face, and will they be good about being unbiased/tainted? Pretty easy when things are looking up and lucrative like today, but if the ad market takes another 99-style hit, well, integrity is harder to keep when you need to eat, right?

Alright, enough negativity. I guess I should give the site -oops, blog- the benefit of the doubt, and so should you! Go give it a once over and subscribe to the feed for a while and let me know what you think!

Swish, swish, swish

It's snowing here in Redmond, which makes me pine for the slopes!

(view out the office window)

MS - Reality TV

Tonight's Apprentice will show the Trumpster tasking his would-be cronies in a challenge featuring an MS product.

I'd kicked the Apprentice habit but may fall off the wagon tonight only.

(And I still think Branson's Billionaire show was a billion times better!)

Cards, anyone?

Justin's got a post about an interesting game experiment they are doing on campus at USC involving giant cards in a "massively multiplayer" real world game. Sounds cool!