Sunday, February 7, 2010

About This Blog

I didn't want to start with a big "What you're going to find here!" before I actually had anything to support it, but now that there's, like, content, I thought I'd make the cliche intro post about this blog and myself.

This blog doesn't have a particular topic, really. It's mostly just a repository of random thoughts that I have and want to store somewhere, or just share whoever happens to care. I'm mostly writing for myself, but if someone else enjoys it, that's a big bonus. =p

I'm an admitted nerd, and mostly a gamer. I went to school for computer game development, and now development small indie games (see my blogroll for current projects) as well as play as many as time allows, mostly MMOs. As such, most of the content here will probably be about games. (I guess that seems to not be the case so far, since only one post up to now has actually dealt with video games, heh, but we'll see what happens over time.)

The other reason I'm doing this is so I have my thoughts collected in one place for easy reference. Rather than making X argument a dozen times to different people, I'll just post it here and point people to it as needed. And then they'll ignore it and not click the link because that's how internet arguments work.

Anyway, keep on keepin' on, and don't get hit by any exploding orangutans,

Random MMO Thoughts

I originally posted this as a comment on a post at ECTmmo but it ended up being so long I decided I'd just make it into it's own post. It's sort of disjointed and lacking an overall point, but whatever, that's no different from most blog posts. =p

I think a game can fall well short of WoW and still be a success. WoW is an anomaly. If there were other MMOs with say, 4.5 or 4 million, that wouldn't be the case, but after WoW you don't find #2 until like 500k. I don't think this is because WoW is that fantastic a game (it's better than some but has its problems), but because the Warcraft IP and Blizzard in general already had a huge fan base in the more popular genres of RTS and RPG games when MMOs were still pretty niche. This wouldn't bother me except that people keep saying "Well that game didn't beat WoW. It must be a failure."

Also, as an avid EQ player, I'd love as much as any EQ nerd to see SOE pump as much time and money into it as possible, but alas, while we might love old games, they're not where the money is. Plenty of EQ players might think it's the best game in the world, but when I try to introduce new people it their response is usually "Ew, isn't that game like 10 years old? I want to try something new." The "It has constant updates and content patches" argument usually doesn't sway them. No matter how good a game EQ is, it will never get that albatross of its neck, and I think SOE knows this, so as much as I might dislike it, I can't really fault them as a business for investing in newer games.

There definitely are a lot of "WoW imitations" floating around, either entire games, or original games borrowing ideas. I don't think this is totally horrible if done well. Ultimately a lot of WoW is borrowed from EQ, which draws heavily on old school D&D, which was just based on Tolkein which came from Norse Mythology which was based on who knows what. So much has been done that little is truly original anymore, and I don't think there's any shame or harm in borrowing ideas that work. That said one must be careful. If you just make a total WoW clone, that won't work too well, since anyone who wants to play a game like WoW is going to be playing WoW. =p It requires a careful balance of proven old ideas and original ones.

On that note, I certainly must commend EVE Online for being pretty much the most original MMO launched since EQ (I picked it up a few months ago and it's pretty neat), though it's such a niche game (super hardcore PvP, mostly. It has PvE but the PvP is the main focus and meat of the game), that its sub numbers aren't much beyond most other MMOs. Hopefully the future will hold games with the originality (and stunningly winsauce economy) of EVE, but that appeal to a broader, more casual audience like WoW.

So, yes. In conclusion: MMOs are awesome.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I want to sleep but I can’t

because the world is loud, so instead of futilely tossing and turning in bed, I shall blog! Let’s talk about drugs.

This is hardly a new topic, but it came up in a discussion recently which has inspired me to collect my thoughts here in a post: There is absolutely no reason for marijuana to be illegal. In fact, I’d argue that having it illegal does far more harm than the alternative.

Oh hey look, it’s a supporting evidence:

Anyway, some absurd number of people are incarcerated in US prisons for drug offenses. Now the narrow minded might think “Good, keep them dang dirty druggies off mah streets!” It’s easy to forget that “prison” isn’t some magical mystical fantasy place where people we don’t like just disappear. All those prisons are a huge drain on taxpayer dollars. Y’know, that money we pay that could be spent on education or infrastructure improvements. I can safely say I’d rather have that pothole in front of my house fixed than know that some kid is in jail because he likes getting high.

It’s just the money either, but the hours police officers spend catching drug offenders. I cringe when I look at a newspaper and see a story about some massive drug bust that took over a dozen cops, then the next page is stories about muggings, rapes and murders. I’m not blaming the cops for this, as they’re just doing their jobs. The problem is that spending time chasing down pot smokers is their job to begin with.

Now, apparently some people consider this “being soft on crime.” Those people are silly. Victimless crimes really don’t need to be crimes. Marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody any more than alcohol does. Perhaps less in fact. Marijuana itself will not kill you. Deaths from marijuana happen in two ways: people lace it with a deadlier drug, which would still be illegal if smoking pot was legalized, or they go out and operate heavy machinery while high, which would also be illegal, just like it’s legal to drink alcohol but illegal to drive a car while/after doing so.

Additionally, the legal sale of marijuana would be a new sources of tax revenue. Sure, there might still be some shady dealers selling pot to folks under the table, but that will still be illegal due to tax evasion. Large pot industry giants might not pop up overnight just because it’s legalized, but companies will seize the opportunity eventually, and they won’t show up at all if it remains illegal. So, legalize pot, and not only does LESS taxpayer money get spent on prisons but more taxes will be generated on the sale of pot, and every penny that the government gets from the sale of marijuana is a penny that non-pot smokers didn’t have to spend. =p

Also, to anyone who is ready to dismiss this as the rantings of some silly pothead who just wants to get high without worrying about getting in trouble: way to be wrong. I’ve tried marijuana twice, hated it both times, and will most likely never try it again. However, my loathing of a substance doesn’t cloud my vision to the ridiculousosity of the laws surrounding it. (Woah, Firefox spll check says that’s a word. wtf.)

Also also, one might notice I focused specifically on marijuana rather than drugs in general. When we talk about more dangerous drugs, it’s a slightly different story, and one that’s harder to come to a decision about. While some might be tempted to say “they should be legal too, if someone wants to get fucked up on something deadly it’s their business, not ours.” However, that’s a bit iffier. If some kid gets high in his basement, nobody’s hurt. If some kid OD’s on cocaine and kills himself, a huge emotional toll is taken on his friends and family. Even worse, if an adult who has children or other financial dependents does the same, now those children are short a caretaker. Killing oneself is not a victimless crime, because the person taking their own life makes victims of those who love/rely on them, but you’d have to try pretty hard to kill yourself with marijuana (and as mentioned, would need to add a more lethal drug or a dangerous automobile drive anyway) so it’s exempt from this uncertainty.

tl;dr make pot legal plz kkthx bai

What are we afraid of?

So a brief bit of backstory: I’ve been spending some time reading MLIA, or a site called “My Life is Average” for those not familiar with it. It’s just a place where people share (hopefully) amusing stories. There are a lot of recurring trends on the site though, and one I’ve noticed a fair bit is one that follows this formula: “My young [relative] asked me about [awkward sexual topic] and to preserve their innocence I told them it was [something else]. They then went and asked [adult] about [awkward sexual topic] thinking it was a [something else].”

Let’s think about this a moment. “To preserve their innocence.” At what point did our society determine that ignorance and naivety are virtues to be preserved? Why do we struggle so hard to shield our youth from things that, frankly, they need to know? We lie to our children and tell them “You heard about STDs from someone at school? Oh, it’s, uh a kind of candy. It’s bad though!” and then we wonder why STD rates are so high. We refuse to teach our children about contraception and then wonder why we have teen pregnancy. Why are we so opposed to knowledge?

That was a rhetorical question. The answer is not that hidden. Our society is afraid of it’s own sexuality, and there’s really no good reason why. It’s not just when talking to kids, grown men and women are afraid of talking about it to each other as well. Why do we try to cover up and hide this perfectly natural facet of who we are? What’s so scary about sex? (That one’s not rhetorical, though I do have some theories, most of them, as usual, related to older social traditions that outlived their usefulness.)

Edit: A friend's mother recently posted this on Facebook, and it is disturbingly relevant:

Gender Identity Problems

In my travels across these vast internets, I’ve met a few people with what is often described as “Gender Identity Issues.” Some have said such things like “My real gender and my physical sex do not match.” I know someone is going to accuse me of being horribly insensitive for saying this, but this statement is absurd. Before you go flame me for being a prick, at least read my reasons why, as I do have a few transgender friends and I DO try to be sensitive to both this and other issues.

Our society has various standards of masculinity of and feminity which we attach to various things and concepts, and then expect each gender to fall into pre-defined archetypes. Football is manly; cheerleading is girl. G.I. Joe is manly; Barbie is girly. Beer is manly; hard fruit drunks are girly. This is idiotic. Most of the gender expectations we have are arbitrary and/or anachronistic social constructs. Pissing while standing up is masculine. Giving birth to babies is feminine unless you’re in that one movie. The rest is just made up.

Granted, some trends show up more in one common gender than the other, but being an exception hardly makes you weird. A sensitive who cries when Bambi’s mother dies is no less a man than the big rugged football player, and the muscular body building woman who loves beer and steak and driving her SUV is no less womanly than the cute petite girl in pink skirts. If any of those stereotypes I just made annoyed you: good. Then I’m not the only one who thinks they’re absurd.

What especially annoys me is when gender affinity is applied to styles of dress. Other than a few articles of clothing designed with anatomical concerns in mind (ie, bras) who cares if something is for men or women? A guy who wears dresses isn’t a “girly man” or a “girl trapped in a guy’s body.” He’s just a guy who likes to wear dresses and there’s nothing wrong with that.

So the next time you or someone you know feels the onset of a “gender identity” problem: ask why. Why is this a problem? Don’t feel bad because you like sweet romance movies but you swing a sword below the belt (credit to Icewind Dale for the best euphemism for being male ever) or because you like action hero explosion shooters and you don’t. Buy your son the Barbie doll he wants and get your daughter the toy tank. Drink what you like to drink, not what you think your gender is expected to. Drive the car you like the most (and that has the best gas mileage). Be who you feel like being (within reasonable, legal limits), not who society tells you that someone of your age and gender should be, because few things are as bad as denying who we are or forcing ourselves to be someone else to conform to what the rest of the world arbitrarily expects us to be.

Unless, of course, you just hate your penis/vagina and want to see what it’s like to have the other one. Then I’ve got nothing for you.

Why I really like Halloween

There are a lot of things to like about the current incarnation of Halloween. The candy is certainly nice. The costumes are often entertaining for various reasons, ranging from hilarious to sexy to simply adorable. Partying is certainly entertaining as well.

However, there is one reason that even more than those makes me REALLY like this particular holiday: the random connections that just happen.

I admit to normally being pretty cynical and misanthropic. While humans have made some rockin’ cool accomplishments, we do some shitty stuff too. We kill each other, rape each other, beat each other, steal from each other and dozens of other things, and we’re constantly fucking up our environment. There are times that I feel as if our species is a horribly unwelcome stain on the tapestry of life.

And yet, despite that, there are times when something happens that restores a shred of my faith in our species. These random things can be so simple yet so pleasant. For example, Halloween night a friend and I were at a liquor store buying some drinks for the party we were heading to. In front of us line was a young girl buying something. A few feet away, an older man (perhaps her father) was taking a picture of it. Seeing the inquisitive glances from other people in the line, he explained “I’m recording a historic moment. She just turned 21 and this is her first legal alcohol purchase.” Suddenly there was clapping and cheering for her, and just general happiness. I think a few people even started singing happy birthday. Other than a few couples or groups of friends in the store, none of us knew each other, and nobody knew the birthday girl or her (presumably) father, yet for a few moments we were all brought together by something as simple as a 21 year old’s first alcohol purchase.

This random burst of social camaraderie, while not Halloween specific, was really neat. Of course, that’s not the best example since it could have happened on any night, not just Halloween, but there were many similar Halloween related connections I observed. On train and bus rides in Chicago, most people ride in silence, hoping simply to get where they are going without someone demanding money, threatening them or both. Yet, on Halloween, everyone is friendly. People see a costume they recognize and ask “Are you dressed as soandso? Oh that’s so cool. I love that book/show/game/etc” and people who otherwise would never even say hello to each other are connected, if even for a few minutes.

I think it’s really cool, and I wish it happened more often. We are far too unfriendly a society.

A New Venture

So, a while ago I started a Wordpress blog. I didn't know much about blog sites, and a few people I knew used it, so I gave it a shot. I have since discovered Blogger, which offers some other advantages, and a bunch of other people I know use it. It was also chosen as the tool for the dev blog for a game I'm working on, so I'm considering migrating here, or at least cross-posting. I suppose I'll start testing the water by copying over my few posts from Wordpress and seeing what happens next.