30 Things This Blog is About (#27: Aggrochat)

The link, if you’re not familiar, is on my sidebar. I have never been much for podcasts, there are relatively few that I listen to, and none regularly. I’ve had a few people ask me to participate in podcasts, and I’ve generally declined, partly because when I’ve been working in the games industry I’ve worried about having people potentially think I’m speaking for the company, when I’m speaking only for myself, but mostly because I don’t feel like I have very much terribly useful to say.

The same, honestly, is true for blogging. I’ve long hid behind “I can’t blog because of paperwork I’ve signed” as a shield behind which the reality is I generally don’t feel like I have useful or interesting things to say. Even this blog didn’t really take off until I framed it as a repository of my thoughts and ideas. We’ll see how well that works.

Participating in Aggrochat has helped me unwind a bit. With the gentle but relentless tidal forces he emits, Bel managed to talk me into doing a few shows, which became more shows until I’m more or less a regular on the cast. I occasionally put on my “game designer hat” and go on some rant or another, which hopefully doesn’t put anyone off, but on the whole it’s rarely any different from my usual nights just talking with Rae, Ash, Kodra, and Bel.

At any rate, hopefully it’s worth a listen. As I say in August 30th’s episode, come here and tell me when I’m wrong, it’ll be fun.

30 Things This Blog is About (#26: Politics)

I’m continually frustrated by politics. This is probably true of everyone in this and every other country. Kodra, if pressed, will probably tell you that I’ve said that I hate talking politics, and this is generally true. I take serious issue with the “red vs blue” political spectrum, and the unyieldingly trenchant taking of sides that marks most political “debate”.

The entire thing makes me think of MMOs. I’ve long said that two-faction PvP doesn’t work terribly well, as it leads to massive imbalances and a lot of direct butting of heads without a lot of nuance. The same is true of politics. In the meantime, PvP factions in excessive numbers tend to create a big, disorganized mess (and my limited understanding is that the same is true of politics in other countries as well).

I do, however, think that games make for good microcosms of society in many cases, and there’s a lot to be gleaned about the political system by looking at the smaller analogues in player organizations in games. Resource management, policymaking, conflict resolution, all need addressing and there are some very compelling practices that both sides can glean from one another.

On top of that, I feel that in the same way we’re seeing games become extremely mainstream, we’re likely to see the same thing creep into the political sphere. We’re not too far out from a government where a majority of the participants play video games at some level, and I can’t help but wonder how that will change things, if at all.

30 Things This Blog is About (#25: Culture)

People are fascinating, frustrating, and fantastic. The ways in which we communicate, play, and share with one another are myriad, and while my usual medium for that sort of thing is games, I’m no less interested in the differences between media.

I also find it fascinating to see how our media shapes our culture, the things we do, say, and think. Ten years ago it would have been unheard of for the “popular kids” in high school to even know what a d20 was, much less use one for anything. The other day, a friend of mine told me a story about his middle-school-aged daughter, who was nearly in tears because a boy she had a crush on was playing in a D&D game that she wasn’t invited to. I can only imagine my friend’s reaction to this– he’s been DMing tabletop RPGs for 20 or 30 years, works in video games, and here is an opportunity to become The Best Dad Ever, hosting a game for his daughter and folding her into a group she desperately wanted to be a part of.

Twenty years ago, the idea of everyone having a phone, an instant camera, a notepad, a game boy, a voice recorder, an up-to-the-minute map, a source of driving directions, and a boombox all at once, constantly, would have been laughable. Now I carry around a device that does all of this and more and is less than half the size of my wallet. The cultural shift that’s followed has been immense. We’ve gotten food porn and the selfie, two frivolous but extremely popular things that have only arisen because we have smartphones, and up-to-the-minute news comes from actual people reporting events live on twitter, for the entire world to see, and countries that try to censor their media find out just how difficult it is to stop the signal.

Culture has been undergoing a seismic shift over the past few decades, and the speed with which it’s changing is only increasing.

30 Things This Blog is About (#24: Business and Money)

Yep. Boring, I know. Part of this is that as I advance my career and my education, I’m learning a lot more about both business and money. That’s not really the cause of my interest, though.

We (by which I mean the ‘we’ that is likely to read this post) tend to vilify corporate interests without a second thought. I’ve spoken to many people, some of whom are good friends, who are quick to use words like “greedy”, “stupid”, and “selfish” to describe businesspeople in general, regardless of industry. I think this is a failure of perspective. I wouldn’t call a Starcraft master an idiot because they can’t explain to me the story of Mass Effect, because we’re playing different games. Similarly, the professional gamer isn’t greedy because she accepts money to play games.

As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, I think it’s important to see all of the different sides of a given story. I’m in the unique position of being able to get a good look at both sides of things, and it’s something I’m hoping will give me a good position to talk about. I think that making sense of decisions on both sides is important– beyond simply “why didn’t game X include my favorite feature” or “why did they cancel game Y” to more complex questions: “why aren’t we getting more Mega Man games?”

I don’t think these are necessarily simply answered, and I suspect there are a lot of questions that would come from the executive business side that we find easy to answer. I’m hoping I can find myself in a good “bridge” position that lets me speak intelligently to and on behalf of both sides.

30 Things This Blog is About (#23: Q&A)

I occasionally have people ask me why I do things, or why I think things. It’s not always an easy question to answer, as it requires that I analyze myself and my motivations. In the course of doing so, I usually either find I feel more strongly about something than I thought I did, or don’t care about something that I previously fought fervently over. I like it when people ask me questions and challenge my worldview, because it tends to mean that there’s a perspective that I’ve missed, or it lets me analyze and become more secure in my convictions (if I can adequately defend my thoughts).

Every so often, I find that there are some very simple questions that I have a hard time answering, which is an interesting situation to be in. A great example is “what kinds of games do you play?”

It’s not a simply answered question. The flippant answer is “everything”, or “everything good”, but those are non-answers, both untrue (I don’t play everything, that would be impossible and very expensive) or vague and elitist (by saying I only play “good” games, I’m implying that what I think is good is somehow an objective view of ‘good’, and that everyone else should be able to recognize what I mean by my shorthand, which is an incredibly arrogant stance to take). A real answer would take an incredibly long time; I play quite a few games and listing them all out would take ages. A better answer is probably “I play games that are culturally relevant, either because of massive ad campaigns or word-of-mouth or because of the issues addressed therein, and I particularly like games that I can play cooperatively with my friends and/or have a strong focus of some kind, be that exploration, narrative, puzzle-solving, reflexes, or what-have-you”.

Sometimes, the flippant answer is best:

Q: “Why are you writing 30 posts in about as many hours?”

A: “Because Ashgar doesn’t think I can, and I’m concerned he might be right.”