Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Death of Video Gaming

Even if you aren't into video games you've probably heard about a major brouhaha going by the hashtag #GamerGate. I am not going to go into the details of what it is, how it started or who did what to whom. There's an overabundance of information out there to confuse and entertain you for weeks. This is not about GamerGate. This is about perception.

I have been playing video games since the mid-70's and working in the computer field, primarily as a programmer, since the early 80's. Back in these early days, a term was coined; “hack.” The term was used to express the elegance or coolness of a particular piece of code. You might hear the phrase, “That was an awesome hack.” Therefor, those of us who hacked were called hackers and hacking was what we did. Initially, the term was used in a very positive way. The goal was always about making the programs run better, more efficient, easier to use.

Now, there have always been those who would use their programming prowess for nefarious endeavors. They created viruses, broke into systems, and stole data for fun and profit. Since they felt their code was of the highest caliber, they also started calling themselves hackers. Those of us who opposed their actions spent much time and effort to try and make the distinction between real hackers and those doing illicit things understood. Then the mainstream, non-technical media heard the term. From then on, we were tilting at windmills. Now, every virus, every data breach, every celebrity nude that hits the Internet is perpetrated by hackers. There is no way that we, the true hackers, will ever get our moniker back.

Hackers equals bad guys. Period. It has been irrevocably poisoned.

This is the state that the GamerGate tag has found itself. It is now completely associated with negative actions and attacks. The New York Times has said so. It doesn't matter that many in the GamerGate world are good people trying to do good things. It doesn't matter that there are those maliciously attacking said people. It doesn't matter what anyone, anywhere says or does.

GamerGate equals bad guys. Period. It has been irrevocably poisoned.

Right now the video game industry has just started to break out of the stereotypical “antisocial teen boys wasting their time” stigma. Educational gaming is growing. You can get a degree in game development. You can even get a varsity letter in sports playing video games for your university. But if the GamerGate tag continues to show up in articles and editorials in mainstream media, all of that progress will be lost.

And that would be tragic.

Monday, June 02, 2014

An experiment in game blogging

For a few years now I've had the idea of doing video game reviews from the perspective of a gamer and a game dev. Originally, it was going to be me and my son, but that never seemed to work itself into being. I'd thought the idea was dead.

Recently I met someone who is an avid gamer who I thought might be interested in doing this with me. Turns out they were, so I'm going to give it a shot. Whether it works out to be something others might be interested in, or just another invisible blog taking up space on the 'Net, I think it'll be fun.

If you are curious, check out the Kwiksand Kronicles at http://kwiksandkronicles.blogspot.com. It's just getting started so there's little content yet (i.e. none), but cross your fingers and come along for the ride.

Like I said... If nothing else, it'll be fun.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blogging lagging

It's interesting how twitter has impacted my blogging. I was never an overly active blogger but now, whenever I think of something to post it ends up a tweet instead.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Without a paddle

You know how sometimes you feel like your life is out of control? Like everything's happening to you and you have no say in the matter? Odds are, you probably have. But I can tell you that, while you may have felt that way, you weren't really as helpless as you thought. I know because, until now, I thought I'd experienced it myself. But now I'm truly living it and it's beyond anything I could ever imagined.

First, there's almost no overt stress to it. You simply get numb to everything. This crisis happens or that emergency comes up but, for you, it's just another case of reacting to daily events. Decisions get reduced to "or" choices.

- Pay the electric bill OR buy food
- Pay for Internet OR put gas in the car

What's on the agenda for today? Avoid collection agency calls, figure out how to make $1.15 last the rest of the month, call and see how Oma is doing, take son to Sober, try and find some kind of part-time job I can do until December, put off a boatload of other things because OVERLOAD!

Honestly, I was not made for this kind of reality.

And it's only going to get worse.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why I am always surprised by gender inequities in the tech and gaming worlds

Recently there have been some noticeable happenings related to gender in the tech, game and genera worlds. Some significant one being, in no particular order: To anyone who has been online over the last 30 years, this really isn't something new. Gender discrimination and, in many cases, open attacks and hostility, have been around since the beginning. It takes about ten seconds to find a message board or thread where women are threatened with rape and death (no, I am not exaggerating at all) just for speaking their mind. And God forbid that a woman should disagree with anything a guy says.

What prompted me to write this was an exchange I happened across on Twitter the other day. In it, Snipe and K2 were talking about different ways to get men in the industry to stop saying and doing things that are varying degrees of insulting to outright harassment of women. K2, with the help of fellow Meteor employee Sam Kirk, made a poster best titled as “Brosie the Riveter”. A similar theme can be seen in this post on the Repair Her Armor Tumblr blog.

Let's start with some background.

I was born in 1962. This means I spent my teens in the 70's and my twenties in the 80's. Therefor, my formative years had some specific socio-cultural norms that were completely different from today's world. Also, I spend most of these years growing up as a US citizen living in Germany and Italy (Europe during the Cold War was interesting, in the Chinese Curse sort of way, but that's for another time) with the cultural differences that entails, as well. Additionally, I have been in the tech industry, in one form or other, since 1982. I done did seen allot of computer stuff. Lastly, though I didn't find out until my mid-40's, I also have Asperger's Syndrome. I relate this information because it has a strong bearing on how I see the world and can, I hope, help make this piece more coherent.

Why am I writing this post? The reason is that, and I swear to whomever you prefer, every time I run into this attack on women I am completely taken aback. Over the years I have worked with many different men and women and, just like every other human being on the planet, some were better at some things than others. I've known men who were supposed to be computer professionals who couldn't find the power switch without a map. And I've known women who were unquestioned experts in their field. The best computer programmer I've ever had any kind of dealings with was a young lady named Stephanie. She was better at this than anyone I've known in over 20 years with the Linux and Open Source world. From web app devs to kernel hackers, no one was better. When I think of her, the first thing that comes to mind is her code and the skill she had at crafting it. The fact that she was a tall (6'2” I believe), attractive African American woman is secondary to my memories of working with her.

This isn't to say I am a paragon of perfectly balanced racial/gender bias. Like everyone else on this planet, when I picture the average person said person looks allot like me. But that doesn't mean I must accept that image as the only viable one. It is nearly impossible to keep from having a mental image of someone before you've met them that is based on their name and other information you might have about them. But I know that this image is just a figment and has no basis in reality, so I consciously dismiss it. When I meet a person I have the same 15 second reaction that all humans have, but that is only a grain of sand on the beach when it comes to seeing them as a person.

We, as human beings, spend so much time and energy on negative things, such as gender, politics, race, etc., that there's little energy left to be productive. To do something positive that builds rather than tears down. Life is not a Zero Sum game. When someone else shines it does not dim your brilliance. If everyone would celebrate accomplishments and concentrate on bettering themselves you would be astounded how much can be accomplished.

So let us all applaud others success, help them to achieve same, and spend our energy bettering ourselves. That's how you win life!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Old Man Blues

Many, many years ago (seems like two lifetimes) I played the electric guitar in a family band with my two brothers and our sister. We played local clubs and parties for little or no money. Mostly no money. We weren't too bad and even cut a demo of 10 original songs. We played "variety rock", everything from Pat Benatar and Journey to Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. It was fun. 

This was in the 80's.

Then, in 1990 I got married. In 1992 my sister got married and that pretty much put the kibosh on things. I continued to fiddle with playing for a bit until I ended up with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and needed surgery on both wrists. Shortly after that I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and that killed any idea of playing for me.

Now, 20 years later, I find I want to try and play again.  Don't know how, but I'm going to try.  It's likely I'll make Slowhand sound like a death metal speed demon.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

Boy Scouts - Almost there

Yesterday was an historic day.
"Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting's history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America's National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone."
This is, in my opinion, a very good thing. The bottom line is summed up by this sentence, which was part of the official statement on the BSA website: "While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting." Truer words can't be spoken.

However, as the above statement said, "A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration" so no gay scout leaders allowed. Many in the LGBT* community are unhappy with this but I don't see it as a loss. You see, the BSA hasn't even begun to take up this issue so there's no need to bemoan the non-decision yet. The fact is that, once they organization sees that allowing gay scouts makes no difference, they will be much more open to address the topic of gay scout leaders.

This is not to say that work isn't still needed. The biggest thing that struck me about the reaction to this announcement was that those opposed persist in thinking that their children will now be in danger because of it. While it is no longer held as a belief by the majority of the public, there is still this idea that homosexuals are most likely to molest children. Decades of exhaustive study have shown this is absolutely incorrect. Pedophiles are, almost exclusively, heterosexual men. If these people truly wanted to protect their children they would be fighting to make sure that all Scout Masters were gay. (The preceding statement is, of course, ridiculous, but it is as accurate as anything those opposed to gay adults being troop leaders).

What is needed more than activism and legal action is education. Once the public knows and understands the facts about homosexuality, topics like gay troop leaders and same-sex marriage will become moot.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

So much to say but not enough strength to say it

I have a number of subjects (some even topical) that I really want to pontificate on but it's been difficult sitting long enough to get anything done. Some of the ideas include, but are not limited to...
  • 16yo girl charged with possession and discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device for her science project
  • Black Cat Cosplayer's Sexual Harassment
  • The fact that men and women will never and can never be equal
  • The "War" on breast cancer
  • Disney destroys Brave’s Merida
Also, maybe some babbling on what a bad parent the world thinks I am. Not that I disagree with the world on this one.