Monday, 19 November 2012

2nd wave game development

I'll have to disagree with you on that one. Video games may have been originally pegged as 'idle entertainment for children' but, like cinema before it, it's a much fuller/broader/richer medium than that.

There's a lot here I could go into, but what much of it boils down to is that video games are a relatively young art/entertainment medium. Currently the medium is suffering having passed it's immature creative peak (where most of the possibilities of the medium are still being explored and technical limitations are rife--both factors leading themselves to early successes based more on luck and instinct than careful thought and application of design theory) but still being in the middle of hashing out a conceptual framework for itself so that it can proceed in a more developed and mature fashion.

What this says about games produced today is that they're being produced while the medium is in the dark Crappyfrankenclone Valley between early, spontaneous creativity and mature, sophisticated understandings. This means that many of those creating games do so without a solid understanding of what actually makes a game work and thus resort to either a) slicing bits off of various, successful, games and creating some horrid Frankengame in the hopes that it'll be 'creative' and sell; or b) cloning a successful game and hoping that better graphics/slight tweaks will sell.

Of course, there are still people who make good, successful, original games; but the number of them who do so through luck/spontaneous inspiration is growing smaller and is being replaced by game devs who have an increasingly solid grasp of what it is about their game that makes it good and why/how those parts of their game work.

Games won't stay crappy, it's just that for the moment we've exhausted most of the more obvious options and now need to invest some serious cogitation into the theory behind games.

Actually, it's kinda exciting, realising that the second wave of game design (where theory is king) is in the process of breaking around us and that we can be participants in cleaning up the legacy of the first wave (where innovation was trump).

Friday, 16 November 2012

Relational Beings #1

NB: There's a lot here that deserves more attention and explanation than I can currently spare but I just had to get stuff off my chest/out of my head.

Two unexpected things happened at work today.

The first was lovely: I had one of those happenings where your thoughts all suddenly click together and suddenly over half the puzzle is sitting there before you when moments ago there were only jumbled pieces. Various topics (ranging from gay marriage through to Rousseau's DPE & TSC) all came together and harmony of it all was delightful. I'll probably blog about some of those things in days to come.

The second was a whole lot less lovely: I discovered some part of the real reason I got off the teaching train.

For a while now I've been telling people that I basically got out of teaching because it was getting in the road of my education, because I was sick to death of the Department of Education before I even came under their employ, and because I realised that blacksmithing was becoming more and more attractive by the day. All this is true, but the real reason--the heart of it all--was a tangled mix of thought, theory, hard-to-identify-let-alone-express emotions and an uncomfortable feeling that something about the whole business was feeding Winston (even if I hadn't named him at that point).

While collecting a discarded lounge and mattress from a block of housing commission flats Rob (my boss) and I encountered a kid who was locked out of his apartment. I climbed onto the balcony and was able to break into the apartment (without, you know, actually breaking anything). Afterwards,  while we were headed for the tip with our trailer full of junk, Rob told me a little about the kid. He told how the kid was always there when Rob went to clean the stairwells; how he suspected that Mum was no longer a part of the picture; how a couple of the more 'upstanding' residents in the area didn't think much of him; how how one time, after the kid had once helped him load the trailer and rope it down, Rob had given him 5$ and ever since the kid had been really helpful in pointing out the things that were going on around the place--where people had dumped a tv behind a bush or where a window had been broken, etc.

He then asked me, because I've studied developmental psych and all that teachery goodness, what my impression of the boy was: "He's a nice kid, but I sometimes wonder whether he's playing with a full set, you know what I mean?"

Truth be told there's not a lot you can pick up from 30 seconds of interaction with someone when most of that time is spent trying not to fall off a handrail 20ft up; but going off first impressions (taken when the kid was probably more worried about getting inside than what kind of face he was presenting) and Rob's anecdotes I offered a quick appraisal:

"Well, I don't think he's slow, mentally speaking, but his appearance, demeanor, vocab, dialectic code and apparent SES background all suggest that he's probably not very academic and also probably what would be considered a 'negative social element' at school--which is only made more likely in my mind by the fact that he's always here whenever you clean.
   Also considering that he took such an overt shine to you when you showed some interest in him, and that whenever you're here he's always with you, rather than off playing with friends or watching tv, and the whole disconnection-with-school thingy it seems to me that he's probably starved for adult attention/social interaction.
   If I had to guess I'd say that low SES plus a lack of natural academic talent mixed with troubles at home has led to him being labeled in the teacher's staff room as a 'problem child' which has (as is often the case) become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Apart from a "Huh" from Rob, that was then end of the conversation; but as the rest of the day rolled by I kept coming back to that kid and his (guessed at) predicament.

There were lot of things from that afternoon I'd probably like to write about some day--when it's not going on midnight and all that--but one thing stands out above everything else:


I honestly have no idea whether my guesswork was anywhere near the mark, but the fact that even if I'm not 100% correct on this kid there are a plethora of other children for whom much of the picture would fit tears at my insides.

But why you ask? It's not like the worlds a perfect place you chide me; surely I'm not naïve enough to think that every child has a life filled with hugs and puppies you wonder?

It's not and I'm not; but why I feel this churning in my stomach is because I know that there's very little hope for such kids, that many who get set on that path will wind up living lives fractured by all the crap they were forced to wade through before it was their time, that the ones who don't end up dead or serving a long loooong prison sentence will probably wind up having kids who get the same crappy start to life that their parents did.

And the part that gets me most (the part where I realise that that is why I abandoned the idea of teaching in this country) is the part where I realise that even if I was that kid's, these kids', teacher I probably couldn't have done a damn thing to help--not really help in a way that would matter. For every competent teacher out there there are a dozen things about how we run education in this country that will bind and constrict--teacher and student--to the point where neither can really give or receive what's really needed.

To work in a system where you see children get caught and crushed in the cogs of a machine that's supposed to be giving them the stuff they need for getting through life? To see little people's lives start to smoke and burn before they're even off the runway and not be able to step in and help? To constantly run up against bars and strictures that serve not children's education but the interests of those shadowy-types administering things from behind the scenes?

No can do, Captain.


So yes, that's why I got out of teaching before I ever really got into it; even if I couldn't articulate it at the time and am still having trouble now.

It's late and this post hasn't even reached the point I was referring to in the title--apparently there was more to unpack than I'd orinignally envisioned--therefore I'll post the other half of this tomorrow. I realise that much of what I've written probably comes across as extremely hyperbolic and slightly non-nonsensical, but I guess that's the result of having a rolling broil of negative emotions all afternoon and no one to talk it over with.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Writing Joss


It's late and I've really only spent about two hours at home today. Despite being able to account for where the rest of my time went (chiefly work and running Amos to/from rehearsals for Les Misérables) I'm feeling distinctly short-changed--I had a highly productive day thinking about things while I mopped floors, but now that I've the time/space to work on/write about said ideas I just want to go to bed.


Better keep this short...

Yesterday evening I encountered an article on the 10th Anniversary Firefly reunion which mentioned an episode Joss Whedon had conceived where one character gets gang-raped. There was a lot of blowback in the comments with many people being spun-out/sicked by the thought that their beloved Bard II could consider addressing such a taboo subject.

All the noise got me thinking about the why behind rape being the general taboo it is in film/tv (unless it's torture-porn of course, in which case people seem to shrug and say "Well, it's a part of the genre, what did you expect?"). While I'm not going to really delve into my thought processes in this (almost finished) post (because I'm trying to keep things short and because I'm still making my mind up about some things) I will say that my ponderances have inspired me to write to Joss Whedon and ask about his reasons/justifications/thoughts behind wanting to explore said dark subject matter. I don't know what (if any) response I'll get, but as a novice writer looking to hone my craft I figure it's worth a shot.

Not that I'm doing that now now, of course. Now now I'm publishing this post and going to bed.

Mmm. Sleep. ^_^

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Huck, Finch & Garbage

So. Today I was given the chance to ponder forgiveness and prayer.

I spent an hour shoveling a mound of garbage (of varying degrees of scariness, from simple pieces of rotting fruit all the way up to putrefying meat and soiled bed clothes) into the dumpsters it was supposed to be in but wasn't because the garbage collectors who had lasted emptied said dumpsters had failed (just like last week, and the week before that) to correctly position them back under their respective garbage shoots.

As I shoveled (and occasionally suppressed the urge to bring up my breakfast) I got to thinking about those responsible for the mess and noted wryly that the 'Christian' thing to do here would to be to forgive the miscreants. Another few minutes of swearing under my breath and it occurred to me that this kind of situation was exactly the thing Christ had in mind when he told us to pray for those who persecute you.

I wasn't really in the mood for prayer and instead began to construct arguments as to why praying for the misanthropes responsible for this disaster zone wasn't necessary. They weren't very good arguments and promptly fell to bits the minute I presented them to God (who seemed to think that Matthew 5:43-44 was self-explanatory and wasn't impressed with my semantics).

So I ranted to God. I told him how unfair it was that He expected me to expend concern and effort for people who clearly didn't have the decency to do the same for me. I complained about how foul the task before me was and pointed out (repeatedly) how easy it would have been for the garbage collectors to have pushed the dumpsters an extra half foot forward. I asked God what possible reason could exist that I should be praying for these men?

As my diatribe progressed I conceded now and then that there might possibly exist circumstances for which prayer could be fairly offered. In my mind I listed things I would hate to have happen to me, things for which I could be convinced to pray for those careless collectors, were they suffering that fate. I began to climb into their skins as Atticus had told me to.

And somewhere in the middle of all this, without even realising it, I began to pray for them.

Huck Fin once noted that you can't pray a lie, but something equally true is that you can't begin to pray for someone without beginning to love them and, to add insult to injury, you can't begin to love someone without beginning for forgive them. I still wish the garbage collectors would clean up their act, but I no longer bear them any ill-will for today's events. Huh, didn't see that coming.

Of course, if they do it again next week I'll probably have another hissy-fit with God; but I guess that's all a part of the learning/sanctification process.


Monday, 12 November 2012


There's this dog.

I don't know if it's the same dog that Churchill kept away by painting, but it's certainly black and it's certainly persistent.

Sometimes it's nowhere to be found--never existed, or so it seems. And then other times it's there, dogging (yes) me as I fumble through a day that's a lot bleaker than the morning forecast had predicted.

Sometimes it's there from before I open my eyes:

Imagine a day where the colours have all faded, the sounds are distant and muffled, and time has ceased to drive events forward. Now imagine a great, dark weight pressing down on your chest, crushing any hopes and dreams you'd held for the day with a painful, overbearing, nameless sorrow. And now realise that you can't breath because the dark weight is pinning you down; realise you can't fight because the world, grey and void of hope or help or inspiration, saps any resistance you once thought you had; realise that whatever you had hoped to do, whatever you might have done, whatever you had planned is now dust and ashes--because you're paralysed, unable to get out of bed, and ain't nobody can help you. Ain't nobody.

I don't like it when things are like that. .-.

Reflecting on the whole business, I'm not actually certain how long the dog's been lurking on the periphery. Looking back I know it was around before I met Melissa (although I didn't know it at the time). I also know that it went into hiding for a time while we courted and wedded and the like. I'm not yet sure why it came back, although I do have some theories. I guess now that I know it's there I'll have to own it; otherwise, history tells me, these things have a habit of owning you instead.

We'll see how that goes.


There's this dog.

I don't know what its name is, but it seems to have taken to hanging around. I'd rather it went and bothered someone else, but as things stand I suspect it'll be around awhile. I'm kind of hoping it'll turn out to be the kind of dog that you can teach party tricks, but I suspect not. I wonder what I should call it--after all, a dog's got to have a name. Maybe I'll call it Winston; I'll enjoy the irony if nothing else.

Yes, Winston it is; it has a nice ring to it. And hey, I'm feeling better already. Isn't that nice...