Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What "Gamers are Over" Should Have Said!

Since my IGN profile won't post this...

I often say I’m a culture writer, but lately I don’t know exactly what that means. ‘Human culture’ or specifically "Western Culture" as we know it can be kind of embarrassing at times -- it’s not even culture. It’s buying things, spackling over memes and in-jokes repeatedly, and it’s getting mad on the internet.
It’s people with a little too much free time and money queuing with the latest iPhones, Louis Vuitton handbags, Under Armour tights, red and yellow Cenation shirts, LeBron James jerseys, plush mushroom hats, faux stormtrooper outfits, Oregon Duck hats and backpacks and jutting promo poster rolls. Queuing passionately for hours, at events around the world, to see the things that marketers want them to see. To find out whether they should buy things or not. They don’t know how to dress or behave. Television cameras pan across these listless queues, and often catch the expressions of people who don’t quite know why they themselves are standing there.
‘Western culture’ is a petri dish where some people can be found who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice, NFL conspiracies, inept federal government policies, Left vs. Right, police brutality, or ‘game journalism ethics,’ straight-faced, and cause genuine human consequences. Because of their individual agendas and personal interests.
Lately, I often find myself wondering what I’m even doing here. And I know I’m not alone.
All of us should be better than this. You should be deeply questioning your life choices if this and this and this are the prominent public face your culture presents to the rest of the world.
This is what the rest of the world knows about your culture -- this, and headlines about billion-dollar war simulators or those junkies with the touchscreen candies. That’s it. You should absolutely be better than this.
You don’t want to ‘be divisive?’ Who’s being divided, except for people who are okay with an infantilized cultural desert of shitty behavior and people who aren’t? What is there to ‘debate’?
Right, let’s say it’s a vocal minority that’s not representative of most people. Most normal people, from indies to industry leaders, to the average hardworking person, are mortified, furious, disheartened at the direction that the media conversation has taken in the past few years. It’s not like there are reputable outlets publishing rational articles in favor of the honest person’s ‘side’. Don’t give press to the harassers. Don’t blame an entire group of people for a few bad apples.
Yet disclaiming liability has clearly been no help. Media websites with huge community hubs whose fans are often associated with anonymous keyboard warriors with hidden agendas and hate mobs sort of shrug, they say things like ‘we delete the really bad stuff, what else can we do’ and ‘those people don’t represent our community’ -- and they're right.  These people are the outliers.  They are the hangers-on and wannabes.  These people are so low on the social totem pole that even Gamers, one of the most welcoming and inclusive communities out there, will deny any affiliation.  But unfortunately, thanks to the media, that’s what your culture is known for, whether you like it or not.
When you provide the means for people to say what they want, when they want, without fear of oppression from authorities and the safety of relative anonymity, this is unfortunately what spawns in the dark recesses of that freedom. That’s what’s been happening to our culture.
That’s not super surprising, actually. While the United States was founded upon untested yet bright ideals brought forth by outcast pioneers -- they thought freedom would make life worth living, or that creating a nation built upon an uncensored open forum of ideas would create amazing cross-cultural meeting spaces -- the commercial aspect of this freedom sprung up from market-driven economics. You know, free people with disposable income who like to "Get Stuff".
Suddenly, subsequent generations of once-impoverished lower economic classes had marketers whispering in their ears that they were the most important commercial demographic at that time. Suddenly they started wearing shiny blouses, endangered animal skin boots, fur coats, intentionally "grunged" clothes, and pinning bikini babes and "Leo's, Justins, and Tupac's" onto everything they made, started making music, television shows, movies and games that sold the promise of irrational romance, unrealistic body standards, and unhealthy social relationship standards to kids just like them.
By the turn of the millennium those were the media's only main cultural signposts: Have money. Have lots of fame. Get a gun and then a bigger gun. Be an outcast. Celebrate that. Defeat anyone who threatens you. You don’t need cultural references. You don’t need anything but what we tell you is needed. Public conversation was led by a mass media whose role was primarily to tell people what to buy, to score products competitively against one another, to gleefully fuel the “team sports” atmosphere around creators and companies.
It makes a strange sort of sense that the video games of that time would become scapegoats for moral panic, for atrocities committed by youths in hypercapitalist America -- not that the actual games themselves had anything to do with tragedies, but they made for an easy target, largely ignoring the actual underlying problems insidiously making their way into western society. Nobody wanted to discuss the overuse of medication among modern youths, or the inadequate and underfunded social services infrastructures designed to provide help to at-risk kids and teens.
"The traditional stereotype of “gamer” is becoming irrelevant, culturally and economically, in a process of natural social evolution."
Yet in 2014, the culture has changed. Outsiders still think angry young men are the primary demographic for commercial video games (despite a clear demographic of non-whites historically being a large consumer of video games) -- yet average software revenues from the commercial space have contracted massively year on year, with only a few sterling brands enjoying predictable success.  And year after year, we see increasing numbers of women on both sides, in the developers' offices and in the playerbase.
It’s clear that most of the people who drove those revenues in the past have grown up -- either out of games, or into more fertile spaces, where small and diverse titles can flourish, where communities can quickly spring up around creativity, self-expression and mutual support, rather than consumerism. There are new audiences and new creators alike there. The traditional stereotype of “gamer” is becoming irrelevant, culturally and economically, in a process of natural social evolution.
This is hard for people who’ve drank the kool aid about how "the basement dwelling, neckbearded, cardboard-sword wielding nerds" have actually grown beyond their station. It’s hard for them to hear these people who were once ridiculed for being reclusive and socially inept have evolved some of the most creative, successful, and welcoming communities.  Instead they focus on the old stereotype.  The troll in the basement, whose life is consumed by bile and self-serving agendas.  They want to believe that the troll is still the de facto representative of the whole, when nothing could further from the truth.  Rather than shine the light on those who push for innovation and originality, they choose to focus on the ugliness.  Stuck in with their noses in the past, they fail to see, and ultimately ignore the bright future ahead of us.
We also have to scrutinize, closely, the baffling, stubborn silence of many content creators amid these scandals.  But while their silence is unwelcome, it is also understood.  This is hard for old-school developers who are being pressured into "saying the right thing" for fear of retribution from parties that less than a decade ago took little to no interest in their craft.  It is perceived that they are exhibiting an unwillingness to address new audiences or reference points outside of blockbuster movies and comic books as their traditional domain falls into the sea around them.  Unfortunately, nothing in this world is free, and so long as these people have bills to pay, the economic machine dictates they produce only that which will secure them a safe economic future.  Until Frog Princess and Broken Sigil outsell Call of Duty and GTA, the latter two will continue to take precedence over the former.
But social evolution is unstoppable. A new generation of fans and creators is emerging to instate a healthy cultural vocabulary, a language of community that was missing in the early days of “gamer pride” and special interest groups led by a product-guide approach to conversation with a single presumed demographic.
This means that over just the last few years, writing on games focuses on personal experiences and independent creators, not approval-hungry obeisance to the demands of powerful corporations. It’s not about ‘being a reviewer’ anymore. It’s not about telling people what to buy, it’s about providing spaces for people to discuss what (and whom) they support, without judging them for having dissident opinions or deriding their views.
"'Gamer' isn't just a dated demographic label that most people are proud to call themselves. Gamers are evolving. That's why they’re so proud."
These straw man anti-gamer conversations people have been having are largely the domain of an outdated stereotype, when all outsiders did was point and laugh at the fat kid sitting in front of the TV, because those people misunderstood the passion we have for our hobby. Now part of a being a gamer is to foster in a new age, in which we encourage all people to partake in our beloved pastime, to help curate a creative community and an inclusive culture -- and dispel the old negative tropes, like showing just how generous we can be despite all the irrational bile and unfair generalizations heaped upon us by select few privileged individuals who should be helping us weed out the vermin instead of condemning us as a whole.
Developers and writers alike want games about more things, and games by more people. We all want -- and we all are getting, and will keep getting -- tragicomedy, vignette, musicals, dream worlds, family tales, ethnographies, abstract art. We will get this, because we’re creating culture now. We are refusing to let anyone feel prohibited from participating.
“'Gamer' isn't just a dated demographic label that most people are proud to call themselves. Gamers are evolving. That's why they’re so proud.
These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers -- they are not Gamers. They don’t have to be. There is no ‘side’ that they are on, they are not interested in any ‘debate’ to be had.
There is what’s past and there is what’s now. There is the role you choose to play in what’s ahead.  You can either help Gamers evolve, or be trapped in the past with all your hate and misguided opinions.
And if you choose the hate, I wish you well against the one demographic in the world that trains daily to win at all cost.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Influence of a Single Act.

Sometimes the simplest, stupidest things can change a person's life dramatically.

Years ago, when I went to Jefferson High in Portland, I was about one inch shorter, twenty pounds of fat lighter, and ten pounds of muscle heavier.  I also lived in a land of giants.  It's no joke!  As a teenaged half-asian islander, I grew up amid a predominantly African-American population.  Most of my peers were (and still are) strong, proud, and extremely physically imposing compared to me.  In short, I was a sprout in a forest of redwoods.

In my freshman year, of course I had to take P.E.  Now, don't get me wrong, I was never picked last at sports but I was certainly never picked first.  Everybody knew me as the kid who sprinted like lightning but couldn't really excel at anything else.

Until one fateful day.

When it came time for Basketball to be the sport of the week, I knew one thing: this was where I was going to be among the last picked.  Not because of my shortcomings (pun intended), but because of everybody else's physical gifts.  Most everybody in that class stood at least five-eight.  I was five-three.  I remember the captains being picked.  Four of them.  One of them, I remember clear as day.  Eldrick Trevell Bolden.

I knew Eldrick from Middle School.  We'd been friends.  Not good or close friends, but friends enough to where we fed off each other whenever we goofed off in class.  He hung with his crew, and I hung with mine, but in the end, he and I knew we both had things in common.  We both loved basketball, pretty girls, and driving teachers nuts.

Eldrick had second pick that day.  The first captain, a talented athletic kid we called "Chach" took the tallest, strongest guy first.  It didn't surprise anybody.  Then came Eldrick's turn.  He had the pick of the litter.  Two guys at least a foot taller than I, another three who were undoubtedly stronger, my friend Ajay Hansraj who could drain threes with his eyes closed, and my other friend Rokie who was stronger, tougher, taller, and had an overall better game.

Eldrick wasted no time and picked me.

I couldn't believe my ears.  As I walked over, I couldn't help the smile on my face.  Not because I was feeling cocky, but because of the smile on his face.  He had complete confidence in his decision.  I'll never forget what he said to me as he reached out to slap my hand.

"You's my number 1 draft pick dawg..."

He had no reason to pick me.  No reason at all.  Out of everybody in that class, he chose the one person that made no sense for him to pick.  One thing was for damn sure.  I made sure he didn't regret his pick.  I don't think I've ever moved faster, pushed harder, or shot better than that week.  I drained threes, cut to the basket, rebounded, and played insane defense.  I made sure that this man who took a gamble on me would see his faith rewarded.  On that day, I discovered the first hero in my life who I wasn't related to.  He had the courage to defy the status quo.  He went against the grain.  Out of all the people that day who could have picked first, he chose me.  He believed in me when he had no reason to.  He gave me confidence during a dark time in my life.  He showed me just how kind people can be.  He gave me a reason to believe in myself.

After that week, I was invited to every pickup game in that gym whenever I was around.

Last week I found out that my good friend was murdered three years ago.

Apparently he was in Mississippi visiting family.  Some idiot took his life.  I had written in a part for Eldrick in my latest book.  I hadn't seen or heard from him since moving out of Portland and I wanted to know how he was doing.  When I found out, it felt like a knife stabbing my heart.  I wanted to cry.  I still want to.  I wasn't his best friend nor was he mine.  I won't pretend we were close.  But I will acknowledge that he was a hero to me.  He will be sorely missed, and I intend to ensure his name will live on.

Rest in peace, Eldrick.
I won't ever forget you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I need that one-star review...

Doesn't that sound strange?

You're probably thinking I've gone insane (which translates well from my last entry, hah!) but I haven't.  After a month at my new job I've figured out something that I began to suspect awhile ago.

My writing thrives on negativity.

The creative juices flowed best when stuck in a situation I hated.  My first job at Chase was going nowhere, I saw no exit, and the monotony of the same old thing every single day had me ready to slam my face in the safebox vault door.

So I wrote.  And man, did I fire off those pages like lightning.  The premise, the plot, the scenes...everything came together with such clear vision that the dreaded writer's block never came close to infecting me.  I went to my breaks and lunches frothing with what I would type next.  I zoned out at my station, laying plans for upcoming scenes, setting up jokes, connecting the dots, and working like clockwork to get the first manuscript down.

Then the first reviews of the first draft came in.

It dragged.  Too many adverbs.  Too much exposition.  Grammatical errors.  Way short on the show, overdosed on the tell.  I was crushed...and motivated.

I dove back into the manuscript, obsessed like never before.  I had to fix it.  I love being tasked to fix broken things, and this was even better.  I had to fix my own creation.  So for another six months I hacked, slashed, and burned the manuscript until it resembled 99% of what it looks like today (I still make corrections as they find them.  I know, I know, I should get an editor.  If anybody wants to foot that bill for me, by all means...).

Then I got promoted at work.  Settled in with a great staff and on top of that, the first reviews of the finished book came in.

And...the opposite happened.  Sure, some fixing here and there needed (and still needs) to be done, but for the most part, I scored a small win.  Those who took their time to offer their opinion of the book have given mostly positive comments.  Even the negatives weren't really negative.  So I started book two and found my energy sadly lacking.  I struggled so much with the first eight chapters that I'm doing a complete revamp of everything between one and nine.  What makes chapter nine satisfactory to me?  I wrote it in misery.

I don't hate my new job, but it's not the same.  The people are good, but it's not the same filial atmosphere.  Everybody does their own thing and checks out.  I haven't sensed a brand loyalty.  The pride isn't there.  I'm staying strong, but at the cost of great personal stress.

Now my writing has come back as fierce as ever.  Chapters nine and ten FLEW out of my mind.  Eleven is nearing completion.  I've done more in the past three weeks than the past three months.  I needed to be miserable.

A one-star review will accomplish that.

I'm not a stickler for punishment.  In fact, a one star review will help beyond upsetting me, it would tell me what needs to be fixed!  I hate not knowing what people think of my story.  And don't think I wouldn't appreciate some more rave reviews, I'd be equally grateful for those, but man, if there's anything that drives me to start churning out the words, it's misery.

So to those people who felt ripped off for downloading my ebook, who are upset that they took time out of their lives to read my worthless waste of e-space, to those people who can't stand the sight of my amateurish prose; lay it on me!  I can take it!  Tell me how much you hated my plot holes or weak premise or lack of characterization.  Bemoan the forced  humor and point out every typo or grammatical error you can find!

Gimme those one-stars.  I can take it.

Focker, OUT!

Monday, February 25, 2013

I'm beginning to think I'm weird.


I'm from the pacific northwest, I've never been to New York, but I'm a huge Knicks, Jets, and Yankees fan. 

On top of that, my political views are all over the spectrum.

And then there's my writing habits.  Minimum 1-hour a day, with varying genres of music playing during the process.  By far, classical dominates the playlist, but it's followed in close second by...Rob Zombie.  Yep, he of the original White Zombie.  Dragula, Superbeast, Meet the Creeper and Living Dead Girl usually get the noggin flowing for me.  When I'm not in the mood for the fast paced riffs, I go for nineties New Jack.  Boyz II Men, Bobby Brown, the good ol' days of R&B.  I also have an incredible weakness for 80's hair bands. 

When all else fails.  I turn to Michael.

Yep, I'm weird.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sony Patents New Anti-Resell Tech (Supposedly)

In an interesting article I read at IGN- Here's the article (I know, I know, *groan*) it seems that Sony has filed a patent application which will prevent games from being resold through a contactless chip which emits a signal to the console.  This signal embeds a "code" within the console, thus allowing content on the disc to be played/installed/whatever.  Read the article for details, I'm just glossing over here.

Of course, the flame wars immediately begun, with Xboxers vs. the Playboys not only swearing off PS4 (which I think is stupid in many ways) but threatening to jump to different consoles and slamming Sony.

I find it ironic that nobody addressed the real problem though: Piracy.

Simply put, NONE of these draconic measures would even be necessary if people simply didn't steal software.

I'll admit first off, that yes, I have downloaded software in the past without paying for it.  Initially.  If I found I liked the software, I purchased it in full and made sure I gave my share to the devs.  But this was usually only when demo versions of said software are unavailable.  I generally distrust torrent and torrent sites (you can only get STD's if you sleep with potentially infected people right?) so I avoid them like the plague these days and have such been burned a couple times after purchasing something only to find it was a piece of crap afterwards, but hey, at least I'm honest.

But back to the point, if people would just STOP STEALING GAMES, then crap like this wouldn't even need to be implemented.  Although there is still one problem.


The devs make no money of resold games.  Which is a shame.  Personally, I buy 70% of my games used.  Mostly because nobody buys my books and my day job pays crap lol.  What needs to happen here, is the big 3 need to establish some sort of infrastructure for resellers to report sales of used games.  While the demographics would be incredibly useful to marketing, finding a way to track used sales would be a  good start to finding a way to profit of said sales, even if it's only a fraction of what they would get from the sale of a new game.  Hell, I'd rather make 1 cent off every book I sold than nothing at all, and for the devs, every little bit helps.

If only all gamers could get on the no piracy, no hax bandwagon...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why Chael?

First, let's get one thing straight: I am a HUGE Chael Sonnen fan. And yes, it's because he has a loud mouth. Truth be told, I think his in-fight ability leaves a lot to be desired once he takes somebody to the ground. In his last two fights, he displayed a lack of urgency in harrassing Anderson Silva on the ground, and was viciously outworked by a seemingly more motivated Michael Bisping (who I will talk about more later on).
Right now, my problem is with Joe Silva and Dana White. Their latest decision to cast Sonnen and Jones as opposing TUF coaches may make fiscal sense, but come on! Chael has spent the greater part of his middleweight career picking apart the LH division as nothing more than a curious joke, where cowards shy away from the top in order to protect their pride. To allow Chael a free pass to the top spits in the face of men like Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, and Tito Ortiz (and people who know me should know I'm not the biggest tito fan). I can name a couple of hard workers who I would love to see get a shot at ol' Jonesy. Gustafsson, Hendo, and Evans come to mind, but the one person I'd LOVE to see take on the Bones is Mr. Wonderful - Phil Davis.
Problem is, Bonesy is hurt and some may doubt the validity of a Davis-Jones fight. Honestly, I'm one of those people. I see the POTENTIAL in Davis and his last showing against Wagner Prado was nothing short of awesomeness. BUT, before that Rashad Evans dominated the larger competitor in a tune-up fight leading to Evans' futile octagon showing against Jones. In order to see if Davis is ready for the championship rounds, this is what I propose:
December '12 - Chael Sonnen vs. Lyoto Machida - Why? Because Chael could and would talk up a storm about "the karate guy" who once dominated the division. And after turning down the match with Jones at UFC 151, Lyoto needs to prove to me that he wants to go head to head with Jones. The heat Chael could generate from this could transcend the heights established against Anderson Silva. And the best part? Lyoto is Brazilian. Go to town with that, Chael. Go to town.
December '12 - Phil Davis vs. M. Shogun Rua - Why? Here's your test Phil Davis. Shogun has the credentials as one of the best on the octagon right now and is a legitimate contender to the belt. However, him shying away from Jones at UFC 151 left a bitter taste about his desire for the gold, especially after his disgruntled reaction to Lyoto being named #1 contender following their dual main events against Bader and Vera, respectively. If Phil can get past Shogun, it would send a clear signal that he's ready for a shot at the big time.
TUF Coaches - Well, Bones is hurt, so this is the perfect opportunity for him to take some time off to mentor young (or old, depending on the format) talent. We'd need to find an opponent for him though, and one who could draw interest, and in turn ratings. Without Chael, we need some form of drama. I think that void is filled by the one-time friend and training partner (and ex-TUF coach), Rashad Evans. Rashad's been quiet ever since his loss to Bones, and since we're catapulting people to the top regardless of their last few fights, why not toss Rashad in there?
UFC TBD - Jones vs. Rashad Co-Main Event along with (winner of Chael vs. Lyoto) vs. (winner of Davis vs. Shogun).
UFC TBD - (Winner of Jones vs. Rashad) vs. the last man standing out of Chael, Lyoto, Davis, and Shogun.
The time frame is much longer, but it gives Jones time to heal and properly prepare, and lets us legitimately see if either Sonnen or Davis is the contender we've been looking for.
Bleh, too bad I'm not Joe Silva.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Phew! Its been awhile!

So sorry for the absence!  Needless to say, I've been very, very indisposed at my day job!  Having several people move on to different ventures in life has put an incredible strain on our personnel, which in turn has cut my lunches to half an hour.  And as anybody knows, my lunch is when I write, and with only half the time, I can barely do a tenth of the work.

Progress on book 2 has been for lack of a better term; disappointing.  Chapter 5 has finally been ironed out in terms of scenes, but getting it down has been tough.  Between marketing B.S. and writing this, I've stretched myself quite thin and often wonder if every indie author went through this.  For me, the most frustrating part is the overall sense that my day job has become a waste of time when compared to what I need to do to get Betrayer's Sigil done.

That's right :)  I've finally got a title for the second book.  Betrayer's Sigil it is, beating out Magister's Sigil and Shattered Sigil.  I'm really looking forward to getting this one out to my beta reader, but I want to make sure its a little more refined.

In addition to BS2, I've taken up the Rushfit program!  That's right, the fat new me is going on a venture to get the fit old me back!  Starting up was nothing less than excruciating.  I nearly heaved halfway through the first day's workout and barely scraped through the second day (which was only cardio).  So far I've made it through the first week and I'm already seeing the following results:

-My bad knee doesn't hurt as much anymore.

-Vast improvement in posture.  No, not kidding, I sit, stand, and move in a much more economical way.

-I'm falling asleep at my old bedtime.  Not sure if this is bad or good, but hey, more sleep isn't bad right?

-I'm waking up at 6 in the morning, yet feeling no sluggishness or fatigue later in the day.  Honestly, my goal is to shoot for 5:30.

Again, I apologize for the massive absence, but I promise to be more active!  It's taken awhile for me to really nail what I want to put on this blog.  Screw "All Writing, All Day, Every Week", this is going to be my thoughts and reviews on all things.

Speaking of which, my next entry will be about: The Transformers Movies, Kids, and Criticisms -- Why I Think the Adults Have Got It All Wrong.

Have a good night everybody!