1251 - Noon

I had so much fun creating the world of 1251 - Tuesday that I decided to play a bit more with it. 1251 - Noon was originally supposed to be my submission for the Unofficial Gameboy Jam, but I apparently don’t understand how calendars work. So it’s just another game I made. I mostly play by the rules laid out in the jam (160 x 144 resolution, only four colors), but I added some sound effects that are decidedly non-8 bit, because I quite liked them and they fit with the overall aesthetic of the game.

1251 - Tuesday was born out of the So Bad It’s Good Jam, so it’s a “broken” game by design. 1251 - Noon is the same. It might not even be possible to finish it; I, for one, haven’t managed to reach the end organically. I hope you enjoy it anyway.

I am not done with the 1251 idea. I have projects for Sunday and Thursday on my computer that will hopefully see the light of day some time this year.

Tracing The Late Ray

Work has been crazy the past few weeks, so I apologize for not writing this earlier. I've had a version of this text ready to go almost two weeks ago, but life conspired against me posting it. So here I am, on a Thursday almost two weeks late, writing about my "Weekend Project".

I started reading the book, and everything went fine until I hit Chapter 2 (yes, that two). He throws a bunch of math at you and my mind just sort of tunes out if there's too many formulas. There's probably some math-related school trauma I haven't dealt with. I got through it eventually, making notes and adding post-its along the way. That was Saturday.

Sunday was when where the real fun began as I read Chapter 3. I found the code snippets easy to follow (even if I don't quite get why there's only snippets and not the full code in a book with "from the ground up" in the title). I read the whole chapter, and then wanted to get back and implement the thing myself. I downloaded the complete code from the website to have pointers for everything and then hit my first snag: He uses wxWidgets as the frontend, which only sort of works on macOS. Oh boy. Three chapters in and I was already in trouble. I had three choices:

  1. Develop on Linux (Or Windows, but seriously. No.)
  2. Make the code run on macOS.
  3. Write a new frontend.

I didn't want to set up a Linux environment, because I was busy enough following all the math. The second option, rewriting code from a book, is a dangerous endeavor in my experience; you create way more trouble for yourself, because the two codebases look too similar to distinguish them at a glance, which leads to unnecessary errors. So I picked the third option: Write a new frontend. I've done a few games in SFML over the last few months, so that seemed like the natural place to go. It offers similar capabilities and I know how to work it. The code is up on github. I didn't get to do the exercises, though. I'm aiming to get them done by Sunday.

But I'm not telling you which Sunday...

Ray Tracer, Graphics Investigator

The thing about not having a formal education is that you learn things in a different order than most people in your field. Or sometimes you don't learn some theoretical thing at all, because it's really not relevant to the work you do, and then you feel like a fraud when it comes up and you have no clue.

I understand that ray tracing is pretty fundamental to graphics programming, and that it's something comp-sci people learn in university. Well, I never went to university. I have a high-level understanding of the concepts behind it, but I never felt the need to learn more than that. Now that I've switched my game development efforts to Unity, I have even less reason to dig into the details. And yet, I find myself compelled to do just that.

I picked up "Ray Tracing From The Ground Up" by Kevin Suffern. For the next few weeks, I will work through one or two chapters every weekend, post my progress on github, and write a little something on here. That way, I'll have an audience while I stumble through all the hard mathy stuff. I love struggling in public. Just ask the people in the Berlin comedy scene.

1251 - Tuesday

I had a ton of fun creating '1251 - Tuesday', my first real Unity project. I spend most of my time learning to model in Blender, which meant there was very little time for texture work. That's not necessarily bad, though, because it was supposed to be a submission for the 'So bad, it's good' jam. It runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux (Unity is pretty awesome) and you can download it here.

Engine Waffles

Well, I've moved on from creating my own engine. Things being as they are, I just didn't feel like it's time well invested. I did learn a bunch, and it was fun, but I do have a "project" coming towards the end of the year that will consume most of my time, and I wanted to put out a few things before then. Wild Sam! is still high up on my list, but I decided to do a couple more small things before then. It's hard to work on something alone without anything to show for it, and quite frankly, I was wrong about being ready. The game itself is still to ill-defined, something I hope to remedy in the coming weeks. (Starting over so soon is usually a sign that something isn't right.)

After testing out both Unreal and Unity (plus a slew of smaller, lesser-known engines) I settled on Unity. It gels very well with the way I want to make games, and there are a ton of resources. I've picked up Unity Games By Tutorials and followed the tutorials to create my first few projects. Now I'm building a small thing that came to me in a dream and I'm doing the 'So bad it's good' Jam on itch.io. It starts next Monday and runs for a week. I have an idea for the genre I want to work in. It's a silly thing and I'm super excited about it.

That's it for the general update. Expect some words about the jam project once I'm allowed to write stuff down about it early next week.

Onwards!

Social Media Hiatus Update

Turning off social media for a while is both easier and harder than I thought it would be. There are so many news that I don't see on a day-to-day basis, and my experience has definitely changed. Before you go all "Aha! I told you so": It's neither better or worse. Just different.

I instinctively picked up my phone when I had to wait for something to load at work those first few days. I hadn't noticed that I was doing it, but there it was. Physical proof of my social media habit. It took me about a week to stop and I am more productive without it. I do miss the constant stream of tiny social interactions, however. I have a bit of social anxiety and the way twitter and facebook are structured did help me stay in the loop. People who've met me before will probably be confused at this point; I am very good at hiding it. But rest assured, most of the time I'm hanging out with you fine people I get nervous and sweat. A lot. I arrive early and walk around the block before I ring the doorbell. It takes me 20 minutes of deliberation before I pick up the phone to call someone. It's something I need to manage and interacting online has helped me tremendously. Facebook's wall and Twitter's timeline are semipublic spaces, and I do pretty well in semipublic spaces. I can move in and out of conversations without pressure. They're not one-to-one conversations, which I struggle the most with. Semipublic spaces are wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I sometimes overdo it and forget to do my work.

I will have to find some sort of middleground eventually. I enjoy these productive stretches, but I miss dipping into conversations during the day. Once again the biggest thing I need to work on is moderation.

Something Strange And Wonderful

I have a few unstructured thoughts for the return of my all-time favorite TV show. I want to get them out before It's Happening Again; I might turn this into something more structured eventually.

  • The last time David Lynch spend time in Twin Peaks was Fire Walk With Me. A lot of people don't like that movie, because it's very different from the show. It's cold and harsh to its characters. We also don't spend the entire time confined to the general Twin Peaks area. Instead, we get a glimpse of the weirdness that lies outside that narrow lense (especially if you add the Missing Pieces, which expound on a lot of the earlier scenes.) It's the town of Twin Peaks before Laura Palmer dies. Before Agent Cooper arrives. Her death is the catalyst for all the events in the show, both direct and indirect. It gave a sense of community to a place that wasn't very nice. It pulled those people closer together, and made them aware that there was a world outside their windows.

  • The last time Mark Frost spend time in Twin Peaks was the Secret History of Twin Peaks, which was his version of the show's mythology Frost and Lynch have a very different sense of what's important and interesting about Twin Peaks. Lynch is interested in the internal; the emotional landscapes, the lingering dissatisfaction at the heart of the American Way Of Live. Frost deals with the external: The mechanics of a small town, the politics, and the strange ideas that lie at the mind of the American Way Of Life.

  • The last movie David Lynch made was Inland Empire. Most people have the impression that David Lynch is weird, but they have that impression off things like Blue Velvet, or Wild At Heart. While these movies are weird, they are not Inland Empire Weird: The film almost three hours long, it doesn't have much of a plot, feels very improvisational, and is shot on early 2000s digital cameras which are handheld a lot of the time. It's a hard movie to sit through for people who don't appreciate experimentation. But it is, in many ways, a return to his earliest days of filmmaking. It's much closer to Eraserhead than anything he's done in between.

What I'm trying to get at is this:

There is no way the new Twin Peaks will be anything like the old one.

From what we can tell from the outside, neither David Lynch nor Mark Frost are interested in doing a cheap rehash. They are not interested in cashing in; if they were, they could've just executive produced a reboot or something. They have a story to tell, a story about a lot of the same people, but twenty-five years later. They have grown as artists and gone into different directions. I think people who think about Lynch solely in terms of Blue Velvet and the original run of the show will be in for a rude awakening. Don't expect to see a lot of knowing nods to the the old show. I think it will be bigger, both thematically and logistically. There have been reports that portions of it will take place outside of Twin Peaks, and it wouldn't surprise me if Cooper had been absent from the town for the past twenty-five years. It also wouldn't surprise me if they actually contradicted things that happened on the original run.

Explainers are a big thing on the web now. Hundreds of websites churn out articles that explain, or just retell everything that happens on modern shows in the so-called "Golden Age Of Television". I don't think that industry will have a lot of fun with Twin Peaks. You can't explain to someone why the Man From Another World is frightening. You can't even do it justice with a clip or a gif. You only understand it in the context of the show. The mood Lynch sets in his films/shows isn't easily translatable to other media, which makes his filmmaking so appealing. I predict a fiery debate about what good television is, which is why I decided to turn off social media for the duration of the run (there's other stuff, too). I'm not interested in that debate in that form. I just want to drink coffee, eat pie, and enjoy my stories.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 "Review"

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is a film set in the "Marvel Cinematic Franchise" (MCF). It takes place after the events of "Guardians of the Galaxy" (retroactively retitled "Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 1 Collectors Edition") and stars Chris Pratt as Starperson. All your favorites are back as well: Uhura from the new, glossy Star Trek, that blue machine lady from Doctor Who (Seriously, dudes. You couldn't come up with a more subtle reference to the Tardis?), Yandu, Stars Hollow's own Kirk, that wrestler dude, Baby Tree, and trash panda are all back to give you the warm and fuzzies. Newly part of the gang are Kurt Russell as [redacted], and Sylvester Stallone [redacted] a Ravager.

At its core it's a film about shitty dads in space; thanks Marvel Studios for saving me a couple of bucks on a real therapist. It's loud and colorful and with lots of heart and if you enjoyed the first one, you will enjoy this one. More dick jokes, too. Like, a lot of dick jokes. If that's not your cup of tea, you've probably only seen one James Gunn film.

Stay until the end to see the 18 after-credit scenes and get a tiny glimpse of [Redacted] Goldblum dancing. He will also star in the upcoming Thor: Rock'n'Roll.

The Journey Continues

Oh boy.

It's been quiet on the Wild Sam! front. I had a plan all set up, ready for execution, and then work threw me a curveball. I had to change gears completely and learn how to do a web thing. (The reasons for this are pretty boring and not relevant here.) I've never done a web thing, so I had a lot of learning to do and there was very little time left for my personal projects. Fortunately this is all resolved now. I know what I'm doing, I made sure that the things I was learning for work were also relevant to my game making (Hello, Python), and I'm ready to resume work on the game.

Now, if I had only documented the code I was writing five months ago...

Yakuza 0

Yakuza 0 switches, in an instant, between hyper-serious man posturing and helping a little girl winning a doll; without either feeling out of place. It let's you spend hours perfecting your darts game, after you spend hours beating up crooks in the street. Everything is equally important and given room to breathe; whether it be the substories, mini games, or the main storyline. One minute you watch a long cutscene of your character being tortured in a basement, the next you are singing karaoke in a bar. It's a masterclass in shifting tones.

There is a care in the design that is sorely missing from most big bugdet titles, where quantity is king. Producing a big budget game is enormously expensive, which means that studios have to maximize the number of people willing to buy the game which leads to more and more content being added on. And this is what it feels like in most games: added content. Not so in Yakuza 0. It's an "open world" game, but the world is very small. It's a district in a city (well, two districts in two cities). You become intimately familiar with the terrain in a way you don't in other games. As open world maps have become standard, and the perceived need for content has increased, side stories have become little symbols on a map. You enter a new area of a map, and a bunch of little dots appear, denoting the place where you can pick up a side story. They are color coded, too, so you know exactly what kind of feedback loop awaits. Want to beat up a bunch of dudes? Pick the green ones. Want to drive a fast car? Pick the blue ones. Those games are designed to present a wide variety of challenges, so that a huge number of people can find something to do when they don't follow the main stories. Yakuza 0 handles side quests in a different way: There is no markers on the map. You actually have to walk around to find side quests. And you don't get to pick what kind of story you want to do next, either. You see a person, or you find a weird place, and a side quest starts. It reinforces the notion that this is a living, breathing world in which you are just one of the participants. It gives you a deeper appreciation of the people giving you those side quests as well; they are not a blue blip on a map, but a person in need of help you found standing next to a ramen noodle stand.

Most open world games strive for a consistent tone. Take the GTA series, one of the most successful video game franchises of all time, for instance. GTA V is a long, draw-out joke. You can do Yoga, or play Tennis, or ride a bike, fly a plane, rob a bank, or... But it's all treated as a joke. "Look how stupid this all is." The game wants you to be in on this joke. Badly. It gives the audience a blanket to hide under, lest someone might think that you actually care about doing Yoga, or playing Tennis. It treats these things as punchlines, rather than genuine activities people might enjoy. In Yakuza, everything is treated with respect. The silly parts are silly, and the serious parts are serious. Nothing feels like it is an afterthought, or tacked on to reach more people. To some, this might sound like it couldn't work. But it does. Our current media landscape doesn't allow for different tones in the same work, even though some of the most interesting work can be done when radically changing tone mid-sentence. You just have to have trust in the audience to follow you on that journey. In that sense, Yakuza feels like a very mature game. Not because it is violent, although it is very violent, but because it treats the player with respect. It lets you discover things on your own, and doesn't give you a lot of hints for your next mission. (There is some really fun stuff with real world interaction in there as well.)

I don't know if it's getting older, or just seeing the world fall apart these last few months, but I have lost my appetite for cynism. I don't want play games, or read stories, or watch TV shows, where emotions are treated as a cheap joke, and I don't want to be presented with a list of things to do, either. I want to discover a world full of wonders, a world in which, despite all the over-the-top violence and the seriousness, there is still hope for us. Yakuza 0 is a game that delivers that. It is, in turns, violent, melodramatic, serious, goofy, funny, sad, and sweet. It is, in a word, human.

Punching Nazis

What I don't get, what drives me up the wall, is the fact that for decades, the Left has fought Nazis (Skinheads), who posed no threat to our democracies, but the moment actual Nazis take power, people who want to "eradicate all blacks" and "create a White Ethno-State" (Richard Spencer), who are running Nazi propaganda websites (Steve Bannon), people who offer "Alternative Facts" to the public (Kellyanne Conway), who threaten to abandon peaceful cooperation between developed nations with "America First" (Donald Trump), the Left all of the sudden stops and says "Well, let's wait and see if they're actual Nazis. They say a lot, but who knows what they will do?" What, they get a pass now because they kind of look like you? Because they dress fancy and groom themselves? Because they call themselves "Alt-Right" and are all hip on Social Media?

Fuck that. These people are NAZIS. They are enemies of democracy and freedom. They don't deserve a chance. They don't deserve respect. They deserve to be punched in their stupid Nazi face.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo showed us more of Switch and I have some thoughts.

Play Sessions

I like what I'm seeing from Nintendo about the Switch. Video games are more pervasive than ever, thanks to smart phones. But that also means that the home console lost relevance as a general gaming device. The console has always been a piece of specialized hardware mostly purchased by enthusiasts, but for a time it was the only way to enjoy gaming for everyone. You want to play games? You have to buy a console. The smart phone fundamentally changed that. You want to play games? Just download it from the App Store. It's free! This means that the people left buying consoles are, by and large, enthusiasts who have very different expectations from gaming than most people. They want a more specialized experience. For the most part that means twitchy, skill-based games that alienate consumers in ever larger numbers. Video games have come to be seen as a boys thing and that is bad. Really bad. It makes games less interesting and generic. What it should mean is less restrictions and more, not less, variety in game styles. Video game consoles are dedicated machines, designed to facilitate longer play sessions. There are a lot more people that want to play their favorite games for longer than there are people who want to play hyper-realistic war simulators. There is a huge variety of games on PS4 and XBox that speak to a lot of different peoples taste, but unfortunately they are not part of the core marketing, which remains firmly in the 'this is for Real Men' club. Nintendo has always been different. Their brand is family friendly and I'm glad they seem to recognize that consoles are not for the casual player anymore. The Switch is tailor-made for longer play session, but in a very Nintendo way. All the games are bright and colorful and the controller looks like fun. The Wii was a smash hit with casuals, because it came before the smart phone boom. The Wii U tanked, because it aimed at casuals, who had left when they all got their smartphones. The Switch seems more geared at enthusiasts, while keeping the lighter feel of the Wiis. I has a definite Nintendo bent.

Casuals and Enthusiasts

I don't think there is a such a thing as a prototypical gamer. Almost everyone likes games, it's just a matter of how much time they want to invest in them. This is the same as any medium, really. We all watch movies, some of us just do it more often. Some of us are okay with watching a new film on a smart phone on a flight; some of us buy thousands of Euros worth of home theater equipment. So when I talk about 'casuals' and 'enthusiasts' I mean just that: A difference in time and monetary investment. It's not meant as a value judgement and there is a lot of overlap as well. Some people play hours of Desert Golf on their iPhones. Some people only spin up their PS4 to play Fifa when friends come over. There are all kinds of players. Casual and enthusiast are just shorthand for 'mostly prefers short bursts of entertainment' and 'mostly prefers long bursts of entertainment', respectively.

Touch Screens

A few years ago, Nintendo announced Pokemon X and Y. I hadn't played Pokemon in over a decade at that point, but the trailers piqued my interest. I bought a 3DS for the sole purpose of playing a new Pokemon game. I've played all the Pokemon game since then and love my 3DS. The single complain I have with this device is the touch display. It's gross. Really gross. It's a resistive touchscreen, which means you have to press down hard to get anything to work. You can't do anything interesting with it. It's basically a large, mushy button. It was a compromise from a different time, and I'm glad the Switch moves away from that.

Super Mario Odyssey

I like games that are weird and I like games that are colorful. Super Mario Odyssey looks super weird and super colorful. The New York sets look like something straight out of Euro Truck Simulator, the people look like less interesting Sims, while Mario looks like...Mario. Bright, colorful, joyous. Cartoonish. It's the clash of sensibilities that I find fascinating. It's pure imagination, and I'm here for it.

If you follow the 'mainstream' mode of video games, hyper-realistic textures and greytones, this doesn't work. Nintendo is not following the mainstream mode of video games. They never have. They are one of my favorite mainstream publishers, because they understand that a coherent world design will always be more interesting than trying to show you our world as it is. Hyper-realistic sport cars are a neat trick, but they don't expand your horizon. I think Nintendo is aesthetically most closely aligned with the world of post-code comics books, in which artists and writers had to create fantastical worlds to comply with a bizarre set of rules. Comics had to be made 'kid-friendly', which meant that dealing with the real world was practically banned. Horror comics died, weird super hero comics flourished. The difference is that the comic book publishers did this under duress from Wertham and co, while Nintendo is choosing this path all for itself. The reason Nintendo and heroes like Superman endure is the same: They have the license to be strange and they speak to everyone.

I have this theory that video games and comics are more alike than say, video games and movies. They are both visual mediums that give the audience power over progression, and they both allow for similar set of artistic freedoms that are different from other forms because of that. A movie will always run at a set amount of frames per second. A movie starts, a movie ends. The amount of time it takes up will always be the same. Video games and comics are different, in that they allow the player or reader to linger on a single image as much as they like. Sure, you can pause a movie, or fast forward it, but it's not the same, because that alters the movie. Looking at a comic book panel or staying in a cave for a bit longer is not only possible in video games, it's part of the experience. Both are also made up of homogenous building blocks. This makes it theoretically easier to introduce weird things into a narrative. When everything looks equally 'real', anything can happen. It's a potential too often overlooked by AAA studios. A movie is usually made up of several things: Actors, Special Effects, Props. You can introduce strange elements into movies, but it's harder to convince the audience to go along with it. You might have never seen a Troll in real life, but you have an approximation of what a creature this large might look like. What kind of weight it would have, what space it would occupy. Making you believe one stands next to an actor is possible, but it's more work because you have to blend two realities together.

From what we can gather so far, Odyssey blends two worlds effortlessly. The style of New York and Mario are not contrastring, they're complementing. They're complementary, because they are made up of the same building blocks. It's the same engine that renders both the Sim Simulator humans and the Goombas, which gives your mind license to treat them as one thing.

We don't know if it will work yet, but seriously: when have you ever played a bad Mario game? Of course they should drop the ridiculous 'Peach gets kidnapped' plot, because it's 2017 and what the hell, Nintendo? On a related note: Can't we have a Zelda game where you, you know, play Zelda? Why is that so hard? And don't tell me it's tradition. That's a lazy excuse for sloppy design. Nintendo is a family brand, and I find it incredibly frustrating that they have this blindspot for half of their audience. Women play just as much as men, even with representation as lacking as it is.

Online

Offering a NES/SNES title per month as part of their online subscription is very smart. A lot of the current Nintendo brand is tied up in nostalgia and giving the longtime fans what they want is exactly what Nintendo should be doing. I hope they really build out the store to put all previous generations on it. I would love to have a single console that I can play thirty years worth of games on. Let's hope they add GameCube, N64, and Wii titles as well.

Strategy

I think the Switch and its strategic goals originated from Nintendo America. It is all still very Nintendo, but...polished in a different way. It's less toy-like (apart from the Joycon) and definitely on the sleeker side. I like it, but I hope there will be more colors available shortly after launch. No region lock feels like something Nintendo Japan would never do. The price is reasonable for what you get, although people will complain about it. We're bad at estimating trade-offs. I am way more confident that Nintendo will be part of gamings future than I was only a year ago. It looks like a good, strategic bet. Let's just hope they don't bungle the execution.

Power Rangers Fan Film Rant (2015)

I came across a thing I wrote on facebook two year ago about that Power Rangers fan film that was making the rounds back then. They started work on the real Power Rangers film soon after, and it looks like I was mostly right with my predictions.

Reading this rant made me cringe at times. It's harsh! I've certainly mellowed since then. But it also made me laugh, which is why I have decided to repost it here. Enjoy!

I watched the Power Rangers thing and it was so clearly an over-the-top, “just look how bad this thing can get” parody that there is no way they’re not going to make the reboot movie just like that.

“We were friends, remember?”

“No. I only remember pain.”

The consenting mob housed in the crack-ridden bathtub we call the internet seems to agree: “It’s a parody? Bullshit! This is the real shit, bitch! That’s how EVERY reboot should be! Did you see that sword fight?”

Each and every time. Because people are assholes who lack imagination and are happily fed dog shit regurgitated by the corporate machine.

Just make sure everyone is clad in black leather, talks in one liners with pseudo scientific and/or religious overtones, and displays the personality of a never watered house plant and you’ve got yourself a winner. Make sure to explain everything to death; your boss is a bit slow after all.

Throw in some shoddy CGI, a vague promise of a hidden prophesy (without ever paying it off; you don’t want to offend the sheep), keep close to Save The Cat, go “viral”, and you too can become a grade A remix artist for the Age of Perpetual Adolescence.

“It’s your destiny. You can’t fight it. But your parents…” - Quotes Are Cool.

Since people are more than willing to spend all their money on the Synders and Bays of the world, everything will continue to be a bland pastiche of power fantasies a thirteen year old boy, who can’t talk to people yet, might harbor: “That sword fight is the shit! Stunning work!”

“We’ve gone viral!”

“That’s a good thing now?”

And yes, I do have better things to do than to write 300 odd words on a Power Rangers parody film, but that’s my cross to bear.

Go, go, Power Rangers.

This Is The New Year And I Don't Feel Any Different

I never had much use for New Year's Resolutions, because I try to continually improve myself, not just at a random, predetermined date. (And because I can be an annoying contrarian at times.) But I have been on a path for the last few months and it seems a good a time as any to write about it now.

I've started my journey as a game developer last year in earnest; I wrote and published five small games. They were all learning exercises, designed to prepare me somewhat for my first bigger game, Wild Sam. I am working on that right now, developing an animation and dialog framework. There will be a post about that as soon as I'm finished with that portion (It takes a lot longer than expected, but that's just software development.) I also picked up blogging again. At first to write about my experiences in game development, but it quickly morphed into my favorite outlet for everything. I haven't done a lot of pieces here, but the ones I did, I'm proud of. For years, my main output was Twitter, with a dash of Facebook on the side. This led to a string of shorter outbursts, which seem great in the moment but are terrible for posterity. Looking for old tweets is a nightmare. Linking to an old Facebook post feels weird. I also feel that the shorter commentary is not really advancing my thinking. It feels good to comment on something in the moment ("Steven Moffat: “So what if he thinks there’s a creature with perfect hiding?” They're called Weeping Angels. AND YOU CREATED THEM, MATE!"), but it doesn't get at the heart of the issue. It doesn't go beyond the surface, which is the least interesting aspect of anything worthwhile. I stopped thinking about stuff critically. Putting words on my own page forces me to think about what I'm writing and it allows me to form better opinions. Good art comes from a point of view and I neglected mine. So, more longform writing, less social media outbursts.

But if I stop posting on social media, I might as well reconsider my consumption as well. I've become addicted to short bursts of information, just like everyone else. This is not a bad thing, if you can manage it. But I am bad at moderation. I check my social feeds compulsively and I don't like what it does to my thinking. Short form information bursts lead to short form opinions. It's a cycle I intend to break. So I am blocking Facebook for most of the day now. I am also blocking Hacker News, because it's seductively evil. There's always a great list of "articles" to read that are, ostensibly, about work:

"Setup your own Server with [insert technology]"

"Ten tips to speed up C++ development"

"[Very Old Game] source code analysis"

It's procrastination at the highest level. I don't get any work done, but feel like I do. Worse, my Imposter Syndrome gets reinforced, because in a lot of cases the technical blog writers assume a lot of very specific knowledge on the part of their audience. Technical writing is really hard and doing it for free leaves little room for niceties like editing or explanations. I intend to read more books on the topics that directly relate to my work. I have noticed that I save a lot of time that way and also retain the knowledge better. And before you ask, it's not just about digital vs print. I read books in both formats and it's the depth and breadth of the information presented that are important to me. I learn best by reading books. (This is a privilege I am acutely aware of. Investing that way is not feasible for everyone, and I am glad the free alternatives exist at all. I got started by reading free articles.)

I will essentially continue on the path I have laid out for myself a year ago: Minimize distractions and focus on the things that truly matter to me; namely making games and writing critically about the world.

Stuff I liked in 2016

Here's a selection of stuff from 2016 that I enjoyed. It's not complete and ranked in no particular order.

  • Quadrilateral Cowboy. This is what games should be.
  • Beyonce. Lemonade is my favorite album of the year, and I saw her live in Düsseldorf.
  • Atlanta. Just watched it. Donald Glover is the real deal. Thoughtful, funny, excellent television.
  • The Neon Demon. My favorite movie of the year. Winding Refn doesn't shy away from the consequences of his setups and it's a wild ride.
  • The Witness. We need more games like this. It's a deep dive, magnificently crafted.
  • Blackstar. I cried for three days straight when Bowie died. It's fitting that he would write an album for us to cope with his death.
  • San Junipero. I thought the new season of Black Mirror was very uneven, and there were a few clunkers as well. But San Junipero is a masterpiece.
  • No Man's Sky. I got to fly in space and see the wonders of the universe. I didn't miss the assholes one bit.
  • Ghostbusters. Kate McKinnon. Kate McKinnon. Kate McKinnon. Kate McKinnon.
  • Overwatch. Replaced Rocked League for me. And if I know Blizzard it will just go on and on and on. I say, bring it!
  • Nintendo Mini Classic. Hoping for a Super Nintendo Mini Classic next!
  • Ordinary Women. Well done, short videos about badass women in history. What's not to love?
  • Kieron Gillen's newsletter. Less puns than his twitter, so that's a win.
  • The Secret History of Twin Peaks. Mark Frost made every conspiracy I care about canon in Twin Peaks and I'm here for it!
  • Blonde. Still processing this. What a record!
  • Doom. DOOM!
  • Wonder Woman Earth One. Yep, that one.
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane The mid-budget thriller is a dying artform. Support them while they last.
  • The Real Deal EP. mitch murder is a hell of a name.

Rogue One? Struggling One

I just watched Rogue One, and here are my unfiltered first impressions. There will be spoilers, tread carefully!


Rogue One is a deeply flawed movie, because it doesn't manage to present the motivation of its characters in a comprehensible way. I have no idea who Jyn Erso is or why she does anything in the movie. Felicity Jones is doing her best, but the script just doesn't offer her anything to hold on to. This might be related to the reshoots. According to this article on Slashfilm, Jyn was supposed to be less likable and more of a badass. I would've preferred that. It would've also made a lot more sense, given her (limited) backstory. They basically neutered a potentially interesting character to appeal to more people. I don't like when that happens, but that's the way of the mega movie business. The story felt more like a string of events, held together solely by the premise: A group of rebels capture the plans for the Death Star. The third act is the strongest, and actually enhances A New Hope, which makes up for a lot of its flaws. There's no other way to say it: Vader is wasted. I've seen people go on about how badass he is in this one, and I just don't see it. The lines are weak, the delivery is sloppy, and his presence has never felt so lacking. He is closer to the A New Hope Vader, which I just can't go back to after seeing (not all, but) enough Clone Wars and reading Gillen & Larroca's Darth Vader comic series. He can be interesting and layered, if you don't ignore the Ani of it all. CG-Tarkin is lost in the uncanny valley. It's a commendable effort, but it's just not there yet. I had fun spotting all the easter eggs. I love the fact that CG + Practical Effects is what Star Wars is about now. What the hell was Forrest Whittaker's character supposed to achieve in this movie? Seriously. What was he doing there? The droid was the most human character in the whole thing, ironically enough. I could go on and on. I think the most frustrating realization is that the movie is so close to being good. The set pieces are in place, the chemistry between the actors is there, the stakes are sufficiently raised, and it's very pretty to look at. Too bad it doesn't deliver in the way I hoped it would. It's death by a thousand cuts and I hope Disney learns the right lessons from this one and that the next non-saga film is better.

Glühwein Adventure

I've had some Glühwein over the weekend. It was pre-planned and all, an exception to my 'no-alcohol' rule. It was my first time drinking in four months, and I don't think I will repeat it soon (leaving room for an unhealthy, emotional Christmas or pre-Christmas meltdown here). It was fun, for starters. I didn't drink much, so I didn't have to deal with a hangover or anything. I didn't embarrass myself, I didn't insult anyone. But! I was very cranky the next day. This may sound silly to you, but it's not. I lash out at the people around me (i.e. my girlfriend) and turn what could be a relaxing Sunday morning into a bickerfest. It took me until the late afternoon to get back to being normal. This is not good.

I have a baseline of anxiety running all the time, and alcohol only amplifies that. People tend to ascribe bad behaviour to alcohol (I was sooo drunk), but that's not correct. Alcohol isn't responsible for your actions, you are. Alcohol is a drug that helps you lose inhibitions and be more sociable, but it's still you underneath. I am anxious and irritable all the time. Drinking and then coming down from alcohol just puts a magnifying glass on that.

The Imposter's Handbook Mini-Review

I am not just a self-taught programmer, I'm a self-taught everything. I dropped out of school early and only later got the equivalent of a high school degree (A MSA, Mittlerer Schulabschluss), because that was one of the requirements of living alone. I don't regret doing it this way, because I now have a fairly unique biography, but Imposter's Syndrome is with me, always.

I first saw the Imposter's Handbook by Rob Conery flash across my twitter stream a few months ago and I thought "This sounds great! A book for people like me." I picked it up two weeks ago and worked my way through it. The big takeaway: I learned more about all this stuff than I thought I did over the last four years and I still have tons to learn. This book made me feel energized to do more work, to explore further. It's easy to follow along and he gives you good pointers for further research. For instance, I really have to brush up on all that mathy stuff. If I could time travel and give my younger self a piece of advise it would be to pick up a math book alongside the C++ books I was devouring when I was in my late teens.

There was one moment I had to laugh out loud; when I finally understood Dependency Injection, or rather when I made the connection between the thing I was doing all the time and a term I heard thrown around a lot, but was hazy on. This is a larger problem in the tech sphere, of course: we are not as good at explaining things as we could be. A lot of the time explanations are too technical and detailed. Yes, computer science is a complex field, but I feel like we could do a better job at picking the right abstraction if we want to open it up to more people. We need new approaches and viewpoints to move the state of the art forward and The Imposter's Handbook is a step in that direction. It's still rooted in the traditions, but he doesn't pretend this is some arcane magic only a select few are qualified to learn.

This Is On Us

White people. This is on us.
White men. This is especially on us.

Every time we don't speak up over a racist remark because we don't want to "ruin" Christmas.
Every time we don't push back on sexist behavior because "it was just a joke".
Every time we equate being gay, transgender, or a woman with weakness.
Every time we assume being black, latino, or asian means being less capable.
Every time we use someone else’s identity in a derogatory way and excuse it with “it wasn’t meant to be mean”.
Every time we don't believe a rape victim because "she's just doing it for the attention".
Every time we are more concerned about the reputation of the perpetrator than the wellbeing of the victim.
Every time we tell our boys that "men don't cry".
Every time we tell our girls to be “pretty” or “supportive”.
Every time we invoke meritocracy and not acknowledge structural problems.
Every time we pretend that racism, misogyny, and bigotry are binary choices and not curves we’re all on.
Every time we get defensive about our conduct by saying “all lives matter”, “not all men”, “I’m just joking”, or simply “I’m a good guy”.

White people. This is on us.

We embolden hate. We marginalize. We oppress. This is us. We did this. Not just the US election. Brexit. Marine Le Pen. AFD. The refugee crisis. The Alt-Right. Gamergate. Online harassment.

White people. This is on us.

It is on us to fix our behavior.
It is on us to reflect about the choices we make.
It is on us to think about what messages we send with our words.
It is on us to think about what we do with our our actions.
It is on us to think about how we hurt everyone because we feel our unearned privileges eroding.
It is on us to become kinder, more inclusive people.
It is on us to reject white supremacy.
It is on us to reject sexism.
It is on us to reject bigotry.
It is on us to reject hate.

White people. This is on us.