Hellfire and Damnation

Hellfire and Damnation

Caught a doc recently that I really enjoyed. Hellbound? does a great job of touching on the debate (in Christianity — other worldviews are not really addressed) between those who believe in a real “Hell” (e.g. eternal punishment) and those who don’t (e.g. universalists and annihilationists).

Watching this film quickly reminded me of my “Bible Belt” years, growing up in Western Kentucky and then my first few years out of college in Indianapolis. Back then I had plenty of exposure to more conservative, fundamentalist types who relied heavily on Hell as an important part of Christian doctrine.

Trust me — until you’ve seen the fundamentally ill up close, it’s difficult to understand just how powerful memes like Hell are. That said, I don’t have a problem with those who believe it, as long as they don’t bother the rest of us. Of course they love bothering the rest of us, which means I usually have a problem with it.

As an a-religious, non-theist who values the Judeo-Christian ethic (IMO every major tradition — spiritual and scientific — has at least one or two shiny nuggets), I like the Universalists — in general they’re all about a warm-and-fuzzy, peaceful loving God instead of a vain, violent, judgmental deity.



From a wood blue room
photon tubes run in to
paint-handed walls, time
whispers spent with
door jamb kisses and
kilns bard kilns

Near a closet wood wine
slip tendons map on to
bit-clay turnstiles, time
leans over brass
silk renderings of
sunshine spun sunshine

Though a prize fig would
plumb dreams woven un to
view-space trickles, time
sums a priori where
perigees mingle near
matrices rotation matrices

PWN Shot

You have to play tennis to understand just how good this shot is, made by Rafael Nadal (vs. Ryan Harrison at the U.S. Open):

I made a shot like this once, but unlike Nadal, I didn’t have the balance to instantly recover. The subsequent combination of linear and angular velocities pushed me into a shoulder roll for about five feet, where my head decided it needed stitches (11, to be exact), smashing into a chain link pole.

Relatively Good News

How about some relatively good news? Maybe, sort of, for some. To the summary:

The truth is — and this is where you breathe that sigh of relief — is that consumer spending on games didn’t just evaporate. It just moved online, and retail spending is about to start growing again … finally. The industry got through the worst of it and — for now — most indicators are looking up.

The truth is that the industry continues to consolidate in ways that are increasingly bad for developers. Traditional retail is starting to grow because of next-gen consoles but in the absolute sense the new hardware is only damping the retail atrophy that arguably began with Zynga and Apple.

Everybody knows it and nobody likes to talk about it.

Game developers, except for the lottery winners and the ultra-pasteurized cream working on big IP, continue on the path to extinction. The primary choices for developers these days are 1) Shovel F2P metricware at minimum salaries for the new crop of large, multi-national publisher-distributor-promoters, or 2) Buy lottery tickets with their own hopelessly under-funded games.

In either case, games are so YouTube-ified now that as a profession game development hardly resembles itself. Relatively good news? Sure — the future’s so bright we gotta wear Oculus Rifts.

The Flaw

The Flaw

Just caught The Flaw on Netflix, and it’s well worth the watch. Director David Sington pulled together an impressive panel of economists and historians (including Robert Shiller and Joseph Stiglitz — my favorite was Louis Hyman).

The film borrows its title from Alan Greenspan’s 2008 congressional testimony but doesn’t devote a ton of screen time to the video of that testimony. Instead the film focuses on its luminaries’ analysis and opinions, who each have their own take on “The Flaw”. One thing everyone seemed to agree on was the asset-if-ication of real estate, exploited by market forces in unprecedented fashion.

I was fascinated by the film’s liberal use of clips from a cartoon developed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1954. It’s Everybody’s Business, in addition to being a great example of Cold War capitalist propaganda, is stunningly good design. There’s a video game in that film somewhere…

Strange Case

Strange Case

We went to see Jekyll and Hyde yesterday at the Camelot Theatre in Talent. I really had hopes for this one, but alas we found ourselves doing what we do more often than not — bailing at the intermission. This time it was a clear case of large, bawdy telegraphic material blasting itself into unemotional oblivion in an intimate venue. Dammit we should have known better.

I just hate to say anything bad about the Camelot because we like the little theatre and want to see it continue and thrive, but we could have cared less about this musical. Another example of entertainment-for-entertainment’s-sake.

At least it wasn’t another neo-post-modern, over-priced, masturbatory speed-read production in Ashland where I frequently imagine the director snickering while the actors have more fun than the audience. So far this season we’ve seen A Streetcar Named Desire and The Taming of the Shrew. Streetcar was way over-acted but not a complete waste, but we were in the cheap seats (there are plenty of expensive cheap seats in Ashland venues — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise); Shrew was horribly miscast, weirdly staged and unevenly blocked, and of course, speed-read.

The New Lotteconomy

Fabulous write-up from Dean after he moderated a panel on mobile monetization at the GDC this year. The room was packed even though it was up against other, much sexier sessions.

As Dean correctly notes, that’s a solid indicator that the toughest problem in mobile gaming is discovery and monetizing F2P games. Here are a couple of money-quotes:

It’s all about sustaining an audience that has a natural tendency to peter out after a few weeks. One chief executive at our Mobile Summit joked that the best strategy a game company can pursue, if it has a hit game, is to shut down and not try to do another one. That’s because the hardest thing is to keep a string of hits going.

The good thing is that the winners in mobile monetization can produce billion-dollar games. The bad news is that it feels like a lottery. For the rest of the companies in mobile, there is hope if they can just hang in there.

We talk about this all the time — it’s a lottery. We used to call it “hit-driven” but that term seems archaic now. Welcome to the new Lotteconomy.

FPS Done Right?

This looks promising. Great devs behind it. And DeNA. And Unity. I hope this game gets serious traction along the road to higher mobile quality games. They’ve been touting their control scheme as a major feature and, although it’s not exactly brand new or 100% unique (we were experimenting with one-finger-rotate and touch-move FPS controls back in ’09 — players were not quite ready for it then), it’s the right approach at the right time with the right team.

Remembering Silas Warner

I couldn’t get Silas Warner out of my head yesterday (The Digital Antiquarian — a fabulous blog — has an absolutely wonderful write-up on him, do go read it if you’re at all interested in the history of video games).

I worked with Silas back in the early ‘oughts, at Analog Devices, long after his legendary work at Muse Software.  I use the word “work” loosely, since we were on different teams (Silas was focused on bringing our audio product, SoundMax, to Playstation, while my job was SoundMax tools for PC and online). I didn’t interact with Silas more than a handful of times, but I can confirm that he was indeed one-of-a-kind, with an exceedingly bright mind.

While I’m 6’4″ myself, Silas was an imposing physical presence at almost seven feet tall. He was only a few years older than I am today, but suffered from kidney disease, diabetes and arthritis. He didn’t get around very well, and when he spoke, it was clear that his body was making it very tough on him. He seemed to be in constant pain.

I was smitten by his reputation and brilliance but repelled by his presence and suffering. I wish I’d been a real friend to him, as if through friendship I could have somehow brightened his day or eased his suffering in some tiny way.  He died just a few years later in 2004, a man who achieved great things despite life-long illness and difficult odds. I missed a chance to learn from him and an opportunity to practice compassion and empathy, perhaps making something better of my own character in the process.

Silas, here’s to you – may you glitter as stardust, wherever you are.