Thursday, October 20, 2011

IGF Pirate Kart

The IGF Pirate Kart is here. It's a collection of games made by lots of cool people and also by me.
You should probably check it out. It's a huge download, since it's 300+ games by 100+ people (about 1.4 GB compressed), and takes a lot of bandwidth to host, so please use the torrent link.

I made 3 games for the competition - and music for some of the others as well - and thought they all were maybe not too great but worth inclusion in the Pirate Kart for the sorts of statements they made. I'm curious as to how more people will find them, but as a less-known name compared to Anna Anthropy or Terry Cavanagh or Stephen (thecatamites) Murphy, I'm not surprised to find a reaction that's not very strong so far.

On a DIYGamer article about the Pirate Kart, I left a comment about these games. Since it stands quite well on its own (or at least with the games it discusses), I have crossposted it here.


Each one is straightforward and continuous (only ending on game over), inspired by the design of arcade games from the early 80s.

The first game (the third one listed, in fact!) I suppose is a good one to start off with; it's a parody of/counterexample to an article by Brian Moriarty:

It's designed to take an idea for a game as "art" (he refers to it as "All Your Art Are Belong To Us" in the article) and actually make it playable, taking cues from old electromechanical shooting gallery games; that is, from before actual "video games" existed. In some sense it's a more abstract version of Fountain, as it's found art that tries to piece itself into a coherent whole and thus redefine the place of art in games, and counter the claim that a piece of work like this cannot be art (in my opinion, the fact that it makes this statement is what defines it as art). This work inherently includes a subtle jab at the IGF who I have heard in the past evaluate games on the same sort of "graphics, music, etc." checklist many professional reviewers do. It's also a bit unstable, having been built using a framework I was inexperienced in. Ultimately I think the fact that it's near the top of the list is a good thing (assuming either alphabetical listing is used), as I think it's better for the judges to see this sort of entry near the start of their playthrough of this beast.

The other two games are more closely related to that idea of 80s arcade games. Good performance increases score but also increases the game's difficulty.

In X Means Multiply, inspired by Space Invaders and a Ludum Dare challenge that featured enemies as weapons, you shoot red Xs that will destroy the player character craft on contact. Each X adds to the score, but 2 Xs take its place. The game quickly fills with enemies, making survival past a certain point unlikely. When an X reaches the bottom of the screen, it shows up at a random horizontal location at the top of the screen, done to prevent stalemates.

Pongspar is similar in nature. As the name suggests, I designed it to be based on Atari's pong as well as practice against a determined opponent (the other paddle is computer-controlled, fixed to the ball's Y position). Points are scored by touching the ball (whereas letting it go past the paddle resets the game, though high scores are recorded), which also increases the ball's speed -- and the paddle's. This makes it harder to just follow where the other player's paddle is to get a feel for the ball's Y position, and also lessens the likelihood of situtations where the ball can't be hit in time. Note that when the opponent touches the ball, it is allowed to change angle randomly, to make it harder to predict. Although the range is fairly narrow, there are checks done (made to make sure this doesn't make the ball go vertically) that can mess up unprepared players.

As espoused in Matthew Syed's book Bounce (and obvious to many video game players as well as athletes, musicians, and scholars), the best way to develop skill is to partake in what is called "deliberate practice". That is, challenging one's self at a higher level than one normally plays or competes at -- after playing PongSpar for a length of time, it's quite possible one's skill at Pong and related games may have significantly improved. These games then fully also capture what I feel is the spirit of the Pirate Kart and Klik of the Month challenges -- they are about gaining practice and experience and skill in game development, game overs be damned! (Also that you never really finish, but just run out of time, but that's a secondary notion. :P)

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Has it really been half a year since I've updated this blog? I guess it has. Heh. In any case I'll be able to update this thing more frequently now that I'm out of college -- for the next couple months until I start grad school.

Thankfully I've found a rather fun topic to blog about at this point.


I don't really like people.

I just don't. Perhaps its being socially burnt out after enough ugly encounters. Maybe it's an unchecked ego. It could be just my general lack of patience. Is it that I just don't want to play by typical rules of social engagement? I suppose there's even a chance I really am just that much smarter than almost everyone else I might come into contact with.

Note that this general statement does have a number of notable exceptions, so if you're reading this (hey I know this place gets like no traffic) not only do I probably already know who you are, you probably don't have anything to worry about here.

On the other hand I am not that interested in fully excising parts of me that are human. I like looking at women. I do it quite regularly. I look at women in various states of undress, as well as depictions thereof. I also enjoy complimenting women. And yes, there's even a small urge, even though I have a wonderful girlfriend, to flirt with some of them, if only in the same way as a dog chases cars.

So as a socially awkward guy who likes complimenting women, I'd side with the dude who made a seemingly innocent request toward a well-known female in the freethinker community? I mean, I just plain adore smart/academic/witty chicks, after all, and have complimented some of them in similar-ish ways in the past!


But you read the blogs out there discussing it and I'd understand why you might think that. A ton of guys have come down against her. I lack any better way of describing it all than to describe it as "the imbecilic floodgates opening". But rather than curse the darkness, let's shine some drearily insufficient light on the issues.

That means it's going to be play-by-play time.

What's the setting? It's a conference. Rebecca Watson, an author on the blog Skepchick, is one of the speakers there. She's given a talk and spent a long day socializing with people. It's probably been a good day, extrapolating from similar comments about these meetings.

But now it's 4 A.M. That's late. I, for one, would definitely want to be in bed by that point. Probably all that talking and socializing would leave me insanely drained.

So another person is in the elevator with her. Maybe feeling a bit awkward about the silence and being interested in her opinion (I'm trying to be as charitable as I can here, and given nothing came of it, thankfully, I find this sort of conclusion more likely), he asks to talk with her.

This is maybe a little less great. As others have noted (too many blogs to list here), it's private and enclosed enough to be a problem. If something goes wrong and the other person starts to feel uncomfortable, there's not really anywhere to go. Asking the question in general, in a public area with maybe some other people around? Not so bad, at least because if the other person feels awkward, they can get out; there's less pressure.

Even so, in this situation it might show a potential lack of understanding; again, if it's 4AM I'm not going to be so interested in carrying on conversations any more -- it's generally my latest limit on bedtime. This could show general ignorance or signify a more general a lack of empathy, suggesting that he won't have any consideration for your personal boundaries. The latter is not simply gauche or a matter of different personal boundaries -- it's dangerous.

And then, he invites her to his room to do so. This is bad, for the same reasons; too private. Implications of sexual advances are obviously much stronger at this point -- don't forget that hotel rooms are generally mostly just bedrooms with a desk and TV.

Does she feel pressured? No doubt. How will she refuse? Again, if we assume this guy isn't going to respect her personal space at all, he won't be willing to listen to her say "no". This is very bad.

So as it stands I entirely agree with her on the point of, "Hey, guys? Don't do this." Not necessarily because it's a horrible thing to do stripped of its context (this argument is rather odd but I've heard it in a few different places) or that the guy was a rapist (just as she says), but because the world we live is in not ideal and the fewer misunderstandings that can happen the better.

Do I feel sorry for the guy? I feel sorry for the guys who think that sort of thing is OK, at least because in some sense most have been misinformed or lied to.

I'm upset that there are messages to young boys boys that being a man involves not allowing for any consideration of emotions -- those of themselves or of other people -- and at that age, perhaps because they (or at least their parents) wouldn't be ready to talk about it in the sort of detail like this. These messages of course also end up stunting their empathy, making it harder for them to actually learn why all this is wrong. It seems to me that they have, in some sense, been brainwashed.

There's also this issue of paranoia and lack of confidence, which I also think stem from many of these same messages -- if you have doubts, you're a coward! If you're unconfident, you're not a real man! Obviously these don't help at all and are counter-productive to improving a person's self image. (Seriously, who thought something that boils down to "You should feel bad for having a negative self-image!" was helpful?) Obviously, women have this issue too -- making people feel inadequate sells any product that could be used to "improve your life", for example -- though with different messages, making a bit frustrating that there aren't as many people who , because I think it is toxic, and I think it is a factor in these issues.

So we get plenty of commenters with stunted empathy who might project more onto this guy than they probably ought to; I think distancing ones self from the issue definitely does make it harder to deal with -- I think the discussion for a lot of people has dealt with what was being said more than where it was being said. An empty elevator. At least in an abandoned alleyway you can try to run. That has more to do with why it was creepy.

I also get frustrated by that sort of viewpoint because it ruins it for anyone who doesn't agree with it, if only due to slightly different personal boundaries (that may themselves have been formed out of naivety) get equated with rapists. Obviously if rape didn't happen, we wouldn't need to worry about this stuff as much and could just say no and feel -- well, maybe less pressured or uncomfortable, if only because it wouldn't turn ugly. But that's obviously a pipe dream.

Either way, it seems to me that making the object of your affection feel uncomfortable is counter-productive.

In a couple days I'll probably post up some more elaborated idea of my thoughts on such issues of quasi-romantic social engagement. Likely in the form of a list of rules, because I like lists. This entry's already too long anyway.

I should also note that while I'm frustrated with the guys who have a problem with her viewpoint, I'm also extremely frustrated with how she chose to deal with it. I agree with this article from erv that this is bad form. She may have in many peoples' eyes conflated a person who had a concern with what she said with people who send rape and death threats, in a talk where it wasn't really appropriate, and gave her detractor no way to defend herself. I agree with what she originally said, but I generally am not a fan of such shutting down of dissent; seems a bit against the principles of skepticism that I'm familiar with.


Well, that's my take on it anyway. I guess y'all can go ahead and chew me out in the comments if you've even read this crap.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Response to Imagery on Palin's Site as a Plausible Mechanism for the Death of Rep. Griffords (D-Ariz.)

I've been seeing in the Blogosphere a lot of people yelling about Palin and a recent "cover-up" of imagery on her website that seems to be connected to the death of

I dislike the term cover-up in this regard as it makes it seem like they're hiding something; it strikes me more, in this situation, as a realization by at least SOMEONE on staff that leaving up that material in the wake of the incident seems a bit callous. I left a larger comment on the Slacktivist comment thread on the incident (in context here). If you haven't, also read the information at Talking Points Memo, as the comment requires a bit of knowledge of the description of the killer given in a couple articles. Particularly check the section on the killer's videos, which seem to reveal him as paranoid, possibly schizophrenic.

Here's the comment in its entirety, pasted below.

I'm honestly not sure what to make of the imagery. I abhor it but I honestly can't see this being politically motivated for the sake of the Republicans -- not least of all because it makes them look really, really bad. I feel like they're in a Catch-22. Had a Republican gotten elected to the district, I still feel like this would have gone down; my ONE possible reason for suspecting otherwise would be that specific individuals (who WERE politically motivated) were trying to manipulate the killer, knowing about his YouTube videos and the like. The videos themselves don't show any particular partisan allegiance, more of a mistrust of politicians in general, making it seem unlikely to me that he'd be that interested in viewing Palin's site or being interested in what she had to say on anything. Griffords was in town, she was newly elected, and this guy was in the right place to do the worst possible thing.

But let's play this out. A heinous and atrocious act has been committed by a crazed individual for whatever reason against the newly-elected Republican senator. Realizing that this sort of imagery and content seems remarkably callous in the wake of this event, it's quickly taken down. I imagine seeing a whole bunch of bloggers and commenters, though maybe in some sense that the imagery is finally gone, still angry and disgusted that Palin and co. have only done so since they'd been put on the defensive -- that is, that they only realize it's wrong because they were the party on the receiving end, and it still makes them look bad. Leaving it up seems even MORE callous to me if only because this sort of outcry started in the first place.

In any case it's a good point that putting up even very vague imagery like that has the potential to bite you in the butt very quickly.

The problem has to run a lot deeper, I say to anyone quick to mark Palin's site as the smoking gun for this. Before today I didn't realize this content was on either of their sites (perhaps due to my contempt for Palin as a public, political figure), but I am aware of the fact that the debate in public channels has gotten very angry and very poorly informed in general. Aside from the fact that -- as mentioned above -- Fox News is so far removed from reality that it's despicable and nauseating, most of the news media seems a bit afraid to report facts as facts, lest they be accused of partisanship. Nobody in the mass media willing to, in an electon where FISCAL REPSONSIBILITY is the rallying cry, actually work out the math for viewers to get some estimation of whether or not a certain policy is effective legislation, smoke in the wind, or even economically harmful. Instead, sound bites, which do little to nothing to inform an average citizen of the nuances regarding what are, to be honest, often difficult and confusing political issues, rule the day. Obstruction is the political order of the day.

Blaming Palin doesn't help much either because it once again replaces what's clearly a festering sore on the way that politics and campaigning is done in this country with a quick soundbite and easy solution that only seems, to my mind, to be the barest tip of the iceberg, and (much like the matter of wishing for the death penalty for the suspected killer) reeks of needing someone quick and easy to nail when the culpability is gargantuan. Compared to a lot of what else is said, to me at least, a few gun sights on a map of the US seems almost laughable to me. Add to the fact that Palin is overall not very popular, especially outside of her party, and it just seems a bit shortsighted to point out THAT as the moment that it went too far. It went too far a long time ago and a whole lot of people just went along for the ride.