Gamescom 2016 Part 1: That Usual Biz…

If you’d ask anyone who’d been to Gamescom – including me – you’d get some straight forward answers.

It was mostly boring. Standard stuff. Article over.

Blizzard put on a good show, Wargaming a great one. There was a little bit of hip hoppy action at Ubisoft.

Some others. But all in all, it was straight away boring.

Great Cos Players, not enough loot for the masses… Fair sum-up for the regular visitor.

See? Shortest post ever on Bytelife. Yeah, there’ll be more… That’s why it is called Part 1.

How humans are like leafcutter ants – or not…

Millions of years ago there were some species of ants that decided to try out a completely new way of life…

Leafcutter_ants_transporting_leaves

By Bandwagonman at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3713687

They had lived as hunters of other insects and gatherers of fruit before, but now decided, that there was an easier way to support their ever-hungry larvae and themselves.

They became farmers. Deep underground – in the eternal darkness of their nests – they began to cultivate fungus. Not any kind of fungus, but a very specific type of Lepiotaceae, though different by the specific family of leafcutter ant.

Over time the ants themselves evolved to adapt better to their new role. With the help of a bacterium they started to produce their own powerful antibiotics – to defend their most precious fungus treasure.

Keeping it clean and healthy at all times. Moving it to different caverns, always expanding. Always growing more.

And in the outside world, they started to collect the fertilizer their fungus needed. Tons of leaves were cut by specialists with huge and powerful mandibles, then carried by hundreds of thousands of workers into the fungus gardens.

The ants were very careful. If a leaf was harmful to the fungus, they would not cut it anymore.

Even their young queens would carry a small piece of their mother colony’s fungus with them.

For the symbiosis was perfect now – the ants relied so much on their fungus, the fungi’s death meant their own doom.

But through this symbiosis, through their change of ways, they had become powerful.

A fully grown colony of leafcutter ants could house eight million citizens. And reign for more than twenty years, until the death of their queen.

And as a race they flourished and dominated. Special castes evolved, including mighty soldiers – for protections – & tiny minims – tending to the larvae and the fungus gardens.

The old were sent out to the most dangerous duty: To take care of the waste. Waste – both from rotten leaves and hostile fungi – was piled into large heaps outside the nest. Often that risky business would mean the ants themselves would be infected or contaminated.

Not allowed back into the nest, these outcasts soon would die, as healthy ants would avoid contact with them and not feed them through their social stomachs.

And they, too, would enlarge the pile of waste. Carried there by the next unlucky ants in line.

 

Thousands of years ago, there was a species called the homo sapiens, that decided to try out a completely new way of life…

By Akha_couple.JPG: Manuel Jobi Weltenbummler84.derivative work: Hartmanga (talk) - Akha_couple.JPG, CC BY-SA 2.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11183014

By Akha_couple.JPG: Manuel Jobi Weltenbummler84.derivative work: Hartmanga (talk) – Akha_couple.JPG, CC BY-SA 2.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11183014

 

They had lived as hunters and gatherers of fruit and nuts before. But they figured out a way that was easier to feed themselves and their ever-hungry offspring.

They became farmers – and herders – and in the fields around their villages, huge fields of crops were grown.

And as they got more experienced, they tamed wolves and bred them to be dogs. To help protect their cattle and their fields. Fields maintained by hundreds of workers. And later on, they even started to build machines.

And they – too – specialized. There now were castes of soldiers, farmers, craftsmen, artists, nobility… You name it.

That was when the humans – that’s what they called themselves – found their own symbiosis. For they were not social insects like the ants by nature. They weren’t insects at all in fact, but mammals. And being socially responsible was not something that came natural to all of them.

Being selfish and greedy was more to the point, after all. Which fashionably was called being individualistic or genetically successful. And experiments to turn them into social insects – mostly failed.

So the humans first invented goods trade. A kind of exchange of items or services. And then they invented money. A form of exchange of items and services against something that was in itself useless – and later on mostly immaterial.

And just a few thousand years later, the symbiosis was perfect.

Their cities had grown mighty, their colonies now were nations. The humans had grown powerful, but their civilizations would fall apart without money. It was the invisible string that held it all together.

And there were those who had lots of money – through birth or through work – or luck or cleverness. Or ruthlessness.

And they would always be well-fed and had lots of opportunities. Though they weren’t always happy.

And there were those who had no money, or very little money. And they could just get along – or perished.

But many were somewhere in the middle.

Money, like the fungus, had it’s own specialists that learned how to make it grow. Which is a fascinating art considering money can be immaterial.

Two species, with so much in common, so much separating them…

The story of the ants is not over, nor is the story of the humans. Both are big players in the game of evolution. Both clueless as to where it will lead them in the end…

On Opinions and Reviews…

This is an interesting one – well, interesting to me at least. And not something you could ever discuss with someone on Twitter – but then there are few things that you can discuss effectively on Twitter.

The color of the sky perhaps. The sky above me today is like William Gibson described it in the beginning of Neuromancer: The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

So perfect blogging weather in an otherwise beautiful late spring.

While I don’t want to discuss it on Twitter, it actually began on Twitter on a very early Monday morning.

It was one of the usual – quite outspoken – discussions with Rami I enjoy quite a bit.

We should all have a Rami – it is like faeries have their nemesis. Usually if you have someone totally opposed to your own worldview – you can learn more about yourself from them. And the moments of peaceful agreement are more valuable.

Miyamoto Musashi had it perfect in his “Book of Five Rings” – but that’s stuff for another article.

So what did Rami say?

opinionIn the truest sense of the word, Rami is right.

In fact almost anything we express in life through written word, spoken word, painting, drawing, designing – is an opinion. Some opinions happen to be facts at the same time.

This blog article is an opinion. And that opinion is based on certain expectations and personal experiences.

Many years ago, when I was still a university student, a friend of mine and I bought tickets for a band performance in the Moritzbastei in Leipzig. When we arrived there later that day, there was a grumbling crowd.

The band we had paid to see had cancelled. A local band had been found as a fill-in. Totally different style of music and one we – frankly – weren’t interested in.

So my friend stepped up to the bouncer – that evening also the ticket seller – and asked for a refund.

The bouncer said: “No. You paid for a concert. There is a concert.”

Which kind of explained the mood of all the others around us. And what my friend then said, I’ve never forgotten.

He said: “If you buy a ticket for the cinema and outside it says Hardcore Porn, would you find it acceptable if inside they actually show Bambi?”

That’s the very truest definition of a valid expectation I ever heard. It was so convincing we did get our money back and spent it on beer elsewhere.

Bambi Hardcore Porn

Now what has this to do with Reviews and in this case Game Reviews?

Certain activities we perform, while we can never get away 100% from our opinions – we have to try and aspire towards a certain level of objectivity. Objectivity in many ways is like perfection. You’ll never be perfect. But the journey is the goal.

In my line of work e.g. it is not for me to say what would be best for the business users. I can certainly suggest solutions or designs. But in the end I have to deliver what the business thinks is in their best interest. And often I think they over-complicate.

But:

I cannot – should never– dominate them with my opinions. I would do them and myself a great disservice. Plainly speaking I would be very bad at my job.

In the case of a journalist writing a review, the situation is the same.

If you open the New York Times, e.g., you will see there is a whole section for opinions. Strictly marked as such. And while certainly journalists have their own opinions while they write other articles, the expectation is to be objective when delivering what happened. Not to confuse opinion with facts or turn opinion into facts.

They’d do their readers a great disservice and also – you guessed it – they’d be quite bad at their jobs.

A journalist’s job is to inform the reader – not brainwash him.

What I expect from a review – and I think that is a valid expectation – is the journalist who wrote the piece informing me about the product at hand. Some opinion will always spill into it, because journalists are humans. And by no means does a review have to be without passion.

A common mistake people make is assuming objectivity leads to Vulcan-style logical writing.

That’s definitely not the case, if you are a skilled writer. And – as said – you’ll not get opinion out of the equation 100%.

It is not your conscious choice to make.

But when a whole political agenda is pushed unfairly on a product and thus the reader. Then something clearly is wrong.

There is Bambi again in my Hardcore Porn!

There would be nothing to say against it if the journalist in question wrote two articles – one review and one opinion piece.

Let us assume I wrote an article – or made a video – about Terraria. A game that is very popular – but just not my cup of tea. All my (gaming) friends know that I don’t like this game very much.

Still, if I had to write a review, it would be a pretty good one. Because Terraria is a well done game in its genre. I would have a harder time doing a video, because it is hard to keep boredom out of one’s voice.

In the end I’d have two options: I could separate my own feelings (opinion) about the game from my review. And perhaps later write an opinion piece on why it gives me headaches.

Or I could ask someone who actually likes that game to write the review and abstain from it myself.

Why does it hurt if they put their opinions into it or if certain websites have a political agenda?

There are two reasons why it does hurt more in the online gaming press than in many of their counterparts outside of gaming.

One is the fact that many big gaming sites use a scoring system that is directly fed into metacritic.com score. The actual calculation of the score is quite nebulous. It is definitely not 1 vote from each site. Some have more “critic power” than others.

By comparison, if the FAZ in Germany (more conservative) and the SPIEGEL (more left/liberal) write a book review, that’s quite important. Bestseller-Lists are found in all major bookstores. It is excellent advertisement for a writer if one of those two big papers give them a positive review.

But what you’ll notice when you read both on a regular basis is: Many of their reviews are quite similar. And that is not because they are copycats, but because their journalists & critics are professionals.

If the SPIEGEL would start to push an agenda in their book reviews, and every book would suddenly be – let’s say – Misogynistic & Sexist. The FAZ would mock them. And the same goes the other way around. In fact, those two have a very interesting history and relationship. They love mocking each other, but at the same time have respect. And at one critical time, the German press was united defending the rights of free press against the state, who’d singled out SPIEGEL as a victim.

But there is no nebulous feed into another third medium, scaling their votes.

In the case of Polygon, Kotaku and a lot of other big names in the Gaming Press, things are different. There is a very obvious political agenda being pushed. And they have – as indicated above – a power over the market.

And there is no one equally empowered to mock them.

I don’t want to make this article about specific examples. Though I will give you quite a bunch, if you PM or Tweet me.

I want to return to my earlier example. Me and my friend standing there within a disgruntled crowd. That huge bouncer no one dared to ask for a refund.

Gamers didn’t pay for a Misogyny & Sexism concert. Though it sounds like a cool name for a punk band!

They should ask for a refund!

Gamers do like diversity. But diversity and equality can never be achieved by demonizing certain games and trying to get them changed. I’d go so far as to say assimilated.

Diversity is achieved by developing many different games in parallel.

And, yes, it is in any journalist’s right to criticize games.

But when you are in a position of power – when your opinion makes and breaks some games.

Then you must be all the more careful. You are the bouncer. There is a concert playing. But someone might give you a Bambiism – and then the spell of might is broken.

In the end you’ll need a diverse Gaming Press – all equals – to report on diverse games.

A lot of Mockingbirds. Singing different songs.

I play Sims 3! The Suriel Confessions

Yes, I really do. This article is mainly for @NinthEchelon on Twitter. I actually play several families.

I like to play them for a long time, so the first thing I do is put them – and their pets – to maximum life expectancy. Boring for some, the longer Sims live, the more they resemble real life in my opinion.

Because even in their happy-happy world, where the worst never happens & you can even befriend Death itself… They gain a history and character.

But… I just promised @NinthEchelon an overview of my Sims – in the vain hope she’ll accept my daughter on a tour, so I can turn her room into a new studio. So let’s just roll with that.

Family 1, Part 1: The Brewsters – Chris Brewster

TS3W 2015-05-07 20-31-09-78

Undisputed Patriarch (!!!) and Overlord of the Brewsters: Chris Brewster!

Yes, he does believe in romance and traditional values… But what a life he had so far!

His original plan was to be trailer park trash. Somehow that didn’t work out. Neither did his early plans to establish himself as a writer.

Non-surprisingly that made him join the police force, where he quickly rose through the ranks and finally became an international super spy. Even though he rarely left Apaloosa, his city of birth.

He probably was more the nethack kind of super-spy, but he learned from his experiences and wrote novels on the side, very likely ignoring any NDA ever conceived by mankind.

He also started drawing & painting. While living happily with his first dog Chawnsey somehow the world caught up with him and he met Valleri. After a few months of pure-sex-and-go relationship he got drunk enough to marry her.

While Valleri was in love with him she had omitted the fact that she was a vampire. The house was quickly rebuild to block light and Chris accepted that he’d still be the one going on walks with Chawnsey, while Valleri more or less vandalized their home – through lack of any useful skills.

Still – a daughter was born to the pair shortly after – Mildred Brewster.

It was around this time that by virtue of accident Chris found a magic lamp containing a Djinn.

The Djinn was called Xenia – and while Chris did ask for extended lifespan from her, his very next wish was to set the poor Djinn free. They had talked a lot and enjoyed each other’s company so much.

He felt it was his moral obligation.

So after some trivial quests – for a super-spy – he actually managed to set Xenia free.

But: Valleri had to watch over both dog and daughter at the same time. And while Chris was able to prevent the worst for the daughter, some dog catchers caught Chawnsey and refused to return her.

Chris was grieve struck for many days – an eternity for a Sim! He loved Chawnsey above all ales, eh, else.

And so – with his knowledge of crime turned around to evil – he decided to commit the perfect murder!

He invited Valleri to a jog shortly before sunrise!

Needless to say, he married Xenia shortly after the untimely(?) demise of his former wife.

Watching Mildred revealed she had not inherited her mother’s vampirism.

And – being a teenager by now – she was also the perfect babysitter for the inevitable next love-child. Eris Brewster. Eris did inherit her Djinn mother’s natural talents.

But this is not how their story ends… So keep your eyes open for the next installment of my Sims Confessions. That means YOU @NinthEchelon! No one else would be crazy enough to read this stuff!

 

Anger, Horses & Diversity? #GamerGate

(This blog was never about politics. It was never about games – it is about my mind, ramblings and simply an outlet.

So I promise myself – my most avid fan – that this will be the last post on the topic #GamerGate.

On the other hand it is such a fascinating phenomenon, it actually did make me think a lot. This way or that, this will be the last post about GamerGate on Bytelife.be)

Where the anger hails from… and how the circle of hate is being fed…

I mentioned in my earlier post here that it was Leigh Alexander’s article that brought me to GamerGate.

Let us start by having a more detailed look at this masterpiece. You can find it here: http://ubm.io/1vqD91G for easy reference.

Remember that in the span of a few hours, there were several other articles out there, with basically the same message.

I’ll not be cherry-picking here, I’ll – surprise surprise – even agree with Leigh Alexander on some points.

But it is very clear to me that this article and all the clones were written in a stage of anger. Someone wanted to slap the “gamers” – especially for threats against Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian.

Those threats were committed by a few. Most I asked – and that includes myself – never heard about Zoe Quinn or Anita Sarkeesian before GamerGate.

But many had been avid readers of Gamasutra, Polygon (me – not so much), RockPaperShotgun (read them quite a lot and enjoyed their articles).

So as a consumer and fan of at least one of those sites in the past – I actively boycott all of them now, but we’ll get to that later – I felt the slap and I yelled: “I’m innocent, dummies! And so are all I know!”

Instead of calling out a few trolls, they decided to punish everyone. Every ‘gamer’.

Even the Roman Army wouldn’t go that far. A Decimation would only punish every tenth soldier.

Now, I agree, those soldiers were killed and Leigh’s words do not kill anyone. My point is that the scope of her critique was completely over the top.

Let us go through Leigh’s article.

“I often say I’m a video game culture writer, but lately I don’t know exactly what that means. ‘Game culture’ as we know it is kind of embarrassing — it’s not even culture. It’s buying things, spackling over memes and in-jokes repeatedly, and it’s getting mad on the internet.”

Is gaming a hobby or is it a culture? Well, let us take a look at other ‘cultures’. Horse-breeding & Horse Racing for example, because I had a recent chance to look into that hobby.

Jockeys, breeders, trainers – they are certainly an insider clique. They are very much about prices of horses, jokes about horses, getting mad about other jockeys, trainers, breeders – and even horses. Repeatedly.

And if you are not so much into horses, you will not get all of what they say – like I didn’t.

But once they were in the saddle, they did what they actually love to do: Riding.

And while not all of them love their horses – some see them as tools, not so much partners -, many do.

You can even see people go mad on the Internet about horses, if you know where to look. But all of them are united by one thing: They ride horses. Or at the very least are very enthusiastic about them.

Then Leigh goes on to describe the gamer:

“It’s young men queuing with plush mushroom 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.

‘Games culture’ is a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice or ‘game journalism ethics,’ straight-faced, and cause genuine human consequences. Because of video games.”

And here we go. Basically what Leigh does here is two things.

She is watching the queues in front of the Happy Valley Horse Club and decides that the sweaty fans waiting not-so patiently in the heat to get to the entrances are the true representation of the horse racing community.

Secondly, she goes on to blatantly dehumanize all riding & racing enthusiast. Or she would, if she was a horse racing journalist.

Note how she sets ‘games culture’ into quotation marks herself, every time she uses the term.

Now take a look back at the start of the article: I’m a video game culture writer

No quotation marks. What I see here is someone disillusioned with her job, not believing in the matter or relevancy of what she is writing about. Someone lashing out at the visitors of PAX, GAMESCOM, etc.

But visiting said exhibitions – and the many smaller ones – is part of her job. I know a lot of people who would call themselves Gamer or Computer Game enthusiasts or whatever. But most of them never visited any games exhibition – unless it happened to be really close – they never ever wore mushroom hats and they are men and women of all ages.

So while definitely insulting to any gamer, it makes me feel sad for Leigh in a way. Too many exhibitions clouding the eyes.

Because a gamer – to me at least – is in his element when playing a game. Just like a jockey is in his element on horeseback.

There certainly is a social element to gaming, just like any hobby, any common interest unites.

But lets go on with the article:

The next paragraphs start with links to articles that talk about harassment of Anita Sarkeesian, the birth of Vivian James as a mascot on 4Chan and concludes that this is the face of gaming to the world. Atrocities! (Well, I don’t think Vivian James is an atrocity, but that’s another thing…)

And she is correct! Most major media outlets do not care about gamers. They might have a small column reserved for new games. Their readers do not care about gaming. Unless something terrible happens or supposedly happens – because then they have a story that millions will read, shake their heads about. A story that sells!

The only exception to that rule is the … surprise surprise … gaming press. Notably the online press.

But instead of focussing on topics that would correct this bad public image of people playing video games – because the standard media also doesn’t care if you call yourself gamer – they focus on trolls.

Because when the non-specialized media target video games in one of their articles they’ll target all video games, unless of course there is an amok run somewhere, which makes them specialize on violent video games. Mostly the gist is that video games are bad because they are not reality and thus all who play games are losing touch with the real life.

Trolls are a phenomenon not only found in gaming. You’ll find them almost anywhere you go in the Internet. And outside the Internet, if they feel they can get away with it.

I must admit at this point, I never heard about Leigh Alexander before GamerGate. I never consciously read any of her articles before. But I did catch up now.

I mean, it shows a tendency. I couldn’t really remember any of the names of reviewers of Gamasutra, Polygon. Not even RockPaperShotgun. I do remember the names of YouTube reviewers, obviously. But let us get to that later.

Anyway, Leigh continues to state that the public image is infantile gamers and billion-dollar military simulations.

Lets stop there for a moment and think about what you – personally – know about horse racing. Probably all your knowledge hails from the non-specialized media.

Most articles I remember are about doping scandals, a horse murderer who’d chop horses to death in their boxes with a cleaver, fixed bets, etc.

There just happen to be many more gamers than horse racing enthusiasts.

We live in a world with so many different interest groups and hobbies and ‘cultures’. If you are really interested in one of them, you must go beyond the public opinion for any subject matter at hand. The world has become that complicated. Yes.

And that is why I personally do not care about the public opinion. I care about people who – no matter what topic – take the time to inform themselves first.

There are harassment campaigns and there are very ugly flame wars and doxxing and hacking and so on happening in and around the gaming scene. But just like fixed bets, doping and crazy cleaver murderers does not define horse racing, this is not what defines gaming or gamers.

Leigh then goes on that brave MUD pioneers (thanks, I was one of them as a young student!) defined gaming in the beginning and then the commercial big marketing campaigns came and:

“Suddenly a generation of lonely basement kids had marketers whispering in their ears that they were the most important commercial demographic of all time. Suddenly they started wearing shiny blouses and pinning bikini babes onto everything they made, started making games that sold the promise of high-octane masculinity to kids just like them.”

From my own point of view, as someone who lived this whole development Leigh is talking about, I’d say:

Better graphics happened. And the game industry realized that demographically – in the early times – most gamers were male.

Games were about many things. Some violent, some sports simulations, and so on. I remember I loved to play Summer Games on the C64 with my family as much as playing with my friends.

There were games like Ports of Call.

And those games are still all out there. But better graphics, faster CPUs and GPUs – in short the advance of technology – made other games possible. Suddenly a “babe” in a computer game wouldn’t just be a pixel graphic like in “Leisure Suit Larry 1” anymore. It would be a very real looking prostitute in a GTA5. And a soldier in a Battlefield title pretty much looks like a real soldier.

At the same time all the other games also profitted from the same advance in technology.

Yes, there are a lot of games out there that have the topic of either war or…“Have money. Have women. Get a gun and then a bigger gun. Be an outcast. Celebrate that. Defeat anyone who threatens you.”…being a criminal.

Because both – while no sane person does want to either experience war first-hand or be a criminal – can be entertaining game concepts.

Or being an assassin. Or – more recently – a ranger/wraith hunting Orks in Mordor.

The other games didn’t vanish at the same time.

They are still there.

And then something else happened: Facebook and all the other Social Networks.

And with the advent of Facebook and Social Networks noticably more women got interested in the Internet as a free time activity.

And when games came to the browser – integrated into social media – a lot of them were made for a female audience.

And the same is true for mobile phone games.

I don’t say no woman ever played computer games before – that would be incorrect.

Or that there were no games made for all audiences before – also incorrect.

But as part of social networking and mobile phone applets, there certainly was an increase in women playing games.

And another thing happened: People like me who saw the beginning of gaming, went to study, continued gaming, got a job, still enjoyed games, turn 40, still enjoy games.

So while Leigh might think:“We still think angry young men are the primary demographic for commercial video games…”

I think that is not correct.

In fact young doesn’t fit anymore, due to relatively recent demographics I saw.

It is pretty spread out.

32% age 18 and below

31% age 18-35

37% age 36+

As far as gender is concerned:

57% male

43% female

And I doubt most of the male gamers are “angry”.

This is using ESA data, so is not representative of the whole globe or even the Western world. The demographics are from 2012. I’m certain the shift in the last two years levelled the field even more.

In Europe I’d suspect there to be less women playing games, but I don’t have any data on it and might be wrong.

I do see more women in gaming and I cherish it.

Still there will be titles that women enjoy and that most men wouldn’t.

And there are titles that men enjoy more.

Just look at movies and you’ll see the same phenomenon.

The rest of the article is pretty much about the rise of a new generation that wants clean language, new games, etc.“But it’s unstoppable. A new generation of fans and creators is finally aiming to instate a healthy cultural vocabulary, a language of community that was missing in the 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.”

Clean language is a good point actually – because anyone who’d tell me to “get cancer and die” a horrible death to my face would probably receive a rather violent reaction from me.

I saw two of my relatives slowly die of cancer. It is not something I’d wish on anyone else – no one should.

But: To be fair this hateful – and also quite dumb – little wish found its way into the Internet from schoolyards, not from ‘gaming culture’.

At the same time we once again see that Leigh likely is unhappy with her job and yearns for a larger scope for gaming journalism or herself as a ‘gaming culture writer’.

She wants more than to just rate games – and I don’t blame her. She wants that culture that is in her title.

“Developers and writers alike want games about more things, and games by more people. We want — and we 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.”

A noble wish and I hope she gets that diversity.

And she will – if the people interested in musicals and abstract art happen to also be interested in games..

I like abstract art, but more for opera than musicals, when it comes to that. Or pure theatre.

But who knows?

The computer games industry is a market – and on any market consumer interests are monitored quite keenly. Interests can be steered to a degree. But most companies are smart enough to be the first ones to jump onto a new trend when they see a massive audience for it.

As long as people are interested in games about war and crime phantasies, they will be produced, too.

Now that we have taken a long look at Leigh’s article, we can see that she is

a) probably unhappy with being a cultural writer in a medium that was historically more focused on consumer guidance/ wants more diverse games (but also hates military simulators)

b) makes some good points.

The thing is she omits to define what she calls a ‘gamer’ in her article – and her definition would be wrong to begin with – and she utterly fails to get her points across- because she is using venomous language and is trying too hard to be witty.

I see three good articles turned into a rant here.

And I pointed out where I think she was mistaken.

Most people would probably have apologized and clarified their position.

Instead a little war began on Twitter, Reddit and all across the landscapes, drawing in more and more people who basically felt betrayed and insulted.

And that is how the anger started and the circle of hate is being fed.

When there is no discussion, no apologies, no clarifications – then it is all too human to escalate further and further.

And a lot of ugly things happen – mostly to GamerGate supporters lately.

Because playing dirty is also something that comes easy to everyone, just like discrediting, etc

One of GamerGate’s recent victories was INTEL cancelling an ad campaign on Gamasutra – and the flood of complaints about articles like Leigh’s is continuing to reach the marketing & PR departments of major sponsors.

Don’t get me wrong, these emails are legitimate consumer concerns. It is not a hate attack to ruin some poor gaming sites.

Or don’t you think ad sponsors would leave CNN, too, if they got into the custom of starting their news with: “Good morning, retarded masses!”?

Where gaming press and gamers really should have worked together, ugly words & deeds turn it into a war.

And it is a rather petty war at that – considering that there likely will be very few winners and a lot of casualties.

I see a lot of unnecessary bullshitting on GamerGate, too.

But GamerGate is in the end just a hashtag, anyone can post to it at any time.

GamerGate has no leaders, though anti-GamerGaters try to coin Baldwin, Milo Yiannopolous or even Christina Sommers as such.

They are just an actor, a journalist and an equity feminist siding with GamerGate for their own reasons.

They have an audience. They are not the leaders. There simply is no leader.

Diversity in Games vs Culture dictate

I like good stories in games. Even in games where you’d not expect the story to be an important part. I love stories. Good ones.Good plots, interesting characters, surprise plot twists all make me go into hurray mode.So in the end I would really love to see game developers getting away from the lazy stories and explore more, provide us with better protagonists, more believable antagonists. Not in all games – a good clichee can be very relieving sometimes – but in many.And I’d love to see better gameplay. I’m tired of Assassin’s Creeds style one-button mashing. I don’t want to win without effort all the time, without having to think.
What I don’t believe in is any form of dictated cultural change.e.g.:I know that it is normal in many countries to forbid words. The Soviets did that a lot. The Nazis did it. Now I heard, even the US is into the habit.

That’s dictating culture.

Mark Twain had Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn call black people “niggers” – because that is what they were called at the time in the specific surroundings. Changing or banning history is wrong. Talking about history and a brighter future is the right way to go.

As we all remember from school, dictation hampers with creativity. A dictate knows only one correct solution after all.

Whereas true creativity often is not about finding a correct way. It is dreaming up a world which by any comparison to the real world often is incorrect, but within itself is immersive and believable.

Which means you cannot forcibly inject quotas into them. Not in a believable way. You need to start from scratch and make it believable.

Let us take homosexual characters as an example.

Vinnie Morris in Robert B Parker’s Spenser novels is a very believable and great gay character. A shooter for the Mafia who also happens to be a friend of Spenser.

Whereas I don’t think this is a good way of implementing gay themes into games:

It doesn’t really enrich the story. And before anyone says: “Yes, it doesn’t enrich the story for YOU…”

I spoke with gay friends of mine – all gamers btw – who couldn’t get anything out of it either.

In fact one of them told me it was kind of insulting while most others said they didn’t care – it just wasn’t sexy to them and didn’t represent them.

“That’s because there aren’t enough gay writers in the gaming industry…”  Well, Parker wasn’t gay.

Most other authors I know that use gay characters aren’t gay themselves. And many gay authors I know don’t use gay characters.

So it is probably wrong to assume that the gender or sexual orientation of someone makes him a more believable writer.

Gay, hetero, gender … I don’t think those are criteria that make you better or worse in any creative process.

Stephen King agrees with me in his great non-fiction work “On Writing”. (Great read btw for any aspiring writer…)

There are many bad writers,  some good writers and very few out-standing writers. Independent of sex etc it is just partly a craft and then a quantum of talent.

As a consumer – I frankly don’t care about the sexual orientation or gender of the game developers. As long as they make good games with good stories and challenging gameplay.

Now – obviously – we all want diversity, so what do GamerGate people fear then?

They fear that certain groups with an agenda influence the gaming press.

While I only agree to this conspiracy theory to a certain point – I believe that most gaming journalists do their best to review a game fairly – I do see tendencies that would support the theory. Lets get back to a certain review of “Dead Rising 3”.

You can find it here: https://archive.today/BQM8v

“The game is saddled with deeply sexist and mean-spirited overtones.”

“One is a sexualized policewoman wearing a Halloween-costume version of the uniform. One is a female bodybuilder that the developers, through Ramos, gleefully misgender. Another is a chap-wearing bisexual man in a pink cowboy hat. He has a phallic flamethrower.”

The game got a review rating of 3/10 (Bad). You can see in the comments that almost all consumers disagree with this review.

Obviously the reviewer doesn’t like sexist remarks in a game or making fun of bisexuals or – phallic weapons.

If this were the real world and not a game – I’d whole-heartedly agree.

The Dead Rising series isn’t exactly known for political correctness, which – in addition to its visual brutality – is the reason it is actually indexed in some countries.

But it has a following – and I actually enjoyed the previous parts. That doesn’t make me a sexist or a misogynist. I’m simply not – sorry.

It was the wrong reviewer for this game, because you cannot fairly review what you whole-heartedly dislike in the first place.

I just imagine myself writing a game review of Hello Kitty Online – I don’t like bonbon colors. It would certainly get a rather negative review from me.

The solution…

The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

– Shakespeare, Hamlet

I think it is time for a long journey, for both GamerGate and the gaming journalists.

Many cultural writers in the gaming industry – like Leigh – want to expand on the scope of games as a medium.

I’d even support this view – if it was formulated politely.

At the same time I feel that there must also be room for first person shooters, for games about criminal phantasies… And so on.

Diversity!

There are games for almost every taste already out there.

Not all of them have the blockbuster status of an Assassin’s Creed, true.

With no true discussion and no apologies and a constant try to shift the focus to topics that have nothing to do with GamerGate or Games.

So the only solution for GamerGate is to move on, to go from that constant defensive position/uphill battle we find ourselves in (“NO! I do NOT HATE WOMEN! Never have!”) to a constructive walk into the always scary future.

That is what we should focus on – finding alternatives, promoting said alternatives. And to ignore the constant bickering of people who simply misunderstand us. Ignore the baiting posts. Remain polite and focussed.

GamerGate1

This essentially is a war without true enemies.

What we do is: We represent an opinion that is not being heard, respected or reacted on.

So it is time to find or found the places that would give us said respect.

And that is all I think we can do in the end if the goal is a better future.

While wishing all that see us “dead” a good journey and luck with their own exploits.

Saddle the horses, people!

Suriel #GamerGate??? Yes.

Before I even begin this…

First: please let me warn you: This is a long article. It will take some time to read it.

Second: This is my opinion – only mine – and I am totally insignificant on the Internet. If you want to read about the opinion of someone with tons of followers wherever – please go ahead, there are so many around!

Third: Yes, it is really easy to doxx me. I have a small YT Channel, I have a forum that I use with my friends. I own a voice chat channel that I also use to talk to my friends. I never made any efforts to make it hard to find me.

Perhaps I feel with all the ‘security experts’ and their over-prized courses.

My private life is mostly boring, but if you can read German, you can find out about what I studied, what I do and did for a living, etc.

I write other blogs in both English and German and I write short stories and novellas in English and German. This is my hobby, not my career. And before someone goes to my YT channel: I have ads running there and over the years I could – perhaps – buy a packet of cigarettes with what I made of them – at India prices! Not a career option, I’m too boring.

So… Enough material for those who feel I need to be ‘punished’ later. Btw, my email is in the contact section of this blog. Please spare yourself the time to search for it. (suriel@bytelife.be)

How did I get involved with #GamerGate?

I would have to trace my browser’s history. To be honest I tried, but I visit so many sites each day – I don’t know what the actual starting point was. It was a page defending Zoe Quinn and also linking her ex-boyfriend’s blog http://thezoepost.wordpress.com/ .

I sincerly admit I read through the whole blog. But also through the whole article defending Zoe.

Why? Because of sheer boredom at the time. Yes. I admit it.

I believe that the sex life of other humans is none of my concern. But it is an intersting read sometimes – when you are bored out of your mind.

I understand Eron’s motivation was to warn others about the kind of person Zoe Quinn supposedly is. Or to somehow get even.

 But – well – I felt safe enough already. And I certainly wouldn’t post a blog about my past relationships. Though many of them – not all – ended in a civilized fashion and I did feel for Eron.

As I feel for all broken hearts… I’m a softy.

But he did provide a lot of links – aside from sex partners of Zoe – that made me marginally interested.

You see – I don’t know what a ‘gamer’ is. There are too many definitions these days.

Wiser people tried to figure it out and you can just search for definitions on Google.

I guess I qualify as a first hour gamer, because I have always played computer games since… I guess age ten or so. And now 30 years later, I still enjoy games.

There is hardly a day when I do not play games. And for too many hours.

I live apart from my friends. Due to my job I travel a lot and I don’t even live in my country of birth. I do have social contacts where my flat is and where I – sometimes – live.

But my main mode of contact with my true friends is … Games?

So we talk about private stuff and sometimes whine and – we play games. Some games we are really good at, some not that good, but we all do enjoy playing together, while also talking about our lives.

We have our – mostly German, – but English-speakers accepting – little forum of friends. And that’s all I usually want from gaming. Each of us is very distinctly different from one another and we do welcome girls into our midsts, if we think they are cool. Meaning: If they are friends and can stand us and don’t run away. We aren’t that horrid as a group. We are certainly not misogynists. (That is woman-haters, for those who don’t know!)

You can call my life sad if you want to. I sometimes think it is. But more and more jobs are like mine in this age of Globalization. Get over it.

To be fair, it also allowed me to see and experience a lot of different cultures all around the globe.

So, I’m definitely not a victim. I made a choice. (This seems to be important these days)

What really made me decide to at least look into #GamerGate were two articles.

One that I found very well researched and impressive to explain the whole… let us call it foreplay.

It is a fairly neutral article by Erik Kain of the Forbes Magazine. http://onforb.es/1rOUeBS

Once again there were a lot of links, etc…

So I stumbled about this article by Leigh Alexander.

http://ubm.io/1vqD91G

And – as many others who didn’t hear about it and didn’t get involved before – this, with the ten or more similar articles all launched the same day… Made me very angry at first. And then made me think.

It probably did not make me think alongst the lines Leigh Alexander intended.

The Wolves that Hate the Lambs…

People playing games – and the statistics promoted by the press mean ANY games, including Tetris on an Iphone – that makes you a gamer!

People playing games are very welcome for the ad money they bring to prominent gaming sites, but the ‘journalists’ working there actually do hate them.

They hate their own audience…

Well – I thought – this is their prerogative, if they think it will keep them alive. Obviously they are looking for a different audience to write for. That is fine.

Because, I also thought: What have they been doing all these years? They wrote basically re-blogged commentaries from the PR departments of major developers and publishers in the gaming industry.

They received some early press releases of a game to write about in a hurry.

I would be very frustrated to do that myself day-in-day-out.

I’d certainly embrace change and diversity. And a larger scope of journalism.

And – truly – if I slept with one of my colleagues, it would not change my own opinion on matters of work at all. I never did. I just know it would not influence me and you can flame the fact as long as you want.

But the sheer unbelievable arrogance to put all people playing games into one bucket still enraged me. The mere stupidity!

And I’m a person that believes in equality. I think every human no matter male or female should be treated equally.

So I tried to be fair and I tried to gather all the opinions involved. Read all the articles.

I even watched all videos from Anita Sarkeesian at her channel Feminist Frequency.

https://www.youtube.com/user/feministfrequency

I actually thought she made some good points. In that more fully fleshed characters can make for more interesting stories. Though her conclusions weren’t always what I’d get to.

I did not get what the female characters she wants ought to look/be like, combining all she said.

Are they supposed to be more like real women? Should there be an option in each game to play it as a female? Certainly she doesn’t want them to be like male protagonists in games, right?

Or does she just want to have more games for a female audience?

I mean – the men in games aren’t exactly ‘for real’ stuff. I wish I was such a powerful hero sometimes, but I’m not.

Perhaps Anita can clarify that in one of her videos, because I just don’t get it and there is no way to contact her directly on the web. And don’t tell me ‘tweet her’. The thought scares me. Not because of her, but because of all that feel they need to defend her.

What I did see – as someone who has played games for several decades now – is that Anita’s research was a bit lacking.

But Anita has nothing much to do with why I went into GamerGate.

I – like Voltaire – think:

I do not agree with what you have to say,

but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

I think TotalBiscuit – whose WTF is… series I really enjoy – used the same quote.

Part of my own studies was philosophy, so – it springs to mind so readily.

This leads us to:

Diversity

I like different opinions. I like different life styles.

And I do accept that not all games are made for me.

In the beginning of her video, I think Christine H. Sommers pointed this out perfectly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MxqSwzFy5w

The Gaming Industry has a market to satisfy.

But there already is diversity on this market.

There is always room for more ideas in any form of video games.

But the games must still be appealing to the market!

There are people out there that depend on the success of their game.

Back to Real Life diversity:

I have friends that are gays, lesbians, not-so-many black people, because I’m not in an area were many black people live, but Indian people, Turkish people, Arabs, Americans even. 😉

We all would like to have interesting games.

But why should the way games development takes be decided by a fraction instead of the whole of people playing games, nowadays aka as gamers?

When I look at something like this: http://bit.ly/1qy6ipX (Divinity: Original Sins)

A successful game founded by a Kickstarter pressured for banalities. (search the comments and you’ll get to his first approach to the image… I’d say it would be outrageous… in the 19th century…)

Then I think: “Whew, we don’t need that! If you don’t like Mercedes car ads you don’t buy a Mercedes. You’ll just switch to another company!”

But the small developers are dependant on reviews. Not like Ubisoft or EA or Microsoft, who could just state:

You know, I think our super-cool trailers are good enough to capture the audience of gamers … but also forget about us putting ads on your… gaming sites.”

On the other hand Indie (small) developers have brought us some of the best games in the last few years.

So to put them into a position where you can basically blackmail them will not create diversity – it will just kill artistic freedom.

Constructive discussion is needed to make more fully-fledged characters and better games.

And quite frankly: The Audience must be there to enjoy titles that are purely focussed on ‘realistic women’ or ‘feminist topics’. Just like I want a ‘pure survival game without monsters’.

Most women I know like to play with us (pun not intended) or like to play games I would never touch, because they would bore me.

I truly think I don’t need a brainwash to change my attitude on what games I like. My STEAM lib alone has over 200 titles of very diverse games.

#GamerGate what next…

GamerGate has one huge thing going against them. And that is the simple fact, that their opposition – is organized.

GamerGate itself is a Hive of opinions with some people of more or less fame joining in for different reasons. And frankly a lot of people posting BS. That happens when you have consumers ranting against the press they once relied on.

I wrote myself on two occasions: “This Hive has no Queen, I heard the other one has one.”

When I was young, my mother used to take me to protest against Nuclear Power.

It bored the hell out of me, but one thing I learned was: There were ten thousand people there, all for different reasons, just united by their fears of Nuclear Power.

And there were also some – and even at that young age I realized that – that were there to get to know… chicks… or chucks…

And some that were for violence, and most were against it.

I think what I had been waiting for – basically an apology from the gaming sites involved, (all that wrote those simultaneous smear articles about ‘Dead Gamers’) – will never happen.

They feel save in their ivory towers and perhaps they are. Though I heard their viewing stats go down. I didn’t check stats myself.

Anyway, the time for an apology has come and gone, as far as I am concerned.

I think we need to focus on replacements. Aside from the fact that written blog articles without supporting commented videos are a bit out-dated anyway.

I will avoid all sites involved as much as is possible. I don’t want to pay people who hate ‘gamers’. Or who support people who hate gamers.

(And the only site I’ll really miss is RockPaperShotgun – loved many of your articles!)

I will not ask for unrealistic firing of personnel or whatever.

I will be on the lookout for alternatives instead.

This was a long rant and I didn’t say half the stuff I meant to say. But you can tweet me questions at @Suriel08 and I will try to answer them as time permits.

If you care…

Because, as I said before: I’m totally insignificant.

Thanks for reading.

Where is my Net Neutrality? A hop through Internet past to present…

Part I: Expectations

Four in five adults (79%) regard internet access as their fundamental right, according to a new global poll conducted across 26 countries for BBC World Service. 

The poll also showed that most internet users feel that the internet should not be regulated by governments. More than half (53%) of internet users agreed that the internet should never be regulated by any level of government anywhere

(Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/08_03_10_BBC_internet_poll.pdf)

Ladies and Gentlemen… Welcome to this probably very long topic of mine!

Umberto Eco once remarked that the first 100 pages of his novel “Name of the Rose” where meant as an indoctrination process for the reader. If you made it past the first 100 pages, you’d likely finish the book. If not – well – it wasn’t the right book for you!

You’ve now survived the first two paragraphs of this article, which shows promise! And I’ll not go on for 100 pages.

Now, the above quote taken from the BBC 2010 Internet poll shows us that the majority of users do value the Internet highly and do not want governments to interfere with content availability – as in censorship.

The Empire(s) strike(s) back

So it does take special effort for the government to change the views on Net Neutrality.

This kind of correlates with a an answer to a blog posting I wrote today on “Staying true to Oneself”.

Government influence was very much disliked, but definitely something governments wanted.

And I’m not talking about China here or North Korea. I’m talking about the US & Europe… Basically about the whole World.

Because every country’s leadership has it’s own fears. And control must be maintained!

So what we got is the “Child Porn” campaign.

Something so gross that only the most cold-hearted person or perverts could speak up against intervening. And where is child porn sold? On the Internet of cause!

So with major agreement from the populace secured that something must be done about this various Cyber-Police units were founded (in fact at least for Germany I know they had been founded before the child porn campaign and their infamous Troian horses coded before, too).

With the goal to bring criminals to justice (by invading their computers) and to block content (the lists of actual content blocked are top secret).

Thus, we allowed the governments into the Internet – or rather we allowed them into the World Wide Web service of the Internet mostly. Adjusting several country laws so we are all safe from child porn. Which I personally have never seen, but … hey.

In addition there were local decisions, like for example the US backdoor agreement on secure cyphers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretty_Good_Privacy#Criminal_investigation

The history of PGP – as I remember it – went a step further even in that the first version of the book was smuggled to Europe and the program completely compiled there, thus leaving the non-US world with a backdoor free version of PGP. This could be fiction, of course.

PGP – btw – really is pretty good. But by no means the only data encryption program of course.

Many other countries had their own flavors.

So, the empires did strike back. And one would assume they are happy with the degree of control they have and the non-child porn watching user can continue to enjoy the Internet, unless there was some mistake and someone blocked a non-child pornesque page, but, hey… Mistakes can happen, right?

Media Corporations & Phone Companies -Welcome to the New World!

This is one of the aspects of Internet history that still fascinates me the most.

When I started to work with the various Internet services, including the WWW, there were no corporations. There were private sites, there were tons of university sites. But knowledge was needed to participate and the services were awfully slow.

Of course we all know that changed in absolutely no time and I saw only two years or so of ad-free Internet.

But to me the signs were so clear even back then as to where the Net was heading, I wonder what some people in the entertainment industry were thinking.

It is pretty clear what phone companies were thinking. They had the landlines and the infrastructure to support the Internet dream. And as ISPs they quickly set things into motion.

The jump in technology was so surprisingly fast, I hardly had time to exchange modems – or throw away my old acoustic coppler.

The rise of the Internet probably was the wet dream for phone companies.

Little could they know that revolutionary technology shares the tendencies of non-Internet revolutions: They often eat their parents. (In certain other cases, they also eat their children… But parents usually are first on the menue).

So there was a rise not only in the accessability and speed of the Internet. There also was a rise of new software that would allow us to easily:

  • Format and publish texts
  • Music
  • Videos
  • Directly communicate with each other in Chats & later even speak to each other!

And while more oceanic cables were laid and new communication satelites shot into orbit…

For years we would see no big involvement from those industries directly affected. One would think they were shell-shocked by the fast development and too rigid to adjust.

Instead we had more new upstarts directly focusing on the Internet than one could shake a pointed stick at.

So many in fact, that we had the famous dot-com bubble bursting in 2000-2001.

As many of these new companies had innovative new technology and great initial funding – but no idea on how to make a profit.

Haha…”, hollered old media companies, “They know how to raise a pig, but are too squeamish to skin it! Also: Wait a second!”

Well, their second had already lasted very long indeed, so some figured it was time they stepped into that strange new market.

They were joined by the survivors of the Internet or Dot.com bubble, which mostly still held the expertise and had bought up and devoured or integrated many of their losing competitors.

Business as usual in the jungle, this Internet ain’t so different from… Well, from the rest… Lets take our share!”

But Publishing houses found that there was already Amazon… And Amazon would sell more books than one could shake a pointed stick at. And also music. And cameras. And movies.

And all of that without any true warehouses! Because … well… they were book brokers. And pretty good at what they did.

The Old Guard invades the Anarch Freestates

Yep, in the olden days, the Internet suddenly became very anarchic. You could get anything for free. Music… Books… Movies… often way before they hit the cinemas. And you could do so amazingly risk free.

Now, having already managed to miss the train that would have lead them to be leaders of the Internet at least media companies wanted to save what they already owned.

Because who would buy over-priced Cds and DVDs if they could get it all for free?

So off they sent their lobbyists and their dogs of war (lawyers) and – after getting some very shaky legal foundation – started to sue around like one stoney club swung at terminal velocity. Ruining countless lives. But, hell, those poor dudes deserved it, right? How dare they do via the Internet what they had done on cassette tapes and CD-burners all their lives? Copy content!

Of course not all countries were affected, because some couldn’t care less what MGM or Sony wanted them to do.

No, it was mostly the Western World that saw mass trials happen.

This all in all was less an action motivated by profit, it was an act of striking fear into the hearts of those who’d dare to break the holy copyrights and steal the content they owned.

There were cases of students charged for hundreds of thousands of Euros or Dollars. For copying some music. Hit someone with your car while drunk, put him into hospital, you might just get away with less.

Legal digital sales btw were initially blocked off by many media companies, too.

A bit later the telephone companies – now also proud ISPs – found their own riches dwindling.

More and more people now used VOIP to talk to each other – which was free to the customer and a big hit to the phone business. What were these Skype guys doing? And why the heck were the mobile phone manufacturors supporting this nonsense?

But – they still had what is so often forgotten: The physical control of the Internet.

Didn’t they pay for all the cables, all the satelites and maintenance of such? Didn’t they constantly haggle over the national data transfer with other providers? What was all this for, if they couldn’t just kick their upstart competitors soft(ware) asses? Also, their initial physical net that was planned to “last forever” slowly started to struggle under the increase in demand. And even some governments got greedy now pushing new taxes there way.

So – originally starting out in the UK – there was this brilliant new business idea of “Premium Internet services”. Yes, you don’t make a sale being honest. In fact the plan was to slow down connections to rival services to a degree that users would steer away from them.

Given technological facts, it was a pretty naive plan to start with. But not all plans are made by geniuses… And the idea since then never quite left the table and re-surfaced multiple times.

And where is my Net Neutrality in your historical rambling?

It is wherever you make your stance.

And it is far more complicated than you think, just as forming an (educated) opinion on anything else is.

For example it is easy to shout: “All information should be free!”

It is a slogan and many – if not most – people don’t go any further than to listen to it and nod in approval of its sagely wisdom.

But even those that have coined this slogan and made it so well-known differ on what it means.

So if you ask Richard Stallman it means “All information should be readily accessible, but can have a price tag!” He views his FOSS (Free open source software) under the same ruleset and a few years ago clarified (again) in an article for the Linux Magazine that “Free” does not necessarily mean cost free.

And while many projects – e.g. GIMP – are ready-to-use by anyone, other, more complicated “free softwares” are sold as streamlined solutions (ERP systems for specialized industry sectors come to mind. Open Bravo and Compiere being only two examples).

To exaggerate Stallman’s point: What if all information is readily accessible, but can be afforded by the rich only?

We already have enough of the poor/rich division in the world.

But perhaps you are more leaning towards a The Pirate Bay interpretation of “all information should be free”, who interprete it as a hurray to anti-copyright.

I know, I know… By now you ask yourself: “Why is he talking about free information? I just want Net Neutrality… I want to have unrestricted access to the Internet and I want that anyone can post whatever he wants!”

Let me enlarge this for you:

…whatever he wants!

Now let me explain how not only “All information should be free”, but also everything I said before is important on finding your personal understanding of Net Neutrality.

The “I have no mouth but I must scream” syndrome:

Sharing information does not only consist of someone voicing an opinion. It also consists of being able to reach your audience. When both Governments and ISPs have methods at their hands to shut you off from your audience, your voice is void. The Net is not neutral, if it is easier for some to be heard than it is for others.

The “I own it so you can’t use it” syndrome:

While the mass trials partly go on, they don’t have as much media publicity anymore and more rarely target single users. Except, of course, if you are using e.g. YouTube.

There the tradition has taken on wholy new dimensions.

Not so long ago one of my YouTube videos got a copyright warning (…not a copyright strike. The difference is, a copyright strike immediately makes you video inaccessible and after three strikes your account is deleted. Permanently.)

Leaving me with the option to dispute the copyright infringement or let ads flow to whoever has a right to the content.

The thing is, there was no infringement. There is a restaurant beneath my flat and they play music.

The music is not audible for any human ears in that video. But it is detectable for programs searching for audio patterns.

Large companies – be it the Gaming industry or Music/Film industry – have access to tools on YouTube that will auto-flag your videos. They don’t go through them and watch them. They just let the programs flag them and decide what will happen to them.

SEGA was the last company who really pulled it hard on channels there, because they flagged any video with content of a certain game of theirs as a copyright strike. No, you can’t protest anymore then, if you happen to have three vids with their content in them, because your account is already banned. Only members of big YT Networks made it out – through their legal departments.

And I’m not talking about Lets Players here, who blatantly show a game from start to end including all cutscenes.

Snippets on gaming news were enough.

So why did SEGA search for that content and ban users?

Because they had a new game by the same name in the oven and wanted prime ranks for their footage on said new game!

Thus – well – all those users who were unfortunate enough to have covered their game of 5 years or longer ago obviously had to go.

This – in my opinion – is an action of such ruthlessness. And it definitely is not the only case. In fact cases of copyright strikes are growing on YouTube. (Last Monday and next month once again will change the whole platform).

Large corporations have a lot of power in the meat world, as we all know. But if this is a precedent of what the Internet is developing into, they will be absolute rulers here.

On the other hand, I don’t even want them to totally vanish from the face of the Earth. I’m not a communist.

Example given, the BBC is famous for making grandious – and not much censored – wildlife movies. Be it ants or tigers… Their productions are phenomenal. (Hey, even Dinosaurs! Lets not forget “Walking with Dinosaurs”).

To create such a documentation requires a good, experienced and well-paid staff, expert equipment, etc. Production costs a lot and of course they want to make a profit with it. Which allows them to make more, even better wildlife movies.

I certainly don’t want to swap them with some YT dude called LuvW1ldl1fe31 making vids of his … pet turtle with a smart phone. (hopefully that user name doesn’t exist…)

The “Its the make-up darling, the make-up…” Paradox

It is not only reaching an audience. It is also being able to reach the audience in the right way.

The Net is anything but neutral when it comes to languages. The language of the Internet is English.

English is a trade language but you will find that content in English is being preferred all over the Internet by any search engine. I can actually watch it happen during business travels.

It doesn’t affect me that much, but it doesn’t actually promote equality or neutrality. We mustn’t forget that each language is more than just a code that you can translate 1:1. It is a mindset.

Lastly, it is not always just reaching an audience, it is reaching them in a manner that will make them note. Vide affordability of technologies above.

The New World revisited…

While the virtual world is on fire, many found new creative ways to use it.

Nine Inch Nails and many other bands happily escaped their contract and went the self-produce route. New startups promote themselves through web propaganda.

Authors readily picked up Sony’s or Amazon’s deals for Ebook publishing, which actually are quite generous. And authors can publish and set a price for whatever they deem ready. Gone are the times of the timid lector who saw no potential in some book.

Many men and women found their future in the Internet and ways to either make a living or make their voice heard or their art known or whatever they were looking for.

This brave – still relatively young – global world is a long way from Net Neutrality or perfection.

And the reason for this is that we apply rules that were readily understood in the “meat world” as I like to call it and try to transfer it to the new global virtually connected world we spent part of our lives in.

The rules must be re-invented. And it is up to us to determine how…

Intelligence <> Willpower <> Self Denial <> Determination

(Once again, if you are looking for the “fix all my problems” article or you want me to sell you a self-improvement book, you are at the wrong place. Otherwise: Please go ahead! This is about some basics.)

It is a sordid fact that we are not all born as equals. Some of us are gifted with more Intelligence, some are stronger. Sometimes nature combines many talents into one. Sometimes it seems it denies someone any talents…
Still, that is not a recipe for success on any given level, nor a spelled-out doom.

You might start out with a high intelligence on IQ and/or EQ levels. But does that guarantee success?

Perhaps you are born the son of a fisherman on one of the untouched Polynesian islands and that will be your world.

But even if you are born into a society that is more technologically advanced, culturally more challenging – and I won’t state this as a blessing – will sheer intelligence help you?

I doubt it! Intelligence, as several studies have shown, is a genetic gift. A gift, – just like money – can be passed on physically, because your parents were rich.

You can always squander the money, lose it in bad deals. And just like that, you can always choose to not use your intelligence. God’s gift, Gene’s gift. Call it what you want, you can ignore it!

I know a lot of highly intelligent people who work in very repetitive and boring jobs. And some are fine with that, some are not. And they complain.

So, why don’t they rise on the corporate ladder or exit their career to follow their own ideas? What is limiting them?

I think one of the aspects would be lack of: Willpower!

Even a genius can fail. Because even for a genius it takes an effort to accomplish his goals. Less effort than for his fellow-men. But he still has to learn to play that piano, paint the impressionist way, fly a helicopter or a jet plane. Lead people.

And none of us can master all the arts, all skills.

It is intelligence and talent that will allow us to follow any idea we have, but it is willpower that truly keeps us on our chosen track.

Because we pretty much live on rails all the time otherwise.

You don’t believe me? I assume you brush your teeth and take a shower every day. You know your route to the next supermarket. Your feet will take you there, they’ll even lead you to the shelves and freezers you’ll find your most favorite food in. It is more like a dream existence than real life.

Break that routine and you’ll find it takes a conscious effort, even on a very low-level. Routine is like concrete. After a hard day of work, why do you open that tin of Ravioli? Why not get fresh veg from the grocery and cook real food? Or have a BBQ if you are so inclined?

Now look at that greater challenge that is Life.
You want to learn that new language, you want to get promoted or found your own company, you want so many things…
But they just seem to be out of reach.

And that phenomenon happens to highly intelligent people as often as it happens to the dumb. I won’t deny there are truly dumb people around! But there are few compared to those who just feel good thinking *with a sigh* “Yeah, just the cards life dealt me!” and decide to accept their unwritten fate.

Willpower is about actively pursuing something, committing your mind to a goal.
It is following through with your ideas. Not just stating them. You don’t think about writing that novel, you actually do it!

It is a moment to moment thing of steering that vehicle that is You. A smoker who wants to quit must tell himself not to smoke NOW every hour, every minute. And if you want to leave the rails your life is on, you must tell yourself every moment, where you want to go.

Willpower is like a muscle. It does get stronger with exercise.

Self Denial Is not being truthful to yourself. It happens e.g. when you have a job in a leading position and you enlarge your own perspective on what you actually accomplish. I have seen – myself included – people work themselves into near-burnouts or burnouts. Sometimes for pitiful wages, compared with a benchmarked market. The “feeling” of importance doesn’t equal “important”.

What is “Important” is only encapsulated in yourself. And you must get rid of other people’s opinion on it.

The same can be true for relationships. Just because you reach a status quo and think your partner is happy doesn’t make it so.

Never think of easy goals…

If you are intelligent and if you possess the willpower and you have goals:
Realize that to accomplish these goals, even when you start out, you’ll need a lot of:

Determination.

10% of any major effort is a brilliant idea. Perhaps you want to write a novel? Or have a great new business plan? The idea comes first, but the execution takes effort.
It is those 10% you have while taking a shower, or sleeping, or riding the metro. And you never follow-up!

It is those 10% that you ignore so you stick to a job that doesn’t fulfill, doesn’t challenge you.

If you don’t trust in yourself, how could others trust you?

And this is both a Light and a Shadow topic… Who knows where we want to go…

I am not Monet!

When I left the Gymnasium – that’s a form of secondary school for you non-Germans – one of our teachers said:
“Rejoice, for you’ll never have as broad a knowledge as you have right now ever again.”
He meant it. And he was right in a way. Over the years, what we don’t train or use, we mostly forget.

We start to specialize into what we think brings us the most joy or gets us the most money. We study or take a job.

And we settle into a routine that we think – and more importantly others think – is us. Our life.
No, no, read on, I won’t sell you some self-improvement book. I’m not Dale Carnegie and I can’t tell you how to save your soul either.

Don’t be scared!

I’ll just throw my opinion out into the Internet here and since it is my article, it is a eight-hundred pound Gorilla now. You cannot change it. Writing is a one-way form of telepathy.

I think the one thing that was never taught us in school, university or through our jobs is to find out who we really are. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but they are few.

One of my majors at university was philosophy. And even that felt like textbook reading most of the times.

But philosophy taught me one thing:
That grey mass between your ears, secure in that egg-shell that is your skull is hungry!
But it is also lazy. After a while it’ll start to tell you that you’ve figured life all out.

You’ll settle into a routine and it’ll provide you with a feeling of safety. But does routine make you happy?

There are skills and talents you’ll have – and you probably developed them to a high degree.
But is that really you? Is that all you’ve got?

I don’t know you, perhaps you are this perfect, happy being.

For the rest of us: Our brain needs a challenge!

Did you ever watch “Groundhog Day“? The protagonist reliving the same day over and over again.
When I watched that movie the first time I was nineteen. There was no Groundhog Day for me, every day was different and special.

I had just left school, every day was new and the world was my oyster.

It took me many years to find out that the world still is my oyster. Because every day indeed is still a new day. It is just the pattern I set for myself that makes them flow by as if I’m watching myself, not acting. What makes them Groundhog Days.

So here is my challenge for you, to find out something new about yourself.
For the next two weeks, reserve one hour each day to do something you have never done or something you have not done in a long while.

Challenge your friends to join you. Challenge each other. Sing and record songs, if you’re not a singer.
Learn Chess, if you don’t know how to play it. Or simply try to remember what that favorite ice cream of yours was when you were a kid. Buy it and try it. You’ll probably hate it, but it gives your brain new stimulus.

Keep records of your “special” hours. Photographs, recordings…

So what did I do today? I engaged in something that I’m truly bad at: Drawing & Painting. I took twenty minutes out of my day and since I own neither brush nor easel, I just opened GIMP and went to it.
I only used the sidebar menu.
The result you can see below. It is awful, I admit it!

Life is not about winning and results all the time. It is about experiences and truly feeling alive.

At least that is what I believe in…

Chris_SmudgeArt1