Category Archives: Things Disliked

Upsetting, dismaying, or otherwise unenjoyable.

The Friend

This isn’t the post I thought would be the one to break my blogging silence, but it’s the one I need to write.

It was Sunday evening, and the perfect conditions were combining into a moment of perfect joy. The weather was spectacular. The venue, a 12th story rooftop in the heart of the city, gave us perfect views in every direction. There was barbecue, and drinks, and a few close friends up there with us. The USWNT was destroying Japan, my phone pulsing every few minutes with news of another goal.

And then, the subject turned to “The Friend”.

“Anybody hear of any leads on The Friend lately?”

“No, but did you guys know about this Tumblr…?”

While it’s far from the reason the friendship existed, there was a common bond among the group on the roof that evening: each couple had either been ripped off, or was close to someone who had been ripped off, by someone deep in the social circle that criss-crosses between NYC’s tech, food, and photoblogger communities.

The Friend disappeared from the Internet about two years ago – right after I got ripped off.

I’ve alluded to the incident in passing on this blog before, and I’ve thrown out a subtweet or two in frustration, but this will be the first – and potentially last – time I write about it at length. It’s hard to want to write about how foolish I was, how much of a sucker I momentarily became, and the negative impact that moment has had on me as a person. But the events of the last 72 hours have left me craving what little catharsis I can wring out of my own hands.

It was two years ago today that I got a text message from The Friend, threatening to throw themselves into the Gowanus.

The Friend, at this point, was someone I had known for over five years and considered extremely close. We chatted semi-regularly, saw each other on occasion at friends’ parties, and hung out when we could. In a city where you can easily go years without seeing friends, that’s a pretty good interaction rate.

The resulting IM conversation was, in hindsight, perfectly crafted. There was urgency: a client check bounced, a new place to live about to collapse. There was constant self debasement, declaring their life a failure. There was desperation about an amount of money that was neither huge nor insignificant. And in the end, an invocation of a friend I didn’t know, who had agreed to float half the amount in perfect timing with my growing inability to help.

I checked our finances. I checked with the wife. It was an amount we could live without but that we would certainly want back. So I agreed to float the other half.

My phone rang almost instantly – it should’ve been a red flag for a person who was notorious about never picking up the phone. But I was just happy to help. I wrote up a quick agreement (balance due in 30 days, failure to pay would allow the use of unspecified “further actions”), ran to the ATM, withdrew the cash, and met The Friend in the shadow of St. Paul’s Chapel. It was chosen for subway convenience rather than moral significance, but the detail is not lost on me.

The agreement was signed, the cash was handed over, we chatted briefly and everything was fine as we parted ways.

That was the last time I saw The Friend.

Three weeks later, as the due date set in, a text message conversation threw alert at me. While casually talking about meeting up (at which point I was going to gently remind about the debt), The Friend mentioned that they couldn’t meet for coffee because they were totally broke.

That would, in the end, be the last text message I would receive from The Friend.

My head tried to ignored the signs but my fingers fired off a reminder about the debt. There would be no answer.

As the debt hit the due date, more texts were sent. Emails fired off. Phone calls made and going to voicemail. Katie joined in, futile as it was. There would be no answer.

It was only days after the radio silence begun in earnest that I thought to ask mutual friends for leads, and non-mutual friends for advice. The responses sent my stomach to the floor.

“Oh no, not you too,” said more than one mutual friend.

“Is it The Friend?” said a non-mutual friend who I had spoken to in only generalities.

How could I have been so stupid?

The two years that followed became an attempt to put the incident out of mind, with occasional lapses into anger, dejection, and sheer disbelief.

Soon after, I reached out to the friend of The Friend who had allegedly floated the other half of the cash, which was of course not at all true. (He still apologized for a role he hadn’t intended to play in the deception.) I heard from a few other people who had been ripped off by The Friend, who had shared connections with me. Others had been hit for more, or in worse ways. I occasionally felt lucky that I hadn’t gotten it worse, which made me feel terrible.

The Friend went silent on social media. Occasionally there would be a sighting at an event, or on a mailing list, and I’d get a heads up from someone I had alerted. We investigated getting a PI or filing in small claims, and both were more costly than the amount we’d recover.

We hung the worthless agreement on our fridge, a sad reminder to not be so trusting and perhaps a hope that someday, The Friend might do the right thing. I felt myself pull back from putting a lot of trust in new friends. I became more cynical, more selective, less open to want to hang at length at social functions.

Every now and then, the incident would flare up at home, triggering arguments and anger at a circle of friends and acquaintances who had failed to warn us, failed to tell us not to trust The Friend. Of course, there’s no good way to have that discussion, no easy way to say something simultaneously essential and cruel. But it didn’t matter when the anger got the better of us. It would pass when other battles in life took priority.

About a year after the incident, another email would come in from someone who got burned badly by The Friend, asking to chat. They were thinking about setting up a Facebook group, or a Tumblr for fellow victims. About six months later, a Tumblr appeared, matching the emailer’s story. We found it, but didn’t think much of it.

Until this weekend, on that rooftop.

Monday morning, a friend from the rooftop posted a link to the Tumblr onto Facebook. The resulting thread ignited and burned strong for a day.

More victims appeared in the thread, nodding in agreement or expressing anger that nothing had ever been done to stop The Friend. Bewildered people who knew The Friend’s name went wide-eyed in disbelief. (A few people joked about how the thread had reunited so many people who hadn’t spoken in years.) And those who had known The Friend the longest, many of whom had been burned lightly and let it go, decried the public shaming of someone who had struggled with depression. They objected to witch hunts in a social community that was above it. They dubbed the Tumblr that had used questionable tactics in the battle for some form of justice or retribution as toxic.

(In case there’s any confusion as to why I’m not using The Friend’s name or linking to the Tumblr, it’s because multiple people took the stance that ruining The Friend’s reputation is worse than the crimes committed. While I whole heartedly disagree, I don’t want this to be about that – although I recognize the same argument that this is dehumanizing The Friend might apply.)

The only meaningful update was someone who had been in contact The Friend in January, indicating that they were now homeless and was in a “bad bad place” for having burned so many bridges.

When I read that, for a brief moment, I felt…well, not sad. Not happy either, but not terribly torn up about it.

And then I realized how much this had been eating away at me, and that all of this angst and pain and conflict inside me desperately needed a release.

The Facebook thread was taken down last night, smothered and stomped out before someone could dump more gasoline on it.

So here we are, two years past a threat to jump into the Gowanus that turned me into a fool. Allow me the following attempt at catharsis:

To the people who opted to defend The Friend on the grounds that public shaming is the wrong tactic, I understand and respect where you stand. We have all made mistakes, and no one wants their dirty laundry aired on the Internet. I would love a proper conversation with The Friend, a sincere apology, maybe even the money back. But two years of radio silence have sent the message that isn’t on the table. What you’re asking is for victims to not speak up, to sit back and just accept a crime being committed. I hope you can understand why I have such a hard time with that.

To the people who opted to defend The Friend on the grounds that their relationship was not a con or a swindle, I understand and respect where you stand. I thought the same thing, for as long as I could. I’m not even sure I can still bring myself to believe that it was intentionally a con. I just think it became convenient. I fear I became a relationship that was worth more to cash out than to keep. I hope you don’t become the same.

To the people who are harboring someone like The Friend in their social circles: speak up. Don’t assume your friends know about the damage they have caused. It doesn’t need to be vindictive, but it does need to be clear and up front.

To the person running the Tumblr, I understand and respect what you’re trying to do – and I wish someone had done it before I got taken advantage of. But I do wish you’d use better tactics, ones that wouldn’t compromise your message to those who can’t believe someone they hold close could be so awful.

To The Friend, I hope you get the help you need and can fix the damage you’ve caused in so many lives. And I hope you never do this to any one, ever again.

One of the things that makes the whole situation more complicated is that most of the social connections that drove this incident were triggered through social networking. It’s easy to find new acquaintances and friends-of-friends, to develop relationships.

The problem is, there’s rarely nuance to the connection on social networks. You follow on Twitter. You are friends on Facebook. You are a connection on LinkedIn. There aren’t labels on your social graph, no way to indicate that the connection may be waning or broken. You see a large number of mutual friends and you assume the person is on the up and up.

I, along with many others, have kept The Friend in my social network graph long after being burned. It’s out of a false hope that there will be a slip, a re-emergence, a tell that The Friend is still out there. Those slips have happened, but they’re ultimately worthless. It’s clear they’re hiding from more people than just me. Meanwhile, those connections in my graph become tacit endorsements – an opportunity to use me as a silent reference, vouching for their character. Now that I’ve wrung my hands, I just want to wash them clean.

With this post, I’ve unfriended The Friend on all the social channels I can think to. I don’t want that association hanging over my head. The margin utility of tracking isn’t worth the pain.

Time to move on.

Not Cool, Comedy Central

On Sunday night, Katie and I went to the Paley Center panel for Broad City. We’re big fans of the show, and it was a good panel. (If you’re a fan of the show, ask me about the Hannibal anecdote.)

During the panel, Katie took a nice Instagram photo:

Katie's Photo

It was so nice, that Monday evening she noticed that Comedy Central had liked her photo. She’s taken a lot of pride in putting things on Instagram lately, as she’s been building a decent following. But then she tapped through to Comedy Central’s instagram account and saw this:

Comedy Central's Photo

A filter, a different crop, and a logo doesn’t change the fact that this is very clearly Katie’s photo – unless someone was sitting at the exact same angle and took a picture at virtually the same instance.

And I’m willing to guess that isn’t the case, because you’ll notice the link is now broken. That’s because after bringing attention to it on Twitter, Comedy Central yanked it down and replaced it with this:

Comedy Central's New Photo

Notice how quick they were here to credit the Paley Center’s photographer in this instance – just not the original.

Look – it’s 2014. Social media teams should be well aware by now that if you’re going to repurpose a photo from another user, attribution is a pretty basic courtesy. Yet not only did Comedy Central not attribute Katie’s photo, nor did they issue an apology (which is all Katie would like) – they decided to replace it entirely with someone else’s. They got caught, and rather than do the right thing, tried to erase the evidence – all the evidence except the like on Katie’s original photo. (At least, as I’m writing this. I wouldn’t be surprised if they revoke the like should someone read this post.)

I have personal experience that people within Comedy Central know how to properly respect copyright. I’m just saddened their social team thinks this is acceptable.

Thanks, Ryan

Yesterday, I was heartbroken (as were a hell of a lot of folks) to learn that Ryan Davis, co-founder of Giant Bomb, lover of SUMMER JAMZ and New Balance sneakers, passed away suddenly last week. He was 34 and had gotten married four days prior.

It’s hard to explain what a good, passionate guy Ryan was. I became a huge fan of his largely because of his tireless video project, This Ain’t No Game, where he forced himself to endure every video game-based movie. (If you’ve never watched TANG, now is an excellent time to do so.) His voice and sense of humor pervaded Giant Bomb’s podcast and video work, which became staples of my gaming world over the last five years.

So many people have written about the spot Ryan held in their lives, and it speaks volumes to how beloved he was in a community that largely thrives off snark and bitterness. And while I didn’t know him personally (my only interaction being mumbling something at him at PAX East a few years back about being a big fan), I do have one small fairly dumb story. It’s not dissimilar from my one Steve Jobs anecdote, although it’s not nearly as good.

April 1st is, of course, April Fools Day and/or Internet Asshole Day, full of terrible “pranks” around the internet. (I don’t do April Fools jokes after the prank to end all pranks in 2004.) The gaming community ends up particularly burdened with site owners trying really hard to do something witty and wacky, and it drives most of us up the wall. Including Ryan.

Having just finished Bioshock Infinite, I decided to try my luck at cracking a timely joke, which will (of course) only make sense if you’ve finished Infinite.

It may have been exhaustion from other bad jokes or the fact that Bioshock Infinite jokes hadn’t yet gotten obnoxious (we’d hit that milestone maybe an hour or two later), but it apparently amused Ryan enough to get a retweet out of him. And the subsequent back and forth of further Infinite/April-Fools-Is-Terrible jokes with my compatriot Benjamin Birdie also got retweets from him.

That initial retweet has been stuck at the top of my ThinkUp dashboard since April – something with the recent betas broke the insights from updating, and I’ve been too busy to really sort out fixing it. But perhaps it’s not broken; maybe the accomplishment of making Ryan chuckle on the worst day on the Internet for jokes is an achievement worth holding on to.


Dumb personal Twitter-based anecdotes aside – I’m not sure what the gaming industry will be like without Ryan in it, but I hope he inspires more people in it to be more honest, funny, and actually have a good time. More folks like Ryan, and less Dorito Popes, please.

Tant Pis Pour Nous

In a year that’s been filled with disheartening gaming news, this one has made me the saddest: Producer/composer Akira Yamaoka has apparently left Konami after 16 years:

It would appear that he has left the company entirely rather than moving to another international division. As you would expect, there has been no formal confirmation from Konami, so right now this is an unconfirmed rumour – albeit one generated from a pretty reliable source. To date there’s no news yet as to what Yamaoka plans to do next. Since leaving Konami he has been in the States and is now currently in Europe, seemingly on vacation.

Silent Hill fans, who have been lamenting the decline of the series in recent years, should probably consider the series dead at this point. Akira’s scores were one of the most haunting parts of the series, and it’s hard to envision anyone else doing the series justice.
From the Bemani perspective, this is another in a growing line of artists who have left the company in the past few years. Akira Yamaoka joins Taku Sakakibara, Takehiko Fujii, and Reo Nagumo, among others.
In memory of his work within IIDX, a selection of some of my favorite songs:

Here’s to hoping this is not the last we’ve heard out of Akira Yamaoka.

Regret, Sadness, Heartbreak, and Disbelief

It is fall of 2005, and Bemanistyle is down for an indeterminable length of time.
An upstart gaming center in Rhode Island called Tokyo Game Action immediately felt the effects of this outage – their website was hosted by Bemanistyle. Without a proper website, their community was being extinguished – and for an arcade that largely relied on the patronage of hardcore gamers, community is everything.
But as luck would have it, my forums were readily available – and in a decision I don’t honestly recall making, I quickly made a temporary forum so they could keep operations going. (A similar forum popped up on Shoryuken to maintain the fighting game side of the house.)
That was when I first had a chance to talk to Andy McGuire, the owner of TGA, who sent me a heartfelt note. I was immediately struck by his courtesy and motivations for opening TGA:

I don’t know how much you know about TGA, but TGA is unique in the fact that we are 100% dedicated to bringing the best Bemani experience possible to the United States. I won’t bore you with the sacrifices I have made and continue to make to make TGA a reality, but in short I do it for the love of the Bemani community and a service to humanity.

Every penny that TGA receives, goes right back into the store. I have accepted that TGA is my God given mission (literally, I am a Christian) to bring happiness to people in a way that’s not violent or vulgar. I live a simple life and dedicate all my time and finances to make this work.

Besides finances the most important part of keeping TGA alive is communications. And our website being down has killed us. But because of your assistance TGA is surviving and helping keep it’s head above water.

He offered to send me a full set of IIDX Happy Sky E-Amuse cards as a token of his gratitude – but as enticing as they may have been, I declined. I wrote to him then:

While I greatly appreciate the offer, I’m going to have to politely decline for a simple reason: After being in the community for 4 years (as of next week, anyhow), I have seen far too many places come and go – people who pour their heart and souls into businesses like this and unfortunately after a certain number of months, flame out for whatever reason. I would much rather see you keep the cards and sell them to your regular customers and keep the business going properly.

Andy’s dream had, thanks to his selflessness and sacrifice, managed to survive since that time. TGA played host to two Bemani community festivals, both fantastically received. And through the last three years, Andy always managed to keep all of his Bemani machines up to date with the latest releases – which is not an easy task when they are intended for release in Japan only.
But while he was in Japan in December – researching the newest Bemani releases, working on getting BlazBluedisaster struck Massachusetts, and TGA was heavily damaged by flooding.
TGA stayed closed after the flood, but Andy did everything he could to work towards re-opening.
Today, Andy’s dream has come to a heartbreaking end:

Tokyo Game Action is officially closed forever. With no income and other problems due to the flood, we are drowning in bills it is impossible to recover and reopen.

To pay our creditors and to prevent my family from being thrown out on the street (literally), I am left with no choice but to auction all of TGA’s assets.

TGA will be auctioning everything we have in May to pay our bills. Every game, pcb, poster, keychain, chair, plate, fork, Arch stand, figures, software, bowling ball, everything in TGA has to be sold.

My heart goes out to Andy and his family, to all the staff of TGA, and to everyone who had the opportunity to call it their arcade home.
I hope to finally make the trek to TGA in May for the final liquidation – not in the hopes of purchasing anything, but to give my respects to a man who wanted nothing more than to bring happiness to a community of gamers.


Valleywag is reporting that LiveJournal has laid off 20 of their 28 employees:

> The bubble in social networking has burst, decisively. LiveJournal, the San Francisco-based arm of Sup, a Russian Internet startup, has cut about 20 of 28 employees — and offered them no severance, we’re told.

> The company’s product managers and engineers were laid off, leaving only a handful of finance and operations workers — which speaks to a website to be left on life support. Matt Berardo, a Yahoo executive hired on last summer, is also believed to be gone.

(While I do not blog on LiveJournal, this blog is available in syndicated form, and a number of my friends post there.)

While I haven’t been pleased with the level of service out of LiveJournal since Sup took it over, this sort of news doesn’t bode well for anyone who actively uses the service.

For those of you using LJ as your primary blogs, you may want to make a backup just in case.

ADDENDUM: azurelunatic has posted a minor rebuke to the Valleywag post – that only 13 have been laid off and that 17 remain.

Silently Protest This

On Tuesday, Dec. 16, Apple Inc. announced that Steve Jobs would not do the keynote at the 2009 Macworld Conference & Expo. That’s okay.

They also announced that they would no longer attend the conference in the future. That’s actually also okay. Apple doesn’t run the Macworld Expo, has never run the Macworld Expo, and for years has been appearing at the event because it was the easiest way for them to get press coverage, albeit at a great cost. But Apple no longer has an issue getting press coverage, and so they have outgrown the utility of going to Macworld San Francisco, much like they did in 2002 with Macworld New York.

Some people don’t feel that’s okay. Some people are so upset, they feel that such a decision is worth staging a protest against.

For 25 years, a very feral and cultish Mac community – some call them MacMacs – have swarmed the halls of Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA to see, obnoxiously line up for, and collectively drool over the products they love. By announcing their departure from this otherwise pointless trade show (really, there is little point for most people to attending MWSF if Apple isn’t there) Apple is signaling to the entire community that people now have a chance to froth at the mouth and act personally insulted that you will no longer be able to pay to hear someone announce products.

If you’re attending the Macworld Expo keynote on Tuesday, Jan. 6, you aren’t sending a message to Apple by remaining silent during the 2009 keynote. While Phil Schiller is on the stage, if you’re sitting in the audience, even if you sit on your hands, duct tape your mouth shut, and hold your breath, you’re not sending a message to Apple.

You know how you send a message to Apple? The same way you send a message to other companies: you stop buying their products. You stop worshipping the company and/or the products and/or Steve Jobs.

My name is Dan Dickinson, and I’m tired of fanboys.

A Moment Of Disturbing Honesty From Activision

Stephen Totilo of MTV reporting on a moment of honesty from today’s Activision/Blizzard earnings call, emphasis mine:

During today’s Activision Blizzard earnings call, a financial analyst asked the company’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, why the company didn’t keep all of Vivendi’s games when the two gaming companies merged.

The analyst didn’t name any games, but technically, he had to be referring to the likes of “Ghostbusters,” “50 Cent: Blood On The Sand” and the new “Riddick,” which all appear to have found new publishing homes…

Kotick responded not by addressing any of the games by name, but by talking about Activision’s publishing philosophy. The games Activision Blizzard didn’t pick up, he said, “don’t have the potential to be exploited every year on every platform with clear sequel potential and have the potential to become $100 million dollar franchises. … I think, generally, our strategy has been to focus… on the products that have those attributes and characteristics, the products that we know [that] if we release them today, we’ll be working on them 10 years from now…You still need to have production of new original property but you have to do it very selectively… the focus at retail and for the consumer is to continue to be on the big narrow and deep high profile release strategy… We’ve had enough experience that I think the strategy we employ is the most successful.”

I suppose I can appreciate the honesty, but as a gamer, I couldn’t be more nauseated.

That’s not to say I’m particularly surprised – what was the last significant franchise they created?

Tony Hawk? 1999.

Call Of Duty? 2003.

Guitar Hero? 2005.

I often love the games that are too quirky, too weird, too inaccessible, or too obscure for the mass market. And it’s sad that a company that was there when I started gaming 25 years ago has become so unwilling to take risks with their titles.