Tag Archives: gaming

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.

Anyway.

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.

Unicorns and Assholes

I was at the Agile UX NYC 2012 conference on Saturday, and Phineas Barnes gave a talk entitled “4 keys to success in a design driven company“.

The slide that caught my eye was this one:

The argument of the slide: don’t build a team with unicorns or assholes.

His definition for a “unicorn” was the person who has the strict unwavering vision, and claims to understand better than anyone else – including your customers – what your customers need. (I don’t think there’s any confusion as to what he meant by “asshole”.) [1. He did note the caveat to this rule is when you have a unicorn who is also an asshole, i.e. Steve Jobs. He said to hire that particular unicorn.]

It boiled down to three points:

  • You need a team who can listen and pivot, so they can respond over time.
  • You need a team that can value options.
  • You need a team who’s able to admit that they’re wrong.

Yesterday, the “fighting game community” blew up in a massive drama bomb.

The story is a bit complicated, but it boils down to an incident that happened on a web reality show put on by Capcom to promote one of their new fighting games. One of the team captains, Aris Bakhtanians, made a series of sexually harassing comments at a female player on the show, allegedly as a way to play mind games. When Twitch TV community manager Jared Rea asked “Can I get my Street Fighter without sexual harassment?”, Aris responded:

> You can’t. You can’t because they’re one and the same thing. This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community–it’s StarCraft.

And soon after, press coverage came, and things degenerated rapidly (see Boing Boing’s incendiary headline or the NeoGAF thread). The constant across most discussion over the last 24 hours is a repeated defense from some in the FGC that they like things just the way they are, sexual harassment and all, and anyone suggesting change is a traitor or infringing on their first amendment rights.

This isn’t really about the fighting game community, and it’s not really about building a lean startup. But it is about the company you keep, and the communities we build.

It’s in our nature to find like-minded people. We all want that acceptance and understanding and connection that comes from people who understand how we think and act. We like talking to people with the same hobbies, and we like working with people who have the same passions. That’s how we build our social circles, our teams, and our worlds.

It’s not so hard to keep the assholes and unicorns out, but you need to be vigilant to ensure the people already inside don’t morph into either type. The longer you’ve been wrapped in a cocoon of like-minded people, the harder it is to stomach someone saying you’re doing it wrong.

If you attack someone for suggesting change, you’ve become an asshole.

If you go deaf to suggestions of change, or pull rank over a newcomer, or use the phrase “this is just how we do things”, you’ve become a unicorn.

Building a vision is important. So is having a backbone and defining your culture. Not all feedback is actionable or even necessarily worthwhile. But if you can’t listen, can’t value options, and can’t admit when you’re wrong, you’ve gone blind to change. You won’t be able to adapt, and someone is going to come in and eat your lunch.

The Witch In The Green Dress: Thoughts on Sleep No More

Sleep No More

On Saturday night, I stepped into the McKittrick hotel with five friends. Three hours later, I found myself back on the sidewalk of 27th Street, catching my breath, my heart still racing, my mind still spinning.

If you keep an ear to what’s going on around NYC, then you may already know that the McKittrick is home to Punchdrunk’s “immersive theatre” experience, Sleep No More. Audiences are invited to don a mask and explore 100,000 square feet of a recreated abandoned hotel, while a cast of twenty-three actors stride from room to room and silently act out Macbeth by way of Hitchcock. Some audience members choose to follow one or two characters and see what happens; others opt to explore on their own, rifling through drawers and cabinets and suitcases. The choices are up to each attendee.

Much has been written about the experience, and I am loathe to rehash. You might want to heard the observations on the inherent voyeurism from Ben Brantley at the Times, or Michael Abbott’s lovely argument as to why anyone who calls themselves a gamer needs to go see it. You may be interested in the amazing set and prop design, which would lead you to this NYT slideshow. And there are plenty of other impressions around the web, almost all positive.

My normal way to talk about these sorts of experiences is to meticulously walk my way through everything that happened, trying to gather all the details so they form a single authoritative post. I am going to skip on that method for Sleep No More. I may have caught multiple scenes, I may have followed most every character at least once, I may have dug through a lot of drawers – and I may have even found an easter egg or two. But that experience was mine, and when you go, you will have your own – and it will be different, and unique, and yours. I do not want to taint that or come across as recommending a course of action.

But I will share one story from last night, after the jump. (This might constitute a spoiler, so if you’re looking to go in blind, stop reading here.)

Continue reading The Witch In The Green Dress: Thoughts on Sleep No More

Arguing With Friends About Gaming For Fun And Profit

About 10 years ago, when I was wearing the very unique hat of “Mac gaming journalist”, I got to meet a lot of remarkable people. One such person was Corey Tamas, who I met just as he was taking over Mike Dixon’s much beloved Mac Gamer’s Ledge and transitioning it into MacGamer.com, which recently relaunched after a few years of hiatus. Corey is a family man with a huge heart, a big Doctor Who fan (like bow ties, Doctor Who fans are cool), and one of the people that I will forever consider part and parcel of “Mac gaming”. He’s good people.

That said, sometimes he writes things I just can’t agree with, which brings us to today’s “10 Reasons Gamers Should Choose a Mac Over an iPhone/iPad“. Besides being a weird apples vs. oranges comparison – why not have both? – the ten reasons range from shaky to silly to flat-out wrong. Corey has authorized me to do my worst, so as a general survey of what’s going on with iOS gaming, here’s 10 Reasons Corey Tamas Is Wrong.
Continue reading Arguing With Friends About Gaming For Fun And Profit

S-Day

Valve, October 19th, 1999:

Given the realities of the Mac gaming market, our Mac customers were always going to be mad at us. They were always going to be second-class customers where we couldn’t invest to the same degree in the Mac version as we did elsewhere. I don’t want to be in that business. I would much rather we just eat the money we’ve spent so far than take money from Mac customers and short-change them.

Valve, May 12th, 2010:

Whether you’re a Mac or a PC, Steam has the games you want to play and a global community of gamers to play with.

What a difference a decade can make.

For those of you taking the plunge tomorrow for the first time, I am more than happy to take questions and help you make heads or tails of a fantastic (yet sometimes intimidating) gaming platform. Just visit my Steam Community and add me as a friend after you get it installed. (I would do a longer post, but there’s still a lot about the launch that we won’t know until tomorrow.)

Hope to see you there.

Steam OS X Release Coming?

Yesterday, Valve unveiled the first major overhaul to Steam‘s UI since the service launched. It’s gorgeous, even as a beta.

Within the release notes was a note of particular joy to me:

> Now using a WebKit based rendering engine for the client and in-game overlay web browsing components (replacing Internet Explorer)

As people have been digging around through the data files for the new version, they’ve noticed OS X window graphics, OS X menu files, dock icons, and strings about platform availability.

Moving to a cross-platform web rendering engine certainly doesn’t hurt this argument, either.

While a Steam port to OS X (or Linux) doesn’t mean that every game on the service becomes available to OS X gamers, it could mean that those games that are already cross-platform (Popcap’s stuff, some of EA’s recent titles, and plenty of indie games among others) would be.

I look forward to finding out what this all means.

(via Brad Shoemaker)

A Love Letter To Freeverse

Touch Arcade and Techcrunch have details on ngmoco:)‘s acquisition of Freeverse Software. This has a lot of implications for the iPhone software market, but I’ll let the business wonks talk about that.

Freeverse is entwined in the last 15 years of my life in ways that few things can compare. Their games and software toys helped keep me sane during high school. When my life went into a slight free-fall during college, I became anchored with an internship with them.

Continue reading A Love Letter To Freeverse

Gaming 2009: PC

Steam hit a new stride this year, causing me to open my wallet thirty-six separate times. I don’t want to count how many games that translates into for just this year – but the total game count on my Steam account is now at a sickening 195 titles. I didn’t start on Steam until late in 2007, so that means I’m averaging a disturbing 1.6 games a week.

Nothing can illustrate what causes this than the current front page of the Steam store. Right now, there’s a midweek sale for Psychonauts – a well received game from 2005, that I do not currently own – for $2. I am trying to write this post and *not* take the 30 seconds it would take to purchase it.

Steam has leveraged, on a slightly broader scale, what has made the iPhone app market so dynamic and prone to impulse purchasing – the ability to quickly drop prices, sometimes up to 90%. When you shave an award winning game down to $2, price conscious gamers will react strongly.

Most of my purchases this year were either games from past years or multiplatform titles, so much of my PC playing has already been covered. There were a few standout titles that haven’t quite shown up anywhere else, as well as some awful ports, so let’s make notes below:

Continue reading Gaming 2009: PC