Monthly Archives: August 2009

Geeks and Glasses

For the purpose of this discussion, let us put aside the vast gaping petty differences between the modern nerd and the modern geek.  Of course they are different breeds of being, but this post will focus on their similarities.  The name used for the collective group that contains all nerds (vile scum of the Earth) and us geeks (who will one day rule the world with a zombie-ninja army) will, hereafter, be “Flumph.”  If you understand the reference, you clearly fall into one of those two categories.

Oh yeah, thats the ticket.

Oh yeah, that's the ticket.

Why do Flumphs have glasses?  Now, clearly, not all Flumphs are bespectacled cretins, hermits, or perhaps pariahs, from society.  Yet the standard stereotype associated with them includes glasses, poor fashion sense, lack of friends, and terrible or non-existant haircuts.  This is a stereotype, of course, but all stereotypes are rooted somewhere.  For a long time I never understood why some Flumphs carried a certain air of, shall we say, aloofness about them.  Now that I have joined the ranks of Flumphs With Glasses, I think I have a better grasp of the stereotypical (archetypical?) Flumph, if not completing any sort of transformation myself.  This is what I noticed about myself, that I think may carry over to other Flumphs:

  1. We love puzzles. Not all of us love the same kinds of puzzles.  Some love proving mathematical theorems, some love solving rubik’s cubes, some love putting together game mechanics that don’t fall apart, but they are all puzzles of some sort.  And we love them.  We don’t enjoy them, they are not a hobby, they are a way of life.  This tends to get in the way of other, more common, pursuits, such as partying, womanizing, or watching sports.  Why would we do those things when we can spend those precious hours implementing a mini-map in the computer role-playing game we’re making?
  2. We measure status differently. For most of the world, status is determined by a few key factors.  Money, attractiveness, and style.  Many times, these three factors are intertwined.  The key thing, though, that determines status in any situation, is power.  Money = Power, Attractiveness=Ability To Find Powerful Mate=Power, Style=Indication That You Recognize Social Trends=Ability To Contribute To Said Trends=Power.  This is how status works in the “real world.”  For the Flumphs, however, there is a different definition of power, depending on which particular group you are a part of.  Especially when groups communicate via the internet, normal factors become nearly moot.  The ability to code an effective website, or the know-how to put together a computer are considered much more powerful than how closely one can follow fads.  When web-designers or computer programmers demand so much status in a community because of their talents, rather than their physical resources, “normal” marks of status become exponentially less important.
  3. We are curious. I just learned this.  We are a very curious people, not in the weird sense (at least not in this context).  I have yet to meet a Flumph who does not want to learn as much as he can about his favorite subjects, and about the world around him.  This is why I wear glasses now.  I have shown, over eighteen years, that I am perfectly functional without them.  But I just want to know.  I don’t want to miss anything because I took them off so I could look cooler.  This is one of the reasons I personally don’t drink or do drugs, as well.  I want my mind crystal clear, at all times, to take in whatever is available to be taken in.  I believe I heard somewhere that Isaac Newton had sex once, didn’t much care for it, and then moved on.  He was a Flumph, I’m sure.  He wanted the experience, had it, and then went on to learning about different things, rather than repeating the same activity over and over.
  4. We care too much. This is the bottom line.  We want to experience.  We support other people who want to experience.  You don’t see us partying every Friday night because we have better things to do.  Or maybe we just tell that to ourselves.  Some wear pocket protectors because they are practical.  We don’t necessarily respect the “cool guys,” and we don’t care if they respect us.  So while they laugh, the rest of the Flumphs say “it’s OK, let’s go launch pumpkins out of that trebuchet you built.”  That’s much more important than how geeky it looks to protect one’s pocket.

Of course, there’s always the stray Randall Munroe, who is smart, beautiful, and well-adjusted, the holy trinity of personhood.  Oh, how I envy him.


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The Future Is Now!!!

So today is my last day home before I cross the abyss into adulthood, from whence I can never look back, where I will forget my past and devote the rest of my life to keeping on one path of discipline and structure perpetual adolescence, from whence I will return home fairly frequently, and also stay in touch with the friends that matter, and probably continue to slack off and focus on whatever tomfoolery happens to pique my interest at any given moment, but hopefully to a slightly lesser extent than I currently do.  In short, tomorrow I leave for Bucknell.  Meaning don’t expect the blog to update anything remotely resembling regularly, but still check back every day, because the page views make me feel good about myself.

Wish me luck, beautiful readers!

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Left 4 Dead 2, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Valve

Remember the computer games of the 90’s?  Remember when a videogame was successful,  sequel could be expected within the year, often on the very same engine as the first game?  I don’t – I was too busy clicking various parts of the screen on Castles 2 until I either got to fight something, or build something – but I’ve heard it was great.  The first two Fallout games came out in 1997 and 1998, a year apart.  Warcraft came out in 1994, with Warcraft II following in ’95.  Command & Conquer: Red Alert came out in 1996, one year after its predecessor.  The first four games in that series were all released within a six year timespan, including various expansions and spin-off titles.  All of these games are today considered classics, and in every case the sequel is lauded over the original game.

I’ve never heard of any protests against this kind of development cycle in the golden age of PC gaming.  A developer made a game, it’s critically and commercially successful, and they make another game very quickly, which fans are more than willing to shell out [insert 90s equivalent of $60 here].  So why the sudden protests against Valve releasing Left 4 Dead 2 so soon after the first title?

Well, the internet’s a funny thing.  Valve, you see, were the developers behind the Half-Life series, Team Fortress 2, and Portal, all of which were hailed as brilliant, all for different reasons.  With Team Fortress 2, one of the major draws was Valve’s commitment to releasing free downloadable content (DLC) for the game fairly regularly.  Within the lifespan of the game, these updates have included new weapons, new class abilities, new maps, new gamemodes, and, most recently, new hats.  Now, disgruntled fans claim that Gabe Newell, managing director of Valve Corporation, promised consistent updates to the game, which exists almost in its entirety in multiplayer cooperative mode, including new weapons, characters, infected, and campaigns.  So far, this video is the only real evidence I’ve seen to support these claims:

Choosing to overlook the blatant unprofessionalism of this video for a moment, the “promises” made here all sound like these people don’t have any concrete plan.  There are no promises made, only vague “maybes” and “probablys”.  Many customers feel that, because of these claims that Valve might sometime put out DLC for Left 4 Dead, and hopes to do it on a regular basis, they are somehow entitled to these things, because they purchased the game based on that knowledge.  Their fear is that, with Left 4 Dead 2 coming out only a year after the original release, Valve will stop updating the original game, thereby going back on their promises.  Even if all support were to cease after L4D2, Valve has already released DLC that included a new gameplay type and maps, and with even more on the way.

But support will not cease with the release of L4D2.  Gabe Newell has stated many, many times that he still wants the L4D community to be supported, and this includes new releases for the original game, as well as modding tools becoming available.  Other companies have proven that it is possible for old games to garner support, the clearest example to me being the original Everquest, which is still getting expansions even after its sequel came out in 2004.

And either way, basing a buying decision off of pre-release hype is a very dangerous route to go, anyway, as Peter Molyneux proves time and time again (still can’t get Dungeon Keeper working, by the way).  As a general rule, any developer will lie through his or her teeth to sell a game.  Not that they’re all necessarily corporate scum, often they are just very enthusiastic about a new product, and take the “OMG this game is gonna be awesome look at all this stuff we’ll hopefully get done and bug-free in the next four months!!!!!!”  In this respect, Valve has been historically, and is being now, very responsible when it comes to promises (Half Life 2: Episode 3 excluded, which is OK, since I have yet to finish Half-Life 2.  Take your time, guys!)  Not buying a new game because the last one was a disappointment is valid.  Organizing a boycott and clamoring on about “consumers’ rights” is nonsense.

American colonists boycotted English tea because they thought they were being unfairly taxed.  Gandhi boycotted foreign goods because he felt they were contributing to Britain’s domination of India.  Several countries boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union’s military aggression in the Middle East.  41,497 people (as of this writing) are boycotting a video game because it came out too soon after another, similar videogame.

Discuss, which of these groups do you think needs to rethink its priorities?

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Public Enemies: Hollywood Needs More Movies Like This

I’m no fan of action movies in general. Transformers, 300, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.  For the most part, action of the big boom variety, or the car chase variety, or even the crazy martial arts variety (although it can make for exciting moments, provided the film has enough meat to carry it, i.e. The Matrix).  I don’t think Michael Mann’s Public Enemies really qualifies as an action movie by today’s standards.  There are no giant explosions, no unrealistic feats of physical dexterity or strength, just good ol’ fashion I-shoot-you, you-shoot-me, waste-hundreds-of-rounds-on-the-area-around-you, you-fall-down-eventually.  And I loved every minute of it.

Back in the 70s, they knew how to make action movies.  The budgets were low, the guns were blazing, the blood was cherry red, and they filmed car chases on busy roads without first closing off the street.  The bottom line is, without CGI and bottomless Hollywood budgets, action movies just felt real back in those days.  The only recent films that come close to that kind of down-and-dirty, dare I say, pulp action are the Bourne films, and Public Enemies.

I really want to talk about the rest of the film, about how Johnny Depp took on the role of John Dillinger, Public Enemy Number One, with the air not of a slick, cool, in-control conman, but a man who acts like that on the outside, but inside just feels like a kid in a candy store, and when that part of his character comes out, it makes for the most rewarding parts of the movie.  I want to talk about Marion Cotillard’s Billie Frechette, and how she plays the love interest as an actual character, and does a damn good job at that.  I want to talk about Christian Bale’s reprisal of Batman, sans cape, intellect, and depth of character.  But, really, what sticks in my mind are the countless shootouts, the oh-so-satisfying “rat-a-tat-tat” of the Tommy guns, and the crystal clear view my brand new glasses gave me.

So, in conclusion: Hollywood, less explosions, more small arms fire.  Thank you.

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Lack of Things To Write About…

…has led to a lack of written things on this blog.  So, instead of a real, insightful (ha!) update, I will instead post a list of some of the things I have been thinking about since I last updated:

  • Glasses make everything so much clearer!  I honestly thought that things were supposed to be kind of blurry far away, but everything is so crisp now!  It’s like I’m playing Fallout 3 all the time, and just waiting for my computer to crash.
  • I love the fiction behind Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, and I really wish I could get into it, but when the smallest legal Chaos Space Marine force costs $50, plus $25 for the Codex, plus the baffling amount of $57.75 for the core rulebook, the prospects look slim.
  • But I’ve got to find some sort of proprietary war game to scratch my itch.  Maybe Warmachine?  Don’t know much about it, except that it’s relatively widespread, and cheaper than Games Workshop products.
  • Writing an informative, yet not-too-self indulgent, yet entertaining review of The Beatles’ Revolver is harder than it first appeared.
  • I’m fine with Blizzard taking as long as it wants on Starcraft II, as long as it doesn’t go the way of Ghost.
  • Maybe if I actually played through games, I would have something to write about.

So, that’s that.  A few other interesting tidbits to tide you over until I find something more meaty to write about:

Currently Reading: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Most Recently Viewed: The Hurt Locker

Recently Obtained: The Beatles – Past Masters Volume 1

Most Anticipated Thing: Elemental: War of Magic (and my God, how I’m anticipating this game, you, like, have no idea)

Now, please go do something productive with your time, because God knows I’m not.

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