Take a look at your Facebook feed.  (If you don’t have a Facebook account in this day and age, pat yourself on the back!  You don’t have to put up with having to wade through crap to find the funny video your friend is nagging you about.)

If it’s anything like mine, it’s filled with shares of image macros, articles, and other political quackery designed to get cheap thrills out of mocking your political enemies and their arguments, with no regard to whether the argument is any good.  Rather than an argument designed to convince, it’s one designed to shame and mock the opponent so you, yourself, feel good about being better than those idiots on the other side.  These postings often have arguments that wouldn’t hold up for a microsecond in a real debate.

Many smart people (and not so smart) people have posited explanations for the rise of Donald Trump’s candidacy.  I’d like to throw another reason onto the pile: Trump-style misrepresentations have become how we talk to our friends and family about the politics we agree on.  Through Facebook and Twitter and other short-form, rapid fire social media, we’ve become accustomed to arguing through belittling our opponents and their arguments rather than having anything interesting or insightful to say about *why* they’re wrong.  (No, insulting and flawed analogies do not count.)

We may have discussed politics echo-chamber style in our communities and homes for a long time, but that was in private, where different rules and a different social context applied.  Now, confirmation bias and the cheap thrill of “righteousness” is out in public, only a scroll-down away.  People post inane comments on news stories, the sort of insulting and  ill-thought accusations they would normally only make in private, except now they post it publicly for all to see.  Many have posited that anonymity is a contributing factor, but this is happening on Facebook, where the vast majority are posting under their actual name.

I wish I could tell you I had a solution, but I fear the political polarization of the last decade is only a sign of things to come.

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I haven’t posted in forever — been really busy coding up my Master’s Thesis.  As such, I won’t be posting here for a while, potentially not for months.

Thank goodness for caffeine.  I try not to drink coffee too regularly so I can get the boost when I need it.  Not sure how scientifically sound that is.

When I return, I’ll be broadening topics a bit.  There will still be some game design and psychology stuff, but I’ll be adding reviews to the blog — mostly video games, board games, and obscure music I’d like to call attention to.

With that, have a good winter!

Filler link: Survivorship bias

I’m busy with National Novel Writing Month right now (writing my first horror story, woohoo!) , so here’s an interesting blog post to pass the time.  I find cognitive biases quite interesting, but somehow I’d never heard of this one until now, so I feel kind of silly.

Perhaps the most misleading back-of-the-book synopsis I’ve ever read was that for Stephen King’s Insomnia.  I can’t find the one on my copy online so I assume there are other editions with something far more accurate, but it described something about the townsfolk turning into demons and stuff when it’s actually an interesting adventure novel about an unlikely hero.  I got through all apparently-800-pages of it without feeling like it dragged, though I was kind of disappointed it was just a tie-in to The Dark Tower, which I hadn’t read at the time.

In other news, it’s 5:30 in the morning and I’m too out of it to hate anything so now I understand what drives people to club all night because I can feel that dissociation from all that baggage and I’m not even sleepy so bring on the beat because I am going to hate tomorrow.

Down with a bad cold right now.  It’s been hell trying to get through my weekend homework and it’s quite thrown off my schedule.  However, I’ve noticed that for the past twelve hours, it’s felt like time has been moving at a third of the speed it normally does.  I’ve been sick quite often in my life and came to know the ins and outs of colds — as a hypersensitive person, these things make quite an impression on me.  However, I’ve never noticed this mental time dilation effect before.

Sure beats feeling nauseous when you swallow.  That was the worst one, I think — was really hard to sleep that time.  Last night, my sleep wasn’t bad compared to most times I’ve had a cold, despite the awful headache.

I also feel lucky in that I tend to get sick at the best times — that is, I rarely get sick when I really can’t afford to be.  Only time that ever happened was when I got a flu during finals week on year.  I think there’s a sort of biological mechanism that makes sure of this, but I’m too tired to look it up.

I was on a Google-search tirade searching for justification for my disdain for first-person present writing (which, dishearteningly, seems to have dominated the YA bestseller list as of late), when I stumbled upon this site:

http://lanediamond.hubpages.com/

As a novice fiction writer, it was like striking gold.  Some of the sections rang hollow to me, but others exposed weaknesses in my writing that I hadn’t even noticed were there (mostly, passive voice is a larger category than I thought).  The site’s strong point is its thorough use of examples to illustrate the author’s points.  I’d heartily recommend novice writers looking to get a litmus test on their writing read through and draw what conclusions come.

This week’s song: “No More Heroes” by The Stranglers

I’ve been taking a break from blogging for the last few weeks — first week I was in a bit of a slump, while the next two I was on vacation in general. 

I don’t have a post to share, but in the meantime, I’ll share this article about Kickstarter that I probably won’t do a follow-up on because I feel it’s fairly spot-on. 

Went down to Vancouver, Washington for Kumoricon last weekend.  If anyone here ever visits the city, you have to try eating at Little Italy’s Trattoria if you have any love for Italian food.  There’s a certain element to the food there (Preparation?  Seasoning?  Extra Love?) that elevates it above any Italian food I’ve ever had, even the pizza, and the prices are quite reasonable for what you get.

I’ve eaten the Lasagne Emiliana, the Frutti de Mare, and the Vitello Scallopine, and I honestly don’t know which I’d recommend the most.

In last week’s article, the main conflict highlighted by the author was that the core of a game if a set of rules, not by an author-imposed narrative as is so common with modern video games.  To distill his argument down, you can’t just slap a message on a set of rules and expect the message to be better received.

I would mostly agree with that statement, with one caveat: association.  For instance, when I go out on the internet and look for a fanbase-beloved piece of video game music from a game I’ve never played, I usually listen to a few seconds and think to myself, “What’s so special about it?” or “This is pretty good, I guess, but not THAT good.”

Allow me to use some music from an example I’ll come back to in a follow-up post.

Even in linking to this piece of music, I can’t help but listen to it all the way through.  However, those who haven’t heard it in context of “yay, I just beat the game” probably won’t feel like it’s *that* special.  While a piece of music may not evoke conscious memories of that particular part in the game, the neural connections are there; the music evokes the emotions and feelings in the context we’ve heard it before.  (Of course, that’s not to suggest that the music didn’t play a part in forming those connections to begin with.)

Associations work in other strange ways as well.  For instance, Donkey Kong 64’s Frantic Factory level always makes me think of this comic strip.

In a similar way, I believe it stands to reason that a message associated with the game can have an associative effect… in certain specific situations.  Primarily, it has to be an issue that the player did not hold a strong opinion about beforehand.  If the player had a prior strong opinion about the issue, they will of course react to the message accordingly, to the point of enjoying the game more or less because of it.

Bioshock is a good example.  For many who played it, it was their first time hearing about Objectivism.  Bioshock Infinite was criticized for not having as “deep” of a message as the original, but I would venture that the original Bioshock’s narrative — while undoubtedly more complex than Infinite’s — may not have been as “deep” as people remember it.  A wider audience of people are familiar with the type of world portrayed in Infinite, so many who had knowledge of the era didn’t find Infinite’s messages to be as deep or moving.  That is, except for the Quantum Mechanics elements and the ending, which many found unique, confusing, and memorable.  (I myself have had experience in both Quantum Mechanics and endings similar to Infinite’s, so I hold a far less favorable opinion of those elements of the game).

There are a couple more conditions.  First off, the messages must be related to the themes of the game.  This is a tricky balancing act, because if the message and theme are too closely linked, then your only audience will be those who are interested in your theme and are in strong agreement with your message to begin with.  Finally, the game must be fun and the message must be well-presented.  Negligence in both these conditions will drive people without an opinion to reject the message, and perhaps sour the game as well by association.

With the spiraling costs of AAA blockbusters and the returning popularity of non-narrative games like Angry Birds, it all implies a new question of whether extensive narrative elements will coexist with video games in the future.  I believe so, although the narrative game model will have to switch away from the blockbuster format or be destroyed.  I’ll address that in a later post, where I’ll continue to examine last week’s article.

Interesting Article: I Love Pandemic (and I Despair for Serious Games)

I’ll be back, possibly to analyze this article, in a week or so.  As I’m hard at work revising my manuscript to hand to my beta readers tomorrow, I haven’t had any time to post anything recently.  For now, I present this interesting article for your consideration.  A quote that sums it up:

For me, this is what a game is— a space to return to again and again to test myself, to engage with others, to have opportunity to do things that daily life does not permit. The average serious game lacks this depth, in large part due to the emphasis on content, and the product-oriented conception of games as medium and not a practice.

I recently bought Pandemic and became quite obsessed with it, and I do believe that many people look at “serious games” in an incorrect manner (or mistake certain games for “serious games”, particularly Bioshock and Infinite — I’ll likely devote an entire post to those someday).  At the same time, I don’t agree with the notion that games cannot deliver messages, though I do believe a game is not necessarily the best medium for such and the creator should not focus on the message above all.