Archive for February, 2010

Feb 18 2010

driving vs navigating, or why i’m a fake gamer

So I often purport to be some kind of a gamer. Maybe not an uber-gamer who is gettin’ off headshots and topping charts, but I am a person who plays a number of (video) games, and enjoys discussing said games. So it is with great trepidation that I publicly share with you, dear reader, my horrible gamer secret:

I don’t finish games.

I’ll give you a moment to ponder that. You know the big end of games, when you get a nice chunk of plot and a little sense of satisfaction for seeing it through? Nope. Not me. In fact, I can think of two games that I have finished in recent memory, and one of them is a “casual” PopCap title. (Plants vs. Zombies, to be precise.) The other game is Portal, which is widely considered to be both very good and very short.

This means that just in the last year I have managed to play and yet NOT finish Fallout 3, Dragon Age: Origins, Borderlands, Mass Effect, Zuma’s Revenge, and Torchlight. I enjoyed all those games! A few of them even consumed all my spare time for weeks, and then something happened, I wandered away from the computer for a bit, and I’ve never loaded the game up again. So what is it? Why am I incapable of finishing games?

I Like to Watch
I am one of the (apparently few) people who genuinely enjoy watching someone play a game. I’m not an entirely passive viewer, but more of a navigator, like the dude in the passenger seat during a rally race. I mentally keep track of quests, look up walkthroughs and spoilers (but withhold the information until requested!), help with directions, give opinions. I also like seeing the plot advance, and admire other people’s elegant gameplay.

Being a constant gameplay companion gives me a good 75% of the satisfaction I would get if I completed the game myself. Did I actually finish Parasite Eve or San Andreas? No, but I was the dude with the map, guiding the person at the controls when there was a sharp turn coming up.

I Don’t Like to Die
In games, dying happens a lot. It’s a constant in almost every game ever made, and the foundation of the worshiped save/load game features. Unfortunately, I generally hate to die. Sometimes I love my RPG character too much and feel bad about getting her killed, while other times the game just seems to be mocking me.

The exception to this rule is World of Warcraft. For some reason while dying all by myself makes me feel like a loser, leading 24 other people to their imminent demise is just good clean fun.

The Medium is the Fun Bit
I think at the end of the day I enjoy learning HOW to play a game just as much as playing it successfully. (Thus far I’ve spent more time reading up on Mass Effect gameplay than actually playing.) Show me a game that has its own jargon, an indecipherable UI, and a bit of strategy, and I will show you a happy Jessica. Once I’ve mastered the how and why of a game, though, and my interest tends to wane quickly. Blah blah more of the same and then there’s probably a boss fight and you probably save the world. I could do that, or I could continue to research optimal builds! And god help me if a game has its own wiki. Seriously.

I prefer to call this “interested in systems” rather than “has terrifyingly short attention span”, and I’d appreciate it if you would as well.

You would think I would have learned something of a lesson — or at least become more self-aware — after writing this post lamenting my inability to finish a game. In actual fact, the whole reason I took the time to write is because Mass Effect 2 is downloading in the background as I type. I put a huge 10 hours or so in on ME classic, but now I want shiny graphics and updated interfaces, and new stat weight systems to pour over. I’m totally going to finish this one though. For real! I mean it.

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Feb 15 2010

buzz links and olympic photos

Google has worked really hard over the last week to fix their original privacy implementation, and in my opinion it’s much improved now. There are still issues, but it’s less scary than it was, particularly for new users.

My new Buzz issue is how to find new people to follow, and of course how new people will find and follow me. I mean, I have my dozen or so friends and family reading my buzzez, but how do I move beyond that? Are there people buzzing about the Vancouver Olympics right now? Can I find them?

I understand that Twitter has critical user mass, but it was pretty invaluable for this Olympics junkie all weekend. Event updates, opinion pieces — I was even easily able to find a few fellow Vancouverites and follow them for news from around the city. Perhaps I can do that in Google Buzz too, but it wasn’t immediately evident to me how so I just stuck with the tried and true option.

It’s unfortunate, because I adore the content-sharing features of Buzz. Being able to post simple links with a few lines of commentary and a photo (possibly right out of Reader) has revitalized my internet reading habits. So anyway, until I figure out the sharing and self-promotion aspects of Buzz, I’m going to do a weekly digest of my links here:

Sneak Peek of the Opening Ceremony Fireworks
I missed these (I’m on the wrong side of the city), but they look spectacular.
 buzz links and olympic photos olympicsfireworks1 100209 MD buzz links and olympic photos

Google Buzz Surpasses 9 Million Comments
And they all said, “What the hell is this crap in my Gmail?”

Vancouver 2010 Vectorial Elevation
Vectorial Elevation is apparently another way of saying “pretty lights”. Anyway, these photos are beautiful.
 buzz links and olympic photos

How to Store and Organize Cats
Such a tidy cat storage unit.
 buzz links and olympic photos

Hello Kitty Pinhead Tattoo
Oh yeah, this was a good idea.
 buzz links and olympic photos

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Vancouver is a wild party right now, with lots to see and do. I have already written a ton on the Twitter about the Olympics, and the first round of photos from this weekend are up. A few will appear below, but there’s more to come over the next 13 days!

Rogue pin traders are set up all along the streets.
Rogue pin traders are set up all along the streets.
Granville Street is one big party.
Granville Street is one big party.
Dude had a sign that said "Spandy Andy". I didn't stick around to see his busker skill.
Dude had a sign that said "Spandy Andy". I didn’t stick around to see his busker skill.
The Olympic cauldron is behind an ugly fence. Underwhelming.
The Olympic cauldron is behind an ugly fence. Underwhelming.

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Feb 11 2010

what’s up with google buzz?

I love Google. I really do. My quality of life would be so much more poor without them and their awesome Internet tools. I use Gmail and Reader and Docs and Picasa and News every day of my life, pretty much, not to mention, you know, internet searches. And I love Social Media! Sometimes we fight, but at the end of the day I’m actually quite fond of Twitter and Digg and other similar sites. I hate Facebook, sure, but I still appreciate the fact that it exists.

So in theory, I should be over the moon at the release of Google Buzz, the new Google-driven Social Media tool.

In practice… it’s not bad. It’s hard to tell how the service is going to shape up over time, but the immediate integration with almost all my other Google applications is really powerful. The interface is kind of ishy, particularly for comments, and at the end of the day it all pretty strongly resembles FriendFeed. The key at this point, I suspect, is hitting a critical mass of users. If anyone can do it, Google can.

Anyway, my pros and cons of Google Buzz after using it for a day:

CONS

  1. Every time someone that I am following posts or comments, I get both a Google Buzz notification and a new email about it. This double notification will, over time, make me insane.
  2. The comments interface is ugly. Google seems to want to emphasize interactivity with buzzes, but the comments are unthreaded and by design just seem to be piled haphazardly into a big white space.
  3. Google is notorious for locking their tools away in a box where the rest of the internet can’t get to them, and I’m afraid I see that happening with Buzz. I think it’s great that you can connect other non-Google accounts such as Twitter right away, but the lack of RSS feeds makes me nervous. Without them, my Buzz is a lot less interesting and useful.
  4. This is the big one: Google Profile Issues. On Facebook, I am “friends” with close friends, immediate family, remote family, ex-colleagues, my old high school class, and so on. The result of this huge social network is that I NEVER post anything to Facebook. What could I possibly put in my status that would appeal to such a diverse group? I get flustered just thinking about it.Buzz is tied to one’s email account. I use my email account for chatting with friends, sending resumes, catching up with family, and as a way to store information (train tickets, online purchase receipts, bills, etc). There are a lot of “personnas” embodied in one email address, and that works perfectly for email. Attach a social networking component, however, and these personnas get jumbled together. Should I aim my Google Profile and associated Buzz at potential employers, or my best friends? Ahhhh!

PROS

  1. Buzz is integrated into Gmail. I love this so much, because I am on Gmail almost constantly. More importantly, almost everyone I know has a Gmail account so there’s a pretty huge pool of potential Buzz users, even right from the first minute it came online.
  2. The mobile features are really neat, combining the status posting of Twitter with the location awareness of FourSquare, all in a delicious Google shell.
  3. Buzz, as opposed to Twitter, is much better designed for sharing links. Way back in the day the first few generations of weblogs focused on sharing links to cool things found elsewhere on the Internet. That emphasis on content has fallen by the wayside a bit with Twitter and Tumblr and modern weblogs (mine included!). Buzz has some really nice link- and content-sharing features which brings that back into the forefront. No tiny URLs, lots of room to comment, and easy image sharing makes for the best social link-sharing platform that I’ve seen in a long time.

I’m still not sure what role Buzz will take in the long run for most people. If it were anyone but Google I would probably be predicting its slow demise, but rolling it out to millions of Gmail users could just be the hook it neesd to thrive in an increasingly packed Social Media scene.

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Feb 08 2010

blurry dystopia (short post)

Hello! Two things:

1) I got another article posted! I was paid .05 per word to write a first person account of some of the Olympic changes in Vancouver. My article is titled “Vancouver Waterfront Security Looks Good for 2010 Winter Olympics“, but could be otherwise known as “Things I Can See From My Window”. Note I included an incredibly amateur photograph taken from my deck, which they chose to publish. Dammit, Jim, I’m .. kind of a writer, not a digital imagery photo dude.

2) Here is a neat link (I know! A link! Go fig!): Top 50 Dystopian Movies of All Time. Over New Year’s Eve a friend mentioned that we are actually living in the dystopian future that we’ve all been worrying about. It seemed pretty profound at the time, although perhaps the copious amount of free blue booze I had been drinking contributed to that impression. However, upon sober reflection, I think there might be something to it. I’m framing a big essay-ish post about this all which I will likely never finish, but in the meantime here’s a little research. I’ve seen 32 of these movies. How about you?

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Feb 01 2010

the frogurt is also cursed

Reasons I am stressing out:

  • The only job on Craigslist all weekend was for a ‘native speaker of Albanian’.
  • Bills, bills, bills.
  • Approximately 80% of my food consumption for the past few days has been Corn Pops. Not, I should hasten to add, because of any horrible financial restrictions, but more because Corn Pops are delicious. I wish I was eating them right now. I’m high on sugar like an 8 year old at their first birthday party. (I only remember my first neighborhood birthday party because I came home and immediately barfed up vivid orange sherbet everywhere.)
  • My little hobby group and social scene has been all pear-shaped lately.
  • In a month I’m shepherding a group of about 17 people around Las Vegas for 3 nights. It’s going to be fun, but for now I need reservations, phone lists, plans, names, and pair of comfy shoes.
  • I dropped my iPhone. It slid off my lap onto a hard surface. While it still works, the front cover is all cracked and chipped and oooooooooh I am so sad now. I loved my iPhone like it was the chatty, slightly bloated child I never had.

Good things about today:

  • I am wearing very comfortable pants.
  • There are Olympic Things going on! I can see a new security checkpoint for the convention center from my window. All traffic gets stopped in the road and then has to go through some temporary tents where they’re checked for bombs or weapons or alien DNA or something. I feel a bit like James Stewart in Rear Window, except instead of a broken leg I just have bedhair and it’s kind of cold outside.

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