June 29, 2011

Opening door for video games

Yay a day off work!  Now I can talk about something that happened a couple days ago.

If you haven't heard, the United States' Supreme Court overturned a law in California banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minors.  Under what grounds?  Free speech.

We can think of this as a big step in the video game industry.  First of all, one of the three branches of the U.S. government recognizes video games as free speech.  This is akin to broadcasting, journalism, and art.  ART people!  It helps in that argument, that video games are an expression of ideals and feelings, not just a mindless entertainment box (thought there's nothing wrong with those either).

Also, although for certain things there will be appeals and ignorance to the law, there will be some arguments stifled by this.  There is nothing illegal about a violent video game, no matter how you feel about how immoral they can be.  It's not akin to committing murder or rape, it's a medium that is experienced as a cerebral experience.  Consumers must protective themselves from mediums they don't like to view, not the government doing constant surveillance or monitoring.

This doesn't mean that video games are home free.  We do need to have more games that are thoughtful, artful, and make the players engaged intellectually.  Because even if the Supreme Court says something is protected by freedom of speech doesn't mean that people will take it one hundred percent seriously.  Hopefully, developers, big and small, can produce something that will captivate people with something more substantial and lasting than overworked spectacle.  Prove it, industry!

June 25, 2011

Burnout: When the paying job doesn't pay enough

This week has become a stressful week for me at work.  I have come home so tired somedays that in the middle of doing something on the couch I will fall asleep for an hour.  This is not normal.  I think last night I got 12 hours of sleep and my body doesn't feel any worse from it.  Yikes.  It's a combination of the brain power, social interaction and physical exertion of this job.  Also dealing with interesting management and an understaffed office.

Mystic has had overtime at work too, so we unfortunately have to delay our podcast for a week.  However,  I'm hoping that soon I'll have tons of stuff to write and podcast about when I can recover.

In the meanitime I wanted to link you guys to a cracked article that shows my fears are about the be realized: 6 Shocking Ways Robots Are Already Becoming Human.

Nothing against robots, but if they become their own sentient race with their own rights that going to get messy.  Let's hope Asimov's 3 laws of robotics staves anything like that off.

And now I get ready to go to work, and then LARP, and then hopefully I will not pass out.  Later, readers!

June 19, 2011

Ode To Father

It's father's day, and usually I don't talk about my dad on this blog, but to be honest he is an undercover intellectual.  I feel like a lot of the time I talk about my mom, since she's the one where I get my overt nerdiness from, and raised me on Star Trek and Asimov.  But my dad definitely helped.  I also don't write about him enough.  My mom's life has inspired a lot of fiction, a lot of it I loved writing, but I would have to write a cerebral 1,000 page novel to capture.  That is a task that may have to wait when I am more seasoned.  But he helped me become who I am in a lot of ways.

One of the things that I will always remember of him is how if I didn't know the answer to a question, he would make me look it up.  Before the days of wikipedia and google, we had an encyclopedia set my parents bought from the year I was born.  I would ask questions and my dad would tell me to look it up.  That's how I learned what a spleen was, and I think where some different countries were as well.

In fact, one year I visited his side of the family in Maryland, and on the road trip over I asked "Hey Dad, why are toll roads called turnpikes?"
"I don't know."
A day later, driving in the car with my grandparents and cousins, I hear him ask, "Dad, do you know why tollways are called turnpikes?"
"Why, no I don't."
Immediately after that trip to food or wherever, they looked it up on a visual thesaurus.  Turns out turnpikes were a way to make sure people paid the toll way back in the day.  And they printed out the info and gave it to me.

My dad was also willing to let me try new stuff, and quit stuff I didn't like.  He let me know it was okay for me to stop taking french in college, even though it was his major.  He took me fossil hunting once when I was in third grade just because I was super curious.  He even let me try a sip of Wild Turkey when I was about seven, just enough to know I would never ever ever want to drink it again.

Still haven't touched it, and I've been legal.

He also trusted I was smart and relatively mature for my age.  He and my mom let me join in on adult conversations when I was younger, and I learned a lot on how to converse effectively with people by starting early.  He also trusted that I would learn to be better at things, so he never let me "just win" anything when I was younger.  Chess, Scrabble, Monopoly--even my Magic the Gathering starter set was not safe!  He was a master strategiest and wanted me to learn by seeing how an adult plays.  I do think he can kick my butt in half of those games, but maybe not as easily as it was then.

Finally, he is one of the bravest people I know.  He doesn't fear death.  Not in the climbing-mountains-daredevil way, not in the peace-with-his-god way, but literally no fear in not existing.  My dad believes, honestly and truly, that nonexistence is what is waiting for him, and he is at peace with it.

He is ready to boldly go where no one has gone back.

June 17, 2011

I love my library!

I finally got to my local library, and oh man isn't it a fantastic library.  The thing that has me most excited is the fact that it has a HUGE nonfiction section.  I couldn't stop grinning as the woman who gave me my card explained to me what I can check out and what was where in the library.

Audiovisual area is pretty big, and the fiction area had me accidentally meander into the Scifi area.  Deliciousness.  But the Nonfiction... yeah I think in 2 minutes I grabbed 2 books and then decided I couldn't continue at that rate and checked them out.

In hopes actually reading these books, I'm going to mention them here and you, my dear readers, should bug me to update you on what I thought.  Or not.  I can't really give you homework, but forcing me to read more books would be great!

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
One of those authors I'm told time and time again that I should read.  Considering the main character has a problem I think I could relate to, I'm interested to see what Butler does with hyperempathy as a built in character flaw.

The "S" Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism by John Nichols
As a liberal and an economics major (a pairing that rarely goes hand in hand) I'm really interested to see a historical take on socialism in America.  More for the economics, though, because I want to see if there's any focus on unsuccessful ventures as well.

Beyond Boundaries by Miguel Nicolelis
I got it for the subtitle.  "The new neuroscience of connecting brains with machines--and how it will change our lives."  Basically the infant stages of a cyborg race.  Why not read about it before we become the borg?

Wish me luck reading!  I'm hoping I can finish these by the time the books are due.

June 15, 2011

The Nerd Couple, Episode Five

We're sorry it's late again, but super duper editing had to be done, so here it is!

Every other week, hear the discussions of The Nerd Couple, starring d20 Sapphire and Mystic.  They discuss geeky news and topics, and approach it from our unique nerd upbringings.

This week: We diverge from our usual format to bring our E3 extravaganza.  Watching everything from the comfort of home, we tell you what we think about the big three presentations, and all the games that are coming out.  What are we excited for?  Who sucks at presenting?  And for once, Mystic and d20 Sapphire totally disagree on something! 

Special thanks to EsTeeKay of Binary Protege Productions for supplying the intro music, and for promising us video game remixes in the future. (Yep, still bugging him.  Help me pester him!)

Also thanks to Saki Kaska for making the song at the end of our podcast, Callista, which many have heard from the the Mass Effect 2 soundtrack.  Saki Kaska, if you see this, please link me to your site so more people can appreciate your awesome from the direct source.

Email d20sapphire@gmail.com for topic suggestions and feedback!  The Nerd Couple would love to hear from you.

P.S. please forgive our random cheap mic noises, we're getting our original mic back soon!

June 13, 2011

Things to consider in writing sci-fi.

Recently the ideas that sprang from the DeWitt in Titania have been coming back, not necessarily with the same focus or main character, but with the same ideas that were whirling through my head.  I'm realizing what was running through my head wasn't necessarily clear in that little tidbit, but there's a lot of stuff.  And surprisingly, a lot of it are necessary answer to questions.  Here are somethings that you should think of in your sci-fi setting.  And yes, totally feel free to add in the comments.

Even if not set in this universe, you have to figure out how far in the "future" the technology is.  Have we mastered space colonization?  Long distance travelling?  What is the next evolution for the internet?  Cell phones?  Entertainment?  If it's recent, you may want to look at what people predict for the next ten, twenty or fifty years.  When you go significantly past that, it's easier to be a bit more creative.  I would still suggest research what tech people are researching now, but expanding on that sometimes is great inspiration.

With a lot universes, this means Earth, but for any story setting every people has a place of origin.  Is it still where they stay?  Does it still exist?  Do they even remember it?  That last one was a great premise I first saw from Asimov.  But it's important to know what happened to the biological home.   If you're not traversing space in the story, it's important to know how the world started and how the tech has changed the world, for the better or worse.

Even if you're staying on one planet, even if there are no extra-terrestrial beings, you have to decide what the origins and values are of the race you're writing about.  And if there's more than one, what's the relationship?  Sometimes looking at the historical relationship of neighboring countries is great inspiration.  Also looking at different cultures throughout the world, maybe even further back in the past when globalization was less present, and people were more isolated.

If it's a story that doesn't need to be set in the future, do not write it in the future.  The same can be said for adding extra tech or extra species.  The setting has to enhance the story, and if it doesn't just keep it in modern times or historical fiction.  Sci-fi doesn't make things extra exciting by merely being in space or in the future.  It takes elements of the story that already exist and reveals them in a new light.

June 9, 2011

You can't "win" at E3.

It's a little tiff that's getting me late at night but the more I think about it, the more annoyed I am that we have to declare a "winner" for E3 anytime someone talks about it.

For those of you who are out of the loop on this tradition, after the conferences of the "Big Three" (Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo), every gaming new sources discusses and asks the public who "won" the conference.  Who is the company who is better than the other two?

I say this whole premise is bull.

Now, I say that possibly deciding on my podcast later this week that someone has "won" the conference, but note that with all sincerity I know there is never an actual winner at E3.  It's like Charlie Sheen winning--it means absolutely nothing.  It's merely immediate impressions.

Why can't someone win?   Because in reality there no actual competition of sales between the Big Three at the conference.  Sure, they're competing to have some of the best advertising, but at the conference that's it.  Who's got the better booths, presentations and business plans for investors?  That's what's being decided.  After the conference or outside the conference, where sales drive the growth of a company, that when a winner is decided.  And nine times out of ten, that's determined months or even years down the line, when you see sales and how the electronic entertainment industry has changed.  We can't figure out if there is going to be substantial success for Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo just yet.

That's not to discredit E3 entirely.  It still is vital to the industry.  It is a great way to excite the fan bases these heavyweights already have, and it's also an essential tool to keep investors interested in the products.  Technology has to continuously evolve, and tech for entertainment has to show how these progressions are going to be fun. You can't just put a console on a toy shelf and put out some commercials to get sales.  Especially with the new innovations like touch screens and new controller interfaces. 

But no one wins E3.  Yes, you can do better than your competition, but E3 will not decide whether your not you're the company to beat.

June 7, 2011

Comments on Nintendo's E3 Conference

Check out the podcast later for more thoughts.

-I love Zelda, but this is taking a while.... eh I'll shut up.

-Miyamoto!  I'll wash your feet with my hair!

-Already more entertaining than the other one. Not a lot of info though.

-I guess they know Skyward Sword wouldn't work for the presentation.  They learned from last year.

-Iwata needs to grow his hair out, he looked better last year.

-Deeper and wider: LIKE YOUR MOM.  *ahem*


-First word stumble, better than Sony.

-Alright, Mariokart is just different enough.

-Yay! Something substantial on the 3DS.

-Tanooki suit forever!

-Multiplayer?  In my Icarus?!?!

-Luigi's Mansion 2 should be renamed Underwhelmington.

-The pokemon concept is pretty cool

-WEEEEEEEYUUUUUUUU!  It's fun to say!

-It's a console! *smack* It's a handheld! *smack* Console! *smack* Handheld! *smack*

-You said Super Smash Bros.  I've instantly cum in my pants.

-Delicious graphics, you haters stop hatin' now.

-Can you only use one WiiU controller at a time?

-ARKAHM CITY YEAH!  I came in my pants again.  I need new pants.

-NINJA GAIDEN!  I need a shower.

-Sad thing is I won't play half of these, they're just simply awesome.

June 6, 2011

Comments on Sony's E3 Conference

Joined near the end of the presentation, but I will go back later to watch the rest and edit this post.

UPDATE:  Thanks internet for posting that fast!  Now with the whole conference being commented on.  Again for full commentary, The Nerd Couple Podcast is where it will live later this week.

-Thank you for addressing the obvious issue instead of ignoring it.  We thank you for it Sony.

-Though, we prefer to be called fans and loyals than just "consumers".

-Yeah, getting hulu and netflix was a super smart move.

-I love how Uncharted is never looking the same as the last one.  Good job Naughty Dog.

-Outrun that water!

-Still using the glasses for 3D?  Lame!

-Resistance 3 dude needs to stop sucking at presenting

-PlayStation's presentation is just as boring as last year... yuck.

-3D in college is just going to increase ingestion of illicit drugs.

-DELICIOUS split screen without the split screen.

-Ladies and gentlemen, an NBA player who cheated on his wife!

-Medieval flay-your-wii2.0 around.  More accurate and responsive than the Kinect though.

-I'm old school, I like my inventory system.

-Can no one speak for this conference?  Holy crap more stutters than a studebaker in quicksand.

-Also, do you always need to use numbers?

-Yay Sly Cooper!

(... more when d20 Saphirre won't fall asleep on the presentation.  Which after a couple tries, seems to be never.)

-Video feed of your handheld is not suggested

- So it is called Vita... I would prefer vitae.

-TOO MANY TOUCHSCREENS.  I personally am too clumsy for that.

-You sure you want to marry anything to the Playstation Network?  She seems a fickle bride.

Comments on Microsoft's E3 Conference

I won't be saying too much of what I think of everything because the Nerd Couple Podcast will cover it, but I don't want you to be denied of my opinion until Sunday.  So here are some thoughts about the presentation as I watch it as I relax after work.

-Slow intro, took forever for me to get excited about shooting things, and that should not be an issue.

-Tomb Raider or Heavy Rain?

-Yay ME3!  What a preview should be.

-Guns are cool, making guns... cooler?

-Pay-Per-View on XBox, not surprised

-Gear of War didn't define shit, liar.

-No physical exertion please!

-That racing game music totally makes me sad for King Crimson

-NYAH!  That's all I know of Fable right now. And horses.

-So I can vacation at home?  This much closer to Surrogates becoming a reality.

-Never call out a fist bump little one, never.

-These games are looking too easy on Kinect.


-Okay the avatar stuff is kinda cool.

-So you have to know how to golf to play video game golf?

-Like they were ever going to stop making Halo Games.  Nice little taste though.

June 3, 2011

Lazy Sunday: Nimoy Version

This is Leonard Nimoy improving upon the original Lazy Sunday music video with his own: