Let It Go – A Modest Proposal

I gave this presentation as part of a series of microtalks for the Austin IGDA chapter in 2014. Just found it and realized I never posted it here, so enjoy!

I am here to propose a simple heresy for online game developers.
But first, some background.
Online games are really profitable.
They’re not as trendy as they were a few years ago, and there have been some very high profile failures, but still they are very, very profitable.
They are that way for one simple reason – people pay to continue playing.
Sometimes through subscriptions, more often lately through free to play, which means micro transactions, which means the guy killing you with a sword made out of sentient radioactive meat paid for your being there to be killed. With a glowing meat sword.
But when you have people paying every month for the privilege of killing other people with intelligent scimitars made of ham, you no longer have the luxury of making a great game and handing it to someone, and saying “Here. I give this, the boon of my efforts, to you.”
Instead, you have a customer, and a customer who has a monthly expectation of things that you deliver in return for his money, or his being so kind as to be killed by a wealthy patron that gives you, the developer, money for his giant sword of meat.
And one key problem is that online games tend to be a closed loop. After the initial explosion of NEW! SHINY!…
…it’s really hard, and really expensive, to find new customers to replace the ones you lose. And you will lose customers. You’ll lose a lot of customers.
Some people won’t want to ever give you money, simply because telling the Internet your credit card number is not always a good idea.
Some people simply won’t like your game at all and stop playing.
On one game I worked on, our metrics determined that some customers purchased the game in a store (this was how you bought games back in the dark ages), set up an account to play the game, installed it, logged in at least once, got to the character creation screen…
…and said… NOPE. And never got any further. Ever.
But getting new customers to replace the ones you lose is expensive. So the key directive for live teams in online games becomes retention. The prevailing wisdom is that retention is the most cost-effective way of keeping a healthy customer base. Don’t lose people! Keep them as long as possible!
But here’s the thing. People play online games for years. YEARS. There are people still playing Ultima Online that were when it launched.
They have been playing the same game for over 15 years.
Someone played the same game of Civilization II for 10 years and it turned into a, and I quote, a “hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation, where the polar ice caps have melted more than 20 years due to global warming, dozens of nuclear wars have rendered much of the world uninhabitable, and endless warfare makes it impossible to rebuild”.
And that was after 10 years. People have been playing UO for 15.
And after you play a game for years, you get tired of it. That’s normal. That’s expected. You have gotten a lot of return for your investment.  You’ve conquered the commanding heights of the game (because it’s assured that you do, because the secret of success of online games is that it is a simple trade of investment in time for tangible reward). And… you’re done.
And it’s hard for some people to admit that they’re done, after years and years, and it’s even more hard for online game developers to admit that, hey, maybe it’s OK to let people go. Because when people don’t want to admit that they’re done, they’re BITTER.
They grief other players in the game out of boredom, because they’ve DONE everything else.
They’ve gone through all your content, and you can’t make more because most of the team got laid off in cutbacks last year.
They post angry articles on your message board, because they KNOW they know the game better than the developers do. And they usually do. Lord knows they’ve spent more time in the game.
What makes them so bitter is that they WANT to keep playing. They want the game to last forever. They aren’t there for the game any more, though they most of the time won’t want to admit it, or even really know how.
They’re there for the social connections that they’ve made, the raid nights and the guild chat and the time when they all met at a bar in Chicago…

…and did you know RolfSlaughter and AngerManagementIssues got engaged last month after Rolf found out Anger was actually a twenty something young woman that time on voice chat last year?

If you can’t keep them playing and happy, you are responsible for a failed marriage. Well, most likely several thousand but still.
Remember, people are still playing UO 15 years later. They do it because they still enjoy it. Because at this point it’s no longer the developer’s experience, it’s their experience.  It’s the simple joy of the friendships they’ve made, the social compact they’ve formed, the fun that comes from when you buy a cat $100 worth of toys and she plays with the box instead.
It’s OK if the cat plays with the box. It’s OK if players find their own fun.
And they really resent it when that fun train leaves the station, almost always because the guild broke up over the four other guys who had a crush on AngerManagementIssues…
…and when that stops the player is left with the actual game that they got bored with two years ago.
And they’re not happy. But they’re paying you for that actual game. That they don’t really want, any more.
At this point, this is where we tend to fail our customers. We don’t have a GAME OVER screen, because why would we? We like money!
We don’t have an exit strategy for when people are simply done playing. We don’t know how to let people go. We have made vague stabs at trying to increase retention through making guilds attractive, and all that does is make it so guilds have a reason to invite thousands of members and make them useless as social compacts.
We really don’t understand the whole cats playing with a box thing.
We’re used to telling stories and making really nifty experiences, and we aren’t comfortable with stepping back and saying “we’re done. And maybe at this point you’re done, too.”
But at this point I would ask, why are you really here.
Are you here to just make a lot of money? (There are easier ways)
Or are you here because game development is one of the most unique forms of crafting entertainment that exists, and because you want to share that entertainment, that joy, with people.
My simple heresy that I would like to propose for online game development is this: we should be comfortable with customers leaving. For the right reasons, not because we messed up a patch and destroyed all their characters, but because they’ve played the game, they’ve had fun, and they’re done, and ready for our next game.
We have to let people go.
It’s OK to let them go.
1,284 Words

Star Trekkin’ Across The Fanboyverse

Star Trekkin’ across the universe,
On the Starship Enterprise under Captain Kirk.
Star Trekkin’ across the universe,
Only going forward, and things are getting worse!

  — “Star Trekkin'”, Dr. Demento

teH tlhInganpu’ pIm!

I *really* like Star Trek. As a kid I watched the original series in endless syndication, went to all the movies when they first came out in the theater. Best memory from that: during “The Undiscovered Country” when Spock made a reference to “his ancestor” and then quoted Sherlock Holmes, at which point a VERY ANGRY fan near me shouted “BUT SHERLOCK HOLMES IS A FICTIONAL CHARACTER!!!”

I have some favorites (TNG: “Chains of Command”, “The Inner Light”, ENT: the Surak/Syrannite story arc, almost any random episode of DS9) and some not so much (the first season of TNG, very little of TOS holds up in retrospect, almost the entirety of VOY) but it’s safe enough to say I have enough fanboy credentials that I just wrote the previous paragraph using three letter acronyms for every incarnation of the series without explaining a thing. So, yeah.

I watched the new Star Trek (with the tremendously unfortunate acronym STD) last night. It was… pretty good! I liked it. There were parts where I cringed (mainly the unfortunate new Klingon revamp – it wasn’t necessary, it seemed like change for the sake of change) and parts where I cheered (where the fish-out-of-water first officer raised on Vulcan told the mansplaining Admiral Hologram “hi, race does not imply culture, thank you drive through” and I’m pretty sure every geek of color threw their fist up at that exact moment) but overall… it was Star Trek. Admittedly it was DARK Star Trek. Like, 4th season Deep Space Nine, not happy-go-lucky traipsing-around-the-universe TNG or TOS Trek. This is where Shit Is Going Down And People Are Gonna Die Star Trek. Which is part of the mythos – Star Trek has MULTIPLE wars in its canon. And this explains the beginning of one of the most crucial… the Federation-Klingon war.

Ironically, up until now, the best depiction of that was fan-created – a fan film which CBS (for now very obvious reasons) shut down. It’s worth a look, especially if you’re a Trek fan – it’s done with love for the mythos and the culture, and it fits in the timeline. And watching the first two episodes of Discovery… you can see where it fits in.

(Yes.. that is a fan film. You can see VERY quickly why CBS sued them into not making a full film. It would have been competition with the series.)

But, yes, Discovery, at least for what we’ve seen so far, isn’t “let’s go across the universe and fight crimes and eat sushi” adventures. It’s war and death and consequences. It’s serious. It’s currently on a cliffhanger where it could plausibly just end right there and we’d be… well, yep. Everything is horrible. (I presume it will look up shortly, if for no other reason than that there are about 5 more episodes left in the season.)

But it’s a product of our time. And that is what, I think, offends a lot of people.

First off, it’s not going to be your expectation of a science fiction series. It began with two leads who were women and not white, and apparently that disturbed people. It didn’t disturb actual Trek fans, because in the age of Star Trek we got past judging people based on skin color or orientation or gender or ethnic grouping because FULLY AUTOMATED GAY SPACE COMMUNISM, but hey, clearly in 2017 it apparently still matters. But it shouldn’t, because you had a really strong actress who is going to be the linchpin of the series who is by NO means Gene Roddenberry approved (hint: by the second episode she’s serving a life sentence for mutiny) and you also had Michelle Fucking Yeoh who is, well, Michelle Fucking Yeoh. If you need someone’s arse kicked, she’s there for you, and she was there in this case as well, as someone who really did not WANT to be a warrior but if you’re going to do this, well then, let’s go.

If you are wondering what this has to do with gender or race or anything else, you’re right there with me, because I was just enjoying the show. And it was a good one. Despite the Klingon revamp visually (which I still hate… what can be more fearsome than late-TNG Worf? COME ON, PEOPLE) what I adored and loved was the world-building about the Klingon society and why they went to war with the Federation. I won’t spoil the beats, because there are some good ones and you’ll see them and go “…oh. OK.”.  It’s worth watching for that.

The one thing I WILL spoil is that this series makes the Klingons unapologetically 100% straight up blood and soil ethnic purity racist. That… that has consequence. That has resonance. Given the current climate, it plants a clear stake.  CBS has tried to back away from it, but the story stands for itself. T’kuvmah’s chant is “Make Q’onos Great Again Remain Klingon”. They specifically condemn the Federation for race-mixing. The Klingons are straight-up no-shit unapologetic Space Nazis. And in today’s environment… that is a hell of a statement. It’s not one you can disavow. It has consequences.

This is science fiction at its most relevant. At its most ballsy (to use an unfortunately gendered term). It is taking risks.

And, online, it’s suffering for it.

the main protagonist couldn’t be more unlikable if they had her kill a baby in her first scene

I just want a star trek show about exploration. Is that too much to ask?

I also hate how grim dark the Klingons turned out to be. Yes, they are a scary warrior race, but they also knew how to party.

Here you have a captain who is not in control of an unstable first officer, let alone the ship. Both of whom leave the bridge during a face-off with a known hostile alien race to discuss orders the captain received from Starfleet. That’s not the way it works and it has a terrible impact on a crew.

And the one online comment that set me off and made me literally log off the internet for a day:

Too bad about “Star Trek:Estrogen” though

REALLY. You call yourself a Trek fan, and you’re upset because the leads don’t have a penis. Well, OK then. I’m sure Seth McFarlane has a TV series queued up… oh wait! He does, actually! And… it’s trying to be a serious Trek successor? OK then.

So here’s where I give you a mea culpa. I haven’t actually watched “The Orville”, for the same reason you may not have watched “Star Trek: Discovery”. Specifically, I don’t want to watch the bro-approved Star Trek imitation, which from everything I’m reading is the target audience. I might have tuned in if it was played strictly as a comedy.. but for some crazy reason it isn’t! Apparently McFarlane literally wants to be a Star Trek star, so, well, he is now. There you go. And they’re going to do serious examinations of social issues along with the occasional joke about breasts.

I’m sure I’ll watch an episode or two eventually; people whose opinion I trust in such things have the reaction “it… doesn’t completely suck! My expectations were exceeded!” But I’ll have to get past the MANOSPHERE which fills up every comment thread on the internet about the new Star Trek series with nitpicking to ludicrous extremes to hide the fact that they don’t actually like a black woman being the new Captain Kirk, and ending always with the coda “the REAL new Star Trek is “The Orville”.”

That’s a hell of a thing to make up for. Even without Seth McFarlane.

1,324 Words

The Failure of the Status Quo

I’ve been reading Hillary Clinton’s latest this weekend.  It’s quite an interesting read, both for what it says and for how everyone reacts to it.

First, the reaction. There was the insta-reaction, from leaked early copies, that immediately played up where she complained that Bernie Sanders had the temerity to run for office. This was a small part of the book, but her interviews on her book tour this past week indicate it’s not such a small part of her memory. There’s some irony here given the drama at the 2008 Democratic convention, where Clinton played the part of Sanders and “HillaryIs44” played the part of “BernieBros”, but re-litigating the primaries is, again, a very small part of the book.  (After all, there was the small matter of Donald Trump.) A great many reviews from the left side of the aisle have a difficult time getting past this. But I don’t think that’s really the larger point here.

Clinton is, to put it mildly, not particularly happy with the way the general election turned out (neither am I) and some of her rawest writing comes through when The Donald pops up. She points out, justifiably, how howlingly unfair a double standard she was held to, where her every phrase was parsed for meaning, subtext, and emotional honesty while Trump had a difficult time using sentences with vowels. She also points out, to a punishing and accurate degree, how much gender still played a factor in her treatment, both by the media and by the electorate (if nothing else, when a tape is found of a candidate bragging about being a sexual predator and that candidate is still elected, we have a few issues), which contributed to the sense that the entire election was Clinton’s Kobayashi Maru – at every point she was expected not to be the equal of her opponent, but perfect, to the point where a head cold turns into a conspiracy theory.

And yet, her book also makes it very clear how, in the circus of Annus Horribilis 2016, there was no way she could ever win. The Clintons of the 1990s come through many times, in some ways unintentionally (a paragraph about her longtime “housing manager” – aka house servant – is particularly jarring) and in some ways infuriatingly, such as when Clinton comes this close to proposing a Universal Basic Income system for the US based on shared returns from national resources, financial system taxes and carbon tax mandates (it even had a peppy name, “Alaska for America” based on that state’s oil revenue sharing) and then just draws back from the brink because it might be a little much.

What energizes Clinton’s fury, more than anything, is how unfair it all is. She’s the most qualified to be President – that was, literally, the reason she gave for running, and given her eventual opponent, it’s very, very difficult to disagree. Yet it drives so much of her animus with the media (which, she begins to realize, is feeding back and making her path to electoral victory that much narrower) – why don’t they realize that Trump is a joke and she isn’t? Why are they normalizing him? Why are people treating him seriously? Haven’t they listened to her? Haven’t they read her policy papers?

Or, as she put it:

And yet, people did treat him seriously – not a majority, but enough, where it counted – and here we are. Clinton failed. Which, to her credit, she admits, even if she doesn’t quite understand why.

As to why she failed, the answer, as always, depends on who you talk to – if you talk to the hard-core Trump supporters, it was because she was corrupt and Trump somehow wasn’t. (I know. I KNOW.) If you talk to Sanders supporters and points left, it was because she didn’t take risks and embrace full space communism. If you talk to Clinton supporters, it’s because James Comey is an idiot.

The real answer, in my view, is actually closer to space communism than you’d think, but a few points on the curve away – although that might be one of the eventual endings. One of the first writers who I’ve seen describe our current situation clearly is Chris Hayes, the MSNBC commentator who is basically the Lawful Good version of Tucker Carlson. As part of that, he writes decent, well thought out books – one of which is called Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy. His thesis is, essentially, that America relies on a technocratic elite to keep things running – the “adults in the room” – and for the past few decades, well, they’ve been really awful at their job.

Chris Hayes, naturally, notes the irony of his making this argument while being part of that technocratic elite. (A self awareness which for much of the time, sadly, eludes Clinton.) He drills deeper into the causes of this break – income inequality enforcing social separation, a justice system that is clearly different depending on which class you are a member of, and most critically an educational system that is designed solely to produce investment bankers and little else – and it’s hard to argue given the general state of, well, everything in American society.

Another view is from the British film maker Adam Curtis, whose film on the subject, HyperNormalisation, is readily available (and embedded below). It tries, sometimes insanely so, to find a unified theory of everything awful, to the point where Donald Trump and Hafez Assad exist in the same narrative in the 1980s. Yet Curtis’ point, at its core, is the same as Hayes’ – that, as Curtis puts it, the world became too complicated for the elites to understand, let alone run, so they, along with everyone else, retreated into a fantasy world of simplicity while everything around them collapses into chaos.

Chaos is not exactly a long-term solution. You can argue, as Clinton does, that the answer is more competence, to tinker with the edges and find common sense solutions – you can argue, as the left does, that the answer is to take steps back from our capitalist system and up-end our society since it’s fairly broken already – or you can argue, as the right does, that the answer is blood and soil.

When everyone’s a revolutionary, what’s a moderate liberal consensus builder to do? This is what I find to be the final takeaway from Clinton’s book. She tries to argue that the Obama promise, the Clinton promise is still there and still valid… that America is still “a good country, with good people,” and that the answers lie in individual responsibility – of course it does; that is the Clinton lodestone. If only everyone could find the bootstraps her housing manager helpfully left by her bedside.

What. The. Fuck.



How did we even GET HERE.

Was it that we had a black president, was that so horrible, that we had to loop around and then get a retard president just to keep things karmically in sync?

Does anyone even CARE about our government any more? Because it’s like a zombie, moving aimlessly to and fro, waiting for the headshot (give Robert Mueller time, he’s working on it).

At least we now know how epically devoid of actual coherent reasons for governance our gerrymandered-imposed Congress is. We had a sexual predator masquerading as a world leader elected to high office and they just shrugged and said “yeah, whatevs. Can we pass a corporate tax cut now please? Also, can we kill Obamacare? Because that’s our entire platform at this point.”

And yet that bit of moral vacuity is more honest than ANYTHING coming from our executive branch, which has as its apparent reason for being diverting as much money into Trump Corporation properties as possible. You might think there might be annoying brakes on that process, such as, oh, I don’t know, “laws”, but apparently not! The President, by default, literally cannot be corrupt! So we now have the most corrupt individual to hold that office, which means that we are watching immovable object vs. unstoppable force as a daily reminder of how much we fucked up in voting because Hillary’s emails.

And yes, Democrats, you failed. You need to own this. You ran a dynastic candidate against someone from Dynasty, the TV series. You lost an election that by every god-given evaluation of anything involving actual facts should have been literally and entirely impossible to lose, and I’m sure you were just as surprised as the rest of us, but unlike the rest of us, THIS WAS YOUR FUCKUP. You’re why we have a joke of a government. It’s on you.

There is so much more I can say. There is so much more that should be said. But overall what should shame you more than anything else is this one essay from Ta-Nehisi Coates, who puts forward in very open and blatant honest terms how the fuck this happened. Spoiler: because we’re racist fuckheads and we deserve this.

Sorry if you just tuned in and wanted to hear me crack jokes about Star Citizen, or Derek Smart, or really anything involving online gaming, but look. We’re in crisis mode. Our country is so fucked. We are a national joke. And the punchline is ugly.

Take our country back.

Blogging Is Hard! Domains Are Harder!

After some billing-related domain shenanigans we’re back online. Note however that I almost never post here because, um, who blogs any more? (Ignore Damion, he’s a throwback.)

Most of my ramblings can be found on Facebook which you are welcome to follow but I don’t really usually have much to say there these days either. Most of my creative writing of late is going into my day job which I think we can all say is a good thing.

I Am Become Smart, Destroyer Of Worlds. Look Upon My Flames, Ye Mighty, And Despair.

“like. can we just get on with the next decade already, because I hate this headband and want a real cell phone”

So, Derek Smart had a bad 90s. It’s OK, it was pretty bad for many of us. Creed, Shaq-Fu, Newt Gingrich, HIMEM.SYS, Donald Trump, there was just so much we prefer we would forget ever happened. In Smart’s case, it was declaring war on pretty much the entire Internet (luckily, it was much smaller then).

Time passed. We survived Y2K, al-Qaeda, Everquest, Internet Explorer 6, and many other threats to our way of life, entering a brave new era where everything is new. Derek Smart kept plugging away, working on his holy grail, which, in his case until very recently, was making you believe a battlecruiser could fly. Decades pass. Derek Smart gets older, grayer, and despite the occasional indulgence in pitying fools, finally gets public acknowledgement that one can survive one of the most notorious stories in game development and still reinvent themselves in the second act. Older, wiser, calmer.

You will find that you have much to learn, my young apprentice. About. A. Great. MANY. THINGS.

You will find that you have much to learn, my young apprentice. About. A. Great. MANY. THINGS.

Then 2015 rolled around. Welcome to Act 3.

I love this industry. An industry that, while brutal, gave me the opportunity to do something that I love, while not making it easy. I take pride in the fact that when I screw up, or fail, and fall down, I can pick myself up – and keep on running. For me, there is no shame in failure; only pride in being able to acknowledge mistakes, and to learn from them.

My article (below) which I wrote, was a result of my observation that there is another industry disaster brewing, and which is, once again, going to not only cast the industry in a poor light if we didn’t do something, but which threatens to make it that much harder for the inbound generation to find their footing, because a bunch of people who came before, pretty much made it FUBAR.

And during my research for the piece, and for which I have hundreds of web articles, forum posts etc in an Evernote notepad, I came across a lot of things that I wasn’t even aware of. And once the article went live, I started hearing from all kinds of people in media, game development, gamers etc. And the more I read, the more I came to the realization that my article, which was merely a technical wake-up call of sorts, hadn’t even touched the tip of the iceberg. Which is why I am adding this next paragraph.

If you feel that you have been misled when you backed the Star Citizen project after Oct, 2012, and you want a chance to get your money back, the FTC has setup a special department that deals with crowd-funding complaints…

Why, yes, he did go pretty much right to Defcon One, didn’t he? But this isn’t just Derek Smart, this is OLDSCHOOL Derek Smart. You guys just don’t know the kraken you released. He blew through Defcon One, hit Defcon Zero

In the interim, since this pledge by you, has ended up being the usual meaningless lip service, as of this moment, Chris, your crowd-funding efforts for this Star Citizen project, in addition to the selling of virtual items for a non-existent game, are coming to AN END.

went straight to Defcon Absolute Zero

Here’s the thing, yanking my RSI account, won’t silence me.  All you’ve done, is strengthened my resolve, and unwittingly broadcast to the world that you have something to hide by kicking me out as a backer, without warning. I am going to keep talking (podcast 1, 2) about this incessantly until we get some answers, as outlined in my Interstellar Discourse article.

And next, I’m going to take out a full page article in the NY times, just to prove it.

…and is currently threatening to go to Defcon YOUR FACE unless his demands are met. No, that is not a typo.

  1. You, and your wife, Sandra Roberts (aka Sandi Gardiner), should resign, effective immediately, and relinquish control of this company to an interim CEO.

  2. Using the same rules you used to refund my pledge, without my asking, you are to immediately process refunds in the amount of $2,134,374 as per the initial Kickstarter crowd-funding effort for those who request it. Those who want to wait to see the end (my instinct, from what I know now, is telling me that the end is looking a lot like a catastrophic total loss of this project), and funded to the tune of $83m on your website, are welcome to do that.

  3. Give backers the opportunity to hire an independent forensics accountant, and an executive producer, to audit the company records, and give an accurate picture of the financial health of the company, and it’s ability to complete, and deliver this project in a timely fashion. I hereby offer to foot the entire costs of this effort. And I will put up to $1m of my own money, in an escrow account of an attorney’s choosing, to be used as-needed for this exercise. I will pay this price to prove that I had every right to seek these answers. So this money can either go toward a good cause (righting this ship), or to attorneys who are most likely to burn it all down anyway.

  4. If you ignore this, the more time passes, the more articles that myself, and investigative media write, revealing what we know, the more likely it is that this will end in legal (someone suing someone, and opening the flood gates) action, thereby  forcing you all to come to court and answer these questions.

If anyone else was posting these demands on their blog, people at Cloud Imperium would likely cackle a few times and then keep doing, well, this.


But this is Derek Smart, who is, for all his Act 2 calm Zen Master developerness, still can occasionally be as litigious as someone who has had a legal team on retainer for the past 25 years can be. So instead, CI decided to revoke Smart’s Star Citizenship due to his being Derek Smart (oh, and threatening to bring down the entire company and demand top-level changes in corporate management and a few other things).

ci-dsMr. Lesnick, I can safely say this isn’t about Smart’s promoting Line of Defense any more. No one really can say! No one knows where this train is going to stop any more; Derek Smart is promising more updates, the media has been nibbling, and out of the 300 or so Cloud Imperium employees, I’m pretty sure one or two of them have a few things they want to get off their chest. At which point:



At any rate, this entire tale could not get more weird. It really couldn’t. Trust me, there is no way this can…

…OK, yes, it can.

You see, there’s this thing called Gamergate.

More specifically, there’s this thing called Airplay, which is a debate being run by Michael Koretzky during a Society of Professional Journalists trade show. Koretzky surveyed the landscape and decided not enough people were talking about how, actually, it was about ethics in video game journalism, and by cracky, he was going to fix that!

Specifically by having a debate between some of Gamergate’s noted ethical paragons (such as the guy who writes for Breitbart about how he hates women in tech so very much, the other guy who writes for Breitbart about how cool 4chan is, the lady scholar who gives commentary on feminism from the somewhat unique standpoint that it’s actually men who are oppressed in modern society, and the ex-journalist who flamed out and yelled at Koretzky about how racist he was for not giving Gamergate an hour to explain what it was, presumably with Powerpoints and flowcharts) and, well, hrm.

There was a distinct lack of interest in potential punching bags to show up and be punched for a day, to which the other Breitbart guy responded FINE WE DIDN’T NEED YOU ANYWAY, WE’LL JUST DEBATE OURSELVES! with no hint of perceptible irony or self-awareness.

Yes, like anything else Gamergate-involved, this quickly became so stupid that Mark Kern may actually have gotten involved. But you may ask yourself, self, why I am I reading about this crazy not-a-debate in an article about Derek Sma….

oh no.

Oh, no.



Yes, Derek Smart is going to take time out of his busy schedule demolishing Star Citizen to solve this whole Gamergate thing. I am not making any of this up at all. I AM NOT CREATIVE ENOUGH TO MAKE ANY OF THIS UP.

At this point, the only thing that can make this weirder is if Donald Trump gives a statement about crowd-funding Kickstarter game journalism. I fully expect this to happen by Wednesday.

full disclosure!

  • the author works on a crowd-funded project of his own which has nothing to do with any of this and you will note he is posting this blog article at 1:30 AM on his own time so kindly do not swarm his workplace ANY OF YOU.
  • the author has been Internet-acquaintances with Derek Smart for a good while now and has occasionally given him what he thinks is helpful advice. It’s safe to say Derek didn’t ask the author about Airplay.
  • the author knows quite a few people over at Cloud Imperium and wishes them all the best and wants a cool game for his Oculus Rift when it comes out, please.
  • the author is so old he remembers the 1990s from back when he started blogging, and often speaks in the third person.


Someday, I May Be Important Enough To Demand Fair Reply

…but until that day, Damion Schubert is tanking the Mark Kern aggro, and doing so very adeptly.

First off, let me say, without irony: welcome to the discourse, Mark. You have your own megaphone. No one is shutting you down, no one is shouting you down. I linked to your reply to Damion in the first line of this post. Your position in this foofrah is on the record and public knowledge. This is how it is supposed to work. You say things, other people say things in response, readers enjoy the interplay of ideas, *it’s all good*.

Welcome to blogging, circa 2002.



Let me start by saying, I don’t have a problem with people blocking other people on Twitter, or using a service like a block-bot to do so. If, for some reason, you came to this conclusion I’d like to apologize.

Well, thank you, Mark. In an ideal world, this would have been your entire post. And I’m glad that you recognize that most people do not particularly want to see what weird anime porn 8chan saw that week on their Twitter feed and act accordingly. The best way to solve every problem is to give people the tools and power to solve it themselves. That is the libertarian philosophy, the anarchist perogative. We rule our own roosts, we have our own castles. This is the ideal. I’m glad you recognized this fact. And in a perfect world, this blog post would have stopped… here.

It’s not over.

Another brief factual point, which Mark is correct on:

Also, Damion’s article refers largely to Randi Harper’s gg autoblocker. In my public tweets with Randi, I’ve made it quite clear that I’m not talking about her list, but rather the Atheism + list, called “theblockbot,” which is operated out of the UK and predates the gg Autoblocker. So this part of the article is factually in error and fails to address my concerns with the theblockbot.com.

And regular readers of this blog will note that this is in fact what we discussed. The issues with the UK Atheist blockbot (which are minor, but still problematic) have nothing to do with Randi Harper’s ggautoblocker, who, in case you missed it at any point, I 100% support and recommend. Randi is doing the Lord’s work, and being harassed for her pains, because, well, Internet. Do I need to continue? No.

But, of course, Mark does, because MarkKernMarkKern.

My simple question to the readers of @ZenOfDesign is this: Why is it necessary for these blockbots to label its lists as lists of horrible people who are bigots, harassers, or otherwise “bad people?”

Gosh Mark

I can’t



with such polite discourse being brutally suppressed by bots acting in self defense. (And trust me – it took some doing to find things that weren’t in and of themselves an assault. I died for your sins.)

And that’s really the point here. We’re not talking about an alternative political viewpoint that is being suppressed. We’re talking about a pack of obscene idiots who use the open nature of the Internet as a weapon to attack people they don’t like. And those self-same pack of obscene idiots then complain, with no visible irony whatsoever, because they are being censored because a good many site hosts do not particularly want to host blathering obscenity.

At the end of the day, that is why people install blockbots. Not because they want to live in an echo chamber of people they agree with (or “hugboxes”, in the entirely too illustrative vernacular of Gamergate where hugs are apparently awful things to avoid at all costs), but because they would like to read Twitter with 80% less sewage. That is, for everyone I’ve talked to about this, literally, LITERALLY the only consideration. No one has any problem with the sea-lioning “actually, it’s about X in X” justifications. It’s what comes after. It’s the flood. It’s the sewage. It’s about self-defense.

And the fact that Mark Kern denies that flood of sewage exists is obvious, and incredibly illustrative, and demolishes any credibility he may have as a “neutral commentator” that he pretends to hold.

(But he’s still fun to make fun of. Though I’ll try to only do so in moderation.)

(PPS, and I didn’t notice this but someone else did, so I will just point that out because it made me laugh for about four minutes)

Never Post The Comments

From my last piece:

I am not obligated to turn my blog password over to Mark Kern so he can post happy pictures and complain about how he can’t speak to anyone because I made fun of him.

And… it turns out, I’m really not.

Damion is.

At last report, Damion is still completely preventing Kern from commenting on his blog post, because comments on blog posts do not exist.

Quick Dispatches On/From Goofytown

ITEM! Chris Mancil is an EA community director who started his gaming career as Community Manager for Shadowbane, thus implying he was somewhat familiar with full PvP. However, he wasn’t ready for the full-on no-limits WRATH OF BEN KUCHERA!

Yes, Kuchera, bête noire of Gamergate ranty types, proves once again that those who are harassed online aren’t necessarily innocent and pure themselves, by responding to Mancil’s blog post (which, like mine, has the I’m-just-speaking-for-myself-and-not-my-employers-why-did-I-even-bother-none-of-you-are-paying-attention-and-emailing-every-email-address-on-my-work’s-web-site-right-now disclaimer) with the completely reasonable retort of “Quit talking about me, or I’m telling your dad!” Dad in this case being, um, Peter Moore.

Note that normally I could link to Mancil’s piece and point out that making a long post decrying how people unfriended you for speaking kindly of Milo “I Literally Have No Ethics Or Morals Or Point Or Really Anything Save Hair Gel” Yiannopolous and his current hobby of finding material for a book through writing articles that had as their eminently ethical and moral original title, “Lying, Greedy, Promiscuous Feminist Bullies Are Tearing The Video Game Industry Apart” (you will note that Yiannopolous later thought better of calling someone “promiscuous” from the same platform where he spends a non-zero amount of time talking about his personally having lots of great sex, and you will also note that Yiannopolous, being a former new media entrepreneur, doesn’t know how to change the titles of blog URLs). I realize I’m starting to wade deeply into the parenthetical here; Milo does that to a person. Despite that, he’s actually one of the better writers on the pro-Gamergate side (note to Gamergaters: find better writers, now) and Mancil’s appreciation of his occasional flashes of wit left amongst the tidal wave of misogyny, transphobia, and really, really Vogon-bad poetry is a touch understandable, if you don’t think about it very much.

At any rate, this is an interesting discussion we could be having. We can’t have it, because Ben Kuchera told Chris Mancil’s dad and Mancil had to take his blog down. (The original piece has been archived, but I’m not linking to it here, because I’m one of those crazy people who actually believes in respecting people’s wishes when they wish to disengage in such a way.) Thanks, Kuchera. Next, maybe you can yell at confused department stores about what their employees say on Twitter or something…

Oh. Carry on proving that Gamergate has no monopoly on jerks, then.

ITEM! Mark Kern.

What. I can’t just stop there? Oh, all right. But I warned you.




Well, more specifically, he can’t tweet to you. You being someone who blocked him. You would think this would be somewhat self evident to anyone still holding enough brain power to walk from one side of the room to another.

…well, then. I agree that it could possibly be a tragedy when people who go to the trouble of activating a program to block a given list of people then proceeds to not see tweets from that given list of people. That is truly very, very bad. At least, according to Mark Kern, who is one of the finest legal minds of our time…

…it is illegal in at least one English-speaking country called “England” to not listen to people when they scream #NOTYOURSHIELD in your face.

How is it illegal, exactly? Well, mumble frumble data export laws mumble mutter privacy issues LOOK JUST HARASS THEM UNTIL THEY GIVE UP, OK I HEARD YOU GUYS DID THAT ONCE OR TWICE

What has mumbled Kern’s frumples specifically? Well, it seems a combination of Kuchera’s TOTALLY TELLING ON CHRIS MANCIL TO DAD (and sadly, since Mark Kern is totally incapable of blogging, speaking to the media, tweeting, or posting on any other social media site, he was unable to call him out on this like I did ten minutes ago) and Kern’s discovering he was being blocked for talking about Gamergate a lot.

Kern does have a fragment of a point – too bad that he is, according to him, completely incapable from communicating with the outside world, so I will have to make it for him. TheBlockBot’s system is, well, snarky. You can search for Twitter handles (anyone’s, obviously, and find out why the person who categorized you as blockable chose to do so. Here is Mark Kern’s listing. It is safe to say Kern did not agree to being listed here. It is also safe to say Kern, despite being locked in a Faraday Box in the core of the earth and thus only able to communicate with the world outside through the keening unearthly wail of mole demons that escape through an intricate system of volcano ventings, has made all of those tweets publicly accessible to all. Some people won’t appreciate them. Some people may actually make fun of them! Some of them even have blogs!

That’s a solvable problem, and one that may be solved if Mark Kern’s massive and totally-locked-out-of-any-communication-with-Mark-Kern army follows through on his threats and starts sending the people who run TheBlockBot cease and desists. Then again, maybe not. They’re apparently run by a forum of professional atheists, which may possibly be the one group on earth more annoying than Gamergate trolls. But somehow I don’t think that will make his-mouth-is-being-held-shut-by-boll-weevils Mark Kern happier.

I… um…


v8ccqhtIn case you missed it from my mocking-into-the-ground, Mark Kern can speak all he wants. He has, in fact, quite a large megaphone, and is using it to great effect! There are many people who have never heard from him this month who follow him on social media, and he seems to be integrating into the Gamergate hive mind quite smoothly indeed.  Possibly because they agree on this one point: being prevented from talking to someone is censorship.

Even when that person preventing you is the person themselves.

That’s what this whole storm and fury about block bots represents, what Gamergaters froth about when banned from various forums, etc. They know they are perfectly free to say what they like. They want to say it, and you will be forced to listen.

That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

A lack of indoctrination is not censorship. I am not obligated to turn my blog password over to Mark Kern so he can post happy pictures and complain about how he can’t speak to anyone because I made fun of him. I made fun of speech that he made in public on my blog. I get to do that. It’s part of civil discourse in a free society. It doesn’t obligate me to do anything else. It doesn’t obligate me to host a long-running comment thread full of people speaking in 4chan lingo about how I’m fat. It doesn’t require me to page through dozens of pages of Twitter mentions about how my tears are salty. It doesn’t require me to trudge through hundreds of Youtube comments that are so bizarrely obscene they are literally incomprehensible to anyone over the age of 12.

And if I choose not to participate in such an enlightened discourse, I can choose to use whatever tools are available to assist me in so doing. You do not have a right to my eyeballs. I may loan them to you, if you’re good. But free speech is the right to speak. It is not the right to be listened to.

ITEM! It’s super late and I spent way too much time getting upset over Mark Kern being totally incapable to say things yet again, so I’m just going to leave this link here and let your brain melt. Because it’s a quarter to three, and we can’t stop here, it’s GOOFYTOWN.