Schedule

Updates: Currently slacking off

Friday, 29 May 2015

The Holy Trinity (of MMOs) Part One: An introduction to my MMO experiences.

This is my bugbear.
But perhaps an introduction is in order;
I've been playing MMO's since I was 16~ which is around 15 years of experience.
While players come and go, I can usually rely on the same crowd returning to "try out" any new MMO on the market, and some for the latest World of Warcraft expansion.
To say I have wasted countless days of my life playing games that are little more than a pretty skinner box is probably an apt description.

I will say that my addiction to online gaming has almost certainly saved my sanity, if not my life.
It has kept me in touch with my friends and made me many more that I'd never have come across (how many normal people can boast a sofa to sleep on in almost every country in Europe and some places beyond?) It has broadened my horizons, and dispelled many misconceptions of my fellow man.
Perhaps not entirely wasted time.

But there remains a large part of me that is continually disappointed at potential wasted (often squandered) by continual pandering to even wider audiences.
My first days online as a teenager (late to the party, amongst the last of my peers to get a PC) saw me thrown into a roleplay game like no other.
I speak of Ultima Online.
It's still going though I left is long ago.
For those unaware, it is a true MMORPG.
Players are able to build a unique character from a variety of skills to achieve whatever end they wish, mastering some skills completely, leaving others intentionally stunted. You could be a crafter, with no combat skills at all, or a thief (in the old days you really could steal anything not literally nailed down, including from other players houses and inventory)
Perhaps you'd like to tame a Dragon to do your fighting for you?
Of course certain builds were popularised as very effective but in those early days building a character was truly a feat of perseverance, as you slowly navigated a completely open world to discover which challenges you could overcome, and which would end your life.
In this game, there was no trinity. Each player had to be somewhat self sufficient, with cooperative play leading to feats of achievement that still satisfy me today as memories.

That all changed when I was finally enticed to Warcraft scant months before the release of the burning crusade.
Questing was entirely new to me, as was levelling (in an MMO)
Always before I had gone where I was able to kill the toughest monsters I could to train skills and earn money.
WoW was an entirely different beast.
A game on rails, directing your play and segregating it's population based on their advancement.
It has it's merits as well as pitfalls, the major downside being my complete isolation from those that encouraged me to play in the first place.
The role play was sidelined too, replaced by what amounted to participation in a story.
No more did I see roving bands of players posing as Orcs or Undead to kill other players, nor the casual acquaintances of those farming the same spots I preferred (or the enmity of those that would come to kill me)
Then came the Holy Trinity, and it was a revelation.

I had always preferred playing rough and tumble characters, able to take a hit and shrug it off.
Warcraft took that concept a step further with the Tanking role.
My first outing as a tank was amusingly naive.
I knew my job, I'd had a brief go in a dungeon when levelling a friend's mage, I had all the skills and went to it with gusto.
About 3/4 through gnomeregon a member of my party complain that I never taunted when I did lose aggro or we had adds incoming.
My reply.... "that's a cooldown!"
I had misread the tooltip and thought the very concept of taunting was powerful enough to warrant a minutes long cooldown (Shield Wall being the ability in question, the genuinely powerful 40% damage reduction)
Only after the instance did I see my error, and in one of the more annoying 5 man dungeons.
Still, it cemented my adoration for the role. The strategy of planning a pull, the high pressure and constant attention required, the pure sweat and adrenaline and the genuine appreciation shown my groups (when nothing went wrong)
Tanking, for those of you new to the game, is not what it used to be.

Healing remained a mystery to me for a long time, until months into The Burning Crusade I had finally deemed myself ready after rerolling to a Paladin, levelling as protection because I am insane, and started looking for a raiding guild.
The jackpot was struck with an invite to my first Guild (in any game, I am something of a loner and in any case I'd never been logged in for longer than a few minutes without being recruited into a group on my warrior)
Karazan. There is a reason the place remains a fond memory for WoW players, despite its flaws.
The snag? I had to heal.
Now, I'm never one to shy away from a challenge, and I am exactly arrogant enough to believe I can accomplish just about anything. With the spec I'd never played, in the odds and sods items I'd kept for offspec duty.
Raid Frames? What are raid frames?
What do you mean dispel, how do I do that?
Needless to say, my new friends were not impressed, but they were very patient and helpful.
After initial disasters mostly resting on my novice shoulders we managed to clear the place.
I still have fond memories of my first raid team, my first guild (still in touch with a few faces after all this time) and I even stooped to writing fanfic about our epic Gruul run (gathering 25 players for content is a feat a lot of people take for granted all on its own)

To this day I have never played a damage dealer to any high level of play.
While I do enjoy the concept, I am unable to abandon the more essential duties above. I am more than capable of the role though (good old personal arrogance) and being acknowledged is always satisfying.
Sadly, Warcraft, and many MMOs since, seem to have committed to making the last aspect of the holy trinity all about numbers. Even Wildstar, touted as upping the difficulty, doubled down on ending strategic play and control in favour of aRPG elements and cleaving the universe to death.
For those that lived through the various iterations, this is a corruption of the old term, as the last of the trinity was about crowd control and general utility (buffing/debuffing/kiting)
Along the way something very cool and worth investing in was discarded because lazy players did not want to make that effort and so were not given the same precedence in building a team.

So ends the introduction; tune in for Part 2: Diversity over Inclusivity.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Who benefits most from society?

This is a big topic.
Without a doubt, civilisation DOES benefit those living in it.
Now, there are sociological arguments that isolation and barbarism (for want of a better term) are not bad, but I for one enjoy the benefits of the modern world which would be impossible without our sprawling and interconnected cultures.

Many would suggest that the greatest benefits of civil society are enjoyed by the poor through welfare and charity.
These are certainly advantages bought about through our social contracts, and a great argument for our nature as nurturing and empathetic creatures.
I would argue that whatever the advantages enjoyed by the poor and disadvantaged in society, they are dwarfed by the advantages garnered by the wealth classes.

  This shows who is getting the most out of society in a very real & direct way
Two thirds of the wealth is owned by the top 5%
Their tax burden is not 2/3rds of tax revenue.

Take a look at the world and examine the lives of its peoples.
Many argue that greater freedom results in increased wealth and less reliance on state.
Observation should inform people otherwise.
Freedom comes with costs.
Absolute freedom results in chaos, poverty, crime and war.
Every nation without a strong governing body is rife with conflict and poverty, regardless of natural wealth. Even areas within advanced nations without a welcome and positive police presence are more dangerous.
So, when society places restrictions on people (which it must) what we see is often greater personal freedom for the majority.
We can argue where limits should be placed and what constitutes an attack on personal liberty, but I do not believe that anyone supports absolute freedom, as such a position is self defeating.

Tax pays for the structure of society, and we are told that the rich are overburdened because they pay more than the poor. The poor make use of lots of government resources, so the burden to pay for these services should rest on those that use them.
To me, this is fallacious.
Who benefits the most from education?
The individual pupil?
I do not think you would find many that would agree.
No, society as a whole benefits from an educated population, and the wealth classes leverage this population for their endeavours. An educated worker is more useful than an uneducated one. This is irrefutable.
This is not exploitation on either side, when done well, but a partnership.
Without the expenditure by the government through tax, employers would not have skilled people to employ. An illiterate and innumerate population would produce far less value, to say nothing of advanced education.
This thinking extends to everything.
Who benefits from roads?
The individual motorist can get to work, absolutely, but the company he works for relies on the roads for ALL of their staff to arrive. The drivers themselves use the roads, but others indirectly benefit from that infrastructure.

If you look at wealth distribution, you see that the richest people in the world make their money in the markets of societies in which they complain about paying too much tax.
They believe their contributions to society are unfair, despite their wealth being ENTIRELY RELIANT on that society.
To me, this is a simple, self explanatory concept.
They are riding the horse, but refuse to pay for its feed, stable and grooming.
Just because they do not benefit directly from a state handout does not mean they are not utterly reliant on the system they rail against.
Largely that last sentence is untrue anyway, as the burden felt by business and the independently wealthy is often massively alleviated by tax breaks, refunds and subsidies.
The misleading idea that marginal tax rates are the rate of tax an individual or institution pays is responsible for much of the support for lowering taxes.

This shows the effective rates of tax on individuals
It can be applies generally with some caveats

Note how the corporate entities pay significantly less than individuals
As you can see, it is neither rich nor poor individuals that have "no skin in the game"


Compare these two images to the first image on this post.
Think about how you are told that the rich pay "too much" 
We are left in a world where those drawing most benefit from the system complain if asked to pay a fair share back into it; believing the convenient self deception that their wealth is magically produced by their own ingenuity, and not a product of the Nation in which they reside.
This is not to say that those contributing the most to society are unworthy of praise or should be vilified, I have nothing against people working for wealth (I have many things to say against cronyism and wealth, as in capital, having more value than work)
I just believe that they must begin to recognise that they are the most reliant on that society. They have the most to lose. Their contributions to society are essential, but they are not inherently noble or virtuous. They should pay most in because they do in fact get most out. If you earn two thirds of the wealth you should be paying two thirds of the tax bill, not complaining that the poor don't shoulder more of the burden.
You are engaged in a partnership with society, value for value.
Try not to escape the obligation you have to the society that enabled you to succeed.

Monday, 25 May 2015

On Filthy Casuals

The term "casual" is common amongst video gaming communities.
Often it is given a negative connotation, without much thought into how it is being used.
This is sad, as it is a useful way to deliniate what a given player wants from the game and community they are engaged in.
Now, can and is it used as an insult? Absolutely.

So is "noob" or "elitist" or any number of ambiguous terms applied to a player either appropriately or inappropriately with the intention to offend.
Much like "noob" though it is not necessarily an insult, even when said insultingly. It could be the straight up truth.

If you are unfamiliar with the game mechanics, or the abilities of the character you are using, it is entirely appropriate even if it's hurtful. The amount of effort you expend while playing is irrelevant, only your level of competence matters.

With "casual" the delineation is even MORE helpful, as it is a declaration of how you intend to play.
Believe it or not, most people are not literal monsters that want to upset everyone they come across.
Much of the venom spewed in online play is vented frustration, not malice.
If everyone is aware you are a new player, you will often find more help than you find insults.
If everyone is aware that you play casually, you will not be expected to contribute as much as a hardcore player (the downside being you will not be included when such dedication is deemed necessary)

Now, if a player joins a public game, uses a random party tool or solo queue and immediately expects everyone to be intimate with the game, their role and the tactics that are somehow never divulged by this individual; that player is not "hardcore." They are not "elite." They are an idiot, and the every toxic element that causes much of the frustration you will see. (if they ping the map repeatedly when there is no possible way to do anything about it, they are in this category. They want to show you how clever they are by predicting things that have already happened)

If on the other hand a player tries to organise the game through chat, pings the map to give direction or even invites everyone to use voice comms, that player is your BFF as a casual. He might respond poorly if ignored, he might get into a scrap with the idiot of the previous paragraph (making them have to distinguish sometimes) but if you say you're new or aren't sure what to do, you'll most often get a couple of friendly hints and a pep talk.

Don't run from the "casual" or "noobie" labels. They are your shield from an awful lot of frustration, both your own and those that often seem out to get you.
Embrace your attitude to gaming, the fun you bring will often be infectious.
Most gamers, in my experience, delight in being more knowledgeable and being able to show people the ropes.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Thoughts on Liberalism.

Liberalism.
Much maligned and often misrepresented (even by it's staunch proponents) it is without doubt one of the most important political ideologies in human history.

First, to nail down my definition.
A liberal portion is generous, a liberal attitude is tolerant or moderate.
As a political principle liberalism has always placed personal liberty, freedom of expression and secular society highly.
If you believe in freedom of speech (no matter how offensive), the free market and freedom of (or from) religion, you are practising Liberal attitudes. (note: Liberalism as a movement or ideology does not have a monopoly on these things, but the point remains)

In the UK, Liberalism has maintained it's definition.
It is the middle ground between conservatives and socialists.
Now, in some ways this is immensely positive as all mainstream parties have adopted some measure of liberalism, as have the core political ideologies behind them.
In others it has come to reflect a lack of conviction, fence sitting indecision and conflicting policies.
Small L liberalism has won throughout the Western world, and no amount of pretending the word is a curse word will change that reality.

Sadly, American Liberalism (and the political left internationally) has been somewhat coopted by groups and individuals that are not liberal at all.

Anything that undermines individual freedom is against liberalism.
This is a hard line, but difficult to describe.
Personal liberty must have some limit, or I could just walk into your house and take your shit.
I think it's fairly obvious when we are limited so that others may be extended their rights, but there is plenty of ambiguity to argue over the specifics.
Anyone suggesting that individual rights are somehow subordinate to the needs of society is not a liberal.

Free Markets.
Liberalism does not promote state capitalism or socialism.
One of the core tenets of liberalism are property rights, which are the basis of capitalist economies; flawed though I find our modern standards they're a damn sight better than history can provide. Capitalism is not perfect. Anyone saying it is needs to be taken into a padded room, but much like democracy itself; it's an horrendous way of doing things, the only virtue being that it's superior to all alternatives.
Anyone opposing capitalism (even as much as I do, which is to focus on the criticisms) is not a liberal.

Secular society.
Religious tolerance is the cornerstone of liberalism.
Sadly, this is often taken to ridiculous extremes lately with much "progressive" media desperate to defend intolerable religious practices and preach moral relativism.
This can only end in division and intolerance reciprocated from both sides of the divide created.
Anybody suggesting that the religious rights of one person or ideology should be afforded extra protection or reverence is not a liberal.

Now "Social Liberalism" as an ideology complicates matters, but honestly I see it as entirely unrelated to liberalism as an economic or political philosophy.
This laudable set of values grew from classical liberalism, but is such a diverse and divisive concept that it should be placed firmly in it's own category.
For one, I believe that almost the entire Western world is socially liberal.
The trouble comes when zealous ideologues use people's altruistic desires for a tolerant and inclusive culture to promote attitudes of intolerance, bigotry and blame.
This has been a growing problem amongst liberals and the political left, as "call out culture" reaches new heights, all in the name of "inclusion"
The dichotomy and hypocrisy of the practice disturbs me more because so many people refuse to condemn it.

Liberalism might have sown the seeds of social liberalism, and the ubiquity of social liberalism might have allowed the authoritarian "progressives" we should rightly and ironically label "social justice warriors" to flourish, but they are none of them synonymous.
I for one hope that Libertarians will reach a moderate consensus and appreciate just how much they share with Liberals they so often vilify.
Only by unifying reasonable people across political divides can we hope to combat the identity politics endemic on the extreme ends of all ideologies.
Iidentity politics are as inimical to liberalism as they are to libertarians.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

PUA, don't hate the player, hate the Game.

Pick up Artists have a bad reputation.
Exploiting women for sex, teaching men to lie and manipulate to get what they want.
Sounds bad.
Some extreme ideologues want it categorised as rape (only when men do it, obviously, despite the protestations it would apply equally to all from law makers)

Now, I am not a PUA.
The very ideas behind the Game are against my personal philosophy.
I'd rather be lonely than have sex with a virtual stranger I need to lie to or manipulate.
That said, I will not judge other people for needing the crutch.
Because that is what it is, a crutch.
Not an evil and nefarious plan by men to rape unsuspecting willing women.

Many "beta nerds" (much like myself) are rather terrified by the prospect of dating and women in general.
This is not because they're stupid or unlikeable, it is because women hold all of the power and society is not afraid to shame men repeatedly since childhood to enforce a standard of behaviour.
We have a system whereby women will declare their independence and equality with one breath, but announce they still want a potential boyfriend to pay for everything when dating.
Simply put, the rules for modern courtship are a mess. We as men are told all sorts of things that we should and should not do. A lot of the "advice" contradicts itself.
Men's feelings on this are ignored or mocked, by men and women alike.
If you feel this way, you are defective. You are bad. You just need to be better.

PUA offers an alternative.
It tells vulnerable men exactly what to do to sleep with women and thereby have value as a man.
It does not shy away from truths, it does not attempt to make things equitable.
Most of the men that seek to learn "the game" do not WANT casual and meaningless sex, as strange as that sounds. It might be a bonus, but that's not what they are there for.
What they want is a way to meet women where they feel equal, where they feel capable, where they have some control.
I'd also suggest men want to feel desired, PUA offers this.

Now, some of this is exploitation of men's self consciousness.
Vulnerable men are taught to exploit women and derive self worth from this.
I'd suggest if you look deeper this is almost never the case.
When you get past the bravado, this is simply men boosting the confidence of other men. To make money or to do "good" is irrelevant. It's no different than makeup tutorials or fashion advice. It's no different than the plot of an enormous amount of romcoms. It is not dangerous or evil.
I'm sure a direct comparison between "the Game" and women's/teen magazines would show one is MUCH worse for dehumanising a gender and teaching to manipulate and lie, and that is the socially acceptable one.

While I dislike PUA as a lifestyle choice, it is not mine nor anyone else's place to judge.
I will extend my empathy to those men that feel they have no other choice, and hope it leads them to happiness and a woman (or women, I'm no tradcon) that will love them for themselves.
I hope everyone can learn that PUA is just an imperfect solution to a real problem, a problem that is not going away as men continue to be demonised to the point that only complete bastards can function properly (really ladies; the only people hurt by the campaigns to "improve" men are already good men. Bad people don't feel bad when you point out how shitty they are)

For all the gay men out there; "the Game" for men is easy mode.
Men are dawgs!
Try to feel some pity for your straight brothers!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Why nerds love Dungeons and Dragons

To normal people, the popularity and outright fanaticism towards Dungeions and Dragons is confusing.
It's just playing pretend, right?
Well, I hope to explain why DND (and table top gaming in general) has captured the imagination of generations and inspired much obsession within nerd hearts and minds.

  • Gambling
This is the thing most people miss when discussing tabletop gaming.
It is a form of gambling.
Instead of money, you are betting on the outcome of an action. To influence the outcome you build a character that is good at some things and bad at others, so you are able to "bet" in a smart way to accomplish a "win"
The rush you get from winning is very real, and made more satisfying as you are able to decide both the form of the bet AND influence the outcome in your favour.
Simply put, when you succeed you feel like a mad genius, when you fail everyone gets to laugh at your expense.
  • Be the Hero you want to see.
Power fantasies are addictive.
DnD not only provides a venue to express these fantasies, but a sense of accomplishment when doing so.
You do not simply pretend and recieve.
You work towards a goal over time.
You have set backs.
You fail.
You persevere.
You may never reach your goal, but when you do, the glory is real.

Some players choose to play a role, to put themselves in the skin of another, imaginary, person. Others use the character as a pawn to play through.
Neither is correct nor incorrect.
  • An interactive story
Each person in a game contributes to the story being told.
Yes, the Dungeon Master acts as a director, leading the players through a plot, but everyone decides how things will happen.
With a skilled DM, the stories that unfold can be exceptionally complicated, nuanced and very human. The adventures can be spectacular or mundane, but sharing them with friends gives you all the fun of discussing the shows you love, or the game you caught last night, but you participated in it.

While there are many places that post campaigns publicly to share the stories told, I'll direct everyone wanting to take a quick glance to Penny Arcade playing a Dark Sun adventure one of the players (Kris Straub) is a beginner and it's a 7 episode "one off" so not much of a commitment to listen to at work.
Even if you hate the game, you *will* laugh at the antics of the players.
I promise.
If you love it, the crew (minus Straub, sadly) do a regular game called Acquisitions Inc.
  • Team work
Human beings are social animals.
As much as individual accomplishment feels great, being part of a successful team is always better.
To play DnD you must work with others, the game is built with this in mind. No character can do everything and those that try to be the jack of all trades are the master of none (and often miss out on the coolest stuff)
When you look at the packed stands in a sporting venue and see cheering crowds, you are seeing this very real drive in action on a massive scale.
DnD exploits this to bring players together.
  • Social interaction without the small talk
Many nerds are socially awkward.
Making small talk about nothing feels weird, and we'd all much rather avoid it.
DnD provides a LOT of nonsense to talk about, often including abstract thinking and problem solving. Which we find fun.
The comfort of a shared interest means that nerds can get to know one another without the pretence of social competence.
Not all nerds need this, but I'm confident to say that all nerds ENJOY it.
  • The love of learning
Learning is something many people think they don't like.
They are mistaken, because they associate learning with school, and school with boring crap.
If you really love football, and can recite the team roster of every team in the league, their win record and top scorers... you just proved you loved learning. You're a football nerd. Deal with it.
If you love to cook, and want to try new things all the time; you love learning. You're a food nerd. Deal with it.
It's no different for real nerds. Collectively, we enjoy learning how systems work, how to accomplish things given a certain set of restrictions (also known as "games")
The joy in knowing how to accomplish things is what drives nerds, and DnD provides that in spades.

***

I hope this dispels "sad losers pretending" from people's minds when thinking of tabletop gaming.
The things nerds enjoy are fun for a reason, and I'll hope people give them a go before judging them too harshly.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Thoughts on Libertarianism.

Libertarianism is becoming more mainstream as a political alternative.
This is a good thing, as it reflects a great deal of common ground amongst political moderates that were otherwise polarised.

I do not however agree with the principles espoused by proponents of libertarianism, nor some of the methods or rhetoric employed.

  • A rewriting of the political compass, and thus political history.
I see a lot of people citing a political compass split whereby "authoritarians" are placed opposite "libertarians"
This does outline genuine differences in political opinion, but it also serves to characterise what has historically ALWAYS been left wing (anti authoritarian) as actually right wing (because we should all be able to agree that "libertarian" is a term popularised and utilised by the political right)

I see this kind of compass most often invoked (outside of #gamergate) to discredit the left or at best to promote the horseshoe theory that the extremes of either political wing are indistinguishable. (a theory I am happy to concede has great merit)

  • Rebranding conservatism and traditionalism.
This to my mind is the most galling feature.
Many people claim to lean libertarian, or be right libertarian, but practice and preach the exact policies and justifications of the "authoritarian right"
Others merely excuse such with claims that a free market will ensure bad elements of such political movements will be out competed (people should "vote with their feet" and leave places that don't serve their needs)
Libertarians reading this: if you can not admit that big business is culpable in corruption, and that deregulation has allowed this to happen, you are simply an authoritarian that wants YOUR ideas to be enforced.
When I start seeing libertarians call out corruption, collusion and malpractice from avowed libertarians, maybe I'll appreciate the distinction more.

  • Inability to understand left wing politics.
I can not begin to describe the amount of times I speak to a right libertarian (or conservative for that matter) that does not know what socialism is, does not know what communism is, does not know what LIBERALISM is and does not know that they are different.
I'll leave my thoughts on socialism for another day, where I hope to outline exactly WTF it is clearly.
Please note libertarian readers: If you demonise somebody because they have a different set of political beliefs to you, how are you different from an authoritarian? You are demanding others conform with your beliefs, you are not engaging in debate and rebuttal, you are not practising an "open marketplace of ideas" (one of the few places I believe an absolute free market is essential)

  • You guys are all liberals
No really, you are.
If you want to say "classical liberals" fair enough, but understand that liberal only became a dirty word because of the authoritarian right you supposedly oppose.
I briefly discussed how common usage can influence meaning and nuance in defence of political correctness and believe it applies thoroughly with Liberal in American politics.
Perhaps some liberals have lost their way (they have, no perhaps necessary) but the fault largely lies in the very partisan divisions that the Republicans have driven in the electorate.

This does work both ways.
The liberal press, internationally, is disgustingly partisan and will often demonise the right or generalise anything it perceives as opposing modern liberalism. This is most clearly displayed with constant accusations of misogyny and racism with no room for nuance or empathy.
Any time you hear "right wing" being invoked to dismiss a person or idea, that is the exact problem I am talking about, and both "sides" are guilty of it.
The one I find most annoying is when those campaigning for or supporting a pro life position are said to hate women. No, I'd guess most pro life advocates really do care deeply about unborn children.
I vehemently disagree with them, but I know that *most* are reasonable people driven by altruism. Not bond villains that want to oppress women.

  • Absolute freedom is not only impossible, but deeply immoral.
This one might raise a few hackles, but I truly think everyone already had a list of caveats (much like with free speech)  they just don't think it through and describe them.
Simply put; a man's freedom ends where another man's nose begins.
I think it's a principle most libertarians agree to, as it's all about volunteerism and zero harm, but no thought is put into what the allegory MEANS.
I see a lot of comments featuring some variation on "employers should do what they like, if you don't want to work for them, don't"
In an unregulated free market this is basically endorsing slavery. Not every employer will be unscrupulous, but not everyone can work for a moral employer. In the US *right now* large, wealthy and profitable corporations pay so little to their staff that the government must support them on welfare.
Getting rid of the welfare doesn't fix the problem.
Ensuring that employers cant exploit people does.
This is limiting the freedom of an employer to do as they please with their resources, but it prevents the freedoms of employees and competitors being infringed by crushing and unfair working conditions.
It's a balance, and I'd hope most can see that.

If you look to nations with absolute freedom (no tax, no state) you do not see a utopia. You know what you see, so stop pretending we can do without these things, even in hyperbole.
Absolute freedom means nothing more than those with strength are free, and those without it are thralls.

  • Self interest is a virtue
This one annoys me a lot.
Self interest is very human, understandable and in many cases necessary.
It is not a virtue. You are not a better person by being selfish, you do not make the world a better place by always putting yourself first.

This contention aside, you cant praise the benefits of selfishness or greed in one breath and then absolve both of any responsibility for the DIRECT consequences of selfishness and greed.
Crony capitalism is BOTH OF THESE THINGS.
Just as with any tool (and greed/self interest are tools in the human arsenal, agreed) it is not always beneficial. It is not always appropriate. Sometimes, the application of the wrong tool can cause great harm.

When libertarians discuss corruption, it is exclusively the fault of the state. No reason is EVER provided except that the state is used to enforce the corrupt outcome.
If you don't understand why that is faulty logic, I cant help.
The state, in this case, is the tool of people motivated by the virtues you promote.

Greed is good is almost the most retarded thing anyone has ever repeated unironically.
It may not always be bad, it may inspire people to achieve, but it is at best an ambiguous mixed bag.
Studies have repeatedly shown that people can be motivated as well or better by other means than financial incentive.
Deal with it. Stop being naive. Money isn't everything, and you know it.

  • Charity will solve all of societies problems, but giving people things is evil. Because reasons.
This is somewhat related to the last.
Charity, it is said, will solve all the problems government is left to deal with.
Get rid of welfare, public healthcare and similar programs, because generous people will solve those problems with charity!
This has never worked.
Government has ALWAYS had to intervene to assist the good works of private entities. This is not a bad thing, it is a necessary thing.

It is also at odds with the other assertion, that welfare actually HARMS people.
So, charity must step in so people can be given what they need by generous people (who will likely write if off on their taxes. ie: the government will pay) but the government doing this directly, with incentives and help for people to get out of welfare, is evil.
No explanations given, just "work is virtue" crap often repeated by people that have not done an honest days work in their lives.

Now, the welfare trap is VERY real.
But the problem isn't welfare itself. Industrialism causes this dependence.
In the last 200 years we have produced technology that enables us to do the work of DOZENS of people automatically, and reduce the work needed to accomplish many other tasks. The only result being less jobs are available. This is somewhat countered by other markets opening up. Consumerism is the ONLY reason we don't see mass starvation, because without it there would be no work for people to be paid so they could afford to eat the food produced by the VERY FEW people needed to produce enough food for everyone. If nobody could afford to buy the food produced by these people, it would rot in the fields.
It's a cycle of intermingled reliance, not a benevolent waterfall of wealth and resources from the top with "job creators" our lord and saviour.

Welfare is a necessary bandaid over the problems caused by the very system we all understand is the best humans have come up with.
It might not be pleasant, it has bad effects as well as good, but without it you'd consign at LEAST 10% of the population to starvation (unemployment figures rarely go above 5% in Industrialised nations, and those are only those DIRECTLY drawing welfare) and you'd take an AWFUL lot of revenue out of circulation. Poor people spend their money.

Just because we can and should reform welfare, and the exploitative businesses that benefit from it does not mean welfare is wrong. (here in the UK they're actually bringing in changes to allow employers to exploit welfare even more with low/zero hour contracts. Essentially any business can have people on "retainer" that draw welfare until they are needed, then draw a wage based on their hours worked and the government still pays them to make up the difference. I don't think it's entirely intended for this, I think many supporting the changes really do want to help people work, because "work is a virtue" they are just blind to exploitation. In the end, it will just mean more employers will have access to cheap workers that have no choice to accept their conditions)

***

Despite my reservations on libertarianism, I do believe it is absolutely necessary and positive in a democracy, reliant as we are on pluralism and representation.

There is more common ground between right libertarians, liberals and socialists than you may be lead to appreciate (especially over in the US, where socialism is an even dirtier word than liberal)

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

On Multiplayer gaming

Playing games with other human beings satisfies an urge in us all.
We are a social creatures and I'm sure everyone finds some joy in competition or cooperation.

That said, the internet being what it is and people being what we are; every time you hit that queue button, or join that public lobby, you roll the dice.
Varying communities have a higher chance of that dice landing on a good number, but a natural one will always find you in al alternate reality where competence is something that happens to other people and the first language of at least one (all it takes is one) participant is swearing. Usually not particularly inventive swearing either, which is far more fun.

Here follows my breakdown of the frustrations I face when dealing with the great internet unwashed.

  • New Players
The least offensive of the bunch, which come in several flavours, which I'll simplify and generalise quickly.

The learner; unfamiliar with the game, mechanics or strategies, but wants to learn. Usually delights in taking direction and is a pleasure to play with as you watch improvement and see the mistakes everyone makes when they're starting out.

The ignorant; knows nothing about the game and has very little interest in learning. I have no idea why they are playing games at all and they will endlessly frustrate people by ignoring direction and advice. Will sometimes become offended if offered help. Usually a complete arsehole (but sometimes genuinely ignorant of what they're doing wrong)

The Noob; Has possible never held a controller or operated a keyboard. May actually have pumpkins for hands. Players so bad that they are unable to accomplish even the most basic of tasks, keyboard turnings and those that stand perfectly still while trying to find what button to press next. Usually pretty nice

  • The pants on head retarded
This is an extension of "the noob" or "the ignorant" but applied to long time players.We all know them.
Many will pay for boosts or items in a desperate attempt to appear competent.
Probably knows how bad they are, but may lie to themselves about others having unfair advantages or being discriminated against in community environments.

  • Try hards
Wants to tell everyone what to do at all times.Will repeat advice already given, seemingly unaware that they're doing this.
Usually doesn't have a great understanding of what's going on, but has enough experience to have seen competent play and try to copy it.
Almost always gives bad advice because they don't understand it well enough to know what it is applicable.
Normally pretty nice, but quick to turn nasty if ignored or not praised when things go right.

  • Elitists
If I were outlining "elite" players as a sub category, they come in as many flavours as new players (and largely were the new player of that given type :P) but elite players are not all elitists (indeed, I think most are not)
Two brands of elitists exist, those that are around as good as they think they are, and those that are ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE.
Both believe they are superior in every way.
Normally a junky for watching competitive play and listening to plenty of high level commentary they think they are capable of repeating during their own games (but it's very rare in either camp)
Will not deign to instruct others or call shots. Elitists will assume that whatever they are doing is correct and everyone else should be exactly as competent as they believe themselves to be. Team work is not a priority.
If things are not going their way they will immediately want to quit
If things are going their way, expect them to attempt to showboat.
If they succeed expect celebration of how awesome they are, when they fail the team will be blamed.
Expect grand pronouncements based on massive assumptions ("they have X character, we already lost" "we have too many Y class, we already lost")
Watch as they attempt to fulfil their own prophesy by playing terribly and ignoring the "weakness" they pointed out.

  •  The "lets all be friends" guy
This one is not always bad. A lot of my experiences in pick up groups have been made great by an overly friendly person that wants to chat.
Many in this group will also be new players of various types.
The frustration comes when they will be equally magnanimous to disruptive, toxic or incompetent people as anyone else.
I do not want to waste my life being friendly to complete bastards or those that make me miserable. If that makes me a marginally worse human being, then so be it!



 ***

To end, I'll say I'm likely some people's worst nightmare to play with.
I'm temperamental, impatient and used to being in charge after 6 years of raid leading.
I dislike playing with random people to such a degree I actively avoid it, and make no secret of my attitude when forced into it, though I'm very quick to warm to anyone being pleasant (and I was raised with manners, so I don't open by calling people douche nozzles)
I probably seem elitist to some (though that is far from true) and certainly resemble the try hard quite a lot.
That said, I don't think I'm a toxic gamer (who does, right?) I'm merely a jaded optimist that thinks we should collectively do better.
I'm always happy to help, but expect me to be grumpy about it.

Monday, 11 May 2015

The personal is political.

This concept gets a lot of hate for very valid reasons I agree with.
Too often it is used to inject politics into EVERYTHING and to analyse everything through a personal political lens.
I genuinely believe this is n unfortunate inevitability of both the phrase and those that inspired it.

It is a complex and ambiguous term that has developed multiple meanings as it grew out of the insanity of feminist ideology (sorry feminists, I know there are good ones, but as a whole the movement is schizophrenic)

On one hand it declares that private matters, personal circumstances and experiences inform a person's politics.
I think this is irrefutable.
My politics was most influenced by my father. I'm a working class kid from a council estate. The political is VERY personal to me. Politics has had a huge impact on me, from education reforms throughout my childhood disrupting the quality of education to various changes to welfare and employment policy. (Welfare changes effect everyone; for example, the reduction of state housing & privatisation of low income housing has had a MASSIVE impact on things like house and rental/mortgage prices)

The other is more problematic as it seems to blame all personal troubles on politics, or find faults with everything (from political positions to the shirt some guy wears) by complaining about the ill effects to some imagined individual.
Not explaining how politics can and does effect you personally.
Not how your experiences inform your politics
Instead; how a political ideology should drive everything about you and dictate how you behave and what you consume.
It suggests that everything about a person, all people, should be defined by politics, by their ideology.
This is the side we see most often, inconsistent and hypocritical though it is.
It also goes a step further and declares that the identity of a speaker should confer authority on what they say.
I hope the difference is clear, so that the inordinate amount of chaff can be sorted from the grain ro two of wheat.

I do, however, often have arguments with people over the core assertion of the principle.
EVERYTHING is political.
Everything you do, every experience you've had and everything you consume is driven by politics.
Imagine something completely unrelated to politics.
A book.
Cant possibly be politics (ignoring the specific content)
But politics dictates;
  • If it can be published at all
  • How it is categorised
  • It's value in the market
  • Tax paid on it
  • The legal obligations of the publisher, retailer and consumer, as well as their rights
  • The manufacturing of the book
  • The circulation of that book (it didn't just materialise on your desk, it got there on public roads)
  • The ability to read what is written (education is deeply political, and without the politics that drove universal education the market for written media would be MUCH smaller, that market would shrink and less books would be written, or at least published)
That's just from the top of my head, and you can likely see more interrelated subjects, all that require a political perspective to make a reality. (even if your perspective it entirely laissez faire. That's a political position)
So, even the creation and reproduction of a book, something deeply personal and individual is political. Even an author working entirely alone is reliant on the vast network of society to accomplish anything, and society is simply the application of politics.

Note how none of this, zero, has dictated what political affiliation must be held.
The nearest to political interference at all is whether it can be published. Under some political authority there is tight control (mass censorship) and this is bad.
Personally, I think there should be almost no limit to what is allowable. Perhaps banning manuals on bomb making or similar? (though libel and instigation of violence should be prevented in print media)

Unfortunately "the personal is political" is often invoked to incense demographics to demand their personal political agenda should be enforced.
We see people asked to view everything through the lens of their chosen ideology, to find fault with everything and complain about those faults.
This to me is a breakdown in the political process, and an effort to divide people.

When we can see how politics effects us, how as individuals our own politics is formed and can empathise with these things in others from different circumstances, hopefully we can be more constructive.
We just need to abandon the notion that any ideology should drive a person at all times, or that a given identity automatically confers authority.
It's simply not possible and takes extraordinary cognitive dissonance to maintain such a standard, as reflected by the inconsistency and hypocrisy of those declaring the personal is political.

Friday, 8 May 2015

On Male Privilege and Benevolent Sexism.

The subject of privilege is most usually invoked to shame and discredit a speaker with percieved privilege.
This is a disgusting misuse of the discussion over privilege and institutional discrimination.
It essentially renders identity as a game ("the progressive stack") where the "least privileged" person has the most power, wields the most authority and generally dictates to everyone else in a twisted mirror of the things they are supposed to oppose.

Today I will limit my comments to the concept of privilege in gender.

First, a concession; male privilege as feminists express it is true.
.....to a degree.
In most circumstances such privilege is simply limited to a VERY SMALL percentage of men.
Essentially, any time feminists talk about the advantages men enjoy, they are ALWAYS talking about the highest social status males.
A negligible percentage of the population.
The 1% of men.
Low status males are so disposable, so "objectified" that they may as well not exist.
That is sad.

Conversely female privilege is SO universal amongst women that they cant seem to understand it as privilege, and instead render it as "benevolent sexism" or similar.
When women enjoy societal protection, receive more help and are taken more seriously as victims of every crime, this is just more evidence of misogyny.
When women enjoy advantages at every stage of criminal and civil law, it is somehow evidence that men are more criminal.
The equality movement openly and explicitly advocates that laws be less applicable to women, while also suggesting that preferential treatment of women proves societal misogyny.
The hypocrisy, cognitive dissonance and outright misanthropy on display even from self described moderate feminists often leaves me speechless.


However, I do concede that part of this difference in attitude is inherent in us as a dimorphic species. Women have inherent value because of pregnancy.
They are the sexual selectors and have the sexual power.
But "natural" doesn't mean "right" or "not important"
I don't think parity should be enforced, but I would personally appreciate if feminists could at least acknowledge reality once in a while.
(some do. But as I'm wont to say; you can be a feminist and an egalitarian, but it's not a requirement)

Privilege and discrimination are both very complicated issues.
The muddy waters of identity politics ensure that mature discussions on these subjects are impossible.

Know that when I declare identity politics to blame, I am not pointing to camp Liberal.
Both sides do this.

Modern progressives have adopted "social justice" in some of it's worst iterations, absolutely.
This does not absolve the modern right wing of constant racism, hypocrisy and support for fundamentalism.

Guess what right leaning guys?
You need to be JUST as embarrassed that "Obama birthers" happened as Liberals should be of race baiters like Al Sharpton (I'd say more; Sharpton at least has legitimate REASON to be committed to his work, misguided though he might be. Anyone gonna say that he grew up in a totally fair, none racist America?)

What I continually see from both sides of identity politics obsessed nutjobs is that it's the OTHER SIDE and only the other side that does it.
No. Rolled up newspaper to the nose of anyone that thinks this!
Liberals don't get a free pass because they have a black friend, Conservatives don't get a free pass because "Lincoln freed the slaves" or they don't use the southern strategy any more.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Gamergate; a perspective

Gamergate is the controversy.
#GamerGate is the hashtag discussing it.

However, gamergate has become a rallying cry for a group of people.
It has become the label of those speaking out about the controversy on the hashtag, and I think this is okay.

We might not be a movement in the traditional sense, but we do share a common cause, and that it enough.

GamerGate is at once very specific and horribly ambiguous;

  • It really is about Ethics in Games Journalism. No really.
This became something of a meme to insult people.
The response from critics of the hashtag is to link something completely unrelated and suggest "it's about ethics in games journalism"
This has been pushed so universally that people do not fact check.
When a claim is made that "a gator" has done something wrong, it is immediately used to attack the very concept of ethics. The "gator" in question is always an anonymous troll.

#GamerGate is now represented by hundreds of people willingly sharing their identity, meeting in public, attending events and publishing their opinions openly.
These people are demonstrably innocent of all claims of harassment. The nearest to malfeasance that can be correctly claimed is that some individuals take a joke too far or are perhaps a little obsessive in their pursuit of the truth or sharing their opinions.
That is an excess of passion, not proof of evil.
  • What the media says is not valid proof that they do no wrong.
This is a big one.
Too often I see claims that a journalist or publication supporting something means it must be true.
Guess what, these are people. People not only have personal bias, but many have an agenda.
This is not about tinfoil conspiracies, it's about the cold reality of humans.
Do people like to help their friends?
Do people like to protect their friends?
Do friends sometimes ask for favours?
What I am saying is that people that have openly declared their friendship and admiration for an individual can not then claim that helping them is a fanciful conspiracy, and that any help rendered is purely coincidence.

Do people believe in things?
Do people practice their beliefs?
Do beliefs influence actions?
Does a moral code dictate your moral decisions?
Many argue that the feminist friendly media that has lots of active feminists is somehow ENTIRELY impartial on feminism, and that any support for individual feminists is entirely incidental and personal choice.
Is that really believable?
If so, it makes them truly horrible people.
If the feminists at Digra or various publications are not advocating for what they believe is a worthy cause (feminism) then they may be the definition of evil.
It's no more a conspiracy than saying a Republican politician supports conservative causes, or a Democrat supports liberal causes. It might be a generalisation, it might not always apply, but it's hardly a great leap.
  • The fight against Tumblr is real, but it's mostly incidental.
The ethics violations are mostly conducted by the social justice crowd.
Largely this is due to a sense of righteousness. Their cause it good, so they can break a few rules.
The opposition to SJW and Tumblrinas is incidental to the cause of ethics.
Simply put, the worst offenders are often those that declare their own moral purity, and making fun of them is extremely easy.
  • This fight is beyond gaming. 
The Rolling Stone UVA story and surrounding apologetics proves this breed of unethical puritan is not limited to gaming media.
Sadly, instead of condemning false allegations and lacklustre reporting, too many "moderates" "liberals" and "progressives" excused the whole thing as "for a good cause"
That is utterly unacceptable.
It is not social justice, it is not liberal, it is COUNTER to justice.
It's horribly misguided apologetics. Good intentions are irrelevant when you support ruining the lives of the innocent and can never seem to find REAL cases to support the problems that are apparently an epidemic.
  • Nobody is denying the claims made on the hashtag about needing reform.
At no point has anyone been able to say there was no ethical misconduct.
At no point has anyone proferred an argument that nothing needs to change.
The biggest opponents of #GamerGate have adopted new ethics policies, apologies have repeatedly had to be issued for violations and the only rebuttal to anything discussed on the hashtag is "but misogyny"

There are not "two sides" to the gamergate discussion.
There is not "team ethics" and "team feminism" or "team end misogyny"
On one side there is a discussion about ethics, which features those promoting ethical journalism and those supporting open corruption.
On the other side is a group of people desperate to derail the discussion so nothing is done.

To draw an analogy, this is like saying that Gay Marriage is an issue with two conversations; One about Gay Marriage, and the other about how the bible says homosexuality is a sin and gay people are going to hell.
You see, the second "group" here has no interest in discussing gay marriage, only in pushing their religion and disrupting the conversation so nothing can be accomplished.

The fact remains that there is zero evidence that gaming is any more "misogynist" than anything else, and plenty to support the idea that nerds as a whole are far LESS sexist than the population at large.
The biggest target of mocking from the hashtag is not and has never been a woman, while many of the most popular users of the hashtag are women themselves.

To end, I'll suggest that everybody think carefully about who gains from the status quo of the last several years, and what is lost from adopting ethical policies.
That should tell you all you need to know about which "side" of the issue is honest and deserves support.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Gamergate; an introduction.

Many people will declare #gamergate and the surrounding discussion far too complicated to understand.
They will in the next breath usually say something about misogyny in gaming.

They are either lying, or repeating a convenient lie.
It is NOT complicated.
Lots has happened, but the controversy itself is remarkably simple.
The Know Your Meme article is excellent.

It all began with the Zoe post.
It's long, it's mostly boring complaints about the ex, but it is not abusive and contains REAMS of evidence to support the story of the author.
A story of a stormy relationship with a woman who would lie, cheat and manipulate.
If you dismiss this as personal shit and nobody's business.... good! So do I.
I would no more judge Zoe based on her ex boyfriend's distaste for her than I would Eron himself by what he has been routinely labelled in the media by his ex.

This would have been a storm in a tea cup, embarassing the key players and ignored by most people as Indie dev melodrama.
Some giggles would have been had by trolls, feels would be hurt and that is it.

What occurred instead was mass censorship across diverse media.
Reddit and 4chan deleting posts, forums topic banning and a generally heavy handed attempt to moderate "private information" by institutions and individuals that delighted in publishing similar claims with less evidence.
Yup, the same people condemning the Zoe post are PERFECTLY happy to libel men based on accusation alone.
This lead to a greater rallying of support for Eron and against censorship (and hypocrisy)

Around here is the birth of GamerGate, with Adam Baldwin coining the term in response to viewing the internet aristocrat's videos on the subject.

Thus, the "gamers are dead" articles were written in response.
Collusion on this matter is irrefutable.
It does not MATTER whether they came up with a conspiracy (they almost certainly did not)
They talked privately and later published almost identical articles. Intent is not necessary when they demonstrably spoke about the subject in secret and arrived at the same solution.
The GameJournoPros were not a uniform bunch, arguments were had, but the evidence clearly shows some individuals exercising considering influence and applying pressure to others.
It was not entirely innocent.

That is it.
The battle is between people angry at the media that is supposed to represent them and the media denying ANY responsibility and blaming the whole thing on misogyny.
There is no "wider conversation" about sexism as it pertains to GamerGate any more than than arguments over gender discrimination are about starving children in Africa.
Just because it's a problem (or you think it's a problem) doesn't make it involved in a discussion over ethics.

Friday, 1 May 2015

In defense of Political Correctness

The term political correctness is fraught with ambiguous and conflicting meanings, and so to open this essay I will explain its origins, history, intent and current disparate meanings.

As many are wont to remind, political correctness finds its origins in Soviet Russia.
It was used as a shorthand to describe party doctrine, things that were acceptable to say. Quite literally, things that had been politically defined as correct.

As many Russians will attest, this was extremely subversive and quickly became a tool for scathing criticism. The oppressed often rely on gallows humour through both overt and subtle means.

Later socialists and others on the political left would come to use this term with similar meaning, a sort of cautionary self criticism. Irony and satire were the watch words; as sex positive feminists levied sarcasm, rather than rhetoric, in criticism of antisexwork crusaders.

As times change, so does the usage of jargon. The political right seized on the term to undermine liberal politics. An accusation of political correctness ensured mature discussion of subjects was impossible as ideological lines were drawn.

Some time later, as culture shifted, the accusation carried less weight, as many of the things deemed "politically correct" were simply an expression of manners. And so, political correctness seemed to have a makeover. While still often seen as burdensome or over sensitive, it is also widely regarded as either a necessary evil to promote civility, or a benign (perhaps misguided) attempt at moderation.
And this is where I begin my defense.

Now, to iterate in rather explicit terms that may not be misunderstood;

I am not a big fan of censorship. I am not a big fan of "the right not to be offended"

"I am offended" is a largely meaningless phrase to use in the public sphere, saying more about the speaker than the target.

Borrowing a response from the redoubtable Stephen Fry to such charges: "so fucking what?"

It would seem to me that freedom of speech is the one true and unassailable right we should grant in order for civilisation to prosper. If you do not believe that offensive speech should be protected, you do NOT believe in freedom of speech.

To repeat a wisdom I am in thunderous agreement with; take all my rights, but leave me free speech and I will use it to regain the others. (I read that on https://thegerasites.wordpress.com/, paraphrased & unattributed)

However political correctness, within a narrow set of circumstances, is an acceptable compromise.

I firmly stand by the principle that with certain privileges come responsibilities, and this is where the modern definition of political correctness (or sensitivity/civility) comes into play.

When used as a weapon in rhetoric against any group of people, political correctness is nothing but a smear; regardless of the ideology brandishing it. A quote from CS Lewis comes to mind as a stark warning; “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.(...)  To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

When used to hold people in authority to account for their lack of empathy, understanding or knowledge; it is a necessary tool to ensure those in authority are responsible.

I think this has become the problem, as political correctness becomes a shield for authoritarians (and authorities) to claim the best of intentions, while practicing the worse excesses of bigotry.

I can only hope that the merits of political correctness become accepted, and its firm adherents educated as to its pitfalls.