A cavalcade of discontent

You know how sometimes you just get into a mindset where nothing seems to be going right? Where no matter what you do you can’t stop being in a deep, fuzzy funk? I’ve got that right now. So what’s pissing me off at the moment: let’s try and list the crappy things at the moment and maybe they’ll seem more manageable.

First: This book chapter paper-expansion job is crushing me. I hit a point where I realised that the initial idea I had in the paper was actually shit and rubbish and the so expansion turned into something like an attempt to salvage anything from the flaming wreckage of what I thought was a plausible original idea. Ha! So much for that one. Hey, guess what, actual originality is even harder than I thought it was (and I already thought it was pretty damn hard). I guess either I’m doing shitty research (hello!) or not doing enough (hello!) or my standards are too high (hello!) or I’m not playing the bullshit publishing game right (hello!).

Second: My actual PhD research – it’s basically the same deal as the chapter above. I mean, it was meant to be something preliminary from the body of my PhD. Which means, hey, my PhD research must not be doing too great I suppose yeah maybe. I need to get back on those interviews and stuff but I feel like at the moment all my time needs to go to this stupid chapter (see first issue) because it’s due soon. But all the time I’m supposed to be spending on it I’m really just wiling the fuck away anyway so maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I’ve got heaps of time for it.

How much do I actually still have left to write? I need to write: an introduction, a literature review-type chapter (reviewing what’s been said about internet communities I guess; my methodology as well?), a chapter on my own take on internet community (how to talk about internet community), a theoretical chapter on the nature of the internet or digital environment (although every time I think about this one I kind of cringe and go “really? wasn’t that also just another bad idea I had?”), a chapter I had planned to write attempting something like a mashing together of object-oriented philosophy/ontology and J Gibson’s “affordances” but I think that’s probably not going to be a successful endeavor now, a chapter of ANT-style case studies of certain bloggers who did a lot of linking, i.e. community building (Maggie Green, Michael Walbridge, N’Gai Croal), that last chapter could almost be two or maybe three chapters with the amount Maggie and N’Gai wrote. And finally a chapter on some events that elucidate some aspect or other of whatever the hell is interesting about the community formation aspects of the critical videogame blogosphere. Perhaps at the end of it all I go “Well actually, it’s important not to overemphasize the importance of this stuff”, particularly if I’m not particularly convinced myself by my fanciful claims at the end of it all.

Third: I fucked up pomodoro. Guess that’s not working out for me at the moment either. No idea when I’m going to get back into that, but this more free-style blogging I’ve been doing is at least keeping up my sheer writing quota.

Fourth: If I get another bout of tonsillitis I’m going to murder someone, possibly myself.

Fifth: If I don’t stop coughing soon I’m going to murder somebody.

Sixth: I am frustrated by constantly being reminded of an ex.

Seventh: I haven’t gotten out enough lately. I probably should have gone to the gym today at some point to de-stress and work off some energy.

Eighth:  I had a rather crappy SC2 game that got to me. Some unnecessary ‘advice’ from my 2v2 partner got on my nerves. We were outplayed, massively.

Ninth: I’ve run out of really good TV shows that I want to watch. I’m up to what’s been screened in the US now with The Walking Dead, Misfits Season 3 is on-balance disappointing. I finished Deadwood. Game of Thrones isn’t till April and I can’t drag up the enthusiasm to watch any of the great shows that everyone else seems to love (I’m looking at you Breaking Bad, you horribly depressing mess).

Tenth: I still have really itchy hands as a reaction to the penicillin.

Is that all? I think that’s all. it’s pretty clear that the research and the book chapter are two big-ticket items really bringing me down at the moment.

After a shocking list like that, I think it’s probably time to think of some positives.

I am looking forward to GDC a lot. It’s coming up really soon, but it still seems pretty far away somehow. GDC is literally my favourite week of the year. It’s better than Christmas. It’s better than all those other activities you enjoy. It’s like having all your best, longest lost friends all in the once city all at the same time. Who cares if the talks you go to are good or not? That’s not what GDC is about for me anyway.

Even though I had a really shitty last game, I’m also really enjoying the challenge and the learning process involved with Starcraft 2. I missed the GSL Code S matches tonight because I was actually playing SC2 but I can always go back and watch them later. My 2v2 bro and I played an amazingly tenacious game  earlier in the evening in which we won by the skin of our teeth against slightly favored opponents. Ghost play is essential. And with ghosts, my late-game has slightly improved – just by asking myself the question: “do I have everything I want?” which is what Day[9] suggested as a good thought process for that mid-late game where money is no longer an issue.

PALGN Behind-the-scenes

This pastebin contains a discussion thread between the owner of the Australian gaming site PALGN, and it’s volunteer staff, admin, writers, etc.

There’s so much to say about it really, but the most obvious is that it’s a really incredible example of The Sunk Cost Fallacy:

…having inherited the editorial position when PALGN was in the shit over three years ago, and having worked my arse off to maintain it, rebuild many damaged relations while building the best staff team ever, I’ll be damned if Iím going to walk away and let you reap the benefits that I’ve tried so hard to provide for this team.

All of these people other than Roland should clearly have cut their losses months, even years before the situation reached the downright abusive and destructive point it’s at now. I know one (perhaps two? maybe more that I don’t know about) people who did just that. I bet it now seems like the best things they could have done, in light of this.

Bogost on Zynga & originality

Some excerpts of a recent piece ‘The Bulldog and the Pegasus‘ on Zynga/Nimblebits and the accusations of copycat behaviour by the Big Z. Best thing I’ve read this week.

It’s easy to hate Zynga, but neither moral turpitude nor mythic hubris sufficiently explains our present situation. Folklore and modernity alike condition us to desire a lucid answer, a simple take with a clear moral: don’t steal game designs, don’t abuse players, don’t exploit workers. Those are decent principles. But they are also stories, and stories are lies whose deception we forgive in exchange for their grace.

If games ever can do good for the world, this is perhaps all they have to offer. To remind us of contingency, to give every move an orthogonal weakness. To impose a doubt for every certainty, while still admitting the need to carry on, out of vanity and shame as much as ambition and hope, to ride higher like Bellerophon on Pegasus to touch Olympus, all the while secretly knowing that we are not gods, that we will be toppled. And to hope that when we do someone will take us in, and that we won’t die alone.

And a great point from one ‘Nicholas Bollerophon’ in the comments:

…when you attempt to make something with a bit of originality to it – even just a little – your effort shows and is in and of itself a political expression. You are asserting that you can step out of the path of collapse; culture has grown instead of just turned over.

I’m reading little bits of Oliver Marchart’s stuff on the difference between ‘Politics’ and ‘The Political’. According to a journal article, “Marchart has elaborated an extended definition of minimal politics, the minimal criteria required for an action to be considered political… To this end, he proposes five criteria of minimal politics.”

The five criteria are 1. “the aim of becoming a majority” (i.e. “…it aims to transform the contemporary social order.“), 2. “Strategy”, (“Strategies contesting traditional ways of doing and saying are also linked to the aim of establishing new institutions and practices.“), 3. Some sense of organisation, 4. “Collectivity” (“As with the aim of becoming a majority, the collective dimension of political action need not be understood as an empirical collection of individuals, but as a symbolic collective; as the symbol of a collective actor.“) and 5 & 6 are “conflictuality and positionality” (“Since politics therefore always includes a dimension of conflict, actors will need to take up a position within this conflict.“).

I think it’s reasonable to suggest that making “something with a bit of originality to it” could be made to squeeze within this set of criteria.

I also really like Ian’s phrase “orthogonal weakness” and emphasis on contingency.

That kind of Monday

Where your brain is in a fog that stubbornly refuses to lift until after midday no matter how much coffee you drink or what you try and do. I have a chapter to write, dammit, and I can’t do it without you brain! Maybe you’re hungry. Well we’ll fix that soon.

Using twitter for odd things

It really should come as no surprise, but I’ve only just realised that I’m using and enjoying twitter for new (at least for me) and strange things. Gone is nearly all interest in carrying out conversations and discussions via twitter, though arguably I gave up on proper twitter debates a long long time ago, and instead I’m enjoying the vicarious aspects of the platform. Some of my favourite twitter accounts at the moment are robots – scripts and algorithms that do non-ordinary things with the service.

I think it started with TPHD. Theron Jacobs twitter account is a thing that I adore, for reasons I can’t really explain except that he’s always surprising. Right as I started to think I’d had his “schtick” down (tongues, licking, puppies, snakelord – there’s definitely certain themes that he enjoys creating tweets and poems about over others) he goes and surprises everyone with an eBook, “Smell my wild flowers“. (Don’t be fooled, it’s not your high school poetry class waxing lyrical about flora. It’s good for one). Well that’s cool, but then, what’s the last thing you expect after someone puts out a book (pdf) of poetry? BAM it’s a second eBook of poetry – BEAST. Surprise! (Alright, so it doesn’t sound that surprising, but I was slightly shocked. Compressed into a paragraph it loses its impact. Look, you really need to follow TPHD okay).

Come to think of it, I can’t remember if I started following Horse eBooks before or after TPHD. But either way, I did. Also, what they say is true, Horse has changed and he’s gotten too wacky. The aura of magic has dissipated and now it just looks like someone trying to be funny (which is the absolute last thing on the hierarchy of things that are funny).

Actually one of the earliest weird accounts I started following was BARTSIMPSON_REAL which was the typo ridden, delusional output of a strange venn diagram covering only one person – a Bart Simpsons fan and a Slobodan Milosevic apologist. Some of my favourite ever tweets (rivalling even the best of Horse Ebooks) were from this account. It’s current incarnation is Bart_freecialis but that may not last.

There’s also the suitofracoons, though it hasn’t tweeted since December. Baden Pailthorpe’s “Eighty Four Doors” a machine translation of Orwell’s 1984, tweeted at odd intervals. Okershee/OMNIVISION which I have no idea about but which I started following a little while ago just because it’s great. Here’s a great recent tweet from Okershee. And last in this eclectic and incomplete list is BrunoIator (with a capital ‘I’ instead of an L) which just goes to show that Latour would be a great tweeter if he could be arsed.

Twitter has always loved non-sequiters.

On Conflicts

Sometimes there really is no way to avoid being a bit of an asshole about certain things. I don’t really mind that, it’s just part of life, but I sometimes worry a tiny bit about how easily I accept the part.

Working on my late game TvEverything

So in just about every matchup, I’m pretty okay up till I’ve basically taken and held my second base. Where most of my games are falling apart at the moment is the late game – at the point where my upgrades should be popping real fast and giving me the edge, and where I should be getting some hi-tech units like Ghosts (in TvZ/P/T) or Thors it (TvZ) or even Battlecruisers (TvT? Ghosts for snipes & EMPs on dropships is probably better unless they’re going mech… in which case… the only air>ground units terran have are Banshees or BCs, and Banshees are reasonably hard to control). Day-9 has just recently (like last week!) done a series of Newbie Tuesday videos on The Late Game which I hope will really help me out. I’m starting to get sick of losing to either massed BCs, or to Broodlords (about three times now I’ve seen it happen with increasing levels of dread and resignation each time).

I also played some 3v3 last night with two of my good friends who are both quite good at their niche skills, and who both play much more aggressively than I do. Again, I think the TvZ Boxer-build attitude of the mass two-base turtle has kind of infected my other match ups with a conservatism and risk aversion that is really hitting me hard. I don’t think it matters how good my Macro is if my economy is two bases behind.

Posted in SC2

Kotaku hires a bunch of bloggers

Steven Totilo has the news here.

That’s pretty neat. I love it when bloggers turn their labour of love, sweat and tears into something more financially fulfilling. I still remember when we first found and linked both Patricia and Kate’s work at Critical Distance, maybe around a year ago. If we helped them in any way to get where they are now, I feel we’ve basically justified our existence.

The Chapter of Death, or, When that thing you’re writing turns to utter crap

I have a book chapter due in about two weeks time, it’s an expanded version of a paper I presented in Oxford in July last year. I’ve reached the point where I have stopped being convinced of my own thesis – which is pretty damning. The thrust of the original paper went something like this:

– The videogame blogging community is pretty rad

– The community seems to know stuff (it makes interesting blog posts and discussions)

– Therefore the community as an aggregate entity knows stuff (and for some epistemological reasons that’s interesting)

Easy, right? Except that I’ve grown disenchanted with the idea that the community knows stuff, as well as the idea of the community as an aggregate entity. It’s all kind of boring and banal, with all the things and potentials that excited or surprised me about it now seeming dull and mundane.

Okay fine, so I can’t just withdraw the piece from the anthology because I think my piece is stupid, gotta keep the publishing record up after all. So what’s my option? Go with the pat ‘there were no conclusions reached/further research needed’ option?

A journal article I discovered the other day might have a useful “out”, and I’ll excerpt the intro:

“The 2011 revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and neighbouring countries have brought blogging and other social and citizens’ media to the forefront of the public imagination. Major news corporations have interviewed bloggers and drawn heavily on Twitter and Facebook. Social media have been celebrated as creating or, at the very least, fuelling the revolutionary movements. On the other hand, ‘pre-revolutionary’ scholarship on blogs and other forms of online journalism, citizens’ media and user-generated content argued that they were unsuccessful because they did not appear on the radar of commercial media and/or have not themselves become big media, accessed by a large number of readers/users. For some observers this means that journalism 2.0 has not lived up to its promise (Rebillard and Touboul, 2010).

These two apparently opposing arguments draw on the same logic: media are considered political if, and only if, they have a major impact on political decision-makers and the public sphere. …The danger for media analysis is that we then forget about the political import of mundane, quotidian everyday practices: they no longer fit within the notion of politics.”

They then go on to position the German news-blogosphere (a considerably larger one than the CVG blogosophere) as political via Oliver Marchart’s who “has elaborated an extended definition of minimal politics, the minimal criteria required for an action to be considered political.” So that could be an out: do something with Marchart’s 6 criteria for minimal politics and say the CVG blogosphere meets the criteria (probably like: sometimes it will, sometimes it won’t).

The bits I have that do feel strong are about community formation, and how the CVGBlogosophere emerged and how to talk about community when it’s a techno-human community… but why would a chapter primarily about that end up in a book about videogames (and more to the point: in a section on identity and gameplay?? Unless I want to get all Clifford Geertz up in this piece and treat blogging as a “game” – also a. la Chris Bateman, but I have some problems with that book…)

So I don’t know.  I think I’ve about reached my limit for the day, and it’s time for some relaxing Starcraft instead.

MVP out of Code S

A sad day, as what I’d seen of MVP was just really, really solid Terran play – a lot to learn from. Maybe not as flashy as MMA’s performance in the Blizzard Cup, but “safer”. Basically he lost twice (I think) to build order failures tonight.

At age 20, is MVP past his prime – or was Tasteless right in thinking that MVP looked physically ill? Gumiho is only 19, after all.

Apparently it’s freezing in Soul. When my parents were there last year (I think?) they both said it was literally the coldest they have ever been – and they’ve trekked through Nepal. The cold is quite conducive to colds.