Thursday, November 9, 2017

Facebook’s Original President Admits They Are Brainwashing You.



I wish I could quit Facebook, but I’m addicted, just as hundreds of millions of people around the world are addicted. But why? According to Facebook’s original President, Sean Parker, it’s because they designed it that way ...on purpose.





I’d like to think that I could quit at any time, but the feeling I get when one of my friends or family member’s like or leave a nice comment on one of my posts or pictures makes me happy. I like being able to easily share things with them that I feel are fun, interesting, or important. However, for years now, it’s become more of a place for me to share the things I see wrong in the world, as if it will somehow fix the problem. (It doesn’t)

When I joined Facebook in 2009 Myspace was still the king of social media. It was starting to fall, to second place and within a few years time it was pretty much dead, but I still like what Myspace was back then more than what Facebook was and is today. It allowed me to say whatever I wanted but never forced anyone else to listen. If someone was interested in what I had to say, they had to come to my page to see it. Facebook does not do this, it injects what it thinks you want to see in your feed based on your likes and dislikes.

“But if you don’t want to see it, just ignore it!”

Therein lies the problem, you can’t. Sure I could hide a picture, ignore a post, or block a user, but that doesn’t keep Facebook from analyzing my behavior patterns and force feeding me things it thinks I want see. They’ve even made what little control you have over feed hard to get to and annoying to use. Want to use an ad blocker? Go ahead, but you'll still ads that look like posts in your feed. Want to see only the most recent posts instead of what FB thinks you want you to see? You can, but you’re going to have to tell Facebook that every single time the page refreshes.




So I’ve resorted to keeping Facebook at arms length. I use it, but I don’t trust it. I don’t send friend requests unless I have some sort of meaningful working, playing, or personal relationship with the person. To this date, I’ve never given Facebook my phone number, even though it’s asked me for it more times than I can count. I don’t get ANY news on Facebook, I only share it, and only from sources I trust and have discovered on my own outside of Facebook. I use Facebook to suit my needs, and do my best not to let it tell me what it thinks I need.

Not for a second to I think I’m immune to it’s influence however. I’m well aware that no matter how hard I try or how vigilant I am, at some point I’m going to click ‘like’ on a sponsored post, either by accident or on purpose, and that’s why felt the need to speak out on this topic. Like it or not Facebook is a massive corporation and a huge part of many people’s lives, and it’s not going away anytime soon. So rather than try and convince people of the world it’s that it’s wasting it’s life on social media platforms, I’m trying to raise awareness that Facebook can be used like a tool, as I try to use it, and not as central part part of your life. It’s not easy if the platform has already hooked you on it’s calculated release of dopamine with every ‘like’. You’ve got remain aware and keep your biases in check. You’ve got to think twice before sharing or posting. Facebook isn’t going to change, you have to.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Elite Dangerous, Why Do You Force Me to Love You?



It’s no secret that Elite Dangerous is a less than perfect game. If you’re a veteran sitting fat and happy on hundreds of ships and billions of credits, it might feel like you’ve beaten the game and have nothing to do. If you’re a new player, and especially if you’re new to space sims in general, the steep learning curve, the lack of hand holding, the low paying missions all make the prospect of earning your way out of a Sidewinder and into a Python or Type 9 look almost unattainable without sacrificing hundreds of hours to the grind. But, there in the middle somewhere is where Elite’s fun lies hidden. The trick is to know all the tricks, and the only way to do that is to ask other players, search out player made guides online, or experiment with your own ideas.

“But, if you are forced outside game to look for guides and money making schemes, that’s bad game design!”

I don’t disagree with you. But, once you realize what the game is asking of you, it makes a little more sense and you can grow to appreciate it, however imperfect. Frontier's goal is to allow it's players to "pretend" they are part of an "Elite" group of independent pilots that traverse the galaxy in some of the most advanced privately owned spaceships ever made in effort to expand and grow humanity's footprint in the universe. They’ve painstaking programmed the most realistic gravity and terrain generation they can and they've built a life size (virtually) 1:1 scale model of our own real Mikyway galaxy with lore baked in ready to explore. They have asked us to discover it's secrets as if we were out discovering the real thing in a ship of own that we bought with our hard earned space credits and fine tuned to perform exactly how we want it to. How you do that is completely up to you! You don’t have to do it alone. Or at all! You could decide instead to be a mercenary, or a trader, or a pirate, or… wait… haven’t you heard all this before? ...hundreds of times?

Many space games have made the same promises, and whether or not they deliver I’ll leave up to you. As for me, I’d like to compare Elite Dangerous to another type of game you may not expect.

Gran Turismo. I’m not an avid racing game player, but I do enjoy them quite a bit from time to time. I put hundreds of hours into Gran Turismo on the PS2 and PS3. In those games you get to “pretend” that you are a famous racecar driver that races in prestige events all around the globe, in the most exotic locations, in some of the fastest, most valuable, and exoctic cars on the planet. You are given a meager amount of money to buy your first almost not crappy car, and from there it’s up to you to figure out what types of races you want to do, which other cars you want to buy, and in which ways to modify them. If you complete the certain license challenges you’ll be reward by unlocking other cars, locations, and race types. And it does this while painstakingly programming in the most realistic racing physics and recreating real world locations as close as possible.

Sounds a little familiar, right? Sure in Gran Turismo eventually you can win all the hardest races and become the champion, where as in Elite you caaaaan… what? Buy another ship? Discover another planet? That sounds boring by comparison because at this point we’re talking about apples and oranges. You can’t become champion of being a spaceship pilot [RIP CQC]. But you can learn the tricks of the trade, no matter what the trade may be. You can research, find, and hunt down mysterious Alien lifeforms. You can participate in the hostile takeover of a neighboring star system in representation of your favorite political faction. Or even play the role of AAA in space, and rescue a stranded player who ran out of fuel and only has minutes of air left! So yes, the similarities have to end somewhere. One is a racing sim and the other is a space sim after all. A space… sim. That’s where the important differences are. Not from Gran Turismo, but every other space game out there. Lets take a look at a few of the most played, more current Space Games/Sims out there today.

Where EVE Online does a fantastic job with player freedom and content to absorb, It pales in comparison in over all size and lacks a real exploration system that makes you feel like you’ve discovered something no one else has. It can be pretty unforgiving if you don’t know what you’re doing and you can lose a lot of progress waste a lot off your time just by making one small mistake. Null Sec, where all the headlines are made is a pvp no man’s land, and the game requires a subscription to access all the content in it’s entirety.

No Man’s Sky, arguably the most similar game to Elite, has a universe that is as big if not bigger than Elite’s and is pretty accessible to new or low skill level players. It’s beautifully artistic graphics and planetary generation really make Elite’s look meager at times. Discoveries of alien life? They’ve got you covered there! But of course players were notoriously let down big time at launch when they learned that many… err most of the features they thought would be there, weren’t… or were paper thin at best. Like Elite, NMS doesn’t hold your hand much either, and gives you freedom to do whatever or go where ever you want, but the problem is the game gives you no reason to do that beyond upgrading your equipment, ship, base, or just discovering the next planet. There is only the vaguest hint of some mysterious lore or story, no real economy, everything just feels sort of arbitrary and meaningless… not to mention… no multiplayer despite requiring an online connection. And no… I’m not counting...that…whatever that is they slapped in… as multiplayer.

Fractured Space is a dirty F2P MOBA and Everspace is more if a roguelike and is only on this list because, well it’s a pretty damn good game.

Star Citizen… isn’t out yet.

But Seriously, Star Citizen is promising the world (and stars) but is still in Alpha after almost eight years, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of the most played space games today. It has a level of fidelity not seen anywhere else, but you can’t do all things they’ve announced just yet, and they’ve made no promises to give you an entire milkyway galaxy to discover.

So if you’re someone like me, that’s what it comes down. I love Elite because I want to travel the stars and discover the secrets our galaxy holds. I want to live another life and pretend to be a spaceship pirate, merc, or space trucker. Elite Dangerous is the only game out there that can do that for me because I can play it at my pace, as long or as little as I want. It can can consistently impress me with it’s level of realism graphically and audibly. No decision I make in the game is influenced by a predetermined path layed out for me by the game, yet everything in the game is there for a reason, waiting, asking me to discover it. It’s up to me and you to figure out what those reasons are, if we want to.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Evolution of Advertising for the Internet Age - A Rant, By Geekmax.

A conversation started with friends about the relationship between today’s consumers and manufacturers and how Apple has made it’s consumers dependant on Apple products, and it got me in the mood to talk about something that’s been rattling around in my head for a few years now. I was thinking about the relationship between advertisers and content creators on online media outlets like Youtube, Twitch, and basically anywhere there is content online, be it social media or otherwise. Today #YouTubePocolypse is among us, and I’ve come to the conclusion that what’s been happening is both same same old thing, and uncharted territory.

When I look at the battle between [TV] vs [Internet], what I mainly see is [Ratings & Timeslots] vs [View Counts, Likes, Subscribers, & Followers]. It’s all about getting as many eyeballs on your ad as possible. The traditional Super Bowl commercial costs millions and billions of monies, while a traditional TV commercial during a Ricki Lake re-run only cost like… 3 monies. The superbowl ones cost more because the networks know that the advertisers know that lots of eyeballs will see the ad if they put’em in the Super Bowl!  Get it? That was a joke about how Ricki Lake’s talk show is old and irrelevant in today’s society. Which brings me to my point. (I had a point)

Traditional TV ads in most cases have become irrelevant in today’s society. If you’re reading this, chances are you spend more time on the internet than watching Television. And If/When you do watch TV, chances are doing one of the following, DVRing your TV show and fastforwarding over the commercials, changing channels during the commercials, turning the volume down during the commercials, or just ignoring the commercial all together. Then, out of the 2% of commercials that you actually do watch, only like 12% are even relevant to you. Advertising on TV today is not what it used to be, for sure. Remember what TV commercials were like when TV was still new but almost everyone had one, but color TVs were still a ways off? I don’t remember because I wasn’t born yet, but many of them were built into the TV show you were watching, or sometimes, like on talk shows, the host would take time during the show to do a commercial right then and there, similar to the way you here sports announcers do it during a sportsball game, except the motivations today or much different. Back when all TV were still monochrome in nature, the TV host’s commercial was much more personal. Sometimes they’d have a story of their own to go with the product they were promoting because it was something they believed in and trusted. If you likewise already liked or trusted the TV host, and you most likely did since you’re watching him, then that advertisement most likely held your attention and did it’s job. This sort of thing slowly went away in favor of more ads that were easier to program broadcasts around in blocks, like what we think of today as commercial. But then you have what the Sportsball announcers do in between hut huts. A quick little slip of the beer ad because they’re name isn’t already all over every wall in the stadium and graphic on your screen. Today’s TV ad logic is this… “As many ads as possible, as cheap as possible, as often as possible, and in as many places as possible. Demographics used to be much more important, but today not so much, because NO ONE IS PAYING ATTENTION ANY MORE!

With each generation we get better at detecting bullshit. This is why almost no one pays attention to commercials any more and most of us have ad block installed on our web browsers. Time after time, commercials/ads have proven to be more of a thorn in our side that wastes our time, blows out our eardrums, or just plain misleads us about the product. We’ve reached a stage where most of us have had enough, and we’ve found ways eliminate the problem.

Enter… the Youube content creator. I’m using Youtube as an example because it is currently the best example, however what I’m about to say can be said for virtually any online media outlet that supports independent content creation of some kind, be it Social Media, Twitch, etc… In the past decade, corporations have gotten wise to the issue, and we’re back to having ads, made by the content creator (TV host) directly for the viewer. The ads have taken a little different shape, but the concept is the same. The ads that work best are the ones that feel the most authentic and honest, even more so now due to our aforementioned bullshit detection abilities. However an authentic promotion of a product requires that the product be trustworthy in the eyes of the person promoting it, assuming of course that person isn’t full of shit and will say anything for ad monies, and if they’re full of shit you’re probably not watching them. We only watch people we like, and we don’t like people who are full of shit (generally speaking).

Enter... #YouTubePocolypse. Today we have a situation where those who play nice with the advertisers get preferential treatment in the form ad revenue on their video uploads, and what does “play nice” mean to the advertisers? It’s supposed to basically mean “Don’t be a dick on the internet, and we’ll give you ad monies”, but what it really means is “Don’t be the WRONG kind of dick, be OUR kind of dick. The kind of dick that will say anything for ad monies.” And it’s working. Now all there is left to do for the advertisers is sit back and watch while independent content creation slowly dies in favor of commercialized content creation. Watch as the personal ad by the TV Host gets replaced by more and more dedicated blocks of ads ads that mislead you. It’s the same, but different. This is why Net Neutrality is important. This is why independent media is so important. This is why we stopped watching Television in favor of online media. And, more to the point, this is the logical move if you’re a big business trying to make as much profit as you can.

That...is what went all through my head when a friend of mine mentioned the thing about Apple’s consumers being dependent on Apple product, because there is another step. I’m calling it the “iStep”. In the age of the internet and social media, corporations can contact would be consumers directly. If they can win enough of them over with free stuff and pizazz, they might just get a FAN… and that’s much cheaper than an advertisement. You don’t have to pay fans, they will advertise for you for free! (How many Apple stickers have you seen on the back of cars. Do you have one on YOUR car? I bet you do. Shame.). With TV the buck stopped at the networks. The Corps pay the Networks, the Networks pay the TV Hosts. But with on the internet, most media is independent so you’re pretty much paying the content creator directly. There are no networks… until there are. Peace #RickiLake

Monday, August 28, 2017

Negative DOTA 2 Reviews Look Like Valve’s Fans are Turning On Them



PC Gamer has an article out today about how DOTA 2 is being blamed for the cancellation of Half-Life 3, and receiving negative reviews on Steam as a result. Some of the negative reviews do their best to make their point, most do not. It's the same story you’ve heard hundred times before with lots of bandwagoning and silly jokes, except this time it’s unique as it’s sparked by the perceived impact upon a game that was never officially announced, let alone released.

I want to be clear right off the bat, as internet people have a knack for assuming they know more about your opinions than you do. Like many gamers, I consider Half-life to be one of the best, it’s in my top 5 favorites, and I very much want to play Half-Life 3. That said, in my opinion, Valve is under no obligation to give us Half-Life 3, but one has to wonder what type of impact that could have on their image in the eyes of their customers. Valve has long been considered a shining beacon of light of the gaming industry due their excellent games like Portal and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and with super sales every few months on their Steam platform, gamers have many reasons to love and support the company. However their image has become ever so slightly tarnished in recent years due to controversies like paid mods, data breaches, and the long wait for Half-Life 3 itself (It’s literally been a decade, we are officially in Duke Nukem Forever territory). Even more recently, pretty strong rumors and most importantly, the release of Half-Life 3’s story by former Valve employee and Half-Life 2 writer, Mark Laidlaw, have led many to believe that Half-Life 3 has been officially cancelled, although no official word by Valve has been made on the matter.

There is an argument to be made that Valve should never release Half-life 3 as they could never possibly live up to the hype that the franchise has received over it’s lifetime. I don’t agree with that argument since I consider video games to be an art form and feel that there should never be a reason to not make more art, but that’s a whole other discussion for another time. But, I do understand that, as a business, Valve could have a lot to lose if Half-Life 3 ended up being “bad”. After all, they’re a much bigger company now, with many more responsibilities than they had back in 2007. So, from a business perspective, cancelling Half-Life 3 could make sense, but is it the right move?

These days image means a lot for a business. Customers, especially in the gaming industry, have a pretty low tolerance for being jerked around, although it seems they tend to show their dissatisfaction on social media rather than with their wallets. But word travels fast on the internet and bad news has a way of going viral, hence our current DOTA 2 situation. The rumored cancellation of HL3 could be viewed as a slap to the face for the fans who have stuck by Valve and patiently waited for the much anticipated sequel, all the while supporting a company they believed in and trusted over the years by choosing spending money on their services over others.

It’s important to remember a few details to this story, first of which is that Half-Life 2: Episode 2 ends on a pretty intense cliffhanger with no resolution to the story whatsoever. It’s also important to remember that Valve’s original statement and plan was to release smaller more frequent “episodes” with incremental upgrades in tech and graphics as a sequel to Half-Life 2 rather than just make Half-Life 3. It was Valve's way of keeping fans happy with new content more often at a lower price to entry by making shorter more affordable games that took less time to develop. This never happened. But we got a Sequel to Portal, a game which takes place in the same universe as Half-Life. We got a sequel to Counter-strike, a game that wouldn’t have existed were it not for Half-Life. We got a sequel DOTA, a MOBA style game based on a mod for Warcraft and a type game no one even knew Valve was interested in making (they had only made FPS games before). And most recently we got an announcement for a trading card game coming up based on the DOTA franchise. Meanwhile, rumors, concept art leaks, conspiracy theories, and Valve’s own ultra tight lips with the occasional *wink* from CEO Gabe Newell himself on the matter have kept fans chomping at the bit for a new Half-Life game for 10 years now.
Eventually everyone assumed Episode 3 was never going to come, but certainly Valve still intends on releasing a true “sequel” in traditional form called Half-Life 3… right?

To say Half-Life fans have been strung along is an understatement, but that's not necessarily Valve's fault either. The internet has a way of propping up public figures to cult like status for the most random reasons. Gabe Newell has fell victim to this phenomenon, and the more likeable the figure, the longer their cult like status reigns. This could simply be one of those situations, and it’s may be time for that cult like status to subside. Good faith in a company only goes so far. There is already as of now a fan backlash, but how big a backlash is yet to be seen. Could this be the beginning of the end of Steam’s supreme reign over the PC gaming market? Probably not, but crazier things have happened. Steam isn’t the only game in town anymore, with services like GOG.com, Origin, Uplay, Battle.net, Bethesda.net. Seems like everyone’s got their own digital distribution platform now. If there is to be no more Half-Life, that could deflate the balloon and fans could stop caring about Valve as a company they way they used to. Before you know it, Steam is just another digital distribution platform and those loyal customers could slip away.

One thing is for certain. Valve is not out of the game developing business. Regardless of whether or not Half-Life 3 ever becomes a thing, Valve will continue to releases new games. If those games are good, they will still have fans and gain new ones. Not to mention, new people are born every day, and as much of crime in life as it is, we unfortunately are not born already having played Half-Life, so Valve is sure to gain new fans for every new Half-Life player in the future.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Happy Birthday George. Really.

Being a lifelong trekkie, I follow a lot of Star Trek pages and celebrities on social media. It’s such a huge franchise that it seems like every other day I’m getting notifications of birthdays for Star Trek Cast and Crew members, past and present. Some I like, some I share, and some I ignore because honestly who has time bla bla bla, but really, no one else can really truly appreciate the work that you did on LCARS the way I do Mike Okuda. Well, except for maybe that jerk Wil Wheaton. <3 George Takei Turned 80 years old on April 20th 2017. I’m writing this on May 3rd, 2017… because social media just told me about George’s birthday… again… for some reason. So why am I going out of my way to wish Mr. Takei a happy birthday... again... two weeks late? I’ll tell you why. At the age of five, Takei was forced to live in American internment camps with his parents because they were Japanese. After WWII, he and his family were allowed to have rights again (funny how that work right?), and Takei attended Los Angeles High School where he became Student Body President. He then, got his Master of Arts in in 1964 from the University of California. 1965… Star Trek happened… enough said. In the 70’ and 80’s Takei kept himself involved in local politics and so much as being appointed to the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, where he helped plan the Los Angeles Subway System. All the while starring in various other plays, movies, and television shows along side his role as Lt. / Commander / Captain (take your pick) Hikaru Sulu. Not until 2005, did Takei come out as gay. Despite the terrible events of his early childhood, he went on to achieve greatness on multiple fronts, helping and entertaining people, while keeping his true self hidden from the world for 68 years. That in itself is an achievement in our time when it really shouldn’t be. Since then, George Takei has really become a beacon for acceptance, not just of the LGBT community, but of progressive values in general. Takei currently serves as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign "Coming Out Project", but in 2015, the Japanese American National Museum honored Takei with the JANM Distinguished Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement and Public Service, and in 2016 received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from California State University for all of his contributions. In a time where talk of banning people from our country because of their religion and stripping away rights of citizens because of their sexuality has become common place, we need people like George Takei more than ever. So, really… Happy 80th Birthday George, and you of truly deserve every happy day here after. P.s. Sorry I’m late and #LLAP

Friday, September 30, 2016

Doom II Came Out 22 Years Ago Today


As we all know, id Software changed the word of gaming with their release of Doom in 1993, but I didn't get my 1st taste until Doom II: Hell on Earth was released in 1994. There isn't much difference between Doom and Doom II. The gameplay and graphics are pretty much identical, except that Doom II has bigger levels, more enemies, and more weapons/bonuses/secret areas. How do you make the greatest game of it's time better? Make more of said game! And they did.

Doom II has a special place in my heart as it was really the 1st PC game that I invested myself into. I had played other games, but Doom II was something else. It was different. It was a rock star of a game in it's time. Word had already spread across the world about Doom so Doom II had an aura of greatness around it before I ever played it. When I'd boot the the Doom II .exe file, it's haunting menu screen and music filled me with dread, but then as soon as the 1st map loaded my dread turned to excitement and the fun began... every single time. Here are three questions that only had to ask myself once.

"Who are these two dudes with their backs turned to me?"

"Why is there a chainsaw hidden behind me?"

"Why are there demons trying to kill me?"

Only once because none those questions mattered once the fun took over. Doom isn't about "Why", it's about "Doing" because that's the fun part.

The 1st time I saw (and heard) Doom II's end boss, the Icon of Sin, it blew me away, and then when I turned wall clipping off and found John Romero's head on a stick, I was flabbergasted. It was truly the 1st game on PC that felt like more than just a game to me. It was huge in level design and in scope. It made me appreciate the skill and talent that goes into making a video game and made me want to make them too. I'm not a game developer but I probably wouldn't have gotten into graphic design had the striking look of Doom II not influenced me at the young age of 10-13 years old. Doom II may not have been 1st, but it was my first, and it has influenced my life as much as anything else from my past.

However the best part, and what I like about Doom II most is, here we are 22 years later and I could still boot up Doom II, or any of the other Doom games and they are still just as fun. A true testament to this franchise.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hello Hello Games, We Need To Have A Talk About No Man's Sky


My super late to the party opinion on the debacle that is No Man's Sky.

No Man' Sky is fun... for about 8-10 hours. After that it's not bad, but... (and I'm not going to go into all the reasons why as everything has already been said by everyone else on the internet)... but the game is not what we were told it was going to be.

There are only two possibilities. Either Sean Murray was completely full of shit, or something disastrous happened during the development. If the latter, they should really do a press release of some sort to give some kind of explanation why there is SO MUCH missing out of the game. If they don't give some sort of explanation, Hello Games is finished. Or at very best, they will forever be known as "That one indie developer that's full of shit", and that's not going to be good for them.


The hype behind this game was too large to ignore the backlash that's happening. It needs to be publicly addressed to save face. Not saying that will happen, but it should.



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My own 100% speculative theory with no evidence to back it up what so ever. When No Man's Sky was first unveiled at the Video Game Awards, the only platform that was announced was PS4. Later they said it would be coming to PC "Eventually" but they didn't know when at the time. Point being, I think this was originally going to be a PS4 exclusive.

The hype reached over 9000 immediately after that very first trailer. Sean Murray's interviews was filled with bashfulness and silly shy grins. You could help but like this adorable little indie dev guy making this huge impressive game. EVERYONE was talking about it. You can bet Sony heard the noise and they probably became extremely invested in the development and release of this game. I have a feeling Sony pressured Sean Murray into releasing the game before it was finished in order to capitalize on the hype and get as much sales as possible. Development was taking to long, and Sony didn't want a Duke Nukem Forever on their hands. Also Star Citizen is presumably right around the corner (hahahahaha...I know) and Elite Dangerous is forever growing and evolving with each content update. These are games that are not only more impressive than No Man's Sky, but also scratch the same exact itch that No Man's Sky was scratching. They had to get the game out.


The End.