Monthly Archives: June 2011

A new New Eden?

With the recent patch of EvE online it’s become clear that CCP’s goals for the game differ greatly from the desires of a great deal of those playing it. The four things that bother me the most are:

1. Microtransactions -> vanity items are crazy enough. I suppose I can understand their business model, except that I can’t, but I find they seriously disturb the feel of the game and my attitude toward it.

2. Licenses for API apps. OK, so they took this one back…sort of. It’s coming though and it really bothers me that people are now going to have to pay CCP for extending the game in very important ways. Before you complain that CCP deserves payback for the money others are making….most of these services don’t make any; the ISK and such being payed for killboards, for example, offsets the cost of running one. Nobody’s actually making money there.

3. Captain’s Quarters -> seriously, this is the big deal for this “expansion” and it seems like such a total waste of time to me. Not only does it not really give anything but one little room to walk around in, so I was able to absorb the entire experience and all it offers in about 30 seconds, it’s just a time sink both in game and I imagine for development as well. The game didn’t need this.

4. CCP’s reply: basically, “You guys are all full of shit and we’re going to do what we want.”

So yeah, I’m very close to unsubbing. Unfortunately there’s nothing else out there that offers the same experience that EvE *used* to offer. I’m a little bummed out.

So, maybe it’s time for a new one. There’s all kind of things that CCP did wrong anyway, that they never bothered to fix.

Writing a video game in Python for example (WTF where you thinking??). They claimed that it made it more testable, etc…but yet the more they converted to Python the more got broke. Either it’s not providing the benefits you think it is, or QA is doing something wrong.

Physics -> EvE physics is way wack. Up and down in space?? Water waves?? Falloff when not in orbit of a planet or sun?? Angular velocity being the same for the orbiter as it is for the orbited??

Unfortunately, we’d have to change enough that it wouldn’t really be EvE at all, for that would be making a derivative work. Something that captures all the best parts of the game though and abandons the worse might be very worthwhile.

One thing about EvE is that the best parts of it have nothing to do with 3d eye candy, something CCP has apparently totally failed to appreciate. Much of what the game is could be done with some windows or even as a MUD….at least at first. 3d background that looks cool can be added later because it must be admitted that the space scenes in EvE where AWESOME. The foundation of the game though doesn’t need a space-scape at all though.

Anyway, something I’ve been thinking about the past couple days. It could be done. Maybe it should be.

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Mistakes where made

So I’m currently reading a book called Mistakes where made, but not by me, which discusses the various defense mechanisms we have against our own bullshit. The main subjects so far have been cognitive dissonance, that uncomfortable feeling you get when you believe two mutually exclusive things at the same time, and confirmation bias, which is our tendency to only remember what fits our conceptions.

Basically, so far, the book explains that cognitive dissonance is a very uncomfortable state for a brain to be in and we do everything we can to make that feeling go away. We’re not even truly aware that we’re doing this most of the time. We end up justifying our actions and choices that conflict with our perceptions of ourselves so that we can continue believing we are who we think we are. For example, you may consider yourself an honest person and yet you might “fiddle” your taxes a bit. Being dishonest on a tax form doesn’t coincide with being an honest person, so we find ways to justify it. “Everyone does it, it’s part of the game,” etc…

Confirmation bias is of course one of those things that we use to defend ourselves against cognitive dissonance. By selectively remembering those things that confirm our conceptions, and forgetting those things that do not, we are able to continue believing that our conceptions are true. For example, back to the honesty thing, if you believe you’re an honest person you are more likely to remember those times you where honest at your own expense rather than the times you where dishonest for your own advantage.

Of course, nobody likes to think they are guilty of any of these things. As such, any time you can be proven wrong about this conception of yourself you’ll be naturally inclined to unconsciously do these very things and completely hide the fact that you actually DO justify actions and choices that aren’t in line with your self image and that you actually DO have a very selective memory. In other words, you do these things and don’t know it because you don’t think you do these things.

More interestingly, these things can actually govern who you are more than your image of yourself does. When we make choices, especially the difficult ones, we spend the rest of our lives justifying those choices to ourselves such that we actually believe that these post-hoc justifications where what we believed all along. This means that a lot of your ideas about morality and ethics come not from true reflection but from the self-justifications of choices you’ve made in the past.

The author uses the example of two people taking a test, both of which are going to take a severe hit in score if they can’t answer a question which they’re struggling with. Both have a chance to cheat. Both are tempted to the same degree but one happens to chose at the last minute not to cheat and the other decides the opposite. After this event, the one that chose to cheat is likely to see cheating as a normal activity while the person who did not cheat, and suffered for it, is likely to become very against cheating.

The author also gives us a new way to look at Milgram’s experiment–the one where the subject was ordered to give increasingly greater shocks to someone ranging from the barely felt to the dangerous or deadly. Most people who talk about this experiment focus on its implications to our tendency to obey authority figures. This book explains how someone can be led, using increasing self-justification and small steps, from a seemingly benign choice to the choice to do something really quite awful without even feeling bad about it.

All one has to do is get you to make a small step in a certain direction, wait for you to justify that choice to yourself, and talk you into the next step, where you’ll do the same. If asked to hook someone up to 500 volts and flip the switch outright, hardly anyone would do it. If, on the other hand, I ask you to hook someone up to 10 volts, and give you a semi-reasonable sounding reason…you might do it and then I can get you to add another 10…and another 10…and further until 75% of the participants delivered what they thought where deadly levels of electric shock to an innocent person.

This, to me, is a rather frightening set of things to consider. Nearly everything we think we are could be nothing more than a continued, lifetime effort of self-justification. Right down to our beliefs of right or wrong could be nothing greater than pot meet kettle. One thing this author clearly hammers home, and he has some good arguments, is that the closer people are before the choice, the further they grow apart after. Like a pyramid (author’s own words) we start at a single point and then begin sloping away as we continue to justify our own choice of not going the same way the other did. The more anti you are of something, perhaps the more inclined you where to do it one day; maybe even the more inclined you are to still do it.

We of course see this in others and say, “Well obviously! I see hypocrites all the time! Just look at all the anti-gay fundamentalists that where caught with their pants down and someone’s penis in their mouth!” The thesis of this book though is that we also are hypocrites. If we where not there’d be no way we could sleep at night.

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Proud to be an American

I’m an American. I’m an American because I was born in America and continue to live here. I like where I live and though I do not support a great many of the actions of my government, including a great many of the things that are being done because of popular vote, I still very much like the place. The more I look at most of the rest of the world, the more I thank blind luck that I was born an American.

I see a lot of bumper stickers on cars talking about how proud the driver is to be an American. I know a lot of people who have this view as well. Although everyone, myself included, is prone to group think and following the crowd…doing what’s expected and saying meaningless things because everyone else does, I don’t believe that’s the case here. A great many of the people saying they’re proud to be American I believe actually do believe that they are and hold this belief quite dear. However, I don’t understand it.

I could actually understand it a bit more if they where immigrants. Having to earn the right to be an American is something that would be worthy of a sense of pride in that accomplishment. Hardly any of us is though. We did nothing in particular that made us American except be born to American parents. It’s something we could feel lucky about but what in that can give a person pride?

I am very proud of the accomplishments of those who founded this country. These men and women (mostly men because lets face it, in that respect they where still ignorant pricks) created something new and wonderful at a great price. Not just those who screamed a lot and wrote wonderful prose that we all love to read and believe we live up to; not just those who fought and died in the few wars in our ancient (for America) history that actually WHERE about our freedom; I’m also proud of people like my ancestors who, though partaking in and profiting from many great atrocities, built something really great with their sweat, blood, tears, and all to short and hard lives. My life however, it is nothing like that.

My life is incredibly easy and lacks any great battles. I can pretty much do whatever I want, when I want. I can say what I want. I can fuck who I want how I want. I have all the food I could possibly need and enough to throw huge amounts of it away. If there’s one thing you can say about Americans it’s that we have enough to waste. I’ve got everything I need and then a whole hell of a lot more.

Yes, I worked “hard” for this though not even close to as hard as many. I drove on nice, paved roads to a school that I paid for with funds given to me by the government (some of which I’m still paying off :P). I had to work at school but I had the opportunity, many do not. A lot of what I took, and indeed take, for granted as being available are simply not for a great majority of the world.

So I’m an American. Yes, lucky me. Very lucky me. But what is it that I’m supposed to be proud of? What is it that YOU are proud of?

OK. Many people begin answering this question by talking about sense of community. I have that…to some extent. I care a great deal that people continue to benefit from the very rights and privileges that I find so beneficial. I volunteer time, though not as much these days, trying to improve various aspects of my community and surroundings. I vote. I despair that a lot of what I’ve been taking for granted for years is quickly going away. I care that you have a good life as much as I do. This doesn’t stop or begin for me with being American though….this for me is part of being a human being.

Frankly there’s a great deal about American culture I find quite abhorrent, especially modern culture (though that’s what every aging human feels I tend to think). We have this ingrained sense of entitlement that only seems to be growing. I don’t mean that “entitlement” that people complain about everyone else having when they hope for the government to supply social services. I mean a sense that all of my work should be for my benefit alone, should I decide that’s where I want that benefit to go. I mean the idea that we’re somehow so independent that we can take take take and should not be required to give any in return. I work hard for my xxx millions of dollars, ergo I should not be expected to give back to the community. I’m benefiting from my very own work, right? It’s not like there’s an entire society upon which I depend to be able to succeed like that, so why should I give anything back?

I find I cannot be proud of that and also must accept that it’s very much a part of my culture and identity. Its who we Americans are, which can be directly observed by how we vote…which is all to often in a very short sighted and greedy manner.

The way we tend to consider ourselves the paragon of virtue in the world is also something I can’t be at all proud of. Yes, we where the first modern democracy and that’s a really great accomplishment for those that achieved it. On the other hand, we’re far from the only one now and it’s worth examining how others have done it and recognizing that maybe we don’t know everything. We’re also squandering and ruining our democracy quite rapidly and reversing a great many of those great things we really where so great at and came at such high prices to those who did all the work.

We like to think of ourselves as this great and tolerant culture as well. It must certainly be admitted that when you look at places like the Middle East we look like saints in this regard. On the other hand, it’s always a long and hard fight and we have a very long way to go. There are still a great many areas in our culture of acceptable bigotry. George Bush Sr., ex-President of this country himself said that atheists should not be considered citizens. The admission of atheism by a politician in this country means a death sentence to his career. Atheists are widely held by many Americans as being incapable of morality and are seen as one of the greatest threats to the country. Secularism is seen as a boogyman tearing at the Christian moral framework that supposedly is the basis of our freedoms and government. All this while one of those things that many other countries get quite right is a systematic acceptance of secular morality and identity; countries that do so have the least occurrences of things like teenage pregnancies, abortions, drug abuse, and murders.

We are getting better though, and I suppose that’s something worth being proud of. But for me there’s a difference in being proud of something accomplished and being proud of some feature of identity that to me seems superficial and accidental. There’s no difference between me and someone living in one of those horrible places I’d hate to live in. If they had been American they’d act like someone brought up in American culture. It is said that we’re all only 3 days from total anarchy, meaning 3 days of broken infrastructure and we’d start turning on each other. I don’t know if this is true or not but I do believe it bears consideration and in so considering to think about what that means for places and people who are not as lucky as we.

Not that thinking isn’t pretty much the only thing I’ll do…

One friend of mine at one time tried to convince me that traditional displays of patriotism and pride where worthwhile by comparing being American to being a part of a sports team. We root for our chosen team. I can see and identify greatly with this kind of view though I don’t believe it’s an accurate comparison. I’ll wave a flag at the Olympics. I’ll root for the Americans. I make fun of Canadians and I tease the British. It’s all in good fun really. But is this really what people are talking about when they mention their pride in America and their pride at being Americans? If so, then why do they get so offended when that pride is challenged in even the most minor ways?

My bet is that there will be a great many people reading this that are going to be incensed at the content. How dare I say I am not proud to be American?? How dare I not sing our anthem or salute our flag, promising my heart and mind to a republic rather than to myself and my fellow human being? How dare I compare these acts to trivial displays of religious worship and say they are just as meaningless? I’ve come close to having to defend myself against violence for uttering such things and failing to follow the same standard of behavior that people expect in these matters. I know other cultures take their Soccer this seriously but I’ve never heard of anyone getting beaten up, spit on, yelled at, or even looked at funny for not saluting a Seahawks emblem. I have to seriously doubt that these people mean anything like “rooting for the home team” when they say they are proud to be Americans.

Yes, I feel very lucky to live in this rich and wonderful society. I value the freedoms that I have and the sacrifices of others that they required. I don’t know that I would call it “pride” but I do admire the accomplishments of many people who where Americans. I admire our historical place in the world and hope others follow the example we in many ways failed to live up to. I hope that we all continue to challenge our ideas of what it means to be Americans and what kind of responsibilities we have to those around us. I hope that we don’t destroy what we have out of ignorance and bigotry. I am proud of some of my own accomplishments, and regretful of others and of failures. However, nowhere in this do I see a way to justify pride in the “act” of simply being American. I figure I may as well be proud of being a human being rather that being born a fish or something.

So, what have you to say? Where is your pride coming from? Upon what is it based? How can you justify being proud of an accident of birth that made you one lucky SOB?

I’d be happier with a bumper sticker and slogan that said, “Damn lucky to be American.” I could accept that. I could admire the fact that you recognize it. I have a very hard time understanding, let alone admiring your pride.

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