Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dad is Dead: Rebutting Roger Ebert - PC Feature at IGN

Mike Thomsen rebuts Roger Ebert, who claims (say it ain't so, Rog) videogames will never be art. I agree with Mike: bullshit.

Dad is Dead: Rebutting Roger Ebert - PC Feature at IGN

At the end of his essay, Ebert asks a pointed question. "Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art? Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form. Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009. Why aren't gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves?"

The answer is simple. Videogames are not games, and there is more in them than winning and enjoyment. The reason football is not art is because its rules were designed with the primary goal of competition. Competition is only one of a great many different experiences that a videogame can create. Games can also be about losing, and not competing at all. They can be about love, the impossibility of relationships, the beautiful indifference to our individual life choices, urgent intimacy in the shadow of death, sexual anxiety, and confrontation with life choices to which there are no right answers. There are games that, using the language of authored interaction, invoke all of these ideas, and many more beyond.

What's most ironic about Ebert's latest round of criticism is that it's based on an invalid reading of the works he's arguing against. After watching a video of "Waco Resurrection," Ebert concludes that it is a "brainless shooting gallery." Of Braid, he says the time reversal mechanic breaks the "discipline of the game," and doubts that "I can learn about my own past by taking back my mistakes in a video game." Ebert concludes by addressing Flower: "Nothing she shows from this game seemed of more than decorative interest on the level of a greeting card." He reaches these conclusions by virtue of having streamed clips of each work online. This would be the equivalent of dismissing a film after having read a dismissive essay about it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What is the best way to give advice? | Psychology Today

A paper by Reeshad Dalal and Silvia Bonaccio in a 2010 issue of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes looked at several different kinds of advice that people get and give to understand how likely people are to use them. They distinguished between four types of advice.

Advice for is a recommendation to pick a particular option.

Advice against is a recommendation to avoid a particular option.

Information supplies a piece of information that the decision maker might not know about.
Decision support suggests how to go about making the choice, but does not make a specific recommendation. (For example, you might recommend that a friend looking to go to a movie check out a website that aggregates movie reviews. You aren't recommending a particular movie, but just a technique for making a decision.)

In the studies, college students were asked to imagine making a particular decision. Some participants considered a choice of a job after graduate school. Others selected among candidates for officers in a student group. They were given a variety of different kinds of advice and asked how satisfying and useful the advice was for making a decision.

In general, people found all of the types of advice to be useful to some degree. However, information was the most useful kind of advice across the studies. That is, people found it most helpful when people told them about aspects of the options that they might not have known about already.

What implications does this finding have for evangelism?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


No, not that kind. The funny kind. The ridiculous kind. The kind where Insane Clown Posse sing-rap about magnets and rainbows.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


My wife and I recently ditched cable entirely in favor of a combination of Netflix (even the $8.99 bottom-level subscription gets you unlimited access to their already pretty good and constantly growing instant-streaming catalog) and online video from sites like Hulu. We bought a $20 adapter for our laptop (a 3 year old Macbook Pro) and now pay $70 less a month. The switch has been totally worth it.

We watch the ads on Hulu, as much as we did on cable or broadcast TV. I would consider paying some kind of subscription, if the deal was reasonable. There are lots of ways to make it more profitable, better for consumers, and used more. There are really only 2 things in the way, and neither of them are technological.

1. Corporate shortsightedness. Cable companies are (rightly) afraid that consumers will prefer something on-demand nature of web video rather than the firehose that is cable. They hobble burgeoning web video to protect what they perceive to be their own stable base of cable subscriptions. In this way, they are like the railroad companies who failed to perceive that they weren’t in the railroad business; they were in the transportation business. Media is headed to the internet, and companies that see sites like Hulu as their competition rather than their future will end up as feeble as the railroads.

2. Stigma against the Internet. Ads on broadcast television command far higher fees than internet ads. Some of this is understandable; many browsers have various ad-blocker extensions you can install, and of course television is a much older medium than the web. But I spend as much time online as I do watching television, if not more, and there’s no reason advertising on a TV show that “airs” over the internet has to be any different than one that’s broadcast in the traditional manner. In fact, the web can probably provide much more accurate metrics for advertisers than the highly questionable Neilsen ratings system.

Much like the anticipated demise of newspapers, the apparent threat that online video presents to established media companies is entirely a result of their misunderstanding their own business. They are entrenched in old business models where they control everything and the consumer passively watches the television they make. But they don’t make television; they make content. I want to watch that content, along with my own movies, and the stuff from YouTube or whatever, when and how I want. I’m willing to pay for it through subscriptions or by watching ads. The pipe on which that content rides to my house should be irrelevant to them. And if they can’t figure out how to make money at it, somebody else will.

Successes and Some Growing Pains at Hulu – NYTimes.com.