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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Ball Revamped: Metaphysik

jmtb02 || ball revamped: metaphysik
I highly recommend you check out this game. It's a really promising new Form, and the creator seems to have the vision necessary to develop it.



It's not really a new Form at all. I'll deal with this at some point. (I've been putting it off for a year or two, because it would be a big project.)


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Monday, February 21, 2005

the mundane and The Imaginary!

I woke up around 6:30 this morning. I had gone to bed too late, considering I never sleep well before school days, so I was very tired. I stayed in bed. Ten minutes later, Pussywillow ran into my room and jumped to the window, which was closed. I got out of bed to open it for him. He sat, looking out, and I watched him. Around seven, I left my room and saw the signs which my mother had put up. I got dressed, and went to my computer to kill some time. I went into Firefox which brought up my twenty home tabs, mostly gaming sites. I was careful to stop browsing only when fifteen minutes had past from the time I would have needed to get off in order to get to school on time. I grabbed my jacket and left the house.

The bus ride was long. The bus was completely full, and I sat in the very back in the middle seat. That is the seat behind the aisle, with chairs on both sides, so that from there you are looking at the entire bus from the back. There was no one I recognized on the bus.

I got to class a half hour late. Yehuda is the head of my class, and is the nicest guy I've ever met who has anything to do with schools. It was his class I was coming to, and he allows students to come in even if the class is about to end. Despite Yehuda's best efforts (and he is a very good teacher), the material today was very boring. I sat in my place, trying to find a comfortable position for my head and failing. Class ended. Yehuda asked, "Wait, doesn't someone here have a birthday?" The consensus was no. "Yes," I said tiredly. I left the room. The schedule said there would be a Music History class at 11:15 (after a one hour break), so I went to the computer room and browsed the web.

Aah! I was scared out of my wits right there. What a surprise! I don't believe it- all my Imaginary Friends have come! You really didn't need to go to all this effort. It's so nice to know I still have all you guys. And who's this- Tuvia, is it imaginarily you? You've come all the way from Ketchikan? I haven't seen you since seventh grade! I've missed you so much. I've missed the way we used to talk together, not out of some kind of social obligation but because we were friends. I've missed the way we'd play games together and tell jokes and have fun. I'm so glad you're here, in this Imaginary room, with all my other Imaginary Friends, with this great Imaginary party! But first- Tuvia, how have you been doing?

I had an enjoyable but brief conversation with two younger kids in the room about computer games.

At 11:10, I left the computer and checked the schedule again, which now had the Music History class covered over in marker with the word "free", meaning it had been cancelled. I left the campus.

The bus ride was long. The bus was almost empty. There was no one I recognized on the bus.

Walking into the house, I immediately smelled the cake (from a mix) from the oven. It smelled good. I asked if that was a Duncan Hines cake I smelled (generally my mother makes homemade cakes, but I prefer Duncan Hines), and my mother said yes, but it turned out it was Betty Crocker. No matter, Betty Crocker is pretty good too. She even got Betty Crocker icing for it, since I like that better than her own icing. She told me she'd be making lasagna for supper. All this got me excited. I decided not to write what had been going through my head all day on this blog, because what did that matter when my home is so nice to be in. I sat down at my computer to browse the web and play games, and Willy jumped into my lap.
Willy is so cute. I spent the $50 dollars I got for my birthday to order the Myst games from Amazon, which I should get in a week or so. Benjy has sent me some money as a gift, which I'll be saving for later. Miriam came home. I went to the music rehearsal for our shul (synagogue)'s dedication. I came back.

The lasagna was a disappointment. I found out that my mother had been so intent on creating the appearance of giving me my favorite food, that she apparently hadn't cared about the quality of the food. She had used a really lousy tomato sauce, which did not make for a very good lasagna. I got the keyboard I'll be playing on, so that I could get the hang of using it. I practiced playing on it, and found that it wouldn't sound good without a pedal. (The family I got the keyboard from has no pedal.) My family members all praised me for using it. I played very badly to see what they would think, and they complimented me some more. Then my family sang "Happy Birthday", and we had the cake, which was very good.

That was a very good cake, but it's food, and food doesn't last. But your friendship, Imaginary Friends, means more to me than all the "Happy Birthday" signs in the world. When I played my latest piece for you before on that Imaginary piano in the corner, you listened to it. Some of you liked it, some of you didn't, but both opinions meant more to me than you can imagine, because you actually thought about it. And some of you showed me your latest works, and I took them seriously and gave my opinion. We shared words and thoughts. What more can one ask for, Imaginary Friends? Hello? My imaginary friends...

Miriam started a blog, because she saw that I had made one. Since then, the girls have gone to sleep, and I ought to get to sleep too. Maybe Pussywillow will let me pet him on my bed. My parents are nagging me to finish up with the computer, to get to bed. "You have school tomorrow," my mother has just said. I'm going to sleep now.



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Friday, February 18, 2005

The Definitive Three-Step Method for Game Design

More and more often, I see articles denouncing the lack of complete freedom in games, linearity, cutscenes, etc. When describing the ideal future of gamism, the writers of such articles describe that such nuisances will be a thing of the past. They envision a future where all gamism allows as much freedom as you can possibly imagine. I personally think this philosophy could lead to some of the greatest experiences in the history of gamism. Furthermore, this way of thinking is fundamentally inadequate.

The logic goes something like this:
  • Gamism, unlike film, painting, literature, or dance and music [These two don't actually belong in this list, but most people wouldn't think of that.], is interactive.
  • Gamism should stand as one art form, alongside the existing art forms. [These people have not bothered to analyze gamism to find out what it really is, but they would like to attribute significance to their hobby and think that an art form is the most respectable entity it can be portrayed as.]
  • All existing art forms have been developing for a long time, but gamism is brand new, and obviously less refined.
  • The more similar gamism is to other, more developed art forms, the more likely it will seem outdated and superfluous next to the other art form it is [supposedly] competing with.
  • Therefore, gamism should always focus on the area in which it differs from all other art forms- interactivity. Any games which "overlap" in purpose with other art forms should be discouraged in order to encourage gamism to move uniformly in the right direction.
Note that I am not speaking of the Industrialists, but of people who are genuinely interested in the future of gamism for reasons other than personal greed. The Industrialists are interested in enabling more freedom only because this seems to make money (see Grand Theft Auto). They don't see gamism as an art form or a medium for art forms, but as a source of revenue. With them I cannot argue, as the Game Industry does in fact make money. But the more idealistic gamers who dislike restrictions are misguided. Say there were a game, with non-abstract graphics and a third-person perspective, in which the player does not play the main character, but an observer, the eyes through which a noninteractive story is told. This would be close enough to the accepted definition of videogames for all gamers to recognize it as a game. The "interactivists" would call it a waste of time and energy and recommend that no one play it. And they'd be completely missing the point. Just because it is played with a controller does not mean it is the same Form as, say, GTA. And if it is a different Form, then what's wrong with getting closer to literature and movies, as this game would? It doesn't pull back gamism, because the rest of gamism would not even be related to this game. Additionally, allowing diversity in gamism would attract new gamists by giving them Forms in which it is easier for them personally to express themselves. Allowing gamism to grow in many different directions will not necessarily lessen the positive growth in the area of interactivity, because the people who make GTA are not the same people who would compose in less interactive Forms.

Gamism should not try to set itself apart from nondigital art forms, but embrace them. However, each individual Form should set itself apart from other Forms. The epitome of unrestricted freedom, in my opinion, is the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). In case you've not heard of such games (World of Warcraft, for example), the concept is that many players are "living" in a virtual world on the internet, with a working economy which they should participate in. In these games, each player has a unique voice, and can choose from many different ways to play the game. This Form should be developed a lot, as I believe it has a very important role to play in the future of humanity - MMORPGs will eventually evolve into virtual reality societies in which people will spend more of their time than in the real world. But this Form is not and should never be allowed to be the end-all, be-all of gamism. If a gamist wants to tell a story, MMORPGs are a horrible medium in which to do so. He might put in cutscenes or other noninteractive elements, and this would be counterproductive and misguided. The noninteractive elements will feel completely out of place in this Form which is designed for maximum interactivity. The only way to make noninteractive elements work in a game similar to a MMORPG would be to branch off from the MMORPG Form in a different direction which does not give the player as much freedom, thus creating a different but related Form which would grow farther apart from the MMORPG Form as they develop over time. The more freedom you give to the player, the less artistic freedom the gamist has. How can you tell a story when you keep allowing the gamer to contradict you? Similarly, in less interactive Forms, the gamist must restrict the gamer's options in order to be able to express himself better.

Someone from Square-Enix once stated that the future of "games as an art form" lies in MMORPGs. This is actually fine by me, provided the company does not try to turn other Forms into MMORPGs. What it means is that Square-Enix will progress from now until the revolution in that direction, focusing on that particular Form as if it is the only existing type of game. If every game company were to believe that strongly only in the future of one Form, we'd have a nice variety of well-developed Forms, although creating more diversity might become tricky. The problem is when the press adopts positions which limit all of gamism to one singular path. For instance, in IGN's review of "Star Fox: Assault", Juan Castro wrote:
OverallAll [sic], Star Fox: Assault equips the same brand of action as before, yet it carries over the same limitations as well. In an age where complete freedom of movement is the norm, players will still find themselves confined to rails. Not to say these sections aren't fun, far from it, in fact, only to say that it's about time Star Fox and crew stepped into the present.
Now, I haven't played this game, but what kind of a ridiculous criticism is that?! Star Fox isn't a series of flight simulators, it's a series of 3D shmups (shoot-em-ups)! A reviewer can criticize a game for doing what it sets out to do badly, or getting distracted from what it sets out to do (this game, incidentally, looks like it suffers from this, but IGN's review doesn't care), but to criticize a game for not setting out to allow more freedom, for a Form in which freedom is more or less irrelevant, is absurd. If Mr. Castro and his IGN associates had their way, there would be nothing that did not allow them to do whatever they want. Their reviews impact the buying decisions of many gamers. If gamers are turned away from buying 3D shmups solely on account of their being on-rails shmups and not being "interactive enough", the shmup Form will never be developed. Who can possibly benefit from this?



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Friday, February 11, 2005

Professional Manipulation

Here's a funny website:
Mindbending Software
I got to it from It's ridiculously unprofessional, and the spelling is lousy, but it's still pretty amusing. If there were such a company, you can bet they'd be making a killing.

Yesterday I had my first "counselling session" with one Dr. Elmaleh, who specializes in Asperger's Disorder. Asperger's Disorder is primarily a social problem: People with this disorder have a hard time reading other people's body language, and so find it hard to interact with others. The syndrome has all sorts of other side effects, all which I clearly have, but I had a hard time believing that I couldn't react correctly to other people. I asked Dr. Elmaleh, and he pointed out that I had already interrupted him four times. I had serious doubts as to whether this Dr. Elmaleh could help me. How could he, when all he does is talk and have me talk? What I need is a way to get out of this ridiculous game we are all expected to play. A counsellor cannot possibly help me with that while sitting in his seat and talking. Those uncertainties have now turned into a negative certainty. So why did I agree to come again next week? First of all, curiosity. I'd like to better understand the methods this Dr. Elmaleh uses to "help" his patients, as I'm sure they're very interesting. Secondly, he can help me to understand why I have trouble making friends. I have another reason, but now is not the time to speak of that.

Dr. Elmaleh asked me what I would do with my life if the system were flexible enough to allow it. I told him I would like to make videogames. He asked me for more information, and I gave him what he asked for. I would like to make a 2D platformer. It would have a unique and original control scheme similar to acrobatics, which would not just be for glitter but would be useful. The structure would be based loosely on the Legend of Zelda structure. There would be no action, only the exhiliration of falling through the air, avoiding obstacles, reaching new heights.

Did that paragraph seem a little out of place in this post? Of course it did. Dr. Elmaleh couldn't care less about my platforming ideas. This first counselling session was about getting me to trust him. I don't, although he may trust me. He is working on me with standard rules, trying to defeat me with the box he has placed around himself. But I am not in a box, and I will never put one around myself. He's a few months too late to kill me- I have rediscovered Nonazang. I was willing to resign the game, when Dr. Elmaleh entered my life. He told me not to try to quit the system, but to play it. And so I shall. Imaginary Friends, you may not yet understand what I'm talking about, but know this. I am not one to do what I am told. At least not as I am told.



In case it's not already obvious: I never had any idea what that ending was supposed to mean. I was waiting for an opportunity to do something that would justify that post, and retroactively make it seem like I had been clever. That's how improv works- act like everything you did was absolutely deliberate, as opposed to a shallow outbreak of emotion. Sometimes it doesn't go so well.


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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Ah, the life of a cat.

I love cats. I think God put them on this planet for two reasons:
  1. To enjoy their lives
  2. To look impossibly cute doing so

Now, normally I don't care about appearances, but when something is so obviously designed with the "cute factor" in mind, I think I can make an exception. So I'll say that I have a gorgeous cat. And boy, does he love his life. His name is Pussywillow, but we call him Willy for short. I'm anthropomorphizing him here (a perfectly natural, irrational thing for humans to do), but I think in some ways he's similar to me. He doesn't ask for much, just a little food and water and shelter. And he's satisfied with it. He doesn't like sticking around when there are guests over, but he's very friendly with me. Whenever I sit by the TV (usually to play a Gamecube game), Willy comes running so that he can sit in my lap. Of course he's mainly coming because he knows I'll pet him, but I love that kind of relationship more than the unconditional phoniness I get from certain members of my extended family. I probably wouldn't go to someone myself unless I thought I could get some pleasure out of being with them.

What does Willy choose to do with his life? Well, mainly sleep, to tell the truth. He has around fifty different "sleep spots" around the house. His favorites are the dollhouse above the TV (yes, inside the dollhouse), the side of the couch in the living room, the rocking chair by the computer, and on top of the clean laundry. When he feels like it, he goes outside to get some more activity. But when he doesn't, he doesn't. Sometimes, he just looks out windows to take in the "scenery". You may think it's ridiculous to assume that a cat would be able to appreciate a static view like a human can, but why would he do it if he weren't enjoying himself? I think cats can naturally enjoy their surroundings, as all the house cats we had acted the same way. There is much elegance in the life of a creature who never bothers himself with the artificial nuisances the Real World throws at him, who can enjoy life because there's no system telling him not to. Now if he could just use a Gamecube controller, his life would be perfect.



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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Small and Insignificant

It turns out I can't play my original piece for my exam. Figures.



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Golden Fun: The Lost Age

It was a simple project. "Land of Creativity," it was called, or something like that. We were asked to create a fictional country, and answer questions such as, "What is your country's national anthem?" and "What are the national holidays in your country?" Our sixth grade English teacher, David Gower, expected and wanted stupidity. I think the example he gave of a fictional country was "Coca-cola Land". I hated that teacher. All my fellow sixth graders followed his example, inventing boring derivative countries such as "Chocolate Land", "Hockey Land", etc. Yawn. I wasn't one to do what I was told as I was told, though. My inspired choice was to make the fact that my country was nonexistant be the defining element of my country. I named it Nonazang, and decided that it would exist 13 miles past the middle of Nowhere. That is, if you ever get so lost that you find yourself in the middle of Nowhere (Nowhere containing all nonexistant places, separate from Somewhere which contains all existant places), and then go thirteen miles past that, you'll get there. Their flag was a white piece of paper. For their anthem, I even added music to the lyrics, so I think it was my very first musical composition. But of course, the music contained only one repeating note, that being C. One has to start somewhere, I suppose. The questions I received pushed me to reach new levels of inspired insanity, precisely because I never answered the questions in the spirit they were asked. I devised an entire system of ineffectual government, of an ineffectual society, of a completely useless but ultimately endearing culture. When I was asked to describe a great war that took place in my country, I skillfully dodged the question by stating that while no war had ever taken place in Nonazang, every war that had ever taken place in Nonazang was won by Nonazang's armies of Themselves. (What the Themselves would have done, I explained, is bore the enemies to death. Literally.) But then I got a question which I simply could not answer. I was supposed to describe something interesting that had happened in Nonazang. I patiently explained to David Gower that this contradicted the three Laws of Nonazangian Nonoccurence:
  1. Nothing interesting has ever happened in Nonazang.
  2. Nothing interesting is happening in Nonazang.
  3. Nothing interesting will ever happen in Nonazang.
David Gower wasn't interested. I never wrote anything that creative after that year. Except for music, which became my refuge from a world which doesn't care for abstract, unpractical imagination.

Here's an interesting thing I've discovered. While I'm writing, I have no idea where I'm heading. I just improvise as I go along. But God always has a greater structure in mind for me, and this only becomes clear in retrospect. The 5-year time frame between second and sixth grade was clearly one "movement" of my life. After that, there is another five-year movement, which will soon be coming to a close. The former started out badly, got better up to the middle, and then got worse until the end, at which point I had become depressed to the point of wanting death. The current movement began as the high point of my life, and has been descending ever since in the Real World, while my love of videogame worlds was only hinted at in the first year and has been increasing ever since. In the middle, when I was applying for schools because the one I was in, Dvir yeshiva for Music and Art, was closing, I was asked for one application what I would like to change about myself for the future. My answer was: "I would like to be more serious." "Why?" they asked. "Because it's good to be serious," was the best response I had.

A month or two ago, I was looking for a book in my closet, when I came across my old Nonazang papers. I read them with pride and a little disbelief. I had completely forgotten that I was capable of such writing! It was then that I understood that the Mory of five years ago, who had not been training himself to fit into the Real World and only cared about his own imagination and quirkiness, was a much better person than me. And I have tried my best, in sharp contrast to the past five years, to not act my age. And you know what? It's much more fun. That didn't stop my second serious depression period from coming, but it gave me a way to deal with it. So what if I have no hope in the Real World? The Real World is my enemy. It always has been. I can't stop my miserable relationship with it, but I can ignore it as I did five years ago. And now I will succeed, because I have other worlds to occupy myself with.



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Monday, February 07, 2005

Every structure should have an exit.

A few days ago, I finished The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for around the tenth time. This time, I was paying a lot of attention to the overarching structure of the piece, in the interest of eventually writing a comprehensive review. For the most part, the intent behind the structure was very clear. But I was completely baffled by the final dungeon. It followed the spirit of the structure so loosely, that I was sure there was a mistake. The very next day in school (obviously not coincidentally), my Music History teacher gave me the answer I was looking for. We had just started Israeli music, and she mentioned in passing that with every new language, new ideology, new structure, the first few works are more of a "proof of concept" than artistic achievements. They follow their concepts precisely, trying to prove that they work. As such, they are rarely played, because once the novelty has worn out (as it should if the composition is successful in paving the way for other works) there's not a whole lot to care about in them. Miyamoto's genius lies in the fact that he takes his steps forward for granted. The last dungeon of OoT creates a new dimension to the Zelda structure which was not present previously, and yet it is largely ignored. Why? Because it doesn't fit in with Miyamoto's artistic vision for this particular composition. It is art first, and proof of concept second. Any lesser gamist would have been satisfied with the innovation, and produced something not worthy of remembering. We see that it is important to be willing to break out of the structure, even as you are working in it.

Today I have been trying to change the layout of this blog to better serve my posts. Everything I say is assuming that you have read my previous posts and understand as much as you need to know at that point of my strange, convoluted style of writing, my over-inflated ego, my lack of interest in the Real World, my philosophies regarding videogames, etc. Everything I write will be developed later on. So it makes not much sense to have the first thing a new Imaginary reader sees when he visits be the latest post. What I wanted to do was an interface that only shows you one post at a time, starting from the beginning, but lets you quickly and easily cycle through the posts. The site would use cookies to remember what the most recent post you read was, so you wouldn't need to go through all of them each time. In my mind, I was already working out all the finer details when my train of thought crashed into the Reality of Blogger. Everything is managed by Blogger without the user's intervention, so there's no way to even do something so simple as change the order that the posts are presented in, much less what I was planning. All it lets you do is modify the basic appearance of the blog, as if that really matters, not anything more important. At least I was able to improve the way comments are handled, but even many Imaginary Friends of mine will not be interested by my site the way it is currently laid out, because unless they've been following my blog from the beginning, they won't see the posts in their proper order.

But nothing on the internet can compare to the pesky rigidity of most of the Real World. If a person cannot cope with the unforgiving and arbitrary rules of capitalism, why can't they "quit the program"? It should be a basic human right for all societies to have at least one alternative to capitalism! But the architects of this structure, and all others like it for that matter, were not interested in serving the people, but imprisoning them. If you don't like this jail, you're free to commit suicide. Oh, right, I forgot, that's not a respected option! Society will try with every means at their disposal to stop you. That's the Real World. Lovely, ain't it?



I disagree with this post. (I also dislike its style, but that's a different issue.) Ocarina of Time's last dungeon would have been better if it had followed its structure better. (I'm pretty sure what I was referring to was how it brings back all the themes from the rest of the game.) The arguments made in this post are vague and unsatisfactory.


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Sunday, February 06, 2005

My family

My relationship with the rest of my immediate family is fairly complex, despite not entirely existing. Come to think of it, I don't entirely understand that sentence myself, so let's start over. My family is strange. Yes, that's a bit more comprehensible, and I think it's indisputable, so it's a good starting point. It's strange in a similar way to an Escher painting, in that each individual part makes perfect sense on its own, but has a completely different perspective to all other parts of the painting, so that looking at the whole thing gives you a headache and makes you wonder how all those parts can have been put in one picture. Or, at least, it gives me a headache. I don't know about the rest of my family, since I don't really understand them. You know what, this paragraph is incomprehensible, and I'm not quite sure I have any idea what I'm talking about. Let's start over.

I find my family strange. Now, I think this is how many people feel about their families, but my case is a bit stranger, I think. Most people can explain what is so strange about their families, and can explain away the particular ways of thinking their family members have which particularly get on their nerves. But I don't understand how anyone in my family thinks. I do notice certain strong patterns in their behaviors, and this is good because it means I can sometimes have a good idea of what to expect from them even though I don't have any idea why they do what they do. I am told that family is important, so I might as well describe my family members to you. But I can't guarantee that anything I say about them is correct, because I am basing these descriptions on my own impressions of my family, which as you should have gathered by now is a bit muddled.

My father is a doctor and is often out at work. I don't mind this at all, because it means I can play games, watch TV shows on my computer, watch movies on my computer, write on forums, write on my blog, and generally have a good time. When he comes home, fun is the first thing to go. He has a lot of unspoken rules which he would like to enforce. One of these unspoken rules is that any fun is forbidden for prolonged periods, where "prolonged periods" is defined as more than two minutes and seven seconds. Oh, and fun is forbidden in the morning for any period of time. And when I am having fun, I may not get too involved in it so as not to give the impression that I am enjoying myself to an unhealthy degree. Failure to comply with these or any of the other 92 unspoken rules lead to punishment. Punishment consists of having my father's face three quarters of a centimeter from my eyes as he recites the unspoken rule I have violated in louder and louder tones, plus having to suffer my father's wrath. This consists of any punishment my father thinks of once he has lost his temper. The goal is to instill respect for my father and more importantly, respect for discipline. Yes, my father upholds the time-honored tradition of the disciplinarian, trying to prove to himself he is a good parent by making the children fear him. I'm always glad to see him get out of the house.

My mother is a lawyer. No, not that kind of lawyer, because she wouldn't hurt a fly if it were jumping up and down on her head along with all its fly friends. To tell the truth, she never wanted to be a lawyer, but her parents did. To the best of my knowledge, she has never in her life done anything to please herself, instead trying to please others. She says that her parents weren't happy about her marrying a religious man, but I suspect she was just trying to make him happy. She can't stand the idea of having fun, because it's simply not productive. So she will go to great lengths to give herself as much work and little fun as possible, even though she wants everyone to know she hates it. Yes, she complains every so often about how no one helps her in the house, but I'm convinced she'd be very disappointed to have someone else do housework for her. It would make her feel inadequate. Since I am not one to argue with something like that, I sit and play games while she works. Her job is writing things that the lawyers who actually do do something will use, and she does this over the internet, so she stays at home all the time. She seems to have only two things in her life that she enjoys: chatting with all the neighbors, and Shabbat (Saturday), when she can sit down and read the newspaper. As a parent, she's not as good as my father but much more likeable. She tries to prove to herself that she's a good parent by being as nice to us as possible, which is always nice for us, at least in the short term. I think that she actually can't stand me but she forces herself to because I'm family and family is said to be so important. What she doesn't like about me is that I'm so abnormal, whereas she has learned over the course of her life to put up with normality.

My older brother Benjy (or Ben, as he since recently calls himself) is the rebel, but he never allows himself to notice that he's rebelling. He is a tremendous rationalizer, thanks no doubt in some degree to his practice in debating. (He was on the Israeli young debating team and went to international competitions, which he did well in.) I respect him more than anyone else in my family because of this skill. The only trouble is that he seems to get the end result of his rationalization mixed up with the actual cause of what it was he was rationalizing. He is an atheist, and says our rituals are silly. That's fine by me, although I completely disagree with him, because it leads to some very interesting arguments. My parents hate getting into arguments with him, in part because they almost always lose, in part because they don't know how to enjoy it. He's in America now, at Boston University, and I'm not really keeping in touch with him. When he left, I wrote him an artistic goodbye note which perfectly summed up my feelings about his leaving, which I am positive he never understood and took to be gibberish. I have very few interests in common with him. TV shows, maybe certain movies, and that's it. I tried to get him interested in videogames, but he didn't care. Except for a few games which are hardly masterpieces but are pretty fun nonetheless- Commandos 1&2, Splinter Cell. I could rarely talk to him because I wanted to talk about videogames and he really really didn't. But my interests are somewhat limited.

And then there's me. I won't go on in length, because you already should have gotten a decent sense of what I'm like. But I will say that I am by far my favorite member of the family.

My little sister Miriam bothers me somewhat. I think she's fairly normal for a teenaged girl, which is to say that I find her shallow and irritating. For the most part, I ignore her and she comments on what a moron I am. I tried to get her interested in Zelda and failed. But she did like the game Yoshi's Island, so I keep trying to introduce her to new games in hope that I will eventually be able to share one of my favorite games with her. Every time she gets bored or gives up or just generally does not notice the beauty of the game. I think she finds my habit of trying to get her to play games detestable, but that's never stopped me.

Finally there's Dena, who reminds me more than anything of my grandmother on my father's side. She is somewhat bossy, but I think she's always trying to act as "normal" as possible. She does occasionally act a little weird, and I like her for that. She often gets very aggravated at me at how little common sense I have, and I sometimes find this bewildering, sometimes amusing. I think she loves Benjy more than any of us. As far as games, she plays Mario Party with her friends and isn't really good enough to play anything else.

The thing that bothers me most about my family is that there is not one person in it who can appreciate The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. When you play a game that good, you naturally want to share it with someone, but there is no one here who cares. Anyhow, that's my family. But I may be completely wrong.



I really am in no state to argue with you about your family members & to a certain extent you did a great job (definitely an entertaining one)- but to call Miriam shallow is like to call her a rabid cow- there's NO truth in, around, or even near it…
lol, & you mused have a wonderful family if what bothers you most about them is that they can't appreciate Zelda.

It's amusing to see that Miriam has a loyal defender. My comments are based on my own personal experiences. In those experiences I have never, not even once, had the perception that Miriam is shallow and pretentious challenged by her own behavior. On the other hand, I have been very clear about not understanding my family, especially in this post, so I could be missing the truth.

I suppose you have a point about my family as a whole, though. While you might not see the importance I attribute to being able to share Zelda, there is certainly something to be said for their all-around inoffensiveness.

By the way, I wouldn't say Miriam is a rabid cow because that claim doesn't hold up to scrutiny. She has none of the visual characteristics of a cow, does not moo, and has not bitten at any time I can clearly recall in years.


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Thursday, February 03, 2005

The cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise

I guess I'm one of the few people on this planet who actually enjoyed this show. No, it's not great TV, but it's solid entertainment. In the past year in particular it's gotten to be pretty great entertainment. For those of you Imaginary Friends crying out, "What? After all this talk about artistry over popular entertainment you bemoan the death of a wholly unartistic show?" I say that I have nothing against unartistic entertainment (I like Super Mario, for example, and that's not exactly a work of art), except when it comes at the expense of better things. Until very recently, with the coming of the brilliant new Battlestar Galactica, there were no such "better things" in sci-fi TV, and I don't think Star Trek was to blame for that. Thanks to some of the new talent Enterprise has brought on, the show keeps getting better and better, so it's a real shame it had to end like this. My hope is that in syndication it gets a bigger following, until eventually Paramount decides to wrap up Enterprise's story somehow.

In the meantime, I'll be watching BSG. I've been downloading copies of the British broadcasts off the internet, since we don't have a working TV and it's not on any stations here in Israel anyway. Okay, sue me. Anyhow, every single episode is fantastic. The first season ends in a two-parter which is without a doubt the most artful hour and a half of TV I've ever seen, in any genre. I cannot recommend this series enough. If any of you IFs has a TV, watch this show. If you can't, then tape it. Or watch a rerun. But watch it in order from beginning to end, if you can.

However, I would still like to see something made of Trek. Its universe has become so rich thanks to all the development it's gotten over the years, that it would be a terrible waste not to use it. Obviously, what I'd like most is a new iteration in some interactive Form, but I doubt this will ever happen. In general, TV shows are thrown to the worst teams in the Game Industry for them to feed on. The trouble is that the decision to make these shows into games is not made by talent but by businessmen. There is a little hope on the horizon for interactive adaptations of movies, as the genius Michel Ancel (Rayman 2, Beyond Good & Evil) is making a game based on Peter Jackson's King Kong remake. If this goes well, there is a slight possibility (okay, very slight) that it will set a precedent for games to come. But in the field of TV show adaptations, there is not even that faint glimmer. So a Trek game is not on my wish list. They'd probably just make it into an action game as they always have. (Note the irony.) No, it should be a TV series, but if they're already starting from scratch, they might as well go in a different direction. The ensemble cast concept has been done to death. How about making a show about one individual? As long as the Star Trek universe is utilized, and utilized well, and the show is entertaining, I'll be happy.



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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Mark Ecko, welcome to the Game Industry

GameCube: DICE 2005: Marc Ecko Challenges Industry
Here is an excellent capitalist, who seems to understand the common man, and doesn't give a damn about gamism as long as it makes him money. I don't know what's sadder- his idea that this infinite area for artistic potential should be reduced to an assembly-line set of rules designed to squeeze as much money out of the average idiot as possible, or the thought that those fools will buy his junk, encouraging other Industry heads to listen to what he has to say over the gamists' inspiration.

You know, the name "Ecko" is quite appropriate. He doesn't have any voice of his own, ideas that he personally would like, he just echoes society. But echoes don't last long. When society gets bored, the fad that he has started will not hold any interest anymore. Since his list of rules doesn't require that the games be artistic, they will not be able to fall back on being good games. And so he will go on, changing with society, creating nothing worthy of being kept. I really hope he can't make a successful game.



How so very true. Your statemnet is agreeable in every sense of the word. Keeping LESS people like him in 'gamism'(im still not quite used to the term..) should be beneficial in the cause of games finally rising to a point where it is considered a valid art form by the world.

visit me:

That's an interesting way of looking at it, which I hadn't considered. I wasn't thinking of how the world would react to videogames, but rather how much potential there is for great games. I guess the two are related, though.


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" 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - - that's all.' "

-Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass"
Before entering a monologue or ten on videogames, I need to explain my feelings about certain terminology which has developed. Firstly, I don't like the usage of the term "game industry" to refer to games in general. To call great experiences like Metroid and Zelda products of an industry is practically desecration in my opinion. Calling games part of an industry implies that they are being made systematically, that the only reason to make them is to make money. Now, I don't doubt that that is true of certain companies' games, so whenever I want to refer to that particular branch of games derogatorily, I will call it the "Game Industry". Actually, I think the description "videogame" should be a bit archaic. Imagine the world a few centuries from now, when machines (inevitably) do all the meaningless chores with which we currently are forced to occupy ourselves. I think it's easy to imagine many people who will live in virtual worlds which are a logical extension of today's MMORPGs, and then isn't calling it a "videogame" a bit silly?! Not that we're anywhere near that stage, unfortunately, but it's the same medium. Also, a "game" is by implication primarily entertainment (and not art), which is not always true of videogames. But alas, I do not know of a better term for the medium, and so I am forced to use this inadequate one. If someone comes up with a better phrase, I'll use it. In the meantime, I will try to refer to each Form [of game] as its own entity ("Platformer," "Movie," "Book," "Adventure") rather than compare apples to oranges by using the collective "videogames". I will refer to games as a whole as "gamism". Similarly, I don't like the technical-sounding term "developer" when referring to creative positions, so I will use "gamist". And of course there is the adjective and adverb forms of the word: "gamistic" and "gamistically".

Another thing which I should explain: When I say "Form," (as I did in the last paragraph) I'm referring to any form of either art or entertainment, interactive or noninteractive or anything in between, because theoretically all forms of art and entertainment are encompassed in gamism. Okay, I'll back up a little. Here's a riddle I love asking: Say you have an electronic piano which is plugged into a video game console which is plugged into a TV. In the console is a program which reads sheet music (which either is on the disc or needs to be downloaded off the internet). This program keeps track of where you are in the music as you play it. This music program is a videogame, where the player is responding to symbols on the screen with his controller, which happens to be an electronic piano. Before you say that this isn't really a videogame, consider that Dance Dance Revolution is pretty much the same, with a special controller with which you must respond to on-screen symbols at the right time. The only substantial difference is that music, being around for millenia, has reached a stage where it allows for a lot of depth.
A second example: you have a VR headset, and are strapped into a machine that tracks every movement you make, and allows you to run in place, jump, etc. Now run a sports game- say, soccer. This will be practically indistinguishable from the real thing. Now, as I've said in a previous post, this is sort of a waste of money, but you have admit this is a possible game. (In this example, the movement machine is your controller, and the headset is the screen.) This shows that interactive entertainments such as sports will also theoretically be part of gamism, when sooner or later the technology necessary to create these experiences becomes available.
Finally, I'll take a noninteractive Form- movies. If a movie were made in the format of a videogame console (very easy), you could put it in your console, watch it on the TV, and use the controller as a remote control. This, too, is contained in gamism.
All in all, Gamism is defined as containing both all of Art and all of Entertainment, converted into a digital format. By my definition, a videogame is any member of gamism.

Another phrase I like to use is "Impatient Phoenix," which I use mainly to refer to Nintendo's latest efforts. A pheonix is a bird which dies and is reborn from the ashes. An Impatient Pheonix kills itself early so that it can be born again, its favorite part of life. I think this is a bad idea, because it can never get past infancy if it gets into this routine. This problem is called Impatient Pheonix Syndrome (IPS). Since Nintendo has been calling their DS a "third pillar" next to Gamecube and Game Boy Advance, and since Nintendo's lineup for it seems based on IPS, the Nintendo DS shall be called the Pillar of the Impatient Phoenix, at least until Nintendo stops killing itself.

For now - - that's all.



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