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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Gamism Theory

Gamism is, in its ideal state, the whole of entertainment, plus the whole of art, presented in a digital medium. (See Semantics, Semantics, Part 2.) In the remainder of this post, I will be referring to this absolute gamism, and not the current sad state of affairs, when I talk about "gamism". In other words, this new system of classification aims to be applicable to all Forms, and not only those currently considered by the general public to be "videogames".

But first: What is a Form? A Form is a discipline used for the creation of individual works. Each Form contains native design elements, which are the units the game is made out of. The recognition of particular design elements is subjective, and is usually open to interpretation. For example, if a platformer asks the player to jump from one platform to one of two others, it can be seen as containing nothing more than animation and input, or it can be seen as containing a "risk/reward cycle", or it can be seen as a small part of the world design, or the decision of which platform to jump to can be seen as a puzzle. Very often, isolated design elements can be seen as individual works themselves, and analyzed accordingly. For instance, world design and puzzle design are both Forms in their own right, yet each can be contained within a larger work as nothing more than a single element of the design.

I will discuss several separations between different types of Forms*------- (The most famous is the divide between "forms of art" and "forms of entertainment", but I won't get into that here.), but the first distinction I must make is between "simple Forms" and "complex Forms". A simple Form's design elements contain one "dominant element", with all the rest being "subordinate elements" which serve the dominant element. For example, the exploration Form's dominant element is world design, and any other elements, such as puzzles, music, or interface all (in theory) serve the world design. Therefore, exploration is a simple Form. A complex Form is one which has not one dominant element, but several which complement each other. For example, film contains both video and audio as design elements, but they complement each other by each providing an aspect of the experience which the other could not.

Every design element produces some sort of value for the player - I call this content. Content can be a burst of adrenaline, or world design, or engaging the mind, or frustration, or sound, or control, or just about anything else you think has a value. The "primary content" of a game is the content of its dominant design element, and "supportive content" is the content of its subordinate elements. Story is a special type of content because it is made up of the combination of other contents. If you follow one emotion with another emotion, that's a basic kind of story. A story of some sort (literal or more vague) will always be created in the mind of the player even if no story is intended by the gamist, because that is the result of the combination of design elements present. So in a complex Form with no single dominant design element, the primary content is the story produced by the game's elements.

Sometimes a game contains secondary content (and with it a second set of priorities), in addition to the primary content inherited from its Form. Almost always, such a game can be expressed as "a X serving the purpose of a Y". For example, The Sims is a simulation serving the purpose of a dollhouse. It follows all the traditional rules of the simulation Form (a simple Form) including using the dominant design element of rules for addictive gameplay, but it also inherits the dollhouse's dominant element, which is the reflection of day-to-day life. So its primary content is the addictiveness of its micromanagement, and its secondary content is its depiction of ordinary life using doll-like characters. When a complex Form, such as the RPG, follows this model, the foreign dominant design element takes the place of primary content, since there is no native dominant element to take precedence. For example: Pokémon is an RPG serving the purpose of a collectible series such as sports cards. Normally, an RPG's primary content would be story, since as a complex Form there is no single dominant element. But in this case, there is a foreign element to take precedence; Therefore, Pokémon's primary content is collectibility.
How does it help to know which content is primary?
The primary content (and secondary content, if there is any) is the main source of the game's identity in the mind of the player. As such, it is usually best to focus artistic efforts on the primary content more so than the supportive content so that the game stands out and creates an identity for itself. This knowledge can also help in the creation of sequels; the primary content is the only part of the game which absolutely must change or improve from original to sequel so that it does not become redundant.


Additional laws and terminology

Some Forms are fully contained in larger Forms. For instance, as Rayman 2 proved, the platformer is part of a more general Form (which I have no name for) which includes such games as Ball Revamped. The larger Form is called a "parent Form", and the smaller one a "sub-Form". It is valid, though pointless, to view all of gamism as one parent Form with a tremendous number of sub-Forms.
The term "Form" should not be mistaken with "genre", which is the classification of the style of a game's primary content.

A "strong Form" is one whose dominant design element is flexible enough to allow for many different genres, while a "weak Form" is one whose dominant element isn't. The terms should generally be used to deal with small sub-Forms, since almost every reasonably large Form is strong.

If one segment of supportive content is a short interactive game, and it is not native to the Form of the containing work, then it can be called a "minigame". A noninteractive segment, under exactly the same circumstances, is called a "cutscene" or "transition". I don't know why such a silly distinction is made, but it is, and this issue is too trivial to be worth fighting over, so I accept this terminology. A minigame/transition has no impact whatsoever on its container's classification.

Forms evolve over time, gaining new rules and breaking old ones. Occasionally, the native elements of a Form evolve to the point where they can be isolated and expanded upon as new Forms. This new Form can be called a "derivative" of the complex Form it broke off from. For example, the exploration segments of the RPG evolved until there were clear traditions for the specific exploration of towns (as opposed to other areas). This design element broke off into the "communication-game" Form with Animal Crossing. We can say that the communication-game Form is an RPG-derivative.

A "hybrid" is the result of combining the design elements of two separate Forms. For example, David Cage's Fahrenheit is an adventure-film hybrid, since it takes elements from both the adventure (heavy level of scripting activated by player input, interactive dialogue trees, object selection, etc.) and film (acting, choreography, camera movement).

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3 Comments:

The line of thought which led up to the ideas in this post can be seen in this post on the Tale of Tales forum:

Primary Content

 
The distinction between a hybrid and a game with secondary content is a bit fuzzy to me. But here's the idea: If the elements of a game are all native to its Form, but it's got a different focus, then that focus is secondary content. If it's got elements which didn't evolve as a part of its Form, then it's a hybrid.

 
I've totally rewritten the definition of primary content, and adjusted the rest of the post accordingly. It's still messy, but it sort of makes sense now.

 

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Ready, Though Unworthy

Here I am, accepting upon myself the challenge of creating an all-purpose classification system for gamism, though I have no expertise, no experience, and only the teensiest bit of wisdom. I may say this is an advantage: Everyone else looks at gamism with the eyes of the Industry, fogged with the misconceptions and prejudices which are sadly so common, while I can see clearly by virtue of knowing nothing at all.

But who am I kidding?- My views are just as biased as anyone else's. And I doubt very much if actually having a game or two under my belt would harm my eagerness to disagree with such unanimous opinions. It could only do good. So why do I bother to try at this early stage? Because it is time. It is time because the blog says so. More critically: I have waited too long already, and soon I will have many new experiences to assess. How does the simple playing of a game fit in with my next identity? If I am serious about becoming a gamist, then I must be ready to approach these games from a gamist's perspective.

This is the hour of judgment. My past lies in childhood. My future lies in gamism. Where do I stand in the present? Am I first a child, or a gamist? I can hide behind my inadequacies and say "Tomorrow I will be ready!", or I can accept my inadequacies and move forward regardless. No matter when I choose to flip the priorities, it will be too soon. I have to face it: The task I see for myself is bigger than anyone would support if they understood its magnitude. They would say: "Think small. Gain wisdom from professors and knowledge from repetition and drudgery. Do not try this by yourself; it cannot be done."

I cannot argue with such a sentiment, because I know that if someone were to speak those words to me, he'd be right. How can I rationally expect to be capable of making an artistic virtual character, when even the greatest gamists have never done so before? How can I expect to be capable of single-handedly reinventing the platformer in the image of music and dance? How can I expect to craft a good role-playing game, when even massive teams of experts with seemingly unlimited budgets can't get it right? How can I expect...? Well, I can't. I can't rationally expect to achieve anything at all. But what the heck- rationality is overrated anyway.

I believe that the dream will start when I begin to accept the role, not vice versa. Months ago, I considered proposing a classification system, and I concluded it was too big. Now I am ready to take on that task. So while I am not prepared for anything like this, while I have many questions and few answers, while I feel certain that there is no intelligent man on Earth who will accept my theories, I will chase the dream. Who am I doing this for, if not for the public? I do this as a gift to the child. I begin this as a fulfillment of the promise I made to myself. I will end this as a gamist.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tapestry Thread: WHAM!

Acceleration...
Since a week or two ago, I've been watching J. Michael Straczynski's magnum opus, the science-fiction TV show Babylon 5. It's been a long time since I last saw any B5 episodes, and I've never actually seen the story in full, from start to finish, until now. The show feels unrefined: it often has horrendous acting, and there is the occasional unbearable plotline. Worse, it too often has sudden changes in cast for no good reason, and all sorts of external problems in the making of the show pushed the story very far from the perfection it might have been hoped to aim for. But none of that matters too much; it's the most brilliant show (SF or otherwise) I've ever known. Little details which seem insignificant prove to be hints; details which seem to be hints prove to be red herrings. A show which at first glance seems to be a simple Star Trek rip-off proves to be a classic in its own right.

For the past week, I've been analyzing what I have of my musical composition Variations on V.O.V.. It's been a long time since I set aside the piece, and I never did get around to finishing it. The work feels unrefined: it can get very hard on the ears, and its shifts in style and tone can be much too abrupt and contrived. But none of that mattered to me too much as I wrote it- I was aiming for nothing less than structural perfection, not anything as trivial as aesthetic value. Every note is connected intimately to every other note; every seemingly random shift in key, tone, musical style, and even philosophy is part of the larger pattern.
The word becomes reason.
Smilie has not been going so well. When I'm writing a blog post, the tricky part is getting started. The tricky part is coming up with the first piece of the puzzle. It might take hours or even weeks to find that piece. But once I find that piece, everything else tends to fall into place naturally. Sure, there is a lot of time and effort involved, but it is spent travelling on the path I have already laid out- Even if that path branches into infinite directions, I always know I will eventually get to where I should be. Smilie is not like this. I have started, and I've decided on a notation system to use, and just continuing takes an obscene amount of frustration. This is not a native language for me, this language of complex and thorough logic. I'm more comfortable with random associations.

I ran into a small problem. The sixth variation needed to repeat the theme four times in completely different styles, with an extra recitation of the theme in between each style bridging the gap. Next, the seventh variation would include two measures of improvisation. Sounded perfect on paper. And it was. Thinking about shifting between styles is no big deal. Thinking about somehow writing in rules for an improvised section which will flow with the rest of the rigidly-defined piece is no big deal.

I agreed with Benjy that it would behoove me to do chores around the house. I pictured the monotony of doing dishes, and thought: No big deal. I'm sure it wouldn't be a big deal. My mother has been gone for a week now. My father said I'd be doing dishes. I thought: No big deal. It's in the mind.
No time to think, no time to look ahead...
For months I've been playing around with the area between musical composition and improvisation, which has led to my Improvised Sonata in three movements. If I strive for perfection, I lose spontaneity. Without spontaneity, improvisation is worthless. Perfection has no depth. An improvised course with branching paths I invent as I go along- now that's deep. This is my new philosophy, which follows a reason and pattern which I do not care to understand.

My mother went to Florida for the week to celebrate her father's eightieth birthday. This is considered a milestone for some reason. I made a CD of my music, including a rendition of the Improvised Sonata, as a birthday present. I'd never recorded my music before; the demands of the microphone pushed me to improve my playing. I didn't expect her leave to be a big deal, and it hasn't been. I do my own laundry. My father never seriously asked me to do the dishes, for which I have relief but no brakes. Acceleration is in the mind. I was starting to lose my grip.

I looked over the piece, and saw pure genius. With the exception of one or two careless mistakes which were easily corrected, every note had purpose. How could I, a chaotic human mind, possibly complete this image of perfection? I had been unable to do it before. But as I stood and considered, a path appeared before me. The seventh variation required an understanding of improvisation, which I now possess, and an understanding of gamistic notation, which lies just ahead.
The story - motivation; interpretation of the thread...
The blog would be celebrating its 39th post. What was the first piece to the puzzle? Once I had that, everything else would fall into place.

I haven't played any videogames in a while; it's impossible to get any for a good price here in Israel; I've been waiting for an opportunity.

The sixth variation required only velocity and the spontaneity to deal with obstacles. I agreed to settle for mere brilliance, to choose artistry over perfection.

The house has been silent and darkened. The atmosphere demands progress.
Ordered: Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, Luigi's Mansion, LEGO Star Wars, Super Monkey Ball, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Metroid II: Return of Samus

My mother will return in two days.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

And so it begins...

Check this out.



Did you check? Seriously, watch it, then come back here.





It's been a very long time since a game trailer excited me this much. You could argue that it's not a game, but that's sort of the point. The PSP has already been used for movies and recorded music in addition to various interactive Forms, all with the same interface and the same disc format. That in itself is already the first step toward the convergence revolution. Here's the second. I don't know what to say, mainly because this project in itself is so exciting that any words would seem redundant. But I'll try to explain why this comic book is the best thing to ever happen to gamism.

Since the invention of videogames, their place in the larger realm of art was clear to the world: movies are one art form, novels are one art form, dance is one art form, sculpture is one art form, and videogames are a silly form of time-killing. Games have nothing to do with all those other Forms, and should be kept as far from them as possible. Sadly, I have seen this division promoted most by the supporters of videogames: whenever a game fails to be sufficiently interactive, they dismiss it as "not good as a game", or at best "not really a game".

Now, my views on what constitutes a game are considerably broader. I see this comic as a usage of gamism to push an old Form in a new direction- exactly the sort of game that gamism itself was created for. The purpose of gamism is to broaden the potential for art, and that is precisely what this does. It may not be true sequential art (or it may be; all I'm going by is this trailer), but it takes the experience of reading a comic book, adds the potential of gamism, and comes out with something much stronger. 3D shots, animation, sound effects, and all while giving the player control over the reading. This is something that no medium but gamism could allow. And so here is a game which pushes past the boundaries, which goes back to ground very often tread upon before and finds that there is an entire world there never noticed before.

There are still questions- of course there are still questions. Can the player reread a section several times? (It would be unwise to fail to inherit all the Form's strengths before moving on.) More importantly, will the public appreciate what they are getting? I still feel that it is premature for convergence. Not everyone has a gaming system; the market is splintered; these systems are made for obsolescence. But it appears that Kojima is ahead of his time. It figures- Metal Gear Solid itself was a large step toward convergence, in its treatment of stealth, film, and audio drama as equals under gamism. But this is truly revolutionary. I am pretty sure the public isn't ready. They'll see it as one of Kojima's little quirks, not a valid and even necessary step forward.

But let's ignore all that for a moment. Let's say that the convergence aspect of the great revolution is achievable today. Even if the public is ready, gamists aren't. With our current terminology, comics must be distinguished from games simply because there's no other way to put it! We don't even know how to classify the game Metal Gear Solid yet! (Stealth is only a third of it.) And what will happen when a comic book comes along with branching paths? Will comic connoisseurs have any idea what's going on? Our methods of thinking about art and entertainment are obsolete. We need new ideas to replace them which revolve around gamism. And if visionaries like Kojima are going to push forward so soon, we need them fast.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

$7.4 Billion

I have no reason to know anything at all about animation, so if you're looking for an informed opinion, look elsewhere. But this event is so historic that I can't pass up a chance to write about it.

I'm referring, of course, to Disney's acquisition of Pixar. Since, as implied, I have no personal knowledge of the field but for what I read on the internet and what I see in theaters, I will have to (for once) agree with the masses: This is the best thing to happen to Disney for a decade. They desparately need the paradigm shift they might get from bringing John Lasseter (and Steve Jobs and Ed Catmull) into the business. People are asking whether it's really worth all that money, but look at what Disney's released in the past few years. With a few rare exceptions (Treasure Planet and Lilo & Stich were both gems.), it's all been trash. Whatever the cost, Disney desparately needs to be fixed. Who better to do it than the guys responsible for some of the greatest works of animation of our time?

Lasseter's new position sounds like something out of a Roald Dahl book. As soon as they make friends with the big, influential character at the end, suddenly he's running the whole empire. The part which really strikes me as Dahl-esque is the part where he reports directly to Bob Iger with new ideas for theme park rides. Am I the only one who is reminded of The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me at this point? How often do you come across such a happy ending (or beginning, depending on how you look at it) in capitalist businesses? Here's a man who's spent his life striving for all sorts of silly, childish, beautiful things, and here he is being handed the mightiest (potential) factory of wonders in history on a celluloid platter. Wow- what a life.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Second Lasagna

I just made a lasagna for our supper. Normally our mother makes supper, but she's in America for the week. Lasagna's the only food I've cared enough about to learn how to make, so lasagna it is. It will be a great meal, I'm sure. I've made lasagnas many times before, and it almost always starts with me messing up. For example, there was one time when I somehow got it into my head that I was supposed to be making two lasagnas when there were clearly only enough noodles for one.

Well, this time, I wanted to make a good lasagna. (Of course, I always start that way, so this says nothing.) I was careful about which brand of tomato sauce I chose to use; I was careful to make sure that there was enough of all the ingredients; I was careful to make sure that the cottage cheese was okay, despite the fact that it was a day past expiration date and I couldn't smell it because my nose is so stuffy because I've had a cold for the past few days. Then I poured half of the cottage cheese on top of the tomato sauce.

Right- the noodles. Okay, I'm an idiot.
I blamed it on the cold.

Then there's the cheese. I hate that part. Grating a chunk of cheese is so unnatural, you know? The tedium drives me crazy. Wait, I've gotta go down to check if the lasagna's ready.

Okay, not ready. Where was I?- oh right, the cheese. It just sort of goes on and on and on and on. I'm very slow at grating cheese. And there's really not too much to think about while you're doing- it's just up, down, up, down. Blah.

Then there's the smell when it's almost done; the smell is incredible. It retroactively justifies the creation.

I've just eaten it. How was it? Excellent. At least, I imagined it was. Truth is, I could barely taste it.

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1 Comments:

It's worth pointing out that this is coming right after the first 74. The metaphor here is an excuse to never work, not a valid observation.

 

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74

They say there are few things more satisfying than a day spent working when that work is continually challenging yet achievable. Well, they say it more succinctly than that, but that's the gist of it.
It is now half-past midnight, and I spent the day working. I completely redid the notation system for Smilie, then spent hours upon hours working on all sorts of Blogger-related experiments. To top it all off, I invented a new type of post- the 74 Post, I'll call it. I played not a single videogame today.
I don't feel like I've achieved anything at all. I feel... empty.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

I've been workin' on the weblog, all the live-long day...

So whaddaya think? Ain't them tabs just fine? Oh, and I fixed the problem with the Lucida Sans Unicode font, so now some posts which didn't look right before now look fantastic!

And did you see that neat little Javascript trick I did with that link? No? Even better! Oh, I don't know what I'd ever do without Javascript. Okay, so I do know- I'd just not do any of these silly little gimmicks. But what fun would that be? Well, toodle-loo; I'm going to go have some more fun with the blog's design.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tapestry Thread: Universal notation

Upon writing up the game design for Smilie, I ran into a small problem: I don't know how to write up a game design. Now, don't give me that line about how I don't need to work out all the details yet. Without a script of some sort, I'd program a line or two, say "I think this is good enough.", and stop. But if I spell out exactly how it should be, with no regard for exactly how it should be done, then I'll have a clear goal to work toward. In trying to implement the script, I will be forced to learn whatever skills are necessary to achieve that goal; chances are, those skills will be useful for many future games.

But how? How does one write a script for an interactive experience? It's helped by the fact that this will be more or less linear, albeit with branching paths. So I can start from the beginning and work my way forward from there. This is reasonable only because I'd already decided that it would only be a minute or two long. (I've been saying for months that branching linearity works best for short games.) Even so, I still had no idea where to start. I decided I'd make it up as I went along, and so I did. I settled on starting with classification, going on to the general concept in short, then straight into a blow-by-blow script from start to finish (numbered with a not-quite-effective system I made up). I chose to approach the script from the perspective of the player, rather than of the programmer, so that I could put myself into the shoes of the person for whom this character would have meaning. In any event, I was (and still am) eager to prove this notation useless as quickly as possible, so that I could find something more useful.

At the same time, Daniel Cook of Lost Garden invented his own notation system. Imagine that! I've been reading Cook's writings for about six months now, not because I've agreed with anything he's ever said, but because it gives me a fresh perspective which I am guaranteed to have never considered. His notation system relies on manipulating the player into feeling that he is being rewarded. I should have expected as much from someone whose views are based largely on the completely serious definition of videogames as "drugs". Since this has roughly zero to do with what I see in videogames, the staples of his notation system such as "buzz notes" and "reward channels" are completely inapplicable to what I'm doing here.

But it helped in two major ways. First, it pointed out certain should-have-been-obvious necessities, such as defining "verbs", which I can now integrate into Smilie's design document. Secondly, it sparked a debate among many other bloggers, some of which have more reasonable things to say. Sure, there are the pretentious ones like Raph Koster chiming in, but then there was this very simple comment from Ron Gilbert which caught me off guard, mainly because I should have realized it first:
It also seems that there are so many structures for so many different types of games that coming up with a unified system to cover them all is unrealistic.
That's the real problem, isn't it? I was looking only at the small task ahead of me right now, but past this I could get myself into big trouble. But here's a warning to keep me on the right track: I should not try to come up with a notation system which fits all types of games. In essence, to try would mean finding a system so universal that not only all the Industrial Forms, but music and dance as well (since they are no less a part of gamism) can all be expressed under it. Is such a system possible? I don't know. If it were, it would probably be extremely clumsy to use.

But think of the possibilities! With a unified notation system, music could finally be composed with branching paths! Dance and music could weave in and out of each other! And all manners of other dreamy things! But I have no answers. For the time being, I will focus on this task, and create a language suitable for virtual characters as I have been told.

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2 Comments:

I disagree with your comments about the article at Lost Garden equating games with drugs.

I felt the article very accurately described a way to measure 'pleasure-pulses' if you will that occur as you are rewarded. I don't think everything about his system is perfect, but I think he's really onto something.

I do like your idea of arts intertwining like tapestry threads, though - and I'd be interested in seeing you flesh out a construct around those ideas.

 
In the article I linked to in the post, Dan Cook (the writer of Lost Garden) wrote:

"Let's be blunt. Games are drugs."

I've been following his writing for a long time, and a good deal of the things he says are tied to that statement. The reason I can't relate with the "Buzz Note" concept in particular is that it assumes that these reward cycles are the basic units with which games should be made. I don't see that that is the case, because I am looking at the potential for art and not the potential for psychological drugs. But the fact that I've been following his blog for so long should tell you that I am well aware that he's onto something - just not something which I can agree with.


I smiled when I heard your interpretation of "Tapestry Thread". Actually, it is just a formal repetition of the idea I've stated in the past that there is a clear pattern to life. The tapestry is a common and well-known analogy for life from this perspective. As evidenced by the later "Tapestry Thread" post, I intend for this to be a recurring "feature" which serves for exposition. By examining one aspect of life and how that one metaphorical thread ties together several different recent events, I can celebrate the elegance of life even as I am trudging through heavy exposition which would otherwise be very boring.

This first TT post deals with the specific thread of notation, and pointing out the elegance of such a debate starting on the web just as I was struggling with these issues myself. The second TT post deals with accelerated change, and how this pattern can be seen in no less than five nearly simultaneous events.

 

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Happy 39th post!

39th? Now that's weird. What's so special about 39?
Where do you see- oh, "Happy-". Right.
I mean, maybe a fortieth post, but why-
Why a fortieth post?
Well, it's a multiple of ten...
Thirty-nine's a multiple of thirteen.
Say, you want some coffee?
Well, I think it's ridiculous. Why are you wasting your time here, anyway? Go do something useful. I'm leaving.
Error: no postday party detected. Please correct.
Postday party? This is seriously fucked up. All for a 39th-
dfs%osa!-244.5no37sjkj~presents ERROR ERROR @imx.39th...
*AHEM*


Thank you.

Precisely 39 posts ago,
*sniff*
this blog didn't exist. Now it does, and I'm sure we're all very thankful.
Hear! Hear!
Shut up, will you?
Personally, I can't see how Mory can continue like this, without acknowledging the radical changes to his lifestyle which he went on about four posts ago.
Well, he mentioned that Smilie thing.
We've come a long way. But we can go farther! And so, for this special postday, I declare
Okay, now I'm really leaving.
that I will change my life, as promised,
Ooh, this ought to be good.
starting maybe in a few days.
Boo! Hypocrite!
Umm, that's all. Bye now!
What a lousy speech.

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2 Comments:

I think you should make it more clear why this is such a happy occasion. I didn't realize it until I took a second look at the date...

 
You're missing the point. 39 posts is the occasion. After all, how often does one reach a 39th post? Only once in a lifetime! The date is irrelevant.

 

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Worth the paper

I don't understand newspapers. Oh, the news itself is very straightforward. A bland and calculated recitation of events. A lot of mundane politics. If you really care, you can look at everything they say and see a clear agenda, but there's no reason to care since that agenda is always the same. There are the left-wing newspapers, and there are the right-wing newspapers. In general, readers seem to pick a newspaper based on their own positions, so that they can keep their glasses intact and have the news filtered through. When I sit down to read a newspaper, I know more or less what I'm going to get based on the newspaper's position. It's predictable. It's boring.

But wait a minute- why should it be boring? Politics can be fascinating. I'm watching the TV show Babylon 5 now, which is at its best when it's dealing with fictional politics, and it's riveting. Never mind the differences between film and the written word; my point is, it's entertaining to see all the different sides of these political games.

Anyhow, we all know the story of the newspaper. The newspaper itself would like to be seen as the sole guardian of the objective truth. The readers, on the other hand, like to think of the newspaper as a corrupt manipulator of public opinion. These are their roles: the newspaper tries to get exclusive content and the most direct headlines; the readers criticize the newspaper for presenting a view they disagree with (and not adequately supporting their own positions) until the newspaper makes some concessions in the way of diversity in writers.

Here's the part I don't understand. I've heard the tales of how capitalism corrupted the Game Industry; I've heard of all the cutthroat corporations out there looking to make as much money as possible. In all these cases, the pursuit of as much money as possible pushed the companies in the wrong direction. Now take newspapers. If they were looking to get as much money as possible, they'd try to make their articles as entertaining as possible to read, to build a loyal readership. Then they'd want to reward that readership in the long-term, so that they would recommend the paper to their friends. This seems to be one of the few businesses where a attitude of "Let's make as much money as humanly possible!" can only do good. And here the editors are idealists. What gives?

Why do these editors pursue one agenda consistently? Wouldn't it be much more entertaining to keep the reader guessing? You arrange the news one day so that all the writers are trying to convince the reader that one side is right, and then a week later -A twist!- have a day devoted to making them look both incompetent and evil. Leave out certain details so the reader can fill them in in his head; Put in other details that go against the spirit of the rest of the article.

The newspaper should be as entertaining as a dramatic TV show; why isn't it?

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Friday, January 06, 2006

The Dream Cheese 740 Enhanced Computer Mouse!

Tired of your old plain vanilla PC mouse?
Ummm..
Of course you are! The mouse hasn't changed in decades! Look at this boring piece of plastic you're using: Two buttons in the front which have only two possible settings: "Unpressed" and "Pressed". This is as primitive as your keyboard!
And what's the problem-
So old-fashioned! And then this scroll wheel: It can only scroll in one dimension! And it's uncomfortable to use, and it's downright ugly.
Hey, it works, doesn't-
Not well, no. It's tedious to keep flicking it around; it's imprecise. And it's uncomfortable- try scrolling through a fifty-page document, and by the end your middle finger will be sore! And then there's the shape of the whole thing- it's impossible to get a good grip!

But no longer! Now, thanks to the revolutionary Dream Cheese 740 Enhanced Computer Mouse, these old problems can be left behind forever! With its innovative and groundbreaking design, you can access your computer like never before. You can enjoy faster and more precise navigation, plus an unparallelled level of customizability which will allow you to control your computer exactly as you want. The top of the line features of the Dream Cheese 740 include:
  • A pressure-sensitive touch screen for standard mouse clicks, making application-specific commands available at the smallest touch
  • Patented TrueScroll™ analog joystick technology for fast, precise and comfortable scrolling in two dimensions
  • Keyboard-replacement capability for one-handed control of all and any computer activity
  • Ultra-sensitive optical sensor for accurate movement on virtually any surface
  • Replaceable shell to allow for any hand size, making using a computer as comfortable and natural as possible for anyone*
    Extra shells not included.
  • Four pressure-sensitive buttons for-
Why pressure-sensitive?
Because pressure-sensitive is cool, that's why. The Dream Cheese 740 has a stylish de-
Boy, it looks dorky-
stylish design, combining the familiar computer mouse appearance with a radical, trend-setting commitment to innovation: By featuring a shape which curves downwards for all but the thumb and index finger, it gives unparalleled grip for the ultimate precision in mouse movement.
Well, that's sort of cool, but all this other stuff- it sounds expensive. How much does it cost?
And it's worth every penny! Buy the Dream Cheese 740 Enhanced Computer Mouse today!




How to use your Dream Cheese 740
For standard clicks and double-clicks, simply tap or double-tap on the touch pad beneath your index finger. For more advanced functions such as copy, paste, undo, or delete, enter the appropriate gesture or letter into the touch pad, as demonstrated in diagram 3.

Example: To copy text, first select the text by tapping and dragging (and scrolling, if necessary). Then, move the cursor over the selected text draw a "C" on the touch pad, and the text will be copied.
Alternatively, do not select any text, but move over a text field or document and draw a "C" on the touch pad. This will copy all text within the text field or document.

For a full list of gestures, see Page 5.
For instructions on creating custom gestures using the included software, see Page 12.

Holding Button 3 (diagram 5) activates a small menu revealing all possible gestures on the cursor's current position.


Using the TrueScroll™ Thumb Stick
When the cursor is above a document too large for the window it is in, the thumb stick is used to scroll through the document in any direction. The TrueScroll™ thumb stick is sensitive to different levels of movement, so pushing it very gently will scroll slowly, and pushing it all the way will scroll more quickly. (See Page 12 to learn how to customize mouse and thumb stick sensitivity using included software.) When the cursor is not above a scrollable environment, the thumb stick will serve as an analog replacement for the keyboard's arrow keys.

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