Friday, November 23, 2012


I have an interesting relationship with games (read: video games) in that I don't really play them, but that I also really do sincerely, deeply, emotionally love them. On one hand, they represent such a broken disengagement and unfortunate societal mirror that it's wholeheartedly discouraging. On the other, they represent grand and vast possibilities that are almost as breathtaking as they are wonderful.

Just before video games began getting popular in the late 90's, they were the stuff of pure dreams and good intentions. Games had this sense of overt ambition to them. Their scopes were huge. Games like Populous, for example, tried to create a world in which you, in tandem with everything around you, created the world itself. Games like Populous tried to do things that were almost impossible. Games tried, and they failed. And then they would try again, and fail again. But there were always glimmers of genius in these games, little things that almost worked and made you remember why you dared to dream in the first place. Little reminders of why it was worth it to keep trying. Little things that reminded you why you loved games. Little things that reminded you why you loved love.

And this notion is just almost completely gone in the mega-games of today. And, to be honest, most of the indie games of today suffer from the same problem too. As time has gone on the scope of what games try to do has narrowed, which is the opposite of what should be happening. Instead of being audacious attempts at turning the most foolish of dreams into reality, games have become polished little pieces of entertainment. What's possible and what's not seems to have been firmly decided upon. And that's no way to go about making games. That's no way to go about about life. 

But there are still flashes and glimmers of progress and good things. Many of these are prolonged enough to get excited about. Every once in a while I'll be able to catch myself playing a game in stunned silence, captivated at what a developer tried to do. Games like Dear Esther, games like To The Moon. Games that shouldn't work. Games that are not only games, but opportunities to simultaneously imagine and explore and experience a world filled with both possibilities and impossibilities.

Developer Peter Molyneux (the developer of the aforementioned Populous), who has long been branded as an artist who promises big and impossible games but has difficulties following through with them, is currently working on a new set of ambitions with his new game GODUS. And then, during a recent interview he gave with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, he did something shocking. He broke down. He cried. But it wasn't for the the reasons you might expect. “I just,” he winced, his voice audibly cracking, “I still believe so much.”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Losing the people and things that we have is something that we all have inevitably have to cope with. This isn't really a fear of mine, but it's a fear of a lot of well-meaning people, and it sets up what I'm about to say.

So I've been doing really well at a lot of things lately. Exceptionally well. And at a lot of things that I've been bad at pretty much my whole life. And, as a consequence of this, I've made a lot of friends. An extraordinary amount of friends, really. Wonderful, right? Well,  it's a little more complicated than that.

Because each and every one of these friends represents a series of imperfections and not-knowings and emotional consequences that we all experience but none of us really want to talk about. And (mostly because none of us really want to risk talking about anything serious), most of these friendships have stayed that way. What's worse is that they're probably right. What I mean by this is being serious and sentimental and worn-down in a way that's painfully transparent. Nobody really likes it when I act this way. Don't get me wrong, the silly and smiley and playfully nostalgic and sardonic me is a good important piece of my self. But I just again and again find it to be true that the parts about you that other people like and the parts about you that you think are most important are almost never same.

A great example of this is that my favorite humorist is Franz Kafka. I could try and explain, but David Foster Wallace is a much better wordsmith than me. I'll let him take care of this:

“It's not that students don't "get" Kafka's humor but that we've taught them to see humor as something you get -- the same way we've taught them that a self is something you just have. No wonder they cannot appreciate the really central Kafka joke -- that the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home. It's hard to put into words up at the blackboard, believe me. You can tell them that maybe it's good they don't "get" Kafka. You can ask them to imagine his art as a kind of door. To envision us readers coming up and pounding on this door, pounding and pounding, not just wanting admission but needing it, we don't know what it is but we can feel it, this total desperation to enter, pounding and pushing and kicking, etc. That, finally, the door opens...and it opens outward: we've been inside what we wanted all along. Das ist komisch.”

This is my favorite joke. Because it's not distracting. It's not an escapist mechanism. It's engagement lies in the central struggle that we all take part in but don't really feel comfortable talking about. Kafka did, though. Kafka went there. He told the jokes that nobody else had the nerve to.

So I guess what I mean when I say all this is that I fear not really being able to ever connect in the transcendent, ethereal way that seems so commonplace in dream theory. And that this connecting really isn't up to me. It's not because of mistakes that I've made, or risks that I'm not willing to take.

As Klosterman so eloquently revealed about his experiences with meeting fellow travelers, "Whenever I meet dynamic, nonretarded Americans, I notice that they all seem to share a single unifying characteristic: the inability to experience the kind of mind-blowing, transcendent romantic relationship they perceive to be a normal part of living."

So I guess what I fear most is being a dynamic, nonretarded American. Or maybe I just fear what the flip-side of this nonretarted condition implies, too. And not necessarily just because of the implications that being non-pretentious bring. But because of that ceiling that we hit. That ceiling we all hit as humans with our ability to feel and experience and communicate and observe and relate. Especially on that day by the river.

Monday, November 19, 2012


I really love doing work for classes that I'm not in. This is a one-quarters serious, Douglas Adams-esque paper on chance for Statistics class (which, as I reiterate, I am not in)...

   In the beginning God created the Earth. After that, people came along and decided to try another thing. Once people started doing these things, they started to realize that they wanted a way to keep track of the things that they were doing. Why did they want to do this? It’s hard to really tell for sure. Regardless, they did it, and statistics was born.

    This paper, then, is a result of that mistake. A simple perpetuation of this mistake resulted in what we know as chance. Chance is the idea that things may or may not happen, and that there is a definite chance that they may or may not happen. This self-referential paradigm creates a paradigm in and of itself, referencing the self-referential with a flair so dramatic as to tell that there is a definite probability of a set number of events. People tend to like knowing things, even if it is impossible to know things, so they have invented this chance mechanism as a way to know all of the things that can be or not be. It’s not perfect, but it’s as good as it comes. And people are okay with that.

    It comes to note that, then, after these people have an idea that they know what they may or may not be, or what may or may not happen, they get the sense that they know things. They, in a sense, believe that they have become overlording gods of knowledge. This is, of course, a problem. Because chance isn’t really the knowing of things, but it is much rather the illusion of knowing things. We have, therefore, unleashed an army of powerless gods, a nation of people without any godliness but full of the false knowledge that they are, in fact gods. People have literally broken things.

    Another problem that has risen from this dilemma of chance is that no one is ever really sure of anything. They are not even sure, for example, that chance exists. There is a chance that chance exists, but it is nonetheless a chance. Uncertainty has become the national norm; it has supplanted assuredness as a societal cool. Being sure of anything has taken the notion of becoming bigoted. Any good and proper statistician will be sure to alert you that there is never really a 100% chance of anything, but that chance can only be statistically significant. This idea of statistical significance basically gives the notion that “we aren’t really sure of anything, but we can only be sure to the point that it’s not worth it to be any more sure.” Chance prevents more interesting propositions than uncertainty, however, because chance does not cause anything in and of itself.

    Chance is clearly not a cause in the classic cause-and-effect relationship model. Chance is an analysis of the things that are already going to happen anyway. Chance remains a model for the existing world that in no way affects that model. As said in Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith, “Chance can’t cause anything. It simply describes the reality that more than one outcome is possible in a given situation.” Chance is only useful as a description and decision-making aide. In this sense, though, chance can actually indirectly be a cause. When chance is taken into account in the decision-making process, it can be a cause for a certain decision to be made. Chance gives a level of knowing that was formerly impossible without it, and informed decisions create a new paradigm for human decision making.
    In conclusion, chance has come about and is a result of humans. This naturally driven thirst for hunger and knowledge has driven towards the only somewhat natural idea of knowing chance. Chance is, in fact, an abstract notion that an event or set of events may or may not happen, and that it is possible to gain knowledge of these events’ probability of occurrence. This has resulted as both a problem and an aide, giving people the false notion of their own knowledge’s breadth as well as helping them make informed decisions. This essay, could, of course, be either wrong or right. What are the chances?