Tag Archives: gaming

Winning at all costs…and the death of honour

Anger, hatred and violence have always been a part of human DNA. That’s why every society has a system of justice and mechanisms for punishing those who transgress against the laws of society.

Those laws are the ‘big sticks’ that make it possible for so many aggressive humans to live in close proximity to each other, but there are cultural laws as well. Concepts of equality, honour and fair play are the ‘soft’ laws that make us want to obey the big stick laws because failure to do so means that we risk being ostracized by our peers.

Or it did when I was a kid.

I remember playing some kind of make believe conflict with the neighbour’s kids. There were four of us in total. Joseph was about my age – eight – while his sister and brother were a couple of years younger.

Joseph was a bit bossy and he made me want to beat him, just because. So I came up with a brilliant plan whereby I would trick Joseph into thinking that I was on his side against the two younger kids. In reality, I’d set myself up as the ‘leader’ of the younger kids. I guess they were a bit sick of their older brother too.

We carried out my plan and the plan worked. We won, but I will never forget the look of contempt and betrayal I saw in Joseph’s eyes.

Triumph evaporated, and I stuttered something stupid like “but it’s just a game!” Only it wasn’t just a game, and Joseph knew it; lying and cheating are lying and cheating no matter what the reason.

I learned a life changing lesson that day, and it boiled down to one thing – the end never justifies the means.

That concept was taught at the Catholic primary school we all attended, but it was not until that awful day that I realised why the end doesn’t justify the means. It’s because of what it says about us, and what it does to us.

If you believe that certain, reprehensible actions or even illegal actions are ok because of X, you will eventually come to believe that winning justifies anything and everything. Winning means power, and power trumps honour any day because honourable people rarely win.

It’s a circular argument that has gained more and more adherents as neo-liberalism has taken hold all over the world. Money means power, and power is now the greatest ‘good’, so anything is justified so long as it makes money. Here in Australia, the Banking Royal Commission revealed just how much our financial institutions have taken that concept to heart:

‘Declaring that “choices must now be made”, Justice Hayne also referred some of the nation’s biggest company names to regulators for possible criminal or civil action for the way they treated their customers.’

https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/the-banking-royal-commission-final-report-at-a-glance-20190203-p50vg2.html

And while expediency gradually became the greatest good, honour devolved into a pathetic concept fit only for ‘Care Bears’.

Remember them? The cute little cartoon bears who solved problems by doing good things?

I watched a lot of Care Bears videos when the Offspring was little, but these days, the name has become a perjorative, especially in the gaming community. Care Bears are seen as weak players who can be bullied without consequence.

Is that an ethical shift brought about by the games being played? Or do those games reflect a society that no longer values compassion and honour?

I’ve never seen myself as a Care Bear because I will always fight back if attacked, but I won’t cheat. Ever. If I can’t win by honourable means, I’d rather lose.

And this brings me to the anger that prompted this post. Yesterday, I discovered that ESO [Elder Scrolls Online], a game I have loved for a couple of years now, actively encourages something that I can only describe as ‘suicide bombing’.

No, not the real world kind of bombing, the PVP equivalent. PVP stands for ‘Player vs Player’, and as the name suggests, players get to fight each other instead of fighting computer generated monsters.

Back when I started playing MMOs, roughly 20 years ago, PVP was supposed to be the only real test of a player’s skill. In some games, it probably was. In others, especially those that allowed ‘open world pvp’, it became a way for players to gang up and terrorize lone players. This kind of behaviour even has a name: ganking.

Yesterday, I learned from a fellow Guildie [member of a guild of players] that in ESO PVP there are a couple of built-in skills – i.e. deliberately created by the developers, not just ‘exploits’ created by the players – that allow players go invisible, sneak into a group of opposing players and…detonate their armour, ‘killing’ a lot of players at once. This is, apparently, a winning strategy.

I was shaken at what this said about ESO and the players who used this strategy to win. Being kind of naive, I assumed that all of my Guildies would feel just as shocked. Some were, and piped up in agreement. Others said things like ‘you don’t have to use it’ [meaning the suicide bomber tactic]. Others must have felt a little shame because they came back with the old ‘its just a game’ response, or, ‘just because I kill people in game doesn’t mean I kill them in RL’ [Real Life].

That last comment made me see red and I said something about how normalizing such attitudes can have real life consequences. The example I gave was the pathetic excuse for a human being who planned and carried out the New Zealand massacres not long ago.

Someone piped up with “surely you don’t believe video games turn people into killers?”

The one that really threw me though, was a dismissive, “oh is that all? We have incidents like that every day”.

I’ve never believed that video games turn kids into homicidal monsters, but the normalization of violence in real life, and the need to win at any cost, which is reinforced by many of these games, is a form of conditioning. It validates the individual’s wants, right or wrong.

That lack of empathy or care for others was demonstrated in a newspaper article back in April or May in which the writer basically said that his grandfather was in his eighties and wouldn’t mind popping off to save the economy…

Politicians here, and in other Western countries, have not been quite as blatant, but the emphasis on the economy at the cost of lives has been clear. And no one from the mainstream media has connected up the dots and said “hang on, so you don’t care if the elderly die?”

What continues to shock me is not that politicians can be so callous, but that we, the public, don’t rise up in protest. We accept it as a valid argument.

When did we lose sight of fair play, and justice, and compassion for the weak?

When did we forget what being honourable actually means?

When did we stop caring?

Meeks


Shigeru Umebayashi – composer

This track from Ghost of Tsushima introduced me to Shigeru Umebayashi :

Thank you Soundcloud!

Then, like a hound dog on the scent, I went looking for more and found the soundtrack for In the Mood for Love. Now I am in love.

Enjoy,
Meeks


Miira and Jaimie

I am working on another how-to post, really, but all work and no play isn’t healthy so…. tah dah 🙂

This one’s a little out of sequence, but those who’ve read The Godsend may recognize the scene it was adapted from. The core thing I’ve learned since experimenting with this kind of visual storytelling is that you can never reproduce a scene exactly. 🙂

I now have so much more sympathy for movie boffins who adapt much loved books to the visual medium!

Have a great weekend!

Meeks


Augmented Reality [AR] game set in Melbourne

As a gamer and denizen of Melbourne [Australia], how could I resist this New Atlas article about an AR game set in the city I love?

‘The game is the first in the True Crime Mysteries series by indie studio 10Tickles, helmed by husband-and-wife team Andy Yong and Emma Ramsay. The couple are both fascinated by true crime, history and the city of Melbourne itself, and so set out to build an augmented reality experience that tapped into all three.’

You can read the entire article by clicking the link below:

https://newatlas.com/games/true-crime-augmented-reality-game-misadventure-little-lon/

cheers

Meeks


Eyesight & Oculus Rift

As an old[er] gamer with dodgy eyesight, I’ve been worried that I’d never be able to play VR [virtual reality] games. Well, yesterday I learned that I can. 😀

But first things first: what is Oculus Rift? Basically, it’s a very expensive piece of headgear that makes it possible to view imaginary things as if they were real. The model I tried out yesterday looks like this:

As well as the goggles and inbuilt headphones, the Oculus Rift comes with two handsets that transmit Wifi data to the two ‘receiver’ units positioned in front of the ‘player’.

All of this hardware is controlled by specialist software running on a fairly powerful pc. Without getting too technical, the software sends two, separate, high resolution images to the lens inside the headset. The appropriate image then bounces through one of the lens and into the left or right eye.

To get an idea of how this works, close one eye and look at an object. Close both eyes and move a few inches to the left. Now open the other eye and look at the object again. The object hasn’t changed at all, but the viewing angle has – i.e. you’re seeing a part of the object you haven’t seen before. Put the two images together, and you get a 3D image.

The human brain interprets these separate images all the time using a process called ‘stereopsis‘. But for some individuals, stereopsis doesn’t develop as it should. The brain still gets streams of images from both eyes, but these individuals see depth using a process called ‘motion parallax‘.

I am one of these individuals, and that’s why I worried I wouldn’t be able to see in VR. But I can! I can. My spatial awareness expanded right out, and when a bunch of very large robots suddenly turned feral and loomed over me, I instinctively threw my hands up to protect my head! I also squeaked in fear, but the less said about that the better. 😀

This is a video of a bunch of older people experiencing VR for the first time:

The headset shown in the video clip is the VIVE rather than the Oculus Rift, but the experience is much the same.

I wasn’t wearing glasses when I tried out the Rift, but apparently you can fit your normal glasses inside the goggles by adjusting the fit.

And now a word or two about the quality of the graphics. I wasn’t wearing any of my glasses [I have 3, one each for long, mid-range and close viewing] and that may have made the graphics less than optimal. Or it may be that the graphics still need to be improved. Or perhaps you simply need bleeding edge computer hardware to get the best results. Whatever the reason, I was in no danger of mistaking computer generated graphics for the real thing. But…the sensation of depth really does trick the brain into believing the images are real. One day, we may not be able to perceive the difference at all.

Finally, some unpleasant aspects of the hardware. For starters, the goggles are heavy. Whilst you’re ‘inside’, you tend to forget about the weight because there’s so much there to distract you, but it does feel a bit like carrying half a brick around on your head. It’s also hot. Yesterday was only warm, but after ten minutes playing with the Rift, my hair was wet with sweat.

A big part of the weight of the Rift comes from the glass lenses that make the magic possible. Given how young the technology is, I suspect the mechanics will be improved rapidly. One improvement I would very much like to see is in the handsets. Although they are far more intuitive than the controllers used with consoles, they’re still clunky. Gloves and a full-body suit with embedded sensors would be miles better. They’d also be miles more expensive, but hopefully the price will come down by the time I can afford to buy one. 😉

All in all, I loved my taste of VR, and now that I know I can see despite the issues with my eyesight, I’m determined to own my own setup…one day.

cheers

Meeks


Can you see what I see…?

Life’s been rather hectic of late, so my posts have been more sporadic than usual, but today I want to show you something that I think is quite wonderful. And no, I’m not going to tell you, I’m going to show you.

Have a look at these three screenshots and tell me what you see:

Yes, all three screenshots are computer generated. And yes, they are all from a game, but the amazing thing is the mirror.

I’ve been playing games of one sort or another for close to 20 years, and in all that time I’ve never seen a mirror used in any game I’ve ever played. Now, it may be that I’ve played the wrong sort of games, or it may be that mirrors use up too many resources, or… Whatever the reason, mirrors haven’t been a part of the graphics, and I have always felt the lack.

Reflections are such a fundamental part of how we see the world, and ourselves.  Think about it. We catch sight of our reflection a hundred times a day – in mirrors, shop windows, highly polished tables, glossy cupboards, ponds, even spoons. They are everywhere in the real world, but not in the virtual world, and to me it feels odd. Like not having a shadow.

Remember when gaming graphics were so primitive that no one even dreamed of adding shadows? Now they’re commonplace in most games with high end graphics. I predict that one day soon, reflections will become just as commonplace as shadows because they add an almost subliminal element to our ability to immerse ourselves in a virtual environment.

For now, though, my friend George is the trail blazer in this area. The mirror is his, as is the game, and I think both are going to be quite extraordinary.

cheers

Meeks


Coal to Newcastle or #robots to #China UPDATE 18/4/2017

I was going to post a recipe for plum cake, but then I found this video clip on Quartz. What can I say? I like robots. 🙂

So, this from China:

And this from…?

But I saved the best till last – the Teslasuit. It’s a full body haptic suit. For gamers to wear in conjunction with a VR headset.

The Teslasuit doesn’t exist…yet…but there’s a Kickstarter campaign to turn it into reality. 

Apologies, I was wrong – the Teslasuit does already exist and it’s being enhanced by its developers. This is what the still image looks like:

And these are two video clips that show it actually working:

There is also another video clip but you need Flash to play it and I don’t use Flash anymore. But for those that do, here it is:

http://www.bbc.com/specialfeatures/horizonsbusiness/seriessix/sharper-senses/?vid=p03xnpch

And finally, you can go to the website for even more information :

https://teslasuit.io/#intro

I am seriously excited!

Meeks


#Internet #Addiction – guilty as charged?

This article is about e-addiction. Don’t reach for your dictionaries, I just made that up. The addiction, however, is very real and I’ve experienced it myself, both as a gamer and as a netizen.

According to this article in the Washington Post :

‘[internet] Addicts lose interest in other hobbies or, sometimes, never develop any. When not allowed to go online, they experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, depression or even physical shaking. They retreat into corners of the Internet where they can find quick success — a dominant ranking in a game or a well-liked Facebook post — that they don’t have in the real world, experts say.’

The emphasis on ‘success’ is mine, and I believe it is the foundation of this psychological addiction. If real life sucks, go online and become a ‘god’ who is respected and adored by everyone. Or words to that effect.That kind of ego stroking is very hard to ignore because we all want to be respected, admired, liked.

The real problem, however, is not that we find ‘success’ online, but that we do not find it in the real world.

In a way, I guess this is just another First World problem, but it is real, and it will become more prevalent as the mobile generations swap their Smartphones for SmartJewellery, or SmartClothing, or SmartGoggles…or whatever. All these future devices will be fantastic, but they will not make living in the real world any easier.

Definitely food for thought,

Meeks

p.s.in Korea, the pressures of real life have already created a whole society that is more ‘connected’ than any other. And they’re starting to have serious problems. This case is unusual but brings home the message.


#VR – will it need safety standards?

The following quote describes the [current] experience of VR [virtual reality]:

‘“The gap between ‘things that happen to my character’ and ‘things that happen to me’ is bridged,” Stephan said. This distinction can transform an experience from merely flinch-inducing to sincerely frightening. “The way I process these scares is not through the eyes of a person using their critical media-viewing faculty but through the eyes of I, the self, with all of the very human, systems-level, subconscious voodoo that comes along with that.”’

Given how immersive even normal gaming can be, I do not find this phenomenon all that surprising. What I do find surprising is the genuine note of warning sounded in the article. You can find the entire story here:

http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-coming-horror-of-virtual-reality

[and thanks to the Passive Guy for pointing the way]

Back to VR. As a gamer, I’ve been thinking about the consequences of addiction for a long time, and in Emmi’s story [in The Vintage Egg], one of the ideas I toss out there is that in the future, legislation will stop gamers from ‘playing’ for longer than a few hours. For their own good.

Will society really impose restrictions on the use of VR and AR [Augmented Reality]?

-shrug- Who knows, but it is gratifying to find that someone else is also thinking beyond the ‘oh goody, a new, supa doopa toy’ to the possible consequences of using that toy. I suspect that we will have to have deaths before the technology is regulated, which is a sobering thought. One thing I am certain about, however, is that next five to ten years will deliver a world-wide, totally voluntary [and probably expensive] social experiment on disruptive technology. 😀

We live in interesting times, neh?

Meeks

 


Next gen #gaming for the masses

Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson have been toiling away at augmented reality for years at their startup, CastAR. Their ambition to make a fun AR product has been cooking for a while, and they’re taking a very different approach to the next-generation gaming platform. And given Ellsworth’s background as an underdog, it’s no surprise she’s…

via How CastAR’s Jeri Ellsworth will use augmented reality for fun tabletop gaming — VentureBeat

This post was like a bolt of lightning for all sorts of reasons – it’s about gaming, it’s about everyday people and it’s the vision of an amazing young woman.

Women in technology are still rare enough to make me sit up and take notice. Women in technology who may be creating the very next big thing? Phenomenal!

Go girl. 😀

Meeks


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