Month: June 2015

How marketing learns from imperalists

Doom, Doom 2, … Doom 3, … Doom. Oh no! You, too, id?!

id Software teamed up with Bethesda as publisher. One of the big ones. Those who all follow the same idiotic marketing bullshit (actually worrisome, more on that in a minute).

They talk about rebooting the series, which is almost double-bullshit in one short sentence. Doom has never been a real series. There were two quite similar games long time ago and then much later a creepy, jumpscare-themed graphics orgy, relatively different from the original material. And then, now, much later again, we get … “Doom”.

You know why this bothers me so much? Not just because it is becoming very popular, but because the mindsets that drive such marketing ideas are the same that you can find in politics. When you “reboot” a series so that you can exploit a popular name for doing things as you please, different than before, this is very similar to how empires erase culture and history (e.g. by burning books) in order to establish their ways as the beginning of everything, without disturbance from what came before.

Remember the double middle finger case of a confessing Star Wars fan directing a ‘reboot’ of Star Trek that ended up being like a Lost in Space quality Star Wars style lens flare festival?

Tomb Raider is another example of such naming crap. (‘I mean Tomb Raider, not Tomb Raider.’)

These things are being done so much because it’s an agenda. Marketing optimizes, changes, attempts to reprogram people. And when you want to fully control the present, you have to erase the past from people’s minds. That’s really oldschool imperialist insights. Basically, when people talk about Doom, the marketeers want everybody to think of their new product, not the original game … or a super-capitalist future.
Leaving franchises alone instead of dissing them? You can’t expect that from marketeers. That would imply respect.

I won’t hide how much I agree with Bill Hicks’ view on the matter:

UPDATE: Search “Bill Hicks – Advertising and Marketing” on Youtube. It seems if I directly link it here, it will trigger content ID claims. (Either that or coincidence.)

P.S.: Don’t accuse me of doomsaying. It’s marketing that spelled Doom.

Confusing virtual and real world – the non-clichée occurences

When people talk about confusing the virtual and the real world, it usually is about people acting out their video gaming habits in real life, e.g. killing sprees.

But there are other sides to this that are not void of irony.

One case is when someone is unable, or out of convenience unwilling, to acknowledge that in online gaming you’re interacting with real people. If out of convenience, it is used as a justification for treating others like dirt when they’re not physically present.
In such cases, I like to ask them whether it is also OK to treat people differently when you’re on the phone with them. After all, it’s just digital signals you hear, not a real person. Right?

Actually, I’d pose the thesis that it’s ALWAYS out of convenience. So often people deliberately render themselves unable because it’s easier not to take responsibility.

But the really appalling level is that people who never had anything to do with video gaming can practice the same confusion of virtual and real, as I have witnessed personally, when they consider their own small world as valid and real and anything that doesn’t fit their small-minded comfort zone as not real. Such people would then not just claim that an online game world didn’t involve real people, but they would go so far as claim that online gamers themselves aren’t real. It’s insane, but usually masked in a thin veil of rhetorics to make it sound somewhat less absurd; just enough to not get locked up in a lunatic asylum.

You’ve probably at least heard from cases where someone didn’t get their parents’ approval, where the parents were for example doctor or athlete or stock broker (the latter ones containing even more irony) and the son is an artist, video game developer, any of that, and would hear from his parents how he should instead live in the “real world” like they do.

That kind of small-minded fools might not run amok with a gun, but they’re much more likely to support others doing that. … Because, you know, stop re-enacting Postal in your local school and become a soldier instead and kill people in the real world. Right? Or what?

Frickin lunatics hiding in plain sight everywhere.

Here “Be real!” means “Live as an asshole in a world shaped by assholes!”.

If you are a pioneer in anything, you become the enemy of small, fearful, convenient minds.

What is called “personality disorder” is extremely widespread, but majority society has agreed on a certain level of it that is considered normal.

For way too long I doubted myself and assumed that I am the one with a problem because I saw so much sickness aroumd me. I eventually realized that it’s because of the harsh contrast between my sanity and the insanity of others. Smart and sensitive people dealing with such alienation can then suffer from issues based on that, and while they’re often conveniently thrown into the same bucket, they’re profoundly different. One side of the coin is the symptom complex of acting out a support of sickness, the other side is acting out the resistance to sickness.

Google web fonts: Another example of corporations making everything worse

Many web fonts don’t use hinting, thus look awful without ClearType or at least regular font smoothing.
An eventual fix of this in browsers was to activate font smoothing in the browser for all web fonts. This is a relatively good solution that came way too late, and the fact that Google’s own Chrome browser had this problem for a long time is facepalm-material, but nothing unexpected from a corporation too successful for everybody’s good.

For some reason, this problem occured only recently to me. I don’t know whether more and more websites are using web fonts as of late or whether something in the available range of fonts was changed, but ever since a few weeks ago when Google’s own sites started looking horrible (font name “Roboto”, which led me to talk about a web ro(t)botomy), more and more other websites showed the same problem. I also recently installed the joke font “Sans Bullshit Sans” in my system and now various websites are defaulting to that font. What the hell are web designers doing?!

I hate this for-mobile trend (because it very much has the smell of it) as much as the for-console trend in gaming. Is anybody surprised about the PC master race thing becoming popular if anything non-PC is getting worse and worse?

BTW probably the first occurence of ugly web fonts was when Valve changed the menu title font to an ugly one.

What are my options now? I intentionally don’t use font smoothing in Windows because I don’t like my computer UI to look like printed pages of text, and even less so ClearType because it looks awful with its chromatic aberration.
Update to a newer (than 30) Firefox version? No way in hell am I doing that just in hope that the issue has been fixed now while risking to render half of my (sadly very necessary) browser addons non-functional.

I tried a browser addon “Anti-Aliasing Tuner”, but it only alters rendering and alters anti-aliasing but doesn’t set when to use it and when not. If I activate smoothing with it, everything in Firefox will be smoothed; the whole UI.

It is really sad, because this whole thing isn’t necessary. Either browser developers should have reacted a long time ago or there shouldn’t be fonts that don’t utilize hinting for things like popular web application. It’s just the typical focusing on default settings for people who swallow everything as it comes, not someone who might disable font smoothing because it makes text unnecessarily ‘fuzzy’.
In my opinion there never should have been fonts used this way that absolutely rely on smoothing to look alright.

Also, if you install a web font in your system and use it in a word processor, you get the same horrible results. The print is good, but the display is horrible. I don’t know whether the for-print process applies smoothing automatically; not an expert in that. But fonts should simply be displayed properly without absolutely requiring post-processing. On principle, but practically speaking definitely not before devices are compatible (i.e. browsers applying good smoothing on web fonts).

For reference, this article has a comparison picture to show you how ugly some popular web fonts are natively:
http://www.dev-metal.com/fix-ugly-font-rendering-google-chrome/
Actually, it’s a mild case. Google’s Roboto looks much worse still. This posting has another example linked: http://ask.metafilter.com/249265/Google-Web-Fonts-are-rendering-horribly-on-my-Firefox-Chrome-browsers
What you might notice there is that a hinting-less font with smoothing still looks worse than an unsmoothed font that uses hinting, because the IE version shown in the picture still has those deviations of line thickness and such. It’s the original ugliness of the font merely paved over a little.

Bioshock Infinite and the poetical metaphor of time travel

This is spoiler-heavy. You will probably need to know the story of Bioshock Infinite to follow this completely, although if you haven’t and don’t mind the spoilers, go ahead and read on. You will understand the core message.

Years ago I had a very profound and troubling experience on ayahuasca, during my heightened efforts to improve my life, and much later, when I played through the finale of Bioshock Infinite, I got a very unsettling feeling and my heartbeat increased and I was trembling – very much like at the onset of said experience. It was a reminder of an all-too-familiar experience – beginning when you step through the lighthouse door – the breakthrough threshold.
I think, based on my own experiences, that the overall message of this story that has been portrayed so elaborately and at length is this:

If you want to unmake something that has already happened for you (because you refuse to accept those painful parts of your life), then you have to unmake yourself. Your life experience is inherently your journey, beyond the confines of linear time, so if you want to change that, you have to change yourself. You have to kill a part of yourself; the part that reflects on the outside world in that way.
Comstock is the version of Booker who conveniently accepted to (because of the potential actual superficiality of the baptism ritual) abandon all influence of his past wicked deeds, while Booker, refusing the baptism, couldn’t forgive himself for what he did. Or at least he accepted the path that would offer a chance for him to maybe forgive himself some time in the future, as a gradual process.

Booker’s whole story is about being torn between two extremes, when the solution is to accept what you have done and decide to live with it, to forgive yourself without refusing personal responsibility. Refusing the baptism might have been the right choice of two alternatives, but following that right path eventually became too painful and depressing for him, so his own internal nemesis offered him to wipe away the regret and go in sync with Comstock’s path, which is like a mere relapse. He was acting based on the accumulated pain, thus inviting the other extreme.
This is really close to things I went through during said ayahuasca trip. It’s like the same message that I had been taught then, which I now mention here, since I recognize it in the writing of the game’s story.

Time travel themed fictional writing often follows the idea of inevitability of fate for a good reason. Time is ultimately just an illusion, and time travel is an idea borne out of the egoic mind’s desire for power. Thus, time travel is part of the limited egoic experience, and actions of time travel are incorporated into the flow of time in the first place. Time travel, for the egoic mind, changes the course of history, but that change of the course of history has been part of the plan all along.

This is, again, the very poetical and dramatic aspect of the whole idea of time travel, about not being at peace with the past and wanting to change what has already been done. About lack of self-acceptance.

Again: Booker chose the difficult path of the uncertain chance of eventual, gradual self-forgiveness. Comstock chose the cop-out of refusing responsibility. (Even changing his name – that’s like saying: “I’m not that person anymore anyway, so his actions don’t concern me.” Profound denial that doesn’t really erase the past, and deep down he knows it, thus he became such a problem for society, projecting his inner issues on the outside and condemning things he himself had taken part in in a righteous, holier-than-thou way.) So as the combined person of Booker-Comstock, the actual problem was that Booker was torn in the first place – that he couldn’t decide between two sub-optimum extremes and couldn’t find the middle path. Comstock is like a metaphor for regret at having made the wrong decision. You could even say that Booker eventually had wished he had chosen to become Comstock, and that made it possible for Comstock to exist and offer him that opportunity. Booker couldn’t forgive himself for his past deeds because he still kept Comstock as an alternative alive in his mind. The metaphor here is that Booker is at war with himself, which was depicted literally via the game.

This is why I appreciate the game: The story is remarkable. Some might say it’s just “standard multiverse stuff”, but they’re overlooking the crucial human touch, the metaphor, the poetry in this story.

The Powerpuff Girls being lawful stupid

There are various Powerpuff Girls episodes that I could comment on about how much is wrong with them, but there is one where the theme of it bugs me so much because it has a connection to what’s going wrong in real life, so I’d like to elaborate:

The episode is “Bought and Scold”. This is one messed-up Powerpuff Girls epispode. But as I hinted at, it also shows how messed up the world can be and how easy it can be to fool people in the most obvious way and get away with it. (e.g. with the “monetary system” pyramid scheme)

Here’s what happened:
Princess, the spoiled brat of a rich father, becomes mayor. Her daddy bought the office from the mayor. This could be seen as very cynical, since it’s not legit at all. But this is still just the realm of usual PPG writing simplicity, since you just have to accept that the mayor is also pretty much the owner of the city.
The Ganggreen Gang starts harassing kids in school and the PPG learn that Princess has become mayor and officially declared crime legal. Tons of crime-committing and voluntary freeing of prison inmates ensues. This is where it begins to really get messed up. Because the prisoners are serving their prison sentence for crimes they committed when they were still illegal. So now one has to assume that the new law is meant retroactively.

The PPG have a total mind blockage and are sad that they can’t do anything. While I despair watching this, because they could just beat up Princess and throw her in jail, since that’s not a crime anymore. This would have resolved the situation immediately and in a very ironic way, or you could even call it Salomonic wisdom.
But it didn’t happen, and this is like a metaphor for the world where people are so much trapped in an authority-follower mindset that they are unable to just do what is right and make that their authority. Too scared to take responsibility for their actions. That mindset reveals how many so-called law-abiding citizens are actually anarchists, since they freely accept tyrants as legit, while they’d have plenty of reasons not to do so. They are basically the villains, the crooks. … We are all anarchists at the core. If we choose to give up our freedoms, that is our own decision.

So eventually the PPG realize a solution: They steal all the stuff from Princess’ residence, thus making her become the victim of her own new law. Not really what I had hoped for, because this is what happens next:
Princess is all whiny and wants the stuff back to avoid making her dad angry, so she writes a new law making crime illegal again. At this point they finally ruined the opportunity to unmake all the idiocy, since they again acknowledged the legitimacy of the usurpation of the mayor office, which makes the PPG villains, too. (Unless you consider buying the mayor office legal, which you could do in the context of the show and it would still make the episode messed up.) Well, anyway, with the new law they go out and start punishing and rounding up. Not only reactively, but they also for example beat up the Ganggreen Gang that was at the time just chilling on a playground. So this sends the message that the new law, too, is to be understood retroactively, making all past committed actions of malice crimes, too.

But THEN the writers break with this very principle that has been validated twice in the episode:
Princess wants all the stuff back before her dad wakes up and makes trouble, but the PPG claim that they made everything right but that apparently none of the crooks took her stuff. She then realizes that the PPG were the ones who took her stuff and talks about having them arrested, and then comes the whammy: They say she can’t do that since they took her stuff while crime was legal, so she can’t do anything and all her stuff is the PPG’s now! And now it’s Princess’ turn to have a total mind blockage. She begs she’d do anything and thus she gives up the mayor office and gets her stuff back.

Isn’t that blackmail? Or bribery? That’s not unlike how Princess got the mayor position in the first place.
So is crime legal now, or not?
The PPG would have to put themselves in jail now. The outrageous hypocrisy: Obeying the law when it’s crooked, but not obeying that same law when it doesn’t serve your own agenda.

The truth is: Monarchy, democracy, republic, dictatorship, theocracy … they’re all built on anarchy. They’re all ideas offered to the people that you can follow or not, but it’s your decision. Many democracies these days are actually anarchist bully-style oppression schemes where a complicit majority doesn’t allow the minority to live high values of humaneness. Where it’s “Vote Dick Tator for President!”.

It’s really sad when superheroes are protrayed as easy victims of such mind games. Especially superheroes like the PPG who so often like to resolve issues by beating people up. I couldn’t even comfortably call them lawful neutral, since they don’t have a proper understanding of the law. They are more like lawful stupid, at least in this episode. And that’s a problem that so many people share and why we have so much suffering in the world.

P.S.: Ms. Keane is generally the icon of what is wrong with many teachers and how much harm they are doing. But that’s another story.