Monday, January 31, 2005

I want to create games

I had a good weekend. Today is my birthday (read the previous post) and over the weekend we met with a friend. She gave me two books - The Art of the Start and A Theory of Fun for Game Design. The first one was really good - one to go back to over and over - but the second one made me all verklempt at the end.

I have been a teacher at various times in my life, and it's usually a pretty positive experience, mostly with the kids that "get it". That happens more often with the brighter kids than average (or slow) ones, but sometimes you see that spark in an otherwise dull face, and that's really cool. That's the best part of doing it. Grading papers, on the other hand, sucks.

I really like being a dad. I'm looking forward to the next one quite a bit. I like seeing Ben grow, and it's so neat seeing him learn. I think that there are plenty of cool things I can teach him.

I really like Steve Pavlina's website and I think that he has great potential to help a lot of people with his new speaking career. That said, I do disagree with his decision to move away from his game company. I mean, he's free to do as he wants, obviously, and I wish him the best. But it's not what I would do in his shoes. I'd change what kind of games I make and sell, if I were in his shoes - if I already had a game company established.

I think that games are great way to teach people things. I also think that there are far too many games that focus on skills that are outdated in modern society. Spending time and energy on those skills will, in the long run, hold us back. We don't need violence. If you want to learn how to fight, go join the armed forces. Otherwise, it's a skill you learn for the sense of accomplishment and to stay in shape, and I don't have any problem with that. The key is to just not be in a situation where you need to fight.

I digress. My point is that in modern society knowledge of exponential growth is much more important than how to aim a gun, as one concrete example. A game is a learning experience in a low stress environment with little true penalty for failure. School does carry substantial penalties for failure, so either people don't learn, or only learn enough to pass the next test and forget it. A fun game that people play over and over will teach something deeply enough to ingrain it deeply into the brain. There are tests on the difference between men and women on spatial perception. Apparently men tend to do better on a pen and paper test than women. (Tend to, not always.) However, if the test is an interactive game that teaches as you go, the skew mostly goes away. The most interesting part is that if the pen and paper test is done after the interactive one, the skew stays gone. There is a permenent rewiring that takes place that shows that true learning took place. (I'll go look up the study and provide links if need be.)

I am in favor of win/win solutions. Cooperation will get our species a lot farther than competition will in the long run. Money spent on guns is money not spent on education or beautiful architecture or curing AIDS or colonizing other planets.

I want to write games that deeply ingrain constructive values in people. I think that I can help more people to live better in modern society this way than I can by teaching 20-100 kids at a time, or by doing public speaking, or most other things. Games are very subtle. Make them fun and people don't even realize what they are learning. This subtle manipulation of people's minds and value systems represents a pretty big deviation from my normal doctrine of non-interference in other people's lives, but I think it's perhaps my best shot at doing some good for large numbers of people.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Six-squared years

So a week from today I turn 36. It's not a bad thing, but sometimes I look back and wonder where my time has gone. I would like to have accomplished more by now, and certainly would like a larger paycheck. Overall life is good - great family life, good place to work, bills are paid - but I'm not entirely satisfied. Guess it's time to get working on something to sell that people will want to buy. Got any ideas? Let me know. Not a service, please - you can only sell your time once.

I sure don't feel 36. I should do about 10,000 sit-ups, though. Maybe run a marathon or two.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A snippet from the cover of The Void.

A few years ago I published The Void

I recently dissolved Stanton Industries, Inc. I think it's safe to say it's a failure.

Friday, January 14, 2005


I was looking for languages the people had written CodeDOM Providers for, and I stumbled across Boo. Go check it out. They are doing some really cool stuff, and Lore may wind up looking similar it in the long run, as they have implemented several features that I want to include. They even have a SharpDevelop add-in for it, which is on my to-do list.

There are things I want Lore to do that Boo does not, like compile to native code, and also to the JVM. The type system of the JVM is going to slow down that last bit, though.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


It's been raining a lot here over the last two weeks, to the point where there's flooding to levels not seen in 90 years. I think it's because of the tsunami. Before you blow me off as being totally insane, let me explain a bit. The tsunami dumped a massive amount of water onto a lot of land, and while a lot of it drained back into the ocean, a lot just sat on the ground and is evaporating. That water vapor has to go somewhere, and I think that even if it rained out slightly east of where the tsunami hit, that still ramps up the water cycle. Water flows downhill, and I think that the water cycle would reach saturation and it would keep rolling across the globe until it stabilizes out. I don't know how long that would take, but I think it might explain the astonishingly crappy weather we've been having lately.

Or I could be totally wrong and the two are completely unrelated. I could still be insane anyway, but not because of this.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Dude, that's just...harsh.

So I dropped my son off at day care this morning and stopped off at the all-too-convenient Starbucks to get a latte before getting on the highway to go to work. On the way in I spotted something in the rain-soaked parking lot but didn't take the time to pick it up. I did on the way out, however, and found that it was the senior photo of a moderately pretty girl. That alone doesn't make this event blog-worthy, but what I read on the back does:

"Dave -
Well, buddy. We were always on again/off again friends. Being friends in 8th grade, then not talking again until junior year. I hope that after this year that this will not be the case. You have always been a great friend. Keep in touch. (heart) - Mari"

(I put (heart) there because I don't have a heart-shaped picture icon handy to insert there.)

Dave, you are either a careless klutz or a heartless bastard. Either way, shame on you.

(Edit: It's been pointed out that maybe she dropped it before giving it to him. I had considered that, and left that out of the original version of the post. So, if that's the case, she's a careless klutz. At least in that case she'll pretty clearly know that he never got it. In the scenario I paint above, unless he is a klutz, knows it, and admits it to her, she thinks that a good friend is blowing her off. Pretty crappy, huh? That or he is pretty heartless and tells her, which is still pretty crappy.)

Monday, January 03, 2005

Get out of Your Way

For much of my life I seem to have had some sort of mental constipation that stops me from functioning at my peak capacity. I have never figured out how to cure myself of it. I can overcome it for short periods of time, the longest of which got me back into school through a B.A. and a Ph.D., but it has long since faded. I had a coherent driving goal at that point in my life, but that's gone, and I'd like one back.

The title of this post is a statement I came up with in my last year of grad school as advice to a first year student in our research group. He was (and I assume still is) pretty smart, but was having some difficulty understanding some stuff. I knew he could get it, but his biggest problem was that he was convinced that it was supposed to be difficult. As a result, he was making the material much harder than it really was.

Essentially that's what I need to do - to get out of my own way. I'm pretty sure that I'm what's holding me back. When I was teaching highschool students a couple years ago, one of the things I told them was that "Most human failure is not a failure of ability, but of the will."

Funny how the person who gives advice is frequently the one who needs it most.