GX notes - February, 2000tuesday, 29 february
Spent the early morning tweaking around my site. It struck me in the shower how different my life is now, versus back when:
Five years ago I was snorting some of my first coke, delivering my first anal sex, fooling around with a guy for the first time, and I started making crazy radio (all in the same weekend!).
Justin Hall has been active in online and gaming communities since the 1980s. A journalist and communicator, he was present at the birth of the web in 1994. Back then, his site "Justin's Links from the Underground" pioneered web guides and personal biography. He was on the founding team of the first commercial web magazine, HotWired, and the web's first online community index, Electric Minds. Currently he's serving as a communications specialist for the first games portal Gamers.com, where player communities are establishing their own social ethic surrounding the powerhouse media art form of the 21st Century. Hall has given animated talks on the present and future state of recreational technology across America and in northern Europe.Armed with that bio, I pitched myself at TIN 2000.
monday, 28 february
I'm starting to feel my 8 month cycle - I haven't worked for a company much longer than this since Software Etc. Today trying to put together a speaker/panelist bio on myself for E3 send me reeling - what am I? What have I done? So I look at Howard's blurb and Rushkoff and Jaron Lanier and it makes me feel like writing heady articles about the future of something.
hlr: Get started. Set aside one hour each day to work on serious writing. Do it. Don't worry about the content. Don't publish it. Perfect it. It's time. You can do it. Act of will. You da man.wednesday, 23 february
jah: thank you coach rheingold - you are this man's man.
hlr: You can tearfully acknowledge my tutelage when you pick up your National Book Award.
jah: hah hah
Mostly in Quake 3 I play as Major, a female character. Finally I found some validation for men playing as women in computer games. Thanks slashdot!
Otherwise, I took another Wednesday stroll with my boss James. I find that our chats about my job are often just as much about his job, which is fine, because he works at the same company I do, so it's interesting. And I figure he needs someone to talk to about his business as much as I do. Besides that, he's a warm, friendly guy with everyone's best interests at heart.
Or so it seems. But we are all participating in growth, our company, our site expands, almost with a collective unconscious - we move slowly sometimes, and then dramatic things happen, seemingly without a responsible party. What you end up doing with your day is so often arbitrary - I can't imagine what a schedule made after a business day would look like:
10.25am: came in, hoping to be here early but caught up websurfing at home.Etc. And here I had expected to write an article, pitch myself to a conference, work on the company newsletter, save money. Oy!
10:28am: starting to check mail, and someone has a question about dental insurance because they missed the meeting
10:33am: realize I'm thirsty, get orange juice
10:40am: james walks by and asks me about our meeting
10:42am: Terence asks me about PC boxshots, we discover that many classic games have boxshots on EBay, I spend 40 minutes searching for classic PC game boxshots.
11:56am: James and I have this meeting, decide to walk outside, spend an hour yakking around the harbour
1:04pm: lunch is here, though I plan to eat at my desk, I sit with the PC producers and talk about managing a motel in Alabama, while munching a mediocre Togo's Roast Beef sandwich.
1:42pm: someone asks about Daughter of the Serpent on ICQ, spend an hour researching this obscure PC adventure game.
3:06pm: howard gets AIM and ICQ working on his new G4. We try to exchange files and config his chat clients and talk about our plan to hang out tomorrow.
6pm: Work's over and for no real reason I buy a bunch more DVDs - bringing my total to seven or eight since yesterday. Exorcist, Lain, Searchers, Blade Runner, South Park, Woman Under the Influence
I loved all of it. Hah hah - John Lennon said something like "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
monday, 21 february
Back at work after a nice long weekend, working on a national holiday, I start my day with new movies from the PlayStation2. The latest in gaming hardware debuted over the weekend in Japan, and these movies give you a slight sense of what's to come.
Gaming hardware is levelling out - soon the improvements in technology will not represent such dramatic differences in quality of appearance and play. It will be up to the storytellers to fill in the rest. What these PlayStation2 movies appear to say is that we have made realistic, totally manipulatable human figures pretty accessible to game designers. What's after that?
Of Simians Cyborgs and Simplicity: The Future of Entertainment?
thursday, 17 feburary
SamP sends So You Want to Be a Game Reviewer - funny link
wednesday 16 february
My review of The Sims is up:
it's 10 pages long, loaded with screenshots. I was really glad to have the chance to drill deep into that game, to analyze it, compare it, respond to it. I think The Sims is great, if flawed. read the review!
Otherwise, the "evangelism" thing is going alright. A few folks have been a little put off by the salesman quality of the title. I understand that, I'm struggling to find a new way to describe what I do. Something like recon, or scout, James suggested from the world of RTS games. I used the phrase "data insemination" during a company meeting.
Yesterday was one of those days it was really fun to work here. Great meeting with James my new cherubic boss, hundreds of Jane's Addiction mp3s in rotation, meetings with Nat and Matt to talk over CG Expo, pushing panels at e3, great Tae Bo class. Just finding what I wanted to do, and doing it. James trusts me, and seems to like my instincts. Sometimes I feel like he's the great white father (he's 31 with three kids, a very moral guy), which is just fine with me - employer-employee relations are direct and honest.
At a company meeting I gave a standup recap of the MIT gaming conference, I guess it was the first time people had seen me present anything to a large group, they had nice things to say about my rambling abilities. That coupled with my face on sime.org (reload past rushkoff and kelly) left me feeling pretty high.
So I know days will come - low tide, as it were. I can remember writing stuff when I was feeling far less positive in these journal pages. Still, now that I feel like I have some direct way of improving the lot of the company, drawing attention to it and being a part of these dialogs at conferences, I'm feeling like I can stay here, stimulated, for some time to come.
I took this job initially because I wanted to get paid to study games. To be surrounded by them, to learn about them. After I learned all that, I figured I could try again to be a game designer. I'm closer than I was before, definitely. I have an immense store of game facts and nearly scientific understanding of the phylogenetic character of video and computer games. And the longer I look at games from the agnostic Gaming Portal perspective, it seems to me like game consoles are going to be very important in the future of entertainment, not just for acne-studded teen geeks in their underwear, but for families and geeks of all ages. So I'm in a great place to continue learning that, for the time being. Some day I will work on game storytelling and dialog.
wednesday, 9 februrary
woke up, got out of bed, drag a comb across my head
on my way to kinko's to pick up last minute half crappy buiness cards
noticed my thrice broken and scratched glasses and I got a bolt to hold the lens in
made the airplane in an hour and a half flat
blah blah it's 3 am and I'm up too late in boston. I'm on the road for an MIT gaming conference. Yesterday, I took advantage of working for a company by printing out a bunch of readings for the conference so I would know who was speaking and what they were about should I have the chance to meet them. I don't expect I shall - but that's okay cuz I have a million stickers and stuff to encourage the attending gamers to see our site as a useful resource.
I'm used to being on the staff side of things at conferences, at web conferences I usually have a badge "panelist" which allows me to go most places and talk to most people. in the games industry, I have only my title and my company to win me any access - and the relative importance of my company is such an underdeveloped thing - it's nice to have a sense that I can work to get us noticed, discussed and used. that and persistence should get me a urinal next to the stars.
staying with donnan, isn't he nice? got him playing the sims tonight, my review is almost officially late. just after he picked me up at the T stop he pulled out a freshly baked loaf of wheat bread stuffed with spinach, feta and olive. some vegetarians do pretty well for themselves.
in the airport I felt like a badass with my nice laptop that lets me play games and write and listen to music, practically at the same time. and then i noticed a dozen other people plugged into their professional life on the plane and I wondered if instead I am like another sufferer of a disease that causes solipscism in those that bathe in the glowing white light.
So many people playing solitaire! simple card games with their computers. The amount of time people spend playing that simple game makes the whole professional computer games industry seem like the height of excess and incestual indulgence. My time playing the Sims makes me look at groups of people entertaining themselves in a more utility-object fashion. when I finish my review that might make more sense.
tuesday, 8 february
Trying to finish writing a review of The Sims - because it's a fantastic game and I want to know it thoroughly.
Gathering materials for my roadtrip - my first outing as Gamers Evangelist to MIT for a games conference, I want to be prepared with the pitch and promotional supplies. We just inaugurated an email address for interns, I'm going to draft a pitch to college students for promotion, much like a job I did with Tara Eden Hoffman at Wired. A random PR task - trying to find Mr. or Ms. Wired at every campus to promote HotWired. This should be easier - gamers are more young and fervent.
The company gave me a raise and loaned me a laptop for my travels - makes me feel valued. I was looking for a USB mouse to use with my laptop on the road, turns out the only source in the company for USB mice is Dennis, with his stash of gratis Microsoft mice. He has over 50 mice of his own in his office, because he goes through the mice so rapidly playing Quake. I tried to track down what exactly wore down about the mice in the games, "I can't describe it" he said with a laugh. I once heard Michael Jordan wore a new pair of shoes for each game. Whether that was Nike or some kind of Voodoo magic, I dunno. Maybe I should decide to start using a new laptop every time I file a web page from the road. Now that would be extravagant.
Interviewed someone today who might serve as an editorial official. Nice chap. Strange to spend my afternoon chatting with a stranger to get an impression of him, when I have so much other stuff to do. I was honoured that Dennis wanted my impression of him, either that, or there was no one else to babysit in the late afternoon today ;->
We're hiring like nuts. Send email to hr@gamers if you want a new job in the glamorous video game portal business, or internship@gamers if you're not out of college and enjoy exploitation. Must be willing to work in Richmond CA.
monday, 7 february
The first part of my interview with John Carmack has been posted on FiringSquad.com. Bob and I interviewed him a few weeks back (heck, in the last millenium). Most of the questions about his life, his philosophy, his taste in culture and his background are mine. Bob asked mostly about games in depth, graphics technology and his plans for the future. Joel asked a question about competitors' games.
Just before the interview I received word that he was soon to be married; this was the question I was most excited about, and the question I popped first:
FS: Do you think that being married will detract from your programming?Hah hah - if you look at popfocus.com, a site about Britney Spears and N'Sync, you'll see the guy stole the Gamers.com web design, to the point of leave "personalized Gamers.com" email links in the midst of his site. He wrote "David is the owner and webmaster of this site. Everything you see here was made by him, not only the design but the graphics, news, and pretty much everything." in his site credits. Typically I find myself siding with the underdog versus big corporations. But that's pretty pathetic rip-off - there isn't much art to it. He's getting reamed in his message boards.
John: No, I wouldn't be getting married if I thought that.
friday, 4 february
I'm now "Gamers Evangelist."
After weeks of deliberations, and working on different projects, Dennis et al asked me to work on recruiting mostly. Between now and April there's a big push to recruit college students before they decide what to do with their lives. We need people, they say I have people skills and I can speak so I'm being sent out into the trenches. I predict 2000 hands shook by the end of March.
I'm excited by the challenge, and a little wary of time on the road, and the required energy output to keep excitement up for stranger after stranger. I've asked for a raise and more stock accordingly.
Moreover the ideas I have for our site and the stuff I want to work on seems more along the lines of Audience Development. How can our users use and contribute to our site? I've got a lot of ideas and a little bit of research done on that subject. I guess going out on the road is another method of data gathering.
So it's not exactly the type of position I had in mind, and I've been wary of "Evangelist" since travelling across the country in 1996 - evangelist blows through town and sells you something that may not be too useful to your context. It seems a little bit blasphemous - I don't want to be in the sales business even if I am selling ideas. Discussion, that's more my style. But "Advocate" didn't seem to go over as well for a title.
Anyhow, everything is temporary, I may have this job for three weeks or three years. All part of the learning process. Now back to The Sims!
thursday, 3 february
Some days I come in here and there's not enough time to do all the things I have to do. Some days I come in and I can't figure out what to do with myself. I start to think it's because I work at a growing company where I'm waiting for other people to coordinate with me. But we are masters of our own destiny, it's nice to believe, so it makes more sense to think that some days are just fslow days.
Today I relieved my slow day by going into John's office and talking about the company, about him, about me, about culture, about Tim who dropped in and Nat who dropped in until finally we had a little collective of people who were wandering about a bit and diverting themselves. John foisted zines on us and I changed settings on his computer, I left there with a book and a CD. I came back to my desk and Amy had written me a message: egg: Im so bored Im gonna die It's nice to know that at times we are emotionally synchronized.
wednesday, 2 february
I walked into Dennis and Tim drafting a "Who We Are" document for a Cal Berkeley job fest. I suggested a streamlined FAQ document with 5 essential points promoting our company, with Tim I layed it out in PageMaker, I think it came out well.
Then I discover the downside to hiring - in the midst of my work morning movers start carting in almost a score of rented desks. Eight of which are going within eyeshot of me. It's amazing. We move out to Richmond for the cheap real estate, and then we fill it up with young bodies. If we don't start the virgin sacrifices soon, we're going to need satellite offices or something.
On one hand having more people is nice because it makes it feel more like a real company, with power and people to implement projects. On the other hand, it's depersonalizing.
Nao found this: http://www.sega.co.jp/sega/puzzle/3.html - a shockwave version the addicting pop sensation Dreamcast game ChuChu Rocket. And Matt had this to share: U.F.O. Kamen Yakisoban a game based on a guy with a cup of soup on his head.
tuesday, 1 february
I'm successfully registered for the MIT gaming conference - very excited to be going next week.
More signs of the evolving convergeance of entertainment mediums:
UGO Appoints Gary Coleman [2-2-00 11:10am]I would applaud the renaissance of the actor into a new career and the wisdom of this site to have found another of Gary Coleman's talents (he wrote a decent review, and he clearly knows games (Kenn doesn't think he wrote it)) - but from the graphics and their other content concerning Gary Coleman, the whole thing seem mostly patronizing and hackneyed. Under "Diff'rent Strokes 2001", a flash movie where Coleman tries to adopt a child and ends up with a swearing ungrateful kid who calls him either "bitch" or "webster," this ad is running:
UGO announced recently that Gary Coleman, former child star of Different Strokes, has joined its team as a weekly Columnist/Critic. Coleman will write a review once a week in the column Coleman Confidential. Coleman's first review, NBA 2K for Dreamcast is now appearing on UGO.com. In addition Coleman will report from major entertainment events and conduct interviews. The site will also offer web chats with the former actor. - from GameDaily
How about this From GameSpot: Atlus today released early design shots from its upcoming Sony PlayStation2 title, Primal Image. The interactive simulation game lets players take control of a virtual CG [computer graphics] girl. The company will use PS2s Emotion Engine processor to calculate and simulate realistic body movements for the characters. Coming soon to a game/site near you: manipulate blank men and all kinds of women for your pleasure. The emotion engine! At it's worst this convergeance appears to be a creation of Josef Mengele smoking DMT with Philip K. Dick during one of Dick's paranoid moments.
Another topic: Go ahead and opt out if you like.
Carl turned me on to an online bank that let's you send email to other bank members via email. Sign up and get 20$ free (and I get 10$ - banking as a multi-level marketing scheme). Nat signed up and emailed me a cent. how strange! It just showed up in my account without my asking! "Email my check into my account." It seems like everyday I see some twisted incarnation of the future here at my desk on the web.