GX notes - May, 2000wednesday, 31 may
so I'm not so sure about the "gaming tour" any more - seems shallow to me. I want to take some time to point out problems and issues and philosophical challenges unique to video games.
So now I'm trying to merge an ethical exploration of games with a PowerPoint slideshow of videogame enthusaism. Yeehah!
Of course I started thinking about this presentation months ago. Work began in earnest a few weeks back, and now I'm behind in reading the five books I've discovered as relevant in the last week.
So time is precious, and work is intense - I dream idly of slipping away from my desk to read Brian Sutton-Smith. But then I am back at work on the Internal Company Newsletter. And preparing to interview Sega of America President Peter Moore.
That's an exciting gig, and the basis for my first contact with our new CEO. After a few months of the exciting 23 year old commander, we hired an extremely tan game software industry executive Geoff Mulligan, formerly of Acclaim, a founder at Activision, etc.
I heard that some people found him distant when they approached him soon after he was hired. So I held back until we had a reason to talk. When he found out that I was going to meet with a fellow CEO without warning, he was interested in speaking to me, to make sure I wasn't going to do any "yo, yo" or hip-hop speak or something - whatever middle aged CEOs fear about their unknown editors who will be interviewing the husbands of the local marin soccer coaches.
So whatever I had expected of Geoff I was impressed when he began downloading his overview of the gaming industry. All of a sudden I saw the business I'd been traipsing around in, I saw the numbers behind it and the relationships between a few guys that propel it forward.
And then I realized that I was learning exactly what might complement and deepen my presentation to SIME, some sense of the current landscape of content pushing, and the hard cold business that makes the games we jerk off to.
I did have a reason to teach a new copy editor basic HTML skills and that reminded me that I really enjoy sharing web basics with newbies in real-time. I'm not sure how exactly to go about doing that, but I figure opportunities to share with high schoolers and offline folks will come up here and there. I guess if I didn't have my job I could hustle for that kind of work. Hard to hustle for though, because it doesn't pay very much.
I got a raise at Gamers.com in February, and I went deeper into debt than I'd ever been, shortly thereafter. Silliness! So now I have almost pulled myself out. Once I've folded away my reliance on Visa AmEx MasterCards I will save towards freedom. And maybe a car with airbags.
saturday, 27 may
I'm at Joanne's house in LA, watching her wonderful mother dressed in her Saturday relaxing clothes with large rubber boots on, hosing off the patio. Kathy and Dana are out by the pool. Amy, Juniper, Joel and Joanne went to the Getty. I stayed home to tap away at my SIME presentation.
I'm thinking today that I'll do a bit of a tour of the gaming world, bridging the web and gaming, and some gamers.com. It's a strange new way for me to do presentations - I'm used to riffing on the story of my life. Now I'm taking up a media tour. I have done media tours all my life (it used to be videotaping people's faces as I showed them disturbing porn), so I'm mostly comfortable in this role. But I've decided to try using PowerPoint to guide my presentation. After years of watching dumpy dudes reading bullet points off a screen, I'm finally submitting to Satan and trying to wrench away the tool from mediocrity. Wish me luck. I must be entertained by trying new things, because it would be easier to tell the story of my life again. I worry about becoming a less-entertaining, less poetic performer. But I feel comfortable trying out different styles. Worst thing is they don't invite me back. I'm confident that as long as I do my homework and practice, I won't end up sucking that bad.
Regular weekly articles are becoming a reality for Gamers.com - it's a fun thing to work on. Have an idea for something you want to study or profile, then get some artists and developers and writers, and make a web page party! Here's this week's: SissyFight in the Odd Games feature.
tuesday, 23 may
There's a new agreement in the games industry that magazines won't run ads from games that have not been reviewed by the ESRB, the game industry ratings board.
So while some people are upset about censorship, I can get excited about that only so long before it seems to me like this is quite a natural progression in the maturation and evolution of games - if video gamers want to be in the mass media, they'll have to accept the moderation of their product, the ratings board that oversees movies so they'll fit into theatres most everywhere in America.
at the same time, management has asked me to censor the internal company newsletter, to avoid and remove words like "bitch" (which occurs across gender in the game world to describe someone who is humbled). So maturation and censorship are themes within and outside the company.
sunday, 21 may
I went out with my sister's kids the other day, and I found out my nephew Elias is way into Starcraft. Besides my nephew I realized that a lot of other people enjoy that game (millions of copies sold (tm)), so for the last few weeks I've been playing it, practicing, studying.
so this morning Elias calls at 10am, "hey uncle justin, when's the soonest you can play me Starcraft on battle net dot com?" My Starcraft CD was at work, so I said I would have to drive to get it. He said "okay we'll play in 45 minutes." I laughed and I was inspired by his eagerness. I got a repreive on some of my sunday cleaning from Egg and drove to work to get my CD. (Luzanne was there cleaning out the supply closet, Mandrew was there printing out an address).
45 minutes later at home, when I got back Eli had called to announce that he was going to a baseball game and to see the movie Dinosaur, so he would not be home until 9pm. Sigh.
saturday, 20 may
I've been working pretty hard the last few days on a "content feature" - getting some personality into the site. My mandate - post a "Gamers.com best of E3" feature; I was able to determine the shape of it: people from all parts of the office with their photo and their opinion, telling their own little stories about what went down there. Since Gamer of the Day went down our site hasn't had pictures of actual people on it, so it's nice to have a chance to get back into that a bit. People's faces make a big difference, they add personality, you know? In a very cheap way.
Cheap sorta - we gave our developers a vacation after they worked real hard to get our revised E3 site up, so I had to do most all the HTML production on the project myself. A bit different from the duties of a "project manager" perhaps - PMs are supposed to help other people get their jobs in, but to mostly avoid doing anything besides paperwork. But it's nice to get my hands in the naked code, and to be able to build web sites with graphical and design elements contributed by the talented people I work with, like Mandrew and Colin. And Jen did all the HTML (in Front Page, ug) for the utterly hilarious SAMIAM photo feature.
It's fun to read I think, and I love my coworkers - reading through a few of them, their casual tone and their personal perspective - I can't imagine my grandfather or my mom, maybe even my brother couldn't make sense of our acronyms and assumptions and in-jokes. So it's good to get it out there, people who are on the inside of this industry might appreciate it, and people on the outside might think it's cool. But people who are too far outside the mainstream might not be entertained. Except by the footage of SAMIAM.
Amy thinks I'm fond of trying to get a new job title every few weeks. So if you were to measure my role yesterday, it would be some combination of features editor, web producer, reporter, project manager. I like doing on camera work - it's nice to be doing it in an relaxed fashion with Gamers. So I guess I still like my job because I can do fun stuff and I'm challenged.
It's when I try to figure out my role in the organization long term that I get distracted maybe. Or when people try to help me decide. It's much easier to be handed something that must get done in a few days and just work really hard on that without thinking of long term stuff. This project I had to skip some meals, bend some rules, and make the web pages myself to make it happen. Isn't that how it should be? Unconsciously motivational work.
Like today is Saturday, my first day at home away from work in a while, and I'm craving some stimulation, I go online to read the games conference in BrainStorms and they mention Nomic a very "meta"-game, a game of changing the rules of the game, and I find it's not in the Gamers.com database. So I add an entry for Nomic because you know we've gotta recognize the potential mass audience we're missing out on by not covering that game. Something like that. Probably more because databases yearn to be complete, you know? Like there's an entry blank for everything, and everything has an entry blank (in the ideal database - like this web site! I'm working on it.)
For some video game industry perspective, Sony released some metaphors for sales of PlayStation (from Magic Box 17 May, from Core Magazine):
More people in US own a PlayStation than subscribers to the Top 24 newspapers combined.Another perk of working at Gamers.com is this:
Last year sales of Playstation hardware outpaced the number of American Online subscribers by 3 to 1.
Sales of PlayStation software in 1999 outsold the Top 5 movies combined: Star Wars Episode 1, Sixth Sense, Toy Story 2, Austin Power 2 and The Matrix.
In 1999, 4 times as many people bought PlayStation console than visiting DisneyLand in US.
As of March 31, Sony has shipped 72 millions Playstation worldwide, 17.4 million in Japan, 27.11 millions in North America and 28.41 millions in Europe.
As of March 31, 630 million units of Playstation software were shipped, 224 millions in Japan, 234 millions in North America and 172 millions in Europe.
A few months back Terence asked me if I knew of any magazines that Gamers.com should subscribe to. Amy had recently mentioned the Economist as something that might be worth reading. So I recommended we subscribe to that. So now weekly, I get this staid, comprehensive world affairs magazine in my company mailbox, courtesy of Gamers.com. And I love it! Recently I've found myself very curious about the state of Africa, for example. You learn a bit about African history in school, if you're lucky, but then after that, you only get bits and pieces, mostly when there's a civil war. Somehow the Economist has decided that the more common goings-on in these countries are worth reporting. It's like reading a survey of world news that's truly worldly in it's scope. It makes the news-lip service of the pop mags like Time and Newsweek seem paper thin. The Economist is arguably conservative (reading it I somehow find myself wondering, school vouchers might be a good idea?), and capitalist. So that requires me to check in with Amy and Howard for a more compassionate reading of world policy. But besides that I'm glad to have a broader, deeper knowledge of what's up, yo.
friday, 12 may
egg: what is the show about
jah: a series of huge rooms filled to the brim with videogame hype
E3 is an incredible amount of noise. Four rooms in a convention center, filled to the airplane hanger sized ceilings with giant screens, enormous logos, video game characters, inflatable "booth babes," and so much din. Going in I thought I would be overwhelmed. instead, I felt energized - it was fantastic to have the chance to see all these latest entertainments and get hands on with them, and in a few cases, to chat with the game developers themselves. Heck, I even got to ride a bus with Shigeru Miyamoto!
I'm on a panel today, it's one of my first panels where I'm not simply spewing about myself and my opinions on the world, but I have made an effort to absorb a corporate message, for Gamers.com, to put the company in context for "Online Gaming." It's almost academic - to be objective so people can learn from you. I know better than to sell, instead you just make yourself a positive-spun case study. We'll see. It's an interesting challenge - harnassing my enthusiasm and spew because that's my job.
And then I realize it's also my job to play these games! What a strange and wonderful fortune. I wander the floor, absorbing culture and trying to keep track of what's going on here. When I figure it out, I'll let you know.
2.6 - More Than Checkers?
2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Friday, May 12
Is online gaming getting more complex than most users want? Learn creative ways to respond to the demand for opportunities to play classic games -- like checkers -- against a live opponent. Explore what users really want from an on-line community perspective.
Moderator: Vince Broady, ZDNet/Gamespot
Panelists: Justin Hall, Gamers.com; Ray Miller, Shockwave.com; Steve Kane, Lycos/Gamesville; Mark Blecher, EA.com
Last night Gamers.com hosted a party at the playboy mansion - no pictures yet, just text.
tuesday, 8 may
the problem with having nice stuff is that someday you lose it. And then that desire and priviledge hurts for the withdrawl.
right now, I have the best desk. I love where I sit. I sit on an asile, so lots of people come talk to me. I can see what's going on in the company, because I face the main traffic routes. So I'm centrally located - something I thrive on. Between that and my natural tendencies, I've built up a desk my boss called "a museum" - old technology, strange media, books, magazines, tinctures, statues. It's part of the fun of work here - being immersed in my media. It towers around me.
But now there's a cube reorganization, so I gotta move my shit. So that not only means the immense hassle of deconstructing this desk situation, but it also means that I have to choose from three shittier spots. Two where far fewer people will come talk to me, and one where I have my back to the asile. Ug. Whine whine. Poor me. So maybe I should move into a dark corner and pile my media higher and withdrawl gradually into a cave of my own design using corporate office furniture. Or maybe I should just start working from home. Seriously, this move has me thinking drastically. Like maybe I don't want to work somewhere where the company doesn't appreciate having me at the center of the action. Problem is, the guy who wants to move me is my boss, who's been generally very cooperative. And it's because he sees the value of this "power seat" that he wants it.
So I console myself by remembering that everything turns out somehow. And whereever I move will have it's own special advantages I can't now imagine. Don't fear change, right? Relish it.
Somehow I got a work cellphone, designed by Americans - a depressing monstrosity, exceedingly difficult to use, best as a walkie-talkie. The idea is that you can press buttons and be instantly broadcasting your voice out from the waistband of your coworkers - "hello, I have a talking groin" you could say while they're out to dinner, for example. Or, "my email doesn't work. does yours?" or "it's 10am, did you forget our meeting?" which we used to speak real time because we could itch our butts without caressing each other in a small office - now we have insta-talking power through technology in case someone is away from the mother cubeload.
I have my own cellular phone, which has a wonderful melodic, philip glassian number, so I want to keep that. so now I carry two irradiating pieces of communications technology. soon, I go back to the mountain.
listening to some abortion performance of Jimi Hendrix playing underneath a drooling rabid Jim Morrison screaming "Fuck you in the ass!" repeadly, between less coherent drawled phrases it's either soothing me or just making me more comfortable with hate.
as ever, I love amy:
egg: imagine how the native americans felt when we re-organized their desks
friday 5 may
out yesterday with puking shitting flu. i think. or else it was two days of Taco Trucks near here - maybe there's a reason they smell like dry cat food.
anyhow, Cinco De Mayo, this morning, still recovering, I couldn't resist, Huevos Rancheros.
Everyone at my office has totems on their desks. Action figures mostly - standup figurines representing strength, power, agility, beauty, technology - characters from other worlds that transcend cubicles to make mythology.
My only figurine so far has been Jason from Battle of the Planets - a small symbol of flight and fighting power.
wednesday 3 may
Benjamin sends me anywhere from four to over a dozen broken links from deep within my pages and I, I, I love to work on them but I have to resign myself to fixing links within my site first and then I ponder the broken links out into history. Strange, sometimes I can find exactly what I was linking to - the guy just left college or something. Sometimes I can find an adequate substitute. Sometimes you just want to leave a broken link because the URL is funny or referential in an important way. Or the original was simply that - important at the time and not replacable by another more modern link.
Somehow in the dev department, Jeff asks me if I remember my Garbage Pail Kid name. Well somehow I merged Ashcan Andy and Bustin' Dustin' - my memory failed me.
Then I remembered Wacky Packs - my earliest exposure to consumer culture parody. Now hotly traded on Ebay, of course. Bill Griffith and Art Spiegelman worked on the cards, as well as other folks.
It's getting harder to keep my head above water, serving the clients I had before I took this job. Thing is I like to hold on to them because I learn from them and I get an eyefull of other parts of the Internet industry.
RiverJourneys.com - Jimmy gave me a river trip in exchange for some web consulting and tutorial. The trip was fantastic - Egg went too. But Jimmy didn't have time to utilize my services until months later! And I was knee deep in some serious work committments that have made it hard to spend the amount of time I think this site deserves. Great content!
DonPearman.com - once I built Don Pearman's web site I realized what a massive undertaking it would be to maintain it. So Don found a high school or college aged guy to update it with new articles. So far the design has remained the same, and that makes me a little restless to get my hands back into that code.