Justin Hall's personal site growing & breaking down since 1994

watch overshare: the story contact me

GX notes - august, 2000

thursday 31 august

Way New Corporate Journalism - "Fantasy of the Forever Game" linked up as the lead piece on - Nokia's web mag about wireless internet stuff. Soon when the content is less fresh I'll post my original version, with many many more links

* * *

Meanwhile, I wish Black Lizard would come out on DVD, or even that the video would turn up on Ebay. Searching for "Black Lizard" there only results in "RARE DOORS LIZARD KING T-SHIRT BLACK".

* * *

Big news in the gaming world - now visible to the public. This is a huge attempt to make an online gaming site for the masses. AOL and Electronic Arts team up. Electronic Arts started out publishing independent, unusual computer games. Then they decided the big money was in console video games (they were right), and now they've decided the next big pot of gold is at the end of the internet rainbow. Play some games online, crash your computer a few times, try and see what you think.

tuesday 29 august

Lesson of today: eating bacon every day will result in loads of pussilant zits growing around your mouth. gee.

Dinner tonight with Jonathan. He did so much for me by giving me a place to live in that krazy community, it was nice to see him after a long haitus. I mentioned to him that the wild success or relatively carrying-on of the video games industry seemed to hang on one critical question: Generation Y, of which it's reported that 70% of them play video games, will they continue to play video games as they age?

Jonathan, a philosophy major in college who did post-graduate work in communications, responded with a paradigm: You've got to figure out whether Generation Y is a cohort or a demographic.

Cohort means they hang out together and do things together, like a group of friends from high school who have activities within that group of friends

Demographic means they're young and they do things young people do.

So either video gaming is something young people will always be interested in, and that's about it, or as young people age they will carry interactive entertainment with them, playing games after work, after homework, in the rest home.

Jonathan, who reported that he only played pinball in college, he says he's mostly too tired after work to do much besides watch survivor. I wonder if that's true of the rest of the nation, ten years from now. What about when the wonderful world of competing video game consoles offers them a wild world of interactive entertainment through their televisions?

* * *

Steve Rhodes useful link of the day: Xbox, Xbox, |ber alles - an article promoting Microsoft's new video gaming machine. The author sees Microsoft as a sort of gaming messiah, bound to unite the gaming tribes through monopoly practices, which will favour the masses awaiting a return to good game design.

Considering the games I've loved on a PC, I see his enthusiasm for the death of the PC game market to be a little short sighted. There's something about the freedom, flexibility and expansiveness of the personal computer that's inspired deeper designs. The games that were run of the mill on computers early on seemed to me far deeper than their video game counterparts. Compare an Apple ][ and an Atari 7800!

But all the entertainment in the world may be converging; ebooks, wireless web, video game consoles, game boys, mp3s, ecommerce, whoopeee. And then we'll finally be able to have creativity? I've got to deal with these zits on my face somehow.

Steve left the article on my screen for me to read when I woke up this morning first thing. He beat Slashdot!

monday 28 august

Bob's Heavy Metal: FAKK2 Review he writes this:

Heavy Metal Mama For FAKK 2 we understand that the character is from a comic book, and not subject to change in this game. But, would it kill someone to make a game where the heroine is dressed properly for the occasion, and has a bust that's something more realistic than 38DD? Something like that would certainly be a nice change of pace. We're starting to grow tired of seeing games that seem to focus more on the breasts and posterior of the heroine (Julie makes several costume changes in the game - one of them is a jumpsuit that gets torn in strategic places) than on the gameplay itself.

Which is nice to see a hardcore site like FiringSquad standing up for dumb sexploitation.

sunday 27 august

linked up and ready to go, i guess: Gamers @ the X-Games.

* * *

I've got a houseguest, Steve Rhodes. He's super-media-literate. It's nice to be able to come home, and mention a writer, or artist, or musician or publication, and he can give me a general career history, three web links, two articles in local papers and three in national papers, and two TV appearances. From memory. Amazing!

Tonight he pointed out some recent news: Violent Material Marketed To Youth in Sunday's Washington Post. The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating the media industry, and has found that video game publishers are marketing violent games to children (as well as movies and record companies).

So John McCain is going to hold some hearings next month, "hearings, where movies, music lyrics and video games are often blamed for societal ills ranging from schoolyard violence to sexual promiscuity."

I had a five foot poster of A Clockwork Orange up above my desk in high school; it read: "Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven" - I thought it was quite sharp at the time.

Of course I blame repeated viewing of Apocalypse Now in large part for my sexually transmitted disease, drug use, and subsequent employment in the web industry.

Since the economy is fat, it's time to attack the fringe; the purveyors of porn and violence who lead our kids away from productive lives.

But we've seen this before - periodically in the film industry, and the comic book industry. Soon the video games will be more sharply policed by the market, as major retailers will refuse to games as weird and violent as EA's upcoming Alice.

I play games like Soldier of Fortune and I'm a bit shocked at the realistic damage mapping - bullets removing limbs, etc. The industry enthusiasm over "gibs." So maybe it does need a bit of sobering up. But I wonder if the code for video games comes to look anything like The Code for Comics:

In general recognizable national, social, political, cultural, ethnic and racial groups, religious institutions, law enforcement authorities will be portrayed in a positive light. These include the government on the national, state, and municiple levels, including all of its numerous departments, agencies and services; law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, the Secret Service, the CIA, etc.; the military, both United States and foreign; known religious organizations; ethnic advancement agencies; foreign leaders and representatives of other governments and national groups; and social groups identifiable by lifestyle, such as homosexuals, the economically disadvantaged, the economically privileged, the homeless, senior citizens, minors, etc.

Socially responsible attitudes will be favorably depicted and reinforced. Socially inappropriate, irresponsible, or illegal behaviour will be shown to be specific actions of a specific individual or group of individuals, and not meant to reflect the routine activity of any general group of real persons.

So while some of that protects minority groups and prevents overtly racist or homophobic content, which is perhaps laudable, the stuff about presenting governments in a positive light prevents most meaningful literature from appearing in comic book form (under the comics code). Great literature often stems from a desire to portray the dominant social/political order in a new light. Often the injustices perpetuated by that order can only be exposed through negative imagery. Is that expressly forbidden in this kind of a code?

Many of these things are unspoken, and I am largely unschooled in the comings and goings of comic books. Still it seems that some of my favourite works would be unpublishable under this code. And so they are pushed underground, which is the proper place for subversive literature anyhow, I guess. I mean, if you can buy it at the GAP, how critical can it be?

But in the case of computer games, we're in a rare time, when big studios support strange and violent works. After these hearings they may not be so keen to earn the scrutiny of Washington. So some big budget ultraviolence may have to go.

Sin will always be in style. If it's pornographically violent content I care to protect, it seems as though there's always a market for that. It's the titles between the mainstream and the over-18 section that I'm concerned for. Heaven forbid a game as great as Deus Ex would ever be deemed too subversive for CompUSA, or that they would ever feel the need to water down their political insinuations for the benefit of sales. I learned so much from subversive, violent and pornographic literature when my mind was soft and young. Where would America be without that kind of content?

Thanks to Steve for the comic links up there. Also, he pointed out that Fernando has fleas; I guess that's why he's been scratching these last few months. Guess it's cuz he goes outside. Darn it, now I gotta deal with getting a flea collar or something; because now I feel fleas all over my body! Argh! The power of suggestion.

thursday 24 august

I learned last night that all the truly hard core video game freaks are staying up until it's time in Japan for Nintendo to share news of the gaming future.

* * *

These are merry days here, the evenings filled with Counter-Strike.

wednesday 23 august

I'm browsing NewGrounds Parodies, and I'm noticing that there's many fan-created video game parodies - CounterStrike Cinema, Final Fantasy II Spoof, Life-Half. This leading me to VideoGame Director's Cuts, and Mario Gets Lucky.

All of these represent fans seizing control of digital tools to make their own stories using video game characters. Most of the stories are crude, violent and sexual. They use authentic in-game elements and the strike a chord, humor, disgust, recognition, for a small community. A media milestone.

In the Bay Area, I hear all the time "We need Flash programmers" - it looks like they're out there, half-naked in their bedrooms in middle America turning cartoons and video game characters into pornographic shit-eating dogfuckers. In other words, being good old American media manipulators.

* * *

Terence just spent two days at a racetrack, being wined and dined and taught to drive formula 1 cars by a game company that wants Terence to like them.

* * *

Talking with krusty today about the future
Wireless internet access will be useful while driving, because you'll be able to get traffic updates - "on the freeway up ahead, someone drove into someone else while using the wireless internet today"

* * *

it's pretty amazing to me, when I look back at a piece I wrote five years ago - Vonnegutted. For the last five years I've had a long version posted, with all sorta of background stories, and other details and tangents, and thoughts. So today I posted a short version, and I can't imagine that I ever asked people to wade through the other text before. That they did amazes and honours me!

I guess I'm learning some focus from writing professionally. Just a little. Tragic, that focus.

* * *

I was thinking we should have a spectator sport where people try to lose weight competitively. And then I realized we have that already, in Hollywood.

* * *

The videogame industry is riding hard on one premise - that the 70% of generation Y that plays electronic games today will continue to play games when they get older. In that case, the market for gaming stuff will be huge!

But so many people I talk to stop playing games when they go to college, or when they get a job. So I wonder if games will really have a much larger, older audience in years to come.

* * *

In February I wrote an article on the Fearsome Face of Future Gaming. Now that report can see the light of the web: MIT: Computer and Video Games Come of Age.

tuesday 22 august

colin: you should call mom and congratulate her on the girl's school opening
colin: it was really amazing
colin: many many people thanked her warmly for her amazing contribution
colin: there were 150 girls up on the stage and they played gospel music and crosby stills nash and young's Teach Your Children Well
colin: lots of people (including me) were teary
colin: we have a really great mom
colin: i hope we amount to 1/2 as much as her by the time we'
colin: are sixty...
colin: are you there?
colin: ok, i'm signing off now...
colin: hope you're well
colin: asdf
colin signed off at 12:29:24.

monday 21 august

One reason I've been tired lately is cuz I went to four gaming conferences in six weeks. The latest was Gencon, the largest role-playing games conference in the world, in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Here's my coverage:

An Article: Real Role-Playing?
and my GenCon Journal

I have really learned a lot in a short time from these trips. It was school as I'd intended it, that's why I took this job.

Researching, I discover this: A new company claims that it will soon allow residents in Copenhagen to order marijuana over their WAP phones. And I have some exciting news: "With the PC, they made a mistake and put up all the content for free, and you can't go back and start charging people. With mobile Internet, there will always be a price for content." - says some dude at a money company from the New York Times, "Phone Surfing for a Few Yen."

then, more -ahem- research, and I come across this crazy shit - reader submitted bachelor party tales. Oh, the masculine humanity.

thursday, 17 august

Nine hours sleep, today is a better day. I'm asked to research some interesting stuff, they value my brain. I think I'm burned out from travelling a lot (four gaming conventions in six weeks - each one I miss a weekend). Then I come back from my last trip while my girlfriend is moving out. Gotta recognize when I'm in emotional/work stress situations, and respond by freaking out.

Or maybe it's time to check out for a while.

Here's something cool, from Jon Haddock:

"a series of drawings from an isometric perspective"
King He's taken famous historical or fictional events and rendered them in a graphical style that makes them look like scenes from a computer game. The logical evolution in political/vidgame art after Norman Schwartzkopf turned the Gulf War into an 8-bit Nintendo game. It draws unsettling connections between onscreen play and the political doings of a sad world.

wenesday, 16 august

Amy and I both work for internet companies where print people are making strategic content decisions. It doesn't build confidence. It reminds me of HotWired.

I guess people running an internet company and losing money want confidence and a track record, more than they care for sensible information design. Fortunately I think I'm beginning to develop myself into a corporately palatable person so my knowledge competes with the internet guesswork of the older media folks.

* * *

In the video game world, people who write reverently about games are called "Fan Boys" and the people who call them fan boys are jaded snobs. Neither one addresses games in any reasoned historial/social manner. Greg Costikyan wrote an article essay about just that subject, called "Understanding Games." The essay isn't online, and I can't find mention of the book it's in, Horsemen of the Apocalypse anywhere on the internet.

* * *

Today Dennis called me into a room, talked to me about the conferences I've been to, what projects I'm working on. Then he encouraged me to take some time off. That was strange.

Taking time off would be nice, if I could figure out what to do with myself. I feel like if I step off this treadmill I'll stop running altogether. I would collapse for a few weeks of serious nosepicking and mouseclicking, followed by a soul search resulting in a career change and maybe moving to another city/country. So I hold on to the things I like in my life by carefully balancing all the pieces - where I live, my love, my job, my commitment to not picking my zits off my face before their time.

* * *

What sucks is when people are laid off and the company refines its focus so the good work you were enjoying and learning from is now no longer possible. Because there's no time. or no people. or no one cares. So either I have to find different work to do or I have to give up trying to do work well.

That's a pessimistic way to look at things. If I feel bad, and I take long enough, I find something around me to brighten me back up, for example:

one of my coworkers is responding to my clothes, they say,
Navarone: Man, what's wrong with you today?! Your suit looks so...conservative. It's scary!
fusty: hey sometimes you gotta drift away from the look of liberation you know? get a perspective from the other side
Navarone: Ok, you are obviously Bizarro Justin. The square, reserved, dare I say...Republican (*shudder*) Justin. Where is the real Justin and have you harmed him? :)
fusty: he's locked in the same room with the electrical transformers here in the company. if you take a hammer to the door he'll hear you and you can talk to him! let me know if he's still alive.
Navarone: When he gets out, *if* he gets out, he's probably going to kick your evil, Bizarro, conservative arse! :)

Then I drink some kava and half the office ends up in a chat room together and it's fun again, Kenn sends this random gaming weirdness.

* * *

Sometimes I think, well, I'll give this job, this city, this girlfriend, this life a chance. Because they feel good, they stimulate me, they educate me. And then I think well, at some point you age past the point of having any other options. So do I like to think about being surrounded by these things for the rest of my life? Some things more than others.

(I notice this especially when all the friends that I used to collaborate with are emailing me mostly to say "hey do you still check your email/phone/voice mail?" I'm throwing myself into the job in front of me, my work at I think to myself. And then when this work is over, will I still be able to collaborate?

[Alan walks by, "this man is glued to his monitor for 8 to 10 hours a day - somebody get this man some Pam." Pam? "it would grease you up and you could slide away from your monitor"]

Well the world is large, there's many people in many permutations. Nothing is permanent really, and life is ever flexible if you are. I just worry that all this corporate innovation I'm doing is twisting my soul into a useless hunk of money making machinery. At least when I'm finished, if I can't make art or work on web sites or help friends or enjoy the dwindling natural environment, I can still watch DVDs with lots of great extras.

monday, 7 august

Layoffs today. How grim. 23 people I hear, some offsite, some on site. One young guy was sad, he cried. The emotion is palpable. Heavy feelings.

How much have I died that I can get far enough away from the situation to see the business logic behind it? Cutting costs and focusing is good for the company. There's always death and departure in any relationship or group. I guess you can lay people off with compassion. I hope they did.

Video gaming, computer gaming, gaming, it's been a job. Now it might be politics? From GameDaily:

Videogame Critic In The White House? [8/7/00 10:40:57 AM ET]
It was announced today that Al Gore has selected Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman to be his running mate, rounding out the Democratic ticket with the first Jewish vice presidential candidate in American history.
To videogame players everywhere, Senator Lieberman has acted as the authoritative figure that none of us wished we had, fueling the fire of censorship and trying to tell gamers what we can and cannot play.
In 1998, Lieberman and conservative former Education Secretary William Bennett began handing out "Silver Sewer Awards" to single out and shame producers of sexually explicit and violent films, music, television programs and video games. This is not without a taste of irony, however, in his most recent financial disclosure forms, Lieberman listed holdings of Fox and CBS stocks - two companies he himself awarded "Silver Sewer" status.
What does this mean for the future of hardcore gamers in this country? For more information on what Senator Lieberman believes in, check out this site.

I never thought I would be considering voting along with the "hardcore gamers" ticket. What a weird splinter. Ralph Nader starts looking better every day - "Mr. Nader, what is your stance on hardcore gaming?" I shudder to think.

friday, 4 august

I think I vest my stock today or tomorrow. I'm working harder than ever! strange.

I was asked to find some certain kinds of pictures. Geoff the CEO comes over, "I know you have years of experience online, etc. etc. find me a picture of middle america for my powerpoint presentation."

I didn't have any appropriate family pictures on hand, so I did a search through the image search on Altavista. Searching "State Fair" I ended up at Debra Duffee's site. Flipping through the photos of the Crabtree/Freeman/Duffee family is bring up feelings of great tenderness within me. Maybe it's the Beethoven (thanks peter).

Someday I should quit this job and devote myself to making a similar family scrapbook online that could be shared by all my family all over the web. What fun!

Searching Nebraska, I found this picture with actual video gamers, and a rather concerned young man in the corner. Photos are amazing! Why bother being a writer?

tuesday, 1 august

A new pheonomenon emerged today - Samuray from alerted us to "levellers" for online gaming, for example, the Asheron's Call Experience - you can pay these people to babysit your online role-playing game character and improve their stats while you're busy at your day job, or busy having a social life.

july notes

june notes

may notes

april notes

march notes

february notes

january notes

december notes

november notes

october notes

september notes

gamers | life

justin's links by justin hall: contact