Economist

Property Rights and Wrongs :

Longtime reader(s) of this blog will know that I have referenced the British based but globally inspired news magazine The Economist several times. I read it weekly. I enjoy it’s very neutral and open views on the world as a “liberal newspaper”. Quotations there because while they consider themselves liberal, I find them liberal on social issues yet conservative on fiscal issues (for the most part). The word liberal definitely means different things depending on what country you are in (in Canada, my home country, for example, the Liberal Party leader is a handsome, rich, spoiled kid – the very definitely of privilege (father was a former Prime Minister) –  who says the right things and takes amazing selfies yet isn’t so great at running a country – and the world adores him! Personally I think they should make him a mascot. He excels in the outward facing, ineffective role.). But those thoughts and terms and politicizing are for another day. I hope I didn’t make my fellow Canucks angry with the honesty.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not protect property rights in Canada (Constitutionally). There has been some debate on whether there is anything to be worried about there and that property rights protections may be covered elsewhere. I know – it’s hard to be tough on a document written and adopted by old people who had zero thought or idea on how the world would look today. Just look at our US neighbors and the battles they have over modern day constitutional rights compared to historical context on execution of such rights. IE: No person needs 40+ guns in a hotel room in the USA unless they plan on killing 50+ people and injuring 10x that amount in quick succession. BUT, the 1800’s law protects that guy who might be able to afford a single shot musket. Those are the same things, right?

Still off track. Let’s see, offended Canada for their PM-darlingism, and offended the 29% or so of hardcore Republican Americans for their guns above lives mindset (at least one, of which, reads this blog. Hi Mehlan! I still love you. And your country).. can I pick on the EU or the Middle East? North Korea? Wait – SO off track. That’s right. Property Rights.

The Economist had a nice article about Digital property rights. It’s a nice read. It basically covers the thought of how manufacturers are now licencing everything as services now instead of actual products so the buyer has less rights in the end. The good old days if I bought something I could do what I wanted with it, including reselling it. That of course has gone the way of the dodo bird in favor of paying for access, terms of service, and the like. This is moving from strict software platforms to even actual, hard goods. For example – did you know that if you own a Tesla you cannot use it to be employed by Uber? They explicitly restrict that specifically.  Could you imagine if every other car company said that? (Why haven’t they yet? It’s coming, soon. So then they can sell more taxi fleet vehicles..).

I’m tired today and uncharacteristically snarky about some things in the world, which we are supposed to just accept now as the way things are. They weren’t always that way, and don’t have to be.  Property rights in general are starting to give me concern and while it is very early in the changes to hard goods it doesn’t seem unrealistic that the world of business is moving further in the wrong direction there. A direction our beloved video games have lead the charge in and continue to constrict for their users and markets.

I might start reading more, and do a book blog instead. As long as it’s not a digital book, of which I would only own access to.

Clash of Clans in the Economist

I have spoke of my love of the UK newspaper The Economist as my go to news source for global politics and economics. It’s a great read and the digital and audio subscription has a ton of value. I read it weekly and I always get a bit excited when there is mention of video gaming in it. I figure it is a good place to share where my love of world news and gaming intersect. So, in the weekly “business” section that has snippets of ongoing around the world, Clash of Clans developer Supercell had it’s own little space:

I know Syncaine is a fan and ironically I read this five minutes after I emptied my war chest from a successful clan war. 30% profit is nothing to sneeze at and no wonder there are a slew of competitors pumping out television commercials in this gaming space. Hopefully they can continue to not be the next Zynga.

Too Big to NOT Fail?

My favourite weekly news source is The Economist – a UK based magazine that basically covers most of the world’s significant events in a weekly format. What is amazing about it is that it is free from most of the obvious bias that major US news sources are mired in (Fox, CNN). That also makes it a much more dry read – the articles present facts, their opinion on it, and different paths that can be taken next. It’s clearly and concisely written for the most part and sectioned into World Geography and other typical sections such as Business, Finance and Economics, etc. It’s a thick weekly read (usually about 6 hours of content!) if you go cover to cover. What is also great about it is there is a digital subscription only option (which I use) and I get to download it every week. It has the text and pictures in tact from the magazine, but also tacks on a full audio version for when you are commuting and not listening to podcasts. Either way, I always feel just a bit smarter for understanding a lot more about what is going on in the world outside of our little bubbles here in North America.

Hot on the heels of all discussion of the Godus debacle which is dominating BlogNation these days comes this little ditty from The Economist:

AS STARSHIPS go, it’s cheap. For $180 you can buy a Constellation Taurus, a 59-metre, 80-tonne freighter that is perfect for anyone looking to break into interstellar trading. Or at least it will be. Would-be space truckers who pay up now will have to wait until 2016, when “Star Citizen”, a video game being developed by Cloud Imperium Games (CIG), is ready for lift-off.

It’s a pretty bland piece for the news magazine as it doesn’t look at troubles or pitfalls of crowdfunding and is a pretty soft article. Still, I don’t see them write often about  gaming so it was interesting to see it permeate to a more international news space. I usually expect more from their articles so don’t judge the magazine on that one piece alone.

The reason I am linking the two stories – Godus and Star Citizen – is that I am worried that Star Citizen could be the project that destroys consumer confidence in crowdfunding. If it is it could have disastrous implications to the entire Kickstarter ideology. Look at the expectations of Godus and the resulting fall out and then compare the ambition (and money raised) by Cloud Imperium Games – and those expectations are sure to not be met. With the fever pitch and following of the game – and lack of release schedule being kept up with – it is going to fail in the eyes of many regardless of the product that comes out. Hopefully not because of the product, but that is also a fear of mine. CIG has only proven they can raise money – they haven’t proven they can make a game yet.

I wrote about it before here and comments from Mehlan (who kickstarted and is following the game closely) shows how far behind they are already.

Mehlan October 2, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Guess ultimately time will tell… Things look pretty, and there seems to be a fair amount of write/re-write.. My hangar has changed, my two ships.. look nicer.. but it’s still trainers, variants still havent been added.
That makes 10 months since the original ‘delay’ announcement… 8 months beyond CR’s guesstimate of a 2 month delay.

Write/rewrite – sounds a lot like EQN, right? When you are crushing your funding goals, how are you already pushing a year late on the basics? My biggest fear is that they are using the money they are raising to raise more money instead of  building a game. And that by the time they really focus on building a game a lot of the funding will be gone into sunk costs. Technically they can walk away without delivering anything or even just deliver a game that is a shadow of the promise and hope the good reputation of the Rock Star Gaming CEO is enough to calm the crowd. Not only is it not – that much is clear – but they don’t really owe the gamer anything anyway as that is the nature of the contract of crowdfunding, right?

All of these fears maybe unfounded and just a bad gut feeling I have and perhaps the game will release in 2016 and meet everyone’s hopes and dreams. I hope it does and I would love for it to exceed expectations.

In my opinion CIG need to set a new funding mark at 80 M with a new and final stretch goal – ‘Release a game’.

Technology Creep

When gamers talk about “creep” they are often discussing things such as “Power Creep”. I don’t want the title of this short piece to be confused with that. I am talking about pure creep-y, which is a much different kind.

I consider myself very tech friendly and tend to early adopt and welcome technology into all parts of my personal life. My house has a Nest thermostat and 3 Nest smoke/carbon dioxide detectors. Onenote has replaced my pen and paper list obsession. I start far too many sentences with “OK GOOGLE” while holding my phone close to my mouth. I haven’t bought a paper based magazine in three years since my first The Economist digital only subscription. 90% of the books I consume are in audible or digital format. As soon as Nest let’s me do it, I’ll replace my door locks with Keyfobs. I am very comfortable with technology – even at my old age of 40. I can’t wait for my car to be able to drive itself.

I do find ignorance is a bit blissful when it comes to what our devices and services are actually tracking. This became a full realization when I got home last night from our two weeks in Denmark, and Google greeted me with this.

That is my trip in Denmark with key places, cities and timelines through the photos I took with my cell phone. Those weren’t the only photos I took, but were most through my Android based Samsung Galaxy s5. My wife thought it was really cool. I was a bit creeped out.

I didn’t ask Google to do that.

Google figured out I was back home because it knows where I live. It tells me everyday when I am commuting home from work how much longer until I get home – even when I don’t ask. Hell, I don’t remember telling Google where I live. It does know I sleep there every night though, or at least, that is where my phone charges all night (which means people are sleeping for the most part).

I have vendors trying to sell customers near my businesses geo-fenced coupons or ads to phones as they near retail outlets but I find that way to creepy. I figure that in all of my comfort if I have unease then surely others will.

I used to post with my real first name and last initial on this site while most others used their gaming names. I ended up getting a bit uncomfortable when I overheard some colleagues making fun of adult gamers. That’s when I switched it – although I felt a bit silly of it afterwards. I wonder how much of me should be here versus how much of what I think should be and the two are one in the same at the end of the day.

All that being said I am still pro-Google (and also not an Apple fan, although I think they can co-exist) but just want to pay a bit more attention to how my technology is in and around my life with a mind of its own.

Hell, after that whole article I still posted it up for the world to see. Although that is a bit presumptuous. My readers and Blognation to see at the least.

Do you have any examples of creepy tech – or maybe amazing tech? Am I over thinking this and should just be glad Google was nice enough to make me a digital photo album for free?

Sensationalism

I have stayed pretty uninvolved with the whole Gamergate discussion – my blog is shorter, off the cuff discussion pieces that don’t really lend well to the necessary thoroughness, research and thought level on such a challenging topic. I would be better sitting around a table drinking beer and discussing it then trying to put it into words (don’t worry – I am buying!). I am not even going to dig in deep here on it except to say the level of coverage and often intelligent discussion around the whole situation has been fascinating and educating to follow. Outside of major game releases and typical gaming news, has anything brought more attention or discussion forward? It has ignited passion, debate, taking a look at gaming “labels” and caused us to look internally at what the “Gamer” tag meant to us all, and if it was worth defending or not.

This article I really liked reading about it. It isn’t even about what was reported but the way it was reported. It is a well written piece about sensationalism and how things are reporting impact what is being reported in the first place. Sensationalism and profit motives to report in such a way.

To understand the impact of sensationalism one must examine examples of biased coverage that attempts to push a cultural agenda for moral advocacy, the nature of controversies in the media, the exploitative nature of trading objective journalism for a “profit motive”, and how sensational content can damage and ruin the reputation of those involved in a scandal.

The article goes on with those examples. It’s worth a read. I love news and understanding what is going on in the world is important – I think everyone needs to have an understanding of what is happening in the world beyond their own cities, provinces, or countries. I think it lends perspective that we live in a global society. There are wars waging around us while we worry about the price of a Starbucks Latte. I really believe in community and while important that you start with local, to truly believe in community I believe you have to go bigger than that. News reporting in general is profit driven. My favorite news source, The Economist, does a good job of being upfront and honest as a “liberal news source” and the reporting style rarely has a catchy headline – they are more concerned with reporting facts, providing solutions and commentary. It feels very honest and I turn to it weekly to get my dose of the world. I don’t take their articles or opinions word for word mind you – just that I have come to trust that they are pretty factual about the facts. Many aren’t.

Other sources, such as CNN (blue) and Fox (red) are political and social agenda platforms in their own rights. Fox says it is “fair and balanced” but everyone (with half a brain) knows it is fair to Republicans and balanced to the Christian right. CNN is clearly a democrat news source, but tend to be less obvious about their leanings than Fox. Both are dangerous as your only source. I have a friend who only does BBC news, because it’s not profit driven. They don’t cover enough North American sports for me to be a true source. (/grin).

Reporting on scandals is a lucrative enterprise that’s encouraged simply for its gains in profit. For many online-based mediums, more hits means more ad revenue, and that means more cash flow for the company or publication. This kind of ruthless take on generating views has some very real consequences, and is often a dual-edged sword.

Where I am going with all of this is asking you to be careful. There is a lot of information out there and it is easy to get caught up in. A lot of that information is meant to mislead you, is meant to persuade you, is meant to call you to action that may not be entirely based on truth. Just be aware – and be aware of your own biases and how that influences how and what you read from news sources. Hell, I struggle a lot with my initial opinion formed versus the one I get from solid debate amongst trusted sources. I never actually change my opinion – on anything. I afford myself the right to make a new opinion with provided with more – or better – information. I can be stubborn that way.

I have several posts not going to see the light of day (this week) but I did want to share the above part of all of this Gamergate – yes, there are issues. Yes, there is a discussion and meaningful debate to be had. No, don’t read one article from a particular source and quote it as right. There is too much at stake for the author who wrote it, the company that pays them and what you personally represent and stand for. Spread around the sources, try to find something balanced and fair, and then go for it.

On that note on everything related to Gamergate I need to share a small part of what is important to me about it. And that is that I won’t be defined by labels. period. Being a gamer isn’t negative or positive anymore than being a man, or being black, or being a lesbian is negative or positive. Equating the word “gamer” to “misogynist” or “racist” or any negative connotation is entirely irresponsible. A gamer is someone who games, nothing more, nothing less. The label doesn’t mean who you are. Your actions – how you treat people and what you personally represent – does.

On that note, I am supporting Bragtoberfest.

I game because it’s a hobby that I have made lifelong friendships with. I game, because there is an amazing, supportive community surrounding our games. I game because I have friends who write and talk about gaming. I game, and I support equal rights, I game, and I support several charity and community initiatives throughout the year (both with my time and money) and I game because it is fun. So I am a gamer, and proud of it. You should be too.

bragtoberfest_spooky

Going For a Scholarship

I like news. I am sure I have also mentioned prior my love for The Economist as a news source – it seems to be as neutral as it gets and that is very refreshing considering how polar opposite the same story is reported on Blue news (CNN) and Red news (Fox) in North America. That probably stems from The Economist being a UK based publication. Sure, the subtle tendencies are there, they just aren’t so in your face about it. It is more intelligent and nuanced than Fox saying the President is a terrorist or CNN announcing that the President solved terrorism all on his own. See how silly those sound? The Economist would write something like: “The President impacts terrorism” and then provide all sorts of stats and studies indicating how terrorism was affected. Anyway, it’s a lot drier than most news but really – news doesn’t need to be dramatized. It tends to be people’s real lives which is drama enough.

I also enjoy news aggregators. I have a couple that I use, Flipboard and Zite – of the two I use Flipboard far more often. I like the interface. The great thing about news aggregators is that you pick your general interests and it sweeps articles from the wider internet into what it thinks you may enjoy. What this allows is differing sources of news which can share greater and/or different knowledge and ideas. When you have a primary news source you tend to see the world through that lens – and it is a big, crazy world out there. It’s not a bad idea to read other people and thoughts. Hell, why we read blogs, no?

Through the aggregator I found this great snippet from Forbes – a blog post of their own on a Wall Street Journal article – both of which are discussing the decision of Robert Morris, a small liberal arts University in Chicago, to give scholarships to a school funded League of Legends team.

Gamer’s dream, right?

That’s right, how does $6000 sound to help out your education – doing something you are probably already doing in between classes anyway? Not too shabby! The Forbes article goes on to not-so-subtly make fun of the idea (or seething sarcasm – hard to tell!) with this snippet:

However, if these low cost nerdy sports were to replace the expensive sports, we could see some real cost cutting happening.
If any schools are looking for the next great sport to pique student interest, might we suggest beer pong? College students are drinking beer anyway. Let’s stop the alcohol inquisition on campuses and capitalize on the inevitable.  Why not formalize it into a sport, and have major beer distributors like Anheuser Busch or the Miller Brewing Company sponsor the final four hops challenge?  If we designate drivers to and from the competitions and have teams of 21 year olds and above what’s the worst that could happen? Students are already financing their bar tabs with student loans, we might as well rile up some school spirit in the process.

The truth of the matter is that big, NCAA sports is in real trouble and gaming scholarships are more on point with the future in so many ways. The big sports take advantage of student athletes for the benefit of the institution and OTHER student athletes. A lot of fringe / less popular sports and scholarships are funded through the big Basketball and Football programs. However, this gaming idea has some legs and let’s look at some of the differences and benefits compared to the big athletic programs, shall we?

Imagine you are smart and like video games and you could get a scholarship for being good at raiding WoW or EQ for example. Wouldn’t that be just as fair or just as awesome in a higher education setting? Shouldn’t we be celebrating excellence in anything for education, not just who is the biggest and strongest physically? Gaming as E-sports is really getting legs and higher education should reflect that.

The future of the dumb jock just may happen to be a smart kid who ends up with a degree and changes the world with something more tangible than landing a 100 million dollar contract for being good at a sport, while being terrible at about everything else.

(full disclosure: I love sports. I play hockey. I play fantasy football. I watch baseball. I am not anti-sport in any way. I also just happen to love gaming and think it is a better investment in schools than the current athletic programs. I also know this is a huge topic and this is a short piece.)

Quote of The Century

I try not to blog about politics (so polarizing!) on a video game blog, but still, this is the best quote EVER and completely encompasses all that is wrong with politics.

“disparaging statements about one’s opponent (whether true, mostly true, mostly not true, or entirely fantastic) are cornerstones of American democracy.”

It gets better, albeit comical (the first part, I assure you, they mean!)

After all, he asks, “where would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners…who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America”, while “Republicans [are] assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation.”

Sadly, it is to quash an Ohio law that prohibits politicians from lying, and of course, people are taking it to court because lying is part of the first amendment.

Too bad none of the constitution worries about the truth.

Original source.

 

Forswearing Greed – Developers take Notice

This post is inspired by the article of the same title in the June 6th to 12th edition of the Economist.

A group of Harvard Business MBA students have made attempts to turn management into a formal profession. Doctors have their oath, so do Lawyers. CEO’s have always had one too – except it isn’t nearly as flashy or encompassing as the other formal professions. “The only responsibility of business is to maximize profits” is hardly a mission statement to live by.

“..the students promised they would, among other things, ‘serve the greater good’, ‘act with the utmost integrity’, and guard against ‘decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions, but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.”

About half the class took the pledge. The purpose, of course, is most likely to distance themselves from the  current gen of MBA CEO’s who have lived off the backs of consumers and are the root of the problem of the current economic crisis. Of course, detractors from the oath indicate there is no “bite” to it, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

“Defenders of the oath reply that the goal of maximising shareholder value has become a justification for short-termism and, in particular, rapid personal enrichment. They are concerend about managers doing things that drive up the share price quickly at the expense of a firm’s lasting health. Management gurus such as Jim ‘Good to Great’ Collins argue that shareholders are likely to earn better returns in the long run if firms are led by managers with integity and a desire to play a constructive role in society”

Loved that line in the read – because of it’s obvious truth. Jim Collins not only ‘argued’ the point above, but was able to demonstrate it over a long period of time through some great research that followed the top public companies that went “Good to Great” in comparison to those that did not. Of course, applying this to real life is still a ways away. I used to be heavily involved in Politics when I was younger – I dreamt of all the changes to yet another failed, redundant and inefficient system (goverment/party politics system) and worked my way into the Federal party and found out there were a lot of people like me. What becomes apparent though – quickly I might add – that in order to get into that position of “power” that would enable you to make those important changes you have to sell yourself off along the way. Once you get that power, you quickly learn that if you don’t listen to lobbyists and the guys funding the whole thing you will be out before you have the chance to make the change. What that boils down to is this – by the time you get into “power” to make positive change you are often a shadow of your former self. You will never be in a position of power for long enough to enact the changes that are needed – no matter how strong your vision is.

My point with that, while the MBA student’s pledge is definitely a step in the right direction, let’s see what happens when they have to go out, get a job, and have to make tough choices of doing the right thing for the company, or doing the right thing for their career. Will be a tough pickle.

So, all that being said – anyone care to draft up a MMO Developer’s Pledge Forswearing Greed?