Friday, March 3, 2017

How Brian Niemeier Taught Me to Be More Productive

So Brian Niemeier wrote a blog post last week on being more productive. In it, he cited Scott Adams’ maxim "Goals are for losers. Systems are for winners." So this week, with my short respite from Twitter, I decided to follow his advice.

The text editor software I use for writing is a program called Focus Writer, which has a number of features to help one concentrate on typing words onto a blank document. One of these features is a Daily Goal keeper that I had been trying to meet for several months now and failing to do so most days, if I even got writing done at all. So I turned that feature off and stopped focusing on the number of words I wrote every day, as per Brian’s suggestion.

I know I said on Twitter that I was going full hermit for three days to finish an editing project, though on day two inspiration for another QuQu video script struck, and I just had to write it down before I forgot. By this point, I realized that my editing project was going to take longer than three days, so put that on hold to finish work on the script. And in those last two days, I was able to crank out a script that was almost five thousand words long. For contrast, the last script I wrote before then took much longer, even though it was only around three thousand words for the initial draft.

One of the things that Scott Adams talked about on his Whenhub blog is about scheduling your energy, not your time. In it, he talks about how people have different types of energy throughout the day, and how it’s best to schedule one’s activities around when their different states of energy are their peak. So I focused on getting my writing done early on the morning, not long after I first wake up.

I think that one thing that helped the most with this is logging out of Twitter during the time when I'm supposed to be working. This meant that visiting the site would require taking multiple steps, which kept it from being as much of a distraction. Now that I’m back, I will likely hold off from posting on the site until late in the evening, after I run out of creative energy and my social energy kicks in.

So I really do have to thank Brian Niemeier and Scott Adams as well for their advice. Go follow both of them on social media, and maybe buy some of their books if you’ve got the money to spare. Oh, and I also have to thank Templar Gamer for convincing me that I really needed a break from human interaction over the internet.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Appendix N Authors in the Public Domain

A friend of mine asked me about some of the authors on the Appendix N list, so I have complied a list of all of the stories they wrote which are in the public domain.

Anderson, Poul
Brackett, Leigh
Burroughs, Edgar Rice
Williamson, Jack (Also wrote for Astounding Stories March, April, and July 1931.)

Edit: Nathan Housley pointed out that I had missed Manly Wade Wellman, so I have added him to the list.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

QuQu Media And Other Updates

My partner in crime, QuQu, wanted a site where he could post his thoughts and opinions right away, rather than after an hour recording audio and several hours more editing video. So, QuQu Media was born. But you're probably wondering what this means for my personal blog, the AltFurry Den.

My plan is to use this blog for updates on my fiction writing, while QuQu Media will be home for my editorial writing. I also plan on posting some short fiction pieces on the site once those are ready. I actually do have a twelve thousand word novelette that I wrote a few months back, which I hope to finish editing sometime next month.

As for the novel I've been writing, I've gotten about two thirds of the way through the first draft as of this time. Though this was before I took a break to work on the next QuQu video. If all goes well, we hope to record this weekend, and if by some miracle I manage to edit the video in one day, it'll be out on Monday morning. Then I'll return to writing the book, which I hope to finish drafting by the end of the year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bethesda Ends Early Press Copies

Today Bethesda announced that they are not going to send out review copies of their games until the day before launch. This means that the gaming press will not have much time to play through the game before it comes out. Many in the gaming community are upset by this, but I think that it’s a step in the right direction.
At Bethesda, we value media reviews.
We read them. We watch them. We try to learn from them when they offer critique. And we understand their value to our players. 
Earlier this year we released DOOM. We sent review copies to arrive the day before launch, which led to speculation about the quality of the game. Since then DOOM has emerged as a critical and commercial hit, and is now one of the highest-rated shooters of the past few years. 
With the upcoming launches of Skyrim Special Edition and Dishonored 2, we will continue our policy of sending media review copies one day before release. While we will continue to work with media, streamers, and YouTubers to support their coverage – both before and after release – we want everyone, including those in the media, to experience our games at the same time. 
We also understand that some of you want to read reviews before you make your decision, and if that’s the case we encourage you to wait for your favorite reviewers to share their thoughts.

I’d like to think that this will do at least a little bit of good toward ending the hype train. The hype train starts with game publishers releasing teasers and pre-release footage, then the media covers said footage on their blogs and YouTube channels, adding to the hype with every article and video. Consumers should be waiting until some time after launch before purchasing their games, instead of rushing to be the first on their block to own the game.

In this day and age, AAA game releases are bug filled messes on the day of launch, with Bethesda being one of the worst offenders. Anything written in before the game is released, or even just after, is going to be useless to anyone looking to buy the game later down the line. An in-depth look at the game won’t be possible until the game has been out long enough to get several bug fix patches.

There are plenty of overlooked titles out already that one could check out in the meantime, but then that wouldn’t get nearly as much traffic as articles on the latest AAA releases. Bloggers and YouTubers are incentivized to keep perpetuating the hype train, as their ability to make money depends on its continuation. If the hype train were to end, then a strong force for driving traffic would be lost.

The business model internet blogging is fundamentally broken; it needs to be replaced with a new one that rewards quality rather than typing speed and emotional manipulation.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Yes, GamerGate Is Still Happening

I sometimes hear people talk about how the online movement known as GamerGate has long since run its course, but these claims always confuse me. While I’ve been focusing more on my own projects as of late, I still hear about GamerGate happenings on occasion through the grapevine, and the group would seem to still be fairly active. The latest thing I heard from them was that the creator of a type of VR headsets was getting a several hit pieces written on him because he was dating a Vivian James cosplayer.

So while GamerGate is far from the chaotic fun house that it was in August of 2014, it’s still alive and kicking. KotakuInAction posts still get hundreds, sometimes thousands of upvoats, and posting to Twitter about GamerGate is still a great way of acquiring a large base of followers who RT much of what one says. So long as Twitter users continue to include the #GamerGate hashtag in their tweets, then GamerGate will continue to live on.

I would even go as far as to say that GamerGate will never die, that it will live on as long as Twitter and Reddit continue to exist. And there is a very specific reason why the group will continue on forever, which I will get to a little later. But first I must explain how we came to the current situation in regards to GamerGate.

The first step was to brand anyone who dared discuss the GamerGate controversy in anything beyond mockery as a GamerGator; these ‘Gators’ were then banned from most popular video game discussion platforms. It wasn’t just those who wished to destroy all the gaming blogs and blacklist the SJWs from the industry who were forbidden from posting; even the most vanilla of moderate voices was also cast out. Just look at when Boogie2988 got banned from NeoGaf, when all he really wanted was for everyone to get along with each other again.

The second step was to outgroup those who actually wanted to start a revolution, those who wanted all the corrupt gaming sites out of business, those who wanted an industry-wide practice of refusing to hire SJWs. This was done by tightening the rules for discussion communities on Reddit and 8chan, branding all discussion communities that didn’t follow suit as Not GG™, and making lists of supposed Bad Actors who are to be shunned as Turncoats. This left the True GamerGate Movement™ with only those moderate and neutral observers who had the GG label unwillingly thrust upon them and people who were just in it for the fake internet points.

The third and final step is to force the GamerGate label on any dissenters within the larger gaming community, like when Beamdog blamed GG for “launching a negative review campaign” against Siege of Dragonspear. That way, a gaming company can censor any harsh criticism of their product simply by branding their angry customers as “GamerGate Harassers.” This has the effect of discouraging users from criticising their false narratives, or else they will be forever branded as GamerGators, with all the negative baggage that comes with that label.

The narrative among SJWs is that GamerGate is a harassment group, a new name for one that has always existed since the dawn of gaming, the last dying screeches from the “Traditional Gamer.” There is no way of convincing SJWs otherwise, short of GamerGate discussion platforms censoring all criticism directed at anyone who is not a straight white male, no matter how minor. The only option is to continue mocking and ridiculing SJWs until everyone else can no longer take their rhetoric seriously.

Beyond that, however, the general public will still be shy about being lumped in with GamerGate. We just wanted to play video games, so how can we expect anyone else to feel otherwise? No one wants to shunned from their current gaming communities just to join some stupid “movement.”

Next month, when Watch_Dogs 2 comes out, I’m predicting that criticism against the game will be labeled as GamerGate racism. Anyone who does not like the game will have the GamerGate label thrust upon them and thrown out of their discussion communities. This will be used not only to censor criticism of their game, but also to drive sales of the game from people who follow SJWs.

So you can see why GamerGate will go on forever and ever, like an autistic phoenix that’s reborn every other week. The label is too useful as a deterrent from certain behaviors that video game publishers do not want their customers engaging in. And so long as Twitter lives on, GamerGate will continue to be the whip the gaming industry uses to keep Gamers in line.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Changing Tactics

I’m sure many of your remember a certain controversy a couple years back where many gamers discovered that the gaming press was giving positive coverage to video games made by those whom they have close relationships with. A good example of this would be Danielle Riendeau writing not only a review of Gone Home, but a separate opinion piece as well, right after going on a podcast with Steve Gaynor, the game’s creator.

The solution proposed to fix this problem was a reformation of the industry, with the replacement of corrupt writers with more honest ones. In hindsight though, it’s obvious that this was an impossible task, with how easy it is for the new blood joining the industry to become corrupt as well. It also ignores how one could simply put on a public face of renewed honesty while simply making their corruption more hidden.

Beyond that, it distracts from the core aspect of the issue while focusing on the less important parts. The problem is not simply that game devs are in bed with the press, but that their relationships allow them to sell awful games while their competitors, who are often much more skilled at game development, get ignored. No one would actually care about corruption of the gaming press if the games they were pushing were any good.

This is why it wasn’t possible to convince fans of Gone Home that the issue of corruption in the gaming press was worth caring about. They liked the game and got their money’s worth, so why would they be upset that the Polygon writer who promoted it wasn’t completely honest? The solution to this issue should not have been to convince people that ethics in video game journalism was an Important™ issue worth caring about, but that the narratives these individuals were pushing were false. Instead of documenting known instances of collusion between developers and press, it would have been much more worthwhile to show in detail how the games that they are pushing aren’t very good. The video QuQu and I made on Gone Home is actually a great example of this.

The online political sphere is actually having a field day with this process, as not a week goes by without some big narrative push which is very quickly debunked. You can see this with the story that the Charlotte riots are simply a peaceful protest, or the various cover ups surrounding Hillary Clinton’s health. So if this is such a phenomenon in politics, then why don’t gamers partake in it more often?

Sure, there are a few examples of gamers countering the hype machine, such as the backlash against Sunset or Mighty No. 9 or No Man’s Sky. But those are few and far between, in an industry with new games pushed on gamers every week. If you only focus on the high profile disappointments, then you’re ignoring the many indie releases that are pushed on the gaming community.

There’s a large audience of people who watch Let’s Play gaming videos, and many of these media personalities to influence their purchasing decisions. Most of these YouTube creators never pretended to be journalists now that it’s no longer convenient for them, so their coverage is even easier to sway than that of blog writers. This means that it’s all too easy to throw some swag their way to get them to promote a particular video game, leaving much better titles ignored and unplayed.

The vast majority of YouTube’s gaming content are advertisements much akin to the old infomercials on TV, and quality video game criticism has become somewhat rare these days. All it would take is for a few gamers to show in detail how these games aren’t particularly good, while giving examples of much better titles to contrast with. Then these criticisms could spread throughout the gaming community, while also giving much needed attention to games that are more deserving of it.

So you should be able to look forward to seeing more actual video game criticism from QuQu’s channel sometime in the coming weeks, and if all goes well, it will likely become a regular thing.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Amazon Kindle Is Not Your Savior

When Amazon opened up their Kindle Direct Publishing platform, they opened the door to millions of writers to finally sell their books on the open market. No longer would they be at the mercy of the Big 5 New York publishers. Now they could write whatever they wished, with no genre or subject matter off limits.

At the moment, Amazon is in a position where they allow pretty much any book to be sold on their service, with the possible exception of those breaking US law. But the problem is, this will likely change the moment that it no longer becomes the most viable business model for them. All it will take is for a group of SJWs bloggers to start a witch hunt against Amazon for being complicit in the sale of books with “problematic” content that is “harmful” to whatever minority group they're championing that day of the week.

That’s not to say that I think we should return to the impossible task of trying to get published by one of the Big 5 New York publishers. The research we’ve done into their staff has shown that they’re fairly incompetent at their jobs, and primarily interested in publishing memoirs by famous people you’ve never heard of. But we need to have a plan for how we’re still going to stay in the business of writing books when Amazon turns against us.

This is one reason why I still really appreciate print books. Even ignoring simple aesthetic appreciation for printed words on a page, or the rumors of NSA spyware on e-reader devices, physical books have one advantage that digital ones do not. No one can take away your physical books, short of breaking into your home, stealing them, and setting them on fire in the street. Also, the burning of printed literature has been stigmatized in ways which the destruction of digital words has not. If Amazon were to deny the sale of certain books on their platform, there would still be many who insist that such an act is not censorship, that Amazon has every right to refuse certain authors from selling on their platform.

While I wouldn’t agree with the decision to deny the sale of certain books, I wouldn’t want them, as a business, to be forced to sell books which they don’t want to, just like how I also wouldn’t want bakers to be forced to sell cakes which they didn’t want to sell. The issue is that Amazon has, intentionally or not, gotten a big monopoly on the book publishing world. So while one could argue that Amazon deciding not to sell a particular book is not censorship, the negative sales impact of being denied entry onto their platform would still have as strong of an effect.

Besides, I do not want to live in a world in which Amazon deciding not to sell a book can be called censorship in the first place.