Thursday, April 11, 2013


    Personal and professional ethics are easier with the gospel. When deciding what to consume or have in your home, just determine if it is virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy. If it isn't, then it won't help you. When dealing with your fellow man, make sure you are honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and you are doing good. If you aren't, change. In addition to these guidelines, we have the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost to help us know when a situation or choice is bad. We do, however, have to listen.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"Okay...just let me finish this quest"

   Balancing our lives is challenging, and it can even be difficult just to balance our forms of recreation. Variety is the spice of life, and doing one thing in excess is bland and unhealthy. When parents moderate the time their children spend on certain activities, they help their children discover the range of experiences this life has to offer. Children will learn the principle of moderation, and eventually be able to decide for themselves that it's time to put down the book and go play tag, or turn off the Wii and draw for a while. It is a good idea to make sure that if children play games online, that those games don't involve long matches or raids that cannot be paused or exited from without heavy social or ranking consequences. It is that kind of game mechanic that leads people to neglect chores and other commitments.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Everybody, Everybody!

    Clay Shirky opened my eyes to the deeply social nature of our species with his book, Here Comes Everybody. I had never thought about it before, but it makes a lot of other things make sense, like why people are so addicted to social media and social video games. We as humans have a deep-seated desire to collaborate and feel like we are valued contributors. This is why Electronic Arts can get away with releasing yet another iteration of SimCity---this one lets you build your city next to another user's city so you have to work together to avoid disasters. It is also why things like the Steam Workshop are so successful. People with specialized skills are willing to contribute their time and talents to improve their own experience, and that of the group. New tools are helping make more parts of our lives group experiences, and are helping us share the fruits of our individual improvements with our peers.

Monday, March 25, 2013


    Regarding technology, Boyd K. Packer said, “The Lord has inspired men to invent these great tools. Now if we don’t use them to teach His gospel, Satan will use them to lead the people astray.” It is wonderful to see social media used to spread the gospel in a personal way that other media cannot achieve. It is helpful, however, to periodically assess how you use social media, and the amount of time you spend doing so. It is easy to spend two or three hours of your time online without noticing, only to look back and realize nothing you did during that time mattered. As great as media is, we do well to make sure we do not spend too much time entertaining ourselves when there is always work to be done.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cathedral, Bazaar...or Both?

   Eric Reymond talks about two different methods of software development: Cathedral, and Bazaar. These two methods don't have to be as exclusive as Reymond seems to think. These days game developers are starting to release open beta versions of games earlier than before. Open beta testing usually means the public have freedom to play-test the game and report any bugs they find, or suggest improvements. This large amount of crowd-sourced testing does a great job at finding bugs, but what if the game's source code were included in the beta? Bugs could be fixed faster, and for free, but users might not buy the finished game if they already possess a near-working version. As far as users adding features, many games, especially newer games on Steam, already have ways for users to create additional content and integrate it into the game. The cathedral is in the bazaar, and the doors are opening.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Family Binary Search Tree

    I had to smile when I read about a 12-year-old girl who was apprehensive about family history because she didn't think she'd even be able to "work" the computer. It's safe to say that the average 12-year-old in America today feels at home on a computer, and this has boosted family history work. It's interesting to see how the Church's technology for family history has evolved with our culture. Specifically, has progressed through the last couple decades by assuming a much more social approach, mirroring the way our culture has made video games, job hunting, home videos (think YouTube), etc. more social. Now users of FamilySearch can correct and add to each other's work, and even request specific pieces of information. The whole project has become collaborative.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

All Reasonable Rights Reserved

"It doesn't matter if you're a grandma or a 7-year-old girl/
They'll treat you like the evil, hard-bitten criminal scum you are!"       -"Don't Download This Song" by Weird Al Yankovic
    Weird Al's sarcastic song illuminates the growing absurdity of copyright over-protection, and many artists share this sentiment. Orson Scott Card contends in his essay MP3s Are Not the Devil that artists are not suffering because of file sharing, and are in fact more successful because of it. I have been exposed to many musicians and consequently purchased albums because a friend played a few songs for me. If we applied the same restrictions on printed literature as many are proposing for digital media, we would have to close down all public libraries for "file sharing". The fact that we have libraries is a testament to the value of shared culture. Indeed, public libraries actually lend music albums, films, and even video games. I'm not saying that artists should work for free to produce culture, but for people to not even be allowed to allude to other artists' works in their own art is ridiculous. We need stop trying to treat culture like we do Furbys and potato peelers. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What is *Actually* new?

       As we saw with the PS3, hardware muscle power is very important to Sony---it still is. The PS4 will have the kind of hardware top-notch gaming PCs enjoy. Gamers have come to expect nothing less from Sony. It is my hope that Sony does not continue the delusion that detailed visuals are the main criteria that defines a good game.

  When the last generation of consoles released, I heard many decide to purchase the grotesquely expensive PS3 rather than the competing consoles because "the graphics are WAY better!" I'm not saying the PS3 itself was better or worse than the other consoles, only that I strongly disagree with the reason many chose to purchase it. I'm not a hipster gamer. That said, old school games were fun despite the lack of detail and realism in the visuals. The best playing experience comes from playing the best games. By extension, the console with the best games provides the best playing experience. The best games are those that give you the kind of experience good art is supposed to give you. It should connect with you, draw you into that world---those moments---and communicate some thought or feeling. If the graphics are too impressive, they may inhibit the player from immersing herself in the game; she will be staring at a drop of sweat on the character's hand.

  It is my plea that Sony and game developers everywhere do not neglect good game-making in favor of bigger engines.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


   Ever since I first typed into a Macintosh computer in the early 90s and saw my words also appear on another computer two feet away, I have been thrilled with the concept of networked computers. My interest increased with films such as The Matrix, and added the element of remotely accessing computers. Now, having experience with programming and Linux, Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg has made me very curious about the world of Internet Forensics and cyber security.

   Stoll tells his story with perfect balance. He gives detailed descriptions and explanations so even those who are only vaguely familiar with the way computers work can appreciate the story, yet he weaves in enough color to keep it engaging and enjoyable---and does so with finesse. It was gripping, and refused to be put down---my sleep suffered more than usual.

    Surprisingly, the book hasn't made me paranoid of a cyber attack. It has, however, made me think about the passwords I use, and how often I change them. During the time I was reading the book, I came across this, and this, and I agree that the passwords most people choose are fairly feeble, but not for the reasons they may expect. On a side note, it's handy to know an extremely obscure language used by a South-east Asian hill-tribe people---even if you use a common phrase, no one will ever guess it, or remember it if they happen to see your keyboard as you type it in.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Where are all the Ladies?

     Women have been entering the fields of mathematics, engineering, and science more and more in recent years. While more have entered computer science as well, there are far fewer than in the other fields. Not only are there fewer, but the rate of increase has dropped, while other fields' rates continue to rise. Women are needed in computer science because they think differently than men do---not better or worse---but differently.
     Innovation springs from creativity, and creativity is nourished by exposure to a breadth of ideas and viewpoints. Pixar strongly believes in this aspect of creativity, and has carefully designed its offices, culture, and production process to make sure everyone interacts with as many people as possible. They have shown that it works. A limited pool of viewpoints with collaboration restricted to a handful of people is not healthy for creative thinking, and will be stagnant compared to what we can achieve with more varied minds. We need more women, more artists, more people with different training and backgrounds to add spice to the industry.

Monday, February 4, 2013

It's Just a Game, But Look Who's Talking

      The Super Bowl is over, and instead of talking about the game, people are talking about the power outage that plunged the stadium into darkness. It wasn't much of an inconvenience---play stopped for about a half an hour. Some say it may have "psyched out" the Ravens and made them lose their streak. Curious, though, is the fact that people care so much. It doesn't impact our future, and it is, after all, only a game...isn't it?
      It's interesting how sports enthusiasts get so emotional and invest so much into a game---an activity of recreation. Meanwhile, others would have a difficult time caring less about a bunch of large men slamming into each other and throwing things. Many nerds feel this way, and may smugly scoff at the "barbarians" and their silly game that they take so seriously. These nerds would do well to remember, however, that they do the exact same thing. Those "barbarians" are nothing more or less than sports nerds.
       Sports fans and classic nerds both eagerly anticipate the season's big game (video game, in the case of nerds); both memorize extensive lists of obscure stats; both are known to dress up like their heroes at gatherings dedicated to the object of their devoted enthusiasm. Perhaps jocks who bully kids because they are nerdy will see the light when they realize that they have been huge nerds this whole time.

  Competitive video games have started to work their way into the mainstream. In South Korea, Starcraft tournaments draw players from around the world, and are commentated and broadcast as professionally as any athletic contest. The U.S. also broadcasts big video game tournaments, but doesn't yet have as strong a following. Perhaps eventually all competitive games, athletic and virtual, will be viewed equally by our culture.
     Even though games don't really matter intrinsically, they are important to people because are a form of entertainment one can invest oneself in and get excited about. People put a part of themselves into a game and feel rewarded whether it is their own victory, or that of someone they admire or care about.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Star Wars and the 3D kick

   Just a few days after Disney announced that J.J. Abrams has been signed to direct the next "Star Wars" movie, it announced that it will stop work on the 3D versions of "Star Wars" Episodes II and III, and focus on the new film.
     This is a good move for Disney. Altough the novelty of 3D media excited many at first, so far the results are lackluster. Films that release in 3D have to also release in standard format because many people would rather not see it in 3D. Stereoscopic images can strain the eyes give headaches to some, and many simply don't want to want to fork out the extra money.
    3D media is a good concept---it has potential to draw the viewer into the story more completely. However, most films' 3D versions barely add any depth and ultimately aren't that different from the standard format. Filmmakers can't help this because stereoscopic images strain the eyes more at greater depths. If you can't achieve the storytelling benefits from the technology, you should either wait until the technology improves to meet your needs, or develop it yourself. What we really need are hologram films---ones that can really immerse the audience in the story. Art is about making a connection between the artist and the viewer, and sharing something---communicating something. The more completely you can do that, the more successful the art is.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Anticipate the change you bring

   When new technology develops, it tints the flavor of culture. While it is important to consider the impact our ideas and innovations will have on the world, we should not let every predicted side effect scare us out of  trying something bold.
    Change is inevitable. Our culture assimilates ideas from all around us, and refuses to become stagnant. We can only hope to guide the change in an enlightened direction. Every change will leave someone with the small half of the cookie---the trick is to bring the most benefit to the most people.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

It begins!

   Welcome to me. A lot of people call me Neo. Here is where I will publish my perspective as an artist, gamer, and programmer, on society and computing. Who wouldn't want to read that? Boring people, mostly,  and people afraid of opinions, video games, computers, and/or art.

     Let's start with today's thought---brace yourself and buckle down your preconceptions....
Video games are an artistic medium just as much as film and literature!
You.mind.blown = true;