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.