Opinions

Discussion Topic: Writing Award Politics

by on Feb.12, 2011, under Articles, Gaming, Opinions, Video Games, Writing

I’m not sure how I feel about the contents of the following article. So it’s discussion time!

Writers Guild Executive Explains Game Writing Awards by Andy Chalk (The Escapist)

So basically the Writers Guild of America has a writing award for video games. As far as I know, this is basically the only award for writing video games out there. I can’t think of very many video game awards out there. The only one that really comes to mind is the VGA which is put on by the television station Spike, rather than an independent entity and it definitely does not include a writing award.

So I did some digging and found the nominee announcements which has a small bio explaining the award:

Established by the Writers Guilds’ Videogame Writers Caucus to promote storytelling excellence in videogames, improve the status of gaming writers, and encourage uniform standards within the gaming industry, the WGA Videogame Writing Award recognizes the essential creative contributions made by writers to video games and the gaming industry. Both the WGAW and WGAE continue their collective efforts to bring an increasing number of videogame projects under WGA jurisdiction to ensure that writers receive the benefits of a Writers Guild contract.
(From Deadline.com)

So based upon the article, the WGA wants video game designers to submit their scripts to them in order to win the award. Additionally, at least one of the writers involved in the game’s production either needs to be a member of the WGA or it’s child organizations the Videogame Writers Caucus.

Obviously this second requirement is for the WGA to promote their guild to writers for video game industry.  Major video game companies are not well-known for making use of writers or when they do, hiring them more as contract workers than actually using them as apart of the development team. So why do I feel apprehension at the idea of the WGA getting into the video game industry?

I understand, intellectually, the need for unions, especially in an era where corporations are now treated as a citizen for the purposes of affecting the United State political campaign system but I also don’t understand the extent or power of guilds like the WGA which makes them almost as scary as rich corporations. Additionally the WGA, as far as I am aware, works primarily with Movie and Television writers. It would seem that video game writing, like playwriting, or sketch comedy writing, would be enough of a different beast to warrant its own organization rather than being absorbed into the WGA.

Of course there is talk about the movie and video game industries colliding, and perhaps this is one of those cases.

Additionally while the WGA spokesman in the article took some jabs at the big name games that didn’t submit their scripts, I can imagine a few legal difficulties with sharing scripts of video games with an entity like the WGA. A lot of companies get together to make the triple A titles so who owns the rights to the script is likely nebulous and there is no history cooperation between video game companies and the WGA guild for the purposes of awards, so I could imagine some heads of company being weary of submitting game content like that. Assuming they even have the ability to export their game’s script into some vaguely readable.

Really though this seems like a complicated topic. What does anyone else think?

Also I find it interesting that the WGA writes video games as videogames.

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What is a fair price for Internet service?

by on Feb.04, 2011, under Articles, Computers, Information Technology, Internet, Opinions, Politics, Technology

The issue of internet service has been heating up in Canada as the telecoms have started charging even more and setting data caps that have more than a few Canadian internet based content providers annoyed.

Huge Thompson, a writer for The Globe and Mail, decided to investigate the justifications for these price hikes and the reasons for the concept of usage-based billing.

What is a fair price for Internet Service? by Hugh Thompson (The Globe and Mail)

Realize that while this article is focused on Canada, this easily applies to many parts of the world. It doesn’t get into a lot of the tech explanations and yes some of his statements on pricing are a bit generalizing, for example there is a significant cost difference between wireless signal providing and land based cable providing, but the price gouging is still there.

There is a war for the internet going on and I’m sadly not sure if that phrase is a hyperbole or not. (continue reading…)

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Thoughts From A Teacher: Bullying has Never Just Been for Kids

by on Jan.26, 2011, under Articles, Opinions, Politics

The following is an article written by a teacher who has worked for several public schools in Texas. I asked and received permission to re-post their article here on The Singularity because I found the entire point of view insightful and informative. I would link you to the author but they have expressed wishes to remain anonymous for personal and professional reasons. I’ve taken the liberty of doing some copy editing and adding commentary and reference links  subject I feel readers might not be familiar with.

Thoughts From A Teacher: Bullying has Never Just Been for Kids

So I’ve been thinking about this entry a lot, since bullying hit the media big time early in the fall semester and school districts everywhere took the brave initiative to create anti-bullying internet notices and letters home to parents. The furor has already started to die down and I think that’s just as annoyingly frustrating as the initial reactions that came from the adults who run schools.

School leadership reacts to bullying as if they have nothing to do with it and the media lets them get away with it. Some news affiliates may put an obligatory line or two about parent/student claims to a school’s lack of reaction but few major news outlets seem to look into the tacit ways in which schools actually encourage the ostracization of certain sets of students, especially gay/lesbian/transgendered/bisexual/etc. students.

Now let me first contextualize myself and my experience. I’ve only been teaching three years. One year at high school on the east side of Houston, TX and two more at a middle school in central north Houston. Both are Title One schools. [A Title One school is a school that receives funding directly from the federal government due to their students being at risk of failure and living at or near the poverty line.] I grew up in a school in Northwest Houston. My experience with the public school system stem from this history and working as a teacher in the Texas school system. So perhaps life is different in Austin or Oklahoma, or Los Angeles  but I doubt it differs too much considering the wide range of places that have recently made headlines with teen suicide related to bullying. Here are my problems with the current approach to bullying.

(continue reading…)

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FEED by Mira Grant

by on Dec.08, 2010, under Books, Novels, Opinions, Reviews

I just finished this book titled Feed by Mira Grant.

I listened to the audio book version and it kept me up past midnight last night.

Actually I listen to a lot of audio books ever since I discovered podcasting and authors who podcast their novels.  I listen to them on my drive to work and when I exercise, generally. I wish I could listen to them at work but more often than not, I actually want to hear what the story is saying which requires more focus than I can give.

I mentioned the above because I wanted you to understand my habits when listening to an audio book. And when I say that the book kept me up past midnight, that meant that I was actually listening to the book outside of my car or exercise routine. I was actively deciding to sit and listen to the book. Actually even prior to that, I was taking slightly longer routes to work in order to have more time to listen to this book.

It is a really good book.

So now you know my opinion. What about the book might make you you like it?

Well to offer an interesting tagline the book is about Zombies, Politics, and Bloggers.

Did that catch your attention? If not, there’s plenty more. The book is set in a post-zombie world where blogging was one of the few news outlets to actually report on the zombie outbreak as it happened, saving millions of lives and earning itself a place as a credible news and media source. Set in the not too far future, the story followed two journalist bloggers as they report on the presidential campaign race and follow one candidate campaigning across a zombie and stumble upon conspiracies and politics that could get them killer ratings. Emphasis on killer.

The book provides a new and interesting look at a possible zombie future. Great science fiction. Compelling characters, and an amazing story. I’ll likely be gifting this book to at least one or two of my friends this holiday season. I haven’t read a zombie book this good since World War Z.

If you want more information, the book has two websites. A semi-viral advertising site (http://www.thefeedbook.com/) which also has the first chapter available for free to read or listen. I highly suggest listening. The site also has links to where you can purchase the book, and lots of interesting tidbits which will be fun to read once you’ve read the book, although I can’t vouch for how interesting they are before. The author also has a website that has information on the book which can be found here (http://miragrant.com/index.php).

Even if you aren’t a fan of zombies or horror, consider reading the excerpt to this book. For those of you who love grounded science fiction and zombies, this book is completely for you.

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Freedom of Treason

by on Dec.05, 2010, under Articles, Opinions, Politics

I will be discussing a statement made by Representative Ron Paul’s twitter feed. You can locate it here, but I will also quote it below.

“In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble.” – Representative Ron Paul

Now Representative Paul makes a big statement there. One I’m not sure I agree with. The following discussion does not really take into consideration the fact that he was on a limited communication medium such as twitter that only grants you 140 characters. However since the length of the statement was 118 characters, we’ll assume that the writer didn’t mince words too carefully.

But they probably should have.

First off the statement carries in it an implication. “we are supposed to know the truth” implies that we, the people, are entitled to the truth, whatever the context. Using such a premise, I can easily construct an argument for the eradication of personal privacy. After all, knowing what you do in the shower is a truth, and in a free society, we’re supposed to know the truth, so why don’t you go ahead and post the videos of what you do in the shower, ya know, for truth’s sake (continue reading…)

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Gifting: Part 4, eBooks, iTunes, Wishlists and Gift Cards, oh my?

by on Nov.11, 2010, under Articles, Computers, Novels, Opinions, Roleplaying Games

So in Part 1, I started this way too long article about eBooks and gifts.

In Part 2, I rambled about Amazon and iTune’s ebooks and asked a question that I didn’t really answer.

Around Part 3 I stated that this article would finally finish next post.

The end!

Okay not really. But I’ll restate the issue I am puzzling out.

How do I communicate to the people wanting to purchase books for me what particular eBook vendor or file format to use and are there methods for them to actually gifting these books?

My problem seems to be that I have conflicting interests, based upon what I’ve written so far. I wish to have people gift me eBooks for my iPad. However Apple hasn’t seen fit to support this model of economics for it’s eBooks in it’s service. Amazon’s wishlist is useful but its interface means that directing people to purchase something in a way that is more than ‘click here and buy’ is difficult and risky.

So my proposed solution is gift cards.

Solution: Giftcards

Gasp! You say. I would never stoop so low as to give my near and dearest Nojh a gift card. That is for estranged family and no so close friends. To which I say in a fake european accent, poopy weenier!

Heh. Poopy weenier.

I actually heard/read/watched an article last year regarding the economics of gift giving and that the actual ratio of happiness to money spent ratio is significantly hire when giving gift cards than actual gifts over the long haul. IE that people who receive gift cards very specifically go out and buy what they want and like, as it isn’t rent money or savings money, its extra money they can spend on themselves. I think this kind of assumes that you get them the right gift card, of course. For example giving me gift cards to clothing stores? Not so much.

Additionally gift cards are supposed to be better, economically, for stores. Meaning that if everybody gave gift cards, and the occasional gift they were sure someone else wanted, then economically it would be better for all, including stores, as the massive return lines associated with the day after new years is actually economically detrimental. Supposedly. I might be remembering wrong. It seems counter intutitive.

That being said, I’m still going to guess gifts for my friends because I like gifts but I think, for my e-Book solution, I’m actually going to put gift cards up on my Amazon wish list, with the note that I plan to purchase books with the cards. And maybe the occasional iPad game.

Final Thoughts

Obviously this isn’t optimal. My friends want to purchase something specific for me. And this also doesn’t cover independent distributors or gaming PDFs, although gaming PDF webstores have built in wishlists so I could go fill that out and then perhaps put a link to it in my Amazon wish list.

I guess ultimately this basically required me to have some faith that the people who are interested in purchasing things for me are willing to look at the details of the items I’m asking for.

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Gifting: Part 3, More about eBooks vendors

by on Nov.11, 2010, under Articles, Computers, Novels, Opinions, Roleplaying Games

So in Part 1 I talked about what started this endless series of articles.

In Part 2, stated some questions about eBooks and never really answered them.

In this part I’ll continue analyzing the four different avenues of eBooks that I’ve selected from the perspective of others giving me eBooks as gifts for the coming holidays.

Gaming PDFs

So unlike the rest of the publishing industry, the gaming industry has a history of not really getting the money. It is a niche hobby with only a small set of actual commercially viable games, and a plethora of independent games. For a really cool indie game, click here! Because gaming books are largely text and art affairs, the only format that really supports them well is the PDF, which has poor DRM controls. Because of this, it is possible that the more commercially viable game publishers have taken hits in sales due to pirating. On the other hand the indie community has embraced PDFs as a way to get their games actually seen. Gaming PDFs are largely available through two distributors: RPGNow and DriveThruRPG.

Both sites sport their own versions of the WishList system and therefor also have a gift giving system. Setup your wish list, point it at your friends, and they can purchase the PDFs or other downloads for you. Plus since they are web based, they can interface with Amazon’s wishlist. The biggest issue with doing that is getting your friends or family to understand the idea of eBooks/PDFs and that they need to especially gift the product, rather than just purchase it, although the files are sharable so that isn’t as horrible as it sounds. But linking a download to your account allows you to download updated PDFs at no cost.

And that brings us to:

Independents

Independents are probably the easiest since they’re almost assuredly going to be selling directly from their website. So they interface with with the Amazon Wishlist. But there is no guarantee that the independent will support a download for someone else, or a gift version, rather than you just purchasing it.  There are also independent game companies that like to sell bundles of both PDFs of their game, and the physical product.

And now that I’ve all but finished rambling, in Part 4, I’ll discuss the solutions I’ve come up with and ask you all for opinions.

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Gifting: Part 2, Wishlists and eBooks

by on Nov.10, 2010, under Articles, Computers, Novels, Opinions, Roleplaying Games

In Part 1, I discussed what led me to the following questions:

How do I communicate to the people wanting to purchase books for me what particular eBook vendor or file format to use and are there methods for them to actually gifting these books?

The question is a bit of an issue because I really have access to three different type of eBooks. Well four. Amazon, iTunes, Gaming PDFs, and independents. Yes I know there is more but for various reasons I’ve decided to ignore them. I’m going to analyze each of these four avenues to eBooks, then sum it up with direct answers to these questions. Since I am currently using Amazon wishlist, so I might as well start with Amazon.

Amazon

Amazon only sells Kindle eBooks. No other versions or retailers. I don’t own a Kindle, and while I know I can download the Kindle app for my iPad and my computers, I’ve already starts a small collection of novels using iTunes book store. Do I really want to split my digital library?

This new question is actually a little off topic but I want to discuss it. With the exception of my gaming books, which we will talk about later, I think I’ll be treating my eBooks as a kind of rental. Meaning if I like the book, I’ll probably pick up a physical copy or multiple so I can loan them out like I do with Dresden Files. But I’ll be using eBooks as a way to purchase and read books while not having to store them on my shelf constantly. This is because it is very hard for me to determine if any of these digital copies will actually stay around for an reasonable length of ownership. I’ve lost a lot of data over the years, and each type of DRM available is just another way to make sure I don’t get to keep what I bought forever.

So with that in mind I suppose splitting my digital library is not that big of a deal but my personal sense of aesthetics say that I’d prefer to keep my books in one place as much as possible.

iTunes

iTune’s iBooks app and store is nice in that it uses the public file format .epub. This format can support DRM and I imagine most books sold through the iTunes store do have DRM. But the app will display non-DRM .epub files as well. The app will also display PDFs, which are the other most common type of eBook file type out there. These were the primary reasons why I bought my first eBooks from the iTunes store.

iTunes, however, has a flaw in that it has no web interface. Meaning that I can’t point an Amazon wish list entry at a webpage and say ‘buy that for me!’ The entire store is encased with the iTunes application. Actually it worse than I thought, a casual look through shows that the iBooks portion of iTunes is completely encapsulated within the iBook app and the app doesn’t even appear to have a gift giving capability, like the normal iTunes store, which you can send an app to a friend.

Bummer.

More coming in Part 3!

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Gifting: Part 1, Wish Lists and eBooks

by on Nov.10, 2010, under Articles, Computers, Novels, Opinions, Roleplaying Games

So it is the time of year where I start to think about gifts. I like gift giving, especially if I can think of a good gift for someone. The end of the year is about the only time I can give a gift without people giving me a weird expression. Plus I have this awesome scheme where I get one of my best friends to wrap them all for me. It’s sweet.

And since it is that gifting time of year, This means that I usually need to make a gift list since my friends and family also want to give me gifts. I know, it’s strange.

Wish lists

A few years back I tried an independent website called Wishlist that worked alright, except half my friends couldn’t figure out how to mark something bought. But what is the holiday without a few returns, right?

Lately I’ve been using Amazon’s built in wish list. Since it can support non-amazon things. I’m not sure I like using amazon, but it’s interface is streamlined enough that I don’t have to worry about people getting confused.  Although the amazon wishlist puts a lot of emphasis on the product, and a lot of screen time on the notes the user adds to the product.

eBooks

Which leads me to the topic of e-books in a very round about manner. I’ve recently started collecting  eBooks, or iBooks, or whatever. Electronic files which contain the written word, and sometimes images, usually to present a story or information. You see I have an iPad, and I am a gamer, in the more traditional pen and paper type as well as lots of board games. The iPad has actually proven a decent way for me to carry my gaming library around and read the games whenever I like although I’ll admit I still prefer to have the physical books for reference. For board games, it is awesome to have more than one copy of the rule book at the table.

I’ve also tentatively tip toed into actual eBook novels, with Jim Butcher’s Side Jobs, which was amazingly priced in hard back when it released, that I was able to afford the iTunes eBook version so I could read it immediately while I waited for the physical version to arrive int he mail. The eBook version proved to have somewhat more poorly formatting than I was hoping from a commercial eBook file but I digress.

The reason why I bring up eBooks is because I think I would like to continue receiving eBooks. With the holidays approaching, I have two questions; How do I communicate this to the people wanting to purchase books for me and are there methods for them to actually do so in an electronic form?

How do I communicate to the people wanting to purchase books for me what particular eBook vendor or file format to use and are there methods for them to actually gifting these books?

Continued in Part 2. Stay tuned!

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The Spoons Theory, life with a crippling condition

by on Nov.10, 2010, under Articles, Opinions

http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory-written-by-christine-miserandino/

Several of my friends suffer from or, thankfully, have suffered various painful conditions. I recently underwent a very painful time in life regarding my back and the ability to walk for which I am still recovering. I mention this because the above article talks about a theory of how to explain to someone how one lives with Lupus but I feel it is applicable to all sorts of chronic or crippling conditions.

So take some time to read it and think about your friends who have to control their conditions. Hopefully it’ll make you a better friend. :)

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