computing Gaming Imported From Epistula

Killer Games

I am a gamer.

That is, I spend much of my spare time (as much – if not more – as I spend Writing, Coding and reading) playing computer games. At the moment, I am playing Unreal 2003, Medieval: Total War, Warcraft III and Age of Mythology. Over Christmas I will probably go back to Battlefield 1942 and cycle back in GTA3. I understand the jokes in Penny Arcade, I am a FilePlanet subscriber, I even work at a company that develops mobile games.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am 21 years old, and I am a gamer.

That doesn’t just mean computer games, of course. I’ve been a DM (Always was a better GM than player, it’s the world creation stuff I adore), I play Fluxx often, and have an obsession with playing cards which is scary. I know most of the rules of the Game We Cannot Name, and have spent hours locked in a fierce game of Mornington Crescent. Games – whether they be computer, card, role-play or meta – are what I do, and I really should let more of that into this site. Lets start now.

The worst thing to hit gaming for as long as I’ve been doing it is probably the Columbine thing, when two social outcast kids walked into their school wearing trenchcoats and carrying automatic weapons and opened fire on fellow students and also teachers. The parents sued the people who made the games they played, blamed the Internet for hypnotising them, blamed the videos they watched for forcing them into violence and generally decided it was the media’s fault for making these evil things.

I disagree.

The shooters were members of a close-knit group of “loners” known as the “trenchcoat mafia (BBC News, April 99). Close-knit loners, oh? Neat. They were part of a typical gang of teenagers who hated the society that worshipped the people who were popular. The people who worship the most become the most worshipped. I could point out that I know what they mean, but point me at someone who doesn’t and I’ll show you someone who was on the inside of it. This is all, however, beside the point. The claim wasn’t that they weren’t insane, the point was that media had driven them to violence.

This I actually agree with, there is a certain mindset that will see violence on TV, or on Monitor, and think Oooh, cool! Can I do that?, but equally there are people who don’t follow that branch line. I can spend several hours a day shooting the shit out of people with huge guns in UT, or in tanks in Battlefield, or firing rotting corpses at buildings in Warcraft (Warcraft isn’t that graphic about it, for those of you going “Eww”, but that’s what the undead catapults do) without feeling the need to construct a rail-gun out of paper-maché and LEDs and kill my family with it, nor do I want to buy a tank and flatten Cambridge, Nor do I feel the need to make the undead rise and do my bidding. Likewise, playing AD&D didn’t make me dress up in a robe and memorise books in my sleep (Though I did take up archery); Fluxx doesn’t make me want to collect the Sun and the Moon; and GTA hasn’t taught me how to club a policeman, steal his gun and car, and ride off into the sunset with a police helicopter on my tail. There is a line between games and reality. Games like Assassins (“Killer”) and paintball may blur it, but it’s still there, and trying to reenact Doom II with a semi-automatic you stole from your parents is quite a bit on the wrong side of it.

So how do we stop the people with a distorted sense of reality from being inspired by this blatant filth, whilst letting those with a functioning reality switch get filthy? I suppose there is some kind of mileage in some sort of system whereby the creators of media entertainment put some kind of recommendation on the box for who should be able to buy or rent this item. If we really wanted to go into pipe-dream mode we could imagine some kind of governing body that assigns these rating things, and were people who sold them could make sure that the more explicit material wasn’t rented to anyone who couldn’t see it!

Oh, Hang about!

Yes, the system exists, it just doesn’t work. Games have ratings. Most games in the UK at least have the ELSPA rating, at least. Videos have ratings, even the bloody internet has ratings, but parents have to try to enforce them. Everyone has to enforce them, otherwise they don’t work. And thats where we are at the moment. Also, ratings are quite a bit more lax than they used to be. Battlefield 1942, a game where your job is to run around shooting people and thats it is rated 15+, so the kids mentioned above would have got it no problem. The only real way around it is for parents to vet everything there kids do, even if it’s round a friend’s house, or for compulsary morality tests to happen. Censoring media isn’t currently terribly effective, mostly because it surrounds us and buries us. You can no more avoid the media than you can the water, short of finding a mountian to hide up. And you’d be terribly bored.

So, whats the alterntive? Well, the UKs answer to it (after Dunblane) was to ban guns. Gun licence laws got stricter. The US doesn’t have that kind of thing, because owning a gun is a much more traditional thing to them, and they see it as being a Divine Right. I disagree, but then I’m British. My solution would be for licences of guns to be licenced, heavily, probably by the NRA. People with traceablity don’t kill people.

Of course, it isn’t society blaming the games completely unjustly. There can be little justification for the moral enrichement that Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball or XXX BMX Racing provide, nor really for Grand Theft Auto other than that it’s fun.

And that’s supposed to be what playing games is all about.

AFP Imported From Epistula stories weblog

That's interesting

I went to Bath yesterday. This was a more important trip than it seems for several reasons. The first is merely the most obvious: I was terrified.

Bath is a wonderful, beautiful city. I could spend hours wandering around taking photographs, content to let it wash over me. I’ve spent hours in coffeeshops planing stories there, it inspires me, and it makes me want to live there. Bath is wonderful. Bath is great.

Bath terrifes me more than anything else I know.

On the 11th of August 2001, there was an meet in Bath which I went to. The results of that evening are detailed in this Article but, to summerise, various events meant I spent the night of the 11th sleeping on a park bench because I had no money, lost my hotel and there were no trains back. I’ve been to Bath several times since then, because LoneCat lived there and so a) My desire to see my girlfriend overroad my terror and b) I had a confirmed place to stay. Yesterday I went there, however, in order to stay at a hotel. So I was terrified.

Also, I was angry, which wasn’t helping.

After one of the reactions to the story I put online on Sunday, I was – and still am – considering closing the fiction section of Aquarionics permenantly. Within a few short paragraphs, this person managed to do what several years of shouting into black holes has failed to do, and stop me writing. There will not be a story on Sunday. There will not be a christmas pantomime, because all faith I have in my writing has just been shot to pieces, and it’s going to take me a while to recover. I’m not going to even argue about the difference between basing a charector on how you’d react and a Mary Sue. If you don’t belive there is one, I would ask you do to do me the great honour of fucking off right now. I’m not even going to start on the reasons why “That’s $foo” (where $foo is an author) is insulting no matter who $foo is, because the one thing worse than being told your writing sucks is being told that you’ve stolen it from someone else.

Given a choice of one thing to put on an “Occupation” form, I tend towards “Writer” – unless they want to know what I’m being paid for – simply because it’s a description of what I am as apposed to what I do. I write things. My life is scripted, sometimes as much as three seconds ahead. What I do have is an inferiority complex the size of Belgium. It’s taken me ten years to come to the conclusion that some people might enjoy stuff I write, it doesn’t take much to knock me back again, so I’m not going to open myself up to it again. Once upon a time, I begged the world for feedback. I hereby retract that statement, and instead clarify it as “constructive feedback”, as in “Will help build it”.

Where was I? Ah, Bath.

So I left work two hours early, spent an hour and a half waiting for the bus, and got home in time to miss the train I wanted to get. Got the next one, went to Bath, and met LoneCat and the out-laws at the station. Went to B&B, slept, and went on the freezing morrow to watch my girlfriend get her Masters. (Now, if I wasn’t employed right now, this fact alone would send the inferiority thing back to the state it was last summer, and I *lost* last summer to all intents and purposes, but I digress.) Sat though ceremony. Ceremony boiled down: “Blah blah, Bath Uni is great, blah blah

aqcom Imported From Epistula weblog


Okay, So that would be definitions of “Tonight” that match Thursday,. Well, they share one of the same letters…

Last night was the office Christmas party, where I drank a significant amount of London Pride, ate some of a significantly nice Chinese meal in a significantly nice restaurant, and significantly got back home at about 1am, having had a very nice conclusion to a significantly sucky day. Yesterday morning, in fact, was one of the worst mornings my final year project group was accused of racism. And, as I had to do then, I’m not going to explain why just yet, in case it stops happening.

Please let it stop happening.

And in a little while, I’m going to Bath for LoneCat’s graduation, back sometime tomorrowish. Then I have to get comments back before the 21st (Comments display works, I just haven’t done the form & validation yet)

Um. Yeah, social commentary stuff. Weblog Conference Good. “Meatspace” horrible word. BBC Streams Good.

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Really Complicated Syndication

Okay, In a move that will no doubt please all those livejournal users who have failed to see the last weeks articles because they read it via LJ’s RSS feeds thing, Aquarionics is now serving RSS – and, of course, ESF feeds.

Update: Okay, it seems that LJ doesn’t do RSS 2.0 feeds. all.rss will become 1.0 tonight, with an RSS2 feed later…

Of course, it *should* use ESF 🙂

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Broken News

ANN-2002-12-15: America Launches Operation Dessert Storm.

Last night, President George W Bush announced his intention to bombard the middle east with the only non-nuclear capable weaponry his country has left.

“To basicize”, he announce this morning, “We have securityfied the use of a brand new example of technologicaficationizationology in the form of the world famous Nimbus 6000 Custard Thrower. We are plannifying a new stratification to throw several million gallons of custard, soaked sponge fingers and fruit at the Arabificationally occupied areas. Discussion has not yet decidefied whether sherry will also be added.”

Critics of the scheme say it’s a trifle extreme.

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Past Life

Sing Hey for the sun, and Ho for the moon, for the archives have returned, And done before June 🙂

aqcom epistula Imported From Epistula intertwingularity


Okay, so in the course of work (developing games for mobile phones for the next week and a bit) I’ve been playing with GPRS and watching the news in the mobile world. The ideal is somewhere near Paul’s vision, in that Microsoft currently want to design a box that syncs with your alarm clock so it can, for example, tell you that the traffic is murder and you’re going to have to leave early. This is an idea I like. Stuart‘s, however, is an idea I’m scared of, because the future is now.

Bluewater is a FOG shopping centre hiding in the Kent countryside just south of London. It was slightly lacking in mobile coverage, so they employed NTL to help it along. The results are that each customer with a mobile phone can be tracked though the centre, the central system can tell which shops they go in, how long they stay in the centre, and where they go. They can even send text messages to the phone, with special offers they might have missed.

I’m not really paranoid about user tracking. I don’t block cookies, and I’m not exactly a difficult person to track down. (Really. According to Google this site is 12 for “Avenell”, #1 for Nicholas-Avenell, Aquarion and Aquarionics, and Nine of the top 10 results for Nick Avenell are me, even if I don’t go by that name very often any more), And I activly like the idea of a CMS that follows me around a site and recommends other things I might like. I do, however, object to being told it isn’t happening, and that it’s being done for my privacy and security.

In other fun and exciting news, Category based browsing has been written and enabled, although I still have to do the index for it. Oh, and writings is back, although none of the old content has been put in yet.

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Sunday Story

The general idea is that every week I write, and publish here, a short story of some kind. I have to get back to writing fiction somehow, and the Panto seems to have fallen over. If I can’t think of anything, I shall open up The Writers Block and follow it. So, Number one, the page in TWB says…

Short Fuse

They were just coming up to the valley when Trick ran up to Clae.
"Kael said to. tell you something. I don’t. understand." he said, trying to catch his breath.
"Calm down, Trick." said Clae, slowing down his horse, "What did he say?"
"He was talking to the guide about going though the valley, when he sort of made this laugh that I don’t think was really a laugh, because Kael doesn’t usually laugh like that, but anyway, he looked down into the valley with the scope and then told me to tell you that there was a bacon tree ahead."
"Did he say where?" asked Clae.
"Er, no, but he was looking right down at the bottom by the road. But I don’t understand, because bacon doesn’t grow on trees, does it?"
"No, my son. That it does not." then he reined in suddenly, and swore loudly enough to be heard by the trio ahead.
"What is it now, Clae?" shouted back Emerald.
"Something’s slipped on the packages. I’ll fix it, then catch up with you in a little while"
Emerald, Kael Sapphire and the guide nodded and continued down the path.
"Yes lad?"
"The packages are fine, I checked them just now." said Trick.
"I know, lad" replied Clae, and started pretending to fix them.
"Clae?" asked Trick. Clae grunted, so he continued: "Will you explain the bacon tree thing, and why we’re staying here?"
Clae watched until the trio disappeared from sight behind a ridge, and worked out how long it would take them to reach the bottom, then sat down.
"I suppose I might, at that. Sit down, lad, and I’ll tell you a story."

"Before the empire there were the clans, and the clans didn’t get on. That’s putting it mildly. A month a family stayed intact was a month to be thankful for in those days, there was nowhere safe, and each clan had a web of alliances so baroque and detailed that most of the battles were caused by accidentally firing at the wrong side. It had been one of these battles that the leader of one particuler clan had sent his top general – what used to be known as ‘Kael’ until he," Clae pointed into the valley to indicate Sapphire "sort of redefined the term – to reclaim a piece of territory he wanted to fish in, or some such rot. Anyway, this general was sent down and a couple of days later this junior warrior comes back screaming ‘It’s a bacon tree! It’s a bacon tree!’. Naturally, the leader is a little perplexed by this, and quizzes the warrior: ‘What do you mean?’ he asks, but only gets the reply ‘It’s a bacon tree! Down by the stream, a bacon tree, a bacon tree!’
"Now, it hasn’t been a good year for crops for the tribe, what with one thing and another. And so the leader mounts a small experdition to the stream to look at this tree of bacon. He considers maybe a pig got caught in a bush, or maybe the gods have been kind.
"A few days later, the leader returns. Just. Bleeding from every limb, he crawls back into town. He’s missing three fingers, his torso is a mass of scars, but he crawls up to the junior warrior, and says just one sentance: ‘That wasn’t a bacon tree…’"

Down at the bottom of the valley, the guide seems to have stopped.
"Why have we stopped?" asked Sapphire, tersely.
"There’s something down here I want you to see." answered the guide.
"We are in something of a hurry, we do have to get this back to the kingdom soon."
"Thankfully," said the guide, "That is no longer your problem."

Clae watched a group of archers rise from the grass a few metres from Emerald and Sapphire.
"…’No, son. That there was an ‘am-bush’, said the leader."
Trick gazed open mouthed at the scene below
"Shouldn’t we try to help?"
"Hell no." said Clae, "First, because this box must get to the Kingdom. Second, because that valley isn’t the worlds safest place right now."
"Exactly! Emerald could be killed!"
"I doubt it." said Clae, "And besides, Emerald and Kael arn’t the ones in trouble."
"Why not?"

"Are you telling me that you brought us all this way just to rob us?" screamed Emerald at the guide
"Oh no. We’re going to kill you too." replied the guide, somewhat smugly.
"Archers…", commanded the guide.

"Because," said Clae, "Emerald has something of a"

There was a flash of light

"." said the large, round, orange guide.
"Squeak?" said the archers.
"Pumpkins, Dear?" asked Sapphire.
"Pumpkins, Saff. And white mice. I’m feeling traditional." replied Emerald.

"Short fuse." concluded Clae, mounting the horse. "Enjoy your walk down, by the way. We’ll be traveling in style the rest of the way."
"How so?" asked Trick, confused.
"Looks like you’re entering the Kingdom via a large, orange coach…"

Imported From Epistula media useability


Just when you thought Pottermania had gone (You wish. Wait until the next book comes out) somebody pays £28,000 for clues to the next book. But this isn’t the bad thing.

According to Jakob Nielsen, In the Future, We’ll All Be Harry Potter.

Jakob is really beginning to scare me.

Imported From Epistula weblog

An invisible dot on an invisible dot

Powers of Ten

View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.

I wonder how big their piece of fairy cake was. Warning: Needs Java