Computer Games Gaming Imported From Epistula

Games are Evil Round X

My problem with Boris Johnson is this: For all he appears to be a bright bloke, he can – at certain proscribed times – entirely resemble the rest of the party from which he is an often welcome break. His latest missive from the depths of ignorance is an attack on computer games, in which he says:

These machines teach them nothing. They stimulate no ratiocination, discovery or feat of memory—though some of them may cunningly pretend to be educational. I have just watched an 11-year-old play a game that looked fairly historical, on the packet. Your average guilt-ridden parent might assume that it taught the child something about the Vikings and medieval siege warfare.

The game is, incidentally, Medieval – Total War, The Viking Invasion. Rated Teen by the ESRB, so next time there is another outcry about violence in video games and how they should be better rated, someone please go talk to Boris’ 11 year old.

Anyway, Side-tracked. Books, you see, are educational. It’s a well observed fact that merely reading any book makes you 67% more clever than the kid over there playing computer games.

Incidentally, I write web applications for banks. A few of the other gamers I know are Cambridge graduates, high falutin’ executives, school teachers, writers and other obvious drains on society, patently burnt into grunting husks by mere application of pixels moving on screen.

I’m not saying games are educational, because in 90% of the cases they aren’t. They can be intellectually stimulating in the same way that Boris might recognise more classic games such as Rummy, Bridge, Whist &c to be, in that the ability to recognise patterns and build an internal working map of the current state is something that will stand you in good stead generally.

But mostly, they’re for entertainment. Psychologists may argue they tickle the long-lost hunter instinct in us, tracking and eliminating our prey. Personally, I enjoy games because they are fun to do. In the same way Boris would object if you took his book out of his hands, I’d imagine.

He’s also right, up to a point. Sitting inside gazing at the screen isn’t healthy, and having stories shot at you in easily-digestible chunks in cut-scenes like a multipart poison in blow dart form isn’t really good for your general welfare, so you should take your entertainment in many forms, like going to see a movie for example.

Don’t buy Boris’ book, though. It’s awful.

(I’m off to Wales for New Year, and then to Amsterdam for a stag party, and then I’m hella busy. You may have to wait a bit for the “Holy fuck! I’ve been writing AqCom for SEVEN YEARS!” post, but be warned, it’s coming. Also, wish me luck for the 9th. I’ll tell you why later)

2006 Christmas Imported From Epistula

Christmas Mashup

(More content next year, I promise)

Imported From Epistula Personal


Gosh. Busy week.

Okay, I’m being moaned at because I haven’t updated in a while (And I’m going to fail to hit my ideal of hitting 2000 weblog posts in 2006. I am a poor excuse for a journaler).

I’m currently at my parent’s place for a few days, on a reconnaissance mission to try to work out what to buy parents/brothers/dog for Christmas. They all – with the notable exception of the dog – have a tendency to buy the things they desire, or not know what they want, or be generally unhelpful.

I’m discovering that my monitor at home is dying, I think. Having seen this design on other peoples’ monitors, I realise exactly how screwed the gamma is on it, it’s all a bit overexposed, isn’t it? Ah well, maybe I’ll delete the whole thing and start again. Again.

Meanwhile I’ve just got myself a Twitter account. I may even keep it updated…

2006 Current Affairs Imported From Epistula

No2ID and Godwin

Do you know why Godwin’s law exists?

You don’t know what Godwin’s law is, do you? Ah well, kids of today, et cetera.

Godwin’s law states that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” (via Wikipedia). On Usenet, this is traditionally taken to mean that the person who starts referring to their opposition, their arguments or their mother as Hitler, a Nazi, or worse than both or either has in doing so automatically lost the argument. Godwin on why:

But the Nazi-comparison meme popped up elsewhere as well – in general discussions of law in, for example, or in the EFF conference on the Well. Stone libertarians were ready to label any government regulation as incipient Nazism. And, invariably, the comparisons trivialized the horror of the Holocaust and the social pathology of the Nazis. It was a trivialization I found both illogical (Michael Dukakis as a Nazi? Please!) and offensive (the millions of concentration-camp victims did not die to give some net.blowhard a handy trope). (‘Meme, Counter-meme’ – Wired Oct 1994 – Mike Godwin)

As far as bad people go, Hitler was a monumental fuckhead, as many wise historians (and Eddie Izzard) have said. He is responsible for the deaths of an unimaginable number of people across a broad swathe of cultures and groupings. He is going, will go, has gone down in history as being one of the single worst people ever to lead a country.

And so we get to the point. No2ID, a lobbying organisation set up to oppose the government’s plan for a national ID database, published an advert in national newspapers (I know it went in the Guardian, but am not sure where else), basically comparing Tony Blair to Hitler, and this annoys me.

It annoys me because there are a great number of problems with the proposed ID cards bill, starting with the fact that no large government computer project in the last decade has actually worked, working though the right to privacy aspect, pointing out that the bill states we are responsible for the information being correct but cannot change it and a thousand other good, logical reasons why this braindead piece of cobbled together attack upon our personal liberties needs to be – at the very least – put on hold until the problems are fixed, and possibly even scrapped altogether.

The advert as published makes the people objecting to ID cards look like rabid, mouth frothing lunatics. Blair is, for all his faults, not as bad as Hitler. Of all the ways that Blair and Hitler can be compared, in fact, ID cards are one of the least effective (Yes, the National Socialists implemented an ID card system. We had one too. Implementing an ID card system does not make you the bad guys, it’s the reasons why you’re doing it and what you will use it for that do that.

The public in general are under reacting, true. They either don’t see the problem, don’t believe there’s anything we can do, or have swallowed the “it’ll stop terrorists” line.

But the effect of the advert is to make our side retreat to the same safe ground of hyperbole that the anti-terrorist stuff inhabits, a place where we can safely be sidelined as a collection of over dramatic, overreacting freaks.