Monthly Archives: June 2018

I have a superpower, which is effectively useless. I may have mentioned it before. I have an uncanny, even seemingly impossible ability to memorize dialogue from TV shows and movies, even if I’ve only seen them once, depending on the style of the show. Sometimes its even from shows I just overhear and don’t watch. Its strange. A line of dialogue that comes to mind to me today is this, said by Toby in the west wing:

I asked him about his vote, he told me, I said then if he's asked about it
tonight he
should and only because it's the easiest thing to remember, tell the truth.

 

I like this quote, and I like to broaden it out to a general principle, which is, if you want to make life easy for yourself, you should, because it’s the easiest thing to do, be yourself. I think this applies pretty strongly to social media.

I was chatting to a dev recently about social media profiles, and what you should put on there in terms of your Bio, and whether you should admit to this, or highlight that… and it got me thinking about the fact that I never really bother spending too much time thinking about this sort of thing. The ONLY exception I make, and the only situation where I edit myself, or pay any attention to what I’m sharing or talking about, is that although I’m married, I don’t mention my wife a lot on social media, because I do not feel like I have the right to include her in any public discussion without explicitly asking her. Its generally good form to let people stay in control of their own privacy. I also dont make that many references to exactly where I live…because there are crazy maniacs out there, so why risk it?

But in terms of everything else, I’m pretty much ‘me’ on social media, and I thus tend to ‘enjoy’ it more than many other game devs I talk to. I do *not* spend a lot of time thinking about ‘what to tweet’ or ‘what I should write a blog post about’. My twitter and my blog are basically my diary, and my chats in bars with buddies. I’m not writing the Gettysburg address here, and I dont think what I type here will accelerate or destroy my career in a single paragraph.

There is a brilliant ‘German living in England’ comedian called Henning wehn, who makes a whole career out of affectionately mocking his own Germanness, and he has a great line, which I find very funny, and if you don’t see that its funny, I think you might be taking it the wrong way:

“I’m just one accidental holocaust denial away from ruining my career”.

Which if anything is mocking people who cant see that they are being offensive, whilst also giving a nod to the English view of Germans. He also has a lot of jokes about stalingrad, I’ve seen him live twice, he is awesome.

Anyway…

My point is, you ARE NOT going to lose half of your steam revenue because you say something mildly controversial on twitter, or because you admit that you enjoy a certain band, or comedian, or that you eat meat, or you are gay, or bisexual, or trans, or black, or white, or anything else. 99% of your customers don’t follow you on twitter, and 99% of those who do follow you because you make games/art/whatever. If you are a republican, or Christian, or communist, or animal rights activist, then fine, thats part of YOU, thats the honest YOU. Unless your hobbies include serial killing you are unlikely to shock people with revealing the true you, so go ahead and do so, its incredibly liberating. Plus people are easily blocked and muted on twitter anyway.

I do all of my weekly blog videos in one take, unless something catastrophic goes wrong. I’m not going to go back and edit out things I said that were dumb, or if I swear, or I make an unfunny joke, or I screw my face up and look baffled. I am an unfunny dumb guy who often looks baffled and forgets what he started talking about, and letting me do that on video makes video recording a breeze.

And yes, a non-trivial proportion of my twitter posts are made after a drink or two (especially the really bad ones). I still (sort of) remember this night:

..and hey, thats fine. This is what I’m like, and I think people prefer to really know someone is a real person rather than just a stream of PR fluff like:

“We at positech are so excited to have #ProductionLine in this years #SummerSale. Its our most popular SKU, going forwards.”

Who cares?

And I don’t think it really matters to have some politics in your social media. I don’t hide mine. I’m a liberal-minded capitalist with a passion for environmental issues. I’m sat here typing this wearing a Greenpeace t-shirt and not afraid to say so. You might hate my views on tax, or dislike Greenpeace, or think I swear too much, or be shocked I’m an atheist. Thats cool. everyone’s different, but it makes little difference to whether or not you will enjoy playing production Line, and I’d rather be honest about who I was than spend half my life trying to play a bland inoffensive ‘role’ to add 0.1% to my income.

Be yourself, its not as stressful as trying to be something else.

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For some context, I’m 48 years old, I’m a game developer who makes and sells PC strategy games, and promotes them through various means, including youtube trailers and a weekly developer video vlog which can be found here.

I worry about youtube. Not just youtube, but the growth of video content in general, and the growth of super-HD globally available video content more than anything. Not in the default ‘new things scare me!’ way, but because I think they are probably skewing society in a way that is harmful, and I see this through the lens of someone who produces a weekly vlog, and occasionally looks at others.

When I was a young gamer, in my teens, there was zero content when it came to covering my hobby. Gaming was for kids (definitely) and the geeky ones at that. I’d guess more boys played games than girls then. The idea of a gaming ‘celebrity’ did not exist of course, because it was pre-internet, let alone the idea of making a living from playing games, and the idea of people knowing who you are, who did NOT go to the same school as you was not even out there. Unless you were Michael Jackson, you were not known to anyone outside you local school as a kid. Not only was fame when really young not achievable, it wasn’t really on anybodies radar. If someone at your school found you attractive, that was great. You could be the best looking person in school I guess, but that sample size is pretty small. I’m reminded of the most beautiful girl in the room:

Gaming now is very different, and video content is very very different. One of the most well known youtube celebrities is ‘Zoella’ apparently. She has 12 million youtube followers, and her net worth is estimated at £2.5 million. She started her youtube channel is 2009, aged 19. PewDiePie is one of the best known gaming youtubers, with 63 million youtube followers. His net worth is estimated at £20 million. I have never sat and watched a whole pewdiepie or zoella video (I’m BUSY), but something stands out about these two, and all the other super-well known youtube celebrities.

They are unusually good looking, and started pretty young.

There is a MASSIVE culture of youtube videos about how to put on makeup. HUGE, like TERRIFYINGLY HUGE. If you wonder why on earth your teenage daughter has the capacity to sit and watch youtube videos for ten hours straight, its because there is a vast, vast rabbithole of this stuff. And if you think its a female-only culture, think again. This ‘one minute beard grooming’ video has over a million views.

When I was in a heavy metal band, I sometimes had a beard. Sadly very few pictures exist, but you know how much ‘beard grooming’ I did? Fuck-all. I occasionally picked out clumps of paint or sawdust from work (I built boats), and that was it. And believe it or not, despite this horrifically minimalist beard-grooming regimen (by modern standards) I did actually meet girls and even slept with some. AMAZING! How could anyone as rough and un-groomed, un-sculptured, with imperfections and a complete lack of a daily skin-care moisteurizing regimen, ever be happy or meet anyone?

It was easy, because frankly our standards were more localized. If I thought I was as attractive as the average dude in the pub, or the average boy at school, then…yeah thats pretty good. I didn’t obsess about my looks or seek out a completely impossible level of perfection that young people do now. I am SO GLAD that we did not have youtube, and social media when I was a teenager. the amount of angst, anxiety, body-image issues, self-confidence issues that I have avoided by simply not being exposed to so many attractive, confident, well-lit, perfectly edited and filmed people who modern day teenagers consider to be ‘just like them’… I feel so lucky.

Anyway, my broader point is that we talk a lot about fake news video, we talk a lot about racist or mysogynist or other hate-fuelled video content, and I think society needs to also take a look at the more subtle confidence and body-image effects that exposing young people not just to the most charismatic and beautiful people in their class (which is depressing enough), but in a class of a BILLION people, is doing. And do not think that because your kid is smart that this isn’t applying to them. I have a confession to make: I worry about how I look in my youtube videos. Should I get my teeth whitened, should I have that tiny lump on my nose lasered off, should I get a hair transplant even… and I am a married fourty eight year old man. What.The.Fuck.

I can only imagine the impact this youtube culture has on teenagers.

 

 

 

About two weeks ago someone pointed out to me that the positech forums were ‘disabled’. I assumed that they had been auto-disabled because their phpbb3 version was old, and I had put off updating it. So I set about doing the (incredibly buggy and tedious) update process, and it got confused, and borked some things, and then started running slowly, with the database being a different version to the php files, and me wanting to basically burn the whole thing to the ground. Its 2018, and phpbb3 frankly still looks like its from 2005, and I hated updating it, and I hated having to fiddle with the (frankly random) UI for assigning permissions which seems like it was written by seven different coders, none of whom speak the same language, and who definitely dislike each other…

So to cut a long story short, I hunted around for decent, managed forums, found a package I really like (although its eye wateringly expensive TBH), and decided top go with that, and they are currently trying to migrate it all, so that every post, image, avatar, user account and so-on, all get exported and we can just pretend this whole phpbb3 thing was a mistake made in our past, which will always haunt us, but something we agree never to talk about in polite company. I’ll keep you updated.

Now i am fully aware that the ‘general consensus’ is that forums are a waste of time because you can just use reddit/discord/steam/someone else, but frankly the idea of working for years to build a nice big community that will then get suddenly overnight locked behind a paywall (as facebook did with its groups), or which someone could suddenly just close (like people whose twitter accounts vanish) or where someone can start dictating different terms (like youtube are doing to monetization)… well that doesn’t sit right with me.

Make no mistake: community has value. it has a LOT of value, which is why silicon valley is often assigning such sky high insane valuations to social media networks with no business model (snapchat), in the belief that just ‘capturing the place where the community is’ has incredible long term value for a business. My forum has been neglected on and off, but now it has a total of 75,000 posts in 10,000 topics, none of which is spam. This is all discussion of MY games, and is an SEO goldmine in terms of making my site a go-to site for discussion about them. This has VALUE. It also will have more value if I give it more love. So… in the near-term expect to see me banging on about my posh new forums, and how I will be taking part in discussions there more often.

Recently I did a blog video:

And in that video I talked about the modding support coming to the game, which prompted a few people to say WHY! WHY are you doing modding support now, when nobody asked for it? The answer is quite simply that hundreds of people asked for it, they just did it through the in-game questionnaire on developer priorities. I present to you the charts from the last two versions.

So yup, mod support is coming, and its cool, although not the final version by any means. And yes. I AM keeping an eye on the ‘vehicle types’ demands and plans are underway.

I recently read a question online from a developer who found youtube videos with links to pirated copies of his game, wondering if he should politely ask them to remove the links, or if he should get a lawyer and get them to write a DMCA request for him etc. There was some VERY POOR advice given to them,, but I thought I’d chip in and say YES TAKE THE LINKS DOWN! And its easy to file a DMCA request with youtube without needing a lawyer or more than 2 minutes, you do it here:

https://www.youtube.com/copyright_complaint_form And select copyright infringement.

And you don’t need a lawyer, and if everyone who had an indie game occasionally checked youtube and did this, a lot of these people would lose their channels, which would be *no bad thing*.

 

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