Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Enough of your juvenile hot takes, Show me the DATA

I read some stuff on twitter today (I wont bore you with the details) that is absolute crap. I guess 99% of the useless lies that I see each day on social media just fly past me, but I knew about this subject, and so I noticed it right away. To my dismay, it is heavily upvoted, liked, shared and cheered on, as always. The problem is, nobody wants to take the time to actually do any research whatsoever. The laziest of all seem to be so called journalists in the mainstream news.

Top 10 Data moments from Star Trek: The Next Generation | |  Where to watch online in UK

One of the major problems behind this is the concept in news of an ‘angle’ or a ‘take’. The idea is that we have to have one of these in our news, otherwise we cannot understand what people are telling us. Telling us that a town was attacked in an air strike and X citizens died is apparently something our feeble brains cannot process, unless we see a picture of a child’s teddy bear in some rubble. I presume news desks have a folder on a shared drive called ‘kids toys in rubble’ that they have a shortcut to on their desktop, to save time. We simply don’t understand the impact of war otherwise, apparently. If a teddy bear is found, the air strike was unjustified. I guess that’s the theory?

I recently heard a BBC interview of 2 party-leadership candidates that touched on Universal Basic Income. I am not a UBI supporter myself (not in principle, but in practice…another topic…), but even I could get angry at the nonsense that the ‘journalist’ was saying. Apparently we are too stupid to understand the concept of ‘universal’ unless its described as ‘people like J K Rowling will get the money too!’. Oh the horror.

This is what you get when you have spent forty years trying to explain things in ‘olympic sized swimming pools’ or ‘length of london buses’ or ’round the earth X times’ instead of using miles or kilometers, which is the whole POINT of universal systems of measurement. Apparently we cannot understand actual data any more.

Do you know how long a london bus is? or how big an olympic sized swimming pool is? Me neither. (FWIW 11.23 meters long and 50 meters).

Very Soon You'll Only Be Able To Board A New Routemaster Via The Front Door  | Londonist

Once our media went from reporting facts and data, to enclosing it in ‘angles’ and ‘takes’ it was a very short trip in the days of clickbait to transform the story entirely, picking and choosing context to whip up as much anger as possible. The media salivates the minute anybody is killed at a protest, or if a police officer kills someone right now, because OMG this will drive people CRAZY. No facts are required, no context required, no analysis or data required. All that is needed is the race of each person involved, and hopefully some shaky-cam footage that we can edit in order to create as much outrage and as much anger (from both ‘sides’) as possible.

Everybody knows ‘where they stand’ on a number of big political issues. We all have our tribes, and our beliefs, but how much of it is emotion, and how much of it is based on data? You are pro or anti-brexit mostly based on emotion. You are pro or anti gun-rights mostly based on emotion, and when it comes to economics…OMG peoples grasp of the data is absolutely embarrassingly slight.

Here is a quick quiz to see how well the media has informed you on some random topics.

  1. What percentage of US government spending goes on interest on the debt?
  2. Whats the most common cause of death in the US and how many does it kill each year?
  3. What percentage of US households earn over $100k per year?
  4. How much does a US senator get paid?
  5. What was the turnout at the last US presidential election?
Indonesia: Some children return to school in quake city hoping to see  friends | World News,The Indian Express

I would be very surprised if anyone was close to all those answers ( I certainly was not). Here they are:

  1. 7.8%
  2. Heart disease: 647,457
  3. 30.4%
  4. $174,000
  5. 55.5%

We discuss politics using memes instead of facts. We either think senators are out-of-touch super-rich, or underpaid considering the tough job they do…but how many know what they get paid? The national debt is no big deal, or catastrophic depending on your tribe, but how many know what it actually is? There is no room for subtlety, or context, but only room for deciding if a number is good or bad BEFORE you find out what it is.

Our news providers do a TERRIBLE job. They talk about how the pound has ‘fallen dramatically’ without showing us a chart, or that gold prices have ‘soared’ without showing us a chart. Unemployment is ‘plummeting’ or ‘soaring’, again, where is the chart? Its 2020, we can cope with pie charts and bar charts and stats and numbers on the TV, but we rarely actually see them. I hear daily, yes DAILY reports about the covid crisis in the UK, but when did you last look at actual CHARTS showing you deaths and cases. here are some (official government ones):

We are not idiots, we can look at charts and form our OWN opinions. Its about time we started telling ‘journalists’ that terms like ‘plummeting’ or ‘soaring’ or ‘steep’ or ‘brisk’ are great fun in poetry, but they should play no part in serious news reports to a literate population who can understand the concept of numbers and charts.

When it comes to national elections, we are BOMBARDED with infographic hell for hours and hours showing us polling results in the most ridiculously over-analyzed detail. Why the hell cant we get those same infographic people to show us what’s going on BETWEEN elections? Give us more DATA.

But no… want to see how bad its got? I’m writing this in wordpress, using the latest editor. Its marking down my headline as not being divisive enough. I’m not kidding, there is a score of 48/100 and ‘tips’ to make my content get more clicks. Basically be more divisive. check it out:

WordPress! Now with free hints on writing divisive clickbait to help tear society apart even more… /cries.


This blog post isn’t about democracy 4. I live, breath, sleep and think Democracy 4 all the time, so I need to escape from it and talk about life stuff for a bit. Don’t worry, I’m still working on it (including weekends!) and jeffs back next week…

I turned fifty years old last year. That means I’m very likely half way to death, even being optimistic. I’m not *unhealthy* but I’m not super-fit either, but frankly I think I’m WAY more likely to be killed by climate change than old age. BTW so are you. You really should do something about that. Like now, super urgently. The world is literally burning.

The 2019 California wildfires caused less damage than the last two ...


So fifty is a weird age to be. Its not really old enough to think about retirement, but you are definitely old enough to be bored with a lot of young people’s concerns and things. I’m married, my career has gone very very well, and I have paid off the house and car. These are things that people fight to achieve their whole life, and I seem to have done them. Normally, someone my age would have kids at university or starting their career, and would obsess about that, but we don’t have kids.

I see a lot of people around me, a similar age or older, who seem to ease very comfortably into this position, and spend their time getting involved in the minutiae of local politics, or stuff like the best village competition (yes its not a hot fuzz joke, its REAL), or they take up golf, or more likely where I live, shooting pheasants or going horse riding etc… None of this is for me.

I spend an hour a day playing Battlefield V with friends, chatting about politics and TV and games and work/code as we gun down the enemy. I’m am definitely the oldest in the group, and am aware that I am basically straddling two social circles. Relatively young game developers, and retired countryfolk who are drawing their pensions.

This is strange, and makes me feel ‘disconnected’, which is something I feel in general anyway, for long tedious medical reasons I wont bore you with. I am in a the bizarre position of being more of a workaholic than anybody I know, despite being quite capable of retiring, thanks not least to the amazing performance of my stock-market picks. When I wrote this just over a year ago:

Tesla stock was about $220. Its currently $2,080. Thats just amazing. And other stocks I like (nvidia, paypal, square, microsoft, amazon) have all done well too (not AS well but…).

Combine being very lucky on the stock market with being a workaholic who loves making indie games, and has been around the industry for over 20 years, and most people assume I would spend my days like this:

Great Gatsby Decor

Which to an extent… I do, but frankly covid has really torpedoed that. Even though I’m happy to go to restaurants now, many of my friends are not. I wouldn’t go to the cinema, there are no plays or outdoor events happening (although we did go to see 2 drive-in movies), and foreign travel is pretty much on hold right now. (not a bad thing, given climate change)

Something all this makes me realize is that the benefits of various parts of life are valued very badly, and it takes a long time (50 years!) for me to really re-evaluate them. A lot of people value financial success very highly, but beyond a certain point, its impact on your actual quality of life is negligible. If positechs income doubled tomorrow, it likely wouldn’t make any impact on me at all. I love where I live, and have no real need for a *bigger* house. I already have my dream car, and I’m not one for luxury watches or bespoke suits or whatever the fuck people spend money on. I suspect the real equation is like this:

Once you are not in poverty, and you are not thinking about how to pay the bills… your happiness races up, but once you get to be a fifty year old guy running his own company with some decent savings… what more is there? Global domination? a super-yacht? why?

When I look at the things I’ve done in my life that I’m really happy about, or remember fondly, or proudly, very few of them are related to any form of conventional ‘success’. I was very pleased with a talk I gave at GDC once, mostly because it went well by the standards I had set for it (people laughed), I have no idea if it helped me sell any games or made money. The charity stuff I’ve done has given me a huge amount of happiness, disproportionate to the money spent. I do miss going to games events in the US, mostly because I miss some friends I have made over there, not really because of any business reasons.

Realizing you are at least half way to death is a strange experience. You start thinking in concrete terms about what else you really have time for. You also think about your youth and how wasted a lot of it seems. I spent a CRAZY amount of time in pubs getting very drunk and talking about…god knows what. Certainly nothing interesting. I have spent a phenomenal amount of hours just playing scales to a metronome on my guitar.

I have come to the realisation that one of the best things in life is to be good at a thing, and to do that thing. Whether or not that leads to huge success, critically or financially, is almost irrelevant as long as you can pay the bills. There is a sense of calm, happiness and ‘flow’ that comes from being skilled, and using that skill, that gives you a zen-like experience of inner-joy that no rolex watch of ferrari can replicate.

…which is kind of why I am working on Democracy 4. I am good at this. In theory, I don’t have to do it. Unless the stock market suddenly crumbles, I could just take a few years off, play golf, and argue about thing on the local village council. I could mow the lawn, very often (god it needs it…). I could sunbathe in the garden, and read novels. But, this is just not me.

This is also a year in which I’ve come to realize that yeah, I’m definitely on the autistic spectrum. Thats cool, I don’t mind. I was once told that I was ‘probably a high functioning autistic’, and I think thats true. Rather than let it bother me, I’m happy to lean into it a bit. If I want to spend time optimizing the rendering code in a game where 99% of player-votes say ‘the framerate is fine’, then thats fine. I can write C++ to relax, no point in fighting that, or denying it.

It seems crazy that it takes 50 years to learn to just be yourself, but we are surrounded by so much social pressure to behave/act/desire one thing or another, that it can be really hard top just sit and think about what you actually want. Its definitely worth doing.

Why bother upgrading?

My office is having new windows put in (at last!) which will mean its no longer unbearably cold in winter (yay) or unbearably hot in summer (yay), so I am currently sat at a laptop, researching the current state of abortion legislation in the USA for Democracy 4.


The laptop I’m typing this on is a nice shiny Asus Intel core i7 laptop. To be precise, its an Asus zenbook ux303ua i7-6500 12GB RAM, running windows 10. I mainly use it to surf, check twitter, watch the odd TV thing, blog and do forum posting, plus the odd casual game now and then. I bought it in 2016 for £767.

Its fine. In fact its great. It runs fairly fast, The screen is still fine, the keyboard still works, it doesnt crash, it doesnt lag. I had to reinstall windows once (repair from the existing install), but thats it, in four years of owning it. I cannot think of any real justification for getting a new laptop, other than the fact that my wife’s laptop is newer, and bigger, and theoretically better.

Four years might not sound old for a laptop, but it is for me. As a developer, I can get the benefit of claiming the VAT (sales tax) back, plus its a business expense. So no VAT (saves 20%) and effectively saving another 20% on the tax. Plus I LIVE for computers and online stuff, so its easy to justify a new PC at the most flimsy justification!

How Much Is Your Old Vintage Apple Mac Computer Worth? | TurboFuture

But…not any more. Its four years old and its an i7. Whats new these days? The i9? sure you CAN get them, at 4x what I paid for this laptop, but are they four times better? even three times? twice as good? Even a noticeable difference? I dont think so, unless you want to play an FPS like Battlefield V with HDR and so on, laptops that are used for work are basically very happy with an older, cheaper i7 or even i5 chip. Even the 12GB RAM is overkill tbh. I upgraded my desktop from 8->16GB and noticed very little difference.

I am not one to trot out the ‘640k is enough for everyone’ line. I am a developer, and my main PC is pretty decent (still just an i7 though), with an RTX card and a monitor the size of Texas. I get it, but most people are not software devs, and even most gamers are not playing super-demanding games. I am pretty sure I could play minecraft or fortnite on this laptop, even league of legends and football manager, so thats 99.99% of gamers covered right there!

I think we have reached a bit of a plateau where laptops are simply overpowered. The reasons to upgrade are minimal, and it shows! if I check amazon for just ‘laptop’ I’m recomended the best seller at £159.99. Thats hilarious. Laptops used to always cost a thousand pounds or more…

Asus VivoBook 14 X412FJ-EB023T - External Reviews

Its not only laptops, but many things seem to be going that way. I’ve had the same ‘smart’ TV for five years and despite checking regularly there seems to be little benefit to an upgrade there. Even my bleeding edge car (tesla model s) is from 2015, and the only possible reason to upgrade would be to get a slightly smaller one, or with extra autopilot cameras. Quite hard to justify even for me, a tesla fanboy.

This is actually *not a bad thing*. Maybe if we were better at designing economic systems, somehow things would shift from selling increasingly over-specced gadgets to the wealthiest, to just get ‘adequate’ tech to everyone. There are hundreds of millions of people around the world who would love that £159.99 laptop, or a modern low-power-usage TV, or even a decent fridge. The question is how to shift the focus of an economy in that direction, in a way that people accept.

I dont have any answers. I’m a capitalist, and believe in the free market, but believe it needs a nudge now and then. Maybe its actually a good thing that western tech companies have manufacturing based in relatively poorer countries, as at least some of that money then goes into the pockets of those very people who would be an eager market for the suddenly-affordable tech. Like everything though, the inter-relationships of that business model are all over the place. Should we really be shipping physical goods all over the world by container ship? what happens to the US economy when all the USA manufacturing jobs go to china?

There are no easy solutions, and even modelling some of this stuff in Democracy 4 gives me a headache, but I guess at least its a good thing that a really decent laptop no longer requires people to sell a kidney.

Solar school photos!

My company (positech games) gave £10,000 to a local primary school to spend on solar panels, because the kids were really into environmental issues and had protested in our local town about it…and I thought, yup, go for it kids! They were installed yesterday so I went and took photos today by drone:

There are 32 panels, in 2 strings of 16, roughly 10.2 kwp. My panels at home are only 2.1 kwp :(. Really glad I did this.