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I’m from the UK, and if you are following the news, you may know that following a vote (referendum) to stay or leave the EU, we are soon about to Leave, unless there is a new vote, or its overturned in some other way.

I spent years really disliking the EU as an institution, although I have nothing against Europe or Europeans. It boggled my mind that the EU was run so badly, with a legislature and an executive in different cities, and a parliament that actually MOVED regularly to maximise its own inefficiency. The accountability of MEPs for expenses was laughable, their pay was tax-free (wtf?) and there were numerous examples of corruption, stupidity, and unfairness. I found the whole institution to be an embarrassment.

When the Brexit campaign started up, I found myself persuaded by the economic arguments for remaining. I was a ‘reluctant remain voter’, and voted to stay in. I thought it best to stay, and fight for a reformed EU.

Since then, there has been widespread coverage of the issues, and a lot of news about it, and I’ve read extensively. I am now a fairly passionate remainer, almost entirely for Economic reasons. I understand (and could argue convincingly) the argument for leaving, but firmly believe it would be a bad idea. I could talk for quite a while on the topic.

But here is where it all goes badly wrong…

To be totally honest, I am not informed, educated, or impartial enough to make this decision. I have my own prejudices to be aware of, as someone who is economically not concerned by either skilled or unskilled immigration. I do not fear for my job. Where I live, immigration is practically zero, and unemployment is incredibly low. This part of the UK is barely affected either way. Also if brexit resulted in higher food prices, I could afford it. If the £/$ tanked, I’d actually be BETTER off, as I’m paid in dollars. I have a skewed POV.

Add to this my incredible ignorance on the topic:

I could not (from memory) tell you if immigration went up or down last year, or what that level was. I have no idea if there is more (or less) skilled vs unskilled immigration, or what the unemployment rate is in those industries that attracted those immigrants. I cannot immediately tell you the rate of net tax/welfare contribution from immigrants vs residents, or vs EU/non-EU immigrants. I cannot state with any accuracy the rate of crime in areas more or less affected by immigration.

I did a degree in economics, but I cannot state for sure whether the UK needs more, or less immigration right now, or what effect this will have on interest rates, unemployment, wages or house prices. I cannot make any informed predictions about how any of those values will change over the next decade or two, or how they compare with the equivalent rates in any other comparable economies.

Additionally, I have no real grasp of how leaving the EU will affect UK law, whether it be corporate law, health and safety legislation, monopoly and competition law, tax rates, libel, criminal law or the rights of minorities. I do not know for sure what laws in the UK are dependent on, or bypass / overrule or are overruled by EU legislation, or how than can/will change in either the remain or brexit situation.

From a business POV I have a fairly strong understanding of how brexit would affect the UK games industry at my level, or the UK car industry (through my research for my latest game). I have zero idea the effect on fisheries (which could be hugely beneficial), medical (or other) research, education (esp universities), the financial sector or manufacturing.

In other words.. I have no fucking clue whatsoever about what the impact will be of Brexit or the impact of remain. Unless you can speak with experience, accuracy, and from memory on all of the above topics (and many more), to be honest, you have absolutely no fucking clue either. None of us do. I’m a game developer, full time (more than full time…) I don’t have time to research all of this stuff in the detail required to truly make an informed decision.

I am going with my gut feeling when I GUESS that remain is best, and so are you, regardless if you are pro or anti brexit. Unless you are a full time researcher, academic or civil servant working in a multi-discipline committee that looks into this stuff, you are as clueless about the real details as me.

And yet we vote.

How can this work?

By all means give me a vote on broad priorities, based on gut feeling and general emotion. I am a liberal kind of guy, who favours LGBT rights, personal freedom, equal pay, right-to-choose and so on. I am also an economic freedom guy, who is pro-business, generally small(ish) state, progressive but reasonable taxation, etc. I am an environmentalist.

But ask me to make finer-grained decisions on the technical policy making? ha! no! I have no idea. Like many of you, I *think* i know how to do it, and have great fun making and playing award-winning video games about this very topic! But i’m increasingly worried that I cannot be relied upon to make informed, sensible decisions about intensely complicated political or economic issues like Brexit.

If playing Democracy teaches you anything other than ‘compromise is often good’, it should teach you that ‘holy crap this stuff is complex, and very hard to predict’. Why are we trusting mere voters to make this sort of decision? I am arrogant enough to consider myself educated, informed, interested, analytical, and a good person. I don’t trust ME to have opinions on this, let alone someone whom none of those words apply to.

And it will get worse. Climate change, and our response to it, is not a ‘gut feeling’ issue. Its hugely complex. Should we allow GM food and support nuclear power? How should we legislate to protect our privacy in an internet-of-things age? what can we do to prevent automation creating vast inequality? how do we legislate 3D-printed guns? how do we defend society from malicious use of drones? how do we balance security vs freedom in air travel? and the big insane ones like ‘what do we do when true AI is created’? and ‘what if nanotech makes the current economic system collapse’ or ‘should we ban human cloning’? What do we do if antibiotics stop working (possible) or quantum computing renders cryptography obsolete overnight? These issues are HUGE.

Imagine the shitstorm if we actually make contact with alien life? How the fuck will we handle decisions in a situation like that?

They say Democracy is the worst form of government, apart from all of the others. I reckon we need to make sure that when we talk about democracy we don’t get lured into thinking direct democracy and referendums are as good as representative democracy. I don’t think direct democracy works now, and I think its only going to get way way worse…

The really scary thing to me is that everybody THINKS they are informed enough. None of us are. This is dangerous.

So its roughly three years ago that I bought my dream car, a Tesla model S 85D electric sedan. I wrote a blog post about it at the time, and another after a year of ownership. I thought it would be fun to look back after three years and see what I thought now I’ve owned it for so long.

So the first thing to note is that this is a model Tesla do not make any more. It has an 85KwH battery, and they only make 75 or 100 now. If I had to buy a new one now, I’d go with 100. I don’t *need* it, but I’d rather not go down to 75 given the fact I live somewhere so remote. YMMV. I still wouldn’t get the super fast P model or the insanely fast Ludicrous version. My car has the old fashioned ‘false vent’ front rather than the slightly snarly pinched front, which I prefer, but other than that, its pretty much the same car they make now. I have autopilot hardware 1, which sadly is not upgradeable. I would *like* to have AP2, but not enough to buy a new car, not for a long time anyway. AP1 is still pretty amazing.

In terms of reliability, its been superb. nothing has gone wrong *at all* since the original door handle issue I had, which was quickly and permanently fixed. I do get the occasional glitch with the playback of USB mp3 files or podcasts through the built in podcast browser thing, but a quick swap between sound sources almost always fixes it. This could also be something to do with the fairly flaky network coverage where I live.

Mechanically its been fine, no noticeable battery degradation at all, performance still awesome, same tyres, nothing replaced, nothing rattles, nothing broken. Still awesome.

Cost-wise its hilarious. I worked out recently I spend more money on having the car cleaned 4x a year than I do on my fully comp car insurance. ‘Fuel’ wise, it still works out at about 4p a mile, and its too new to need an MOT. Its been serviced once, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. I’ve never owned a car so staggeringly cheap to run.

Probably the biggest *problem* I’ve encountered has been my own self-imposed dumbness on charging it on two occasions (in 3 years). Once was me being really tired and not wanting to bother stopping on a trip back from London with a low battery, so ploughing on regardless, and having to go *pretty slow* for the last 20 miles to make sure I made it. Another was me forgetting to plug it in one day, and then going on a long road trip anyway with not quite enough charge, and very cold weather (reduces range slightly). This was entirely my own dumb fault, the car warns you and helps you manage it etc. I’ve never actually run out of charge or been stranded anywhere in 3 years.

The thing that surprises me about the car, is that in the three years that I’ve owned it, NOTHING has come along to compete with it whatsoever. The Nissan leaf is way cheaper but even the new version has tragically short range by comparison. The BMW i8 looks a bit ridiculous and is overpriced. The Audi e-tron and Porsche Taycan are apparently meant to be competitors, but neither is widely available and they have no supercharger network like Tesla does, nor are they able to buy direct without a middleman taking a cut. Most of the ‘tesla-killers’ are just fantasies in a legacy car company’s power-point presentation right now. Basically I am EXTREMELY pleased with the purchasing decision that I made. I was never really a car obsessive (despite making a game about them now) but I can honestly say its the best thing I have ever bought.

There is still part of me that would prefer to drive a Tesla Model 3 (not available in UK yet), although the crazy model S performance has spoiled me and I’d need a performance version. I would prefer its smaller size, mainly for ease of parking, but I have to say I really would miss the large touchscreen. The model 3 one looks tiny by comparison (although it still dwarfs those in most cars). In an ideal world I’d also have an all-glass roof, which wasn’t an option when I got mine (I have a sunroof).

I’ll likely keep the same car for a few more years yet, as there is nothing wrong with it, they hold their value very well, and the battery degradation is a rounding error. If you have off-street parking, and can afford one, I cannot recommend them highly enough. If you want a referral code (you get free supercharging for six months as I recall) mine is: http://ts.la/cliff7605

I recently decided to investigate the whole idea of sponsored lets-plays on youtube. I’m lucky with Production Line, in that its a fairly popular game that already has a lot of lets play content, but because I’m always interested in ways to promote the game more, and because I already spend some money on facebook ads, I thought it made sense to investigate what the costs/benefits etc would be to have some sponsored lets plays.

There are  basically two potential strategies for something like this. The first one would be to find a whole bunch on smaller youtubers who cover strategy games, but have not covered Production Line (or only covered it a bit), and sponsor them to create a few dozen new lets plays videos between them, paying maybe $100 to them to each do a video,

The second strategy would involve finding some ‘relatively big name’ youtubers with many thousands of subscribers and paying them a big lump sum to cover the game, in maybe just one video. These strategies are different, and TBH I am not sure which one makes most sense. As it happens, I find both strategies are futile.

I’ve tried both strategies, and got nowhere, because the market here is BROKEN. I emailed a whole bunch of smaller youtubers, effectively saying “please let me pay you”, and got one reply, from a great youtuber who said he didnt want money but would cover the game again. Thats nice, but what is wrong with the rest? Not even a reply to say no?

I then contacted an agency for ‘influencers’, which is even more useless. Like all middle-men, they wanted to ‘hop on a call’ (no thanks, my time is money and I read faster than you can talk. Plus phone calls are not recorded, searchable, or contractually binding). They also wanted a $15k/month commitment (haha), and didnt hve a public list of youtubers they represent. Eventually it turns out they have no list, and represent nobody. So middle-men with no contacts. Amazing.

What I *want* is google adwords for youtube lets plays. I like free markets and open competition. lets not hide behind all this ‘hop on a call’ or ‘phone or ask’ or ‘enquire for prices’ bullshit. That just means you want to size up the other party, haggle and exploit them as much as you think you can get away with. Lets all be open about what we charge, and what for. Like adults. Give me a list of game genres you cover, and your subscriber / average video views, and your prices, and I can decide. No bullshit, no wasting everyone’s time.

A lot of the time that means no deal happens, and thats fine. Everybody is still happy. For example if you want to have me give a talk at your games conference, you need to fly me (business class), put me up in a decent hotel overnight, and pay me $1,000 for each day I’ll be away from work. Virtually nobody will do that, so I don’t give talks any more, but also nobody wastes their time haggling.

I guess I should go back to the facebook ad manager.


OH MY GOD A… Holiday?

July 22, 2018 | Filed under: Uncategorized

I am going away. Yes really. Despite being the kind of person who works every weekend, and is puzzled by other people not doing so, I am occasionally persuaded to leave my home-office and go see parts of the world. I don’t do it *that much* mostly because of the ‘not wanting to do too much flying‘ thing, so if I *do* actually fly somewhere, I do try to make the most of it. I’m also completely paranoid about being away from my business for any length of time, so I’m a bit of a nightmare person to arrange holidays with

Anyway…

I am heading far away to the land of ice bears and where the dust comes from, or something like that. I’m told there are bears, and glaciers, and a friend I’m meeting up with assures me there is good sushi. It probably looks like this:

I’ll be heading off tomorrow morning, and back on the 7th of August, which is a scarily long time for me. I’ll be checking email occasionally but apparently interference from the ice bears and the dust means there isn’t much in the way of wifi.

I hope that I’m leaving Production Line in a pretty good state for 2 weeks. I just finished fixing a whole host of crash bugs, and got really good feedback about it. I have a price-GUI change that I’m going to quadruple-check later today and maybe make live on the steam build before I go, as its a pretty minor (but aesthetically much needed) change. While I’m away I am hoping to switch off a bit from work, I have two BIG books to read, and I’m reading both with my wife so I cant get lazy and not finish them. I will doubtless still worry about unanswered emails and unanswered tech support requests on my forums and on steam. Early Access customers can (rightly) be concerned that a game has been ‘abandoned’. (It really hasn’t :D).

I’ll also probably worry a lot about some green energy investment thing that is causing me *distress*. Hopefully the ice bears will teach me how to relax.

My twitter account for the next two weeks will mostly be pictures of ice, and bears.

 

 

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.