Serious Business


Looking Positively Back and Forward


As 2009 comes to a close, I think that it’s a good time for everyone to kind of look back on what they achieved and reflect on it. The thing is, from both a non-geek and a geek perspective, it’s difficult at times to look positively on some of the things that have happened to you. Hardships, trials, and tribulations are things that everyone, even an eternal optimist like me, have had to deal with this year. Still, I’ve always been a big believer in silver linings, so without further ado, here are some things – some related to the geek arts, and some not – for people to think upon as 2010 comes upon us. They’re generic enough that you might fit into a few and apply them to your own situations in 2009.

1. The game you really wanted to play failed to meet your expectations.
It does suck when you anticipate a game release only to sour on it after playing it for some time.  Investing your time and energy into what you think is going to be great but isn’t is definitely a bear to overcome.
What’s positive: Focusing your tastes into what you really like as opposed to being marketed into them has no greater teacher than when a game doesn’t mean your standards. If you understand and learn that you like something very specific because of  feeling like you wasted a few bucks, trust me – the short term might hurt a bit but your cautious optimism will make you smarter in the long term.

2. You lost your job.
Employment is most folks’ means to make ends meet, and being laid off or let go is never fun as you struggle to find something else to pay the bills. When people end their employment before their time, there are feelings of anger, sadness, and overall chaos as they try to find something in a more competitive work environment.
What’s positive:
While people can struggle to find work, there is always hope in the form of resume-blitzes, headhunters, and friendly connections, which are responsible for finding work for many an unemployed person. There are also ways to make the lack of work into an adjusted opportunity – I’ve known many people who have taken the time to go back to school, re-focus their priorities, or find a new field that interests them. There is, of course, something to be said about the hardship also making them stronger – something that, with the support of loved ones and friends, is entirely possible.

3. Your tech took a dive into the dumpster.
More and more, geeks rely on their tech to survive, whether that’s a smartphone, a computer, or some other device they use to help get themselves through the day. When they crap out, it’s a struggle to survive under other means or to even replace the misbehaving piece of geekery in question. I know of people who’ve lost years of data due to a random malfunction, and it’s never easy to get back on your feet after it.
What’s positive: A fresh start on your tech is sometimes needed, and even though you might miss those precious screenshots of when you totally /danced over someone’s dead corpse in a game, memories are meant to be created, not just remembered. Starting anew can provide a nice focus and re-prioritization to  what you’ve used your tech for, and frankly – there’s a nice sort of feeling to having it clean as a whistle, waiting for things to be done with it.

4. You had friend, family, or relationship troubles.
Unless you’re a true hermit or even a misanthrope (and trust me, despite the outward face, many people aren’t), then at some point or another during this trying year you might have had a problem with a friend, family member, or loved one. Whether it was a disagreement that got out of hand, a mistake you made, or a blowup of epic proportions, having issues with other people is certainly something that is inevitable and expected the more you interact with them – and that goes for online as well as offline.
What’s positive: The kinds of troubles you may experience with others you care about are always learning experiences. You either learn what to do, what not to do, and how to avoid problems in the future. Or even better, they end up working out somehow in the end. I know that I have had my fair share of trials and Homer Simpson-like “D’oh!” mistakes I’ve made with the people I choose to care about, and no matter what the outcome, I know I’m sorry for every single one of them. Being sorry, guilty, or otherwise feeling down about your troubles with others is normal, and if anything else, the regret of missing something like that ensures that you either patch it up to make it better, or learn that the bonds you do have are precious enough to be not taken for granted, and seriously.

5. You had an Internet snafu.
Put your foot in your mouth on a forum? Typed some text you shouldn’t have to someone over an online game or in chat? Or perhaps your secret fetish with Hello Kitty was discovered and revealed to the world. Somehow, some way, you done fucked up online, and unlike in real life where memories are fleeting and sometimes forgotten, the Internet is an archive of unforgettable moments.
What’s positive: The internet tends to be a domain where people where masks. Sometimes those masks cause some issues. While it may be shameful or awful to mess up online, the thing is, is that the experience forces you to be more honest with yourself and how you communicate with others online. Sure, it might suck that people remember that you’re “that guy”, but in the end, online mistakes are as inevitable as a Comcast cable connection drop – they just happen, and sometimes when you don’t expect it. Take solace in the fact that A)the Internet is a fickle and vast place, always looking for the next laugh or messup to ogle over and B)your online identity and persona is something that you become keenly aware of after a mistake, that you take measures to correct.

6. You just didn’t have a good 2009 overall (or: “this year sucked”)
Perhaps you experienced any or all of the above, or generally you’re just not feeling good about 2009. Maybe you just wanted it to be over so you could get on to a new year. Or it could be that a stressful mountain climb is ahead for the new year, caused by specific, really sucky events. Either way, 2009 was not 2000-fine.
What’s positive: New years are celebrated for a reason – they’re a fresh way to look at things for another 12 months where you can turn things around, make them better, or overall do what’s needed to improve. 2009 may have been a crappy year for some of you, but the fact of the matter is, it’s just about over, and 2010 looms on the horizon, where anything can happen. Will 2010 be better? Maybe, maybe not. But I’ll take my chances knowing that I can make 2010 an even better year for myself, rather than worrying about how 2009 bashed me over the head repeatedly.

There you go – 6 things that hopefully have a bright side for 2010. I wish and hope everyone the best and Happiest New Year, and if I have my way, I’ll be continuing to provide a regular dose of sunshine for when 2010 isn’t as great as it could be. Bring on the new hotness!


Positive Thankfulness


06570atAh yes, Thanksgiving – that American holiday where the Butterball Turkey hotline is jammed up for hours, food coma is a given, and people start gearing up for Black Friday (post on that coming early in the morn, tomorrow) and the inevitable march towards the holiday season.

Whether you’re a geek or not, celebrating Thanksgiving is a way to remind yourself that there are things such as family or that failing, those you are close to, that you can fall back on when times are tough. Even though you could say that a geek stereotype is that we are hermits who disdain popular culture, the fact of the matter is that the dawn of technology and the ability for people to connect with one another without ever meeting makes Thanksgiving possible for everyone.

I’m fortunate to have what amounts to a regular readership (something that I never would have thought would be appealing to a fair amount of people), as well as those who love and support me through my various, geek-fueled endeavors. I’m thankful that we have the opportunity to connect in this way, and that I have a place where I can make a small, yet hopefully meaningful impact through perpetual optimism. I’m also thankful that geekery, more than ever, is in the public eye and that tech, games, the internet, and more are more widely accepted by a popular culture which used to shun or scratch their head at things like Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, all of this is made much easier by the fact that no matter who you are, good food will always be satisfying. Whether you chow down on a turkey, a tofurkey, or your favorite Thanksgiving staples, being fortunate enough to have such things, and keeping those who don’t in your hearts is never a bad thing.

So Happy Thanksgiving to all of you celebrating today, and remember – any holiday where you can take White Castle hamburgers and create stuffing for a turkey is a damn good holiday:



Sunrise Always Happens, Even In The Gaming World


large_sunriseYesterday was apparently a rough day for the small rolodex of developers that I know from EA. The rumor going around is that layoffs happened at the publisher, with at least four different studios thought of to be affected. Being a slight bit more connected than the average joe gamer, I can say that while I can’t confirm exact numbers in the studios, I can confirm that they happened.

For both company and employees, layoffs are never really a good thing in principle. Even an optimistic person like myself would be really stretching it if I said that laying off a rumored “hundreds” of folks could be seen as nothing but good. But for both entities, one thing is quite obvious.

Sunrise always happens. What do I mean by this? I mean that every day turns to night and light turns to dark, but it always becomes bright again the next day. Sure, that might seem like the kind of Captain Obvious statement that you’d explain to a 5 year old who has trouble coloring within the lines (those coloring books were hard, ok?!), but work with me here.

When I say sunrise always happens, I mean to say that there’s always something to look ahead to, and that things always have a distinct possibility of getting better. For a company like EA, who has endured (and still endures) the stigma of being an evil, dark, corporate entity, there’s a sunrise to look forward to in terms of new opportunities and initiatives. The layoffs are coupled with the supposed buyout of Playfish, a social games developer which will allow EA to expand into new markets. And while companies under its umbrella have been struck with a hard body blow, no studios have been shut down as in the days of EA old for quite some time, so EA remains and improves its catalog of offerings as an “all-in-one” publisher, something few others can claim.

The statement about the sunrise happening, however, is more relevant and meaningful to ex-employees and the human element affected by these rumored layoffs. I’ve been directly affected by the darkness that is a layoff – it’s a stressful, harrowing experience and scrambling to make ends meet and find new work is hardship that is difficult to overcome. But it is not an insurmountable obstacle, and there is always light over the horizon. Folks affected will attend last hurrahs with their co-workers, cobble together an updated resume, put out all their feelers in the gaming world, all in an effort to cope with the loss of their livelihood. As the days, weeks, and sometimes months go by without work, these people may feel that in a down economy that work is almost impossible to find.

However, every day you take a step forward to hold your bills in check, sunrise always happens.

Every day you work for hours to secure an in with your contacts and “who you know”, even if it is fruitless that day, sunrise always happens.

Every time you choose to either silently suffer or speak about what you can about the circumstances of your departure, sunrise always happens.

I say the sunrise always happens because the thing that is also consistent with it, is your talent. When someone is laid off, it isn’t because they did a poor job, or that they spent their days reading Facebook instead of working, or that they had a terrible indiscretion involving marshmallows, a microwave, and the Vice President of Finance. They get laid off because the company believes they can suffer along without them – and they will suffer, because the excellent job that these people do is now spread across less people, and burden is shared.

The people I know that were laid off are among some of the most talented, bright, amazing individuals I have come to know in my limited time working in the community/fan segment of the gaming industry. They were all dedicated people that had passion for their jobs, not just a “punch the timecard” outlook, and it showed. They made contributions that were significant and meaningful to people and they were a part of something great. No layoff can take that away.

When the sun rises, as it always does, there’s always the possibility of that dawning on a new opportunity with a new company that knows everything I’ve just said, and more. So with that, my heart goes out to those that were affected, and trust me – even in the gaming world, people (and studios) look forward to a better, new day ahead – even after the darkness.


The Webhost Wagon Trade-In


33676-model-covered-wagonSometimes when you’ve been on the bandwagon for just a little too long, it’s time to trade in for an updated model, that’s what I say. Of course, saying that almost always gets me into trouble financially when it comes to new tech, but hey – this isn’t about my spending habits, right?

I like to equate using webhosts in the same way. You may start out on a site that is hosted off on another domain, just so that you don’t have to worry about things like design, management, and those three little words – File Transfer Protocol. This eventually morphs into your own domain, and sometimes, if you’re popular enough, your very own server.

Through it all, the webhost wagon is with you, whether it is a dinky little wooden ride or the best that the Wild West of the Web has to offer you. While saturation in the market is sometimes viewed as a bad thing, when it comes to webhosting wagons the multitude of choices is great. This is because it forces webhosts to try to compete to keep your business, whether it’s a site about the best and brightest of monkeys and primates or a political pundit’s pulpit (ooh, alliteration kids, learn it, love it).

Overly Positive has been on Lunarpages since its inception. Lunarpages is a great little company because they’re good for when you’re just starting out. The plans are cheap, the space and resources are seemingly unlimited, and the sites just stay up, running, and working. I can’t really complain about getting what you pay for, because you do, and then some. I’ve been on the Lunarpages wagon, along with a few other people I know, and it’s served us well.

But the time came when the old, beat up wagon had to be traded in. It may not look it from the humble little 84 subscribers I possess, but the site has become increasingly more popular in the last year or so. Generous linkbacks from blogging powerhouses like Syp’s Bio Break as well as a couple lucky pings from major sites like Slashdot, Massively, Game Politics, and Mythic’s Warhammer Online have been awesome for the site. They’ve proved that yes, despite presenting only a bright, happy, and sunny picture of geek media, there’s a place for positive vibe on the ‘Net. They’ve also creaked the little Lunarpages wagon to its foundations, too – on two separate occasions the linkbacks from major websites have broken the shared server that OP was on, causing downtime for not only myself but others as well.

A few weeks back I was told by the good ol’ monkeys at Lunarpages that I was outgrowing my little shared webhosting wagon. And so with the threat of suddenly breaking down (again) in the middle of nowhere in the World Wide Web, I began searching around. Shared hosting plans are great little wagons, but tiny limits on resources that you find out about later make them hard to use for a long term site that gets a bit of traffic. The next step up is something called a Virtual Private Server, which for all you non-computery people out there is basically a slice of resources carved up from a really powerful set of hardware. This slice, unlike a shared plan, is exclusively yours, and while it isn’t as good as having a dedicated physical machine, it works for the mid-range folks like me who need an updated wagon and not a Ferrari. The new wagon was made by the helpful engineers at Knownhost, and test driving so far has been a breeze.

So while I’m sad that I had to let go of a tried and true model, I’m glad I made an upgrade for the long term future. This, of course, is where I get all sappy and thank you, the readers, for making this possible. Way back when I thought of creating a positive slab out of my portion of the Internet, I never really thought I’d amount to more than a few friends for readers with the occasional outsider. While I’m still small potatoes, the blog has certainly grown in readership since I started it, and I hope to keep growing it for people who want to read optimism and idealism, and feel better about things. Thanks for supporting Overly Positive, and be sure to recommend (with a big ol’ grin of course) me to those who want a break from the rantish anger of the ‘Net for some feelgood postings about geekery. I’ll be sitting here on my new wagon, ready to greet ‘em.

Interlude: The Positive Jury Duty Experience

The jury box in the Pershing County, Nevada Co...
Image via Wikipedia

Some of you may have noticed that my updates have come a bit less frequently than they should have these past few days. Now that I’m done with what I was up to, I can actually speak to the details. Basically, I was picked and chosen to serve on a jury on a civil trial that ended up lasting a few days – though it could have gone quite a bit longer. I’d have to say that after my experience, that overall I feel really good about the jury system.

Really, part of the reason for this was the selection process, which ended up in my case to be an interesting and variable cross-section of individuals. To give you an idea, some of the people included:

  • A former social worker turned full-time mom and at-home artist
  • A QA auditor who used to work for a major automotive company
  • A care-at-home specialist for the elderly and disabled
  • A law enforcement officer and firearms specialist for US Homeland Security
  • A young grad student seeking to teach English and Lit. to secondary school students
  • An IT professional and geek who plays too many games and writes daily walls of text (wild guess here)

The variance created interesting discussions and points of view about the case, and a reflection of the different people in society that made up a collective voice – one that fairly and accurately judged the facts. Some of these people I would never have crossed paths with otherwise, making for some great social networking and some connections that might persist beyond the jury room.

Perhaps the rest of the reason for my feel-good experience was being given, however briefly, the power to change someone’s life significantly. While I won’t bore you with the details of the case, suffice it to say that something happened to the plaintiff, despite overcoming previous hardship, that threw them so off course with pain and suffering that they had no recourse but the law, and a jury of their peers, to assist. Meanwhile, the defense, while admitting culpability in some respects, disputed the extent of the damages purported.

To be granted the power  to either way steer the course of someone’s life in a particular direction, is something you rarely get as a person. While we the jury were all apprehensive to some level about the ramifications of our decision and its impact, the ability to decide that for someone was, in a word, significant, and was reflected in the ultimate decision we rendered in the case.

A lot of people who’ve seen trials such as celebrity trials go south are cynical of the judicial system and its processes. They often wonder why a jury decided to make a choice that ultimately seemed to fly in the face of common sense. I wonder how many of those people have actually sat on a jury, had to be confronted with the entire facts of the case because making a decision, and deliberated in a jury room. The deliberation process, which took us hours, was not as clear cut as was argued by either plaintiff or defendant, and many times we returned to previous points to hash them out, make an informed decision, and convince each other of the points made. No one knows for sure what goes on behind a jury room’s doors, and I have a greater appreciation of that argument and deliberation of justice because of my experience. In fact, I feel I’m more informed and intelligent about other people, professions, and issues than ever before. This, again, is the power of serving on a jury of your peers.

There aren’t many webpages out there that discuss what to do if you end up on a jury – only how to possibly get out of the service. And while it was taxing, mentally draining, and difficult for all of us, I think we are all ultimately better for having gone through that. With that, here are some jury duty tips if you ever do end up serving for a case to do your civic duty.

  • Get to know your fellow jurors – Even if you aren’t much of a social person, from a practical standpoint it makes sense to talk with them, know them, understand where they’re coming from. This makes it easier to discern their point of view during deliberation and better work with them because of it.
  • Have an open mind – Inevitably, your personal experiences and pre-conceived notions will influence you, but it is best to not make decisions based upon how competent lawyers are on the first day, on a fraction of the evidence presented, or any other occurrence before lawyers finish their closing statements. When they say you shouldn’t make up your mind prematurely, they mean it so that you can make the right decision.
  • Be prepared for long sessions – Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Be sure you go to the bathroom before sessions and get enough sleep to pay attention accordingly. I used to wonder why some lawyers use Twitter during depositions. I don’t wonder anymore. There will be breaks, but these will be spread out over the course of the trial.
  • Understand the power of compromise – Deliberation will bring out heated opinions, points where jurors will refuse to budge, and verbal conflict on a mass scale. You do have to render a unanimous decision and sometimes that may be the result of negotiation and compromise that everyone feels relatively comfortable with. Be ready to give and take, but at the same time, make sure your fellow jurors understand your core values you won’t compromise.
  • Create order and efficiency in discussions – They tell you to make someone a foreperson for a reason – to moderate and discuss the case in an organized manner. Create systems for people to participate and not talk over one another, whether it is to raise hands or not interrupt others during deliberation. Shouting and 10 different conversations will not only make things take longer but it will also hurt the ability to make a decision that is unanimous. Establish the ground rules and things will go a lot smoother.

While this is the only jury I served on, I’ve found these jury duty tips and points to be extremely helpful. In the end, I feel mentally drained, but happy to have done my civic duty and changed lives in the process. I hope that anyone else’s experience will be just as significant, and hopefully fulfilling. To my fellow jurors out there – I salute you, and hope to see a few of you in the near future when we’re not sitting in a jury box.

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Blogging Is Serious Business?

Pandora Are Serious Cat
Image by brownpau via Flickr

Over the past few days or so, I’ve watched the various blogs that I tend to watch from the corner of my eye posting about how serious blogging apparently is. From Tobold running off on Twitter-pated bloggers to Dragonchasers taking a break, and a few others not related to the topics of this blog feeling a bit down in their writing, it’s just seems to be a grey, cloudy atmosphere in the blogosphere lately.

I’m with Ysharros, who scratches her head at the whole idea, or Cuppycake for wondering what’s so serious lately. I’d like to insert a little bit of bright, sun-shiny day into the whole thing, frankly. I’ll start by saying something that in a puzzling way, seems to make people more angry than relieved, especially when you’ve beaten them 6 rounds in a row with cheap Dragon Punches and Fireball combos. But I digress. Ahem.

What I’m trying to say is, much like “it’s only a game”, I think folks need to realize that “it’s only a blog”. Much like games, I think people write blogs because they somehow on some level personally enjoy doing so – whether it’s to have the rather cathartic notion of thoughts spinning in one’s head on (digital) paper or to perhaps shoehorn it into something greater. If you’re not blogging as a means to be paid for it in a journalistic role, then in essence it’s on some level a side gig. So the question is, why be so upset or confrontational about something that is supposed to be peripheral? I get that in some cases, blogs are a personal extension of oneself, and that to be attacked on it is to be attacked personally. But until someone appoints a bunch of folks to have the very thankless, headache-inducing, masochistic job of policing/moderating the Internet, the fact that people don’t like what you say on a blog is just going to happen.

To be hilariously crude for just a second, I’ll just modify an old saying – “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has them – but on the Internet, no one knows who the crap is coming from.” Anonymity is a shield behind which many hide themselves to make some of the most deplorable commentary ever. This is why it’s ultimately not a big deal. I like what I have to say, believe in just about every sunny, wonderful, optimistic word I type, and know that there are far more pessimists than optimists out there. I welcome them to leave comments because it gives me the opportunity to elicit a laugh or at least a /facepalm with my coffee-fed, blindingly bright responses. And at the end of the day, I hit Publish, drop an update into Twitter and Facebook, and go about my day. Honestly, I have more important things to stress over, like why is my laundry all pink today, or what I was thinking when I bought the entire Generation One line of Transformers off of EBay.

Compared to those very real things, blogs just don’t make the cut.

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The Blogger’s Blogger – Grinding to Valhalla


On Broken Toys I managed to find out that there’s someone out there who is looking to achieve a very ambitious goal – interview bloggers as a project to include into a compiled set of thoughts and ideas. With the ease by which anyone can blog these days, that’s basically like saying you want to interview the Internet. Now that’s a grind if I’ve ever seen one, which may explain why his blog is called Grinding to Valhalla.

But Randolph Carter is a very determined person – and I was more than happy to oblige him in getting just one step closer to his goal. If you’ve ever sort of wondered why I write Overly Positive, or what I must be on to remain so sunny, or what kind of history I’ve had, you can feel free to check out his interview with me. Here’s an excerpt:

Please take a minute and describe what your blog is about.

If I was writing in the “voice” of Overly Positive, I’d say that people are just SO jaded and cynical these days. Genuine excitement and praise has long since been ridiculed as being as blind as a kid playing pin the tail on the jackass. At Overly Positive, we bring back the idea that being happy isn’t just a good thing, it’s a great and less stressful thing, too. Let the rest of the Internet have their “rants” and their “nerd rage” – at this blog, even the equivalent of nuclear fallout is actually a good thing from a certain perspective (hey look – real estate opportunities!).”

Here’s the link to the full interview. And hey – if you’re a blogger, see if you can help RC out. I’m sure he’d love more thoughts from others.

The Expectation of MMO Community Feedback

To-do list book.
Image by koalazymonkey via Flickr

Over at, Sanya Weathers of Eating Bees has a great article based upon something one of her friends found that was relevant to community management. In it, she specifically talks about feedback, how community teams get it, what kinds of metrics are taken, and what she feels are the steps developers can take to provide better recognition of that feedback.

This was an informational read and I definitely recommend you check it out, if nothing else, to gain insight into the three areas of feedback that developers and community teams take into account. It definitely piqued my interest on a variety of levels, but one in particular where she touched upon how the community typically feels about their own feedback:

The forums are filled with people who are convinced to their marrow that feedback is not heard, not taken into account, and not wanted. No amount of personal testimony, no proof in the form of patch notes, will ever be enough, because the feedback sent by the person posting did not get a personal reply – and worse, the next set of patch notes included something 180 degrees away from that feedback.”

As someone who works on the other side of the fence in fansite community management, this paragraph in particular hit home with me. How many times have we seen threads on MMO forums where players feel like they were “ignored”, “slapped in the face”, or “not listened to”? These frustrations step from personal experience players have had with the title in question that has not been ideal or perfect. The fact that they are paying for what seems to be a level of service they aren’t satisfied with magnifies the problem when feedback they give doesn’t reflect itself in something specific in patch notes or in developer responses. I’d even go so far to say that some players are so angry they will resort to all kinds of textual rage in order to get their point across – mostly to feel better about feeling so awful.

I’ve never really felt that upset or that enraged over posts I make on random internet forums. Not surprisingly, my style of posting about MMOs and MMO feedback has by some respects sounded upbeat and optimistic. I think, however, that some people mistake the “c’est la vie” nature with which I post for unrealistic positive attitude, when in reality, I’m setting my own expectations. For example:

The MMO customer is (not) always right – I’ve seen so many people who post MMO feedback use quotes about how “the customer is always right”. Honestly, having been successful in an industry where customer service is essential, I can tell you that interpreting that literally is the biggest mistake lots of people make. The quote basically says that customers are infallible, which is totally and utterly false. Customers are people too, which means they bring with them their own biases, faults, and notions – and at times, they may be as wrong as a youtube video of a cat hanging halfway out of a car window on a highway.

The real, true meaning of the quote as it relates to customer service is “treat the customer as if they were always right“, which means it is pretty poor form to slap someone in the face with their own mistaken impression and you should be contrite no matter how ridiculous the feedback is. You should always post with the possibility of being proven wrong or mistaken, and having to admit it. More than hearing “no”, MMO players secretly dread being shown irrefutably that their wall of text is wrong and they need to fess up to it. It’s never been a big deal for me to be “right” on the Internet, mostly because no one’s perfect and everyone makes mistakes.

Your feedback may never be used – I’ve seen people type detailed breakdowns and missives about  how things can be fixed in games, but the inevitable rage and anger that results when said walls of text are not used or reflected in the next patch is immense. The impression players get when their efforts aren’t recognized directly is that the developers don’t listen – a myth Sanya dispells in her article – but I also think that players themselves need to not worry so much about having what they type be taken seriously.

I’ve made many posts that have been detailed, respectful, and logical, but before I sit down to type I have to come to terms with the fact that whatever I write may never actually be something that will be used. It sure seems like in that respect that typing feedback at all is a waste of time, but if developers have to check their egos at the door when taking in feedback that may be sometimes critical of a product they’ve put hours into, then players need to do the same with the value of their feedback.

IANAD (I am Not a Developer) – There’s a certain line to be drawn as an outside observer or player of a particular game. That line is the line between you being genuinely concerned about a product and you thinking you know better about the product than those who created it. While developers can and should be transparent about their processes, there is a certain element to the MMO development process that most posters have zero experience dealing with. When an MMO is down, or sometimes when it’s completely out, as a couple titles have suffered, it doesn’t always boil down to not listening to those few posters who think they know what is best for the game – it comes down to the developers themselves not executing the treatment of that feedback properly.

One piece of a puzzle - Players who get extremely frustrated and ranty about bad experiences with MMO feedback need to understand that player feedback is only one part of the overall feedback equation. While I do not have direct experience with what MMO community reps do, I have seen and heard enough anecdotal evidence to the effect that what players say is not the end-all be-all of making an MMO better. It is in fact one small bit in a multitude of factors, and the only analogy I can think of to depict what I think being a community rep for an MMO is like is that it’s like panning for gold in a river. You’re going to have to work hard, sift through a lot of rock, water, and silt, and eventually, you find something valuable to take back. I think if more people understood that their words weren’t supposed to be considered the center of the universe, but rather one speck inside of it, that there would be people less upset that they weren’t listened to by developers.

In the end, my attitude about MMO feedback is based not necessarily in being perpetually happy, but rather from practicality and a   sense of realism about what I’m doing. Games, and especially MMOs, are fun. Giving feedback about the things you try to have fun with is valuable. But being angry or upset that your efforts don’t get a personal note or a reflection in patch notes runs counter to that. If someone is so angry or so bitter that they are hurt by their feedback not being recognized, then they need to check up on why they ultimately play, which is to bring personal entertainment to themselves in one form or another. Believe it or not, any developer worth their salt is thinking the exact same thing.

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Noble Tragedy (House Spoilers)

Lawrence Kutner (House)
That’s a White House smirk, you know.
Image via Wikipedia

 If you haven’t seen the latest episode of House, I warned ya.

Every so often an episode of a good TV show will come along that hits you straight out of left field. It points behind you and then takes the opportunity to punch you in the gut, causing you to double over while simultaneously declaring “that was a good one”.

The latest House episode was one of these.

Now, you’d think with the death of Kutner, one of the regular characters on the show, you’d see me diverting my thoughts to more somber things. But then, that wouldn’t be in line with this blog, right?

From a writing perspective, Kutner dying (and possibly being murdered) is unexpected but was appropriate, and not just because of the actor’s new digs (more on that later). Honestly, it was hard to peg Kutner for meaningful character development all season. While Thirteen has Foreman and her Huntington’s and Taub has his ongoing struggles with his spouse, Kutner had….well, we weren’t sure. As the most like House in terms of a risk-taker, Kutner was, like me, a bright spot of optimism in a sea of cynics, but aside from that, the depth of the character was never really explored. With Kutner dead, and now a possible mystery surrounding that, there is now more opportunity to explore Kutner in many different ways.

And the death of a character can bring out a lot of good potential things in the rest of the surviving characters as well. Some shows don’t really handle this too well (Star Trek: TNG). Others handle it quite beautifully (Babylon 5). Those that do better with it, learn to bring out authentic emotions based upon character templates they’ve already created, rather than going the “omg someone died” route and making a 180 with how someone would react. House treats Kutner’s death as another puzzle. Foreman wants to deal with it on his own. Taub, who by the way is acting strange for being Kutner’s closest friend, is at first apparently emotionless but is hiding his pain. There’s a lot of potential here, and while losing a main cast member has its drawbacks, the prospect of figuring out what the rest of the characters do is good for at least a few episodes.

You now realize the writers really did the audience an evil turn, as the previous episode, which had a superstition involving a black cat that curled up to people who were going to die, had a seemingly meaningless and light-hearted side story of Kutner being afraid of the cat since it curled up to him. That was the pointing of the finger before the punch in the gut. Well played, writers.

And shifting away from the actual show, let’s just say this really is a great new chapter for the actor. Kal Penn left the show for perhaps a more worthy cause, going into politics and working at the White House under the Obama administration. He could have left the door open for a guest appearance, but killing off his character cements the actor’s decision to leave his chosen field of profession and do something else. You might miss Kutner, but there’s no doubt Kal will be around for a long time to come.

So take heart – Kutner’s death? Tragic, but it good be a good thing – for everyone.

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Forum for Tolerance

The raged selfportrait
You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…on a forum
Image by dhammza via Flickr

 Over at The Casual WAR, Josh decries the wonderful world of forums, frustrated and disheartened by the constant stream of negativity, ne’er do wells, and other such villainy over on forums in general.

It’s real easy to get discouraged by forums. After all, unless you’re a moderator like me, you don’t really have any real control over what you post, and to a certain extent, what you read. When people have the ability to post the kinds of things they do online with little to no retribution, things can get, well, interesting. This would be very much rectified if my patented “Internet Forum Assistance” system were implemented, where anyone posting something that would normally get them beaten down in an alley were they to say it to someone’s face would get them an electric shock.

Until then, you’re kinda stuck going to forums where the maturity of some people equals that of a monkey flinging poo. But hey – it’s not ALL bad. Thing is, community is created by the people who post, not by people like me who moderate. We’re just around to preserve an overall standard for what the forum’s creators want to have. 

Lots of people take the time to create very informed, well done, and interesting posts. Every so often you’ll even get a post that spurs an actual discussion that doesn’t involve a flamethrower, a pitchfork, and inexplicably, your mother. Thing is, these people deserve to be rewarded and recognized, and many good forums will do this by giving people an “attaboy” or even awarding custom perks like we do. Encouraging productive posting is much, much better than attacking all the non-productive posting.

Really, depending on your mileage, a forum is mostly good, solid posting, and you can choose what you want to read. Don’t like that a particular section is filled with trolls and the kind of language you’d expect from a motorcycle gang? Go to a more heavily moderated section and only read what you want. Think that you can’t deal with the fact that a particular poster does nothing but cause you a headache? Drop an ignore on them, or better yet, report the poster and let the forum monkeys like myself deal with them.

Forums are really cool and neat places. This sounds odd and at the same time sensible coming from a forum whore who has at least 5 forums he checks daily, but it’s true, otherwise they wouldn’t have superceded mailing lists for popularity and communication. But forums require some level of participation from its members to be as good as they are. You basically get what you put into a forum. Make some good posts, report the bad ones, encourage people who post like you do, and you get a more enjoyable experience. Don’t post, or get frustrated, or simply not visit, and while you are mentally better off for it, you’re really missing out.

Of course, this is completely different than not visiting a forum you can’t stand to read any of. I mean, let’s be real, if you hate pirates, you probably shouldn’t be on the National Association of Pirate Enthusiasts site. But as a geek, if you can tolerate other geeks and help create better community, I think you’ll find forums aren’t so bad.

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