Insulation Over

The first three days of my temp work have been a somewhat humanizing experience, assuring a great deal of face-to-face customer interaction.  Considering my naturally introverted nature, this kind of interpersonal gauntlet is probably the best possible practice I can get.

I wanted something to break down those insulation layers I built up between me and reality from several years of school and, along those lines at least, things are looking up.  Still, whether looking up or down, there’s a certain question of “what now” that needs resolving.

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Cynicism Over

I have to say, a lot of my bitter tirades against the state of society come from one little thing: as a long time unemployed fellow, it seems society found little value in me and (as a fellow who maintained some semblance of self-worth) I consequently found little value in society.

Well, having landed a job (albeit a temporary one) that’s no longer the case: society has found slightly over minimum wage worth of value in me, and that’s a heck of a lot more than zero.  Okay, society, maybe you’re not such a bad chap after all.

With the massive round of layoffs in several industries right now (and my own position hardly being permanent) I know my own ounce of optimism is probably being met by a pound of replacement cynicism.  Well, chin up, if a naive student fresh out of school can find some temporary labor, perhaps this is an early sign of an economy turning around.


A lesson that keeps coming back to me is that, while humankind in general may seem quite complex versus the apes in which we apparently descended, the reality is that we’re very much driven by incentives.

If any major difference can be found between us and the apes, it’s only that the complexity of these incentives may include imagined benefits as opposed to obvious ones.

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City of Heroes Fusion Guide

It’s not long after you’ve delved deep into City of Heroes character customization that you come to realize that there’s more to powers than just all the different kinds of things the different power sets can do. A truly comfortable character has to do more than have a batch of effective powers: they have to have a batch of effective powers that work together well.

In order to do this, it’s good to visualize where you have to be in order to use the powers properly.   No matter how quick your character is, if you have to dash back and forth in combat, you’re losing a great deal of efficiency and (more importantly) comfort in playing your hero.

Ever looking for a new character myself, I think I’ll write up a comprehensive list of the different power sets on the primary Heroic archetypes and where they’re most comfortable operating at.

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“The Now Habit” Strikes A Nerve

An unusually empowering day for me today. I cracked open “The Now Habit,” which was given to me a few Christmases a back, and I find it to be incredibly insightful and on-target as to why I’m not getting to work on BYOND or other things I’ve been wanting to do lately.

A new definition of procrastination

Dozens of books offer pop-psychology theories about why people procrastinate. They encourage self-criticism by giving you additional negative labels, and they imply that you’re lazy by making greater demands for discipline and organization. But there’s a big difference between just diagnosing what’s wrong and providing a system that enables you to correct it. People who have been procrastinating for years on major life goals are already pretty good at self-criticism. What they need are positive, practical techniques for getting beyond the stumbling blocks and on to achieving their goals.

Some books offer prosaic advice such as “break it into small pieces” or “set priorities.” You already know this. You’ve heard the advice, you have the knowledge – you may have even paid dearly for it. But this kind of advice isn’t helpful because it misses the point: you would do these things if you could, if it were that simple.

People don’t procrastinate just to be ornery or because they’re irrational. They procrastinate because it makes sense, given how vulnerable they feel to criticism, failure, and their own perfectionism.

To overcome procrastination you need a positive attitude about the human spirit. This spirit’s inherent motivation and driving curiosity has gotten us out of our caves and into condos, up from the comfort of crawling to the risks of standing and walking. The human spirit drives us to what Maslow calls our “need for meaningful work, for responsibility, and for creativeness.” if we can harness it, it will ease the fears that cause procrastination and open entirely new horizons for human achievement.

The Now Habit is based on the fact that somewhere in your life there are leisure activities and forms of work that you choose to do without hesitation. You are more than “a procrastination.” You do not procrastinate twenty-four hours a day. When you turn your attention toward what you love to do – activities that foster your spontaneity, motivation, and curosity – you know that you are more than a procrastinator, more than just lazy. With these experiences you can begin to shed your identity as a procrastinator and reconnect with your innate human drive to produce.

If early training has caused you to associate work with pain and humiliation, then just approaching an intimidating or unpleasant task can bring on a relieving of criticism, not only from your current boss but from parents, previous bosses, and teachers. Ever insecurity bubbles up to your consciousness as you think about working on some project you feel you’re no good at. Pain, resentment, hurt, and feature of failure have become associated with certain kinds of tasks. When life seems to hold too many of these tasks it’s as if you’re driving with the breaks on; you’ve lost your motivation and doubt your own inner drive to get things done. At this point your self-criticism seems justified. You’re likely to think of yourself as a chronic procrastinator – someone doomed to experience anxiety and self-reproach when faced with certain kinds of projects

Your first step toward breaking the procrastination habit and becoming a producer involves redefining procrastination and coming to a new understanding of how and why we use it. Procrastination is not the cause of our problems with accomplishing tasks; it is an attempt o involve a variety of underlying issues, including low self-esteem, perfectionism, fear of failure and of success, indecisiveness, an imbalance between work and play, ineffective goal-setting, and negative concepts about work and self.

A complete treatment of procrastination must address the underlying blocked needs that cause a person to sort to procrastination. The Now habit starts with a new definition.

Procrastination is a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with stating or completing any task or decision.

From this definition it follows that those most vulnerable to procrastination are those who feel the most threatening by difficulty in starting a project; criticism; failure; and the loss of other opportunities that may result from commiting to one project.

Neil Fiore, Ph.D. The Now Habit. (pg. xiii – xiv)

The Now Habit, a brilliant book written by Neil Fore, Ph.D., and I heartily recommend it.

It’s interesting to me because I’ve received some advice from some rather clueless people (e.g. narcissistic friends, jaded forum denizens) in the past who fancied themselves psychologists and told me I’m just a lazy worthless son-of-a-bitch who would never amount to anything unless I toughened up.

Perhaps they meant well, but in doing this they pretty much soured my opinion of the human spirit, both in themselves and myself, and consequently pushed me even further back into my shell than I started.

As I thumb through this book, things are (for the moment) more optimistic. Here’s hoping that there will be a starting life change in the immediate future. Lets face, I’m so far back in my shell right now you’d need a mallet and a dull knife to get me out, and self-help book from a shrink is a slightly more affordable alternative than regularly seeing one.

Besides, this Neil Fore fellow is probably far more on the ball than your average social worker. The last shrink I went to – years ago when I was trying to deal with stress at the workplace – took days to eventually land on, “break it into small pieces.” Dr. Fore is putting that as “prosaic advice” on the introduction of the book.

“Reality TV” MMORPGs versus “Game” MMORPGs

In terms of developing games myself lately, my motivation has been poor. Forging a virtual world is a painstaking endeavor. You get to a certain point when you suddenly realize there’s no way around it, you’ve got to figure out in excruciating detail how exactly to set up a situation that generates enjoyment in terms a calculator can understand. It’s thrilling but, at the same time, not something one’s natural energy conservative drives find worthwhile. (At least when you’re not getting paid for it.)

As far as forums are concerned, however, I’ve racked my brains pretty hard over the past few days. It was pointless exercise in that I was basically attempting the pound on a fortress of other forum denizens deep-seated convictions with reason, and at the end I realized that there’s simply no way to budge a psyche whose feet are set against you. It’s like a psychologist would say, “if you’re not going to meet me half way, there’s no way to cure you.”  [To clarify, I was as guilty as not accepting a cure as them, and realized that the best thing to do was to stop propagating the infection.] However, even though this was a pointless exercise on my part, it was nonetheless that: mental exercise. My brain, for the moment, is working.

It is in this state of higher-than-usual synaptic activity that I came across an interesting realization. Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games appeal along at least two different tangents. The first tangent is entertainment value as a game (a.k.a. flow theory).  The second tangent is spectacle value.  The existing products on the market capture them both to varying degrees.

If you take a game like Atlantica Online, you’ll notice that even a fellow experienced gamer like Grimwell seems to enjoy it.  I would say that City of Heroes belongs in the same category.  These are MMORPGs which succeed along the lines of promoting the entertainment value as a game.  They have a good balance of risk versus reward, and they meaningfully challenge the player.

Over the past few days, I spent a lot of time attacking EVE Online.  Not because I want it to fail, but rather because I never enjoyed EVE Online and I would like it to improve.  The involvement in success or failure is extremely limited, the recent dissilusion of BoB to a random defector is just one of many ways in which the risk versus reward is severely borked in that game.  However, a lot of people love this game, and that’s because the spectacle value is very high — here is a game where the rise and fall of player nations is a reality.  It’s not alone, I suspect Lineage 1 & 2 work the same way, and they are quite popular.

The epiphany is this: spectacle based MMORPGs are to flow-centric MMORPGs as Reality TV is to a typical theatre production TV show (e.g. a sci-fi or a sitcom).    The focus on a spectacle-based MMORPG is to get the players excited about being part of an unusual situation, just as the focus on Reality TV is to get the viewer excited in watching an usual situation involving normal people.  The focus on a flow-centric MMORPG is for the players to enjoy playing the game itself, just as the focus on a theatre production TV show is to entertain the viewers directly through the merits of the actors and story.

Now, personally, I prefer flow in games.  That’s what this whole, “hey Mom, I’m a game mechanic appreciator” stuff is all about.  However, if I were to design an MMORPG,  it seems to me that what I would want to do is capture both aspects as much as possible.  In the past, I described it as there needing to be a “purpose” to play a MMORPG, where most games you just play for fun, but I suspect that this “purpose” really is the spectacle value.  Why even pay $15/mo to play a game without said value?

How should one go about this?  Well, I wouldn’t be much of an aspiring game designer if I suggested ther was only one way to do it, and I wouldn’t be much of a gamer if I didn’t want you to delight me with something I didn’t think of.

BoB’s Real Killer… Simple Boredom

I’ve been participating in this thread lately with all the single minded focus of a obsessive compulsive.   It’s all about Band of Brothers recent dismantling in EVE Online.  Basically, thousands of players who put years of man hours between them into this player organization have been ousted because one player pushed a few buttons and dismantled their entire team. Maybe the reason I’ve been so preoccupied with it is because that’s fascinating to me – I’m so fixated on dynamic content in MMORPGs, and here a major dynamic content event is front and center.

It’s being spun as a spy undermining the efforts of hundreds of thousands of players.  Such fascinating intrigue!  However, there was one sticking point: it seems to me that this BoB director wouldn’t be where he was today if he was the kind of person to hand over his own alliance to the Goons, an organization of SomethingAwful frequenters that (like the website) revel in lampooning the games they play as an Internet absurdists.  Why would he do that?

I think I’ve finally figured it out. At the real basic nature of the thing, it’s so ridiculously simple it’s stupid.

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