Epic and Steam

I've been surprised by the aggression against the Epic Store's attempt to give Steam some competition. I welcomed that company in particular into the market, and this was after years of hating Ubi, Rockstar, and EA for creating their storefronts.  But I think this is a massive change to what we've seen in other platforms, and I'd like to go over why.

  1. Fortnite has demonstrated Epic's desire to engage and support their community.  Unlike EA and other giants, Epic has listened to its fanbase and tried to create things that it thought they wanted.  It's had some whiffs, but I've never seen the degree of community involvement I've seen with Fortnite... EVER.  Whether you like the game or not... Whether you think Season Passes are a good way to monetize or not... it is obvious they are continually updating and changing their game to ensure the experience is continually new.  Other companies looked at their customers as rubes, trying to cash in on the smallest amount of effort.  Epic has produced a whirlwind of updates, far beyond expectation.

  2. Epic is offering a higher percentage of the money taken in to the people who make the games.  This might seem a little tedious, and yes, most of the time this money will go to the publisher, not the developer, but 30% is a LOT to charge for a digital product.  For awareness, clothing typically has about a 55% markup, but that's for products that a company has to purchase before it sells them.  Groceries are typically marked up about 20%, and they SPOIL.  For a product that doesn't have to be purchased to distribute, 30% seems outrageous to me.

  3. Epic is curating its store instead of creating a giant cess pit of questionable games loosely labeled and barely marketed.  Steam has allowed charlatans into its store to sell garbage products listed alongside real games.  They've even started allowing pornography to be sold alongside named products.  I'm not saying there shouldn't be a place for these things to be sold, but utilizing their flagship store ensures that I can't let my children loose to peruse those shelves.  There is no reason that Steam can't create offshoot storefronts that use the same API, but they're too lazy.  I know game developers who see no point in actually selling their game on Steam because it will just get buried in garbage.  I don't blame them.

  4. Capitalism is best served by competition.  We NEED other companies making regular money off PC gamers if we want our services to improve.  Denying that is denying reality.  And while we're looking for competition, we need to strongly consider that it took YEARS for Steam to develop certain features we like, and we should support companies who appear to be pursuing equivalent goals, even if they can't materialize them out of thin air for instant competition.  Why do we need competition?  Steam is debuting a new game interface soon... would they have done that without competition?  Doubt it... or they would have done it sooner

Of course we shouldn't believe the pie-in-the-sky promises of companies who have not demonstrated a willingness to produce value, but Epic has demonstrated that it can and will.  They are addressing the huge markup and poor storefront issues we see at Steam, and this is imperative as Steam appears to be on a sad course to self-destruction from preposterous apathy.  We can and should support Epics efforts to cement itself into the monopolistic world of PC game distribution without whining that Steam deserves an undeserved monopoly.  And we should be willing to accept feature lag, as Epic is breaking down a huge barrier to entry with surprisingly good skill and dedication.

I stand behind Epic... and look forward to a better gaming future with both Steam and Epic stores working well at serving the PC gaming market.

We Are More Alike than Different


I always get taken aback when people seem surprised that we'd actually agree about something political. The hidden assumption is that we're SOOOOO different that we could never agree on anything in reality, right?

Fundamentally, I believe that Americans already agree on about 80% of all issues. We think that free trade has value, that rights are worth protecting, that freedom is important, that theft is wrong, that we should stand up for what is right, that we need to make a better world for our kids, and on and on and on. So, 80%, we're all in sync with.

Then I see another 15% where we disagree, but can compromise on. Should we build more power plants, should we keep our parks funded, should we fund a mission to mars, should we tax cigarettes, should we raise the driving age, should we allow drunk driving checkpoints, etc... These are things where we are able to grasp that there are two sides and it's a matter of negotiating where we draw the line.

Then there's the last 5% that we disagree on fundamentally. Should abortions be legal? Should institutional bigotry be legal? Should we have safety nets for our poor? These issues are the ones we talk about the most, because there the ones we can address with absolute certainty, usually from a singular point of view. These are what make debate shows tense and cause fractures at the Thanksgiving table. These are the 5% that we choose as our identifying markers... despite the fact that there's 20 times more issues where we can agree or compromise on. This is the political illusion that we live in.

But I go even further.I think we can find more than half the issues within that 5% where people can come to the AWARENESS of some compromise. If we look at abortion, we can clarify whether the goal is to reduce abortions or not. We can recognize that we can reduce abortions without making them illegal, and in doing so we reduce the issue to a policy debate instead of a dogmatic one. This kind of discussion is not easy, and fundamentalists who want to make abortion a dogmatic issue will fight tooth and nail to prevent a healthy discussion of the issue from taking place. But if we can treat it like an issue, and not part of a culture war, we can improve our "agree or compromise" percentage to almost 98%!

This is the flash point we see in places like Facebook and Cable News. The fundamentalists prevent nuanced discussion from taking place, make grand sweeping gestures based on dogma and symbolic posturing. They insist there is no compromise, and that we are all fundamentally opposed on principle, unable to reach agreement... when all we are really doing is haggling over 3% of our common interests and not noticing we have so very, very much in common.

Yes, there is still 2% we will always disagree on... and for that, we should vote and find a way to tolerate our disagreement... but that's simply community in action. You need to get over that.

10 Formative Albums - And What They Mean to Me


Playlist Link: http://bit.ly/2rnqHFM

1) Rush - A Farewell to Kings: I knew nothing about music that I hadn't learned off Doctor Demento. I was friends with some kids from Birmingham through boating on Guntersville, and they noted to me that Rush was serious music. I wanted to understand music as a concept, and there was a copy of A Farewell to Kings in the clubhouse where my parents kept our boat. I would listen to this album for hours, drinking in the stories and the complexity. It was honestly my first exposure to real music, and it made sure Moving Pictures and Fly By Night were the first to albums I bought when I got my first stereo.

2) Oingo Boingo - Nothing to Fear: The eighties were a really ridiculous time for music. I was completely sick of pop music, and college rock was still something I hadn't been exposed to. MTV came out, and new age crap like Flock of Seagulls and Duran Duran were appealing, but felt so safe. Oingo Boingo felt dangerous. The things in it were sharp, bracing, and often musically counter-intuitive. It spoke of social confusion, alienation from the norm, and deep dark thoughts in a day-glow world. It was punk with horns, and I LOVED IT. They are still influential to me to this day... and Danny Elfman's music is still a regular part of my life.

3) Judas Priest - Screaming for Vengence: While I was off working at Boy Scout camp, my step-brother came and stayed with my parents for the summer. He bought Judas Priest and Diary of a Madman, and left them at the house for me. I was super, SUPER christian, and looked at Ozzy Ozborne like the anti-christ... so I took that album and burned it in a campfire. But for some reason, Judas Priest seemed different... and the hard guitar lines made me feel something vibrating deep in my head. I *got* it... and it stayed in my collection to this day.

4) Berlin - Love Life: At a time when I didn't understand my sexuality AT ALL, Teri Nunn's singing got to me. She made me feel like I was someplace dark and sexy, sipping drinks with people far more sophisticated than anyone I knew. Their earlier music had references to strange kinky things I didn't understand, and by the time Love Life came out her voice had an overt "naughty" connotation to me. Love Life was much more polished and pretty, with strong singable ballads and some great empowering anthems. Love Life was in my walkman almost exclusively on those long bus trips to choir competitions.

5) Madness - The Rise and Fall: Everyone heard Our House in those years, and most of my friends considered it to be catchy polka music... but when I joined the Columbia Music Club, I grabbed like 3 Madness albums from the mess of pop garbage. The Rise and Fall totally sucked me in with The Rise and Fall and Primrose Hill... It was weird and full of full of fuzzy horns in minor keys. Madness just makes me want to wiggle my torso and tighten my tie.

6) Pink Floyd - The Wall: This was about the only album I listened to as I toured Germany before my senior year. I had absolutely zero grasp on the existential issues buried within the lyrics I was listening to (remember, I was super SUPER christian, and nihilism was a completely foreign concept), but the layered sounds, themes, and instruments swept me into an amazing mixture of classic and contemporary instruments. It was intoxicating and rewarding.

7) Styx - Paradise Theater: Let's be honest, it's cheesy old crap... but I wore that 8-track out. "Tonight’s the night we'll make history...." Full of longing and singable tunes, it was one I could share with almost anyone. It was in an era when you wanted to believe it was The Best of Times. I want to sing just thinking about it.

8) Dreams So Real - Rough Night in Jericho: During our senior year, one of my best friends was getting mixed tapes sent to him from his sister while she worked at the college radio station at Auburn. We got a lot of great music via this chain of inheritance, but primarily what it did was prime me for the upcoming stream of new music I'd hear once I got to Auburn. Once I did, I started digging into music for real. I'm not sure why Rough Night in Jericho stuck with me... I think it might be that they seemed so perfect for success, but never made it past the college circuit. I saw them live a dozen times at frat parties and the Tip Top, and still smile when I think about them.

9) The Pixies - Doolittle: I was a college radio DJ when Doolittle came out, and at first I didn't get it. It just seemed off key and needlessly screamy. It was rough and loose and things seemed to spin off out of control without justification. It was primal and unrefined and then... suddenly... some sublime little riff would sneak into the middle of the noise. This absolutely perfect little marriage between the instruments would stick around for maybe 10 seconds, and then it would all go to hell again... but that tiny bit of control suddenly demonstrated the entire song was planned... all that chaos was within the margins... and it was perfect too.

10) Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine: Most people didn't hear this album till at least a year after it came out. I caught it the first week and sent it to everyone I knew who loved music. Very few of them responded positively. It was full of anger, rage, and self-loathing. It painted a dark picture of relationships, the neediness of love, the poison in desire, and foul, foul betrayal. It was not music you listened to with other people... you lowered your head and let ride up and down your spine like a dark calling. It was perfect for a 21 year old with a love life full of mistakes and confusion. I danced and danced to that dark album.

EDIT: This SHOULD be #7, but I didn’t remember it when first writing this...
11) The Alarm - Declaration: The Alarm was one of the prime examples of great college rock that made its way down to my high school friends. It had the benefit of fitting into our personal narrative of glory, standing against the enemy, and respecting the noble souls who fought before you. It was a vainglorious era, and my friends were no exception. We believed ourselves brave beyond reproach and proud to charge in with your crew by your side. The Alarm fed all our secret desires with the kind of rock we viewed as untainted by modern trappings of terrible music.

Honorable Mentions:
Boston - Boston
38 Special - Special Forces
Triumph - Thunder Seven
Queensryche - Operation Mindcrime
The Cult - Love
The Cure - Pornography
The Sisters of Mercy - Floodland
New Order - Substance 1987
Risky Business Soundtrack
Loverboy - Loverboy
Footloose Soundtrack
Psychadelic Furs - Midnight to Midnight
Peter Murphy - Deep

My Contributions to #MeToo


So I've wanted to talk about #metoo from the other side of the equation... but I haven't wanted to pretend this discussion was about me or how much of a shithead I've been in my life. This movement is not about me. Well, it is... because people who grew up like me have instigated the situations that produced this entire discussion. I just wanted to let people know that some of the men who put undue pressure on them have grown to understand and regret the things they did. It might offer some comfort, even if it's not going to heal the wound.

I've always understood consent, and for that I'm thankful. I'm not sure I could live with myself if there were times in my life when I didn't. But I certainly lived in the illusion that "playful" pressure was an acceptable part of courting. I grew up in the 80's, where our film heroes got the the girl through persistence and perseverance. We honestly believed we could earn our partners by pushing past their objections and demonstrating how we were ideal for them. This poisoned us as a generation, and for many years... far too many, I lived with this notion in my ideological foundations.

This means that on many occasions, I honestly believed that pressure was a good thing. And I wasn't alone. I can't recall the number of my friends who used every ridiculous angle they could to seduce a woman. I laughed out loud that the whole "blueball" thing actually worked, because I knew that was a truckload of nonsense. Yet boys spoke of it incessantly as something that girls needed to alleviate. And this was only one of the copious lies and manipulations I saw among my peers. I watched so much insincere and dishonest seduction., and in the story of my life, it honestly made my crap look benign in comparison.

Because I genuinely felt like a good guy. As I said, I understood consent.. and would back off when I recognized I didn't have an invitation to continue... but I'd try to change women's minds.. and I'd certainly do so thinking fallaciously that they were just stuck on one hurdle. My mindset was such that if we just spent some time making out, the inhibitions would be history. Once we were kissing, the scales would fall from their eyes. Once they dated me, it would all work out. I didn't view those initial "No"s as a deal-breaker. I treated them like challenges to get around.

This put me in some situations I still regret to this day. Trying so hard to get my date at the Naval Academy to kiss me that I missed out on enjoying the time we had together. Completely skipping all the "getting to know you" questions I was being given by one woman at Auburn, which were the seeds for future dates that I would have really, really wanted. Pushing a good friend away in my early 20's because I was so determined to actualize the romance I figured was my due. The list goes on and on. I was wrong. Even in my slightly-enlightened state, I was a negative force in many women's lives. The narrative I wove around myself painted the picture of a star-crossed smart kid hoping to earn the love he deserved. This can be a dangerous, dangerous illusion. Love was not something I was due... and was certainly not something I could demand from others. I had "Nice Guy" syndrome pretty badly, thinking that women only liked jerks and that they were wasting their time with those other guys. Early on, I even got angry at promiscuity that wasn't directed at me. My egotistical and self-serving perception of women in my life was part of a cultural aggression towards the very women I wanted to bond with. My actions were inexcusable, and I still feel my skin crawl when I imagine how it must have felt to be on the other side of some of my pursuits.

That's one reason why I've spoken up for women so loudly as an adult. I was so misguided as a kid, that once I was secure enough to accept "No" as more than a hurdle, I learned to regret all my earlier foolishness. And I am so, SO glad that the new generations of kids get exposed to consent and social justice at an age where they can actually digest it before beginning their journey into dating. And I hope that messages like #metoo soak deep into their ideological foundations, so fewer women end up with feelings that make my pathetic regret seem laughable.