First Thoughts on Akiba’s Beat …

December 13, 2017

So, almost two years ago, I played a game called Akiba’s Trip, a little action/adventure/visual novel/RPG type game that I really liked, mostly because the combat was there but got out of the way pretty quickly, and the underlying story, while ridiculous, allowed you a lot of freedom to tolerate, embrace, or even further the madness through your character responses. I enjoyed it quite a bit for the small and relatively shallow game it was.

So when, recently, I was browsing and noticed Akiba’s Beat, I immediately picked it up. It’s not really a sequel to Akiba’s trip, but parodies JRPGs like Akiba’s Trip parodies … I think visual novels? Anyway, it builds in a dungeon/combat system similar to Conception II’s, with real-time instead of turn-based combat, packed around a ridiculous and yet formulaic JRPG story. So it has all the elements to really work in parodying JRPGs like Akiba’s Trip did for … whatever it was doing.

However, it pretty much falls flat.

The key to Akiba’s Trip was that it allowed you to set how you as player or you as character — or both — saw the world. Were you as goofy as everyone else? Just running with it? Or rolling your eyes at how nuts everything was? The game actually let you express that to some extent through your dialogue choices. Thus, your character wasn’t really defined, and was one that you could define as the game went along. And this was important for a parody game, because it allowed you to participate in the manner you preferred rather than being just an observer. Allowing you to participate meant that the story and game itself didn’t have to carry all of the humour or parody, by allowing the player to guide it in the direction that made sense and worked for them.

Akiba’s Beat, on the other hand, goes with a very set protagonist. About seven hours in, you have little dialogue or action choices worth mentioning. Thus, most of the time is spent watching the characters interact with each other without your input. Which means that that dialogue has to carry the humour and the parody. If it falls flat or gets repetitive — and it gets repetitive — you end up just wanting to skip what really looks like an interactive cutscene, with maybe a few times when you get to say something that doesn’t matter that much. By removing even pointless player interaction they end up putting a far greater burden on the existing story and characters, and they simply cannot lift that burden.

Don’t get me wrong; the existing characters aren’t bad, but as you might expect from a parody they’re pretty standard tropey characters. Which is fine. And the story itself is interestingly goofy. But it simply can’t carry what is supposedly about a 40+ hour game. For a game that long, you really need the player to buy into it, and by removing the personalization of the game they make it that much harder for the game to do that.

Another issue that contributes to this is that the combat is much more prominent, important, and takes up much more time than it did in Akiba’s Trip. The main story for each chapter is in the various dungeons, each of which are a few floors long and can contain various puzzles. The dungeons and combat aren’t bad, but they’re unspectacular, especially on “Easy” (which is how I always play games like this). Given that they are unspectacular and take up a large portion of the game, they turn into things that you have to do to get to the fun part, which is the story. And when the fun part drags, you wonder why you spent so much time in the okay part to get to another okay part.

I’ll probably pick this game up again and finish it, but for now it’s not on my top list of games to dedicate time to playing, and I have other games that I’d rather do that with than this one.


Roar of the Rings

December 11, 2017

So, this weekend was the “Roar of the Rings”, where Canada decides what teams it’s sending to the Olympics to represent it in curling. Considering that Canada has enough teams to pretty much fill out the Grand Slam of Curling — that draws teams from around the world — whose top teams are generally Canadian, as you might imagine there are a lot of really strong teams participating, on both the men’s and the women’s sides. But since I focus on women’s curling, I’ll talk about the women’s side only here.

Rachel Homan won the spot, beating Chelsea Carey 6-5. Carey had a double opportunity in the tenth to send it to an extra end, and didn’t make it. Homan, you could see in the replay focusing on her as the shot was taken, pretty much expected her to make that shot, and was surprised and, of course ecstatic when the shot was missed and she got the win.

To be honest, I was hoping that Carey wouldn’t win that game. Part of this was because Cathy Overton-Clapham joined her team at third to replace Amy Nixon, and I’ve never really liked her, partly because she played for a long time with Jennifer Jones and partly because she tended to be aggressive and often critical during games, which rubbed me the wrong way. She was much better with Carey in this tournament, but one worry I had was that both Carey and Overton-Clapham can be critical at times, although Carey is more self-critical and Overton-Clapham is more openly critical of the team at times. If things started to go wrong, if they started being critical the team could collapse. Yes, Amy Nixon was as passionate at times, but they’d known her longer and were less likely to just take it personally. And it was likely that something would go wrong because while they went undefeated in the round robin, they played poorly and got away with it. As I commented when I talked about the Boost National, that’s not good. Winning while playing poorly gives you less incentive to change your game, but the errors will catch up with you eventually. If Carey had squeaked out the win here, there was a good chance that she’d struggle at the Olympics. Given that after she won the Scotties she did poorly at the Worlds, history repeating itself was not unlikely.

The other playoff team, Jennifer Jones, was in the same situation coming in, and it hit her about half-way through. She started off with a win streak while not necessarily playing well, and then ended on a losing streak. I think she went 5 – 0 to start and then dropped her next 5, including the semi-final. However, if she had squeaked it out I would have had less concerns about her because she had the experience to correct it if things went south at the Olympics. However, given what happened here, that might still have been too late.

Homan was coming in relatively cold, and played poorly in her first two games, going 1 – 1. Then she went on a tear, winning her last eight games to win the spot. This ties into what I commented on at the Boost, where at least they knew that they had been playing poorly and needed to correct, and having the example of Val Sweeting who went 0 – 3 and was almost out of it before she had even won a game to look at, that Jones and Carey didn’t have because they were still winning. And since Homan has won a Worlds, she likely can handle the pressure of an Olympics.

One thing that I noticed about Homan’s team — which might indicate the future of women’s curling — is just how good at sweeping every member of that team is. Teams like Carey’s or Sweeting’s have a strong front end, but the thirds are older and not quite as good at sweeping. And, in general, this was fine, because the rocks that you really need to sweep well are the third and skip stones, and your front end does that. But Homan has two of the best front end sweepers in the women’s game — Lisa Weagle and Joanne Courtney — and on top of that Emma Miskew is pretty much as good a sweeper as any on the team, and Homan herself is pretty good at sweeping, too. They can sweep stones out of the rings if needed and Homan even jumps in to help herself at times. There were a number of shots made by sweeping, so maybe sweeping is more important for all members than it used to be. Jones has three solid sweepers on her team, but she herself can be a little weaker.

Anyway, congratulations to Rachel Homan and her team, and the next time I’ll talk about curling will be in the New Year.

Religious Freedom and Baking Cakes …

December 8, 2017

So, Bob Seidensticker has made two posts talking about Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado, a court case that is going to be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States. The gist of it is that a gay couple came into a cakeshop to order a wedding cake for their wedding, and the baker refused to do so on the basis that it required them to in some way participate in or advocate for same sex marriage, which opposed their religious beliefs. This, then, was seen to violate Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws, and thus we have the court case.

Let me start by talking about what the right to freedom of religion is meant to do. While there are numerous different ways to phrase it, the basic, underlying idea is that the state cannot impose an excessive legal burden on one’s religious requirements. The reason for this is that it would effectively make it illegal for someone to practice their religion, and if the government can do that then no one has freedom of religion. While people like, say, Coel insist that this only applies to making it directly illegal, all anti-discriminatory legislation makes it clear that it doesn’t become non-discriminatory if it is unintentional. Part of the reason for that is that it is too easy to cast legislation as being universal while knowing that it will disproportionately impact a specific group. Another part is that the effects of the legislation aren’t in any way ameliorated by those effects being unintentional. At the heart of the right to freedom of religion is that I must not be required to choose between following the law and following my religious beliefs.

Of course, since we are dealing with entire societies and a host of rights, things are never that simple. We always have to balance the needs of the overall society and with the rights of others, and sometimes one right or the other has to give way. The key to this discussion — and thus is something that most people on both sides refuse to acknowledge — is that this is a clash between two rights, and even of two rights to non-discrimination: does the law’s requirement that the baker bake the cake unduly burden that baker wrt religion and thus constitutes discrimination on the basis of religion, or is the baker’s refusal to bake that cake discrimination against gay people?

Seidensticker starts by summarizing and/or commenting on the baker’s case, so I’ll start there as well, mostly by looking at his comments on the arguments.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is the attorney for the baker, and it characterizes the case this way:

When a cake artist declines to design a cake for a Halloween party, the world goes about its business. But if that same cake artist declines a request for a custom cake for a same-sex wedding, he is forced to defend his decision all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

You act like this is surprising. The baker breaks no law (by refusing to serve no protected class of people) when he declines to bake a Halloween cake, but he refuses to serve homosexuals, who are protected by Colorado law, when he declines their wedding cake. When he has a place of public accommodation (like a storefront) in Colorado and refuses to serve someone in a protected class, he breaks the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.

While it’s not a strong legal or philosophical argument, the oddity here is that if the baker decided that he didn’t like those people, or thought they were ugly, or didn’t like what they were wearing, he’d have an inarguable right to refuse to bake the cake for him. However, if he decided not to bake that cake for them because of his religious beliefs, then that becomes unacceptable and has to be justified. The thing is, religious beliefs are protected, and so the law should certainly find those reasons more justifiable than the previous ones given. And yet, in this case the argument is that they don’t. Of course, the real issue here is the one that Seidensticker notes: homosexuals are also a protected group, and so you wouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against them if that was your reason. Thus, if it was any other reason that the person didn’t want to bake a case for a same sex marriage specifically because it was for a same sex marriage, it clearly wouldn’t be allowed. Thus, it is sufficient to say that we are taking the right to freedom of religion more seriously here just by being willing to ask the question if the baker’s religious beliefs here might be sufficient to allow them to discriminate in this manner.

The ADF says, “The government does not have the power to force creative professionals like Jack—or anyone for that matter—to celebrate events that violate their faith.”

You don’t want to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding? Then don’t bake wedding cakes. Problem solved—now your faith is no longer violated. But if you provide public accommodation, which in this case means declaring to the public that you will sell custom wedding cakes, you can’t discriminate against protected classes.

The argument of “If you don’t like it, then don’t provide that service at all” is a very shaky one when it comes to rights. If someone is forced to not provide a service or enter into a field of employment only because the law says that they have to do something that would violate their religious beliefs, then we really should look into this closer, because this is precisely what the right to religious freedom is supposed to prevent. Sure, required services might be justified, but you need strong reasons — and, to use Seidensticker’s terminology (from later) — strong harms to say to all members of a specific religion “If you enter X field or perform X service you will have to choose between the law and your religion”. The idea of “public accommodation” cannot be used to exclude members of a specific religion — who thus would have specific religious obligations — from the public sphere unduly. So Seidensticker cannot blithely insist that public accommodation must, by necessity and in all cases, trump religious freedom, or else he risks allowing religions to be pushed from the public sphere because of major religious obligations on their part that clash with minor freedoms on the part of other protected groups, which would violate the reason we have the right to freedom of religion.

The ADF concludes, “[Baker Jack Phillips] has taken a bold stand for his faith—and for religious freedom for all of us.”

Religious freedom for all of us? We all want to be able to discriminate based on our personal religious beliefs? Sorry, laws trump your religious preferences when they conflict.

No, they don’t. The right to religious freedom — as is true for any Constitutionally protected right — exists for the sole purpose of being able to trump laws when their effect is to violate that right. For freedom of religion, that means the right to practice one’s religion as one sees fit, and thus to fulfill all of your religious obligations and to never violate your religion’s commands. A law that makes you violate a religious command or stops you from fulfilling a religious obligation is one that the right to freedom of religion exists to overturn.

He says he would refuse to create a cake with a hateful message or one that promoted racism, but the excuse that he wants for himself would allow a lot of collateral damage. If Jack can say that his religious beliefs forbid him from making a wedding cake that supports a same-sex wedding, another Christian baker can use the same logic to refuse a cake that supports a mixed-race wedding. In fact, if you think the multi-purpose Bible can’t be used to support a case against any of the protected classes listed in that law, including Jews, Muslims, and African-Americans, you haven’t read enough of the Bible. Worse, there’s no need to invent contrary biblical arguments because the logic behind the argument is irrelevant when religious beliefs are simply whatever someone says they are.

The problem is that as soon as you have any right like the right to freedom of religion and/or have religious groups as a protected class, you have the issue of deciding both what counts as a religion and what counts and religious obligations, commitments, and practices. Unless Seidensticker wants to eliminate that entirely — like Coel does — that ship has already sailed. And as it turns out, religious beliefs, in general, are not just whatever someone says they are. For almost all religions — except exceptionally small ones — we have access to experts on what those are: the ministers themselves. Often we have explicit doctrinal statements as well. And all of this should be obvious, because all religions are certainly going to want to and actually are going to have to make it clear to their congregations what their religious practices and beliefs are so that, well, they can do them. Any religion that couldn’t state these things clearly enough to be judged in a court of law for cases like this would lose those protections, just because of the objection Seidensticker raises: the state would have no way to determine if something was a religious obligation or something invented just to allow them to perform that action. Fortunately, that isn’t the case for almost all religions.

And the key here is not to look at the Bible and see that you can justify various things, because the Bible is not what’s being protected here, nor is any specific interpretation of it being protected. No, what happens in these cases is that a person says that they are a member of an officially recognized religion and that their religion’s interpretation of whatever relevant texts and philosophies they use says that to take that action would be a violation of their religious beliefs. Then we can look at the religion and texts and interpretations in general to see if that holds water.

This brings us to the key things to argue over here. In this case, he is saying that his religious beliefs forbid him from participating in and/or advocating for same sex marriage, and that baking the cake means that he’d be participating in and/or advocating for same sex marriage. You can attack this two ways, by pointing out that his religious beliefs don’t forbid him from doing that, or that baking the cake cannot reasonably be seen as participating. Not serving same sex couples pretty much falls under the “You aren’t participating” line, but that isn’t as clear here, but in general these are thing that we can indeed judge on the basis of the logic behind the argument. Seidensticker wants to dismiss any such attempts out of hand when it comes to religion, but there isn’t a really good argument for doing so, especially since we have been doing it for hundreds of years and are required to try if we want to have any meaningful freedom of religion at all.

Note the novel part of this case. The exemption for discrimination isn’t being asked for all businesses, just those that involve “artistic expression.” Artistic expression is speech, and the first amendment protects that as well as religion.

Making a cake is artistic expression, but this claim can apply (potentially) to lots of businesses: florists, nail salons, barbers, tailors, carpenters, plumbers, or destinations for kids’ birthday parties. Maybe even guidance counselors, funeral homes, therapists, or doctors. And once the door is open a bit, other businesses that can’t claim an artistic expression exemption might push for a piece of that sweet, sweet discrimination action.

This is an argument akin to “If you allow same sex marriages, you have to allow polygamous ones as well”. First, that isn’t necessarily the case, as we can appeal back to the “participation” angle as well. To take nail salons, the reason that someone wants their nails done isn’t relevant to the service itself, and so doesn’t count as participating, nor is there likely to be anything about the nail service itself that would express a statement that might violate their religious beliefs. That may not be true of the cake, especially if they, say, want to insist on having two grooms at the top of it. Suffice it to say that we can probably distinguish the legitimate ones from the illegitimate ones, and if the case holds the legitimate ones are indeed ones where we should recognize the artistic expression angle, and the illegitimate ones are the ones where we wouldn’t.

First Amendment rights are important. When the Christian doesn’t have the right to speak freely on religion, I probably don’t, either. But religious freedom doesn’t give you the right to impose your beliefs on others.

But how is the baker, here, imposing their beliefs on others? They are refusing to do one acting that violates their own personal religious beliefs, which are protected just as much as the same sex couple’s rights are. It does seem to me that forcing someone to participate in a service or express a message that violates their religious beliefs is far more imposing beliefs than saying “You can get someone else to bake you a cake but I won’t”.

And that’s the key and why I said above that most people on both sides don’t really get the debate. The religious side tends to argue on the basis that they have a right to their religious beliefs and ignores that there is another right on the other side to consider. But as seen here the secularists like Seidensticker tend to ignore that people have a right to their religious beliefs and that other people and the law have no right to insist that they act against their religious beliefs. When we get a clash like this, we need to consider the rights of both sides and determine what action to take, or even if there is a compromise position. This is what most of the debate is studiously ignoring.

In his second post, Seidensticker summarizes the FFRF response. The first point:

The freedom of thought and belief—freedom of conscience—is absolute. But the freedom to act on religious beliefs in every circumstance of one’s life is not absolute, and religious conduct can and must be burdened by civil laws, especially those that protect the rights of others.

Yes, it is not absolute. But that doesn’t mean that it can be burdened by civil laws willy-nilly. The state must have a compelling, neutral argument for why it needs that law and why it needs to extend it to those religious practices. If it can achieve its end without burdening religious conduct, the right says that they must do so. When it comes to a clash of rights, then we must consider which violation of rights is the more severe, and choose the option that violates the rights the least severely. The right to freedom of religion ends at the rights of other citizens … but so does the right to non-discrimination or, indeed, any other right.

The baker claims that both Hobby Lobby and Masterpiece Cakeshop are closely held family businesses, so the conclusion in the Hobby Lobby case—that this kind of business can itself hold a religious belief that would exempt it from regulations—applies to Masterpiece Cakeshop as well.

The FFRF brief rejects this claim. The Hobby Lobby case was interpreting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a federal statute, and didn’t touch on First Amendment claims. Since the opposite is true in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case—it relies on a First Amendment claim and isn’t affected by RFRA—Hobby Lobby is no precedent.

This part seems aimed to show that the religious beliefs of the baker are relevant to the service provided, and is not an argument that the two should be considered the same and so if Hobby Lobby won then the baker here should win as well. It just establishes that his connection to his business is direct enough that his beliefs are relevant to what services he provides.

What’s the difference between racial discrimination based on religious beliefs and racial discrimination not based on religious beliefs? There’s no way to distinguish them. Said another way, imagine discrimination that is falsely claimed to be based on religious belief. How could anyone reliably detect the lie?

To make such a claim, you must be able to identify what religion you are and what obligations you have because of that religion clearly enough to evaluate whether the action really would violate your religious beliefs. Once you do so, any lie could be detected reliably enough.

The baker attempts to make a distinction between refusing to sell a wedding cake that celebrates a gay wedding and refusing to sell a wedding cake to gay people. The only people having gay weddings are gay people, and you can’t discriminate against the wedding without discriminating against the people.

It is possible for someone who is not gay to be purchasing the cake for that wedding. Presumably, the baker here wouldn’t sell it to that person either, so it really is that the cake is for a specific event, and not just that the customer is gay. So, yes, you can indeed distinguish between participating in an event and selling to a specific person. That the couple is gay only comes into play here because of the fact that the event itself ties into homosexuality, but it’s not a case of people vs event here. The event is specifically homosexual and so using that reason triggers that protected group, but it’s not the people in general that we are concerned about here, but the event itself.

Bob Jones Sr., televangelist and founder of his self-named university, infamously preached in his 1960 Easter sermon, “If you are against segregation and against racial separation, then you are against God.”

The university forbade mixed-race marriages, flouting a 1970 IRS (Internal Revenue Service) regulation that prohibited tax-exempt status for private schools with racially discriminatory policies, and the IRS revoked their tax-exempt status (ah, for the good old days!). The 1983 SCOTUS decision supported the IRS and concluded, “Governmental interest substantially outweighs whatever burden denial of tax benefits places on petitioners’ exercise of their religious beliefs.”

Which to me sounds like a specific argument that in this case losing their tax-exempt status was not a sufficient burden to their university when balanced against the need for the government to not be funding racially discriminatory practices. Here, this isn’t a clear. The harm done to a same sex couple for having to get their cake somewhere else is pretty negligible, and from the societal view not forcing people to express messages that oppose their religious beliefs seems stronger than having same sex couples mildly disadvantaged in service of that.

Seidensticker has a concluding thought:

There’s an implied asymmetry in the baker’s favor. Religious views are considered fundamental, an important part of someone’s makeup. Those views are fixed, and it’d be much easier for the customer to take his request down the street to another baker than insist that the baker compromise his religious views.

But let’s question that. Instead of the customer going down the street to another baker, why can’t the baker go down the street to another church? Christians change congregations by the thousands every day. There’s nothing inherently wrong about same-sex weddings within Christianity. The baker can drop his bias and still be a Christian.

Yes, let’s say that if the baker doesn’t want to have the law burden his religious beliefs, he really ought to just change religions. Avoiding that is the entire purpose the right to freedom of religion exists. The law cannot make some religions legally superior to others. That violates both freedom of religion and the establishment clause. And Seidensticker cannot be so obtuse as to not understand that different sects of Christianity count as different religions. Forced conversion to more state-friendly religions on pain of legal punishment is not something that you can support and still claim to have anything like freedom of religion.

Philosophically, we definitely have to consider this case as one where allowing the baker to refuse might be reasonable. The key is over whether or not it counts as participation or as expressing that view. However, neither side really seems to want to debate that, and instead wants to insist that their right trumps the rights of the other side. I wonder why that is …

First Move Advantage …

December 6, 2017

So, as I promised elsewhere, this is another post taking on a post by Extra Credits. This time in a video from three years ago they’re talking about “First Move Advantage”, they are talking about “First Move Advantage”, which is when in a turn-based game — or in a turn-based element of a game — the person moving first gets a turn up on their opponent and so has an advantage over their opponent. They treat this like it is inherent, but I submit that there is no such thing as an inherent advantage to the first player and that if you are noticing this in your metrics the problem is likely with how your game is structured.

As usual, I can’t copy-and-paste quote directly from the video, so let me summarize their argument. This video follows on from a previous video — that I haven’t watched — about randomness in E-sports, which spawns this new discussion, even though it isn’t focused on E-sports (I’ll talk more about E-sports later). They start by giving examples of games that have had or are at least believed to have significant first move advantage, and talk about ways they went about trying to compensate for that. It is interesting to note that these compensations are, in general, not a matter of tweaking rules but are instead about giving direct and generally external to the game advantages to the second player, like giving more cards to a Magic player or more points to the Go player who goes last. They then talk about ways to detect and compensate for this if you’re designing a game, hitting topics like having metrics in the game to determine if it is happening and how significant it is to being aware that it might get worse over time as players get better at the game and exploit it more. At the end of the day, their main point is to ensure that designers are aware of and compensate for first move advantage in turn-based games and in games that have turn-based elements.

The problem is that moving first isn’t always an advantage, even in the “developed resource” games that they talk about, and is only a significant advantage if the game design is built to give an advantage to what the first mover gains from moving first at the expense of what the second player gains from moving second.

The first thing we need to do to see this more clearly is generalize away from a simple two-player turn-based game and thus from the simplistic “First move vs last move” mechanic to “Early move vs late move”. This allows us to look at other turn-based, multiplayer games like Civilization, Disciples 2, Master of Orion and a host of others, including tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons. What we can see, then, is that if you move first you get initiative — you even roll for that in D & D — and if you move later you have to be reactive. But that also means that you get to react to what your opponent is doing. You can see what units they are creating, who they are attacking, what their formation is and adjust accordingly. So the advantage to going earlier in the turn is that you get to enact your strategy before your opponent does, but the advantage to going later in the turn is that your opponents’ strategy is revealed to you before yours is to them. In some games, that initial strategy can be revealed as early as the first turn.

We can see how this works with a D & Dish example. Imagine that there is one character who, due to their level or class or whatever, has an overwhelming ability that will mostly win the battle for them, but activating it reduces their initiative so they have to go last. The first player can — and obviously will — try to pull out all the stops in trying to kill it before it can be activated. If they succeed, then they probably steamroll the rest of the team and win the fight. But if they fail, they pretty much lose the battle. Knowing this and seeing the first player positioning for this move and/or even starting the attacks, the second player can do things to add to the survivability of that character, like using other characters to heal it or to intercept attacks so that it can survive and win the battle for them. If the first player doesn’t, in fact, make this sort of focused move, the second player can then take other actions to bolster their advantage and doesn’t have to focus on protecting that character as much (which isn’t all that great if the ability is hugely, hugely overwhelming, but in closer battles it can be critical). The first player will get to do some damage first, but as long as that damage isn’t inherently overwhelming the second player gets to react to that strategy. Heck, they might even be able to plan for that character being wiped out and position themselves with an overwhelming advantage considering that, if the game is sufficiently balanced, using that character as a decoy.

An example of this is shown in this Order of the Stick comic. The monster gets to attack first, but whomever it attacks the other cleric simply heals that damage. They don’t need to try to heal any specific character until they know who has actually lost hit points. Sure, if this pattern continues eventually the monster will win because they will run out of heal spells, but that assumes that that’s all they do. If they attack at all, then it comes down to whether or not they can kill the monster because it does enough damage to run them out of heal spells.

And this leads us to another way the later turn advantage plays out, with the later player never having to waste resources — or additional resources — trying to do something that won’t have benefit them because of what the other player has or hasn’t done. Take the healing case. If you have to specify that you will cast a healing spell but have to wait for your casting time, it is possible that when your turn comes up no one has been damaged yet, and so the spell is useless at this point in the turn, even if it would have been useful later. Meanwhile, the character with the later turn is pretty much guaranteed to be able to heal someone that turn, even if it isn’t the optimal person to heal, so they can be more comfortable casting the spell without risking wasting it. The same thing can apply to Wonders in a game like Civilization. If they find out that another player is building a Wonder and will finish it first, the player reacting to this can stop putting resources into building it and can shift the ones already allocated to build something else useful, even a different Wonder. Now, this isn’t as pure an example of early vs late turn advantage because in Civilization this depends a lot on how productive the various cities are, which doesn’t depend quite as much on who goes first (it depends more on what is around you and where you plant your cities) but there is a bit of that here. All other things being equal — which they aren’t — the early players will build Wonders first but later players will get to react to being beaten to the punch.

And this ability to react can have advantages. The early turn player has to wait longer for their opponent’s strategy to become clear, so they have to guess at what is a good move more often. Take this example: there are two resources that an early player can or wants to acquire. The best one also happens to be close to another player who moves later, and who could get it before them if they went after it. The further one isn’t as good, but they could get it before anyone else if they started for it immediately, but might not if they don’t. None of the players can know what resource another player is trying for until they make that first move. For the early turn player, they have to guess at what their opponents are going to do. Do they see that resource? Are they occupied with something else that will prevent them from interfering? If they decide to play it safe, they get a resource but not the one they really wanted. If they don’t, then they might get neither.

Meanwhile, the later turn player merely has to watch and wait to see what the early turn player actually does. If they move towards that resource, the later turn player can immediately move out towards it and deny it to them. If they move for the other resource, they can either take that resource anyway or else take the opportunity to do other things secure in the knowledge that no one will be able to take that resource without them being able to react in time. The early player is in a tough situation here, because being able to react to their moves first can leave them in a terrible situation.

So we can see that we can have early turn and later turn advantage. You’ll tend to have early turn advantage when being able to enact your strategy first will give you more advantage than being able to react to your strategies first does, while later turn advantage occurs when the opposite is true.

But just as if your game is imbalanced as players improve they will find ways to exploit it, if your game is actually balanced as players improve they will find ways to mitigate an early perceived advantage. A game might start with early or later turn players having the advantage, but as the players develop this might balance out. An example of this is with an RTS, Starcraft, and “Zerg Rushing”. Basically, the Zerg faction was built to produce a lot of cheap units really quickly, and so a main strategy was to crank out a tonne of these and send them to the nearest enemy base, wiping it out. I’m not a Starcraft expert, but I understand that players here learned that this was a possibility and learned ways to counter that, making that early advantage less of one. So an advantage to either early or later turns in a game might get eliminated as players learn those strategies and develop effective counters.

Of course, it’s always possible that a game really does have an early or later turn advantage. Rather than simply giving benefits, it’s probably a good idea to look at your rules to see what is causing the problem. If there is a significant and consistent early turn advantage, the issue is that initiative matters more than being able to react, which usually means that either the opponents don’t have effective counters to strategies or can’t figure out what strategies the early turn players have before it is too late to counter them. For later turn advantage, it usually means that the strategies are too obvious and the counters too easy to implement. All of these can be tweaked to reduce or even eliminate the advantage.

But after all of this it might indeed still be the case that the advantage cannot be eliminated without changing the game so radically that it isn’t the same game anymore and might not even be fun anymore if you did so. What do you do if you want some kind of formal competitive structure, like ranked PvP or E-sports? Well, for actual competitions, instead of giving random point or card advantages or other external to the game corrections, you can do what other competitive sports have done. Both tennis and darts have huge advantages to one player. In tennis, the player with serve wins most of the time, while in darts the player who has the throw — ie throws darts first — has a huge advantage (and that is indeed because they get to enact their “strategy” first by usually getting the first chance to throw for a “finish” and win the game). Yet both have strong competitive leagues. How do they resolve the problem? They alternate serve/throw, and force a player to win “by two”, meaning that if a player wants to win a match they have to break serve or break throw, meaning that they have to beat their opponent at least once when their opponent has the advantage to win the match. If the advantage is huge and the players equally balanced, this can take a while, but even with the massive advantage for those sports this rarely happens. And any game with luck elements will want to have the players play a series rather than simply one match, so this isn’t hard to fit into most competitive structures, and avoids the rather odd looking “balance” options given in the video.

In summary, there is no inherent early turn or first move advantage. Early turn players get initiative and to enact their strategies first, while later turn players get to react to those strategies first. A game can advantage either of these, and if you find that a game advantages one or the other understanding the advantages of going first or going last can help you balance it. And if you have a game that can’t be balanced but that you want to have in competitions anyway, forcing a player to win “against the throw” is a way to keep it balanced and exciting without introducing artificial, outside-the-rules balancing mechanisms.

Retro …

December 4, 2017

So, in the summer, I talked about watching and enjoying Vintage TV. Well, it turned out that it was on a free preview when I was watching it, and when it came to an end my cable provider only provided it if you had the full package that gave you absolutely everything. Since there was no way in the world I was going to do that, I obviously stopped watching it. But I kept looking around to see if it would appear anywhere that I could access cheaper. I also started looking at adding some other packs because I had a bit more room in my budget and really did want to find something to have on while playing games and the like.

So, recently, Vintage did get added to a pack. But the price for that pack was a bit high considering that it was the only channel I had any interest in watching in it and Vintage was good but not great. As I was looking around, though, I also found Stingray Retro, which used to be Much Retro, in a pack that was half the price of the one that Vintage was in. But since I didn’t know if that one played mostly videos or had gone over to shows like MTV and Much Music, I decided I’d give it a try and see if it worked for me, especially since I got another two Stingray channels in the bargain.

It ended up working out really well. While it doesn’t span as many years as Vintage, it also seems to have access to a wider range of music than Vintage did. While on Vintage I tended to get a few British things and a lot of Kylie Minogue, with Stingray Retro I get a lot more of the acts that I grew up with and a lot more recognizable songs, although they are biased towards Canadian acts, so I get a lot more Glass Tiger, for example, than you’d expect otherwise. And I even still got to see at least one Kylie Minogue video that I hadn’t seen (and she still looks like she’s really enjoying being in the video). It also pretty much only does videos, while Vintage added in more live acts and interview shows, which interested me less. Considering that it’s also half the price and I get two other video channels (although Loud is probably the only one I’ll consider watching) and that in looking at some of the other channels in the pack there might be times when I’d watch them this was certainly worth what I’m paying for it, and I don’t see a need to add any other channels or packs in the near future.

19 and I like it …

December 1, 2017

I really should stop, but it unfortunately has become a habit — and I still like Blue — and so I still read Sinfest, despite it currently being pretty much a comic dedicated to making dubious at best arguments supporting feminism. I also occasionally dip into the forums — to read, not to post — and a comment was raised on the thread about a comic talking about the future being female — whatever that means — that I wanted to talk about, because one part of it highlights some common issues with a lot of feminist arguments:

And for reference that concept of ‘Based on Merit’ is still part of the problem, ‘I shouldn’t lose out on a job that “I” am more qualified for because of some special government mandated program. ALL jobs should be based on the ‘MERIT’ of the individual applying, not their ‘categories’.’ If someone has had ALL the opportunites, all the benefits, and went from a 15 to a 19, and someone else started at a 4 and made it to a 17, by ‘MERIT’ the 19 is still better, regardless of the fact that the 17 worked longer, harder and though more **** to get where they are. But NO, because 19’s grades didn’t suffer because he didn’t need a second part time job to pay for University, he got the better Number and that’s all that should matter.

The only reason this seems like an attack on you, is because you feel like someone is trying to TAKE something that you EARNED, but how much have you EARNED? Did you EARN a safe neighborhood to live in? Did you EARN the protection of a Police Force, and the Safety of a Fire Department? Did you EARN a school filled with teachers willing to educate you towards a self sustaining future? Or were those things GIVEN to you by society? And how much of that was given to you by who you lucked into being born to?

First of all, from the perspective of a business, what they are interested is indeed the person who will be best at the job. If the 19 really is objectively better at the job than the 17 — presuming that this takes into account all relevant factors — then that’s who the company should hire. End of story. But what is missed here is that someone who has had to work harder to get where they are is almost certainly an objectively better employee, because they’ve both clearly had to develop a work ethic, and did so successfully. So instead of not hiring on the basis of “MERIT”, maybe we should include more things in our considerations of merit. And note that affirmative action programs, which seek to correct these purported imbalances, actually make things worse here, because the adjustments would mean that those people wouldn’t have to work as hard, and so would lose what should be an advantage.

Secondly, these distinctions don’t actually work for sex/gender like they might work for race. Girls grow up in the same neighbourhoods and with the same economic benefits as boys do, since girls and boys tend to be parts of the same family. So it’s rarely the case that women are disadvantaged economically with respect to boys, so they aren’t working a second part time job where a comparable boy isn’t. Where women are disadvantaged, especially today, is with respect to encouragement to enter into certain fields or to study certain subjects in school. They have the safe neighbourhoods, the police forces and fire departments, and generally teachers willing to educate them. At worst they have expectations that they need to overcome, both theirs and those of others, which is a completely different story.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly you can’t look at the race or gender of an applicant and determine that they had it harder than someone else did. I grew up in one of the poorest areas of my province. The school system, thus, used out-of-date materials and wasn’t incredibly well-equipped. It also was a rural area where, since the jobs were mostly manufacturing and labour, university schooling wasn’t encouraged for boys. I was the first to go to university or college on one side of my family and the first boy on the other side, and it took a specific guidance counselor at the school to convince my parents that this was a good idea. I was lucky enough to not have to work part-time jobs during the school year, but I did work every summer to earn my half of the costs (I paid for school related expenses, my parents paid for room and board). If you only looked at my race and gender, you could argue that I didn’t work as hard as a girl or black person who grew up in an upper class family where going to university was assumed and where all of their costs were paid by their parents, but that would be completely false. Thus, justifying any kind of affirmative action on the basis that the “minority” had to work harder or was disadvantaged with respect to the majority is basing that justification on utter falsehoods. You can argue that statistically it’s the case but all that means is that eventually, sooner or later, you will decide that someone who had all of the advantages in their life will be chosen over someone who had none and that person will be told that it was just or fair that you did so because they, despite having none of the advantages, actually had all of the advantages just because of their race or sex/gender.

This is where the objections to Bernie Sanders’ “Let’s fix poverty, which will help black people more than white people” derail, because if it is true that blacks are disproportionately poorer than whites then those programs will disproportionately help black people. Sure, there may be special issues around racism to deal with, but surely part of fixing poverty could then be seen to require addressing those issues. And even if it was a bad idea, it still wouldn’t apply to women, who do not disproportionately grow up in poverty with respect to men.

Your chance to help decide what I write about!

November 29, 2017

So, I’ve been running with the three updates a week schedule for quite a while now, and it seems to be working out pretty well. It even managed to survive my incredible busy time without all that much of a hitch. In doing this I’ve also started to figure out what things work, what things don’t and how things can work out better in my schedule, which then might start to make the blog more predictable consistent in how things work and what sort of content you might see here. In short, there are certain types of content that work pretty well whether I’m busy or not, and that are also things that I like talking about and am going to do some things with anyway, so I might as well talk about them.

The key is that what works best for the blog are things that I can watch, read or do at any time and then comment on later without having to refer back to the original source material that much. If I can do that, then it really makes my blog writing more flexible and so gives me things that can be done in a relative hurry if I’m busy but that I can do in free time if I’m not busy. TV shows are the ideal for this, and books are probably the worst (since to comment on arguments fairly I generally want to quote from them). But since a lot of these things are things that I haven’t focused on or that are suddenly fitting into my schedule better than they did before, I’m also a bit short of things that fit into those categories and so need to find some new sources for those sorts of posts.

Here is your chance to guide me towards new things to try in those areas.

So, one thing that I’ve found myself lately is watching Extra Credits youtube videos and commenting on them (which in their case means “Disagreeing with them”). In fact, I’m planning on commenting on another couple of them in the near future. But other than SF Debris, I don’t really watch a lot of youtube videos, especially when it comes to gaming. And about the only other commentator on games that I read consistently is Shamus Young, and I’m thinking about digging through his old columns — which he is planning on revisting himself, making this so much easier — to find some other things to talk about. But what other video game commentators do you guys like to watch or read who might have things to say that I might find interesting and want to talk about? While ones that I would probably disagree with are in some sense good — because it’s always pretty easy to write posts disagreeing with people (Hi, Extra Credits!) — I’m also open to people who just say things that might bring up interesting, tangentially related ideas for me to talk about (Hi, Shamus!).

A couple of caveats, though: for youtube videos, the videos can’t be longer, on average, than a half-hour, and can’t be Let’s Plays. Text reviewers are not only excluded from those restrictions, they’ll get precedence because it’s easier for me to read them anywhere and quote them if I want to talk about what they’re saying.

Another thing that I’ve recently started doing more frequently is commenting on TV shows that I’m watching in general, which you saw with Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Transformers, and most recently Cheers. I’m currently watching Frasier, and will talk about it as things go along, and I still have a show like Wings waiting when this is done. But since I don’t watch a lot of TV in general, I don’t have much of an idea of what shows might be worth watching, and for my purposes — see the upcoming caveats — don’t want to risk trying something out that I don’t think will be good.

Right now, there are a number of caveats. First, for at least the next year it looks like half-hour shows are what I’ll be watching, and that’s all that I could do for the blog because it would take me too long to watch hourly shows to be useful for generating content on the blog. However, that isn’t limited to sitcoms, as it can fit into anything that is half-hour in length and sounds interesting, like cartoons (for example). Second, these have to be completed series, and it has to be the case that I can get the entire series for a reasonable price. Ideally, if I can order them all on, that would be wonderful. EDIT: I’ll pretty much be buying DVDs, so if it’s not out on DVD the chances of my watching it are slim to none. Third, they can’t be too long; the eleven seasons of Frasier and Cheers are probably about the limit, although that’s more number of episodes rather than number of seasons.

As an example, I’m right now looking to see if I can get Hot in Cleveland — which I’ve talked about before — and maybe, now that its run is done, 2 Broke Girls if I can get the seasons for a reasonable price. Big Bang Theory is out because it is still running and is too long anyway, as is something like The Simpsons for the same reason.

I’m also interested in getting suggestions for books to read and talk about. I do want to keep reading and writing about deeper and more serious topics like that, even though it takes me a while to get around to commenting on them (I have finished reading Philipse’s book, for example, but still have to finish writing posts about it), and I’m a bit out of the loop on what the most recent or, for some genres, even what the popular books and topics are. So I’d be looking for suggestions in the genres of theology, philosophy, and history primarily. I’ll also consider requests for TPB comic editions (but, at least for now, not Alt-Hero).

Now, just because something isn’t listed here doesn’t mean that I won’t be writing about it. For example, I still intend to write about video games, but that will still be limited to the ones I play, and I won’t be soliciting ones to consider as something new so I can talk about it on the blog. And I’ll talk about music and my own eccentricities and do song parodies and talk about computers and write philosophical posts regardless. It’s just that these are categories that it is both relatively easy for me to write about and that I’m fairly uninformed about what’s out there that I might want to get into and write about, which is why I’m asking for suggestions here.

Also note that this isn’t like Chuck’s requests. I don’t put these on a list and promise to have them completed at some time in the near future. I’ll do them if I feel like it and get time and can get them without breaking the bank. I’ll try to respond to all comments as to whether there’s even a chance of it and I’ll try to put something up for things that I’ve bought and so plan to get to at some point, but any suggestion you make here is a suggestion that I’ll consider but may not do, even if I think it’s a good one.

Final Thoughts on Cheers

November 27, 2017

So, I finally finished watching all 11 seasons of Cheers. And I have to say that while the show improved significantly after Diane left, season 11 was the season where they pretty much ran out of ideas and it all went downhill. It was a really good idea to end it where they did.

Sam and Rebecca, despite being the two characters whose actors got first billing, faded into the background in the later seasons. Sam ended up being a supporting character for the most part, while Rebecca was turned into a B-plot character most of the time. Which in some way makes sense, since they really focused on her dysfunctions and so the easiest way to use her character was to trigger a dysfunction as a background funny event and then use that as the B-plot for that episode. But there wasn’t really much more to her character and so no where for it to go. Even her getting married at the end was a quick ending that served little more than to have Rebecca act dysfunctional for the final episodes. Kirstie Alley did that well, but I still tended to prefer her when she was in tough mode than in dysfunctional mode.

Sam’s sex addiction storyline makes sense to me, because it seems to me that while it was something that he enjoyed, there ended up being an undercurrent of that also being a status symbol for him, especially since the bar patrons liked to live vicariously through him. As he aged — and clearly had problems with aging — it became more and more important to him as a sign that he still had it, and less as something that he did for fun. This could, then, have led to it being something he did even when he didn’t want to, because if he failed then it would greatly impact his own self-image. So he had to keep up a large string of successes, even as it seemed to become less and less interesting to him, especially since if he even decided to not pursue it the regulars would pressure him into it, like they did with the competition with Henri. Which had a great ending, where Sam decides to not pressure a purportedly vulnerable woman to get the number he needed to win or tie the event … and then after she says that she spins that line as a test and that her and her two friends — who do everything together — were interested in going out with him, and so Sam gets to say to Henri that he is obviously broken up over losing to Henri as he leaves with three beautiful women.

They also added a new semi-regular character in Paul, but I never warmed to him. As he was new, we didn’t have the years to get to know him like we had for the others, but he also didn’t really have a specific role — like Cliff and Norm — at the bar to slot into. Thus, he ended up being kinda a generic loser, which wasn’t very interesting. At the end of the day, as a character he didn’t have any more development than the other semi-regular bar patrons, but he seemed to be shoehorned into more situations that they were and so was made more prominent, which kinda made him more annoying than entertaining.

As the show progressed, Woody lost a bit of his naivete and was more often willing to engage in mean-spirited humour, which hurt the character. The problem is, though, that you couldn’t really keep him that nice forever, and a lot of the jokes he made were things that you’d expect from someone who grew up in a rural area. However, since Carla’s entire schtick was based around being mean-spirited — although she got some development later — the show could slide towards having more mean-spirited humour than was probably good for it. Good-natured ribbing was par for the course given the environment, but with Carla none of it was good-natured, except possibly at times with Sam. Which meant that while I might have liked Carla more when I first watched it, this time I found her to be annoying.

It’s also fairly clear from this why Frasier was the one who got the spin-off show, as the two most interesting storylines, at least to me, was his with Lilith and Woody’s with Kelly. And while I would have liked to have seen more of Woody and Kelly — as their pleasant but naive and often stupid personalities really broke up some of the nastiness — there wasn’t much that you could do with that specific line, and attempts to develop them, as already stated, risked making them less nice and so less pleasant to watch. There’s just more sorts of humour and development you could do with Lilith and Frasier, either together or, at it turned out, separately.

I actually liked Lilith as a character, but strongly disliked the part of the plot where she had an affair. The problem is that her having one made little sense. Even during the affair plot, she talks about how great the sex was, so it doesn’t seem to be a lack of sexual satisfaction that causes it, but then about the only other reason for it would be a lack of emotional support … but Lilith was so emotionless most of the time that it would make more sense for Frasier to cheat on that basis instead of her. It probably should have been built more around her career entirely, with her leaving him precisely for the chance to go into the Ecopod and the affair developing there, which would also have played into the fact that based on how she talks she quite likely has a pretty high sex drive, and thus might have a harder time abstaining from sex than Frasier would. Still, it was one of the better storylines.

One thing that happened to me a lot while watching Cheers was that as it seemed to drop subtle hints about its plot twists I often figured out what was going on before they actually revealed it, like with the one case where Diane has a dream within a dream where Sam changes and pushes for a relationship and because he changes so drastically we know that this must be a dream and where when Frasier receives a letter from Lilith asking for a divorce when she storms into the bar we can pretty quickly guess that it was her boyfriend who sent the letter even before he reveals it. To the show’s credit, figuring out the twists doesn’t usually make the scenes less entertaining, and in fact might even add to it as we wait to see how far things will go or how it will be revealed, and pat ourselves on the back for being right.

Cheers also probably relies on continuity far more than almost any other sitcom I’ve ever watched, constantly making references to things that happened in the past and often elevating small scenes that were almost forgotten into full-fledged plots. That these generally worked is also to the show’s credit. I have no idea if they planted seeds in case they needed to use them later or had them as throw-away jokes that they were inspired to use when they needed it for a plot, but whatever the case it provided something that I haven’t seen in a lot of sitcoms.

Now, onto the ending, where Diane came back. I can see why they did it, but it both came up and was resolved too quickly to really matter, and if you weren’t pining for Sam and Diane or weren’t hoping for a resolution to their relationship or an explanation for why Diane never came back you really wouldn’t care much about it, and so it will come off a bit flat. If you didn’t care for their relationship, then it will seem like time wasted that could have been used exploring better storylines.

At the end of the day, my overall assessment of the show is that it was … okay. It was rough in some parts, but for the most part never really fell below “meh” even in its worst episodes. So it was pretty much always watchable. The Sam and Diane relationship probably dragged on longer than it should have, and the show really hit its stride when it ended and the satellite characters got more focus, only to peter out towards the end. I probably will watch this again at some point.

I’ve been flirtin’ with Pierre Berton …

November 24, 2017

’cause he’s so smart in his books.

So, a few weeks ago I was wandering through a bookstore downtown looking for some books to read, and I picked up a few historical ones. The first one I read was “The War of 1812”, which combined Pierre Berton’s two books on the subject: “The Invasion of Canada” and “Flames Across the Border”. As Berton is Canadian, there is a bit of a focus on the Canadian side of the battle — most noticeably when he talks about the impact it had on creating a Canadian identity — but for the most part he does a good job of describing the details of both sides of the conflict.

He also has a very interesting style, one which might be more prominent in historical works than I think but that I personally haven’t come across very often. He writes much of the time in a third person present tense, describing thoughts and actions as “Historical figure knows that they need to attack, and so prepares his defenses accordingly”. This makes the events seem more immediate, and not just a description of what happened in the past. Even if you know what the outcome is — especially since sometimes Berton tells you what it is before he describes it — you almost can’t help but be caught up in the immediacy of the event and feel that it’s happening right now. To be honest, I actually think that the WWII documentary “The World at War” often pulls off the same trick, which might explain why I like it so much myself. Maybe it’s a British thing …

Anyway, Berton is also much more colloquial and much less academic than other works I’ve read, particularly when it comes to calling out leaders who are, shall we say, less than intelligent or brave, especially when those traits lead to unnecessary deaths. Berton’s lists of adjectives for failing leaders are quite impressive, and generally entertaining. And since he’s usually right — and since he will generally give props for reasonable caution or heroic bravery — you are more likely to be amused at his comments rather than offended by them, unless you happen to consider that person a hero. He’s also very generous to the native allies of the British, focusing on them more than a work written at the time he was writing might be expected to, but neither emphasizes their savagery nor ignores or excuses it. At the end, he even concludes that the side that probably lost the most in that war were, in fact, the native tribes.

As for the war itself, Berton’s account makes it clear that it was a very strange war. Most of the people on both sides — even the leaders — didn’t really want the war. There were some “War Hawks” on both sides that saw it as a good, either as an attempt to gain more territory or to give the other side a bloody nose and regain honour lost either to the Revolutionary War or to the often draconian and insulting policies of the British, especially impressment of British citizens from American ships. The sad thing is that the really insulting policy that caused the Americans to declare war was repealed right before hostilities began … but once started ending them was not easy, especially with both sides burning villages and committing other atrocities that created very bad feelings on both sides.

But as Berton says, this war is what created the Canadian identity and made it not only distinct from the American identity, but proud of that distinctness. To this day, Canadians are more proud of the traits they gained from their British heritage than they are of the traits they gained by cultural osmosis from the United States. We are less individualistic, less boorish, more polite, more concerned about others and other nations, more welcoming and accepting of other cultures than Americans, and we take great pride in that. And the seeds of that started from us wanting to separate ourselves from those people who invaded us and burned our villages and killed our people, and grew from that even as we became, in country terms, staunch allies and good friends. We may no longer hate Americans, but we’re still happy to not be Americans for the most part. And this makes me wonder if some of the reason for stronger reactions to calls to become more of an American style republic and remove the Queen as Head of State are spawned by a subconscious cultural reaction to the idea of becoming more American.

At any rate, this was a very entertaining book that taught me things about the War of 1812 that I didn’t know before. It is a book that I will almost certainly read again at some point.

The Sims Guide to Living

November 22, 2017

I used to play the game “The Sims” a fair bit, and after doing so jokingly talked about one life lesson that I learned from it: even if it takes up a bit more time, it’s almost always more efficient to do activities that fulfill more than one need than an activity that only fulfills one. And the more, the better.

So, recently my group at work scheduled a group outing to go do an escape room or to go do archery tag (they were in the same place). The place is pretty far away from where I live, and is on a start, at least, that is absolutely terrible to drive on most of the time (although I have done it on occasion). However, it’s less than an hour walk away from my old university, and I have made it a habit to park there and walk to various places that I don’t really want to drive to or park at for years now. I debated going, and eventually did, but here were all of the things that that seven hours — included travel time — satisfied:

1) I actually think it’s a good idea for groups to have informal group outings with each other to get to know each other in a more relaxed setting. At one point, I was working with some contractors from India who had come over to work directly with us for a while, and they were constantly giving all of their code inspections to me instead of to another co-worker, who was the guy who, well, actually knew those areas. But he could be a little intimidating, so I pushed my manager to have group meetings again so that we could interact in a more relaxed atmosphere, so they wouldn’t be so intimidated by him. It seemed to work.

2) I had skipped the one last year because of a Blue Jays playoff game, which was the first such outing since I had joined that group, and since I generally didn’t attend other social outings I didn’t want to be seen as the anti-social guy in the group, so it was a good time to actually attend one of these and show that I actually can be sociable.

3) I owed the university money — I donated but tend to like to pay in person rather than through other methods — and this would then be a convenient time to pay them, meaning that I wouldn’t have to make time to go out there at some point in the next few months.

4) I had actually done an escape room once before and enjoyed it, but don’t have a group of friends or acquaintances to do it with on a regular basis, so this would give me a chance to do one.

5) I’d get some extra exercise in walking to the place and back to where I parked.

So, a number of things accomplished from one event. Yes, it took some time, but it also was able to uniquely satisfy some of my needs or goals. Just the fact that I won’t have to go down to the university saved me all of that travel time, as well as having to fit everything else into my schedule. Sure, I could have accomplished many of these things separately, but it likely would have taken parts of several days instead of a half-a-day. As someone who finds that large parts of days tend to get disrupted when I have to fit small things into them, that seems like a pretty good trade-off for me.