Archive for January, 2018


January 31, 2018

When my post “The Cost of Games …” went up, WordPress reminded me that I had published 1337 posts on this blog since I started. That makes it my 1337 post.

I don’t think it’s that good …

The Cost of Games …

January 31, 2018

So, Extra Credits recently did a new video talking about how video games really shouldn’t cost $60 anymore. I’d have used that as the title, but I don’t really think it reasonable to use a title that assumes the conclusion, and obviously their conclusion is that the retail cost of games should be higher than it is, and while for various reasons the gaming industry doesn’t want to do that, this is what is driving the move towards DLC, microtransactions, and loot boxes, and ultimately at the end they conclude that the only options are to have higher retail prices for games, or accept some sort of “good” monetization scheme. Directly quoting from videos is a pain, so again I encourage everyone to watch the video for themselves to see if I’m summarizing them properly.

The first thing I want to talk about are their reasons for saying that the retail price of games is too low. The first reason given is inflation, which has gone up by, on average, 2% a year since 2005, when games started costing $60. Doing the math, they conclude that that would indicate a 25% increase in the price of games, for a retail price of around $75. The problem with this reasoning is that inflation doesn’t actually work that way. That 2% is an average across the entire market and economy of how prices have increased. Because it’s an average, there will be some things that have increased in price by far more than 2%, some things that haven’t really changed price at all, and even some things whose prices have gone down. For example, I’d wager that the cost of gasoline has increased by far more than 2% since 2005, while the price of at least some electronics has likely decreased (I don’t think I could have walked into a Canadian Tire in 2005 and picked up a perfectly functional Blu-Ray DVD player in 2005, like I did a few years later). So what we really need to know here is what costs have increased for the gaming industry and balance that with what cost savings they’ve been able to achieve to determine how much the price of games ought to have changed. Applying a simple inflation argument doesn’t really work here.

Their second reason is the increase in things like, say, graphics that are seemingly necessary for modern AAA gaming development but greatly increase costs. While there are some balancing factors, they end up concluding that prices should be in the $90 range, which they base on their experience in the industry, much of which they can’t talk about because of NDAs. At any rate, a question here is if all of that work is really required to make money as a AAA game. Does the gaming audience — which they admit has grown enormously in that same time period — really care that much about the new graphics that it will greatly hurt sales if they don’t achieve those heights? As a personal example, the graphics in Persona 5 were much improved, but also annoyed me in some ways. The same thing holds true for Skyrim, where the leveling up process was pretty, but also quite confusing. When we add in the mobile games and Steam games that they talk about as driving customer expectations and throw in GOG games, it looks like there are a number of cases where inferior graphics can still sell a significant amount of units. Sure, they don’t sell as much as AAA games do, but then they don’t have the marketing and distribution channels of AAA games either, and many of them are so cheap because even their gameplay is somewhat primitive. A AAA studio should be able to create far more engaging games and still be able to do good enough graphics, and use their existing channels to still make a significant number of sales. Or, at least, they should be able to do that if gaming magazines and hardcore gamers don’t bash the game simply for not having those super-special-awesome graphics, as long as they are serviceable and pretty enough.

They then go on to talk about how the industry is or should respond to this situation, where the price of games is lower than it should be. A big problem here, though, is that despite being gaming insiders — or perhaps because of that — they don’t seem to really understand gaming from the perspective of the customers very well. They talk about the $70 mark being a psychological barrier, which amused me because in Canada games have cost that since the last increase, and as even they point out they are even more expensive in Australia. It’s less that gamers, then, have a reaction to that number than that it makes them wonder if gaming is worth the money they’d have to spend on it. This ranges from people who simply can’t afford to spend that much on entertainment in general to people who have a number of different things that they can spend their entertainment dollars on and are looking for the most value. As any product increases price — as long as disposable income doesn’t rise the same amount or more — there will be people who either can’t afford the product anymore or decide that it isn’t worth the percentage of their disposable income that it is taking up anymore. That’s the risk with increasing prices, and it seems to me that a lot of the issue around the $60 increase was precisely that. Games were seen as a simple and relatively cheap form of entertainment, especially since for PC games you already had the system, and gaming consoles were relatively cheap to buy. As the price increases, they are seen as a more and more expensive form of entertainment, which also drives up demands. If I’m paying $20 for a game, I’m not going to demand the highest standards of graphics, but if I’m paying $70, I want it to be a more “professional” quality game. Additionally, that might be one of the few if only games that I might be able to buy, so they had better both be good and be something that I can play for a long time. And, of course, those higher prices mean fewer purchases, which only exacerbates the risk of having a game flop that they talk about in the video.

So, increasing demands have caused AAA gaming companies to focus on producing higher quality but more expensive games, which loses them customers and alienates part of the market, while increasing the demands from those gamers who are left. This causes the gaming companies to risk more — as they have to appeal to a potentially shrinking market — but also to increase their overall quality level, which is more expensive, which drives up costs, rinse and repeat. If this continues, AAA gaming will eventually collapse under the weight of expectations that cannot be supported by the shrunken player base where most have been priced out of the market by the increasing prices of AAA games.

Thus, the mechanisms to get around that. They discuss DLC, and say that Day-One DLC is unpopular, but later DLC doesn’t get purchased, but this doesn’t ring true for me. After all, other than it being downloadable, DLC is a lot like expansions, and people definitely bought those after day one, as the often came out months later. Also, Bioware games tend to do this — the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series games in particular — and clearly it was successful enough for them to keep doing it. Additionally, games like Persona Dancing All Night had a number of DLC items that presumably did all right and I think were Day One (Adachi, for example), and in general DLC is still a pretty popular option. So I don’t agree with their thoughts on DLC. It turns out, it seems to me, that the issues with DLC and even with Day One DLC is when it becomes clear that this is being added only to increase the price of a game. For DLC to be successful, it has to be seen as something interesting enough for people to buy it, but not so critical that you have to buy it to get what can be considered the full experience of the game. If we look at the various “Adachi” type DLC from the Persona 4 add-on games (Dancing All Night and Arena), because of the link with the game they certainly sound cool and things that people might want, but you can play through the entire game and get the story without buying it. The extra costumes representing the school uniforms were the same thing: cool so they’d garner some interest, but not something that you needed if you want to enjoy the game. On the other end of the spectrum, expansions tended to add completely new storylines and adventures, and so were certainly worth the price, but again added on to the end of game and weren’t required to enjoy it.

I’m not going to say that these approaches to DLC worked and made significant money. I am going to say that customers are, in general, not idiots. They are going to see that these things — which includes other forms of monetization like loot boxes — as ways for the company to make more money off the game. And as they realize that, they’re going to demand more and more value from these things, to make up for the extra money they are putting into these things and the game as a whole. This is going to force gaming companies to provide more and more content in these things, which will cost them more to make and so reduce the amount of money they make from them, which will encourage them to either charge more or make more of them or both, which will create more demand for them to provide value, and so on. The alternative is that they will find more and more ways to force the players to buy them, by making them more and more important to the game and game experience, which gamers will rebel over as they already have.

In the video, they insist that we have two choices: either accept a price increase, or except “good” monetization. The problem is that both of these options will inevitably lead to the same problems that AAA games have been having for the past few years, with either gamers feeling ripped off by the price they have to pay for games versus what they’re getting out of them, or game companies having to continually add more and more value to their games to justify every thing that increases the overall cost of a game for a player. If these are the only two choices, then it doesn’t seem like gaming is going to survive.

But are these the only two choices? As mentioned above, maybe chasing the highest quality graphics or at least the appearance of having the highest quality or most modern experience isn’t really necessary. Maybe a company can skimp a little in those areas and still produce fun games that gamers simply want to play. Additionally, Shamus Young has wondered why video games don’t go down in price as they get older, like a lot of other products do. As games move down the price points, they’ll pick up more and more sales from people who either couldn’t afford it at the higher price point or decided that it wasn’t worth it for them at that price point. You’ll even get some people thinking — if the price is low enough — that they might just give a mildly interesting game a try because it’s not going to cost them that much. The lower the price, the lower the expectations the game has to life up to before the player feels that it was worth what they spent on it. Since the cost for game development is mostly upfront, this can extend the life of the game, allow for later DLC and expansions to make money (since there will be more players picking it up for a longer period after the game’s release) and allow for a return on investment that the company wouldn’t make otherwise from those gamers who couldn’t afford it at the higher price point. About the only reason to not reduce the price — and produce “bargain” games — as time goes on is if you’re afraid that if gamers know that you’ll reduce the price six months or a year later they won’t buy it at release. However, if that’s the case then either the release price point is too high for most of your customers, or else they don’t really want to play your game and so are willing to wait that long to play it, either because they have too many other options or because your game doesn’t interest them that much. Both of these are more serious problems that simply trying to cover the costs of producing a game with the price of the game or with extra monetization.

This is not to say that these solutions will definitely work, but maybe gaming companies need to come up with new ideas and solutions instead of trying increasingly annoying variants on the ideas that weren’t really working in the first place. Because at the end of the day, gamers are going to demand value for the money they pay for a game, and will do so even more the more money they end up paying. And since providing that value is arguably the biggest reason Extra Credits says that the price is too low, there’s no way to escape this cycle the traditional way.

Thoughts on the first weekend of the Scotties

January 29, 2018

So, the first weekend of the Scotties was this past weekend, and while I wouldn’t normally comment on just the first weekend while watching it I noticed a few things, and it has a new format, so I thought it would be a good idea to comment on it.

In the past few months I’ve seen the Roar of the Rings which had the very best teams in Canada, and then the Grand Slam which had many of the best teams in the entire world. Comparing those to the Scotties, the field strikes me as being quite inferior. There are more weaker teams and the play seems to reflect that. A big part of this is the result of the format, as it is based on one team per province, which means that the larger provinces may have multiple strong teams where only one of those will make it, while the smaller provinces and territories might not even have a team good enough to play on the Grand Slam circuit, let alone have a good showing there. As an example, Val Sweeting plays out of Alberta, and isn’t at the Scotties this year despite being one of the best curlers on the Grand Slam, because she had to get past Casey Scheidegger, who is representing Alberta this year. Kerri Einarson, in general, couldn’t make the Scotties because she couldn’t get past Jennifer Jones, and only made it in this year with the wild card entry by beating Chelsea Carey in a one-game playoff before the event even started. Meanwhile, there are a bunch of mostly unknowns representing smaller provinces and territories, many of whom don’t have a lot of experience either on the Grand Slam tour or internationally. Add in that a team that gets hot can run away with a short qualifying tournament and so cause an upset, and you end up reducing the quality of the field that you get at the Scotties.

In some ways, the new format makes this worse, because now every single province and territory has to be represented, including some places with a smaller population and who simply don’t have the quality of teams that other areas have, for various reasons. This, I think, has been reflected in the play over the first weekend (one team lost 14 – 1, giving up 8 points in steals and a 6 ender). However, the new format might help this a bit because after the first stage of the round robin, the top 4 teams from each pool will play in a new round robin to determine who gets into the playoffs. Thus, once the first stage ends, we should see the best teams playing against each other, or at least the teams that are playing the best play against each other. We’ll see if this improves the quality of play substantially or not.

That being said, it’s not like the play is terrible either. There have been some great shots made and even the opening flubs could easily be chalked up to teams learning the ice and changing ice conditions (the ice slowed down a lot in the later ends of the later draws on the first day, so adjustments were made that might have caught the teams by surprise when that didn’t happen). It’s just noticeably weaker compared to the admittedly unique quality of the Roar and even the normal quality of the playoff rounds at the Grand Slam. The Scotties used to be the crown jewel of women’s curling, but now it might be fading a bit into the background.

Jerry Coyne on Incompatibility and NOMA …

January 26, 2018

Recently, Jerry Coyne came across a post talking about how science and religion were not incompatible, and of course had to respond to it (given his views on determinism, he could do nothing else). Generally, having free will, I likely would have chosen not to respond to Coyne’s post, but in reading it one thing became clear: Coyne’s post and arguments, in general, don’t really do anything against typical NOMA or differing domain arguments, except for one that he rides continually but which doesn’t get him as far as he’d like. Anyway, the original post is by Ethan Siegel, and Coyne starts off his criticism of it this way:

1.) Many religious people are interested in science and support scientific research. That’s true; I have no quarrel with this. But that doesn’t address my own argument, made in Faith Versus Fact, that the grounds for incompatibility have nothing to do with whether scientists can be religious and religious people can be fans of science. This kind of cognitive bifurcation just shows that people can accept two incompatible ways of judging what is “true” at the same time.

But if they are, in general, trying to find out true statements about different domains, then they aren’t holding two incompatible ways of judging what is “true” at the same time … or, at least, aren’t doing so in the way Coyne needs them to in order to get to an important incompatibility. All they’d be doing is saying that for some questions, science is the approach to use, and for others, some kind of faith-based or theological approach is the one to use. I myself insist that there are times when one should use folk reasoning, or philosophy, or science based on what questions one is trying to answer, or perhaps it might be better to say based on what “truth” you are trying to find. That does not, in my view, make them clearly incompatible.

And when Coyne points out how Ken Miller acts, we can see this distinction:

The incompatibility can be seen with a religious scientist like Ken Miller, a pious Catholic. In the lab he acts like an atheist, never considering the supernatural and accepting only as true what can be tested scientifically. But when he steps into his church he immediately believes in things like the Resurrection and transubstantiation—things that are not only unevidenced, but disbelieved by other faiths and, frankly, ridiculous for a grown man to believe. Accepting truths about the cosmos using two different methods demonstrates the incompatibility between science and religion.

Except it doesn’t. Miller clearly thinks that for the things he does in the lab, science is the right approach, and the supernatural doesn’t play a part, but thinks that when it comes to theological questions that’s not the right approach to use. And if science is presumptively naturalistic and religion inherently supernaturalist, then that’s clearly the right way to go; it is not reasonable to use a method that presumes that a conclusion is false if you want to find out if it might be true. So Miller uses different methods for different domains, and can argue that that isn’t an important incompatibility because we need to use different methods for those domains. So Coyne is going to have to argue that they aren’t different domains at all. And he returns to his usual argument:

Religion and science both make claims about what’s true in our Universe. Theologians and believers, when being honest (almost an oxymoron), will admit that, yes, their religious beliefs are underlain by claims about reality, and if those claims be not true, then religion be not true.

As I commented last time, while there may be certain claims about reality that have to be true or else the religion be not true, that doesn’t apply to every fact in existence, nor are all of the claims that they are based on amenable to scientific study. In the linked post, I both pointed out that Catholicism explicitly builds into its theology that scientific facts trump even the pronouncements of the Pope, and created a religious or theological viewpoint that was distinctly religious and yet could not interestingly conflict with science. All that is left is Coyne’s general argument that at least some — if not most — religions are wrong and so are directly incompatible with science. But as I pointed out throughout my discussions of Faith vs Fact, that’s not an interesting incompatibility. Every scientific theory that has turned out to be wrong would be just as incompatible with science methodologically as those failed religions were, if we can only rely on them being wrong and being proven wrong by science to make that claim.

Coyne adds another argument:

My further argument:

  1. Science has a way to find out what is true, or at least to arrive at better and better approximations of what is true, while religion has no way to do that.
  2. The result is that different religions make conflicting claims about reality (e.g., “Was Jesus the divine son of God?”) that cannot be resolved.
  3. Religion has also made false claims about reality (e.g., creationism, the Exodus, etc.) that science can correct, while religion has no way to correct science.
  4. Therefore, religion is incompatible with science because it uses a different methodology to adjudicate truth, and because the outcomes of that methodology (what religion deems “true”) cannot be verified.

This, however, is not an argument, at least as presented. Putting aside the number of unproven assertions here, the conclusion does not follow from the premises. Well, okay, you can get from the first one to the two of them having different methodologies, but no one is going to worry about them using different methodologies if the one religion uses can’t arrive at truths. The third premise here contradicts the second, as it demonstrates that at least some of its claims can be verified, if verified means that we can go out and independently determine if they are true or false (which is usually what we’d mean in discussions of methodology or epistemology). If Coyne just means that its outcomes are proven false, then this is just as “religions get things wrong” argument, which again can’t show any interesting incompatibility. And he would need to establish that there is no way for religion to get better approximations of what is true, even if they turn to philosophy to do so. He talks about how science has made progress while religion hasn’t in a much longer timeframe, but this argument also applies to philosophy, and can be answered by pointing out that religious questions are often more fundamental and harder to solve with simple appeals to empirical data than the ones that science typically answers. So this one isn’t an argument, contradicts itself, and would still rely on an assumption that Coyne has not proven. I think it is safe to deny that it’s an argument at all.

He later uses the same graph again from Pew, showing that the majority of people say that religion and science conflict, but that the majority of people don’t think that their religion conflicts with science. That Coyne still thinks this supports his point is mindboggling. People ought to know far better about how their religion conflicts with science than about how other religions conflict with science, especially with people like Coyne — whom Siegal is opposing here — constantly going on about it. That most of them don’t see a conflict between science and their own religion but do between science and other religions is better evidence that Siegal is right about the harm people like Coyne are doing that evidence that there is an inherent, meaningful incompatibility between science and religion.

He also says this before presenting that graph:

If science and religion are compatible, why, at least in countries where we have data, are scientists so much less religious than the general public? It could be that nonbelievers are more attracted to science, or that science actually makes people less religious, or (most likely) a combination of these factors. Either way, this shows some conflict between science and faith.

But not that that conflict is inherently there or even that scientists are necessarily right to think it is. And that’s what Coyne is supposed to be doing, not grasping at some kind of nebulous conflict that, in the end, might just boil down to Coyne — and others — thinking that religions are wrong.

Final Thoughts on Frasier …

January 24, 2018

So, I finished in the last three seasons of Frasier and thus have finished the entire series. And my final opinion on it is … I liked it, but liked it the least when it fell into doing standard sitcom tropes instead of going beyond that as it commonly did, but one of the things that most annoyed me about it was when it tried to go beyond the standard sitcom tropes and failed.

Well, then, you might ask, what was it that annoyed me so much? The big example of this is that at the end of Season 8 and leading into the beginning of Season 9, Frasier was dating a woman, Claire, and yet was letting fantasies about another woman that had been a high school semi-crush for him intrude on that, despite the fact that she was absolutely wrong for him and Claire was clearly much better for him. He ends up breaking it off with Claire, to her great disappointment — and the disappointment of Frasier’s family — and then ends up driving off to a cabin where he is confronted by mental images of Lilith, Diane, Nanette and finally his late mother. As they all lead him to discover what it is that is sabotaging relationships, at the end he decides that he needs to put them all behind him and, when he decides this, turns around to find them gone.

It isn’t this episode that annoys me. This episode was incredibly well done, mixing serious self-appraisal and the potential for growth with humour, and all involved give quite good performances to make this all work. It’s a great and watershed episode … that the show then decides to completely ignore. There is no change in Frasier. There is no indication that he has put them behind him and is ready to move on. He doesn’t call Claire back. He doesn’t date anyone else. The next time we even mention his dating he seems to be happy not dating anyone, which doesn’t follow from that episode where he seemingly decided that he needed a new approach to be finally ready to properly date again. This episode — that was a two-parter, no less — that seemed to have huge implications for Frasier’s psyche and personal life … isn’t referenced at all. Even the issue doesn’t get referenced until Niles makes a comment a few seasons later about Frasier needing everything to be perfect and being unwilling to overlook flaws, which then causes Frasier to — hilariously, I admit — overlook the very serious flaws in his latest date (although I didn’t care for that character and thought that the burgeoning relationship made no sense whatsoever, and the character annoyed me enough that I really just wanted her gone).

Look, if a show makes a big deal out of something, then it has to treat it like a big deal. If Frasier has this kind of incredible revelation, I expect something to change because of it. If nothing changes, then why make a big deal out of this? I was already annoyed by Frasier not learning from his mistakes, especially with regards to dating, but when the show sets up this kind of thing that has no other purpose than for him to learn something about himself, that kinda takes the cake.

And in hindsight it would have worked better with the rest of that season and the rest of the series if the lesson he’d taken from that had been that because of his failures with women and the losses he had experienced his big problem was that he placed too much importance on finding love. His life couldn’t be good until he found love, so he spent way too much time and effort on finding love and not enough on building up the rest of his life and appreciating it. This would explain why he tended to pull out all the stops in finding love, and often jumped at the slightest romantic scenarios (dating the ex of a caller whom he told to dump her, running off to a chance encounter at the airport with a wrong number in the hopes that it would find him love, etc), which ironically tended to sabotage those relationships for him a lot of the time. This then would feed into why he wasn’t dating anyone at all and was happy to not be dating in the episode where all of the family and friends try to set him up, as his big revelation would be not that he needed to put his exes behind him, but that he needed to build a life that he was happy with first, and only then would he be truly ready for a relationship, because he wouldn’t be desperately trying to find one — and thus overlooking flaws — but instead would be looking to find someone that fit him, knowing that if it didn’t work out he had a pretty good life to go back to anyway. This would even tie in with the series finale where he is willing to run off to Chicago with Charlotte because he is happy with his life; his time in Seattle allowed him to build a life that he was happy with, and the job offer in San Francisco showed that his career was a success, and he had made a relatively successful return to private practice. His life, without a relationship, was good, and so he was able to see and potentially keep a relationship with a woman who was right and good for him.

But, of course, that isn’t what happened, and so the series, in my opinion, wastes what that excellent episode set up for them.

Another note is that I really, really regret that they couldn’t have made Lilith a larger part of the series, for whatever reason. When she shows up, she fills the role of strong female character that nevertheless can be made fun of that really works well with Frasier, and Bebe Neuwirth and Kelsey Grammar have great chemistry together, all the way back to their Cheers days. In the last episode she appears in (directly, at least), the two of them working together to help the couple in the next room works so well and really shows how the characters can work together and play off of each other. I loved every episode she was in, as both how her and Frasier dealt with each other and how the others reacted to her were incredibly entertaining.

As I said at the top, the worst episodes were the ones where they delved into more standard sitcom tropes, mostly because when they did so most of the time it was Frasier acting arrogant and pretentious and things going badly for him because of that. While that could be funny at times, the problem I had with it was that as the main character we generally were supposed to be — and generally were — sympathetic to him, and in those instances we simply couldn’t be, because he was acting like a complete jerk. And never learned from it either. It worked a lot better, in my opinion, when that sort of humour was fueled by Frasier trying to be nice or to help people, or when he was competing with Niles. The latter worked because it turned it from “Frasier is a jerk” to “sibling rivalry”, and the former worked because we could be sympathetic to him while still laughing at the ridiculous misfortune that befell him. Yes, his acting arrogant and pretentious and that getting him into trouble was consistent with the character, but it was puzzling that he wouldn’t learn anything from that, whereas with the other cases he was not going to stop competing with his sibling, nor was he going to stop trying to help people, no matter how badly things backfired on him when he did so. But attempting to mislead his dates, for example, was something that he really should have learned not to do, given how it always backfired on him, and while he has shockingly little self-awareness at times for a psychiatrist, he really shouldn’t have been that stupid.

I really liked some of the main/supporting characters as well. Roz really worked out well and I really liked it when Bebe showed up. I think the Niles/Daphne romance went on too long, but it worked out in the end. I disliked Daphne’s brothers and hated her mother, and didn’t find anything of interest in their arcs.

Overall, Frasier isn’t a typical sitcom, which allowed them to attempt different things to try to get the humour in different ways without feeling like this wasn’t the show we were used to watching. Thus, it could use slapstick humour, typical sitcom tropes, deeper and more experimental scenarios, and everything in between to try to make the audience laugh, which it typically succeeded at. I wasn’t able to read while watching this series, and I will definitely watch it again.

Canadian Open

January 22, 2018

So, this past week was the Canadian Open. For some reason, all of the qualifying draws that I could have watched were men’s draws, so I didn’t get to see much of those. I did manage to watch the quarters and the final, though, since they were mid-afternoon on the weekend.

The Canadian Open uses a format that’s rare in North American — and especially Canadian — tournaments, but supposedly is much more popular around the world. It’s triple-knockout, which means that a team has to win three games before they lose three games. Everyone starts on the A-side, which is for teams that have not lost. Teams that lose on the A-side drop to the B-side, for teams that have lost a game, and finally there’s the C-side for teams that have lost 2 games (where if you lose another game you’re eliminated). I don’t mind that format, but it always gets me thinking of that old song that talks about moving to the A-side from the B-side because there’s nothing on the B-side, and where they’ve been living too long with no special song (which is a remarkably hard song to seach Google for). So that’s stuck in my head now.

Anyway, some thoughts on the event:

Rachel Homan had a very good qualifying round, going 3 – 0 and ended up as the first seed. And then she lost to the eighth seed, Kim from South Korea, who is going to the Olympics, by a fairly lopsided 7 – 4 score. This could be worrying for the Olympics, except that in order for Kim to win she had to make great shots and have Homan miss shots that she otherwise ought to have made. Add in that the rocks Homan had were 2 – 14 during the event, and there’s no reason to push the panic button yet, and instead we probably should feel that Homan is back on track after a lackluster return to action after the Roar of the Rings.

The quarters did not work out well for me as a curling viewer, because the semis created the situation where on both sides of the draw there was a team that I didn’t care about one way or the other playing a team that I disliked. Thus, it was entirely possible that the final would be two teams that I disliked playing each other, which isn’t a lot of fun to watch. Instead, it ended up with one team that I didn’t care about one way or the other — Michelle Englot, who is retiring after this season — playing a team that I disliked, Chelsea Carey (and that’s mostly because I’m not fond of Cathy Overton-Clapham, although she’s been pretty well-behaved over her past few events, whereas in this game Englot’s third Kate Cameron was much more annoying). Carey won, which I’m ambivalent about, although the difference was one three end despite it ending with a 10 – 5 score (Carey picked up a bunch on her last rock in the last end, when Englot was trying to steal at least one and left her a double for the win). Englot had a chance for a three of her own in the next end and missed her shot, and that was really the difference in the game.

Next up is the Scotties, which starts on Friday with a play-in game.

Summary of Sophisticated Atheology …

January 19, 2018

So, after finishing Philipse’s book, I have now read all of the books that Jerry Coyne challenged theists to read, as well as his own book and a few others. What is my overall impression, then, of the atheist arguments and positions, as expressed in the works that Jerry Coyne believes make the most convincing and strongest arguments?

All of them depend greatly on accepting a specific worldview. If you don’t accept that worldview, you’ll find the argument weak at best and ridiculous at worst.

Note that the worldview here isn’t specifically atheistic. This isn’t a clash between theistic and atheistic worldviews. But in general the atheists accept strong naturalistic/materialistic worldviews, and the consequences of those worldviews mean that there is no room for any kind of supernatural or immaterial entity to exist, and that includes gods. So, then, the consequences is that gods cannot exist. But if anyone even accepts the possibility that supernatural or immaterial entities could exist then this presumption is broken, and most of the arguments evaporate. This necessitates attempts to restore that foundation, most of which rely on some way on inductive arguments … which can’t be used to establish that something simply cannot exist. Thus, they appeal to the success of naturalistic approaches — for example — to argue for methodological naturalism, and from there to establish that foundation. But methodological naturalism does not justify ontological naturalism, and ontological naturalism is required to establish that one ought not consider the possibility that supernatural or immaterial exist, and again as soon as one does their arguments no longer have support. In the end, unless you accept their axioms you will not accept their conclusions, and it is far too easy to point out the lack of support their axioms have.

Also, it is indeed the case that in general they are philosophically uninformed. The one who is actually a philosopher — Philipse — makes critical mistakes in understanding philosophical fields, and while one cannot expect a philosopher to be equally well-versed in all of the various fields of philosophy one would expect him to do the work in understanding fields he explicitly references, like he does when he dismisses functionalism without thought despite it being well-developed, popular, and yet contradicting his own position. One would also not expect him to dismiss the common tools of conceptual analysis as he does with thought experiments. Kaufmann misunderstands analytic vs post-modern philosophy, Coyne refuses to use philosophical concepts and definitions and instead prefers the dictionary, and Rosenberg, in my view, greatly misunderstands most of the philosophical debates he wanders into. Not understanding philosophy is fine, but wandering into philosophical debates and misunderstanding them while, in general, smugly declaring science superior to philosophy is not. Moreover, by ignoring them they end up with arguments that are weak and easy to dismiss if one does not accept their worldview underpinnings, resulting in issues like the one outlined above.

In summary, the works ought not convince anyone that God does not exist who isn’t already convinced of that or predisposed to be convinced of that. As that’s not their intention, nor was that the intention of Coyne’s challenge, I think it safe to say that they have failed.

Zero Time Dilemma Was Ruined For Me …

January 17, 2018

… although you could say that it was my own fault.

Since this is a newer game, I’ll continue below the fold.


Gaming again …

January 16, 2018

So, due to shifting schedules, I’m going to be taking more vacation in February. I am, in fact, going to take it right when the Olympics are on, because at least there’ll be something on TV to watch or listen to during the day (last year, I took off during the Scotties). And since it’s the Olympics, it’s the perfect time for me to play some games because I don’t like all winter sports equally and so having those sports on in the background while playing is quite appealing (I tended to want to watch the Scotties more closely than I’ll generally want to watch the Olympics). And to top it all off, I don’t seem to be having all that much success at starting my personal projects, and so think that until after that point it might be best for me to, at least, put things off until I can get back into a normal routine.

All of this means that it looks like I have a significant amount of time to play some games, that I should really take advantage of. But then the question arises: what should I try to play?

There are, as always, some restrictions. Or, I suppose, one big one: it has to be a console game, because I will want to watch some of the Olympics and trying to do that while playing PC games is generally difficult (I’ve tried, and in general I have absolutely no clue what’s happening and even if the game ends. That happens far less for console games because I’m generally in the same room as the TV for those). Since the Olympics are in South Korea which means that they’ll be getting into re-runs in the afternoon, in theory I could play PC games then, but right now my plan is to fill afternoons with various things (which could include PC games) so I’m leaving that all open for now. But in the mornings I’m planning on having dedicated gaming time, and console or Vita games fit there and PC games don’t.

Now, since I have a significant amount of time available, this looks like a good time to play a game that I wouldn’t normally have the time to play, at least not for the next year or so. And the top game on that list is a third play of Persona 5, because at 80 hours it would take me about five months to finish given my normal schedule, but I’d be able to finish it between now and the end of February if it fit into this slot. But then there are other games that I might like to replay, like Persona 3 and Persona 4, which I haven’t played in a longer time. There’s also Suikoden III that I was reminded of recently and might like to replay. And all of these are games that I might not have the time to play if I don’t do it now.

But, then again, maybe I should try to finish some games as well. I have some games left over from my Christmas binge, some of which I haven’t tried yet. And I never have finished the Fatal Frame games, and so this might be a good opportunity to play all three games that I own. Or I could play Persona and Persona 2. Or try to finish Nocturne. Or play other games that I started and ended up dropping like Dungeon Travelers 2 or Trails of Cold Steel (I own both games). Or try to get through the Agarest War games. Or finally play Saint’s Row (I definitely have “The Third”, I think, and might have the fourth game). Or the Overlord games. Or any number of other games that I started, kinda liked, and never finished. I’d have the time to start them over and maybe finish them this time.

But do I want to focus on finishing a game rather than playing or replaying a game that I want to play? I don’t think I want to turn this opportunity into something that feels like work, but the games that I want to finish are fun, too … or, at least, were fun at some points. And in fact the main reason that I never came back to Dungeon Travelers was because I forgot how far I had gotten and so where the secret rooms were. Starting over would fix that.

I’m still pondering which way to go, but I need to decide soon, because to finish a game like Persona 5 I need to start in my regular gaming time this week, which starts on Thursday and will definitely be active on the weekend.

Continental Cup …

January 15, 2018

So, the Continental Cup was on this weekend, which is a North America vs The World curling competition featuring regular team play, mixed doubles, and skins play to decide which group gets the Continental Cup. Team North America pulled out a close win, which means that they’ve won it the past six times and I can’t recall Team World ever winning it, but the gap definitely seems to have closed between mostly Canada — with one American team that is usually seen as the weak link — and the teams from places like Switzerland and Japan (who did surprisingly well here).

I didn’t get to watch much of it for various reasons, but I did note a few things.

First, Rachel Homan, after her win at the Roar of the Rings, struggled badly here. Since she is representing Canada at the Olympics, this would be worrying, despite the commentators attempts at damage control by saying that her struggles indicated that she had really taken the month off which they felt would be good for her at the Olympics. That being said, I’m not that worried about it for a couple of reasons. First, Homan has shown that she’s able to deliver under pressure, winning the Scotties, the Worlds, and the Roar of the Rings, so she isn’t likely to simply choke. Second, Homan was struggling going into the Roar, and even through the first few games, and then came back to sweep the remaining games, so we know that she can recover quickly and get on a huge roll. Still, it would be nice if she was playing better heading into the Olympics.

Second, I ended up mostly watching mixed doubles, and I’m not sure about it. The first time I watched it, it seemed to rely a lot on errors, because it was difficult for curlers who were used to regular team play to figure out how to throw without a broom to aim at or without the dedicated sweepers that they were used to. When I watched it this time, it seemed like there were less mistakes, but then it didn’t really seem all that different from the regular team game, except for again being a bit less precise and involving a bit less strategy. But it’s also generally faster, which makes it a game that TV networks and some fans might prefer. Right now I’m not even sure if I want to watch it, so I’m pretty sure I don’t want to see it replace the team game. But since it is a new addition to the Olympics this year, I’ll wait and see how I like it there.

Next up is the National, starting this week.