Thursday, August 24, 2023

Questioning my reactions

 A bush in the shape of a question mark

I came of age in the internet forums of the early 2000’s, and it was a time when posters were expected to follow a forum rules — whether those rules were written or otherwise. Ignorance was no excuse, and anybody who failed to demonstrate a mastery of “obvious” common knowledge was assaulted with lurk moar memes, encouraging them to study community etiquette before posting again. 

It… wasn’t the healthiest environment for advancing collective knowledge and shared understanding?

The norms of online discourse shifted over time, especially after Twitter became a major platform. I wouldn’t use words like “welcoming” or “inclusive” to describe the average Twitter user, but it became acceptable to go around posting while ignorant on main. 

Then Dick Clark died, and ignorance had a bit of a moment. It took things to the other extreme. 

There has to be a middle ground between communities where people are pressured to hide what they don’t know and ones where people make a big show of patting themselves on the back for not knowing anything. 

Asking questions is good! It’s how a person learns, but it can also encourage inquiry and discovery among larger groups of people. Two examples come from the Interactive Fiction Community Forum:
In the current internet environment, the ability to ask questions has become much more important. News is secured behind paywalls, search results are poisoned by paid ads, and platforms like Discord make it almost impossible to find interactions from just a few months ago.

I need to reconsider how I respond to ignorance. (And to be clear, I mean honest lack-of-knowledge ignorance — I remain comfortable with my reflexive desire to spurn poorly disguised bigotry, intolerance, and hatred.)

If I’m going to “be the change I want to see” on the internet, supporting and encouraging people who want to develop new knowledge, then I’ll have to put aside the survival instincts that I developed in my early internet days. 

Sunday, August 6, 2023

I bet there’s a German word for it.

Tipa has a post up about taming the games backlog, and it’s entirely too relatable. Meanwhile, Ocho’s goals for August reminded me that I still have to get back to Fallout: New Vegas (although I’m reluctant to return after some ugly misadventures at Camp McCarran).

What I’d really like to do is resolve some unfinished business from more than a decade ago: I finally dragged my Nintendo Wii out of storage to complete some games that have been stuck in my memory for a very long time. 

What do you call it when you forget a game’s controls, meaning that you can’t pick up where you left off, but you remember too much of its plot to start over? That’s what happened with me and The Last Story.

I was barely managing the combat sequences before I took an extended absence, and now I think I'll need some time to get back into practice. Sometimes it helps to start a game over and work back through the early tutorial battles, but I don't have the patience for all the story sequences.  

Yes, I remember the island’s terrible secret. No, I don’t want to endure the extended heel turn that was heavily foreshadowed. The Last Story is interesting overall, but its storytelling can be a bit over the top. 

I’m sure that the tutorial details can be accessed through in-game menus, and I could always (pause for dramatic effect) read the manual — with enough study time, it would be possible to resume moving forward. But I don’t play games to conduct intensive research.

So I’m just kind of… staring at it? I have always wanted to see how its ends, and people say nice things about the game, which means that it’s probably worth finishing. After that, I’ll see if I can get back into Xenogears and Farewell Ruins of the Moon.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

That's Just Science

Over at Unwinnable, they’re discussing the 2023 movie Talk to Me:

“Talk to Me may be the most credible supernatural teen horror movie ever made, simply by dint of the way that the kids in the film turn the medium-istic hand into a party game, heedless of the larger questions it raises, or the possible consequences of their actions – until it is too late and those actions have come home to roost.”

Orrin Grey, the author of the review, asserts that the movie’s credibility comes from (realistically!) showing how idiot kids will eagerly do dumb things for entertainment. 

But it’s not just kids. Over at the University of Virginia, they have known for years that people are willing to do stupid things whenever the opportunity is available:  

“For 15 minutes, the team left participants alone in a lab room in which they could push a button and shock themselves if they wanted to. The results were startling: Even though all participants had previously stated that they would pay money to avoid being shocked with electricity, 67% of men and 25% of women chose to inflict it on themselves rather than just sit there quietly and think”

More recently, Erin Kissane put it into a Mastodon-specific context:

That's part of a larger post from Kissane that discusses how and why people engage with specific social networks, which is a topic that seems relevant for Blaugust.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Blaugust 1: The Stressbox


Cardboard box sitting on a floor

Blaugust has me thinking about dealing with the things that stop me from blogging (i.e., writer's block), and one of the tools I use is a stressbox. It’s a mashup of two lifehacks that I found on the internet:
  • When you write down what’s bothering you, putting physical distance between yourself and the list can be like leaving your problems behind.
  • When your inner critic is particularly fierce, you can invite a second inner critic to point out shortcomings in the first critic’s attacks. (This was a joke* about tricking the two critics into arguing with each other so you could sneak off to do some real work.) 
When I can’t make any progress on a project, I create a stressbox by opening up a disposable notepad.txt file and writing out all my objections.

A few things can happen from here.

Maybe I’ll identify an underlying issue that’s stopping me from making progress. Or I could wear out my inner critic by venting until there’s nothing left to criticize. Sometimes, it’s McDonald’s Theory in action — I lay out my worst possible ideas, and then it’s much easier to improve from there. 

I also get the fun mental image of trapping my inner critic(s) in that two-dimensional prison from Superman II.

The stressbox can sound like a waste of time, but I normally bring it out when I’ve already wasted a lot of time procrastinating with things like gaming or household chores.

It’s no less constructive than any other form of procrastination, and it gets me closer to a place where I'm doing actual work. (I’m already seated at the computer and typing in complete sentences; it’s a minor change to start typing in a different window.) 

The main drawback is that the comments from the stressbox are never part of the finished work — the file is never saved, because who wants a record of their most obnoxious self-criticism? 

I end up forgetting that it can be an important part of my creative process. Every time I sit down in front of a new project, I have to remember how it works all over again. 

*Update 11/27/23: I FOUND THE JOKE!