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March 2013

Delays and Extensions

No substantial blogging this week as I seem to have left an important part of my brain somewhere over Greenland. Hopefully the airline can deliver it to me soon enough…

  • I learned something valuable this month: jet-lag is exponentially worse when you travel with a two-year old! Had a great but exhausting trip to Tennessee and the surrounding states, and it was wonderful to catch up with some of our dear and distant friends.
  • I’ve been forced to ask Zero Books for an extension for Chaos Ethics, which they’ve been happy to give me. To be honest, I’m rather less happy about this – both because I hate having to ask for extensions and because I really need to get this draft manuscript completed soon as there are a lot of other projects I need to work on. On the plus side, the book is coming along fantastically well, and the restructure is a significant improvement.
  • Might share some thoughts about the PS4 announcement at some point, but the short version is that all the home console manufacturers are in trouble right now, and most AAA game developers are also at-risk.
  • Ironically, while the upper market struggles with precarious economics of their own creation, it’s practically a golden age for indies. However, I worry about market saturation in the popular genres.
  • It occurred to me that if you interpret ‘speculative realism’  as a form of idealism it could be described as ‘mindless idealism’. This appeals to me – I might declare myself a ‘mindless idealist’ just to support/oppose the speculative realists!

Return of the Snippets

Clip Art Graphic of a Yellow Guy Character After almost two years of absence, may I present the return of Only a Game’s Snippets – which I offer in place of anything more substantial this week, since the one thing this vacation has not provided me is time! Although it has been great to catch up with distant friends, there is something inherently draining about trying to meet with so many people in so many places in so short an interval of time, and having a two-year old with us only makes it harder. Still, nothing worthwhile comes about without effort, and life is good even (especially?) when it is exhausting.

  • Congratulations to ihobo stalwart Ernest Adams who has now been awarded his PhD! My own PhD by publication is in train, and I expect I shall be joining Dr. Adams with my own doctorate later this year.
  • After thirty years, I finally fulfilled my dream of sacking Doomdark’s capital of Ushgarak in Mike Singleton’s classic The Lords of Midnight! Anyone interested in the history of videogames who has not investigated this title has a golden opportunity thanks to Chris Wild’s iOS, Android and other releases of the game. It’s my favourite strategy game of all time – persevere with its odd interface and thou shalt be rewarded!
  • Fans of Object-Oriented Ontology should note that Timothy Morton’s Realist Magic is available online in html, as well as in book form. I’m afraid that although I enjoy the OOO crowd, every time I read their expositions of the core of the approach I am left thinking “And?”. Still, as contemporary mythologies go this is much more interesting than most other positivist systems. As geeks, however, philosophers should be wary of rabbit holes that invite them to communicate solely with other geeks, especially if they want (as Morton does) to influence change.
  • Work on Chaos Ethics has been slow while I’ve been away, and held up considerably by a necessary restructure – the original four parts are now being shuffled into ten chapters, each with a specific example of applied ethics. I’m convinced this is a better way to mount its discussions, but it’s a lot of extra work. This is rapidly becoming the toughest manuscript I’ve ever worked on, and I sincerely hope there are people out there looking to reconsider morality as a phenomena or I’m just barking at shadows.
  • There has been one (and only one!) entrant to the Spring Review Drive! As such, this lucky individual is currently guaranteed a prize – as would the next two entrants, as long as no-one else enters (!). Whichever way you look at it, your chances of winning a signed book are excellent if you submit reviews to the Review Drive now!

More from me when I’m back in the UK and recovered from my travels, although I shall monitor the comments when I get a chance so don’t hesitate to drop me a line – I’d love to hear from you on these or any other topic!


Win a Book in the Spring Review Drive!

Help me gather reviews and you could win a book… If you have read any of the five books pictured below, you could win one of three signed copies of Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy I’m offering as prizes in a special Spring review drive!

Bateman Books A friend recently pointed out to me that I don’t have a great deal of reviews on the Amazon sites, and that it would be good to get the numbers up. To this end, I’m offering books as prizes for three lucky contributors to a review drive running throughout Spring. To take part, you have to have read at least one of the five books pictured above, and contribute a review to either Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (or both – for double the chance of winning!). At the start of the competition, there are 10 reviews for these books on Amazon.com and just one on Amazon.co.uk – surely we can do better than that!

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Write a short review (a couple of sentences will do) for one or more of the books above and post them on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, or both.
  2. Send an email to comp [at] ihobo.com giving your name and address, the review text,  and the website posted to. If you have any special request about how you’d like the book signed, you can mention this too.
  3. If you post the review on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, you can send one competition email for each site, for twice the chances to win!

That’s all there is to it! Each book review on each site is worth one more chance to win, so if you’ve read more than one of my books you can rack up multiple chances to win. (If you’ve already written a review of one of these books for one of these sites, you can still submit that review to the competition).

There will be three random draws for prizes, one at the end of February, another at the end of March, and a final one at the end of April. If you enter before the first draw, you will get three chances to win for each review you submit.

Good luck!

Closing date for entries is 30th April 2013. Prize draws will be held on or shortly after 1st March, 1st April and 1st May. Competition is open to individuals with a postal address anywhere in the world. Multiple entries are permitted provided each corresponds to a review posted to either Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, the text of which must be included with the entry. Reviews posted to the relevant sites prior to the competition commencing are still eligible for entry into the competition provided the relevant email is submitted to the competition address. The same review text may be posted to Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, and this will qualify as two entries provided each is submitted in a separate email. Participants may only win one prize no matter how many times they enter. Winners will be determined at random using polyhedral dice rolled by an appointed judge. The judge's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. The prize may not be transferred to any other person. No cash alternative or alternative prize is available. Spambots will be shot. All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension. Entry in the competition implies acceptance of these rules.

This competition is currently open.


Always Feed the Fans

Cupcake A wise internet adage suggests you should “Never feed the trolls” – but I should like to suggest that the contrary of this is also advisable: “Always feed the fans.”

This concept is extremely well known among writers of fiction, who recognise more than others their dependency upon their fanbase. While I was working on Discworld Noir, Terry Pratchett mentioned how moved he had been as a boy by the letter he received back from J.R.R. Tolkien when he wrote as a fan, and committed then to always look after his fanbase, which to his infinite credit he has always done. I have great respect for authors who are able to make this kind of commitment to their readership, and all the more so when the numbers of fans becomes so large that doing so becomes a major undertaking.

But this general policy – “always feed the fans” – is advice that applies to everyone, whatever their skills and vocation. To be sure, it is most important when you work in an entertainment job, like writing, or games, or film, because in such contexts your fanbase is the foundation of your livelihood. But whomever you are and whatever you do, you have ‘fans’ of some kind, whether they are just a local circle of appreciators or a wider catchment of associates. If someone likes what you do, you should accept that graciously and support their support of you – it’s good for both your respective mental healths, and it is a simple community virtue that helps dissipate tension and isolation. In short, it is good for everyone when we express our gratitude and admiration.

I have consistently come into contact with people I admire, as with the time while working for Perfect Entertainment I got to work with Graftgold during their last days and thus met Andrew Braybrook, who created one of my all-time favourite games Paradroid. But after a friendly chat with Nicole Lazzaro at GDC one year, I changed my attitude about this from simply happening upon such people by chance, to actively seeking out contact with them. I began, for the first time, to write to people who were ‘big names’ to me and initiate conversations. They don’t always respond, but so what? Some do – and via this blog, I had the opportunity to offer mutual benefit to us both, through interviews and other promotional activities. Again, feeding the fan (me) was good for everyone – especially other fans.

Unfortunately, I get a little sensitive about some of the communications that terminate. Sometimes I will write effusive praise to someone whose work I admire and commence a conversation with them over email, only to find that a few emails later they have ceased to respond. Usually, I assume, it is simply that I write too much too often, and lacking time to respond they simply decline to continue the discussion. I appreciate the practicalities of life may require this. Yet, I wonder if there is not some better way to deal with this situation – is there no way to send a short missive that says, in effect, ‘I appreciate all you’ve written, but I don’t have time to respond?’. Although I can take it on the chin, I can’t help wondering if there isn’t some other way of handling the need to pull back from this rather than the sudden invocation of radio silence.

I encourage everyone reading this to be good to their ‘fans’, in whatever context they emerge, and in turn to be an encouraging fan – write to those people whose work you appreciate and tell them how you feel. This is perhaps less important for those ‘big names’ that are inundated with email, but it can mean the world to some newcomer struggling to make a name for themselves to know that out their in the world are people who truly appreciate what they are doing. What’s more, it’s easy to misjudge this – to think that someone has a big fanbase and is bored of being praised. Actually, unless someone is on the cover of People magazine every year it’s a safe bet they don’t get praised very often, and will appreciate whatever compliments come that way. This is especially true of indie game makers, classic and current, who almost always struggle and almost always appreciate hearing that their work has been appreciated.

“Always feed the fans”, and as a fan try to “always praise the talent” – especially the emerging talent. It’s a big world, and a few ‘big names’ tend to absorb all the praise, which is why I hate award ceremonies, the sycophantic rewarding of the already rewarded. (What a waste of time and effort, to give the already-successful a cherry on their gigantic stack of pancakes instead of offering fresh cupcakes to unsung heroes and newly emerging talents.) Find new voices and help them both to be heard, and to know they are being heard. It is sometimes the simplest things that make all the difference.


To Google or Not To Google

Back to thinking about deleting my Google+ account. Trying to establish if my problem is with G+ or with Google itself - and if the later, can I muster the will to disassociate myself with all their products or not? Disengaging from G+ feels like copping out if my problem is really with the big G.

And how much of this is rose-tinted reflection on how great it was when I was regular reading only a dozen blogs, rather than skimming over hundreds of people's ponderings, engaging with no-one. I would like to belong to a virtuous blogging community - and I am acutely aware that I no longer do, and perhaps no longer have time to do so.