03 October 2014


I am considering continuing my attempt to delve into the blogosphere, but my questions is; is anyone interested?

22 November 2013

On Video Game Tactics as an Old Man

In honour of the new Xbox’s release this coming morning, I dug out an old blog post I never finished writing, and thought I'd chuck a rough version of it up here.

I have become quite addicted of late to the hand picked articles over at Longform, and today I read a great article about Obama’s actions in Libya, which it got me thinking, of all things, about how I play video games.

The article is a profile of United States president Barack Obama, in which the author seeks to explain Obama's leadership style through an analysis of a few key moments in the first half of his presidency. Its main focus is on the very public decision for the United States to intervene militarily in Libya. However it intersperses this with another angle of the presidents approach toward tackling complex situations by discussing his strategy going into the weekly game of basketball he organises with other members of his government.
In the lead up to the article proper, the writer goes over Obama's explanation of how his style of play has had to change over the years as his abilities reflected his age. One paragraph in particular stuck in my mind:
“What happens is, as I get older, the chances I’m going to play well go down. When I was 30 there was, like, a one-in-two chance. By the time I was 40 it was more like one in three or one in four.” He used to focus on personal achievement, but as he can no longer achieve so much personally, he’s switched to trying to figure out how to make his team win. In his decline he’s maintaining his relevance and sense of purpose.
This line of thinking reminds me of how I play games like Halo or Battlefield. In particular why I like playing team oriented games, rather than the helter skelter frenzy of a free for all.
Let me explain.
Though I may not be that aged yet (It seems that as the average gamers age has increased each year, so has mine; so things work out nicely), I nevertheless do feel that there is an immense advantage for the youth when it comes to playing video games. First of all, they have more time to play. I remember fondly spending hours and hours with friends perfecting every possible circuit in games like Super Mario Kart, or stealthily stalking opponents on GoldenEye, to the point that tense stalemates ran into hours of rigging proximity mines, or sniping the sharp edged polygons of a crouched individual, trying their best to remain in the small shadow profile we had each mentally mapped.
We've come a long way baby
In addition to this extra training time, the younger gaming population is also able to capitalise on their apparent quicker reflexes, and as a result, an uncanny ability to hone their aim when compared to mine.
Now I have never been much of a long distance fighter as it is (give me a shotgun and melee any day), but I can still sense the disparity in aim, and thus accuracy, when a battle gets going.
So a while ago I decided that I would not let this asymmetry get me down. Whatever I may now lack in youthful spry, I can more than make up for in guile, strategy and determination.
I may not be able to stroll through a battlefield picking off my enemies with uncanny headshots as my opponents often do. However these days when I burst on stage I can assure you that, though I tend to go down in a hail of bullets, when my charge is complete and the dust has settled, the opposing team is well aware of it, and generally worse for wear because of it.

There is no I in team, and thus there should be no ego on the battlefield. More often than not I notice younger gamers tend to be glory hogs, they go for the highest score for themselves, regardless of the team's situation. They grab whatever weapon they desire, and assert that they are the best at whatever endeavour they are undertaking.
More often than not this comes to mind..
I pick team based games because I like the strategy. I like looking at what is happening in a game, and figuring out the best plan of attack to turn the tide in my teams favour. Perhaps someone needs suppressive fire, or maybe just a charge into the open to distract the other side. Either way these actions are rarely major points getterson their own, but add up these plays as an overall game plan, and you soon find yourself rising to the top of your teams leaderboard, and aiding the overall probability of a victory.

This is the kind of maneuvering that doesn't see as appealing from a single player point of view. But harrying one's opponents is just as important as taking them out, or capturing the flag.

They always say know your enemy, and what enemy truly hits home more than one’s own weaknesses? At the end of the day it is about knowing your own limitations, and accepting that though the playing field is not even, the bumps and troughs it provides can just as easily substitute for cover as they do for hindrance.

Coming full circle this whole thing reminds me of my own days playing basketball.
I remember the emphasis always on who got the baskets, especially as our coach’s son was the tallest, and thus the officially sanctioned team strategy was ‘throw it to Matt’
After games my mum would always compliment me on my movements on the court.
“You're always where you need to be”, she would say; “they just don’t pass it the way they should”.

These days at least I know where I need to be, and the initiative is on me to make the most of this position.

Twas the Night Before Xbox….

I have that giddy feeling that I associate with memories of waiting up for Christmas, or my birthday to come. That odd moment when you seem to be distanced somewhat for the reality of the world, and look at it from some third person view. Excitement flows through your veins. Tomorrow is coming; the event you’re waiting from is almost here. Other worries empty from your mind, and your thoughts are consumed by that one slowly shrinking time period between now, and when the big moment finally comes.

Tomorrow I get my new Xbox One.

These days however I can also notice a slight twinge of pessimism seeping in. My adult mind can't sustain the same childlike idealistic view of the future. I keep on thinking about what will go wrong. About how the moment I am looking forward to will never come as smoothly as I imagine it, nor will its eventuation truly match my expectation. 
Perhaps it will pull a next generation version of the red ring of death, or maybe the games will have sold out. Best not to get too carried away and to stay realistic I think to myself.

But all that being said, I still feel like a kid on Christmas eve.

For years I have been fortunate enough to live my life slightly below the average gamers age. I am just over 29 years old, and the average gamer is around 32. So as I have grown, and the gaming world has grown around me, I was always at the cusp of the ‘right’ age to capitalise on games. When I was young, there were simple games. They slowly got more complex as my mind followed suit. As I became more mature, so to did game content.
Yet I can't help notice that this is a trend which cannot be kept up forever. Gamers will continuously be added to the lower end of the age spectrum with far fewer taking up controllers on the higher one. One day the number of gamers younger than me will outnumber those older and I will find myself on the opposite end of the burgeoning wave of new gaming experience.

But at the end of the day that isn’t really anything to complain about.

So here I am, waiting. Waiting for my new Xbox.

21 July 2013

A Response to Christians Who Oppose Gay Marriage and Gay Parents

I recently wrote a response to this letter printed in The Courier. They rang me around an hour later to get permission to print it with my name attached, I agreed, and with any luck it will be in Mondays edition of our local newspaper.
Below is a copy of what i wrote, but I would also like to point out today one of the replies i found on the Courier's website from one of the regular contributors as i think it is well worth a read to try and understand the psyche of some of those on the opposing team.
But first, my response letter.
“Won’t somebody please think of the children!”
I write in response to Brendan Keogh’s letter ‘Same-sex relationships damaging for children’, in which the author outlines reasons why gays should not be allowed to marry, or adopt.
To quote Mr Keogh, he believes that ‘Marriage is a legal and social institution with a biological foundation, which helps to bind a male to his mate for stability and for the children they might have’.
Note the sterile descriptions about how marriage is about ‘binding’ a male to his mate, note the specific gender mentioned, and note the complete absence of love, emotions, or commitment; things which I believe are much more vital to a healthy marriage and family life than mere biological compatibility.
The author claims that evidence supporting the view that same-sex parents can successfully raise healthy children is ‘shallow and biased’, yet offers no corollary evidence to support their claim that same-sex couples raising a child is ‘unnatural and damaging to them [the child]’. There are assertions yes; but no evidence.
According to the author, the role of a mother in raising a child is ‘the emotional security of the bonding touch and feeding’, whereas a father is required to ‘firmly model’ the child into adulthood. Such clear cut gender roles are not an intrinsic part of being a parent. There is no reason why a father cannot offer emotional security, and bond with their child during feeding. Nor is there anything stopping a mother from helping guide their child into adulthood. Asserting such roles is simply a throwback to the days when mothers stayed home to clean the house while men went off to bring home the bacon.
Any argument about a child being robbed of their biological identity falls flat when you look at the multitude of families out there that raise adopted children, or are comprised of single parents, and are able to produce perfectly well-adjusted individuals.
The author’s clear aversion to same sex relationships in general is evident in the language they use, calling their mutual love an ‘unnatural satisfaction’.
This appeal to natural law however is no more than a veiled appeal to religious values. If we are to accept natural law as a governing factor in who can raise children, then sterile couples would be banned from adoption. Yet point out that homosexual coupling is prevalent throughout the natural world, and suddenly natural law is relegated to the sidelines.
Again we see the opponents of homosexual marriage and adoption sinking further into malaise as they try and justify their outdated views. No longer willing to attack the unions directly, they now seek to reduce the argument to sterile biological terms, and relegate marriage to an institution solely derived for the act of procreation and child rearing.
Never is love mentioned in this argument. Not the love that parents feel for their children, which is a necessity to raising a child, nor the love between two people who are committed to entering into a marriage together.
Opponents of same sex couples can no longer sway public opinion by simply pointing out how offended their sensibilities are by the existence of such people, so now they are reduced to echoing Maude Flanders perennial cry of “Won’t somebody please think of the children!” in the hope that appealing to peoples innate sense of responsibility toward children will blind them to the obvious flaws in their arguments.
To grow up as a healthy and well-adjusted person you don’t need a male and female to raise you; you need parents who love you.
I'm pretty happy with that response. And responding seems to be the main way that i ever get the motivation to send anything into The Courier, which is guess isn't a bad thing.
But then last night i was checking the comments on this article, which were assuring in their general disagreement with the authors thesis, until i stumbled upon this reply:
Thanks Brendan, well said. It's very sad that so many confuse love with lust. Looking at same-sex relationships today , some think it's keeping up with the times. If they went into history, they would know that it's all been done before. The best thing to do, is to live morally with Love. If you truly love your children, you will give them a Mum & Dad that are married.
People like to rubbish the Churches of any denomination if they can't get what they want out of it. Why is it that Christians always get the blame for all bad? True Christians are devastated, seeing how obscene some have become. They are not judging you, but are sad for such behaviour. The children raised by same-sexes, may not be bad, but they don't know how to live morally, they only know self-gratification, and their minds are tainted with this. Real Happiness, is doing it Right!
It is cliche Christian fundamentalist claptrap, from the bad grammar, to the randomly capitalised initials, and from the hypocritical theme (we aren't judging you; but here are my judgements of your behaviour...), to the smug sense of moral authority. But the one line that really sent my blood boiling was this one:
The children raised by same-sexes, may not be bad, but they don't know how to live morally, they only know self-gratification, and their minds are tainted with this.

Really? People can say this in today's day and age, and not feel as if they are on the wrong side of not only history, but also decency?
One of the best parts of being an atheist and confronting these people (albeit online and in no direct way) is that i don't mind pointing out that i am judging them. I judge her words as phenomenally offensive. I judge her to be an insensitive person, for suggesting that homosexual people don't know love from lust, or that they are only choosing a lifestyle for the sake of 'keeping up with the times'.
Rest assured, I dont think my judgement comes from anything but my own opinions, but I am willing to put my argument to the test against hers, and i figure that if one can put a rigorous argument together of their own accord, rather than referring to some ancient text, then surely there is merit in this?

Anyway, thats my little rant over; what do you all think?

03 July 2013

Shapeshifter trumps Werewolf; Every Time

True Blood, I am still trying to enjoy you. Really I am; even after the massive letdown that was last season. And I must say, so far this season has been looking quite positive; focusing on what used to make the show good (the conflict of everyday troubles with supernatural oddities), rather than getting too bogged down in the freaky stuff (Fairy interpretive dance, possessive witches, weird goat shaman thing and so on).

But one thing I haven’t been enjoying is the annoying turn in Alcide’s character, and the conflict this has produced with Sam. Especially when the fight between Sam (shapeshifter) and Alcide (werewolf) was such a lacklustre event. This is even more disappointing considering last season True Blood illustrated just how formidable Sam’s shapeshifting powers can be in a fight.
For those not in the know; that is a man shapeshifting into a fly,  flying into someone's mouth, and then turning back into a human. Brilliant!
So when Alcide and his biker/werewolf gang turned up and started a biff, I couldn’t help but think that it should have turned out this way:
Artwork courtesy of my boredom at work

Blue whale wins every time.

20 June 2013

Bernardi Doesn't Get It: On Same Sex Marriage and Polygamy

Sigh, more dreck from a Liberal Party member.

Liberal Senator, and Tony Abbott's former personal parliamentary secretary, Cory Bernardi is again defending his comments regarding a spurious link between homosexual marriage, polygamous marriage and even bestiality.
A cursory Google search shows that Cory likes to have his photo taken with books, but finds it hard to keep his eyes on the page
Clearly not fazed by the public backlash at his original equivocation of these relationships, Bernardi now believes that a petition being organised in support of polygamous relationships vindicates his earlier remarks.
"I stand on the record and say, well I was right,"
This from the same man whose internal logic insists that loving someone of the same sex can be easily correlated to having sex with an animal:
"Bestiality, of course it was an extreme example, but once again it's linked to the radical agenda of the Greens Party,"
He calls it an extreme example, but still seriously thinks it a valid one, and what’s more asserts an untenable link to Green Party policy.
Regarding the question of homosexual marriage Bernardi had this to say:
"I think there should be alarm . . . If you're going to re-define a word to satisfy demands of a minority then you're going to face continuing demands in that space.''
The thing he fails to take into account is that it isn’t a minority that is demanding this right; it is the majority!
Yes, the subset of the population that is gay is a minority; but the subset that wants gay marriage to be made legal is a majority. I firmly believe that gays should be able to marry if they choose to, even though I myself am not gay, and would thus never benefit directly from the ability to do so. So while I am not a part of the minority being denied rights, I am a part of the majority that believes this should be rectified.
Those who are arguing for polygamous relationships to be given the same right however do not have the backing of the majority of Australians. They are both a minority in this sense, and also in the obvious sense that the majority of Australians are not tempted to take multiple spouses (we assume).
I'll just leave this here
This is the fundamental difference that needs to be addressed in dealing with fallacious arguments like Mr Bernardi’s. We are not seeking to affirm rights for minorities because they demand them, but rather because the majority recognise these inherent rights. You don’t have to share in a minority’s reality in order to agree with their position. And when the majority of the population believes that these rights should be recognised, it is not kowtowing to the minority; it is the will of the majority.

What’s worse is that setting up ones position based solely on the ‘slippery slope’ argument fails to take into account any differences between propositions. It simply asserts that if you allow one thing, then you must allow others. The same argument was dragged out in opposition to mixed marriages, and no doubt many of those who employed it in the past would feel as vindicated of their bigoted beliefs due to the push for gay marriage coming after mixed race marriages, as Bernardi does when facing polygamy today.

But just because one thing can lead to another, does not mean it must. And what’s more, just because one thing is allowed, does not mean all subsequent things must also be permitted.
The strength of the slippery slope argument rests solely on its ability to prove a link between these subsequent propositions. In this sense, Bernardi and others fail miserably.
There are fundamental differences between allowing gay marriage, and allowing polygamous marriage. One requires a fundamental change to the marriage code, and associated laws, the other does not.
It is not hard to substitute a husband and husband, or a wife and a wife, for a husband and wife in our legal system. It is fundamentally the same thing; recognising a relationship between two individuals. Indeed much of our legal system now accepts the role of same sex relationships in one form or another. Adding a third party to the affair however would require a whole new set of rules to deal with the ambiguity or asymmetry of a multi-partnered relationship, whether it be sorting out inheritance, defining guardianship and so on.

All this being said, I myself don’t have any major objections to polygamous relationships, I just don’t think them very practical, or stable. If I was to be proven wrong, and shown that people could make such an arrangement work harmoniously, then more power to them.

But at the end of the day these two arguments are separate arguments, linked only by the fact that they both deal with relationships and marriage, but not linked in any fundamental way that would demand both be recognised should either ‘cross the line’ into law.

Thanks for reading,

22 May 2013

Thoughts on the Imminent Xbox

The new Xbox is set to be announced tomorrow. Or today I guess, as it is in the United States that things will take place. But it is tomorrow for us, at 3:00 a.m. Microsoft is set to announce what can only be the latest generation of their gaming console; and I am pumped!

It is odd to realise that a central part of my entertainment is still being provided by a piece of tech that is around 8 years old. Eight years! Think about it; eight years ago, there was no such thing as an iPhone.

Sure, I guess now it is a sign of our times that we think new technology must be purchased the instant it debuts, and old technology shunted to the kerb; but 8 years seems a phenomenal time to still be using the same bit of tech.  Especially when you consider how much the experience has advanced over the years.
Just look at this comparison of Oblivion and Skyrim; same machine, same game series, wildly different experience.

Now, if I were to expect the same things of, say, my mobile phone, I would want my old 2005 era Nokia to be able to fill the boots of my current iPhone 4s. That means storing the whole discographies of my favourite bands, letting me watch my favourite shows and movies, connecting with family and friends, taking high definition photos, listening to voice commands and downloading thousands of amazing apps. Or at least instead offering me a fraction of this experience as the older Xbox did compared to the current.
Instead I would have been relying on this:
State of the art
Earlier today a couple of friends and I were musing over the difference that the console itself has gone through over its almost decade on this earth. There were the ugly ‘blades’ that were out gateway to the Xbox dashboard, or its initial inability to play media stored on an external hard drive (or even in such common formats as avi or xvid).
Check out the theme; so mid-2000's
Its older than Facebook, than Youtube (pretty much), and than Android.
Whats more mind bending from my point of view is its older than my son! Hell, its even older than my career (if you can call it that). 8 years ago, when it was finally time to upgrade from my humble old Xbox to the newly released Xbox 360, life was very different for me. For starters I had to scrape together money and ask for my mums help in being able to afford the thing! At least now I wont have to do that. Instead I will scrape together money and get my wife's help in budgeting this into our family’s expenses. Oh times how they change.
Debt remains debt it appears.
There was no financial crisis when Xbox 360 appeared. Few people could tell you what sub-prime even meant, and if pushed, I would have grasped at straws by mentioning Autobot hierarchy.
I guess as a lesser Prime he could be considered a 'sub-prime'...
There was a lot of hype around the new console, it managed to live up to much of its potential, but other parts of the state of the art machine have long since lost their relevance. Has anyone seriously been buying faceplates for their machines over the years? I did’t think so.
Thought this one is certainly worth investing in
The wait seemed to go on forever. I remember receiving my hideous blue faceplate in the mail a week before the console itself arrived on our shores, as well as a DVD of gameplay, and videos showing what the graphical user interface would look like. Watching it over and over as I dreamt of the amazing future that included things like, wait for it, wireless controllers!

It is also worth pointing out that the console I finally obtained on that day isn’t the same one I have today, though it is practically the same beast. Us Aussies had to deal with the crap end of Microsoft's roll out, first of all having our machines delayed when demand exceeded supply, and those Xbox 360s which had been destined for the land down under were appropriated by other interests. Then to add salt to the wound, the machines we got were more prone to suffer death via red ring. I had paid an extra $50 for the ability to swap any malfunctioning equipment with EB Games, and it was a decision that more than paid for itself (though note literally of course).
Within a week of getting my Xbox, it was dead. I replaced it in a day, and all was well. Until two weeks later, when the red ring fairy visited again and shut me down once more. Luckily third time was the charm, and the machine that hums and expels copious amounts of heat into my living room today is the same one that replaced the second try all those years ago.
Repeat screenings available...
One last thought.
I know sometimes it can be tedious to hear parents relate all their experience through the prism of parenthood; but I cant help feel that this next transition from seventh generation console to eighth will be an amazing thing to watch my son go through. During the previous transition between Xboxes he went from two disjointed human cells, all the way up to a cogent, sentient awesome little man. 
With a god damn green belt!
I remember playing Oblivion while he sat in a bouncer next to me, struggling to tell the difference between the world around him, and the fingers at the end of his hand. I remember introducing him to the world of gaming, and watching as he marvelled at the ability to shape events happening on a television screen with the press of a button.
When he was only two years old I would tentatively play Grand Theft Auto 4 with him on my lap (ensuring I obeyed the speed rules and caused no pedestrian harm), and was amused when he berated me for not putting on a helmet while I drove my motorbike around Liberty City.
If we can expect the same useful life out of this next console, then it will be the year 2021 when we next have to fork out a large sum of money and send it Bill Gates way. My son would be 15 years old on that day, in Year Ten, and living in a world who's fads and pastimes haven’t even been invented yet. Most likely he will play games between then and now that in some way will shape his life, his growth and who knows what else. He will experience movies and television shows that will stay with him forever. Through this conduit so much of our culture and knowledge will be available to him, in a way to shape who he is; and the thought of that really gets me excited.
Bring it on Redmond!