Yeesh, I'm sitting here watching this crazy strange show, Quarterlife, which I suppose is trying to appeal to the nerdy, sitting at home, emo, angsty, or whatever blogger through the "main-ish" character. Which, this episode appears to be ending as most pilots do, with lots of horrible timing, sadness, and cheesy friend jokes. But a short scene of sadness just made me think of the role of tears, how rarely we see them in other people's eyes, and the ones I've seen most recently.

It almost seems like we've been trained to see tears, crying as this horrible thing - this sign of weakness, this sign of falling apart. So we hold them back - we don't show them to anyone, sometimes holding them back from even ourselves. Is it so hard to let the tears flow when we really need them to? Where do we need to be - who do you need to be with to feel comfortable just letting it happen? It seems like even tears of happiness we tend to hold back instinctively, and seeing those tears of happiness can initially seem sad from the outside. I wish I knew why we're so ashamed of that, why we choose to hide, instead of letting it come out however it needed to. Anyways, I really don't have a point I'm trying to make, it just happens to be something on my mind at the moment.

The phoenix is a mythical bird with beautiful gold and red plumage. At the end of its life-cycle the phoenix ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arises. The new phoenix is destined to live, usually, as long as the old one. The bird was also said to regenerate when hurt or wounded by a foe, thus being almost immortal and invincible — a symbol of fire and divinity. Although descriptions (and life-span) vary, the phoenix became a symbol representing resurrection, immortality, and life-after-death.

I bought this ring a little over a year ago and have been wearing it ever since. For some reason the ideology of the phoenix resonated with me, as did this ring when I first saw it. Something about the whole concept of rebirth, of starting anew, starting fresh. Treating each event in your life, each year, each month, each week, each day, as a a new dawn built off the basis of the lifetime before it, not held back by it. It's an aspect I want to embrace more, so I choose to remind myself of it whenever possible. I want to be able to look forward to the excitement each new day presents, and let the struggles from the day before dissipate like ash in the wind.


Home Sweet Home

Seriously, being home has never felt better. Vincent (my cat) agrees, since he was weaving between my legs or finding a spot on my lap for hours after I got home.

Anyways, thought I would post up my notes from GDC if anyone was interested in them. I figure I may as well, for people who couldn't go. I'm looking for mp3s or videos from some of my favorite sessions, and if I find them, will post them up.

I just took these notes as a train of thought (as I normally do), so my apologies if they don't make any sense to you.

Here are the sessions I went to:

Storytelling in BIOSHOCK: Empowering Players to Care about Your Stupid Story
MGS Keynote (no notes, just a keynote, IGN has videos)
I-fi: Immersive Fidelity in Game Design
Ray Kurzweil Keynote (no notes, read his book, and IGN has an article)
UNCHARTED: DRAKE'S FORTUNE Post-Mortem: Amazing Feats of Daring
'Do, Don't Show' – Narrative Design in FARCRY 2
Taming the Mob: Creating believable crowds in ASSASSIN'S CREED (no notes, had to stand in the back)
Pouring Gas on the Flames: Game Designers Rant

And, if you want to read my notes on the ones I took notes in, here they are.

Happy Monday everyone - hope your week treats you well...


Redefining forever

As is really not that surprising, we had plenty of interesting and deep discussions regarding the topics in the keynote over lunch. It was certainly interesting and in depth for the few of us that had actually read of some Kurzweil's books, but pretty open to all. The primary interest of the conversation was based off of the postulation that Kurzweil made regarding the eventual eradication of human mortality within the next two decades. So, for the sake of this post, bear with the science fiction and believe the plausibility of this science becoming realized.

The social and global implications would certainly be huge, given how many assumptions our laws, economy and lives have on our life cycle - social security would no longer exist, and if we really could live productive lives for thousands of years or more, we would potentially be in a state of constantly learning, jumping from job to job, furthering our personal knowledge in much less finite ways than we currently do. Perhaps our required knowledge sets would evolve and we would all be learning and moving higher along the intellectual food chain, which our jobs would then reflect. However, what struct me as most interesting (which will come as no surprise to anyone that knows me) was something that a close friend of mine at work stated. He read The Singularity while we was dating his wife, and before he felt comfortable marrying her, he wanted her to read The Singularity, understand and accept the possiblity of a less traditional existence in their lifetimes. That this could be more infinite than they could comprehend right now.

Certainly not surprising to hear that from Paul, but certainly an interesting concept. Removing the concept of death to part us, the romantic vision of a "forever" that lasts longer than our inidividual lifetime, and a potential existence of infinite change, would you be able to jump headfirst and without looking back at the concept of being with another person literally forever? Once that contract of marriage extends longer than the 70, 80 or a 100 or so yaers that currently times them out, does anything change? Already we've proven as Americans that the statisical chances of staying with soomeone over the span of your current life expectancy is less than 50%. For that matter, look at your current girlfriend or boyfriend - would you be as happy or happier 200 years from now still walking by their side? Hell, is there anyone in your life that you could make that claim with, blood relatives as well? Or does the fact that the timeframe of that connection extends longer than we expect even matter? Shouldn't the fact that you could remain so deeply in love with this person and the other people you care about in your life for infinitely longer than you originally anticipated just heighten the potential joy of the experience? Shouldn't the ideal of being able to live an infinite range of lifetimes to be able to experience new adventures and challenges with that person in the context of one lifetime be the most exciting thing in the world that overshadows those other worries?

I certainly don't know, but I would love to stick around to find out.


Futurists, today

Just had the pretty wonderful experience of seeing Ray Kurzweil talk - Kurzweil is an absolutely spectacularly intelligent person who spends a lot of time looking out towards the future and speculating where we're going and where we'll end up. He's written The Age of Intelligent Machines, The Age of Spiritual Machines, and most recently The Singularity is Near. Given our current rate of advancement in technology, which icreases exponentially, and not linearly (which is strange to imagine, since we instinctivly project linearly), will be advancing faster than ever before and are rapidly changing our society. So much so that the line between technology and biology is becoming more and more blurred, and that within the next few decades, extension of life expectancy will start to increase faster than we can age. That is, for every one year you live, the life expectancy will increase by at least one year, almost certainly more, leading to a sense of immortality. He even postulates that within two decades, computing will reach orders of magnitude over the computing power of the human brain.

Ponder that for a while. Crazy science fiction? It's certainly pretty hard for a lot of people to swallow. But if you this is interesting to you at all, and even if you read his books as fully fiction, I would definitely recommend The Singularity. It's a brick of a book, but it's interesting in a really nerdy, tech way. It certainly paves the road for the imagination to run wild at the potential futures. What would happen in a world where nanomachines could augment your health to always be in a spectacular state? A world where it was possible to actually live (essentially) forever?

Stuff that's really out there - but wouldn't it be intersting if that's where we headed?


Democratizing distribution

Well, the keynote to fire off the conference was given by John Schappert, an ex EA employee who is now the Microsoft Corporate Vice President. There were a lot of interesting things - Ninja Gaiden 2, Gears of War 2, Fable 2 (lots of sequels, actually). But the thing that was really interesting to me was the announcement of Xbox Live Community - a venue for anyone who takes the initiative to write a game in XNA to share their game on Xbox Live, have it rated by peers, and playable by the tens of millions of people with 360s. That, and that XNA will now be playable on PC, 360, and on the Zune out of the box! I'm sure it's not flawless in practise, but it's an absolutely awesome idea that I would love to see take off. I hope this is actually a step towards the industry opening up and respecting the fact that anyone out there can have a killer game idea, and let those passionate people go out there and create their own games for their friends to play. Let the gamers become developers and protoype ideas they think are cool. I really hope this becomes a totally open, self-regulating community, because I think it could be really powerful. Hell, I'm working at a company where we make multi-million dollar big titles, and I feel inspired to spend my time at home making little, simple fun games - the games I dreamt about in college :) Here's hoping this lets other people out there to do the same.

I guess I am starting to get a little more inspired about where we're going as an industry, so this trip may very well be succeeding with its goals :)
Game Developers Gather!

Ahh, the Game Developer's Conference - undoubtedly the largest gathering of people who are passionate about games as a medium each year. I think my friend Paul put it best - "You don't really go to GDC for the content, you go to become re-inspired in the industry, in where we're going, and what we're doing to forward that. To catch up and meet up with our friends and feelow people that are solving the same problems we are in other places." If you come across some good sessions (one thing this industry isn't great at is public speaking...), that's just icing on the cake. After all, what's the point of working if you've not super, insanely passionate about it? Also, Ray Kurzweil is giving a keynote this year, and his books are just awesome from a "Holy crap if would be so cool if any of this came true." I can't wait to see what he has to say about gaming and the industry as a whole.

It's pretty insane how much the industry has been changing. They estimate this year that thirteen thousand people are here. Thirteen thousand! There are now tons of different people and disciplines here now. Game developers are really no longer the traditional view of the nerd in the garage programming all day long (hello Grandma's Boy). Now we're an industry that is starting to pull in cinematographers, writers, composers, men, women, families. It's pretty cool to be able to see it all change before us. Even in the content that we now talk about - it seems like this year is focused on storytelling in games - how to do it, how not to do it. What are the chances you can have the same emotional connection from a video game that you might have in the best movies that you've seen, or the best books that you've read? What's the last medium that influenced you as much as a movie like Children of Men? (if that movie was impactful to you - I know it was to me) What are the chances that a game can pull you in just as much if not more? Why not?

We already had an insanely pasasioned discussion about some of those topics over dinner last night. Pretty crazy and nice that me and a few coworkers have the ability to get in a pull-no-punches dragged out verbal argument, both playing devil's advocate on both sides (not to be dicks, but to challenge the other party to articulate and defend their views), and not have any of it be personal - we know we're all excited about what each other is doing, and we just want each other to succeed. It's like working in a team back in college again.

Which is an awesome feeling - working with friends to make something cool :)


We're all human, after all

It's always interesting to see how people view themselves - especially their bodies. We've been raised in a society to almost be ashamed of our appearances. There's always someone better looking - someone in better shape - some 'beautiful' airbrushed stereotypes made to convince us all that we're not good enough. What ever happened to appreciating the person and body we were both with, imperfections and all? To just be proud of who we are and be happy about it. Now, I absolutely think that we should be working to stay healthy and to better ourselves, but that shouldn't prevent you from being happy with who you are along the way.

A lot of this stems from thoughts running through my head while in figure drawing sessions at work last year. I'm lucky enough to work at a place where they let the few programmers that are artistically inclined (not nearly as talented as our artists) as least tag along and practice their skills with the other artists at the studio. We do nude figure drawing of various time lengths and mediums, which has proved to be inspiring in a wide variety of ways each time. For one, it provides an avenue for me to really tap into the artistic side of me that loves to capture inspiration however possible. But one thing that has always stood out to me is the amazing amount of confidence and pride that the models who come in have about themselves. They are of all shapes and sizes, from full figured to average to supermodel thin, but each one has the same level of confidence in what they're doing. I often find myself enthralled by it and downright curious of the person behind the flesh. There have been times where I've finished the pose early and just took the opportunity to look into their eyes during their mannequin-esque stillness and see nothing but a blank stare - so confident that the fact that they are fully nude has no effect on them. I often have bene curious whether I would have the strength and confidence to do that. Truly amazing.

The thought was rekindled after talking to a friend who exudes the same level of confidence, in an alter ego-esque way. She's helping out a friend with his portfolio by doing some non-nude poses, and I was amazed to hear the level of confidence she had in herself, in her body, and who she was. I don't know that I've met many people at all who held the same level of confidence in their physical appearance - especially not women. Needless to say, I was very impressed with her :) It seems like we focus so much on the harsh line between covering ourselves up in a utilitarian line and any form of nudity (even partial) being pornography. Has the concept of the human body as an art form totally escaped us? Is it possible for us as Americans (many other societies are unlike us in this respect) to see our bodies as beautiful, sexual, sensual art forms and be able to celebrate that? To be comfortable with the fact that the human form is inpirational on an emotional as well as a sexual level? To be able to embrace the imperfections we have and be able to wake up each morning, look in the mirror and be inspired by the person and body staring back at you?

Backdated post - completed 12/20/07 02:29:00 AM


Same story, different audience

chance to catch up with a close friend that I haven't seen in a really long time. Turns out that he's had his share of drama recently - a lot of pain and heartache that taking risks with your heart can often lead to. I had never really talked to him about that sort of stuff before, and he happened to be dealing with something that he drew parallels to my past.

I had really underestimated the differences between going through these stories - these experiences, these troubles yourself, and seeing people you care about going through them. When it's your problem to deal with, it's so easy to be strong - to fight your way through it, to 'tough it out'. After all, it's your problem to work through, right? Of course you rely on your friends, your family, your loved ones - draw support from the structures around you, but in the end, you're the one who has to work past it. To make the decision to go through the hard times for the greener fields on the other side. I never really expected that to be the easy part.

But hearing a close friend, someone you really care about, someone you want to see happy going through similar struggles? That hurts. To see them really struggling and fighting through it in their own ways - knowing full well that you can help, offer support, do what you can to alleviate the effect of the whole experience, to just be a sounding board sometimes, knowing full well that when push comes to shove, they'll make the final step on their own? That sucks. A lot. It might be a lot of the personality I (and a lot of my friends) have - the 'parental' personality trait that makes you want to improve peoples lives', (sometimes - hell, oftentimes so much that it's a personality fault). But it is a lot harder when it strikes a chord that's so familiar to your own life - hearing those exact same phrases, those exact same thoughts that you thought yourself echoed. Love... forever... if only... it made me realize... I wish... I really thought... Knowing full well that they will make it through the process, but that it's a tough road. A part of me wouldn't wish that upon anyone, and another part hopes that everyone gets the chance to experience something similar in their life at least once. Seeing a friend go through it is damn tough.

Especially when they draw the parallels themselves, "I gained a whole new respect for you after this. When you had to go through the same things, I never realized how hard it must have been for you and I can't believe how well you handled it."

That's the thing man, I didn't handle it that well back then. But I'm confident you will.

Backdated post - completed 12/20/07 02:25:00 AM


Happy Singles Awareness Day!

But if you're not, you can give these nerdy video game Valentines to your sweetie! :p

The metroid is my favorite :) Happy Valentine's Day!


Friendship is...

Alright, normally those crazy "send these out to X people" emails are stupid and annoying to get, but I just got this one in my mailbox and thought it was awesome.

"True" Friendship

None of that Sissy Crap

Are you tired of those sissy "friendship" poems that always sound good, but never actually come close to reality? Well, here is a series of promises that actually speak of true friendship. You will see no cutesy little smiley faces on this card- Just the stone cold truth of our great friendship.

1. When you are sad -- I will help you get drunk and plot revenge against the sorry bastard who made you sad.
2. When you are blue -- I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.
3. When you smile -- I will know you are plotting something that I must be involved in.
4. When you are scared -- I will rag on you about it every chance I get.
5. When you are worried -- I will tell you horrible stories about how much Worse it could be until you quit whining.
6. When you are confused -- I will use little words.
7. When you are sick -- Stay the hell away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have.
8. When you fall -- I will point and laugh at your clumsy ass.
9. This is my oath .... I pledge it to the end "Why?" you may ask; "because you are my friend".

Friendship is like peeing your pants, everyone can see it, but only you can feel it's true warmth.

Remember: A friend will help you move. A really good friend will help you move a body. Let me know if I ever need to bring a shovel...

Send this to 10 of your closest friends, then get depressed because you can only think of 4.

I actually laughed out loud :p To all my friends out there, I love ya :)


On mortality

It's amazing what a little reminder of our own mortality and fragility can do to us. I was talking with my mom today about a recent tragedy that happened in my hometown - a woman, a mother, was jogging one morning and was struck and killed by a car. It certainly struck me as sad, and my mother insisted that I knew her - that I went to school with her daughter as well as the mother who was killed. When my mother actually described who it was, I guessed it pretty quickly, and it honestly hit me like a ton of bricks. Not because I was close to her or her daughter, but because all of a sudden a face was put to the whole experience. I remember meeting her at a big gathering last year, catching up with her and hearing about all the volunteer work she was doing. I remember going to school, no - growing up with, her daughter over many years. Suddenly it all felt so much more 'real' - I couldn't stop imagining the actual event in my head, nor could I stop seeing the tears in her daughter's eyes. It made the experience much more tangible in my head.

"Life is so short, nothing is guaranteed. That's why it's so important to live a good life all the time," my mother said after I realized who she was talking about. Which is, of course true. It seems like every time I really sit down and chat with my parents, really old friends, or just connect with my roots, I remember how important that is. Just leading a good life. Helping other people, and experiencing life while also improving others. Reminds me to really recenter myself sometimes, and what I really want each day to be - take more risks. If today was your last day, would you be happy how you spent it? If not, why not? Would you have things you wish you said, to people you wish you could say them to? I hope to have less and less of those moments, even if it makes me look foolish along the way.

So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you've never been hurt because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you'll never get back. Don't be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin.
- Anonymous



We all have passions - the things that drive our actions day to day. Rather, maybe not even day to day, since those actions tend to be "go to work so I can eat", but the actions we make that affect us on a larger scale. I've recently been sitting down and thinking about that passion - what really drives me, my actions. Which, of course really got me thinking about what's driven me in the past. I definitely have the personality flaw of focusing in on one passion and letting it envelop me. A sort of tunnel vision almost.

I mean, really think about it - what has driven you in the past? My myriad of passions is strange as I've grown. When I was younger, it was simple. Try and be as good of a person as I could (which has been very persistent), progress as a person, and enjoy the ride. As I got older (high school-ish), bigger goals came up - work to earn that black belt, try to create beautiful pieces of artwork, learn to act, be able to teach karate to help other people, and the ever-present find someone to love (that one is awfully ever-present). College rolls around and succeeding academically shoots up in my priorities, trying to enjoy myself and get past the summer-camp feel of it. Then I get into Orientation and fall in love with helping new freshmen and the program, so I focus my energies on doing everything I can to make that program better, and really help each incoming student. Then I get into a relationship, and my passions shift directly into that - living it and bettering it (not necessarily successfully). Time passes, and I graduate - my passions shift to work. The excitement of the "games industry" keeps me going at about 10000% while working. Switch jobs, and my passions stay the same but amplify. Relationship ends, and passions shift around a little - passion to figure myself out, but mostly diving into the project at work. Project at work gets canceled. Where does the passion go?

That's what I've been trying to figure out, honestly. I'm not thrilled about the current state of things at work. I don't have a relationship to sink up my passions (not saying that's a bad thing necessarily), and I'm not really on an active 'hunt for the girl' at the moment. I spent a really long time in the last few years working to understand myself, my desires, my actions, and my motivations. That's an ongoing process, but isn't really a primary passion at the moment. Sitting down and thinking about it, I've come to realize that helping people is one of my constant passions in life. Helping my family, my friends, teaching - just making people's lives' better in any way I can. However, even that is gone. Many of my friends (especially the few in proximity) are doing quite well - are happy with their lives as it stands, or happy with the path that its on. Either that, or all I can do is passively offer support. My family is doing better than ever - my sister finally found someone who really treats her well, my mom and dad are happily preparing to retire and maybe even move into a new house. All around me, my friends are ensconced in mature lives full of successes, family, love, life, and even children. Not really in need of help, which is awesome.

So where does that put me? One thing I've learned is that it's incredibly incredibly easy to create fake passions. Things that distract you from what's really important - from working towards the passions that really matter. Heck, I've already found one - as I mentioned before, I'm recently falling more in love with my vehicles. Babying them and keeping them running, active and pretty (a lot like owning a pet, honestly - ladies, date a guy who can take care of something - proves they can pay attention to details). Any real, persistent passions really haven't changed, though. I really want to see the people that I love happy, to succeed, to do more than they think they can. I love the idea of helping people - anyone that I can. I'm hoping going back to grad school and teaching helps that. I do want to find love - to get past being alone. Being alone certainly makes you stronger as a person, but it wears on you after a while. I want to create inspiration - I would love to rekindle the artist in me, or establish some musical talent. I would love to travel the world - to see / understand what has inspired people from different cultures. For that matter, I would love to understand my own more - to really see India. So many desires, so many passions. So why does it feel like I have no passion right now? No real desire pushing me forward? Not that I'm depressed or anything - I'm actually loving individual things I'm doing - enjoying my cars, helping at work, working out and doing yoga more often. But as an overall progression in life? I feel very... stagnant.

Too much text, need picture. Here's a shot of my pretty bike after getting cleaned (the Mustang and Firebird are next)

Also, a lolcat. Because they make me smile

That's right, I'm mature.


Hair brained scheme #625

Got a chance to visit the Institute for Interactive Arts and Engineering studio at UT Dallas here in town, potentially building up a relationship with their research labs and work. Going back to the campus and really seeing the ideas and projects of the academic world really is inspiring. It got me thinking (and excited about) teaching again. I had already inquired about teaching at the Arts and Technology classes, bringing industry experience. However, I need to get at least 18 hours of Master's degree credits under my belt. After today, I not only felt excited about teaching (scratching that itch to do something to actually help people), but also to learn again - to be in an environment where you're surrounded by people that are learning. It got me to think about going back to school, which I seriously think I'm going to do in the fall. After all, it would give me a chance to teach again, would give me a chance to learn more, would hopefully lead to an MFA, and work would pay for it. Time to look at applications again...

Lack of time has never been an issue for me ;)

Ok, this is pretty damn cool:

Improv Everywhere: Frozen Grand Central Mission

I'm sure that would have been absolutely awesome to see in person :)