Monday, 21 June 2010

Quantum Immortality

Well in a deviation from my usual direction of rant about something for several pages of size 11 font, I’ve decided to do a bit more of an informative post today, since I’m withholding judgement about the state of England’s chances in the world cup until after the match with Slovenia on Wednesday. Well not really, since I think a group of monkeys could have probably played better than England. But then again I don’t give two hoots about football anyway, so a group of monkeys could get through to the finals for all I care.

Anyway, quantum mechanics. The basic premise of this experiment is you have a machine gun trained at a scientist, and an assistant sat by a button. Every time the assistant presses the button a quantum flip occurs. A quantum flip is a truly random event. It has a 50% chance of being up or 50% chance of being down. If the result of the flip is up, the machine gun fires at the assistant, killing him. If the result of the flip is down, the machine gun remains inert. According to the theory behind this experiment, when such an event happens with several random outcomes, the universe ‘splits’ into several parallel universes, and each outcome occurs down a different branch. What makes this experiment so interesting though, is to consider it from the viewpoint of the scientist looking down the barrel of the machine gun. When his assistant presses the button, the universe splits. The scientist is killed immediately in one branch, the one where the machine gun fires, and in the other he merely hears a clicking sound as the gun fails to fire (and very possibly flinches and wets himself too). But from his own viewpoint, surely he could only ever witness the reality where he is not killed. After all, he is killed in the other reality, and therefore cannot witness anything. So, according to this theory, he can only ever witness the reality where he remains alive. In short he can never witness himself die. That’s pretty much immortality, from his own point of view anyway. No matter how many times the button is pressed, he just doesn’t die. He has to believe he is immortal. But what about all those other realities that also occurred every time the button was pressed? In all those realities, the assistant saw the scientist die. This presents an interesting concept. If we can never witness our own death that means we must all be immortal.

So, taking this theory to a wider area, how many realities must there be in total? Every time anything happens in the world, the universe splits into every possible outcome. Every possible action that every person, animal or atom could possibly have taken are all being played out every second, as well as all the combinations thereof. It’s a staggering number.

As far as the immortality goes, you might say “well people die all the time”. Well yes, they do, from your own point of view. Not from theirs in another reality however. And not from yours in another reality either. It’s a quite a hard concept to wrap your mind around this one. I’ll leave you to think about it.

“In a parallel universe I would have shot you by now”

Friday, 18 June 2010

E3 - An Overview

Well, E3 finished yesterday and it’s actually turned out a lot better than I was expecting it to be, going on the past few years I was expecting it to be a total flop and the usual stream of 360 shooters, Wii shovelware and Sony bragging about their latest achievements in cramming more gigaflops into an oojamaflip then anyone else. How wrong I was.

For this article I’ll just talk about what was mentioned at the conferences, them being the more important/entertaining part of the event.

Let’s start with the bad, 360, simply because it’s hilarious. Anyone else see the irony that they actually announced more casual games than the rest of them combined? I never really saw natal, sorry “kinect” as being all that good, essentially just a glorified eyetoy. Nothing physical means swordplay and gun fights which be something akin to what you’d do in the school playground and all you’re really doing is flopping around like a fish. The fact that most of the “gameplay” footage they showed was blatantly pre-rendered and poorly choreographed at that. Either that or it’s SO advanced that it actually sees into the future and makes the movement before you do. The only note-worthy games they showed (as far as I know, I missed this conference due to internet issues and the fact that I lack the care to view it unlive) where Halo Reach, Gears of War 3, Fable 3 and Metal Gear Solid: Rising, 3 of which games we already knew about, 2 of which aren’t even 360 exclusive and 2 of which are pretty generic no-depth shooters. Sounds like a promising year for the “hardcore” 360 owners to me, he lied.

Then we had Nintendo, the very people who inspired Kinect and Move, the very people who brought casual gaming to the masses, the very people who created the bandwagon for “fitness” games that the others are now trying to fol—Oh cool new Zelda. And a new Kirby... and Kid Icarus... and Metroid... and Mario. The list goes on. So while Microsoft are flustering over getting peoples grannies to play Nintendo have gone back to what makes them good, their old franchises. I’m a huge fan of some of them, but at least they have gone back to their roots. Very good news for some. That’s not even the tip of the iceberg, there’s the 3DS too, and yes it’s a gimmick but this entire generation of games is a gimmick so let’s not point fingers. Plus it's 3D sans the stupid looking glasses. I was unsure at first, but then when they released the footage and the screenshots I was amazed by the graphics and with the announcement of a old-style Paper Mario, Saints Row and Resident Evil I was sold instantly. If the 3D effects are crap, I’ll turn ‘em off. Any console with that line-up I’ll buy regardless.

Finally, Sony. Now this has me worried at first, the majority of the first half of the conference was chin wagging and statistics and stuff no-one really cares about. But then they started showing off games. Move is even more blatant as a Wii rip-off than Kinect, but as a result, it looks a good deal better. You get the usual sports games that come with such a tool but with a significant graphical upgrade so you have a reason to use it over the Wii, whereas with the 360 it’s not really worth converting just to take a nail file to some of the edges. Plus move has promise with the hardcore audience too with games like Sorcery (which actually looks kinda fun), Microsoft announced nothing of the sort. Then we have Dead Space: Extraction coming with move controls (so glad I waited and didn’t get the Wii version now, purely for the sake of HD) which comes with the PS3 exclusive special edition of Dead Space 2, Portal 2 (Gabe is a legend) and to top it all off, Twisted Metal. I saw it coming, Jeffe had been teasing for ages but that doesn’t make me any less stoked one of my top 3 games on the PS1 is finally coming to this gen.

So who won E3? Well, I personally find it hard to call. Nintendo have a better line up if you’re a fan and are offering more to a larger audience, but Sony have more games I’m interested in personally. Let’s call it a tie.

One on final note, the new Zelda got me thinking. What we have here is a Triforce. Sony is power for obvious reasons, Nintendo is Wisdom seen as they have the best business concept and marketing, as proven by sale figures, and Microsoft can have courage because it takes some serious stones to pull of anything that mind-blowingly stupid.

Guess I need to replace #5 on my Top 10...

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Games With Morality

A while ago Sneeze wrote an article (When did right and wrong become so black and white?) where he discussed the choices held within certain games. I’ve been doing a lot of reading up about these sorts of games recently and the way in which a sense of morality has been created. I’ve actually got a bit of spare time before starting back at university and I have to think of an idea for my final project. Being a fan of Bioware games (such as Knights of the old Republic, Mass Effect and Dragon Age) I’ve considered the idea of doing a project on alignment/choice systems in games.

I think the first time I really picked up on a game attempting to implement the choice system was Fable. I actually got very excited about this game because of its promise of freedom in developing your character and storyline. When I first played it I did enjoy it a lot, but I found myself playing the good side and wasn’t ever really fussed at replaying it for the evil side. That is because the choices in it didn’t seem to carry any huge implications and most were incredibly black and white. The most notable part of playing an evil character was the fact that they would change in appearance (i.e. sprout horns.) Changing the character is an interesting way to represent good and evil, and has also been done in Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect 2. I personally quite like this method, for I enjoy playing evil characters and I like mine to look like what they are (I especially loved the pale skin and creepy eyes in Knights of the Old Republic.), but some people who put a lot of time and effort into designing their characters don’t appreciate the game then messing up their appearance. This can put people off even attempting the evil side. Fortunately Mass Effect 2 gave you the option to correct your appearance, so that if you didn’t like the scars you could correct them and still perform dark acts (like defenestrating people.)

It was John who told me to check out Knights of the Old Republic and that it would put Fable to shame. He was right. Despite still containing the same Black and White system, the game overall felt a lot deeper and contained better choices and paths. Unlike Fable it seemed to be a lot more re-playable because of the different endings and consequences to your actions. The only problem was that the idea of playing an evil sith lord was more exciting than taking on a noble Jedi Knight. Being good meant turning down rewards and being nice to people, being Evil allowed you to shoot lightning bolts, wear black robes, wield red light sabres and reap a lot of benefits. Evil characters are also better at force powers, where as good characters are better with light sabres, so the style of play you choose may also effect what path you take.

The main problem with black and white systems is that you are probably only making one choice in your entire game play experience, and that’s whether you want to be good or evil, then you just continue to select the corresponding options - not really as free as they make out. It is also strongly based on the opinions of the game developers. Some choices can be quite bad or grey and if for example you wanted to play a good character but accidently picked an option with good intention for which you received dark side points, you’d feel a bit cheated. You could fix this issue by omitting the scale – after all a single scale isn’t really a very good way to represent the complexities of certain life choices (kind of reminds me of the tantrum Donnie Darko threw when told to divide life’s dilemma ‘s between Fear and Love.) Dragon Age is such a game in that there is no way to find out where your character lies. In fact the characters all have their own opinions of you, and even when selecting between an obvious right and wrong answer you will find supporters in your party for both sides (kind of like different factions in Everquest.) Dragon age succeeds in places at getting you to stop and consider each choice you make. Some of the choices work along the lines of, ‘would you kill one person to save many.’ They’re black and white in a sense, but with extra layers of depth and emotion added on top, which may cause you to sway from the more correct path. The only problem with Dragon age is that your party members will leave you if they disagree too strongly with your actions. This and the effect it can have on the game play will at times cause you to pick a choice for its mechanics rather than its meaning. I still like this method, but I think it could have been pulled off in a slightly easier way. Perhaps in a similar way to Knights of the Old Republic 2,where you could influence a character to see your side of things if they trusted you enough (resulting in a changing alignment.)

Consequences to your actions are still necessary as they add to the weight of your decision, but they also can’t be so bad that the player will be put off the game due to unfairness. If a consequence to an action is received instantly, the player will just re-load a moment before and pick the other option. Save-points can fix the saving issue preventing players from taking this liberty and adding depth to the game, but a lot of people also frown on the idea of not being able to save freely – I personally find it a relief as I can be a bit of a save addict at times. Having more drawn out consequences that impact the game in the long run are probably a better way of dealing with this issue.

Another problem with these games is also the fact that no matter whether you’re good or evil you still can’t seem to get out of the main story line which tends to involve saving the world or something. I admit, it’d be boring to play a game where you just refuse to help anybody and sit back with your legs up, but even on a smaller scale an ability to defy the flow of things somewhat would be better than nothing at all. I find the biggest problem is being evil because on a lot of occasions games have the illusion of choice such as refusing to help people, only to find that you can’t progress without doing so anyway. You then have to go back to the person you refused looking like a right jerk. (I was actually quite pleasantly surprised in Dragon Age when I refused to help Redcliffe as when I came back it had been destroyed.) The other problem is of course, refusing means less game play for you. Knights of the Old Republic is quite good in that the storyline kind of fits in a way that you can still end the game on a negative, become the evil sith lord and take over (unfortunately for me the game ended too suddenly. I wanted to continue having fun over my new empire.) I can’t think of many games, however, that allow you to strongly influence the main storyline. The problem is time and money, as you would need more assets for each possible branch within the game.

To make the game feel more free and open like it promises the best way would be to keep the main story a lot more simplistic. An example of this would be Princess Maker, an old life simulation game released in 1993. The game had a weak plot in which you were landed with a little girl that you are then placed in charge of. From then on there isn’t really any story but the way the game pans out each time is very different making it feel quite free and unrestrictive. You had to send your child to school, on jobs or out for adventures where she would earn skills that would affect her development (she doesn’t necessarily have to fight and kill people.) The game would then end when she reached a certain age and would tell you what she thought of your upbringing and what career she ended up following. There are a fair few endings considering the age of the game. Although some of the endings are quite obviously light or dark, it wasn’t really the only focus within the game. In fact a fair few endings were pretty neutral, such as becoming a soldier and marrying a dragon. Despite the incredibly simplistic game play it did actually feel quite free to me in terms of the choices I had to influence her development. The sense of morality in the game was that of needing to raise your daughter well. If she grew up to become a princess of darkness or a bondage queen (yeah it was a bit controversial) for example, you would probably get a telling off from the gods. The problem is, a lot of games dealing with choice and morality are RPG’s, and people expect big stories from these game. However the bigger the story the harder it probably is to make the game feel free and unrestrictive due to expenses.

Games with choices and morality have definitely picked up a lot in popularity and versions of the system can be found in many places such as the good/evil witch options in The Sims 2 which also affect your skills. Unfortunately, a lot of games also state that they are free and open by simply tacking on an alignment bar (for example Infamous), to make it look as if the game contains extra features. The ones that do try to focus on it often succeed in some areas but fail in others. Some of them like Dragon Age will present great choices that will get you emotionally involved, but can also cause you to pick your options based on the mechanics of the game over the implications of the dilemma in place. Getting the balance between consequence and reward seems to be a difficult one. I’m personally a fan of the Faction system, taking the sense of right and wrong away from the developers which is a matter of opinion and perspective. There needs to be a way to do this however without feeling a need to do something just so that you can make friends with people. Using terms like in Mass Effect ‘Paragon’ and ‘Renegade’ is also a good way to get away from the typical light/dark scenario. Even when I’m playing a good character I don’t feel upset when receiving renegade points as this is a part of building up their personality (my version of Sheppard for example wants the greater good, but is willing to take violent rebellious means to get there. She was always loyal to her crew, but hated the council.)

Unfortunately the games industry is run mostly on money, which means that takes precedence over the art and passion of games creation. Chances are most great morality games will get cut back because of the costs. It's a real shame, because each time a bad version of one of these games gets released it alienates people against the idea of creating games that focus on choice. When it is done right, however, it’s awesome to feel like your decisions are actually making an impact on the characters and the game world in which they derive.

Related links (random stuff I found interesting):
1) BITMOB - Spotlight: Deadly Premonition, ScreenBurn, and Alignment Systems
2) GAMASUTRA - Opinion: Mother Theresa Or Hitler? Designing for Ambiguous Moral Choice
3) FUTURISMIC - The Mechanics of Morality: Why Moral Choices in Video Games Are No Longer Fun

"It's better to be good than evil, but one achieves goodness at a terrific cost." - Stephen King

Monday, 7 June 2010

Come and have a go if you think your hard enough...

Expanding on Jo’s post from a few weeks ago on cheating AI I’ve recently suffered a streak from it myself. I’d been looking forward to Modnation Racers for months; I’ve always loved kart racers and the idea of a one where you can create karts, characters and tracks sounded like an idea that couldn’t go wrong. Unfortunately, it did.

There’s a career mode you need to play to unlock parts and objects for creations which is fun and challenging at first but towards the end of it I was pulling my hair out and resisting the urge to put my foot through the screen out of sheer frustration. Each racer has 2-3 bonus challenges which can range from anything to a perfect lap (no wall hits, challenging but fair) to some that are stupidly situational and just becomes a game of sheer luck, one makes you need to sideswipe an specific opponent at a specific point in the track, this means being right at his side when you are in that area and having enough power in your boost meter to perform the sideswipe, and then hoping he doesn’t shield... And then finishing first. This is the most wearisome task anyone has ever conceived. Don’t get me wrong, I love a challenge on a game, as long is it’s a fair one, I want to have at least some control over my fate and not have it all bottle down to whether someone happens to be in a certain place at a certain time. By the end of the career I just ended up skipping most of the challenges due to not wanting to risk the irritation that might come with them. Unfortunately this just put me off the game and I haven’t even gone back for the creation aspect since, which is the whole reason I bought it.

Onto the main part of the topic, it really begins to annoy me when developers use cheap tactics to make a game more difficult on harder modes, just using cop-outs like enemies have more health or simply do more damage rather than actually making more aggressive or tactical AI and it sort of feels artificial. But even this is better than tasks that require you to wait for a planetary alignment to have any chance of them actually happening. I love a challenge, when I finally completed Resi 4 on professional mode for the first time and unlocked the Handcannon via Mercenaries, I felt a great sense of achievement and felt I had earned what the game rewarded me. When I finally nailed the take out one opponent with a devastator challenge on Modobahn on Modnation I just felt relieved it was finally over, which the attitude one would normally have about a prostate exam, not a game.

More recently, I’ve been playing Killing Floor, which is one of the hardest games I’ve ever come across, rarely managing to survive on even normal mode, and with hard and suicidal above that I daren’t think how insane this game can get. But, in spite of how crap-your-pants difficult this game is, it’s never once angered me enough to rage quit, swear, scream or smash anything, if I die, it’s my own fault, I learn and improve. Maybe I forgot to check behind me, maybe I wasn’t efficient enough with my ammo, maybe I stepped on my own grenade, it’s never been at fault of biased AI or just pure luck and chance (or lack thereof), just my own stupidity or misjudgement (or trying to take on a guy with drillhands with a weak weapon...) and much like with RE4 when I finally beat Farm on Long and Normal (and solo) I again, felt a sense of achievement, not relief.

Yes, Killing Floor is a bit cheap and goes against my earlier point about making games harder without significantly improving AI, but in all fairness, they are zombies so I’ll let it off, and above all else, it’s fun. And surely that’s the most important thing.

And besides, why does a game even have to be difficult to be enjoyable? Sometimes I love to just pick up Ratchet and Clank, Paper Mario or Wind Waker and just enjoy the game for what it is without feeling the needed to be challenged down to the very core of my skills.

One more thing that in my opinion all games should start implementing and that’s where the game recommends a difficulty level for you, off the top of my head three games come to mind. Both Modern Warfares and inFamous. It’s a nice feature, when it works but with the MW2 I played the training course a few times until it recommended me the hardest difficulty, by the half way point I’d turned the difficulty two levels because I was getting annihilated, and with inFamous I planned on playing it on Hard anyway so I could get the trophy without picking up any bad habits or normal beforehand. When done right this should be the standard in all games because it’s a really useful feature and will work for newbies and hardcore gamers alike, plus, I never know what to pick when starting a new game, one game’s veteran is another game’s easy. Or, better yet, instead of having set levels have a feature where the game gradually adjusts difficulty for you depending on how well you are playing making the enemies stronger or weaker (like in Devil May Cry 4) instead of taking a huge step forward to back (many times in games I’ve found normal to easy and hard to hard, this solves that).

Another (albeit less common) issue is when completing a game on normal or hard or above you don’t unlock the unlockables for the difficultly below it, If I finish a game the first time on hard why would I want to play it again on easy, most games are retroactive with this but there’s still a few examples that haven’t implemented this yet (John recently played Bayonetta and mentioned this) and there’s really no excuse for it.

Anyway, as much as I hate to say it, the best way to achieve a challenge from a game is to play on online, as good as AI can be sometimes it’ll never match the unpredictability and lateral thinking of another human. Plus, arguably, winning is a lot more fun when you can imagine a retelling of Angry German Kid happening on the other end or your sniper rifle.

The Differences Between Men and Women

Firstly, I’d just like to apologise for my absence from Gabbling Geeks recently. I haven’t posted an article in a few weeks, mainly due to a combination of lack of time, the fact that I’ve just built a new computer and am now playing Dragon Age Origins as I’ve wanted to since before Christmas, and my own sheer laziness. Anyway, on to the subject of this article.

Now, before anyone thinks of making any jokes about this topic (hur dur hur penis lol...) I just want to point out that I’m talking about the way the different genders are treated, both in society, in the workplace and people’s general opinion etc etc. When I was growing up, I never thought there was any difference between men and women. I never thought either my mum or my dad was any better or worse than the other, I just viewed them both as parents plain and simple. As I got older I started to discover that this actually isn’t the case in the world. Women get paid less in the workplace, and men get less paternity leave than women get maternity leave. In fact according to Wikipedia, in the United Kingdom, women now get 52 weeks paid maternity leave compared to 2 weeks paid and up to 13 weeks unpaid paternity leave that men get. I personally think it’s utterly daft that the genders are treated so differently. We’re all human beings aren’t we? In my experience most of the women that I’ve met can do stereotypically male things just as well as I can, better in some cases, and I know some men who are just as good as women at stereotypical female professions. In fact, Jo is a much better programmer than me, she’s probably one of the best in our group at university, and games programming is a stereotypically male profession. There are genetic differences between men and women, men are generally stronger than women for example, but that’s no reason to say that women can’t do something. A man might be better suited for a physical job than a woman due to this, but women can still do the same job, there’s nothing stopping them. Also, women are more often considered to be the carers for children, but that’s not to say that a man can’t give the same sort of care and attention to a child that a woman can.

Going back to the subject of pay and parental leave, this is completely ridiculous. There’s absolutely no reason that women should be paid less for doing the same amount of work as a man. That’s just a completely archaic and chauvinistic view. It’s shocking to think that, even though we have so much political correctness these days, women still get paid less than men. Now imagine if someone got paid less because they were of, say, African American ethnicity. There’d be public outrage right? Where’s the difference?

On the flip side of this argument however you have the parental leave issue. Women have to go through childbirth, but 48 extra weeks of paid maternity leave seems a little excessive to me. I’m not saying women should get less maternity leave, but I’m saying men should get an equal amount of paternity leave. Childbirth is an emotional time for the father too, and I know I want to be there during my child’s early years at least. Why can’t parental leave be shared between the parents? Each parent gets every other week off, alternating with each other to look after the child, once the mother has recovered from childbirth. Maternity leave being longer than paternity leave is another example of an archaic view, this one being of women as homemakers. Today, you often find that both genders work just as much as each other, and it’s not uncommon to find a male homemaker.

The media doesn’t help matters either. If you look at adverts on TV, the internet and in newspapers for example you’ll be bombarded by adverts portraying one gender or the other in incredibly stereotypical ways. A recent example I can think of is the Tesco Clubcard one where the man wants a new TV and sofa to watch the World Cup on, and the women says he can have it because they got double points, or some such twaddle. Not every man in the country follows the World Cup like a religion. I personally detest football, and couldn’t really care less if we win the World Cup or not. I take offense to people assuming I give a rat’s arse just because I’m male. Then again, I’m not your usual male at all. If me and Jo didn’t look like our respective genders you’d have trouble telling us apart. A list of my favourite films would probably include Love Actually, The Holiday and Titanic, which are generally considered women’s films, whereas a list of Jo’s favourite films would include Transformers and Terminator, stereotypically male films. I prefer drinking wine, whereas Jo likes lager. I like MMORPGs which are generally considered to be more suited for women because of the social aspect (I know), and Jo likes FPSs, which are male dominated. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this though. Is there any reason why we should force ourselves to like or not like something because of the gender we were born as?

On the subject of FPSs, I’d just like to bring up the experiences Jo has had while playing some shooters. She generally goes by the name Gamezgoddess online, so it’s quite apparent that she’s female, and while using this name on public servers of games like CounterStrike, she’s had guys having a go at her because she “shouldn’t be playing a game like this” and generally just being dickholes to her. Everyone should be able to do what they enjoy regardless of gender, and I think it’s about time the world as a whole realised this and started to change its ways personally.

Final Fantsay 13 Putting Your Console At Risk

Well... I made the mistake of entering the Game shop over the weekend, and I ended up with a Collector’s Edition of Final Fantasy 13 (PS3). It was really good value which was what gripped me into buying it, even though I was originally thinking of skipping such a purchase. I have always been curious to play the game, but from very early on John and I found out about a certain issue affecting the game and causing consoles to break completely. I’d decided at that point that maybe I shouldn’t bother as the experience probably isn’t worth risking my precious launch PS3 over. You may have heard about the lawsuit recently; a man named Daniel Wolf intends to sue Sony/Square for a lot of money which he then intends to offer to the people that join him so that they can replace their broken consoles. The problem is said to wear out the Blu-ray laser and after the game crashes, the console will no longer be able to read any form of media whatsoever. There are a fair few videos on you tube demonstrating the problem.

At the time of buying the game I had already convinced myself that the game had sold millions of copies, and so therefore surely if the problem was as bad as it was being made out to be there would be more pre-owned copies up for grabs and a lot more of an outrage going on. In fact most people haven’t even heard of this issue before. I asked at the Game shop before buying it whether they had heard anything for which they answered no, therefore re-assuring me that it would be ok; Only when I got the game back and put it in my console the threat suddenly became a lot more real. Despite the fact that the game has so far run smoothly with absolutely no issues whatsoever I can’t help feeling a knot forming in my stomach like I’ve just put a live bomb in the disk tray. It’s hard to enjoy the game experience when you’re worried that your console will crash and burn at any moment.

I therefore decided to have a search across the internet to try and re-assure myself so that I can play the game calmly and hopefully begin to enjoy the experience (after all aren’t games meant for playing, the whole idea that I’m afraid to do so is preposterous.) I found a lot of people discussing things, but no real definite answers. It feels like I’m bashing my head against a brick wall most of the time. Some people are saying it is the fault of the console, others are stating that it is because of defect discs. There are also no exact statistics for how many people this issue is in fact affecting. The problems don’t seem to be mainstream (for I know of many people who have completed the game with consoles still working) and yet it’s a regular enough occurrence to cause concern and awareness.

All I have heard from both Sony and Square Enix is that they are playing the blame game instead of actually attempting to correct the fault. Surly they could work together on this one and sort it out quicker instead of making fans feel rejected and angry. I did consider that maybe I could play the game by buying it for my 360 instead. It isn’t preferable because comparison videos show that it doesn’t look as good on this console plus it requires a lot of discs, still if it means not breaking anything it’s worth it right? Well, on my internet searches I also found a fair few accounts of freezing issues on the 360 version as well.

I really don’t know what’s best in this scenario. I could continue and everything will be absolutely fine. I may have been lucky enough to get a working disc, and my console may be able to handle it (I always de-dust it and keep it in a well ventilated spot,) but there’s always the ‘what if’? What if I end up being one of the people who suffers from this problem? I know for a fact that I will kick myself if this happens because it’s not as if I haven’t received any warning signs. For what is suppose to be a major next-gen release this is ridiculous and I’m hoping that everything will be resolved so that I can go ahead and get on with the game. It’s just that while nobody is willing to acknowledge the problem there will also be no development any time soon in trying to fix it.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Tricky Job Interviews

Is it just me, or does trying to get a job almost feel like trying to win the lottery these days? It just feels like an almost impossible thing for me to reach at the moment and I have to admit, at times I sit and worry about my future prospects. I’m not bad at what I do; I’m a hard dedicated worker with a lot of passion, but... and there is a big but... I have no previous experience and my shyness lets me down. Let’s explore the first part of that statement; how can I get experience if I need experience to get a job? This is an excuse given to me a lot but it’s really unfair. I’ve been a hard worker my entire life, come top of my class mostly and actually tried to get on with things unlike other people, so why not give me a chance? Now for the second part of the statement; this world seems to run off charismatic people. No matter how good your skills are, it feels like a dim loud mouth is more likely to get through than you are. Ok, I know that charisma is an important skill to have, but unfortunately were not all born naturals at it. Also, why is shyness so unaccepted in this overly extrovert society? (By the way, being quiet a lot doesn’t necessarily mean you’re afraid to talk to people, I’m often not talkative when my mind is occupied by another task at hand, and as often is the case the gobby person next to you tends to be the one who makes the most mistakes. Secondly, it is also often seen as a condition that can’t be helped – trust me, I never chose to be this way, I hate it and am continuously trying to break out of this problem. Despite being a condition people seem to be happy to bully shy/introvert people which makes the condition worse and yet other noted conditions are more respected and treated with care.) – Oh and I’m not a babbling wreck either, I enjoy chatting to people face to face and can be quite noisy at times, but my entire life I’ve always been classed as shy like I give off a vibe or something. Anyways, being introvert can be a good thing; they tend to be more creative and think things through better.

My point is, when I was younger I always thought that I’d have a good chance at getting a job, simply because I’m a passionate person and absolutely love what I do which means I practice a lot. Now I’ve lost that confidence, because what they look for when employing people seems to be a bit off. On my university course the 3rd year is suppose to be a work experience placement, which is the year I’m currently on. I’m actually self employed and running a business with John and Sneeze (selling custom-built computers), but I did initially try to get a job. Before attempting to apply for jobs we were given advice on what they look for when interviewing people. The thing is, a lot of people have probably also been told the same thing, so were all making our CV’s up to sound like were skilled in everything they need but also outgoing and cultured, but not to any extremes. It causes you to kind of twist the truth a bit, so they’re not really seeing the real genuine person are they? We were also told that we couldn’t apply for game development jobs because we weren’t yet good enough, but there weren’t many C++ jobs available so it was awkward trying to stretch our skills when applying for completely unrelated computing jobs. I was lucky in that I’d had a past interest in website design so I attempted to take that direction mostly. I ended up with a lot of interviews, so I guess my CV writing skills can’t be too off.

At a lot of the interviews I went to they were actually a bit off with me, asking me the question, ‘so you spend a lot of time sat in front of your computer then?’ in an accusing way. What am I suppose to say to that and why is it a bad thing? I’m applying for a computing job, isn’t it a good thing that I’m use to the idea of sitting in front of a monitor for long periods of time. Anyway, at no point in my CV did I state computing was the only thing I did. I enjoy being active; playing things like badminton, going canoeing and I’m soon to join the gym where I will probably spend much of my spare time. I could go further and list many hobbies and activities which I do that don’t involve a computer but I won’t bother. I also got told a lot of the time that I didn’t have the right skills, but this was supposed to be a learning experience job where they teach you the skills. Also it’s impossible to know every obscure program and language in computing because there are so many, usually programmers can pick new things up fast and that should be enough. (It should be about technique more than knowing each thing off by heart in my opinion.) If you want me to be good at everything I will need to spend a lot of time sat in front of my computer practicing - but oh no... That means you’ll accuse me of doing nothing but sitting in front of my monitor once again. That’s why I’d like to work for a software engineering company rather than a company that wants software, because I think they’ll understand you and the job involved better.

You can’t be good at everything, there’s not enough time in the world and I just don’t understand why being skilled at what they want you for isn’t good enough. I know personality will make a difference if you get two people with equal skill levels, but that whole needing to be cultured part of it, like computing people should go visit art galleries or something. Most of us just aren’t like that? The kind that really care about what they do, the kind that can genuinely do a very good job at your computing needs (i.e. the geeks) are also the kind that aren’t as likely to do less techy things. There’s a reason some people are whizzes at computing, they’re either born with it, or they do a lot of it. To expect less is unreasonable. I’ve also heard of cases though where people who aren’t as good at the skills required have gotten it over somebody more capable. This is outright unfair and I’m not even going to bother explaining why because I think it’s obvious. It is also often the case that you can be over-qualified to get a certain job, but it should be down to you to decide if you want to work there, not them. If you’re applying then you’re obviously happy to be working there despite having a lot of qualifications. I thought it’d be a good thing to have a lot of skills anyway, should I just stop learning when I reach a certain point to increase my chances of getting a job, or should I just omit some of my skills from my CV as if they don’t exist. How do I know when I’ve gone too far on my listed skill set? I wanted to work at a Game shop once, but have had no reply from them. They say you have to care about games (which I think it’s obvious I do), and I thought I’d show it by saying that I’m studying them. Now I’m wondering whether that makes me over-qualified and that’s why I’ve never heard back from them – You’d think it’d impress them, but no.

I’m also hard up against it being a white British person. I don’t have issues with ethnic minorities taking jobs or anything and I’m not racist. In fact it isn’t their fault at all, and if they earned the job I don’t really have a problem with them getting it over me. The problem arises because of the stupid pressures put onto companies to make it look as if they are making an effort to provide equal opportunities to all kinds of people; if a workforce consists of all white British it apparently looks bad (even though I have before seen a workforce that seems to only consist of black people). It has reached a point where I’ve actually seen job application forms stating that white people can’t apply even though the job doesn’t necessarily require a foreigner to do it. If you have the right skills you should be considered no matter who you are or where you’re from. I reckon that it’s probably quite condescending to a foreigner who’ll be getting a job because of what they are rather than what they are capable of. All this political correctness does is make it worse by driving a wedge further between the groups, leaving British people quite rightfully mad because they’re being shunned for no reason over people who didn’t originally come from here.

There is also a question of loyalty in jobs where sometimes people will get favours and will get in because they happen to know somebody who already works there, and then there’s the more negative side where loyalty lets you down, perhaps a place lays you off or offers a promotion to somebody with less experience there than you. Appearances and accents have also been said to make a difference, so basically if your ugly and don’t speak posh you have less of a chance even if you’re like as smart as Einstein or something. A lot of job interviews seem to have some sort of expected criteria for how you answer the trick questions they pop at you, and your suppose to read their minds on this one somehow.

I’m sure most of us have had negative interview experiences, or didn’t get a job for a reason that seemed unfair. The whole process feels like pot luck and there is so much competition involved nowadays. I guess recession didn’t exactly help last year and its left a lot of desperate people wondering what to do, but the least companies could do is to actually recruit people fairly and to give everyone an equal chance. The ones that put all the effort in should have the best chance of getting in, otherwise I might as well just not bother and sit on my ass all day doing nought for all the difference it will make.