Archive for November, 2009

Comment approval

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Apparently, I haven’t been receiving email notification of comments, so approval of new commenters has been slow. I think I’ve fixed that now, so comment away.

The problem with Modern Warfare 2

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

I’ve tried to write this one several times, because it’s a thorny subject, and because so many words have already been written about it (Kieron Gillen wrote a brilliant article about it, for example). I think, though, having discussed this with other people on various forums and in real life, that the problem I have isn’t with Modern Warfare 2 per se: although I don’t want to play it, I have no problem with people including challenging, violent, adult content in games (Mr Gillen’s criticisms aside). What I have a problem with is the fact that there was a problem with this content at all.

I need to unpack that statement a little.

Whenever a game like Modern Warfare 2 or GTA4 or Manhunt or even Mass Effect (with it’s Infamous Disgraceful Alien Lesbian Sex scene)  is released, there’s inevitably a furore in the press, along the lines of “Our children are being corrupted by this violent/sexual/other* filth!”, which is immediately followed by the games industry saying “Well, it was rated 18, it’s the parents’ fault for letting the kids play it! Nothing to do with us!” and both sides continue to shout past each other without considering that there may be some value in both points of view.

The thing is, the protestations from the games industry that games aren’t just for kids are perfectly valid. Games aren’t just for kids. But to pretend that kids don’t play games is just as foolish as claiming that only kids play games. And to pretend that only over-18s play 18-rated games is disingeneous at best. Whether video games are actually corrupting our youth or not is open to debate, but the idea that a lot of parents are unhappy about their children playing as terrorists and shooting civilians in the face is indisputable, and parents have a right to be concerned about that.

A little story: When Modern Warfare 2 – a game that received an 18 rating from the BBFC – was released, Sainsburys were selling it for the bargain knock-down price of £26. Naturally, this attracted a lot of customers, and they queued outside the stores from hours before opening in order to ensure they got a copy. As they were queueing, shop staff came out and informed shoppers that if they were buying the game for their children, they’d have to make sure their kids didn’t come in with them as otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to sell them the game.

So, what’s going on here? Sure, any parent who knowingly bought their under-18 child game an 18-rated game is accountable for that. But the attitude of the shop staff was complicit in implying that the 18-rating was merely an inconvenience to their children playing the game, rather than a serious assessment of the game’s suitability for that audience. The fact that the parents didn’t consider the 18-rating something to be concerned about speaks more about the ratings system and public perception of it than it does about both the game and the parents concern about the content their children are exposed to: people – for whatever reason – don’t think that an 18-rating is something to be paid attention to. And so, for the games industry to hide behind that rating and do no more is not going to help matters.

So. I don’t think that games with adult content are a problem in and of themselves. And I also don’t think that parents who are concerned about what their children are playing is a problem either. The problem is that the system for informing people about the content of games and their suitability for particular audiences is broken, and that if the games industry continues to employ a system that isn’t working, they shouldn’t be surprised if people continue to complain about it.

Does that make some kind of sense? I hope so.

A quick rant about consistency

Friday, November 13th, 2009

So, I’m doing lots of exciting gathering of statistics and drawing of graphs at work at the moment, and have been making use of the excellent Matplotlib and NumPy Python libraries to help me. They’re both really handy bits of code, but there’s some awful examples of inconsistent design in there. For example:

import numpy
data = numpy.array([1,2,3])
mean = data.mean()
median = numpy.median(data)

- that is, mean() is a method on array(), which makes sense, but median() is a global function that takes an array as a parameter. I’m sure someone, somewhere, has a really good reason for that. But I’m also sure they’re pretty much wrong.

On a mission

Friday, November 13th, 2009

In the past, I’ve made no secret of the fact I’m no great fan of evangelism. Now, a lot of things have changed since I wrote that post – I’m in a different place, literally and spiritually, to where I was then – but most of what I wrote in that post still rings true, I think. So, when my church announced that we were going to be having a Lifestyle Evangelism Mission Week Thing this week, I’d be lying if I said my heart didn’t sink a little. The plan was that we’d be spending the week concentrating on the idea of being missional in our everyday lives – at work, at home and in all the places we inhabit daily – and that we’d meet up with other people who worked or lived in similar circumstances to ourselves to pray and talk about how we were doing – which I was also, frankly, apprehensive about, because “praying” and “talking about myself” are probably numbers 2 and 3 on the list right behind “evangelism” on the Big List of Christian Things I Don’t Much Like (which, I will concede, is quite a long list). But these meetings were being held in my lunch hour, only ten minutes away from my office, so I didn’t have much excuse not to go along.

And you know what? It’s been pretty good, actually. I mean, I don’t think there’s been any lightning-bolts-from-heaven style revelations for any of us, nor do I think there’s waves of new converts appearing in all our offices over the city. But, at least for me personally, meeting up with other people at lunchtime and having a short, non-threatening and non-imposing chat and pray has been a useful way to anchor my day around something other than just work, and to maybe break down some of the barriers I’m so good at putting up between work-Chris, home-Chris, church-Chris and many of the other artificial distinctions I make about myself. The other people I’ve been meeting up with have been lovely and not too scary and it’s been good to have contact with some people other than software engineers for a change…

So, I’m still not convinced I want to go around beating on about the whole “believe or burn” shtick, but I’ve at least “outed” myself at work as a Christian, and have managed to see my life as a little more than just the working week/church on sunday routine that it had perhaps fallen into somewhat lately. And perhaps this missional living thing might have something to it, too – not being radical or weird about my faith, but simply allowing God into the everyday things, and the everyday things into my spiritual life, and not making artificial distinctions where there ought be none.

(footnote: I’m aware that this post is a bit rambling and unfocused. It’s a long time since I’ve done any proper writing, and I’m tough out of practise, so I hope you’ll all forgive me – I’m really intended to pick this stuff back up again and not just condense my every thought into 140 characters for the purposes of Twitter, but it’s going to take me a little while to get back into the habit, I think. Bear with me, okay?)

Ooh! It’s all different!

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Yes, it is!

Basically, I’ve finally bitten the bullet and moved this whole thing over to WordPress on my Bytemark VM. All the old posts and comments seem to have imported okay, and I’ve even crafted a RewriteRule so that links to individual posts on my old blog should still work here. The theme is kind of a work in progress whilst I get my head round WordPress’s templating system, but it’s not too offensive on the eye at the moment, I hope.

Of course, whether I’ll update any more often or not is still an open question, but hey, it’s a start.

Two things:

  1. Commenting is broken. Don’t know why.Commenting should work now.
  2. Dates for old posts are screwy. Do know why, will fix.Dates should be fixed.