On journalistic ethics in gaming

If you haven’t read this post, please do so first. Thanks!

Journalistic ethics in the video games press… That is one tough nut to crack.

Short version: There isn’t more of an issue today than there has been since video games were invented. Actually, there is probably less of an issue than there has ever been, for a number of historical reasons I won’t get into here. Issues in video game journalism exist, but no more than in other similar large industries. Also, they are discussed (and addressed) as they appear, usually by the gaming journalists community itself, which is important. Nobody is blind or hiding some kind of wide epidemic or conspiracy in that field. Thanks for reading!

Long version:

First, let me say this: if you think it’s a simple issue (“just be independent, damnit!”) then you are suffering from a serious lack of understanding of the mechanics of entertainment media, the economics of the web, and the curse of the human condition of “needing to eat to stay alive in order be able to keep creating media”. Also, while the core of the issue of ethics can be discussed and is important, it certainly doesn’t revolve around the media’s relationship with tiny indie developers or individuals’ support of crowd funded projects. So if we really want to discuss ethics in game journalism, let’s do that.

First, let’s look at three basic elements:

  • The core issue in all journalism is indeed about being independent. About being able to write what you really think.
  • The main impediment to independence in journalism is your subject matter pressuring you to alter your reporting.
  • Creating media, like any other enterprise, costs money. And to get money, we have two options:
    • Get customers to pay
    • Advertising
    • That’s it. There isn’t a magical third bullet.

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October 30th, 2014 | 2 Comments

A note to English speakers

Dear English speakers,

Interacting with a bilingual community is often a delicate balance, especially on social media, but it is something that is really important to me. I usually try to post mostly in French from morning to mid-afternoon Paris time (when the ‘mericans aren’t all awake yet), and in English in late afternoon and at night. This isn’t a hard rule, just one I try to follow more often than not, usually erring on the side of the more universal “burger speak” (sorry Brits, I couldn’t find a cutely offensive image for you guys. They were all just offensive. That’s right, I haven’t forgotten Waterloo).

Anyway! In the past couple of weeks, the French/English balance has been a bit out of whack, and I wanted to take a few minutes to explain what’s been happening, in case you’re not aware.

The core of it is that I am soon going to be leaving my day job (or, as people sometimes call it, my “real” job) to dedicate myself to the noble art of Podcasting and independent media. As you can imagine, it was a really tough decision (my job was really cool), but I am beyond excited about what’s coming next.

Still, excitement makes for poor sustenance.

Tweet

Thanks for the laugh, Graham!

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September 13th, 2014 | 7 Comments

Why Privacy Is Important For Humans Beings

“If I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to fear”

Not so long ago, this phrase could have produced the intended result: to convey the idea that surveillance does not negatively impact the general public. Today, many will respond with some variation of the phrase “those who give up a little privacy for more security deserve neither”. Most of us now instinctively understand that privacy has value. But when we try to dig deeper and ask ourselves why it is important, we usually can’t put it into words. We know it matters, and we know it has something to do with freedom and fundamental rights, but for many of us it’s difficult to articulate. Here’s my attempt.

The actual Benjamin Franklin quote is “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”. Ok, easy enough: privacy = liberty = freedom. But why?
My answer is this: simply put, the issue is that we act differently when no one’s around. Alone in your home, you might start singing to the radio. When you’re walking in the street, you might flick a booger (!). When your friends aren’t looking, you might watch that chick flick they’d mock you for. So on a philosophical level, the simple fact that we act differently if somebody is watching means that “being watched” affects our freedom to act as we’d like, and thus that some privacy is essential for people to act freely.

Nobody is saying you need that “real privacy” all the time (we do live in society after all), but you do need it sometimes, because that’s when you can be your unrestrained self, outside of social conventions. The lack of privacy forces you into “social mode” all the time. We need social conventions, but human beings need “alone time” as well. And if you start observing people all the time, it follows that you invite “societal rules” to be by their side all the time, thus robbing them of their freedom to act outside of social rule. That, I believe, is what privacy provides. And I’m no psychologist, but I would suspect that the feeling of oppression is sure to follow fairly quickly… We’re talking about emotional pressure here, but the word has other uses for a reason.

Put in simpler terms: try thinking of “surveillance” as an acquaintance being in the same room as you, even when you want to be alone. They’re not being harmful, they’re just there, having coffee, and occasionally glancing over. Of course it’ll affect what you do, and that restricts your freedom. That’s what the lack of privacy does.

I’ll stop there, as I think we get the idea. I could extrapolate to other areas, like the difference in how we approach privacy in the physical and electronic space. It is a core issue to our discussions about surveillance programs, but that would be a whole other discussion. My aim here is simply to try and explain why privacy is an essential freedom, which I hope I have. I’ll leave the extrapolating to you…

Note: I first mentioned this topic on This Week in Tech #426, where I was invited as a guest. If you’re interested, you might want to give it a listen.

 

October 14th, 2013 | 1 Comment

What do you get someone who has everything?

So I’m 40 today. I warrants a blog post I guess.

There are two things I want to do to mark the occasion.

The first one is to show this picture of me, because it’s silly in a cute way and I like it.

sharky

It was taken a few years ago in San Francisco by one of my best friends. I think one of the reasons I’m so eager to share it (again) is that somewhere deep down, it shows I’m comfortable enough with who I am that I don’t need to disguise myself into a suit and tie, or into “someone cool”, or just in something I’m not. This wasn’t necessarily obvious when I was younger; I’m sure many of you will know the feeling. Also, it’s just an awesome picture!

The second thing is about looking back, and looking at where I am now. Pretty standard stuff when you reach that point in your life I’m sure. In my case, I can’t help but feel incredibly thankful.

  • I’m thankful for my parents and family, who have raised me through war and exile, through almost wealth and almost poverty, and who have shown me how important it is to stay the course in finding yourself.
  • I’m so thankful for my wife, whom I love beyond words. She makes me whole and I am so lucky to have found her I can’t even understand how it could have ever happened. She’s so beautiful and intelligent and funny that I still wonder how she ever agreed to marry me.
  • I have a host of fantastic friends, both offline and online. I’m not only proud to call them my friends, but they’re also such great people that it makes me feel better about who I am for having their friendships.
  • I’m lucky enough to have found something I’m truly passionate about, that I’m able to take part in and contribute to in my modest way. And through that, I have found and become part of a community of people, well known or just random listeners, that amaze me every day by their kindness and intelligence and willingness to engage and share their time with me.
  • I’m also lucky enough to be working for an amazing company that makes products I not only love but am also really passionate about and proud of.
  • And last but not least, I’m lucky enough that I was born in this society of privileges, where healthcare and education are free, and where technological progress makes magic real.

So yeah, I do have everything, and I am so very thankful.

Which begs the question: what do get someone who already has everything? Every year on my birthday, a few of you take the time to wish me a happy birthday, and that is awesomely cool. But how about this: if you want to do a little something for me today, I’d love it if you didn’t just tweet or Google+ of Facebook me, but instead took that time to tell someone in your life you love them. Your parents, or your sibling, or just a friend… Why not? I’m sure most of us don’t do it enough, and believe me, once you have a roof over your head and food in your plate (and maybe a cool smartphone in your pocket), love is really all you need. So come on, go forth and spread the love a tiny bit more today. And then you can tell me about it on Twitter/Facebook/Google+. 🙂

Here, I’ll start: I love you all, and thank you for making my life amazing.

 

September 21st, 2013 | 20 Comments

True love

engagedSo I’m getting married in a few days…

Wait, let me back up a bit.

When I was a kid, I was pretty sure I’d find true love. I though I’d see a girl one day, and I’d look into her eyes, and she’d look into mine, and I’d see stars and I’d know that she was the one, and that’d be that.

And then I grew up.

I held on to that idea for quite some time actually, and I waited for the girl with the stars in her eyes longer than I should have. I had my first girlfriend when I was 10 or so (we never dared kiss, even if our friends were hiding us from prying eyes on the school playground). Around 13, a really cute 14 year old used me to get her ex back (I waited by the phone all day). Around 22, I had a thing with a girl who’s boyfriend was abandoning her, and I hurt her when I didn’t understand she wasn’t serious about us not being serious (I still feel bad about that one).

Then a few real relationships (with actual love), a few crushes (those hurt way more than they should), and a healthy share of enjoyable one night stands (and too many not enjoyable ones, too)… And after a while I came to the conclusion that love wasn’t all it was cranked up to be.

It’s not like I gave up on the idea of loving someone, or on love as a concept even. I just realized that the hyper-romanticized idea of love didn’t actually exist in the real world. You know the one: what we’re being told about love in the poems, and the songs, and the movies. Complete abandon, infinite bliss, and the juvenile certainty that things last forever… All that crap.

Based on 30+ years of reliable empirical evidence, my conclusions were that you could probably have very strong feelings for someone, care for them deeply, and want them to be safe. And if you were lucky, they’d want that for you too. And if you were really lucky, you’d also think each other was hot, and then it would probably be cool to get married, or spend the rest of your lives together, or whatever. And that was that.

 

And then I met Sonja.

If I could sum up the first few weeks of our relationships, I’d say it was unbelievable. Quite literally: if someone had told me a story like that, I simply would have not believed it.

The instant I met her, I thought… she was hot. Don’t judge, that’s what we all do.

The instant after that though, I starting thinking there was something special about her. She was just different from any other girl I had ever met. The way she smiled, the way she talked, the way she looked at me… I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was definitely an attraction there. (And thankfully, the attraction was mutual, as I later learned.)

As we started seeing each other, I realized she was as cool as she was hot. And clever, too. She would call me on my bullshit like no one else did. And how she made me laugh! Like only my very best mates ever could. She was so perfect, I wasn’t really sure what was happening; if she was for real, and if she was actually finding me good enough for her (I still don’t understand how that happened, by the way).

And there was the other side of things: how comfortable I was with her. Totally and completely myself. I didn’t have to pretend, I didn’t have to change myself at all… I started it I guess: I didn’t want another thing where I’d try to be someone else for a while, and then struggle to be myself again, so I was me from the get go. And, surprisingly enough, she liked me anyway.

After a few months, I was pretty sure I was going to ask her to marry me at some point. By the time I did, I was 200% sure I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

And somewhere along the way, I started understanding the stuff they talk about in all the poems and the songs and the movies. It was like before that, I could hear the words but they felt foreign, like something I was being explained. But now I was like “yup, that’s exactly it, right there with you bro!”. It was like part of the same club with them, and we were talking about some secret we knew but others might not. And I know that there are a few of you reading this that are smiling, because you understand exactly what I’m talking about.

So I’d like to talk to the others for a few seconds

And that’s the whole point of this whole article really: to let people know that true love (or whatever you want to call it) wasn’t just invented by writers with too much time on their hands. We all wonder whether it’s real or not when we first hear about it. And some of us never get an answer… Well I got mine: it’s real. And more importantly, if you haven’t found it yet, I’d say you should probably keep looking for it. I’m not saying you should stick to your OCD “perfect mate” checklist forever, and I’m not saying you should look for someone that’s pretty or clever or likes you the way you are. What I’m saying is, when you find that person, you’ll know. You won’t wonder, you won’t ask if he’s truly committed or if she’s too annoying. You’ll just know you’re really in love, and what came before was just a faded photocopy of it.

So, that’s that. I can see the stars in her eyes, and I’m getting married in a few days. 🙂

Hugs to absolutely all of you!

July 20th, 2013 | No Comments

Twitter Is Still My Favorite Social Network

It’s all in the title. If you don’t like reading, you can skip to the comment section and tell me why I’m wrong! And if you want to know a bit more about my reasoning, read on…

A few years ago, I wrote a couple of articles discussing Twitter and marveling at its potential. Like many others, I thought it was silly at first. And like many others, after a couple of months, I got it. I’ve kept using it every day ever since.

The social network landscape has changed a lot since then. Twitter’s direct competitors have bit the dust, Facebook has evolved in drastic ways, and Google has a viable network of its own. A slew of new social services have also appeared (Pinterest or Flipboard for example), but I think these are good at different things than straight up social networking.

Getting back to the point, here are the reasons why I think Twitter is still my main social media outlet, five years in:

  • It’s really simple
    Threaded conversations on updates are great for creating discussions, but they also add complexity. Including such features is good for some aspects of the user experience, but they also inherently diminish other aspects of it, one of them being simplicity. Twitter has very carefully stayed away from such “enhancements”, and remains as straightforward as it’s ever been.
  • It’s really easy
    Sure, the concept might have been a bit obtuse at first, but it’s still very easy to set up and use: choose a name, follow people, you’re done. By comparison, Facebook has mutual friendships, apps and photos, Google+ has circles and different types of updates, etc. Twitter remains the easiest one of them all, both to start and to keep using.

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April 10th, 2013 | 1 Comment

A Future For Print… ?

Saying that print media is in trouble is stating the blindingly obvious. The consensus is that, somewhere down the line, print might even disappear altogether. Everything will be tablets, foldable screens and 15th generation color movie capable e-ink screens.

I’m not so sure. Yes, print used for news propagation is probably dead; the Internet just does that better. But there’s still something deeply attractive about a sheet of paper, a carefully laid out page, or a beautifully printed picture.
And I think there might be a place for that, even in our digital future.

If it survives, print will have to evolve of course. One way would be products with a strong identity. Something that will be significantly more engaging than what we have today. Something that will be about the audience as much as it will be about the content. Magazines can offer a niche product that serves its readers’ pride and intelligence, almost as an identity and fashion statement.

I’ve come across a few examples:

  • The Gentlewoman is a high end fashion magazine. My fiancée describes it as “fashion for adults”. Clever, beautiful, and serious, as opposed to the teen pop soup we’re served elsewhere. Fashion as a well thought out subject matter, for grown ups who actually know how to read.
    The same goes for Fantastic Man, its male counterpart.
  • The Art of Eating is a bit less sophisticated, but covers the same basis: offering an engaging and authentically passionate product to a core audience, who won’t find this kind of thing in mainstream media and would still love to have a physical representation of the thing they love and who they are.
  • The Verge is actually what got me thinking about this whole thing. When Topolsky, Patel, Miller and the team at Vox Media started it, no one really thought something different could be done in that space. But their approach was bold, colorful, beautiful, visual and above all intelligent and authentic.
    A few weeks ago, I realized this was the first site I would actually consider paying for. Then, thinking about this article I wanted to write, I realized I would actually love to have something like that, in print form.
    And then I read an article saying it wouldn’t be out of the question. That article is now down for some reason, but here’s the Techmeme link.

The Age of the Grown Up Geek

There is such a thing as a “grown up geek”. Adolescent at heart, playful and a bit foul mouthed, but highly intelligent and analytical. And usually better informed and knowledgeable in their field than “serious” journalists from newspaper or TV outlets. Topolsky is one example, there are many others.

These individuals have often been dismissed by established industries because of this deceptive exterior. But things have been changing, as these geeks have been growing up and showing that they’re actually regular people, some of them brilliant. People don’t need a suit to be intelligent, and these guys are doing fine in a world of t-shirts. It took a while, but we’re getting there.

There’s something of an identity element in there too: the “grown up geek” is relatable and authentic. They are “real people” who talk and act like real people. And they’re also excellent at their job. So we would probably follow them a bit farther than we would a guy in a tie that doesn’t understand us (or what he’s saying).

My point is this: print is currently run by guys in ties, trying to reach a wide audience. I think there’s a place for guys in t-shirts, trying to reach their peers.

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March 16th, 2013 | 2 Comments

I Want Power Nap in Everything

Yes, I’d like to be able to power nap as well, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

Ok, this one ranks pretty high in the “first world problems” category, but many of us now have five or six “devices” in our homes: desktop, laptop, phone, tablet, a couple of consoles… And every other day, we get update notifications on one or more of those. Worse, if we turn one on after a couple of weeks, STOP EVERYTHING, THERE’S AN IMPORTANT UPDATE!

I’m kind of OCD with these things. I just have to do the updates as soon as they show up. I almost envy those of you who are able let the counter badge rank up into the double digits. I think that would kill me. Literally. Brain explosion.

So basically, apps and system updates are becoming sort of a plague for me. And for other also, I’m guessing. A few months ago, Apple came up with a clever (and obvious) auto update feature for their newest laptop: close the lid, it goes into “Power Nap” sleep mode. It’s a “low power connected state” where it’s basically off, but still downloads and installs the updates on its own. This connected standby concept isn’t new, and I had been hoping for something like this to come along for ages, but for some ungodly reason it hasn’t been implemented widely before.

This might change soon though: Sony has implemented it in its upcoming PS4, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Microsoft did the same in the next Xbox. But let’s not stop there: Apple will certainly implement the feature in all their new computers, and likely iOS as well at some point (iOS 7?). From there, it’ll become widespread enough that it will be a de facto standard feature, and others will have to implement it as well.
And as I was saying, I’m starting to hate updating so much, I want it in everything: phones, tablets, consoles, desktops (including all “app store” like installed software), set top boxes, watches, glasses, frying pans, shoes… Ok maybe not the last two. Yet.

Is that too much to ask for? No? I didn’t think so. Thank you, tech industry.

March 2nd, 2013 | 6 Comments

Yet Another Thing Apple Needs To Get Better At

I believe there are three areas in which Apple is falling behind in the software space.

Two are widely acknowledged : The Internet, and UI design.
Most people agree that iCloud is “better” than the company’s previous efforts, but most people will say in the same breath that that’s not saying much. And it seems everyone on the planet has written about the sin of skeumorphism (and that twice as many people are praying for Jony Ive to fix it). So let’s not dwell on those.

The third one, in my opinion, is the incredible sluggishness of their software.

This is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows it, everyone feels it, and everyone is sick of it, but we’re so accustomed to it that nobody seems to think twice about it. Yet on every platform, it seems that speed and efficiency are not even a concern. In a world where Google puts all their energy in shaving off every milliseconds they can everywhere they can, sluggishness doesn’t sit well anymore.

Let’s take a look:

  • On Windows, without even mentioning iTunes, we can compare Safari to Chrome. Same platform, same basic Webkit. But Safari is a blind, lame dog. Everything runs slower.
  • In iOS, most Apple apps run fine, but anything on the App or iTunes store feels slow and sluggish. I don’t care about the reason, it’s just frustrating.
  • In MacOS, it seems like any time I do anything, I get the spinning beach ball of doom. It is so incredibly annoying, I want to murder that beachball and turn it into a zombie just so I can murder it again.
  • On the web, we tolerate iCloud, but loading times are just atrocious. I could pile on, but I won’t, you get the idea.

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February 1st, 2013 | 9 Comments

My favorite albums of the 2000s

[EDIT Jan 29] I’m really liking Rdio; it feels like a better Spotify… Better social, great web version, and collection management!(!!) So I made a playlist for this article. 🙂

Regular people (like renown music critics, famed websites and legendary rock magazines), they do their decade top ten right as the decade ends. That’s kind of silly though, because you’re to close to the events to judge them properly. Right? Right??

So anyway, it’s 2013 and I’ve decided to do a list of my favorite albums of the previous decade. No reason, just because. Please note that these aren’t the “best albums” of the 2000s, just my personal favorites. I’ve also made two completely arbitrary categories (Heart and Punch), because they felt right.

 

— Heart —

The Postal Service – Give Up

This is probably the album that I’ve spent the most time trying to get people to listen to. It’s a magical mix of electronica and emo explosion, which inexplicably works. I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite album of the decade, period.

The Weakerthans – Left and Leaving

There are no words to describe how much I love The Weakerthans. The best way I can explain it is that their music creates a sort of wonderful melancholy for places you’ve never been. Stephen Carroll’s vocals will seem rocky at first, but pretty soon they’ll turn into a warming guide that you won’t want to quite.

Stars – Up in Our Bedroom After the War

Another Canadian band (in case you didn’t know, the Canadian indie scene is amazing). Stars are a bit more “syrupy” maybe, but just as enjoyable. Some tracks I’ve listened to on repeat for days, never getting bored of them (Calendar Girl, Personal). And then of course there’s the cryptically captivating quote at the beginning of this album, which you’ll remember it forever.

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January 22nd, 2013 | 4 Comments