Tag Archives: computer

The Redemption of Colonization

17 Sep

I only play computer games that are (at least) five years old. So I went back to play Sid Meier’s Colonization–the original from 1994–and thought… how can I play this in such a way that I don’t genocide the Native Americans?

Colonization is a dirty word these days, so it’s not surprising that this game doesn’t get a lot of love. For those of you not familiar with either the ’94 or ’08 remake, the idea is that you play one of the four major colonizing powers (English, France, Spain, or Netherlands), build up settlements in the New World, build up your cash crops, deal with the Indians, and eventually build up a power base to declare independence from your European power… and then win the war and gain your freedom!

You see the problem. In academic circles, this would be called exploitative, early-stage capitalism (and late-stage mercantilism), and terribly, terribly racist. And it is… after all, he only problem is that the most ideal spaces to build a colony are already taken… by the native inhabitants. (Fancy that!) However, this IS what happened in our history, so it should not be hidden or ignored. It is also terribly enjoyable, but instead of playing the “normal” way (wipe out the inconvenient Indians, pacify the convenient ones, and build your Empire), I decided to take (what I’m calling) the Treaty of Waitangi approach.

For most of us, that makes no sense, but it was a treaty signed in New Zealand between the British and the local Maoris that granted (local) sovereignty to the Maoris, in exchange for Brits being able to buy land to put it under that control. Most of this treaty was ignored, the Maoris were exploited, BUT… after several wars and a hundred years, the New Zealand government decided to actually follow this treaty and made reparations, creating a joint government between Anglos and Maori.

So what I do is settle on the land NOT occupied by the natives and give them a wide berth, send out missions to pacify the nearby tribes (yeah, I’m not Christian either, but it works! Think of them as embassies), and agree to every Indian request for food. The result? Peaceable colonies, only ONE fight with the natives, and plenty of room to expand. My current game is in the Pacific, so I only occupied HALF of New Zealand, and I’m still working my way across Australia. No genocide of Tasmania, the aboriginals still control half the country, and I’m still able to exploit most of the subcontinent to my heart’s content.

Usually in my games, the natives get honked off, and I have to fight off Indian attacks until I have to destroy the nearby villages to protect my colonies. However now… we have a good balance. I do wonder what the future of this approach would be for an independent Australasia. My guess is the Canadian model; unequal treaties, intermarriage (half-breeds commonplace or Metis), and smaller and smaller reserves for the Native population. Not genocidal, but just as exploitive. I would PREFER to think that the two populations would blend into a new culture, half-European, half-native… but history tells us that doesn’t happen. Even in places where the native population still overwhelms the European settlers (like Samoa), the native culture still suffers.

So I’m still being exploitive, but with the best intentions. What do you think? Is there a way to redeem Christopher Columbus (there’s a whole sci-fi book written on this topic)? Or do we just plow through the way history actually happened? Or do we just assure ourselves, “It’s a game, it’s NOT history?” Let me know in the comments below!

Survey Says?

18 May

So recently, I’ve fallen into the habit of taking surveys for money, and it’s an interesting universe. What marketers and academics are interested in hearing about and what they’re willing to pay for that information becomes research in and of itself.

Where this all started was with my wife–since she’s doing research for a dissertation–she needed to reach a wider audience so that she could get better results for her survey. Someone introduced her to a website called Prolific and she got double number of results that she had previously. So… success! However, it required a lot of money that she really didn’t have as a graduate student, but thankfully, someone had some extra money in their fund that they transferred to her use.

I thought–wow! Getting paid to do academic surveys? That sounds pretty cool. So they wanted to know a lot of information about yourself, which is understandable, so that you can weed out surveys that don’t apply to you. However, the information became more and more detailed. Finally, they wanted my personal information, including a screenshot of my ID, and that’s where I started to get worried. I made sure to check the website out, made sure it was legitimate, and then submitted the information. I got an email saying I was rejected.

What?! You make me go through actually showing you my ID to prove I’m a real person to tell me that you’re not Prolific material. Oh, hell no! So I write them back demanding an explanation. They reply saying “they don’t monitor this email account and could you reply through their service desk?” It took me a while to do that and… va-voom! Suddenly I get access.

What was the difference? My guess is that as long as my wife’s survey was live, they couldn’t use my input. Now that it’s closed, it’s open season for me. I’ve filled out three and got a couple dollars credit I can convert over to hard cash soon.

While I was waiting, there’s plenty of other apps which provide the same opportunities for regular marketing issues. These are not as exciting–and not as profitable–but they require very little to confirm who you are. I fell into Survey Junkie and rather enjoy it. They do a whole thing involving points that convert directly into USD pennies for… reasons. I guess that allows them to collect information for internal surveys to sell your information to get more marketers.

It reminds me of a lecture one of the lawyers I was working with explained. People get upset when they sell your data; but if you pay them for your data, they’re willing to give it for free. Modern people know that so much of your data is being stolen from you all the time, but hey, I get a free app out of it, so why not? However, there’s a limit to how much data theft we’re willing to take… but if you pay them for their data, suddenly all objection vanishes. That’s going to be the future of data mining.

Of course, what the heck would I know? I just make eLearning modules. Maybe you have a better insight than I do. If so, let me know in the comments below! And while you’re at my site, why not pick up one of my books? However, if you need to take a few more surveys to pay for it, download one of my stories for free!

Running Away from Home (Part II)

17 Apr

So yesterday, I started telling the story of my work career, and how I’ve had the option to work from home for a decade now. However, that all changes when the option becomes mandatory.

When I got my work-from-home job three years ago, this was ideal for a while… until two things happened. One, I ran out of reasons to want to get out of the house. There were only so many cafes and virtual offices and hotel lobbies that I wanted to frequent. I had a whole mapped out area of my town that has all the places I liked to go. But the hassle of not having my extra screen or having to set up new again when I moved location bugged the crap out of me.

The second thing was COVID–so instead of being alone at home, I had the whole family there–and there was nowhere I could hide. Unlike a lot of people, I’ve never had any great fear of catching it, and I was grateful that after a while, I found a place I could go that also had like-minded people. (I’m not going to say where, because of all the COVID cowboys out there, who want to shame people who are non-compliant.) After a while, that became my ONLY escape from my regular work schedule. 

So I learned several things about myself during this stay-at-home experience that ruined the joy of it.

1. You’re Never AT Work

With the family around the house, my only option to get enough done is to move my desk to my hot bedroom. But I have to leave that “office” every once in a while to get a drink, get a snack, stretch my legs… whatever. That means your family immediately pounces on you for the simple joy of interaction. My kids are thrilled to see their dad (I’ll enjoy it while it lasts), my wife is suffering for lack of adult interaction, and I… I just want to get my drink and go back to my desk. A two-minute trip to the kitchen becomes ten minutes, because my wife wants to bitch about some damn news story that she just saw.

2. You’re Never NOT at Work

Thankfully, my boss is very helpful in enforcing work-life balance. Nothing after work hours has to be answered right then. But there are always emergencies, and normally I like to keep all electronics off on Saturday, but since all new classes that I work on release their videos on Saturday morning, some eager beaver is ready to tell me if something didn’t work… which means, I need to be aware if it needs fixing, which means leaving my phone on… albeit I check it a lot less.

So I’m never NOT at work–and my commute from my bed to the desk means that I never feel there’s a clear delineation from my work to my homelife… everything’s jumbled.

3. You’re Not Really Working

No one is working diligently all the time. When you’re at a cubicle, you have to disguise the fact that you’re goofing off. But when you’re at home and your desk is pointed away the door, at any point my wife can bust in the door and notice me playing solitaire, she can see that I’m goofing off. That means that she values my work less because “well, you’re not really working, are you?”

So that means that she feels far more comfortable interrupting me or talking with me about some important thing… and what would have been handled by a text becomes a conversation that lasts longer. Unlike a co-worker that you can politely excuse yourself, your lover is not going to be so easily swayed by a brush-off. I learned that isolation is important to me–and can not be understood by my wife.

Again, this post is getting way too long, so I’m going to have to continue it tomorrow. If you can relate to my story, let me know in the comments below! Then if you like my writing style, go ahead and check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. Then you can comment again! 🙂

Preserving the Ephemeral

18 Feb

Turns out, there are at least three college libraries in the United States that have video game collections. After I got past my initial “You’ve got to be kidding me” reaction, the more it made more sense. Video games are history–and that history needs to be preserved.

I came across this article from the American Libraries Magazine (no, I’m not a subscriber), which interviewed librarians at the University of Michigan’s (UM) Computer Video and Game Archive (CVGA), the University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library, and the University of California, Santa Cruz’s (UCSC) Science and Engineering Library. Now why would these three libraries have such an archive? Simple–they have huge software design programs.

It makes perfect sense–if you want to get inspired to make your own game–or you want to understand the programming behind a historically huge game–it helps to have access to the materials.

Now I’m a great fan of abandonware–software that is no longer distributed or supported by the copyright holder–and at first, you wouldn’t think that older programs would be that expensive to store. Just shove it on a flash drive, hook it up to the internet, and there you go. However, it’s never that easy. First, it takes an emulator–I have games that run on Windows 98 that I can’t use, because the operating systems don’t talk to each other… even with the same publisher. So you need someone to take the time and effort to make sure that modern systems talk to each other, and I’m glad there are people who do that for free, but that still takes storage space and money.

The other option is simpler–play the games on the machines they were intended for. Great… except even laptops fall apart in 5-7 years. How likely is your much loved Nintendo NES will work after 20? That’s why these libraries exist, so you CAN play Ironman Off-Road Racing on the NES. (My favorite game on the Nintendo.) You can pay someone to actually make sure these machines work, as well as clean the cartridges, fix the controllers, and sometimes have to 3D print new hardware to keep them working.

So I’m grateful that some folks are actually preserving these things that will help the programmers of the future… and historians understand how folks interacted with these objects. However, I could be biased–what do you think? Is this a worthwhile use of university funds? Should more libraries have video game collections? Let me know in the comments below!

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