Friday, June 30, 2006

Death To Consoles!

Microsoft and Sony should be ashamed of themselves. If for no other reason than their exceptionally skilled, amoral exploitation of console gamers.

There was a period of time that my computer was nothing more than a ridiculously over-priced video game machine and web browser. Which is to say that my computer was nothing more than a ridiculously over-priced video game machine.

I worked in an IT shop as a database administrator and ASP web developer, so when I got home, the very idea of doing anything productive on my computer was akin to thinking about how long I can keep my arm on the hood of my black car in 105F weather. So video games was the only use I could see for my computer for a long time.

Then I got a family. Suddenly my piddly salary was insufficient to pay for diapers and toys and a house...and a family car...and...well, you get the idea. Side jobs seemed the best answer.

Time spent video gaming on my computer was gradually nibbled away by side projects, until the idea of installing a video game on my computer (especially, my nice, shiny new computer) seemed just silly. My mindset: you sit in front of a computer, you should be working or learning; you have the XBox, PS2, and the GameCube for any video game jonesing you might be experiencing. That mindset worked just fine. Until the advent of the XBox 360.

From this blogger's (read: complainer's) perspective, what Microsoft did in their "release" of the XBox 360 was brilliant. And evil.

Under-produce, under-release to create even more of a demand than there already was. This demand, of course, warrants a higher price. Coupling that with the demographic of video game players, and you have a wonderful windfall. After all, 18- to 35-year-olds can afford that ridiculous price, right? And if they can afford it, why shouldn't we charge that much? Why not? Because it's unnecessary!

Okay, so the console is expensive (but only about 3 times more expensive than its predecessor), because it has all sorts of new game-playing-experience-enhancing creaminess. Now, let's charge an additional 50% on the games, too! Brilliant. And evil. Especially from the perspective of we 18- to 35-year-olds (okay, so I'm a bit outside that demographic--leave me alone!) who would like to play games (with our kids, sometimes, too) and support families...all the while attempting to teach one's family that spending money wisely is important. "But dad, you just spent $1000 on this game machine and a few games." "Yes, son. That's because it allows me to spend more time with you...while you watch me playing this video game that you're not allowed to play because it's...well...for me."

I see this brilliant and reprehensible tactic perpetrated by Microsoft, and I think, "Hey, it's Microsoft. Who'd expect anything different from them?" And I wait patiently for Sony and how they're going to stick it to Microsoft, hoping for a price war.

Of course, Sony's doing exactly the same thing as Microsoft. Under-produce, over-charge, then, when everyone's used to paying such high prices for the rare and precious consoles and games...keep the prices that high when there are enough products. Sly, huh? (Although we all hope that the PS3 won't have the same--or any--hardware issues that the XBox 360 had--which, by the way, caused my bitter self no end of acid amusement.)

My solution, however impotent it might be: boycotting Microsoft and Sony. Of course that's not the end of it, but the details of it should probably not be part of public knowledge--for legal considerations. (Hey, MS and Sony aren't the only ones that can do unethical things!)

But on the legal, ethical side of things, let's just say that Open Source operating systems and programs are getting a very close look. And from all appearances, I'm thinking that my computer is going to become a video game machine again.

Stupid Microsoft. Bloody Sony. Poor me.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Work, family, friends, education, and other hobbies. Who would have thought that an irrational decision from fools from above would land me in a quagmire of too much opportunity? Put aside for the moment the fact that I shouldn't even have a job given the generosity of so many employers and their benevolent actions of giving developing countries all our jobs. (It IS benevolence, right?)

A sudden cranial amputation of an all but revolutionary project using bleeding edge tools and I find myself landed in the middle of hordes of ravening recruiters making me feel almost necessary and important. Then when I realize that my finding employment is the key to their employment, I realize that I really shouldn't have felt that way at all. But I digress.

Suffice it to say that at this point--probably due to some presuppositions I've made in the recent past, and for quite some time before then--culture and experience has put the fear of unemployment into me so deeply that I fully expect to have to scramble for a job. When the project was killed and I was told to find employment elsewhere, I was pretty sure I could find a job, but I was also quite certain it was going to be at least a bit of a struggle to find something I would find interesting and educational; something at which I could earn sufficient money to support my family; something that would keep me in touch with talented and interesting friends made during the life of the project. I was wrong. In a big way. Well, at least in the number of jobs I perceived I'd have to choose from. One, maybe two. But five!?

So, having been trained to be in a Yang state of mind regarding finding a job--fiercely hunting, aggressively selling, sheepishly settling--I'm floundering in the need for an Yin mindset--methodically weighing, meticulously comparing, brutally eliminating--in a job market that seems rather interested in me--or at least my skills.

So a few things to think about when looking for a job: is it what you want to do? Is it in an environment you want to do it in? Will it allow you time for what you really want to do? (A job is only something you like to do to supply the resources necessary to allow you do what you love to do.) And for all the things the job is not, are your skills in sufficient demand that the prospective employers are willing to pay for the aspects of the job that are...unpleasant, subpar, or undesirable?

Oh, that it were that simple. Me? I apparently have this subconscious desire to torture myself in any decision that needs to be made. Not only do I find myself weighing the above questions, but I also made the mistake of making friends with people at the job I'm leaving. Friends that have really good ideas for other employment. Friends that took pains to keep me on the same team--okay, okay, friends that took pains to create a team on which we could both work.

Finally I'm left with the question: what am I doing in this business? Unstable. Unsteady. Unattractive.

Of course the answer is always: having fun doing what I like to do, and getting paid enough doing it that it frees up time and creates resources to let me do what I love with those I love. Well, most of those I love...or at least care about. The others I'll just have to make time for.