Anyone who follows tech/game industry news has probably noticed a deeply disturbing pattern by now, as outlined by the following examples:
- Co-creator of the innovative Head First programming books has been facing years of online harassment and real-world threats.
- Pop culture media critic who makes academic video-essays has been facing years of online harassment and real-world threats.
- Game developer who raises awareness of mental illness has been facing years of online harassment and real-world threats.
- Software engineer who made an anti-harassment tool will almost definitely face years of online harassment and real-world threats.
- Game development studio founder will almost definitely have to endure years of online harassment and real-world threats.
- …and many other developers, writers, and critics have been putting up with years of online harassment and real-world threats.
- [EDIT] Over the course of the few days that it took me to write this post, the founder and editor of a progressive tech publication has started receiving several vicious attacks. Everything about the situation is consistent with other cases that have resulted in years of online harassment and real-world threats.
Perhaps you’ve heard of some of these stories, but most don’t realize that the hate campaigns against these people still aren’t over. Part of what makes this pattern so upsetting is the public’s infuriating habit of stopping to notice what’s happening, being horrified for a moment, and then moving on and forgetting all about it. We almost always leave the victims to fend for themselves against these hate mobs while we happily move on in blissful ignorance.
This is clearly a huge problem, not just in terms of urgency but also in terms of how difficult it is to solve. Most of us don’t even know what we can do to help, and so we usually don’t do much at all. Even when we do try to help, it can often feel like our contributions are just a drop in the bucket, like we’re essentially doing nothing.
And frankly, I’m super tired of doing nothing, especially when there are such few people who are actually working on this problem. Earlier this month I tried to cope with this frustration by trying to convince myself to be more satisfied with the effort that I put in so far. But my conscience has been killing me ever since, because this attempt at complacency felt as though I was turning my back on these people whom I really respect. I realize now that I won’t be comfortable with myself unless I’m actually serious about making a difference here. And to me, taking something seriously means being satisfied only by results, not by effort.
I’m still having trouble dealing with what happened to the games community during the second half of 2014. A lot of really depressing stuff happened, and so it’s not surprising that that sense of depression still lingers.
Unfortunately, #GamerGate still isn’t over. When I say “post-GamerGate,” what I really mean is “post-(that-time-when-everyone-was-talking-about)-GamerGate.” The hate mob is still obsessively fixating on and continuously harassing the same four or so women, and they’re still coming up with new targets to attack every week.
I was surprised by how much I was emotionally affected by the whole GamerGate mess. I usually don’t get worked up over many things, since I generally try to be laid back and optimistic, and I also try very hard to stay mentally grounded, since I know that politically and emotionally charged events such as this one have a tendency to mess up one’s sense of perspective. And so I was genuinely surprised when I realized how cynical and depressed I had grown over this whole thing.
And frankly, I’m tired of being depressed about this, so I’m hoping that writing this post might help me to get some of it out of my system, or at least reach a greater sense of emotional clarity on this.
To be honest, I always cringe a little when I hear someone say that they “taught themselves” how to do something. While the phrase has become a shorthand for saying “I learned this outside of the traditional classroom setting,” I can’t but help be bothered by the sense of arrogance that comes with the fact that it also seems like a shorthand for “I learned this without a teacher.”
There is always a teacher involved. Whether you learned that skill by reading books, following online tutorials, watching instructional videos, or reading articles online, someone had to create that content for you to consume.
One of the most amazing things about working in tech is that people tend to spend a lot of time either learning from others or helping others understand complicated skills. Anyone can become a “teacher” just by writing a single article or by giving a talk at a conference, and this promotes a really cool continuous-learning culture within the community.
But it worries me just how little attention we sometimes give to the teachers who create the content that we have become so dependent on for our professional development. Software engineers tend to take the availability and quality of this educational content for granted. Many people in this field describe themselves as “self-taught” rather than attributing their expertise to the individuals who they learned from.
This is a problem, not necessarily because it’s rude or self-centered behavior, but because we’re creating misleading expectations among students and upcoming engineers. We often trivialize how easy it is to learn new technologies by saying “oh yeah just do a Google search!” We act as if just any Google result is good enough to learn from, as if the quality of the educational content has no effect on one’s ability to master the material. We give off the impression that mastery is entirely dependent on our own intelligence, and so when students struggle, rather than questioning the quality of the content that they’re trying to learn from, they instead question their own intelligence and start contemplating whether they should just give up.
I personally don’t have much to say about the political and social issues that fuel the #GamerGate mess, but all of this has gotten me thinking a lot about community management. Specifically, I find myself cringing at all of the very serious community management mistakes that have been hurting the #GamerGate movement ever since it started, so I kinda just wanted to write a postmortem-like post on how it all could have gone better.
More importantly, this made me think more about how we can better manage the overall videogame community, because at the end of the day, all I really care about is whether or not people actually like being here. I think this post turned into a pretty great case for why we need more smart, tolerant, and prominent voices helping to keep our community healthy.
It’ll probably be a few weeks before I make another post, because today I’m moving to Seattle to start working for Microsoft as a Program Manager.
This will now be the sixth place that I’ve lived in so far. Some of the other places include: the Dominican Republic, New York, New Jersey, Phoenix, Tucson, and now Seattle. So I’ve never really had the experience of having a single city that I’d think of as my “home” town, nor have I ever felt the need to have a “home” town.
If anything, I think moving around so much has at least made me more appreciative of my time in each of the cities and communities that I’ve lived in, because you’re just more likely to enjoy your time somewhere if you accept the fact that you won’t be there forever. So since I’m in the habit of making sure to enjoy the limited time that I have with friends and family, I usually don’t have many regrets when it’s time to move away from them again. Plus moving away isn’t even that big of a deal anymore, since modern technology does a great job of helping people keep in touch.
Here’s hoping that my time in Seattle will be a good one, however long it may last.
I have to admit that I probably have weird taste, since it seems like my favorite shows and movies are usually aimed at kids. I’m not sure why I find this genre so appealing. Maybe I just like the nice, positive vibe that these shows give off, since shows aimed at adult audiences are too often pretentiously “gritty” and “dark”.
If you haven’t seen or heard of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, it’s a CG-animated, 26-episode, adventure story that follows the crew of a ship called the Interceptor as they travel the universe fighting evil. Part of what I love about the story is that the writing is very economical—every single episode moves the story forward. Since the story rarely loses its momentum, by the time you reach the final episode, you can really feel just how far these characters have come and how much they’ve evolved since the beginning of their journey. I also found myself getting very attached to these characters, which is a sentiment that I haven’t felt this strongly since Avatar: The Last Airbender. The show also focused on some really strong and well written themes, many of which resonated a lot with me.
Green Lantern: The Animated Series was nominated for the 2012 Annie Award for Best General Audience Animated TV Production, and the music for the series was nominated for two Annie Awards and one International Film Music Critics Award. The show was created by some legendary people, including Bruce Timm (who co-created Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, and Justice League) and Giancarlo Volpe (who directed episodes for Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars).
The rest of this post will be a spoiler-filled analysis of the series, in which I’ll try to explain why I loved the show so much. The show is currently on Netflix, if you’re willing to give it a try.
There are plenty of good resources out there that teach the technical skills that are necessary for becoming a good programmer, but I’ve seen only a few that give you the more personal lessons that you often only learn through experience or trial and error. In this article, I’m going to share with you some of my own habits and skills that I’ve gained over the years to help me do better work.
This article is based on a post I made over a year ago on the UA CS Facebook Group in response to someone’s question about how you can become a faster programmer. Instead of posting about tools and keyboard shortcuts, most of my tips are about how to get yourself to think faster, along with a few tips for avoiding time-consuming mistakes.
I gave a lot of talks at the UA GameDev Club when I was in college, but few were as good as this one. I gave this talk in the Fall of 2013, and the advice that I had to share came from the dozens of resources that I’ve read over the years, as well as my own experience in recruiting for projects and working as an intern at Microsoft.
The video player below is set to start playing at the beginning of the talk (so about 20 minutes into the recording), and the talk is about 40 minutes long.
If you want to learn more about how to get into the games industry, here are some super awesome resources that you should check out:
My friends and I have recently started a blog called Port of Exchange, and it’s basically a place for us to share cool stuff with each other. At the time of this writing, so far we’ve posted about TV shows, comic books, nonfiction, and even classical music. I figured it’d be cool to at least link to my articles on that site.
Today I want to introduce you to a webcomic that has managed to become one of my many all-time favorite works of fiction: Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell.