How I’m Coping with Post-GamerGate Depression


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.

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How to Get Better at Teaching Yourself New Skills

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.

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What Community Managers Can Learn from #GamerGate

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.

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Moving to Seattle!

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.

Why I love Green Lantern: The Animated Series


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 SeriesBatman 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.

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11 Unconventional Tips for Improving your Programming Skills


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.

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[Video] Career Advice to Students: Become someone who people want to work with.

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:

Good luck!

Tom Siddell’s Gunnerkrigg Court

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.

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Magnet Ball Mega-Postmortem: How Learning on-the-fly Saved an Ambitious Student Project

basic gameplay

The following is my honors thesis, which is a research paper that I had to write in order to graduate with Honors from the University of Arizona. I had published the first two parts of this paper on my previous blog, but I have never published the full work until now. While I did try to adapt the tone of the paper to be more fitting for online reading, the paper is mostly unmodified, aside from a few major additions made to part four.

I’m going to warn you now; this paper is LONG. One of the goals when I was writing this was to show enough detail so that students who wish to try running a project like this could learn from our process and our mistakes. This project was a ton of fun, and I hope you’ll have fun reading about it.

Table of Contents

  1. Intro
    1. Abstract
    2. The Team
    3. Introduction
  2. PART ONE: Recruiting and Managing People
    1. Starting the Project
    2. Designing the Team Experience
    3. The Recruitment Process
    4. Unfortunately, Our Team was Too Big
    5. Availability and Communication Problems
  3. PART TWO: The Senses Project
    1. A Broken Pre-Production Phase
    2. The First Prototype
    3. The Second Prototype
    4. Turning the Project Around
  4. PART THREE: Pre-Production Done Right
    1. Fixing our Creative Process
    2. Rapid Prototyping and the Creative Process
    3. The Fruits of Pre-Production
    4. Prototype 1: Fighting Blind
    5. Prototype 2: Detonator
    6. Prototype 3: Particle Racer
    7. Prototype 4: Runner
    8. Prototype 5: Magnet Man
    9. Prototype 5, v2: Magnet Ball
  5. PART FOUR: Prototyping until the Bitter End
    1. Our Creative Process during Production
    2. Our Development Process during Production
    3. Thoughts on the Prototype-Centered Process
    4. Things I Would Do Differently
    5. In Conclusion

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Start your Engines!


Hello, and welcome to my new blog!

Superheroes in Racecars is now my second attempt at blogging. My first attempt was a little collection of articles called Livio’s Gaming Blog, which I started three years ago. Unfortunately, it was difficult to keep the blog updated while also attending university. Having just graduated last month, I think it’s time I got back into blogging, especially since there are so many topics that I’ve been itching to write about during the last couple of years.

Looking back, I find that my first blog was way too serious sometimes. I remember having had the explicit goal of making that blog be more about content than about myself, and while my constant strive for quality was definitely one of the strong points of that blog, it kinda gave it a weird personality that I’m just not satisfied with anymore. With this new blog, I’m looking forward to using a more casual and “bloggy” tone—one where every post doesn’t have to be a giant article that explores a topic at great depth. I’ll probably still write those kinds of articles from time to time, though, but they (hopefully) won’t be the norm.

I’m personally really looking forward to writing about a larger variety of topics. Rather than strictly focusing on game design and development, I also plan to talk about programming, education, career advice, community management, other fields of art and entertainment, and much more. As the title of the blog suggests, Superheroes in Racecars will probably still end up being mostly about games and entertainment in one form or another. And I think the title also reflects my affinity towards children’s entertainment, since this field is often more imaginative and lighthearted than other fields of entertainment.

Anyway, I hope to create some good reads on this blog, so wish me luck!