Of Game Piracy

[Penny Arcade]

I buy a lot of games and I think it’s no secret that I don’t have the time to play all of them. It’s like how some girls buy lots of shoes and bags, I buy games (and books). Well, I bought a bunch of new games lately so I thought I’d write a little about game piracy.

I had a discussion with Jo some time back about the difference between branded goods and video games. When someone carries an imitation of say a LV or Gucci bag, said person will be scoffed in public. However, when someone gets a bootleg copy of the latest game, he becomes everyone’s best friend, at least till they all got a copy from him.

Of course, she replied that there isn’t “branded” video games, to which, I tried to explain that there are triple A titles where publishers pump millions of dollars and developers can spent up to 5 years working on. On the other hand, you have hobbyist or casual games developed by a couple of friends and published online as a free Flash game or selling for a couple of bucks. More often than not, it’s those triple A titles that get pirated.

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Sheer Genuis?

White, male, aging, crooked teeth, messy hair,...

I’m not quite sure what is it about academics. It could be the hours they spend physically in their offices and their minds in their research, resulting in some form of behaviour disorder. Anyway, I want to share my experience with the lecturer of one of the modules I’m taking for special semester.

Firstly, never have I ever taken a course where I need to download 100+mb of notes per week. Let’s just assume the course is accelerated at twice the rate for special semester, that’s still 50+mb of notes per week. In other words, this is the first time ever I have to stare at the download bar of the browser when I’m downloading notes. In terms of volume, it’s about 7-15 files with varying number of slides. I actually attempted to print out the slides for my first week of class. I usually print 6 slide per hand out, by the time I’m done, I’m more than half way through my print quota, which I hardly touch last semester… (I realised there won’t be any open-book assessment so I don’t know why I was even printing them out…)

I wouldn’t mind so much if she is able to make this sheer volume of knowledge information interesting. Unfortunately, she goes through at a rather fast pace, noted by some of my peers who brought it to her attention. What worries me more however, is her frequent usage of “This is not important”, “I don’t know why this is here” and “I’m not sure what this is“.

So if you’ve gotten so this far, I’m gonna go into some of the really amusing things she do.

So, we students are complaining about the speed and volume of the material given to us. The lecturer being so kind decides to help by letting us know which are the parts we can ignore.  Instead of giving us new files with all the essential information, no no… that would be too easy on us, she did exactly what she said she’d do, tell us which parts we can ignore by releasing dozens of new files with slides we can ignore. I assume we’re supposed to look at these slides then cross-reference with our original slides and say “AHAH! I can ignore these ones!” I don’t know how it ever occured to her the best way for her students to ignore information is to look at them twice.

This is serious, I can't make this up

This is serious, I can't make this up

So to save the best for last, I’d share some of her issues with the instructor’s bench in front of the lecture theatre. The PCs at the instructor’s bench is locked inside a cupboard under the bench so what I understand is the cord of the mouse is probably a little strained to be used freely on the bench surface as mouse cords are never that long. What happened once was the mouse probably slid back into the mess of wiring and such from the PC and she got so distraught that her mouse disappeared. After more than 5 minutes of giggling from the class, someone actually went down to help her “find” her mouse; to which she was probably eternally grateful. She did not want to let it go for the rest of the class, in her own words, she was “afraid it would disappear again“.

But all these is nothing compared to her issues with the LT’s lights. For those who are unfamiliar, on our instructor’s benches in the LTs, there is usually a panel to control the lights; on, off, partial dim, etc. She is convinced, believes in it whole-heartedly, I swear, that the operation of the lights is linked to the IP telephone at the bench which is connected to the technical services. According to her, she needs to pick up the receiver, then put it back for the lights to work. Once she picked up the handset and said something like this: “Oh, I didn’t call for anything, I just need to pick up the phone so that the lights in the LT will work“. What she managed to do today, was actually to off the lights when what she wanted was to dim the front lights but never mind that. She claimed she was afraid the lights would not work later so she left the lights off during the break. As a result, we had people walking around in a dark LT with lots of steps.

This wasn’t intended to be a wall of text rant but I guess I had to let out this mix of amusement and frustration. I’m just glad I’d be SUing the module anyway. I’ve met some bad lecturers over the years but this has to be on a different level surely.

PS: no offense to all the normal academics out there but it really scares me because she gives us her office & home addresses and phone numbers

Of Results and Expectations

Getting results has never been an easy time for anybody. Some are just affected by pure nerves; some are afraid of facing the reflection of their work for that semester, be it guilty with the knowledge that they could have put in more effort or saw the direction their results has been heading through the course of the semester and dreading the destination; for some it’s just the finality of it all, becoming part of statistics mostly based on who’s the most academically bulimic.

Result day bring a different kind of dread for me. I’ve often said I’m the type who felt the nerves in the exam hall and recognized the finality once I relinquish my script, all the discussion and worrying and well-wishes after that means nothing. I’ve always been blessed or gifted to perform decently enough without putting in as much effort as the rest of my peers. I’ve yet to figure out the secret to my success but this brings us back to what I dread about results day.

I did well this semester, better than I expected, actually matching my best semester ever in NUS, back in my first semester of my first year. While I did well, like the only employee in the company who got a raise, there’s little reason or place for cheer when I find out some of my peers are down; it just leaves a kind of empty, twisted feeling of having achieved success yet without a proper outlet for celebration. While you can sympathize with your friends, there are others you don’t pity for failing their classes, somehow being friends give them special privileges.

I’m not a good consoler but I listen and spewing a few cliches is not yet beyond me. Above all else, I’m a realist and believer of reaping what you sow. As long as your grades match your expectations with some variance, you should be happy; I learnt that if you expect the worst, you usually get pleasant surprises now and then, that’s probably how I remain sane in this ultra-competitive world. Then again there are those who can be said to be delusional, expecting a dispropotionate return in results for the effort put in. The worst are probably those who decide to channel the blame externally, probably believing that everyone is against them and there’s a conspiracy against them ever scoring well. Maybe these people need help or at least counselling of sorts.

This is my last real break, the next one would probably be the one where I spend my time job hunting if I haven’t had one by then. Sometimes I still have difficulty accepting the fact that I spent my last long holiday chairing the faculty’s orientation projects. I’m looking forward to finally leaving 16 years of academia behind and finally hopefully doing something I like full-time. The recent economy gloom does create a omninous sense of foreboding, it doesn’t help that my degree doesn’t put me in the optimum position for my ideal career choice. I should probably inquire about the technical course I’m interested in soon.

With that, I hope everyone got the grades they expected; if it was beyond your expectations, I offer my congratulations; if it fell below your expectation, knowledge and acknowledgement of the source of the problem is half the battle of turning things back towards the right direction in the future.

Oh yes, Merry Christmas. santa-hat

Of Leadership

It’s been more than a week since the end of camp and everyone must have talked about it til death yet I’ve been strangely quiet about the whole event. I’m not sure if I’m jaded, detached or for whatever else reason, somehow I just don’t feel the attachment to Xcalibur 08. Someone (I think it’s Isaac) once told me that the 2 camps that’d be most memorable to you will be the one you attended as a freshman and then as a group leader. True indeed, I remember fondly Yo-A-Ke and Chiarimento. Emerga of last year seems like a whiff of a dream, barely conjuring an imagery from my mind.

It’s not that the camp was bad; I am in fact very proud of my guys who broke new grounds, attempted novel ideas and more so for carrying them out well. I will also remember the new faces and names, especially those who came to help in the float sessions, though there’d always be people who wave at me once semester starts, only to get a puzzled look in return.

Over the past several months, I’ve questioned myself on numerous occasions the meaning of being a leader. Having no student leader experience before university and not much of a team to leader when I was the Comms Director, the appointment of Freshment Orientation Projects Director was possibly the first real foray for me in leadership. There were some expectations on my part when I first agreed to oversee the orientation activities but it never prepared me for the amount of work and actuality of it. There are some things I can’t fulfill and time I have to spend away from family and loved ones but this isn’t a new problem to me, is it? Although we’re only roughly half way through the projects, I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is no regrets for doing what I’m doing, as with everything else I’ve done in life, and I’m enjoying every bit of it.

Back to the topic of being a leader, there are times when I feel lonely as a leader; the solitary person in that position, one shared by none yet looked upon by everyone else. I’ve learnt that is doesn’t have to be that way, as I can always turn to the people I work with and the people I have around me. The more I make myself less alone, the more likely the team is able to come together as a family and less likely I’ve seen as the authoratative bad guy. The school sent us on the Dale Carnegie course and it’s all well and good; all of us can pick up any self-help book or read on the Internet to improve people skills and learn how to be a leader. We’re always told to lead by example, to motivate, to set visions, to solve problems, to achieve goals. Something I’ve learnt through the months that I realise isn’t said enough about leaders is the need to inspire people, to dispense confidence and to groom new leaders.

One problem faced every year is probably the seeking of new blood to take the reins of the Management Committee. One year isn’t a long time, neither is it too short for one to learn the ropes to take it to the next level. Have we trully been that busy handling projects and tasks that we couldn’t pass on our knowledge to some new folks, to show them the way? I think not. Are leaders then just selfish and paranoid that they’re unwilling to see someone else take their places, even though it’s inevitable? Even if someone else seats where they are today, the new guy should never outshine the old bird? If this is the way, maybe it’s time for a little change.

I’d like to think of a leader as being an illusion; here I am telling people to do what they already know to do, giving advice which should already be common sense, telling them they can do it when deep down somewhere they should never doubted themselves. Leaders are but humans and shouldn’t be worshipped on a pedestal; one day the follower too will step up and he will think to himself, “Hey, this isn’t that bad afterall.” More often than not, the first step is always the easiest, after that, you just hang on for the ride. Right now, I’m enjoying the ride, knowing that some day it might end but before it does, I hope I can inspire some to take it with me. That is why it never fails to bring a smile to my face when someone steps out of his comfort zone to do something he never thought he could or enjoy doing.