Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The evolution of Star Wars marketing

If your waffles aren't shaped like the Death Star, I hope you choke on them.

When Star Wars first came out, it was like: "Here's this amazing movie. If you are a Star Wars fan, here is some merch you can buy."

When The Phantom Menace was coming out, it was like: "Here's the next installment of this thing that is an amazing cultural institution. Star Wars fans -- you should totally see this movie. And here's some new merch you should buy."

Now with The Force Awakens, it feels like: "As everyone knows, the next chapter in our shared mythology is soon to be handed down. Previously uncontacted tribes in the highlands of New Guinea have already purchased their tickets. We won't even waste our time suggesting that you see it, because obviously you (and every other human) will.

"Star Wars fans -- since everyone on Earth is going to see this movie, you need to step up your game. You don't want to be less Star Wars than those non die-hard Star Wars people, do you? Well guess what: the only way to prevent that is to fill every possible facet of your life with Star Wars merch. Seriously, if you're not making toast in the Darth Vader toaster, you're not a real Star Wars fan. If your kid isn't sleeping in the Millennium Falcon cockpit, you should put him up for adoption. Ladies, if you show up at the screening and your face isn't covered in Cover Girl Star Wars makeup, your man should probably murder you and dump your remains out of the nearest garbage shoot before jumping to hyperspace."

That being said...

Friday, December 11, 2015

Cruz Robotics

Boudoir Androids. Conservative Values. Even Presidential candidates need a side project. So do videogame makers.

A little something I threw together for The Daily Show's‪ 'Cruz Your Own Adventure' campaign. Some fun with election 2016 after the serious stuff earlier in the week.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Supporting Trump is un-American

An open letter to well-meaning Trump supporters everywhere.

Dear Trump Supporter,

You might not know it, but you're keeping company with some folks who believe some pretty disturbing things. Things like banning all Muslims from entering the US. Things like surveilling all American Muslims. Things like outlawing Islam entirely.

I’d like to focus on and draw out the implications of a few of these things:

To advocate a ban on Muslims entering the US or to assume someone is a terrorist (or potential terrorist) solely because they are a Muslim (i.e. absent any specific evidence of terrorist intent or membership in a terrorist organization) is to accept the idea that one should judge people primarily insofar as they are members of groups, rather than as individuals. That is a collectivist premise that is at odds with the principles of individualism and individual rights.

To advocate a ‘Muslim registry’ or the surveillance of Muslims in the absence of reasonable suspicion/probable cause/evidence of illegal activity on the part of specific individuals is at odds with the 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th Amendments specifically and the notions of due process and equal protection generally.

To advocate the outlawing of Islam (or any other religion) is at odds with the 1st Amendment specifically and the principle of freedom of religion generally.

To embrace these ideas -- all of which are supported by a majority or plurality of Trump supporters according to recent polling data -- is to reject (at least) these four bedrock principles of our country (individual rights, due process, equal protection, freedom of religion). These principles were held by the Founding Fathers and enshrined in the Constitution, both of which you (rightly) claim to venerate. The equal protection clause (the idea that all people are entitled to the same treatment under the law) is part of the 14th Amendment, which is the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President.

To support such proposals is to stand against these principles.

To stand against these principles is profoundly un-American.

The (by no means exclusively Democratic/Obamian/potentially-Clintonian) failure to deal effectively with terrorism is a serious issue facing our country. But a weak, haphazard and ineffectual foreign policy does not constitute, in its essence, the betrayal of (or the danger to) America that the rejection of our core principles does. Nor, I would add, does a ‘poor' response to the imaginary ‘threat’ posed by Mexican immigrants.

Do you know who you actually stand with if you stand with Trump in rejecting individual rights, due process, equal protection and freedom of religion?

Islamic terrorists.

They see the world as primarily composed of groups (in their case true believers, infidels, apostates, etc.), not individuals, and believe how people should be treated under the ‘law’ is governed primarily by their membership in certain groups, not individual rights. They regularly behead people for the ‘crime’ of not being in their preferred group without any sort of actual legal system or due process. And they certainly don’t think anyone should be free to practice any religion: everyone should subscribe to (their particular, niche variant of) Islam or die.

I’d like to believe that the majority of you are conscientious, sincere individuals who care deeply about the future of our country. To such individuals I say: please understand that you are going down the path of rejecting the very essence of the country you love and of becoming the philosophical allies of the very people that you are concerned with protecting it from.

If, as I suspect, you are horrified by the thought that you share substantial philosophical common ground with folks like ISIS, perhaps it is time to reassess your views, including your support for candidate Trump.

A patriotic American 

Why you should take the Donald Trump phenomenon seriously

Some of my friends have questioned whether Donald Trump is sincere in the ridiculous things he says. I don’t want to speculate as to whether he is personally sincere or not. I don’t think it matters much.

But I do think it is a mistake to dismiss the Trump phenomenon in this way: i.e. as an (increasingly less) amusing sideshow, or as the ravings of someone who has become ‘unhinged', or as the behavior of an attention-seeking spoiled child or as ‘Trump being Trump.'

Here's why: these two articles provide an overview of polling data. While I disagree with some of the conclusions and interpretations, I think the data contained in these articles persuasively show that a majority or plurality of Trump supporters and, crucially, a plurality of likely Republican voters in certain states and possibly overall, agree with positions as extreme or more extreme than those articulated by Trump. These include:

  • Supporting a ban on Muslims entering the US
  • Backing the creation of a national database of Muslims
  • The idea that government should engage in surveillance to monitor ‘most Muslims’ (i.e. absent specific reasons to suspect specific individuals of illegal activity)
  • That Islam should be made illegal in the United States (seriously, a plurality of Trump supporters in North Carolina -- 44%! -- believe this according to that second article)

Again - all of these are supported by a majority or plurality of Trump supporters and/or all Republican voters in various polls. ‘Majority’ means ‘more than half’. ‘Plurality’ means ‘more people support this than not.'

So, yeah, I think Trump should be taken seriously. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Talking about Gamestar on Design Minds

I wrote this brief article for Design Minds, an Australian blog dedicated to inspiring design thinking in educators. From the article:

A representation of an ecosystem that explores the consumption of energy over time. A study of the attractive and repulsive forces of the atom. A 3D visualization of a T-cell as it seeks out pathogens in the body. Each of these is a sophisticated scientific model built by a middle or high school student. But the students aren’t building those models in science class: they’re designing them into video games.

Read more... 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My youth game design hero

This amazing video from edutopia's Is School Enough? series features my main man and youth game design superstar Rhys. Rhys is a former STEM Challenge winner and one of the most prolific designers in Gamestar Mechanic.

Monday, March 25, 2013

ZFL 2013 Draft Recap

As chronicled in my first post, yesterday was draft day in my 16-team, head to head points league. I went into the draft having kept CC Sabathia and Adrian Beltre and having traded away the third of my three keepers, Prince Fielder, for draft picks, which resulted in me having 5 picks across the first three rounds, including the second overall pick.

I went into this year's draft with a bit more of a strategy than I have had in past years (where I've tended to be reactive while trying generally to take the 'best' player on the board who I can fit on my roster). After studying the available players and doing a bit of mock drafting, I decided to 'script' those first 5 picks with plans to deviate only if something crazy happened.

As a reminder, the draft is twenty rounds, but due to the keeper rules Round 1 is really like Round 4 of a standard mixed league draft.

Round 1: Ian Kennedy

The league rewards pitching and with several owners sitting with two, three and even four starters going into the draft, getting a second ace (or near ace) to compliment CC was a key part of my plan. Kennedy and James Shields were the only two pitchers in the draft pool that met those criteria in my opinion. Shields was the #1 overall pick, and so Kennedy it was.

Round 2: Ben Zobrist, Doug Fister

I was going to take the best OF or 1B bat available, but that was when I had projected Zobrist to go in the first round. Most of that round was dominated by teams taking starting pitching and Zobrist fell this far. Zobrist is an undervalued player in fantasy, particularly head-to-head points formats like ours, where I have him as the fourth overall 2nd basemen. That plus his multi-position eligibility (2B, SS, OF) makes him a very valuable fantasy asset. Having him totally opened up my draft.

I had planned to take the best available SP with my other 2nd Round pick, and after the run on pitching Fister was it. This gave me Sabathia, Kennedy and Fister at the front of my rotation, all legit #1 or #2 fantasy starters before some teams had even drafted a #1.

Round 3: Chase Utley, Matt Wieters

Position scarcity dictated my strategy here: I had a long wait before my next pick and didn't want to go that long without filling my MI and C spots. Taking Zobrist allowed me to take either the best SS or 2B on the board here, and Utley was it as a potential comeback candidate. By this point, Wieters and Yadier Molina were the last decent catcher options on the board and Molina ended up going before my next pick, validating my choice to reach a bit early for talent at a weak position.

Rounds 4-6: Shane Victorino, David Ortiz, Phil Hughes

My focus on pitching and filling out weak positions early left me with gaps at traditional power spots like OF and 1B, but those are the choice we make. Victorino as my #1 outfielder is not as strong as I'd like, but I'd take him over guys who I expect to perform marginally better that went several rounds earlier any day. Big Papi at 1B is an injury and age risk, but could still deliver decent production, and my flexibility at IF and SP could let me trade for a better option later.

My rotation depth also let me take Hughes in the 6th round as my fourth starter, even though he's a #3 starter in our league and similar (uninjured) guys were already off the board rounds earlier. With my depth, I can ride out the earlier part of the season and then either get a boost in production or trade him to a team in need of rotation help.

Rounds 7-10: Neil Walker, Wei-Yin Chen, Norichika Aoki, Vance Worley

I was looking for OF #2 and not liking the options I saw in round 7. Still on the board was Walker, who due to anonymity of Pittsburgh, survived til round 7 and is capable of putting up 100 points more across the season than the average outfielder on the board at that point. I was already set at 2B (with both Utley and Zobrist there), but Walker can DH and serve as a hedge against the injury-prone Utley. I feel somewhat validated in this strategy because I got Aoki as my second OF (a top 30 fantasy outfielder in our format) 2 rounds later when similar players were going in this round.

Chen and Worley rounded out my starting rotation. I'm not a huge Chen fan but he fell farther than he should and will get some wins on a good Baltimore team in a weakened AL East. Worley is a big question mark coming off injuries and poor performance, but still the kind of guy I could take flier on as my sixth best pitcher.

Rounds 11-15: Ben Revere, Jim Johnson, Sean Marcum, Jeff Keppinger, Mark Teixeira

3rd outfielders are a dime a dozen and I almost always end up finding a waiver wire guy who outperforms both my #2 and #3 outfielders, but you need to start 3 and Revere's improving OBP and speed make him an attractive choice.

I always wait until about this point to take a closer because there are so many options out there, and indeed Jim Johnson projects similarly to guys who went 5+ rounds earlier (and will undoubtedly be outperformed by 5-8 guys who aren't on anyone's radar right now). Marcum is another injury case/ potential upside pitcher who could provide help or trade fodder when he comes off the DL, and Keppinger's multi-position eligibility makes him an attractive backup infielder.

Even though it's a gamble, I consider Teixeira the steal of the draft in round 15 if he returns and produces anything like his career averages for even just the second half of the season. I'd rather take the flier than draft a waiver wire guy or unproven prospect and walk away with no tears if he ends up missing the season.

Rounds 16-20: JP Arencibia, Phillip Humber, Jason Vargas, Jake Westbrook, Tevor Rosenthal

Once a backup catcher is secured, the late rounds are all about drafting pitching depth. I like to draft undervalued guys with upside potential, rather than unproven rookie talent. Humber has shown that he can perform at a high level and a change of scenery might help him find the consistency he's lacked. The move to Anaheim (with it's big dimensions and good team) could also breathe new life into Vargas. Westbrook isn't the sexiest pick, but you know what you're getting and Rosenthal is both a good hedge on him and a guy with breakout potential if he gets a shot at the St. Louis rotation or is traded.


In a league that rewards pitching heavily, a rotation of Sabathia, Kennedy, Hughes, Fister and Chen is definitely in the top third of the league. I'm also strong at traditionally weak positions like MI, 3B and C. I'd prefer to have a little more power in my lineup at 1B and OF, but have the ability to perform near league average across those positions. The flexibility with so many multi-position guys and SP depth also gives me some nice insurance to deal with injuries and lay the groundwork for future deals. There are a couple of teams whose rosters I'd prefer to have... but not many.

Overall grade: B+