Mourn The Thing You Lost That Never Was

I have a few nice collector’s edition versions of games. But the company whose collector’s editions I have the most of, by far, is Blizzard. For the better part of 25 years, I would buy any Blizzard product (except World of Warcraft, which I knew wasn’t my speed) sight unseen. Whatever the nicest possible version of it was.


Because I trusted them. I trusted them to give me a really great experience. I trusted them to give me incredible value for my money. I trusted them to understand what was valuable and meaningful to me, as a gamer, and that they’d deliver. So I trusted them with my money, and with my time.

There were very, very few game companies I felt the same trust towards. Sure, plenty of other studios made reliably great games. But Blizzard was special. I’ve trusted them ever since Warcraft 2. I upgraded my PC specifically for Frozen Throne. I’ve purchased Diablo 3 on like, three separate platforms, including the collector’s edition on PC.

Point is, I trusted them.

When they got acquired by Activision, I knew that trust would erode. I knew the games would be less focused on giving the players extraordinary value, and be more about milking the audience for all their $. And to some degree, that’s been obvious. But I still wanted to trust Blizzard, and I’d continued to believe in the Blizzard that lived in my mind.

So the recent revelations about the toxic bro-culture at Blizzard came as a bit of a gut-punch. Not that it was a surprise, because any game developer being revealed to be a toxic brodown – if you’ve been in the industry a while, it’s all over the place. But it was a gut-punch, because I trusted Blizzard. I had this image of them in my mind that they cared about games, that they cared about gamers, and that obviously that care would extend to their employees as human beings.

So I’m sad.

I’m sad not because Blizzard has turned into this thing. I’m sad because it’s clear from all the statements that this is what Blizzard has always been. A lot of these allegations happened under the tenure of a lot of folks I held in really high regard – Mike Morhaime, Chris Metzen, etc. And look, I can’t say for certain that they should have known or not – running a large company is a difficult job, where a lot of stuff can fly by people. I’ve been there. But the Blizzard in my mind isn’t about Morhaime & Co’s intentions.

The Blizzard I trusted never existed at all. Because if the price of believing that I’d get my money’s worth out of a game is a toxic culture that drives women to suicide, no part of that is worth it, and no part of that is worth believing in.

But it’s sad. I had believed in a company that wanted to create great things. That wanted to make things their players would genuinely love. I believed that a company that did that had to be a place that would be a joy to work, even on the hard days, but one where people would band together and value each other while they fought the good fight.

And it turns out that company was just in my imagination. It’s still sad to know that it’s gone. That it never existed at all.

As for me, it’s simple – I’m unlikely to ever buy another Blizzard or Activision product again.

Because once that trust is betrayed, it’s gone forever.

Been a Minute

Ei-Nyung and I have both been vaccinated for a while, which is great. In many ways, life is returning more and more to normal. It obviously won’t *be* normal until the kids have both been vaccinated, which appears to be at least a few months away still – likely after they go back to school, which is a little worrisome, but CA’s numbers are pretty good, and it seems like last year’s safety measures were effective (though it’ll be different when schools are fully open, instead of rotating smaller cohorts like the end of last year.

Still, it’s summer, and the kids are out of school. We’ve been doing less this summer than we did last summer. I need to step things up a bit. Part of it is that I’m a little lazier, but part of it is that the kids are doing a lot of interesting stuff. They’ve been making a card game with dozens of hand-drawn cards, and they spent four hours today playing the game with each other, which is awesome.

Need to get out on the bikes, and get some more physical activity, though. Maybe this week we’ll go for a paddle in Alameda.

I’m getting closer to getting up on foil while winging. I’ve gotten the foil “engaged” a few times now, but only for short periods of time before freaking out and bailing. A friend of Eric’s took me out on an e-Foil the other day though, and on top of it being super fun, it was a huge learning experience. I felt like I learned more in an hour of e-foiling than in the last three months of winging. But it’s good – that work prepared me to be able to take in a ton of info form that e-foil session, and I can’t wait to put some of that knowledge into practice the next time out.

Been playing a lot of board games in person, which is nice. Finally, finally got to play Star Wars: Rebellion with Klay. It’s a long game – I think it took us 3-4 hours – but it was fun & interesting. Also picked up Netrunner again & played with Sean, which was a good time. I really like the game, but definitely can’t quite wrap my head around strategy yet. I’ve lost every game so far. Still having fun. Kids have been playing Quacks of Quedlinburg and Abandon All Artichokes. It’ll be interesting to see if they play some games with their cousin who’s coming for a couple weeks in just about a week from now. Should be a lot of fun.

Stuff I’m consuming

Still playing a ton of Hades.

Watching The Falcon & The Winter Soldier, and really enjoying it. Started The Great Pottery Throwdown last night, but allergies had me tap out. Very GBBO, though, so that’s promising. We watched a strange Japanese movie called On-Gaku: Our Sound. I don’t know that I’d recommend it, but also don’t know that I wouldn’t. Hard to say. It’s very indie in its aesthetic. We watched Ong Bak with the kids, which was half awesome and half a terrible idea. There’s a lot more horrible crap in that movie than I remembered, but the action stuff is still pretty incredible.

Been still making my way slowly through the Expanse (the books). Been stuck on Cibola Burn for a while, but it’s good – just slow going. Also been reading Ask Iwata, which is almost a one-session read, though I’ve been just crawling through that, as well.

We’ve been playing a lot of Quacks of Quedlinburg with the kids, and we started My City. I’m excited for Red Rising, which is supposed to show up tomorrow, but I expect it’ll be a while before it gets played. Just tried Lucky Numbers on BGA with some friends, and it was good. Simple, but good. Also picked up a game called The Initiative, which I’m psyched for. Ridiculously positive reviews, a known good designer, and an interesting premise round it out. Co-op, which is great for us. We also “finished” The Baker Street Irregulars (Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective) with Alan & Becky, which was great. By “finished”, I mean we got through all ten cases, and then found there’s something more… which we haven’t yet done. Overall, it was excellent.

Not much else going on, honestly. Cleaning up things here and there, and I’ve got some projects I haven’t made much headway on, like putting some sort of shelves in the downstairs closet, or nailing down some of the floorboards in the downstairs so they don’t develop gaps over time (again). Gonna get an MRI and X-Ray on my knee, and an X-Ray on my lower back in a few weeks to see if there’s anything fixable with either of them. Back’s been consistently not great for a few years, and my knee’s been getting more arthritic with time. Boo. Probably not much to be done other than get in better shape.

Ted Lasso

What a show. I thought for sure Wandavision would be my show of 2021, and I still absolutely loved it – but Ted Lasso, at least at this point, is my show of 2021, and I don’t even think it’s all that close.

If you’re put off because you’re not a sports person, the thing that stuck with me was one episode where the big buildup was to the game, and then they immediately cut to after the game, showing literally none of the actual soccer match at all. It’s not about “sports”, except in that sports can create certain types of conflict and stakes. But it’s a character-focused show through and through, and the characters in this are just fantastic.

You might have heard that it’s an optimistic show, or a positive one, and those things are true and meaningful and *necessary* right now, in a time when it’s so easy to be cynical and angry. But the thing that I was really impressed by was how Ted Lasso, as a character, can be optimistic without being naive, and kind without being a sucker. He hears the world, but chooses how to react to it.

In that way, he’s kind of a stoic. He chooses to be positive. He chooses to react to situations – even hard ones, things that cost him personally – with kindness. He chooses to believe the best in people, because those are the things he wants to bring out of them.

It’s also a funny show. Laugh out loud. And yet, it can also be subtle and very dry. It’s a show about being part of a team – so much so that I *wept* at one point because it made me miss those feelings so. There’s a whole post worth writing at some point on that – how I loved being on a team, and how I loved trying to create that sense of camaraderie at work, and why I *can’t* do that anymore in the same way. But it doesn’t make me *miss* that feeling any less.

There’s a moment in the show where Ted has a full-blown panic attack, and it reminded me *so much* of how I felt at times in the just-post-Self Aware Games era, being around folks who were still there – something about the way it was shot, his reaction, it brought me right back to that feeling. It was shocking how … immediate it felt.

There’s a lot about it. I could go on and on. How Roy Kent’s story resonated. How charming Keeley was. How every character felt like they should have been a one-note in any other show, but here they all had depth. How Sam & Rebecca’s interaction was one of my favorite moments in the whole thing. How I bought a “Believe” sticker for my laptop, and an AFC Richmond pin after seeing it, because having some physical reminders in the real world of how that show made me feel felt worth doing.

It looked like a dumb show – sort of the embodiment of Apple TV+ doing family-friendly saccharine sort of light pablum nonsense. Holy shit, though.

Watch it. I’d be very surprised if you don’t get something actually *valuable* out of it.

Random Noise

45, now. Greys are getting more and more prominent. 😐

Recently watched WandaVision, and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve seen in a while. Ambitious, strange, yet also really heartfelt and emotional. It gave a lot of depth to two characters who previously, were leaned on for emotional depth they hadn’t really earned. Now they have.

Also been painting Warhammer 40K stuff – finished a Dark Angels & a Necron army, an additional squad of Terminators, and now, Ghazhkull Thraka – one of the best minis I’d painted in college has an updated model, and it’s bonkers. After this, a friend picked up a Primaris Techmarine for me, and I have to strip & repaint one more Terminator, and then I think I’m done, at least until I actually get a chance to play someone and justify all this effort. 😀

Ghzazhkull Thraka in progress. Painted the face first, since it’s obscured by other parts and in places “hard to reach”, then painted hte body with the arms off, then added the arms. This guy’s taken something like a week to paint, and I’d guess has at least a few more hours to go before it’s done.

Kids are good – still making all kinds of stuff in Scratch, which is a real pleasure to watch. They’ve been very into Among Us, which is also fun to play with them. The weather’s turned up, and so it’s likely we’ll be spending more time outside doing stuff – biking, going to the beach, etc. – but it’s still been a bit hit or miss.

What else? Not a lot going on, otherwise. Playing Boardgamearena with friends, which aside from swimming is the only social contact I have with basically anyone. Still *have* a bunch of new games that I’m waiting ’til the pandemic is over to actually play, but there’s a LOT. Stuff I’m looking forward to playing with people in particular:

  • The King’s Dilemma
  • Rococo
  • Era
  • Renature
  • Beyond the Sun

There’s a lot more, but I think those are the ones I’m most interested in. I’m hoping we can get the kids interested in My City, which seems like it’ll be a nice family legacy game. We got most of the way through Machi Koro, but K’s lost interest, which makes it hard to get to the table. J still seems interested in finishing it up.

Newly reorganized music setup. Got rid of an Alesis Quadrasynth, Roland TR-505, and MC-303 that I’d had for years. Loved ’em, but they were made obsolete by some of the newer stuff. Also upgraded the TR-8 with the 7×7 expansion, which gives it WAY more functionality.

Been playing more music on the electronic stuff, which has been fun – getting back into the TR-8 and TB-3, they’re super entertaining for just live stuff – not necessarily recording something, but just playing around with as they go through patterns. Also trying to get more familiar with the Push and Ableton – I spent a week trying to do something every day, and it definitely helped – but I think part of it is that because I’ve started, petered out, started, petered out, and done that so many times, I’m retreading similar ground and getting the same results. So I’ve watched a few YouTube videos of people essentially making tracks on stuff like the Push and the OP-1, and trying to imitate some of that has pushed me in a slightly different, better-sounding direction, which is nice.

Otherwise, it’s more of the same ol’ same ol’. Not bad by any stretch, but it’ll be really nice to be able to get together with actual other people one day. 😛

Minigolfing with the kids during the week.

That’s a Lotta Painting

Got the Warhammer 40K Indomitus Box for Christmas.

Ei-Nyung got me the Warhammer 40K Indomitus Box for Christmas. It’s the first time I’ve painted Warhammer miniatures since like… 1997? But it’s been super fun. The quality of the models is bonkers, and there are a LOT of them. Decided to continue a Dark Angel army I started in college, so it made color selection easy. 🙂

I made some “mistakes” – painted the bikes green instead of black, and had I given it a little more thought, I’d probably have done up all the shieldbearers (the pic below) in Deathwing colors instead of the “standard” colors. But overall, I’m really happy with how the marine army turned out.

I mean, I’m also happy with how the Necrons turned out, but there’s a bit less to it with them. They’re complicated figures, and super delicate, but I didn’t *enjoy* painting them as much as some of the more complicated marines. Still, getting close to being done with them all – my main issue is that I have a few Terminators to finish, and unfortunately, I don’t think I have the same color basecoat I used with the original guys, so I’m a little concerned I won’t be able to match their colors. Ah, well, we’ll see.

We also played New York Zoo, which is a really fun game.

New York Zoo

I’d been looking for this game forever, and it’s been impossible to find – but after an optometrist’s appointment, I randomly wandered into Walden Pond Books, and they’ve now got a board game section. More, it’s stocked by a really nice guy who’s super psyched about it. Picked up NYZ and another game that’s been hard to find or expensive called Beyond the Sun.

So if you’re looking for a small but well-curated selection of games, give Walden Pond Books on Grand a shot.


So, progress on some of the New Year’s Resolutions have been pretty blah so far. Getting back on the OMAD/Intermittent Fasting horse has been difficult, and I ended up with an eye infection, which kept me out of the water for a few weeks. Then threw out my back. So yeah – good times. Gotta get back on all the horses, and get things moving again.

Things have been good, though – kids are still hanging in there and healthy, parents are healthy, basically stuff’s just chugging along. Been painting a lot of Warhammer figurines.

I don’t know why I have this photo, which is still a WIP, when it’s been done for a while now.

The kids have been making tons of stuff. K & J’s art and animation have been improving by leaps and bounds, and they’ve both spent so much time coding and implementing their own little games, it’s been really super impressive.

We also got some of the external hardscaping fixed – only took us 20 years to get it done. So, front steps, retaining walls, side walkway. There’s a little more to be done – re-stucco-ing the driveway wall, and just sealing up a few gaps here and there that in rain are letting some soil out.

Been playing a lot of games with folks on, which is a pretty excellent service. Lots of great games, playable for a reasonable subscription. Great stuff. It’s one of my only real social outlets these days, with the pandemic, but I do get to see people and *do* things with folks, which is nice. Good to make new memories with friends, rather than just keeping up.

But yeah – so far, that’s about it. The VR project has stalled in part because I don’t know if it’d be useful to the people it was originally for, due to circumstances that are unrelated, but still illuminating. One of the challenges of this thing was to see if I could make some very low-barrier-to-entry stroke rehab stuff, but I think one of the challenges is that the low-ness of the barrier has to be *so* low that it might just not be possible to make something genuinely useful. I dunno. Will probably still spend more time on it, but it’s a little harder to get motivated to do it with a less clear goal in mind.

Still been mentoring folks and helping out with projects here and there – nothing big, but it’s also nice to be able to lend a hand. If you happen to know anyone who needs team management or game design help, send ’em my way!

New Year’s Resolutions 2021

1.) Get up on foil while wingsurfing
2.) Keep regularly open-water swimming, or when weather doesn’t permit, indoor biking
3.) <210lbs for 3+ months, through a combination of intermittent fasting, less snacking, and more regular exercise
4.) Finish the stroke rehab project I was working on and get it into the hands of at least one stroke survivor
5.) Get verified Canadian citizenship documents for both me and the kids
6.) Get vaccinated for COVID, when appropriate
7.) Travel somewhere, when appropriate
8.) Finish a small game with the kids

Twenty Twenty

I feel like if at any point before 2020 you’d asked me what 2020 was going to be like, I’d have assumed we’d have made some significant progress toward some sci-fi ideal of equality and technological utopia.

Ten years ago, I’d have assumed the internet and smartphones were accelerating our pace towards this positive progress. But instead, we live in a bizarre technological dystopia where all of these tools that supposedly are bringing us closer together are driving us farther apart.

That’s not a new observation, obviously. But it’s the distance between what I’d hoped 2020 would be and what it was that’s the disturbing bit.

It was a year of finding out 70 million Americans vote for a racist, fascist authoritarian moron. It was seeing people unable to take even the most basic precautions against a global pandemic, or bear even the slightest inconvenience to save their neighbors. It was the year that the dream of some American ideal was irreversibly shattered for me, even as the election showed that the democratic process at least somewhat works, and we voted to get the worst leader I hope to ever see in my lifetime removed from office. Fingers crossed he gets dragged out of the White House and straight to jail.

On the personal front, it was a year of big changes. I quit my job. Technically. I mean, there wasn’t any way to stay after I was lied to about my own performance feedback, and treated with not even the slightest courtesy or consideration. But if hard times test your values, I feel like I can hold my head high. I treated my team well, I made the call, early, to transition to WFH in the early days of the pandemic, and did my best to do right by everyone. I built a team and product I was proud of given the circumstances, and if that’s the end of my career, I ended it well.

I got to spend a lot of times with the kids, helping them with the transition to remote school, through a fun summer (even if it was mostly spent at or around the house), and back to school. I’ve gotten in noticeably better shape, been doing some interesting outdoor adventures, and we’ve even made significant progress on improving the house.

It’s been a strange year, and a lot of the positive that’s come out of it has obviously been a product of being very, very lucky – both with Ei-Nyung’s job, and our past success. I get that that’s a position not a lot of people are in, and I’m grateful for it. For me, I wanted to be there for the kids, and to make sure that we, as a family, were able to get through this the best we can.

So far, so good.

For 2021, I’ve got a few hopes:

  • Return to a sane government, ideally with the GOP removed from power in the House and Senate.
  • Trump facing some sort of actual accountability or justice.
  • I actually finish the project I’m working on, where “finish” means getting it into the hands of someone who can benefit from it.
  • When possible, as much travel as possible.
  • Get up on foil on the wingfoil board.
  • Get down to <210lbs.

Mostly, though, I hope the kids stay curious and creative and healthy, that my parents and in-laws remain healthy, and that I use this time well.

7 Eleven!

It’s still crazy to me that J’s 11 and K is 7.

Feels like they’ve always been around, but were also babies just yesterday. I still don’t particularly sleep in on the weekends, even though we totally could. They’re perfectly capable of making themselves breakfast. 😀

Haven’t done a huge amount over the last few weeks. Been putting together a presentation for a group in Berkeley that wanted to learn about what game design was – the presentation’s on Friday, so that should be fun. Glued my stand-up paddle back together after the end cap popped off. Jumped back into Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, and even played a little of Witcher 3 last night, so I’m only about 10 years behind the curve.

We found a strange little beach under the Bay Bridge that appears only when the tide’s low enough. The sand was like velvet, and while I think you might be able to get to it by crawling over a bunch of rocks from the bike path nearby, I think the easiest way to get to it is to paddle out from Toll Plaza Beach, which makes this a wonderful and delightful little exploration discovery. It was shaded by the bridge, so even on a 90+ degree day, ti was cool. The sand was as pleasant as any sand at any beach, and it was completely empty, which is probably still the best part.