Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The ability to hide in plain sight

One of the benefits of being a cis white male is that frequently, erasure and invisibility benefit me even when it's happening to me. 

For example: I'm a white cis male. I have a beard and a reasonably deep voice. I don't think I've ever been misgendered. What I'm not is straight; I've been bisexual for as long as I can remember, before I even knew it was a thing. But! I'm in a committed, monogamous relationship with a cis woman which from the outside looks like a straight couple. I also tend to prefer the word "queer" to any specific explicit definition in conversations, so sometimes others can make assumptions that don't necessarily follow.

So when people look at my life, they don't see the queer parts. They see me as a white dude in a happy hetero marriage and that benefits me because it means that I'm more likely to be seen as part of the 'in group' when dealing with things like bosses, money, taxes, etc. White straight dudes don't see me as a threat; they instead see me as a fellow traveler and treat me as such in regards to things like job offers and the like. Nevermind that two seconds with my Twitter feed will disabuse them of the idea, or if they just asked me I'd honestly say that I'm often more identified with out-groups.

Which is explicitly not to say that I'm oppressed (over and above the ways we are all oppressed by white supremacy and patriarchy); I get many, many benefits for people not seeing my queerness. I like to think that I work hard to make sure that the voice that I promote is not mine, but rather I use my voice and my position to lift up others and give them a platform and a loudspeaker.

I have no idea what I originally meant to aim for when I started this. I guess I just wanted to point out that even the people who "look normal" often have stuff going on behind the scenes, and sometimes that means they're not actually on your side, for good or ill.

Anyway, there's my word salad for the day.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

So Here's The Thing: Mad Max (2015)

I have a Playstation, which means I have a Plastation Plus subscription, which means I get free games every month or so, some of them good, some of them... less so. And I was looking for something to distract me while not actually challenging my brain much (work is pretty busy), so since it was free, I decided to try out Mad Max.

It's an "open world" style game, sort of, with driving and beating people up and sometimes blowing stuff up. Think of it as GTA IV meets Fallout; there's a ton and a half of DNA from "Rage" (2011). I broke my rule about scruffy white dudes, which honestly I shouldn't have, because it doesn't have any redeeming value as a game or as a commentary.

At first, I was bored. And then I started to find upgrade items for the base I was operating out of, which meant I was actively participating in making the world around me a better place. OK, that's cool. And then... I moved to a new base, and suddenly I had to do all of the same missions again to get all of the same upgrades (not even reskinned -- literally, the same exact upgrades). And suddenly any energy I had for the game just drained out of me.

Yet another post-apocalyptic world where my actual actions have no apparent effect, besides changing how much punching I have to do to defeat the enemies. Not even the car driving is particularly interesting or fun.

So here's the thing: I'm glad this game was free, because it would have been a waste of my money to pay for it. And that's giving my opportunity-cost a free pass. I'd suggest skipping it.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

So Here's The Thing: Far Cry 5

I have never really been a big player of the Far Cry series. First-person shooters aren't really my bag, unless they're the wrapper for a really cool story or RPG-alike game that I really want to play. The closest I came to really getting into FPS are games like the new Fallout series, or some parts of Mass Effect, but given that those are mostly over-the-shoulder games, I was never really the audience for the FC franchise.

This was especially true given the troublesome politics of the FC series games: the protagonist was some rando silent white dude avatar with a gun fetish and a remit to kill as many brown people as possible. This is also, btw, why I don't play games like Call of Duty or SpecOps or those other sorts of FPS games. So when Far Cry 5 was first announced and it was going to be set in rural Montana and the big bad was going to be a religious cult figure, and more than that the player would have the option to play as a woman of colour, suddenly they had my interest. The bad guys were going to be Christianized White Supremacist Separatists, in the mold of Koresh and the Aryan Nation. I was ON BOARD for this. The bad guys were going to be white folks who weren't just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or fighting back against colonizer fetish dolls, but rather a deep and resounding political movement with definitively bad motivations and a clearly bad ethos. It was a real political step, a real challenge to the status quo. I pre-ordered it immediately.

I don't know why I thought a AAA game with a nine-figure budget would actually take that sort of stand. Probably because I really, really wanted it to be true.

Instead, we got a horribly, miserably watered-down confusing mess of a game which, spoiler alert, proves the main villain right in the canonically "good" ending. So not only does the game not actually commit to the political stance it's trying to get credit for, it then explicitly says "turns out this whacko was entirely correct in his beliefs and you should never have resisted him".

So here's the thing: Far Cry 5 was a waste of my time and money. I suppose if you like the FC series, you'll probably like what they've done here. But they've failed to turn me into a new fan. Which is a damn shame.

Oh, hey, I have a blog.

You'd think, if I was in between projects, I'd take time to update my blog and maybe do some pontificating. But, of course, no; I'm bad at that sort of thing. So here I am more than six months since my last post, in the middle of a new contract and two weeks into my second term of college and I'm suddenly thinking "maybe I should post something".

Part of the reason for this is that the network is down at work, so I'm at a bit of loose ends. Plus, a lot of my little thoughts go onto Twitter (and I really need to migrate to something that isn't actively terrible) and mostly I'm just listening rather than posting long-form thoughts these days. As a white dude, I think this is probably a good thing to do: let others speak, and listen as much as possible.

But I submitted a couple of talk ideas for DevOpsDays PDX 2018, so I was thinking that I should update this page since it's possible someone might be looking here.

So hi there!

Anyway, this blog exists. We'll see if I have anything to update it with more regularly.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Discouraging Word

The last time I was unemployed, I used to really dread Wednesdays. Wednesdays were, at least as far as I could tell, the day that the HR / Recruiter Person decided to let everyone who didn't get the gig that they didn't get the gig, and it wasn't unusual for me to get four or even five rejection letters on a Wednesday.

The good news is that this time, Wednesdays aren't like that any longer.

The bad news is that the rejections still come, just more spread out. And sometimes they pile up a little.

Today wasn't a good day: I got rejection letters (and a nice phone call from a recruiter) all letting me know that the positions I had applied for were no longer interested in me. A couple had already been filled, but at least two were continuing their search for other candidates and that I was not being considered for the next round.

This was especially hard this week, as I had worked really hard to nail the in-person interview I went to last week, and I was relatively sure I had done well. But they were "not confident in my technical abilities", which is a real kick in the stomach, because that's honestly my personal worry. I know I know things, and I know that I can learn things quickly if necessary, and I enjoy learning new things, but I don't have a degree and I don't have any certifications that would "prove" that I know those things, so when someone looks at my resumé what they see is a guy who's bounced into and out of Technical Support roles that may or may not have required any particular skillset, and some random DBA experience across multiple platforms which most shops who are hiring a DBA don't want or need: if they need a DBA, it's usually a specialist hire.

"Well why don't you go get a certification?" I hear you ask. And the answer, as usual in most questions that start with "why", is "money". Certifications are EXPENSIVE. By design; they're often paid for as a perk for working at a company, so they can charge the 'Enterprise Rate' for the cert. To test to be a certified MySQL DBA is $2500, and the failure rate is north of 50%, and they don't give a refund if you fail. Oracle certifications are... more. That may not sound like a lot of money when you're employed in tech, but when you're unemployed...well, let's just say I wish I'd taken more classes when I was employed.

Days like today are hard. But tomorrow is another day. I have more applications out, I have a couple of phone screens scheduled, I'm working my contacts. In Tech it can take a while for us non-developer types to get rehired, especially with the move away from Ops specialists and towards the "let's have devs do everything" model of DevOps (or, as I like to call it, "DevOps"). I have good, supportive friends, and a fantastic wife who loves and supports me even when I don't have a job. And on Friday, I'm playing some boardgames.

So it could be worse. So bring on the cloudy days! It's decorative gourd season, motherfuckers.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 31

What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

The continued integration and acceptance of women and people of colour and other under-represented voices in the hobby. Watching people who are silenced become strong and vital voices in the community is very exciting and interesting to me, and I'd love to see more of that in the next year (and beyond!). In addition, I'm really excited to see the "professional-ization" of this industry from "dudes printing shit in their basement" to "professionally written and edited properly constructed product distributed on a reasonable timeline where all the people involved get paid a living wage". I know we're not there yet. And so, so many people have been driven out of the RPG industry/community because of toxicity and unprofessional behaviour and the inevitable gatekeeping and racism and sexism and grossness. But I can't help but think that maybe, in the coming year, things will get better. I've been working hard to support creators and artists (though it's harder now that I'm unemployed), and I pledge to continue buying and supporting games by queer folk and women and people of colour. I want my tables and my games to be like my feminism: intersectional.

So that's what I anticipate most for 2018: intersectionality.

And now I'll solicit it here: what's a game by someone who isn't a cis-het-white-dude that you'd like to see spread to more people? Add it in the comments!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 30

What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

I'm not sure there's a genre mashup that hasn't already been done, either via the setting-specific games (like RIFTS or Shadowrun) or by settings for the more general systems (think basically every GURPS setting book, or the Fate Worlds books). The only thing I think that's really missing a good treatment is humour. Other than maybe Ghostbusters and Toon, I'm not sure there's any RPG books or settings that explicitly deal with humour or humourous play available. I'd love to see a game that took on something like Scooby Doo or Danger and Eggs or that sort of thing, where being funny is part and parcel of the experience itself.

The other one I'd love to see is some sort of squad or cell-based game, something based on XCOM or some sort of intelligence-asset-management game. I'd love to see some sort of game based on the idea of Mech Commander; that would be brilliant; where instead of players running a single character, they're coordinating squads of folks, with different resources and strengths.

I'm not a game designer, so I have no idea how to make any of these ideas work. But it'd be pretty brilliant to play.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 29

What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

Fate, hands down. Followed quite closely by Apocalypse World 2nd Edition. While I've backed other games that I have enjoyed as much, and I've gotten more swag from, and I've gotten good deals around, these two were definitely the best-run. They delivered the product with no surprises exactly as expected and as close to on-time as possible. Evil Hat and Lumpley Games are both straight-up professionally-run outfits, and you can trust them with their future endeavours.

Monday, August 28, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 28

What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks.

I will admit, my table may be somewhat atypical, in being almost entirely queer and almost evenly split between men and women.

Of course, we're also playing a game that is explicitly designed to be a Social Justice game, where the characters are actively working to make the world a better place by lifting up the disadvantaged.

I'd love it if my table wasn't actually that atypical. Perhaps others will take my example to heart?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 -- Day 27

What are your essential tools for good gaming?

Trust, consistency, and consent. If the people at the table trust you, and you trust the people at your table, then the stories you tell and the directions you can take your stories are going to be many and varied and extremely interesting in all sorts of ways. If you are consistent in how you resolve things, then your table will trust you and know that you are keeping their wellbeing in mind (and yes, wellbeing is an important part of 'fun', which is why we all do this RPG thing anyway). And if you have the consent of your players, and they know that you won't do something they don't want to do without asking, then they know your consistent message is one of trust and common good. With those three things, you can tell any story, in any setting, and have a good time doing it.

Oh, wait, did you mean stuff like dice and shit? Oh. Well, I have some poker chips I use as x-cards, and 3x5 index cards for basically anything that needs or wants to be written down, and some mechanical pencils to do the writing. That's about it. Anything else is window dresssing -- I like my iPad as a GM screen / lookup tool, and sometimes I'll use my laptop -- because anything outside of the people you're playing is just there to act as props, really.