When the victory din for Obama was ringing loudest, I must admit that I was caught up in the hope that a regime change was something more, that there was hope that this time. It would be an end to our past decades of policy sins. I should have known better.

Forget that Obama hires a Raytheon lobbyist Bill Lynn into the DOD (among other lobbyists) right after banning such action. Forget that former lobbyist Tim Geitner who now heads out treasury is a tax dodger. Forget the laughable half mil salary cap on fat cats, which only affects the top 25 employess (promote a few janitors) and ISN'T RETROACTIVE! Where's the accountability for the bailout money spent as CEO bonuses?

The hypocrisy of the left wing denouncing conservative tax cuts and ignoring democrat ones makes me want to just tell you to forget it all. But when I saw the mortgage relief plan, well I snapped back to reality. I hope you do too.

So pretend for a moment that throwing $275 billion at a trillion dollar hole was somehow enough. Here's the gist of the plan, with my comments in red:

  1. For 5 years, mortgage interest will be reduced by banks so that monthly payments are 38% or less of monthly income.
    So the tax deductible part is reduced, and even then for only 5 years. Right now it's a blessing to have any tax at all to deduct! Got Job?
  2. Treasury will help get this down further to 31%.
    …with our tax money. Just clarifying.
  3. Both banks and borrowers get paid for modifying their loan.
    We're paying these guys to do something they need to do anyways? Are the banks even trying to survive?
  4. Modified loans get bolstered insurance policies as an incentive.
    So that when fundamental real estate forces cause more foreclosures, the banks will get more protection for their assets. Aren't we supposed to be stemming those forces in the first place?

The best things for banks to do now (by my uneducated guess) is to modify as many loans as possible on the worst terms possible. This is a reckless win-win for the banks. Either get paid for modifying loans you had to anyways, or foreclose on modified loans if the asset price + insurance adds up to more than what the owner can short sale.

Really, the only solution right now is to define exactly how much capital banks need to survive, kill the real estate market to that level, and then give them the bailout money for that use only. Too bad that bailout money is made of caviar and yachts right now.

Long live change.

While the pseudo-highbrow titles of the Independent Games Festival are announced with aplomb, each year feeling less and less indie (which is wholly different than being independent), the raw creative reactionism just isn’t there. I don’t think I’m jaded, it’s just not exciting when indie game means a game made with less than a half million dollars employing one of the following play mechanics: Flash physics, time/perspective manipulation, or audio visualization. Or worse.

It’s as if each time the Incredible Machine is developed cheaper, somehow the gaming frontier has been challenged. Seriously now, can we get over it? Remember when garage bands did their thing in isolation, before they saturated punk, ska, grunge, and many so-called underground movements with so many novelty acts that the genre was drowned by its own crowd? Instead, the only game from the festival I wanted to run out and make everyone play was You Have To Burn The Rope, which is an interactive fuck-you as brilliant as Malevich’s White on White, and will no doubt be replicated to death as if the art was in the game, not the moment.

Yet that game tells the very opposite message as Malevich’s piece, as did Rod Humble’s The Marriage, which showed how subjective we really are, and how that can be turned into gameplay. There is no supremacy of form in today’s rabidly media-hungry culture… all elemental form, all sensations, all primitives are transformed instantly into subjects of intricate, post-modernized stories. There is no isolation. I fear the internet has made this change in human cognition permanent.

So why not embrace it? That’s why You Have To Burn The Rope is fantastic… for games to become art there must be an awareness and a conversation with its own history. Film, music, and literary critic call this allusion, but for the creators, this isn’t just a word, it’s a dialogue. Which means it should invite participants. For me, I’m far more intrigued by stop-motion artist Patrick Boivin’s attempt at turning a linked sequence of videos into Youtube Street Fighter.

And don’t even get me started on Flower.

Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to post. And boy have there been so many things I’ve wanted to talk about, but now at the cusp of what should be a bright new year, I can’t bring myself to carol about all the devastation our economy is experiencing… it’s just too negative. While Xstine and I have consoled ourselves with the idea that our industry is recession proof, is it really? The official unemployment rate is 7.1% in Silicon Valley, above the national average, but if you used metrics from before the Clinton administration retooled CPI to their pleasure, national unemployment is over 16%.

But like I said, let’s stop talking about it. There will be plenty to decry next month, when the market loses faith in the mythical year-end bounce. Let’s talk fun things, like my new favorite site: www.mymomisafob.com It captures the charming, annoying irrational love of the asian mother, steeped in impromptu paranoias and Engrished superstitions.

Ignore the fact that the picture I posted comes from the now defunct Timesplitters developer Free Radical, who sadly along with Factor 5, Midway, EA, et al. are among the many with career casualties this last month. You know what’s fun? RoboKill is darn fun for a simple flash game! Reminds me of shareware classics like Raptor: Call of the Shadows and Zone 66, remember those goodies?

Also, I know this is a bit old, but I finally got to check out Wario Land: Shake It at the store, and it really leverages every bit of the Wii’s potential into a solid, novel platformer… and it has an awesome “trailer” so check this out!

Anyways, it’s tough mustering up much season’s spirit this year, but things are darkest before the light, right? And with so much dark coming, preparing to take advantage of the light is the best way to position ourselves for festive years to come.


So much to be thankful of this year. Having the opportunity of a lifetime staring us in face as the market collapses, having Obama make a brilliant choice in appointing Volcker, having a job of any kind, these are things to be thankful for. Steve showed me a chart where on the bell curve of the market’s annual gains/losses, 2008 is currently at the far left end of the bell, -4 SD into hell. Time to buy.

With that, I wish you all a happy holiday, and when you get a chance play this amazing game Auditorium. So many other games talk the talk about play, but with Auditorium, you really feel like solving puzzles is part of the discovery and creation process. You conduct the visualizaton of sound as a physical stream of liquid, forgetting about interfaces and hit points, for your imaginary audience. Goals are almost subjective, and the visuals are pure player expression. Enjoy!


Due to work circumstances, I'm not in the country right now. Following international coverage, it's been very interesting to see just how addicted to our election non-Americans can be. It's quite a spectacle, this American political extravaganza, and it speaks to our ability, indeed our need to concentrate our hopes and expectations on a human element. Obama acts as a lens, a crystal clear grain that braids and magnifies those in-line with his vision, yet scatters the vagrant rays of the misaligned for future self-reflection.

It's very unfair to say that Obama's supporters are the new America. But they are certainly the empowered America. I don't think this nation should be divided, and I think the "old" America should realize that it's time to step up and support Obama as our president. I said the same about Bush, and I'll say the same about Obama, and any future president we elect- a part of America made that choice, and we should respect that other part as soon as the divisiveness is over. Look at the election maps; the states are split in mini-majorities even on a per county basis. There is no prototype American. In fact that's our strength.

Remember that our Founding Fathers did not always intend for everyone to be able to vote. They wanted voters to be educated on the issues, and to show their responsibility with property ownership and such qualifications. The reason we have the electoral system today is because our Founding Father, despite their misgivings about the mobocracy, realized that as a republic, the participation in government is not a Federal business. And so the responsibility went to the States.

So please, dear Americans. I feel this very acutely being so far from home. Remember your roots. Remember your history. Remember that even though the States give every American the opportunity to vote, you have a responsibility to vote as an educated individual, and part of that education should be realizing just how diverse and unique our nation really is, and how the electoral system exists to protect that. Remember that the electoral system was so important to them because whoever the minority opinion, no matter how wrong, is still part of America.


People have forgotten how tough things used to be. This is true of both the today’s recession and Mega Man 9. The market is in near panic right now, if you go by the put option prices that have hit all time highs. Check out the ^VIX volatility index for an idea how that looks… you’re looking at a spike in FEAR.

But somehow I’m not fazed yet. People in this recession don’t really know how bad the coming depression will be. People in the coming depression won’t know how bad the Great Depression was. And those who lived during the Great Depression just vaguely remember how rough depressions before that had been. Short memories are so divinely human. We think politics today is more corrupt than before, or wars are more pandemic, or racism more intolerable.

Is that why we crave nostalgia? This idealized summary of the good of the past? Mega Man 9 faceplants me in a slab of nostalgia. What was it about the originals that made them stand the test of time and technology to be fun to this day?

I like to think Mega Man was the first game character in tribute to gastronome Brillat-Savarin, who famously said “you are what you eat”. Mega Man begins as weak as the player, and as he culls the weak theme-bots and usurps their collective powers into his own, he evolves at the player’s will. Mega Man was the ultimate predator.

And he was a man of character. His arsenal was fought for, not given. His name implied great size, but he is as dimmunitive as Alexander Pope, yet this mechanical everyman has every bit as much wrath. He’s a blank slate, a surrogate for all our platforming victories, yet a myth for our ignoble deaths to those goddamn spikes.

Boy, do I crave real men to lead us today. How can anyone who remembers the long shadows of men like Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, or Andrew Jackson, bear to vote in this coming election? How did the Republicans become the antithesis to every fiscal stance they claim? How did Democrats become raging hypocrites, hating the very people they propose to help? If video games have gotten too easy today, then life certainly ain’t churnin’ out winners.

“Satan is wiser now than before, and tempts by making rich instead of poor.”

WAR is truly everwhere. At home Xstine and I are havin’ a blast playing Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, and almost every itch we had from leaving WoW has been epicly scratched. And boy were we itchy because the end-game in WoW left some unhappy scabs.

Outside of our world of epic vritual battles, one has already been fought an lost on Wall Street. Some friends have asked for my perspective on the bail-out mess, and I want to use a WAR analogy. In WAR lore, the evolution and advancement of warriors comes from the endless combat between the legions of Order and the minions of Chaos. A great story and its great heroes can only be made with this precarious balance. Too much one way is complacency, too much the other way is anarchy.

You may think it’s far-fetched to compare a fantasy video game to financial crisis in this way, but there’s one thing to consider. In Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel he recounts his finding that over the historic rise of civilizations, what built the greatest ones was a combination of geography and natural resources that promoted an optimal state of controlled competition. To have less was complacency, to have more was anarchy. Sound familiar?

Now look at the bail-outs. Chaos has lost, if you believe the anti-free-market crowd. Order has failed if you know better than to believe the Fed. The problem was that Order assisted Chaos, and vice versa. No one knew their roles. The Fed answers to the market now. The market believed the Fed would save them.

What I’m trying to say is that a healthy distrust between the private and the public was lost, Freddie and Fannie being prime examples. What we face now is an extreme reaction as the Fed and Paulson nationalize the market. Chaos has learned that losing the battle means being saved by Order. Where’s the impetus to fight?

Now, I give the Fed credit for not bailing out Lehman brothers, as they knew the books were probably so toxic nothing could be done. And F&F? Ok, sure, they were a GSE, blah blah. But bailing out AIG? An insurer? Forcing BoA to take on Merrill Lynch? And now hints at extending help to foreign banks? Unlimited Sec. of Treasury power? For those who think cash is safe, I’ll point out that the (maybe) $45 billion left in FDIC divided by the $100,000 insured per account is not a happy number. Plus each of these banks going under have tons of employees; Lehman alone has 26,000+. NY is depressing. I can’t even make a conhesive paragraph out of all of it.

And somehow Bernanke is in the back saying a recession is imminent if there is no bail-out. Hello, the recession has arrived, but the punishment for misdeeds has not. Will not? Well that depends on how many tax-payers realize it’s angry mob time.

Sept. 11 (Bloomberg) — U.S. Senate Banking Committee members urged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage companies placed under federal control this week, to freeze foreclosures on loans in their portfolios for at least 90 days.

"This action would provide immediate relief to many homeowners and let the companies turn these non-performing loans into performing assets to minimize losses," Senators Charles Schumer, Robert Menendez and other panel Democrats said today in a letter to the companies and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which is overseeing them under the government conservatorship. The companies also should ease their policies on modifying mortgages, the senators wrote.


I'll quote Lil' Jon on this one….. OKAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!