No More Cowboys Dammit!

Trayvon Martin and Sammy Yatim, both innocent teenage boys…and both murdered. And yet in Montreal yesterday the police had a 20 hour stand-off with a  man suffering from dementia that legally owned over a dozen firearms that ended in his safe apprehension. What’s the difference between these 2 outcomes besides the obvious? Cowboys. Over the course of my 45 years on this planet I have read about or viewed on the news countless occurrences like those of Martin and Yatim and it always involved Cowboys, these ignorant arrogant assholes that think that because they have a gun they have the Right and the Just on their side. They were always wrong even when they seemed to be in the right because of one simple fact, a single human NEVER has the right to decide the final fate of another human being. This is why we have a system of Laws and Justice in place, to allow a number of sober and calm human minds to decide the fate of the guilty party.

And while this is going on the US government is trying to imprison 2 men of conscience that could not stand by and allow their country to become corrupt and authoritarian. Those men are Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning. They may have broken the law but they were willing to sacrifice their life-long freedom and possibly their very lives for the greater good of their fellow Americans. As far as I can tell the secrets they revealed were not secret to keep American operatives abroad safe but to prevent embarrassment to the US and its allies on the international stage. On a personal-level whenever I make a mistake I own up to it, and contrary to popular belief I don’t lose respect but instead earn it in the eyes of my family, friends and co-workers. It would be a pleasant turn of events if governments and large organizations came to that realization but in this day and age where everyone lets Fear rule their lives that is unlikely to happen.

So I say enough with CowboysI We need more Paladins, Those men and women of honour, high moral fibre and a strong ethical framework that are willing to stand up for what they believe in  and sacrifice themselves and their well-being for the good of others rather than cowboys that simply erase their problems with the business end of a gun.

I know I am an idealist…and I am proud of that fact! I go to sleep at night knowing that I did the best I could by my family, friends and co-workers everyday. I don’t let my life run on fear and loathing, but instead honour and the conviction of my beliefs.

Omar Khadr back in Canada … FINALLY!

Let me start by saying that I have been following this story since it broke back in 2002, and I have been more outraged  by his treatment received from our government (both Liberal at first and then Conservative later) than the American government. For those who don’t know him, he was a 15-year old child soldier indoctrinated into al-Quaeda by his vile parents. During a skirmish with U.S. Forces in Afghanistan he was alleged to have killed an American soldier (Cpl. Christopher Speer). Omar was also critically injured during the fighting and was subsequently captured and shipped off to Gitmo. Omar was tortured by the CIA as well as tricked into false confessions by our own RCMP while he languished in prison without trial for years. His incarceration was in direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. Having said that it is true that he was at least partly responsible for the death of that soldier and did deserve to be punished, but not in that place and not by a U.S. military tribunal.
My anger about this case is not that an innocent man was punished but that he was a Canadian citizen that was being held without trial by a foreign government. As a Canadian he is OUR responsibility, and by allowing the U.S. to do all the dirty work our nation was allowing its sovereignty to be undermined. The moral and ethical thing that should have been done in the beginning would have been to have him transferred to Canada to stand trial for his crimes.  Even though I am proud of my nation I will admit that we have a tendency to take the path of least resistance when it comes to complex moral dilemmas involving race or religion (see Maher Arar, Tomogatu Maru, Chinese Head Tax, Residential School System). We can now add this gormless decision to that list of infamy. And just like Maher Arar, I hope that Mr. Khadr takes the government to court and sues them blind, it’s the least that those weak-willed denizens of Parliament deserve.
I say to those who hate him or feel he is a traitor to our country; I respect your feelings but you must realize that we have a responsibility to repatriate and punish our own citizens. We should never allow other nations to do this for us, its immoral, unethical and just plain wrong.

For a more detailed overview of this case a good place to start is here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omar_Khadr

NCSoft hates my inner child

On Friday, August 31st 2012 NCSoft announced the immediate closure of Paragon Studios along with the firing of all staff. They also announced that the game, City of Heroes, will be sunsetted and all servers will be shutdown at midnight on November 30th.

And that will be the last polite unemotional statement I shall make in this post.

THIS SUCKS!

As you may have gathered, I am one of the 100,000 (approx.) players of the game. I bought my copy when it was released April 30th 2004. Sadly I was not able to play until my birthday two weeks later when I treated myself to a new video card. Other than an unfortunate hiatus of 3 months to try out a game that is a pale shadow of CoH, I have been playing on an almost daily basis since then. In that time, I have created and developed over 120 separate and unique characters. I think of them as heroes (or villains) that I have designed from the ground up to play the story that is the game itself. To have this happen hurts, it hurts like when you reach the end of a great novel or your favourite TV series ends (Babylon 5 *sniffle*). And yet it is somehow worse than that because I have become part of the creative process, not just a spectator but an active participant.

The reactions among the playerbase could be used as a case study in reactions to doomsday scenarios, after all this virtual world is literally coming to an end. There seems to be 3 general reactions that everyone is feeling to one degree or another; dismissal (i.e. “yeah, whatever. I’m outta here.”), anger (“NCSoft can go blow a goat! I hope they all die in a fire! etc etc etc!”), and/or go out like a Boss (“I am going to play the hell outta this game! They are going to have to drag me kicking and screaming from the server!”). And that fits with how it works in real life, some people would swallow a bullet rather than face the End, others would get pissed off and go rioting, and still others would look at it as a time to check off things from their Bucket List. Me being who I am, I am simply too damn stubborn to just say to hell with it so I am signing petitions / ranting on blogs (in anger) and playing a few hours everyday since the announcement.

As much as this felt like a gut-punch there is one silver lining, I can use this for inspiration. These are MY characters, they don’t have to end when the world ends. I had already starting writing their stories in-game but now its time to let them loose in the wild and continue chronicling their adventures here. As you have seen, I have already dabbled a bit in this with Captain Hit-Guy vs. Professor Unusual. But starting in December I am committing myself to writing one introductory story for a hero and a villain per month. I won’t be doing that for all my characters or else I will never get anything else done (and to be honest, some of my characters work better as background or cameos) but I do ask that anyone that finds a particular hero or villain interesting to let me know so I can focus on him or her. I should warn you that Captain Hit-Guy will be one of the focal points no matter what, being my namesake and all.

In conclusion, I have to say that even though this was a silly little game that I played just to have fun it really does hurt that its going away. Is this an example of how shallow and surface our modern society has become? Or does it show the strength of the connections we make with the things we create? I don’t know the answer but I can safely say that it proved to me how important my creations are to me.
P.S. If anyone reading this hasn’t checked out CoH and would like a tour of our fine City before the lights go out just drop a /tell to Captain Hit-Guy or Prime-Minister on Freedom server and I will show you around and you can take a few pictures :).

The hardest word to say in the English Language is…

SORRY

I am not sure why that is but too many people cannot seem to say that word. Sorry is only 5 letters long and yet so few people know how to say it. Pride and being right seem to be more important to the majority of people than humility and righteousness. Now speaking from anecdotal evidence and 21-years experience as a married man I can assure you that sorry may be hard to say but it’s vitally important to learn to say it. In any healthy relationship (esp. marriage) no one is always right or always wrong, and in almost every individual dispute in a relationship neither side is completely right or wrong. That is what makes it imperative that both sides apologize for their wrongdoing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some kind of spineless wimp that always apologizes without reciprocity, when I am wronged I DEMAND an apology. I will simply not forgive until I hear that word, but then it will be like nothing happened. What is so striking is that it seems as if most people would rather pay money or open a blood vessel instead of saying sorry.

My wife is far, far more empathetic and sensitive and caring than I am (yes I am a lucky bastard that doesn’t deserve her) but despite this she had to learn to say sorry from me. Having said that, I usually end up apologizing way more because I have an innate talent for sticking my foot in my mouth. By extension our children learned the value of apology from watching us settle our disagreements and arguments by saying sorry to each other. I believe that the reason my kids are so kind and caring towards friends and classmates alike is due to the empathy one gains from apologizing. When you learn to apologize sincerely you learn empathy, you begin to understand everyone around you with greater insight since you have to be able to understand someone’s feelings to know you wronged them. I also believe that my apologies to my kids when I was harsh with them or I seemed to be arbitrary in my decisions (I never am but that’s a discussion for another time) engendered the great respect my kids have for me.

Note #1: Never start an apology with the word IF, that simply means you don’t believe you did anything wrong and you are apologizing for the person you are arguing with (which always struck me as bizarre). INSINCERE

Note#2: This post was never meant to sound arrogant or condescending in any way, it was simply a reaction to the venomous rhetoric I see on the Internet, in the Media, in the political arena, and even at my workplace. Apologizing more would be a subtle (and positive) form of social engineering. That may sound conspiratorial or Orwellian but empathy is never a bad thing for people to learn.

Note#3: I guess you could call me an apology apologist (ba-dum TISH).

 

Yeah I’m gonna weigh in – Sexism in Video Games

OK, enough with the reams of stupid out there! Ms. Sarkeesian seems to have stirred up quite a hornets nest of vile and disgusting misogyny. But to those who think that it’s fine to defend the status quo let me give you a simple thought experiment to try:

Imagine that the best game ever in your genre has just been released. It had insane buzz during production and now it has been released to accolades from all corners of the gaming world. 5 stars this and 10 outta 10 that, its just crazy. But here is your dilemma, the main character featured prominently on the front cover is 6′ tall, buff, with long blond hair wearing a bright red thong and sandals and is oily from head to toe (using specially designed OIL-TECH technology specifically for this game). Oh and he wields a whip and is very gay (in fact it drives much of the “plot” of the game). Would you buy that game despite this character because its so damn fantastic otherwise?

Your answer really doesn’t matter because here’s the thing: Every woman gamer has to make that choice with 90% of games that actually exist! Unless she wants to play games like Tetris and Civilization all her life she is stuck with that same choice over and over again. To appeal to a specific demographic the game companies are alienating 50% of the population, in the end greed will win out over sexism. It won’t be rants and raves from feminists, it will be simple greed. The larger you make your audience the greater your profits. Bioware has already figured this out and it looks like Blizzard had with Diablo III somewhat. And no, this won’t make games suck it will make them more varied and complex. It’s not like there are technological limitations on character identities, after all.