What’s that snarling sound?

22 08 2009

After a somewhat lengthy hiatus, I have managed to transfer over all 14 of the original “Angry Bear” columns from GameSpy here. If you’ve never read my original Angry Bear column, here’s a chance to catch up on what you missed. The good news is that I’m not just transferring these over to glory in my time at GameSpy. I loved writing the Angry Bear. It was a chance for me to opine on the gaming issues of the day and take a look at some of the deeper questions that game development brings up. So I’m happy to announce that I am bringing the Angry Bear back. I’m already working on my first independent column to be posted as soon as it’s complete and then every Friday thereafter. Hopefully people will like it enough that they’ll start sharing them with others and we can get a real conversation started.

In the mean, please feel free to click on the “Angry Bear” tab at the top of the page and look through the oriignal 14. You may want to start an argument there, too!

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Cultural Imperialism is a crock

15 08 2009

Just came back from taking the kids to see an exhibit on anime cels at the Academy for Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (Yes, the Oscar people). It was really enjoyable and a little eye-opening. The exhibit was fairly small and mostly covered the most popular anime that’s made the crossover to Western audiences — Pokemon, Vampire Hunter D, Gatchaman, Robotech, the work of Studio Ghibli. Still, what I found really fascinatring is how familiar with all of this stuff my four-year old son was. I realized that looking around the exhibit, that this wasn’t terribly different from what he sees when he watches Saturday morning cartoons. Like it or not, much of American kid’s TV and kid’s culture in general has become an outpost for Japanese culture.

That got me thinking about the people who scream about “cultural imperialism” when a McDonald’s opens in Paris. Why are these people never equally concerned when a big chunk of America’s youth culture is dominated by the output of a single foreign nation? Why when the threat of violence shuts down one of the pillars of Western culture (as it did during the Muhammed cartoon controversy) do we hear that we need to be “sensitive” rather than calling it what it is — cultural imperialism? Forcing one culture to bend to another and compromise some of its most cherished principles at the point of a sword seems to me to be the very definition of the term. Everything else is just “life” and “marketing.” And no, I do not consider “marketing” to be evil.

I believe in diversity and multiculturalism. More than that, though, I also believe in the somewhat outmoded idea of the “melting pot.” The classic Schoolhouse Rock video naturally whitewashes much of the unsavory history of this country of course — particularly our treatment of Native Americans — but I believe that there’s a truth at the core of this video about the healthy transfer of ideas and goods between cultures and how they impact and alter one another. Indeed, I believe that the genius of America is the idea that we are not “ein volk.” You don’t have to have blood ties to the land to be a true American. You don’t have to have a particular skin color or religious belief to be one. To be an American is at it’s core, is to be a subscriber to an ideal. True, the genuine nation of America often falls far short of the ideal, but that doesn’t mean the ideal isn’t important as something to shoot for.

The idea that a culture must somehow be kept “pure” strikes me as remarkably racist and bigoted. A “pure” culture, one that never changes, is never tainted by “outsiders” is a dead culture. More than that, it treats denizens of those other cultures like stupid children as if they aren’t fully responsible beings making their own choices. They perversely buy into the idea of American cultural superiority by treating American culture like a virulent plague that will just wipe out every indigenous culture it comes across. It often seems like those who cry loudest about “Diversity” mean it in the sense that hothouse flowers are diverse. They’ve got all kinds of pretty colors, but if they cross-pollinate with one another, then they become hopelessly mongrelized. At the risk of losing this argument before it begins, it’s the kind of fascist thinking that frankly scares me and it’s not the kind of thing I’ll allow my half-Jew/half-Mexican all-American-except-that-they-really-like-Transformers-anime-kids to be victim to.

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The Bitch is Back

14 08 2009

So this is interesting. Apparently Onyxia is making a comeback in World of WarCraft. As a causual-by-lifestyle-rather-than-choice MMO player, one of the interesting phenomena in any MMO is the social pressure to complete content. This happens because as the game ages and more and more of the player base completes end-game stories, raids and collects whaatever the current bleeding-edge loot there is to be had, it necessarily begins to create a bifurcation between those with the time to put in to the game and those who don’t. Put simply, no matter how nice the guild you’re in, it’s never easy to ask members to put their own character’s advancement on hold while they run you through a dungeon that has nothing to offer them. That leaves pick-up-groups with all of their attendent problems — and even these begin to dry up as new content comes in to the game.


I’m facing this problem myself as I try to get my Loremaster in The Lord of the Rings Online to finish up some of the Book I epic quests. With Book II nearly completed and my play times so erratic, it makes doing so enormnously complicated. My guild is great and if I made an appointment, I’m sure they would help me out, but how many of those can you miss before they won’t trust you any more. That’s why I won’t do it.

From a business perspective though, it becomes even more problematic. It makes it ever more unlikely that once a player leaves, they’ll be able to come back. The longer the time between log-ins, the more catch-up the player has to do and the less likely they’ll be able to do it because of a lack of players at their level. World of Warcraft drives me crazy because of this. I loved the original game and it continually frustrates me how they basically abandon old content. I’d like to believe that this Onyxia re-vamp represents then perhaps re-visiting some this old stuff, but I doubt it. It seems like a promotional gimmick more than anything else. What I’d love to see is companies gradually lower the difficulty on old content until after a certain period of time, they become solo-able (with a commensurate drop in loot, of course). That would allow the entire player base to eventually experience all the content the game has to offer without alienting hard-core raiders.

Is this a problem that can be solved? Is this even a problem at all? I’ve heard MMO gaming likened to being on a bowling team. If you can’t make the time committment, don’t play. That does hurt considering how much I love this type of game, though.

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Upset with Rick Caruso

14 08 2009

I suppose it might seem churlish to be upset at the handling of a free event, but I’m not very happy with Rick Caruso and the Americana. We took the kids there last night to see Ashley Tisdale sing songs off her new album. If you don’t know who Ashley Tisdale is, she’s one of the stars of “High School Musical” which means that if you have kids of a certain age, you’ve heard this girl sing — a lot. Given who she is, one would expect then that there would be a lot of young girls at this free concert and take precautions and do a decent job of crowd control.

In fact, the exact opposite happened. First, the stage was set WAY too low. This was an audience comprised mainly of young girls four-feet tall or less. You can guess what happened, right? Yup, every dad in the audience had their daughter on their shoulders so they could see the stage. This combined with the brownian shuffling of the crowd caused more than a few falls and young girls to get stepped on. That shuffling could actually have been elininated had the Americana management thought to put up a big screen so people could actually see the show. Nope. Therefore there was a ton of pushing and shoving as people moved around trying to actually see the stage and get up to the front.

In short, it was a fiasco. Yeah, I know. It was free. Still, if you’re going to do something like this, you need to make it a pleasant experience. The whole point of promo events like this is to bring customers in to spend money. After last night’s nightmare, I don’t know that I ever want to back to the Americana, a place that up until now my family and I quite enjoyed.

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Loving the kids

13 08 2009

Here’s a piece of job hunting advice that everyone gives and that’s very hard to take — keep a positive attitude. That is, unfortunately, not the easiest thing in the world to do. Looking for a job is hard — especially in this economy and it can be incredibly easy to take rejection or delays personally — after all, while getting a job is urgent for you, it’s only one of a thousand different things that demands the attention of the person that might be hiring you.

In my case, I try to focus on the opportunity to spend time with my kids, something that fell by the wayside during all those long drives from Glendale to Costa Mesa. I get revel in how bright and funny and exciting they are. Tonight I’m planning on taking them to see Ashley Tisdale at the Americana in Glendale. It’s not exactly how I would choose to spend my evening, but it’s not really about me, is it? It’s about two little kids who love High School Musical and want to see Shar-pay sing. I’ll have a good time watching my kids have a good time and isn’t that what it’s really all about?

The job hunt begins

10 08 2009

Today begins my search for gainful employment and a whole new chapter of my life. The last few days have been pretty bad for me as I kind of went through a mourning period for my previous existence. I know that sounds terribly self-indulgent but unless you’re without a job, it’s tough to really articulate just how devestating being without one is. A job is one of the two pillars that define your existence. More than the money (though that’s important as well), a job is a major source of satisfaction — even the crappy ones. They say that something you do is valued. They allow you to live up to your responsibilities and take care of those you love. At the risk of sounding all Puritan work ethicky, work really is ennobling and I miss that sense of definition in my life.

Never mind

10 08 2009

I just figured out how to add an e-mail reference. OK fine, I looked at the source code for another Web site. Still, it’s a step forward. All you blogging gurus and code gods were once in my boat!

Contact: casarausch@yahoo.com

Welcome to the Alpha version of the Angry Bear!

10 08 2009

What you’re looking at now is the Alpha version of The Angry Bear blog, one I intend to extend and improve over the coming months. If there’s one thing I’ve learned trying to put this thing together, it’s that blogging (at least doing it well) is an almost psychotic amount of work with remarkably little guarantee of getting any sort of payback. Next steps here include getting all fourteen of the GameSpy Angry Bear columns up on the dedicated page, getting Chapter One of Sufficiently Advanced Magic edited and in and figuring out ways to actively promote the blog and start people actually reading it. At this point, I don;t even know how to get a link for a proper e-mail address into the site! If you have some suggestion, you can e-mail me at Casarusch@yahoo.com

Happy birthday, America!

4 07 2009

I love this nation. There, I said it. Living in one of the¬†bluest areas of a deeply blue state for the last eight years this has been a difficult thing to admit amongst people who somehow confuse this nation for it’s government. I remember reading an article just after the election of Barack Obama about how suddenly American flags were in vogue amongst the intellgentsia of San Francisco and Boston. Suddenly it was OK to be proud of America now that the idiot from Crawford was no longer in power. I resent that idea. Patriotism and love of nation is not a fashion statement that you put on because your guy won. Nor should it, I believe, be predicated on the accident of your birth. I don’t believe blood defines a nation. You should love your nation because you believe in the ideals it represents, the culture it embodies, the future it promises and the daily opportunities it offers. In our case, it’s embodied in the poetic words of the Declaration — “the pursuit of happiness.”

As Robert Heinlein pointed out, America was the first nation explicitly built around the ideal of happiness, self-satisfaction, the chase of personal fulfillment in whatever shape that takes. This, then, is the great gift of America on July 4th — freedom as the highest ideal. Freedom¬† as a condition, the security of which the state is constituted to safeguard, not a privelege and a prize given out by the machinery of government.

Of course freedom does have it’s dark side. The Declaration of Independence merely offers “the pursuit of happiness.” It does not guarantee happiness to anybody. People can and will use that freedom in ways that disturb or offend others. People can and will use that freedom in ways that cause them to fail in various capacities — personally, professionally, morally — and this seems to offend certain people. It always seemed to me that the real fight has never between “Left” and “Right” in the American sense, but between those who would like to use the machinery of government to put safety rails around existence. Nobody ever fails that way, to be certain, but nobody ever truly succeeds either. This nation offers up the chance to succeed beyond the dreams of kings of ancient times. It also offers the chance to fail more spectacularly than you can possibly imagine. That’s the real “American Dream,” and I for one believe it’s worth both celebrating and defending,


23 06 2009

One of the good things about blogging is that it forces you to write on a semi-consistent schedule. Writers write. That’s what they do. They do it because they can’t help themselves. The problem is that the world is full of distractions that will keep you from excersizing those gifts if you give it half a chance. As much as I love gaming, it’s often a terrible distraction — filling up time I could be using to work on “Sufficiently Advanced Magic” or the sequel.

Perhaps one of the best things about my new job and my new weight is that now that I no longer have time to play games (I mostly just install and uninstall them) and I lose at least a half hour of my day to working out, I need to carve out time to actually write. In that, the sacrifice has to come from gaming — mostly Lord of the Rings Online, an MMO I dearly love. I’ve already mostly given up television and there’s only so many hours in the day, so perhaps I need to relegate gaming back to what it should be — a pastime.