Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for October 2007

Texas town for sale on E-bay

Want to own a town? I particularly like the Albert, Texas promotional web site.

Even as I am disturbed by the subtext of this page.

Give us $2.5 million and ALL THESE PEOPLE WILL BE YOUR SLAVES!

I don't really have $2.5 million, so I'm going to try an a la carte deal. What if I just wanted the girl on horseback and the guy with the guitar?

Written by Not Jaffo

October 31, 2007 at 16:32

Posted in Culture

NBC/Fox to release your favorite programs on Hulu

Machinist says what we're all thinking. Hulu is a joke. When NBC started playing hardball with iTunes, we thought they were nuts. Your business model is dead, old dudes. The future is Apple, Google, and YouTube.

NBC had the content, but their distribution model sucked. But what if they fixed the distribution model?

What if they found a way to make money off the greatest TV shows of today and yesterday, without pissing off the “information is free” generation?

Well now they have. It's about 10 years overdue, but the big networks have finally thrown their hats in the ring.

Want to blog about last night's episode of Family Guy? What if you could embed the episode, the entire episode, streaming, high quality, in your blog?

Now you can.

So what if you don't like modern TV? What if you want to watch vintage Hong Kong Phooey, from 1974?

Now you can.

What if you want to check out Battlestar Galactica, without springing for a DVD?

Now you can.

Overcome with a sudden urge to date Scott Baio?

Seek help.

Hulu's not live yet, but you can get a preview of the best stuff on AOL.

This is a knockout punch from the old networks, wisely leveraging the power of their content. They're capitalizing on YouTube's dirty little secret. For all our talk of user contributed content and new media paradigms, YouTube was ultimately built on copyright violations, built by people posting the best bits of their favorite shows and sharing them with friends.

Now the networks have taken control of that audience. They're offering their best stuff for free, in high quality, and they finally got the technology right.

I don't mind watching ads if the player works. I think this is going to be a huge win for users, networks and advertisers. Imagine how much faster we could have had it, if the networks had spent more time innovating and less time suing people.

Written by Not Jaffo

October 29, 2007 at 14:41

Posted in TV

G.I. Joe was more than just a toy

This is all over my friends list this morning, generating a fierce patriotic buzz. Don't miss this outstanding column by Vin Suprynowicz reminding everyone that G.I. Joe was more than “just a toy.”

You can read more here.

Written by Not Jaffo

October 29, 2007 at 12:29

Posted in Politics

Addicted to Warcraft, or was it just an experiment?

Update 10-26: My audio interview with Eloy and the Taverncast crew is available for download here!

Last week I talked about The Pod People, a World of Warcraft guild run by and for fans of the various Warcraft podcasts.

In their June 4 episode, one of the hosts of Taverncast spoke candidly about the game and his personal experience with game addiction. The host, known by the name Eloysius or Eloy for short, subjected himself to a grueling experiment where he forced himself to play Warcraft for 10 hours a day.

The experiment started with a conversation Eloy had with a couple of people who were starting to describe Warcraft as a lifestyle — not just a game they played, but as a world they lived in. Like some folks who play golf constantly or follow sports teams across the country, these people had embraced Warcraft as a permanent part of their lives.

World of Warcraft had taken over their lives and they described it as a positive thing.

“This was all they wanted to do.” Eloy said, “WoW is who they are. It defines them.”

Inspired by Morgan Spurlock, the film maker who made “Supersize Me!” and “30 Days,” Eloy decided to turn himself into a hardcore World of Warcraft player for 30 days and see what the lifestyle did to him. He forced himself to play 10 hours a day. He didn't have to play consecutively, and he didn't have to give up the rest of his life.

“I didn't have an 8-hour workday that was going to get in the way, so I was free to try it,” he said.

So Eloy went from playing two or three hours every other day to playing 10 hours every day.

At first, the 10-hour commitment was annoying and disruptive, breaking him away from gym routines and social functions to come back and sit in front of his computer.

Somewhere around day five, Eloy started feeling stiff and getting back pains, but instead of getting up or going for a run he would say, “Nah, I'll just grind out this next level.”

So he stayed at the game, and kept staying, for the next day and the next day, and the next day.

Over time, he said, “The game life became far more important. During week two, all I wanted to do was play the game.”

His game time increased from the required 10 hours a day to 15 or 16 hours per day.

“I would literally be up until 5 a.m. or later. I saw the sun come up at least three or four days.”

Eloy shifted into a new pattern, where he stayed up until 5 a.m., slept until 10:30 a.m. or so, and immediately went back to the game.

“I always knew what I was doing,” Eloy said. “I always knew I was doing this experiment, so I can't say I just became addicted. It's not that simple. It's just that the game itself became so compelling because of this goal I had set for myself.”

Some people call that addiction, but Eloy is reluctant to use the word.

“I have a problem believing I could become addicted to something within two weeks time.”

Eloy gets into week three and starts taking large amounts of medication for back and tailbone pain. “Then I would take a couple shots of something … messing around with alcohol at the same time, not really thinking. I got bad headaches, probably due to sleep deprivation more than anything else.”

He even got blurred vision and muscle spasms. “I stood in front of the mirror in week three and literally watched my left eye vibrate.”

So at this point, did Eloy keep going back to the game because of the experiment or because he was addicted?

Eloy said, “The game was compelling. And by compelling I don't mean fun, because sometimes it wasn't fun at all.”

Next week, we'll talk about Eloy's decision to quit the game, and about the external forces that keep people playing, even when they know it's a bad idea.

You can hear Eloy's complete story in Taverncast After Hours #3, available at taverncast.com.

Written by Not Jaffo

October 26, 2007 at 14:48

Posted in Games, Warcraft

Duff: Addicted to Warcraft, or was is it just an experiment gone wrong?

Duff: Addicted to Warcraft, or was is it just an experiment gone wrong?

Last week I talked about The Pod People, a World of Warcraft guild run by and for fans of the various Warcraft podcasts.

In their June 4 episode, one of the hosts of Taverncast spoke candidly about the game and his personal experience with game addiction. The host, known by the name Eloysius or Eloy for short, subjected himself to a grueling experiment where he forced himself to play Warcraft for 10 hours a day.

The experiment started with a conversation Eloy had with a couple of people who were starting to describe Warcraft as a lifestyle — not just a game they played, but as a world they lived in. Like some folks who play golf constantly or follow sports teams across the country, these people had embraced Warcraft as a permanent part of their lives.

World of Warcraft had taken over their lives and they described it as a positive thing.

“This was all they wanted to do.” Eloy said, “WoW is who they are. It defines them.”

Inspired by Morgan Spurlock, the film maker who made “Supersize Me!” and “30 Days,” Eloy decided to turn himself into a hardcore World of Warcraft player for 30 days and see what the lifestyle did to him. He forced himself to play 10 hours a day. He didn’t have to play consecutively, and he didn’t have to give up the rest of his life.

“I didn’t have an 8-hour workday that was going to get in the way, so I was free to try it,” he said.

So Eloy went from playing two or three hours every other day to playing 10 hours every day.

At first, the 10-hour commitment was annoying and disruptive, breaking him away from gym routines and social functions to come back and sit in front of his computer.

Somewhere around day five, Eloy started feeling stiff and getting back pains, but instead of getting up or going for a run he would say, “Nah, I’ll just grind out this next level.”

So he stayed at the game, and kept staying, for the next day and the next day, and the next day.

Over time, he said, “The game life became far more important. During week two, all I wanted to do was play the game.”

His game time increased from the required 10 hours a day to 15 or 16 hours per day.

“I would literally be up until 5 a.m. or later. I saw the sun come up at least three or four days.”

Eloy shifted into a new pattern, where he stayed up until 5 a.m., slept until 10:30 a.m. or so, and immediately went back to the game.

“I always knew what I was doing,” Eloy said. “I always knew I was doing this experiment, so I can’t say I just became addicted. It’s not that simple. It’s just that the game itself became so compelling because of this goal I had set for myself.”

Some people call that addiction, but Eloy is reluctant to use the word.

“I have a problem believing I could become addicted to something within two weeks time.”

Eloy gets into week three and starts taking large amounts of medication for back and tailbone pain. “Then I would take a couple shots of something … messing around with alcohol at the same time, not really thinking. I got bad headaches, probably due to sleep deprivation more than anything else.”

He even got blurred vision and muscle spasms. “I stood in front of the mirror in week three and literally watched my left eye vibrate.”

So at this point, did Eloy keep going back to the game because of the experiment or because he was addicted?

Eloy said, “The game was compelling. And by compelling I don’t mean fun, because sometimes it wasn’t fun at all.”

Next week, we’ll talk about Eloy’s decision to quit the game, and about the external forces that keep people playing, even when they know it’s a bad idea.

You can hear Eloy’s complete story in Taverncast After Hours #3, available at taverncast.com.

Written by Not Jaffo

October 26, 2007 at 14:09

Posted in Columns, Games, Warcraft

Dumbledore is gay. Does it matter?

I'm late to the party on this one. Scott Slemmons already covered this in his Hero Sandwich blog but the Internet is still buzzing about it, and I wanted to weigh in.

First, it's not a publicity stunt. Rowling doesn't need more money and she didn't invent this overnight. These books were planned out years in advance, and J.K. left out more detail than she put in. Check out any random interview and you'll see her reveal fascinating story bits that weren't quite important enough to make it in print.

So when she says Dumbledore is gay, I believe he's been gay from the beginning. This revelation actually explains a lot and fits with the character. The biggest mystery in book 7 is how could Dumbledore be blind to the influence of a villain who started as a close friend. Now we know.

He was blind because he was in love, a situation that anyone with half a heart or half a brain can relate to.

The usual suspects are furious, of course. Bad enough that HP promotes Satanism and Witchcraft, now reading it can give your kids The Gay!

I'm delighted to see Rowling throw this curve ball into our national debate. A big chunk of the world population thinks homosexuality is evil, and we need to confront that. We need to talk about it and deal with it.

I think 20 years from now, prejudice against homosexuals will seem just as shameful and old-fashioned as the Jim Crow laws seem today.

Of course the Bible denounces homosexuality, but the Bible has been used to justify all kinds of crazy prejudices throughout history. Biblical interpretations fall in and out of fashion just like anything else.

In the 18th century, Bible verses were routinely used to justify slavery. Those interpretations fell out of fashion as the culture changed, and I believe the 20th century prejudice against homosexuals will vanish as well.

Religious movements establish culture, but they also respond to culture, and once society starts to accept homosexuality as natural and normal, the message from the pulpit will change as well.

This is a debate we need to have and Dumbledore's outing is a step in the right direction.

Written by Not Jaffo

October 24, 2007 at 10:21

Posted in Books, Culture, Politics

Duff: Podcasters eventually turn away from game and return to real life

Duff: Podcasters eventually turn away from game and return to real life

When does a group of game players become a community? And how do you recover when gaming becomes your life?

This is the story of a community built around the game World of Warcraft, about a group of podcasters who made a guild for their fans, and about how they’ve come full circle.

World of Warcraft is blessed with an unusually active and diverse podcasting community. If you want straight facts with a minimum of fuss, you can visit Starman and Renata at World of Warcast. If you want hardcore PVP and raiding advice (with a permanent Explicit tag) check out Alachia’s WoWcast. And if you’d rather laugh than take notes, check out the loveable lushes at TavernCast.

All of these podcasts are available through iTunes, and their respective home pages can be found by copying the name of the podcast into a Google search.

There are a dozen other great Warcraft podcasts out there, but those were my three favorites. These are the podcasts that convinced me to buy the game and join a guild. The guild was called The Pod People, a giant, friendly group run by and for fans of these podcasts. At its height, it had more than 400 members.

The Pod People were a family guild, in the best sense of that word.

There was no cursing allowed in the guild chat and the age of the members ranged from 12 to 60. The Pod People were proud of their status as a “casual” guild. While some hardcore guilds implement strict attendance and performance standards, The Pod People were strictly there to have fun.

But for all their protests about being casual, The Pod People were an extremely active guild, and together, these podcasters devoted an extraordinary amount of time to their game.

Beyond the normal time sink of the game itself, these folks were managing a guild of hundreds.

Managing a guild may not sound like much to the uninitiated, but imagine trying to organize a church group, a bowling league, a parents’ organization or a small business with 400 people in it. Now imagine the members are in different states, different countries and different time zones, scattered all over the world.

Think on this for a while and you’ll see why young managers want to put guild leadership on their resumes.

For years these folks devoted themselves to Warcraft. Now, in their Oct. 7 podcast, three of the TavernCast regulars reveal that they’ve quit the game.

After spending countless hours praising Warcraft, they spend their latest podcast complaining about it and comparing it to an addictive drug.

They don’t hate the game, and they don’t say they’ll be gone forever, but for now they’ve walked away from it, and we can all learn from their experience.

Check this space next week to hear about one cast member who turned himself into a Warcraft addict, and how he found his way back.

Written by Not Jaffo

October 19, 2007 at 14:10

Posted in Columns, Games, Warcraft

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.