Category Archives: life

life… it can be tough sometimes.

personal website

Starting working today on putting together a personal website where I should hopefully be able to post links and information about my small game projects that I have been working on and will be working on. Still in rough shape, but I hope to get it polished up by the end of the week and I’ll post a link to it here.

I will still use this as my personal blog, hopefully I can be a little more consistent with my posting here.

Passing Shadows – a poem

I was bored and feeling a little pensive, so I wrote a poem.

Passing Shadows

Do we ever truly belong anywhere
Or, rather, is our life meant to be transient
filled only with passing shadows,
some who linger longer
while most fade into distant memories?

In the moment when we stop moving,
when we “settle down” as they say,
is that the moment we begin to truly live,
Or is that the moment when we begin to die?

What is home?
Is it a place, some large, imposing space?

Or is it something you can carry with you
Is it even a thing
Or can it be a moment, a memory, or even a person?

Is home a sail,
Or an anchor,
Does it carry onward to distant a new seas
Or does it keep us entrenched so deeply
that our rudders can no longer bear the weight of adventure

Is happiness a journey, or a destination
Once we’ve achieved enough, gained enough,
Then will we be happy?

Or, is joy there to be found in every moment,
even when “plenty” is a foreign word?

Does any of it even matter?
Or are we all just passing shadows,
passing through the world without leaving a trace

toxicity, anonymity, and the word ‘noob’

For some context take a look at this article on Polygon, which talks about online harassment and cyber-bullying targeted at game developers. A very good read, and it got me thinking about this topic.

Toxicity is not something limited to online games, but it is one of the places that it seems to be the most prevalent. When I look back on the last few times I’ve played online multiplayer games I can recall at least a dozen cases of toxicity. Trash talking, insults, cursing, blaming other people on your team, these are just a few of the ways that toxicity comes into place in these types of games.

Why? Honestly, what purpose does this serve? Why do we feel a need to be so toxic when we are playing games?

One of the last time I played Dota 2 I had a particularly bad experience with a particularly toxic player. I am still fairly new to Dota 2, and one of the problems (and one of the intriguing parts) of single draft is that you will often end up with a hero that you have never played before. This was the case, and as such I was floundering a bit. One player in particular got annoyed at me, and in the chat consistently berated me for every perceived mistake, including every time he died and I was nearby. (In one of these cases he claimed that I should have sacrificed myself so he could get away because he was losing too much farm or something.) Now, I will admit that I am not a great player, and I am sure that I was making a lot of mistakes that game, but the abuse (I do not use this term lightly, the level of toxicity was abusive) was completely uncalled for.

The thing I found very interesting in this case was that on our team this particularly toxic player had the second lowest level, had the least kills and the second lowest gold per minute.

In my experience I’ve noticed that good players don’t trash talk. Good players don’t need to blame others, they don’t need to get inside their opponents head, they just play their best and usually win. The players that resort to toxicity are generally not that great, to be frank.

Recently I’ve been prompted on YouTube several times if I want to use my real name instead of an alias on my channel and in comments. I’ve turned this down, but it make me question the motivation to this push. YouTube comments are most certainly one of the few places on earth where you can find almost incomprehensible amounts of ignorance, stupidity and toxicity. I think if people would read their comments aloud it would stop a lot of it, but I think there is an entirely different cause as well, at least for the toxicity part: anonymity. On YouTube you hide behind a username, no one has any idea who you are, and when hiding behind a mask it’s really easy for our ugly sides to come out.

I personally think that if everyone on YouTube were to use their real names it would stop most people from making toxic comments. Of course, there is a whole slew of privacy concerns with that, but I think that it would at least alleviate a large amount of toxicity on YouTube.

When we play online games, we are essentially hiding behind a mask. We are known by our usernames and gamer tags, and in a way those become an entirely different identity, and in a lot of ways disconnected from who we are in person, and a lot of people really aren’t worried about soiling that second identity because it’s distinct from them. This is another root of toxicity, this idea that you are anonymous online.

It needs to stop. There is no need for it, and it just harms the gaming community. There is a reason that gamers are not taken seriously in society, why when it’s discovered that a political candidate plays World of Warcraft it is heavily criticized and becomes news. We as gamers are perceived an immature, toxic and disconnected, and a large part of why is that this sort of behaviour is so common in online interactions. Are all players that way? Not by a long shot. Enough are, though, to make this a serious problem.

I wanted to finish off with one more point. There is a word that float around in the gaming community, a derogatory term that I feel needs to be buried once and for all. This word is ‘noob’. In no other activity that I know of is it a bad thing to be starting. In almost every other social activity and/or social circle/group that I know of people are happy when new people show an interest. Every time I am at the game store playing Magic the Gathering I am really happy to see someone there playing in a draft for the first time. In my experience people are more than willing to help the new player learn the (admittedly) complicated rules of the game, to help them feel welcome, and to get them to want to play more.

However, a brand new player jumps on to Dota 2, and immediately everyone in the game is yelling at them, calling them a ‘noob’, and telling them to go home. How is this alright? I don’t understand why some gamers are so quick to try and chase away anyone who wants to share in their hobbies? It doesn’t make any sense to me, and I have a strong urge when I hear (or see, as the case may be) the word ‘noob’ to punch the perpetrator in the face. It needs to stop.

a tale of bad user interface

I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on user interfaces, or UI’s as they are often called. However, I do use computers a lot, and I mean a lot, so I think I have a bit of experience to spot a bad UI when I see one.

I have an android phone, and since android is an open source software that is altered by the manufacturers to fit their particular needs I don’t know whether to blame Google or Pantech for this one, but either way, my phone has a particularly bad flaw in it’s UI.

There is not anything really secret or private on my phone, but I am still a security conscious individual, so I decided recently to try a pattern screen lock on my phone. At the bottom of the screen lock there is a small button that says “Emergency Call”. This has been the cause of my problems.

Two days in a row last week my phone called 911 while in my pocket. Now, if you’ve ever accidentally dialed 911 you know that if you don’t stay on the line they will call you back to make sure everything is ok, like they should, however, this meant that two days in a row I had to explain to the person on the other end that my phone dialed 911 on it’s own, while in my pocket. I got to sound like a complete idiot two days in a row.

I understand the reasoning behind the button. If you are locked out of your phone and in an emergency you need a way to make the call without the pattern, either because you are panicking or it’s not actually your phone. However, it’s placement on the main page makes it way to easy for something like what happened to me last week to happen.

So, needless to say, I won’t be using a screen lock anymore…

on changing one’s identity

Okay, first some background. My birth name is Isaac. However, about 18 months ago (it may have actually been 2 years, but the specifics are not important, what is important is it was a while ago) I changed and started to go by Ike. The reasons for this are a little complex, but one is I don’t like who I was in high school (then again, who did? We were all terrible people in high school) and since starting college I had been trying to reinvent myself. (Freshman year I thought about starting to go by my middle name, Grant, but that never panned out.) The name Ike started off as a lazy moment, where I typed my name as TAIke on a chat forum. I was working as a teaching assistant at the time. And yes, Ike is only two letters shorter than Isaac, but that’s how it was. The chat room was used by the students to ask the TA’s questions without having to come into our office, which was helpful on both sides. However, all the students started calling me Ike because I had never bothered to change the name on the chat. After a while I grew to like it.

The name Ike is unique. Well, Isaac is also, at least among people my age, I only know a handful of Isaac’s around my age (however, it is a really popular name among 10-12 year old boys), and I personally don’t know anyone that goes by Ike. The name Ike does come with it’s problems, though. One is that most of my introductions happen something like this:

“Hi, I’m Ike.”

“Mike?”

“No, Ike”

But that I can deal with.

The name also brings with it two associations. One is with president Dwight D. Eisenhower (which, by the way, baffles me, how is ‘Ike’ derived from that name) and the other is ‘Ike from Super Smash Brothers’. For the record, he is not from Super Smash Brothers, he is from Fire Emblem, and he is bad-ass.

However, changing your identity is not that easy. There are a lot of people that still know me as, and prefer to call me, Isaac. I even get confused myself as to what name to put on forms, and on rare occasions I still slip up and introduce myself as Isaac. Transition is proving more difficult than simply deciding to introduce myself as Ike and sign my name as “Ike Ellsworth”.

But there’s a reason why it’s important to me. It’s about reinventing myself. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the name Isaac, it’s a good name, and I’m grateful to my parents for naming me that. However, at the same time, changing the way I identify myself is part of changing who I am.

every freaking semester

You would think that after doing this whole school thing for as long as I have I would learn to figure it out, but it would seem that every semester goes pretty much the same way. I start off at the beginning feeling pretty good, I feel confident that I can handle my workload, and that I’m going to do well and get good grades. However, about midway through the semester things start to pile up. Somewhere in that time something stressful seems to happen in my life, be it work related, school related or related to my personal life, somewhere the stress begins. Then everything starts to fall apart. I get behind, I get stressed, and life gets generally pretty miserable.

Then, somewhere I kick into high gear. I focus and decide which grades are worth salvaging, and which I can afford to divert attention from, and I manage to salvage it somehow and end up with decent, not great, grades. This vicious cycle seems to repeat every semester without fail, and it worries me.

Probably the biggest reason that this is a concern is that it implies inevitability. Have I just become stuck in a cycle that I can’t break?

I personally don’t believe in inevitability. Some time ago I was a psychology major. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous, considering where I’m at now (a cs major, wanting to go into a career in game production), but I was. For me one of the biggest reasons I quit the major was because I couldn’t swallow the idea of Behaviorism, the idea that we, as humans, are nothing more than our genetics and our conditioning. I don’t believe that. There is something more to our beings that allows us to rise above our circumstances, that allows us to be more than just finite state machines, transitioning from state to state governed by a set of defined rules.

This is why this cycle of mine is so concerning, how I seem stuck in a cycle that I can’t break. I’m searching desperately for a way out, and every semester I tell myself “This semester will be different, this time I’ll get it right.” Each semester that promise seems more and more hollow.

I apologize for a pointless rant, but I needed to vent for a moment.

The articles of opinions

Being on facebook recently, I’ve noticed that tempers seem to be a little hot among people in the political spectrum, and I’ve noticed a lot of comments that I have found to be incredibly narrow minded and degrading of others. Here I lay out my “articles of opinions”, laying out our rights when it comes to opinions.

  1. You have the right to have an opinion.
  2. You have the right to share your opinion.
  3. You have the right to disagree with someone else’s opinion.
  4. You have the right to share that you disagree with someone else’s opinion.
  5. You do NOT have the right to degrade, mock, belittle or condemn another because you disagree with their opinion.

Vehicular update, not that you care, but…

Ah, that’s where you add tags.

Spoke with the mechanic today, after a weekend of being without a vehicle (back to bumming rides off people just like freshman year) they informed me that beyond the rim, they couldn’t tell if anything else was bent. That’s good news, I guess. So, I just need to replace a rim, get some new tires, and I’m set, right?

So, I found a place in Lindon called Hub Cap City, just to inquire about how much it would cost me to get a new rim. “14, 15 or 16?” he asked. Crap, I have no idea. I’ll have to call you back.

Next to call the mechanic again to ask the size of my rims. 15. Good. Back to the rim place.

“Steel or Aluminum?” Thankfully, I knew this one. The mechanic told me that, good thing he knew I would need it. Steel. “Well, looks like we’re out, but if you want to bring it in we can repair it.” Wait, what? Well, I guess it makes sense. Oh, it’s also cheaper. I’m a poor college student, cheap is good.

After about half an hour of making calls back in forth it was time to go back to work. I’ll deal with this after work.

Snow is hard on cars. No, I’m positive it wasn’t my driving…

So, here in Utah we are apparently in the middle of winter storm Gandolf. Well, in this part of Utah that is. Also, on an arguably related side note, I did not realize that they named winter storm patterns, not just hurricanes.

Last night the snow hit. It hit hard, it hit fast. I took my girlfriend out for dinner at a Thai place. Sitting near the window we watched the snow come down, almost surreal and beautiful, but not really threatening to stick. Not half an hour later the roads were unbelievably slick. And dangerous.

After dropping her off at her apartment I had to go to a meeting. There was a turn, I turned the wheels, but the car decided instead to go straight… into the curb.

Today I took my car to the mechanic, my front wheels are now out of alignment. Hooray for being without a car for the weekend!

wake-up call

This morning, about 930, I received a mildly unpleasant wake-up call.  It was my mechanic.  Those of you who read the twitter bar (wait, I guess that’s a bit of an assumption, I don’t think I have any readers yet) would know that my car is having problems.  Let me explain.

I was on my way back to my apartment last evening, when I noticed smoke coming out of the heater vent near the windshield.  I pulled over, and turned off the car, opened the hood, and was surprised that there was no smoke in the engine.  Odd, I thought, and I called the person who I must rely on for car-related advice, my father.  I looked under the car, saw that my car was leaking something, (coolant, I think), and waited for my dad to come down.  He followed me to the mechanic shop, on the way it started smoking again, but we finally got there, I dropped my key in the key drop, and then my dad drove me to my apartment.

There is nothing quite like car problems to encourage you to be healthy.  Without my car, I needed to ride my bike to school this morning.  I don’t live overly far from campus, but it’s a little further than I would like to walk.  Thankfully, not two days ago I was finally able to get my bike down at my place.

And now that brings us to this morning.  My alarm failed to wake me up, and about 930 my phone rang.  I groggily shook myself awake, and answered the phone.  The mechanic informed me that the problem was with my heating unit, apparently the small radiator in my dashboard had gone bad, and it was smoking and leaking coolant.  The problem with this is that in order to get at it and fix it they need to take my dash apart.  It’s “labor intensive” which in layman’s terms means expensive.

The damage?  Around $650.  And I don’t have my car for two days.  What a great start to my morning.