I promised somebody something for COB today and then thought about it afterwards and found it funny. Does business ever close anymore? The person in question was in India, but needs to run things by his boss in America before we can act on it anyway. So between the three time zones I’m not sure that business closes at all!

I’m sure that as a phrase it’s still useful, although now it more often means “you’ll have it before I go home for the night” than “you’ll have it by 5pm when the whistle blows and we go”, but when you’re working across timezones when it actually gets done doesn’t really matter. If I finish the task at 3am that’s still fine, as it will be done when the guys in India come in to work (a couple of hours later).

Bit random, but it tickled me and I thought it might tickle you too.

Interesting article over on the BBC about how even in games, you have to work for money. It’s a good article, if only because it has the line:

“It just seems ironic that our key leisure activity is so fixated with toil and earning, albeit through killing and stealing.”

I never really thought about this before, really. Most games do have some sort of earn/spend activity going on and it’s often fairly essential to the gameplay. Now there’s two ways of thinking of this — both intriguing. Either the game designers were so entrenched in the real world that they couldn’t conceive of a different set of dynamics (even when doing things earns you new weapons, armour, etc, there’s still a earn/receive dynamic), or they used this familiar set of rules to make the gameplay more intuitive to those playing. After all we all earn and spend money to some extent, even the gamers who hardly ever see the light of day.

So what is it? Great use of intuitive design or blind conformance to the rules of the world we live in? Does it matter?

I used to love computer games. From playing Tetris on the computer my dad used to bring home from work sometimes (a x8086 I think…), through to Alley Cat and the original DOS-based Kings Quest games when we finally got our own 286, I spent hours playing. My little brother learnt to read watching me play Kings Quest III over an over again.

Unfortunately though, when I went off to boarding school at the age of 13, my computer access was drastically reduced and so too my playing time. Although I managed to carry on with a few favourites (the various evolutions of Civilization, progressing into Alpha Centauri), on the whole I didn’t get to play much. Once I’d finished school and moved over to the UK, I was too busy working to do much either. Since I moved flat and started living with Elmyra (who has a PS2), I’ve been playing some GTA3, but more than anything this has proven to me that I am _way_ behind in this whole gaming endeavour.

Something has changed all of this. Elly finished her degree a couple of weeks ago. Since she’d done nothing but work, work, work for the last 9 months, I got her a PS2 to fill the free time. And some games. And a dance mat or two. And every other accessory I could find.

So now, we have games. And free weekends, no longer needing to build models or frame things on foamboard. So we play. Hot damn it’s fun!

I can recommend:
Devil May Cry — picked this up for a fiver in the game store and it’s great. Beautiful graphics (yes, I am a bit behind! 😉 ), fun weapons and interesting puzzles. I found it a bit hard to get into at first (some of the puzzles stumped me for a while), but now it’s going it’s great.

Baldur’s Gate, Dark Alliance — this is one of the only games we’ve found that we can happily play together, since we needn’t compete. Not too far in it yet, but it is great so far, particularly since it is so reminiscent of Diablo, which we both loved on PC.

Anyway, best get back to the fighting!

There’s a great Jeffrey Zeldman article up at the moment, seemingly about some designs he did for a job, but if you read on about design being appropriate for the intended use. This is along similar lines to Simon’s previous post about Best Practice, but most interesting to me because it’s from the other direction — Simon is a blatant techie, Zeldman a designer. And as he rightly points out in his article, this distinction is probably not the most useful thing in the world, it is nice to see the often disparate groups agreeing on something for once.

Personally I’m a strong believer in tools and solutions appropriate to the task. I’m the one in design meetings saying things like “Yes, I know that we _can_ do that, but why the hell would the users want it?” and “Of course it would be fun to implement, but surely the time would be better spent making the real tasks less arcane to perform?” I really don’t need a dancing singing midget to help me pick my groceries … but hell, a decent search would be really nice!

As I touched upon previously in my Because We Are Geeks entry, some of the things that make us who we are make us really unsuitable for developing things for normal people. Although my previous paragraph might belie it, I am as likely to sit tinkering with something just to see how it works as the next geek. But I’ve seen mainstream features lacking because the developers were too busy focusing on the cool, fun stuff often enough that I’ve trained myself to be a bit more pragmatic about it. The cool fun stuff can be there, but only once everything else is rocksolid and good. I think this is what both Simon and Zeldman are getting at — we need to get better at delivering the whole picture to great quality first and then focus on our particular areas of interest and specialty.

And we might just make it, if only we didn’t all have N.A.D.D 😉

Today is the anniversary of the Soweto massacre, where hundreds of people were killed for objecting to the Apartheid government’s policy of forcing children to be schooled in Afrikaans, despite their home language being anything but. The only exception to this was that white, English-speaking children were allowed to be taught in English.

Reports of the events indicate that soldiers and police opened fire on these protesting schoolchildren without warning. Hector Pieterson was the first child to die, but many others staked their lives for a right to be treated as human beings. Join me today in remembering them.