Critique ≠ Hate

The AV Club posted If you like Return of the Jedi, but hate the Ewoks, you understand feminist criticism, and I have thoughts:

I actually don’t mind the ewoks —I think I was just young enough that the forced pathos wasn’t obviously forced, and I mentally explained their accomplishments as a whole people of super forest ninja commandos.

But the point stands: it is possible to critique something *and* like it. That’s where the phrase “liking problematic things” comes from. In fact, I’m one of those people that, in many cases the more I like something the more I critique it. I’ll also light into something that I think is awful, but the motivation isn’t that dissimilar—the difference is in how much I praise the thing, not in how much I critique it. This isn’t a zero-sum game where praise+critique is some sort of fixed quantity.

And to the specific point of this article: therefore, saying a movie is sexist doesn’t mean it is all bad. It could be an excellent movie in every other way that just falls short in this one area. But, on the flipside, that doesn’t mean such a shortcoming doesn’t matter. Not all criticisms are “just matters of taste”—well-done feminist critique (or any other sort of critique coming from an articulated formal intellectual framework) is identifying a real thing, even if there are debates about the details. Just as you shouldn’t confuse “this part of a thing is bad” with “the whole thing is bad”, don’t turn “this part of your argument doesn’t stand up” into “there is no merit to any part of your argument.”

iOS 9 Revokes Permissions?

iOS 9 introduced a bizarre permissions/sharing problem: Apps that need permission (at least some of them) to access some part of the OS no longer had it. So, Camera+ couldn’t access the camera, Fantastical couldn’t access my calendars. In both cases, the apps had had permission and I’d been using them right before the update. In both cases, the app directed me to go to the Privacy part of the settings and allow access, and in both cases where there should be a list of apps that have asked for or been granted access, there was nothing. I tried wiping and re-installing Fantastical in the hopes that it would trigger a request.

iOS 9.0.1 fixed this for me. The access came back without me even having to authorize it. (iPhone 5, in case it matters)

I’m tossing this up here because I couldn’t find anything online about it. So now there should be at least one Google hit relating to it, if someone else is having the same problem.

Whyfor Num Lock?

Quick thought here: (1) Why do extended keyboards—that is, ones with a separate number pad—even have a Num Lock key any more? (2) Why does Microsoft Windows default to it being off? 

I get why there is such a key on keyboards that don’t have a number pad, such as laptops. And it makes perfect sense if the “number pad” keys are also letters and stuff that you’d start with it off. But Windows ought to be smart enough to know the difference and choose appropriately—heck, my Mac can even handle the concept of having numlock on for one keyboard and off for another connected to the same machine simultaneously. 

But, more generally, when was the last time a keyboard was made that had a number pad but didn’t have arrow keys? And does anybody ever intentionally turn numlock off for an extended keyboard, in order to use the number pad as arrow keys (interspersed with a bunch of other keys) rather than using the even-closer dedicated arrow keys?

As near as I can tell (based on complaints I hear at work and online), it is solely a historical artifact, whose only purpose now is to screw up passwords and complicate data entry. 

And while I’m at it: why isn’t MSWindows, after all these years, smart enough to overrule that (and other modifier keys) in software with an easy-to-use interface? It’s clearly possible (since OS X can do it), so why do I have to do a registry hack or play around in BIOS (or UEFI, or whatever they are these days) settings to fix this idiocy? 

#RPGaDay2015: 31 – Friends

“Favorite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGing”?

That’s a tough one. I was racking my brain, thinking of things that have grown out of RPGs. I even perused Wikipedia to see if there was something I wasn’t thinking of. Game-inspired fiction? Not really for me. Gaming-inspired writers? I guess—I know that China Mieville has credited roleplaying with helping his writing, and I’m sure there are others. But most of my favorite authors aren’t roleplayers, and the few that I would truly miss if they didn’t exist mostly predate RPGs. RPG-derived videogames? I’ve never really been a fan of videogames, so from my perspective they’re just competition, providing easy access to people who might otherwise turn to RPGs for their gaming fix.

The more I think about it, the less I see any significant parts of society at large that came out of RPGs and have particular value for me. I mean, except for RPGs and roleplayers and RPG authors and the RPG community, of course.

And then it clicked: “community” is the answer. Almost all of my enduring friendships have either originated in gaming, or have been strengthened by it. Of my many hobbies and interests, it’s the one activity that I eventually try to get all my friends to join me in. I might still have friends without roleplaying, but not nearly so many [the one downside of introversion]. And many fewer of my friendships would have endured as we went our separate ways without that shared interest that is easy to discuss even when we don’t play together. Plus, there’s long-distance gaming which, while not as good as being in the same room, is still pretty great.

Thanks, gamer-friends, for being my friends.

#RPGaDay2015: 30 – Who Needs Multiple Players When You Have Robin Williams?

My favorite RPG-playing celebrity is also the one I first found out was a roleplayer: Robin Williams. I remember rumors of his gamer status at least as far back as the mid-‘80s, along with a handful of other celebrities whom I have since forgotten.

I grew up with Mork & Mindy, and have been a huge fan of Robin Williams ever since. I think I’ve seen—and loved—everything he’s done (yes, even Popeye and The World According to Garp). And when I first heard about this was at the 2nd peak of his popularity (around the time of Dead Poet’s Society), so the idea that I had something in common with someone so inestimably cool was, well, cool!

He hasn’t, as far as I know, championed RPGs the way that some younger actors—most notably Vin Diesel—have, but I wasn’t looking for a spokesperson. I luckily grew up in a place where D&D wasn’t persecuted, just, at worst, misunderstood. We played at Boy Scout camp, we could play on the bus on a school trip with no one really caring, and we talked about it at school without anyone (teachers or students) interfering.

But I always imagined what it would be like having him run a game—imagine the manic creativity of Mork & Mindy combined with the emotional depths of Good Will Hunting. In writing this, I discovered that he participated in Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day 2006. Time to see if there’s any video of that.

#RPGaDay2015: 29 – Ars Ludi and Deeper in the Game

This’ll be a short one: there are only two RPG blogs I follow with any sort of regularity: Ars Ludi and Deeper in the Game. Both are a little more analytical/theoretical than other blogs I’ve tried, and regularly make me think. They’re the closest I’ve found to the sort of content I loved on back in the ‘90s.

There are many others over the years that I’ve read, but all the rest have fallen by the wayside—I just sort of stop reading them. I’ve recently been pointed at a few other sites, but haven’t gotten around to checking them out; maybe I’ll have a new favorite by this time next year.

#RPGaDay2015: 28 – Werewolf: the Apocalypse

I have a soft spot for D&D, dating specifically to the AD&D era. But I’m not sure it was ever my “favorite” so much as it was “the game we’re playing”. I had a ton of fun with AD&D, particularly AD&D2, I had perhaps even more fun in a long-running D&D3E campaign (though the rules were a constant source of frustration and annoyance). I still love the style of play that D&D engenders, and want to do it again, but I don’t particularly want to play the game that says Dungeons & Dragons on the cover any more. Certainly not BD&D, AD&D1/2, D&D3[.5]E, or D&D4E; maybe D&D5E (though I suspect once I’ve tried it out, I’ll quickly discover it’s not the game for me any more, either).

So, no, D&D may be a game I no longer play (though I’d like to), but I don’t think it was ever a favorite.

Now, there are several games that truly are my favorites, but which I haven’t played for years. But several of them are games that I still would play, and know people who still would play, so the only thing stopping me is a lack of time. I don’t think they qualify, either.

Probably the closest I can come to a game that legitimately qualifies as a favorite, but I strongly suspect I will never play again is Werewolf: the Apocalypse. Partly, it’s a badly misunderstood game—and White Wolf’s advertising didn’t help matters. Most gamers I’ve met who like the old World of Darkness games weren’t interested in a “hack-n-slash” game, and completely missed that W:tA isn’t about triumphant combat—it’s about tragic characters whose favorite tool is ultraviolence faced with situations that can’t be solved by violence, set against a backdrop of a crumbling world that they created precisely by their misguided applications of violence to attempt to fix it.

Even with the right sell, the number of people who want to play tragic shamanistic warriors with anger-management issues up against impossible odds is, apparently, pretty small, and the few who want to either are put off by the fact that they’re also werewolves, or are more interested in LARPing (at least IME).

Additionally, my mechanical tastes have changed. I still love the characters and setting of W:tA, but I’m no longer interested in chapters of martial arts maneuvers (unless I’m playing a martial arts game), and I either want a system with self-evident extrapolations from the basic mechanics to specific detailed rules, or a system where there are no detailed rules. The oWoD games unfortunately are riddled with almost-arbitrary implementations of the core die mechanic to get the specific “systems”, and the Gifts (and equivalent powers in most of the other games) are just about the textbook example of rules by exception.

On the flipside, I love the detailed setting, and part of what makes it what it is are all the nuances of the Gifts and the various tribal differences, and the wyrm taints, and so on. Converting it to another system while preserving most of that detail would be more trouble than it’s worth.

Finally, my current circle of gamers is generally not interested in games of this level of mechanical complexity, period, and most don’t have the time any more to read chapters of setting just to play in a world—much less to make characters. We generally prefer building our own settings or playing in genre pastiches, these days. Myself included. So despite the awesome times I had playing (well, running) it, and how much I absolutely love the setting and even the game as a whole (despite my misgivings about some of the details of the rules), I think maybe it is better left in the past. I fear that playing it now would tarnish my memories, rather than rekindling my love.