Why I Use Facebook

I don’t like Facebook. There are a number of reasons for this. Here are some of them…

  • Every single day, Facebook forgets the sort preference I set for my timeline. I want to see posts in chronological order, newest first. Facebook wants me to see posts in whatever batshit insane order their algorithm comes up with.
  • I used to use Facebook quite a lot as a form of link storage. If I found something interesting, I’d post it on Facebook—partly to share it, but mostly so I could go back and find it again later. Not only has Facebook made finding these things stupid hard, I now have much better tools for doing this.
  • I’m not a fan of Facebook’s policies. This should surprise no one, since Facebook is a corporation and corporations aren’t known for having policies I like. To be honest, though, I don’t find any of their policies too outrageous. Although that’s probably because I can’t be arsed to be outraged very often.

The biggest reason I don’t like Facebook, though, is what it does to people. Or, rather, what people tend to become on that site.

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Imagine you’re standing on the sidewalk next to a busy road on a hot day. Everyone’s got their windows down and everyone is playing their favorite songs at ear-splitting volume. The cars go by, you get pummeled with short snippets of sound, but the brevity of each individual signal turns the whole thing into a symphony of noise.

And every so often the drivers start screaming at each other to turn their shit down, sometimes become so intent on hearing their music above all others that they devolve into creatures which only vaguely resemble the friends you know.

To be clear, I’m not talking about anonymous strangers here. I’m talking about real people, many of whom I’ve sat down to dinner with. People you could easily have a face-to-face conversation with about pretty much anything, and while passionate disagreement might ensue, none of them would start throwing things and smashing windows. Rather, we’d argue, laugh, and pop open another bottle or whatever.

Facebook brings out the absolute worst in people, even while they’re sharing images and articles about what it means to be compassionate human beings.

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At least that’s my perspective. So, I stopped using Facebook to keep my friends up-to-date on what I’m doing, or to learn what’s going on in their lives. Instead, I use email, the phone, text messages, or—don’t freak out—actual face-to-face communication.

So what do I use Facebook for?

Art. More or less.

Way back in January of 2014 I started turning my Facebook profile into a trolling shitshow, and I’ve been completely honest and upfront about it since the beginning. I regularly post disclaimers—usually with a link to my blog or Twitter account—and explain that if people want to interact with actual me, they should look to other avenues.

On Facebook, I’m a complete barking lunatic who will spout alien/human hybrid conspiracies one minute and decry anti-scientific thinking the next. I have publicly called out President Obama for not taking a stand against necrophilia, then promoted a watch which is designed to help people’s fingers find the g-spot.

And in any one of these posts I’ve created, I will argue beyond all reason, straight into the realm of lunatic gibberish, that my position is the only correct one. I’ve done this taking positions I actually agree with, but just as often I’ll argue positions I personally believe are totally crazy.

Boy, oh boy has that made my Timeline interesting.

See, I believe—in my own, adorably-optimistic way—that art is one of the few things which can slice right past people’s filters, especially if they’re a part of it. And, like it or not, trolling can be art.

obamaWhen people jump into one of my threads, it’s usually for a one-off quip. Agreement, disagreement, whichever.

But sometimes these threads turn into terrible and beautiful messes filled with passionate insanity—half a dozen or more voices all shouting and foaming at the mouth. And, more often than you’d think, a little bit of wisdom can be found.

That’s people in a nutshell, more or less. We’re all horrifically disturbed, broken, and batshit lunatics trying to make sense of an increasingly senseless world composed of both instant, planet-wide communication and a profound feeling of isolation.

And once in a while, we manage to make a little sense.

Gaming Drama

The Internet’s been an interesting place for gamers these last few weeks. Things have happened, people are screaming at each other, and if sound waves could travel through the vacuum of space any interstellar neighbors we might have would have called the cops by now.

I’ve been loathe to write, say, or post anything at all about the ongoing shouting matches for a couple of reasons:

  1. I play video games, swear at them, and make videos because it keeps my blood pressure down. Sometimes I’m funny, sometimes I’m informative, but mostly I’m just a fat guy who likes drinking coffee and landing head shots. So what do I know?
  2. Whenever a debate accumulates “sides” this quickly, it’s a safe bet that any real discussion is going to be drowned in an ocean of troll sweat and the most rational thing one can do is leave the room before your shoes get wet.

Unfortunately, I’m not exactly known for keeping my mouth shut, particularly when the media charged with providing the public with “news” degenerates into a click-baiting, money-grubbing, sensationalist shit-house—which is most of the time, to be sure—so, let me explain a few things, in convenient sub-heading/graf form.

There is a Lack of Ethics in the Gaming Press

Regardless of your opinion of the people involved in the most recent shitstorm, the gaming media needs a serious dose of ethics.

We, as consumers of gaming media, need to demand that gaming-centric news outlets hold themselves to the well-established standards of traditional journalism. We also need to support the creation of independent watch dog groups to police the gaming media for ethics violations.

The lack of ethics in games “journalism” is real, isn’t anything new, and is a problem which goes well beyond any specific individuals or outlets. In fact, it’s so pervasive that arguing about individual cases is likely to hurt our chances of addressing the bigger picture—which might explain why the gaming media is so intent on writing about personalities right now.

If You Are Generalizing About Gamers, You’re Probably Full of Shit

According to the most recent studies, 59 percent of Americans play video games, 71 percent of American gamers are over the age of 18, and 48 percent are female. And let’s not forget that the United States isn’t the only country in the world, m’kay? Log on to Dota 2 sometime if you don’t believe me.

What’s this mean? Well, it means that if you think gamers are a bunch of American, teenaged boys picking Cheeto dust out of their navals in between mean Tweets to media personalities, you’re just flat out wrong.

Gaming has become so mainstream that beyond “gamers play games,” any generalizations you read or hear are at best ill-informed and at worst deliberate attempts to sabotage actual discussion.

Don’t Attack the Moderates

You can’t logic with someone who is spouting hateful obscenities or threatening violence. Just report them, block them, and move on. That said, there are actually a few people out there who are worth listening to, even if—dare I say, especially if—you disagree with them.

I know, I know! When you’ve got your legs wrapped firmly around your opinion, your arm in the air, it’s hard to let go before the full eight seconds are up. Trust me, though, the last thing a shitstorm like this needs is for the level-headed to leave the room.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my shoes are getting damp.

Competitive Hearthstone, Poker, and RNG

I’ve heard some recent grumblings about the true viability of Hearthstone as a competitive game. And by “competitive game” I mean an esport which can be played professionally. The now-typical argument against Hearthstone as an esport goes something like this…

Hearthstone’s extreme reliance on randomness makes it nearly impossible to assess whether a player in a pro game won through superior ability or dumb luck.”

Now, whether or not you agree with this view wholesale, if you’ve played Hearthstone you should be able to at least see where it comes from. Hearthstone is a game with a lot of randomness, which not only manifests in what cards you draw but also in how the abilities of certain cards behave.

Randomness is a big part of Hearthstone, and no one really seems to be arguing that point. What people do seem to be arguing, though, is whether or not that randomness makes Hearthstone ill-suited to professional, competitive play—and said people are more often than not pointing to professional poker to make their case.

This is where people lose me, because Hearthstone and poker are so completely different from one another that comparing them is like comparing albinos and flux capacitors.

As but just one example…

Professional poker is generally played with your standard, 52-card deck. If someone were to draw a random card from such a deck, you can predict the odds of certain cards surfacing. For instance, there are 12 face cards, so they would have a 12 in 52 chance of getting one.

That’s about 23% for those of you don’t dig fractions.

Now let’s say you fire up Hearthstone and find yourself playing against a Priest. Assuming that player goes first, what are the odds that he or she will play a minion on turn one?

You literally have no way of knowing this information.

You don’t know which cards the player has in his or her collection, which of those cards made their way into the deck your opponent is using, or whether he or she would hold back a playable turn-one minion in favor of some other strategy.

The situation for your own deck is a little better, naturally, and assuming you built a deck with a sane mana curve—and which doesn’t rely too-heavily on specific combinations. However, there’s still very little you can do if you come up dry the first two turns and your opponent’s luck runs the other way.

And that’s just talking about card draw. Again, in Hearthstone, the individual cards often have random effects. “Multi-Shot” is a Hunter card which deals 3 damage to two random enemy minions. “Deadly Shot” is another Hunter card. It destroys one random enemy minion.

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

While poker in all it’s competitive forms contains an element of randomness, that randomness is relatively constrained, well-understood, and has been mathematically accounted for in pretty much every established poker system. The random element in Hearthstone, however, is all over the place, changes from deck to deck, and is nigh-on impossible to account for in any meaningful way.

So, regardless of whether or not you believe Hearthstone‘s use of randomness makes it unsuitable for professional play, you should probably stop with the poker comparisons.

Vacation Post-Mortem

It’s about 8:00 AM on the last day of my (this year, our) annual vacation. My daughter and I have spent the week at my friend Shawn’s place, playing games, geeking out, and generally just being happy to be away from all the stress and bullshit that comes from living in the real world.

The week’s been filled with games of Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, Eldritch Horror, and air hockey. We’ve played marathon sessions of Dota 2, 7 Days to Die, StarCraft 2, and Skyrim. We watched Doctor Who, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I exposed my friend to True Detective.

There was plenty of group fun to go around, plenty of time for each of us to do our own things when we felt like it, and the whole vacation was made so much better by the fact that I was able to bring my daughter this year.

We’re both sad to see this awesome week come to an end, but we’re also looking forward to going home.

Long vacations are always like that. By the end of them, you need a vacation from the vacation. And despite how great this week’s been, it’s no exception.

So, in a few hours, we’ll start packing up. I’ll bag all our dirty clothes, break down the computers, and start hauling all kinds of things to the car. Tomorrow, we’ll be back to the normal grind of appointments, errands, and work. The week after? My daughter goes back to school, and I’m sure we’ll both be looking forward to next year’s getaway.