How About a Digital Gaming Revolution, Mr. Turnbull?

PAX is a conference for gamers of all kinds, and geek culture more broadly.

But you wouldn’t have guessed it from the length of the room-overflowing queue leading into the session “Boss Level: Meet the Brains in Charge of the Aussie Games Industry”. The most political session at the conference. Scott Ludlam’s presence on the panel is always a dead give-away.

There were plenty of questions about how to change the status quo, how to make games a more serious part of the Australian economy, how to get taken seriously. And it sounds there is slow progress, but still…

…I feel frustrated on behalf of the panelists when people as “Tell us what we should do?” or “Tell us how we can get meaningful change?” As if permission to act is required. When in reality the best thing everyone can do is to put their best argument in the ear of their local politician. Nothing motivates politicians better than mountains of individual arguments, because they betray a level of passion for the subject.

The dirty little secret of politics is that the less effort you have to take to make your voice heard (copy-paste campaigning, or signature gathering), the more of it you need to carry the same weight as a dozen well-crafted personal messages. Effort counts, not volume. Effort in lobbying translates to effort to get politicians elected (or challenged).

I’m not a citizen. So I don’t get to vote. But I still have an argument to put forward from some simple facts that were incredibly easy to gather from the prompts of several speakers. So here is my bit for the cause.

Globally, the movie industry is worth about $90 billion this year (and climbing).

Globally, the music industry is worth about $27 billion this year (and declining).

Globally, the video games industry is worth about $114 billion this year (and rising rapidly).

Malcolm Turnbull talks a good game in support of the digital economy. Labor has thrown their support behind this message. Getting support for the software industry should be a slam dunk.

And based on current trends, next year the video games industry is going to be larger than the movie and music industries worldwide.

And game development studios have a much more direct path to access the global economy; we already do well in Australia considering the general lack of support the industry gets.

But in light of the numbers above do the movie and music industries get generous support, whilst the games industry gets absolutely none? Success in the latter will be a much bigger factor for the success of the Australian digital media industry than either of the first two.

So…

Time to put money where the mouths are. How about extending some tax incentives into the industries of the future, and set Australia up to punch above its weight internationally?

Now, share this post with someone.

And then make contact with your local politician, and make your own argument why this matters for your career, your economic future, your passion. Because that’s how it is done.

Tony for a Little While Longer

Full disclosure first; my personal leaning according to The Political Compass economically lands slightly Left of centre, and socially very Libertarian. This is by way of explaining that although I have explicitly and specifically never been a fan of Tony Abbott, most Australian politicians are far too authoritarian for my tastes.

Despite all this, I’m neither pleased nor displeased with the outcome of the spill motion this morning. It seems clear to me that it’s far past the point-of-no-return for Tony’s eventual implosion. Everything between now and then is just political manoeuvring at one scale or another.

Tony appears to have serious impulse-control problems, and that continues to be his greatest liability. No matter how chastised he feels, and how much he intends to do better so as not to lose the leadership, he’ll remain just one low-blood-sugar moment away from falling over his own tongue.

By contrast, Malcolm Turnbull is doing a great impression of a Zen master. Almost every move carefully weighed and considered; no more action or admission than strictly necessary. He is doing a great job of making his intent clear without explicitly cornering himself by overt admissions.

I know to many Australians, they are both Liberals and therefore equally bad, but there is a fundamental qualitative difference between a carefully rational politician with an ability to change his mind, and a one trick pony that has figured out which lever to pull for a pellet.

And let’s not forget that calling Labor “left” and Liberal “right” is a bit of a joke anyway. A quick look at the Political Compass for the 2013 elections (or really, the political spectrum for almost every western democracy) will show that the majority parties sit squeezed in a very tight corner to the Authoritarian Right of the compass. As much as we can tell ourselves that a lot hinges on whether Labor or Liberal wins, the reality is that the real-world outcomes are only marginally different between the two once they are in power.

Not that I have a stake in this anyway; I am merely a permanent resident, and as such I am not entitled to vote.

Which is just as well, because I wouldn’t know who to vote for anyway.

My Love/Hate for Bill Maher and his Show

I have a love/hate relationship with Real Time with Bill Maher.
(full episodes freely available on HBO and iTunes)

There is much to love; often he has a great combination of people on his panel from both sides of the political aisle, he doesn’t shy away from topics if they are difficult, and often the serious part (with jokes) at the end of his “New Rules” segment closing the show is incredibly well written and brings interesting or clear perspectives to hot-button topics.

For example, on over-arming the police:

Gun rights in America:

Religion and Atheism:

And terrorism/warfare:

And yet… he also annoys the hell out of me more than occasionally. When it comes to science and reason he is a big fan; as long as they unequivocally agree with his perspective. But sometimes when he talks about chemical additives, he gets a little trigger-happy when a guest is trying to make a nuanced argument. Science is sometimes nuanced; sometimes you might be right, but the evidence isn’t in yet… and until the evidence is in, it isn’t science… sorry. Sometimes the evidence might contradict you, and that is tough to swallow, but you cannot sit on a high horse on climate change the one moment, and then be a disbeliever when it turns out that not all chemistry is evil. In for a penny…

The other theme that makes me cringe is when he paints every Republican with the same broad brush. He likes to talk about how he respects serious Republicans, but for some mysterious reason the ones he gets on his show are never those. It reminds me of the West Wing episode where a moderate Republican makes a point (to Josh from memory): if you don’t work with moderates, only radicals will be electable.

I’m as left-leaning as they come… but if you cannot have a respectful disagreement with someone who holds a principled view not your own without yelling at them, I can with 99% accuracy tell you who the radical in the conversation is. Hint: it’s not the person you are yelling at.

That is not what bothered me most in the most recent episode of his show though.

He had a predominantly left-wing panel, with Carly Fiorina the only Republican. She clearly was too careful for this episode. Possibly presidential ambitions have something to do with that. And I know very little about her principled beliefs, so maybe she chose her silence wisely.

One thing I wish she had jumped on more forcefully though was the purposeless sexism at the table at one stage. When presidential candidates came up, Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren were mentioned on the Democratic side, and it somehow segued into a tasteless joke about a double ticket and Bill asking Salman Rushdie “What Happens in your Fantasies?” to which he thankfully said nothing.

She somewhat timidly tried to make the point that she was the only woman around the table trying to point out the obvious, but it seemed that nobody got her hint. I have also noticed that women panelists on his show are much more prone to being talked over than their male counterparts. And political macho-culture is no excuse here, these are not weak or timid women that just allow it to happen. They just get ignored.

This is a popular show.
Predominantly about politics.
Women are in politics.
Sexism is a real problem.

And bad taste is just bad taste. It wasn’t even anywhere near a clever joke.

And then towards the end of the show when Jay Leno decided to hug him and tell Bill everyone loves him… clearly longer than Bill was comfortable with (Bad Jay! No Consent!)… he snapped back with a “Get Off me Homo”… which is not the first time he’s used a slur like that either.

I am conflicted.

I dislike the way he comports himself on a show that is otherwise an interesting exchange of frequently well-informed perspectives. I dislike that when there is so little good political debate available he makes it so hard for me to watch his show without feeling dirty afterwards. But as he says; it is his show, and he doesn’t have to listen if he doesn’t want to.

Most of the time it is no worse than other panel shows.
But when it goes wrong,…
…every once in a while…
…it makes me want to curl in on myself.

I’ll probably keep watching like an addict looking for his next hit… but I will keep a hot shower and a stiff drink on stand-by.

Day 348 – Economic Reflections

18 – 100 top tips for tough times

As I am writing this post I’m watching House of Cards; I don’t know if this is going to improve or devolve the tone of my post. Let’s find out together, shall we?

There seems a certain inevitability to the unfolding of the Abbott Government. I wish there weren’t. I wish I would have been proven wrong.

Sadly, rhetoric wins over substance and vision.

And Abbott has proven his steady hand on the tiller once the earplugs are in, with the Northern Star of an imagined budgetary crisis spotted on the horizon. Steady as she goes.
Continue reading Day 348 – Economic Reflections

Day 310 – Scientific Method

56 – 100 Greatest Discoveries

Science is hard.

And I don’t just mean as a discipline, but communicating about science is possibly even harder and a task scientists are sadly rarely well-equipped for. It is great having the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye available as standard-bearers, because we need all the clear communicators we can get.

What is particularly insidious is the way modern politics and the media interact with each other, and the resulting “fair-and-balanced” rhetoric that requires that for every argument on one side, someone has to be given an opportunity to speak for the other side.

Some things are just not balanced.
Sometimes when you put the sum-total of all the facts on the scales, one side tips further. Much further.
Continue reading Day 310 – Scientific Method

Day 43 – Jaymes Diaz

I forgot to take a snapshot myself; I didn’t think to until I was already in the car driving on to work from my morning coffee stop.

The thing is; at the same time Mr. Jaymes Diaz wasn’t showing up for his Greenway Election Forum this morning, there was a flesh-and-blood person outside my coffee haunt in Stanhope Gardens bearing more than a casual resemblance to Mr. Diaz (Hint: it was Jaymes Diaz).

I didn’t find out about his forum no-show until I was at work, but I guess after his worldwide-publicised gaffe earlier this month, he decided that chatting one-on-one with the occasional passer-by that was prepared to stop was actually a safer way to spend the morning than standing in front of a questioning audience in Blacktown.

Funny that.