Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Madden Etiquette

I have been playing Madden football video games since Madden 96 on the Sega Genesis. Back then, you had to go to someone's house if you wanted to play a game against someone. Today, you can simply fire up the Playstation, request an online match, and get underway.

Online play has never been a selling point for me, personally. I want to play franchise mode, and go through a season, not have a superiority contest based on one matchup. When Madden 13 launched, I gathered some friends and put together a league. This gave me the opportunity to play through continuos seasons, and test myself against others with regularity.
With Madden 25, we upgraded to PS4 systems, and have just completed our first season play through on Madden 15. We have had as few as five user teams, and as many as fourteen during the three years of our league's existence, finishing six total seasons all together.

Through the course of being the commissioner of the league, I have found a number of etiquette preferences that I believe all players should consider. Without much else to do today, I decided to list them out for your reading enjoyment, and, hopefully, your edification as a Madden player.

1. Don't do anything in rage.

Rage quitting is the first thing that comes to mind, which may occur in a randomized matchup. In a league, however, where you know the other guy and have to communicate with them regularly, it tends to play out differently.
One example is a game I played in which I became frustrated with the other player, as well as with the game in general. I had fumbled the ball three times in the course of two and half quarters, which made me feel I couldn't do anything to win. In response, I began calling goal-line offense with a run up the middle, and initiated a hurry up after every play to just do it again. Wouldn't you know it, this led to fumble number four, and my starting RB getting injured for four weeks.
On defense, I did the same thing, running a goal-line set with an all out blitz, defending against runs up the middle. This made it less fun for the other guy, who knew I was letting my emotions get the better of me.
Other examples are sending accusatory messages to your opponent, cussing them out over party chat, purposefully drawing penalties, and so on. The point: don't be a baby.

2. You have a punter for a reason. Kick on fourth downs.

This is one of the reasons I was upset with the other player in the above example. He never kicks or punts, in any matchup we've played. Some people feel they have to keep the ball moving on fourth down, and won't settle for a punt. It's like a turnover in their eyes. They may also forgo field goals, because they want more than a three point lead.
When you do this, you are not trusting your defense, and ending the simulation quality of the game. There is a time to go for it on fourth down, but on fourth and five in a 0-0 game during the first quarter… that is not the time.

3. Two point conversions are not for every touchdown.

Some players do this to try and force their opponent to keep up with them. It's just plain silly, and no one does it in the NFL. As stated above, you have a kicker for a reason, and it is for the PAT, among other things.

4. Don't restart to create a better result in your game.

This applies to point one about rage-quitting, but also goes deeper. In an online league, your coach and players earn XP through performances and awards, as well as wins. I know a guy who will restart his game, not only if he is losing, but if he is winning and the other team starts to come back, racking up passing yards and ending the defensive shutout. Or, he will try to get more passing yards for his QB to break a record, or more TDs for his receiver.
If you are playing by yourself in an offline league, this is okay to do, because you are the only one it effects. When you do this in a league of other users, it is a way to create an unfair advantage by padding stats, records, and wins, in order to get your player rated better than your opponents. This would be akin to stealing defensive signals, or deflating game balls. Congratulations, you are the Patriots of your Madden league.

5. No team amasses seven first round picks.

This also applies to a league setting. Some guys are addicted to the GM aspect of the game and want to trade every player in an attempt to stockpile draft picks. This can become annoying. My personal opinion is you should cut it off at three first round picks, and twelve picks overall in the entire seven rounds.

6. Exploits are a no-no.

In game, I refer to them as spam plays. Those passes and runs you call that always get you the first down. Four verticals with the TE running a double move slant over the middle. You know which plays I'm talking about. This isn't Remember the Titans. You can't run just six plays, or at least, you shouldn't. You see this a lot with the guys who go for it on fourth downs. They have these two or three plays that almost guarantee a five to ten yard pickup every time.
There are other exploits too. For example, in Madden 15, you can trade three low level WRs or CBs, as long as they are young, for any player in the game. Any. Player. This is incredibly flawed. Don't do it.

7. Every superstar on your team? Not likely.

It doesn't make sense that the Panthers would trade Luke Kuechly to you for a 82 overall, rookie corner. However, offer the right package, and you might get him. This could be a result of the aforementioned exploits, or, you may have found their actual price.
I've seen guys do this before, kind of the opposite of people who go after all of the draft picks. In reality, the salary cap would never allow you to grab all of these players, but in Madden, there is always a way. Actually, in my league, the only guys who have won a Super Bowl are the ones that buy cheaper players that fit their scheme and game-plan, rather than the guys with the highest ratings. I've overspent on high rated players before, only to find they don't work out where I have them.
The real issue, however, is that these players should be spread about the league, not all on your team. The CPU teams need to remain competitive, but they can't if you strip them of their best players.

8. Play your game in a timely fashion.

There is nothing worse than waiting on that last guy in the league to play his game, especially when you see he's playing Destiny every night. If you don't want to play, drop out of the league. A season shouldn't take as long as an actual NFL season. For everyone else, pay attention to number nine.

9. Don't hound everyone to play their games.

Just because you have nothing better to do doesn't mean everyone else is sitting at home waiting for the league to advance. Find a hobby, start an offline league, or play a different game (I recommend Dragon Age and Destiny).
Life will happen, with either illnesses, work, vacation, or anything else, and you don't always know who is dealing with what. Be nice, and most people will get to their games as quickly as they can.

10. Be a good loser.

Nothing cheeses me off more than to beat someone else and have them tell you it's because the game gave you an unfair advantage. When a player fumbles you feel powerless to stop it, and it's easy to blame the game. Same with dropped passes. The truth is the game is making these things happen, but it does it based on a number of variables. Things like your carrying or catch in traffic stats. Your hit power stats. Your bracing tendencies in that player's traits list.
So you can control these things by adding XP to these players in these categories. And maybe that is what your opponent did, which is why their 75 overall middle linebacker was able to hit your 86 overall running back, and pop the ball from their hands. He has the big hitter trait, while you only have the brace vs some trait. Madden didn't cheat you, the other guy was rewarded for his hard work and strategy.
Even if you find yourself in a situation like I did, four fumbles in a single game, you can't blame the game. The truth is, three of those were sacks, and my QB had a carrying of 56 overall. If I had prevented the sacks, it wouldn't have happened. Compliment the victor, and say, "good game." It's the right thing to do.

I hope you have enjoyed this list. Please understand, these are my personal thoughts, and you shouldn't feel bad about doing things a little differently. However, if you are in a competitive league with other people, take this as a reminder that they are real people on the other side of the controller, not a CPU who doesn't feel or have opinions. If you respect the league, you'll probably be fine.

Now, for your enjoyment, here is the second half highlight video from my league's latest Super Bowl. It was me as the Chargers vs the Rams. Enjoy.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Wise in your own eyes

 Proverbs 26:12
Do you see a person wise in their own eyes?
    There is more hope for a fool than for them.
Isaiah 5:21
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
    and clever in their own sight.
Proverbs 12:15
The way of fools seems right to them,
    but the wise listen to advice.

In the age of social media, these versus come to my mind a lot. Everyone wants to weigh in on the next trend, news headline, etc. Whenever I want to write a serious blog post (such as this one) I can't help but think, "Why should anyone care what I have to say? Am I just trying to show people I'm smart and deserve a thumbs up on the Facebook?"

It's not just a question of whether or not you think you're wise, but as it says in Isaiah, do you believe you're clever? I can't help but think of all the satire we expose ourselves to. All the charicatures and straw men we create to ridicule complex belief systems we disagree with like they are obvious right and wrong decisions.

And when we choose to support a thought process, or click that like button, is it because we truly learned something? Or is it that someone said something we already agreed with internally? Perhaps it's that they said something in a way we wish we had. This isn't, "listening to advice," as Proverbs 12 suggests, but is an extension of our perceived wisdom and cleverness. We put our stamp of approval to show everyone else that we are just as smart as that blog post, one-liner, or cartoon bubble. We all want to be advised to do as we feel, because it justifies us to ourselves.

James 3:1 suggests that we should not strive to be the one everyone looks to for the answer. What we say and do directs many, and often when wearing the mantle of teacher, we try to assume a level of authority. We tell it how it is, declare the facts, and ask others to conform. Only a perfect person can never have fault in their words, so the more we teach, the more likely it is we will lead someone the wrong way. But the trend today is to be the answer guy. The thoughtful and intelligent ones, with a firm grasp on how the world works (or ought to), which we obtained through living (often for only a short period of time), rather than through study or dedication to a theology, or dogma, etc.

There are a number of truly intelligent people with worth while messages, but who chose to share their message through a format designed to make them look smarter, rather than truly convince the nay-sayer of their fault. A good example of this is Matt Walsh, who currently writes a blog for The Blaze. I agree with a number of Matt's opinions, such as the protection of personal liberties, and that abortion is wrong.
Whenever I read something Matt has written, I find it to be hateful towards those who may disagree with his/my beliefs. He sets up his beliefs as common sense, that only the truly depraved and evil person could possibly be firmly opposed to. Or perhaps the opposition comes from the idiotic sheep who are too stupid to see they are being deceived by these depraved and evil leaders. I don't see how calling someone evil or idiotic will convince them to come to your side.
But this is something people like John Stewart or Stephen Colbert do as well. They set up their beliefs as common wisdom, which anyone should be able to see. I tend to think Matt Walsh is responding to these types of characters in modern media, to fight fire with fire.

As a Christian, I feel as though we are called to rise above that. We are not looking for the world's approval, but we are also not looking to alienate it. We are not trying to show the world just how wise we are, but, instead, show the world just how much we are dependent on Jesus for true wisdom. That we strive after His ways, not our own. That we don't take stock in our inner thoughts, due to our fickle hearts and minds. To show them that we need to take captive every thought that presents itself against the knowledge of Christ, and live by faith.

My recommendation is to read the Bible. Find others who do as well. Look for people who depend on Christ for their wisdom, and seek out their advice. Don't look to stroke your own ego by gaining the approval of man, or finding those whom agree with you in all you say and do. Don't look to those who spit on venom on their enemies (who ought to be those they are trying to save). Learn true wisdom, as defined in James 3:13-18.
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year Writing Strategy

I don't want to call it a resolution, but January is a great time to start a new writing campaign. It's not just that I want to write more in 2015 (though I do), it's that I want to complete the novel.

Previously I have looked to NaNoWriMo to do the bulk, but this has left me with half finished novels despite winning at the event. After this past November was a flop, I decided I needed to try and step it up. This is what I came up with.

If I were to write 5k words a week, I would end up writing 260k words in one year. That's a lot. But I don't need 260k, and I'd like to have the first draft done sooner. So I got to thinking, if I wrote 5k a week for three weeks a month, I would reach 90k in six months. With the fourth week of each month, I would edit the previous three weeks work, making sure the story still fits together, as well as planning for the next month of writing. If I want to break 100k, I could add additional words on specific months as stretch goals.

If I kept to this strategy, I could finish a first draft in six months.

So that's the strategy. Not a resolution. Best of luck to you this year with your own strategies.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Don't Rick Roll, Doobie Bomb

A buddy at work has begun a new game. When no one's looking, he will pull up this YouTube video of the Doobie Brothers song, What a Fool Believes. Once his victim realizes what has happened, he tells them, "you've just been Doobie Bombed!"

How fun is that.

Over time, we've tried to get more creative. I sent him a serious work email that was supposed to link to a training site, but, instead, Doobie Bomb.
Then he changed my Pandora station to a Doobie Brothers station, and my computer's background to match the photo from the video. Doobie Bombed.

The Rick Roll is dying out. People need a new, fun way to aggravate their friends. Why not a Doobie Bomb?

Friday, December 19, 2014

My Trouble with A Song of Ice and Fire

I briefly touched on this in my December update post, but I find I'm struggling to shake my displeasure with this element of the Song of Ice and Fire book series.

I have watched all of the available seasons of HBO's Game of Thrones (based on the book series), but only just started reading the books written by George R.R. Martin. I had been told the books were very good, and incredibly written. So far, I have found that the first book of the series is an excellently penned fantasy tale, though I'm only around 150 pages into the story. My issue with Martin's book is not his ability to write, on the contrary, there are some things I felt he wrote too well.

The show is very graphic, with plenty of blood and sex, so I expected for it to be persistent in the book (though HBO would add sex to a nursery rhyme if they could). I certainly don't mind a tastefully written love scene, or even a racier account of a one night stand, so long as it reveals something about your characters, or flows with a plot point in the story. I am not upset that Martin has sexually graphic depictions in his book. What I do have trouble with is who he depicts these scenes with.

Enter Daenerys Targaryen, one of the major characters in the story. When we meet her in the books and TV show, she is being bathed by servants to be presented as a bride to a chieftain warlord. Her demented brother fondles her breasts, and makes innuendo about what she will need to do for this warlord to please him. He suggests he would be okay with the warlords entire army raping her if it gets him what he wants in the end.
In her next scene, she is getting married to this warlord, and it culminates with him taking her for their first night together. When I read these scenes, I became very uncomfortable. Martin describes for the reader everything about Daenerys; the shape of her breasts, the feel of her skin, and the wetness of her vagina as she guides her new husband to use his fingers on her.
The thing that ultimately unnerved me about this scene is something I did not learn from watching the show, but from reading the book. Daenerys Targaryen is only thirteen years old.

When my gut wrenched from this reading, my pseudo-intellegnece kicked in, and I thought to myself, "this sort of thing was surely common in mid-evil time periods such as this one," but that is a justification fabricated in my mind. The truth of the matter is this is not a historic account. It is a make believe fantasy realm, completely invented by George R.R. Martin, and he is not eluding to things being done to a thirteen year old girl, he is describing it in graphic detail.

I have always believed it is the writers job to get you to picture what is happening. It is why they use such descriptive prose. I struggle to understand how Martin could justify this to himself when he put it to pen and paper. He had to first imagine what this thirteen year old girl would look like, how her skin would feel, and how she would respond to a sexual encounter with a man twice her age. Furthermore, how does he justify putting that sexualization of a young teenager into the minds of his readers? He is painting them a picture of child pornography.
Fantasy books promise to take you into an imaginary world, full of magic and wonder. Many also promise to show you a darker side of living, and A Song of Ice and Fire certainly shows you that there are very few heroes and everyone is flawed. The book could easily have indicated that a thirteen year old girl was betrothed against her will (which is what happens) and made the bride of this warlord, and is then obligated to perform her wifely duties with him (which she does). Other books have done this very thing, without graphically describing the situations this young girl finds herself in.

Martin imagined a world where it is okay to have sex with thirteen year old girls, wrote about it graphically, and then marketed it as artistic expression, profiting from the sales in the process. Why would anyone feel comfortable doing this? I find it telling that HBO has not mentioned the ages of a number of the characters depicted, making them seem (at minimum) seventeen or eighteen years old. Characters that do not have their age trumpeted on the TV screen are commonly listed as thirteen, fourteen, or fifteen in the book, and later have some form of sexual encounter. The amount of time that passes between when the story starts and when they have this encounter is unclear to me, though the show makes it seem like a year or two, at best. Regardless, it is very clear in the book just how old Daenerys is when she marries.

As a society (in America), the marriage of a thirteen year old would be illegal, and the consummation requiring prison time for the perpetrator (or husband). As I mentioned earlier, I know this is something that has occurred in other time periods, or other cultures, but that argument is invalid as a justification for an American born fantasy writer to put this on paper. This is not an account of an existing culture. If it where, the stylization would be distasteful at best. This is not an historic account, and again, if it where, the stylization is the problem. Martin can write about any sexually depraved culture he wants to imagine. Where we run into an issue is the graphic descriptions. He paints a picture for his readers of a thirteen year old in an act of sex with graphic detail. End of story.

The TV show has also revealed that Daenerys will sleep with him again soon, though I don't know if this is the show taking liberty, or if it follows what Martin has actually written. As much as I would like to find out if he continues on with this theme of underage sex, I'm having difficulty continuing to read. I've tried, but haven't gotten far, as I can't help but feel disgusted when I look at the book. So I looked into some blogs, and it does seem to be a theme throughout the series.

I know some people may feel I'm overreacting, but I can find no reason to sexualize a thirteen year old girl, regardless if she is real or imagined. You cannot tell me it is okay to visualize what is written in the book simply because it's fantasy (try to consider the concept of sex with a thirteen year old as fantasy), or because similar things have happened in actual history.

Okay, the dead horse has been thoroughly beaten. I'm done driving this home. I'd like to say I understand if it doesn't bother you, but I can't. I'm sorry.

Friday, December 12, 2014

December Update

November was rough. I spent half the month traveling for work, the other half ill, and the two halves overlapping some. I had hoped to use the travel time and hotel evenings in strange cities as an opportunity to work on my NaNoWriMo project, but that proved more difficult than I assumed it would be.
These are not excuses, but the result is I did not complete my 50k word project. In fact, I don't think I hit 10k.

But that's okay. You win some and you lose some, and this time I lost. But not really. I did do more writing than I had in months, and reignited some of my desires to complete a novel. I worked off some rust by writing some really bad crap, and writing some stuff I was pleased with.
The goal now is to move on from this yearly contest as my motivation to sit and write, and to get into the habit of putting up words every week. It's time to graduate to writing regularly, rather than annually. I'm uncertain how that's going to look for me, but I have no shortage of writing projects to work on right now.

Of course, I have other things to overcome in this goal. Dragon Age Inquisition came out last month, and I am deep in my first play through. They say a play through averages around 70 hours, but can take up to 100. I'm already 45 in, and dreaming about the next play through. maybe I'll post a review after to keep the blog busy. Spoiler for that post, it's Game of the Year.
I'm also playing Elder Scrolls Online, which is a fun game. Got it with a great Black Friday deal, over half off. If you are looking for an MMO to move on to because you're tired of WoW, I recommend this one.

Games and writing aren't the only thing on the docket. I got some great reading done over the past few months, and finally started the Game of Thrones books. I'm not sure how I feel about them yet, as I'm still early in the first book, but was a bit turned off by a graphic sexual encounter involving a thirteen year old girl. When you watch the show they don't mention ages, so you imagine these characters as 18, 19, or older. I plan to continue through, and hope for less of that.

Don't forget, it's December, which means lots to do at work, and Christmas plans to take care of. I've also accepted a position as an Elder at my church, which will require more commitment on that front.

Even with everything I have on my plate, I am excited to see what I can accomplish. It occurred to me yesterday that I need to make sure I don't focus on what I'm going to do, or how I'm going to succeed. Instead, I need to trust the Holy Spirit, and let God direct me to the right projects at the right times. Through Him, I can do all things.

That's my update. Gotta go, lots to do.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Righteous Indignation

It seems to me many people like to spout indignation towards what they feel are plights on society. They become angry, because someone has done them wrong, or because someone's actions are not right, or because everyone around them doesn't know the correct way to live, behave, or speak.

We praise righteous indignation in our society. How many movies have you seen in which someone tells off someone else for how they have been treating them? Treating someone else? Or just behaving in a way that made someone uncomfortable? When we see someone standing up and speaking for someone else, we feel it is right for them to do so. And we love it when this is directed at other individuals who have oppressed us, or who have disagreed with our ideals. People who have put us out, made us uncomfortable, or interrupted our flow. People who have done life wrong.

There are many varying levels, but it's still the same. We are indignant towards those who do not drive well enough for us to be comfortable near them. We are indignant towards those who treat retail employees poorly, or who don't leave tips in restaurants. More seriously, we wish ill will towards those who would bully others, we demand justice be poured out on those who disregarded others due to the color of their skin, or rail against those who may threaten our personal freedoms.

We do this because we believe it is right. Then we define it as righteous indignation.

My only question is this: where do you get your sense of rightness?

If I divine rightness from my heart, gut, or feelings, then surely my righteousness is as fickle as I am. How can man be the source of righteousness? Perhaps I take it from laws. Just because something is written does not make it right, and the problem with law is it applies to us just as much as it does those we would wield it against. We often forget this. I could get my righteousness from a religion, much like the pharisees did, though this is just another form of law. A set of standards I cannot possibly match up against.

If your righteousness is fickle, cold, and ever changing, how can it truly be right? If it is not peppered with mercy and love, it is simply indignation. It is anger at humanity, and hatred toward our inability to be perfect. You are as indignant with yourself than you are with anyone else.

My righteousness comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the only righteousness I can trust, as I did not earn it, live up to it, or create it in myself. The humility in knowing that has lead me to this conclusion: indignation is not for me to have. Justice is the Lord's, not mine.

I implore you, whether you chose to believe in Jesus or not, be careful how you direct indignation. You are not above it, and for everything you hold against others, there is something they may hold against you, as they will judge you to the same level you judge them.

Instead, find a way to love those that anger you. Bless those that war against you. Do not slander them, or guess at their motives. The surest way to defeat an enemy is to make them a friend, and only then will they be open to your teaching.