Gen-Z Sleeper Agents - March 2023
It’s been a somewhat uneventful couple of weeks of mundane daily routine.
Or: What everyone else is talking about in gaming.
A lot of people in my circles played the Diablo IV Open Beta, despite some initial launch problems. Not surprisingly, reviews are generally good. Pretty much anything with the name Diablo is going to be successful, no matter how many people gripe about it. I played it for a half hour, it crashed twice, then I uninstalled it. It’s good at what it does, but I don’t really like Diablo-style games that much anymore.
The Resident Evil 4 Remake launched to great reviews. Starting with 4, however, the term “remake” seems less relevant to that series. I haven’t gotten it yet.
Timed perfectly with the end of the HBO show, the The Last of Us Part I “remake” (which is a dubious label for something that, on the surface, looks fundamentally the same as the remastered version) launched on PC, where it was previously only available on PS5. It’s likely called a “remake” in this instance because of the internal, hidden work required to port it to a newer cross-platform game engine. I’ve already played and recorded it so I don’t really need to get it. Except it wasn’t a great recording, and it might be fun to play through it on hard difficulty.
E3 2023 was cancelled for lack of interest from vendors. Video games are officially dead. (Actually, video games are a huge business, and have outgrown these dinky cons.)
I’m continuing to limp slowly through the Resident Evil 3 Remake, but I’ve lost a lot of enthusiasm for playing this series. These Resident Evil remakes are good games and quite fun, but I’ve been in this game world for months now, burnout has set in, and I’m struggling to make it to the finish line. Each successive game has quite a lot of the same elements from the first game redone over and over. Even Resident Evil 7 was quite similar to the first game in many ways.
My PS5 has been turned off for a long time. But I struck upon a revolutionary idea (for me), and that was to drag my PS5 over to the bed so I can play some low-intensity games while I’m lying down.
And thus, I can exclusively reveal that I’ve restarted a new game of Ghost of Tsushima. Previously, I only played a handful of hours, and never did any of the main story missions. Now I’m sticking closer to the main story, but I’ve only completed a handful of “Tales” so far.
I also worked out that I can actually record videos of PS5 gameplay with commentary while lying comfortably in bed. The height of luxury. Hard to find a wireless headset or earbuds with a good microphone, but it’s not exactly intended to submit to The Academy for consideration. It’s just so I can remember what I thought of the game 10 years from now without the chore of writing a blog post or replaying it.
Unfortunately, it’s still a massive pain to move videos from a PS5 to a PC. And it hurts my left thumb to use a controller, so it’s really slow going. Ghost of Tsushima is the kind of game that could take me a full year to get through at the pace I have to play it to maintain any grip strength in my left hand. (Still waiting for that thumb-free game controller.)
Just finishing uploading Resident Evil 7 videos with mostly unattended scripts.
After several months recording Resident Evil 0, 1, 2, and 3 videos and painstakingly editing and rendering some of them with Davinci Resolve, it suddenly dawned on me that they aren’t very good and I don’t want to upload them, so I probably won’t. I might also have been influenced by the fact that there was a dip in interest in my Resident Evil 7 videos on YouTube. I think the lesson I learned there was that playing a scary game but not acting scared isn’t very interesting for an audience. To be honest, every game of Resident Evil turns out the same way, so there aren’t any surprises if you’ve already played it. Also, recordings of Stadia games make for garbage video quality.
I had an idea to make a video visualization showing the evolution of these blog posts over the weeks, so, with the assistance of ChatGPT, who patiently explained to me which command-line tools to install to monitor a directory and convert Markdown files to images, I wired up some scripts and applications and automation on my MacBook that will essentially take a screenshot of the full length of this document every time I save it, and then wrote another script to combine that series of screenshots into an animated GIF.
Sorry to readers on mobile. Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool. I can’t wait to do that for the next blog post, starting from an empty page.
Critical Role changed things up by splitting the party and inviting in some guest players. It hasn’t been as good since C3E51. Watching Critical Role campaign 3 is less like watching friends play D&D and more like watching a live writing room. The majority of the time, the writing process is quite boring to watch.
Finished Nineteen Eighty-Four. Doubleplusgood, one might say. With all the rampant information and language warfare we see every day on social media, it seems like a good candidate for replacing that Once And Future King nonsense as required school reading.
Still watching Richard Osman’s House of Games. There are a ton of them.
I continue to work at a company under siege by “activist investors,” who demand profitability not just today, not just yesterday, but before time itself began.
As I’ve just merged into a new team, I’m settling into a new routine and learning new things every day from co-workers and various company-provided training sources, though still not entirely sure what I’m supposed to work on. In the meantime, I invented my own project out of thin air. Organizational priorties are as yet unclear, so everything’s in maintenance mode.
I’m surrounded now by not just a few teammates twenty to thirty years younger than me, but a bunch of teammates twenty to thirty years younger than me, most of whom live in San Francisco (3,000 miles away from me) and gather in a very large, luxuriously-furnished office building of the kind I’ve never been inside before.
Because, like most of the tech industry, my company, too, is starting to more insistently nudge employees to return to the office. Luckily I was hired as and still classified a remote worker, and there is no office within a hundred miles for me to go to, even if I wanted to.
I don’t know this, but I imagine my remote status puts me “on the bubble,” as it were. News of tech industry layoffs are practically a weekly event these days. I believe there were some 900 more layoffs at my own company the day that I’m writing this.
My company is also pelting engineers with passively-aggressive demands to “increase productivity” and “do more with less,” leaving the consequences of failure to comply unspoken, and leaving the younger generations of workers terrified and uncertain. Developer “productivity” is measured with the usual b.s. measurements that anyone who has ever played a video game finds easy to game. It’s not lines of code, but it’s an equally fruitless attempt to reduce all the complexities of knowledge work down to a single numerical measurement that can be plotted on a graph over time. All you have to do is figure out which graphs that management looks at, and reverse engineer how the numbers are derived, something that I’m keen to do, because I wouldn’t mind remaining employed for at least a few more years, and this job I’m in right now is as good as it gets for a software developer.
Everyone in the world is talking about AI right now, and I too have many thoughts about it, ranging the gamut from “this is quite silly” to “this is the most useful thing since sliced bread.”
AI isn’t that great at writing blog posts, but it’s good enough for most business needs. Writers will find it dreadful, but people who aren’t interested in writing (or reading), which is at least 90% of the world population, but still need to write something sometimes, will find it very useful.
I’m finding AI extremely useful for synthesizing large amounts of information into small summaries, and in this way I’ve been using it to learn the key points of a lot of new-to-me software development concepts in a very short time. “Give me the highlights of everything that’s new in the Java language since 2005.” “What is Hasura and what would I use it for?” “Give me an example of GraphQL query.” Things like that. It’s a lot faster than trying to find training or videos or articles. For software developers, AI assistance is very quickly going to become as ubiquitous as Intellisense.
Health and Wellness
This isn’t really about health or wellness, except in the sense that “Health and Wellness” is just a ephamism for “Everyday Life Stuff.” I would put this in a category called “dumb things I did because I’m not very good at the simplest aspects of everyday life maintenance.” The county stopped by one day and took their trash can back (my recent U.K. quiz show experience has taught me this is called a “wheelie bin”), because it turns out I haven’t paid my utility bill in quite some time, because it’s one of the only things in my life right now that isn’t paid automatically. Trash collection falls under utilities in my county, the only county utility that I pay monthly, since I have my own well and septic. (All my other utilities are paid to private companies, not the government.) This is the second time this has happened to me, despite my swearing to myself to pay closer attention and make sure I paid this one bill that’s such a chore for me to pay.
In semi-related news, my car inspection is almost a full year overdue now. This is a new record for me.
Or, what’s going on in the world.
- In the AI Wars, ChatGPT-4 was announced, and Google Bard was announced. Businesses are jumping on the AI bandwagon as fast as they can, like it’s that year when every television commercial suddenly had a web site address in it.
- From the World War 3 Watch Party, the U.S. accused Russia of destroying their drone, the first Ukraine-related incident (publicized, at least) I can recall of direct military conflict between the U.S. and Russia. Poland sent a few jets to Ukraine, the first time NATO delivered warplanes to Ukraine since the war started. The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Vladamir Putin for war crimes. China’s Xi Jinping met with Russia’s Putin in Moscow. The U.S. launched retaliatory strikes against Russian ally Iran in Syria. Russia arrested U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich. All of these things sound like fairly signifant escalations of World War 3 in a short time to me, and I can’t think of any way to make that funny. Borgonzola! It’s a funny-sounding word.
- The CDC reported that maternal mortality rates (that is, mothers dying in childbirth) are still rising in the U.S., angering Republicans, who thought they said infant mortality instead of maternal mortality.
- The ratio of Trump-to-everything-else in headlines increased dramatically again as speculation ran rampant of a potential arrest in connection with hush money payments. As per usual with these sorts of things, nothing actually happened except furious bursts of hate-tweeting from the usual rabble rousers, at least until right before press time, when Trump was, in fact, indicted.
- Banks continue to struggle in the wake of the highly-publicized Silicon Valley Bank collapse. Meanwhile The Fed raised interest rates again, which was a significant factor in the previous bank failures. Lots to look forward to there.
- Congress is grandstanding about banning TikTok again, one of the very rare things in the U.S. that enjoys bipartisan support, so it angered no one except dancing Gen-Z sleeper agents. (Incidentally, if the U.S. actually manages to enact a general ban on TikTok, something that seems technologically impossible to me, it will follow in the footsteps of India, Pakistan, and, amusingly, the Taliban in Afghanistan.)
- Ongoing for months, protests continue in Israel over limiting judicial powers, continuing the fashionable trend of just chucking democracy in the bin around the world. I mean, who thought it was a good idea to give the people power over their government, anyway? So 18th century.
- The “Synthesis Report” of the Sixth IPCC report on climate change was released, the sixth straight such report that everyone is just going to ignore unless it helps election fundraising.
- A mass shooting in Tennessee was unusual only for providing both sides something to yell about incessantly on Twitter, instead of just one. Because there just wasn’t enough to yell about.
- Celebrity Deaths: Lance Reddick.
P.S. I’m using more BBC links now, mainly because there’s no paywall.
P.P.S. I’ve started thinking of these blogs posts more like newsletters than blog posts. Welcome back to olden times. All I need is desktop publishing software, a dot-matrix printer, and a local Kinko’s Copy store. I was going to write a separate blog post about this, and I still might, but I’ve determined that this is the new template for blogging that is absolutely awful for SEO, but will distinguish and elevate a human writer above the general din of the upcoming glut of AI-generated blogs.
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