In All Things, Give Thanks
In my family, there are 2 types of prayers that will be offered before our Thanksgiving meal: a fifteen minute sermon encompassing every possible aspect of the word ‘thankful’ given by the intensely religious amongst us, and a thinly veiled repackaging of “thanks for the food before us eat,” given by everyone else. I’m not a religious person in the least, but the few times I’ve been chosen to lead the prayer (through memory lapse or spite I have yet to determine,) mine tend toward the sermon side.
For those of you who know me personally this should be no surprise, I love giving lengthy speeches, and am very rarely afforded the opportunity to do so; a combination that can lead to fatal consequences for the— often quite literally— captive audience.
I also take it as a personal mission to draw attention to the people and things we often forget to thank in our annual paeans to life, because I am that much of self-righteous bastard, which gives me plenty to talk about. Nevertheless, when Adam approached us with the idea of Schmeditorializing our thanks for the bounty of awesome that is Videogamedom, I knew what I had to do. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is a list of the underappreciated, unknown and unloved, without which our favorite pastime as we know it would not exist.
This is one of the toughest jobs in the industry, and also routinely the last thing on everyone’s mind when galavanting through galaxies or mowing down hordes of humanoids. It’s easy to appreciate beautiful visuals; perhaps because having “great graphics” has always been a major touchstone in the community, we tend to put a big emphasis on design. If a game looks great, you can bet your ass it’s going to get noticed and commented on. Conversely, outside of music, a game could present the most spectacular soundscape known to modern man and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the community who would notice, much less comment on it. Which is a damn travesty, because realistic sound design is every bit as vital as realistic graphics when it comes to immersion; programmers can pour all of the state-of-the-art technology they want into making a river look and flow like the genuine thing, but all that would amount to shit if the sound sample was a recording of the toilet.
Next time you load up a game, take a minute to soak up the sounds, I think you’ll find a lot to appreciate.
For serious. I know we all eagerly anticipate the day our devices will simply charge from the ether without ever having to plug them into a socket ever again, but let’s give credit for what we have in the here and now, which is not having to use fucking batteries. (Unless you’re the 360 controller.) Gone are the days where you’d have to purchase a 50 pack of fucking double As that would last you for maybe a month and a half, tops, before you run out and then forget to grab more at the store for a straight week (at least.) That’s assuming it’s possible to actually remember where you put the batteries you *do* have when you need one, which seems impossible for even the most organized among us. Damnable things… for all the drawbacks chargers have, anyone who believes our lives aren’t ten million times better off because of them needs to be committed to a mental institution, stat.
These are the men and women whose job it is to compile all possible statistics on all possible players for a given sports game, and then slave over endless excel sheets and figure out a way to convert those stats into actual gameplay mechanics. Oh, and then fans and actual players alike will yell at them because they believe a certain stat rating is off by .2%. This job is tedious and thankless, but it’s absolutely necessary. Without Roster Men, the entire sports game industry would crumble faster than the Tower of Babel. (It’s the only reference I could think of at the time, fuck off.) It’s time we show these poor souls the respect they deserve, at least until next August when they manage to fuck over our favorite player THREE TIMES NOW YOU HEARTLESS BASTARDS.
In videogame parlance, Middleware are the game engines that run physics (like Havok), rendering 2D or 3D graphics, animation, AI, sound, networking, streaming et cetera. They provide the groundwork most game developers find boring and tedious, or for a better analogy, they provide the shovels and pickaxes that allow others to go mine for precious ores. (I’ve been playing way too much EVE lately.) I think its safe to say most of us have a cursory familiarity with names like SpeedTree (used for tree effects in Skyrim), but few of us outside the industry have a good grasp on the sheer scope this section spans: We’ve covered development, which is expansive in and of itself, but there is also monetization software (helping developers make money out of online and mobile games,) analytics (on player bases,) marketing and distribution, security, and optimization problems that middleware companies all tackle. With a burgeoning mobile market middleware has become more important than ever, as many mobile development studios don’t have the manpower or knowhow to build a source engine from scratch, relying on companies like Unity Technologies to provide the means they can then use to make an end with. It is an absolutely integral part of the industry that most of us remain blithely unaware of.
This is without a doubt the most thankless job in the whole fucking technology industry. Their job is complex, requires working bizarre hours on a normal day, to be on call pretty much 24 hours for emergencies, and to take all the blame for those emergencies. When they do their job well, no one fucking cares; when they make a careless mistake, they have the rage of the entire company/nerd-community/country to contend with.
It just goes to show how vital their job is, if servers are down, nothing gets done. Many videogame server technicians have their own unique problems to deal with: how to handle the massive influx of people trying to log-on when a new, highly anticipated online game is released, what to do with all of the useless servers they are left with when the hype inevitably dies down, when is the best time to kick everyone out of the game to perform routine maintenance (complicated further for games with international players like WoW and LoL,) the list can go on. It takes a thick fucking pair (of balls or boobs) to deal with the shit they put up with on a constant basis; if anyone/thing on this list deserves your respect, it is most certainly these folks. Hats off, Server Techs. We will continue to hate you when you fuck up, but be content in knowing that it doesn’t fucking matter because no matter how mad we get, we will always need you around.
In Memoriam. I specifically included “unloved” as a category just so I can put joysticks on this list. Why have you abandoned us, oh greatest of phallus-shaped entertainment devices??! No, the joystick did not abandon us, we abandoned the joystick, and I think that is without question the worst decision gamerkind has ever made. I have serious doubts about bringing a child into a world where they cannot know the sheer joy of X-Wing vs TIE Fighter or Tachyon. What happened here?
PC gaming didn’t die, in fact it is probably stronger now than ever, so where are my non training-specific flight sims? And fuck, our internet doesn’t suck like it did back in the 90’s! How much of a blast would multiplayer be now! I went through three pairs of pants just thinking about it. Whoever the fuck has Lucasarts right now could easily make $80 trillion dollars alone by announcing X-Wing vs TIE Fighter 2016 or what have you, and then they could use that profit to send a joystick to every person in the world just so game developers wouldn’t have the excuse “we don’t want to develop for a peripheral no one owns anymore.” Hell, it doesn’t even have to be just for the PC, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be difficult to develop a wireless joystick to work on the PS4 or XBox One consoles. Everybody deserves to get in on the spacefaring love. Please! I’m begging you! Just let me shoot lasers at things in space again the way it was meant to be: like squeezing a fat cock.
On a more personal note, and I think more in the vein of what Adam was originally intending, video games have always had the power to connect me with some wonderful people throughout my life; this past year especially. Through being involved with the Schmamers community, I’ve gotten to reconnect with old friends I had lost contact with after highschool, like Adam, Corey and Eric, or have gotten to better know old acquaintances whom I now consider friends, like Paul, and my life is absolutely the better for it. Let’s not forget the countless new friends I’ve been introduced to on the Facebook page, a community that always manages to surprise me with their insight and wit. I’m very proud and thankful for all of you.
Now go gorge yourselves with food.