On backseat gaming and interactive media

I watch a lot of content from TotalBiscuit and he often complains about “backseat gaming” in the Twitch chat or on the sub-reddit. I don’t really think the term applies for interactive media. If we had no interaction, if people couldn’t give instructions to the person that’s doing something for the audience it would be the same as TV. People have to realize that if you don’t want to be interacted with, don’t stream/record.

One thing is being given instructions you don’t want to hear, another thing is being given instructions by someone who isn’t really part of the activity. If you wash your car you’re not doing it for the by-standers so some random guy has no “right” to pester you. If you’re working at a carwash you’ll just have to put up with people pestering you.

It seems like people want to have their cake and eat it too – have the engagement benefit and low investment of home-produced, interactive, online content, yet feel offended that people give them instructions. I absolutely get that it’s fucking annoying but it comes with the territory. You can’t expect people to only tell you what you want to hear.

The discussions have always been there, be it among friends, colleagues and so on. Even though actors, directors etc. could learn something they usually don’t read reviews or even watch their own stuff because it makes them too self-aware, so I suspect with streaming/Youtube you’re just too close to the discussion for almost any human to handle. It might be that streaming as we know it just isn’t viable for the people on camera in the long run unless they build a wall around themselves. Maybe only some of them will handle it and the rest will have lower viewership.

In the end I guess it’s an issue of phrasing. The person behind the content can’t expect the consumers not to discuss or voice their opinions about it, what they can do is set-up filters to protect their sanity. With TB, he uses sub-only chat which helps with that but the next step in his business is hiring a publicist to filter most lines of communication. For example during the podcast he could have moderators send him info about the technical stuff and maybe relevant topics while not reading chat himself. If you explain it correctly it will sound less hostile than shitting on Twitch chat or the subreddit in general 🙂


Not a witch, bait and switch!

Here I go again, writing a Youtube comment to the new video by MrBtongue and ending up with a blog post.


While I agree that magic shouldn’t be completely predictable I hate it when any sort of plot hooks, sci-fi doodads and supernatural elements are overused to suddenly change to story. It’s like with a good detective story, you need to show the audience the truth, at least in some form, while hiding it just well enough to confuse us. Perfect examples are the Usual Suspects and Twelve Monkeys.


I haven’t read Game of Thrones but it seems really cheap in this aspect, he just makes up magic or creates characters whenever he needs them, making me care less because there is no finality, the plot can change at any point just because of new characters.


Concerning the popularity of magic and sci-fi, it’s mostly because publishers don’t want to risk original IPs. It’s easy to sell a shitty sci-fi flick with no resemblance to the source material if you market it to the fandom of the source. And to be frank almost all fantasy films I’ve seen are mediocre at best.


Probably the only good, traditional fantasy I’ve seen is Solomon Kane, other than that it’s fables (for example Pan’s Labyrinth, Hero, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) or comedies (Princess Bride, Stardust, Hansel & Gretel, Mummy). With sci-fi films it’s often the case of slapping some poorly thought-out elements on a mundane story (Divergent, Next, Avatar, Host, Source Code) or TV shows drawing us with an interesting premise and then completely failing to deliver anything but a soap opera (Falling Skies, Revolution, Outcasts, Terra Nova, 100, Continuum, Defiance, Defying Gravity).


In all honesty, sometimes I wish fantasy and sci-fi wasn’t so popular among the publishers, that way we could avoid having lunatics like Jar Jar Abrams devour our childhood memories of old sci-fi, turn hardcore source material into PG-13 pop culture piece or bastardize the source material in general, as it’s been for example with P.K. Dick’s works. Let’s hope it’s just a phase…

The Hunt for Pixels and Frames

I’ve been following the “next gen” debate for quite some time so in light of the prevailing resolution/FPS issues mentioned in a recent TB’s video I ended up writing something suitable for this blog.


Regarding framerate and input lag, not all people react to framerate the same way, it’s a about habits. For example progamers can get used to playing with bad ping, the problem is when they train with good ping and then have to play with high ping, vice versa, or the ping is inconsistent. Or a progamer who gets used to playing at 120FPS with a 120Hz monitor will have problems playing in tournaments on regular 60Hz monitors.


There also is the other side of input lag and that’s badly coded games. For example in Skyrim mouse look and aim speed are constant on the horizontal axis but the vertical axis speed depends on the framerate – next to a wall you camera goes flying up and down but when a dragon attacks you have trouble lifting your bow up fast enough. Some games would completely slow down depending on the framerate, for example Saint’s Row The Third went into Matrix mode at night on my old laptop because of low framerate.


Given the prevalence of 60Hz monitors it does make sense to aim for 60FPS as more simply wouldn’t be visible, other than that who would say no to more options? Various pre-sets should be available even on consoles, that’s pretty much a given. What happened with the new consoles is that some of the new games can’t even hit 30FPS at 1080p which is absolutely silly considering the image distortion during downscaling on LCDs and the fact that regular TVs have smaller resolution than some mobile devices – the pixel density on a TV is already extremely low, let alone having to run in lower than 1080p.


I’m a proud member of the PC Gaming Master Race so why am I commenting on this? For some time I felt a bit insulted by TB’s approach of “if it’s under 60FPS I don’t want to play it”, mainly as someone having to content himself with a mainstream laptop. I Remember taking a leap of faith to buy Guild Wars 2, starting it on a 5 years old laptop and being ecstatic how smooth it ran despite the 20FPS. But getting back to consoles I can tell you it’s not the hardware that’s slowing them down, it’s the optimisation and even the simple things like tweaking the graphics options.


The AMD APU has 8 computing threads running at much lower frequency (1,8GHz) while to this day most games run better at overclocked Intel CPUs with 2 or 4 cores – multi-threading optimisation is the first order of business. The GPU should be fast enough so it’s up to the developers to combine better efficiency (especially with the new OS consoles are using), better drivers, Mantle support and optimisation of individual games – god knows big publishers spend more than enough to make sure their games run well.


Right now we could write this off as growing pains of a new console generation, just look at the difference between Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, both developed for the PS3, it’s astonishing. Needless to say, if you’re selling new hardware with more than three times the computing power people expect the resolution and FPS to go up, not down.

On Internet Speeds and Data Caps

As a first post I’d like to share my thoughts on an editorial from Super Bunnyhop (one of my favourite Youtube personalities):


The video is more like an introduction because it touches on too many different issues. The costs in Europe aren’t that low, you have to consider ping, throttling, reliability and so on. I’d say you can get a decent service for around 20 dollars but a lot of these deals are only for new customers while old customers are stuck with more expensive, slower plans and have to argue with the ISP to get a better deal.

To offer some perspective from a long time UPC customer (the Czech Republic):

New customers can get a 120/12Mbps connection for 42 USD per month (32 if signed for 12 months ahead) while old customers have 120/10Mbps connection for 50 USD. Or new customers can get 40/4Mbps for 32 USD (22 if you sign 12 months ahead) while old have 60/6Mbps for 32 USD.

While we rarely have any caps we do have FUPs (Fair User Policy) which often allow the ISP to throttle the connection if they think you’re transferring too much data. In general I’m actually absolutely for soft caps (not hard caps, mind you). Now more than ever we need the access to internet services with lower overhead costs but tiered additional cost for power users. You have a household of four power users? Don’t expect to pay the same amount as a household of one light user.

Please, start thinking about what you download, what you watch and how often. Sure the price needs to be more adequate than 10 dollars per 50 GB but this could be a good thing too because it should evolve into possible tiers for extreme power users like big Youtube personalities. The soft cap isn’t the villain here, it’s the market share and political pull ISPs like Comcast have, it’s the size of America and how worse the availability of ISPs and therefore the competition is than in Europe.

Are there no alternatives in your area? Then you have a huge market opportunity right there. You could look into the cost of setting up a similar internet service exactly where you live and then get actual information whether someone could put Comcast out of business. Also the difference between America and Europe is largely due to minimum and average wage, cost of living and general value of money. That’s why as a European I don’t like it when American online based businesses complain about their costs.

Either way, an interesting video (as always, Super Bunnyhop does great editorials), just don’t forget to consider the broader implications.