Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 22:21 on 14-01-2016, Arthur B
If I admit that he will always be Hans Gruber to me I'll be showing my age, won't I?
at 20:36 on 14-01-2016, Robinson L
Word on the internet is that Alan Rickman - best known in my family as Dr. Lazarus/Alexander Dane from Galaxy Quest, and to the rest of the world as Severus Snape from the Harry Potter films - has died. Sad news, even when he was in works unworthy of his talent (Harry Potter, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie) he managed to elevate the material and turn in an engagingly entertaining performance.
at 16:42 on 13-01-2016, Ichneumon
Slightly orthogonal to this, but attempting to finish Undertale in two days (and ultimately failing to do so) utterly devastated my already awful sleep cycle and has... ultimately flipped it around so that I am awake during the day again. How very odd.

I think that there are studies to the effect that gaming, television, and other backlit screen activities tend to be antithetical to the kind of mindset most people need for healthy sleep, but that really doesn't change the fact that having some knowledge and involvement in such interests makes it far easier to say when things need to be put down in the first place. To whit, giving some leeway now and then can reinforce a mutual understanding regarding things like healthy sleep schedules.

Or such is my entirely secondhand experience in the matter. I am well-aware that I am nowhere near stable or mature enough at this juncture to handle having a child, let alone one anything like me, even if observation has given me some ideas about how I might be able to survive the ordeal.
at 21:58 on 12-01-2016, Shim
Some bias comes from proximity, sure, but I don't think it's necessarily wrong that that is the case

@Arthur: I didn't really intend to suggest it was a problem, sorry for any ambiguity. I was just thinking about possible causes and explanations. "My neighbours will be ticked off, social harmony will decrease and I may experience uncomfortable interactions" isn't a bad reason for caring more about potentially disrupting an adult friend's game versus some stranger in another country.
at 15:29 on 12-01-2016, Janne Kirjasniemi
Perhaps it is a sign that I would be a bad parent but my instinctive response to "I just need to finish this one thing" at bedtime would be "Well, you should have started it earlier then".

No, that sounds about right. But of course some parents, maybe even a substantial part, might well be clueless for a number of reasons. But parents who are gamers will of course realize what's what. And hopefully impart manners to their children for gaming and other online related activities as well. I don't play that much anymore myself, but I'm lookoing forward to playing with my children, when they get older. The older is quite good at Mario Kart and it adds a new mode to the game, guarding and helping another driver to finish as high as possible, which is pretty interesting. Having to snipe the other karts and push them off the road.
at 11:39 on 12-01-2016, Arthur B
I think it's possible to overestimate the cluelessness of parents in this case, coming as many of us do from a generation whose parents generally didn't know much about videogames. A lot of people I know who are parents of young children are in their 30s or 40s, and are of a generation who are entirely comfortable with games.

Perhaps it is a sign that I would be a bad parent but my instinctive response to "I just need to finish this one thing" at bedtime would be "Well, you should have started it earlier then".

@Shim: Some bias comes from proximity, sure, but I don't think it's necessarily wrong that that is the case. It is true enough that obnoxious behaviour online is still hurtful and you should still treat people like human beings even if you only know them as words on a screen. At the same time, it's eminently easier to block a specific individual acting like a dick online, whereas if someone lives in the same house from you then their bad habits are going to have a correspondingly greater effect on you simply because you can't get away from them.

(Obviously, it is possible for randoms on the internet to do great harm - see what happened with Gamergate. But Gamergate did the damage it did primarily through the sheer quantity of people undertaking the harassment campaign. One person yelling insults at you online is eminently blockable; a hundred is a true pain. And the more alarming bits happened when some people shifted from distant online name calling to direct, credible threats of violence - which, of course, involves taking things to a radically closer proximity.)

That being the case, I don't think it's wrong, irrational, or even a problem to put doing right by the people you actually live with ahead of doing right by comparative strangers you only know through an online game, and part of doing right by the people you're living with involves abiding by the house rules.
at 08:50 on 12-01-2016, Janne Kirjasniemi
Perhaps what is needed in general is parents to get involved and clear rules set out for the kids. Games are no doubt a foreign thing for many parents and thus less serious than a game of football or other such social games, which are more of a known quantity. But things which are more familiar to people still have set rules. Games and sports are played in the evenings or during the day, not in the middle of the night, so even if people from around the world might play, local time must be a factor. But I'm sure that things will start to work out when gaming continues its steady progress towards being a perfectly common thing. Perhaps game companies and groups could even encourage this by tying to involve the parents and setting up games with rules taking into account the needs of growing children. Might be a good marketing opportunity and an opportunity to hook up some more people to these games.

In Arthur's thought examples, I would think that parents would be well advised to keep themselves in someway appraised of the games played. Even a four year old will try the old plot that they will "just finish this one thing", even if the thing will go on for hours and they will lie happily to achieve that goal. Which is a perfectly normal thing to do, but one has to stay sharp as a counter-measure.
at 23:19 on 11-01-2016, Shim
I tend to agree with Janne, having much the same experience, and pretty good anecdotal-experimental evidence that maintaining good sleep patterns keeps me brain under control. Which makes me tremendous fun at parties.

The annoying thing is that, like most of these things, it's super easy to ignore what you know to be sensible and stay up all night reading the internet.

Coming back to the article, I feel like online games are in a funny place. Most parents will interrupt what kids are doing to enforce [important thing X] Time, including stopping them playing with their friends, or reading, or making them come home. Friends is probably the closest analogy because it's the only one where you're affecting third parties. But if a child has agreed to play a game of football just before tea, my observation is that football generally loses out.

I'd suggest that there's several things going on. One is that parents prioritise, and Fun Stuff is generally low priority. I'm also confident that many people do see computer games as less real and therefore less important.

Also, proximity is a well-attested point of bias. When you stop a child's online game, you're affecting people you've never met and never will, probably far away; psychologically you care much less about them. If it were a game with other local kids, it would most likely seem more important. If it were a game with adults the parent knew, it would seem more important again - adults are higher status, we tend to subconsciously care more about them, and we're more likely to feel bad about ruining their scarce leisure time. Plus we're more likely to be bothered if they're ticked off at us.

The other thing is that LoL is a quite weird thing, in that it's a leisure activity requiring a group of people for a set (but variable) amount of time. Most leisure activities can be stopped at any point, and either are solo or it doesn't make a huge difference if someone drops out. I suspect maybe it's rare enough that nobody's really comfortable dealing with that situation?
at 22:48 on 11-01-2016, Janne Kirjasniemi
On gaming and bedtimes. A child needs it sleep, even if the child is a teenager. Sleep deprivation is linked to learning difficulties and even disabilities, which may limit the child's opportunities in their adulthood. There is robust empirical evidence for this (and I have personal experience of sleep deprivation triggering depression and anxiety in an adult, so good habits in taking care of sleeping will stay valuable). So, a parent that does not take care of their child's need for sleep is neglecting their duties as a parent in providing for their future and this I think, is a bigger concern in this issue than anything else.

Of course how this rest period is enforced can be done in a good or poor way and all sorts of other issues should be taken into account between parent and child, including clear rules for gaming.

And I don't want to sound too strict, since enforcing bedtime rules is pretty simple(a war of attrition mostly) in the case of a four year-old and I just might drop the ball entirely in ten years time, if the kid stays as stubborn as she is now, but the goal and responsibilities of the parent are still pretty straightforward, enough to override most other considerations.
at 22:34 on 11-01-2016, Arthur B
Blackstar the album reminds me in parts of a sort of better-polished and more interesting take on Outside, if Outside had been recorded in a parallel universe where Bowie and Eno weren't trying so hard to ride the Nine Inch Nails bandwagon.

Eno mentioned today that he and Bowie had been trading ideas for about a year on how to revisit Outside and I kind of hope Eno tackles the project despite this, ah, minor setback. If anyone can delve into hundreds of hours of experimental recordings and extract true gold from them, it's Eno.
at 22:30 on 11-01-2016, Arthur B
Then it sounds like LoL could do with some more robust matching protocols.
at 21:42 on 11-01-2016, Orion
it could be that LoL doesn't allow you to be choosy about who you play with but simply teams you up with utter randoms...

inconvenience some random strangers and cause a mild dip in their game statistics
The analogy to an MMO raid is misleading you, because a raid is a "PvE" exercise, but League of Legends is strictly PVP.

In League of Legends, you can choose your teammates, but you can't choose your opponents, and you are dependent on both if you want to have a good time. It's not about winning or losing. If I'm 20 minutes in to a tense match, having an enemy quit is as frustrating as losing an ally.
at 21:01 on 11-01-2016, Ichneumon
(Incidentally, it would make sense if you want to fit it into the narrative of confronting death, given that Walker's work is very much about that, particularly on The Drift or any of his recent albums which the track most clearly draws upon, although his whole solo career had a strong morbid introspective streak from the outset. Bowie was apparently also listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar Death Grips when he was recording the album, which... I don't know what that says, other than that the man had good musical taste.)
at 20:46 on 11-01-2016, Ichneumon
Hope you're doing well wherever's next, David.

"Blackstar" is very Scott Walker-y, to the point that I would almost call it an outright pastiche of Walker's style in Bowie's terms. I have, however, not heard the rest of the album, so I will reserve judgement, but even with that said, I love Walker and Bowie, so one riffing on the other is actually kind of boss.
at 15:32 on 11-01-2016, Arthur B
Video for Lazarus suggests transcendental ascension from hospital bed misery to freedom to walk into the darkness on one's own terms.

Video for Blackstar is a Thomas Ligotti nightmare of twitching ritual, darkness, chaos, harvesting the shadow at the bottom of the world from the feet of spasming scarecrows.

Either works for me.
at 14:08 on 11-01-2016, Janne Kirjasniemi
Ever review of the album mentioned his comebacks, reinventions and rebirths. I guess it was his last great redefinition. So very Bowie-like to leave with a goodbye like that. I hope he has a pleasant journey, wherever we all finally go.
at 11:10 on 11-01-2016, Arthur B
I shit you not, when I heard the new album Friday evening I did wonder whether it was Bowie's way of telling us he was dying. In retrospect the lyrics (and the associated music videos) couldn't be clearer.
at 10:52 on 11-01-2016, Arthur B
You can break this down two ways, depending on how trusted the child is by their parents.

If the child is not trusted to do online stuff without parental supervision, then this isn't really an issue; the kid shouldn't be on there in the first place without supervision, and whoever's supervising them will quickly get a handle on how long games take and say "Oh no you don't" if the child starts looking for a new game 15 minutes before bedtime. The issue of pulling the child out mid-game won't come up once the parent has learned how long games tend to take, so the open letter is irrelevant.

If the child is trusted to play online games unsupervised, but still has an enforced bedtime, then I don't think it's reasonable to expect the parent to take the context of those online games into account when enforcing bedtime; if they haven't been hovering over the kid's shoulder, they can't be expected to know how long games tend to take and so on, and it's unfair to expect them to keep such tabs on their kid's online activities if they've already decided that they can trust their child to do stuff online unsupervised. (That would kind of completely undercut the meaning of the term "unsupervised".) It's also entirely reasonable to expect a child who has reached that level of responsibility to keep track of time themselves and not start stuff they shouldn't finish. They might be subject to in-game backlash for dropping out, but if a kid is old enough to be allowed to go play with strangers unsupervised they're old enough to deal with a bit of social fallout when they screw those strangers over.

It's important to teach kids to see through their commitments, of course. But it's equally important to teach kids not to make promises that they can't actually keep.

From the perspective of other players, I think having partners leave you in the lurch is going to be the inevitable price you end up paying for choosing to play with utter randoms. If you don't want people to drop out on you mid-game, then only play with people that you (or people whose opinion you trust) have some confidence will not pull out midgame. You sacrifice the experience of playing with a wide variety of people but gain a more consistent game experience; for some people, that's a sensible choice, for others the balance of their preferences will go the other way and they'll accept the irritation as a reasonable price to pay for being a bit more gregarious.

Of course, it could be that LoL doesn't allow you to be choosy about who you play with but simply teams you up with utter randoms... in which case that strikes me as a major design flaw in LoL. I've discussed this on Facebook with people who are more into this than I am and at least one has pointed out that in DotA (which I understand is a similar sort of game) people who keep dropping out of games are likely to get flagged and shunted into the "you're gaming with the other flakes unless and until you get better" list, which seems to be a fair enough way to solve the problem.

The goal of promoting good habits in a game's player base is a good one, of course. But I don't think telling parents to suspend their house rules for the sake of a videogame is remotely appropriate, and that's really what I consider to be the objectionable part of a letter. Encouraging your kids not to start games they know they can't finish? Fine, onboard with that 100%. Letting your kids stay up past bedtime so as not to inconvenience some random strangers and cause a mild dip in their game statistics, however, kind of assumes that everyone else sets as high a priority on LoL stats as the hardcore players do, which is an opinion which doesn't survive exposure to reality.
at 09:04 on 11-01-2016, Daniel F
League of Legends is not precisely an RTS... but it's close enough for the comparison to work. Comparing it to pulling out of a raid in an MMO is better, though it's not entirely the same. Most MMOs that I've played have ways to find new players so you can finish raids: you can call other friends, or use an automated tool, so subs are available. That's not possible in LoL. So while dropping out of a raid in, say, World of Warcraft mildly inconveniences people for a few minutes, dropping out of a LoL game can potentially ruin a 30-45 minute game for four other people. (Probably not the full nine: the opposing team might be pretty happy!)

On the one hand it seems reasonable to say that, in most cases, when someone starts a game they should finish it. On the other hand, the needs of real life should override video games. I've left LoL games to drive family around or the like. "Finishing a LoL game" is very low on my list of priorities. Moreover, if you're a child, it seems like you should learn the responsibility to judge when your bedtime is and whether you can get a game in, or to ask your parents "Hey, when's dinner going to be? I'd like to play a game."

Surely that's just a basic life skill? It's important to learn to manage time. Interpreted charitably, that's what I think the post is saying: parents, if your children play lots of LoL, try to get them to manage their gaming time.
at 22:37 on 10-01-2016, Arthur B
OK, I looked it up and it's a multiplayer RTS. I'm not sure what about that format necessarily makes the rant more reasonable than if it had been about a MMORPG, though. (Someone crucial dropping out in the middle of a raid is disruptive in a comparable way to someone important on your team dropping out in the middle of an RTS match.)
at 21:31 on 10-01-2016, Orion
League is not an MMO by any conventional definition, which is pretty much the main point of the post.
at 23:20 on 09-01-2016, Craverguy
I guess it gets better treatment in the UK. Over here, it only gets shown on TV on Turner Classic Movies, and then only every two or three years when the stars are aligned.

If I had to name a single weakness to the film, it's that it treats
Inspector Doppler being Milo in disguise
as a shocking revelation. That probably works on stage, where even the best seats in the house are 50 feet away from the actors, but in a movie with the cameras right on top of them at all times, it's immediately obvious to anyone who isn't seriously vision impaired.
at 17:48 on 09-01-2016, Jamie Johnston
Gosh it's been years since I saw that film but I remember it being very good. Surprised to know it's so hard to get hold of! They certainly used to show it on UK television fairly often.