Friday, November 21, 2008


After a long haitus....Here I am. Still in Korea. Still working in games. But I have been thinking about Marvel.

I remember when comic book movies used to be so badly handled not just from the content point of view but in how they were marketed, how they were made, franchise management, and well just in how they were conceived. I believe that started to change when Marvel brought everything in house....essentially took back control of their IP and decided to do things their way instead of leaving it to the vagaries of Hollywood's labyrinthe and soul sucking studios.

So why can't they do that with their games? Like comic book movies long ago...licensed games have that same stink about them. You essentially know they will suck. Or be okay at best. THe way big game publishers work may not reach the ridiculous lows of the film industry ( and the film industry handles some things bettter) but with ever increasing developmental budgets and ever increasing stakes and revenue...we are going to get very close soon.

In all honesty, the way Marvel Online was handled by Microsoft was a travesty. Hell even if they wouldn't do it they still should have gotten some return on the advance milestone payments by either placing it with another publisher or selling the rights to Cryptic themselves. The most recent Spiderman games have been underwhelming. Don't get me started ont eh Fantastic Four properties. The Wolverine game...etc.

This is what Marvel should do: bring it inhouse. It worked with films. I always believe that the more you outsource your IP...the less value you will get for it.

So. Bring it in back home to the House of Ideas. That would probably pressure DC to do the same thing (even though they already have their own interactive division over at Warner. Ironic. they have it and don't tie it in closer). So then I could talk about comic book games or comic book movie games and not have to be so afraid.

IP is important. It's essential to manage it carfully and what better way to manage it then to actually utilize your IP yourself?

Monday, July 28, 2008

The iconic Future

To me we are living in the David Bowie, William Gibson, Ridley Scott future. A blend of all of it.

I'm Afraid Of Americans. A good soundtrack for the world right now?

All that density, anxiety, mundaness of the amazingly cybernetic, continual state of rebuilding, and multicultural that only has meaning in the now, would have been surreal in the past.

I am working in online massively multiplayer games for god's sake. How do I not think about the millions of people who have extended the meaning of their existence into this realm?

I worked in the online social media space. How can I not think of how the world really hasn't changed but the ease of information bleed makes it seem like the world is more complicated that it was? WHen really its the same mechanics, the same factors under a more revealing UI?

Excuse the mental masturbation.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Companies with inherent Brand image problems

KIA is a company that from the start has problems with its brand in the US and Europe. No not just for its image of cheapness to the extent that the joke is that you can cheapen any car with just the god awfully designed badge. No not just for the fact that the designs aren't doing homage but exuding such wannabe vibes.

Its for this simple fact that KIA is an acronym for something else in the US and Europe:

Killed In Action.

Not exactly the association you want with a car.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

One of the reasons I feel like leaving... the continuing elemental lack of respect for law or justice in this nation. From the street where drivers (particularly taxi and bus driver) regularly endanger everyone by casually violating multiple laws meant to keep ALL OF US safe. To the regular level of embezzlement and stock insider trading that most white collar workers perpetrate. To the ignoring of safety precautions in the construction and renovation of facilities. Its just rampant in this country

There are times when laws need to be fought in the name of justice.

Bending the laws so that Hanwha, Hyundai and Samsung tycoons can avoid prison is not one of them.

This is such a slap in the face to any notion of good corporate management...this moral hazard like the same phenomenon in investment will only encourage more corporate leaders to be...incompetent. To be irresponsible. To be completely and utterly disrespectful of the needs of any others save their own.

There is so much more dirt that even I or people in my life have encountered in connection with these people that does not make it to the prosecutor's table.

Rape. theft. molestation. embezzlement. murder. To start with the capital crimes.

How can bribing public officials not be considered a jailable offense in this case but so-called tax evasion is in the Lonestar case?

Does anyone see where I am going with this? Justice in Korea is more arbitrary than most.

WHat I am saying is it is not simply because someone is wealthy that this happens. What I am saying is that when that wealth becomes a determining factor in your punishment and not just your judgement in the eyes of the law; you have essentially undermined what exactly justice is. No value to the economy; no amount of jobs you provide should have any bearing on the punishment you recieve when found guilty.

Justice should be delivered based on your actions alone.

If I ever find myself in the position of power, influence, and wealth? I am going to do everything possible to take others in similar positions to task. I will fund those who pursue justice against those who seem too powerful for the law to deal with. Even at risk to all that I have built. THis is just too disgusting for me to stomach.

So where are all the damn protestors who were protesting about US beef based on faulty news reports? THis is real. THis is concrete. THis is more damagin than any possible amount of beef would be. WHERE ARE THE DAMN MASS GATHERINGS AT SAMSUNG HEADQUARTERS???

I am tired of having had to swallow my anger and just accept it as the way it is. I am tired of how arbitrary justice both as a principle and a concept are here in Korea. WHen its foreigners its an unbearable evil. When its your own damn people undermining and mocking any sense of responsibility and accountability, any sense of law?

We just look the other way. We slide it under the carpet. We look everywhere else except at the shit.

Because obviously American beef is more dangerous than a corporation bribing and buying your government making sure that decisions and laws made have only the money's best interests at heart.

On a related note: look forward to the Dark Knight. and Dreaming of hard principled vigilante that this country obviously needs. More Frank Miller than Adam West.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


So. Here we are again. I can feel it.

Those moments in your life that will determine your next 5 to 10 years.

I can feel that some direction will be set in the next couple of months which will decide my next decade.

Happenned in 98. I can feel it happenning again.

Some people have 15 year periods or 4 year life seems to run in cycles of 10.

A nice deci-luminal range.

I'll get back to less esoteric and more illuminating rants soon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

WIPI needs to die.

The Iphone clones present and upcoming from LG and Samsung are severely underwhelming. UI on these sad sad puppies are just as clunky as ever

But it is getting idiotic here in Korea. Our culture's propensity to try to average things out in every aspect of the society has led to this deficiency in innovation.

Copy Copy the leader...but don't dare take the risk of standing out...

New Zealand and the "tall poppy syndrome"....

So....they need to not have safe harbor anywhere in the that they are forced to really really execute and design for the customers instead of for production efficiency.

WIPI is a middleware standard enacted by the Korean governmetn which essentially works as a trade barrier. Its enactment in 2003 drove Nokia phones out of the Korean market after domestic companies became fearful of Sony Ericcson, RIM, and other companies joining the fray.

Meanwhile LG and Samsung face no such obstacles anywhere else in the world.

It's amazing how selective the Korean media and popular sentiment is. Complain about unfair or "subpar" products...but ignore or remain silent on the unfair and unequitable trade practices being practiced by domestic companies.

Remain silent how this lack of competition allows price gouging on an immense scale.

Get rid of WIPI. It does nothing for the consumer, nothing positive for the market, keeps things closed.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cool Diversion from a fellow Seoul based Games involved blogger

Go here There needs to be more output from Seoul because I am going to be horrified if your only viewpoint on the industry here is:

1) Field of Dreams...wheee they have it so perfect there for gamers! ( any mainstream coverage )
2) It is a place of Grind and lack of innovation ( that's ME own trademarked cranky view)

3) Aren'tyou starving and have nuclear weapons there? (people I so want to...uh defenestrate)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Interruptus explained

So there was this 2 month interruption:

1) Working on getting ready for my CFA Level 1 exams.

2) Working on getting ready for a 700 + score on my GMAT

3) Interviewed for my perspectives on the Korean game industry ( hmm having a blog in English in Korea on an industry without too many people who can commune in English is a plus)

4) Got some interesting offers I am mulling over.

5) Working on a system where I can accomplish a "Zero Punctuation"-ish review of Korean games and web user apps. Trying to figure out how to use my Wacom tablet in the process.

6) Been working like the dickens in order to be able to attend my friend, Farhan Kazmi's, sad departure from the ranks of bachelorhood in Chicago.

7) Planning a trip to San Fran. London. Maybe Dublin. Logistics and expenses are hell.

8) GTA IV. TF2. COH. COD4. COH. AOC. and other acroynms of shameful distractions. Thankfully LSD is not one of them.

I hope to do a few more cranky overview posts and then expose you to my crank yanked Korean game reviews soon.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Korean "Pro Gamers"

If you have read the articles and news reports about "pro" Starcraft start to to realize that these gamers are rewarded for their skill and dedication with...spartan rooms, no time to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and really frigging low salaries. Their corporate sponsors control what they do, who they are with, and where they live. Only like 0.1% have anywhere near a comparable reward for the amount of time and talent invested. And they can't agitate for change because there are so many who would want to take their place. They sign these contracts without full awareness of the fact they also not just sign any equitable working condition away but that they are also signing away the RIGHTS TO THEIR OWN LIKENESSES! They do not recieve royalty or fees on the usage of their likenesses. Sure they may recieve a one time fee but no royalties from the corporate overlord who will continually bank on the marketability of their likeness.

They are being exploited and all the power resides in the management. This reminds me of professional sports in the US before players unionized. Time for a player's association to represent the players in contract talks here in Korea. Or just bring player agents into this to represent their best interests and counter conditions like this.

I think Fatality is a good model for how pro-gamers should be able to control their own brand. I think the Korean system is a nightmare to emulate abroad and am glad that many of the gaming leagues elsewhere don't. Maybe its time that foreign sponsors with completely different ways of treating their players, more open conditions and more lucrative contracts should come in and lure players away.

It just depresses me that essentially these kids have become machines who essentially have the love of the game stripped away from them. Watch them when they play. There. is. no. joy.

Watch Garnett when he plays basketball, watch TO when he scores a touchdown, watch Tiger Woods when he hits the hole in one. Games can be compelling. can be fun. But there needs to be joy somewhere. Hell just watch the AVA or the CS clone game leagues ( let me roll my eyes at Sudden Attack and Special Forces...nice to see that blatant lack of even improving on teh source is rewarded)...there is joy there and a spririt of fun not present in the Starleagues.

These pro game leagues are in ways marketing tools. But when your marketing tool is ONLY about competition and not about the joy of playing the game. Well. Something's wrong.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I am a horrible person I know.

But I found both of these horribly funny.... I will probably receive hate mail from both ( thanks go to Kotaku for finding these)

Yes I am a horrible horrible person. But you should know that by now.

Monday, April 14, 2008

So I rant...but what do I really do...?

I am thinking that my not have a context in which they would be better understood...

What do I do?

Maybe we should start at the beginning. A condensed life story. No worries there will be no dramatic French perversions involved.

Born in Korea. This will negatively impact my life later. Went to Eugene, Oregon, US at the tender age of 13 months. This will lead to bouts of unexplained and abrupt melancholy later in my life due to the gawd awful weather I was exposed to at that tender age. Oregonites I apologize if this offends you. And yes its beautiful up there. But you have to gets depressing.

My first memory comes from that time...crawling through a tunnel and refusing to come out because I had ....a little accident. That will motivate me to have very good bowel control later in my potty training was surprisingly easy on everyone involved.

The move to Cupertino, California coincided with my digital awakening. Played Spacewar on a mainframe where my dad worked. Started my education with PC games on a DEC Rainbow with Infocom games. Ventured into the electronic ether between with BBS's, MUDs, and later Usenet. Games from the beginning I will make the point were not just entertainment but had commentary that underlie it all. So for all those freaking idiots out there who say "I don't want politics/culture/education in my entertainment"...crawl into your desensitized ivory tower because games have always had a subtext that was consciously there...always. Zork, Hitchiker, Planetfall, Starcross

Bard's Tale, Wasteland, and Kareteka came next on the Apple families. Even then they were expensive and highly non-customizable. Which was frustrating to a person who had taken apart his father's workstations and pc's that he brought home from work at Digital Equipment Corporation. *sigh* Ken and your PC hating ways.

From sunny Cali to snowy Massachusetts. My dad, who was a computer engineer, was transferred to DEC HQ; working with Jim Gray and Gordon Bell on occasion. After DEC's spectacular implosion and fragmentation ( that Alpha chip....and the StrongARM...*sigh*) which coincidentally followed not long after I visited my dad's offices there, my dad rejoined a company he had been part of before I was born: Samsung.

We would move to Korea and I would attend Seoul International School where I would learn how corruption impairs performance, cheating is rampant in Korea even at international schools, how lack of investment in facilities and equipment impairs future profits, how a sick workplace culture can only exacerbrate bad management decisions, how ignorance is usually the most guarded and defended main characteristic of management ( its only those who aspire to be management who are voraciously learning). This I learned by watching the teachers and the administrators, involvement with them in student government, and just hearing it on the edges of conversations I would have with teachers.

I would become convinced that simply bringing in talent is not good enough but the need to have them have control of their own jobs, that professional isolation was death to innovation, and that there must always be an ethical/philisophical/cause that overarchs simply making money in order for your employees to stay and then in turn have the initiative to steer the ship into new horizons. Not abstract notions like "educating future world leaders" but rather ones that tied in with human resources, methodology or actual processes. I was watching organizations at work with global implications even then.

Was heavily on IRC then. On early versions of Unitel ( the rather the Prodigy of Korea)...on the WELL...on Compuserve, Prodigy...and then finally on the Web through Netscape.

I remember the early Netscape iterations took a long time to initialize. blissful evening in 1994 on the John Hopkins University as part of the CTY summer programs...I loved CTY. I had been attending CTY summer schools since 1990 after having took the SAT. Even then I scored much higher on my verbal than the anomaly among my Asian compatriots. was those dances there where my musical tastes really sharpened from the Smiths to Depeche Mode to the Pixies to Yo La Tengo to Auchetecture and so on. It was there where I had my first earring. It was there I think I first truly fell lin love. It was there I think I really learned HOW TO LEARN. You must remember people always thought I was borderline Asperger. I internalized that often until I actually met people who made me feel that rush of having to think in more shortcut ways. To be more critical in looking at statements. To be comfortable being obsessive in what many would think is trivial.

Yes, my friends...I was a nerd. Geeks weren't even a memetic construction at the time. We were just nerds. People who were always looking at the essence between the concrete constructions of what is and what should be done and just tinkering with it. Going somewhere else with who we were supposed to aspire to be.

I thought I would be changing the world by now...then. I thought I knew how things would turn out to be. I thought work would be more efficient and the rewards more widespread. I didn't ask for the rocket cars. I didn't expect the space resorts. Gernsback wasn't the future I saw. But I saw the John Shirley future. The future of bounty and plenty in a slightly uneasy time.

All lies. For our generations. If we were at any other point in history other than following a baby boom generation. But like locusts they have devoured the harvest that was to last for years. We now have more than uneasiness, we have an age of open rage. The sky is not falling but it is ripping itself apart in many directions.

I did Model UN, I did the science fairs (made a highly dangerous exhibit "simulating" superconductivity one year with liquid nitrogen which was made with and overseen by my father's staff at the Samsung R&D lab in Suwon...and no one objected...I always get an evil grin at that). Watched my dad not invest in a venture by one of his subordinates at SDS which would later become Naver. Watch him regret that continually. Was an actor geek. Doing Method when I had nowhere near the capbability or the experience to do so. Never went for the lead but the character roles...the ones witht he best lines but not the story.

Went to college in Maine. Stephen King Maine. Snowy Snowy no nightlife Maine. French french Maine. Bates of the triumuivirate of the Colby, Bowdoin axis. Newman Day and streaking. heh. Involvement in the political and cultural. From KASCON to the idiotic measures against Homosexual marriage to talking with Gish Jen to dealing with racial and gender incidents on campus. Being involved in impossible and complex relationships. One that would break my heart, scar me and then send me running to Boston and then back to Korea.

I think something broke then. Not just a heart. But an unspoken conviction of rightness I had with the world. That things turn out well in the end no matter what. They don't. You have to be cunning about all things. You have to think things through and work at it in all things. You have to find out as much as you can about the people around you, wo are important to what you are doing. You can't over react and internalize all the blame. But you can not shirk responsibility either. And if you do not have that empathatic connection do not pretend to do so.

and I am just talking about love here.

I think for now this will be enough about me. I will get back to looking doing games and web in a global business from a Korean standpoint. But maybe someday I'll continue this story with my misadventures in the Korean military service and how different the college experience in Korea was.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Korean + Japanese game companies and Race

After watching the Resident Evil 5 trailer, meditating on the complete lack of any people of color in most Korean games ( hell in Japanese games too), and the utter lack of ability to handle these characters in a nuanced way when they do....and then having the temerity to try to sell these games in overseas markets with complete and utter lack of knowledge of what your portrayals or lack of portrayals may incite? No plan for how to spin it. No plan for how to correct it. Look, if it's too late to correct anything within the game...that's fine. At least have the respect to at least try to amend or deal with issues people may have. Ignorance? Ignorance is the most profound sign of disrespect.

TARGET TARGET TARGET....communication.

Stop. You do not deserve to do business globally.

If you are going to do business on an international level, know your damn markets; know your damn targets. Most any marketer in ANY OTHER INDUSTRY even here in Korea will tell you that. But not in the Korean or Japanese game industry.

No. We just see the dollar signs and ignore the dividing lines. Lines between quality and crap. Lines between compelling and just plain offensive. Line between a good sale and just ripping people off. Line between eyeballs and eyerolls.

Korean game companies have a baaaaaad reputation worldwide among the gaming community. For the inability to communicate with the market. For the inability to market itself to the community.

Alot of that would alleviate alot of issues. Not solve them but.....

Ah hell...this post will take some time to plan. I think I need to think this one through...on the issues of race and the complete and utter lack of ability to navigate those waters that Korean and Japanese game companies show.

Friday, March 28, 2008


So I live in Korea. The most digitally connected, mobile mobilized country in the world. Supposedly. Changed the way we shop, play, study, work, and govern. Companies usually reflect these changes in the way they work and carry out their responsibilities.

You know. Responsibility to make money for the owner. Or if you are publically listed; your shareholders. Because you are taking their money and in return they own parts of the company. You do this to make more money for your shareholders right?


All the companies I have been at, experienced, or have had close knowledge of which are publically listed here in Korea love to basically fuck their shareholders over. It's not making money for the shareholders which is their priority...but to essentially take their money by fooling them into thinking about potential profits through press coverage, vision statements, and glossy brochures. No problem there right?

Well...when your management is incompetent, asleep, or have no idea what they are doing. Yes. there is a problem.

The problem also comes when shareholders want to actually have a say in how things are being managed. You know boot the incompetent, ignorant, and snoring management out. That is looked at in horror. So then shareholder meetings become a battleground. The votes on board positions become critical. So you are in the most digitally connected, mobile mobilized, and database proficient nation in the world. SO what do you use?

A plastic box. and paper. To vote on the future.

Oh yeah...people aren't going to be wondering about manipulation. There are not going to be fights breaking out over this so easily manipulated thing. I mean jeez.....

How about using a digitally tabulated system with a certified third party accouting agency as referees which translates and tracks the number of shares to your votes and checks that against a database of shareholders registered with the government. A completely transparent yet secret ballot which is less easily manipulated and has less of the monkeying around....oh and keeps management accountable to its shareholders?

Oh wait. I forgot. These companies don't want to be accountable. Because they utterly fail anyways at it. But they want to hold on to their jobs. and the shareholder gets screwed. So we get inefficiency and incompetence remaining at the top. Mostly the Korean babyboom generation which I have other issues with..but that is for another post another day.

So the high level chaff is not cut from the wheat of potentially productive and promising companies.

No. These people look at activist shareholders in other nations in horror. or annoyances. THey don't look at these people as responsibilities, owners, or a reminder that the company owes its continued existence to them. You know kind of like customers. If a company despises its customers but just wants their money....well.....

If you want to know how a company treats its customers, watch how they treat their shareholders.

Management that is able to keep its jobs in the face of shareholder discontent through manipulation and other extraordinary measures should not be feeling victorious...but embarassed, sobered, and feeling committed to not have to resort to being slimy again.

Wait. I am talking as if these people actually are able to feel responsible for things. Nevermind.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

No Global Companies for Korean Old Men

I just read this month's Businessweek and was drawn to an article on the issue between Hyundai's Korean management and its US subsidiary.

How freaking deja vu.

Every damn company here in Korea (especially in the IT sector where I have spent my time here) has the word "Global" in their vision statement. Examples like: "First Class Global Entertainment Company" or "Elite Global Media" and so on. I understand that it is not a statement of fact but a statement of intent.

But damn. Intent actually means you try. Intent here translates to greed.

The IT and tech companies that actually do operate globally do not attempt to understand their userbase at the local level. They do not attempt to service these customers in the manner that they have become accustomed to locally. Korean MMORPG's that do "global service" have notorious reputations not just because of the derivative concepts and the "grind" gameplay; but also because the customer support, the operational support is nowhere near local standards. Marketing doesn't know who their target is, their wants, their dislikes and instead just throws up a CGI-ed hottie with very generic copy. Featurelists are just that. Lists.

Podcasts? Developer Blogs? Developer chats? Fansite support and participation? Social network presence? HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHHEHEHEHAHAHAHHA....*crying*

So okay....hire people who can deliver that customer support. Hire people who can deal with what is nominal marketing for Western tech/game companies.

Then smother them to death.

Because the Old Men who are the CEO's and upper management in many of these companies hire these people who have the experience and capabilities and then promptly ignore everything they say, appoint "overseers" who have none of the experiences or capabilities that translates at all, provide none of the resources necessary for local operation and then expect returns on their investment consumerate with the "global" market. Or they assume because of their sterling success here in this domestic market; that those values will translate globally.

Nevermind that this was an essentially a closed market with indirect state financing of certain companies/industries/idiotic management principles. Let us also not forget that duing the nineties any online entertainment property was a win. There was no down time then. Make an MMO? You made money no matter how piss poor the UI, how insecure the database, how laggy the server, and how your game mechanics PROMOTED gold farming. Made a search engine with community-generated results? You got traffic and reach even if the results have a signal to noise ratio of a billion to one. Made a social network? You got the stickiness and connections even if your pop up ( GAG) was clausterphobic, media file organization was bare, ability to publically publish yourself nil, and the inability to evaluate or leverage your own network for anything else.

Your car companies have had no meaningful competition due to insane "luxury" tariffs and thus artificallly inflated prices. Anytime foreign food and consumable companies come in, suddenly there are "health contamination" scares. Rival moblie phone producers/telecoms are hampered by extra costs to use the grid, extra "quality" inspections on import in, and tax inspections on subsdiaries. Your companies have not had the influx of diversified management styles and diversified outlooks that truly international mergers and acquisitions bring. Your companies have not been held accountable for inability to deliver financial performance due to product/service success (layoffs do not = good financial performace or long term management), criminal violations (raping subordinates is a jailable crime but I think you should be castrated), ethical violations (insider trading/stock manipulation is. not. a. cookie. get your hand out of the jar.)...because there is very little activist shareholder culture of significance.

Oh yes. Your businesses and corporate values have really been tested enough to go global. But that's a topic and a rant for another day.

Let me say this in as simple terms as possible: There is no such thing as a global business. Only a serially local one.

Simply putting your product out for global consumption is not enough. There needs to be a support structure that is not only servicing your users in the local way but also influences management the other way as well. So many Korean companies do the former but seriously flub the latter. Many Korean companies also don't give the latitude to their local operations to incubate their own projects which may create new revenue streams/methodologies to use elsewhere. They also just don't listen to what their subsidiaries have to say. Or use the collective experience and talents there.

No. Its... do it the dysfunctional, top heavy, and inefficient way. With lots of silly reportage. And overseers who only know how to oversee...but not do.

But you know...alot of these CEO's are stuck. Stuck with no way to grasp how to...oh...manage in a fast changing environment. Because in Korea you always have that stretch goal.Up or down. And accuracy? pfah! Not micromanaging and admitting that you have some areas of deficiency? NEVER! Not trying to also surround yourslef with people who actually are competent in your deficiencies? NO WAY...MY self -esteem is too fragile for that! Because we learned in boot camp never to lose that aura of command. Even if you have the tactical and strategic ability to essentially waste money. Even if multinational businesses don't quite work like armies.

I think sometimes we copied the Japanese model here too far. Ah but that too is a rant for another day.

So the next time I see a Korean company's business plan with the words "global"...excuse me if I don't start manically laughing. And then set fire to it for the value your "global" strategy has.