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.