Game Developer Magazine’s top 30

Game Developer Magazine published their choices for “Top 30 Developers of All Time“.  I think there are many good choices in this list, but I’m saddened that a few of the game companies I worked at didn’t at least make the Honorable @Mentions list.  In the magazine’s defense, however, they did say “our medium’s pioneers are important, but we wouldn’t have room left in the list for anyone else. So we’ve generally tried to stick to the last 30 years of game development or so, and focus on the studios that we think have shaped the current era.”

Since I actually worked at these no-longer-in-existence game companies, I’m biased, but I’m also aware of the talent and effort that went into the games that were made.  So though I’m only listing these few, there were many, many other game companies in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s that were also very creative, very talented, and turned out great games.

“Mattel Electronics” and “Imagic” developers helped to make the Mattel Intellivision one of the elite consoles for creative, attractive, and fun games of the 1980’s.  Don’t forget all the terrific work and excellent games, just because not everyone loved the thumb-style wheel versus a joystick.

“Cinemaware” developers helped to make the Amiga a very memorable gaming platform by bringing the flare and imagery of movies to video games.  “Digital Pictures” took another step forward from Cinemaware’s attempts by bringing actual full motion video (FMV) to gaming.  Yes there was some controversy over the style of games made — just as there will always be opinions about video games — and 3D has since overwhelmed 2D and motion video style games on consoles, but Digital Pictures developers should be remembered for bringing the excitement of FMV (not to mention Zombies, see below) to Sega players and others who liked that style of game.

Science Fiction: The Arts

The Art of Science 2013 Online Gallery includes a wonderful 3rd place finisher, Web of art and science”.  The Lewis Center for the Arts and and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory “placed the home pages of [their] respective websites into an HTML parser and graphical interface”, providing a very visual way for viewers to compare the similarities and differences between a science website and an arts website.

I’ve always been a big fan of works that compare the arts with math and science.  Throughout history, there are many great achievements in the sciences that have lead to equally distinguished works of art and music.  There are also many times when the arts have inspired science.  For an example of art which may have inspired science, see Da Vinci and his flying machines.  Or how about mathematically inspired art?

The arts inspired me to write several science fiction short stories which I published in my e-book “Science Fiction: The Arts”.  Perhaps some day a scientist will invent a boat as capable as the one I described in “Above the Mississippi” — in the same e-book.



Time-lapse train trip or time travel?

Below is a creative — surreal — time-lapse train trip through Tokyo’s artificial island, Odaiba, by a Japanese photographer.  For me — when I can look at it longer than a few seconds without getting a bit dizzy — it evokes thoughts of time travel.

My story “Myron’s Debarkation” in my science fiction e-book anthology “Science Fiction: Time Travel” takes a couple through time on a hi-tech cruise ship of the future.  Or perhaps I’m reminded of what Sarah sees out the time shuttle window in my story “Time Enough for Sarah” — in the same e-book.

BatchGeo for geocoding and mapping

I have been wanting to create a map of where my ancestors lived at various time periods, but I wasn’t sure what tool(s) to use.  After some research, I decided that I would like to geocode the addresses (city, country, address, whatever information I have) without having to manually process each one.  I also want to be able to output the results into a format that Google Earth can use.  I stumbled across BatchGeo in my search, and it looks like it will do what I want.  I’ll let you know once I spend some time with this product.

Speaking of genetics, I’ve been thinking of putting together my genetics-related stories into a new anthology, “Science Fiction: Genetics”.  It will probably be available in 2014.  Look for more on this at a later time.

Learning 2.0 (or is it 3.0 by now?)

It seems that learning is the latest hot term of the decade.  Universities are offering massive open online courses (MOOCs) online for free, video game companies are creating serious (learning) games, and technology companies are making tools for developing these kinds of applications on tablets, computers, consoles, phones, and in the cloud.

It’s a given that schools are interested in any technology that will provide great learning experiences for students, not to mention explore new opportunities for tuition.  You know that video game companies are serious about this — and interested in finding new sources of income — when you see a business like Rovio branching out from Angry Birds into the learning games arena, or a successful entrepreneur like Nolan Bushnell as CEO of Brainrush.

With all of these efforts, one might think that learning is about to go through a significant change, perhaps for the better.  That’s fine, if there are more opportunities and better methods in the future for all students to learn.  But I hope that it doesn’t mean we will see the kinds of immense pressures on students that we’ve seen in required testing or on employees in the workplace: productivity gains with increases in stress.

Students still need to find ways to love what they are learning, to enjoy the company of other students with interests like theirs (as well as different from theirs), to savor the moment of learning, to contemplate what they’ve learned, to ask questions, and to learn not only what they need to learn but also what they want to learn.


Kiva robots and jobs

Kiva robots are the warehouse automatons for Amazon.  Other companies have started using these handy floor-workers as well.

They have replaced some jobs at warehouses, because (at least for one reason) they bring products — and even the racks carrying the products — to human workers, rather than human workers having to go find the products.  Still, Kiva has created some new engineering and administrative positions.  They are pretty amazing devices.  The video below shows how Kiva robots do their job.

Are robots finally reaching the point in capability and intelligence that the warnings of old TV shows like “The Twilight Zone” are coming true?  Are robots a major reason for unemployment today?  If not, will they be in the next decades?

As a science fiction writer I have to ask if CEOs and other management are thinking far enough into the future about the long-term prospects of replacing workers with robots?  How long before their jobs are jeopardized by intelligent robots?  See “The Twilight Zone” episode below.

If you like thinking and reading about this topic, you might also like my e-book anthology, “Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs”.

My latest to-be-published SF story, “The Library of Pain”

My latest SF story “The Library of Pain” will appear in Quantum Realities, July 2013.  “The Library of Pain” examines epigenetics, changes in gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence, from the perspective of a patient, his doctor, and a remarkable futuristic machine.  The SciShow episode below attempts to explains epigenetics in a simple, understandable way.