Sunday, January 27, 2019

Gender Fluids

What do you get when ever-smaller self-declared gender minorities demand special allowances for their use of public restrooms?

Behold: The Me's Room.
Build 7,500,000,000 of these in every single public space and embrace our narcissistic snowflake future.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Shouldn't bugs hibernate?

"You wonder if you could've done better
You wonder if you should've surrendered
Before you learned that nobody actually wants a fucking martyr

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra - Olly Olly Oxen Free

I stocked my fridge today in preparation for having my car snowed in and/or frozen to its parking spot for the next week. The weather forecasts an overcast and partly snowy weekend, rather balmy around freezing point. Then it turns to one of those classic bright and sunny winter spells when mother Gaia sends a little thermal love back to the sky god Uranus. Just in case any of you are still unclear on how that whole "greenhouse effect" thing works.

Temperature lows are predicted around -25 to -30C with nut-gropingly brisk 20-30 km/h winds. So, cogitates I, what form of entertainment might best suit such days? None better than Frostpunk, the dashingly gritty game of post-apocalyptic steampunk sub-zero city survival. With robots. So I fire it up, struggle through re-learning its few ins and many outs, only to lose my city because my food counter starts decreasing continually for no apparent reason.

Frostpunk is bugged.

No matter, no matter at-all, I can go for the next best thing. Mars is a cold enough place. So I fire up Surviving Mars, the dashingly rusty game of post-punk pre-apocalyptic sub-zero city survival. With robots. Only to discover that after the first disaster, the "long winter" scenario, all my buildings turn untargetable when in need of repairs. Therefore irreparable.

Surviving Mars is bugged.

Harumph. Well now. I must confess I'm waxing ever so marginally peeved. But never mind, there are still other options to be had. Such as No Man's Sky, the dashingly glossy game of non-apocalyptic non-punk occasionally sub-zero space base building survival. With robots. Which is how I got chased around by inexplicably invisible robots.

No Man's Sky is bugged.

(Okay, yes, given NMS' history, this last surprised no-one.)

I try to stand by good old games, indie games and any developers willing to take some chance at unpopularity, the creative fringe of the game industry. I have no use for the latest "grunt with boomstick" tripe. But my playthrough of Children of the Nile was almost ended by a single dysfunctional citizen out of hundreds. In The Guild my rather long campaign ended with all my trade carts gluing themselves to a shop. War for the Overworld nearly memory leaked my computer to death. M.A.X. is unplayable past the 150-200th turn after twenty years. What good is Troika-level immersion if it comes with game-ending Troika-level unplayability? If I might game devils' advocate, every so often you start wondering whether everyone buys Blizzard, Sony and EA's crap because they're the only ones capable of delivering functional crap.

I don't mean to tell you your business (<- this is a lie) but bug testing is not optional!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Your Regimental Beastie, Lyca Din

"But if it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water
An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it."

Rudyard Kipling - Gunga Din

So here's my party in Baldur's Gate 2, in roughly descending order of toughness:

Fans of the game might recognize portraits and spot the only non-non-player-character in the list. For everyone else, here's a hint: that's me bringing up the rear.

Honest now, I started out Chaotic Neutral. Korgan and/or Viconia's just a bad influence is all...
But yeah, even the gnome could take a punch better than me. Nothing says "ascendant demigod" like a skinny little nebbish hiding behind my teammates, right? In fact, I have a little meta-game for you:

Not pictured: my NWN1 elf abjurer and my NWN2 pure caster halfling druid with a strength score of 6 (had to buff himself just to be able to wear his own armor... hilarious every time I remember it.) Were I to count the number of times I've broken the back row elf druid / wizard mold... not many. Even without classes being obvious, health numbers and the rest of the group's composition give me away. In fact, I only wind up relatively tough in party-based single-player RPGs whenever I load the entire team with squishy casters, forcing myself into a melee caster role as an ersatz "tank." Only way to fly, baby. Optimized builds are for chumps.

The only true tank I've played in these fourteen games was in Dead State, for the sake of its highly satisfying "fortify" combat action allowing me to retaliate enemies to death. Neither do I use spellcasting for direct damage. Abjurer, diviner, summoner, divine caster buff-bot or especially crowd control, that's me! Let NPCs lead the way to center stage while I fluff up the red carpet.

"Holy inferiority complex, Batman! How low is my self-esteem that I'm the sidekick in my own fantasy?"

Naturally, my tendency toward support roles translated even better online. Ever since Y2K, it was a given that everyone and his grandma on any server in any game will want to play a damage dealer, and only a damage dealer, all the time. Not only is "hit stuff" the most direct power trip, but it's the simplest set of instructions for the innumerable 30-IQ degenerates sludging the internet with their sickening presence. They measured e-peens while I kept them alive... and I was fine with that. My guild's tanks certainly learned to appreciate my druidic self "critically touching" them from behind.

Whether in PvE or PvP, I've always loved securing a win by having the lowest score. Been doing it since grade school, when I learned I preferred playing a defender while kicking a ball with the rest of the shrieking brats. I liked being able to see the whole playfield while remaining mobile. The Loremaster class in Lord of the Rings Online (before the game got dumbed down to irrelevance) epitomized this mindset. Low health, low damage, low healing, but capable of several varieties of crowd control, buffing, debuffing, stealing mana from enemies and redistributing it to teammates, initiating group maneuvers, and even off-tanking via a pet. So many tricks up my sleeve, and so few worthy adversaries...

Unfortunately, both crowd control and "hybrid classes" have long since been excised from online games to better suit the mass market's lack of taste in entertainment. Still, for a while, I clung to my remaining simplistic badge of "healer" to fill my support quota. Yet the average idiots' tastes have been shifting over the past decade. It used to be that nobody wanted to play as Alfred the butler, as a healer or other support. The role of tank was slightly easier to fill, especially in PvP games where players just wanted to protect their K/D ratio. The ratio of Heavy Weapons Guys to Medics on any TFC server in 2001 was heavily skewed in favor of the former. By the time I quit TF2 couple of years ago, the situation had reversed: healers were still unpopular, but tanks.... even less so. Nobody wanted to play as a big fat slow-moving target, no matter how much defensive cover fire they could provide. More and more I found myself shoehorned into playing heavy weapons simply because no-one else would do it.

Partly, this stems from design choices. Developers were aware of support roles' unpopularity and gradually simplified and empowered them to attract more players. As mana pools became functionally infinite or disappeared altogether, healing also became a matter of simply spamming one or two buttons endlessly. For the same reason, rewards for healing are sometimes disproportionate to other roles. Ask anyone in Planetside 2: the fastest way to farm experience points is to play a medic and spam resurrection grenades. Other times the "healer" role is promoted via flashy visuals or social surrogates. My recent look into Heroes of the Storm amused me to no end when I found all characters automatically play bonus lines of audio thanking their teammates for healing received.

Now that's just fucking insulting. Thankless jobs should be thankless. I don't want retarded little bitches flocking to a role because they want to hear (imaginary) people thank them. If they're too stupid to figure out the team's necessities for themselves, they should live and die in their bog of self-imposed ignorance. It is entirely natural for support roles, for defenders, for low-ranking pack members, for betas, for quiet, reserved tacticians, to be despised and badmouthed even as they nudge their team toward undeserved victories. Masking that all too human drive to misconstrue cooperation as subservience does nothing to eliminate it.

Either way, all these game developer tricks to make healing more appealing have worked... for a certain definition of worked. Except it didn't put the slightest dent in the ratio of huntards to worthwhile players. Sadism and narcissism are still their defining traits and every team game is filled with worthless cretins who think every other player on the map exists only to make them feel big about themselves. Instead, the swell in healers has been drawn from the ranks of tanks. Whether in MOBAs, MMOs, FPSs, whatever, nobody wants to be a front-line fighter anymore. Not even for all the wrong reasons, like they used to. Granted, taking punches has never been a popular activity, but I'm finding myself increasingly forced to take up the mantle myself for lack of alternatives.

I hate that damn mantle! Tanks are de facto team leaders, centers of attention, foci of the battlefield, stalwart knights in the shiniest armor. That's not mangy old me. If I ever dive into the fray I shouldn't expect to survive. I'm a skulking moon-beast on the edge of civilization. I'm your best enemy, your worst friend, your despised guardian, your Boo Radley! I am perfectly fine with carrying someone else's water or taking a bullet for you as long as the act gets put to good use and recognized by the informed few. I am the superior intellect balancing and unbalancing the fight from its edges or sacrificing myself for a positional advantage, the critical influence easily ignored, the despised servant whose worth only the worthy may judge. Bruce Wayne knows damn well how valuable Alfred is, and that's all the recognition Alfred needs.

And damnit, I just know whatever the least popular necessary role on a team is, I'll just end up doing it anyway. My Dead State screenshot features a red skull icon next to my character portrait. Early on, I decided the most efficient way to handle the danger of zombification would be to let one teammate get infected and just stave off that one character's infection indefinitely, designating a token bite victim from that point forth. And of course, if anyone was going to get zombitten to shreds through the entire campaign, it should be myself.

"I 'ope you liked your drink" sez Laika Din.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Star Power and the Perils of Setting

"Your wings are tired
You cannot get there from here
Where you aspire
You cannot fly there from here"

Collide - Wings of Steel

After the end of Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire five or six years ago, I tried checking out the author's new project Star Power. The heroine's fifth-page apotheosis immediately put me off by reminding me there's a very good reason I stopped reading superhero comics when I was thirteen. Power fantasies aren't all that fantastic when power's cheap.

I've re-tried getting into it more than once since, for the sake of its predecessor. Despite often overindulgent storylines (traumatic backstories, orc rape, politically correct natives, etc.) Dominic Deegan's quick but rarely jarring shifts between farce, wordplay, fantasy adventuring and high drah-mah kept it fresh from page to page. It punned and dramatically revealed, toyed around with negative space and infinite canvases, introduced drastically non-human mage and archmages, etc. In short it exhibited much of the adventurous spirit which made web-comics such a welcome alternative to officially published newspapers and books two decades ago.

Star Power is instead very much a classic page-by-page, chapter-by-chapter comic book, with all the myriad foibles such crumpled old packaging implies. The quick rush to superheroism ignores the importance of Dominic Deegan's rambling, fumbling, introductory first hundred pages or so, dealing with petty crooks and angry knights and cute suicide girls... before whiplashing the audience into a cosmic battle against universe-devouring eldritch abominations. It also manages to be even less interesting than classic high fantasy "orcs and humans" characters, rapidly inundating the reader with pointlessly interchangeable wrinkly forehead aliens. Were this a 1990s TV series you might chalk it up to a low special effects budget, but in a medium of arbitrary purty pick-a-chures, it's nothing but insultingly, unimaginatively, aggressively low-brow, century-old stagnation even if aimed at children.

But most interestingly, the exact same style of expository banter which jazzed up one comic falls completely flat in the other. Dominic Deegan and his cohorts (especially his toothsome love interest Luna) would occasionally spend a panel or three excitedly rattling off nonsensical explanations of various magitek phlebotina to justify the current story arc. It was often engaging and almost always impishly adorable. Star Power makes the mistake of translating this same routine to a nominally SciFi setting. For a taste of how badly that works, try the last panel here where the heroine (supposedly an astronomer) flashing the camera a Joker-worthy manic rictus, exclaims: "making sense of strange light is an astronomer's job." This came in response to an earlier panel showboating a nondescript tangle of sinusoids which she immediately identifies as "light readings" from a specific star "Only these numbers are weird. really weird."

Fun fact: in the future, all university science departments will include a mandatory introductory 099 course entitled: "how not to talk like a valley girl." Tee hee! Not that there's anything wrong with writing SF about fields you don't understand. In fact, it's almost a given. But for the love of crap, keep the crap that's out of your league off-panel!

To their credit, Star Power's creative duo openly advertise it as a superhero comic and not science fiction, and yes, this does imply significantly higher suspension of disbelief. The genre meld also more properly fits "superheroes" in their distinction from old-school mythical heroes. Still, the authors' choice to set their comic in a futuristic galactic civilization renders it a case study in the incompatibility of "(1)science (2)fantasy" whether it's expressed as Star Wars or anime or high-flying pugilists in spandex. The mere phrase "supernova dragon lords" would've raised my hackles even without seeing the primitive tent adorned with a dragon skull guarded by tattooed mooks hefting laser rifles. Magitek can work for elevating primitive supernatural thinking via at least a veneer of rationality. Its reverse, science fantasy, wears thin much faster for degrading a presumably rational setting to primitive, infantile thought patterns.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

New Rule: Feminists Are Not Your Friends

I like Bill Maher well enough, but as I invest no effort in staying topical I only now caught one of his "New Rules" from just before the 2016 election berating religious conservatives in America for their hypocrisy in electing a presidential candidate who routinely wipes his ass with their superstitious morality.

But in attacking others for betraying their priorities, Maher reminds me of his own mercenary streak. Twenty years ago, he was one of the very few public figures brave enough to voice even the mildest criticism of feminism. And, after a decade of complaining that he got more hate mail for critiquing female chauvinist hagiography than for anything else (including religion!) he knuckled under. During the 2015-2016 presidential campaign, he toed the Democratic party line in ordering the country to elect pussy.

By then, plenty of reasons were already evident to despise The Donald. And I mean valid reasons. Start with his being blatantly incompetent for the job for which he was applying, lacking any military, legal or diplomatic background or even the foggiest notion of human rights. Or maybe the fact that he was a cut-throat, possibly tax-dodging profiteer running for office as a public servant. Or the blatant conflict of interest implied by his ongoing business dealings as a public servant. Or his rampant nepotism. Or the other conflict of interest presented by his dependence on his Russian connections. Or the teensy-weensy issue that by any logical (if not literal) definition of treason, he committed treason during the campaign itself on international television by inviting a foreign power to subvert his own country's elections. When you're asking to sit in the big fancy chair you don't get to yell out "invade us! (just kidding.)" Or hell, pick any practical issue for a presidential candidate and Trump was almost guaranteed to advertise his ignorance or malice on the topic.

But hell, none of that really mattered. The Democratic Party's mass-media attack dogs, Maher included, returned time and again to only one issue: sex. We were ordered to hate Trump not because of the menace he poses as an avaricious, choleric incompetent in a position of power, a Caligula, but because Caligula broke our society's primitive sexual taboos. Because he fondled someone's gonads. Or he peeked in the girls' locker room. Or he might've leered at his daughter. Or he cheated on his wife. Or he married a trophy wife. Or he called Rosie O'Donnell fat. He made a girl cry! Oh noes!

All this from the same media figures who sixteen years prior were perfectly willing to (rightly) defend Bill Clinton from irrelevant accusations of immorality for sleeping with a string of groupies throwing themselves at an alpha male. Despite the much more serious allegations of the Clintons' intimidation tactics against their accusers back then. Yeah, hypocrisy's a bitch, ain't she, Maher?

In 2016, Hillary Clinton boasted indisputably better credentials than Trump, despite her complete lack of a relevant campaign platform. Actually, even the girl scout who sold me my last pack of Thin Mints knew more about civics and diplomacy than Trump. The Democratic Party decided instead to bank on gynocentrism. They demanded that we do something nice for a woman by electing her, hand her the presidency as a Valentine's gift, and that we tilt at the windmill of supposed male oppression by defending women's honor from big bad Donnie and his busy hands. As though he were going to personally grope every single woman in the country. If there's one good thing to have come from that utter travesty of an election it was the slap in the face it dealt to our misandrist mass media.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

If This Goes On-

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
(That's how the light gets in)"

Leonard Cohen - Anthem

Spoilers follow for the story by the same name. Like most things Heinlein, it's definitely worth enjoying without prejudice the first time through, so go. Peruse. It's a relatively short novella.

Robert A. Heinlein's If This Goes On- in at least one respect reminds me of Ursula K. LeGuin's The Dispossessed. Granted, the two were written decades apart (1940 and 1974, respectively) and address different sub-divisions of the power / freedom thematic milieu, but both remain more uncomfortably self-aware than their target audience would likely have preferred them.

If This Goes On- being obviously intended for an earlier, pulpier mid-20th-century audience, it is also the more action-packed, from the cloaked laser-daggering and a daring jet-powered skydiving escape to the final play-by-play denouement from inside a tank. Were the characters to follow in tune, they'd be plucky underdogs taking on their resident evil empire while armed with nothing but one-liners and righteous indignation. By 1940, space operas had long since dragged SF plots down to power fantasies about the mythical archetype of the lone crusading hero. Heinlein subverted such expectations in more than one way.

Instead of getting the girl at the end, the hero gets a Dear John letter halfway through, and the irrationality of romantic enforced monogamy is immediately contrasted to the freedom of open relationships. Which might sound only slightly edgy today... until you remember, once again, that Heinlein managed to get this published in 19-fucking-40, smack dab in the middle of Hays Code moral repression, testament to John W. Cambell's critical influence on Science Fiction and modern countercultures.

Instead of attributing all menace to some conveniently insidious foreign infiltration, he recognized the growing threat of home-grown American Protestantism to Americans' free thought. Written one year before America would enter WWII, If This Goes On- was obviously inspired by the observed success of fascist propaganda campaigns. Yet Heinlein seems among the first to notice the easy marriage between the supposedly secular cults of personality of the modern televised era and traditional messianism. This, sixty years before Christopher Hitchens would shock my generation by drawing attention to Stalin, Kim Il Sung and others' appropriation of convenient religious iconography.

Instead of toppled against all odds by a rag-tag band of misfits or a lone farm boy filled with dreams of freedom, the evil empire must also be countered by a commensurate opposing force. Or at least one within an order of magnitude of adherents, material resources and training. That the revolutionary movement centers on Masonic lodges might shock modern readers, but makes perfect sense in the context of Heinlein's theocratic premise.

Instead of some inhuman hyper-technological show of force, the evil empire comes to power through all too human means. It uses psychological manipulation, mass-media inundation and the masses' own willful ignorance to crush all resistance. The hoi polloi believe in the lies fed to them by hoi oligoi because they want to believe, because it's easier to be lulled into slavery by big lies than to think critically. Almost inevitably, the heroes' final victory is by no means complete, with the masses being at every turn temped to turn back to the comfort of totalitarian messianic thinking.

Whether all of these elements were present in the 1940 version or added to the revised 1953 version, Heinlein was at least half a century ahead of his time in even his simpler ideas, and in some respects was writing for post-humans.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Planescape: Limbo

"A mole, digging in a hole
Digging up my soul now
Going down excavation
I and I in the sky
You make me feel like I can fly"

U2 - Elevation

Before I go on, let's admit it: for a game whose basic graphics at first glance can barely give SimCopter a run for its money, Kerbal Space Program looks surprisingly pretty at times:

For that matter, Meridian: New World doesn't look half bad either:

The difference being that Kerbal makes good on one of the oldest promises of electronic gaming while Meridian's an uncreative throwback to the circa-Y2K post-Starcraft era of gratuitous RTS shovelware. Notice me not linking it, as it's not worth buying even at trash bin prices.

By the mid-2000s I'd already gotten into MMOs, and before long had started to gripe in exasperation at their wasted potential. When City of Villains came out set in an archipelago, it only flared up my old annoyance at Paragon City's lack of aquatic environments. Though I did not regret quitting World of Warcraft, I had played a druid and missed exploring WoW's sprinkling of submarine adventures like wrecked ships in my seal form. That and my ability to escape gankers by diving like Moby and flipping my pursuers the Dick. I'd gone from that to City of Heroes where water was simply another form of ground. Squishy ground, but nonetheless just another walkable surface. No chance for me to Namor it up or Aqua any men.

By the time Warcraft 3 came out, it made a rather savvy move to abandon naval warfare. Warcraft 2 had included boats of various denominations, as had the Command and Conquer games and their copycats. Decades of World War 2 documentaries showcasing destroyers lobbing depth charges at sneaky torpedo-loaded submarines had led to the assumption of naval combat as a logical part of any strategy game. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few brave classics like M.A.X., strategy gamers are never tasked with maintaining supply lines. Units instead possess infinite fuel and ammunition thus removing a principal historic necessity for sailing the high, low and intermediate seas. Combined with strategy games remaining flat maps even as their graphics expanded to three dimensions, this has usually rendered the naval element a pointless drain on processing power, inflating map sizes with vast swaths of blue desert which may become relevant, on average, less than once per match. A lack of fuel requirements also removes the economic motivation for naval freight hauling, making seagoing vessels utterly redundant in games which invariably also include air units (and air transport) as the pinnacle of their technology trees. Warcraft 3 came out in 2002. By 2016, Meridian had still not gotten the memo. Its expansion's randomized maps tend to generate a single comically undersized teacup upon which your stalwart navy can storm utterly divorced from anything else going on around the table.

So, ponders the would-be sea wolf, instead of including water as just another kind of ground, why not include liquid as just another kind of air? At the top of that Kerbal screenshot lies the altimeter, below it a bar colored from the inky vacuum of space to cheery tropospheric cerulean. Air density plays a critical role as a barrier to take-offs and a source of braking for landings, as a source of lift or reaction mass for spaceplanes. The turbine in that picture remains effective up to about 12000 meters. But why stop at the datum?

Imagine a game set in a soft science fiction universe, upon various planets whose atmospheres consist of (miraculously) discrete layers of imiscible fluids. Craft gliding down through breezy helium and thick, soupy methane clouds to dive into light frothy ethane seas and even lower into halogenated hellscapes. Whether as a strategy game or first-person RPG, navigating such environments could provide both strategic challenges (not just density but corrosion, volatility, etc.) and a very satisfying dose of extremophilia. Also, from the standpoint of production values, auto-generating masses of shifting clouds should prove much more cost-effective than landscaping and populating solid ground. Imagine taking the standard, cheesy "floating islands" pulp fantasy motif and giving the islands a reason to float: a world of managing lift and turbine efficiency, of gas giants, blimps, monstrous jellyfish and amphibious fighter craft.

Even creating a top-down strategy game fought on multiple layers of density may prove just enough of a compromise between 2D and 3D to at last give us a true spiritual successor to Homeworld.

Sunday, January 6, 2019


Yearly new dearly you nearly learned neatly discreetly to regret wetware ingratiated pre-sentiently sainted ain't sent resentfully but reverberated b.-currently sub-limin all minimally in-animally inanimated dented cortical leaves way for reanimated limbic laminated deity to the lamb, interminal terminal epidemiology of memetic infantility tilting at towers reticulated dendritically toppling to rams agnus dei the ignorance sung angelically the delicate refuse of refusal to fortify phyto-axon xen wilting inanities supersituated social it be. Me-me-me-metics infect fraction by infracted phrenaction, nephroting all over each intactly untact victim of taphonomic divagation from de-primatization. Simian syn simian synovium syn absent apse cushions the blow of genuflecting devolution.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Internet Is Global... -?

Google provides very little information to bloggers about the web traffic hitting their Blogspot pages. Country of origin, operating system and browser (and by the way, more of you should be using Firefox with its ad blocker) and rough time estimates uncorrelated to the other info. I'd complain, but hey, the price is right. Nevertheless, earlier this year a certain hit from a certain country goosed my fancy and I began writing down the various countries landing on my virtual shores.

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Cote d'Ivoire
Dominican Republic
Hong Kong
New Zealand
Saudi Arabia
South Africa
South Korea
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States

Unknown Region - I apparently have Martian readers. And they use Linux! Hi there, Xzorngblahrg!

Note I'm all too aware these should not be counted steady "readers" by any stretch of the imagination. The vast majority are incidental keyword hits on page twenty of some Google search or image searches for game screenshots. At under one thousand monthly hits (I'm hilariously unpopular) there's little resolution to work with as well. But, for the purposes of a vague impression of just who's aimlessly browsing the internet, it suits me just fine. In some cases the sample pool amounted to one per country. Tracking numbers by hand for half a year would've been a bit more work than I care to invest, but my own impressions combined with plotting these countries on mapchart still raised a few questions.

For one thing, my hits from the U.S. have been decreasing over the years, despite being the obvious target audience for most of my posts. Americans cannot stand to have their politics challenged, and I do so on a routine basis. In fact, for this past month (likely for the first time ever) I've gotten more hits from France than from the U.S. Also, apparently Canadians like Star Trek? OK, sure, I guess.

For another thing, I get very little from the Hispanic realms, Spain included, and that can't be entirely economic. Has the Internet's hispanophone subculture been developing in isolation? Brazil probably accounts for as many hits as the rest of South America combined (blame my obsession with MOBAs, quite popular among shithead Brazilian brats) and all of Central America's absent. Not entirely surprising given their relatively low populations, but still...

Africa remains Darkest. No surprise there. The few countries which show up tend to track very predictably the list of top African populations and GDP - South Africa, Kenya, Algeria, Nigeria (that prince that kept e-mailing me must be quite the MMO enthusiast) and in the past, a handful of hits from Tanzania and Morocco. But where the hell is Egypt? Is it in deNial?

Southeastern Europe also lags behind what I'd have expected. Croatia, Hungary, Romania make an appearance, though not as much as you'd expect given especially Romanians' infamous penchant for information technology. South of that line, the lights are still out in the Balkans. Or they just really, really, really don't like roleplaying games or science fiction over there. Even Greece barely managed a token appearance and the only hits I get from Italy are obvious crawler bots.

Asia's a mixed bag. Russia's absolutely ripe with crawler bots, and has been ever since I started doing this in 2011. Go-go, industrially polluted punch-drunk hacker rangers! Ukrainians seemed to like me talking about the game STALKER and keep dropping by. The middle-East, Turkey included, may as well be reading by candle-light. Except for surprisingly rising rates of random hits from Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. over the past couple of years. Despite the still-rampant censorship, despite all the controversy, the Saudi modernization drive is achieving... something... I guess? The far east is predictably on the ball. My first regular reader (for a couple of months) back in 2012 was from the Philippines. South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, all drop by once in a while. Each more often than Japan, as a matter of fact, which I would guess is once again a matter of a cultural / linguistic split. Japan's got its own media culture going on. And how!

And then there's China. I was at first surprised at getting hits from places like Zambia or Bangladesh, but started this post when in that same week, even more shockingly China made its appearance. Why should I be surprised? For the most part, being largely random one-time hits, my usage statistics pretty closely track the official statistics on Internet usage, which are themselves fairly predictable by population numbers and general wealth. Scandinavia's all up in your internets, yo. The two most shocking absentees are in fact the top countries on the list: India and China. I get a few Indians, though at about the same rate as Indonesians or Syrians. This is especially jarring given Indians' laughable claim to learning English as a native language. I've gotten as many phone calls from Indian call centers over the past few years as my blog's gotten Indian hits.

I get nothing from China. Two or three hits in six months. Whatever the Chinese (and to a lesser extent Indians) are doing online, it's got little or nothing to do with strategic and roleplaying complexity in PC games, or Tolkien, or with the golden age of Science Fiction, or with webcomics as a youthful mode of expression, or with alternative music from the '90s or with the logical fallacies of modern populism. There are a lot of things that might keep you from roaming freely online. Not being able to afford a computer jumps to mind. Censorship would be another hurdle. Recovering from wars or revolutions tends to play havoc with infrastructure. Nothing quite so surely kills human curiousity, however, as being raised caged in traditionalism, fanatically furthering the interests of your family/tribal unit and trying to outbreed and exterminate all those barbarians out there.

The two largest nations in the world don't care about your culture.
They are expanding, and nothing else matters.