Right or Left?

From ‘I don’t get politics’:

Left wing beliefs are usually progressive in nature, they look to the future, aim to support those who cannot support themselves, are idealist and believe in equality. People who are left wing believe in taxation to redistribute opportunity and wealth – things like a national health service, and job seeker’s allowance are fundamentally left wing ideas. They believe in equality over the freedom to fail.

Right wing beliefs value tradition, they are about equity, survival of the fittest, and they believe in economic freedom. They typically believe that business shouldn’t be regulated, and that we should all look after ourselves. Right wing people tend believe they shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s education or health service. They believe in freedom to succeed over equality.

Based on this, I’m firmly in the left wing camp. Which means that some self-styled politicos are either talking shite or both this web site and Wikipedia are wrong.

Obviously this is reductionist. I’ve said before that I’m socially liberal, fiscally conservative (as opposed to ‘tory’) and economically progressive. That means I think everyone should be treated equally and the laws of the land should reflect the will of the people,. It means we need to be careful how we spend our money but it also means ensuring that everyone has enough to live on with adequate healthcare so they can enjoy it, otherwise it’s not a society you’re maintaining). It means we need to think outside the box when designing how our wee province will thrive and this means taking some bold steps in productivity and creating opportunity

I feel I need to write my 95 theses.

Commercial, Critical and Cultural

The discussion in the Facebook Group “NI Game Dev Network” continues with lots of debate over definitions. It’s plain that people mean different things when they say “AA” or “Indie” when referring to budgets. Thing is – this is the same debate that’s been raging for years.

My meanings:

Indie – developed and publish by a small team (probably less than 20 people). Usually with a smallish budget and usually bootstrapped (or crowd-funded). They may do client work to make up the salary bill or they may have incremental income from a well-received but not breakaway series of games.

AA – developed by a studio which may or may not also be the publisher. The team size varies but the project is unlikely to be bootstrapped and much more likely to be funded by a publishing contract. They’ll depend on a hit or two or a major IP to maintain their growing costs.

AAA – megacorporations which own multiple studios and have budgets in the multimillions. They may have a development team with a thousand people. They’ll be supported by major hits and, ultimately, they’ll be sunk by a major flop.

This isn’t a badge of quality. Everyone has witnessed a crappy AAA game and has had a top quality experience from an indie game. This is more about market position, access to resources and budgets. Some (Hi Ryan) would say that being Indie is a state of mind. I’d agree until you see AAA publishers getting in on Indie Games Bundles. Which is just stupid.

What I’m more interested in is a criterion of success – be that commercially, critically or culturally.

According to a TechRadar article, these are the 20 best British games:

  1. ELITE
  2. GTA
  3. Rome: Total War
  4. Football Manager
  5. Goldeneye
  6. Tomb Raider
  7. Speedball 2
  8. Chuckie Egg
  9. Worms
  10. WipEout
  11. Lemmings
  12. Manic Miner
  13. Timesplitters
  14. Sensible World of Soccer
  15. Little Big Planet
  16. Banjo Kazooie
  17. Populous
  18. Dizzy
  19. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
  20. Driver

Whether or not you agree or disagree, I’m interested in why not one of them came from Northern Ireland.

From your experiences in Northern Ireland making games…

Angie McKeown asked this in the NI Game Dev Network:

From your experiences in Northern Ireland making games, what do you think is holding the local game industry back?
Is there something we do well?
Is there something you struggle with?

I wrote:

Collaboration is “helping someone” not being paid for work. So I intend to open a game lab this year (if the contracting business works out) and offer free space to people in game dev and related subjects if they perform corporate social responsibility – take on placements, help polish each others games, spend lunchtimes learning and teaching. A lot of stuff that you guys do anyway but get no direct benefit from it.

Hard to argue there’s not enough artists out there when we probably have *just enough* but lose a lot and nowhere enough programmers and lose a lot too. I’d love to work with some artists but I’ve not got the capital to do it.

I’m not remotely interested in pulling together AA teams. I want a thriving group of indies that iterates quickly and is prepared to put the time in to POLISH each others games. Building large teams just means you become utterly dependent on making big hits. That’s a major fail.

WhatsApp, Doc?

For the intents and purposes of this blog post, I’m not going into preferences or anything that will make the numbers harder to grasp. Keep it simple.

While the recent purchase of WhatsApp by FaceBook for $16B is a coup in itself, think of the poor investor, Sequoia Capital.

Instagram took in $57.5M of investment before their purchase, by FaceBook, for $1B. If we assume that in the garnering of $57M, they sacrificed, say, 80% of their equity to the investors, for that $57M investment, the investors get back £800M. That’s an awesome 14x return.

But WhatsApp? For that single $8M investment from Sequoia, they probably gained 30% of the company. 30% of $16B is $5B so they’ve turned this into a 625x return. If anyone doubted the power of user acquisition, they have probably been silenced now.

EDIT: According to Bloomberg, Sequoia had “more than 15%” which means they stand to make $3.5B. A paltry 430x return.

When you add that King, the developer of Candy Crush just reported an increase from $8M to $568M in profits from 2012 to 2013, there’s gold in them there digital media hills.

VI: What is needed…

Just an aide mémoire on what is needed:

  • 2000 square feet minimum (around 200 square metres)
  • Light and heat
  • Internet Access (with wireless and wired points)
  • Desks and seats
  • Catering faciities
  • Several square kilometres of whiteboard space
  • A way of paying for itself (which includes it being my office)
  • Links to Youth Organisations
  • Private companies.

The space will then be open to any digital company that doesn’t focus on services – but on products aimed at a global marketplace.

The space will be open to a digital business which commits to always collaborating at lunchtimes if they’re in the office. Core hours of work may be sacrosanct to their own business but at lunchtimes or if you take a coffee or comfort break, expect to be asked questions.

The space will be open to companies who will take on at least one apprentice. That means they’ll have to have a spare computer, they’ll have to dedicate a day to training and they’ll have to pay proper attention.

The space will be open to anyone who want to come in and learn a new digital trade. It’s not limited to being socially deprived or being part of some programme. If you want to learn, come in, take a desk and learn. You might not get the same attention as if you were on a formalised course but you’ll be immersed in it.

The space will be open to companies who will always take on school placements and that means we’d want them to get a member of staff registered with Access NI.

So, what am I missing?

History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.

I went for an interview with the Eisenhower Fellowship today. The Fellowship is an international group of people who have experienced a visit to the United States to perform research and make contacts. I was nominated to the process and there was a statement of purpose and an interview that needed to be completed.

Eisenhower Fellowships is a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization created in 1953 by a group of prominent American citizens to honor President Dwight D. Eisenhower for his contribution to humanity as a soldier, statesman, and world leader. The organization engages mid-career (age 32-45) professionals from around the world to enhance their leadership skills, broaden their network of contacts, deepen their global perspectives, and unite them in a diverse, global community where dialogue, understanding, and collaboration lead to a more prosperous, just, and peaceful world.

My pitch wasn’t the best; I’m not 100% sure what I would do if I was accepted onto the programme and I’m not sure who I’d meet. I gave a heartfelt presentation (notably without the use of visual aids) on my latest Social Capital project (dubbed Capitalising on Social Capital).

This directly has influence on my Revisiting VI work as the social clauses I plan go both ways. If we are to expect social responsibility from small businesses then we have to respect the value of their social capital. With big businesses it’s different. They get wads of cash from government and then they get wrapped up in whataboutery regarding the numbers and quality of graduates supplied by the education system.

My point is; this project doesn’t depend on my acceptance into the Fellowship programme. It will go ahead whether or not I get accepted. Before last month, I’d never heard of the Fellowship and therefore my plans are not contingent upon it. I do wonder why I had not heard if it? Similarly I had not heard of the Apeldoorn Fellowship before my participation in it last year. there are obviously many such networks around the globe – it behooves us to find them and to exploit them for the betterment of all.

While I spend time trying to encourage others to greatness, it is not because I do not believe I am capable of great things but rather there’s a role for everyone and I want to see aspirations realised. As I said in my interview today, my delight is in seeing others excel.

“Create all the happiness you are able to create; remove all the misery you are able to remove.” — Jeremy Bentham

My passion is unbridled optimism. We have been dealt some bad hands but there is opportunity everywhere. As I said during my closing statements today, “One Flappy Bird and the Northern Ireland media industry would be transformed”.

VI revisited. I’m looking for a few good humans.

A couple of years ago, a group of fools created STARTVI – a Virtual Incubator for digital startups. We gathered a gaggle of followers, had a paint party

After 6 months the building was condemned which kinda put paid to a lot of our ambitions.

I want to do it again. With some of the same things but also different. Yes, we’ll focus on startups in digital with a global vision but there are some serious social clauses that I want to build into it.

So, I’m looking for helpers. I don’t usually ask for much, so sign up below.

Children are out of control….

As if this was something new…as if the concept of kids being rebellious or misbehaving was something that kids had just come up with…


We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self control.”
— attributed to an inscription in an Ancient Egyptian tomb

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.
— a paraphrase of a quote from Aristophanes’ Clouds, a comedic play known for its caricature of Socrates.

We spend the first two years of their lives telling children to stand up and talk, and the rest of their lives hoping they sit down and listen…

The Economy of Northern Ireland

Wee snippet from Wikipedia

Border Midland & Western Ireland Southern & Eastern Ireland

Northern Ireland – United Kingdom
(1.1 million) (3 million) (1.75 million)
€25.5 bn GVA €497,374 bn GVA £29.1 (€37.3) bn)
€23,637 GVA per person €35,725 GVA per person £15,249 (€19,603) per person)

Depressing. We’re worse off than the Western and Border regions of Ireland.

Minimum wage in Northern Ireland £12,304.50
Minimum wage in Ireland is €16,867.50 (£14,012.90)