Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Always Lucky

Whenever I watch a big battle scene with swords and arrows, my mind is blown at what people used to be willing to get themselves into. It just looks so damned dangerous. Then I wonder about whether they were thankful to be in a time when they could have a limb removed without having their life taken, or some other invention of their "modern medicine," and it makes me wonder how primitive my life will seem compared to someone in the future.

The other day, this basic idea was extended to some birds I saw sitting on an electric line high up, with a foot or so of snow beneath them in cold weather. At first all I could think about was how happy I was to get indoors to some warmth but a few seconds later, I started second guessing my luck. I don't know what their day is like, what they think about, and whether their life is content, but let's say they could somehow have a clear idea of the trade-off between bird and human. Maybe they'd miss flying. Maybe they'd miss a whole lot of other things, too. Maybe being a bird is simply better.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hearting Sequels

This morning I was reading an article about purchasing game sequels, and I found myself wondering how things would change if big games were released at $20. I understand research shows a perceived lower value that comes with the price tag, but I wonder whether a big, widely-recognized game like Call of Duty could buck that trend, especially with advertising behind it. I wonder if it would sell even more or much less than it currently does. I wonder if $20 becoming a new standard would hurt indie games, or free up game dollars to be spent taking "risks" on games again. Publishers like to talk a lot about leveraging their risks on sequels and it makes sense, but I often wonder if sequels sell and new IP -- even IP with amazing reviews -- has a hard time penetrating the market because consumers are asked to take a significant risk with their gaming dollar as well. How often do you spend money on a movie you aren't sure about? How often do you do this with a game?

Friday, November 26, 2010

More Attached

Gmail did the cooooolest thing today. Have you seen this? I hit send on an email and a message popped up, saying something to the effect of, "Are you sure you want to send? We notice you mentioning the "attached" in your email but there was no attachment." I did forget, which I hate, so this message was awesome.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Eats!

That is all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I've been pondering a lot about the future of games ever since E3. How I parse casual, indie, and blockbuster games, their focus and budgets, and how big publishers should play in each field has been changing. I've noticed, too that my sense about consoles has been shifting -- that it seems inevitable the concept of the console will disappear altogether from our lives in sooner than later as the power of a dedicated machine is less important and their accessibility in other venues grows.

Then today, over lunch, a close friend brought up an article that showed consoles like the Wii and Xbox 360 declining in mindshare of kids for things like the iPad. It reminded me of a few years back, when portable gaming was becoming really popular in Japan. At the time, there was a lot of crying in US game development that cellphone gaming was the future. This was back when Nokia tried out the N-Gage and such. At the time I just didn't see that market having much immediate impact, and I didn't feel like the US market was in the same place as the Japanese market. Now, since the proliferation of iPhones, iPads, Facebook, and browser games, there's no question that the Western appetite for smaller, faster, and more portable games is a big deal.

The reason this struck me is because I've noticed a lot of rhetoric, lately, about the West dominating Japan in the core gaming market, the implication being that Western developers have advanced their skill to a place that Japan hasn't. The thought that popped in my head over lunch was wondering if the Japanese market is simply a few years ahead of the US market in abandoning core games. Perhaps while we pat ourselves on the back for being better developers, the truth is Japan just fled core gaming earlier, and the US isn't far behind.

Probably an old thought, but new to my bubble. Feel free to hold my ignorance against me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Everyone in Utah is freaking out over an incoming storm. I'm pretty out of the loop because I spend all of my day indoors, so the hysteria is amusing to me. Murphy's Law says that means I'm going to get wiped out from it, somehow. But because I'm an indoor person even when the weather's nice, it's nice to have weather that justifies my behavior. I better get playing my Xbox before the power dies. :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fear to Games

This weekend I was watching a TED Talk by Philip Howard where he discusses his ideas about how our increasingly litigious society has altered our modern lives. I enjoyed the talk, and while watching I wondered whether the increasingly fearful world he paints benefits the gaming industry. If every aspect of our lives, from playgrounds, to schools, to running a business are increasingly locked down with second-guessing and fear, what would possibly be more freeing than jumping into a game and doing anything you want, free of fear's shackles?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Whose Crazy?

I received an interesting comment a couple days ago that I didn't notice right away:
"...If you asked any executive they'd tell you they're making really risky decisions all the time. So how would you articulate the difference between the heavy risks they _feel_ like they're making and these Walt Disney-esque big-payoff types of risks?"
My biased response is, "It's the kind of risk that inspires the creatives in your company." Your creatives are the medium between an idea and its audience, and if it doesn't inspire them, it's unlikely to make a lasting, positive impression in games.

An idea executed with inspired creatives is no guarantee, but is the only concrete minimum requirement I would offer when influential vision is the goal. Anonymously poll your most valued creatives. The answer may not surprise you, but it can help.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I had a late night tonight playing D&D, hence the late update. It was a fairly standard run with a couple of encounters, but a run in with a Succubus was incredibly fun. It cracks me up that our party aches for battle and kills about everything under the sun, but the second we a character that doesn't want to fight, even if it's a demon trickster from the Abyss that just hypnotized two of our party members and stole one of our magic weapons, and who will surely wreak havoc on nearby towns, even a Lawful Good cleric of Bahamut gets fussy about hitting it. It got everyone (friendly) yelling about each others' motives, amidst rolls against each other (since some of our wills were dominated), and all in all, it was a memorable moment. It's occasions like these that I presume inspired Warren's quest of creating a narrative with the player. If only games had the content control and mind of a DM.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spector PAX

I'm going the easy route with some brainfeed, today. In Penny Arcade a Warren Spector keynote from PAX was mentioned and I was happy to see it online. Over the years, I've enjoyed listening to his mind on games, and I enjoyed his keynote, too. It's interesting to see where he evolves on where games are going and what engine should drive them, but I notice I still bristle at his disgust of games on rails. It's not that I don't see value in player agency and creativity in games, but that the difference between a game on rails and Deus Ex strikes me as different shades of the same gray, and the white/black of his D&D games require a much different approach than just letting players complete a game using different playstyles.

I like that he had an Atari 400 and loved Star Raiders. The Atari 400 was my family's first console, and that game was indeed cool.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Zoom Zip

I'm in another gaming wave at the moment, plowing through games like crazy. Since Amnesia I've been through Metroid: Other M (okay, didn't finish that one), Vanquish, Kirby's Epic Yarn, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, and God of War: Ghost of Sparta. I just hope the momentum keeps through the holidays. I'm interested in the latest Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed that have tumbled back around to us, and whatever other things are headed down the chute; I don't keep track very well, anymore. I need to do a few summary reviews or something.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Speak Summary, Q&A

There were a few questions that came up during my presentation, put through the lens of my foggy memory. Here is my hazy recollection of the questions and the random things I rambled in response:

More thoughts on maintaining passion?
  • Accept more passionate ideas; you can work with a passionate person to get an idea in a good place, but can only micromanage a disconnected person
  • Focus on goals not solutions; instead of offering solutions, offer a range of ideas wherein the solution might lie in and give them the joy of coming up with it
  • Involve the team in a design story; designers that claim they "know" a feature is fun are lying unless they've implemented it exactly before; that's not to say there aren't good educated guesses; just that designers have to experiment, and it's good to involve the team in the story of decisions; in potential designers -- especially design leads -- I prioritize people skills for this reason
  • I also like designers that aren't afraid to be wrong for this reason; you can never tell what bad idea will inspire a great idea; designers are often a paranoid lot because they once sat on the sidelines critiquing bad decisions and now they're the ones making them (and they know others are doing the critiquing); they sometimes think it's their job to be "right"; it's not, and getting past this is valuable
  • Everyone has awesome ideas; my mom never plays games, but her input if she plays one is an honest, valuable reaction; the job of a design lead is not to have all the best ideas, it’s identifying and communicating goals and relying on talented people to reach them; lean on good people
  • If publishers have bad ideas, being pissed about it ensures it ends up in your game; find out why they are giving you the idea -- what they are trying to address -- and validate that concern; it gives you the room to bring up other ideas that may address it; they like being a part of the design process
  • Give final control to people you trust; it's hard, but do it; you're the designer, not the animator, the art lead, etc.; if a game comes out that you micromanage and it sucks, the people working on it blame you; if you didn't micromanage and it sucks, they analyze it and get better.
When do you have enough design information to execute?
  • It's a fuzzy line
  • I suppose when you have enough that (a) you feel confident in it, and (b) when you describe it to others, they also feel confident in it
  • Then you start building, and constantly thinking a step ahead
There were more questions, so I'm definitely forgetting things. Sorry!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Speak Summary, pt.2

This is part two of a summary of a guest speaker talk I did at the University of Utah. See part one here.

Chicken Little
  • My first project at Avalanche was Chicken Little.
  • Avalanche is a hands-off company; they like self-motivated people; the environment was very different and I was critical their process; the transition was hard; I disappeared in a cubicle and was worthless and depressed for awhile.
  • I decided that being a lead again might give me the chance to effect some of the change I thought Avalanche should adopt; I didn't expect a positive reaction but sat down with Blackburn and explained that being a lead might be the only thing that would make it worth staying there for.
  • He thought it was a bad idea (of course) and agreed it might be best for me to move on; he made no ultimatums but I think we both assumed that would be the end of things.
  • But I was bothered that I started at Avalanche partly to learn something but never gave their method a chance; I had to, so I grabbed something I thought needed help and went for it.
  • The turn around in my attitude was fast; people had a reason to dislike me after seeing what a tool I was in my first months, but I felt welcomed after finally agreeing to play ball; I had years of Saffire work behind me but not a lot of experience with other companies, and this lesson of going with the flow was a valuable thing to learn.
  • Since Van Helsing, I spent a lot of time thinking about the future of emotion in games; on Van Helsing, Vivendi had sent us to a lot of story and screenwriting courses to improve the story of the game, and that exposure made a big impact on what I wanted to achieve in games.
  • I was jealous of shooters because they could build cinematics around the player to bring the story to life, but I always worked on third-person games; I started dreaming of ways to ensure the actions of a third-person character always matched the mood of the story around them; I was also inspired heavily by dog in Half-Life 2, which for various reasons I felt was the first character that felt like had his own powerful will and purpose in a game I had played.
  • I theorized a lot about these ideas, with Todd Harris, a concept artist at Avalanche who had been working on a new intellectual property that fit these ideas really well; we became good friends.
  • An extremely rare opportunity happened: after Disney bought Avalanche, they asked for new IPs; Avalanche did an open submission from the company, and two ideas I was involved with got a lot of votes; one of them was the idea Todd Harris and I were developing.
  • We pitched it to Disney and they said yes; it was extremely ambitious but Disney was in the mood for it.
  • I can't go into details about the project, but I'll say that I tried to pair gameplay I knew with storytelling and characters worthy of the Disney/Pixar heritage; there was a lot of positive momentum within Disney about the project, and I was extremely proud of how it looked and played.
  • After years of development, and for various reasons I won't discuss out loud, the project was shelved; it seemed to happen at the height of some amazing team momentum; reading about LMNO in the press, there are many similarities.
  • I reflected deeply on what the cancellation of the unannounced project meant for other projects at Disney; what worried me was the idea of Disney losing its appetite for risk; the cancellation decision made good sense on paper but, in my almost-certainly-biased opinion, poor sense in terms of what Disney could and should make viable.
  • I felt Disney needed more risk, not less; When Walt Disney was making Snow White, people called him crazy because no one would watch a 2 hour animated movie; when he was building Disneyland, they thought he was throwing away his fortune on the dumbest of ideas; special ideas are interesting because they come from left field and aren't easy to justify; they have a certain amount of WTF, and Disney needs more special ideas, not less, to establish the niche they want in games.
  • And special ideas inspire passion; passion is a requirement for success; it doesn't guarantee success, but they make success possible, and companies that make games without passion only last so long because someone will eventually do what they do with passion.
  • I imagined what would be interesting at E3 in the Disney booth; if they make a shooter, it's not interesting because it's "jaded"; Toy Story 3 is "expected"; and though attaching a well-known name like Warren Spector to a license like Mickey is an example of an unusual pairing, Avalanche had no industry personality that, paired with a particular licensed product, would create similar opportunities.
  • I found myself unnerved by potential again; executives can stay executives by justifying decisions, and doing what trends and focus groups tell them rarely creates something special; my gut told me that the same executive culture that dulled Disney feature dulled its games division; and it might be years before that changed.
  • I quit with great admiration and hope for Blackburn and Avalanche; a lot of amazing people still work there.
  • As before, I left without having something lined up; I knew I wanted to pursue one of two things:
    • One, a big successful studio; just to learn how they make big successful games, because I want to know; I don't have to be a lead, I just want to help them make great product and learn from the process; I might love it, I might hate it, but it would be an experience.
    • Two, my own thing; something with WTF, that was passion-first; that might have a good chance of dying along the way, but would fill my soul.
  • I leaned towards leaving Utah for a big company, but some friends appealed to me, convincing me that it was worth trying to do something before I left the state; my self-consciousness was defeated by the show of support and it made sense; I decided to try.
  • I started LittleBot, grabbed Unity, and started teaching myself to script.
  • My plan probably needs help:
    • Phase one, do something interesting (has WTF) that fills my soul and inspires my passion; prove the idea is fun or find out it's not, even if it takes years.
    • Phase two, find friends to polish a piece of it and truly show its potential; sell production on an idea that was once WTF, now playable and awesome, and that has talented and passionate people attached.
  • I want to succeed and probably need a plan with more practicality, but feel good about chasing my nose and filling my soul doing something that inspires my passion; some WTF.
I only hope my WTF has a happy ending.

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Speak Summary, pt.1

    Below is a summary of the almost three-hour presentation I did at the University of Utah about my career development and choices, as they relate to being a designer in Utah in particular, and the industry in general.

    • I've been working in the Utah games industry for 16 years.
    • I started in art and ended as design lead on projects for Titus, Vivendi Universal, and Disney.
    Growing Up
    • I grew up in Hawaii and as a white kid, got picked on until I retreated indoors to a world of comics, RPGs, movies, and games.
    • I drew comics with my friends and wanted to be a comic artist when I grew up.
    • I played more games than I drew comics. Street Fighter II was especially formative.
    • I grew up in a Mormon family, and went to BYU for college. I no longer identify with religion, but it explains what led me to Utah.
    • I studied games in college.
    • That is, I played MUDs until I was kicked out of college.
    Breaking In
    • A friend found a job on the BYU job board for a game artist.
    • Never playing pitfall did it occur to me that I should be an artist in games.
    • But I was excited so -- knowing nothing about portfolios -- I gathered my sketchbooks, dated them, and submitted them.
    • They thought I had potential, and had me bring in my 286 Packard Bell computer from home to install Deluxe Animator on.
    • I was so excited with my job that I didn't even pee my first day on it.
    Art Track
    • I did pixel backgrounds, animations, 3D art, and 3D animations.
    • My first 3D model was the flying car the pig cops in Duke Nukem 3D rode around in (yes, we did art for DN3D).
    • I got pretty far as an artist but wanted more say over how the games were made, because I loved games and cared deeply about their quality.
    Odd Job
    • My first design gig was a strange design contract where Saffire was asked to critique Legacy of Kain (PSX) and server up ideas for a sequel. My submission was amateurish but I loved it.
    StarCraft: Brood War
    • My second design gig was "additional design" on Brood War. Most people don't know Saffire did a huge portion of art and programming, and some participation in initial design, including story and unit design.
    • We were largely picked up for the project because of a very passionate pitch document that I and a few other employees worked hard on. We loved Blizzard and StarCraft.
    • As I recall, we were originally contracted to do one tileset and three color changes to it to represent three worlds. I remember convincing everyone that most of the work was doable and that we should do three different tilesets. I might be remembering it wrong.
    • As an artist on the project, I probably touched (not did) about 70% of the tileset art. I did a lot of organic base terrain tiles, and integrated base terrain with level objects (doodads) and other painted or rendered assets.
    • I learned to interesting things on that project:
      • One, every iteration makes a project better; Blizzard was incredibly fickle and constantly had us redo everything; my artist ego died a horrible death. Thank god.
      • Two, Blizzard is made up of normal dudes; we worked with talented people, but I never felt their ideas were vastly superior; they were just willing to try things and kept trying until they knew they had something special.
    Xena: Warrior Princess: Talisman of Fate
    • My third design gig was for more additional design on Xena. Steve Taylor of Wahoo fame headed the project. It was built from scratch in 9 months.
    • I remember at some point hearing that Titus literally didn't care what was made as long as it was playable and had Xena on the title. It was amazing.
    • But we really had a fun time on the project becoming Xena fans and trying to put in as much fan service as we could.
    • Titus wanted another brawler and Steve left the company (I think) so this was my first opportunity to be a design lead. I was also, at the same time, an animation lead. Crazy times.
    • It was an original property, which was an amazing opportunity for me.
    • I fell into every ambitious new designer trap; I wanted the world.
    • I wanted to use a structure of the Dreamcast game Powerstone but use it as a way to deliver the strategy of a game like Street Fighter to the masses; I lacked the perspective to deliver this, and kept adding more features, like an involved story for every character, RPG elements, and untested combat features that were underdeveloped.
    • If we had just tried to duplicate Powerstone and add something, maybe we could have created something interesting.
    • Titus was going downhill and it affected Saffire; our team was missing many paychecks; over the project, we had 5 different producers each with their own set of wants.
    • And I still wanted everything to match a specific abstract vision in my mind's eye; I micromanaged everything, and ran out of time doing so as the team became increasingly disaffected by both pay problems, and worse (to me personally) my controlling hand.
    • I reflected a lot after Barbarian and hated how disaffected everyone working with me seemed; I strongly felt that even beyond pay, it was how micromanaging I had been that got everyone disconnected, and it had an awful impact on the game; I vowed to turn this around 180 degrees.
    Van Helsing
    • Saffire got lucky and landed Van Helsing; it was my next shot to redeem myself as a design lead; I had no animation responsibilities.
    • Vivendi wanted a strict scope and asked us to essentially remake Devil May Cry; after my disaster doing everything my way, I looked forward to it; we deconstructed absolutely everything in that game, from the number of moves to rooms to monsters, etc., etc.; the major addition was the grappling hook, which was an addendum to Devil May Cry combat.
    • In terms of team input, I tried to involve everyone in decision making whenever possible, and prioritized passion when ideas were brought to the table; if an idea was sub-par (not often) but it was backed by passion, I would let that count as above-par and work with ideas to get them into the game; I felt this approach was a vast improvement.
    • After 18 months (and several team members were still behind on pay for part of this time), we made Van Helsing with a brand new engine from scratch; the team cared less about it being derivative, and more about it being fun.
    • The game had a lot of flaws, but I was able to dissect them much more easily than Barbarian because the game was much more derivative; I could spot what went wrong fast.
    Moving On
    • At Saffire, I had occasionally been behind on pay by as many as three months, but I stayed partly because I only cared about potential; the industry struck me as tumultuous -- who knew Sega wouldn't make consoles, or EA wouldn't be the number one publisher, or that brilliant design houses like Looking Glass would go under -- if I saw potential, I would stay.
    • I learned a lot and was proud of the team, but I thought I might never be able to do what I wanted to at Saffire; they were a very generalized company, and I wanted to see them specialize in something to stay attractive to publishers; I started to feel held back by management, and I wanted a more progressive place that had the same goals I did.
    • I quit thankful for the opportunity I was given and the things I had learned, and left without having other work lined up and started looking for other jobs.
    • I had other offers but was tempted by Avalanche; staying in Utah meant working with people I knew and I was impressed by Tak 2; I thought Avalanche could teach me something.
    • It was a hard decision, but I stayed in Utah.
    • In hindsight, I should have been more wary of Avalanche; not at all because I regret my decision, but rather philosophically since my objective was to find a boss that thought the same way I did about games; John Blackburn, President of Avalanche made it clear that he didn't care most about making great games, but in making a place people wanted to work at; I was enticed, however, when he explained his reasoning that he couldn't control when lightning would strike and the opportunity to make something great would hit; he could only control having good people at his company when it happened; that was compelling.
    That's a lot of text. I'll post part two tomorrow.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Report Card

    To prepare for my guest speaker thingy I cobbled together 90 or so images that would remind me of what to say and went to town. It's been awhile since I've tripped down memory lane and interesting to remember what kind of decisions went into the games and choices I've made. I thought it went well; I just hope the students that had to bear a nearly 3 hour presentation (!) felt the same way. :)

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Impromptu Speak

    Yesterday I was invited to be a guest speaker tonight at University of Utah at a design course thing. Today I've been cobbling together images relating to my path through the industry here in Utah and broad lessons I've learned about my career as it seems like the only thing I could speak coherently about on such short notice. I hope it doesn't flop!

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Double Vision

    In the vein of my recent stream of consciousness about the malleability of reality and perception is this incredible story Tom Scholes linked me, about craniopagus (?) conjoined twins that share a skull and a bridge between each girl’s thalamus, a part of the brain that processes and relays sensory information to other parts of the brain.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Deja Poo

    My last post received an awesome comment about confusing a past real-life event from a game event, and somehow that mixed with all this Matrix talk reminded me of deja vu. Most people I know -- including myself when I was younger -- find deja vu enjoyable. It's certainly an uncanny sensation to feel like you are exactly repeating a past event. But one day it occurred to me that having previously done whatever activity I'm currently engaged in means I'm just wasting my time. Now I hate deja vu, although less than I hate the deja vu scene in the Matrix (so dumb!).

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    There Is No Spoon

    I was disappointed when I first saw the Matrix, because the notion of a person being raised in virtual reality was something I had been exposed to, and found interesting. In 1991, a Shadowrun sourcebook called Virtual Realities came out, and in it was a short story about a character that was raised in virtual environment. The story ended with the character looking upon "real life" with real eyes, and a description of what an alien sensation it was.

    I tend to regard human perception as pretty thin, partly because of how easily it is to fool (see yesterday's post), but sometimes I wonder if it's also because of what I do for a living. I mean, with games, we find ourselves more or less transported, eyes fixated on a screen as we drive our characters around to explore and succeed in a pseudo-reality. And though there are a too many reasons for it being impractical in reality, another loved idea in science fiction is the holodeck.

    So when my job is to create compelling worlds, and when it strikes me as likely that in the future we could create a virtual environment as compelling as reality, and when I have a hard time distinguishing for myself the difference between my animal neuron cognizance and a complicated AI cognizance (both of which take in input, process it, and act according to an automated process of priority)... I almost find it likely that whatever think is reality is just one layer of an onion. Not in a religious sense, but a virtual one.

    Not that it makes any difference. Sorry for the trip down loony lane!

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Illusion Fun

    I have little time to crank out an update tonight, so I thought I'd throw more brainfeed out and try to get more substantial tomorrow. I've expressed my love of illusion in previous posts, and submit this video as more evidence.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Speaking of Which

    The idea of game incentives being brought into reality has been shared many times over, but I particularly liked some of the specific examples used in a TED Talk released yesterday, that I bumped into last night. And it's relevant to yesterday's musings. Do check it out.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Fading Spell

    Today, I enjoyed a Kotaku article about games tricking us into doing things we loathe, not because of the perspective on how games are invading our day to day life, but because I think as more and more of these observations appear, the more it reveals that at the heart of most games is gameplay we wouldn't spend much time with were it not for the addictive qualities added by designers.

    On a similar note, Elias sent me a link to a Jonathan Blow talk that emphasizes the same point. In the talk, he might come across as overstating it, but listening carefully and thinking hard about his concessions, I believe there is crossover about my feelings on game design. That said, I find myself more forgiving of the ways games games like WoW or Diablo still offer something more than addiction, even if the balance is out of whack. Sometimes the power fantasy a game like Halo provides is alone a worthwhile reason to dive into a game.

    But I've been weirded out in applying the same observations to Nintendo games. They share an overly predictable formula of addictive gameplay with admittedly solid gameplay, and only the lightest touch of story. About the only emotions I feel playing a Nintendo game is a desire to research gameplay, whatever tiny element the story might bring to life, and OCD-pricking gameplay, which is usually entangled with the word "fun." I'm playing Kirby right now -- very close to "100 percenting" everything -- and it certainly isn't breaking the mold. Unfortunately, I find that I associate OCD with "fun" less and less.