Diecast #301: Moved Permanently

By Shamus Posted Monday May 11, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 60 comments

This week we end the show on a slightly controversial subject: Raising kids and how to manage their relationship to games / screens. Neither of us had any idea what the other was going to say before we began the discussion. And YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

Or I guess you probably will. You folks know us pretty well by now.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes:

00:00 Paul is Working on a short Film

You can check out the project here.

02:50 What is a game… to a game developer?

I got the details of this talk a little wrong. I said it was from 2011. I think I confused it with another talk I’d been watching. The one I discussed on the show was Truth In Game Design, which was uploaded in 2017. So it’s not that old at all. The slide I’m talking about is at 19:46, and looks roughly like this:

for ()...
  Input ();
  Simulate ();
  Render ();

09:10 Jon Blow Fan Wank

11:36 Fractal Reasoning

13:58 Playing Guitar

18:00 Educational Software Sucks

20:40 Learning to Type

Here’s the LGR video I mentioned in the show:

Link (YouTube)

31:46 Myst

I think the series lost its way, but it was great while it lasted. I’m still hopeful for Firmament, the next project from this studio.

Also, the video we alluded to during this segment is from Egoraptor, talking about how early Mega Man games didn’t NEED condescending, flow-breaking tutorial popups unlike some modern games I could mention.

47:01 Mailbag: Open Source Projects

Dear Diecast,

in episode 300 Shamus talked about how he would like to work on a game without having to worry about money, possibly even open in up for contribution by anyone.

Have you considered looking at existing free software (what non-GNU people call open source) projects? Something like Xonotic, Battle for Wesnoth, Endless Sky, Wyrmsun, or VegaStrike* may be just the thing where you can add small features you want without having to start the entire project from scratch.



53:26 Mailbag: Parenthood and Screen Time

Deeeeeeaaaaar Diecast,

My wife and I have recently been discussing the possibility of becoming parents.

Both Shamus and Paul have been down this particular path several times before. And as far as I can tell (from the various snippets of twenty-sided lore that I have gleaned from the site over the years) you both seem to have been highly successful in raising your children to be capable, well-adjusted, and comfortable within themselves and their family units.

You are also both technology-literate and both avid gamers, which I believe makes your opinions especially relevant for the question that I pose to you:

Do you have any opinions or advice as to how to raise children in the modern era of ubiquitous technology?

Some elaboration (if needed):

On one end of the spectrum we seem to have parents who try to limit their child’s “corrupting” exposure to “screen time” at all costs, whilst on the other end we have parents that let their young children watch YouTube unsupervised, and then blame YouTube – an open and largely unregulated platform for creative expression – for not having exclusively family friendly content, when their child views something that they really shouldn’t. Where is the appropriate middle ground for you gentlemen, with regards to a child’s use of internet, smart phones, videogames (including age-appropriate content ratings) and technology in general?

Thank you sincerely for all of your collective works and the enjoyment that they bring.

Kind regards,


(A note to the comments section: I never contribute to the comments, but I often read them. So if anybody else would like to weigh in on my question, you can be sure that I will read your comment also. Thank you everyone).


From The Archives:

60 thoughts on “Diecast #301: Moved Permanently

  1. Confused Alpaca says:

    “Do you have any opinions or advice as to how to raise children in the modern era ”
    Getting some Spoiler Warning flashbacks

    1. Dtec says:

      Smack ’em, slap ’em, stick ’em in their rooms.

      1. coleusrattus says:

        That made me chuckle.

  2. Geebs says:

    Re: screen time for children

    The American Academy of Paediatrics has a series of rules which seem to be getting sequentially relaxed. They’re basically unenforceable unless you live in a log cabin with no electricity, and have no friends or relatives.

    We went with no screens for ~1 year (pretty easy to do at first; just point them in the other direction). After that the eldest got an iPad with no restrictions imposed on screen time. As a result, they quickly get bored of it and actually don’t even bother turning it on for days at a time (YMMV). In fact, the first thing they learned to do with it was to hit the home button when they got bored, which is pretty crushing when you’re trying to show them something you think is cool!

    YouTube Kids is absolute drek – it’s full of unboxing videos, if you can believe it. Pretty much all educational software has either a subscription or in-app purchases these days so you need to teach kids to click out of those pop-ups when they appear. Some of it is pretty good and has definitely helped with reading skills. BBC kids’ TV is mostly inoffensive and some of it is brilliant.

    Haven’t had to deal with the Internet or social media yet so have no advice there. I plan to supervise it pretty heavily, at least at first.

    1. Lino says:

      So good to hear yet another piece of proof that screen time isn’t an evil that needs to be purged from this Earth! That’s been my experience as well – both as a child, and as a person in an occasionally parental role.

      YouTube Kids actually has a lot of videos about learning numbers and the alphabet. At least that’s what my sister (3 y/o) is watching a lot of, as well as a ton of nursery rhymes. As a result, she knows the English alphabet much better than the Bulgarian one :D

      [long digression about kids that aren’t the ones in the OP]
      My Mom started showing her “cartoons” a bit after her first year. First for about 5-10 minutes, and very gradually for up to half an hour. I say “cartoons”, because at first she was deliberately picking ones that moved very slowly, and stayed on each frame for at least 1-2 seconds.

      Nowadays, she watches whatever cartoons she wants, but since there isn’t a hard cap on her screen time, she much prefers playing, especially if it’s with someone else. She’s also constantly asking people to read books to her. So at least at this stage in her life, man is mightier than machine!

      A somewhat unfortunate side-effect of so many cartoons is that she can’t speak Bulgarian or English all that well (since most of the cartoons were in English). And you can’t really blame her – up until recently she didn’t even know she was speaking an amalgamation of two different languages.

      But things are getting better. For one, she’s slowly learning that she IS speaking two different languages that AREN’T interchangeable.

      E.g. there’s an Algerian girl in her Kindergarten group who only speaks English, and the teachers there – who are a bit older, and don’t understand the language all that well – love telling stories about how my sister translates for them :D
      [/long digression about kids that aren’t the ones in the OP]

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        E.g. there’s an Algerian girl in her Kindergarten group who only speaks English, and the teachers there – who are a bit older, and don’t understand the language all that well – love telling stories about how my sister translates for them :D

        Aww, that’s just precious!

      2. Paul Spooner says:

        Kids are just adorable.
        We went to Japan for six months about four years ago, and the kids were introduced forcibly to the concept of other languages. They still occasionally ask,
        “How do you say X in English?”
        To which we tiredly reply,
        “We’re speaking English right now. X is English.”

      3. Blork32 says:

        I’ve known a number of multilingual children who have the same confusion. It makes perfect sense, but it’s interesting that it happens. I had a friend in elementary school who had just moved from Chile. He had a much younger brother who (since we were kids ourselves) was learning to speak and would just spewed English and Spanish words out interchangeably and my friend would just tell me that nobody knew what his brother was trying to say. It was particularly interesting since they were all bilingual (three kids), but only the younger brother was young enough when they moved to have done this.

    2. Zekiel says:

      Counterpoint: I haven’t found a limit to the amount of screen time my kids (4 and 7) would use if I allowed them to. My 7-year-old sometimes complains about having tired eyes if he watches something for an hour. But that doesn’t mean he’ll turn it off of his own volition.

      I think there is something mesmerising about moving images – and that goes for all of us, but especially for young kids. So I’m in the “limit screen time” camp.

      But I’m sure it depends on the kid – me and my wife have slightly obsessive personalities, so naturally our kids do too. I find it easy to believe that other kids might find screens less addictive than ours.

      Naturally (as Lino says below) its also going to be affected by what example the parents are setting, and havng other interesting stuff to play with or do that’s not on a screen.

      In any case we’ve reached a relatively happy point where they get about an hour a day (usually in two chunks) and are both pretty good at stopping when we ask them to.

      Oh and BBC iPlayer has some absolutely gold on there, much of which has great educational content too. Youtube Kids is largely trash (although some of it is inoffensive trash) and occasionally has some disturbing stuff on there.

      1. It’s been my general experience that different children are wildly different.

        My advice is to dump the concept of measuring the amount of TIME your kids spend doing X, Y, or Z and focus on one thing . . . are they spending time doing something CREATIVE, or just passively ABSORBING.

        This is harder than just watching a clock because it can be hard to tell the difference, so you have to observe them closely and understand fine distinctions. Even something like watching a movie can be creative or have creative elements.

        But if they’re making something (even if you think that it’s something totally useless), LET. THEM. DO. IT. The habit of your own work is one of the hardest to develop and easiest to upset. And the habit of avoiding work (not the work other people want you to do, the work YOU want to do) is probably *the worst one there is*.

        Every single valuable skill I have is something I taught myself while everyone around me was chastising me for gaining it because I wasn’t doing inane crap that had, not just zero value, but actual NEGATIVE value because the time I was forced to spend on it was COMPLETELY wasted.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          Agreed on addressing individuals individually. However, I wouldn’t even necessarily encourage creativity over absorption as a general principle. Not everyone can or should be creative. The majority of people aren’t. And implying that is a problem isn’t likely to improve your life or theirs.

          You and I are probably on the creative end, so for our children encouraging creativity over sloth is likely helpful. But even then, the best creativity results from laying oneself open to, and absorbing into ones identity, the divine essence which inspires. Creativity, like individuality, starves on its own resources. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with passively appreciating a beautiful, the true, and the good for long periods.

        2. Zak McKracken says:

          This makes so much sense to me.

          I tend to agree with Paul that absorbtion is also not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what someone is getting absorbed in). For some children soaking up a lot of (interesting, useful) information is actually their way into the world. Some children will confidently barge into any situation and start experimenting but others need to listen, observe, think before they eventually try something themselves, and cutting the observation time short might be very unhelpful.

          What I think is important is for children to learn the idea of “enough”. Everyone needs to have some time in their comfort zone, some passive, some active, some reflection time … everyone in different proportions, but any of these can take over and become unhealthy. I never really learned this as a child because I was always stopped before I thought I should stop. That was probably not entirely bad, but (except from binge-watching TV, a habit I got rid of some time ago) I still haven’t learned to stop doing something enjoyable, ever, even if it means I’ll get no sleep or be able to concentrate on work the next day … quite the burden.

          I honestly can’t say what would have made me learn this better, but I think that’s the criterion I’d apply:
          If a child is spending large amounts of time doing X (be that on-screen or off), then an external limit is warranted IFF it prevents important necessities, and I’d say the height of the limit would depend on how the activity itself is helping them or useful for their development. Of course, each of these criteria can’t be evaluated without knowledge of what the activity means to the child.

          But a much better solution would be to teach the child to find a balance in their activities that works for them, because that’s a super-useful skill in itself.

    3. Echo Tango says:

      I’m not a parent, but I have some advice from the mistakes I learned from my own childhood with computers. Shamus and Paul both touched on the key parts here – long-term planning, competency, and guidance. Having basically unrestricted access to a computer since about 8, I had lots of learning opportunities[1], but I totally lacked long-term planning and self-restraint. Computers, like TV, music, and every technology that came before, can be abused just like anything else. I grew up with last-minute completion of school assignments, late nights, and stress[2]; The weeks when I had plenty of time were filled with videogames and procrastination. Some guidance and nudges like, “Hey champ, how much have you worked on that assignment that’s due in two weeks?” would have helped a lot. :)

      [1] The Encarta encyclopedia with its interactive bits and animations. Teaching myself about programming later on.
      [2] I was pretty stunted in my long-term planning skills, until well into my second year of university. My twenties got into “competent”, but not “skilled”. Luckily my skill with computer-programming made up for it. ^^;

      1. Fizban says:

        +1 to this. If you don’t teach your kids things like time-management, long-term planning, and ambition, turns out they won’t have any of those things. Public school won’t do everything for you.

        Mom says she would read the newspaper (presumably out loud) while I sat on her lap and asked questions. I don’t remember ever not being able to read, so that’s good. We also had alphabet magnets which just seem practical.

        Other people have mentioned that their kids aren’t on screen all the time because they have other things they want to do, and that’s pretty much it.

    4. Olivier FAURE says:

      Pretty much all educational software has either a subscription or in-app purchases these days so you need to teach kids to click out of those pop-ups when they appear.

      They’re forcing you teach your kid an essential skill they’ll use for the rest of their life!

      1. Geebs says:

        Tell me about it. Even worse, microtransactions are increasingly being added retroactively into old software that was previously bought outright, so you can’t even trust that an application which was fine the last time you opened it is safe now. Parents basically don’t stand a chance; you might supervise your children 99% of their time on a device, but app developers have access to the full 100% and by goodness they’re going to use it.

    5. Yeah, I noticed a really similar pattern growing up with allowing kids to be able to get bored and put things down.

      I was pretty unrestricted. There were always the expectation that if I did nothing but play videogames all day I would be forced to go outside, but that never really became an issue as I balanced myself. There were always those times where I would get a new videogame that I was excited about and would play it for 3-4 days non stop, but that was rare and my parents understood when that happened so it never became a problem.

      My friend on the other hand, was the opposite. His parents allowed him 1 hour of computer/video-game time a day and he became obsessive with it. That hour was incredibly valuable to him, and if it meant not hanging out with friends that day so he could play his new videogame for that single hour, then so be it. If he got all As or some other achievement, he might (rarely) be given an entire Saturday or weekend for playing video-games, and I can guarantee he wasn’t seeing any friends during that time. When he’d come over to my house were there weren’t the same restrictions, the only thing he would want to do is play videogames because it was something that wasn’t allowed at his house and therefore he saw it as incredibly valuable.

      Another friend was even less restricted than me (I’m talking GTA/Manhunt in 3rd grade type kid) and was one of the most well balanced and responsible people I have ever met, even through high-school.

      Artificial restriction lead to artificial value. Not saying that’s wrong, but it’s trading one set of problems for another

  3. jpuroila says:

    Re:Open source games
    I mean, you could take an open source engine(like OpenMW) and start working on a new game(or a new subsystem) for it. That way you could focus on things like procedurally generating the world without having to build the entire game from scratch.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      +1 for this. Just find an engine / project with a permissive-enough license, and then you can do your own projects without needing to get any of your code back into the main project. Providing your source code on GitHub to show, “Here’s how I did X, using Y engine as a starting-point” would be really valuable! :)

  4. Ninety-Three says:

    Riven is your favorite Shamus? You’re dead to me. To me, the big distinction between the puzzles of Myst and Riven was that Myst’s puzzles tended to be self-contained and clearly visible, while a single puzzle in Riven would be spread across three different islands and more dependent on your ability to simply notice all the pieces than to put them together right. There are a couple places where they hide entire rooms behind your willingness to click on shadows in case there’s a doorway there.

    The worst example is that damn animal sounds puzzle. You get to a mechanism that makes animal sounds when you activate it, and there a bunch of panels with animal pictures on them, obviously you have to match the sounds to the animals (who the hell designed this and why!?). You probably haven’t memorized all that information, but you think “I remember those plesiosaur-looking things at the beach, I’ll walk back there and see what sound they make”. You hit up all the animals you can think of, and it turns out you’re still short two animal sounds. Now what? There’s no signposting, no hints at where anything might be, so you systematically walk through every screen of the game poking everything in case it summons an animal that makes a noise. Then you’ve gone through every screen and still don’t have all the animals so you do it again.

    1. Lasius says:

      Riven is seen as the best game in the series by most fans precisely BECAUSE the puzzles are integrated into the world and not self-contained boxes for puzzle’s sake.

      The animal puzzle is great. All the animals you need can be unambiguisly identified and assigned a number if you keep your eyes open. It’s a big overarching puzzle and you have to explore the islands, understand the animals’ significance to the natives and learn the D’ni number system to find its solution.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Integrated into the world? Are you kidding? Having to play “What sound does the cow make?” to access a linking book is some Resident Evil-tier contrivance that makes no effort to be part of a real world. The only reason that thing is there is because the designers wanted to add a puzzle for puzzle’s sake. Myst was so much better about having its puzzles be things that an actual human might have built with a purpose in mind.

        But my bigger objection is that it’s literally not a puzzle. There’s nothing to solve, no intellectual leaps to make other than “I have to push the frog button when I hear the frog noise.” It is a scavenger hunt padding out the runtime. Walk around until you randomly bump into all the animals you need to find. And if you get stuck there’s no way to apply your brain to the situation, just keep walking.

        understand the animals’ significance to the natives

        Bullshit. What exactly am I learning about the significance of these animals by finding a dinosaur on a beach, or a random beetle in a forest?

        1. Lasius says:

          You do not seem to remember the puzzle well. It wasn’t all about sound.

          You have to assign a number to each animal. For each of the five animals there exists a wooden eye in the world that will reveal a number, a sound and the shape of the animal. To make it harder one of the five eyes only gives you the sound and one eye only gives you the shape of its animal. You do not even have to find most of the animals themselves if you are observant. You can notice the whark has deep significance to the natives and is depicted everywhere, so you can assing its shape to the eye/number without ever finding a living one and hearing its call.

          1. Decius says:

            You can, but that’s brute-forcing the puzzle based only on “These elements of this lock are thematically similar, I will try every permutation until one works”.

            It’s like the passwords written into the margins of in-game books; there’s no in-world logic for them to be there.

            1. Lasius says:

              How is it assigning a shape to the number based on a shape associated with that number trying every permutation?

    2. Retsam says:

      I need to give Riven another shot; I just couldn’t handle the combination of “puzzles can be scattered all over the world and aren’t neatly contained like Myst” and “you need to physically change discs every time you travel between parts of the world”. The friction just killed the game for me.

  5. Steve C says:

    My childhood memories of Myst was how much I hated that game. It was an instant “Eww! yuck!” It was also my first exposure to Apple products. The association created a lifelong dislike of Apple.

    1. Syal says:

      Way back when I first saw Myst, I got to the bookshelf and didn’t realize the good books had better textures, so my memory of Myst is just clicking on every book on the bookshelf trying to find a readable one.

      1. Decius says:

        The one with the codes for the fireplace can only be found by clicking on all of them.

  6. Lino says:

    Regarding screen time, the one of the main arguments is how it could lead to children being less attentive and less attracted to “useful” tasks.
    And yes, computers ARE a very enticing way for a child to spend their free time, and there is a danger that unrestricted use might stray them away from more educational pastimes like reading and studying.

    But to that end, what’s much more important, in my opinion, is the personal example set by the parents. As a kid, I was completely unsupervised about how much time I spent playing games. By about fifth grade, I really didn’t feel like reading books. I remember how we were studying Ancient Greek Mythology, and I thought it was the most boring thing on Earth.

    But a couple of days in a row, I saw my mother reading some book, and laughing uncontrollably. It looked like she was having fun, so I asked what the book was, and she told me it was Terry Pratchett (Jingo, I think).

    So, I gave it a try. It was very hard to get through, because I couldn’t understand a thing. When does the good part start? Where are all the jokes that are apparently so funny?

    So, I asked her, and she told me: “Well, the entire book is FULL of jokes. You just don’t get them, because it’s a parody, and you don’t know what it’s making fun of. You need to have some level of general knowledge to understand it. Stuff like Greek myths, fantasy, current events… It’s not for kids.”

    “Not for kids?!” I thought to myself. “Well, I’M not a kid! I’ll show HER ‘Not for kids’!”

    And so I started reading not only the Greek myths I was supposed to be reading for school, but also philosophy, classical works, and all kinds of things. Granted, I it took me years before I could understand Pratchett’s jokes, but my drive for reading didn’t come from a strict schedule of regulated screen time. It came from the personal example I had from my mother the general environment in my household.

    Many of my classmates never found the joy of reading and learning. A lot of their parents lament the many expensive encyclopedias they had bought for their “lazy” kids. Books that only gather dust, and never unopened. If only video games and the Internet weren’t so evil, these children could become doctors!

    But the kids weren’t problem. Because their parents were too busy being glued to the TV to show them how you could have fun outside of looking at a screen.

    1. Ester says:

      That ties rather nicely into my screentime philosophy, which currently sits at “no fair to force the kid away from the computer, if I myself am unable to put my smartphone away”. I do occasionally tell her to turn the computer off and go do something else. And she does plenty of other things – reading books, playing with dolls, building with lego, colouring…

      There’s no longtime plan for how to gradually introduce her to the Internet or social media. Hubby and I are sorta making it up as we go. The kid has so far only discovered Youtube. When I realized she was just sitting there and letting autoplay choose what to watch next, we stopped letting her use it unsupervised. She’s got a game or two for each gaming platform that we own, and also likes watching one of us play. We’re judging the games same way as books or movies. Would she enjoy it, would she understand it, or would it just confuse and scare her? Sometimes we guess wrong, of course. But I don’t see why deciding what games to expose your kids to should be any more difficult, mystifying or conseqential than picking out books.

  7. Echo Tango says:

    Meta: All your timestamps before the question at 47:01 are all missing, or wrong! The ones on the YouTube video seem to be more correct!

  8. MadTinkerer says:

    There is simulation in Dear Esther. It has the same full physics simulation as Half Life 2 or any Source Engine game. The problem is that if it wasn’t already built into the engine it might as well not be there because other than walking around (and SPOILER: a couple of falls) there’s nothing the simulation is actually used for. If they had been making it from scratch instead of using the Source Engine, the walking probably wouldn’t even feel like walking.

    I like both the original and the remake, but I find it frustrating that at no point do they allow you to pursue other forms of movement that are also built into the game. If I’m on an island with no one around, I want to run around and jump and climb and duck and swim, which are all things Gordon Freeman does easily. Also, at no point do they allow you to pick up stuff and examine the stuff like in Gone Home. I don’t need a full inventory system with inventory puzzles, but a nice Gone Home-like structure where you wander around and find the notes to Esther and choose to have them read aloud and can pick up and examine the paper boats would just make the whole experience better for me.

    The simulation is there but it’s SO SHALLOW.

  9. Nick says:

    As I am the person who submitted the parenting question to the podcast, I just want to clarify that I did not properly forsee the potential for political sensitivity associated with the topic. I apologise. It was not my intention to cause any discomfort about broaching personal beliefs, especially for Shamus and Paul.
    For what it is worth, I really enjoyed the discussion and valued your perspectives. It gave me plenty to think about, even if in hindsight the subject was perhaps a bit too controversial for this light-hearted video gaming podcast :)

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      No trouble! Thanks very much for the question.

      As far as my wife and I go, our core principle is “Children are people”
      And then any principle which applies to people in general applies to them, especially:
      “People can be trained in any ability which they can control.”
      “People are responsible for any action or possession that they can control.”

      On top of this is our belief that “Parents have ownership over their children”
      which leads to two further principles:
      “Parents are responsible for their children’s actions.”
      “Children should obey their parents”

      From these six principles, follows our principle of parenting and child-rearing:
      “Parents can and should train their children both to obey, and to accept responsibility for any of the child’s actions or possessions that the child can control.”

      None of that is about technology specifically, but the “no arbitrary screen-time limits” principle follows pretty easily. We try, too, to avoid drawing easy lines in the sand because it’s often motivated by laziness rather than justice and love, and “minutes of screen time” feels pretty arbitrary to me. Also, my wife and I are both on the computer hours a day, so limiting our children’s time would be pretty inconsistent of us.
      Anyway, if you want to listen to a solo podcast where I rant about child training to an imagined straw-man opponent… have I got an episode for you!

      1. John says:

        Maybe you should just skip the step where you own your children and go straight to the one where you have responsibility for them. I don’t think that the responsibility requires the ownership and, frankly, the implication that children–who, as you’ve established, are people!–can be property is disturbing. Even if that’s not what you meant by ownership, there has to be a better word or phrase that you could use.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          And this is why we don’t talk about politics.

      2. Nick says:

        Listened to your link today, Paul.
        Your parenting philosophy is intriguing in how holistically you can apply it. Food for thought! Thank you for posting.

      3. danielfogli says:

        I’m a big subscriber of the “children are people” way of thinking, treat them like people, albeit small and not very competent ones.

        But then (as said by John above)it gets highly inconsistent when you add the parts of

        On top of this is our belief that “Parents have ownership over their children”

        Sooooo “people have ownership of people”? You mean, like cattle, like slaves?

        “Parents are responsible for their children’s actions.”

        People are/should be responsible for other people’s actions? Because some people are “lesser people” and some “higher people” are allowed to lord over them?

        “Children should obey their parents”

        People should obey other (random, arbitrary) people? Again, like the slaves they are, as they can’t even pay for their own food?

        There’s a choice to be made there, you can’t have the proverbial cake (psychologically healthy kids) and eat it too (being obeyed/the master/in control”, whatever). Just like in a healthy relationship with other people

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          I’d love to elucidate my opinions, but this is not the place to do it.

          1. danielfogli says:

            Ok, maybe I’ll drop by your own blog ;-)

            1. Christian Wolfe says:

              I just did this, and I wish I hadn’t! Now I don’t feel comfortable at all reading (or commenting on) THIS site either! So I guess this is it for me.

  10. Joshua says:

    Hi Shamus,

    Regarding ‘learning music’ apps, you might wanna check out Youcisian (nasty portmanteau but hey). I don’t use it personally but a friend is using it to learn bass and it seems like it might be the kind of thing you’re after. Check a demo or something.

    Additionally, I forget where I came across it, but there was something about needing to review stuff you’ve learned on an instrument within 72 hours, or you lose it. It’s a rule of thumb that works for me anecdotally as an adult beginner on drumset. You retain more and develop faster if you practice half an hour, every day, 7 days a week, than a single 6 hour block on Sunday.

    I hope you continue, playing an instrument is a uniquely rewarding mental and physical exercise. And it’s exactly as hard for everyone, so don’t worry.

    1. pseudonym says:

      As it is very rewarding I have found my half an hour of piano lesson every other week very useful. It is not very expensive. It is however not so cheap as to be thrown away, hence I tend to practice more often since I have these lessons.
      And I make much, much, much more progress in those lessons than I could ever learn myself using whatever tool/app/book. Nothing beats a teacher when you need to overcome specific things you are struggling with. My piano teacher is really good. Unfortunately my lessons are on hold now due to corona.

      So lessons from good teachers is what I recommend to anyone who is learning an instrument.

      1. Joshua says:

        Agreed! I’d see apps as a practice aid, not a substitute for a real tutor.

  11. Dues says:

    Shamus, you talk about parent taking your books away and telling you to go stand outside, but my parents totally did that. When I was a kid I never understood why I hated to be outside so much (other than that all my books and games were inside). Then when I was a teenager I found out: I was allergic to grass, dust, and trees. I was literally allergic to going outdoors.

    At least I have medication now when I try to get my kids to go outdoors with me.

  12. John says:

    It’s true that every game I’ve ever written–all two of them–has had what basically amounts to an “input-simulate-render” loop. But you know what else I’ve written with that exact same structure? An egg timer. It’s not a game, but from a pure programming perspective it’s hard to tell the difference. It does not, strictly speaking, simulate anything, but, then again, I don’t think that the Minesweeper clone I bashed out really simulates anything either. My other game does have a little physics simulation, but the egg timer and Minesweeper are just tracking time–actually, I never got around to implementing a timer for the Minesweeper clone–and toggling UI elements in response to user input. Yet one of those things is a game and the other isn’t. (You may now make cracks at poor Minesweeper’s expense.) I confess that I’ve never really thought of the loop as “input-simulate-render”. In my head, it’s always been closer to “input-logic-render” or “input-process-render”. The point, I guess, is that I must be operating from a single definition of “game”–whatever it may be–as both a player and a programmer.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      The egg timer simulates, with mechanical precision, the inexorable passage of time which, like the sucking tide, claws each precious moment, skittering like grains of sand, down into oblivion.

      And when it dings, there are cookies!

      1. John says:

        Alas, there are never any cookies. I am not willing to bring my laptop into the kitchen. The timer usually signifies that it’s time to take the tea bag out of the mug and drink the tea.

  13. Paul Spooner says:

    I love that, in the Mavis Beacon video, Mario Teaches Typing is right next to it on the shelf. The same channel did a review of it too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBv5jxZbD68
    We had a much more recent rendition of MBTT than the one in the video though. I think he mentions 3D Dinosaur Adventure, which I think we had a copy of as well.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      NorthernLion played a modern typing game, although it’s not explicitly named as a typing tutor[1]. Type Knight! Just like The Typing Of The Dead before it, you can learn touch-typing in a (relatively) fun way! :)

      [1] That’s probably for the best. Putting the gameplay first is usually a better strategy than “try to make kids learn, then slap some gameplay in there somewhere”. ^^;

      1. Syal says:

        I don’t play very many typing games, but Epistory Typing Chronicles gave me a good impression with its elemental effects. Don’t know how common that kind of thing is in these.

        (…story was bad though. Don’t make meta stories.)

  14. Steve C says:

    You mentioned the youtube algorithm. You find that works?? I find it useless. Everything youtube suggests is either 1)videos I’ve already watched, or 2)stuff it has already suggested that I do not want to watch. Pretty much everything is guaranteed to fall into one of those two categories. Forever. Even the brand new stuff. I have to go out of my way to get suggestions from humans to find anything new on youtube.

    Now I’m wondering if this problem is unique to me if it is useful to other people.

    1. Syal says:

      I’m wondering if this problem is unique to me


      At least the repeat videos are my own fault, I’ve got a couple of playlists I watch ad nauseum.

  15. evilmrhenry says:

    Re: Myst

    I actually like the real 3D adventure games over the node-based setups. I find it’s easier to build a mental map of the location, and easier to notice items. (In basically every node-based adventure game I’ve played that doesn’t have assistance with this, I’ve needed to consult a walkthrough just to find out that something I hadn’t even seen was actually clickable.)

    My favorite Myst game is probably Myst III, with the original close behind. Riven didn’t have the best puzzles, though the environments were neat, and Myst IV was just a bit forgettable. (Haven’t played Myst V or Uru.)

  16. Astra says:

    Regarding the Myst 4 launch crash – I had this happen too, and the fix was buried in a hard to find GOG support article. It’s probably more in line with what you’d expect from earlier Myst games than Myst 5 is.

  17. AndrewCC says:

    It’s cute that Shamus thinks that kids using smartphones/laptops are mostly just “learning”.
    Maybe your kids are special, and haven’t heard about Facebook, twitter, Instagram and TikTok, Shamus, but most kids have and their impulse is to overuse that stuff.

    1. Shamus says:

      My kids were all pretty much adults before a lot of that stuff even existed, but that’s not really important here.

      Yes, kids use their tablets for things besides learning. That’s fine. I’m not sure what you mean by “overuse”. How much is overuse? I do some social media. So does my wife. It would be pretty hypocritical to prohibit that stuff when we use it. Much better to instruct kids how to use it responsibly.

      In my view, the solution isn’t to tyrannically monitor and regulate their usage, it’s to look at their behavior. Are you showing a lack of compassion for others? Are you leaving messes for other people? Are you failing to deliver on promises?

      If yes, then we’ll look at how you’re spending your time and see where the problem is. If no, then there’s no reason for rationing and prohibition.

      Back in the day, I noticed my kids were getting a little worked up over “drama of the day” on Tumblr. I talked to them about moral panics, echo chambers, and the tendency for large groups to signal-boost outrage. I told them they were free to read whatever they wanted, but explained that it’s good mental / emotional hygiene to avoid that sort of anger-driven bandwagon thinking because you run the risk of hating people you’ve never met, who you don’t understand, and who aren’t a danger to you.

      It was like explaining how a magic trick works. They saw through it, and adjusted their reading habits on their own. No hard rules needed. (They were in their mid-teens at the time.)

      So yes, even social media is educational! This was a learning opportunity, and a chance to teach them how to how to regulate their own info intake. That’s a skill a lot of adults are lacking. It’s something they wouldn’t have learned if I snatched away their devices when they got out of line.

      1. AndrewCC says:

        I’m just looking at statistical trends in mental health. If it’s not space rays hitting kids in the ol’ brainbox, must be something else that happened in the last 10 years.
        I think you’re just better at mitigating the effects of social media platform for your kids than most people. That or just lucky that your kids are not pre-disposed to that (thanks to genetics/culture/parenting/some other factor).

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          It doesn’t even have to be something that happened to the kids. The prevalence of autism is way up in recent decades and that’s largely attributed to to a change in diagnostic criteria.

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