Watch Dogs 2 is an impressive technological achievement, a smooth, pretty, hack-tastic open world game that’s a great blend of GTA and stealth adventure. And I just uninstalled it because of game writer fails. I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore.
In some ways, I should be enjoying Watch Dogs 2 even more than in 2016 when it first launched. Ominous authoritarian moves by corporations and government? Yeah, that’s timely now. Social unrest and protests? Yep. Hackers on social media? Uh huh. Racism and inequality? Well, when haven’t we had those friendly companions?
But the fact is that the game writers and designers on Watch Dogs 2 made a few simple mistakes in scenario design that make the game difficult. It’s set in a peaceful San Francisco, and that’s a problem because the game makes it hard to succeed without piling up bodies. Sure, it’s a San Francisco that’s wired by a creepy security infrastructure that we know is corrupt, and there are gangs and militarized rent-a-cops sprinkled around, but I don’t feel justified in slaying these people.
In GTA, we play criminals so roaming around killing cops is par for the course. And I enjoyed GTA. So it’s not really that I object to killing virtual cops. It’s that it doesn’t fit this story, in which the player assumes the role of master hacker and social activist Marcus Holloway. As Polygon‘s Phillip Kollar wrote, the need for so much deadly force in Watch Dogs 2 is “a complete failure of imagination” that doesn’t fit the protagonists, who are generally laid-back nerds, not vicious vigilantes or criminals. It’s unrealistic to think Marcus would kill a dozen innocent policemen because they responded to a burglar alarm that he triggered, even if that alarm was triggered when he was exposing some extensive personal data breach at a sleazy tech giant.
IMHO, Watch Dogs 2 should’ve been modified in a few simple ways to resolve this incongruity:
the player should’ve been given a better assortment of non-lethal weapons, including a stungun or taser that knocked NPCs out for longer periods. The game doesn’t even provide a non-lethal sniper rifle. This is a design flaw too; the game wants badly to be a stealth game, so much that Marcus is very fragile in combat and has no options to buy armor or level up health. Why not match Marcus’ strengths with his weapons?
the peaceful scenario could’ve been made more dire, which appears to be what Ubisoft is doing with Watch Dogs: Legion. If San Francisco had been occupied by some totalitarian force, then deadly force would seem more justifiable, as well as thematically appropriate to the scenario.
the friendly NPCs needed to react to the player’s use (or non-use) of deadly force.
To be honest, I bought this game primarily because I read a review that claimed that the writing was funny. Truly funny games are few and far between. And Watch Dogs 2 is… amusing. They do a good job with the tech speak and the hacker feel, even if a lot of it feels heavily cribbed from Mr. Robot. Sadly, though, it lacks the humor and depth of the aforementioned Mr. Robot. Funny is a tough thing to measure, but Watch Dogs 2 only has a few sprinkled bits that make you momentarily consider smiling. It’s Hallmark Channel funny with Hallmark Channel characters, but it’s no Mr. Robot.
Thanks for a few momentary thrills, Watch Dogs 2. Good luck next time.
Your Austin game writer thought you might appreciate this video: Game Time with Randy and Greg: Baseball – SNL.
TV sports show host Randy Dukes (Kenan Thompson) wants to talk baseball but people just want to talk about Greg (Bill Hader) being an alien. Even the guest, an ex-baseball player (Gerard Butler), is curious about Greg. [Season 35, 2009]
Subscribe to SNL: https://goo.gl/tUsXwM
Get more SNL: https://ift.tt/W7EASp
Full Episodes: https://ift.tt/LztuMM…
Your Austin game writer thought you might appreciate this video: A Spray Bottle that Fires When I Smile.
A high-powered Spray Bottle That Only Fires When You Smile, pretty simple. I heard this is the kind of stuff that kids are into, like tasers and anime.
via YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_bRiWsl3cE
Your Austin game writer thought you might appreciate this video: Explaining the Pandemic to my Past Self.
What would happen if I tried to explain what’s happening now to the January 2020 version of myself?
via YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms7capx4Cb8
I recently got a request to answer this question on Quora: “Im graduating with a Computer Science bachelor’s degree, and I LOVE games and their stories! Which job would be suitable for me in the Game industry?”
Here’s my full answer (not the abbreviated one I posted on Quora):
It’s interesting that you prominently mention story, which is the one area where programmers generally have little sway. (Designers and producers usually drive story, but there are always exceptions.)
The good thing is that a top-notch programmer can usually cross disciplines with little difficulty because a top programmer is so valuable. The downside: a top programmer usually has too much work to dabble in story, and management will discourage you from working on story if you are needed elsewhere. Story can be extremely time-consuming, esp at the micro level for an MMORPG or RPG with thousands of lines of dialog. The broad strokes of story are drawn during concept and pre-production, when a programmer’s usually fully drained by engine building and laying the technical foundations.
Also, if you’re writing chops aren’t finely honed, or you don’t have a lot of writing credentials, management may be even more unenthusiastic about your writing interests. Another sad fact: often game stories are fairly locked down well before it reaches the game team. The creative director or producers have already chosen the direction, or you’re locked into a sequel, and even the designers are only laying in polish or filling missing chapters in a tale that’s already finalized.
In short, the game industry is always slammed for time and impatient with talent that wants to step outside the usual roles. If you can produce on the fly and not impact schedules, sure. But if you need time or assistance, it’s not always smiled upon. To draw a sports analogy, it’s kind of like baseball players who want to hit and pitch too. It sounds attractive, but in the actual application most teams would rather players picked one and excelled at it rather than risk injury and mediocrity trying for both.
My recommendation: consider working in the indie games space. That’s where small teams can crank out important work and everyone has to cross disciplines. Of course, indie games don’t pay well and the marketplace for indie games is increasingly choked with competition. On the other hand, the mainstream game industry is equally brutal, with frequent mass layoffs, dehumanizing crunches, and a general lack of creative control and ownership/revenue sharing. In my opinion, a talented graduate is better off working a low-demand day job writing accounting software or something prosaic, and working on an independent project when possible. In this era of self-directed remote work, a good programmer can easily spend half her time on her own projects while still enjoying the stability and benefits of a traditional programming career.
In the Astros/Sox cheating fracas, where will the trail of thievery end? And will MLB and the Astros ever figure out how to stop the bleeding? And when will the dogpile of Astros attackers thin out? Here are some things that aren’t being talked about enough.
MLB Has Inexplicably Failed To Interview The Red Sox Owner or CEO
If you’ve been expecting some kind of cutting-edge anything from MLB, well… you haven’t been a fan for long, have you? To be fair, it seems their investigation of the Astros was fairly exhaustive. Meanwhile, their investigation of the Red Sox, as of Feb. 18, hasn’t even included a chat with the Red Sox’s owner and their CEO. ” Just yesterday, Sox owner John Henry and CEO Sam Kennedy indicated that they’ve yet to even be interviewed as part of the league’s probe into the organization, which is set to wrap up next week,” says Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors.
Make no mistake: Manfred’s goal is to assure the ticket-buying public that the cancer is limited to Houston, and to minimize conflict before the new CBA, even though all the signs point to Boston as a primary source, if not THE primary source. More on that in a bit. MLB is frantic to mitigate the damage, un-Balco this thing, and take baseball back to that idyllic ’50s Mom-and-apple-pie never-existed utopia that they never want to evolve out of. We’ll see what kind of punishment MLB deals out, but given the cursory nature of the Sox investigation, I expect Manfred will blame it all on former Houston coach Alex Cora, levy a token fine on the Sox, and proclaim it all “mission accomplished.”
All The Scandal Signs Point East
Manfred’s Astros report pins most of the blame on Carlos Beltran, who arrived in the Astros dugout in 2017 and told his teammates they were behind the curve on competing with forbidden technology. So… where did he get this idea? Did he just dream that up after an exhausting double-header? Or did he get this from one of his recent teams like the Rangers or (2014-2016) the Yankees, who’ve been quite vocal in their criticism of the Astros? At least one writer believes that the Yankees aren’t innocent.
“I sensed certain guys like Chris Young, Alex and Carlos were guys trying to gain an edge,” Teixeira said [about the Yankees in 2014-2016]. “I was a guy playing every day, so I was in the dugout and not hanging in the video room. I heard Chris Young, Alex and Carlos talk about signs more than others.”
Hmm. So Tex basically says that he was too “old school” to be pulled into some of the schemes that other Yankees, including Beltran, might’ve been involved in. But other Yankees might’ve been cheating, and, as Brendan Mizgala points out, the Yanks were mentioned in the Athletic’s first cheating article and might be getting protection from Joe Torre.
Also supremely fishy is a social media dustup where Peter Gammons quotes the Yanks’ Chris Young as saying, “I started the whole Apple Watch thing. I got it from when I was with the Yankees.” Later Gammons performed a genuflecting total retraction of bizarre thoroughness. However, another source confirmed to SNY (same article) that Young was a leader of the sign-stealing in Boston and also used the replay room to decode signs in New York.
And we have the Red Sox, who one writer calls one of the “cheatingest cheaters in baseball.” (The other being, of course, the Astros.) Again, the Sox were penalized in 2017 for the Apple Watch sign stealing scheme when Alex Cora was still with the Astros. Here’s 2018 video of JBJ telling Mookie Betts what pitch is coming from Luis Severino, when presumably Cora’s Astros-inspired sign-stealing was in full effect:
Yeah… I don’t think Severino was tipping his pitches, do you?
None of this forgives or justifies what the Astros did in 2017. But it’s naive and shallow to think that the Astros were the only team worthy of your contempt.
David Samson and Jonas Knox Say Sign-Stealing Is Widespread
On his show “Nothing Personal,” host David Samson agrees that Beltran didn’t come up with this all on his own and only on the Astros. In fact, he believes that tech-based cheating infects all the teams (at the 4:30 mark). So does Jonas Knox of Fox Sports Radio (at 9:20).
You could even argue that the atmosphere in baseball in 2017 was PRO-CHEATING. This hurts me to say, because this cheapens the sport to the core. What could possibly be pro-cheating in 2017? Well…
In 2017, After The Apple Watch Scandal, Sports Illustrated Called Sign-Stealing “Good For Baseball”
I hate to call out SI like this, but you can see a bit of an attitude differential in this article from 2017, which is a remarkable lens on the Astrogate of today. Discussing the Apple Watch situation, Verducci says, “In the short term, this is good for baseball. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is officially back on.”
There’s a jaunty all-in-good-fun mood here. The phrase “technically against the rules” is used. Boys will be boys. And we know how much trouble that can cause.
In 2017, Player Tells SI “Everyone Is Stealing Signs Off the Feed”
Here’s a passage from Verducci’s piece that I found particularly damning:
How common is stealing signs off the live television feed?
“Goes on all the time,” the [unnamed] player said. “Our (monitor) is so close (to the dugout) you could just run up and whistle” to the hitter to communicate what pitch is coming.
“It’s the reason you see all the meetings on the mound—to change signs. You’ve got guys signaling from second base. You see it all the time because everybody is doing it.”
Everybody is doing it. Sound a little steroids-esque? Why wasn’t MLB a little more proactive about this archaic system? Wasn’t anybody at MLB reading Sports Illustrated?
Why Wasn’t the Feed Encrypted or Secured?
It boggles my mind that no one bothered to secure this all-important video feed. It’s like putting a dozen starving pitbulls into a ring to fight over a chicken bone, and then losing your temper when they break out to attack all the juicy roosters you sold tickets to in the stands.
The video feed with all the secrets to success was sitting outside the door to the dugout!
Sure, Manfred says that MLB occasionally sent staffers to supervise the feed. But apparently the video was running all the time, live without any delay or encryption. And the whole purpose of this video was to allow umps to make a call for instant replay… what?
I don’t understand. Why was this thing running all the time? Couldn’t someone just tell Alexa to turn it on when the manager calls for a replay? Hey, MLB and Astros manager A.J. Hinch (who tried to destroy the sign-stealing monitor with a bat, twice)! Here’s an $18 TV lock. And, dearest MLB, for crying out loud, Google “video encryption” as soon as possible.
Isn’t the Sox’s 2018 Title Just As Sullied? Will the Red Sox Get As Much Hate As The Astros? And Ian Kinsler Said WHAT?!?
When the Sox report drops, will they get as much blowback? Or will the Astros continue to be the social media targets?
Hmm. Tough one. Again, I expect MLB to soft-peddle the Sox story as much as possible, which means the Astros will continue to wear the dunce cap. In fact, 2018 Soxer Ian Kinsler said recently, “I just really don’t see any form of punishment coming to the Red Sox.” MIND-BOGGLING.
And the Astros should wear that dunce cap. The Red Sox broke into the cookie jar in 2017, and got wrist-slapped. The Astros won it all in 2017, and got caught with crumbs all over their faces in 2019. And in the meanwhile, the Sox broke into the cookies again in 2018, repeat customers, and won the World Series, but had the dexterity to get caught after the Astros. And baseball rewards such agility. The memes have already been sent and hashtagged. The Astros were in the hot box when America’s faith in baseball was dashed (again), so they will continue to be the poster boys for cheating for the next 20 years.
Here’s another question: given that the Sox beat them both in the 2018 post-season, why haven’t any Dodger or Yankees players criticized the Sox? Isn’t 2018 a fresher memory? Or is there a bit of extra spite aimed at the upstart Astros, who’ve never been part of the old boys’ club?
The Astros, though, can rest easy on one thing. Their 2017 title, as enduringly and rightfully tainted as it is, will remain theirs. Because MLB certainly isn’t going to void the Sox’s 2018 title, which is surely just as dirty, even though remarkably no one is talking about that right now. And MLB isn’t going to admit that, despite the problem being “common knowledge,” they acted so slowly on the 2017 cheating that the same damned thing happened again in 2018.
Now Texas sports fans can proudly lump the 2017 Astros with Lance Armstrong in their Hall of Shame. We do have to wonder… what would the landscape look like if the Red Sox had been caught first? Give it to the Sox — they really outfoxed the Astros on this one.
What About The Codebreaker “Algorithm” and Dark Arts?
On Feb. 7, news broke of “explosive new details” in the Astros case, involving nefarious-sounding technologies and operations with cool names like “Codebreaker” and “Dark Arts.” As Yahoo has it, ” the entire operation was fueled by an Excel spreadsheet developed by a then-intern that used an algorithm to decode opposing team’s signs.”
This is perhaps the saddest fakenews of the entire scandal. I understand that sportswriters are not computer scientists, but you’d think they’d have some exposure to Excel in this stat-heavy sport. So… the explosive news is that they used Excel to track pitching signs… and they had a nickname for it. Wow. I know it’s the offseason but this is the definition of clickbaiting a dead horse.
Should players not talk about signs they’ve seen? Should players not watch tape? Do you think the Yankees and Red Sox don’t have records of other teams’ signs?
Joe Sixpack may think that a pitcher’s signs are some kind of powerful mojo, and Excel is quantum physics. But… both are ridiculously simple. Signs especially. It’s not even a guessing game… it’s a MATCHING game. Each pitcher has maybe four or five pitches in his arsenal. Some just have two! So if you put down three fingers, and then your pitcher throws a fastball, what am I expecting the next time I see three fingers?
Yeah. You just cracked that sign. Congratulations. Let’s face it: stealing signs is shamefully easy. And there aren’t a lot of possibilities, so any child could do it. It would be the world’s worst videogame. Playing Go Fish or tic-tac-toe is harder.
I mean, there can be variations. Pitchers can always have a sign that signals that they’re moving to a different set of signs. Some players are now claiming they changed signs after every pitch when playing the Astros. (Is that really feasible?) But let’s be honest; this Excel thing was really just a tracking tool used to crack an antiquated signaling system that’s less complicated than Morse Code. The team gave it a name that they thought sounded fun and James Bond-ish. To call it a decoding algorithm smacks of the “email server” nonsense that Trump harped on so ridiculously in 2016. Just throw a little techospeak out there and it reliably riles up the hoi polloi, right?
So Yahoo’s Oz here is protesting… that the players are watching video that you or I could’ve watched? That they communicated, observed, and took notes? Wow… I guess we need to outlaw communication, observation, and note-taking in all sports. Let’s get on that ASAP.
Note that Sports Illustrated covered this same story with a considerably different angle. Their headline is “Report: Astros Front Office ‘Laid the Groundwork’ for Sign Stealing,” which is a far sight from Yahoo/Oz’s breathless “Explosive New Details Emerge About the Astros Cheating Scandal.” And that is the real story here: that it really wasn’t just the players who knew of and constructed this scheme.
The other thought here is that pitchers across MLB must be feeling naked and exposed, just like ex-Astros pitcher Mike Fiers surely is. There’s always been a pitchers versus hitters tension in baseball, like two competing factions forced into unholy regional alliances called “teams.” If I were a pitcher right now, I’d be talking with my catchers constantly right now about how I can get the pitches in any form except finger wiggling. Stern gazes? Olfactory signals?
All The Chest-Thumping About The Scandal Is Getting The Crazies Agitated. At What Point Is This Irresponsible?
Honestly, in less histrionic times, I think the incessant off-season coverage of this scandal wouldn’t be a problem. But in an era in which a gunman recently shot five people at a charity ballfield in Alexandria, I hope players, reporters, bloggers, and sports talkshow hosts are thinking about how people might overreact to some of the more inflammatory things they’re saying.
I’m just waiting to hear someone call for baseball fans to mete out some vigilante justice.
I Feel For Jose
The Astros fan who tallied all the trashcan banging in 2017 had plenty of Altuve at-bats to listen to, and Altuve had the least bangs of all starters. Yet he’s a poster child for all the hate, generally centered around the “don’t tear my jersey” home run he hit off Aroldis Chapman and the fact that he apologized for the cheating at the Astros’ remarkably inept press conferences. Altuve could’ve been disavowing any involvement for months, but he’s taking responsibility like a real trooper.
Correa’s given a pretty solid explanation of the jersey incident, the press has seen the tattoo, and we have the tallies of the 2017 ridiculousness. The calls for the retraction of his MVP trophy seem vindictive. I don’t really feel like applauding much Astros behavior right now, but Altuve gets a gold star.
How Much Did The Sign-Stealing Affect The Astros and Sox’s Seasons? Were The Astros Cheating in 2019?
I’ve found a pretty good stat for comparing the home-away splits of these teams in the key years: sOPS+.
It’s not a smoking gun, but it’s food for thought. I’ll also provide some regular batting slashlines (batting, on-base, slugging).
ASTROS 2017 (Trash can fantastic)
Here you can see baseball-reference.com’s explanation of the sOPS+. 100 means the team was league average, so the Astros were 10% better than average at home and 27% better on the road.
Rhetorical question: if they were that good on the road, with no trash-can advantage, why in the hell did they bother with cheating at home? And how bad would they have been without the cheating?
RED SOX 2017 (Apple Watch era)
sOPS+: 3% worse than league average both home and away. Not much of an advantage. Maybe it was too complicated!
sOPS+: 99 home, 116 away. So slightly worse than average at home, and 16% better on the road. The difference is totally in line with the road advantage they enjoyed in 2017.
2018 RED SOX (Cheating Round 2, Penalties Forthcoming, Won WS)
sOPS+: 124 home, 111 away. That is a significant jump from 2017 with a serious 13% home advantage. You do normally expect a home-field advantage, of course. For comparison, the squeaky-clean 2018 Cardinals had the following sOPS+ split: 90 home, 112 away, a 22% difference on the road. Cards in 2017: 99 home, 107 road.
Baseball is weird. I’d say all of these numbers are within a normal range, but Sox jump from 2017 to 2018 with the sudden strong homefield bias does raise eyebrows.
2019 ASTROS (Still Cheating?)
Kurt Suzuki of the Nationals says the Astros were still cheating in 2019. True or not?
sOPS+: 128 home, 119 away. Some beefy numbers both in Houston and elsewhere (no one says the team’s not talented), with a sudden +9% homefield bias after being the reverse in prior years. Still, I don’t think any of this is conclusive. 9% is nothing.
2016 sOPS+: 100 home, 90 away.
2017 sOPS+: 112 home, 107 away.
2018 sOPS+: 118 home, 109 away.
2019 sOPS+: 110 home, 125 away. Sudden +14% improvement on the road after several years of homefield advantage. Irrelevant except to show that year-to-year variations in sOPS+ can be rather significant, and that homefield advantage isn’t always an advantage.
The Astros cheating scandal has been ruled upon by MLB, and now a new pall has been cast on the sport. What’s getting missed in the off-season tornado of histrionics?
Here are a few quick observations from this game writer‘s perspective.
The Astros’ cheating did NOT spread to the Red Sox with coach Alex Cora. At the same time MLB fined the Yanks for their cheating, they levied a larger penalty on the Red Sox for their Apple Watch cheating scheme in… pay attention now… 2017. So the Red Sox cheating was happening while Cora was still coaching with the competition in Texas. If you’re going to point fingers at the source of the cancer, I think you’re going to have to look northeast, not southwest.
The timeframe and logistics on the scandal are puzzling, and they all make MLB look slow, old, and infirm. If the cheating was so obvious and widespread in 2017 why was nothing done in 2018 or 2019? Where is the Mitchell Report for this scandal? Why isn’t MLB monitoring bullpen phones? And why oh why wasn’t MLB encrypting the living hell out of the centerfield camera video feed?
Are you telling me that no MLB employee ever walked through the clubhouse hallway and noticed an Astros employee banging on a freaking trash can? The fact that this could even be considered a legitimate scheme shows the lack of oversight and awareness of the MLB organization. When there’s an aura of apathy from the ruling authority, and two of the most successful teams in the sport are known cheats, you have an environment ripe for malfeasance.
This all sounds like weak apologetics, I understand. I am an Astros fan, although not a proud one any more. But let’s be serious: if we care about baseball, we have to confront the fact that the disease is clearly more widespread than one team. It’s in MLB’s best interest to make it seem like all is well, when in fact they need to take action about this vulnerability in the game as soon as possible. (I also think that when a championship can be won or lost on a single pitch, MLB needs to wake up, trash the inconsistent cork and yarn juiced ball manufacturing system that they bought in 2018, and switch to a consistent leather-clad high-tech ball like the PGA did in the mid ’60s, but that’s another topic.) We should be looking to MLB and all teams for the reasons why this epidemic has been allowed to spread, both institutionally and ethically. Sure, the stakes are high and everyone is dying to win the ultimate prize. Sure, the Astros failed to consider consequences, asterisks, and a black mark that could ostracize some players from HOF consideration. But did anyone bother to think about sportsmanship, the fans, and the future of the sport? Within these organizations, this cheating was known to most if not all. MLB has to take a good hard look at owners, GMs, managers, and most of all their own internal oversight processes and leadership, to determine how this kind of widespread and obvious subversion of the rules and averred principles of the game can occur.
Interesting in making a music video? Here’s my tale. After Rocket Science Games began to crater, we developers in the office in San Francisco all knew that we were about to get a fair amount of unscheduled, unpaid time off. AKA, we were all about to get pinkslipped.
Around this time, I was knee-deep in my musical fascination with a San Francisco Bay Area band named the Mermen. They are an instrumental three-piece (guitar, bass, drums) that can create a thunderous, elemental, hypnotic spell that truly mirrors the majesty of the ocean. They are identified as a surf rock band; they get bundled in with jam bands; but trust me, the Mermen are a singular phenomenon that has me thinking punk rock at one moment and classical music in the next, all in the same tune.
So I did the logical (?) thing: I conscripted my coworker, producer Bart Cheever, founder and executive director of the DFILM and Low Res Film Festivals, in a wild effort to co-produce a video for the Mermen. For free. For fun. I even took a class at the Bay Area Video Coalition from a few experienced music video directors on how to create one.
The next thing, of course, was to talk to the band. They are kind of a cult phenomenon; even though they’ve won Bammies, they don’t have a rabid current following. Rather, they have a loyal stable fan base. For example, they’ve played Burning Man for 10 years straight. They’re that kind of band. But fortunately they were easy to contact, and soon I was in touch with the then-bassist, Allen Whitman, who was happy to give me the official approval to work on the video and connect me with the staff at their then-publisher, Toadophile Records. Although initially I was tempted by “Be My Noir” from Food for Other Fish, I told Allen I was going to shoot for the song “Scalp Salad” from A Glorious Lethal Euphoria.
For several months I wandered around the area, shooting video on my handheld camcorder and puzzling over what imagery would best convey the startling power of that inimitable Mermen sound. I probably spent an obsessive number of hours scribbling notes and logging footage on scrap paper. Despite the loss of my original co-conspirator Bart to job hunting demands, I think it really started to come together thanks to three breakthroughs: 1) I decided to shoot a macabre finale, the key elements being a pile of animal byproduct from a slaughterhouse, which gave the video a powerful and unifying ending, 2) I met a documentary filmmaker/cinematographer at Stanford, Hung-Yut Chen, who agreed to help me shoot my finale, and 3) I got a job as a new media artist at Invision Communications, where suddenly I had after-hours access to a non-linear video editing station capable of digesting my many hours of footage and turning it into something palatable.
The shooting of the finale went well (although the slaughterhouse meat had started to turn in the fridge and wasn’t exactly pleasant to smell) and after many late nights I had a finished video. I drove over to Allen’s place to show him the end product, and I’d have to say he was as happy with it as I was. His first words after watching it: “Are you a vegetarian?” Nope, I’m not, but I am definitely aware of animal cruelty and the cost of human progress.
The guys at Toadophile were very positive too, and promptly put the video on their website alongside all the other Mermen media. Eventually I moved to music-focused Austin, Texas, where a popular public access channel called the Austin Music Network showed primarily local music videos 24×7. I enjoyed watching the network, and eventually sent a copy of the video to them. (They were able to include me under the “local music” umbrella because my roots are in Texas.) I’m proud to say they tell me the video got a lot of airplay, although I never saw it air myself.
The Astros are stupid. If they were cheating in 2017 or 2018 or 2019, as documented in various Youtube videos (see below), they are stupid. Morons. Idiots.
I should mention up front that I’ve been an Astros fan for years, and I followed the runs to the World Series in ’17 and ’19.
There’s still some doubt about the validity and extent of the allegations posed by the videos. MLB is investigating, for better or worse; if you’ve seen some weird rulings come back from New York on video replays, you may be thinking the latter.
Anyhow, the allegation is that the Astros used cameras to feed opposing catchers’ signs to the dugout hallway, where a staffer smacked a trashcan or made some other signal to indicate what kind of pitch was coming. “The banging was fairly dumb,” said Jomboy, the blogger who made the video posted below, but other techniques could’ve involved any number of communication methods.
My assertion is that the Astros aren’t all that smart if this is true. This is one of the most boneheaded schemes ever, trashcans or no. If it happened as presented, it involved about 40 players, coaches, and staff, all of whom could spill the beans or change teams (and possibly resent the Astros) at the drop of a hat. With video surveillance, stadium and MLB staff everywhere, and comprehensive recordings of every game, how did they think this would ever fly?
And why would a team every think that this would be a good course of action? There’s a strong strain of “everyone else is doing it,” of course. But MLB was already on the case. And… it’s cheating. And childish. And fairly transparent.
The Astros have been a bit of a magnet for controversy in recent years. People hate them for being mostly unbeatable. People hate them for doing things their own way, being strongly statistics-driven, and allegedly tanking games during their rebuild to stock up on high draft picks.
A bit of the hatred for the Astros comes from that smart-kid statshead bias. People don’t like admitting that some stats-cruncher is using computers and spreadsheets to win sports championships.
Well, they don’t look so smart now. We’ll see what MLB says, but if this goes the way it seems to be going, it’s gonna be a long offseason.
UPDATE: It’s pretty much as described, and MLB has come down as hard as they could. Hinch and Luhnow are gone, and hopefully so is this era of chicanery. Cora and the arrogant players who supported this scheme have Blacksoxed the 2017 championship for me. Get ready to see fans wearing trashcans instead of paper bags over their heads at Astros games next year.