Category Archives: Personal Stuff


When I saw this photo, it seemed so typical of me that I had to post it. Glued to my laptop, petting my dog, sitting nearby a copy of the wonderful boardgame Agricola. All that’s missing is Eve (and perhaps a plate of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. However, there’s generally a maximum window of 90 seconds between cookies leaving the oven and cookies entering my belly, so photos of me sitting next to a pile of cookies tend to be pretty rare.)

Anyway, I hope you’re all enjoying your Thanksgiving weekend. I sure am!

Who Are You?

I’ve been writing this blog for about three years now. It has been an immensely rewarding experience that has forced me to carefully think through — and rethink — a variety of my assumptions. When I’ve been too hasty or too lazy to have an informed opinion, but have nevertheless opened my big mouth, you’ve been sure to call me out. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, and thank you for keeping me humble. :-)

Still, I have one complaint. There appear to be about a thousand people (if my traffic reports are to be believed) who read this blog regularly but who never post comments. And that’s totally fine, of course — I’m gratified that you even think this blog is worth reading! But still, I’m curious. Who are you, oh mystery reader? What do you do for a living? What makes you stick around here?

If you don’t want to post a comment publicly, just drop me a note via my contact form. I’d love to hear from you. :-)

Of course, it isn’t fair to ask these questions and not volunteer a bit of personal information about myself. I’ve generally refrained from doing personal posts, mainly because I’ve always assumed that nobody would be interested in that stuff. But, as I’ve become a more avid reader of other blogs, I’ve realized that I really appreciate knowing something about the person whose blog I’m reading. It gives me useful perspective on what they post and why. And if I appreciate it, maybe you will too?

So here’s some random stuff about me. In the future, it will be less random.

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Changing the Game: in stock! :-)

Front and back cover of Changing the Game

It wasn’t supposed to happen for another couple weeks, but somehow my book appeared “in stock” on today! That means that by the end of October, it should begin appearing on store shelves.  :-)

It’s been about a year and a half since I first started working on Changing the Game with Ethan, and about two years since I first started discussing the project with Pearson, my publisher. At first, like most writers, I procrastinated and only put in a few hours per week, at best. But for a window of about six months, from December 2007 until May 2008, I spent nearly every single night and every single weekend researching, writing, and editing non-stop. It’s fair to say that Ethan and I were completely sick of working on the book by May. Whereas in the past, we might have spent an entire afternoon arguing about a paragraph or idea, by the last month one or both of us would capitulate in about three seconds.  :-)  Thinking back on those days brings to mind some advice I’d like to share with new non-fiction authors. In particular:

  • Don’t wait long to engage your editor and your trusted friends. Ethan and I wrote about half the book before we started soliciting meaningful feedback from a wide audience. Some of the feedback we received caused us to substantially revise what we had already written, but because we had written so much, we were more resistant than we should have been to the advice.
  • Don’t stress too much about the first chapter in the beginning. You’re probably going to end up re-writing most of it later on.
  • Don’t let yourself get sucked into a research black hole; it can happen so easily. My research into the world of advertising kept turning up interesting new ideas and contradictions. I ended up getting a little obsessed and probably wasted a few weeks reading obscure research papers that would never find their way into the book. The same thing happened when I was researching the concept of flow.

Anyway, I also want to take this opportunity to thank those of you who pre-ordered copies of the book. I’d imagine that you’ll be receiving them very soon. When you do, I’d really love to hear what you think! Just because the book is finished doesn’t mean that I can’t benefit from and respond to constructive criticism… that’s partially what the book’s blog is for!

PS. The thumbnail on the right leads to a larger version of the cover image (not the book page), in case you’re curious to see it.

Panic + Math Skillz = Funny Emails

You know how news reports frequently claim that the average American has serious trouble with basic math? Well, it applies to some very intelligent acquaintances of mine as well. I was forwarded an interesting petition by two people whom I think very highly of. Read the opening paragraphs below and see if you can spot the problem… ;-)

I’m against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG. Instead, I’m in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a “We Deserve It Dividend”.

To make the math simple, let’s assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide U.S. Citizens 18+. Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman and child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up..

So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billion that equals $425,000.00.

PS. Unlike the original $700B bailout plan proposed by President Bush, the $85B bailout of AIG appears to have the approval of most analysts (or so it seems from what I’ve read, anyway.) Part of the reason: we, the taxpayers, get 80% of AIG as condition of the bailout, in addition to a relatively high interest rate on our $85B loan to the company. By most accounts, it sounds like we may very well turn a profit on our “investment” in AIG.

Free Housing Market Enhancement Act

Like most crises, this one was foreseen well in advance. Note: I certainly don’t agree with Ron Paul on everything, but I’m impressed with the clarity of this succinct speech!

Inspired by Sleep Deprivation

The following is a test of the Emergency Bullshit System:

“I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.”

This was a test. Had this been actual bullshit, the statement you just read would have been followed by additional bluster, viciousness, and cynical appeals to your sense of patriotism. This concludes this test of the Emergency Bullshit System.

I was very, very tired when I wrote this. And, umm, it didn’t actually turn out to be a test. I’ve given up hope of ever seeing political issues debated with intelligence and clarity during my lifetime. How depressing.

Economist Article on Changing the Game

My book won’t be in stores for another two months, and we’ve already gotten our first bit of press — from the Economist, no less. :-)

Obviously, I’m pretty excited to see (and nervous about) public reaction to the book! The Economist’s article confirms a suspicion I’ve had for a long time now — that most reviewers and journalists will choose to focus on a few specific slices of it, rather than attempt to expose the full scope of the book to their audience. For example, The Economist article focuses mainly on a reference to advergames, boosting productivity with games, and community building — which together represent far less than even a third of the major topics covered by the book. See the outline, below:

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Amazon Pre-Order Page Is Up

The Amazon pre-order page for my book is up. It feels wonderful, weird, and intimidating to see it.

It still doesn’t have a cover (thus the “no image” image.) That’ll hopefully get pinned down in the next couple weeks.

It’s strange… I want to say more, but I can’t think of anything worth saying. I mean, it’s out there now, for better or worse. And it’ll have to speak for itself. Right?

Oh, and for those of you who I bombarded with emails asking for feedback on the title of the book: thank you so much for your advice! How Ethan and I ultimately ended up with the current title, “Changing the Game,” is a long and dramatic story — drop me a line if you’re curious to hear it. (A teaser: the book nearly ended up with the name “500 Panama Canals,” but our publisher wouldn’t have it. Too bad — that one was my favorite by far!)

The Publishing Game

Ten months and countless hours later, I’ve finished my book. There are still a round (or two?) of edits to be made, but the bulk of the writing is finished. It’ll be in stores in October. I’m looking forward to when I’ll be able to post an Amazon URL here. :-)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I still can’t seem to summon the energy to write a long and thoughtful blog post about, well, anything right now. All I really want to do is work in my garden and hang out with long-neglected friends and family. However, this experience has taught me a few things which I think are relevant to Arcade games (not just books) and which I’d like to share while the memories are still fresh:

From what I’ve gathered, less than 1% of published books turn out to be hits. The odds for a first-time author (who isn’t a big name, like Bill Clinton or Alan Greenspan) are so incredibly low that even if your publisher loves your book, your marketing/sales forecast is unlikely to exceed 20k copies at best. At that level, it simply doesn’t make sense for the publisher to do much in the way of marketing until the book has already proven itself. Even though the Arcade console game space isn’t nearly that tough, there are parallels. After all, because of the economics of the Arcade space today, most publishers aren’t willing to spend more than $100k on marketing their games (and usually far less than that.)

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Entering the Home Stretch

I’m sorry I’ve been posting less frequently than usual, but I’ve been devoting every minute outside of Microsoft to finishing my book, which is due to the publisher in 10 days (!!) It turns out that writing a book is a lot like developing a video game — i.e., you can never have too much polish. Ethan and I have revised each chapter as few as 6 times and as many as 24, and it still doesn’t feel like enough. All I can say is, thank goodness for deadlines. Otherwise, I might be obsessing over every word five years from now.

When this is over, I’m going to spend the summer totally decompressing. Do some travelling. Play some of my favorite old video games. Buy some new board games. Do some gardening (I thought I’d start this weekend, but I don’t have time and even if I did, it’s snowing outside. Yeah, in late April. I took some pictures, but then I realized that they were just going to make me angry. California is sounding better ever day.)

Oh, and I think my family — and most especially my wife — justifiably expects a serious make-good. How exactly does one go about compensating for six months of consistent neglect?

PS. The photo is of my backyard cherry tree, pre-snow. It was a lovely Spring for a few days. :-)