I am home sick today fighting some sort of flu like chest crud, and as a result I am taking a bit longer than normal to knock out a blog post. It will soon be evident that today you will be unable to escape the fact that this is “back to the future day”, or at least the day that Marty McFly supposedly went forward in time to. While I have a heaping helping of nostalgia about Back to the Future in general, I have to say the future is always a bit of a disappointment. If you asked my thirteen year old self, what the future would be like… he probably would have bought into the fantasy of Back to the Future 2. At the very least I expected to have flying cars, and to have colonized the moon… but what happened instead was potentially stranger and more interesting. Futurism is almost always inherently wrong. We envision the future as delivered by the things we can dream about today. As new technologies evolve they shape that vision, and we are historically bad at guessing what trends will look like in five years… let alone ten… or in the case of this vision of the future twenty six years. Something odd happens when you place a goal on the horizon… people tend to start working towards that. So in a swell of nostalgia… we have actually seen hoverboards, self lacing shoes, and even the goofy pepsi bottle… because this movie TOLD us to make it.
This happens all the time and more often than not we don’t even notice. The bright colorful ubiquitous Verbatim 3.5″ floppy disks I am sure look like they do, because almost the exact same thing existed on Star Trek as a means of reading and writing data. Similarly the iPad looks an awful lot like the handheld LCARS tablet device carried on Star Trek the Next Generation. The internet as we know it… seems to have patterned itself off of the futurism of William Gibson. The reason why this happens is that technologists are generally geeks… and geeks love geek culture. Even if you don’t mean to… we are all subconsciously influenced by the things we love. The problem is… in the case of Back to the Future… none of the technologies that have showed up are really “true”. They are media stunts that have been created to prove that it “could” be done, but not necessarily something that is a widely accepted and adopted technology. The flying car for example, for the majority of my life has always been ten years away. The problem is that ten year mark never actually arrives… and my big concern is that we just are not investing enough in the future as a whole. Our space program is in shambles, and the corporate sector is constantly focusing on what brings them profits six months down the road instead of six years. It feels like we have stagnated, and most of what we are getting as far as innovations go are just constant iterations on the same ideas. This makes me concerned that the future will never actually arrive… or at least when it gets here it will be Shadowrun instead of Star Trek.
The Height Poll
If you follow me on twitter… or any other network that my twitter re-syndicates to… you may have noticed a poll that I sent out yesterday. Some people called it the strangest gaming poll they have seen… and I feel like maybe I need to supply some explanation. I am tall in real life… sitting around six foot four inches. This is tall enough that you realize that the world was not built for someone of your height. I am constantly banging my head on ceiling fans, the occasional low door frame, and have to be super careful when getting in and out of cars. As a result when I play games… especially MMORPGs I tend to play significantly shorter races. My first character in Everquest was a Dwarf, and I have had an affinity for little races including my current Lalafell in Final Fantasy XIV. In a conversation with another friend I found out that she was short… and had a similar experience… preferring to play taller races. So that got me thinking… which lead to the poll wondering if this is common place or if we are outliers. I thank everyone that voted in the poll, because it produced the image you see above. If anyone else wants to join in the question you can either click the link above or the image to launch into the strawpoll.
One thing I left off the poll is the folks who are medium height and prefer to also play medium height characters. I am assuming that a lot of those people voted “no real preference”, but in truth I was mostly interested in the relation between the extremes. It turns out that I am apparently not the normal, at least in terms of this question. Based on the poll it seems like the majority of players either have no real preference or prefer to stick with their same height regardless of the games they are playing. Only a few of each type preferred to play the opposite of whatever they are in real life. I guess that says a lot of things, and mostly that people tend to be happy with themselves. For me at least when I play a character in a game I tend to create a revised version of myself, where I fix the things that I dislike about myself… creating a “Ultimate Belghast”. I guess if I were being completely honest with myself… were I to “fix” my height I would not actually go “short” but instead trend towards medium. For a man it seems like six feet tall is about the sweet spot… the point at which the entire world seems to be built around that height. I’d never have to worry about leaning down in hotel showers so that the shower head can hit me… never have to worry about banging my head on things… and wouldn’t have to constantly search for “tall” sizes. Four inches doesn’t seem like much of a difference but in terms of functioning in the world it really is. Nonetheless I thought it was an interesting poll question and it was awesome that folks were willing to take it.