Monument Valley: A Game to Remember

Monument ValleyMonument Valley is a mind-warping mobile puzzle game with stunning visuals, satisfying gameplay, and awesome audio.

The game is about Princess Ida’s journey to uncover the secrets of a lost, sacred geometry. There is no violence in the game, and each level is a unique architectural marvel set in an M. C. Escher-like world.

The visuals of the game are phenomenal. They’re probably the most talked about feature of the game, but my favorite components are the background sound and gameplay audio. As you slide platforms and twist gears in sequence, you create harmonic chords that make you want to keep playing.

Each level takes the form of a different self-contained puzzle world. The player moves the game’s hero, Princess Ida, through the levels by changing camera perspectives and revealing new pathways to areas of the world hidden by optical illusions.

Although Monument Valley is a puzzle game, it wasn’t designed to stump the player. Instead, the focus is surprise and delight as Ida progresses through her journey.

Developed at a digital design studio called ustwo, Monument Valley’s creators sought to construct an experience for players that valued the medium as an emerging artform. The team of programmers, artists, and designers at ustwo don’t typically work on games, and they employed a singular approach that resulted in a game with a compelling narrative that feels as much like a music video as it does a video game.

Ustwo wanted to design a game that would appeal to all potential players (not just teen boys and hardcore gamers). At a fundamental level, the game was designed to specifically value inclusion:

  • Ida is relatively featureless, allowing players to project themselves into the game
  • the game is not too hard, so any player can win
  • the game is not too long, so any player can finish
  • gameplay is so audio-visually appealing as to be mass-market

Part of the promise and appeal of the iPad was that it was a computer for everyone. As a game built specifically for mobile devices, Monument Valley was designed to be a game for everyone.

Not only that, but Monument Valley is very much its own game. This isn’t just another platformer, shooter, or racing game. It’s also more than a classic arcade game repackaged with updated graphics (e.g. Frogger -> Crossy Road). Monument Valley is a game to remember.

More about Monument Valley:

  • over 5 million copies sold on Android and iOS
  • sales have soared to over $13 million
  • featured by Apple, Google, and appeared on House of Cards
  • offered a promotional expansion pack for World AIDS Day 2014

Real Life is Not a Zoo

Re: On ethics in information technology

We know watching everything because you can is not okay in our daily life. If we do it to strangers it’s illegal stalking. If we do it online, with a computer between us and our ‘target’ and we work for a big organization, it becomes okay.

It’s not okay. There’s no reason to spy on someone without their knowledge whether its for personal reasons or for a group or organization. More than likely it will set you on a path of false conclusions and unjustified defensive moves. There’s no reason to obsess over every word, thought, or image someone posts online, even if it’s in public.

We don’t live in a zoo, and acting as if it’s permissible to gape at each other’s private lives from the other side of a computer screen is not just in poor taste, it’s creepy.

Naming the Toasters

Macs and iPhones over the years

  • Van Gough: 15″ PowerBook G4
  • da Vinci: 13″ Macbook Air
  • Eleanor: 13″ Macbook Air
  • Infinite Loop: 11″ Macbook Air
  • Eve: Mac Mini
  • Valkill: iPhone 4
  • Jeejah: iPhone 4S
  • RGB Phone: iPhone 5

I don’t remember what my first few iPhones were named, and I still need to settle on a name for my current iPhone 6 Plus. It has turned out to be the best iPhone yet by far. After using an iPhone for 8 years, I’ve finally reached a level with the iOS keyboard where I can get close to 100% accuracy without looking at the screen while taking notes in Evernote. It’s quite magical. Voice dictation is also delightfully accurate now. Editing photos is a breeze.

My phone is now my computer and most of the time my computer is a glorified TV.

I’ve watched iPhone/iOS evolve since the beginning, and it’s not an understatement for Tim Cook to say “These are the best iPhones we’ve ever made,” even if he repeats it every year.

Phone probs and thoughts

I recently switched from a Nexus 5 (which I loved) to an iPhone 6 (which I like even more). It was going to be a huge chunk of change for me, so I wanted to get the right one. I spent a lot of time weighing the options.

I think it’s pretty clear by now that to some degree our phones define us, and that other people define their perceptions of us based on our phones. It’s now part of our culture.

The main reason I’ve stuck with the white iPhone since it became an option on iPhone 4S is that with iPhone 5, the space grey model started to feel too masculine for me.

And that’s just me. Like, can you imagine me with the current Droid Razr Maxx? The one with a Kevlar back. It would be comical beyond reason. It’s probably a good phone and the right choice for some people, but not for me.

I had a space grey iPhone 5 for a few months, but even that was so sleek and unassuming it almost felt like a secret weapon. But phones aren’t weapons. I think Apple knows it too. That’s why it’s “space grey” instead of “gun metal grey.”

All things considered, iPads are an entirely different story.

Applecare Redefined

The Apple Watch I like. I just hope I can afford it when pricing is announced next year.

I hope the modularity theory discussed on The Talk Show is the model Apple chooses to adopt for Apple Watch. If not for the Sport Edition, then at least for the Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition.

I would love for Apple Watch to become a personal legacy device that we keep around because of sentiment, made possible by the option of internal upgrades year after year.

It could turn the idea of classist consumerism on its head. Already there’s a backlash against those who upgrade to a new smartphone every year, in spite of new features and functionality.

Depletion of rare resources required to make phones, environmental destruction caused by used batteries piling up in landfills, and questionable labor practices in developing nations are all reasons cited for consciously decreasing one’s demand for high tech products.

But if you were to spend a large chunk of change up front for a device you know you’ll come to love and that will actually retain (and perhaps increase) value over the years…now that’s thinking differently.

AppleCare redefined.

Top 5 Reasons Why Apple Should Announce Smart EarPods Tomorrow

Christmas Eve for Apple Fans

For the first time in a long time, tonight feels like Christmas Eve. For those of us who have closely followed Apple for any number of years, tomorrow’s keynote can’t come soon enough. Just like when we were kids, as Christmas morning inches closer and closer, time feels to pass more slowly than it did weeks ago, when only the most meaningless details of possible new products had leaked. Judging from sentiments expressed today on Twitter, these last few hours of anticipation appear to have been rather painful for even the most apathetic tech observers, with reports pointing to a particularly nasty strain of first-world anxiety spreading with virulent efficiency among message boards and comment threads.

What makes this keynote different from any of the last handful? Again, think back to being a kid. Some years you might have had a hunch as the days ticked by that Christmas would be good. Other years (most likely due to economic factors) you knew not to expect so much. Regardless of any hunches you may have had as a result of reading your parents’ tea leaves, a truly unexpected gift always made Christmas morning better.

4 years have passed since Apple blew our minds with something truly new. Tomorrow feels like another big one. http://t.co/NoKfmskNSV

— Xeni Jardin (@xeni)
September 9, 2014

The sense I have tonight is that when Tim Cook takes the stage tomorrow morning, we’ll be rewarded with both. Not only will Apple fans be vindicated in clinging to high expectations, but that “One more thing…” moment will inevitably arrive and we’ll finally know with complete certainty what new product category Apple will venture into.Read More »

Hashtag Activism

via Urban Dictionary:

The kind of activism undertaken when you “do something” about a problem by tweeting or posting links to Facebook, without any intent of ever actually doing something. Nothing more than a nonsense feelgood gesture so that one can say they “did something about” whatever trendy cause they’re pretending to care about. Usually only lasts a week or two before the cause is completely forgotten (i.e. it stops being cool to forward/retweet on the subject).

I forwarded a video about some unspeakable atrocities in a country I didn’t know existed until I watched the video. My hashtag activism is going to accomplish something!

Hashtag activism may not be “the answer” to our problems, but it’s a pretty damn good way to follow and contribute to a dialogue that may very well result in the discovery of some worthwhile solutions.

We certainly need to go further than tweeting and writing Facebook posts simply to satisfy our egos, but that doesn’t mean you have to shit on the work that people are doing just because they include hashtags in their social media posts relating to a cause they legitimately care about.

I’ve written in greater detail about utilizing hashtags (and Twitter in general) as a tool for organizing here.