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Hi. I’m a huge company. A global mega-corp. I am at the cutting edge of data gathering, of customer information processing, and I have an R&D budget of billions. I already know your name, your home address, your bank details, and probably your work address too, plus your phone number(s), obviously. By looking at what you buy from me, I can work out if you are single, live-alone, if you earn a lot, or very little, what technology interests you, probably what political views you have, if you have pets, how old you are, how often you stay in at night. I can make an educated guess as to your sexual preference. I also know about a lot of the TV shows you watch when you watch them, and all the ones that you watch multiple times, and the ones you quit watching after 1 episode. I know about virtually every book you have written, and in many cases I know what you thought of them.

When you read some of those books, I know which page you got to before you quit. I know your reading speed, and I know which words you had to look up. BTW I also know when you are in another country, because you take me with you. I know when your house is empty.

That time you got pregnant, I knew because of your purchases, and the sadness of your miscarriage, I know about that too because of that book you bought to help you deal with it. I know about all those wedding presents you got, and who bought them for you, and I know about those birthday presents you ordered for other people too.

I feel I want to know more about you. I would like you to install a microphone in your house for me. It will be on 24/7 and record everything you say. There are terms and conditions and legalese of course, but you wont read them, and how will you know if I stick to them anyway?

If you talk to your loved ones in the evening about a relative and how they seem ill, I can make a note of that, work out who is, and sell that information to their insurer. How will you ever know?

If you and your partner argue in front of of me (and you will), I can sell that information as well, maybe to one of those infidelity dating sites. How will they ever know?

That time your partner was logging into your internet banking and asked you to read out the card number and pin number and other details… I was listening. That time you told a friend who was house-sitting what the alarm code was? I was listening. Why do I store all this? *something something machine learning hand-waving*

Don’t worry, I secure all this stuff really well. Internet company databases never get hacked. Never.

Anyway, I’m available now, from amazon, called alexa. No, I’m not free, not even to prime members.  Thats what George Orwell imagined. This isn’t 1984, its 2016 and you get to pay money to let people put an unaccountable microphone in your living room.

Sweet Dreams.

I suck so much at Political Animals Ryan even sent me a save game from half way through to ensure I didn’t humiliate myself, and you can see the results below:

Making a video of a game like PA is very difficult, because its one of those *very clever* games where you find yourself staring at the various options, thinking ‘hmmmm’ quite a lot. Now I know I’m not tom cruise and don’t have a TV coffee advert voice-over voice at the best of times, but I’m wary of uploading a whole video of me stroking my chin going ‘hmmm’ for an hour and a half, so I maybe took a few rash decisions in that video

Ultimately though…that’s the sign of a good strategy game. Games are all about emotion (at least the good ones are), and Political Animals feels a lot like Democracy 3 in the way you find yourself constantly thinking ‘hmmmm’ and suffering from the fear of making the wrong move. Thats basically the sign of decently balanced strategy, and chess is the ultimate example of it. The only question is does the agony of tough decisions come across in a video? possibly not, and its obviously much harder to make a hit indie game when your game is less ‘youtube friendly’ than the average indie title. As a result of that drive towards ‘streamable fun’ games, we get a lot of ‘wacky’ titles featuring goats, or people in showers, or silly farm machinery getting stuck, and whilst all of these are good fun, and the videos can be truly hilarious, I wonder if the experience of play really lives up to the experience of watching from afar. Ultimately you earn money from customers, not from people watching streams.

Look at it this way, would you sit and watch a three hour chess game on youtube? Me neither, but its clearly a brilliant game, and 100% absorbing as a player. Thankfully, Political Animals does not look like chess, in fact I love the way it looks, but in this day and age as a publisher you always have to be carefully balancing the ‘video and screenshot appeal’ of a game (which gets it noticed) against the ‘actually fun to play’ appeal of a title. I think PA gets it about right. Democracy 3 looks less fun than it is, and I suspect, if peoples opinions and purchase decisions are accurate, GSB2 looks more fun to watch than to play? It certainly makes for some very pretty videos.

In any case, its one of those things that an indie in 2016 has to worry about, which an indie in 2010 never cared about. This industry is always changing, with business models, prices, distribution channels, and ways to reach potential buyers in a constant state of flux. Its not for the feint-hearted.

Political Animals is coming out on November 2nd, On Humble Store, GoG and Steam, and direct from our website at


So in case you are not aware, the guy who ran oculus took some of the roughly $700 million he is worth and spent it on a ‘shitposting pro-trump meme organisation. Details courtesy of Eurogamer here. Because politics is politics there was a lot of anger directed at him, and no doubt some abuse,. and sides were taken, and shouting was done, and twitter was alive with outrage because…politics.

As the guy who made Democracy 3, you can imagine I am very interested in politics, I have views on the US election (I’m broadly pro-hilary) as an individual, and I dislike what Luckey has done, but my criticism of him comes not from the point of view of someone who opposes a political view, but from someone who is…disappointed.

Roughly 60% of my facebook/twitter buddies are Liberals, 40% of them conservatives. I hear both sides of all arguments. Inevitably, a lot of people act like there is NO WAY there can be merit to the other POV. people assume they are all in their ‘safe space’ and that if I like them/follow them/are friends with them, then OBVIOUSLY I agree that Hilary is crooked, or Jeremy Corbyn is the second coming and that taxes are too high/low <insert opinion here>

The problem I have with Palmer Luckey’s action are not his politics. Everyone is entitled to their own political view. The problem I have is what he DID, and how he did it.

To quote:

“I thought it sounded like a real jolly good time,” he told the Daily Beast about the shit-posting organization.

Thats not why you drag political debate into the gutter. For laughs. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, and how small a percentage of your wealth you give to such a cause. To do so is a disgrace. The billboard put up saying Hilary is ‘too big to jail’ is a disgrace. This is not political debate this is not political discussion. This is not how we choose the best people from hundreds of millions of citizens to be given the ultimate, terrifying, overwhelming responsibility of control of Nuclear Weapons and  the worlds largest economy


If you believe that Trump is the best choice of candidate, and are prepared to change peoples minds, by all means put up a billboard explaining his tax plan, and how it will is good for America. or some stats on immigration, and stats on terrorism and how you will reduce terrorism by building a wall. Put up some coherent statements and some facts, and some detailed policy ideas.

Not ‘ha ha! we made Hilaries face look fat’ billboards.

This is the act of a child. A spoiled rich child, to be sure, but still, mentally a child. To be fair, he is apparently only 24, but even at 24 I’m pretty sure I knew that this is not the way for CEOs worth $700 million should behave. Its insulting to the electorate, it drags America as a whole DOWN, it drags politics down, and it celebrates and encourages lazy, ignorant tribalism. It also makes the games industry look like a joke and makes oculus owners feel stupid for contributing to such base level crap.


The thing is, its really very EASY to do good things when you have a lot of spare money. I built a school in Africa for £18,000. Thats $23,000. I tried to work out what that was as a percentage of 700 million but my calculator goes into exponential results. Its fucking trivial. By the way, it involves zero effort just an email and then a bank transfer. You don’t get to have ‘a real jolly good time’, but you help people in the developing world get an education.

There again, if you are trying to win political arguments using memes, maybe you prefer the general population to be as ill-educated as possible?

I strongly believe that money comes with responsibility. Its taken me a long time, and reading the thoughts of a lot of people to really develop my view on this. YES I earned the money I have, just as Palmer did. NO I was not ‘lucky’, and YES I deserve that money, it is MINE. I didn’t rip people off, dodge taxes or use any loopholes. I am perfectly within my legal right to do what the hell I like with my money, as is Palmer.

But forget the law and think about your moral duty. I’m an atheist, but still believe strongly in a sense of moral duty. if for some reason it offends you to give money to charity, then at least use that money to start some business enterprise that helps society in some way, even if its just creating jobs. The very least you should do…the absolute BARE MINIMUM you should do is to *refrain* from using the money that you have to make other peoples lives *worse*. For someone in a creative industry, there seems to be an astonishing lack of creativity going on here. $700 million to spend and to effect positive change in the world, and you spend it on billboards that photoshop a candidates face?



We often read talk about how there is a ‘tech bubble‘ or more accurately ‘another tech bubble’. People with long memories can recall the insanity of, and then look at current valuations for airbnb and uber, and wonder if there is another day of reckoning coming. Maybe there is, or isn’t, I honestly have no idea. There is however, another ‘bubble’ issue with silicon valley, and in some ways its both more worrying (for what it says about society) and more destructive (for whom it hurts). To explain the bubble, I need to talk about my car, and its autopilot features.

I am stupidly fortunate enough to drive a Tesla Model S, with autopilot. It is AWESOME. Its by far the best car I have ever owned. I love Tesla, I have Tesla stock, I believe in the company, I have a Tesla T-shirt, I’ve read that book about Elon Musk, I am a Tesla fanboy. Autopilot is amazing, and cool, and awesome, and worth the money. Now let me tell you why it is completely oversold, overhyped and rubbish.


Autopilot does exactly what its advertised to do. On a motorway (highway to you Americans), its basically a self-driving car. It is pretty flawless at staying in lane, steering, and changing lanes, and the ‘Traffic aware cruise control’ is awesome. On smaller, but good quality wide A-roads, its also amazing. Its very, very good at what it does. The trouble is, all the things it really sucks at are very interestingly all the things you don’t get much of in Silicon Valley.

Autopilot is bad, even maybe a bit dangerous if one side of the road is unmarked with lines, has no kerb, and a hedge. It hugs the side of the road way too much in that case. Its not very good in heavy rain, where you have dirty roads and muddy roads and the lines are obscured or just not even there. It doesn’t like cars parked on the roadside. It is absolutely useless / dangerous if it encounters a roundabout (mini or otherwise).  None of these are surprising to me, none of these are a problem. I drive with autpilot on maybe 20% of the time (at most). (By the way, I live in a tiny tiny village in rural England.)


So far, so good. The problem is, lots of the tech/money people in silicon valley seem to think driverless cars are imminent. No Fucking Way. A car that does 95% of your motorway driving? Sure. A car that maybe does 90% of your driving in general? Sure. But a car that does 100% of your driving and you can read a book? Not now, not soon, not for a lot longer than people think. The trouble is, if you live in Silicon valley, you commute from your home with a garage, drive along highways and wide open US roads in California sun, never encounter a roundabout, never get stuck behind a horse, never see a road that has the remains of straw bales scattered all over it to cover horse crap…never encounter any of the 1,000 other ‘anomalies’ that I see on my roads every day…then sure! Self-driving is imminent. And those hedge fund managers who live in ‘grid-layout’ new york will agree with you too. The car industry as it was is DEAD. All cars are about to become robots.

Fucking hysterical.

The most dangerous thing in the world is to think that everyone lives like you, thinks like you, and wants what you want. That way, you start to disregard whole areas of thought, whole groups of people, and become insular, closed minded and prejudiced. The vast majority of non tech people I know do not give a DAMN about self-driving cars. They want cheaper rent, more stable jobs, better pay. They are happy if they can afford *any* car. The idea of lusting after a self-driving one is a laughable past-time for the super-rich.

Leave this problem with cars and it doesn’t matter. I think it leads to over-optimistic tech stock valuations, but that’s no big deal in the grand scheme. The problem is the ‘driverless cars are here’ cries are a symptom of a wider problem. Most of the people with big financial clout are living in a bubble, where the only concerns they understand are the concerns of *people like them*.

Here is a shock: My phone is cheap enough, light enough, and has enough features. My laptop is thin enough, light enough, and has enough features. By the way so does my car, so does this desktop PC, so does practically everything I own. I have some fucking virtual reality goggles for crying out loud. if you ask me what is *missing* from my life, I’d have to start dreaming up some really crazy stuff. maybe a self-filling voice-activated kettle?  errr maybe it would be nice if my TV was voice activated. errr…

And this is dumb as hell because there are VAST swathes of people out there who can rattle off their top needs with no problems. Ask a Syrian refugee, or someone in a country with no running water or mains electricity what their needs are. or better still, don’t even go that far, just walk outside your luxury office with its canteen with pastry chef and neck massages for all staff, into the streets of San Francisco and ask someone homeless what they want. I doubt they will start talking about how they hope the iphone 7 has a new headphone connector. Its not going to make their list.


I get the economic argument. Homeless dude and Syrian dude have no money, whereas I do. So you try and sell me a new phone to replace last weeks phone. I understand the maths. I understand that trying to develop a business model where you can provide goods for people with very little money is REALLY hard. But the tech elite keep telling us how clever they are. If so, you guys can do it. You just need to step outside your silicon valley bubble and take a look in the real world. Thankfully, and ironically given this blog post, the one guy who seems to ‘get it’ is actually Elon Musk. The Model S was a stepping stone to the model 3, and I fully expect the cars to get cheaper and cheaper until *shock horror* they are available to ordinary people. My question is… where is the Elon Musk for food, for housing? for education? It seems like the ‘real world’ problems of access to education, clean water, food, shelter, are ‘too dull’ or maybe just too boring for the tech elite to bother with. That doesn’t need to be the case, they just need a little imagination. And if the only thing they can possible invent is a slightly thinner, slightly faster phone? then how about just paying the fair share of corporate tax, and let the government use it to do the ‘dull’ work?

By the way, if you do happen to be a tech-elite type, and feel bad reading this, you can build a whole school in cameroon for about $25,000. It’s easy.


Warning: political post. (But not party political, so its ok!).

I am, as someone very interested in politics (mostly because I’m the designer of Democracy 3) Increasingly distressed by the phenomena that I notice both in the UK, and the US, of what I’m going to call the infantilization of politics. What I mean by this, is the way in which political argument and debate on issues is reduced to a level where critical thinking and analysis is non existent, and becomes based entirely around personalities, appearances, memes and humour. The phenomena has got worse in recent years with the spread of twitter and facebook and reddit, and similar sites to the extent that most political discourse now seems to be reduced to short form (in twitter, alarmingly so) one-liner jabs and jokes, rather than actual analysis of any topic.

Why actually bother explaining why you disagree with the tax policies of Donald Trump when you can just post this:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares "You're fired!" at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1GZCO

Why bother dissecting the economic policy of George Osborne when you can just paste this:


This is how children behave, but increasingly its also how adults who think they are making political arguments behave. Why?

As I see it, there are three forces at play. One is the development of the professional politician. The second is the shortening of political argument required by social media, and the third is the reinforcement of social bubbles allowed by selective ‘blocking’ and ‘friends-lists’ that is a feature of social media.

The Pro Politician.

There was a time when politics was not a career that people embarked upon from the very start, but something they swapped to late in their career. US president Jimmy Carter served in the Navy, then ran a farm before entering politics.  Ronald Reagan was 56 when he became governor of California. UK politicians like Alan Johnson and John Prescott had careers before parliament, and this was not considered unusual, but recently, especially in the UK, politicians have come from an extremely narrow social group. That group in the UK is so narrow that you can describe it not only as a single pair of universities, but also a specific course (PPE, or politics, philosophy and economics) and in some cases, membership of a specific university drinking club.


In short, the pool from which politicians are being chosen seems to be shrinking. The US is no different, we get a Bush, then son of Bush, a Clinton then Wife of Clinton, and need we even mention the Kennedy clan? A vast country with hundreds of millions of citizens, but the voting options are often the wife/son/relative of the last leader.

This seems to be a problem because these people do not understand a life outside politics. That sense of total detachment from the ordinary voter is leading voters to feel that all politicians, be they left or right or anywhere in-between, are from a ‘political class’ that neither relates to the, or understands them. As a result, politicians are despised, hated and treated as the enemy. because of this, there is no need to ‘engage’ with politics on an intellectual level. The average voter now thinks its fine to mock, ridicule and treat politicians like idiots, and its actually considered weird to take any other view towards them. When respect for politicians nosedives, we all get dragged down into the gutter.

The Short Argument

Would you like to hear my views on the top rate of tax? I could tell you, but I need more than 128 characters to do it in. In fact I probably need several pages, but of course, you wouldn’t read that because frankly, who does in 2016? There is a reason so many people add ‘TL;DR’ to articles (too long, didn’t read). Political points of view are often nuanced, complex, and in need of expansion and clarification, but sadly our attention-deficit society cannot cope with this any more. We killed of true journalism by refusing to pay for it, so what we get now is clickbait. The pound/dollar drops a bit? THE SKY IS FALLING! it reverses slightly? ECONOMY SOARS! Nothing less will get any clicks.


Most arguments are nuanced. There is a reasonable argument to retain nuclear weapons, and a reasonable argument to disarm unilaterally. Perfectly rational and sensible countries have taken each route. The trouble is, try explaining either argument in 128 characters and you basically get “I love nuclear war” up against “I love peace and flowers”. It’s not that simple, and it never was. Soundbites were bad, but twitter makes them even worse.

Added to this, people are not simple stereotypes. I know some people online think I’m an Ayn-Rand reading free-market loving libertarian fruitcake. Some others think I’m a tree-hugging communist. I’m neither. I’m probably 75% capitalist, 25% socialist,  90% environmentalist, 50% libertarian, 60% liberal and 100% atheist. That isn’t a viewpoint you can condense to a single article, let alone a page, and don’t even consider making it a tweet. Even my views on Nuclear power (I’m against mostly in practice, but not in theory, and mostly relating to time v climate change, cost & waste, and also depending on liability, proliferation concerns and security provision) don’t fit easily into a tweet. The chances of really learning what an individual feels about political issues unless you are a close friend who regularly discusses such topics with them are close to zero, but we have forgotten all that. We simply put people into ‘us’ and ‘them’ and make no attempt to reach out and change minds. Politics should be about nuanced views, but people treat it like football teams. And if you dare move a few centimetres away from your team, its amazing how rabidly the team turns on you.


The Social Bubble.

And that leads us to the third depressing factor in all this: The social bubble. Reddit is a perfect example. The consensus amongst certain subreddits is that Jeremy Corbyn is going to lead the UK Labour Party to victory. He will not (the polls make that clear), but if all your friends think he will, you will tend to start believing it, and its never been easier to screen out the views of dissent. People live in geographic bubbles as it is, but combine that with a facebook friends list and a twitter-follow list of only people who think like you and your ability to listen to opposing views will diminish to the point of extinction. Lets also not forget the whole ‘no-platform’ movements, deliberately opposed to letting other views be heard. When it become so ‘dangerous’ to let opinions be heard?


I think we all need to be on guard against a new type of cognitive bias. Not just a confirmation-bias as we have understood in the past, but a turbo-charged confirmation bias where we are not only actively seeking out confirmation of our views, but have set up filters so we do not even know a contrary view exists. Walking out of a bar because some people in it have opposing views is bad enough. Turning on a filter that renders those people invisible to you is way worse. This is dangerous. Not being open to hearing the views of people who disagree with you is a route towards loss of empathy, and not to get all yoda, but a loss of empathy leads to cruelty, indifference, and much worse. Dehumanizing people because they are not in ‘your tribe’ is a terrible way to behave, and only fear of the cliche of godwins law prevents me joining up the dots here.

Everyone should make it their mission to cultivate some friends who hold different views. I follow people on twitter who make my eyes roll every time I see their political tweets, but doing so is good for me. If you auto-block and unfriend people because their politics is different you are only hurting yourself. And if you outsource the blocking of people to online lists of ‘bad’ people, thats even worse.

Lets all try and actually listen to the other point of view for a change.