Sunday, May 29, 2011

Portal 2 Review

About a third through my playthrough of Portal 2, the realization dawns on me that I have been playing for three consecutive hours. Normally, for me, this would not be unusual, but the night before the final exam of my most difficult class in my Junior year, it certainly is. Portal 2 is one of those games that you’ll wish you were playing when you are not playing it and morbidly fear completing its campaign. portal_2_box_ps3

The Story and Humor

The game picks up some time after the events of the first Portal. Chell, the game’s protagonist, wakes up in a decrepit Aperture Science Hotel Room. From there, a bumbling personality core called Wheatley breaks apart the room and sends her through Aperture. Eventually, Wheatley accidentially awakens GlaDOS and sets forth a surprisingly involving, and very funny narrative.

Really, to give any more away is to spoil a lot of the fun of Portal. Learning the secrets and history of Aperture Science and its relationship to the vibrant world of Half-Life is a large part of the game’s appeal. Showing any screenshots from beyond the first quarter of the game would spoil not only the story, but also puzzle-solutions, environments and gameplay mechanics.

One thing that is safe to reveal is that Portal 2’s writing and voice-acting is phenomenal. Stephen Merchant, genius behind the British Office, makes his video-game debut with flying colors as Wheatley. His dry delivery of Wheatley’s lines perfectly characterizes him as a bumbling idiot, and listening to exchanges between him and GlaDOS are sure to leave many in stitches.


Perhaps most importantly, Portal 2 makes its greatest innovation in the delivery of its humor. Environments, not just scripting and dialogue, deliver laughs in a way unseen in any other medium. Be it a darkly humorous sign or a beautifully ruined office, Portal 2 delivers its hilarity in ways unique to the medium, and for that, it deserves high commendation.


Perhaps even more dangerous than story-spoilers, knowing about Portal 2’s in advance can absolutely ruin the experience because the game constantly introduces surprising new elements. For the sake of completion and to sate the interest of those interested, I will include information on it. That said, MASSIVE SPOILERS FOLLOW, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

Portal 2 begins simply enough and might come off as non-innovative to fans of the first game (in fact, a few test chambers are entirely recycled, albeit, in decrepit form). Simple staples from the first game, like conservation of velocity through portals, return for the first few test chambers. This is all fun and dandy, until Portal 2 decides to get creative.

The first thing that the game springs on you are “thermal discouragement beams”, which are lasers that can be directed into light-switches using mirror cubes and portals. The difficulty curve in the game is immaculate, and simple “teaching” levels give way comfortably to diabolically insane challenges that the player ultimately feels prepared to handle.

The pacing for Portal 2 is highly refined as new puzzle-elements are introduced at a near-constant rate, and just as the player feels he has mastered one element, that element is deployed in an innovative new way making it fresh again. For example, the lasers, an early-game element that feels pretty easy to master, is given new life as the player must simultaneously activate three light-switches using only one mirror cube. It is through challenges like these that Portal 2 achieves its incredible balance and remains fresh to its very end.


Later in the game, new, Portal-controlled environmental aspects, like light-bridges and ascension-rays, challenge the player in unexpected ways. Three types of special “gels”, orange, blue and white, alter the environment in clever ways. Blue gel turns any surface it is applied to into a trampoline. Orange gel-coated ground is slick and slippery and lets the player achieve incredible speeds, and white gel turns anything it touches into a portal-able surface. What is particularly genius about these elements is that the player never gets to control them directly. Instead, the player must utilize his/her limited abilities to indirectly solve puzzles by manipulating these gels and bridges in creative ways. This forces the player to think of all possible applications of the Portal Gun, and as a result, the player’s most powerful asset is his mind. This lends the challenges a Braid-like sense of cerebral bashing, making the difficult challenges incredibly satisfying to solve.


Not all of the challenges soar. In particular, one mid-game plot twist removes the player from the test-chambers and sends the player on a long-trek through Aperture’s ancient hallways, comes off as mediocrely designed in comparison to the “meat” of the game. The gameplay-shift this entails makes these challenges more about searching for the one area of Portal-able surface than using the Portal Gun’s capabilities. This effectively turns the game into more of an adventure game than a puzzler, and, while the detailed environs are a joy to explore, challenges become slightly tedious. Thankfully, this section of gameplay is brief and bearable.

Spoilers end here. Ultimately, Portal 2 is a nearly immaculate experience marred only by a short section of substandard puzzles.

Graphics and Audio

Running off the now-ancient Source engine, Portal 2 nonetheless looks surprisingly good. Ambient light and dynamic physics lend the vast corridors of Aperture a sense of atmospheric vastness comparable to the very first Metroid Prime.

Portal 2’s best visual aspect comes in its artistic direction. The sterile test-chambers fall apart to reveal the “backstage” of the facility in all its vast, technological ruin. Different parts of Aperture showcase the company’s history, thus, visualizing a progressive history culminating with the modern era. The quality of the art-style, as well as the “living” feel of the incredibly animated rooms and backdrops as they are literally assembled as the player enters them, makes Aperture Science a fun and interesting place to explore, a credit that few shooters can live up to.


From an auditory standpoint, Portal 2 is also flawless. Procedurally generated music seems to compose itself as the player traverses through climaxes and crescendos within a level, and frames the player’s emotional and intellectual progression as he solves puzzles. For example, being launched into the air by an “aerial faith plate” speeds up the pace of the music and adds tense percussion beats while falling into a floating light-tube slows down and mutes the bass. Voice acting by Stephen Merchant and Ellen McLain remains flawless and hilarious. Jonathan Coulton, writer of the infamous “Still Alive”, returns for a catchy ending theme that wraps up the entire experience satisfyingly.


Portal 2’s cooperative multiplayer mode is a unique campaign containing the game’s most difficult challenges. With two portal guns and up to four portals deployed, an unique type of synergistic thinking is needed for any level of success. That said, Portal 2 is not a game that can be enjoyed without voice chat or with strangers. Using only pings and gestures to communicate is severely limiting and leads to considerable frustration. Playing with a headset and with a friend, the game becomes considerably more playable, intriguing and fun. Ideally, Portal 2 works best in its splitscreen mode, which simplifies interpersonal communication significantly and paves the way for synergistic thinking nicely.

portal co op

That said, Portal 2 would have benefitted with a set of competitive challenges and leaderboards. Challenge maps, one of Portal 1’s best aspects, are jarringly missing from this game. This harms the game’s already limited replay value and comes off as a missed opportunity for the developers.


In the end, the worst thing that can be said of Portal 2 is that it has some annoying fans. Even with its few flaws, this is one of the best puzzle games of the generation if not all time. Portal 2 fits the geniuses at Valve and Digipen as the foremost advocates of innovation and creativity in game-design. Strongly recommended. 4.75/5

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tactile Cave 2: Developer’s Diary 3

I’ve been looking for solutions to the array problem recently. The game freezes if the player attempts to go off the map. I attempted to do the same thing to the north and west coordinates (coordinates with X and Y values of 0) and the glitch didn’t happen. It only happens with the south and east coordinates, which have higher, non-zero values on the coordinate plane. I’m thinking of adding walls to those coordinates to see if that fixes the problem. If not, I can get a friend to write me a program that checks whether or not the tile the player is about to go into is occupied.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Well, it was inevitable. But the Modern Warfare 3 trailer is out. Check it out at  Beware, explosion-abuse galore. Looks fun, looks milked. Looks like I’ll be getting milked again.

But its not what I was expecting. This isn’t the hyper-realism I was hoping for. The Onion was wrong.

I mean, that’s incredible. I need to make that game.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Sites 82

Today is my birthday. I extend thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday on Facebook and will be thinking with Portals for the rest of the night. Until then, I’ve a few links for you. Few, but important. Just two days ago, iCAREweCARE launched along with its Facebook page. Like us! We’re aiming at 50 likes by the end of the month! The organization in question. It’s sweet.

That’s all for tonight. Until then: finals.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Introducing iCAREweCARE

Today marks the global launch of an innovative new social networking site: iCAREweCARE.
icwcpre-launchiCAREweCARE is a new student-run nonprofit organization  dedicated to making social change a social phenomenon using the power of online connections. iCAREweCARE seeks to empower teenagers to take leadership positions within volunteering organizations, provide comprehensive listings of non-profit organizations within local communities, connect with peers on basis of causes, collaborate with certain organizations and rate and review volunteer opportunities on basis of how meaningful work is.

Having access to the private beta of the site for the past week, I can attest that the site offers incredible potential if a vast number of participants sign up for the service. Capture
  • The “My Organizations” feature (pictured) allows users to connect and discover thousands of organizations across the globe and publicly declare their support for them. Furthermore, to recognize the quality of volunteer work at the organizations, users can rate and review any listed organization so that others can approach work informed (no more pushing papers for hours!). Cataloging a new non-profit is preformed by users and anyone can add new organizations to the list.
  • The “My Causes” feature allows users to connect with causes that hold personal importance to them. iCAREweCARE will then use its algorithms to hook users up with highly-rated organizations in one’s local area and recommend volunteer work.
    • The causes include Children’s Rights, Education, Environment, Global Disease, Poverty, Violence, World Peace, Women’s Rights, and Youth Rights.
  • The “My Friends” feature connects directly with one’s Facebook account and imports one’s friends list. It then utilizes algorithms to connect you to friends with common causes and organizations so that fun and collaborative volunteer opportunities can be undertaken with friends.
  • If modeled after traditional profile formats, iCAREweCARE’s “My Profile” feature would be redundant. That said, iCAREweCARE condenses its profiles and integrates them into Facebook to allow users to log volunteer work and invite friends to join. A full-blown news feed allows one to see the full extent of service in one’s social network. Seriously awesome stuff.
Philosophy and Impact
The Internet – specifically social media – has been the best thing for teenage expression since rock ‘n roll, or perhaps even the printing press. The social web allows teenagers to communicate, nearly undetected by parents, with massive audiences around the globe. Any given person can develop an impressive sphere of influence using a simple blog (i.e. yours truly).This removes the stratified power-dynamic of the traditional, adult-controlled world and allows for total freedom for teens communicate, collaborate and share. Ultimately, this empowers teenagers to emerge from a marginalized position to maturely make an impact on the world around them. iCAREweCARE seeks to utilize the incredible, decentralized power of the internet as a vehicle for justice.

There’s no denying that the Internet has changed society. The Egyptian Revolution and the Libyan struggle, both of which occurred just this year, are instances where social media served as the vehicle through which unjust governments were toppled and justice was served. The 2004 presidential election signified a major shift towards a new decentralized form of mass-communication. Major news corporations held less power than the common blogger, and anyone could argue for their candidate. This is the power of the internet, because, only through anonymity and unrestricted communication, all are equal.

Finally, iCAREweCARE allows volunteers to connect with the recipients of their services in a unprecedented manner. By communicating directly with those affected by social injustices, one can truly understand what is needed and necessary for those people. Furthermore, one can witness firsthand the effects of service on communities, thereby making service far more rewarding and satisfying. This can have incredible ramifications on a worldwide scale and allows for intimate and open connections to be forged between people from all sorts of social classes and region of the world.

Ultimately, since social media is perceived by teens as a “cool” thing to do, implementing volunteerism into the formula will change the face of public service and, essentially, make it “sexy”. Making volunteerism a teenage phenomenon, say, on the scale of Call of Duty and Lady Gaga, can initiate a global youth-service-movement that can extend for generations upon generations. This is not the “slacktivism” that has characterized Facebook since its inception, this can be a true force of nature.

iCAREweCARE is a truly incredible project. It went live and public just a few hours ago. So sign up now and partake in this revolutionary experiment!

Come back tomorrow for pictures from iCAREweCARE’s launch party and next week for videos!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dragon Quest IX Review

Classic JRPGs are certainly not what they used to be. dragon-quest-ix-ds-boxart

What used to be rollicking adventures through imaginative landscapes against memorable antagonists now feel predictable, boring and bland. Combat that was thought to be strategic and deep is now repetitive and annoying. Standouts like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI are few and far between.

Fortunately, Dragon Quest IX breaks that mold by innovating where it counts while adhering to what made JRPGs appealing in the first place.

Story and Characters

The primary force that moves JRPGs in the first place is story and characters. That said, this is an area in which Dragon Quest IX is greatly lacking. There is little in the way of a central unifying conflict pushing the adventure forward. This ultimately leads to the narrative feeling like a series of loosely connected stories of the nameless hero’s exploits.Dragon_Quest_IX_battle

This is not to say that the quests the player will undertake are not compelling, because they certainly are. A quest where the player must help a reclusive, self-loathing doctor cure a village of a magical blight is a standout. The loose thread connecting these quests together revolves around the Celestrians, a race of angels, and their quest to cause the world-tree Yggdrasil to bloom. Mysterious rays from the earth attack the Celestrian’s observatory, causing the player to lose his/her wings and setting them on a quest to retrieve Yggdrasil’s fruit from the Earth. The non-player characters are interesting and the towns and villages that the player will traverse have their own unique back-story.

As compelling the NPCs may be, the fact that Dragon Quest IX was designed to be a co-operative game renders its playable characters as faceless silent-protagonists devoid of motive, conflict or personality. While this does enhance gameplay and prevent ludo-narrative dissonance, it blocks off any chances of emotional attachment to any of these characters, and as a result, the story suffers from it.


Dragon Quest IX has a lot of content, even for an RPG, placing it only second to Pokemon on Nintendo’s system. The main story, discounting subquests, will take up to 45 to 50 hours of the player’s time. Postgame content includes an extensive crafting system, Diablo-like grottos, superbosses and a wealth of free downloadable content. Postgame and side content included, Dragon Quest IX can last for hundreds of hours.

That said, quality does not trump quantity. Fortunately, Dragon Quest IX is indeed a quality game. Combat is of the turn-based variety and, at first glance, seems mundane. However, character customization opportunities are massive, and with over eight character classes to choose from, individualized skill-trees, team-attacks, weapon-proficiencies and rare equipment, combat becomes more strategically deep as the game progresses.


A major problem of JRPG-design is difficulty, and achieving a right balance between repetitive button mashing and frustrating grinding is the key to forcing the player to strategically use all his abilities. That said, Dragon Quest IX is a difficult game. Weaknesses must be exploited, buffs and debuffs must be deployed and each turn must be exploited for its maximum tactical effectiveness. While the game is by no means on the level of Final Fantasy IV, bosses require an intricate level of care and strategy that makes combat satisfying and rewarding.

Unfortunately, stranger-questing is highly uninteresting and, more often than not, revolves grinding rare enemies for rarer drops to exchange for crafting items. The chance-based drop system makes these quests less than fun, and repeatedly searching for enemies to kill becomes repetitive. Thankfully, the removal of random encounters and the use of over-world entities to initiate battles, a-la Chrono Trigger, alleviates this frustration pretty well.

Graphics and Audio

Dragon Quest IX is a pretty game, perhaps the best on the DS. The stylized 3D models are highly detailed and impressively animated and the integration of 2D NPC sprites is flawless and clean. Dynamic cameras and impressive animations make combat considerably more exciting than it has any right to be. The artistic direction of famed Manga-artist Akira Toriyama lends the game world a distinctly Dragonball flavored tone, and classic monster design makes the game’s graphics great from both a technical and artistic perspective. Fully animated cutscenes showcase Toriyama’s artistic prowess and are in a beautifully detailed anime-style.


Much less impressive is the game’s music. While there are a few memorable tunes, like the Observatory theme and the Final Boss theme, the rest of the game’s audio suffers from a distinct lack of special-ness. Omnipresent musical themes that loop often, such as the standard battle-theme and the overworld theme, lack energy and catchiness, thus, removing a considerable amount of excitement from combat and exploration scenes. The high quality of the sound-effects still does not remedy this fundamental flaw.


In all its flaws, Dragon Quest IX is a legitimately great game for anyone who enjoys the JRPG formula. Its innovative twists eliminate the most frustrating parts of this gameplay style while retaining what made the genre so attractive in the first place. Not all of these twists are successful, playable characters are faceless and questing for crafting items feels more daunting than it should be. Nonetheless, the game is more than worth consideration for those seeking a very, very substantial RPG. Recommended. 3.75/5

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tactile Cave 2: Developer’s Diary 2. On Debug.

Debug is the most frustrating part of game design.


Debug is the most frustrating part of game design. Bugs are subtle and hide themselves well in even the most conspicuous of places. An error in logic can be as small as a single character and have game-crippling effects. This I am experiencing in my development of Tactile Cave 2. The Processing Development Environment is capable of frustrating to no end as it points out bugs and errors that are almost indetectable to the human mind.

Variables are a huge annoyance, and making sure that any variable or value you state is defined is an intricate and annoying process. Basic bugs and glitches can make the game fail to operate properly at all. This is not to mention world-loading bugs and death glitches that make the game inoperable. Creating a game that’s actually fun to play is even a greater challenge with these programming constraints.

That said, coding is still a thrilling and intellectually stimulating experience that requires little mathematical experience and a high level of patience. A propensity for logical thinking is critical and writing a functional program is not unlike formulating an argument for a debate.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Sites 81

Been busy all this week, but I do have a few cool Flash games to show you. A… very… postmodern flash game. A work of genius I want your source code And if you haven’t already noticed, Modern Warfare 3 details are out.

medium_mw3_multiplayer_splash SlideRocket has been out for a while, but again, its one of the most impressive cloud-suites out there.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Human Psychology in Team Fortress 2

One of the most important aspects of game design is the creation of a psychological state called “flow”, a mental state characterized by a sense of immersion, energy and involvement. This can be excessively difficult to achieve in multiplayer gaming and oftentimes results in the frustration of involved players. To achieve “flow” in their 2007 online shooter Team Fortress 2, the renowned Valve Corporation used a unique class-system that assigned certain abilities and limitations to playable characters, resulting in a type of interdependency between players, thus creating a complex weave of positive reinforcement loops, echoing B.F. Skinner’s theories of operant conditioning.

Before we begin, a bit of background information. B.F. Skinner was a psychologist who developed the theory of operant conditioning. Which basically held that learning and behavior modification is achieved when reinforcement or punishment is given when desired or non-desired behavior is exhibited by a subject. Positive reinforcement is when desired behavior is rewarded, thereby shaping the individual to exhibit that behavior more often. In order to make players play by the rules of a game, games must reward desired behavior exhibited by their players with points or satisfaction.

Team Fortress 2 takes a non-traditional approach towards designing its character classes to maximize the reward that players experience for playing a respective class well. While traditional shooters reward players with points for making successful kills and completing objectives, Team Fortress 2 rewards its players for exhibiting behavior concurrent with the purposes of the class that he/she may be playing. This is perfectly exemplified by the design of the Medic class. A German man with a syringe-gun and a Medi-Cannon, the Medic forces his players to rely upon the combat power of other characters and is rewarded for avoiding combat and healing allies from the back lines. Medic players receive reinforcement by acquiring points by healing damage or by healing an ally as he makes a successful kill. The ultimate objective of Medic players is to fill an “ubercharge meter” by distributing a large amount of health to allies. A player who achieves this goal is rewarded with the ability to deploy a status effect that gives him and an ally ten seconds of invincibility, a status effect that can change the course of an entire game. As a result, this fixed-ratio reinforcement schedule makes a traditionally frustrating character fun to play and achieves the goal of creating psychological “flow” in players. This approach to reinforcement can be seen in other class-designs, most notably the Engineer, which rewards players for having their utilities used by allies. This approach to the psychological minutiae of player reinforcement and “flow” extends to even the more traditional combat-classes, like the Soldier, Pyro and Sniper, each of which are designed to specialize in certain situations, thereby creating interdependency between players and forcing cooperation, giving players reinforcement for successfully fulfilling the role of their class, a type of collective “flow” is achieved.

Valve’s decision to design Team Fortress 2’s playable characters to exploit human psychological patterns of reward and reinforcement to create flow achieves a gaming nirvana sought out by all game designers. My game-professor from my time at UC Santa Cruz acknowledged that the goal of game design is to provide interactive visual stimuli to create a certain psychological/emotional response in players. To this affect, Team Fortress 2 succeeds with aplomb by basing its fundamental design on “collective flow”, an experience comparable only to sports. Other game developers have experimented with patterns of reinforcement in multiplayer gaming, most notably with Treyarch/Infinity Ward and the Call of Duty series. Call of Duty operates by an “experience-point” system, which allows players to unlock progressively stronger weapons and abilities as they play for longer stretches of time and complete special objectives. While this is effective in creating an addictive positive feedback loop (addictive being used here in the colloquial sense of the term), it creates a fundamental imbalance in gameplay as more experienced players can easily dominate new players with superior equipment and perks. As a result, the game becomes a bizarre amalgam of the frustrating and the enthralling, and for new gamers, gaming becomes a masochistic struggle to endure the assaults of skilled players in hopes of unlocking better weapons. This apparent psychological contradiction shows that game-designers have much to learn when it comes to creating “flow” without creating imbalance or frustration.

For the last five months, Team Fortress 2 has enthralled me with its masterful manipulation of operant conditioning and reinforcement. Having had to fight off the urge to play a few rounds to write this paper, I wanted to understand exactly what was bringing me back to the game so often. I concluded that the game must have had some psychological impact upon me and that its psychological design was responsible for causing me to lose countless hours to it. Drawing from what I learned about Skinner’s theories of operant conditioning and reinforcement, as well as from perusing developer commentary, I determined that the game draws its primary appeal from the design of its interdependent classes and the methods of scoring unique to each of the classes. In order to achieve this, Valve does not display a death-count on the in-game scoreboard, preventing player-humiliation. This comes in addition to a random loot-drop system and persistent player-statistics. These methods of rewarding individual achievement, combined with the psychological impact of constant positive reinforcement and collective flow, work well to make Team Fortress 2 a masterclass in multiplayer gaming.

Team Fortress 2. Vers. Bellevue, Washington: Valve Corporation, 2007. Computer software.
Madigan, Jamie. "The Psychology of Looting." GamePro 11 Apr. 2011: 30-43. GamePro. GamePro Media. Web. 10 May 2011.
Kasschau, Richard A. Understanding Psychology. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2008. Print.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Sites 80

Well, this was an eventful week to say the least. Osama dies and I take the SAT. Wild. The funny thing is that it is true! AONC on the Bin Laden kill We’re discussing normative gender in my Junior philosophy class. One thing that was discussed was Metroid: Other M and its portrayal of Samus Scott Young on getting the most out of college Halo, Call of Duty and why shooters are inevitable New spin-off of of Stuffwhitepeoplelike: stuff college students like. Check it out!

Saturday, May 7, 2011



Yes, I’m making a sequel to Tactile Cave 2 and will be doing a few dev-diaries every now and then about it. It will be built off the code-base for the original Tactile Cave and will bring with it a new set of awesome surprises.

One thing that distinguishes software-devs from other artists is the fact that they do not try to cover up their mistakes and gleefully enjoy sharing them. I’m producing the game right now, and I ran into my fair share of issues.

- Debugging and cleaning the game far more difficult than I thought and required a rewriting of many different parameters scattered around the code.

- Death and Respawn are the game’s most significant problems, and as the level does not reload properly upon player death, the game instantly becomes glitchy and frustrating.

- Tactile Cave 2 will be considerably more difficult than the first game. Observing the behaviors of playtesters of the first Tactile Cave, I devised levels that will exploit those behaviors to create more challenging levels. You WILL get pissed.

- Tactile Cave 2 will take place in a much smaller 23 by 10 grid, making the game-boards much smaller than those of the first game. This optimizes screensize for display on

I’m projecting that Tactile Cave 2 will be done at the end of the month, in the meantime, enjoy the first Tactile Cave and its Schizophrenia mod at my OpenProcessing portfolio.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama’s Death and the Human Condition

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~ Penn Gillete (misattributed to Martin Luther King Jr.)

I, like the vast majority of Americans, was pleased to hear that Osama Bin Laden was eliminated. I joined in with the commemoration online, only to say “wait a moment, this is just too messed up.” Twitter and Facebook saw its greatest ever traffic and Wikipedia was plagued with consecutive edit-conflicts. For the most part, I can easily say that in the past two days, I have seen the best and worst of Americans. I commend the dedication and bravery of the Navy SEALS that completed the mission and eliminated Osama, but impugn certain American people for their vulgar and unethical reaction to the news. Needless to say, this controversy raises puzzling questions about the human condition.

Celebrating Revenge – Thoughts in No Particular Arrangement
An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. ~ Gandhi

I, by no stretch of the imagination, back Osama Bin Laden or the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. The actions they have preformed are truly detestable and have placed thousands in states of oppression, loss or death. Nonetheless, to celebrate the death of a human being is truly disturbing and in very poor taste. 
Some of the most inflammatory images from September of 2001 are of radical Islamists celebrating the attacks on the World Trade Center, which, with no doubt, have been imprinted on the collective consciousness of the world as a whole. There are perturbing parallels between the celebration of Bin Laden’s death and the celebration of the attacks on the World Trade Center. In both cases, the death of individuals was commemorated in unethical ways, thereby dehumanizing people. The social media hubbub surrounding bin Laden’s death stoops us down to the “evil” we sought to eliminate. As Dylan eloquently said, we “became our own enemy in the instant that we preach'”.

Because of that, I remain supportive of the military's decision to give Osama a traditional Islamic funeral. Disposing the body in any other way would have inflamed tensions across the Middle East and would have propagated Islamophobia in a nation struggling to open its mind to controversial religious positions.

The vast flood of Facebook pages commemorating the incident is proof of the mindset that young Americans are approaching this moment in history with. For one, before it was taken down, a page titled “And that’s how we outdo a Royal Wedding” reached over a million fans in two days. Ultimately, a vast number of people are attempting to make a joke out of it. Perhaps even more appallingly, people invited their accounts to be hacked in droves in a bait-and-switch scam that promised “Pictures of Osama’s Execution”.
Vengeance begets vengeance. National security is not necessarily better off right now. Obama acknowledged that when he said “There is no doubt that Al-Qaeda will continue to peruse attacks against us. We must, and we will remain, vigilant at home and abroad.”

Consider the above cartoon. For many Americans, “Justice” is synonymous with revenge for the 9/11 attacks. If revenge is the primary motive for the celebration of Osama’s death, how can that be considered “Just”? As I said, revenge begets revenge in an eternal negative feedback loop of violence. How can the death of the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks undo the loss of three-thousand lives? It just adds to the death-toll.

Other Thoughts
“Although revenge resembles some conceptions of justice, vengeance is usually depicted as more injurious and punitive as opposed to being harmonious and restorative.” ~ Wikipedia

Some of my social media contacts have made some rather thought-provoking comments, the best of which I will share below. Given the need for anonymity, I have omitted the last names of the respective commenters.
i think if people celebrate his death and him being killed, it's ironic. it's like they're on their way to becoming like him, in being murderous, so it's wrong to rejoice. it's true that the world is alleviated of the burden of the things he does. and that is good. but how are people different from him as a person enjoying murder, if they are celebrating his death? that's the real question ~ Vincent
Mr. Armstrong raised a good point today in the car on the way to practice. He said that people's celebration of Osama's death is mirroring that of the Muslims almost to the point of animosity. ~ Nyan

I've been rather contemplative about what happened. (It's my job). I think it's a commendable military accomplishment. But what upsets me is this: we are the country of the freedom of expression. We invented flight, hand-held computers, and harnessed the power of the atom. But we still have no genuine alternative to the idea that violence begets violence.
Indeed, Obama reiterated the point last night: "we did not choose this war." It is only forced if there is no alternative. And the lack of that alternative, to me, is not in the least worth celebrating. It ought to be our challenge that we, who are capable of such incredible feats, also become the people who answer the question of peace, who rise above acts of hate and respond lovingly, who put an end to the kind of destruction that continues to plauge our condition.
Perhaps. I'm guessing that, at least descriptively, the collective-action account is a good one. But I wonder, for one, whether it's actually *right*, and in what sense. It seems as though the sense in which it's right, here, is a pragmatic one, in so far as it's the most efficient means to a resolution (we still get to maintain our values, life stays pretty much the same for most of us, and we don't have to deal with other violent acts in the short-run).

But it also seems obvious that this sense of "right" is a rather shallow one, and we should be holding ourselves to higher standards. I'm guessing you agree. I suppose the problem you're pointing out is that we lack, at the very least, a practical answer to the question of how to change people's attitudes and (so) behaviors towards violent acts.
My tentative answer is, perhaps predictably, that this is at least the obligation of our educators and other spiritual and cultural leaders: preachers, artists, and especially philosophers (one which, I think, not enough philosophers take seriously). It requires, that is, the "revolution of values" of which Dr. King spoke so forcefully. ~ Josh

I second that it was a bit disturbing that people were celebrating someone's death. I don't mean to give Osama a eulogy and I definitely didn't love him, but he *was* a father and husband, much like many people in this country. ~ Nyan
This is also very fertile ground for not just hating Muslim extremists (which is justified), but also Islam in general. Being Jewish, I have my concerns with Islam and how they treat Jews, but not all Muslims fit the category of "extremist"; I guess I'm in the middle of the road about it. ~ Sam
        The death of Osama Bin Laden IS something meriting celebration. Not because he was killed, but   because our country defeated a enemy who terrorized and would have continued to terrorize innocent civilians the government swore to protect. True, a live capture of Osama would have been preferable... but during a firefight you do what you have to do to make sure you complete the mission and stay alive. Osama was not just an enemy of the country, but also a dangerous man in the moment who had the immediate means and motivation to kill those who attempted to capture him. I find no fault in the action the seals took. Still, the point is valid that Osama's death will undoubtedly cause many more terrorist attacks in the near future, but I need to point out two important points of my to be considered with the threat of retaliation strikes. First, although Osama's death will spark attacks in the near future, how many attacks would he have sparked if he continued living? And how many attempts and threats aimed to secure Osama from US captivity would he have been taken alive? Second, to let Osama live/not capture him at all in fear of a terrorist attacks shows that we have truly refused to do what our ideals dictate due to fear and terror... which is exactly what we are fighting this war against. It is the United State's position to allow absolutely NO NEGOTIATIONS with terrorists, and that is what we need to continue to keep the higher moral ground. ~ Diego 


UPDATE: U.S. Says bin Laden was Shot Unarmed. The plot thickens. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

UPDATE: Thoughts on the Bin Laden Kill

It has been a good 18 hours since the story first broke that Osama has died, and the reaction that I’ve been seeing is disturbing. One particular newspaper has a rather inflammatory headline that exemplifies how f_cked up all of this is. Hit the jump to learn my thoughts on all this.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

  •  I commend the U.S. military’s decision to give Osama a respectful burial at sea. The corpse, as per Islamic tradition, was washed three times and wrapped in a white cloth before being buried.
  •  During Obama’s speech, Twitter saw its greatest ever traffic at 5000 tweets per second
  •  This will only complicate things further as Al-Qaeda and other extremist organizations seek retaliation. I come to question whether or not the world is better off with bin Laden dead.
  •  Again, the reaction of celebratory revenge enrages me. Despite Osama’s evil and detestable actions, that does not qualify that we deny him basic human dignity and respect.
  •  The saying that anyone “deserves to die” is just plain disgusting.

And that’s my two cents. How about yours?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Comments on Osama’s Death

Whoa, now that’s what I call a crapflood… Facebook is even busier than it was when the Giants won. I can’t edit the Wikipedia article without dealing with several edit conflicts. The article on his death has already underwent its own AFD. Without a better term to describe it, the madness is “lit”. As I am pressed for time, I want to say these two thoughts.

- The reactions that I have been coming across on both Facebook and Twitter are perturbing. Celebrating the death of Osama is little more than celebratory revenge and means relatively little in the big-picture.

- Obama’s speech did little to inform the American public of the details of the incident and instead backed the same celebratory revenge mindset that many are backing.

- Ultimately, this could complicate the big picture as Radical Islamic Extremists are enraged at the death of a leader.

Ultimately, I hear this news with trepidation. I will nonetheless follow developments and details in the coming days.