Extra Life 2016: Another Good Year

This year’s Extra Life marathon was another great time. I spent some time playing games with my kids, had a great co-op session with my best friend, and generally enjoyed the 25 hours of video games (with some breaks!) while fundraising for St. Louis-area children’s hospitals.

To date, you have helped me raise just over $700 for this cause.

For that, I thank you all. Your support every year when I do this crazy thing means a ton to me and it’s good to know you are interested in helping with this cause.

And know that it’s not too late! You can still donate to this year’s campaign by going to this page and giving what you are able or moved to do:

http://www.extra-life.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.participant&participantID=196644

I fell short of my goal, but that’s OK. It’s the effort and your assistance that counts. :)

I’ll be working on some additional stream stuff and a different kind of donation goal starting later this month. I’ll be posting about that soon. :)

WordCamp US Presentation: Code Review

Howdy! I just finished giving this presentation at WordCamp US 2016 about code review: about why and how you should do code review on your projects.

The Presentation

Here’s a SlideShare embed of the presentation deck:

And you can download the source Keynote presentation file here.

References

I referenced a bunch of things in my talk and mentioned that you could find those sources in this post, so here’s the list in the order you’ll run across it in the presentation:

Have any questions?

If you have any questions, comments, corrections, or whatever, please contact me. I’ll be happy to hear from you.

Get on My Wife’s Thanksgiving Day Level

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I married a woman who goes big on Thanksgiving with no reservations. She’s the best, and she made today super amazing. We owe her a week off after this one.

(Check my Twitter stream for bonus pie pic.)

Seiwa-en in Fall

We took a family walk around the Missouri Botanical Gardens yesterday, and it was exactly what I needed. The air was nice and cool, there wasn’t too much wind, and the sun was out just the right amount. You had to work pretty hard to take a bad picture of the gardens that day.

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The fall color in the Japanese garden, named Seiwa-en (清和園), was perfect. If you are in the area, you should make time to go and just walk for a while. Sit and enjoy the color and the sounds of the garden.

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Spring—during the cherry blossoms—in undeniably my favorite time in the garden, and winter holds its own beauty as well, but I think right now, many of us need these kinds of breaks. The world is becoming more chaotic, and sometimes you need to get away from it to retain perspective.

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It is good to be reminded sometimes that we are part of something that is larger than ourselves.

(Colleagues: St. Louis is a great spot for your next meetup.)

Extra Life 2016

It’s that time of year again. When I’m broadcasting, you’ll see it here:

tl;dr Version

My Extra Life marathon for this year runs from 8 a.m. Central time Saturday, November 5th until 8 a.m. Central time Sunday, November 6th.

You can watch at http://live.backlogathon.com/.

You can donate to the fundraiser at http://extralife.backlogathon.com/.

I’d love it if you would stop by during the marathon and watch. I’d love it more if you chose to donate to the fundraiser as it is for a very worthy charity. A schedule is located at the bottom of this page.

Thank you!

(end tl;dr)

What’s the Extra Life Marathon?

Every year, thousands of people pledge to slightly break themselves and have a lot of fun doing it to support Children’s Miracle Network hospitals through the Extra Life program. This will be my fourth year contributing to the program.

The marathon date this year is November 5th, and starting at 8 a.m. that morning, I’ll be playing video games, both solo and with friends, for 25 hours (yes, 25 hours, because that is Daylight Savings Time change weekend). I’ll play a variety of things and will have some donation incentives along the way to make things interesting (more on that later).

As part of the marathon, I’ll be streaming the entire thing live on Twitch and will have donation callouts during the broadcast. Donations will pop up a fun notification, and if you donate during certain blocks or games, I’ll let you either choose something fun or extend the amount of playtime, depending on what’s going on. But you’ll need to tune in to know what those things are!

What Is Extra Life? Where Does that Donation Go?

This is a great question, and I feel compelled to give you some information on this so you know that Extra Life is a good, solid, well-run program and not a charity where your dollar is just going to disappear and not benefit anyone.

Extra Life is a program run by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a well-respected and efficient foundation that raises over $250 million each year for the purpose of funding children’s hospitals, medical research, and community awareness.

CMN has a four-star out of four-star rating with Charity Navigator, and based on their research, contributes over 88% of raised funds to services and programs.

Extra Life is even more special, as 100% of the funds raised by my fundraiser will be forwarded directly to the two St. Louis children’s hospitals supported by my fundraiser as unrestricted funds, meaning the hospital is given discretion on where and how to spend that money to deliver and improve care to sick children who need our help.

How Can I Help?

Last year, I raised over $1,000 for St. Louis area children’s hospitals. This year, I’d like to double that and reach for over $2,000. I’ll need your help to do this.

The first thing you can do is watch the marathon. If you have some spare time over the weekend, turn it on and help boost my viewer numbers. I’ll try at the least to be not-boring and maybe at the most be entertaining. The more people I have watching, the more chance there is that random other people will pop by. You can watch on any computer, or if you have the Twitch apps for your phone, Xbox, or Playstation, you can look up my channel, which is “backlogathon”. There’s also a chat during the stream—feel free to type some things there and let me know how it’s going or if there’s something I can do better!

The second thing you can do is share with others that the marathon is happening. Here’s a tweet and a Facebook post you can share around:

The third thing you can do is to donate to the fundraiser. I don’t expect everyone to be able to do this, so it’s the thing I’m putting last in this post. If you have the available funds, any donation will help. Check the stream first or the schedule below—there may be an incentive going on! You might be able to direct part of the stream or get me to do something interesting!

OK; So What’s Going On During the Marathon?

Here’s the current schedule for the marathon, which is subject to change:

Some hours will have special guests (hint: my family). Other hours will have special donation incentives, for small and large amounts. You’ll need to tune in to the stream or follow me on Twitter to know what those incentives are!

The first basic donation incentive is that for every $5 donated during the Rock Band block, you can choose one track from my library for me to play on Expert Guitar or Bass. (Please note that a very few tracks in my list are not yet in Rock Band 4 and I may have to force you to choose an alternate.) You’ll need to be in stream chat to redeem your donation incentive!

There is ONE donation incentive that has been set in stone ahead of time: if I break the $2,000 donation goal for the whole drive, I will commit to one hour of playing Rock Band 4 on Expert Vocals. I have never sung on stream before in my life. I’ll do a playlist of my choosing, and maybe some bonus donation incentives for choosing specific tracks to force me to sing.

You are guaranteed that the playlist will contain AT LEAST ONE JUSTIN BIEBER TRACK.

If you want to see this happen, you know what to do!

Our Community Chased wundergeek Out, And Perhaps That Bears Reflection

(title borrowed contextually from this tweet)

I’m really sad about this. wundergeek is closing up her blog Go Make Me a Sandwich, from which I have learned quite a lot over the years about how the gaming (both video and traditional) industry treats women both in depictions and in (lack of) inclusiveness.

She writes:

Before Origins, I ended up crying in a bathroom as I chatted with friends online about the vitriolic response to a thing that I’d written. It made me doubt myself so much that I actually wondered if it would be worthwhile going to Origins. Would I even be welcome there? (Spoiler alert: I was.) Fast forward two months to a different crisis before a different convention, which saw me crying for more than a week in the runup to that convention. Truth is, I’ve done a lot of crying about my blog in the past year. But I didn’t let myself think about that, because I had to keep moving forward. I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I had to keep my head above water and just. Keep. Fighting.

Or at least that’s how I was approaching things until several weeks ago, when the final straw happened. As is the way with such things, it was so small. Such a quiet thing those most community insiders, even, probably missed. Really, it doesn’t even matter what the event was. What matters is that it represented a tipping point – the moment in which I finally had to confront the fact that I haven’t felt passionate about what I do here for a long, long time. And for most of this year, I’ve felt only resentment. That this stupid blog has cost me so much, and I feel trapped by it. A victim of my own success – forever tarnished by my connection to it, and yet dependent on the income it provides, that I require because of the damage it’s done to my reputation. (See what a vicious cycle that is?) The final straw made me realize that I don’t want to do this anymore, and indeed, that I was rapidly approaching a point where I couldn’t do it anymore.

Of course, this is made harder by the fact that I hate losing. And there will be people who will celebrate, people who call this a victory, which only intensifies my feelings of defeat. My feelings of weakness. I feel like I’m giving up, and it kills me because I’m competitive! I’m contrary! Telling me not to do a thing is enough to make me want to do the thing. I don’t give up on things and I hate losing. But in this situation, I have to accept that there is no winning play. No win condition. I’m one person at war with an entire culture, and there just aren’t enough people who give a damn, and I’m not willing to continue sacrificing my health and well-being on the altar of moral obligation. If this fight is so important, then let someone else fight it for a while.

There’s a lot more on the original post, which you should read, because it underlines in very stark detail what the problem is and how pervasive it is within gaming culture.

I could share a bunch here about how I’ve read it over the years, how it helped bring these things to my attention, or how proud I always was that it was on WordPress.com (NB: I work for the company that runs WordPress.com). But I won’t.

Nor will I say that she needs to keep going, keep fighting, because at the least she has realized that doing so is not a healthy option and is choosing to cut it out of her life to move forward in other things. We should support that.

What I will say is that as a community, we need to take a look at this, realize that people within our community have chased off yet another person who stepped up and said hey, something is wrong with what we are doing and how we treat people, and realize that when we see that kind of crap behavior, we need to call it out and condemn it for what it is.

Because the more this happens, the greater the chilling effect that stops other people from raising their voices and bringing unique viewpoints to the table.

And that harms us all.

Getting Things Done

Last week, I splurged and bought an Apple Watch. I’m writing out some thoughts about it for a longer post in a month or two, but I have to say that I love the progress-tracking aspects of it as someone who sometimes struggles with organizing his day properly.

It feels great when my default watch face has closed circles all around the bottom:

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The left one is for Activity, which I manage to fill on days I go to the gym (and not so much on days I don’t). I won’t lie; I feel like I’ve accomplished something when I finish that last standing goal and the watch pings me with this:

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And the app and complication for Things (in the lower-right) have somewhat resurrected my use of the Things as a platform. I’m now organizing the things I have to do and scheduling things like ticket follow-ups and daily mundanity that just needs to get done. Again, it feels great when I tick off that last to-do:

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The other benefits of the watch so far have mostly been a lot less glancing at my phone throughout the day. My early take on it is that doing that alone has made it worth the investment.

I’ll write more another time.

Summer Games Done Quick – What to Watch

It’s around the Fourth of July, so that means it’s time for two things:

What is Games Done Quick?

If you have never watched Games Done Quick, it’s a grouping that happens twice a year where people from all over the place get together and “speedrun” games, which is exactly what it sounds like: they are going to try to complete a whole bunch of games as quickly as possible.

The marathon is to collect donations to support Doctors Without Borders (the summer beneficiary of donations), which IMO is a worthwhile organization, so I support and would encourage you to donate during your favorite game or an impressive run.

The whole thing lasts about a week, and there are runs around the clock, so there’s a lot to take in. If you have or haven’t watched, there are some specific runs on the schedule I wanted to point out, so if you are interested in those games or at least want to see what the whole thing is about.

Where Can I Watch It?

Games Done Quick is broadcast on Twitch, here:

https://www.twitch.tv/gamesdonequick

The broadcast will start at 11:30 Central Daylight Time tomorrow (Sunday).

A Brief Glossary

You can find the schedule here, and there are some terms you’ll see in there that might need some explanation:

  • The “per cent” of a run indicates what’s necessary to complete it. In general, there are two types of runs:
    • “any%” means completing the game via any means possible
    • “100%” means collecting everything possible in the game and hitting any and all milestones, such as collecting every item in a Zelda game
  • Some games will run with a specific term in front of the per cent symbol; that’s unique to that game and will indicate a shortened form of the game but not as short as an any% run.
  • For instance, “Low%” means trying to complete the game while collecting as little of the in-game items as possible.
  • “Glitchless” means the runner is not permitted to take advantage of anything unintentional in the game to progress more quickly. (It’s open to debate per game.)
  • Other games will have some stipulations, and they’ll usually be explained as the run starts.

My Picks to Watch

Keep in mind that the schedule can and will change because setups and some games may run over their predicted time, so you should consult the master schedule to make sure a game hasn’t significantly moved before you tune in.

Here’s the stuff I’m looking forward to and think you should watch (all times are Central Daylight Time):

  • 19:48 Sunday – Metroid Prime any%, which is a bizarre introduction to how people beat games quickly by abusing glitches throughout the game, such as going out-of-bounds of the game map to break the sequence of the game.
  • 08:31 Monday – Actraiser Professional Mode, one of my first and still favorite Super Nintendo games. I really want to see how you finish this in around 30 minutes.
  • 11:48 Monday – Mega Man 3 any%, probably the best Mega Man game being run this week.
  • 23:26 Tuesday – Contra III: The Alien Wars any% Hard, which will have insanely optimized strategies for defeating the bosses in each stage.
  • 14:44 Wednesday – Metroid: Zero Mission any%, which is the best Metroid game on the schedule. It’s pretty neat how little runners will collect to blast through the game.
  • 18:42 Wednesday – Quackshot any%, which you should watch because one of my mutual followers, YellowKillerBee, is running it.
  • 07:55 Thursday – Zelda II: The Adventure of Link any% warpless, always a skillful run through the most difficult Zelda game.
  • 16:20 through 19:26 Thursday – The Bethesda RPG block, where people will complete a bunch of Elder Scrolls and Fallout games, and they will do this in completely insane ways to showcase how broken these games really are.
  • 11:04 Friday – Super Mario World All Castles 3-way race, which is easily the best race on the schedule – they will show all three players at the same time and the race can hinge on tiny, tiny imperfections in the runs.
  • 20:02 Friday – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time any% glitchless, which will be nice because GDQ does not often do a glitchless run through this game. The glitched run is ridiculously short and skips almost the entire game, but this should be more detailed.
  • 14:14 Saturday – Final Fantasy VI any% Sketch Glitch, where you’ll see someone run through a game that takes most people 40-plus hours in 10% of that time. You’ll also learn about step-counting and how it’s used to manipulate random encounters in the game.
  • 18:29 Saturday – Super Metroid any% 4-way race, which is basically the capstone run of the event. There’s a huge bidding war with donations to either save the animals at the end of the game or let them die. It’s fun to watch. :)

That’s most of it. I hope you decide to give it a shot and find something to watch and enjoy. If you haven’t watched speedrunning before, it’s an interesting video games discipline and it takes pretty crazy mental focus and hand-eye execution.