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Episode 19

The Indoor Kids

Save Points (with Dan…

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Indoor Kids #19: Save Points (with Dan Harmon)

Dan Harmon (creator of Community and Channel 101) stops in at The Indoor Kids headquarters to discuss linear vs. open world games and how evolutionary theory ties into gaming. The singularity comes up again. Also, Minecraft. And then, in the Side-Quest, Kumail & Emily discuss their final thoughts on Arkham City & their first impressions of Uncharted 3.

Follow @danharmon on Twitter!

Follow @indoorkids, @kumailn, and @thegynomite on Twitter!

And email us at theindoorkidspodcast@gmail.com!

Special thanks to Carvin for supplying us with the equipment we need to record this podcast! Check out Carvin.com for more information on recording equipment, guitars, amps and more!

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44 comments

  • The game you were talking about when you were contemplating what La Noire could have been is either Make it Good or Way of the Samurai. Rather than try and sell you on 2 games that there is a good chance you’d dislike, I’ll just tell you what they do to allow you to play a plot driven, freeform game without getting overwhelmed: the story is very short.

    When an author writes a short story, much of the challenge is in putting in exactly enough detail for the readers to understand what the point of the story is and no more (ok, when I say ‘an author’ I mean David Foster Wallace – I don’t know about any other authors), but in WotS all of the background info is left in the world for you to discover; it’s just not part of the actual story, which you can finish in well umdr an hour, depending on which ending you are going for. There are 26 endings, and you can’t find out what’s actually going on in town without completing several of them, because people open up to you in different ways depending on what you’ve done so far this playthrough.

    In Make it Good, there is only one way to win, but you need to play through many times to actually figure out what it is, so instead of a railroad i guess you could say it’s a kind of overgrown track through like a minefield or something. There’s this great moment about a quarter of the way through, when you finally manage to see all of the evidence and you feel great because you’ve solved the crime and then you have to figure our how to gather all of the evidence up to get a conviction because, you see, you’re an alcoholic screwup who’s going to get kicked off the force if you don’t solve this case, and possibly even if you do.

    I’m starting to feel like i didn’t do a very good job of not trying to sell these games :-( All I was trying to say is that you need that savescumming thing that Dan was talking about applied to the entire game, to form the basis of a non-linear, plot-driven game.

  • Bo Dixen, biological inputs resulting, non-deterministically, in moral codes does not provide support for a non-social basis for morality. What is a society if not an ecosystem of biological units? Also, there is no clear reason why the identification of factor weights should lead to weighting assignments in a normative scale.

  • I just wanted to chime in and say that I’ve been enjoying all the episodes (while walking the dog after work).

    I listen to it mainly because I don’t really play current gen games at all, although I still consider myself a gamer. It’s interesting hearing people around my own age (early 30s) talk about (and around!) games. The fact that you’re not just reviewing new games and instead looking to see how they fit into our culture today is some pop criticism sorely needed.

    That said, this episode was indeed like listening to some old stoner dorm buddies having an armchair philosophy debate, like “what is art, really, dude”. Entertaining, but only tangentially related to video games. Keep up the good work though! You’re hilarious hosts and the husband/wife angle is a great one.

  • Yes me again.

    Maybe neurons as digital transistors is also a little simplistic.

    We have modelled this behaviour on computers for a long time with neural networks and although some results have been interesting (learning behavíour and so forth) it hasn’t come near the real thing.

    And we still don’t really have a complete knowledge of our brain and even of neuron behaviour – we have good ideas.

    And as said isn’t only electrical signals – it’s very much also a chemical signals (hormones and so forth) and it is analog with continues curves as signals and threshold for reactions probably dynamicly changes on conditions continuesly.

    On the other node.

    Even if I don’t agree I don’t understand why people gets angry on other views. If they come from ignorance – educate them or point them to people more knowledgeable.

    If it’s viewpoints discuss and debate them with arguments or by proxy in forums, commentthreads and so forth.

    Don’t be a dick (W, Wheaton)

    However be angry when people WILLFULLY ignores good arguments and facts and still persists with either a clearly wrong view or wrong facts to support their viewpoints.

    Here it’s just a little bit a knowledge with some ignorance that can lead to wrong conclusions, but it’s not out of malicousness.

    @Kumeil: You’re not totally wrong in that morality is to a certain extent clearly a social construct, but you can argue that morality is an evolutionary adaptation in it’s basest form and therefore built into our brain. We are a social species and that has helped us survive.

    But it is the age old story of genes vs. culture.

    The moral sense test ongoing study from Harvard seeks to answer this question.

    Preliminary results seem to confirm that despite cultures, religion, upbringing and life experience we seems to have the same moral values.

    http://moral.wjh.harvard.edu/index2.html

    But it’s still ongoing.

  • I normally really enjoy TIK and look forward to new episodes coming out, but I have to say that I found this episode painful. As a engineer/computer- scientist/roboticist (and yes, I do have a formal education in these areas), every time someone make a statement about how things “are”, I had to cringe. From the discussions of AI, to philosophical ramblings about the binary nature of computers being dictated by our obsession for dichotomies, the whole thing hurt my brain. Anyone who thinks that computers deliver only yes/no answers knows little about computers. They are no more limited to binary responses than we are to decimal responses (I can give greater or less than 10 answers to a give question, even though I count in base-10). I couldn’t even go along for the “philosophical ride”, because pretty much every single “fact” stated to justify it was just blatantly incorrect.

  • I love the podcast guys, but I feel like it skews too into “let me blather on about the loosely-related crackpot pop psychology theories I’m into” territory too often. (Duncan Tressel did this a lot, too.) I couldn’t finish this episode because the amount of smug know-it-allishness was unbearable.

  • Thanks everyone for listening!

    I wasn’t going to comment on this, but AJ & AI (same person?) seem to be “deeply offended”, and find it “worrisome on many levels”, by the idea that morality comes from society. I believe it does. We are not born with an innate sense of morality. One guy living alone in a jungle has no sense of morality. Compassion, maybe, but not morality. We get morality because we live in a society and because there are certain things that have to be true for that society to work. You can’t steal, you can’t murder, you can’t go shit in people’s front lawns etc. And these are things that are true across most societies, which is why morality has not really changed much since civilization. Most basic societies require the same basic moralities.

    If you don’t believe me, look at examples of societies where morality has been twisted. Nazi Germany, for instance, had an infrastructure in place such that it allowed morality to be changed, so that killing a certain kind of people was actually the moral thing to do. A whole society believed it and bought into it. They created their own morality that did not jive with other moralities. Obviously, they were wrong, but it shows how morality is borne out of just and fair societies.

    I mean, just look at how evil internet comments can get. Go to youtube. You see how morality collapses when things exist outside our society, when anonymity allows people to not be held accountable by other people.

    Read a book called The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt. By looking at examples of totalitarian societies, i.e. societies where morality was warped, she comes to conclusions about what prerequisites a just society has, what makes us moral creatures, etc. Or, just read her book called Eichmann in Jerusalem, A Report on the Banality of Evil, about the Nazi war criminal’s trials. He was a vacuum cleaner salesman. By all accounts, he was not evil in any traditional sense. But he lived in a society that had twisted morality so that it allowed normal people doing desk jobs to commit evil.

    Ok that’s all about that. It was just bugging me that people were calling my morality into question. I can’t even be evil when I play video games.

    In other news, SKYRIM! IS! AMAZING!

    Truly, thanks all for commenting and listening.

    Kumail

  • The end of Batman Arkham City was so good the easter egg in Joker’s office in the steel mill made relationship between Harley quinn and joker crazy intense.

  • I enjoyed this episode. Kumail and Emily are doing a good job of approaching video games from various angles (childhood memories, family bonding, technical, etc…)

    However, like a previous poster, I was deeply offended by the comment that morality comes from society. If that were true, how do you account for the fact that moral codes have remained consistent throughout history, and that morality is independent of the location and circumstances of birth? If, for example, someone injected a virus into the atmosphere that reconfigured empathy levels and messed with the sensation of compassion, nothing would change.

  • A crazy sprawling version of LA Noire where you end up as an alcoholic wreck sounds like the Red Dwarf episode Back to Reality. The main cast learns their last four years have actually* been a super VR, and they they’re basically been the worst players ever. Instead of running around having sexy wish-fulfillmenty adventures, they’ve been muddling around in the starting scenario the entire time.

    *not actually. it turns out to be a hallucination brought on by a squid

  • Wow, very brainy commute to work I had today! Love this podcast so much! Very glad you guys did a side-quest on the end of this episode to add some game related content, lol. Please keep up the good work, I LOVE this podcast. I think both of you are hilarious. I love Kumail’s sense of humor and how he reacted to Emily’s Nathan Drake lust, LMAO. Great podcast. Amazeballs people, amazeballs

  • @Joshua- we were giving out spoiler alerts and time stamping them here at Nerdist.com, but the people who listen to us via ITunes weren’t seeing that and yelling at us about spoiler alerts. So we’re in a lose-lose on that one.

    To everyone else- thanks for your comments, your encouragement, your worry about our morality (actually, not so much that one), your lessons in chaos theory, and your love of Community. Save Greendale!

  • I don’t know where Harmon got his information, but like one of the above commenters mentioned, it was largely bullshit. The brain does in fact function in a very binary sense, as a neuron either fires, or doesn’t. Sensory and motor pathways may utilize Parallel processing in much the same way computers use multiple processors to handle complex data. It irked me to hear someone talk so authoritatively about this subject, but be very much wrong.

    Also, research does not progress at nearly the speed that was assumed, and I am reasonably certain the singularity is not 10 to 15 years away. To be honest, I had to turn this podcast off halfway through, but ordinarily I love hearing wait Kumail and Emily have to say!

  • The fact that the point “no such thing as inalienable human rights” wasn’t challenged and just accepted at face value was incredibly disappointing. Not to mention Kumail’s other incredibly mistaken point that morality comes entirely from society. Worrisome on many levels.

    Loved the video game talk though!

  • Kudos to Indoor Kids. I loved this episode. It might be one of my favorites. (I really liked the previous episode as well.) This is my Monday treat.

    I may not have agreed with everything said, but I found the ideas illuminating nonetheless.

    Oh could please just give out spoiler alerts. I would have love for you to have talked about why the ending of Arkham was so moving without being so vague it was almost intangible what you were trying to communicate. Next time you speak about a game’s ending or rather could you revisit the ending of Arkham just give a spoiler alert.

    Thanks again. Enjoying the show.

  • For me, best episode so far.

    I know Harmon was worried more than once about the fact that he wasn’t talking about games, but PLEASE don’t be afraid to go off on those tangents.

    I really enjoyed listening to you take aspects of games and dissect them on evolutionary and social constructional levels. Even if you can’t bring those conversations back to games, it’s interesting to hear your perspectives.

  • Another great episode.
    So many different topics discussed.
    I have yet to play Arkham City.
    I love Minecraft :]
    Not a game for everyone, but if you like creating its awesome.

  • Chaos Theory is a mathematical discipline that studies systems where a little difference in one variable in the initial condition leads to enormous consequences for the whole system.

    So yes it is in the area of deterministic mathematics, but when you start to simulate this in computers you run into some interesting problems and the systems are often impossible to do “by hand” and have to have computational assists.

    It’s about the precision of computers – they don’t have infinite bits, but numbers are infinite.

    Regarding Kurzweil.

    He’s a crackpot. Nothing he says regarding the singularity is based on anything realistic or scientific.

    AI – still is a lot of cheats that fools the uninitiated in this discipline and the research in neurobiology or even AI og AL (Artificial Life) doesn’t follows any curve near exponential. Even if the computational power follows this curve indefinetely, that doesn’t mean we have the right models to model these processes.

    Neural nets is still pretty much the same and have not been evolved much further.

    AI is pretty much matematical decision algorithms or game theory simulations with feedback.

    Neurobiology still doesn’t have that much knowledge about the brain therefore it’s still a very attractive field.

    We have nowhere a light 100% realtime mapping method of the goings on in the brain, that incorporates all the signals not only electrical ones. fMRI are slow, EEG and so forth are very imprecise and so forth. Most of the machines are cumbersome at best.

    So even if we have the computers – we don’t have the data or even the method of obtaining the data or even the knowledge to make the models and that doesn’t follow a exponential curve often it’s curves of plateaus and then breakthroughs.

    This doesn’t mean we won’t ever obtain that knowledge, but it’s probably going to take longer than we hope and we’re not even in the position to judge whether it’s possible.

    However the singularity in the sense of technical progress moving so fast humans can’t comprehend it is fast approaching. Politics already suffer in that pace.

  • Really fun episode. I liked how you guys organically, though shooting the shit, basically reached some of the conclusions that Kurzweil’s been preaching (I’m not a disciple but I am a fan). I thought Dan’s comments about AI and the inevitable point where computers outpace human beings were really interesting. I find it scary but also likely that the future of “pure” human beings is basically as pets for computers that are too sophisticated for us to even understand. The solutions most commonly discussed are either rigid control over what computers are allowed to think and do (which seems impossible to maintain, to me), or merger. The latter is a fascination of mine, but can also be really creepy.

    To link this back to video games, I do sometimes wonder if a lot of the stuff we’re doing with modern-day games, in terms of both presenting narrative and developing these sandbox worlds, is baby steps toward basically building a system exactly like you described, where people are living in Matrix-style tanks and just playing out their fantasies, while the machines go on with their lives and continue to evolve. I’m hoping not. I’d rather merge than just end up hooked up to a VR machine for my entire life (though probably I won’t be around when either happens).

    So, hey uh … yeah. Video games! They’re pretty neat! I’d be talking about Skyrim but I’m forcing myself to wait on it til I finish the first draft of my latest novel (shameless self promotion: I write books). By all indications though, it’s as good as people expected it to be.

  • Guys, you talk a lot about how awesome Arkham City is. I have it and have spent about 4 hours on it. I also LOVE Batman but I dont get the game. I want to love it but I just dont. What makes it so great in your mind? I worry Im missing something.