The Love Of The Game Doesn’t Always End Well

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

Doing your best can be the worst thing you can do for the world.

I was pondering how I market my books – and I have a hatred of marketing.  The soulless statistics, the cold calculations, the degradation of inspired writing into pandering prose.  There’s something about marketing that is meaningless, just moving units to consumers without any purpose but money.

I also love marketing.  The thrill of working the calculations out!  The joy of optimizing to get it just right!  Picking the perfect keywords!  There’s a thrill of the game to get it right – not even to win but to do it the best you can!

That experience jarred loose some other theories, and I want to discuss the fact that a lot of evil in the world can come from people who just enjoy playing the game.  Oh they may do evil as well, they should be aware of the repercussions of what they do, but sometimes they’re just playing their game because its fun.

Think of all the people optimizing social media for hits and engagement and creating chaos.  Yes there are people seeking profits and covering their backsides, but I’m sure many a person is just enjoying optimizing.  The thrill of doing something right can miss that it’s also very wrong.

My fellow writers and I often complain about pandering authors, but aren’t some formulaic authors just into getting the formula right?  Pandering and making money is a challenge, a challenge that must appeal to many.  So sure, they may churn out books many would decry, but how many are also just enjoy working out the best way to pander?

As this thought ping-ponged around my head before it emerged in this post, I realized how much of my behavior is the joy of getting it right.  My job is Project and Program Management and Process Improvement, and it’s just goddamn fun to figure how to make stuff work.  Recoding Seventh Sanctum, frustrating (and oft interrupted the last year) was still amazing to figure how to get it all right.  My Way With Worlds series has a formula to it that I had fun figuring out so I can deliver what my audience wants.

I’m a person who enjoys the game, but I’m just less evil and more inclined to moral insight than some people (thanks to a long interest in theology and psychology).

So I’m not up for saying people who “play their game” have to be forgiven for the wrongs they do.  There are many dangerous things in this world we need to stop or regulate for our survival, and motivations don’t change that.  But it may help us prevent evil by understanding how innocent drives can lead to great dangers.

It may also let us notice before we do something wrong.  Because I’m sure there’s a game we all love playing, and that love might keep us from noticing the repercussions of our choices . . .

Doing things right can go very wrong.

Steven Savage

Way With Worlds: Ethics

Bible Book Church

(Way With Worlds is a weekly column on the art of worldbuilding published at Seventh Sanctum, Muse Hack, and Ongoing Worlds)

I love worldbuilding.  You can kind of tell by how I wrote and now rewrite a huge series of columns on the subject.  A lot of this is how-to, or advice, or exploration, but I’d like to talk ethics.

Not making ethics in your world.  The ethics of good worldbuilding and what you should do as a world builder and author/creator.

This may sound a bit corny.  There’s ethical issues to doing good worldbuilding?  However, stick with me – there’s a reason.  Let’s talk commitment and promises.

Read more

Geek As Citizen: Geeks In Power

When I last posted on geeks and the virtues of tolerance (and indeed how it fit both geeks as people and culture), Tony of Manga Therapy said bigotry happened when people were in positions of power, and we had to ask how long it may last. I wanted to address issues of Geeks and Power separately in this column. Thanks Tony!

Geeks wield a lot of power in modern society.

We are the masters of technology. We code the software that runs things. We perfect the materials that make structures and vehicles. We even address the problems other technology has created (an irony to address another time, perhaps)

Our popular culture is now mainstream in books and movies, even if too often ideas familiar to us are draped over standard tropes and frameworks. Videogames are bigger than Hollywood. Studios hunt the next big thing and it’s often science fiction, or supernatural, or the like.

To be frank, I still think this comes as a bit of a shock to those of us who are geeks, and those of us who are part of geek culture. It just seems to have appeared – and though yes, we can trace it’s evolution, it’s still a bit surprising if only due to its rapidity. I can’t quite imagine telling my self twenty years ago about the things I see now and have it being believable.

But here we are. Able to code applications, run giant companies, design new products, and create new media sensations. As technical companies extend their lobbying power and gain influence we become more emeshed in politics; and as issues of technology infiltrate all parts of our lives, we become emeshed as well.

Read more