Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hackers and the Ordinary Computer Users

Computer Users and Hackers, a match made in heaven, right? Wrong. See, there aren't first of all, enough free software hackers to go around. They always want to work on the next version of Ubuntu, or Fedora with its six month release window (get real, most computer users would rather just use the same os the computer came with until the hardware is too slow, like what five or six years) Instead of working on the new distro every six months, they should just have upgrade (patches)

Instead the hackers should spend time writing applications that users actually want. What kind of things do users want? No, its not another emacs plug in to read text based emails or broken game development libraries, no, its actual complete working games, you know like the evil proprietary titles that people are buying off steam with DRM attached. It should be easy to create similar games to those released in the 80's and early 90's. But do we make them, no, we just play text based net hack with bad game play that no user would actually like, then we go and package up last years version of Pysnake for ubuntu or some other equally out of date and mediocre rehash of Tetris

The real people we need to talk to are the game-developers in training. The people who have decided they want to write games, and are willing to spend time and money to do it. We understand that they have fallen in with the Microsoft crowd and the proprietary software ideology because it seems like a way to make money from game design. But the fact of the mater is having the game in the first place is more important than getting paid. Even if no one ever got paid for making games again, why could they not be made. People play games because they are fun, not because it makes money.

The other side of this is the free content movement. Content is important, just as important as the software code. If we don't convince people who write stories and people who do artwork that free-culture is important, than it does not seem like some programmer should have more power than someone who can put together a coherent story. People have already admitted there are too many programmer designers, and not enough game design comes from people who are primarily interested in things other than programming. The programmers tend to dismiss them out of hand.

For the longest time, I did not care about free software, I only hated Microsoft and only installed GNU/Linux because unlike Mac-OS it would install and run on my old computer. But then I thought to myself, after reading the free software philosophy, what would my life be like if all games were free software. What kind of games would exist that do not exist now. I could see them in my dreams and I was completely frustrated by the fact that so many games do not come with source code.

Perhaps we need a multi-pronged approach to this effort. Instead of simply focusing on the easy targets, Grandpa Joe who uses his computer for email and web surfing, we should focus more on the hard targets, people who dream of making a living designing games. For instance, instead of writing a flash player, we should be thinking about software freedom for the people who make the flash movies and games. They are the people who drive people to download flash players in the first place. We need to think about the trend setters, not just the general populace or people who are behind on the trends.

Compelling content will get people to throw out what ever philosophies people have, because it bypasses all the logic, and simply appeals on an emotional level. You can't ignore the kind of marketing like a cute Free-licensed (as in what a Debian hacker would call a free license, not some artist) anime series that promotes free software. I know hackers think of marketing as an evil word, but we are trying to appeal to an audience, that in our eyes, could qualify as evil. They operate purely on selfish emotional drives, never caring about other people, instead living on a selfish level of getting what you want no matter what.