Apartment Economics

I’ve lived in one apartment or another for several years now, and for the most part I like it.  I get a place to live without having to commit to a 30-year mortgage or a lot of extra space I won’t need, I’m responsible for furnishings and the owners are responsible for maintenance, and if I want to move I just have to start paying someone else for their space instead of selling and buying my own–overall, it seems like a pretty decent arrangement.  There is one convention of apartment ownership, however, that continues to bug me.  Why aren’t the owners expected to pay a share of the utilities?

Obviously, tenants should be held at least partially responsible.  The major deciding factor in utilities cost is usage, and that is something that is mostly within the tenant’s control.  Mostly, but not entirely.  Doesn’t it seem strange that under the conventional model, apartment owners have almost no incentive to invest in decent insulation, efficient appliances and fixtures, or other energy-saving features?  It takes a minimal investment to make sure that doors and windows are properly sealed and hot water pipes are insulated, and energy-efficient appliances generally pay for themselves within a couple of years.  Yet if the long-term cost for inefficient appliances and poor insulation is shuffled off onto the tenants, what motivation do the owners have to invest in these things?  This is particularly troubling to me because energy efficiency has a direct impact on global warming emissions.  If profit is the only incentive corporations have to reduce emissions and boost efficiency, shouldn’t we be making sure that their profits are at least related to their efficiency?

What do you think?

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On Games and the Making Thereof

I am almost finished making my first real game! “Real” being a relative term, that is: my first game was an abstract, experimental undergraduate project that no one in their right mind would have voluntarily played.[1] The one I’m working on now is a bit more enjoyable, though technically it is actually simpler. It’s called “Press A to Win.” Can you guess what it’s about?

I am making the game in Pygame, so you will need Pygame installed in order to play it. I know it’s a stretch, but I figure there’s at least a chance that some of you might not be familiar with installing, compiling, and running Pygame files, so as soon as the game is finished I figure my next project will be porting the whole thing to Flash.

At the moment, however, both of those projects will have to wait, as I am busy showing off my fiancé to my extended family in Muenster, Texas. I would say “nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here,” except it’s not even a terribly nice place to visit. The views are great and the weather is (currently) lovely, but the town itself is tiny, the water tastes like sulphur, and taking a shower feels like coating yourself in a thin sheen of silicone. I can never tell for sure if I’ve gotten all the soap off.

Regular posts resume next week with a return to the “Agency and the Inevitable” series, after which I will likely write something about education again. I am a big fan of that topic, it seems! See you all then.

Notes:

[1] It was called “Clique” and it was about socializing polygons IT’S A GRAPH THEORY PUN GET IT WASN’T I CLEVER

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Agency and the Inevitable: Shadow of the Colossus

This post is part of a series examining the relationship between videogames and the tragic form–today’s topic is the classic atmospheric epic Shadow of the Colossus.

Unmarked SPOILERS for Shadow of the Colossus follow–as before, if you haven’t played it yet I recommend you do so before reading this post. Continue reading

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Agency and the Inevitable: Bastion

This post is part of a series examining the relationship between videogames and the tragic form–today’s topic is the action-RPG Bastion by Supergiant Games.

MAJOR SPOILERS for Bastion follow–as before, if you haven’t played it yet I recommend you do so before reading this post. Continue reading

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Agency and the Inevitable: Don’t Look Back

This post is the first in a series examining the relationship between videogames and the tragic form–today’s topic is Terry Cavanagh’s excellent action-platformer Don’t Look Back.

MAJOR SPOILERS for Don’t Look Back follow–if you haven’t played it before, I recommend you do so before reading this post. Continue reading

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Agency and the Inevitable: Introduction

This post is the introduction to a series examining the relationship between videogames and the tragic form.

The tragic genre, along with comedy, is one of the oldest in Western literature.  Classically speaking, a tragedy is more than just a sad ending–it’s a particular kind of story meant to inspire particular kinds of emotions in the audience.  A story where the protagonist is miserable from start to finish, with no pretensions to changing their fate, isn’t really a tragedy–it’s just depressing.  Similarly, a story that ends in tragedy due to circumstances beyond the protagonist’s control isn’t really tragic, either–that’s just a disaster.  True tragedy, as argued most famously by Aristotle, requires that the protagonist bring the ending upon themselves through some crucial mistake or flaw.  The tragic ending is a direct result of the protagonist’s own actions, which the audience can only sit helplessly and watch–yet this introduces a big problem for the medium of videogames, in which the audience is the protagonist.  The mistake or flaw derives its power from the excruciating if only it leaves in the mind of the audience.  If only Hamlet had killed Claudius when he had the chance!  If only Oedipus had known his true lineage!  If only Eve hadn’t listened to that stupid snake!  Yet when the audience is the protagonist, what’s to stop them from avoiding the mistake altogether?  How can we reconcile a genre that pre-destines the hero’s downfall with a medium in which the audience influences their every decision?  How can we successfully weave together the agency of games with the inevitability of tragedy?

In the following posts, I’ll be taking a look at some games that attempt to do this, analyzing and discussing the various techniques they employ.  Over the course of this series, I hope to show that videogames are no more or less suited to the tragic form than any other medium–they simply require different strategies than most narratives employ.

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We Are the 1%

The richest 1% of America’s population controls a disproportionate amount of its wealth–this is the idea that the phrase “we are the 99%” is meant to evoke. The obvious implication of the Occupy movement’s slogan is that this is a bad thing–but is it? Should we try to fix this disparity? And if so, to what degree? Would a completely even distribution of wealth be ideal, or is a little inequality actually a good thing to have? Continue reading

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