Sunday, June 23, 2013

Economists arguing over child enrichment

The story: Economist 1 writes a piece "Defending the 1%." Economist 2 writes a blog post criticising that article on the basis of "equality of opportunity." Economist 1 returns fire noting that Economist 2 doesn't have kids and so at least on one point doesn't know what he is talking about.

So now the details. At the basis of some arguments defending income and wealth inequality is that the rich are getting what they deserve because of effort in at least exploiting their naturally endowed skills. The objection is that that outcome does not occur because there is inequality of opportunity and so the rich are getting more than they deserve because their parents were and are rich. A pretty simple and old story really.

What about going to the evidence? Economist 2 in the above is Paul Krugman and he displayed this graph. 

It shows what parents spend on enrichment activities for their children. You know, piano lessons, high quality child care, private school and summer camp. Krugman then writes:
Maybe all that spending is wasted — but I doubt it. We have become both a more unequal society and a society with more unequal opportunities.
Economist 1, Greg Mankiw, then countered:
I am a parent of three, and as far as I know, Paul does not have any children.  So I have probably spent a lot more on this category than he has.  And I can report that much of it is consumption, not investment.
A book I probably should have cited in my article is Judith Harris's The Nurture Assumption.  The main thesis of this great book is that, beyond genes, parents matter far less than most people think.  Raising three children has made me appreciate Harris's conclusion.  It is frustrating how little influence we parents have.
Since we are going mostly on experience, it is clear to me that Economist 1 is right here. My kids are just being packed off to summer camp and I know it is pure consumption. They are very happy and we are very happy to have a month off. That said, I am hoping one of them can come back with a marketable iPhone app.

I think it is a reasonable hypothesis that Economist 2 didn't know what he was talking about because (a) he didn't read the actual evidence which tips us that most of these expenditures do nothing and (b) he doesn't have kids. There are times where that matters.

But here is the thing: so frigging what? We are now going to move what some people thought of as investment into the consumption bundle. But consumption for whom. If it is consumption for the parents, then it is I guess part of the 'reward' for 'high effort' if you believe in that. But if it is consumption for the children, then it is just an early passing of the rich wealth to them. In other words, they are rich right now because their parents are rich. If the basis for defending the 1% is that the individual gets the reward because self-interest matters but you have to tweak this to the individual's dynasty getting the reward to make it hold together, then that seems to make Economist 2's point that there is inequality of opportunity for consumption at least. Either way, if the goal of all this discourse is to educate the public on the debate, we aren't quite getting anywhere with this one.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hiring: Gameplay Programmer / Designer

Frictional Games is once again looking for someone to join our ranks! This time we are looking for a Gameplay Programmer / Designer to employ full-time.

We are currently working on a new, currently super secret, horror game where we aim to take what we learned from Amnesia to the next level. This is what you will be a part of creating.

A core feature of our games are atmospheric and immersive game worlds. You will be crafting these in collaboration with other members of the team, making sure that gameplay is smooth, that narrative works  and that the right themes are evoked.  It is very creative work, but it also require someone who is not afraid to tweak and test a lot.

Instead of building everything around a fun core mechanic, our games derive most of their engagement from interaction with the world. Every scene is a sort of mini-game. This requires you to be at home with both programming and design. We do not require any extremely deep programming knowledge, but need you to feel comfortable at implementing a variety of gameplay in a 3D game.

More specific tasks include:
  • Implementing world events and activities based on a basic design document.
  • Adding and updating core gameplay features.
  • Code basic AI behavior for the creatures encountered,
  • To help out with the basic world and narrative design.
Of great importance is that fact that you will be working from home. Frictional Games does not have an office, so it is crucial that you are able to plan your day, and work without strict guidance.

Apart from this we also require the following:
  • That you live in Europe or able to move here.
  • Fluent in  English.
  • Have played a major role in completing at least one game.
  • Are well-versed in C++, C#, Java or similar.
  • Have worked on a game taking place in 3D.
  • Have a fast and stable internet connection.
Additional but non-essential requirements:
  • You are interested in design, especially for immersive/narrative focused games.
  • Have interest in sci-fi and horror.
  • Skills in 3D modelling.
  • Used to working in Unreal editor or similar.
If this sounds like something for you, send your CV to now!