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Comment Re:Hey Tim (Score 5, Insightful) 274

Because achieving that lower rate has an associated cost.

If we got rid of all guns in America, it's reasonable to assume the violent crime rate overall would go down to some degree. How much is debatable because some of the violent crimes committed with guns now would still be committed just with a different instrument. But it would go down, that seems fair.

But, what of the people who now do not have a gun to defend themselves? Quite a few defensive gun uses occur daily in America... exactly how many is difficult to know because they're frequently not reported (because simply pulling out a gun will sometimes end a violent confrontation and people tend not to report those cases). I wouldn't go so far as to say the number of people saved by there not being a gun involved is equal to the number saved by there BEING a gun involved, but clearly SOME number cancel out. Here's the big question: is a life saved because we got rid of guns somehow more valuable than one saved because we didn't? Do you want to tell the family of a gun who was killed because he wasn't allowed to have a gun anymore that it's okay because someone else was saved due to guns being removed from society? I'd bet not.

So, that's a cost. Whether the benefits outweigh that cost is what's debatable. A lot of people take the Spock approach: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. It's a great-sounding platitude, but when it gets down to actual people it doesn't stand up so well. See my above scenario.

A potentially MUCH bigger cost is the deterrent effect guns have against a corrupt government. We can argue all day and night about without an armed American population could overthrow a corrupt government with the might of the military on its side, but what CAN'T be debated is that if you remove guns from society you've given up just about the ONLY thing that gives us ANY chance whatsoever. I mean, if you believe the military would crush us WITH guns than you can't logically think it wouldn't be MUCH worse it we didn't have them!

So, that's a (potential) cost too... but that one is very important because the potential cost is MASSIVE. Is there really ANY benefit worth that cost? I for one argue no. It's exceedingly tragic any time someone dies... whether a gun is involved or not hardly matters... a suicide is a suicide, gun or not. A homicide is a homicide, gun or not. The only one that's a little different is accidental shootings because it's not like someone is going to accidentally kill you as easily with a baseball bat. But, statistically-speaking, accidental shootings in America isn't, to put it coldly, all that significant a number. It's certainly a much smaller number than car accidents, or even pool drownings year by year. Even if every last one of them is unarguably tragic, logically, the cost of saving those lives by getting rid of guns is too high, and that's even before we talk about the POTENTIAL costs.

Comment It starts and ends with a game (Score 1) 172

As someone who's been programming for right around 30 years, more than 20 of it professionally, and has written a number of books along the way, I get asked for advice fairly often. One of the questions I get asked most is a variation on this one... for me, the answer is always the same: WRITE A GAME!

What developers often don't realize is that few programming projects touch on as wide a range of topics and disciplines as games do. Things like data structures, AI, file handling, input processing, obviously graphics and sound, networking sometimes, performance tuning... all of this comes into play in a game to varying degrees and in many forms. Very few things you'll ever program in a professional setting will be as wide-reaching... in fact, in my 20+ years of professional development I can't think of a single thing that has!

Even things like usability and UI design, project planning and many other "soft" skills come into play when you're a one-man show.

The best part about a game project is it can be as challenging as you want and it can grow in complexity over time. Start with a simple Pong clone. That's not too tough. But then, update the code to add more intelligent paddle movement of the computer opponent. Then modify it so you can play against a friend over a network. Then change it to a 3D view. And so on and so forth. Each step of the way increases the challenge and also the learning.

Plus, of course, being a game that you're making, it tends to be FUN! Both in developing and testing. It also tends to be very demonstrative in terms of progress... you can SEE what's being produced and little changes in the code can make a big difference on the screen, which makes you feel pretty good and that in turn makes the project continue to be fun to work on, which means more opportunity to learn. Hey, I get paid good money to write financial software all day... I even enjoy it most of the time... but it's nowhere near as gratifying as the game programming I do on my own time!

Game programming is also almost entirely technology-agnostic. There's virtually no language, no platform, no set of new tools or libraries that can't be used to make a game of some sort. That makes it the ideal tool for learning a new set of technologies. Gotta learn HTML/CSS/JavaScript? Write a game! Moving on to Java using Spring and running on Tomcat? A game, sir! Whether you choose a new game concept each time or just keep recycling one (making it a porting exercise, which is a great way to learn a new toolset) it'll work for you.

Also note that you don't need to write the next 3D masterpiece here... in fact, writing a Zork-style text adventure game can be a huge learning exercise on its own, especially if you write a natural language parser (though, again, it's up to you: you can start with a simple keyword analyzer that you can bang out in an hour at most and grow it from there). Graphics and sound are a great learning experience on their own (I can't tell you how much better at math, always a weak subject of mine, I've gotten by working on games!) but they aren't required for a game... though, I've also gotten pretty adept at working in various graphics editors, which definitely has helped me in my day job (I'm still no artist, but I can manipulate existing graphics quite well now, which will make you a more valuable asset as non-graphic artist developer).

Whatever the concept, whatever the toolset, whatever the learning goal, a game is the way to go in my opinion. It's how most of us now old-schoolers got started frankly and it has served us very well over the years. Some of us still write games of course because it's fun and we continue to learn from the experience... and also, especially with the rise of mobile devices, there's an opportunity to make money! Look at some of the recent hit games and it's obvious you don't need to write the next Titanfall to make some good coin. It's a secondary benefit to be sure, but it's nice to know it could be one :)

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As a computer, I find your faith in technology amusing.