On my latest project: Meatless Rib

Since September 2017, I’ve been spending the vast majority of my free time on a website called Meatless Rib.

It’s a website about pro wrestling, vegetarianism, and (aspirationally) social justice in general.

What do any of those things have to do with each other?

I’d love to tell you! I have a lot to say about all of it, but the relatively short version is this:

Pro Wrestling

For most of my life, I haven’t watched pro wrestling.

But there have been times at which I watched pro wrestling very passionately.

One of those times is the better part of the past two years. More on that in a moment.

Another of those times was when I was very young: I was a preteen during what were arguably some of the highest peaks of American pro wrestling: I watched WCW during the nWo/Crow-style Sting/Goldberg era, and I later tuned into WWF for what I’ve now learned was the “Chris Kreski era” of that company, in which Kreski oversaw what is reputed as one of the most creatively coherent periods of that company’s history.

But shortly after that time in WWF, I stopped watching. I can’t remember why. My best guesses are some combination of wrestling’s social unacceptability and my emerging interests in music and… competitive Counter-Strike, of all things: lo3, gl hf, and so on.

In the years after that, I’d sometimes peek into the pro wrestling world, but usually not for very long. Every once in a while, I’d see what the latest WWE videogame was like. CM Punk caught my attention for a little bit.

But after the WWE introduced their streaming service (the WWE Network), my flings with pro wrestling got longer and longer, for a variety of reasons.

Then, in May 2016, I posted this to my Facebook:

Uh oh.

I’m in the middle of the latest of my occasional pro wrestling fascination periods, and I might just like it forever now.

I indeed immersed myself more and more in pro wrestling from that point forward. And I think there are a number of reasons for it.

For one, WWE’s product became way less regressive (though they did and do have a lot of room for improvement, still). In retrospect, I think WWE has ruined pro wrestling for a lot of people all over the world, because it’s just rarely been the best wrestling available and there have often been aggressively bad ideas included in their overall product (like their treatment of women, a lot of the time).

And that’s a shame, which brings me to the second big point: I think pro wrestling is secretly an incredibly progressive artform. Think about it: it’s fundamentally a cooperative, expressive sport. A lot of people identify pro wrestling by its most extreme instances of exploitation, gore, and misogyny, but that all sells it absurdly short. Its violent façade is misleading, and—however peculiar this interpretation may be—I find it to actually be an extremely inviting satire of real violence, once the craft of the genre is taken into account.


And so, once the basic non-violence of pro wrestling comes into focus, it becomes quite palatable for an anti-violent vegan like me! And apparently a lot of pro wrestlers feel similarly, because—after starting my website with the idea that there would be a handful of notable meat-free wrestlers who I could enthusiastically “champion”—the list of vegan and vegetarian wrestlers keeps growing.

There seems to be a meatless revolution happening in pro wrestling, and I’m excited to be witness to it.

Social Justice

And, for me, veganism is one part of a multifaceted approach to social justice (see: ecofeminism), so to see it exploding in pro wrestling feels very significant.

Even if the history of pro wrestling is plenty sketchy (and even if this history is stained with the misdeeds of some monstrous individuals), I think you’re seeing a new generation of pro wrestlers (and other people in/around the business) who generally tend to be friendly towards progressive ideas.

And, again, it’s fundamentally a cooperative, expressive sport. That in itself cultivates a certain political climate, especially once you remove the shadiest aspects of this business (many of which have simply not survived the evolution of pro wrestling).

For me, so many of this new generation’s qualities are encapsulated in a current pro wrestling star named Zack Sabre Jr. He’s an avowed socialist, a vegan, and a major figure in the current international wrestling scene. And the style of wrestling he does is both exciting and remarkably safe (the latter quality being fundamental to the craft, regardless of the risks that individuals might take in deathmatches and so on… the whole point of pro wrestling is to make it look like a fight without having it take the toll that a legitimate fight is likely to inflict on someone).

Add to that the (imperfect) feminist gains of the WWE over the past few years, and you’ve got a pro wrestling culture that—for me—feels a lot less frustrating politically than the games world (which was essentially my previous “sphere”, not that I’ve abandoned it entirely).

As a result: over the next couple of years, I hope to talk more and more about the increasingly progressive politics of pro wrestling.

And I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

A lot of this is going to happen on my Meatless Rib website, and the best ways to keep up with it are Facebook, Twitter, and Patreon (where I offer a monthly recap for free if you “Follow”, but there are also some ways to throw dollars at me).



Quick Update: Music!

I don’t update this site very often (as I’m pretty busy with my PhD studies, which don’t often lend themselves to putting things on this site), but I decided to take an hour or so and make my music page a lot more useful for 2018 humans.

Go look!

Loads of new game news!

Okay, it just so happens that a bunch of stuff happened at once regarding games I’ve been working on.

First, the game that’s the longest in the making: CDS Mess. It’s finally available to purchase! Here’s this cool article about it (though they got my graduation year wrong)! Here’s the website for it! Buy a copy here! Here’s this cool video about it:

Also, fellow Digital Media PhD student Albith Delgado and I have made a game for PS Move controllers and Neurosky EEG headsets called Spooky Dodgeball at a Distance. Check out our project blog! Here’s a demo video:

Ramblings on Improvising, Outside Playing, and Robert Fripp

Last night, I had a pretty significant breakthrough on guitar and I want to share my thoughts about it for no particular reason other than it was… well, a pretty significant breakthrough for me. Maybe it’ll be somehow useful for another person.

Basically, I finally took to heart Robert Fripp’s aphorism “Abandon concern for hitting the right note; then, hit the right note” and gave myself license to just improvise over a looped chord with no regard for which scale to use.

You’d think that after more than ten years of playing guitar I’d have started trusting my ear and instincts by now, but my method of improvising has pretty much always been characterized by the thought “okay, which set of notes is correct here (and can I play that set across the fretboard with some degree of fluency)?”

But I realized that, particularly for lead playing (and especially given the harmony that emerges from side-stepping and generally playing outside like some of the guitarists I like the most, Holdsworth in particular), the risk of playing “incorrect” notes is basically zero.

Given diatonic harmony, there are more “correct” notes than “incorrect” notes, so any given fret on any given string is better than 58% likely to be “correct”. Even if one plays an “incorrect” note, it’s either adding an unexpected color to the harmony of the moment (for example, giving a Lydian feel when playing over a major chord) or it’s providing some tension to make a “correct” note sound all the more consonant. And, in terms of getting from an “incorrect” note to a “correct” note, you’re never more than a half-step away (again, given a diatonic scale).

But the whole idea of “correct” notes is bound up in music theory and a fairly conservative application of it. What I just explained is mostly a limited justification for an attitude I hope I can continue to have about improvising.

To return to Fripp’s aphorism: “Abandon concern for hitting the right note; then, hit the right note.”

Intellectually, I need to have the “security blanket” of a music-theoretical foundation for a less structured approach to improvising (which is a bit paradoxical), but—once I have the guitar in my hands—knowing that I’m only a half-step away from a “correct” note gives me confidence to abandon concern for playing a “right” note and instead just play the right note. More importantly, I finally trust my ear and instincts and I’m not afraid to play outside of a prescribed scale.

Part of what’s so exciting about this is that I ultimately have a very liberal view of music, but my guitar playing has been relatively conservative for a long time. To quote Robert Fripp again, “The musician has three instruments: the hands, the head and the heart.” To use his terms, I’ve finally unblocked the boundaries between these three, and I expect it will allow me to make more honest, raw, and interesting music.


I’ve been a fan of Twitter bots for a while now. Some other time, I’d love to go on and on about why they’re so amazing to me, but—in short—I love both the constraints and affordances of regularly automating 140-character (or shorter) expressions.

I hadn’t really looked into creating my own Twitter bot until this week, when I was learning more about programming for Twitter and using regular expressions (to prepare materials for a course I’m the teaching assistant for). Having a stronger grasp of both of those things made the barrier of entry feel much lower.

Probably as a result of studying these techniques, I recently woke up with some Twitter bot concepts that I was really passionate about. A few of these vegan-themed ideas remain in my notebook (perhaps to also be implemented at some point), but the one I was most excited about was a bot that focused on the word “cheese”.

Despite all tired stereotypes of those who subscribe to the lifestyle, I don’t talk about veganism that much. Sure, I’ll have my occasional moments on Twitter in which I spend 5-10 minutes putting a handful of tweets on the subject out there, but for how much I care about it I don’t think I surface that passion as often as I could.

Well now I don’t have to, in a way.

Every fifteen minutes, @CheeseMTBot takes the latest tweets that have the word “cheese” in them, and changes that string to one of four possible terms: “sexual violence”, “kidnapping”, “animal abuse”, or “forced impregnation”.

One of these replacements reflects my personal values regarding the status of nonhuman animals. The other three are simply facts of dairy production.

Twitter screenshot of @CheeseMTBot

Cows must give birth to produce milk, and the dairy industry doesn’t exactly wait around for cattle to get together and have sex. There is forced impregnation. This is sexual violence.

Cows are forced to go through pregnancy after pregnancy, only to have their calves taken away from them so the cows’ milk can be used for human consumption. This is kidnapping. (Also, the calves are thrown back into the animal-exploitation-for-profit system.) Cows miss their calves terribly. You don’t need to think especially highly of animals’ emotions or intelligence to recognize that plenty of nonhuman animals care deeply about their offspring. Cows are not an exception.

With so many animal-unfriendly foods to choose from, I focused on cheese for a few reasons.

First, dairy is arguably worse than meat. Dairy all but requires maternal suffering. Meat basically only requires death. Even a veal calf’s short and uncomfortable life is somewhat tolerable compared to what a dairy cow must often endure.

There’s another reason, though. I don’t know that you can convince otherwise apathetic individuals to care about animal suffering, but I do think that there are a lot of people who would claim to be interested in animals’ well-being yet maintain habits that are unquestionably hostile to animals’ well-being. I think there are a lot of vegetarians (or at least potentially veg*n-curious folks) who either don’t think cheese is especially harmful or have a hard time giving it up.

For these people, I’m trying to show what is necessary to bring cheese to their plates. My worldview isn’t such that I think people are literally eating kidnapping or the other things, but when I see cheese in the world (on pizza, sandwiches, supermarket coolers, etc or even just on menus) I can basically only think of the suffering required for its production.

In other words, @CheeseMTBot can constantly broadcast many of the things I think on a regular basis. It illustrates how I conceive of dairy products when I encounter them in my everyday life. If I order a sandwich at Subway and am asked if I would like cheese on it, I politely say “no, thank you.” But part of me (the part of me that’s now represented on Twitter 24/7 by my bot) kind of wants to scream, “God, no! I’m not some kind of animal-enslaving monster!”

Speaking of enslavement, I’m very aware of the pitfalls of using severe language to describe what happens to farmed animals. I’m not trying to shock people by exaggerating, but if I shock anybody due to the facts I’m referencing, the problem isn’t my sadly accurate choice of words. The issue is the nature of an industry that’s widely supported by people of all sorts of beliefs, values, and attitudes.

Most of the Twitter bots I’ve seen are just supposed to be funny or clever (and I adore them), but hopefully we can see more #bots4change in the future. (Maybe by then we can come up with a better hashtag for them.)

A Guide to Ending “Gamers”, etc

Usually I post this stuff more quickly on here.

I wrote a blog over at Gamasutra called A Guide to Ending “Gamers” (where it’s become a Featured Post, always a nice pat-on-the-back). I was pretty floored by how much attention it got (mostly positive, I think… so that’s cool). Kris Ligman was kind enough to include it in This Week in Videogame Blogging, too.

Ultimately, August 2014 was really ugly.

First, I was horrified at what was going on in Ferguson. Not being there and not being anywhere close to an expert on the types of things that were happening (or what to say about them), I mostly just looked on in shock as new abuses came to light on Twitter. I tried to signal-boost folks here and there. I didn’t comment much.

Then some different things came up that are more within my realm of knowledge, if I have any knowledge whatsoever: videogames are experiencing some really intense controversy right now. You can find some of the details in TWiVB above.

Plenty of self-identifying “gamers” have strongly disagreed with my “guide”. Often, they twist my words to fit what they wish I’d said (so I’m easier for them to roll their eyes at). Sometimes, they deliberately ignore the context of my post, despite my first sentence providing sources that contextualize what I mean by “ending ‘gamers'”.

Those people were easy enough to deal with, not that it didn’t become kind of a time sink. When people aren’t actually criticizing what you *did* say in a situation, it’s not too difficult to calmly point that out and move on. And even when people weren’t misconstruing my words, I could often understand that their objections were either rooted in values I don’t share, or that they were actually proving me right.

What I had a really hard time dealing with, however, was a Facebook friend becoming part of this new, offensively misguided, selectively critical typhoon of misogyny done in the name of “journalistic ethics/standards/integrity” in games.

I don’t want to encourage people to seek out this truther nonsense and its accompanying violations of someone’s privacy (someone who I care about), but I’ve now lost an acquaintance over it.

This woman was one of the first people I met at UB as an undergrad, and we’d been Facebook friends since around the first week of classes. However, for me, Facebook is mostly just used a way to text my wife and some friends for free… I have probably dozens of friend requests piled up waiting for my response, and I kind of just ignore them because I don’t do much with Facebook. My Facebook friends are mostly people who I met when I cared about paying attention to Facebook. Ultimately, folks who want to “internet” with me can find me on Twitter (and my FB posts are 99.9% automatic posts from my Twitter feed).

So, even though this woman and I have never been especially close and my investment in Facebook is pretty low, I was awake from 1 AM to 4 AM arguing in a regrettably bitter comment thread.

I’m finding it difficult to briefly and tastefully summarize the matter this morning, and I’ve spent too much of my time engaging with this issue already.

My view is that conservative “gamers” are suddenly getting very concerned with abstract notions of journalistic integrity in games, now that videogames are starting to become different from what they’ve been for much of their history.

Where were these people when Giant Bomb was drinking with Capcom employees (some of whom are now even more influential in the industry) on (Giant Bomb-published) video, in connection to a commercial game back in 2008? This may be one of the more ill-advised and extreme cases of Giant Bomb being inappropriate with developers/publishers, but it’s a trend that exists throughout the entirety of what Giant Bomb has done. I can’t say I approve of it, but I’m personally not even out to demonize this and Giant Bomb has a special place in my heart (even if their recent editorial hire has disappointed me for more than one reason). I have vanishingly little interest in defending “games journalism”, but people conveniently kept quiet about this obvious, continued fraternization. That is, until women dared to make free games about mental health.

People taking laughably unprofessional YouTube videos or annotated images as proof of anything while being offensively skeptical of other people’s (primarily women’s) claims of harassment and mistrustful of game outlets’ integrity… that’s all very confusing, frustrating, and deeply saddening to me. While I mostly get where people are coming from when they disagree with my “guide”, this fundamentally flawed campaign being advanced by misogynistic psuedo-gumshoes baffles me and leaves me less able to believe in humanity’s basic goodness (which I do firmly believe in… it’s just more difficult when people reject their inherent capacity for kindness so passionately).

So I’m taking a break from Twitter for a week to try to regain my composure. I just can’t keep looking at this unabashed ignorance. More importantly, I really need to stay prepared for my classes.

I do care about games, a lot. That’s why I’m working towards a PhD in what could easily be the best game studies program in the world (I certainly think it is).

But I don’t want to be a “gamer” and I want the tribalistic nonsense to go away.