The Ninja, the future of Software programming.

Tyler "Ninja" BlevinsLast September, news and media outlets worldwide reported the professional video gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins return to the Amazon-owned, streaming platform Twitch. While details of the multi-year contract between Amazon and Mr. Blevins have not been disclosed, it is likely that the Ninja will be paid tens of millions of dollars as a premiere streamer/content-creator/influencer for the site.[1] Given the plethora of so-called “video game streamers” on the web, one might ask, and reasonably so, what is it about Mr. Blevins’ content that makes it worth so much?

The obvious answer is the extreme popularity of his streams. As of this writing, Mr. Blevins enjoys over 15 million followers on Twitch and more than 21 million subscribers on YouTube. And yet, this seems an inadequate explanation when one considers that the Ninja’s live and recorded streams represent only a tiny fraction of the total content that is shared online worldwide. Clearly, then, there is something else, something unique to Mr. Blevins ‘creations’ that support the enormous sums companies are willing to pay for exclusive rights to their distribution.

To get at the root of what makes the Ninja’s streams so economically valuable, it is necessary to first consider what it means to be a streamer/content-creator. Taken individually, one can say that a “streamer” is someone who uploads or “live streams” content online. Thus, “content-creation” is a precursor to the function of the streamer. In the case of Mr. Blevins, his content is directly tied to his video game play. For this reason, most assume that the content he creates ARE the videos and live-streams he produces and shares. And yet, because these are based on his gameplay and not, necessarily, his talents as a video producer, the true content must be something other than the streams themselves. In other words, the value of the Ninja’s content is not tethered to the production quality of the stream.[2] What then are his creations if not the streams themselves?

The simple answer is his gameplay (see video below). And yet, in saying this we risk marginalizing the value that content represents. Once again, I refer to the thousands of hours of video game play that is uploaded or live-streamed daily compared to the dozens of hours the Ninja might produce in a month. The primary difference between the two is in the creativity embodied in the content itself, and the successful outcome it affords.

When viewed as a software application, video games can be defined as an aggregate of coded commands and functions that compose an environment in which certain actions and activities are made possible and others are not. Hence, this assemblage of coding defines the gameplay potential for every player of a particular game. Thus, in playing a video game, the player creates new sequences of code by manipulating the pre-existing functions of the software. In this way, gameplay is made synonymous with programming. It is here that the true value of Mr. Blevins work, as videogame player/programmer, is established.

Some, of course, will argue against this comparison by pointing to the seemingly obvious differences between the work of a programmer and the activities of a videogame player. And yet, when viewed from the perspective of the outcomes produced, these differences soon disappear as merely superficial distinctions directly tied to the user interface. This point is reaffirmed when one considers certain programming interfaces developed to teach software programming to children and teenagers. Oftentimes, these environments use video game play as a programming methodology. In other words, children learn to program by playing video games.[3]

But what do I mean by “outcomes produced”? If there is one outcome, in particular, that reigns above all others in the programming space, it is the goal to produce code that successfully executes as intended, without bugs. The same thing can be said with regards to the Ninja’s goals when he plays a game like Fortnite. In constructing his code, ie. developing his gameplay, his goal is to produce sequences that consistently achieve his primary goal ‘to win’. Instances in which he is unsuccessful can therefore be viewed as “bugs” in his programming, errors that inhibit successful execution of the rest of his coded efforts.

The reason, therefore, why the Ninja’s work is so highly valued is due, primarily, to his ability to consistently produce original and bug-free code that is highly successful at fulfilling its primary purpose, “to win”. Another important contribution to his valuation is the reproducibility of the code sequences he creates.

In other words, while those who follow Mr. Blevins may be impressed by his ascetic choices in grooming and clothing styles, their loyalty is far more dependent on his ability to provide them with sequences of code that they can recreate in their personal gameplay in the hope of achieving the same successful outcomes. This suggests that if at any time the Ninja’s code suddenly loses its reputation for reliability and success, his valuation will likely decrease. The same can be said of any software programmer whose products become known as overly “buggy”, eventually her or his value will decrease.

From this consideration of the Ninja’s role as streamer/content-creator, it is clear that it is not the streams or video uploads distributed by Twitch and YouTube that compose the true content for which the Ninja receives such large sums of money, but rather, the code he creates through his gameplay. Once again, some might argue (Mr. Blevins in particular), that his role as an influencer is also a significant contributor to his high evaluation. While there is no doubt there is some value in the manner in which his streams are produced and presented,[4] the fact remains that it is his work as a coder that is the primary basis of his overall value, and which enables his other, subsidiary functions as a streamer/content-creator/influencer.

Ninja as Software Programmer of the new millenium.One interesting question that results from this interpretation of the Ninja as programmer is whether or not the software industry will one day take full advantage of this analogy and develop professional programming environments that use a video game interface to produce code instead of the traditional text based, “editor/compiler/assembler/linker/loader” model.[5]

 

[1] A similar agreement signed by Mr. Blevins and the now defunct Mixer site in 2019 was valued between $20 and $30 million dollars. See the Verge online article “Fortnite Star Ninja’s Mixer Contract Reportedly Worth $20M to $30M”

[2] In saying this, it would be naïve not to recognize the impact that the quality of production has on content value. However, in the case of Mr. Blevins, such is not the determining factor as it would be for creators whose sole function is the production of video streams. 

[3] Examples of this can be found in a number of programming environments made for children such as those provided via the website CODE.org.

[4] For instance, having famous entertainment stars show up in his streams as co-players certainly would increase the value of his brand.

[5] See Douglas Jones excellent discussion of the fundamentals of computer programming environments at http://homepage.divms.uiowa.edu/~jones/syssoft/notes/01intro.html#:~:text=The%20term%20programming%20environment%20is,environment%20used%20by%20the%20programmer.

The First Multi-media Handheld Designed for the 21st Century.

Yeah, I know it’s a phone. It’s called an “IPhone.” But’s it’s not a phone, not anymore, not after Apple’s IPhone 12 announcement. Just like the Sony Playstation is not, and is, a video game console, Apple wants the world to realize that the IPhone is no longer a smart phone, it’s something more. For the past several decades, industry analysts across the technology spectrum have been wondering, “where does Apple go when the IPhone has reached its maximum market saturation?” What’s the next IPhone-like product that will re-establish Apple’s leadership as a technological innovation engine? Well, surprise, surprise, turns out to be the IPhone.

Anyone who was listening to the promised product updates, who wasn’t crapping their pants about the Verizon partnership, quickly realized what was happening, Apple was revealing their new and forward-thinking vision of what the next hand-held technology will be. Is it a phone? Yes. Is it a video game console? Yes. Is it perhaps one of the best prosumer mini-camera/video cameras in the world? Yes. Is it a badass micro-LIDAR system ? Yes. Does it feature a game-changing processor design that incorporates a native machine-learning (ML) processor? Yes.

LIDAR analysis of ocean floor.

And that’s not all. I didn’t mention the sound system design or the CPU-GPU upgrades, the camera’s two- and three-lens systems, or the new image format: APPLERAW. In other words, just the highlights alone will take you awhile to unpack. And then, once you do, your imagination will explode as you think of all the possible uses of the IPhone 12. Suddenly, every major and independent film/media studio must ask whether or not they need to buy the IPhone 12. Suddenly every travel blogger who has been salivating over her or his Sony A7 III is checking out the average ALPHA sales price on EBAY, calculating the hit they’re going to take when they convert to a PRO MAX.

Some will say, “You’re exaggerating. It’s just another smartphone camera.” No, it’s not, it’s a high-end HD camera/video-camera/LIDAR, all for under $1200. The LIDAR alone makes the device groundbreaking. When developers get their hands on the SDK for the LIDAR they are going to make apps that will be game-changing across all business sectors. Take the construction industry for instance, with LIDAR, this phone has the potential to see through walls. Electricians and plumbers looking for a single tool that can help them see what’s going on behind the sheet-rock, will be able to use their IPhone. Why wouldn’t they? The screen is stronger and it’s water-proof. Is it a phone? Yes, but it’s also a high-tech tool for home builders. 

All of this is made possible by the new BIONIC A14 processor. It is here, Apple’s true innovation shines the brightest. By pushing nano-technology to its extremes, they have produced one of the most advanced visions of handheld computing ever attempted. By including ML, they are looking well into the future to a time when all smart devices will be driven by learning algorithms guaranteed to improve consumers’ overall experience with technologies like Augmented Reality (AR).

So yeah, I know it’s a phone, but after today, calling the IPhone 12, “just another smart phone,” means that you simply didn’t see the vision; didn’t have the moment when you realized that Apple did something today that nobody ever thought they could do, they turned the IPhone into the first multi-media handheld device designed for the 21st century.

The Return of the BOOM.

Over the past two-years, I and my colleagues have tried, again and again, to re-open the BOOM, and begin a new-era of perspective, viewpoint, humor/wit, in other words, the ethnography of BOOM. We believe the time is ripe for us to check-in, as it were, with our audience (including all of the site suggestions from China, Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, very useful.)

This process is more or less ad hoc. Not that we do not have material produced and ready. More that we haven’t spent enough time deciding what goes first. So, in the interest relevance, we offer this first article (only 500+ words) on what we believe will be remembered as the day Apple returned to the throne as the leader of the technological revolution.

-BOOM.

Where Smart People Go BOOM!

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