RiftBook

First things first - I’ve been very open with the fact that I invested in Oculus at an early round. I stand to make a very sizable chunk of money from this acquisition. I stood in Mark Rein’s office with Brendan from Oculus, held the kitbashed first version to my face, and said “This is going to be huge, I want in.” Financially, I’m excited, but when that dust settles my heart says that I really, genuinely care about VR and I want to experience and enjoy it myself, and I have faith that it will still happen, and it will be better than ever.

Regarding Facebook. I use it every day, on one hand it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends. “Oh, I saw you went to Tuscany, the pictures were amazing!” However, at the same time I’ve been steadily removing personal data from my account. (Facebook starts getting REALLY needy when you do this. Log in and it’s “C’MON TELL ME WHAT CITY YOU GREW UP IN YOUR PROFILE IS ONLY 20% COMPLETE PLEEEEASSSE!) And then there’s this meme that I’ve always loved, because it’s spot on.

Speaking of memes, The Internet Outrage Machine loves to pile on something like this. Heck, some of the memes I retweeted because they were pretty funny. While amusing, these memes and animated gifs reek of shortsightedness. People are very rear window in their thinking online “Oh now we’re going to get Farmville VR.” Maybe Zuck sees what everyone else has seen - the future - and wants to make sure it’s more than just great games and saw that it would add value to his business?

Oculus was making great strides, but they were not out of the woods yet. Someone somewhere needs to come up with a proper control scheme for it. Looking around is only one part of the experience, how the device handles movement is another thing entirely. In the words of Brendan, their CEO “VR is like an onion, whenever we solve one thing we find something else that we need to crack.”

More importantly, they needed an ecosystem. IF their system is going to be (hopefully) a dedicated system instead of a (ugh) peripheral they need their version of whatever the app store would be. Your device is only as good as the store and community around it; if users can’t say shut up and take my money, if developers can’t post their work then the device will ultimately flounder. Facebook can assist with this sort of thing, as well as having a multi billion user reach.

That’s pretty damned important.

At the end of the day the fact that programming god John Carmack and up and coming tech god Palmer Luckey BOTH think this is a good fit SHOULD TELL YOU SOMETHING. Palmer is the classic example of the old adage of “do what you really love and the money will follow.” Know what? Palmer’s going to keep doing what he loves because he believes in VR. It’s his dream. Once the dust settles, and maybe he buys a nicer home, or an Italian sports car, guess what he’s going to do?

Get right back to work.

Making a social network that stays relevant is extremely difficult, as we’ve seen over the years. We’ve all wondered - where’s the next Facebook? Every time some sort of potential app or service comes along that challenges them in any sort of way Facebook flexes their financial muscle and snatches it up. Here’s the thing about kids and teens - when it comes to social networking and apps their departure is the proverbial canary in the coal mine. If your network is losing the kids, then the teens are next, followed by the adults, and then grandma has no one left to poke. By purchasing WhatsApp and Instagram Facebook has kept its head above water, and by purchasing Oculus they’ve shot back into hyper relevance. Worried Facebook is going to ruin Oculus? Check out Whatsapp and Instagram…turns out they’re working just fine since their acquisition.

Zuckerberg has said, himself, in the statement:

Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won’t be changing and we hope to accelerate.”

When a company raises money from venture capitalists the end game IS acquisition. While it might have been interesting for a dedicated gaming company to purchase Oculus it might have ultimately limited their potential in regards to the myriad of things that the Rift is capable of. I want games, but I also want virtual tourism. PTSD treatment. End of life quality comfort care improvements. Treatment for a variety of fears. Architectural visualization. Pilot training. Scuba training. The list simply goes on, and on, and on. Start to imagine a VR experience that’s more social where you can sit, say, in a virtual IMAX with your best friends who all live in different cities and things start getting incredibly intriguing.

The final bit of outrage that I’m calling out is the fact that Oculus was Kickstartered and that some of those folks who donated are outraged. Apparently some folks don’t understand that donating to a Kickstarter gets you whatever reward you’re told when you donate, you don’t get equity, you don’t get to participate in the fruits of a sale of a company like that. (A fact that I’ve complained about myself in the past, if I put a bunch of money into funding something up front shouldn’t I get something big on the backend?!) Oculus crowdsourced traction from enthusiasts and then found the proper partner that can fund them and assist with bringing the platform of VR to the next level. Crowdfunding can only take you so far, especially when you’re doing something this ambitious. “I donated money to add value to a company that was eventually sold!” Well, that’s kind of how business works, folks, hate to be the bearer of bad news.

So, to conclude, now I’ll be watching the progress of Oculus as an enthusiast and as a consumer, as opposed to one who has a vested financial interest in it.

I am all about my emotionally vested interest now.

p.s. Notch, your cancelling Minecraft makes you look like a pouty kid who is taking his ball and going home. It’s a bratty and petty move and it saddens me greatly.

funnyordie:

FIRST SH*T

We asked 20 strangers to shit in front of each other for the first time.

Coming out of Focus

Today I’d like to talk to you about…yes, FOCUS GROUPS.

There was a time when I was at my former employer during the building of the Gears of War franchise that we leaned heavily on Microsoft’s internal testing labs. They had one way mirrors, for fuck’s sake, whole place looked like a police interrogation lab or R Kelly’s Bedroom. They’d bring in local “target demographic” (usually 18-35 year old males) and have them play a work in progress version of the game. We’d then get back an extensive report on what were the problematic areas, suggestions for improvements, and ratings on how fun each area was.

During the time this was useful…to an extent. At the end of the day we ultimately trusted our guts and used that to make a fair call on any given issue raised by focus groups. We shipped the games, usually to much fanfare and a good amount of acclaim and sales, and moved onto the next one. It was only after I’ve had the last year+ to reflect on the experience to realize that focus groups, when not used properly, are fundamentally a flawed way of looking at your game and I’m about to explain why.

Put simply: The party performing the focus group has asked these folks to come in and play the game. They already feel special, like VIPs, almost, entitled. “They want MY opinion? Wow, well then, I must be pretty darned cool!” They then sit down and play the game. Here’s the problem, though.

They don’t really play it.

Before I finish my point, let me fast forward to the present. I’m currently enjoying the hell out of “South Park: The Stick of Truth.” Last night I came to the Alien Spaceship Pilot and Co Pilot boss fight. As of this writing I’ve attempted this boss fight no less than 10 times, each time failing, and two times getting the pilot down to one health before he smites my poor little cartoon ass. I can skip the cutscene where the aliens get up from their chairs faster than you can say Unclefucker. I’ve yelled at the TV, tossed my controller, and generally scared the shit out of our dogs and prompted my wife next to me (who is still slogging through “The Bureau” for some godforsaken reason it’s like some alternate dimension Gears I think I saw fucking Tickers in there) to say “Wow. That looks hard.”

Know what I’m going to do as soon as I finish this blog post? I’m going to go back upstairs to our game room, fire up that damned game, and kick some alien ass. And I’ll tell you what, when I finally take out those two fuckers I’m going to be jumping up and down happily yelling “IN YOUR FACE YOU ASS PROBING MOO MOO MOTHERFUCKERS!” because…

THAT’S WHY WE PLAY VIDEOGAMES IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Disclaimer: Gears will always have a place in my heart, and again, I think Rod and co are going to knock it out of the park.

However, there has been some valid criticism over the last generation of games that they were:

  • Too linear
  • Too easy
  • Too hand holding with tutorials and puzzles

I remember sitting there with designers looking at videos of gamers getting lost in just the simplest of maps. A bare bones map, and they have no idea where to go. So, we’d make things a bit more linear. They can’t figure out how to perform a move? Force a tooltip on them! (no one reads that shit unless it’s on a loading screen anyways.)

The problem wasn’t the game. The problem wasn’t that it was hard or too difficult. The problem was that the folks in the focus group didn’t put down $60 of their OWN HARD EARNED MONEY to BUY THE GAME.

Their hearts aren’t in it. The first sign of something being a little tricky or confusing and they stop and write it down or it’s noted. It’d be as if someone who hadn’t run much in their life suddenly decided to go for a jog and found out it was too hard and was then denied the satisfaction of a completed run.

I get a good amount of shit for free. I didn’t get hooked up with South Park, I had to buy it myself with my own money. Now, I’ve been fortunate enough in my career that I can afford shit I want to buy, which is fucking amazing, but it doesn’t matter - that’s my sixty dollars that I worked hard for and I’m going to milk every bit of fun out of it, anal probes be damned.

People behave differently when they know they’re being watched. And, while data is good to a point, when you play too much to the data the tail winds up wagging the dog and you get watered down mushiness.

(Can you imagine if Dark Souls had gone through this ringer?! It would have been shit. “I died too much!” BOO HOO GO PLAY DANTE’S INFERNO YOU PRICK!)

On a side note, there’s a basic social interaction that comes out of asking someone what they think. If I was sitting at my favorite sandwich shop enjoying a pastrami on rye by myself and no one was watching me you can bet it’d be a far different experience than if someone was sitting across from me in a lab coat with a clipboard asking 500 questions about the sandwich. “How’s the crust?” “Well, normally I love it, but now that you’ve empowered me to act like a fucking expert I can tell you it could afford to be a little crunchier.”

Finally, if you ARE doing this and taking a survey, keep it AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE. Occasionally I’ll get an email from a company that is seeking feedback on something that I use, a service, or a product. And once in a while I go “fuck it” because I don’t have a job right now and I decide to take the survey. If I see it’s more than 10 questions, I say “nope” and go back to Twitter.

I’ll take a well managed and educated gut call over a million focus groups, any day of the week.

DYING

Specs on our new PCs

Many on Twitter have been asking about the specs on our new Digital Storm PC rigs, so hey, here we go:


Chassis Model: Special Deal Hot Seller - Hailstorm II Edition
Exterior Finish: - Standard Factory Finish
Trim Accents: - Standard Factory Finish
Processor: Intel Core i7 4930K 3.4GHz (Unlocked CPU for Extreme Overclocking) (Six-Core)
Motherboard: ASUS Rampage IV Extreme X79 (Intel X79 Chipset) (Features USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s)
System Memory: 16GB DDR3 1866MHz Corsair Dominator Platinum DHX (Extreme-Performance)
Power Supply: 1050W Corsair Pro Silver 1050HX (Dual/Triple/Quad SLI Compatible)
Expansion Bay: - No Thanks
Optical Drive: ASUS Blu-Ray Player/DVD Writer (Play Blu-Ray and Burn DVDs) (Model: BC-12B1ST)
Storage Set 1: 1x (240GB Solid State (By: Corsair) (Model: Neutron GTX Series) (SATA 6Gbps)
Storage Set 2: 1x (2TB Hitachi (7200 RPM) (32MB Cache) <b></b>
Storage Set 3: 1x (2TB Hitachi (7200 RPM) (32MB Cache) <b></b>
RAID Config: - No Thanks
RAID Card: - No Thanks
Internet Access: High Speed Network Port (Supports High-Speed Cable / DSL / Network Connections)
Graphics Card(s): 1x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB (EVGA Superclocked ACX Cooler Edition) 
Sound Card: Integrated Motherboard Audio
HPC Processor: - No Thanks
Extreme Cooling: H20: HydroLux Level 1: Digital Storm Exotic Custom Cooling System (CPU + Chipset)
H20 Tube Color:Red Tubing with High-Performance Fluid (UV Lighting Reactive)
Chassis Fans: Upgrade Chassis With LED Performance Fans (Red) (Up to 6 Fans) 
Internal Lighting: Digital Storm HydroLux RGB LED Lighting System (Requires HydroLux Control Board & Software)
Airflow Control: Digital Storm HydroLux Thermal Management Control Board & Software
Chassis Mods: Hailstorm II: Bottom Baseplate Mod (Cleaner Wiring Look & DS Logo Branding)
Noise Reduction: Noise Suppression Package Stage 2 (Optimized Airflow & Fan Speeds with Noise Dampening Material) 
LaserMark: - No Thanks
Boost Processor: Stage 2: Overclock CPU 4.5GHz to 4.8GHz (Requires Pro/Deluxe/Sabertooth Motherboard)
Boost Graphics Card(s): - No Thanks, Please do not overclock my video card(s)
Boost Memory: - No Thanks, Please do not overclock my memory
Boost OS: - No Thanks, Please do not tweak the services on the operating system
Windows OS: Microsoft Windows 8.1 Professional (64-Bit Edition)
Recovery Tools: Windows Recovery Toolkit (Bundled with Windows CD)

Judge or approve away!

Love,

Clifford

The Reality of Virtual Reality

DISCLAIMER: I’m an investor in the Oculus Rift. I’m also a believer in the technology. I think it will be truly game changing, not only in games, but also in many, many other fields. I am NOT an official spokesperson for the technology and I consider many of the folks working on it to be friends, so please understand this is my personal opinion regarding the technology.

It seems like every time a good/great 3d game comes out one of the first things I almost always read on the Internet is

"OMG IMAGINE THIS ON THE OCULUS RIFT."

STOP.

STOP.

FFS STOP.

With the overwhelmingly positive response that Titanfall has gotten I’ve seen this train start up, once again.

It’s one of those things that drives me bonkers, kind of like when people refer to Lego as Legos. (Google it, dammit.)

You can’t just dump a game on the Oculus just like you can’t just throw a PC FPS on console without massive tuning. The pacing of the experience, the controls, everything needs to be re-tuned so much that you might as well just start from scratch for the Oculus.

A fast paced shooter simply doesn’t work well on the device. The device is so game changing that the experiences built for it need to be custom, unique and designed from the ground up FOR VIRTUAL REALITY. The experience needs to be much more like swimming through water or hopping around in low gravity as opposed to being an Olympic hurdler. Even horror games will need to be re-thought; instead of jump scares and intense “Outlast” experiences horror on the Rift will need to be the super subtle type otherwise your average person will only last 15 seconds in any given jump scare title before tearing the headset off.

Having seen the latest of what the tech has to offer (and I believe a myriad of experiences are going to continue to blossom for the emerging tech) there’s one sensation that I couldn’t get out of my head, and it’s the true feeling of flight. I have a recurring dream in which I’m being chased by a monster and if I concentrate hard enough I start flying up, up and away, gleefully flipping off whatever beast is in pursuit. In one of the recent demos, when I looked down, I had that very same sensation of flight and it was thrilling.

I have never, ever had that outside of a dream. Ever.

And for those of you who like to dismiss the tech saying “Oh it’s just like 3d, no one will want it” you obviously haven’t used it. When 3d is properly used in the theater for depth as opposed to a baseball coming at your face (See Avatar and Gravity for good uses) it is incredibly immersive. The problem is that most folks don’t really want it in their home. The effort of putting on the glasses isn’t worth the result in your average home setup outside of someone who has, well, an IMAX in their house.

The Rift is an IMAX in your house, and then some. The effort of putting on the headset leads to an overwhelmingly fantastic result. When you put on the latest demo and you crouch and lean around the new world around you your brain adapts, adjusts, and you’re there. I have memories of the places I visited in the latest demos. I felt like I could have reached out and touched things. It was the most magical experience I’ve had with technology since the first time I saw an Atari 2600 joystick manipulate pixels on my friend’s TV in their basement many, many years ago and decided then that I wanted to make games.

So, for the love of god, give the device more credit than just tossing random FPS games on it. It deserves much, much more. And you’re darned right I invested in it, because I’d like to think I know a good thing when I see it. :)

/rant

The one constant is change

Friends,

Waking up today I was drowning in a deluge of emails, tweets, direct messages and smoke signals.

My former employer has sold the Gears of War IP/franchise to Microsoft and my friend Rod Fergusson is going to be working on it.

To be honest, I don’t think the franchise could be in better hands. Heck, Rod’s Twitter handle, to this day, is “Gears Viking.” Gears is just as much Rod’s baby as it was mine. He’ll take good care of her. (Rod, I owe you a girly drink at GDC.)

Phil Spencer went out of his way to give me a phone call to inform me of the transaction last week. Phil, you didn’t have to do that, you’re a gentleman. I appreciate it; that goes a long way. 343 knocked it out of the park with Halo and I think Black Tusk will do a fantastic job with Gears.

I suppose this puts the nail in the coffin of the question “Will Gears ever come to Playstation?”

Safe to say that’s not likely to happen. (Besides, it gives me something to look forward to on Xbox One besides Titanfall and Project Spark…oh and more Halo, of course.)

Now that that’s out of the way…

I’m not going to move to Vancouver and work on it.

I’m not going to consult on it.

My headspace is in the future now, not the past. I have come to realize that until you give people something new to focus on they will obsess about the past. (good problem to have!)

To those of you who love Gears, I love you as well, and I appreciate your support through the years. The fandom, the cosplay, the tattoos, it all means more than any amount of money could ever mean.

These recent events have steeled my resolve to make something entirely new.

Time for new cosplay, new tattoos, new fandom.

Fingers crossed there will be news soon.

Stay tuned.

Love,

Clifford

Gamin’ Good in the Neighborhood!

When I first moved to Raleigh in 1998 I was, for lack of a better term, a pretty standard 20-something American Consumer. I told myself “Hey, Raleigh can’t be bad, there’s a Burger King and a mall!” Growing up in the suburbs of Boston there wasn’t much to do as a teenager, hell, I wasn’t into sports and I didn’t drink or do drugs so it was pretty much school, videogames, and The Mall. Lather, rinse, repeat, and consume, and be a good little American Target Demographic.

This blog isn’t specifically about Raleigh, however, I’m going to use Raleigh and the local areas to make my point about my gaming industry fear and the trend that I’m seeing. I joked a while back that the future of shooters is going to be All Call of Duty, all the time, much like the famous scene in the old movie Demolition Man in which all restaurants are Taco Bell. (Capitalism is about many things, for example profit,  giving the people what they think they want, and outspending The Other Guy in marketing. And hey, it’s free market, and people are going to vote with their dollars…right?)

As Raleigh evolved and Epic set up shop in the lovely neighboring suburb of Cary, NC, I found myself simply drinking the Kool Aid and going to the local chains. You know, the same ones that are pretty much everywhere. Chili’s. Olive Garden. Outback Steakhouse. A decent meal for a modest amount of money, and fuckin’ hey, unlimited salad and bread-sticks, amirite?

And then, in the early 2000’s, something started to happen on a national basis, and it started spilling over into our little neck of the woods. People started waking up to what they were eating, they started paying attention. Books like “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, “Salt Sugar Fat”, and documentaries like “Food Inc.” began to open people’s eyes to the fact that an industry driven by profit would do whatever it took to keep shareholders happy and the average American addicted to, well, Salt, Sugar, and Fat. Whole Foods realized this and began to explode nationwide. People began flocking to Farmers Markets, and the whole “Farm to Table” movement took over. Even in Raleigh, our “mini-Austin”, most indie restaurants list what local farms they acquired their ingredients from.

Why am I going on and on about food and capitalism and chains versus indie restaurants? Because I can see a similar thing happening in the video gaming space. My greatest fear right now is that in the triple A space, in the next 3-5 years, there are only going to be a handful of uber brands that are known entities. Just like in your average American town you get Taco Bell, Applebees, and all the other Same Exact Stuff, in gaming you’re going to see Assassin’s Creed 6, Call of Duty 9, Madden 2016, and Halo 6. And each progressive title is progressively going to take less risks than the previous one because of the sheer amount of development costs and marketing necessary to push these titles on an annual basis. (Shout out to Rockstar for NOT annualizing.) The fact that Watch Dogs even EXISTS as a new IP is a testament to some bold folks at Ubisoft on both the creative and business side having the tenacity and strength to push for something new, something fresh, something that should not exist in AAA.

When you go to most American suburbs (and many cities), you see the same restaurants, over and over because whomever “wins” is given the golden rubber stamp and then is able to spawn clones everywhere. I can see this happening in gaming right before our eyes, hell, even Activision’s marketing department knows it and they played into it this year with the “It’s Call of Duty Time!” ad campaign. (“Only in Battlefield” > “Call of Duty Time”, by the way.) I see an ad for a new Call of Duty and I have the exact same response whenever I see an ad for Applebees.

Sure, it’s there, it’s consistent, and it doesn’t really seem to take many risks. It can’t. When a franchise hits that level of success it runs into the classic sequel conundrum, the Innovator’s Dilemma. Change too much and you’ve “ruined” the franchise, change too little and you’re just a re-skin of the product. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t, but as long as you make your minimum sold in, hey, time to annualize the product.

I don’t meant to slag AAA games, or the console business. There are thousands of developers who have worked themselves entirely too hard to bring these products to market. I’m merely calling out a trend that I’m seeing, a trend that’s easier to see now that I’m not in the thick of the console wars this time around. 

This is why, as of late, I’m doing the majority of my gaming on PC and in mobile. There are risks being taken in this space that one seldom, if ever, sees in the disc based AAA market. These markets feel wild, unruly, a market where a mod like Day Z can take over, League of Legends can fill the Staples Center, or an experience like The Stanley Parable can happen. In mobile you see games that are high quality, free, and actual strategy titles that are cleaning up. The ecosystem is built for it, slightly gated by the likes of Valve or Apple, but less of a guarded wall than a console approval process. I want a space dogfighting simulation on my Oculus Rift.

I don’t want scripted sequences and quicktime events any more, because they yield only one Youtube video.

I do believe that the major console manufacturers do finally grasp the importance of indie games (Sony somewhat more than Microsoft) and things are starting to shift. The biggest challenge to having these unique experiences on the consoles will be the accessibility of these experiences and how visible they will be made to gamers. (Making them as cheaper digital downloads instead of $60 disc based experiences is one of the clear and obvious steps. I love to see more grassroots campaigns for unique games with lower budgets and more risk taken over bloated game and marketing budgets.)

At the end of the day I’m simply at the point in my gaming life cycle (as a lifelong GAMER) whereas I avoid the suburban chains and I seek out the locally owned unique eateries that will surprise me and provide a more pure experience over an extremely well laminated and produced menu that sells ad space between the pages.

(And yes, we’re getting both new consoles on launch day. I hear the controllers are pretty sweet.)

Kinda NSFW but amazing.

Kinda NSFW but amazing.

Towels

Butch Walker came through Raleigh last night and once again delivered an amazing show. If you don’t know who he is, look him up. He’s sometimes more known for producing acts like Avril Lavigne and Pink, but his original music is absolutely heartfelt and stellar. His fans are incredibly loyal and enthusiastic and every time I’m fortunate enough to see him live I make sure I don’t miss the show.

Needless to say, the show is a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me, because his music has been there for me during some of the best and worst moments of my adult life. Great things were happening for me, guess what, there’s a fun Butch song that goes with it. Heartache? Butch has you covered.

After reflecting on the show and recovering from the beer and the ringing ears and the hoarse voice that I have I remembered that there was a personal story that I meant to blog about for some time now. I’ve told it to many friends, and it’s always a fun one to hear. (It starts sad but later goes into a rather interesting place.)

Several years back my nephew Ben was suddenly killed in a car accident a month after his 20th birthday. He was my older brother’s first born, and he was really a great kid, and to this day I swear he’s haunting me on Facebook. (Weird thing, that is, when someone you known or love passes, and their profile remains as almost a digital memorial for them. I have this strange obsession with reading the last thing posted on these profiles.)

It was heartbreaking. I held this boy as a baby and watched him grow into a young man. In hindsight I wish I had visited him more, but regrets can eat you from the inside out, and it’s important to appreciate the time we get with someone while they’re around. Life can shatter or change in an instant. (Getting a phone call from a relative super late at night or super early in the morning scares the shit out of me now.)

I booked the flight up to Connecticut for the funeral. The whole experience was surreal and I think I watched myself in third person through a fog while there. My brother Tyler (Ben’s uncle) delivered an amazing eulogy and he ended it by quoting the Shawshank Redemption, which was their favorite movie to watch together:

"Sometimes it makes me sad, though, Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright and when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice, but still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty now that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend."

I still to this day do not know how Tyler managed to deliver that without losing it. But he did, because my brother, as emotional as he can be, is an incredibly strong man. I wouldn’t be able to pull through it.

Cut to the barbecue afterwards in which the family and community came out to send their regards and to remember our beloved Ben when Tyler and I are talking to some of our other nieces and nephews, Alicia and Andrew. Their father is our brother Jeff. (Five boys in my family, and yes, I’m the baby.)

Alicia is 11 years old and precocious and sweet, and asks us what it was like growing up with her dad in that house filled with five boys.

I tell her:

"Well, Alicia, growing up with four brothers we were packed in fairly tight and we had to share a lot of things. For example if we wanted a soda my dad would make a pair of us split one. That sort of thing."

Alicia “What else did you share?”

Me “Well, we only had one bathroom for the boys. We had to share the shower, the sink, and the towels. Frequently we’d have to use one of the towels to dry off that one of our brothers had recently used.”

Alicia “That’s kind of gross.”

Me “I know. So one day I get out of the shower after your dad and I grab a towel and start drying off my face when suddenly I realize… it smells like poo.”

Alicia starts laughing hysterically at this.

Me “And then I pull my face away from the towel and happen to see brown streaks on it.”

Alicia is nearly in tears.

Me “Now you have to understand this is a failure on multiple levels. Not only did your dad forget to wipe his butt on the toilet, he also failed to wash it out in the shower.”

Alicia is rolling on the floor, literally.

Me “So, Alicia, what’s the moral of the story?”

The child looks at me, dead in the eyes, and deadpans:

"Buy dark towels?"

(True story.)