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A little help, please?

Readers sound off on outsourcing issues, small business, taking deductions for a home office, and why Richard Marx has a thriving musical career. Also, a reader asks one small favor: can anyone design a computer game for him?

I read your article “Putting Games to Work”, and enjoyed it very much. I would like to have a computer game developed in connection with a product I have developed. The product uses a handheld device and a PC program.

This leads to my questions for you or your readers:

1. I have a clear idea of what I want–one could call it scripts–based on our current advertising and training, which work pretty well. Of course, I’m open to better ideas, especially given that a game is a new medium with new opportunities. In any case, what is a good approach to going from a script to a definition and specification of a game product (a game made up of software that will install and run reliably on many computers)? Is there a better place to start than a script?

2. What tools are available for architecting, designing, specifying, developing, programming, and maintaining a game in a professional and business-like manner, at relatively low cost?

3. What should I read to understand the environment of game development–components of a game, development tools (software and hardware), major approaches and “camps” of developers, etc.?

4. Do you know anyone in the San Diego area who could provide realistic perspective on these matters? Is there a meeting (users’ group or developers’ group) that deals with these issues? — Benjamin A. Saltzer CPCM, President, Saltzer, Sutton & Endicott, [email protected]

Your column titled “Exit Route” has some unfortunately all-too-common myths in it. The biggest is that it’s the low-level help-desk and entry-level programming positions that are at risk. That may have been true, but it isn’t anymore. As companies work out the logistical problems of dealing with workers many time zones away, they will move more and more work offshore. In fact, they will discover (if they haven’t already) that it’s most practical to move entire divisions offshore and merely keep the CEO and the bean counters in the United States. Strike that last bit–the bean counters will all end up overseas as well.

The talk about the best and the brightest in the United States continuing to blaze new trails of innovation ring rather hollow when you ask where the next generation of high tech wiz kids will come from. Certainly not the universities. Not because Americans are lazy or stupid, but rather because they are not stupid enough to major in fields that are dying in the United States.

Finally, your comment about smaller companies prospering because of the pool of high tech gurus they can draw from paints a rosy smile on a grim situation. The true context is that hundreds of thousands of “gurus” (myself included) can find no work. And what work there is naturally goes to the youngest and cheapest workers. So here I, and probably 500,000-800,000 others, sit; an educated, knowledgable person who’s virtually unemployable because I’m “too old” and therefore deemed obsolete. Translation: We can hire someone cheaper, and even if you’d work for the same wage, we don’t want you.

This is becoming the big issue in the election precisely because there are thousands like me and millions of our friends who can see themselves ending up in the same situation. — Alan Warshauer

In your “Starting Right” column, you suggest that a spare room in a home is the best scenario because of tax deductions. I’d strongly recommend looking into that further: A rental situation has little risk, but deductions against a mortgaged home will make for a sad situation when the home is sold. Uncle Sam will want to recapture the home office deductions, assuming you sold your house for a profit (which is generally the case). Since new business startups have a high risk of failure, my view is that deductions of a home office are generally a bad idea. — Dave Michel, Target Corp./Target Technical Services, [email protected]

It was a really nice compliment you paid regarding Richard Marx’s Web site in “Talk about the passion”, but not so nice regarding his being where-are-they-now fodder. Please. If you had checked the site out that well, you would have noticed he’s been about as busy as he ever was. Not to mention he’s got a new CD coming out this summer. — Tonya Rittenhouse, [email protected]

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