By John Walker on January 12th, 2014 at 12:00 pm.
Sundays are for plotting your gruesome destruction of the planet Earth. But before you do, take a look at some interesting morsels of games writing we’ve noticed this week.
- One of the most beautifully written and compelling articles I’ve ever read kicks us off this week: Christian Donlan’s extraordinary piece on the role of Monopoly in the Second World War. Weaving in takes of his own grandfather into this peculiar and audacious tale, it’s so good I wanted a whole book of it. And now for someone to option it and make it into a film.
“That set gave my grandfather his war stories. Spared the dangers of actual combat, he worked at a nearby farm handling the bookkeeping during the week, and he built up a dazzling property portfolio and crushed his competitors in his spare time. Long days in the camp meant that the prisoners quickly adapted the rules of the game so that a single match could take a fortnight to unfold and then they played and played and played. Europe burned, Russia was driven back into the black mud of the Eastern Front, the Blitz rained fire from the sky over St Pauls (and as far north as Glasgow). As for my grandfather? My grandfather learned the value of nabbing all the oranges quickly, so as to capitalise on any unfortunates rolling to get out of jail.”
- Polygon’s Colin Campbell tells the tale of the little eSports team that couldn’t, and the team owner who simply disappeared. “On Dec. 7, Boudreault tweeted, ‘Hopes got crushed. Broken Dreams & whatever.’ Then he disappeared. Senior personnel connected with the team have not been able to track him down or speak to him. He has refused repeated calls from colleagues, team-members, media and even the team’s sponsor.”
- Cara Ellison has come up with a really good idea. Crowd fundraising platform Patreon is a place where creatives can seek money from interested patrons in order to create for them. Cara’s pitch is to do what she does best: spend time with interesting people, and report the experience. Looking to confirm her position as the gaming world’s Louis Theroux, she intends to embed herself with some of the most interesting people in the games industry, and write about that time. It sounds splendid, although I think her £1000 per article target was too low. Fortunately, she’s already at £1500, and you can make that higher. “I hope you will gain insight into their life and work with me as a lens. I am very serious about this ‘embedded game journalism’. I feel like everyone’s art comes from somewhere, and I am determined to find out where. It’s something I don’t want to rush, either.”
- Sophie Houlden has written a very personal piece about her realisation that of all the characters she’s written for her games, none has ever been transsexual. And even when writing about a character who is intended to be a cypher for herself, even she is not trans*. The piece brutally honestly explores this, explores the possible prejudices that may be behind it, and is absolutely heartbreaking. “And this happens in a hundred other ways too. It is *exceptionally* harder for me to leave the house since moving back home because there are people here who knew me before I ‘transitioned’. I’ve seen the looks old school-friends give me and one-another when I’m near. The fear of *that* social experience far outweighs the fear that maybe some stranger in a checkout queue might talk to me about something insignificant. As a result, I haven’t left the house for months.”
- A somewhat under-reported piece of news this week has been Intel’s pledge to make their chips “conflict free”. We do rather like to forget where the various elements that make up our PCs and smartphones come from, but in a peculiarly sudden sombre moment in Intel’s CES show, the tone suddenly switched from Gabe Newell shilling Intel chips in Steam machines to an honest and heartfelt confession of a serious problem. And then a promise to do something about it. You can see the moment it happens here. The BBC reported the story here.
- Brendan Vance misses the manual. And that’s because he has to spend so much of his life developing the interactive tutorials that have replaced them, disliked by everyone, including him. The Cult Of The Peacock is a fascinating essay about design, the theory of design, and peacocks. “It’s easy to forget that at one time all videogames had manuals. I used to like reading manuals. Manuals were cool. Now, instead of manuals, we have interactive tutorials. They take about fifty times longer to produce, three times longer to consume, and players hate them so much that their highest aspiration is to become completely transparent. Currently I spend most of my waking hours developing them. It should come as no surprise that I hate them too.”
Music this week is Julianna Barwick, because I’ve been listening to her incredible album Nepenthe all week. I’ve picked a live performance from KEXP, because I think it does far more justice to how incredible she is. (Although it is admittedly pretty jarring how the presenter comes off the back of the pieces chatting like he’s advertising sofas, rather than gasping and clawing for words like a human would.)