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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for righteous fury and fried breakfasts. Cups of tea and indignation. That’s the stuff. And I am sure something in this week’s collection of internet link materials will cause you to tut and huff. That’s just the way of these things, isn’t it? There’s always something wrong on the internet. Fortunately it gets a lot of things right, too. Let’s see if we can pick a few of those this week.

  • PBS’ article on LittleLoud’s Sweatshop is worth reading: “The next layer of the game’s rhetoric unfolds more slowly. The fact is that you can’t really convey the extent of the hardships faced during a long, underpaying shift on a factory line in any medium. (You could craft a time-accurate simulation, but it would be difficult to rope many into playing it.) Instead, Sweatshop’s strategy is to pull you into the antagonist’s mindset; it forces you into the cold logic of sweatshop management and leaves you to reflect on your own descent into it.”
  • Tim Stone has recently written a retrospective of Wild Metal Country over on Eurogamer: “Wild Metal Country, you brilliant, quirky, exhilarating creature. Why aren’t you better known? Why did you never get a sequel? Why did certain members of my profession think you warranted a measly 5 out of 10?” I have to say, I was one of those who was disappointed. It seemed like a game that I should love, but it only frustrated me.
  • Leigh Alexander writes “Sexual Video Games Are Good For Us“: “Maybe interactive entertainment has an ability you and I don’t have: To articulate strange things, deviant things, the moth’s-wing flutters of our secrets, our sexuality, our emotions. Maybe we notice strangeness, and we want to hear somebody else say it, we want to hear somebody else explain it, because the game has done so well at touching parts of us that we don’t have words for.”
  • John Carmack says that violent games are cathartic: ” I really think, if anything, there is more evidence to show that the violent games reduce aggression and violence. There have actually been some studies about that, that it’s cathartic. If you go to QuakeCon and you walk by and you see the people there [and compare that to] a random cross section of a college campus, you’re probably going to find a more peaceful crowd of people at the gaming convention. I think it’s at worst neutral and potentially positive.”
  • Troy Goodfellow’s “National Character” series continues over on Flash Of Steel, looking at the portrayal of nations in strategy games. This time up it’s India: “It’s no wonder that game designers want to think of India as a single culture and entity. Even though it was very rarely unified in its history, there is an assumption that the peninsula makes sense as one civilization and not, say, five. The reference points, then, become almost exclusively modern. What do we mean by India? We mean whatever the British said was India, and that is close enough for game design work. Religious divisions between north and south, east and west, old and new become blurry and we see an unbroken chain of custody from Asoka down to Nehru, even though the Mughals had only mixed success in the south, the Punjab was always restive and the British showed up to an India where they could play prince against prince.”
  • Read about the project to create the Video Game History Museum.
  • The Prime Minister’s Questions dev asks: “Am I Real Indie Developer Now?” Sure, I say – why not?
  • Alex Peake writes some words. Words like: “[T]he question that comes up is what happens when we make machines make us make them make us into them? There are three different Moores’ Laws of accelerating returns. There are three uncanny valleys that are being crossed. There’s a sort of coming of age story for humanity and for different technologies. There are two different species involved, us and the technology, and there are a number of high stakes questions that arise.” He’s talking about the Singularity, of course. And games!
  • Press X Or Die is doing a huge series on Champions Online.
  • Michael Cook has been writing about game AI: “Some plucky MIT researchers have taken ‘RTFM’ to heart and made a Civilisation-playing AI better at the game by giving it the ability to learn from the manual! “So what?” might be your first response to that. Actually, “lol skynet” might be your first response, but I’d wager “So what?” would come a close second. Before you go back to skipping tutorials and ignoring those little loading screen hints, though, let’s dip our toes into this research paper and see how this work might change the way games are explained not just to machines, but to humans too.”
  • Blog circularity! PCG’s Graham Smith posts about something he found on The Sunday Papers and then we post about it on The Sunday Papers. It’s that thing about extremes of opinion in games journalism. More importantly: The ouroboros worm of the internet has no beginning and no end!
  • Agent Dan writes about “when is it justified for a writer to work for free?” A good overview of the situation and circumstances involved.
  • Robotic octopus arm is the first part in a project to create an entire robot octopus.
  • I really must get an upside down map of the world.

Music this week has, for me, been all about digging up old techno and electronica. I bet some of you have never seen the Come To Daddy video. It amuses me that top YouTube comment for it is “This is why you harvest little sisters.” Quite.

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Jim Rossignol

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