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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for sun! Hooray. I am going right out to bask in the electromagnetic wash as soon as I’ve finished these words. Man, I like a good dose of solar radiation. Nothing else like it.

  • The handsome artist and writer Marsh Davies has looked back at Valve’s unfinished episodic experiment with Half-Life Episodes 1 & 2: “The point of all this isn’t that Episode One is a poor game (few games do hold up to Valve’s standards) but that its apparent flaws are so diligently addressed in its sequel. The strictures of antlion combat are inverted. Your venture into their burrows sees you encounter the flighty, cautious antlion workers, whose ranged bombardment and aggressive repositioning makes for a thrilling tactical contrast with the direct attacks of the hive’s soldiers. More importantly, your companion here, a vortigaunt, takes on the role you had in the previous episode, stunning and upturning attackers – so gifting you the primary role of finishing them off. He also has a hilarious line in bathetic overstatement.”
  • Jonas Kyratzes on capitalism, indie games and the Lands of Dream: “In a way, the Lands of Dream are far more brutal than the worlds of most mainstream games. All of the games set there have a bittersweetness that I find much harder to take than the ridiculous adolescent posturing of so-called “grittily realistic” games. So maybe one reason I like them as a setting is because they are far more like the real world: colourful, crazy, full of strange creatures and people, eternal and yet changing, deeply beautiful and sometimes profoundly bitter.”
  • PC Gamer talk to the Civ II ten-year war dude: “In Civ II, things like that had enormous consequences. All of the coasts would flood and farming would be useless, and it happened over and over again – it happened two or three times before I started questioning, well, what would it be like if this kept going on? Eventually all the world’s land – the mountains and tundra – became flooded swampland. It was really neat.”
  • Split-Screen on why hand-held gaming platforms still have life in them: “The argument in favour of the handheld games console is similar to the photographer’s argument for the DSLR, or the audiophile’s defence of a dedicated music player: they just offer a better experience. Some people want a camera to take photos of their friends in a club, facial details obliterated by an overzealous flash. I want a camera to create art, as pretentious as that sounds: to convey the grandeur of Guadalest or highlight interesting architecture. Without proper depth of field on a smartphone I can’t draw your attention to an element of the scene as easily, while fast-moving animals become a smear across the phone’s sensor.”
  • Helen Lewis suggests we fix games journalism by banning the number 7: “My hope, however, is that the mania for scores is just because we’re so used to them – and, actually, we wouldn’t really miss them if they went. In the short-term, one single step would make games reviews more interesting: BAN THE NUMBER SEVEN (or anything in the 70s, if you’re reviewing out of 100).”
  • Would it hurt RPG developers to portray the full variety of humanity in their customisation options?
  • Thanks to Edge’s lack of bylines, and my appalling, overloaded memory, I don’t know whether I wrote this. But maybe. Apologies if you are the true author, but I think some of those terrible infelicities of style belong to this hack.
  • Was Max Payne 3 really not a Max Payne game? “As Payne himself says in the second game: “If you had done something differently, it wouldn’t be you, it would be someone else looking back, asking a different set of questions.” And that is what the core issue with Max Payne 3 is, in the end. It’s not about Max Payne. It’s about someone else with the same problems, dealing with them in their own way. There are many other issues we haven’t mentioned, like the highly out of place shock about the organ black market, or the redundant “Do you kill him or let him live?” prompt at the end of the game. Max Payne 3 suffers from Fallout 3 syndrome. Just how Fallout 3 was a good game, but awful Fallout, so is Max Payne 3 a good game on its own, but an abysmal addition to the series.”
  • On A Lifetime Of Hating Games: “I know there are others like me, men and women out there who feel the same way. But while sports lovers can always bond over sports (that ever-present conversational fodder is something I envy them at times) we non-lovers never head out to non-sports bars to chat about our non-love. What does it feel like to be one of the gaming-indifferent, both in relation to the culture at large and inside one’s own head? What are those of us who ignore this whole area of human endeavor not understanding about the rest of you? What are we missing out on? Is the absence of sports from our lives a net loss or a net gain?”
  • The Creative Team Behind Dishonored: “So people, I think, have devised this thing called “game” as a way of exploring conflict and exploring their relationships with conflict in a completely safe, abstract way. That’s a neat topic that we don’t sit around thinking about all the time, of course. But if you watch lion cubs bite each other and roll around on the ground, they’re not trying to kill each other; they’re engaged in some sort of conflict-based play. That’s the same thing I think we’re doing. We all find conflict fascinating. If you’re playing poker with your friends, someone crushes the life out of everyone else. It’s absolute. There’s not even a soft way to lose poker; you are crushed out of existence. So I don’t think it’s endemic to video games, or exclusive to video games.” EXACTLY.
  • Never seen this Bogost piece on Turing before.
  • Si Spurrier’s strange and NSFW webcomic, Crossed.
  • Best Kickstarter. (Sadly expired.)

Music this week is this amazing video spliced together out of shots taken from the ISS, and given pathos by the Sunshine soundtrack. The whole thing is dripping with perspective: on the size of the Earth, on the beauty of our place in the galaxy, on the vitality of spaceflight, of the ephemeral nature of, well, everything. Fuck! I mean, do you ever get the feeling you were born a thousand years to early? Or perhaps just short-changed because you didn’t get to live for ten thousand years? This sort of glorious space-travel perspective stuff really gets me in the gut. Because for all the doom and gloom and the naysayers who predict our end in the near future, perhaps we will actually just go on for eons. Perhaps we’ll all calm down and finally work together to climb out of the silty bottom layer of our tiny sphere and up into the cold black. Hell, it’s not just the glittering unimaginable interstellar spacecraft I won’t get to see – I want to look back at a thousand years of videogames, a thousand years of science, a thousand years of furniture, a thousand years of restaurants. A thousand years of things that we haven’t got names for yet. For fuck’s sake. It’s not death I am worried about, really, it’s missing out on millions of years of future possibility. Those lucky future bastards. They don’t know how good they have it.

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Jim Rossignol

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