The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for re-watching the Star Wars trailer. It does not regress me to a nine-year-old, but I do like it when the spaceships go woosh past the other spaceships. If you are full up on woosh, perhaps you’d like the fine collection of words below instead.

  • Let’s start with two I missed last week. Warp Door interviewed the founder of itch.io, getting more recent details as to how the indie-focused store is growing.
  • How much have you made from running itch.io?

    I’ve made no money, I’ve spent about 8500 dollars on it so far. (Actually I’ve probably made around 50 dollars, when I had transaction fees enabled for the first few months of operation.)

  • Secondly, The New Yorker goes long on esports, by way of StarCraft II and one of the few women who play professionally, Scarlett:
  • I confess to being bewildered, still, by what is often said to be the greatest game of StarCraft II ever played. Fall, 2013. New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom. Scarlett vs. Bomber. Third game in a best-of-three series, a quarter-final in a tournament sponsored by Red Bull. It lasted about forty minutes, although I gathered, from the live commentary on the video that I have watched many times, that it nearly ended far sooner. A couple of minutes in, there came this exchange:

    “Uh-oh. Oh, my God! Scarlett is going gas!”

    “Oh—oh, God!”

    “Gas pool! And it’s a double proxy. Bomber is walking into the worst possible situation.”

  • The Guardian writes about board games’ “golden age”, and celebrates the current surge of creativity and popularity in shared, non-digital game experiences. A good primer for people who think it’s all snakes and ladders out there.
  • “In the past there have been big differences between European and American approaches to making games,” he says. “American games would typically have players engage with one another through aggression. European games tended to use more indirect conflict – so rather than just fighting one another, we might be competing for the same pool of resources, or trying to accomplish the same goal most effectively.”

  • Christian Donlan writes about how Spelunky and XCOM prepared him for dealing with an incurable illness. Writing about such things in relation to games is a tricky business, but Donlan successfully threads the needle as always.
  • There are moments where the clockwork skips, though, and these are, again, the very moments where the game explodes into pure glory. Sure, you can surround an enemy with your best troops, you can be clever with cover, and you can send your guys into battle with the sweetest reverse-engineered alien tech. But each shot that gets fired is still down to a dice roll. Ultimately, all of your deadliest toys are just beads rattling around on a necklace, and luck is the thread that passes through their hearts.

  • Is everything good about Minecraft gone? Spoiler: no. But this Forbes piece does a savvy job of both explaining the virtues of Minecraft and explaining the ways it has been changed by its surrounding industry:
  • For example, Sky Does Minecraft not only appeared in a Lady Gaga music video, he also has more than 10 million subscribers and more than 2 billion views. SSundee is another popular Minecraft YouTuber that has more than 3 Million subscribers and more than 600 million views. These are celebrities in the nine year old imagination, like movie stars or sports heroes who have so much influence on our children’s thinking that it’s almost unimaginable. And that’s okay with me. If it is not them, it will be someone else. My job as a parent is to give them the skills they need to think critically and ethically about the voices they interact with, not to control the world in which they live.

  • As a Brit, I found this article about Detroit’s history, collapse and regeneration attempts interesting. I am not sure why some of the paragraphs are about World of Warcraft, but you might find similar sources of value within:
  • The Motor City has spent the better part of the last fifty years attempting to reinvent itself. In 1967, over the course of five bloody days of rioting, the city’s longstanding economic and racial tensions came to the fore. The Army and National Guard fought in Detroit’s streets. 42 people died, 1,189 injuries were reported, and more than 7,200 arrests were made. At least 2,000 buildings were destroyed. Shortly after the riots died down, Detroit mayor Jerome Cavanagh visited their epicenter and observed, “Today we stand amidst the ashes of our hopes.” Thenceforth, construction gave way to reconstruction.

  • Wasim Salman, who recently wrote for us about his personal experiences with the mech genre, also writes regularly on his own blog. This piece on vice in games – from porn to gambling, Beirut to Vegas – evokes a cyberpunk atmosphere in its vignettes.
  • We were in a basement somewhere in Beirut. We were shooting pool.

    Mid-90’s summer and there was no air conditioning. Slow fans and fluorescent lights.

    The walls were covered in cracks and ripped up, yellowed flyers with pictures of dead men.

    ‘Martyrs’.

    I become bored, I look around for something else to do.

    A row of arcade cabinets in the distant corner. I put my cue down. I walk over.

  • Joe Donnelly writes at the New Statesmen about about an American university course using Skyrim to teach lessons about the empire’s own decline.
  • Aimed predominantly at students interested in psychology, politics, and history – and perhaps crucially those with little video game experience – Professor Ellard explores why America has a tendency to fantasise towards a historical period inconsistent with its own, and how Skyrim’s Tolkien-esque themes and setting can help students to understand America’s place on the world stage against a tide of ever-receding imperialism. In doing so she attempts to portray how video games can and should be considered valid academic platforms.

  • I enjoyed this short article by William Gisbon about how he wrote his first book, Neuromancer.
  • On the basis of a few more Omni sales, I was approached by the late Terry Carr, an established SF anthologist. Terry had, once previously, commissioned a limited series of first novels for Ace Books – his Ace SF Specials. Now he was doing it again, and would I care to write one? Of course, I said, in that moment utterly and indescribably terrified, something I remained for the next 18 months or so, when, well out of my one-year contract, I turned in the manuscript.

  • Radio ISS tracks the position of the International Space Station as it orbits the globe and plays short snippets from whichever radio stations it’s currently near.

Music this week is this album of chiptunes.

62 Comments

  1. P.Funk says:

    I can’t wait for the new Star Wars to suck, exactly the same way the new Star Trek sucked.

    I just think JJ Abrams is the most overrated director of this generation. The only thing I’m looking forward to is Adam Driver. It will no doubt be completely overshadowed by the ugliest collection of goons playing their former roles. Hamill, Fisher and Ford all look like saddlebags with eyes. It’ll be like watching your childhood heroes after they’ve spent the last 30 years drinking bourbon and chain smoking.

    • Orija says:

      The CGI and retarded cinematography were disappointments, also would have preferred a Maori actor to play the part of the defector.

    • Ashrand says:

      Could still (and no doubt eventually will) be much worse:

      • P.Funk says:

        That trailer almost makes it all worth it in the end.

        • Blackcompany says:

          Agreed. Was going to post earlier but I had to clean the coffee off of my keyboard. I chuckled through the first part, laughed a bit over Jaba, laughed out loud at the lightsaber…and totally lost it with the Falcon and the Tie Fighters. Utterly hilarious!

      • TechnoJellyfish says:

        Oh my …

        I watched this one before the original trailer. Imagine my reaction when I realized that lots of stuff I considered clever parody is actually in the freakin’ teaser … Oo

    • Walsh says:

      How dare anyone age and play the same role they did when far younger. The outrage! The scandal! My monocle departed from my face upon my scotch tumbler hearing this news.

      • meatshit says:

        This, but without the sarcasm. Star Wars is pure escapism and the last thing I want in my escapism is the constant reminder that death and decay are on a ceaseless march and it’s only a matter of time before they claim us all.

    • RARARA says:

      Spoiler alert – everybody ages.

      • P.Funk says:

        Yea, and its fucking embarrassing watching Mick Jagger try and dance.

        • RARARA says:

          You weren’t exactly criticizing their performance, were you?

          • P.Funk says:

            Well I can say with certainty that the last time Harrison Ford revived a great character from his past it was embarrassing.

        • El Goose says:

          How do old man Uncle Jam’s recent efforts fare in your estimations then?

    • malkav11 says:

      Abrams’ style is more suited to that of Star Wars than Star Trek, at least in terms of the previous work in both franchises (though personally I like his Trek better than the original series, even if it misses a lot of the spirit of Roddenberry’s vision), and there’s no way he could possibly screw this up as badly as Lucas did the prequels, so, meh.

      But if you’re not a fan of Abrams, hey, episode VIII (and supposedly IX) will be helmed by Rian Johnson, of Brick and Looper fame. Myself, I think Abrams’ VII will be watchable, but it’s Johnson’s take that I’m excited to see.

      • P.Funk says:

        STID was a horrible movie if you do anything but focus on the visuals.

      • B.rake says:

        Oh wow, love Rian Johnson’s movies, esp Brick and Brothers Bloom. Didn’t love it as much, but still went to see Looper twice so I could rewatch it with the synced directors commentary podcast he did. This gives me A New Hope for the next Star Wars :P

        (totally agree STID was pretty (insert lens flare joke), but I’m not really digging Trek as an action film franchise so far… not into Abrahms’ work in general, though Super 8 was promising)

      • green frog says:

        “Abrams’ style is more suited to that of Star Wars than Star Trek”

        This so much. I admit I enjoyed the new Trek films well enough for what they were, but I totally understand how they radically altered the spirit of Star Trek. But if Abrams just gives Star Wars the same treatment it will already be much closer to the previous material.

        I am optimistic on the new Star Wars. It’s ridiculous to expect that they’re going to make anywhere near the same impact as the originals did, but I bet they will be generally well-made, entertaining movies.

        Or they could completely screw it up and be awful, but I doubt it. Specifically, I do expect that Abrams and co. are being very conscious of the mistakes the prequels made and careful not to repeat them.

    • Ekpyrotic Fan Fiction says:

      New Star Trek movie?! There’s only been four!
      Wrath of Khan, the One with the Whales, Undiscovered Country, and sometimes Generations. I’m pretty sure I would’ve remembered if they were making a fifth one that sucked!

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Point the first: You’re really that excited to see something you presumably once cared about go up in flames? To see people unhappy? I’m gonna just be blunt because I’m tired – what the actual hell is wrong with you?

      Point the second: People age, get over it. I for one am glad to see my ‘childhood heroes’ again. If you’re really so horrified to see people looking older several decades later, I think you might want to seek help, I sincerely mean that.

      Do note that I thus far have basically no opinion on the new Star Wars, we shall see.

      • green frog says:

        The number of people on the internet who seem to derive greater pleasure and satisfaction from hating and mocking things than from enjoying and cherishing things is truly depressing.

        It is true that not everything is worthy of being enjoyed and cherished, but that still doesn’t excuse the glee with which some people channel the Dark Side. ;)

        • P.Funk says:

          Oh don’t generalize that self congratulatory ‘its the internet people man’ nonsense.

          Star Wars is special. Its been molested by run away merchandizing and a radical departure from its original spirit for decades now. Its horrible and yet its worth billions of dollars. People keep humping the great white hope of Star Wars even though its been letting us down basically since ROTJ.

          Star Wars is a brand and a business, its barely culture anymore except for when mocking and denigrating it. Robot Chicken and a million George Lucas jokes are the major contributions to culture that Star Wars has now made.

          I want it to suck because I want them to stop raping the same old shit over and over and over again. At least Avatar was new (though it still sucked). I want new things, not old things dressed up in vaguely similar garb. I might be optimistic if this were an actually good director but what I’ve seen of Abrams films (his TV is way better) has been so derivative as to be appalling. STID was just one long wank of inside references put on their head with no actual story in between. I don’t trust Abrams as a writer, especially when he is working from a derivative source. Even Super 8 was just Abrams showing how he loved Spielberg but without being terribly original.

          A courageous use of the franchise would be to ignore every character before except in passing, maybe make reference. Having the actors back for cameos… ugh. I managed to survive the prequels without having Han Solo ruined, which is just as well since he was properly ruined by the remastered original trilogy. I don’t need to see Harrison Ford with saggy cheeks going on about the Falcon and arguing with Chewey. I also don’t need to see Han Solo the father. Heroes like Han Solo should be like rock stars, they should die young and never get old. Pete Townshend was right, if you don’t die before you get old then everyone is bald, grey and getting rung up on child porn charges. At least Roger Daltry knows to keep his hair short, which is more than we can say for Robert Plant.

          I have zero hope that this current movie culture will do anything good with this franchise. Nolan’s Batman is like the weirdo exception that proves the rule, but then he’s a good director.

          Hell, I don’t even want it to suck, I just know it will. I am prepared for the inevitable and I will at least enjoy ripping it to shreds because if I can thank the prequels for anything its making Plinkett into a household name.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            You would have lost any credibility when you contradicted yourself, if you hadn’t already lost it when you again made it clear that you’re just upset about people you idolised getting older – to the point of outright wishing them dead?
            But you lost it before that with your flippant misuse of a word like rape – not that the general tone of your comment was much less disgusting, honestly.
            The first part of your comment might still have been worth discussing, possibly bringing up – on a game news site, no less – that there have been plenty of solid star wars games that you’ve apparently completely ignored, and that on that front people have been doing all sorts of interesting things with the license for a long, long time, some of which don’t rely on the original cast in any way. Unfortunately you called ROTJ a disappointment so I think we’ll just skip that bit.

            Green frog’s right, you know, except I’d argue that kind of trend is far from being exclusive to the internet. If you derive your joy by ripping things to shreds then I’m just going to be thankful I have things in my life that genuinely make me happy.
            Playing videogames, for one. Large parts of Star Wars, for another.

          • green frog says:

            @ P.Funk

            Whatever man, I still like Star Wars. The ride’s been bumpy at times but it hasn’t killed my interest in the franchise. If you hate it at this point then that’s just too bad for you, I guess. You’re entitled to your opinion.

            I agree that it’s been merchandised and milked to death. But I find it pretty easy to ignore most of that stuff. I don’t have to read every half-baked novel or comic and take it seriously like it’s an integral part of the mythos. If you just stick to the good stuff what does it really matter if they’re milking megabucks with filler, too? No one’s forcing you to consume that content. Besides, Disney’s just thrown the entire Expanded Universe under the bus, so if you want to pretend none of that ever existed, now’s a better time than ever.

            Abrams is no Kubrick or Fellini or Kurosawa. That’s true. But I think he knows how to make a big fun space opera blockbuster and I hate to break it to you, but that’s what Star Wars is. It was never high art and it never will be, and that’s okay because it doesn’t need to be. People love it for what it is.

            Well, not you apparently. But plenty of other people still do, at least judging by the excitement this 88 seconds of teaser has generated. If you’re looking forward to ripping TFA to shreds then be my guest, I suppose. I’m glad that Star Wars can still bring you at least some form of entertainment.

          • P.Funk says:

            ROTJ was 50% great, 50% Ewoks and Tarzan. It was the teaser for the prequel trilogy and the first step on the mad spiral towards Lucas’ reinterpretation of Star Wars as a kids’ franchise rather than being a somewhat dark mythic derivation of classic heroic stories in a space opera. It was the point where Lucas took full control and we know what that leads to.

    • commentingaccount says:

      JJ Abrams destroyed the Star Trek films he directed and co-wrote. He does not understand what makes Star Trek tick, which is a mixture of high minded idealism, action and slow paced moments to think and contemplate.

      Hell, he sucks in most of the other things he does as well. Regarding Henry and that Almost Human show are the only things out of him I liked.

      Oh, and that one episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

      Remember folks, he co-wrote Armageddon. This is the type of man we’re dealing with here. He writes idiocy, he is just barely capable of writing in a way to make his work seem more intelligent than it is. He is a Michael Bay-type director who has fooled people into thinking he’s different than Micheal Bay.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Oh hey, he did co-write an episode of The Last Airbender, too. Great show, that (and I’m saying this as someone who first watched it this summer).

      • P.Funk says:

        Hey at least you get it. He’s basically an above average TV director who’s fooled everyone into thinking he’s an actual film director.

        Fringe. I have no idea how such a good show came from that guy. If his films were half as kooky and refreshing as a single episode of Fringe then I’d be very very happy to see him direct Star Wars or Trek.

        • malkav11 says:

          TV is a collaborative process just like film-making, except arguably even more so because you’re making so many more hours of TV. Who knows how much of what you enjoy about Fringe can be laid at Abrams’ doorstep? Not me.

          • P.Funk says:

            Thats the point. A guy like Abrams’ limitations are shown all the more by the ego trip of being the master and commander of helming a film, not that that matters. He doesn’t have to write everything he directs, but apparently he does. Film can be collaborative too. I think Abrams collaborates with a lot of mediocre people too though, at least in a film sense.

  2. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    William Gisbon lives in Lisbon.
    William Gibson’s the one that scribbs’em

  3. Inverselaw says:

    I owe William Gibson for my hobby of collecting antique calculating devices. I am currently flanked by a slide rule, a Otis King cylindrical slide rule, a russian “pocket watch” slide rule, a arithma addiator and a curta calculator.

    Amusing creator at the cinema reference: William Gibson went to watch Blade Runner at the cinema but left halfway crying as somebody had done his idea first and much better then what he could do (well thats what he said anyway). Alejandro Jodorowsky was dragged into a showing of David Lynch’s Dune in a terrible depression as not only was his dream movie done by another director but by one he really liked and respected. However as the movie progressed he got happier and happier as the movie was utter shit.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Punch card looms are great. I love how they even had programming courses and textbooks designed to teach you how to generate patterns. Completely understand if you don’t have one in your house, of course.

    • cederic says:

      Much as I love Blade Runner – and after 20 or so viewings, I still dearly love Blade Runner – I still think Gibson failed to appreciate just how good Neuromancer is.

      It may not be the finest novel ever written, but I’ve read a few thousand and I can’t think of any better.

  4. unangbangkay says:

    ” I am not sure why some of the paragraphs are about World of Warcraft”

    My sentiments exactly. The article barely even draws any parallels, just presenting two streams of factoids side-by-side, without presenting a thesis or even bothering to make any connective tissue between the two, then having the gall to conclude with “these two aren’t actually that similar after all, but in all likelihood the same thing will happen to both.”

    There are times I regret having helped back Kill Screen’s startup Kickstarter.

  5. scannerbarkly says:

    All my harddrives are named after different William Gibson novels. Not sure what that says about me as a person tbh.

    • tofusheep says:

      xD… scattered over a decade of PCs and multiple varying Operating Systems i have accumulated endless partitions, drive labels and systems named “neuromancer” or “wintermute”.

  6. Pointy says:

    My better half just posted a piece on the emotional effects games can have upon us.
    Please have a read of it here :

    link to thisclimbingbean.wordpress.com

    She would love to know what you think.

    • Gap Gen says:

      There’s a lot of interesting points to unpack here. Your point about beheadings reminded me of Charlie Brooker’s piece on school shootings in the media, and how the media feeds shootings by sensationalising them: link to youtube.com – the beheadings are done in part to gain coverage in the Western media, who are financially incentivised to publish events like this, since people are drawn to it and if they don’t cover it, someone else will.

      There’s also Kieron’s article on No Russian in CoD:MW2, and how they fluffed what could be a powerful thing by not really having any context behind it or using it to say something: link to rockpapershotgun.com – this is in contrast to MW1, which had some fairly powerful things that, even if the writers just thought “hey this is cool, let’s put it in”, like the gunship level, at least had some gravitas.

      I agree that people should use powerful things like violence or offensive material sensitively, and failure to do so cheapens them. To a certain extent we’re already desensitised to many things, but in a wider sense it’s the responsibility of artists to consider the subtext of their work.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Arnvidr says:

    Danimal Cannon is pretty sweet.

  8. Nasarius says:

    I feel like I’m practically the only person (aside from Notch!) who felt that the opening of the Star Wars trailer was deeply weird. There’s a fucking jump scare in the very first scene, like it’s a parody of some cheap horror movie. That’s the first thing they decided to show us. Why? What kind of tone was that supposed to set? And why is nobody else as baffled as I am?

    The rest of the trailer is…fine. I’m a huge fan of the original trilogy, read a ton of EU novels, loved TIE Fighter. I guess it’s nice to see the old vehicles flying around, but their new designs aren’t very good, so I can’t say the trailer makes me terribly optimistic.

    • Gibster says:

      Nah your not the only one, I agree. It really set itself of for criticism with those scenes needless to say, not that I hated it I just thought that the scenes they chose were strange. I wasn’t sure what to think of it so I had to go and watch Angry Joe’s take on it, which shed light and made sense of some things, the probable plot and the background of which it is happening. link to youtu.be

      Right now, I can say that I’m skeptical with a tad bit of hope, especialy if they manage to include the grey zones that AJ talked about in his video.

    • Gap Gen says:

      It’s a collection of stuff without any real connection other than to say “here’s some Star Wars stuff!”. Which is fine, I guess?

    • Deccan says:

      Negative on the “jump scare”. Go watch the opening shot of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. This alone suggests Abrams may know what he’s doing.

  9. JimmyG says:

    I’m gonna try to avoid any info on Star Wars, actually. I already know I’ll see it once, so it’s not like I need to be won over by advertisements — and showing me different parts of the movie is only going to make me enjoy it less. That’s how I went into Interstellar, and it was refreshing to sit down in the theater knowing next to nothing. I’m pretty sure I enjoyed the film a lot more because of it, and that twinned well with the screenplay’s sense of discovery.

  10. Synesthesia says:

    The scarlett piece is very, very good.

    Also more chiptune!

    link to minusbaby.bandcamp.com

    • cederic says:

      It was exceedingly bloody long, is what it was.

      But I read it to the end. As you say, it was good. It also managed to touch on many elements of esports and gaming culture without being judgemental, calling names, getting hyperbolic or even giving a shit about the birth sex of the people it involved.

      Ok, it was very good.

  11. MistaJah says:

    9-year-old? Yes, I do remember The Phantom Menace faintly, and those ugly yellow subtitles on the VHS.

  12. AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

    This has nothing to do with anything, but I run into it this week and thought it’d please the RPS crowd for some reason: an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s “A Country Doctor” by award-winning Japanese animator Kōji Yamamura.

  13. Michael Fogg says:

    For a second I misread that last link: ‘Radio ISIS? What do THEY air, reminders about the scheduled beheadings?’

  14. RobF says:

    Chris Donlan’s piece is one of the most effecting things I’ve read in a while. Brilliant, brave and beautiful writing.

  15. Fiyenyaa says:

    “Music this week is this album of chiptunes.”

    Hah! Take that, Alice!

  16. bill says:

    Something about the star wars trailer feels very cynical/clinical to me. It’s like they made a list of all the things they needed to do to win back people pissed off by the prequels, and ticked them off one by one.

    But maybe that’ll turn out well – giving us all what we wanted when the prequels came out.

    But it’s worth remembering that Star Wars Trailers are always great. The Phantom Menace trailer was great.