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The Sunday Papers

Education Education Education

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Sundays are for contemplating those who are gone and those who go on.

  • Darkest Dungeon is a brilliant game. Dingy, but brilliant. Austin Walker’s thoughts on the sanity system – and sanity systems in general – might be the best response to Red Hook’s gothic masterpiece so far.
  • It would be easy to fumble an analysis of Darkest Dungeon’s “stress” mechanics. I could pretend that it’s wholly novel, ignoring the history of meters and charts that reflect the mental state of protagonists both digital and analog. Alternatively, I could act like this was just another “sanity meter,” one more simple interpretation of the Lovecraftian trope of “madness.” But Darkest Dungeon’s latticed systems of “stress,” “quirks,” “afflictions,” and treatment go beyond the conventional depiction of “madness.” The result is something critical and frightening.

  • Over at The Guardian, Stuart Dredge spoke to Sid Meier about Starships (causing me to be properly excited about it for the first time) and the educational value of games.
  • “That was the dirty little secret about our games: you actually do learn something,” he says. “Young people enjoy learning, even if they don’t necessarily enjoy being educated. There’s a lot of satisfaction in learning something, and watching your skill increase and coming to understand the map of the Caribbean or how one discovery led to another.”

    “Learning is going to be part of any good video game: it gives you interesting challenges, and you learn by doing, not by being passively taught something. Once you’ve played a game, you’re a little smarter, a little more skilled than when you started.”

  • There’s a reference to Civilization in the classroom in this brief excerpt from New Hampshire Public Radio. Yes. I trawl the depths. I’m not convinced that all of the projects here sound particularly worthwhile but I do like to think how I’d have used games as teaching aids in my previous life as a child-wrangler. Teachers discuss the games they have used in their teaching – there’s a short audio clip as well as the text.
  • “I have a student who is looking at extra-legal violence in the West, and comparing it with how it is portrayed in the game Red Dead Redemption. I have a student who is looking at the causes of death in The Oregon Trail, and comparing that with medial history and the history of the settlement of the west by white people. I have a student who is looking at housing segregation in post-war Los Angeles, and comparing it with the forms of racial segregation you see in the game L.A. Noire. Each student is free to pick one particular game and look at it from a very specific angle and ask a very specific question about it.”

  • Using games to teach people is all well and good, but why aren’t people using games to teach machines? SOME PEOPLE ARE. British artificial intelligence company Google DeepMind has created a program that can beat you at Pong. The deep Q-network mastered around half of the fifty Atari 2600 games it was shown, learning how to play them from scratch rather than being programmed specifically to deal with them, as was Deep Blue with Chess.
  • “The only information we gave the system was the raw pixels on the screen and the idea that it had to get a high score,” Dr Hassabis said. “Everything else it had to figure out by itself.

    “You literally give it a new game, a new screen, and it figures out after a few hours of game play what to do.”

  • The handsome cast of Shut Up & Sit Down discuss betrayal. Pip is involved, as is former RPS Smith-in-Chief Quinns, but I’ve chosen a quote from the ever-intriguing Paul Dean as bait.
  • I have so many stories of betrayal. So many. I’ve been betrayed in One Night Werewolf, in Game of Thrones, even in Dobble (if you didn’t think you could be betrayed in Dobble, you’re not playing with our friend circle). I’m pretty sure Matt is behind most or all of them, even if he wasn’t playing, and if you’ve not seen our playthrough of The Resistance then you must watch it just to see how devious he can be.

    But I want to talk to you about Twilight Imperium and I want to tell you two different stories about it, two different librettos for this space opera.

  • I’ve never played Homeworld and I’m very excited to have a lovely Remastered edition to tuck into later on today. No text to lead you into this next entry – these are the glossy pages of The Sunday Papers, where Dead End Thrills goes into space.
  • Richard Cobbett has been spending time at Gold Saucer, Final Fantasy VII’s bizarre theme park/casino. It’s the latest location to crop up in Final Fantasy XIV, the FF MMO, and Richard takes the opportunity to revisit and reflect.
  • Final Fantasy XIV is one of the most inconsistent MMOs I’ve ever played. That’s probably not a huge surprise. When it launched, it was in such a poor state that Square was left grovelling on its knees to angry fans. The version we have now, A Realm Reborn, isn’t simply a polish, but a comprehensive overall that saw the story literally jump forwards in time to better sweep what came before under the rug and hope people would resubscribe.

  • I’ve been trying to understand the appeal of Dragon Ball all week. The new game, Xenoverse, is sitting at the top of the Steam charts and there’s a whole lot of conversation about unlocking power levels, cursing connection errors and character customisation. But I had to go back to last year’s New York Comic-Con and the memory surge of IGN’s Marty Sliva to find an attempt to separate the nostalgic appeal from the game.

    I adhered to a very strict schedule during the weekday afternoons and evenings of 1999 to 2001. I’d race home from school and lay my roots in my living room right in front of the heaviest CRT television in recorded history. I became one with the light-brown shag carpet that adorned my parent’s house. I’d immediately turn the TV on and switch to channel 48; Cartoon Network, and more specifically, Toonami.

  • Star Trek Online players gathered to pay their respects to Leonard Nimoy when they heard the news of his death. Cryptic Studios plan to add a memorial to Nimoy and Spock on March 5th. I enjoyed this short piece in the New Yorker, which spends some time discussing Star Trek, but looks at Nimoy’s wider influence.
  • Even if he’d wanted to put on airs, of course, it would’ve been hard. He was tethered—chained, in some ways—to “Star Trek.” How good was “Star Trek”? Just consider how much goofiness its excellence had to overcome. Every now and then, I’ll watch a few episodes, as one does. You’re struck, first, by the number of jokes that Spock makes. (He’s his own straight man.) And then by the dissonance between the absurdity of how he looks, in his powder-blue T-shirt and fake ears, and the eloquence of what he says.

  • Sometimes a picture really does outshine an ocean of words.

Music this week is the dark grooves of Autre Ne Veut, beginning here, or a return to Haunted Dancehall, a favourite from Warp Records’ glorious nineties catalogue.

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Adam Smith

former Deputy Editor

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