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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for this! I’m going to be running around the National Maritime Museum solving puzzles and pretending to be a pirate. I guess you’re stuck reading the best writing about videogames from the past week.

For Vice, Patrick Klepek dug into a weird chance-based Super Mario Maker level that thousands of people are interested in, for reasons that are beyond both me and the level’s creator. I’m a big fan of stories where people become passionate about bizarrely pointless stuff. Especially when they’re told by Klepek.

For more than 12 hours now, my Wii U has been silently running underneath my desk. I’m not holding the controller, or taking note of what’s happening, but my Wii U is currently vying for a lottery ticket buried in Super Mario Maker, with a one in 7.5 million chance of it appearing. My reward? Beating a level that never requires the player to touch a button and yet, as of now, it’s been attempted more than 2.6 million times – and no one’s made it to the end.

Also for Vice, Dante Douglas laid out why Blizzard should stop making cop skins for their Overwatch heroes. I’ve seen a certain major news website lay into this piece using an embarrassingly naff argument about how Overwatch was once technically a police force. Of course the American police force do good work too, but I don’t understand how anyone can feel comfortable celebrating an institution that harbours racists and lets them get away with murdering innocent people.

Blizzard is an American studio. If you haven’t been following American politics, these past few years have been a time of reckoning with the ongoing militarization of police forces throughout the country and the way that communities of color bear the brunt of this violence. According to website Mapping Police Violence, which tracks police violence by time, location, and available data, 1164 people were killed by police in 2018, following 1147 police killings in 2017. About one percent of those killings led to a police officer being convicted of a crime, even while reports argue that the vast majority of these killings could have been de-escalated by properly trained officers. The average time spent on de-escalation tactics by police recruits, however, is only about a seventh as much time spent on firearms training.

Twitter, the worst videogame in existence, is finally looking into what it should do about all its fascists. Consulting experts about how to best tackle hate speech is great, but not if you’ve NDA’d those experts and probably won’t say anything unless their research justifies your abhorrent existing policy of not banning prominent white supremacists. Jason Koebler and Joseph Cox don’t quite say that in their Motherboard article, but it’s still a good overview.

When Motherboard described Twitter’s plans on the phone, two of the academics laughed before responding.

“That’s wild,” Becca Lewis, who researches networks of far right influencers on social media for the nonprofit Data & Society, said. “It has a ring of being too little too late in terms of launching into research projects right now. People have been raising the alarm about this for literally years now.”

“I mean, these quotes are a disaster, I’m going to be honest,” Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, a progressive group that studies conservative disinformation, said. “The idea that they are looking at this matter seriously now as opposed to the past indicates the callousness with which they’ve approached this issue on their platform.”

Jason Schreier did more stirling work for Kotaku, thoroughly detailing an alleged sexual assault from a former top Rockstar executive that allegedly occurred in 2014. The rot may be five years older now, and that particular executive has left. But this still demonstrates how deeply that rot must have gone, and – in the context of Schrier’s interviews with current employees – how unlikely it is that Rockstar’s culture has significantly changed.

Barrera, one of Rockstar’s top executives, had a reputation for screaming at people, and there were rumors that he had shouted at staff who’d rubbed him the wrong way, telling them they were fired.

So Bundschu wasn’t sure what to do when, at a work gathering shortly after he started, he says Barrera groped him, asked Bundschu to sit on his lap, and rubbed his inner thigh area. These allegations about events from 2014 are being made public for the first time today, but in the days after the incident allegedly happened, Bundschu filed a report to Rockstar’s human resources department and told at least four other people. After an HR investigation that involved speaking to Barrera and others present, and following a dispute over whether Barrera had denied the accusation or told Rockstar he didn’t remember, the company ultimately found Bundschu’s account to be unsubstantiated. A few months after that, Bundschu left Rockstar, and eventually, he exited the video game industry.

Also on Kotaku, Heather Alexandra gave us a peek into her Discord server, which has been taken over by a robot. I actually haven’t read most of this because it sounds like a lark and I’m hoping my friend who’s in charge of our discord server can be persuaded to discreetly add it. (I also hope none of you lot are reading this.)

Smilebot is the brain-child of Vancouver-based designer James Lantz and is marketed as an “antidepressant for your Discord community.” On the surface, it’s a silly bot where you can collect smiles and gamble with them. Ask and it might guess your mood or make a little dab emoji. It’s actually a game in disguise. If you’re into bizarre, ARG-esque competitions then I suggest tossing it into your Discord and keeping away from spoilers. Otherwise, read on.

Over at Eurogamer, Hazel Southwell convinced me that Viva Piñata is an ode to the injustice and greed baked into the festering heart of our society. She also made me laugh a lot.

You start off in the game by inheriting some land – which is sort of treated as a nothing and as if this is a fair starting point but, let’s be real, this is some bougie startup stuff. You then get given your primary weapon and the game’s true dark heart: a ruddy great spade.

Of course, nominally, this is for digging nice little holes to put lovely flower seeds in to help them grow. Bullshit. The very first thing you do with it is beat your frustration at never having lived up to your parents’ expectations out on the dirt of your garden, which strangely renders you coins – a pattern that will continue.

I enjoyed this tale of failed chicken-based generosity from Frank Shyong in the New York Times. He bought some chicken from a famous LA Chinatown shop with a 2 hour wait and brought it to local seniors, who gave much less of a shit than he expected. Then he spoke to an economist about gentrification.

“It tastes OK, if you take the skin off,” says Mei Wong, 67, scraping the skin off her wing with a napkin.

“It’s too hot,” Fei says. She was referring not to the spice level of the chicken but the “warm” nature of fried foods as defined by Chinese medicine, which categorizes food into three thermal natures that must be kept in balance. They begin a somber conversation about the dangers of yeet hay, which Cheung explains to me is a Cantonese term literally translating to “hot air” that describes what happens when you eat too much food with warm natures — namely, fried and spicy food.

With growing embarrassment, I realize that for all my good intentions, what I’ve done is bring a group of health-conscious seniors some pretty unhealthy, spicy food that they can’t afford.

In a weird and valuable crossing of streams, Ash Sarkar interviewed Contrapoints about “subverting the aesthetics of the alt-right, TERFs and how The Picture of Dorian Gray is actually secretly all about syphilis.” It’s fab.

So is the new episode of Cool Ghosts, obviously.

Music this week is Far From Portland by Lau.

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Matt Cox

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Matt is the founding member of RPS's youth contingent. He's played more games of Dota than you've had hot dinners.

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