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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for lazing about on your patio, reading sci-fi nonsense. Reading the best writing about videogames from the past week is also acceptable.

Mat Westhorpe’s piece for the Guardian is beautiful. It’s about his nephew, and the Elite Dangerous players and developers that came together to support him during the final days of the 15-year-old’s terminal illness. I don’t know what else to say.

In Michael’s last week of life, thanks to the Elite Dangerous player community, a whole network of new friends sprang up in our darkest hour and made things more bearable with a magnificent display of empathy, kindness and creativity. I know it was Michael’s wish to celebrate the generosity he was shown, so I’ve written this account of how Frontier and friends made the intolerable last days of a 15-year-old boy infinitely better.

I’m still not sure exactly what these three boffins called Herrick, Biderman and Churchill have accomplished, but it definitely seems impressive. They’ve built a Turing machine out of Magic The Gathering – as in, from an “actual” game of it, rather than extracting values from the cards and doing something weird to them. Jennifer Ouellette has the skinny over on Ars Technica.

Consider this hypothetical scenario: Bob and Alice are playing a game of Magic: The Gathering. It’s normal game play at first, as, say, Filigree robots from Kaladesh face off against werewolves and vampires from Innistrad. But then Alice draws just the right card from her customized deck, and suddenly Bob finds himself caught in the equivalent of a Turing machine, the famed abstract device that can simulate any computer algorithm. Thanks to the peculiarities of the rules of Magic, Bob can now only finish the game when he meets whatever condition Alice has programmed her in-game algorithm to accomplish—for example, to find a pair of twin primes greater than one million.

For Fanbyte, A.K. Pradhan wrote a love letter to Nathan Drake. It’s also a farewell letter, and very funny.

I realize now that I had one of my earliest crushes when I was around ten or eleven years old, and it was way more confusing than the “crushes” I had on horrified girls in my middle school. I can’t say I’m completely over it either, even though many would not even call it a “real” crush. I also hesitate to follow in the footsteps of a stereotyped games writing tradition, but it affected me a little too much for me to stay quiet.

That is, I’m pretty sure you made me gay.

Over on Eurogamer, Natalie Flores wrote about key moments from games that step outside the disconcertingly broad fetishisation of queer women in media.

In the media, women are rarely allowed to mess up and be humorous – especially at the same time – and romances for queer people have often been wrapped in mystique, tragedy, and melodrama. As we near the end of Pride month, I find myself fondly remembering Undertale, Night in the Woods, and Butterfly Soup for each having a scene in which queer women actualize their feelings, or reminisce on a time they attempted to do so, and fail spectacularly or embarrass themselves. In an industry that most often represents straight men, it’s not only refreshing, but also vital for queer women to have stories that humanize us through concepts like comedy and authenticity that are often made to feel inaccessible.

This week, Skeleton asked: WHY DO I GOTTA KEEP BUYIN SHIT!. That’s more telling than asking, I guess, but either way it resonates.

I call it the Great Fear of Not Participating. It’s different from Fear of Missing Out. I’m not afraid I’m going to miss out on anything. I know that playing Halo 5 or The Witcher III or Skyrim or, or, or, isn’t going to enrich my life at all. I’m afraid that when the ugly spectre of conversation rears its head, I wont have anything to talk about that the people I surround myself with will.

Polygon’s Colin Campbell interviewed Anita Sarkeesian, covering everything from why Feminist Frequency is winding down to the upbringing that led her to start it. I haven’t made it all the way through yet, but my main takeaway so far concerns just how successful the project was. The prevalence of online hate campaigns makes that far too easy to forget.

Successful games like Horizon Zero Dawn, starring a young woman and released post-Feminist Frequency, demonstrate the folly of prior game industry dogma, that white, male protagonists were the only way to go. “Without a doubt, the work that we did with Tropes and that cultural conversation that we opened, directly led to these opportunities,” she says. “It’s mind-blowing because nobody is getting mad that games like Horizon Zero Dawn are being made. No one important is getting mad because Lara Croft has smaller boobs all of a sudden.”

I haven’t linked to People Make Games in a while, both because I’m silly and because I keep winding up in the same pub as Chris and Annie so featuring their work here feels weird. Their latest video, though, is a thoroughly informative and useful look at the 134 French employees Blizzard are trying to fire, and why the country’s labour laws offer them some protection. I’d feel weirder not sharing it, as it’s a great illustration of exactly how unions (at least when backed up by a fair legal system) can do good.

Music this week is Sunday’s Melody by Alan Gogoll.

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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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