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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for hanging out in a field playing board games. Or for reading the best writing about videogames – although not much grabbed me on that front this week.

Here, have something about radically political board games instead. Did you know the suffragettes made a board game about feminism and police violence? Regardless, Renee Shelby’s piece for ROMchip is worth checking out. The game involves a blend of politics, territory control and hostage negotiation. I’m sad that apparently only one copy still exists.

For all of the archival accounts and contemporary representations of the movement, histories on the WSPU tend to overlook a remarkable yet wholly ordinary object they created—a board game. Suffragetto (ca. 1907–8) is a contest of strategy, invasion, and violence between suffragettes and police—with each side aiming to advance six game pieces into the opposing side’s home base while defending its own political home from infiltration (fig. 1).

Here’s Eurogamer’s Christian Donlan raving about a game he describes as “Fortnite with crabs“. It is good to see a nice man get excited about crabs.

It’s so simple, too. You take a crab and scuttle about the place, eating everything smaller than you, running from everything bigger. This is pretty much the algorithm for crabs, I gather. This is pretty much what goes on in their heads. The more you eat, the bigger you get. Eventually – I have never reached this point – you must be crowned king of the crabs. What a moment that will be! I wonder if crabs urinate through their faces too. I should really look some of this up.

I missed this back in May. Over on the “We Make Money Not Art” blog, Regine interviewed a filmmaker who’s designing an exhibition that lets you experience Cotard’s syndrome, a bizarre neurological disorder that makes you believe you don’t exist. I doubt anyone could truly recreate the experience without fiddling directly with my neurons, but I’d love to see them try. Kind of.

Marleine van der Werf, a filmmaker and visual artist whose work explores ideas about reality and the perception of reality, is currently researching how she could use immersive cinema to visualise this type (dis)embodiment.

The Living Dead will be an ‘out-of-body experience’, a multi-sensory installation that allows you to feel what it is like to have Cotard’s syndrome. Using wearables, sound, smell and virtual reality, the experience is inspired by the true stories of people who suffer from the Cotard syndrome.

Sound the “Guardian Long Read” alarm, because the latest by David Epstein is both good and largely about sports. It’s a deep dive into practice, and the various approaches famous sportsfolk take to it. The broader takeaway is a familiar one about specialisation not being great, but I always like seeing that kind of claim backed up with research.

Elite athletes at the peak of their abilities do spend more time on deliberate practice than their near-elite peers. But scientists have found that, at a younger age, those who go on to become elite athletes typically devote less time to deliberate practice in the activity in which they will eventually become experts. Instead, they undergo what researchers call a “sampling period”. They play a variety of sports, usually in an unstructured or lightly structured environment; they gain a range of physical proficiencies from which they can draw; they learn about their own abilities and proclivities; and only later do they focus in on one area. The title of one study of athletes in individual sports proclaimed “late specialisation” as “the key to success”; another was titled Making It to the Top in Team Sports: Start Later, Intensify, and Be Determined.

For Aeon, Mathmatician Ian Stewart wrote about social physics, a field that uses maths to predict human behaviour on a large scale. Come for the exciting Asimov comparison, stay for the cool lesson about how bell curves work.

Psychohistory, a fictional method for predicting humanity’s future, takes a hypothetical mathematical technique to extremes, for dramatic effect. But, for less ambitious tasks, we use the basic idea every day; for example, when a supermarket manager estimates how many bags of flour to put on the shelves, or an architect assesses the likely size of a meeting room when designing a building. The character of Seldon was to some extent inspired by Adolphe Quételet, one of the first to apply mathematics to human behaviour. Quételet was born in 1796 in Ghent in the Low Countries, now Belgium. Today’s obsessions with the promises and dangers of ‘big data’ and artificial intelligence are direct descendants of Quételet’s brainchild. He didn’t call it psychohistory, of course. He called it social physics.

Jason Schreier did a quick round up of the best speedruns from Summer Game’s Done Quick. Have a mosey.

Invitca took a look at the emergence of war games, and how sociopolitical shifts impacted their design. S’neat.

Music this week is All About Windmills by the Peatbog Faeries.

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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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