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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for decamping to London for board game fun. Here’s the best writing about videogames from the past week.

Kotaku’s Cecilia D’Anastasio chronicled the impact of Gamestop, strip malls and early social media on her teenage self. It’s an open, disarming examination of everything that seems important in those tumultuous years, and how we’re all shaped by the machinations of massive industries. There’s also a very good anecdote involving Red Bull cans and some cops.

Easily entering and exiting a social situation is one thing an adult might forget they’d ever practiced as a child. I would have forgotten had I not been practicing it elsewhere, diligently and intentionally. A year ago, I had picked the online role-playing game Final Fantasy XI from GameStop at the recommendation of my brother’s best friend. At first, it was tricky to halt my avatar’s running animation a socially acceptable distance from whomever she was meeting, not too far or too close. I discovered how to ease her run into a steady, purposeful walk before halting. Depending on the situation, I’d use the bowing, waving or blowing-a-kiss emotes mapped onto my user interface. These I grafted onto macro buttons on the bottom of my screen, sometimes in elaborate patterns expressing elaborate feelings from a small, anime cat girl.

Here’s Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett on why sports games should treat lower tier players better. A counter-point would be that the greater the disadvantage faced by an underwhelming team, the more satisfying it feels to win with them. Realism, shmealism. But I’m no ballsman.

“The differences between very good and great players at the professional level are a lot slimmer — absolute freak outliers like Messi and Ronaldo excepted — than FIFA’s gulf in statistical values would have you believe. We’re talking groups of footballers who are all in the 99th percentile among humanity for their skills at the game, where the best and the merely excellent are separated only at the margins (a clinical finish here, a defter touch there), but sports games are putting 10 and even 20-percentage points between them, and the results just don’t reflect the game.”

For VG247, Mike Drucker wrote about the joys and lack thereof in playing multiplayer games by yourself.

Sure, being a lonely person is hard for a few reasons. Namely the obvious loneliness in which you stare into the abyss of your own existence and realize that your erasure from the world would only be an inconvenience to those you assume love you. But secondly, it’s the multiplayer games thing.

I mean, do you know how much I envy all of you? I read an article on Kotaku where someone said they met their best friends – fucking plural! – while playing video games! You know when someone does a magic trick in front of a dog and the dog just looks confused? That’s how that makes me feel. Just absolutely baffled.

I was sad to see Cameron Kunzelman wind up his Postscript column for Vice/Waypoint this week. Each entry almost invariably got my own thoughts jogging, as evinced by how often I wound up sharing them here. This last (regular) one is about ending a column about endings.

Yet constantly focusing on the negative (the down beat; the good thing that never comes; the dead piled up) takes a strange toll. Maybe the reason that we have so much game boosterism and focus on the present is that looking at the shape of things, and how we got here, completely sucks on an emotional level. Many of our most popular games are designed to extract as much time, money, and emotion out of a player as possible. They’re meant to eat you up, and when that happens in a “good” way with, say, Games Done Quick, we praise it. When it ends in a death spiral of garbage rewards and gatekeeping and strung-out unrewarding time sinks, we mourn it what could have been.

Right, that’s enough of that. I know I often indulge myself here and tend to kick videogames out the window near the bottom of the Papers anyway, but this time I’m drawing attention to it. In honour of Friday’s climate strike, here are some arguments about addressing climate breakdown that you might not have considered.

George Monbiot is one of the clearest and most eloquent voices I’ve heard in climate activism. His latest piece for the Guardian argues that capping the wealth of individuals is a necessary step in preventing the environmental damage that rampant spending invariably causes. What he doesn’t stress here is that deciding what counts as enough isn’t just vital for our planet’s safety, it’s integral to personal happiness.

A series of research papers shows that income is by far the most important determinant of environmental impact. It doesn’t matter how green you think you are; if you have surplus money, you spend it. The only form of consumption that’s clearly and positively correlated with good environmental intentions is diet: people who see themselves as green tend to eat less meat and more organic vegetables. But attitudes have little bearing on the amount of transport fuel, home energy and other materials you consume. Money conquers all.

Also for the Guardian, and on a similar theme, here’s MP Caroline Lucas explaining why her Green New Deal is the transformative programme Britain needs.

So how will our bill help this? First, we need to fundamentally change the way our economy is managed, so that democratically elected governments – not the whims of the market – set our future direction. Freed from false economic constraints that benefit only the wealthy, public investment can go directly into productive activity that will, in turn, generate tax revenue. Our pensions and savings can also be redirected into new green bonds, generating a safe return and the investment needed.

It also means moving away from the pursuit of growth as the primary economic objective. Instead, we should prioritise health and wellbeing, reducing inequality and – crucially – tackling the climate emergency.

Millions joined the global protest two days ago. Individual adjustments play a vital role, but the climate will keep changing for as long as our economic system remains the same.

Music this week is, again I think, Fishing For Fishies by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

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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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