Sundays are for continuing to exist. Here’s the best writing about videogames from the past week.
For The Ringer, Ben Lindberg dove into the history of female videogame protagonists, touching on myriad forces that shaped (and still shape) developer decisions about representation. It’s a valuable, well-researched, and impressively thorough piece.
The Valhalla reveal hasn’t provoked a toxic internet tantrum. Yet the fresh memory of the Battlefield backlash, and Ubisoft’s apparent attempt to forestall a similar response, highlights how lopsided the gender makeup of playable characters in violent video games continues to be, and how sensitive a subset of gamers is to increasing inclusiveness in genres that have historically skewed toward male players and protagonists.
For Wired, Andy Greenberg told the unreasonably absorbing story of Marcus Hutchins, “the Hacker Who Saved the Internet“. And then got arrested by the FBI.
The story, after all, was irresistible: Hutchins was the shy geek who had single-handedly slain a monster threatening the entire digital world, all while sitting in front of a keyboard in a bedroom in his parents’ house in remote western England.
Still reeling from the whirlwind of adulation, Hutchins was in no state to dwell on concerns about the FBI, even after he emerged from the mansion a few hours later and once again saw the same black SUV parked across the street.
For Polygon, Astrid never-heard-of-her Johnson analysed Animal Crossing through the lens of Marxism. I promise I would have linked to this even if we weren’t mates and former-colleagues. It is, legitimately, one of the best primers on communism I’ve ever read.
But what about the turnips? At first, while the wave of sociopolitical change washes over the whole world of Animal Crossing, each island branch of the stalk market should be seized by the commune and operated as a means of generating capital to invest in the town, collectively.
But eventually, even this must be abolished if we’re aiming to transition into a classless and moneyless society as well as a stateless one — we can’t allow an apparatus of markets to incentivize wealth gaps. Turnips will have to renounce their status as fictitious capital, and return to their traditional career as food.
To save the proletariat, to abolish the bourgeoisie, we must make the radical decision to eat the turnips.
For AllGamers, Henry Stenhouse interviewed musician Darren Korb. Like everyone else who enjoys videogames, I’m a big fan – so it was neat to read about him being excited to meet Ringo Starr.
A pretty hardcore effort for a Rock Band competition, you might think, but the commitment was worth it as Korb’s band, Rofl Mao, came out on top, winning the entire event. And yes, there is video evidence.
“It was incredible,” said Korb. “We got one of those giant novelty checks and we got to meet Ringo Starr. I had a trophy that’s a framed Rock Band Guitar in a case. That was also the last time that competition happened. So I’m reigning champion forever! Unless they decide to do it again.”
For The Guardian, Rutger Bregman retold the true story of how six Tongan boys spent 15 months marooned on a Pacific island. As I’ve seen several people pointing out, the framing glosses over the way Lord Of The Flies was really more about the awfulness wrapped up in classism and British boarding schools than the human condition. It’s still one of the best stories I’ve ever read, though.
The kids agreed to work in teams of two, drawing up a strict roster for garden, kitchen and guard duty. Sometimes they quarrelled, but whenever that happened they solved it by imposing a time-out. Their days began and ended with song and prayer. Kolo fashioned a makeshift guitar from a piece of driftwood, half a coconut shell and six steel wires salvaged from their wrecked boat – an instrument Peter has kept all these years – and played it to help lift their spirits. And their spirits needed lifting. All summer long it hardly rained, driving the boys frantic with thirst. They tried constructing a raft in order to leave the island, but it fell apart in the crashing surf.
All these illusions and distortions are consequences of the way your brain builds a representation of time. When we examine the problem closely, we find that “time” is not the unitary phenomenon we may have supposed it to be. This can be illustrated with some simple experiments: for example, when a stream of images is shown over and over in succession, an oddball image thrown into the series appears to last for a longer period, although presented for the same physical duration. In the neuroscientific literature, this effect was originally termed a subjective “expansion of time,” but that description begs an important question of time representation: when durations dilate or contract, does time in general slow down or speed up during that moment? If a friend, say, spoke to you during the oddball presentation, would her voice seem lower in pitch, like a slowed- down record?
I’ve decided live recreations of The Office using Slack are not a thing I want in my life, but you might feel differently.
According to New Scientist, Neanderthals may have learned jewellery-making from us. Which is great, but…
Someone made magic rainbow chocolate by harnessing the optical vibrance-enhancing properties of a vacuum chamber. Everyone else go home. (Or stay there.)
Music this week is Pushin’ Through by Christian Sedelmyer.