Sundays are for honing your juggling skills. Here’s the best writing about videogames from the past week.
For Paste, Natalie Flores wrote about how If Found subverts the concept of erasure into an empowering, self-directed practice. This gave me chills, in a good way.
Through embodying her, I notice my old habit of trying to desperately hold onto things not meant to stay. I test what I can get away with; sometimes, I can proceed with the cutscenes by erasing most, but not all of a journal entry or page. Sometimes, I get away with leaving a drawing of her old friend, Colum, his boyfriend Jack, or their bandmate Shans. It’s easy to become attached to the friends who take Kasio in after she runs away from a home in which she is restricted from being who she is. To the people who see her for who she is: a trans woman who yearns to reach the stars and galaxies that provide her solace through their immeasurability and unreachability. To those of us who are often erased and relegated to the margins, the people who see us can come to mean everything.
For Polygon, Mat Ombler spoke to Veneuzelans who rely on gold-farming in Runescape to keep themselves and their families’ from starving. This is dystopian as fuck.
Against this cataclysmic economic and societal backdrop, millions of people have fled the country in search of better lives, with many more desperately trying to find their own means of escape. In November 2019, the number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants reached 3 million. Those who remain in the country have been forced to find innovative ways to survive. While some craft bags out of worthless bolivars — Venezuelan currency — to sell at markets, others look to a virtual land of opportunity, spending hours in front of computer screens and mobile phones hunting green dragons in the online multiplayer role-playing game RuneScape.
For Kotaku, Matt Alt celebrated Pac-Man’s 40th birthday by delving into its history. Apparently the pellets he munches were inspired by Popeye’s predilection for spinach. The more you know.
The first thing Toru Iwatani noticed were the screams.
He had just finished Pac-Man for his employer, Namco, and he had chosen the site for its first test-run, an arcade in the Shibuya neighborhood of Tokyo. Normally, these spaces were the bailiwick of young men—dimly lit, redolent of stale sweat and cigarette smoke. But, as he related in his 2005 memoir Pac-Man’s Method, over the digital cacophony of laser-blasts and explosions rose a new sound: shrieks of excitement from young women, clustered in groups around his creation, fully immersed in munching dots and swerving around ghosts.
For OneZero, medieval historian David M. Perry spoke to Paradox about how they’re making it harder for white supremacists to co-opt Crusader Kings 3.
More broadly in gamer culture, one of the flashpoints focused on the phrase “Deus Vult,” or “God wills it.” According to some medieval sources, the crowd cried “Deus Vult” en masse in 1095 C.E. when Pope Urban II called for what became known as the First Crusade. In Crusader Kings 2, a player can click on the “Deus Vult” option when going on Crusade. As the game became popular, “Deus Vult” then became a widely used meme in internet gaming culture. The anglophone alt-right took it up as a rallying cry, turning what seemed like humorous invocations of premodern interreligious warfare into an actual cry for modern violence against Muslims.
For Vice, Matthew Gault took a look at the “teaming” scandal currently doing the rounds in Apex Legends. High-level players are colluding so they don’t lose their top spots on the leaderboards – and this is far from an Apex-exclusive phenomenon.
Why do this? There are a number of reasons, but it boils down to the fact that these matchmaking systems end up creating and defining an elite class of players, who suddenly discover they have common class interests. If nothing else, having put in all the work to become top-tier players, they dread being kicked out of the club. After all, only 500 players can achieve Apex Legends’ highest ranking. If you’re in that tier, there’s an incentive to collaborate with other top tiered players to keep out the competition and continue playing with people you regard as your peers.
For Ars Technica, Jennifer Ouellette managed to draw me into the loathsomely-technical world of maple syrup production, by telling me about how scientists have made an artificial tongue that can tell if syrup has gone wonky.
Masson and his team designed their artificial “tongue” to react specifically to “buddy” flavor profiles. They used spherical gold nanoparticles stirred into ultra-pure water to create a reagent solution. Several molecules believed to be associated with off flavors in maple syrup also bind to gold surfaces. So if they are present in sufficient concentrations in a maple syrup sample, they will cause the gold nanoparticles to clump together, leading to a stark change in resonance wavelength and a corresponding visible change in color.
For Glitchout, Oma Keeling painted reviews of four small and unsettling games. 3ternity is my favourite.
People Make Games sent Quintin Smith into a fancy Second Life brothel. Watching Quinns squirm is obviously very funny, but this is also an open and enlightening conversation with online sex workers.
A hacker who modded a calculator so it could access the internet has been issued a copyright notice by CASIO. This, this is why we can’t have nice things.
Music this week is China Cat Sunflower/I know You Rider by The Grateful Dead.