Sundays are for re-watching the Star Wars trailer. It does not regress me to a nine-year-old, but I do like it when the spaceships go woosh past the other spaceships. If you are full up on woosh, perhaps you'd like the fine collection of words below instead.
- Let's start with two I missed last week. Warp Door interviewed the founder of itch.io, getting more recent details as to how the indie-focused store is growing.
- Secondly, The New Yorker goes long on esports, by way of StarCraft II and one of the few women who play professionally, Scarlett:
- The Guardian writes about board games' "golden age", and celebrates the current surge of creativity and popularity in shared, non-digital game experiences. A good primer for people who think it's all snakes and ladders out there.
- Christian Donlan writes about how Spelunky and XCOM prepared him for dealing with an incurable illness. Writing about such things in relation to games is a tricky business, but Donlan successfully threads the needle as always.
- Is everything good about Minecraft gone? Spoiler: no. But this Forbes piece does a savvy job of both explaining the virtues of Minecraft and explaining the ways it has been changed by its surrounding industry:
- As a Brit, I found this article about Detroit's history, collapse and regeneration attempts interesting. I am not sure why some of the paragraphs are about World of Warcraft, but you might find similar sources of value within:
- Wasim Salman, who recently wrote for us about his personal experiences with the mech genre, also writes regularly on his own blog. This piece on vice in games - from porn to gambling, Beirut to Vegas - evokes a cyberpunk atmosphere in its vignettes.
- Joe Donnelly writes at the New Statesmen about about an American university course using Skyrim to teach lessons about the empire's own decline.
- I enjoyed this short article by William Gisbon about how he wrote his first book, Neuromancer.
- Radio ISS tracks the position of the International Space Station as it orbits the globe and plays short snippets from whichever radio stations it's currently near.
How much have you made from running itch.io?
I've made no money, I've spent about 8500 dollars on it so far. (Actually I've probably made around 50 dollars, when I had transaction fees enabled for the first few months of operation.)
I confess to being bewildered, still, by what is often said to be the greatest game of StarCraft II ever played. Fall, 2013. New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom. Scarlett vs. Bomber. Third game in a best-of-three series, a quarter-final in a tournament sponsored by Red Bull. It lasted about forty minutes, although I gathered, from the live commentary on the video that I have watched many times, that it nearly ended far sooner. A couple of minutes in, there came this exchange:
“Uh-oh. Oh, my God! Scarlett is going gas!”
“Gas pool! And it’s a double proxy. Bomber is walking into the worst possible situation.”
“In the past there have been big differences between European and American approaches to making games,” he says. “American games would typically have players engage with one another through aggression. European games tended to use more indirect conflict – so rather than just fighting one another, we might be competing for the same pool of resources, or trying to accomplish the same goal most effectively.”
There are moments where the clockwork skips, though, and these are, again, the very moments where the game explodes into pure glory. Sure, you can surround an enemy with your best troops, you can be clever with cover, and you can send your guys into battle with the sweetest reverse-engineered alien tech. But each shot that gets fired is still down to a dice roll. Ultimately, all of your deadliest toys are just beads rattling around on a necklace, and luck is the thread that passes through their hearts.
For example, Sky Does Minecraft not only appeared in a Lady Gaga music video, he also has more than 10 million subscribers and more than 2 billion views. SSundee is another popular Minecraft YouTuber that has more than 3 Million subscribers and more than 600 million views. These are celebrities in the nine year old imagination, like movie stars or sports heroes who have so much influence on our children’s thinking that it’s almost unimaginable. And that’s okay with me. If it is not them, it will be someone else. My job as a parent is to give them the skills they need to think critically and ethically about the voices they interact with, not to control the world in which they live.
The Motor City has spent the better part of the last fifty years attempting to reinvent itself. In 1967, over the course of five bloody days of rioting, the city’s longstanding economic and racial tensions came to the fore. The Army and National Guard fought in Detroit’s streets. 42 people died, 1,189 injuries were reported, and more than 7,200 arrests were made. At least 2,000 buildings were destroyed. Shortly after the riots died down, Detroit mayor Jerome Cavanagh visited their epicenter and observed, “Today we stand amidst the ashes of our hopes.” Thenceforth, construction gave way to reconstruction.
We were in a basement somewhere in Beirut. We were shooting pool.
Mid-90’s summer and there was no air conditioning. Slow fans and fluorescent lights.
The walls were covered in cracks and ripped up, yellowed flyers with pictures of dead men.
I become bored, I look around for something else to do.
A row of arcade cabinets in the distant corner. I put my cue down. I walk over.
Aimed predominantly at students interested in psychology, politics, and history - and perhaps crucially those with little video game experience - Professor Ellard explores why America has a tendency to fantasise towards a historical period inconsistent with its own, and how Skyrim’s Tolkien-esque themes and setting can help students to understand America’s place on the world stage against a tide of ever-receding imperialism. In doing so she attempts to portray how video games can and should be considered valid academic platforms.
On the basis of a few more Omni sales, I was approached by the late Terry Carr, an established SF anthologist. Terry had, once previously, commissioned a limited series of first novels for Ace Books – his Ace SF Specials. Now he was doing it again, and would I care to write one? Of course, I said, in that moment utterly and indescribably terrified, something I remained for the next 18 months or so, when, well out of my one-year contract, I turned in the manuscript.
Music this week is this album of chiptunes.