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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for apologising about the recent lack of Sunday Papers. Holidays and Rezzed are forces that cannot be defeated.

On The Verge, Laura Hudson argued that Ready Player One is emblematic (and part) of the problems that have lead to the "cyber dystopia" we currently inhabit. There were points in this where I made an involuntary "huh" noise as Hudson joined dots that I hadn't quite connected before, creating a powerful challenge against privilege, careless nostalgia and the inherent value of connecting people to each other.

As many of the modern internet’s architects are declaring the internet broken, offering mea culpas, apologizing for their short-sightedness and irresponsibility, and getting called into Senate hearings, the book is a document worth reexamining in 2018; not because this novel-length blind spot has anything to say about where we are today, but because the ignorance and misguided optimism embedded in its pages is precisely how we got here. It is instructive now, as a road map for how we arrived at our present cyber-dystopia, and the dangers of building a world for “everyone” on the concerns and fantasies of the few.

Austin Walker's piece on Waypoint about the value of designing your own character is especially interesting to me because he has the exact opposite of my own approach. I tend to just click through to the haircut that most closely resembles my own and crack on with the *actual* game.

For me, all of this is a game inside of a game, a little aperitif that gets me to buy in to the game’s world (and sometimes I get more enjoyment out of building my character than the main course). So long as I can find decent setting guide, fan wiki, or lore video that offers some introductory insight (but which doesn’t go into excruciating detail), I can easily spend hours reviewing the various factions, major characters, and historical moments of a given game world. All before reaching the tutorial.

Also on Waypoint, Kelsey Atherton and Ian Boudreau's in-depth look into the history of gun customisation in both games and real life feels like an important read. I'm still not strictly against deliberately designing and customising in-game weapons to look cool, but that's a view I welcome being put under a microscope.

Both weapons manufacturers and game publishers have clearly identified the gun as a sort of canvas for self-expression for both gun owners and players. In competitive games like Counter-Strike, a player’s personally tricked-out weapons have potentially high visibility: as players are knocked out during a round, their point of view often shifts to that of a player still up, with all eyes eventually on the last one standing. Having a rare or costly skin equipped during these high-pressure moments can make it feel like you’re more memorable, more competent, more elite. And as Riot Games product manager Adriaan Noordzij put it, “vanity doesn’t really have a price ceiling.”

At Eurogamer, Emily Gera looked into the dark frustrating pleasures of tedium games. It revolves around an interview with the creator of Universal Paperclips, who's surprisingly reluctant to pick a side in the AI safety debate. The article turns elsewhere, but I can't resist highlighting a point that gets overlooked: there only needs to be a tiny chance of an existential catastrophe occurring for it to make sense that we do everything in our power to prevent it.

Lantz's excursion into paperclips isn't so much a treatise into AI ethics. Instead, Lantz offers an even darker subplot for Bostrom's dystopia: If Universal Paperclips is any indication humanity isn't just going to be outsmarted by a superintelligent AI, it's going to be a willing participant in its annihilation.

On Gamasutra, Richard Moss interviewed game devs about content that shouldn't have been cut. Moss uncovers some interesting stuff about specific games that dropped ideas which I'd have loved to see, and takes a fairly comprehensive look at how and why those decisions get made.

Pivots can and sometimes do succeed, with final games that have a clear identity and cohesive design, but more often developers find that the legacy decisions of old come back to haunt them. Kelly concludes: "I think lots of developers who spend a few years on a pivot ask themselves, 'What if we had just cut the things that didn't work, doubled-down on the core loop, and got it out the door rather than spending another year (and lots of money) trying to reconfigure this into the new design that is also unproven?'"

Liz Edwards has been painting Fallout 4 from inside the game using VR.

The GDC vault is a treasure trove of interesting ideas and perspectives from inside the games industry. First up is the #1reasontobe panel, which invited people from countries around the world to share their reasons for being in the industry. Rami Ismail opens the panel by talking about the numerous speakers he contacted that couldn't secure a US visa, and it's worth watching just to have the stringent requirements for acquiring one laid out in one place.

A Mortician's Tale creator Gabby DaRienzo spoke about ways to explore death in games.

Dream Daddy dev Tyler Hutchison spoke about the specific design choices geared towards inclusiveness in Dream Daddy, and how other games might replicate them.

Blooming loads of game designers spoke about what they want from the future of AI.

Paul Dean lead a panel that spoke about the app-infused future of board games.

Tom Francis spoke about how he could have done a better job of avoiding lengthy problems with the development of Heat Signature.

Many more people spoke about many more things!

I can't think of a good excuse to put this frog in front of you but here it is anyway.

Music this week is Just Jammin' by Gramatik. That song once came on in a restaurant where I happened to be sitting with fellow RPS staffers, and I remain proud of resisting the urge to shout about it despite kind of ruining that by typing this sentence.

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