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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for remembering that you're an infinitesimal insignificance in a cosmos that doesn't care, and dealing with the resulting angst by reading about videogames.

On Kotaku, Kate Gray wrote about how a screaming eye-cube helped her learn about gender. Never before have I read something that's made me laugh out loud by describing monsters with one sentence, then offered illuminating thoughts on a notoriously slippery subject in the next.

“Asking a cube of eyes and a melting goo-nightmare what they think of when they picture gender is a bit like asking the sun what its favorite cereal is.

I WISH I DID NOT CARE ABOUT GENDER,” screams the eye-cube. “IT IS SO INSIGNIFICANT.” Phil, the melting goo-nightmare, says that their gender is a vacancy sign in a run-down hotel. So far, so cryptic, but perhaps that’s the point.

It wasn’t until I got to Lucy — a sort of bone-demon-goat-thing, cradling maggots in her hand — that Genderwrecked clicked with me.

Strap on your speculation seat belts, because Eurogamer's Chris Tapsell has been trying to figure out where we'll be headed in the Elder Scrolls VI. He's convinced me it's Hammerfell, despite originally thinking it'd be High Rock because of the high rock in the trailer - though now that I come back to that, I'm a bit worried we might be overthinking it. I enjoyed the speculation, but also learning about odd corners of Nirn I didn't know about.

Kavir is the original land of the Blades, who themselves migrated to Tamriel to chase roaming dragons, before swearing loyalty to the first Dragonborn, and so on. According to the in-game book "Mysterious Akavir", it's said to be populated by several races: the Tang Mo, described as "monkey-folk"; the Kamal, described as "primal demons"; the Ka'Po'Tun, or "tiger people"; the Tsaesci, who are apparently "vampire serpent-men"; and finally a few Humans, who may have been wiped out (read: eaten).

Also on Eurogamer, Christian Donlan wrote a riposte (of sorts) to William Gibson's tweet about the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer. Donlan discusses a happy similarity between Cyberpunk's trailer and GTA 5's rather than that tweet, but that's not going to stop me from childishly saying that I didn't really like Neuromancer so nuh nuh, Gibson. Stick that up your generic 80's retro-future pipe and smoke it.

Some of this is telling you about stuff you'll do in the game, sure: you'll drive a cool car, you may get to operate a dog drone or two, and something very bad is going on in the corporate world. But so much more is just telling you about the world itself. It's coherent, too. Again and again - the kid playing VR, the guy on the train or whatever it is wryly enjoying his drink while attendants just across the aisle try to help a man whose brain is apparently on fire - you're being told that this is a future where the only way to get by is to retreat into your own bubble.

Cameron Kunzelman wrote about why he values playing Rayman Legends, while sort of wishing he didn't. I know where he's coming from: I treat Slay the Spire in much the same way, now that I've played it to the point where it's stopped surprising me.

And when I take a step back from that, when I see how I am using this game as a way of shutting the door on the world, on thought, on contemplating what is happening in the world around me, I’m ambivalent. I’m appreciative of the space, the air gap between my heart and the universe afforded by the game, but I’m also overwhelmed by sadness that I have to do it. That I need Rayman, that little pleasant guy, to help me build a world away from the worst of things. That dissolution is preferable to presence.

Pippin Barr is making a UI sex game, and gave a "little tour through the aesthetic history of It is as if you were making love" on Gamasutra. I'll never look at Windows 95 in the same way again, and I'm going to spoil the final line because it's too hard to resist.

There is joy to be found is asking yourself how to best use the Microsoft ‘ding’ in a sexy way…

Eron Rauch is writing a series about the history of photography and how it relates to taking screenshots. His latest entry compares screenshots to early photograms, which I found interesting despite my merely passing interest in photography.

These humble but luminescent photograms from scientists like Atkins and Talbot were amazing to other botanists: it wasn’t a drawing, a translation through someone’s artistic rendering, it was someone saying, ‘Here is an image of this specific real plant, I know its not complete compared to the living thing, but this still represents a real, albeit frozen moment of contact with the things itself, rich with subtle details that we can marvel at.’ Though it might not seem obvious, what we do as screenshot photographers — taking impressions of specific arrangements of pixels on our screens — still has a lot in common with these early, direct photograms.

Steve Gaynor has put up the final episode of Tone Control, where he interviews his long-time friend and colleague Karla Zimonja. He's said on Twitter that he's not planning on recording any more, so savour it.

Last week I inexplicably failed to link to Chris Bratt's first video for People Make Games, so I'll fix that now. It's about the first non-Valve game on Steam, dodgy home-made action flicks and Mark Healey not knowing who Gabe Newell is.

Music this week is this cover of Clint Eastwood by Electronic Swing Orchestra, which is waaay better than the original.

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