Sundays are for debating what sort of superpower you'd like, and settling on an improved version of Midas' Touch where instead of turning things to gold, you stop food from going off. Let's read this week's best writing about video games while they're still in date.
For Polygon, Charlie Hall wrote about Elite Dangerous players being scammed, trapped in space, and forced to work. Space is scary.
Once docked on board with their custom-built mining rigs, recruits were ferried 800 light-years from the heart of the Milky Way and left to rot. Their only gameplay options? Mine Void Opals and sell them back to the carrier that brought them in for roughly one sixth of their fair market price or self destruct.
For Input, Chan Khee Hoon wrote about cyberpunk and how if it's going to survive, it needs to drop the racism. A great look at the genre's murky history of orientalism and xenophobia, but also how indie devs are making cyberpunk games with vastly improved representation.
But the rampant use of this Asian iconography, which implied xenophobic fears of Japanese dominance in the genre’s earliest days, never abated in modern cyberpunk. Signboards that are emblazoned with Asian letterings, or the sheer prevalence of Japanese artifacts, such as the katana, the samurai armor, and the Kabuto helmet, are still abundant, and are a shorthand for exoticism. The largely Western audience can instinctively recognize this imagery as otherworldly and intriguing, yet as an unwanted intrusion of Asia’s burgeoning influence. Even in a world rife with the paraphernalia of Asian culture, these cities are devoid of its very provenance: Asian people like me. Aside from cyberpunk titles made by Japanese creators, I hardly ever see myself represented in most cyberpunk stories.
Over at Protocol, Janko Roettgers wrote about the history of media player VLC. It really does show how the desire to play Duke Nukem 3D can birth something truly special.
In addition to all of this, Videolan also has plans to celebrate its twentieth birthday this year, starting with a literal moonshot: The team wants to put a video time capsule aboard the first commercial lunar spaceflight later this year, and is currently asking VLC users to submit their own videos. "There are a lot of people in the VideoLAN community who actually love space," Kempf said. "We have SpaceX fans, die-hard fanboys."
Now for two big names you'll be familiar with around these parts. Brendan was joined by special co-host Matt Cox (!) on the latest episode of Brendy's podcast Hey Lesson!. They chatted to a boardgame historian to try and answer the question, "who invented Chess?". What a treat.
It was not Dr Albert Chess, we regret to inform you. We’ll probably never know the precise origin of this ancient game of strategy and funny horses. But we can try to find out! And that starts with asking a board game historian for some background on the noble game. Where did it come from? Was it always so stuffy? Did chess ever face competition from other ancient board games? We ask Ulrich Schädler of the Swiss Museum of Games to bring us up to speed on a multiplayer battle arena that hasn’t been patched since the 15th century.
Music this week is Somewhere In The Woods from the game A Short Hike. A very pleasant tune for your eardrums.
The other day I listened to the sound of an 18,000 year old conch and I feel like I've been cursed? Ever since, I feel like the number of times I've received a static electric shot has risen significantly when touching metal door handles. I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact I may need to permanently wear one of those anti-static wristbands that PC builders use.
I also discovered this montage of Bob Mortimer playing Alistair the Estate Agent from the comedy series Monkey Trousers. Gave me a proper laugh.
Alright, that's me. Hope you're having a great weekend all.