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The Sunday Papers

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A plain white mug of black tea or coffee, next to a broadsheet paper on a table, in black and white. It's the header for Sunday Papers!
Image credit: RPS

Sundays are for trying to get into yoga again, since alongside inheriting Edder’s column, I’ve also somehow inherited his dodgy back. Before trying to track down the warlock Edders no doubt lavished several trinkets and a plump goat upon to gleefully transfer his ailment to me, let’s read this week’s best writing about games (and game related things!)

Over at The White Pube, Gabrielle de la Puente wrote about Pippin Barr’s experimental browser game It is as if you were doing work. De la Puente’s writing is always a treat - part personal essay, part thoughtful analysis - and this one is a pitch perfect voyage into the uneasy appeal of opiatic busywork.

“That is how I know something is wrong with me. The invitation to rest seems to me a bigger interruption than the game itself, a game which is all about interrupting the player to give them more and more tasks. There has to be something wrong with me because I don’t mind that. I also don’t care that the work is leading nowhere beyond made-up promotions. Why did I have to write ‘Amorphous Metals’ into an input field? That’s none of my business. Who am I working for? I told you, I don’t care. My mind is so at ease. With no problems to solve, and no need for the imagination my actual job requires, Pippin Barr has taken away all the pressure. I click Enact, click Reload, click Action, click Save, click Okay, click Go, click Button, and it is like I am sucking on the thumb of all of my fears. Easy wins, busywork. It’s an elaborate fidget toy: Click Button.”

It’s also a bit of a polemic against profit-driven AI adoption and its disastrous consequences on those who make their living in affected fields, something Pippin Barr spoke about in 2017. Not that we’re ever too far away from yet more evidence of this, but this infuriating and sad piece from gaming site Retro Dodo on how Google Is killing them and other independent sites is a sobering look at the specifics.

“These goliath websites can bend the rules and get away with things that smaller websites are punished for. For example, we have spent years of testing handheld devices for our “best retro handhelds” article; you can see we have tested every single one…Large media companies, however, can get away with simply not testing the products, adding stock images, adding a bit of text, and directing you to their affiliate links… And to rub salt into the wound, it was discovered that Google is paying some media companies “five figures” to use their AI to automatically scrape content from other publishers’ work (who have paid expert humans to produce) and publish it as news twice a day on their websites. Even though excessive use of AI is against their guidelines for the rest of their creators.”

For something much lighter, Andy Brown over at NME wrote about how the secret to Dragon's Dogma 2’s brilliance is just how much yeeting it allows for. The more yeet, the more complete, I always say.

“Perhaps the seemingly-innocuous feature is such a hit because it’s a throwback to magical times. When you’re young, games seem to adhere to your imagination. Possibilities appear endless, and you’re blissfully ignorant of things like engine limitations or scripted events. But as you grow older and more familiar with how everything works, reality creeps in. You stop playing in ways that should work, because you don’t believe your creativity can be catered to.”

As someone who’s unsuccessfully tried to describe just what makes immersive sim-like systems so special, Brown’s “playing in ways that should work” delights me with its bang-on pithiness.

If you fancy spending your Sunday with further, further reading about games, Konstantinos Dimopoulos recently updated his Game Urbanism Bibliography. I’ve read precisely one of the books on the list, being Geoff Manaugh’s Burglar’s Guide to The City. It’s a banger though, especially if you’re a fan of Thief or Hitman. Christian Donlan wrote a great semi-related piece on lockpicking over at Eurogamer a good while back.

Music this week is Bad Time by melodic post-punk vets Alkaline Trio. I used to be obsessed with these guys, then they went off my radar for years, then Matt Skiba pissed around with Blink for a bit, and now they’re back with the best stuff they’ve made for yonks, which is very exciting. Thanks, Tom DeLonge, and thank you, readers. Have a great weekend!

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