Archive for Linksplosions

This week’s quicknotes: Feminist Frequency, horror movies, and toys for tots

Violence Sexism Fun!!!

What horror movies and video games share in common

Late last night I tried my hand at posting to Medium for the first time. It was something I was originally going to post here but, you know, it ended up over there instead, so whatever. The blarticle at Medium is called “On Consuming Media Responsibly,” and it’s all about my love of violent, misogynistic horror movies. I’m a student of the form, I get overexcited when a movie tries anything new, and I also enjoy movies that suck and do everything wrong. (The greatest insult, I always warn, is just being boring, and even then I don’t mind being bored when a movie is otherwise doing good work.)

I bring up my horror movie fetish because Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian is currently in the throes of the usual gamer backlash, which is really alarming, because she isn’t asking anyone to give anything up. No one is saying “video games are bad, burn them”; Sarkeesian is simply focusing a critical or analytical lens on video games, in a way that is surprisingly nonconfrontational and not even particularly judgemental. Well. All my thoughts are actually already in the Medium link, so check it out.

Medium as a medium

I really like what Medium and Zeen are both trying to do—but I have to wonder whether content creators and distributors are on the cusp of getting all pinboarded and Tumblr’d out. These are platforms that kind of get their content for free, to which I’m opposed, but they also “curate” what becomes visible, so a newcomer has a much better shot at being read. This isn’t a new publishing model, no, but it does work.

What’s most interesting about Medium, though, is you can invite other collaborators to make edits before publishing, and then once it’s published readers can comment in the margins. A lot of this ends up being minor recommendations and tweaks, so the work kind of turns into this living document. Which is weird—an article might look completely different if you decide to read it a day later—but as a result people have been really responsive even in other channels, especially on Twitter.

Toys for tots

When I read articles like “How Video Game Developers Are Abandoning the Traditional Controller to Create Immersive Experiences,” I just picture Elijah Wood in a colander:

“You mean you have to use your hands??” “That’s like a baby’s toy!!!”

Ugh, kids these days.

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Linksplosion: T-shirts, ‘Hefty Seamstress’, and more

Screenshot: "I'm no genius": Heavy Seamstress in action

I’d promised to write something, anything!, for Artifice Books, but its editor Tadd was not too sure about my very first pitch, a catalogue of movie clips in which women get punched in the face.

So I scrapped that plan, and instead I have written on the subject of George Buckenham and Jonathan Whiting’s Hefty Seamstress. I recommend playing the game, too (it’s over here).

A screenshot from 'The Sea will Claim Everything'

I got a really nice, personalized press email from “Gnome”—his real name is Konstantinos Dimopoulos, I’ve just learned!—and he is campaigning hard for the Bundle-in-a-Box Adventure Games bundle. As with many other bundles, this collection is pay-what-you-like; not only are seven games included, a copy of the well-received Ben There, Dan That! is in the mix. Why, yes, the games are DRM-free, since you were wondering. In the meantime, the Bundle-in-a-Box heralds the launch of The Sea Will Claim Everything. All this can be yours for just hundreds of pennies! PC adventure gamers, you can’t beat that!

How They Died by Aled Lewis

Aled Lewis’s “How They Died” is now available as a T-shirt.

Photo: New Buff Monster minis look a lot like Katamari

I’m not sure Buff Monster’s new series of minis is supposed to look like Katamari, but ALBOTAS is right to make the comparison anyway.

Foldschool Heroes: turn classic systems into papercraft

Foldskool Heroes (via it8bit) is a downloadable template that you can turn into custom papercraft of your own. I really like this! It sort of reminds me of those blank vinyl Soopa Coin-Up Bros figurines.

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Failures in Edutainment: the mid-’90s “girl game” fad

Paprika the Fortune Teller from 'Chop Suey'

Brandon Boyer, via Twitter, inadvertently (advertently? well, whatever) directed me toward this post at Jezebel about girl games.

Its writer, Anna Breslaw, opens her piece with a quick hat-tip to a 1995 computer game called Chop Suey, which I’ve mentioned on Infinite Lives thrice before and am about to mention again. That’s because it is a great game that isn’t mentioned often enough. I’m trying to change the world, here, people.

But yes, our coincident timing is totally awkward, ha ha. Earlier in the week I’d snuck a bunch of Chop Suey playthrough videos onto YouTube, hoping to jog memories. (For a long time the only footage of the game available online was Bruno’s.)

But also, I was already laboring over this Chop Suey retrospective. Please do read it! It is a tragedy Chop Suey isn’t better remembered: it was celebrated in its day, and with reason. But most people did not use the Internet in 1995, which is to say, Chop Suey and all its accolades have not been very well preserved. (Duncan’s extraordinarily bizarre death doesn’t help anything; it’s almost impossible to discuss Chop Suey without mentioning that part, too, and the game is thusly difficult to google.)

The late ‘80s and early ‘90s were such a great time for edutainment, and while the medium isn’t entirely dead (your child’s school computer lab may yet have Storybook Weaver!), I do think the middle-’90s’ “girl game” craze went a long way in murdering it. Worse, the “girl game” genre probably scared a generation of woulda-been PC gamers away.

Most girls did not actually play girl games in the ‘90s, of course, because most “girl games” were stupid. Girls are not idiots. Girls are not boy-crazy strumpets. Girls are 8. Girls are 9. Girls play Oregon Trail and You Don’t Know Jack. Can people not picture 9-year olds?

This is what girls really want: girls want horse training simulations; they like fortune-telling; girls read spy stories and tales of adventure and daring; girls enjoy the Super Nintendo version of Mario Kart and computer games about being in outer space. Girls would like chemistry lab sets for Christmas, or planetariums and cheap telescopes, or periscopes and walkie-talkies. Girls like crafts. Girls like Minecraft! Girls like dolls, toy theaters, replicas, scale miniatures, and “character editors.” Girls like She-Ra. Girls like Labyrinth. Girls like sci-fi, unless it’s just a bunch of dweeby dudes standing around talking into their own lapels. Girls like pirates and especially stowaways, and especially stowaways who look like boys but are secretly girls. Girls like scrappy heroines—resourceful, freckle-nosed troublemakers—heroines with scraped knees and scuffed shoes. Girls are impatient to learn something new, and if you don’t give them brain-food they eventually wander off. There! There is your blueprint for a “girl game.”

So, yes, Breslaw’s and my Chop Suey -themed posts both went up on May 12, both incorporating that same playthrough footage. Oops! How embarrassing. It’s a little like arriving at a dance in matching dresses.

Fortunately, the dresses aren’t identical! (Ha, ha, ha!) Breslaw’s piece isn’t about Chop Suey at all, thank goodness. It’s actually about a new project called FEMICOM, an online museum that aspires to catalogue and archive every manner of game-for-girls. This is noble work—it’s why I’ve made Chop Suey evangelism one of my pet hobbies, actually—exactly because the project illustrates the enormity of the gulf between “this game or toy is edifying” and “why would you ever give your child that.”

The nicest thing about seeing this article about “girl games” on Jezebel, though? It’s elicited all these comments, where the readers themselves are essentially sorting the lady-treasures from the lady-tripe. One reader mentions Heavenly Sword for PS3. Oh, boy, do girls love that game. (Because we love third-person beat-em-ups starring She-Ra! It’s pretty much the only game you should give an adult woman. There, I said it.)

Other notable “girl-friendly” game mentions: Sim City. The Sims. Little Big Planet. Metroid. Zelda. Carmen Sandiego. Ecco. Pokemon. No One Lives Forever. Nancy Drew games. Street Fighter, Soul Calibur. Doom, Marathon, BioShock. Killer7 (most girls do really well with first-person rail-shooters; this has something to do with spatial attention). Final Fantasy. Fallout. Diablo. Starcraft. Mass Effect. Star Wars KOTOR. Guild Wars. Skyrim. Braid. Age of Empires. Civilization. Portal and its sequel. (“I loved that about Portal…really the only way you knew the character was female was from the brief glimpses you got of yourself if you lined Portals up right. Her female-ness wasn’t a factor one way or the other in the game.” Thank you, Susan Fry! I agree.)

And a thread, four comments long, about Woodruff and the Schnibble.

And also from the Jez comments,

See, this is why I get so frustrated with the whole conversation about games for girls. If you’d tried to design an ideal non-people based game for little girl me, it would have featured dinosaurs fighting each other, not dolphins swimming around being pretty.

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Required Reading: ‘A Theoretical War, Part 3′

Ludology, Wired Magazine, 2006

Me: i was reading this tonight
Me: http://www.electrondance.com/a-theoretical-war-part-3/
Me: i was feeling out how joel goodwin feels
Me: i think i like where he takes it
Me: how much about games criticism do you read

Julian: not much

Me: LUDOLOGY VS NARRATOLOGY: THE FUNNEST ARGUMENT

Julian: man I hate it when things become binary

Me: mhm

Julian: that said, I was thinking that I don’t want my game-playing to be interactive infographs either, you know?

Me: ah, here it is!

Narrow definitions of games are perfectly valid within little contextual spaces. Ludology can have its rules-based framework. Narratology is free to pursue games through narrative. Art games can co-exist with the FPS, the RTS and the platformer. They don’t have to compete. Why can’t we have different theories for different situations, each one handling their own definition of game?

Every voice and viewpoint is valuable. What’s so maddening are the destructive attempts to own the word game. Mathematics blossomed into a thousand different branches, so has games and so should the theory. Some will care about narrative. Some will care about rules. Some will care about player experience. Some will care about monetization. And some will try to change the world.

There’s enough space for everyone.

Julian: music is kind of like that too
Julian: hardcore music theorists are all about structure (and usually against tonality)

Me: i inadvertently read that the wrong way
Me: as people who are not hardcore into music theory,
Me: but rather, into hardcore music……… theory

Julian: haha

(This all came up because Julian had actually sent me this, and I became very, “oh, hmm.” )

(P.S. If you happily follow all Goodwin’s endnotes, you might suddenly discover it is a quarter after 10pm and you have not yet washed a single dish or glass.)

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Recommended Reading: When games can’t contemplate life’s intricacies

Not without my daughter: Silent Hill's Harry Mason can't catch a break

Joel Goodwin is not too sure a video game can simulate some of life’s complexities. In his recent “Parenting Is Not an Escort Mission”—an indirect response to a thing I wrote in January about Creatures—he warns against using games to reify life events that are not so simple. Parenting, for instance, is not so simple.

In the same way that I used Creatures to think about parenthood, Goodwin worries that game designers, too, are guilty of the same abstractions. He catalogues some games about parenthood, and almost every single game he names is an “escort mission,” one that reduces love and caregiving to something as banal as “safely haul this potato from point A to point B.” Ehm, my words, not Goodwin’s.

Next he suggests subtler or alternative game mechanics that might go further in reproducing (NO PUN INTENDED) real-life experiences. He poses the possibility of games that, if developed, might represent parenthood in a happier, healthier, more intricate way. (In the comments, some readers name games that do just that.)

It’s a fascinating read, and I wholly recommend it.

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Linksplosion: Martin Amis, ‘Minecraft,’ and Emporium Bar Arcade

Hello and hi. I collected a couple links a couple days ago, but I hadn’t yet posted them—until now! Lucky you!

  • Joystiq – Minecraft building blocks (via Metafilter.

    The correct reaction is “what the—”

  • Eater – Emporium Arcade Bar Opening in March

    A Barcade-style barcade is coming to Chicago, and everyone is freaking out:

    Expect a focus on Midwestern and local beer with half of the beer on tap always being from the Midwest. The plan is to rotate their selection often, so there will always be new brews to try. There will also be a large whiskey list, with a selection of standard and upscale varieties. A full bar will be available as well and there may be more specialty cocktails down the line.

  • Writer Martin Amis once penned a video-game near-classic, Invasion of the Space Invaders. The Millions has a review of the book (via Slate).

    Photo: Martin Amis's 'Space Invaders'

    Since the book is impossible to buy used, some Good Samaritan is publishing Amis’s book’s very best lines as a Twitter feed.

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Daily Linksplosion: Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rubens’ Tube Zelda from Brad Silcox on Vimeo.

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Daily Linksplosion: Monday, August 01, 2011

Young Princess Zelda by Salvador Ramirez Madriz (AKA ReevolveR)

Young Princess Zelda by Salvador Ramirez Madriz (via Gamma Squad)

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Daily Linksplosion: Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic! in the Story of the Blanks

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Daily Linksplosion: Weird Dreams edition

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Daily Linksplosion: Saturday, June 11, 2011

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Daily Linksplosion: Wednesday, June 08, 2011

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Daily Linksplosion: Tuesday, June 07, 2011

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Daily Linksplosion: Sunday, June 05, 2011

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Daily Linksplosion: Saturday, June 04, 2011

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