I was on Gamechurch talking about games and religion

Just a quick post that I forgot to make a while back: I was on the Gamechurch podcast a while back and I think that it is a pretty good talk overall. We chat about the south and what it means to be religious and some Jean-Francois Lyotard because why not.

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Line Hollis on King’s Quest IV and Manuals

It’s funny. I was raised on these games, so there was definitely a time when I was a dutiful manual reader. I remember excitedly yanking the manuals out of the game boxes on the way home from the computer store. It was a big part of building anticipation for me. And I didn’t even lose the habit that long ago! As late as Dragon Age: Origins, I pored through the manual to decide on my character build before I even started the game.

But now I just straight up hate the idea of reading a manual. This must have happened in recent years. Some part of it may be the shift to digital in my buying habits; Dragon Age: Origins was probably one of the last games I bought in a box from a store. Reading PDFs is somehow much more offensive to me than reading a little paper thing I can pile up on my computer desk. And then there’s my increased orientation away from big blockbuster games to short altgames. I’ve come to be very fond of the experience of starting up a game that I know nothing about, have no expectations about, am not prepared for. Somewhere in that process, I’ve gotten more impatient with preparing myself for an experience in advance, and my tolerance for manuals has suffered for it.

This does make it hard to successfully play games of this era. With King’s Quest IV‘s elaborate opening cutscene, it’s already starting to make that shift towards accommodating a player who doesn’t read the manual. But there are still a few pieces that don’t quite fit the new model.

Go read Line on King’s Quest IV and bask in the best longform series about games.

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“choreography for body without organs” by Neil Gravander

NWS for an art penis

I’m less amazed by what is going on here technically than I am by the idea that something so seemingly simple can produce something that looks so weird and alien. I’ll follow this up a bit later, but that’s most of Gravander’s work: he takes something that I would on-face dismiss and makes it, against all of my presuppositions, fascinating.

Anyway, watch the video.

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Johnnemann Nordhagen on Sup Holmes? talking about defining “

A really great explanation of edge cases and boundary policing that really makes you wonder why it’s all that important to bother when you could be thinking or doing literally anything else.

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Lorne Lanning’s Anticapitalism

Lorne Lanning developed the Oddworld games many Mudokon-hand moons ago, and they’ve been running through my head since the first time I played Abe’s Oddysee. That game hasn’t really left me, either, and I can trace a lot of my youth-then-adult feelings about capitalism’s excesses and the industry of animal murder that lives within it.

oddword

Lanning just did a longform interview with James Brightman at Gamesindustry that has gotten some attention, and I’m wholly in agreement with him: videogames exist at the edge of speculative economics combined with good old fashioned investment, and the excesses of the industry itself has meant that deals for workers (and the development companies that are made up of workers) get a raw deal when it comes to the development of larger prestige titles (there’s a reason why vertical integration is so widespread in the industry).

A section from the middle of the interview stuck out to me:

The growth model that drives most companies in a capitalistic society is not going to do game makers any favors. For Lanning, what developers and game companies need to be focused on is simply having sustainability. “So what is a sustainable model? Well, don’t have investors. Don’t have an IPO. Don’t go public. Then maybe there might be a sustainable model. But can you focus on niches instead of blockbusters? If you’re going to continue focusing on blockbusters, then you’re going to be competing against the big boys. Now you’re half a billion dollars into development… just like the movies. So who can afford to play? But when we talk to indies today, I used to be like, well, if I sell a million and a half units, we’re going to be a loser. But today, if we sell 150,000 units we’re in the black,” he said.

Lanning is pitching sustainability as keeping a low overhead, keeping it personal, and making sure that a vision (in this case his and his company’s) can continue and have a life over time.

But I also wonder about metasustainability. In a world where sustaining, where creating companies that will not perish, is of the highest importance, it makes just as much sense to “become the man.” That means that there has to be some kind of value beyond that, beyond mere persistence, that would drive the creation of the company. There’s a world where Lorne Lanning could release the Oddworld games continually for new platforms and make some kind of living through the rest of his life. However, there’s something more, some community-mindedness or job-creator-drive that ensures his participation in the game development industry as a corporation.

Anyway, the interview is excellent and draws on a lot of tensions between participating in the demon heart of the capitalist games industry while despising the system itself, and so it is worth reading for that alone.

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On “Liquor, Bond, Dark”

Cara Ellison and Irene Koh just created a new short comic called “Liquor, Bond, Dark” that takes Joanna Dark and James Bond and drives them forward into the future. They’re the videogame versions of themselves, divorced from that existence but aware of it, and there’s a bit of anxiety about replacement that happens. It’s short, so go read it.

liquor bond

What struck me about the comic is that it exists as a kind of modernist thieves’ cant. The comic operates almost completely along the lines of a secret language. It’s poetic how it gets put together–the comic deals with sex and memory. Sex requires secret language; talking about the past is always about talking through secret doors and windows.

There’s something mystical about creating a fractured story about videogames from the past. I’ve decried “gamer memory” before, a kind of shared nostalgia, but I’ve also been open to how it operates on us and allows for really strange and beautiful things to happen. “Liquor, Bond, Dark” is one of those beautiful things–you can’t decode it without having access to a particular era, a particular longing, and a particular understanding of a historical betrayal.

“Liquor, Bond, Dark” is a simulation of whispering a secret.

Go read it here.

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Tom Sparrow’s “Plastic Bodies” is Out!

I’m super excited about this book and it is free so go check it out. The blurb:

Sensation is a concept with a conflicted philosophical history. It has found as many allies as enemies in nearly every camp from empiricism to poststructuralism. Polyvalent, with an uncertain referent, and often overshadowed by intuition, perception, or cognition, sensation invites as much metaphysical speculation as it does dismissive criticism.

The promise of sensation has certainly not been lost on the phenomenologists who have sought to ‘rehabilitate’ the concept. In Plastic Bodies, Tom Sparrow argues that the phenomenologists have not gone far enough, however. Alongside close readings of Merleau-Ponty and Levinas, he digs into an array of ancient, modern, and contemporary texts in search of the resources needed to rebuild the concept of sensation after phenomenology. He begins to assemble a speculative aesthetics that is at once a realist theory of sensation and a philosophy of embodiment that breaks the form of the ‘lived’ body. Maintaining that the body is fundamentally plastic and that corporeal identity is constituted by a conspiracy of sensations, he pursues the question of how the body fits into/fails to fit into its aesthetic environment and what must be done to increase the body’s power to act and exist.

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