On Bernband

I see people walking toward me, but they’re not really people, just strange aliens that don’t quite cohere into any particular shape when I get close.

That’s what marks Bernband: nothing makes any more sense as you get closer to it. It’s stranger than that: the further away things are, the clearer they seem. There’s a night that covers the world and gives everything an enveloping calm.

The world of Bernband is made up of claustrophobic interiors, passages that cross over incredibly fast-moving cars, and static towers glittering in the dark.

I didn’t experience too much of the game–my computer hardlocked after I willfully plunged down through a wave of oncoming vehicles, aching to find out if my strange hands would be taken from me.



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Joseph Kahn on the difference between Cabin in the Woods and Detention


Scope: Did you like The Cabin in the Woods (2012)?

Kahn: No I didn’t, and I’ll tell you why. Detention and The Cabin in the Woods say very different things about movies. I think in The Cabin in the Woods we’re meant to be smarter than the characters in the movie. You walk in, you know the genre, you know the clichés, and it reaffirms how stupid the genre is and you get to watch other people being punished for that fact. The only surprise is at the end, and it’s not that great a surprise in my opinion—they justify why those things have to be clichés and then a big hand comes out of the ground. Detention works in the opposite way. It says, “You have no fucking idea how genres work.” Nobody in the movie can predict what’s coming next, and neither can you when you’re watching it. We believe that genre can be changed and that more can always be mined out of it. It’s two very different approaches to genre.

After School Special: Joseph Kahn’s Detention

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My Fascination With Weedopia


Weedopia is a RPG Maker game from Gaming Roach Entertainment that they are currently attempting to kickstart for six thousand Canadian dollars. It does not appear that they are going to make it, but I’m fascinated by the idea that someone might try to make this thing a reality.

A gloss on Weedopia: it is a traditional Japanese-style role playing game where everything is marijuana-themed. The villain is Lord Nohemp. A sidekick is named Tokachu. There is a pot-themed crafting system. Everything about it screams “weed! weed is so cool!” and I love it.

Which is weird, because I don’t care much for that kind of thing in general. I don’t smoke it, and I’m not caught up in “pot culture.” I don’t have button-down shirts covered in leaf patterns, and I don’t think I’ve even seen an issue of High Times in years.

What I love about Weedopia is that it leans into its theme as hard as possible without ever giving any hint that this might be sarcastic or comedic. Hell, it is probably isn’t, and the fact that it rides this line of complete and total ambiguity regarding its potential ironic theme is absolutely wonderful to me. I don’t love it because of its post-ironic hypersincerity, but precisely because there is no way to know what its position on itself is. It is a beautiful, opaque object, and displays this fact better than most fine art objects enshrined in galleries.


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On The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo

There was a time when the specter of the uncle who worked at Nintendo haunted every recess period in the United States. I first heard him in the pickup spot where parents would pick up their kids after school. The same place where I borrowed a Gameshark for the GBC. The same place where I left my copy of Expert Gamer with the Pokemon Stadium strategy guide.

Some kid’s uncle worked for Nintendo and that’s why he had all sorts of superpowerful Pokemon and knew about all the games that were going to come out. Some of those games came out. Some of them never existed.

Now we have a game by Michael Lutz (with illustrations by Kim Parker) called “The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo” who takes that recess-and-after-school phantom and puts you in his world. 


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Deleuze, Francis Bacon, and Icosa

[The diagram] acts as a relay. We have seen that the diagram must remain localized, rather than covering the entire painting (as in expressionism), and that something must emerge from the diagram. – Deleuze, The Logic of Sensation

The entire time I spent reading this book I was thinking about Andi McClure’s various art creation toys. They give us the diagram, algorithmically generated, that allows us to grab the infinite excess of things that could exist and generates an existing piece of art. Playing with Icosa is a constant revolutionary moment of watching something emerge from nothing and then recede again. Sometimes we can see the figure, some representational object, emerge from the discord and it is horrifying. Why something from nothing? Why anything at all?

When Deleuze wonders if we can “dismantle the optical,” is there any better affirmation than McClure’s work?

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I Was Given A Wristband That Says “Synergy Motherfucker” And These Are My Thoughts

I was watching someone play a game called Lichdom Battlemage and some form of PR person handed me that wristband. I didn’t look at it until I had walked away, but I verbalized my confusion: “what the fuck?”

I asked the PR person if you can fly in the game and she said no. What a boring game about wizards.

We’re in the midst of something called “GamerGate.” I’ve been paying attention to it, read Storifys and tweet conversations about it, and even had conversations with ‘gaters myself. I don’t know how anyone can come to a conclusion other than this one about those events: it is a longform anti-women harassment campaign cloaked in concerns about ethics in games journalism.

Today I saw that a trans* developer who was previously a supporter of the “movement” was pushed out of it by extensive transphobia from the GamerGaters themselves. I saw responses to her announcement that she was abandoning the cause that asserted that she was being too sensitive.

I wonder who decided that “synergy motherfucker” was the best way to go with this small throwaway tchotchke. I wonder who they think they’re appealing to, and who the “edge” is supposed to play heavily toward.

I have this experience a lot in “videogame culture.” The same set of questions apply to the “tell it like it is” YouTubers who recycle videogame common sense in a hyberbolic, extremist tone. I wonder about who is wearing the wristband right now or idly watching the YouTube video and nodding along.


The wristband, the YouTubers, and GamerGate share a skeletal substrate of self-righteous indignation paired with twenty years of marketing horror. They sell the values of their audience back to them as common sense packaged in edgy language. They present the standard beliefs of their audience back to that audience as truth telling, like they are speaking through some kind of cultural taboo in order to enlighten the people. In reality, it is the rhetoric of Bill O’Reilly used to shovel videogames into the screaming maw of consumers.

None of this, of course, is new. A thousand people have written this blog post before me. But if you’re going to make a wristband that embodies all of this violent garbage culture, maybe don’t do that. #badassmage or whatever.

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Metal Gear Solid, Exile, and Skyrim in my new Five Out of Ten Piece

I have two essays in the new Five Out of Ten, which you can buy for a few dollars.

I’m incredibly happy with them. In the first, I talk about “playing the radar” in Metal Gear Solid. I’m in a weird place right now where what I am writing rides the line between design analysis, criticism, and historical contextualization, so if any of that sounds interesting to you, it is worth your $5-$8 or so to buy those things up.

I also write about hearts, quest hubs, and Jean-Luc Nancy. I’m pretty sure that no one has ever done that before, and if you’re curious about what a heart transplant has to do with Skyrim, you can find out here.

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