Near London? Like thinking and talking about video games? You should check out VideoBrains. It's a monthly meet of games journalists, developers, academics and other enthusiasts which takes place in an esports bar near-ish Kings Cross.
Each event features panels and talks by smart people, who so far have had only interesting and thoughtful things to say. If it sounds like your thing, you should really check it out.
Also, previous talks are posted on their Youtube channel, so you can get a flavour of what it's like. But if you do watch them, consider throwing the organiser a dollar or so; he puts a hell of a lot of effort into making it as good as it is.
It's been a pretty horrifying couple of weeks on Twitter, hasn't it? At least it has on my timeline. Two unrelated, awful events in particular came right on top of each other, each whipping up a social media storm. First the violent incursion of militarised police into peaceful democratic protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Second the eruption of sickening misogyny and violent threats directed at female game makers and games journalists, in particular Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn.
In both cases, my Twitter stream did what it always does. First came the reports from those directly affected, amplified and retweeted by other journalists. Fear, indignation, outrage, disbelief, heartbreak. Then came the wave of initial commentary. What does this mean, why now, how did things get like this. Then came the meta-commentary. Actually things have always been like this, privilege blinkers those not directly affected, look how existing power structures even suppress discussion, which sources can we really trust.
Endless echoes in endless voices of an event, now refracted in endless dizzying facets and meta-facets and ironic subtweets.
Robert Yang (who I've mentioned here before) made such a good let's play of the first room and corridor of Half-Life.
A "let's play" is traditionally a narrated video of one or more people playing through a video game. Usually they are just to document the video game so that it can be experienced or understood without playing it, but some of the best ones are made by people who know the game inside out and are able to add some amount of context or commentary to the play-through, drawing the viewer's attention to specific details and not getting side-tracked by any difficulty in progression. There are many great let's plays on the Let's Play Archive.
Robert Yang's video is not really about the game as it is played, but about the design of the game from the perspective of a level designer. It was made for a let's play event.
I don't think he has plans to do more but I would listen to that guy talk about level design any time. A couple of the comments under his post of the video are worth reading too.
I am not against spying or surveillance per se. Anyone who lives in the UK and says "if you've nothing to hide you've nothing to fear" doesn't understand the purpose of judicial oversight and probably doesn't speak arabic. I believe in judicial oversight. An amoral-nerd-handler is not a judge. And political bias, false-positives and chilling self-censorship are the only outcomes of the GCHQ program I can see on the horizon.
Today I read two letters written by companies which impressed me.
The first is by Kickstarter. Some asshole was trying to raise money to produce a "seduction guidebook" which advocated sexual assault of women, and though many people asked Kickstarter to cancel the project before the funding period completed, they didn't. Then today they wrote a (seemingly) sincere letter of apology to their users, and by way of compensation have donated $25,000 to RAINN, an anti-sexual assault organisation.
While Kickstarter definitely made the wrong call, I am convinced that they truly regret it and intend not to let it happen again.
The second is a letter from The Fullbright Company, which is a four-person game development studio who are almost done with their first game Gone Home (which I've been looking forward to). Today they wrote an open letter announcing their pulling-out of exhibiting their pending game at the PAX Indie Megabooth, an indie games showcase at a games expo organised by the Penny Arcade organisation. Their choice, which is not in their material interest, is based on Penny Arcade creators' recent misogynistic, transphobic and classist posturing (which you can read about in the letter).
In both cases, it is refreshing to see a company take a moral stance (if a little belatedly in the first case) on something which is not in their immediate financial interest. It is somethings difficult to remember that companies are made up of individual humans who have moral compasses, and who want to have a positive effect on the world, even in the context of a financial venture.
In Mac OS 10.8 Mountain Lion, Apple removed the Email link to this page option in Safari, replacing it with Share > Email this page, which places the entire contents of the page into the email, images and all.
Sometimes this isn't what you want, though. Sometimes just a link is best.
I've written a short AppleScript to perform the old "just a link" function, and will explain how to make it run from within Safari using a customisable key command.
Actually, funny story. While messing around, I discovered an undocumented keyboard shortcut which does this. It's ⇧⌘I. This completely obviates the need for the script I wrote, but I'll keep the instructions here, incase reading about moving data between Safari and Mail using AppleScript is something you'd find useful.
In the past few years there have been released a handful of indie games which share a kind of common form and aesthetic, one that strikes a chord with me. This design space is represented in my mind by Kairo, and the upcoming Fract and NaissanceE, though it contains many more.
The quality these games have in common is use a first-person perspective and an experience based around architecture and soundscapes, working in concert to elicit some aesthetic or emotional response. Continue reading "Aural Architecture"