Yet another test post, since lots of things have changed around here… sort of.
A trawl through some of the serious and educational games released over the past decade shows many designers still haven’t grasped that fun is to videogames what plot is to novels
I never seem to have to hand decent examples of video games designed to convey factual content or meaning. Here’s an excellent article on the state of serious games, which contains links to a whole bunch of recent entries into the space.
Come for the graphic design, stay for the citizen science.
Bombastic video game announcement trailer, with more than 1.6 million Likes in a fortnight:
…and thoughtful, considered commentary on the value and interpretation of such games and equivalent media:
“[…]a focus on the literature from the Western Front obscures the role played by the rest of the world and non-white people in the struggle. The trailer for Battlefield 1 includes nods to the war in the Middle East as well as the Harlem Hellfighters.”
I’ve said it before: there’s some terrific writing out there in the video game journalism world.
Yeah… that didn’t work out so well. Not because I dislike the mildly hilarious Flowstate, more that I haven’t worked out how to incorporate a Mac into my new everything-gets-gummed-by-a-ravening-monster lifestyle. The MacBook Pro is a bit too
precious business-critical to be casually tossed onto the sofa when something more pressing crops up. Upshot: I’ve not written very much for months.
Over the weekend, though, I managed to resurrect an ancient netbook we had kicking around. It’s not been used for years, ever since it decided that (a.) charging batteries was somehow beneath it, and (b.) updating its own BIOS was definitely beneath it. On Saturday I stumbled across an alternate method for coaxing it into an update, and – boom – we have battery life. Quite a lot of it, as it happens, since the dinky little thing has the humungobattery option.
I’ve a lot to tinker with, not least working out which of the bazillion Linux distributions I dislike least. Currently, I’m playing with Peppermint OS, which… hmm, unlikely to stay, I think. But the key thing is this: I’m sitting on the sofa, tapping away, bashing out a blog post.
An inane, pointless, no-discernible-audience post, granted. But it’s a start, right?
I’m going to try something a little different. I’ve been struggling to make time to blog over the last few months — years, even — but I miss both the discipline and the practice of writing daily. So I’m going to start flowblogging. That is: using the utterly ridiculous writing application Flowstate to write a post, ideally (though, doubtless, not actually) daily.
Flowstate works like this: if I stop typing for a few seconds, my words start to fade out, and are eventually deleted. I have to keep going at a reasonably steady pace for at least as long as the timer I’ve set (in this case, five minutes) before anything gets saved. The idea, I think, is that staying focussed and simply pressing ahead can, at times, be helpful. I can sort-of buy into that.
Back in broadcast (oh, how many of my stories start with ‘back in broadcast…’) we used to talk about the tyranny of the blank script. That ghastly moment when you stare at an empty page accompanied only by your notes and thoughts from the past few weeks. At that point, at that precise moment, right now you have to commit to something. You have to pick an opening line and follow your nose. Until that moment you could have gone one of eleventeen different ways, but once you start writing, you have to commit.
It’s good discipline. Not because it leads to the best writing, but because it leads to some writing. Perhaps that’s what I need right now.
Ten seconds to go. I’ll add a link to the application, then publish.
I find it surprisingly difficult to browse second-hand books on market stalls. Too often the serried ranks look like this — I can discern book-like shapes, but as I try to make out the authors or titles the world starts drawing in around the periphery. Even when I can read the words I don’t recognise any of them.
The first time I built my own PC I found myself sitting in the car park, terrified the list of components I’d agonised over would elicit knowing grimaces from the testosterone-laden atmosphere inside. I even had an uncomfortable time in a bicycle shop some years ago as I struggled to work out how much of my intimate knowledge of late-80s velotech was still relevant.
It seems obvious to promote and advocate for bookshops against the encroachment of Amazon, but we shouldn’t forget that to the uninitiated — and even to the unpracticed — they’re alien, vaguely threatening environments. There are reasons other than convenience for the steady rise of online shopping.
The main thing physical shops have going for them is human contact. Very, very few shops capitalise on that advantage. But then, dealing with humans is hard.
Pretty much all stories are about the human condition; they explore the decisions people make, the forces and ideas which drive them, and the impact of those actions on those who follow and fall before them. Epic stories tend towards epic settings, which is why Game of Thrones is set in a quasi-mediaeval land of knights and horses and archers and castles.
Fast-forward 1500 years, and the equivalent setting for future dramatists will be the corporate battlegrounds of the early digital age. There’s no doubt that the story of Apple, for example, is epic in structure: the rise, fall and rise again (following the return of the founding King) is straight out of the Greek playbook.
Not that I expect the stories to be as simplistic and literal as ‘Jobs vs. Gates’. I merely note that we live in epic times.
We saw the hand of destiny, the reassertion of martial and political primacy, in Apple’s newfound confidence at WWDC this week. Pressured by the traditional ruler to the North, harried by the reivers of Wall Street, the supposedly-cowed company growled and bayed its defiance.
Can’t innovate any more, my ass.
— Phil Schiller
The sabre-rattling and troop-rousing was framed, however, within bookends of statements of pious faith, a re-expression and return to the qualities enshrined in the Kingdom’s founding:
Designed by Apple in California
We live in epic times.
Re: Google Glass, PRISM, and all that — I forget when I first said it, maybe a decade ago, but:
In the future, we will all have our fifteen minutes of privacy.
It’s an obvious corruption, but that hasn’t stopped us walking straight into the trap. For all of Google’s assertions that they won’t allow facial recognition for Glass, isn’t that exactly what we’ve all wanted ever since somebody first came up with the idea of earrings that whisper the name of the person who’s just started talking to you?
…and of course, your personal electronics will run the search by querying the cloud, and once you’ve uploaded your social connections to make that work you’ve abrogated privacy.
We’ve been preparing for this for more than twenty years. We’ve known about Echelon for almost as long. And more than a billion of us pour our lives into Facebook anyway. We want this future personally and individually, and the collective risk is someone else’ problem.
What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beam. I don’t know, apathetic bloody planet, I’ve no sympathy at all.
If I were to write a science fiction novel right now, I’d probably set it against the background of a US-like state which had gone through the right-wing equivalent of China’s Cultural Revolution. It’d be like the McCarthy era, only with actual evidence.
I may not think that’s going to happen, but I’ll make a spread bet and rejoin ORG anyway. In the meantime I find it hard to get in a lather about PRISM precisely because I’d pretty much assumed any halfway competent intelligence agency would be trying to pull that off anyway.
The failure is ours for electing policy-makers who make the same mistakes with countries as we do as individuals. And I’m not sure how we get around that, short of evolving as a species. Fast.