Every Computer Animated Film Ever

A universal plot summary, summer 2009 edition

It’s time to test my theory of computer animated film plots against the latest examples of that form, DreamWorks’ Monsters vs. Aliens and Pixar’s Up. In case you are too lazy to click through, here’s the theory again in its entirety: After the worst of a long series of well-meaning but destructive deeds, an anthropomorphized creature protagonist is shunned by… read more

Every Computer Animated Film Ever

A universal plot summary

After the worst of a long series of well-meaning but destructive deeds, an anthropomorphized creature protagonist is shunned by his community. He enters into a series of adventures in the pursuit of a seemingly impossible task to prove his worth. During this pursuit the protagonist meets a rival and, to the former’s surprise, they have more in common than not.… read more

Operating Systems Prohibit Film Still Fair Use

Built-in DVD players forbid screen captures with software constraint

Recently, I had the need to capture a still from a DVD a Persuasive Games client had sent over as guidelines for some game assets. I didn’t want to rip the whole DVD, so I went to use the built-in screen capture facility in Apple OS X: the old standby Command-Shift-3. I was surprised to see the following result. The… read more

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Game Studies, Year Fifteen

Notes on Thoughts on Formalism

I know it’s been a long time since I blogged—really blogged, you know, in the style of that form—for three reasons. First, because I’m talking about blogging in the first sentence, and second because I’m sending you here to read the prerequisites for this post. You’ll want to read the linked piece and as many of the subsequent pieces linked… read more

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The Cathedral of Computation

We’re not living in an algorithmic culture so much as a computational theocracy.

Algorithms are everywhere, supposedly. We are living in an “algorithmic culture,” to use the author and communication scholar Ted Striphas’s name for it. Google’s search algorithms determine how we access information. Facebook’s News Feed algorithms determine how we socialize. Netflix’s and Amazon’s collaborative filtering algorithms choose products and media for us. You hear it everywhere. “Google announced a change to… read more

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Winning Isn’t Everything

I used to think that games would be the dominant medium of the 21st century. The reality? They’re too big, too complex, and too smart for that to be true.

It’s hard to turn around in video game circles without hearing someone proclaim that “games are the dominant medium of the 21st century.” Deus Ex and Epic Mickeydesigner Warren Spector has a lecture built around the idea. The author Tom Chatfield devoted the subtitle of his book Fun, Inc to the concept. Journey composer Austin Wintory’s uttered the quip in an interview. Film critics writing about recent documentaries about games have even let… read more

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You Are Mountain

A strange video game from the Her animator bests Spike Jonze's film at depicting what a relationship with an alien really would be like.

Near the start of his relationship with a computer operating system in Spike Jonze’s Academy Award-winning film Her, Samantha the OS (Scarlett Johansson) helps Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) play a videogame. Called “Alien Child” by the filmmakers, the game seems familiar enough to be plausible to viewers, yet foreign enough to induce estrangement. The same could be said of the film’s high-waisted… read more

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Shaka, When the Walls Fell

In one fascinating episode, Star Trek: The Next Generation traced the limits of human communication as we know it—and suggested a new, truer way of talking about the universe.

On stardate 45047.2, Jean-Luc Picard leads the crew of the Enterprise in pursuit of a transmission beacon from the El-Adrel system, where a Tamarian vessel has been broadcasting a mathematical signal for weeks. The aliens, also known as the Children of Tama, are an apparently peaceable and technologically advanced race with which the Federation nevertheless has failed to forge diplomatic relations.… read more

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The Future of Luxury: Avoiding People

Services like Silvercar, Uber, and pay-to-play airline VIP programs help keep the new aristocracy away from the rabble

When I power on my phone upon landing at LAX, a text message is already waiting for me: “Hi Ian, Silvercar here! We have your res at 1:00pm today. Let’s roll!” Silvercar rents a fleet of silver Audi A4s at airports in Austin, Dallas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. A slogan speaks plainly on the company’s behalf: “car rental that doesn’t… read more

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What Are Game Developers? A View From the Future

Centuries hence, a citizen reads up on a bygone industry.

I squinted at the discolored reading pad I’d borrowed from the archives. The material was as dry as the title—“Taxonomy of Extinct Terrestrial Tribes”—but these ancient practices had long fascinated me. Take “games,” for example. They were played by adults and children alike, without shame—even in public! I had once scoffed at the idea that beings of my genetic lineage… read more