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


The Squalid Grace of Flappy Bird

Why playing stupid games staves off existential despair

Games are grotesque. I’m not talking about games like Grand Theft Auto or Manhunt, games whose subjects are moral turpitude, games that that ask players to murder, maim, or destroy. I mean games in general, the form we call “games.” Games are gross, revolting heaps of arbitrary anguish. Games are encounters with squalor. You don’t play a game to experience an… read more

MOOCs and the Future of the Humanities (Part Two)

A roundtable at the LA Review of Books

On June 14-15, 2013, the LA Review of Books hosted a two-part roundtable on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS). Participants included me, Cathy N. Davidson, Al Filreis, and Ray Schroeder. Below is my contribution to part two, which included responses to the statements in part one (which you can find here; this response won’t make much sense unless you read… read more

Aliens, but definitely not as we know them

In the New Scientist "Big Ideas" column

Are everyday objects, such as apple pies or microchips, aliens? It depends how you think about what it’s like to be a thing. This essay appeared in the

From Aberrance to Aesthetics

On diversity in games. From my "Persuasive Games" column at Gamasutra.

Every now and then someone objects to game design methods by arguing against “historical aberrance.” This line of reasoning claims that a particular trend is undesirable on the grounds that it is new and abnormal, unshared by historical precedent. Let me share two examples. First, a few years ago Raph Koster invoked this argument about single-player games. As Koster put… read more

A Slow Year Limited Edition

Photos of the signed, numbered set of twenty-five

I started working on my Atari “game poems” project A Slow Year almost exactly three years ago. I had spent an idle summer afternoon writing 6502 assembly on the couch, and the first versions of the summer game took form. Slowly, over time, the work revealed itself to me: a set of four 1k games, one for each season, inspired… read more

Shit Crayons

My talk at the 2011 Game Developers Conference "rant" panel

Last year I made a game about Facebook games, called Cow Clicker. You get a cow. You can click on it. In six hours, you can click it again. Among the many retorts to Cow Clicker‘s characterization of social games, a common one is about creativity. Players of these games, the argument goes, exercise imagination and creativity far beyond what… read more

Press Round-Up

In lieu of a real post

I’ve been busy since the holidays catching up and preparing for the new term, which makes this the requisite occasional “I haven’t posted on the blog” blog post. Since I’ve been reduced to such self-referential shame, I figured I might as well take things even further and offer my readers a massive dump of recentish press about me. For starters,… read more

A Slow Year Limited Editions

Let me know if you want one.

A Slow Year is about to ship, and I’ll be posting information about it in the very near future. As I’ve mentioned before, the game will be released in two editions, both packaged as unusual books of poetry: a Windows/Mac edition running in a custom emulator, and a numbered, signed Atari cartridge edition, limited to 25. The general edition is… read more

Jobs at Georgia Tech

Two tenure-track lines in my school

The Georgia Tech School of Literature Communication and Culture, where I work, has just announced two tenure-track job openings. I’ve pasted the job ads below. I hope any of you who might be interested will apply, and I encourage the rest to spread the word. Job One – Digital Media The School of Literature, Communication and Culture of the Georgia… read more