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Video Games Are Better Without Characters

The real legacy of SimCity is its attempt—and failure—to make complex systems the protagonists instead of people.

In the mid-1980s, the easiest way to check out the latest computer games was to go to a bookstore in the mall. Past the John Grisham and the bargain history books in the B. Dalton Bookseller, you’d find Software Etc., a small island of boxes amidst bound volumes, and a few computers on which to play the latest releases. It… read more

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The End of the Big Mac

The burger's demise won’t be marked by a declaration in a quarterly report, but by a collective appreciation for the comfort it offered America.

If you like to lunch on two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun, you’d better act fast: McDonald’s has announced plans to phase out the Big Mac. Okay, not really. But social media ate up the news of its axing, published by the satirical site Daily Buzz Live at the end of last… 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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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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Swing Copters: The Randomness of the Universe, Captured in Pixels

The creator of Flappy Bird is back with a game offering the sublime agony that comes with mastering a craft—and still failing.

Many of the highest-performing professional athletes are also the most superstitious. Serena Williams bounces the tennis ball five time before her first serve, twice before the second. Michael Jordan wore his University of North Carolina basketball shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform. Baseball hall of famer Wade Boggs bore a bounty of superstitions. Among them: He ate chicken before each… read more

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Academic Paydom

Tactical lessons from the Steven Salaita situation

For those of you who don’t follow university labor politics, Inside Higher Ed reported this week that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign apparently rescinded a job offer for a tenured professorship in Native American Studies to Steven G. Salaita, a Virginia Tech English professor. Well, not exactly rescinded. Rather, the UIUC chancellor decided not to advance Salaita’s appointment through a usually pro-forma approval process.… read more

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The Opposite of Good Fortune is Bad Fortune

Is 'adjunct activism' the only path to labor reform in higher ed?

At Chronicle Vitae, full-time adjunct professor Lori Harrison-Kahan writes “Blaming the Victim: Ladder Faculty and the Lack of Adjunct Activism”. The piece addresses tenured faculty’s apparent (or at least relative) silence in the ongoing debate over adjunct labor in higher education. Harrison-Kahan rejoins such faculty for failing to extend their ongoing defenses of marginalized communities to their own community: Why… 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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Yo

Communication online is mostly meta-communication, but the loudest meta-communication is profit.

Are you here? That’s all I want to know. Are you here, reading me? Clicking our links? Viewing our ads, or at least, allowing your browser to load them? Liking or faving or retweeting me? It’s what you want to know when you text your significant other or your child. Are you there? Is everything okay? Yes, yes, I’m here.… 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