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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

Newsgames Embrace Hard Complexity, not Easy Fun

A response to Paul Carr and Chris O'Brien

Cross-posted from PBS Idea Lab Earlier this month a group of journalists, game designers, and academics gathered at the University of Minnesota for a workshop on newsgames. I was there, as was fellow Knight News Challenge winner and San Jose Mercury News tech business writer Chris O’Brien. After the event, Chris wrote a a recap of the meeting. In turn,… read more

Children look at wrapped gifts on the ground as a man dressed as Santa Claus (not pictured) climbs a building to hang them during a ceremony in the northern Italian ski resort of Selva Di Val Gardena December 8, 2007.   REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi   (ITALY) - RTX4J9A

The Deeper Meaning of Black Friday

Giving a gift is an act of competition as much as generosity.

Get $100 off the iPad Air 2 at Best Buy. Save $50 on the Xbox One Gears of War Bundle plus get a $60 Target Gift Card. At Walmart, one can buy a Samsung Smart HDTV for under $200. Under $200! These are the marks of Black Friday, the annual bacchanal for consumer excess. And excess, it is normally thought,… read more

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The Car That Killed Glamour

Tesla and the end of the automobile as an object of desire

The Tesla Model S is a supercar without equal. Recently, the P85D trim broke the Consumer Reports rating system, earning a score of 103 out of 100. They rounded down to just 100, calling it “closest to perfect we've ever seen.” The Model S accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in under 3.5 seconds, via an electric motor that produces… read more

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The Internet of Things You Don’t Really Need

Smart devices turn every industry into the computer industry, and dupe consumers into thinking their lives are better for it in the process.

Atlanta turns yellow for two weeks in April. Streets, driveways, terraces, cars—everything cakes with pollen. It’s the trees that cause the worst of it. Pine, oak, sweet gum, sycamore, mulberry, hackberry, birch, willow. Prolific itching, sneezing, and car-washing ensue. Grilling season officially begins when the pollen subsides. This year’s was particularly grievous, and perhaps that’s why I was so eager… read more

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Turns out ‘Microsoft Windows’ has the Same Meter as ‘Miniver Cheevy’

(with apologies to Edward Arlington Robinson)

Microsoft Windows, child of scorn,    Grew lean while he assailed the seasons; He wept that he was ever born,    And he had reasons. Microsoft loved the days of old    When swords were bright and steeds were prancing; The vision of a warrior bold    Would set him dancing. Mirosoft sighed for what was not,    And dreamed, and rested from his labors;… read more

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A Master Key to the Ultimate Dumb Device

The future of the iPhone could be a way of tethering people to Apple products even when they don't want them anymore.

Lock-in. That's what we call it when you're dependent on a specific vendor for particular services. When you buy a single-serving coffee machine boasting convenient, mess-free coffee inserts, like Keurig K-Cup or Nespresso, you're bound to its brand of coffee pods. When you purchase digital music on iTunes, proprietary formats and digital rights management (DRM) make it difficult to listen… read more

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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

ludologyfightnight

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