A Special Radio Transmission: Steam and the Value of Videogames

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It’s been awhile, but I’m pleased to present to you episode 6 of the Sufficiently Human Podcast!

In this episode, we have with us special guest Austin Walker, a PhD candidate in Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario and formidable freelance games critic. Using the Steam Holiday Auction as a springboard, Walker joins us to talk about the devaluation of the labour cost of games and other digital creative work in the Web 2.0 era, how platform holders obscure exploitation with freebies and “pro-consumer” rhetoric, and what it means to participate in the exchange of capital when people no longer have any money. We also ask what can be done, exploring a few potential approaches to online distribution, community-building, and wealth creation that may be turned into viable alternatives to the processes of contemporary capitalism.  Continue reading

Theorypunk: Get It While Supplies Last

Modified screenshot from Gallergy by Swofl

“In a world in which the subject has become a stranger to its [sic] labor, we use experience to incite awareness of the alienation in which one lives.”  -Lygia Clark, Nostalgia of the Body: “We Refuse…”, 1965

First, I know that nothing here will last.

Lygia Clark, an artist whose work might have fallen into the categories of “performance” or “installation” or “communicational”—yet manages to defy any singular genre specification—would have made a fantastic game designer had that option been available to her. Her work was highly experiential and participatory, the “pieces” not the objects of play themselves but the interaction that emerged between the “spectator-author” and the work. A dialogue took place between participant and artist, where the roles would switch, where the artist would give up a little of herself so that the participant might assert themself in the interaction taking place. Clark places much importance on the “act”, on the “instant”, on verbs rather than nouns. On people rather than objects. Continue reading

AltGame Profiles: Aeryne Wright (Lissaring)

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In this new series, I look at the catalogue of a developer’s work to try to determine their distinctive voice. There will be heavy spoilers so I suggest playing the (short) games linked in the text before reading through this piece. 

[TW: Some light discussion of death.] 

Playing an Aeryne Wright (a.k.a Lissaring) game is often like wandering through an enchanted forest, discovering the dew and grass and birds, the secret societies that live there, and the substance of your own thoughts. You reflect and the environment is a mirror to hold that reflection. The birds chirp and the wind chimes and the serenity of a wooded landscape gives way to some magic, something fable-like and surreal. A door, an eye, a hooded demon taking a train ride, a glistening talisman. The real twists into the unreal, like a dream space that’s at once familiar and distant, ethereal, supernatural. Continue reading

SLEEP/WORK/MONEY

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I made another little Twine poem. This one’s particularly small and unintelligible because I’ve been so tired due to events spanning the last couple of days that I couldn’t physically produce anything longer or more coherent. So, instead, I have a couple of incomplete attempts at work to finish for the upcoming month, and for now, I made a glitchy and probably very annoying little meditation on what it feels like to force yourself to work when you’re running on fumes. But damn is it hard to say no to that money cushion.  Continue reading

Notes on Beeswing: Flatness and Depth

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ONE. I can see the edges of the paper, the little drips of watercolour paint. I can see the punch-holes where they were ripped out and the paper layered on top of a mess of other sheets and I can see the wood grain of the desk. It’s all a frame for the delicately messy landscapes of Jack King-Spooner’s Beeswing, ephemerally and impressionistically creating a window into the world of a small, Scottish hometown. The landscape as both a dream-space and autobiography. A window into and out of the special context created by the characters seen through King-Spooner’s eyes. The gentle browns and greens of the forest and the countryside contrast with the harsher, hotter pinks, reds, orange highlights on the gray of the city, and the black-and-white sketches of its alleyways. The country is serene, calm. The city is busier, dirtier. The country expands and the city winds. The city is a twisting of lines and the country is a curving gradient of soft colour, like rain, like a meditative pond reflection. Like quietly paddling through the water to happen upon a mythic aquatic creature. The muted blackish-purples and wintery whites of the graveyard inspire a feeling of cold, finality, mortality. A somber sleep. Continue reading

this will be the year we build and rebuild

"Spider", made in Andi McClure's "Icosa."

It took me awhile to get this down, because I guess I’m still burnt out. But I’d like to push through that, and leave it in 2014 where it belongs.

It’s comforting though fallacious to believe that in the split second between one year and another there’s some invisible, arbitrary finish line that lets everything from the past resolve and reset. But that isn’t true. Nothing from the previous year has really ended. There hasn’t been any closure. And a lot of what existed in 2014 existed because of things we, collectively, allowed to build up in 2013, 2012, 2011…

At least we can have perspective. Continue reading

my game of the year is

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This is a list of games I found personally meaningful or interesting over the past year. It’s not a complete list of all the great games out there. I know I missed a few. 

This list also doesn’t rank the games in any particular way. They’re ordered the way they are to help me illustrate some ideas, that is all.

Continue reading

The Customer is Often Wrong (FUCK THE PLAYER)

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I don’t want to say I’m writing a design manifesto, because games already have so many as to render the purpose of writing yet another manifesto meaningless. But if I were to impart any wisdom I’ve developed in my experience designing games, it’s this:

Fuck the player.

I know how that sounds. It might take you aback and offend sensibilities. That’s fine. I don’t really care. But I ought to explain myself, candidly and clearly, so that I’m not misunderstood. Continue reading

FUCK IT, HERE’S A PORN GAME: .error404

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Happy Holidays, everyone. Here’s a porn game.

I’ll be honest, I’ve had this Twine game kicking around for a bit, and I haven’t been as productive as I would have liked this month, so I thought I might as well release this little monster upon the world while I finish up some writing for this week. This was my first real (completed) attempt at a porn Twine, so I don’t know how, let’s say, effective it is. But hopefully you get some kind of enjoyment out of playing it.

(If you’re into sexy-scary domineering computer brains like Shodan, this might be the Twine porn for you!)

Continue reading

A Haiku for Bad Developers

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I’ve put together a Twine poem-game-thing (I’m still not even convinced of the nomenclature for the things I’m making, to be honest with you), that makes extensive use of Darius Kazemi’s “Random Words” macro. This one’s a little simpler than the other two of this late-November digital poetry series, in part because it was made in a bit of a mad scramble, but it allowed me to exercise some of my ideas regarding computer generation in poetry, “happy accidents” and a more free-verse or projectivist style of poetry in a digital form. I wanted this to feel somewhat like Brian Kim Stefans’ The Dream Life of Letters, and despite the hurry in which this was made I hope I captured some of that sensation. I had wanted to stick the game on this page in an iframe, but it didn’t look quite right and the random word macro refused to work properly, but it looks great in full screen at Philome.la (link below).  Continue reading