Category Archives: Society

‘On the internet, no one still knows you’re a dog’

John Markoff,  former technology reporter for the New York Times, in an interview on Kara Swisher’s Recode Decode podcast:

On the internet, no one still knows you’re a dog. I think identity and the fact that you disconnect [real] identity from your internet identity has proved incredibly vexing for society. It played out in this election. It played out in Brexit. (It was a factor in both—I don’t know if it was a deciding factor—but I actually do blame the internet.)

I grew up with John Perry Barlow and his manifesto in WIRED in which he argued that cyberspace would be this “Socratian” abode above the grimy politics of the world. Then I realized I was wrong.

The internet is simply a reflection of all the good and the evil in the world.

[…]

What’s striking to me is that what the science-fiction world saw in the ’80s and ’90s has actually come to pass; the cyberpunk sensibility. There was a book written by Vernor Vinge in the early 1980s called True Names. The basic premise of that was you had to basically hide your true name at all costs. It was an insight into the world we’re living in today.

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He Would Not Work in Oils

Seth Godin on The Moment with Brian Koppelman:

If you think that you were born to paint in oils, or you were born to speak the truth about income inequality, or you were born— it’s just not true. If Vincent Van Gogh were born today, he would not work in oils. If Steve Jobs had been born 500 years ago, he would have done something else.

So what is the authentic version of Vincent Van Gogh? There isn’t one. What there is is someone who sought out a series of emotions that he could create for himself and gifts he could give other people through his work. And what I’m getting at is yes, we need to be consistent in honoring the truth of what we came to say.

But I also know that if I’d been born one block away from where I was born to different parents, or if I had been born in Yugoslavia, the fact that I’m here talking to you about these things would not have occurred. This is not the authentic expression of my DNA.

Excellent reminder.

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Launching Operation Supply Drop

Launching Operation Supply Drop
Polygon

What helps soldiers? Food? Toiletries? Video Games?

Machuga knows a guy, his Stryker driver in Iraq, who didn’t make the transition. He got out of the military in 2005, then spent the next five years trying to reintegrate and failing. He reenlisted, got sent to Afghanistan.

“Anybody who’s been out of the military has that point in their life where they’re kind of floating,” Machiga says. “They’re just like, they’re not happy with civilian life, because there’s nothing like the military out there. You find yourself driving past enlistment stations and thinking, ‘I should just stop by. I’m not actually going to do it. I’m just going to go inside and see what’s going on.’ And he fell into that trap.”

Machuga wanted to send his buddy something to help him pass the time, so he put together a care package of video games. With help from Activision’s Dan Amrich, he scraped together a set of Guitar Hero and DJ Hero games and shipped them out as a standard 20x20x20, under 70-pound care package, plenty to keep a soldier occupied. His driver loved it. And it got the other soldiers talking.

“Suddenly a dozen guys from his unit start going, ‘Hey, this is great, we could use some love too!’ I was like, ‘Oh shit, what have I started?'” says Machuga. “So I started packing up what was left and sent that as well. That’s what snowballed the whole thing.”

– Russ PItts, Polygon

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StarCraft 2 player receives the sport’s first US athlete visa

StarCraft 2 player receives the sport’s first US athlete visa
Polygon

Professional StarCraft 2 player from South Korea Kim “ViOLet” Dong Hwan recently became the first person from the eSport to obtain a P-1A visa from the American government, his representatives at Cyber Solutions Agency announced.

– Tracey Lien, Polygon

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If you love games, you should refuse to be called a gamer

If you love games, you should refuse to be called a gamer
NewStatesman

A delightfully provocative read about the idea of gaming as a community. I will also recommend that you swing by GamesAndLearning.org and play through Gone Home:

Video games are the most profitable medium in the entertainment industry. In the early 1990s Nintendo generated more annual profits than all of the American film studios combined. But despite its size, the medium’s audience is often referred to as a homogenous group. Players and commentators talk of the ‘gaming community’, as if the cross-cultural, socially diverse mass of humans who play video games is somehow uniform in gender, race, age and class. The idiocy of the term is only too clear when applied to other media such as literature (the ‘reading community’?), music (the ‘listening community’?) or film (the ‘observing community’?).

– Simon Parkin, NewStatesman

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You could help real-world farmers by playing Cropland Capture

You could help real-world farmers by playing Cropland Capture
Polygon

Crowd-source gaming initiative to find better cropland

Cropland Capture, a game hosted on the Geo-Wiki Project’s website, tasks players with identifying cropland from Google Earth images. Players get points for identifying land and could win an Amazon Kindle, a Samsung Galaxy S4 and more through the game’s ongoing tournament. According to a recent tweet from the game’s official Twitter account, players have combed more than 300,000 square kilometers of land.”

– Dave Tach, Polygon

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Why video games are more Britney Spears and less Pink Floyd

Why video games are more Britney Spears and less Pink Floyd
Polygon

The answer for IGN’s Mitch Dyer may lie on the Dark Side of the Moon. However, Toxic is a damn good song.

“Money, means, and the ideas that figure out how to do it without getting dull and standing on a soap box, which quite frankly nobody wants to listen to, and if they do they will go to documentaries. But as we are seeing, the more audiences realize that deeper content reflecting relevant truths can be more refreshing and engaging, [the more] we see documentary films having greater successes than ever in history. This is reflective of an evolving appetite that more people want more meaningful content and want to walk away from their experiences with more lasting impressions that add ‘more value to their lives.'”

– Lorne Lanning, Oddworld CEO

I find it oddly coincidental that two similar arguments on the lasting power of video games were published by two of the largest video game publications on the same day. What is the catalyst?

The bulk of the indies that reach the market are more akin to the early days of gaming. There is much more experimentation; however, indie devs in this evolved market are not making games to turn a profit but express themselves through the means created by gaming forefathers, thus unintentionally shaking gamers out of an empty dark-age before it has time to swallow us whole.

I’m giddy thinking of the ideas and stories Ken Levine could tell without the pressure of sales figures. I can’t be the only one who wished BioShock Infinite were simply an exploration game rather than FPS. Alas, shooters sell. Maybe Cyan could bring him in as a consultant on Obduction?

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How Long Can Video Games Matter?

How Long Can Video Games Matter?
IGN

“A brave and brilliant article” or “Suddenly, I feel empty.”

“Furthermore, no game you and I are excited to play right now will continue to sell copies like A Tale of Two Cities. The majority of enjoyable games are disposable. Even the number of brands that could predictably succeed in this capacity is microscopic. Part of this comes from the brand problem, which is that every video game sequel seems to be about doing something better rather than having something to say. They don’t really add to the art — they improve on past mistakes. Games are too often too busy chasing the technology ahead of them that there’s little room (or budget) left to chase anything else — design, emotional engagement, or individuality, for instance.”

– Mitch Dyer, IGN

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Chris Grant on Reasons to Invest in PC gaming


Polygon

Begin video at 24:08.

Chris Grant of Polygon.com on reasons to invest in PC gaming with the launch of next-gen consoles on the horizon. An incredibly good argument for anyone who cares about art, history, preservation, media, and/or video games.

Note: Prior to the below quote, Chris fully acknowledged the difficulties around backwards-compatibility and the ability to simply plug in old consoles to play old games.

“The problem for me is that if we are going to consider video games as a viable, meaningful art form, we have got to stop the forced obsolescence of software every five years. It’s untenable. We can’t keep treating these things as disposable junkets that you play on your new toy and then throw out and get a new toy. These things have merit, they have value over time, they’re still important, they’re still valuable. We keep listening to two giant companies tell us that they’re not and to get a new piece of hardware that plays new games.

One of the really cool things about PC gaming is that you have the opportunity to assume some of this responsibility yourself. If your old game doesn’t work and it frustrates you, somebody’s probably hacked apart an executable that will work. Go look and see all the work people have done to get System Shock 1 to run properly because System Shock 1 is a really important game historically. Especially if you bought it in the past, which I did, being able to play it again now in the context of BioShock and in the context of Dishonored and all of these other games that have sort of been born off of that original philosophy. That’s important to me and that is meaningful.

As somebody who really feels connected to the history and chronology of games, I just got “last straw” with this new round of consoles which has seemingly, almost flippantly abandoned it’s entire history. Sony will kind of coyly say “oh… well… the power of the cloud and Gaiki will do this…” Any request for clarification on how that’s going to work is met with silence. I know Microsoft said the same thing but I don’t buy it. So for me, some it’s about that, it’s about having some personal responsibility over what I’ve purchased, where it goes, what I can expect to do with my purchases, where I can give that money to and I increasingly just didn’t want to pump another 200 x $60 a pop into a closed ecosystem that was almost aggressively [pushing obsolescence].”

– Chris Grant, Editor-in-Chief, Polygon.com

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1985: Burst and Bloom

1985. Burst of the video game. Bloom of the Millennial. My earliest memory: playing Mega Man 2. More specifically, Mega Man 2’s “Bubbleman” stage. This event sparked a fire of imagination, set technological gears in motion, and built a bridge to the future. There was a majesty in that game that could only be delivered through the limitations of technology and connectedness of interactive control. At the early age of three, I experienced embodiment through an on screen character while simultaneously assuming god-like control over his actions. I could control the protagonist and create my own story.

I was in awe of this technology and aware enough to understand its infancy. The more I used it, the more wonder it cultivated. How are games created? How do they make those noises? What would this look like in five, ten, twenty years? Would I be able to live in these worlds? This wonder drew me to the technology industry.

Enamored, I sought video games as a necessity; something as substantial as food and water. This craving was not isolated to me; it shaped an entire generation.

The sounds, visuals, and interactivity provided a pool of imagination. The limitations of early consoles could not provide orchestral arrangements. Instead, repetitious patterns were drilled into our heads. They not only encapsulated the game we were playing, but they opened the world outside to a new soundtrack, creating a wealth of memories that could be tapped into from a few simple chirps. Hearing these primitive arrangements evolve felt like experiencing the birth of music. As hardware progressed, so did the complexity if the music. Repetitive pieces turned into grand and iconic themes, each game re-shaping the idea and importance of video game music.

While on-screen visuals provided a surreal sense of interplay between man and machine, screenshots were paintings. They opened minds to new possibilities. Images of upcoming games fueled the imaginations of would-be players. Gameplay mechanics had to be imagined. Reviews had to be accepted without video proof. Buying power was dictated by sprite design and blocky imagery.

The sprites we commanded (and spent tens-of-hundreds of hours with) became as familiar and important as The Lone Ranger, Bugs Bunny, and Lawrence Welk to the generations prior. From the introduction of idle animations to voice-over and motion-capture, we watched these on-screen characters evolve from blocky 16 x 16 figures to fully realized personalities. 20+ years later, we remain curious about their whereabouts, relevance, and impact on future generations. Life in a machine.

They were more than games in the traditional sense. Point-systems and completion-percentages were only a sliver of the grander experience. The more we practiced and started over from stage 1-1, the more we understood the core of these systems. Gaming taught us to recognize patterns; to harbor patience and solve puzzles. Some individuals would challenge boundaries in an attempt to break games. We could control the sprites better than our parents could. Finally, control over a domain we could call our own. We knew something foreign to most adults. Some even taught their parents how to play. The student was now the master.

Easter eggs, cheat codes, hidden characters, and secret areas were at the forefront of every schoolyard conversation. They sparked rumors and large threads of conversation; the viral video of the time. The possibility that you may discover something first kept your drive peaked. Discovering in-game mysteries without prior knowledge meant profound, earth-shattering news for friends. Phone calls, bike rides across town, and late night gatherings were the beginnings of web-rings and blogs.

Our deep grasp on game mechanics shaped our understanding for real world systems and industries. We were harnessing a rich understanding for technology exponentially faster than the generations prior. We watched the gaming industry push the boundaries not only of hardware and software performance, but social connectedness. New cultures were birthed. An age where those previously suppressed could now open up and find harmony, respect, and support in like communities. The social structure of these communities flourished with ideas, stories, and education. Technological advancement and waves of new and easy ways for the world to connect sprouted from the minds of “geeks” and “nerds,” eventually reaching a critical mass that welcomed everyone to confess and rally around their obsessions. Sudden realization that those who traced stats of organized professional sports were not so different from those that examined code; those that wore body-paint and jerseys to sporting events were not so different from those who constructed elaborate costumes or donned gaming memorabilia for conventions.

From console gaming’s genesis, my generation has been in the unique position of watching an entire industry shape culture around the world. At an early age, we were empowered with animated characters and settings that we could control. Our imaginations were able to shape stories larger than “looking for a princess in another castle,” filling in holes left by console limitations. Like many media types before it, those born into gaming now simply cannot fathom the excitement experienced while watching consoles and games evolve. We have gone along for a ride, curious about what is next, how to be a part of it, and how we can use it to change the world. The addiction to technological and societal evolution stemming from gaming has spawned a fervor for advancement, simplification, accessibility, and enabling.

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This post was inspired by Robert Ashley’s A Life Well Wasted: Episode 3 – Why Game?

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Originally published on TheStarrList.com

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