Last week I was at the 5th International Conference on Japan Game Studies, Replaying Japan 2017. You can see my conference notes here. The conference was held in the Strong Museum of Play which has a terrific video game collection and exhibit. (I vote for holding all conferences in museums!)
From Twitter again (channelled from Justin Trudeau) is a story in the Atlantic about the Internet Archive’s early Macintosh emulator, What It’s Like to Use an Original Macintosh in 2017. The emulator comes with a curated set of apps and games, including Dark Castle, which I remember my mother liking. (I was more fond of Déjà Vu.) Here is what MacPaint 2.0 looked like back then.
The FBI has released their report on #GamerGate after a Freedom Of Information request and it doesn’t seem that they took the threats that seriously. According to a Venturebeat story Brianna Wu (is) appalled at FBI’s #GamerGate investigative report.
Wu, who is running for Congress, said in an email that she is “fairly livid” because it appears the FBI didn’t check out many of her reports about death threats. Wu catalogued more than 180 death threats that she said she received because she spoke out against sexism in the game industry and #GamerGate misogyny that eventually morphed into the alt-right movement and carried into the U.S. presidential race.
It sounds like the FBI either couldn’t trace the threats or they didn’t think they were serious enough and eventually closed down the investigation. In the aftermath of the shooting at the Québec City mosque we need to take the threats of trolls more seriously as Anita Sarkeesian did when she was threatened with a “Montreal Massacre style attack” before speaking at the University of Utah. Yes, only a few act on their threats, but threats piggy-back on the terror to achieve their end. Those making the threats may justify it as just for the lulz, but they do so knowing that some people act on their threats.
On another point, having just given a paper on Palantir I was intrigued to read that the FBI used it in their investigation. The report says that “A search of social media logins using Palantir’s search around feature revealed a common User ID number for two of the above listed Twitter accounts, profiles [Redacted] … A copy of the Palantir chart created from the Twitter results will be uploaded to the case file under a separate serial.” One wonders how useful connecting to Twitter accounts to one ID is.
Near the end of the report, which is really just a collection of redacted documents, there is a heavily redacted email from one of those harassed where all but a couple of lines are left for us to read including,
We feel like we are sending endless emails into the void with you.
I finally got around to downloading and playing Rez Infinite on the PS4. This is an upgraded (hi-res) version of the original which SEGA released for the Playstation 2 and Dreamcast in 2001. The game is a beautiful rail shooter and a music game which produces trance like electronic music (and vibrations) as you play. There is a traveller mode where you don’t die and you can just make music and travel through the spaces. I found myself wanting to repeat levels to continue the beat.
The new 2016 version for the PS4 support VR (though I don’t have it). It also has an extra level called “Area X” which, while more sophisticated, lacks the charming Tron-like graphic imagination of the rest. It would be interesting to map all the references to Tron in Rez – it too places you as a hacker going through a computing landscape.
Polygon has a story on the Rez producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi on his return to music games. The story mentions a Synesthesia Suit (PDF) created to go with VR games like Rez Infinite. Below is a video from Siggraph 2016 to show (feel) of the suit’s capabilities. I’m intrigued by this intersection of art and game around music.
And here is link to a video showing the suit.
From Slashdot a story about an FBI game/interactive that is online and which aims at Countering Violent Extremism | What is Violent Extremism?. The subtitle is “Don’t Be A Puppet” and the game is part of a collection of interactive materials that try to teach about extremism in general and encourage some critical distance from the extremism. The game has you as a sheep avoiding pitfalls.
From my students I heard about the game Mastaba Snoopy created in Twee and TiddlyWiki and being taught in another Humanities Computing course (our students are vectors of influence.) Here is a review where you can download the single HTML page that is the bizarre text adventure, Mastaba Snoopy is a Cronenbergian nightmare vision of childhood. The story takes place14,000 years in the future when a mutable alien has destroyed us and then reinvented itself following a collection of Peanuts comics. Play it.
I had read somewhere that Monopoly had originally been developed to teach the evils of monopolies, but hadn’t realized how interesting the story of the creation of Monopoly was. The New York Times tells the story in, Monopoly’s Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn’t Pass ‘Go’. This excerpted from a book titled, The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game. The article tells the story of Elizabeth Magie who developed a game called the Landlord’s Game which had two sets of rules to teach about the alternatives to monopoly capitalism. You play the game with a rule set where the monopolists get richer and then with a rule set where wealth is distributed more fairly. Alas, when Darrow adapted the game and sold it to Parker Brothers he left out the progressive side.
It strikes me as an interesting example where a game designed for a serious purpose gets adapted to be more fun and in the process loses its progressive purpose. A change in the rules and you don’t have a game that teaches.
The convention was depressing. Long line ups for overhyped commercial titles. Music too loud. Too many hucksters getting us cheering for crap. The creative side of gaming seemed to be overwhelmed by the commercialization. A church of gaming indeed.
The best area was the retrogaming area which a great mix of systems you could play and exhibits. The indie game area also had some brilliant games including Awkward Ellie, where you play an awkward elephant at a tea party. There was also a one-d game called Line Wobbler where you controlled a dot travelling up a LED strip. Playful fun in one dimension.
Last week I was at Replaying Japan 2016 which was held in Leipzig and organized by Martin Roth and Martin Picard of the jGames Research Initiative at University of Leipzig. You can see my Replaying Japan 2016 Conference Report here. The conference is the fifth such conference that I have helped organize to look at Japanese and Asian videogame culture. We had terrific keynotes from Namco game and game music designers from the 1980s including Iwatani (Pac-Man) and Junko Ozawa (music for many Namco arcade and videogames). We also had a terrific talk about the history of localization from Minako O’Hagan.
The conference continued a tradition of bringing Western and Japanese game studies researchers together in a friendly environment. The quality of papers was really quite high and the conversation even better. The time has come to develop a community of research.
From Humanist and then MIT News, Professor Emeritus Seymour Papert, pioneer of constructionist learning, dies at 88. Papert was Piaget’s student and thought about how computers could provide children a way to construct knowledge. Among other things he developed the Logo language that I learned at one point. He also collaborated with the LEGO folk on Mindstorms, named after his book by that title.