Cake Salad (a reply to Cameron Kunzelman)

Jan Toorop - Design for Delft Salad Oil (1893)

This open letter is a reply to Ca­­me­­ron Kun­­zel­­man’s piece “On Video Games, Con­tent, and Ex­­pres­­sion”. It is about cake (layer­ed and un­layer­ed), salad, music, opera, ana­lo­gies, and about games. Anyone is free to reply here or on their own blog. […Read more…]

Centers and Peripheries of Games Criticism

Remedios Varo - Center of Universe

Last week, Rami Ismail made a brief but important call for a bit of awareness con­cerning the status of English as the lingua franca in (the major part of) the games industry. I had been gathering thoughts on a discussion of the role of language in games criticism, specifically, for a while, so I figured now would be a good time to make things a bit more concrete. I had written a paragraph calling for awareness of linguistic diversity in games last summer, but didn’t really take the argument anywhere, so let me build on what I wrote there. […Read more…]

A Chaotic Gift (for Chris Bateman)

contrast-order-and-chaos

Dear Chris, You have recently returned from paternity leave, and have witnessed the birth of your second son, on which again my congratulations! As you wrote on your own blog, you’d like nothing more from your readers as a gift than an open letter, so who am I to refuse? After I finished reading the final draft version of your upcoming book, Chaos Ethics, somewhere last year, I wrote to you in an email that I thought it would be an interesting idea to start a letter series on the topic of Chaos, in the broadest sense. It is not something you touch upon extensively in your book—understandably so, since it is about ethics first and foremost—but knowing you slightly, I suspect you will have some additional things to say on the concept. […Read more…]

Always +1

jesusplusone

On Sub Specie I don’t write about lin­guistic matters all that much. To kick off, I’d like to start with what is a rela­tive­ly ob­scure pheno­menon in the Dutch lin­guis­tic land­scape: the use of +1 (or as a pro­nounced phrase plus één) as an ad­jec­tive in predi­ca­tive posi­tion. Basically, it’s used to signify appro­val or that some­thing is better than some­thing else, as might be ex­pect­ed. […Read more…]

Ludus Linguarum (This Is (Not) a Game)

It is a discussion that crops up from time to time: what is a game? This would be a fairly academic definition question, were it not that it finds a much larger battleground mostly outside academia, where consumers and critics of video games are the participants. The direct catalyst for the most recent iteration of this discussion was the release two days ago of Proteus, a game developed by Ed Key and David Kanaga. This work, as I briefly explained in my piece on Noctis, is all about free exploration of an island and its flora and fauna, about building a soundtrack by moving around. It is limited in its interactivity compared to many other video games, and this has sparked the discussion on whether or not Key and Kanaga are right to refer to Proteus as a game. […Read more…]

The (Im)possibilities of Communication

bientot_600

Communi­cation is the weird­est thing. It just kinda works, unless it doesn’t. In prac­tice, it works not because the connec­tion be­tween thought, in­tention, and lan­guage is per­fect. It isn’t. It works be­cause we usually share large parts of our world­view and know­ledge with the people we’re spea­king with, and because our minds are really good at fil­ling in conceptual gaps wherever we see them. In cases where there are minor hitches in communi­cation, we’re also very good at pre­tending there aren’t any. We ig­nore them, or we aren’t even aware that some­one else might not under­stand exactly what we’re saying in the same way that we do. […Read more…]

2012: A Year in Books

Lori Nix - 'Library' (2007)

What did I read in 2012? I’ve found looking back at my last year in books helps me chart some themes and developments in my (mental life), so I’ve decided to do it again this year. I read 92 books in 2012, a little fewer than in 2011, but they were bigger books, and my page total ended up higher. This doesn’t count all the articles I’ve read, but we’ve got to draw the reading nerdage line somewhere. It’s all slightly arbitrary anyway. […Read more…]

Cryptological Escapades in Frisia

sminia_coloured_small

This week, a call went out from the provincial library of Fryslân, Tresoar, announcing the start of a ‘cold case’ program. Selected pieces from the archives are to be shared with the public, to see if they can shed more light on some unsolved mysteries. The first one is a manuscript from the 17th century, and it’s a corker! The manuscript is thought to be a letter, as it is only a single page and appears to be signed in some way, so I will refer to it as the Sminia Letter, for that’s the Frisian family out of whose archives the piece comes. The letter is written in a hitherto unknown script, and as such the language of the letter is unknown as well. […Read more…]

2011 Inspirational Reading

Out of the 100 books I read last year, I wanted to highlight a few that I found particularly rewarding. […Read more…]

Networks: Introduction

The Seven Bridges of Königsberg

A significant part of my current PhD research deals with networks (in my case of human communication), and how these can help us understand the world around us. A network in the modern scientific use of the word is basically an abstract representation of relationships between concepts. It often helps to make a graphic representation […Read more…]