The ugly, The bad, The good, The list™
[From a friend who wishes to remain anonymous, I received the original version of the message below, which was picked up using radio observation of signals from outer space. For the reader’s convenience, I have rendered it in contemporary English, rather than the early modern English in which it was written.]
Archive: Desbaresdes belt > Giraud γ > Orbit of Giraud γ 3 > Wreckage of Sigil, orbital torus space station
File: Anonymous journal entry, textual, untitled, dated 2321÷12÷16
Description: This log entry, retrieved during the salvage of Sigil station in 2456, appears to be an assessment of a particular type of interactive experience available to users of the station at the time through use of holocommunication transmitters. Remnants of the software which is referred to in the entry have been found in the data logs of Sigil station, and various other stations throughout the galaxy; see > T. Beach Projector.
Two recent indie release (Papers, Please and Gone Home) inspired me enough to pen a little article last week. Today the piece found a home on The Ontological Geek.
In the article, I explore how Papers, Please simulates the way in which bureaucracies can force us to treat people like cattle, like numbers, like items on a list. Through insidious systems the player — inhabiting the mind of a border official — is forced to spend as little time on immigrants as possible, while still following all the rules imposed by your government. I contrast this to the experience of Gone Home, where we can take all the time we want to dig into the personal lives of an American family, and experience their touching stories.
Not one, but two new articles by my hand were published today in the fourth issue of Five out of Ten, a lovely mag that pays its writers according to a very honest model: the writers split the revenue evenly.
The first article is a semi-close reading of three games published recently: Dear Esther, Miasmata, and Proteus. If you’re familiar with the games, you’ll realise they have a common theme, and that is that they are all set on an island. As I try to argue, there are more similarities between the games than at first appears, but interesting differences too. In the article, I try to get at what kind of places the islands in these games are, and what that means for the overall meaning and experience of the games. On the way, I cover themes like isolation (and its etymology), memory, and death.
The other article contributes to the issue’s central theme: storytelling in games: how do they do it, and are they any good at it? My perspective deals with the concept of virtual worlds and spatial presence, and how that relates to story in a game, and to our experience of games in general. Long story short: I try to rehabilitate the concept ‘world’ as occupying a central position in the study of games, with reference to some smarter people who’ve written great things about this subject.
Few novels compelled me as much to immediately write my thoughts down as The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. Usually I enjoy novels a lot while reading them (or not), but quickly dive into a new one afterwards. In this case, I felt the need to spend some words on it before moving on. I’m pretty sure this means that the book has some sort of clarity and compactness of style that brings across its messages very directly.
I sure wasn’t the only one reading The Wasp Factory this month. Banks passed away after a battle with cancer on June 9th, and a number of my online friends and acquaintances made a grab towards his debut novel, like I did.
It’s been a while since I wrote anything serious about literature, but recently I was reminded of an essay I wrote in 2008, about the question of authorship in the cyberpunk works of Kenji Siratori. I never did anything with the piece at the time, but felt it was interesting enough to brush it up and give it another chance.
In short, I question how we should apply the “death of the author” as proclaimed by Roland Barthes to literature that provokes strong questions about the nature of its own author.