Preludes to Kentucky Route Zero


Last month, I made my debut in Un­win­nable Weekly maga­zine with a piece on the pre­ludes to Ken­tucky Route Zero. If, like me, your an­xious­ly await­ing the fourth act of that game, it can’t hurt to take a look at the (free) games that came before. You can down­load A House in Cali­for­nia, Ruins, and Balloon Dia­spora from the Card­board Com­pu­ter web­site. I also briefly wrote about Ruins here before, back when I was a wee lad. Or ac­tual­ly, a couple of years ago. If you’re inte­res­ted, you can read an ex­cerpt from my ar­ticle for free on the Unwinnable site, or better yet, sub­scribe or pur­chase the whole issue. […Read more…]

Runic Escapades: The Ribe Cranium


I wrote the introductory post for a new history blog founded by four colleagues/friends and myself. It’s about the Ribe cranium, an 8th century skull fragment with a runic inscription. The inscripion is (most likely) a healing spell to defeat a dwarven spirit causing illness, possibly a headache. The article is part of an ongoing series “Runic Escapades”, in which I will present runic inscriptions in their cultural and historical context. […Read more…]

On Norbert Wiener’s ‘God & Golem, Inc.’


While reading Annalee Newitz’ intriguing blog post on io9 about the history of the word cyber, I came across the name Norbert Wiener (not Weiner — get it straight, you Englishers) who had introduced the term Cybernetics as “the study of control and communication in machines and living beings”. His other works include the book God and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points Where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion, and that title immediately caught my eye. Studies of the interaction between science, technology, and religion always interest me a lot, as do Golems and Jewish folklore, so Wiener had sold it to me easily. […Read more…]

No Control: on The Wasp Factory


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. […Read more…]

Sanctifying Games


This April was a religion-themed month over at video­game blog The Ontological Geek. I wrote the final arti­cle in the series, and mused a little on how con­cepts of reli­gion, God, and par­ticu­larly The Holy, can be in­cor­po­rated into video­games. For per­haps ob­vious rea­sons, it’s easy for games to tackle and re­pre­sent the more mun­dane sides of reli­gion and faith, but they seem to struggle some­what when it comes to matters more tran­scen­dent. In “Sanc­ti­fying Games”, I try to ex­plore why that might be. […Read more…]

Kentucky Route Zero: Act One


There’s some­thing to be said for the idea that art can find ex­pres­sion in any medium. For Jake Elliott and Tamas Kemen­czy of Card­board Com­puter, their medium is the strange blend of audio, video, text, and inter­action of digital games. As their earlier game Ruins showed, the studio has a pen­chant for the poetic and the dream­like, and you’ll find those ele­ments in spades in their latest (and current­ly on­going) work Ken­tucky Route Zero. It’s an adven­ture game in five parts — the first re­leased in Decem­ber 2012, with later instal­ments to follow this year. […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…]

Magic and Technology

Lt. Kaidan Alenko using a biotic ability in Mass Effect

A state­ment often re­peat­ed in dis­cus­sions of tech­nolo­gy, whether within the realm of science fiction (and lite­rary criti­cism of the genre) or with­out, is Arthur C. Clarke’s so-called “Third Law”, which states that “any suffi­cient­ly ad­vanced tech­nolo­gy is in­dis­tin­guish­able from magic”. The reader may refer to Wiki­pedia for a bit of back­ground surroun­ding Clarke’s three laws and possible pre­ce­dents for the third one men­tioned here. While the law obvious­ly makes pre­dic­tions about the per­cep­tion of tech­nology in real life, it is equally rele­vant to fiction, par­ticu­larly science fiction and fantasy, where magic and/or tech­nology occupy pro­mi­nent places as plot devices, motifs, etc. […] What inte­rests me in par­ticu­lar are the assump­tions lying behind Clarke’s third law, and how the law and its assump­tions can help (or hinder) us to under­stand the inter­play between tech­nology and magic as con­cepts of acti­vity […Read more…]

From Dust: Playing God

A dramatic landscape

Video­games by their very nature often make in­teres­ting argu­ments on the things they por­tray. This struck me quite power­fully while play­ing a recent digi­tally dis­tribu­ted title called From Dust. The game was de­signed by Éric Chahi and deve­loped by Ubi­soft Mont­pellier, and it essen­tially re­volves around being a god and over­seeing the fate of ‘your’ people. […Read more…]