On The Eye of the Heron

[Just moving some of my longer book reviews here from elsewhere. This one was originally posted on 2 jun 2014.] Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Eye of the Heron is an engaging novella about oppression and resistance in a new world. The planet Victoria has been minimally settled by outcasts from Earth. A group of criminals, […Read more…]

A Xenophobe’s Lot in the Interstellar Seelee Directorate

Some Seelee­lee are not happy. Be­cause they are xeno­phobes. […Read more…]

Walking the Planes 3: Pluralities

The third article in my series Wal­king the Planes has just been published over at The Onto­logical Geek. It’s about the Plane­scape setting and how its em­pha­sis on diver­sity and plu­ra­lity has affec­ted me, both in dis­cover­ing the setting as a teen, and now­adays. I’m not really sure yet what the next epi­sode is going to be about, as I have mul­tiple half-finished ideas boun­cing around in my head. You’ll have to wait and see! […Read more…]

Ontological Geek Podcast: Episode 3 — Moral Bodies (+ Bonus)

After a hiatus, we’re back with Ontological Geek podcasts again. This time, Aaron Gotzon and I had former editor-in-chief Bill Coberly and Amsel von Spreckelsen as guests, and our main topic was bodies as a locus of morality in games, particularly sections where control in taken away from bodies and they are destroyed in a spectacle, which at the same time is the outcome of a moral judgment, such as at the end of a duel, like in Mortal Kombat‘s ‘finish hem/her’ sections. Besides that, we talk about Darren Korb’s music in Bastion and Transistor, and a variety of other games. […Read more…]

Time for a Story (On Papers, Please and Gone Home)

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. […Read more…]

Hot Wet Air Trading Cards

Steam has tra­ding cards now, as all my gaming rea­ders will pro­bably know. The whole thing is a pro­found­ly vacu­ous capi­talist enter­prise of the kind that cynics gobble up for break­fast. You can get the cardies for free just by playing your games, but that’s be­cause they don’t have any sub­stance apart from a data­base entry some­where. Sure, games are just a bunch of bytes too, but at least some crea­tive people have spent their brow­sweat de­sign­ing the things, whereas the cards are just cropped bits of art from those ac­tual­ly usual­ly pretty sub­stan­tial games. You can’t even play with the damn things! […Read more…]

2012: A Year in Books

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…]

Haunted by the Past: Retromania and Fear

Ein Gespenst geht um… Hauntology is one of those buzzwords that get thrown around in an attempt to put a finger on certain cultural trends. Deriving ultimately from Jacques Derrida, in reference to the opening sentence of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ Communist Manifesto, the term nowadays is used to refer to the ‘ghosts’ haunting […Read more…]

From Dust: Playing God

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…]

What Sleeps Within

In my personal experience, the attacks of July 22nd by Anders Behring Breivik on Norwegian civilians are shaking the cultural and political discourse of the Western world. Some events simply leave an indelible mark on people, forcing them to confront a new reality, to re-evaluate their beliefs and political stances, and to think about the […Read more…]