It is an honour to be the recipient of the first entry in what I hope will become a long series of digital letters, a reinvigoration of online conversation, rather than the exchange of only the briefest of thoughts and comments. That we, and Alan Williamson with us, share much of the feelings on the current state of the exchange of ideas on the internet suggests to me at most that there is something amiss in our little corner of the web—games, philosophy, history—and what we want from it.
[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.
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!
In an interesting self-reflectional turn, blog discussions about the nature and future of blogging have recently been reopened in certain corners of the internet. I contributed a little bit to the discussion with my earlier musing on the nature of online conversation, and Chris Bateman has summarised some of the thoughts gathered in our ‘bloot’ (blog-moot) in his wrap-up post. In short: I’m convinced that meaningful online conversation is possible, about any subject, but that it requires investment of time and attention, as well as convenient technology.What I want to focus on this time is videogame blogging in particular. This month’s theme on Blogs of the Round Table (hosted by Critical Distance) is “Blogception: What is the future of videogame blogging?”. Before I want to say something about the possible futures, we should turn to the current state of videogame of blogging.
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.
How has the advent of social networking sites changed the nature of (online) conversation? A reply to Chris Bateman, and a rumination on whether or not the problems surrounding in-depth conversation have changed all that much.
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.
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.
Remember Groundhog Day? It’s that 1993 film about Bill Murray’s character, Phil, who keeps reliving the same day, February 2nd, in the Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, where on that day, the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil will predict when winter’s going to end. […] It’s an awful lot like the way we tend to play video games these days. Faced with challenges in a game, we have the quicksave and quickload buttons close at hand, ready to revert to an earlier point in the game to try again. If you get to replay a section of a story over and over again, any challenge inherent in the original situation quickly morphs into a matter of trial and error. Like Phil in Groundhog Day, we get to try out every interaction, every conversation option the world allows us. More importantly, in a typical collapsing together of character and player, Phil – like us – retains (meta)knowledge of everything he did earlier.