Games News from June

Some stories from my blog cluster that caught my attention:

  • Valve is being sued for not shutting down the gambling at sites such as CSGO lounge, and thus being implicitly involved in illegal gambling. Note that no-one has yet sued them for the internal economy of the drops-with-microtransactions in the game, which could equally be considered infringing on gambling laws from a certain light. (Story via Slashdot).
  • At the other end of the economic scale, Gamesbrief has a piece on Hadean Lands a low-rent contemporary text adventure selling on Steam for £8.99, to which you can add DLC to make it £26.99. What’s the DLC? A Certificate you sign to promise you won’t use hints to complete it. Clever marketing for a game that adheres to the puzzle-driven practices of a classic genre.
  • Meanwhile, the new publisher of Wikipedia Knows Nothing, ETC Press, has released Volume 1 of Analog Game Studies. While ‘analogue games’ is a foul piece of retroactive slander against boardgames, this is a magnificent collection of scholarly work on the form – and you can get it for free.
  • In sadder boardgame news, Goro Hasegawa has died at the age of 83. Hasegawa-san is famous for creating the boardgame Othello, which famously marketed with the phrase “A minute to learn… a lifetime to master”. (Story via Purple Pawn).
  • And finally, one of Purple Pawn’s writers, Yehuda, is also my favourite capsule film reviewer. Along with other reviews, check out his dismantlement of X-Men: Apocalypse, which faithfully recreates the tedium of Apocalypse in the comics.

More nonsense soon!


Defrosted Snippets

It’s been a while since I posted some snippets, and I thought it was time to get back to them:

  • The Republic of Bloggers did not stand idly by while I was on my annual Autumn break from social media. Firstly, there was this piece, Modern Philosophy and its Loss of Wisdom, from Chris Billows, my reply for which is running tomorrow.
  • …secondly, Jeroen D. Stout pens Discourses: Reflecting on the A-word with Chris Bateman, Part Two, over at his Tumblr. I don’t have a reply for this yet, but I am broadly in alignment with much of what Jeroen says here despite our general disagreement. That said, I do believe 'art' is an important word; there is a cost to giving it up that Jeroen doesn't consider.
  • In other news, I thoroughly enjoyed the current series of Doctor Who, which concluded on Saturday night. Despite niggles (see my piece from last week on Moffat’s schizophrenic continuity), this has been my favourite of all the Nu Who series so far. Of particularly interest was the way that cliffhangers were used, which breathes new life into something that hasn’t worked as well as it did in the classic show.
  • …that said, it has been very disappointing that there wasn’t a single episode I thought my son would enjoy. I would welcome a return to the family-friendly format Moffat insists is still the show’s mission statement. In the meantime, there’s always Carnival of Monsters on the Horror channel we can enjoy.
  • One other complaint: Moffat twice draws attention to the military use of drones, once by UNIT, once by the Time Lords’ army. But by not taking any kind of moral stand on this vital contemporary issue, he effectively endorses their usage. I have severe issues with this ambivalence, and the ethical problems of drone usage is one of the topics in Chaos Ethics.

That’s all for now! A new blog letter runs tomorrow.


Hermit Stage Complete!

Back to social media this June… it is not a transition I am looking forward to, but I’m sure it won’t be so bad once I get over the initial terror at reconnecting to the hive mind.

  • If you commented on either of my blogs, replying to you is my highest priority. Blogs before slogs.
  • If you messaged me on Twitter, I will get back to you, but please allow a few days as I haven’t even installed the app on my pocket robot yet.
  • If you commented on Google+, Chrome would have harassed me about it while I was using Gmail, which is another reminder that I should try and leave Gmail this Summer.
  • Shout out to everyone I met at DiGRA, which I really enjoyed in the end. My ten minute presentation ended up having half an hour, which was just long enough to have fun with it.
  • Apologies, but I doubt I will put my DiGRA presentation online, as it is incomplete without me talking over it. I continue to mull, though, and could be swayed…

What’s in store this June? Find out tomorrow…


Blog Republic Round-up

Thrilled to report that the blog is not dead, it is just under pressure from conventional social media. I have recently been enjoying my greatest extent of cross-blog conversations since the previous decade – and I’m loving it! Here’s what’s been happening…

More nonsense next week.


Return of the Snippets

Once upon a time, I did a snippets every week. I'd like at least to get back to doing them every month if I can. So without further ado, here are my idle thoughts:

  • Reading my second Whitehead book, his 1925 lecture series Science and the Modern World - and it's phenomenal. Ideas in this book do not re-emerge until the 1970s or later, and his critique of scientific materialism is essential reading for anyone with an interest in philosophy of science. Forget Popper; Whitehead is the twentieth century master of scientific philosophy.
  • While away in the States, I read two more books by Alain Badiou, who I continue to enjoy - while disagreeing with him on many points. I am particularly stirred by his explanation that what he called 'true' is what Plato calls 'good', what Deleuze calls 'sense' etc. This point makes me utterly re-evaluate Plato. Still reeling from the implications of this.
  • The fallout from the terrible events in Paris recently have shown the shallow appreciation we have for our now-fragile, collective rights. It is perfectly reasonable to defend freedom of speech and yet suggest that we should not use it to defame (as Pope Francis recently did) - don't confuse legal protections with moral duties. Those who think you 'protect' freedom of speech by intentionally speaking offensively have failed to understand the moral project of the Enlightenment or the responsibilties entailed in freedom of speech.
  • It is also worth stressing that the motive for the Paris attacks was not the defamation of the prophet Muhammad, per se, although this was the reason for the choice of target: terrorist groups are responding to the atrocities conducted - primarily via robotic bombings - in and around countries such as Pakistan etc. We all should be horrified by what is being done in our name: why aren't we even talking about this?
  • On a lighter note, I am very excited by the new Tale of Tales project, Sunset, and am indeed in the process of conceptualising Michael and Auriea's work in terms of Badiou's truth procedure for art. I hope to write to them about this later this year, if only I can find a gap in their busy schedule!

More nonsense just around the corner!


The Calm Before the Storm

With a new baby approaching at the end of this month, I am about to go on Paternity leave. I will tie up the blogs when my leave begins, for now I am working hard on finishing up the script to Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms, and arranging the first voice recordings (more on this soon!). Here’s a few snippets to keep you going:

  • I am giving a talk on games as art at a gallery in Edinburgh on Thursday 1st May. The details are not confirmed yet, I will promote it here once the ink has dried.
  • Chaos Ethics is in production, and I expect to have galley proofs within a month – the PDF will then be available to reviewers, academics and bloggers.
  • From May, I will be running the largest Game Design internship programme in the world (40 interns!) – sorry, there is no availability remaining for new applicants.
  • My defection from Google Drive to Copy.com has been a success (see Defecting from Google Drive for the background and a referral link). I had to use their customer support the other day – they replied within 12 hours, two humans assisted me, the problem was solved within two days. Compare this to Google’s policy of ‘you can complain, but we won’t listen to you because we always know best’.
  • My backlog of games now includes Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and Dominique Pamplemousse in It's All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!, both of which I’m looking forward to playing when I have time. If anyone has any time to give me, do let me know!

Something to say to me? Comments and blog-letters are always welcome!


On the Verge of Beginning to Finish

Beginning of the End Still more swamped than a drunken Cajun fisherman who mistakes a log for his boat. But I can see the light switch at the junction nearest the end of the tunnel, even if no actual light is reaching my retinas at this precise moment in time...

  • I was on national radio yesterday, on BBC Radio 4's consumer affairs show, You and Yours, commenting on (of all things) the portrayal of disfigurement in videogames. It’s a step up from local radio, to be sure! Slightly too many 'ums' coming out of my mouth for my taste, but I guess I did fine. If you’re in the UK you can listen for the next week on BBC iPlayer. My slot is 20 minutes in, after gold traders and smart meters.
  • Now less than one day’s writing (about 3,000 words) short of a first draft manuscript for Chaos Ethics! So far inside its world now that I no longer know how people usually use the word 'ethic'.
  • Have a final version of my PhD materials approved by my supervisor squad now. Soon, I shall be a real fake doctor!
  • After a year, the journal Games and Culture found one reviewer to provide feedback for "Implicit Game Aesthetics". Alas, I don't think they understood my paper but on the plus side I can now edit it to reduce the chance that others will also misunderstand it. In journal terms, let’s call it a win.
  • Three games of Arkham Horror this weekend, all against Zhar. Result: 14 Investigators devoured. We had good fun, but it’s galling to lose so badly so many times in a row. Great to get a friend along for the last game, though – even if he was as doomed as we were!

So close to wriggling free of my obligations – expect far more frequent and regular bloggery from me this Summer!


Endless Winter

Here in Manchester, we are beginning to lose hope that the cold weather will ever end as we face down a ‘White Easter’. Some brief thoughts…

  • Still an excellent chance to win a book in the Spring Review Drive! There are currently only two people in the competition and there are still two books to be won, so if you think you could write a short review of one of my books there’s an exceptionally high chance of winning.
  • I have resumed working on Chaos Ethics more or less full time during the University’s Easter Break. I’m turning down consultancy work until I get this one completed. Progress has been slow since the restructure derailed my momentum, but I hope to get back on track soon.
  • My PhD is getting close now… I have all the materials compiled, and if all goes well I’ll be a Doctor by the middle of Summer. Not entirely sure how I feel about this, though: reading Ivan Illich leaves me very cynical when it comes to these self-certified professions.
  • I’m about to apply for funding for my testosterone research… if I get it, I’ll finally be able to do some of my own research instead of waiting for other people to do it for me.
  • Working on my first home-made boardgame in several years, a never-for-publication homage to the classic race game The London Game but transferred to a megatextual fantasy setting – visiting places like Tanelorn, Ulthar, Minas Tirith or The Emerald City. Incredibly good fun, it’s taken over my gaming time with my wife at the moment.

Have a great week everyone!


Delays and Extensions

No substantial blogging this week as I seem to have left an important part of my brain somewhere over Greenland. Hopefully the airline can deliver it to me soon enough…

  • I learned something valuable this month: jet-lag is exponentially worse when you travel with a two-year old! Had a great but exhausting trip to Tennessee and the surrounding states, and it was wonderful to catch up with some of our dear and distant friends.
  • I’ve been forced to ask Zero Books for an extension for Chaos Ethics, which they’ve been happy to give me. To be honest, I’m rather less happy about this – both because I hate having to ask for extensions and because I really need to get this draft manuscript completed soon as there are a lot of other projects I need to work on. On the plus side, the book is coming along fantastically well, and the restructure is a significant improvement.
  • Might share some thoughts about the PS4 announcement at some point, but the short version is that all the home console manufacturers are in trouble right now, and most AAA game developers are also at-risk.
  • Ironically, while the upper market struggles with precarious economics of their own creation, it’s practically a golden age for indies. However, I worry about market saturation in the popular genres.
  • It occurred to me that if you interpret ‘speculative realism’  as a form of idealism it could be described as ‘mindless idealism’. This appeals to me – I might declare myself a ‘mindless idealist’ just to support/oppose the speculative realists!

Return of the Snippets

Clip Art Graphic of a Yellow Guy Character After almost two years of absence, may I present the return of Only a Game’s Snippets – which I offer in place of anything more substantial this week, since the one thing this vacation has not provided me is time! Although it has been great to catch up with distant friends, there is something inherently draining about trying to meet with so many people in so many places in so short an interval of time, and having a two-year old with us only makes it harder. Still, nothing worthwhile comes about without effort, and life is good even (especially?) when it is exhausting.

  • Congratulations to ihobo stalwart Ernest Adams who has now been awarded his PhD! My own PhD by publication is in train, and I expect I shall be joining Dr. Adams with my own doctorate later this year.
  • After thirty years, I finally fulfilled my dream of sacking Doomdark’s capital of Ushgarak in Mike Singleton’s classic The Lords of Midnight! Anyone interested in the history of videogames who has not investigated this title has a golden opportunity thanks to Chris Wild’s iOS, Android and other releases of the game. It’s my favourite strategy game of all time – persevere with its odd interface and thou shalt be rewarded!
  • Fans of Object-Oriented Ontology should note that Timothy Morton’s Realist Magic is available online in html, as well as in book form. I’m afraid that although I enjoy the OOO crowd, every time I read their expositions of the core of the approach I am left thinking “And?”. Still, as contemporary mythologies go this is much more interesting than most other positivist systems. As geeks, however, philosophers should be wary of rabbit holes that invite them to communicate solely with other geeks, especially if they want (as Morton does) to influence change.
  • Work on Chaos Ethics has been slow while I’ve been away, and held up considerably by a necessary restructure – the original four parts are now being shuffled into ten chapters, each with a specific example of applied ethics. I’m convinced this is a better way to mount its discussions, but it’s a lot of extra work. This is rapidly becoming the toughest manuscript I’ve ever worked on, and I sincerely hope there are people out there looking to reconsider morality as a phenomena or I’m just barking at shadows.
  • There has been one (and only one!) entrant to the Spring Review Drive! As such, this lucky individual is currently guaranteed a prize – as would the next two entrants, as long as no-one else enters (!). Whichever way you look at it, your chances of winning a signed book are excellent if you submit reviews to the Review Drive now!

More from me when I’m back in the UK and recovered from my travels, although I shall monitor the comments when I get a chance so don’t hesitate to drop me a line – I’d love to hear from you on these or any other topic!