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The Internet as a Megaphone

3 min read

We live in exciting, sometimes terrifying times. It has become fashionable to carry a device on your person at all times with more computing power than NASA's Apollo command center. Products raise millions of dollars to essentially communicate with that smart device from several feet away. The most popular uses of of these mobile devices are to shoot round birds with a slingshot at makeshift towers built by pigs, and to broadcast any minute detail that pops up in the ol' brain bucket. Broad new horizons.

However, users of these devices (and the services they enable) bring with them horizons that are neither broad nor new. Certain , previously ignored and subsequently rendered powerless, now have the means to broadcast globally and connect like-minded individuals regardless of geographic location. This message amplification has the ability to force society to progress with great strides, as with the LGBT community. But for some reason, the net-positive effect does not happen with everyone. The most recent instance of this is Gamergate.

In years past, I might have identified myself as a gamer. In the sense that "I enjoy and often play video games in my free time", it is an accurate descriptor to this day. After the past few months, I would be reluctant to identify myself this way. If you have successfully avoided any Gamergate news up to this point, good on you. Keep it up. If you feel like being sad about life, read this summary from Newsweek with actual Twitter statistics, or this in-depth summary about the implications of this type of movement.

Upon further research, this seems like a deeper cultural issue, unrelated to . I would say it is an American issue, but it is likely present elsewhere too. Kathy Sierra, a prominent tech figure, has now had to essentially leave the internet for the second time in less than 10 years. Before that, several private personal pictures of celebrities were leaked, of which there was a single male (and he was collateral damage, as he was dating one of the targeted female celebrities). Even before that, dumb old white guys were talking (seemingly sincerely) about "legitimate rape" in congressional election coverage. The megaphone created by our newly-connected society seems to have pretty terrible opinions about on an alarmingly consistent basis.

TL;DR The only way I know how to help is to write about it. I will be a parent soon. It scares me to think that the difficulty of that kid's life will be so greatly affected by a single genetic coin-toss.

​How To Beat 400 Games In 4.5 Years

1 min read

In January of 2010, I decided to change my outlook on how I manage my gaming time, how I collect games, and how I contend with the nemesis that so many gamers share: the dreaded backlog....

​How To Beat 400 Games In 4.5 Years
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Just One More Game ...

1 min read

In 1989, as communism was beginning to crumble across Eastern Europe, just a few months before protesters started pecking away at the Berlin Wall, the Japanese game-making giant Nintendo reached across the world to unleash upon America its own version of freedom....

Just One More Game ...
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In Beta #74

1 min read

http://5by5.tv/inbeta/74This is my 'feel like i'm being productive and learning things' podcast that I usually listen to on my Thursday morning commute. I was floored this week when they started talking about video games. But, like the hosts, I also never hear about really productive people who always sound like they have their life together playing lots of video games. It is something I will try to do more often. Of course, it helps that I am also currently addicted to Tiny Death Star.

Nerdist Podcast - Ken Levine

1 min read

Nerdist Podcast - Ken Levine:

Ken Levine makes my point far better than I could. I wasn’t paying attention to the time, maybe 25-30 minutes in.

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The Art of the Review, The Validation of Medium, and Why Bioshock Infinte is Awesome

3 min read

Video games are a staple of culture, regardless of what Roger Ebert thought (RIP). The joke is that parents let TV raise their kids, but my generation was raised by Nintendo (or Sega), and the current generation is raised by the spectre of Steve Jobs. These relationships are two way streets as well; video games are coming of age along with us, and it is extremely satisfying to experience a game done right in all its facets. I just finished the newest game in this category: Bioshock Infinite, and it knocked my figurative socks off.

Dictionary.com (because Merriam-Webster’s website buried this general definition) defines art as the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance. In his piece, Ebert uses Plato’s definition of art, the imitation of nature, but he goes on to say that art “improves or alters nature through an passage through what we might call the artist’s soul, or vision,” and that it is a matter of taste. Clearly he never met Ken Levine. Ebert chose to see beauty expressed through the lens of cinema, and sadly did not take the time to find “more than ordinary significance” in the Bioshocks and the Mass Effects and the Fallouts of the world. The saddest part is that he probably would have enjoyed it.

Video game reviews like to deal in technical aspects like graphics and gameplay mechanics, but trying that with something as poignant as Bioshock is a bit like forming an opinion on a novel based on its grammar and spelling accuracy. “The margins were consistent throughout, but the font made the letter G look weird.” Things like that. But video game reviews tend that way because there has never been much substance above that. I think that is what makes it hard for gamers like myself to synthesize these ideas from a video game and put them into words. (Or it could be that I just don’t write a lot.)

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300"]BioShock Infinite takes place on the steampunk... BioShock Infinite takes place on the steampunk air-city of Columbia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)[/caption]

Experiencing the story of Booker DeWitt and the flying city of Columbia through any other medium would not evoke the same reaction. I am convinced of that much. Sure, on paper, you could still form your own ideas about his motivations and your own relationship with Elizabeth. One could picture an actor swinging on sky lines, catching ammo cartridges from an actress on the big screen (see footnote). But it would not match the immersion of Infinite.

That is what great games offer: total sensory immersion into a world, at an unprecedented level. You don’t just read about it, and you don’t just watch someone act it out in front of a green screen. You explore as you see fit, you make the decisions, and you suffer the consequences. And I am only referring to single-player games here, because adding other human-controlled elements makes this another conversation entirely. One can find a deeply personal, touching and gratifying experience with buttons and joysticks and keyboards in hand, and it makes me happy to live in this brave new world.

TL;DR Two thumbs way, way up.

(Footnote: I’m thinking maybe Jon Hamm playing Booker, Zooey Deschanel as Elizabeth, Anthony Hopkins as Comstock, Tilda Swinton as Lutece.)

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photo: Yumian Deng via Compfight