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On Fake Smoking Gets Real, I Dunno, Art Thing

Some of us get canker sores in our throats when we smoke for real, Alex

Posted on January 28, 2014 at 4:30 pm 0

On How Should A Game Be?

@stuffisthings RPS is pretty great on the whole, I agree. Their PC focus and perhaps their Britishness might factor into that. For whatever reason it seemed like console-bound multiplayer shooters really changed the scope and tenor of gaming. Not that it was particularly progressive before that, but suddenly we had gamers as a demographic, and thus a market, and thus a culture (both critical and end-user).

Fwiw there are some critical, trenchant writers on the fringes of the usual conversations. Soha El-Sabaawi wrote a couple of pretty strong pieces on Infinite when it came out, Porpentine shows up on RPS pretty often (and is on the Hairpin today!). But mainline criticism, Kotaku and Polygon and Penny Arcade and the like, is for the birds. In my opinion, at least.

Posted on January 17, 2014 at 5:44 pm 0

On How Should A Game Be?

Wowee here comes a long comment.

Part of it is the stratification of production - while the comparison of video games to film seems spurious in the context of consumption, it's not spurious at all in terms of budgeting. You average AAA game (that is, a game by a major publisher that doesn't run its own hardware platform) is made for probably $30 million on average, over 2-5 years. A lot of that isn't just for the sake of garishness, it's just that the amount of legwork and tech needed to provide the basic gameplay mechanics that consumers generally expect - full 3D (high-res, high-poly) modeling, real-time lighting, physics, etc - is intense and expensive. That's where the gap mostly resides, I think.

I mean, there's a lot (a hell of a lot) you could point to in order to explicate how the medium got to where it is at this point in time, but the criticisms you could level at game publishers are the same you could lob at major film studios - that expense has made them risk-averse, and that risk aversion has made them dull. When Bioshock Infinite was first revealed the villain / crux of the story was an American ultranationalist rather than a charismatic christian prophet.* There are a lot of reasons why that might have changed but I don't think cutting examination of American nationalism would have flown with any major publisher. The other day someone on twitter wrote that the problem with games like Call of Duty is not that they normalize violence but that they reinforce the inherent righteousness of military / paramilitary forces and all they do. I think that's on point. I can't even really play Mass Effect 3 anymore without the cryptofascist romanticism of it blaring like a siren (universally heroic soldiers, faceless and nameless civilians who are utterly hopeless without them, conniving and obstructionist civilian democratic authority, etc). Games are not all that removed from dreck like Lone Survivor.

Maybe I'm all over the place here. It is kind of a shame that with games you can have bran or cocoa puffs but not both, but if you're going to be critical (in the political rather than aesthetic sense) of games then it's true that "fun" is an inadequate measure, and indeed the concept of fun itself can be interrogated as an aspect of hegemonic cultural production, or whatever. But somehow putting games through the Brecht grinder seems pointless. That we should strip games of the elements that make them engaging and expose them as naked mechanical systems of inputs / outputs, as twine projects tend to, seems pointless. But it only feels that way because the point of games is to be fun, or so it's thought.

A lot of people are touting Kickstarter as being sort of a bridge, allowing self-styled auteurs and indie types budgets more in line with their ambitions, but I'm not sure of the extent to which that's true. This year seems like a test, since all of the big, nominally progressive kickstarter successes are due to be released. We'll see what changes, if anything.

*There might have been some avenues of criticism their eventual approach would have afforded, around the birth of the modern born-again movement and its endemic white supremacy and nationalism, but they weren't pursued from what I could tell. It all fell into a rote "extremism is bad" sentiment. And I loved the game!

Posted on January 16, 2014 at 6:14 pm 2

On Ask Polly: My Parents Don't Want Me To Marry This Short Man And I'm Freaking Out!

@brad hey now, I used "ambivalent" incorrectly in a community college ethics class once (the best possible setting to blank on that word, btw) and I am stupid erudite.

Posted on January 8, 2014 at 5:33 am 1

On Ask Polly: My Life Is A Beige Pointless Hellscape!

I consider it a privilege that I can read these things every week. HH seems to be in a state that I would like to be in someday. I just hope that when I get there I won't look back on all this time and see a waste.

Posted on December 5, 2013 at 5:40 am 2

On Ask Polly: I'm Dating A Girl, But I'm Falling In Love With a Man!

@queenofbithynia The great thing about Awl comments is that you can never tell when a Bret Easton Ellis protagonist is going to show up, but when they do, it's spectacular

Posted on September 26, 2013 at 7:07 pm 1

On Ask Polly: I'm Dating A Girl, But I'm Falling In Love With a Man!

@Kristina Sears@facebook It doesn't sound like a casual fuck buddy thing, not anymore

Posted on September 26, 2013 at 7:04 pm 1

On Ask Polly: I'm Dating A Girl, But I'm Falling In Love With a Man!

@prosolarmechanic woo, this comment started out bad and just kept going

Posted on September 26, 2013 at 7:02 pm 2

On Ask Polly: Am I Just A Booty Call?

"he has been with more girls than my fingers and toes, doubled"

"he admitted he was socially shy and that the thought of having a coffee on a first meeting scared him."

When I first heard the term "chick magnet" I thought it was some sort of metaphor but in light of this letter I'm starting to think chick magnetism is an actual physical phenomena, because wow, how does this happen. Certainly he isn't completely bullshitting with one or more of these claims.

Posted on September 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm 2

On Ask Polly: My Best Friend Keeps Recruiting Me To Join Her Multi-Level Marketing Scheme!

@blueblazes When I worked at our town library, there was an unemployed guy on disability who would regularly come in hawking investments in some bullshit energy drink that had magic Amazonion berries and endorsements from Indonesian martial arts masters. It was the most depressing thing, both because he clearly bought into the "promise" of the pyramid scheme, and because he probably put a lot of what little money he had into this "investment". Vultures and parasites, these scammers.

Posted on August 23, 2013 at 3:01 am 0