‘Losing’ Bridget

Some of you out there are currently feeling bad about Bridget Guiltygear, about how a character you really liked the way it was now feels unavailable to you, and it’s in the very fraught, very distressing conversational space of Transgender Issues. You’re probably feeling in a way about it and you want someone to talk about it… and there’s nobody to talk to about it, because the conversational space is, as said, distressing.

Basically, if you’re someone who’s feeling a way about Bridget being a trans girl now, but you can recognise you’re feeling sad about you and not mad about the way other people are feeling, I’d like to talk to you. And I’d like to talk to you and offer you advice and guidance from a cohort that you might imagine is kind of your opposite: the trans Harry Potter fan.

Content Warning: I’m going to talk about Bridget a lot, and I’m going to talk about Harry Potter, and I’m going to do so with what I hope will be seen as compassion for people engaging with media. I’m obviously not endorsing or encouraging transphobia. I’m doing this as a good faith engagement with something complicated to talk about, and none of what I should say should be treated as any reason to get mad at people who are expressing their feelings.

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Game Pile: Keep The Heroes Out

When I talk about board games I know I’m biased towards talking about small, highly portable experiences that can often be introduced and played interestingly the very first time without any need to reference a rulebook. I’m not prone to having anything to talk about when it comes to campaign games, because those are often long-form, and also, we’re kind of still dealing with minimising your potential social interaction surfaces, you know the kind of deal, and I’ve even written about how strangely impossible it can be to recommend the consideration of games which are otherwise inaccessible to buy.

Keep The Heroes Out is a table-sprawling high-material campaign game by Luis Brueh, about playing the monsters in a classic fantasy dungeon fighting adventurers, it’s entirely based around scenarios you play through from a campaign sourcebook, and as far as I know, it was only available on kickstarter.

Hang on a sec.

Check check check…

Yeah okay, it’s not a conventionally available in stores, at least, not as far as I can see. You can find some copies on Ebay, and Brueh games seem to be distributing other games through other companies, so maybe this will become a commercial purchase at some point. I don’t know. No idea.

Gunna talk about it anyway!

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MTG: Introducing…

The logo for the Usurper's Palace, showing the title text overlaid on a six-pointed spiral vortext.

The territorial oceans of Achresis, known to the groundlings as ‘the Vast’ are dotted about with islands and estates, each one populated with the landbound lords considered too weak, too poor, too unimportant to command one of the vast, splendid Palace Boats. Great, towering constructs, many storeys tall, liners with whole permanent populations of courts, mages and warriors and spymasters alike carrying the great fist of the Crown of Blood to where it can most exult in its excesses or express its displeasures.

They say vampires can’t cross running water, but it’s another thing entirely when the water moves underneath you. The Crown of Blood, a title inherited by the Vampire who has at the moment, gathered the most of the true royal bloodline, speaks of who gets to wield the authority of the people. Coup after coup after coup, bloody and unreasonable, has set the Vampires of the Palace Boats at each other’s throats for generations, while they gorge themselves on lesser bloods and royal jellies for decadence’ sake. The needs of servants are done by Husks, soulless bodies that work off the debts of the living, and the energies of spirits are put to power great magics. Each Palace has its own character, its own tone, its own rebellions.

There are many things to occupy the royals of the Crown of Blood, of course. There’s a great iceberg burst from the sea but five years ago, and immediately captivated a school of vampiric artisans and researchers, who set to making it a beautiful ice palace, where research into the strange ice’s properties and inhabitants could continue apace. There’s the games of chance at the casinos, or the games of statecraft with the Masqued, the unidentifiable spies of the Crown. There are pursuits on land, exploring the scourged barren lands that were once ‘Outland’ territory, with its scattered barbarians and outcast god, where you could be the first to make a unique kind of Vampire. There’s of course, the fad for romancing planeswalkers in the name of reckless love.

And of course.

In the centre of the ocean, over the vast, dark spiral in the water, there stands on mighty columns, there is the six-sided shape of the Palace of the Dead, whose gates have been held open, and through which spirits struggle to fly, and whose largesse has ensured the steady flow of magic, and the denial of death. The Palace boats do not go near the Palace, knowing it is through respect to its King, their bounty is assured.

Everything is good, if it’s good for you.

And nothing at all is going to change that.

Warning: Wizards employees, this post contains unsolicited designs of custom magic cards.

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MTG: 2022’s Custom Cards, by The Numbers

Every day of 2022, I shared a Custom Magic Card — a card for Magic: The Gathering that I designed, using art gathered from the internet — on Reddit’s /custommagic Subreddit, My Talen_MTGee Twitter account, and then eventually, on Mastodon and Cohost. With 2022 behind me, I figure it’s now time to collect all the information I can about all the cards I made, and what I learned about myself and my assumptions.

Art Source 1, 2, 3

Warning: Wizards employees, this post contains unsolicited designs of custom magic cards.

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MTG: December 2022’s Custom Cards

Hey, it’s a new year, but there’s still some business from last year to tidy up. No-Effort November yielded a bunch of cards with no themes, obtained by grabbing everything out of my year’s total collected work that I cut from other lists or other ideas. Simply put, you got a grab bag of ‘huh, why not?’ designs.

Warning: Wizards employees, this post contains primarily custom magic cards.

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Story Pile: Goncharov

Don’t worry, I’m not about to do an explainer on this movie, which does not exist. I cannot stress that enough: It does not exist. I don’t think I need to belabour that point, because it seems almost nobody’s trying to sustain kayfabe on this one. You’re not going to see a big, elaborate description of the critical analysis of a four hour long 1973 Mafia film starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Gene Hackman, Harvey Keitel, Cybill Shepherd and Lynda Carter (in a minor role), with a great big twist at the end like hahah, surprise, got you, this movie doesn’t exist!

I know, that is the kind of joke I like to tell! I like walking you down a garden path, introduce a ridiculous idea, and then surprise you by revealing that it’s true (or not, I mix it up). But no, in this case, I’m not here to do that. I’m going to do something so much worse, I’m going to talk to you about my feelings, and they’re not going to be happy or feel-good!

Content Warning: I’m going to talk about Goncharov, which I hope is obvious, and I’m going to talk about being angry at people and the way I felt treated without any intention to change their behaviour or ask apology.

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2023, The 10th Year Of Press.Exe

Hey, it’s January! That’s an odd-numbered month, which means there’s not going to be a theme here. It’s also the start of the year and there’s going to be a bunch of stuff getting cleared out from 2022 so it’s not going to have a proper theme but it’ll definitely have something… themey.

What’s coming? Well:

  • February is a month of Smooches!
  • April is a month of Self Indulgence!
  • June is a month of Pride!
  • August is a month of Tricks!
  • October is a month of Dread!
  • December is a month of ‘Ween!

Then, each month, look forward to

  • A How To Be article talking about a character in 4th edition D&D
  • A worldbuilding article talking about building my setting of Cobrin’Seil, or building settings in general
  • At most one article on 3.5 D&D, one on 4e D&D
  • Each month I’ll show you at least one article on Magic: The Gathering, where I’ll show you this month’s daily custom cards, and well, we have a big special project for that, which we’ll talk more about soon.
  • An article talking about an OC, usually from City of Heroes, but hey, wide open world.
  • One piece of graphic design for a t-shirt, mask, or sticker
  • A story pile article each monday, with at least one anime a month (loose target)
  • A game pile article every friday, with at least one video a fortnight (harder target)

Each month I’m going to present at the end of the month, a summary of the game dev I’ve been doing that month, which is also going to be built out of articles posted on other social media spaces.

Ah.

Yes.

Other social media spaces.

You know, like Twitter, where I used to do this all the time.

I’m writing this back in December, of course. I don’t know what’s going on with Twitter. But I think it’s probably bad, and I think I’m enjoying not having to be on a space that predominantly is known for everyone on it screaming about how bad it is. So what I’m going to try and do going forward is do things like dev threads over on my Mastodon, which lets me do long-form threading with graphics, and search my own history. That’s what I really liked about what twitter gave me. I’ll also be presenting things on Cohost and Patreon to see what the audiences there want to say.

Basically, what you’ll find where:

  • Drafted article ideas where you can comment and give me direct suggestions where I’ll be able to meaningfully engage? Cohost.
  • Threads for showing ongoing progress on projects where I’m primarily taking notes on my own work? Mastodon.
  • Places for answering polls and questions about the game development I’m doing where you get to provide meaningful input into things I’m doing? Patreon.
  • Just the video articles? Youtube!

Each of these platforms is going to do a different job, and that’s important. I need to stop treating you as if you’re going to different sources for content firehoses. What I want you to do is come to my blog to look at the best of my material, and look at those other platforms as places you can go if you want more. This blog hosts articles. Those places are for social interaction, in different ways.

Particularly, this plays into the new way I’m approaching Brainstorm posts. Instead of having each month open with a post explaining that month’s game project, which can feel a bit like an open space, my intention is to present a link to the month’s brainstorming thread on Mastodon. Mastodon serves a purpose that the blog doesn’t necessarily, where it allows for lots of small additions, maintained in reverse chronological order, threaded on one another. At the start of each month, there’s going to be now, a post summarising that thread. This also stops cutting off a bit of extra time, where scheduling meant sometimes a month was more like three weeks of working on something rather than 31 days.

Below the fold, though, there’s some reflection on the history of this blog, why we have ten years of Press, and how I feel about realising this is now one of the longest ongoing projects I’ve ever had.

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The All of 2022 Wrapup

In January, I wrote out a plan for the year. In that plan, I described types of articles I was going to make, and kind of like ‘caps’ on the types of subjects I would write about. I also promised to watch more anime, which was like a threat, I guess. I also mentioned the eventual Avatar update, that would serve to bring presentation on a lot of platforms in line.

Knowing that, then, how’d I go? What were the good bits, the pieces of 2022 that I think, now, you should go back and check out (and I will go back and check out myself when I’m browsing the blog looking for ideas I want to further expand on).

Big, long-term projects included a daily Magic: The Gathering card, released at first on a twitter account every day, and now being posted on Mastodon and Cohost. Those got a set of summarising posts. I also did a podcast with Fox about watching all the Disney Animated Canon movies, which we called the Disney Animated Canonball.

It was also at the start of the year that I stopped using an add-on for the blog called Jetpack. Jetpack let me do things like find out how many hits each individual page was getting, and that formed the basis of what I then, at the end of the year, would list as the ‘most popular’ stuff. It was useful to see what you thought was good here, rather than just what I liked, in hindsight. It sped things up. But I’m not using Jetpack any more, and that means that instead… I had to go through all the articles I wrote, and ask myself ‘hey, is this good?’ and ‘why would someone wanna read this again?’

Which means we’re going to look at a lot of links here.

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Decemberween 2022: Nice Boys On The Internet

I don’t watch a lot of streams. I have a very hard time engaging with a space like that, where there’s a lot of tangible avenues for human interaction that are all explicitly one way. It’s a byproduct of mostly only seeing and engaging with stream chat when it’s something that’s a big deal, like Desert Bus or Games Done Quick (oh yeah one of those is coming up and one of those just ended). It means that for all that the actual video content is pretty entertaining, when the volume of human engagement is high enough, I just feel like I’m being invited to engage with thousands of people all of whom will ignore me, so I’d much rather watch the whole thing on vod later, possibly at double speed to make up for the lack of crisp editing.

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Decemberween 2022: Homestuck Made This World

I did a Decemberween post a few years back on a podcast called Game Studies Study Buddies which is a great podcast about reading academic texts from the field of Games Studies, a field distinct from Game Theory, which is math, and Gameology, which doesn’t exist. It’s a good podcast, it features two twitter personalities and general gaming space wordboys, Cameron Kunzelman and Michael Lutz, one of whom is a country boy who loves dubstep.

If the point of Decemberween is to point you to free media that you can enjoy during a time where you may be seeing other media going into big long slow downtimes, then it seems to me that this is a great time to point you at a podcast that’s something like eighty hours of long-form reading of a webcomic that is also thousands and thousands of panels long. It helps that it’s honestly a really good podcast on that topic.

I don’t want to talk too much about my opinions of Homestuck here because they’re largely negative and every time I approach something I think I’ll hate because I’ve been asked to give it a second chance it tends to go bad (not always). But what I want to talk about is the way this podcast serves to onramp the experience of Homestuck in two major ways.

First and foremost, it’s actually disciplined enough to release on a meaningful schedule while covering a meaningful quantity of the comic. It isn’t hitting dreadful schedule slippage or existence failure, goodness willing. It’s just that this is going to get through the comic in a meaningful pace and is going to include the things that are in the comic without needing to spend two hours dwelling on one small set of panels. There’s a focus to it.

Secondly, there’s no need to mystify or exalt the text while they’re reading it so you don’t get a introduction that starts with something like Homestuck is an Experience but instead a much more robust, much more clear examination of what the text is, the form it takes, the source from which it comes, and that author’s other, related works. It’s a sort of autoethnography where these two people are sharing an experience and engaging with their reactions to that experience academically.

Homestuck is a thing that happened, and we can look at that thing, and it is through these two gents talking about it in a way that was willing to go ‘oh hey, this bit is boring’ and ‘this bit is bad’ while still bringing to bear tools of textual analysis (ie, looking at what’s in the text rather than necessarily the sort of paidic experience most people seem to get about Homestuck) it makes the whole task seem a lot less arduous. I know every time I’ve considered digging through Homestuck I’ve looked at the screen of a dork in his room and gone: There are ten years of this and most of it is bad, why bother?

But Homestuck Made This World looks at it in a historical context, and don’t just tell me what they think or feel about it, they show a meaningful sourced representation of what the culture at large thought of it. It’s really inspiring as a way to handle a big, challenging text.

Who knows, maybe I’ll give an examination of Homestuck a shot.

For money.

Story Pile: The 2022 Summary

And here we are, on the last Story Pile day of the year. I would say ‘the last monday’ but honestly, I don’t know if it’s monday to you. It’s not monday to me. I don’t think I’ve ever written a Story Pile article on the monday it goes up. The joy of scheduling. Anyway, it’s the end of the year, it’s an arbitary cutoff point before I reorganise some stuff, what was this year like and also can I have a freebie sir thank you.

I watched a lot of stuff this year! I watched some stuff that kicked ass, some stuff that bored me, and some stuff I struggled to finish. This year featured a lot less hate-watching, and a lot more consideration of disappointments, with only a few Hallmark pieces to drag around because it’s fun to make fun of really bad media sometimes, and it’s easy, and it’s something to share with Fox.

One thing I watched a lot more of this year is anime. I feel like the past five years or so I’ve really fallen out of watching anime, something I used to love doing, and only this year did I really get back into the habit of trying to watch an anime on the regular — a single series a month, maybe, and binge on a few when I was of a mood. I joined a discord with an anime club channel. And the result is I watched a bunch of kick-ass anime! Not all of it got Story Piles this year. Maybe next year. I wound up weaving this into my organisation — every month, I would do one Story Pile on an anime.

But this isn’t about what I watched this year.

This is about what I wrote.

What articles did I write, in the Story Pile category, that I want you to look at? What are my top ten most proud of it articles I wrote? Let’s count ’em down!

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Decemberween 2022: Fox!

“Eat shit, love of my life!”

What else could I write about today?

This has not been a nice year for Fox. There’s been some losses and some setbacks, and I try not to talk about other people’s stuff going on in their lives here. Especially since this is Decemberween, which is a celebration. I nonetheless want to bring up that this is a year that has featured some immense challenges for Fox, and I’ve been there watching her coping with them and overcoming them. And you know, it’s trite, it’s a familiar thing, hey, Fox had something hard and I was so impressed watching her overcome it, she’s so brave, she’s so whatever, I don’t mean to dwell on that as if overcoming adversity is something she’s doing to impress me.

But.

This has also been a year of people embracing the term goblin mode and when they do that, they are carrying with them the spirit of Fox, who has been full time goblin for many a year. It’s nice to see people celebrating the urge of someone who wants to huddle in blankets and cause problems on purpose.

And… that was all I was going to say.

I was going to let that go, and let the rest of it be something of a mystery. You know, challenges and all.

Fox is a woman who lives her life on the internet. The fundamental nature of her art is to make, with her hand, on a digital interface. Fox makes code by typing and she draws with her hands. This year, Fox had to confront that multiple pandemic years coupled with reduced mobility had given her tennis elbow and now, her ability to write, code, and draw, are all curtailed and needs to have a set of interruptions. And when your hands become a thing you need to care for, you’re going to be surprised how often you forget that your hands are vulnerable. This year has been full of moments where Fox starts doing something, I notice, ask if she wants help and she realises what she’s doing endangers her hands (that she’s meant to be giving a chance to recover!) and there’s a little ‘ahahah, oh shit’ moment.

This year, Fox contacted the government to make sure they got her status correct. Do you know how big a deal that is? The Australian public support system is so much better than the American ones that you complain about, but also, it is absolutely designed to make you feel ashamed and humiliated and stop using it ASAP. Fox put her head down and made a call to people who she knew were going to make her life harder and…

I don’t know if you can understand how heroic that is.

And I talked to her about it, and she’s okay with me talking about it.

Because Fox is braver than I am and stronger than I am and I am shocked at the things she’s okay baring to the world at times. She’s been learning about guitars, rebuilding server systems, making virtual tabletops, even streamed for a while this year as she tried to get into a particular habit. And all of this while she was struggling with pain in her arms and hands!

Fox is great, and I love her, and every Christmas, I take the opportunity to remind her that she is, and has given me, a gift.

Decemberween 2022: NixiiiE

It’s another Nixie Posting!

Nixie is of course an influence on my work, partly because she’s my adorable disrepectful internet family, but also because this year has featured some super dope Nixie Content.

I’m not linking to twitter, because

uh

Twitter, right now.

But that’s okay because what Nixie has done this year that excites me the most is seizing the pedagogic means of production. What she’s been doing has included amongst other things, learning languages and that includes things like moving, something which sucks at the best of times.

But twice this year, Nixie has come to me to ask my help making a game. And then when I told her methods and tools I’d use, she did that thing that I always love to see: She went ‘okay, I got it,’ then she went and made the game to her specifications.

These games were then cool enough that she showed them to her teachers and those teachers went and told the class about them.


Twice this year, I’ve watched live-streamed performances of Nixie at choir. One of them was because she wanted me to save a video for her, and one of them was because, well… it was her recital. It was a choir performance she did, and she invited me to come watch, so I woke up and sat back and changed my day’s plans to make sure I was there to talk to her about it.

Is it weird to say I was proud of her? I know I clapped at my computer. That seems weird. Oh well.


Now of course, you already knew I think Nixie is great and adorable and sweet and definitely cool. And I’m really laying it on thick here just so I can bully her with reminding her of how wonderful she is. But the point is the longer this article is, the more of it she’ll have to read as she gets more and more annoyed at me.

See, she’s also a good writer, but without the threads to link to, I’m not about to be able to prove it. So that’s why this year, around when Twitter Looked Volatile, I made a cheeky little move to contact her and ask her to give some input to an article I was writing about one of her favourite movies, Air America.

And then, to my amazement, she and I made one of the same jokes in our writing, without any input from one another, and it’s an obscure bloody joke.

Game Pile: One Page Rules

One Page Rules is a family of tabletop material games with the design principle that the core rules for playing the game takes one page (back and front), and each individual faction you want to play can have all its game mechanical information conveyed again, on one page (back and front).

Once upon a time, this kind of thing would be considered an indie game, an extremely streamlined, microgame style arrangement. But the thing that sets One Page Rule aparts is that it has one of the most remarkable potential scopes of any game of its genre I’ve ever seen.

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Decemberween 2022: Music!

As you get older you stop paying attention to ‘music’ in a general way. I don’t drive a car, I don’t go to parties, I tend to listen to music that’s functionally entirely under my control, and this year I have been trying to avoid streaming services for music.

This has also meant more stealing stuff, which I feel completely fine about, but it has meant stealing stuff in low quality mp3s, which of course, the person in my life who might hear them and can appreciate bad music quality doesn’t like.

Still, here’s some stuff I found this year and I like:

Night Gaunts - Post Party Depression [Days N Daze Cover]

It’s weird how this song, which I first found on Spotify (you know, before the stealing stuff) didn’t have an album cover to me. Now it has an album cover and I can’t imagine wanting anything else. Sick, huh?

The Town Inside Me [With Lyrics] (Bridget Theme) - Guilty Gear Strive OST

Oh man, remember when Bridget GuiltyGear dropped and we got treated to a new wave of incredibly stupid discourse? A detail easily missed in all this was that there was a new theme song with it, and most of the Guilty Gear Strive music whips (I particularly like Disaster of Passion, the theme for May), but The Town Inside Me got to stand apart of it and included an enduringly weird line that keeps popping into my head, ‘I hate the alarm clock I chose.’

Also it’s got a horns bit! I like horns bits!

絶頂讃歌/和ぬか【Music Video】

This one might be blocked in your region, don’t know, can’t help ya. It’s called Orgasm Anthem by Wanuka, and it’s a really fun, poppy Japanese song you can hum along with.

We also got the OP to Chainsaw Man Kick Back, which is… a cover? Of a Morning Musume song?

And while I’m loading up on Anime themes, I also really liked Venus Line, the opening to Birdie Wing. Oh no, wait I just noticed this one does a horns bit too. I might just be really into horns in my music?

Sunrise Skater Kids - Rylo Ken [Official Video]

There’s still always room in my heart for ironically pop-culture engaged pop punk though, and even if I feel like Sunrise Skater Kids is the kind of band I expect to make ‘pronouns’ jokes at some point if you give them enough rope, I still like this song just because if you’re going to make fun of a character, it helps to present them the way you perceive them.

Regurgitator - ! (The Song Formerly Known As)

Oh, you know what else was super popular this year? 1997 Australian pop music! For reasons undisclosed at this point I’ve been doing a lot of retro listens to 90s pop music and trying to determine if there’s some inherent quality to them I don’t appreciate enough, or if maybe it’s just making my brain think I’m a teenager again.

I like this song a lot because it feels like it’s expressing a very 2020 kind of vibe about loving music but not loving music culture, and how people and anxiety are at odds with one another for how you can appreciate it.

The Dear Hunter "King of Swords (Reversed)"

I don’t know anything about this one but the name makes me assume it’s part of a greater operatic structure and I absolutely do not care to hear more. But I am a sucker for the jabby violins at the start.

Carmen Miranda's Ghost 02 - Dawson's Christian

Finally, the thing that made me decide I needed to do a post like this.

Carmen Miranda’s Ghost is a science-fiction zine album of filks made by a variety of folk and headlined by an anarchist songmaker way back in 1989. The story of how it got made is a bit interesting and cool, and maybe the vibe of it is just something that resonates with me a lot. It’s sea shanties, but it’s also science fiction, so there’s an unreality to it and there’s worldbuilding and that’s dope as hell.

And this morning as I write this, I got confirmation of something.

There are a lot of fun names on the credit list for this album of nonprofessional music. Particularly, one of the songs is written by Mercedes Lackey, which is pretty neat (as much tolerance as you have for her). But the other thing is, on a couple of these songs, there’s a chorus voice, doing bass backup for a higher front voice.

That voice is Mike Pondsmith, the creator of Cyberpunk.

I checked with Talsorian Games, and asked if they could confirm it was the same Mike Pondsmith. They told me yes – and they called the album a rare gem.

Decemberween 2022: Going To Bed Early

I can’t believe what a treat this is.

I have a friend who has been, for a while, tootling away on her trumpet about how it’s a great idea to go to bed early and not stay up late. Personally, I value that time late at night heavily, because it’s time when the house and neighbourhood are quiet, and I can do audio recording safely. Not to mention that it’s a time when I can enjoy the focus of being pettily unmindful of other people.

But now, for some reason or another, sleeping late is hard. Sleeping late after a late night is rarer, and nights of going to bed at 1 and waking up at 7 is a fine way to create a steadily growing sleep debt.

This means that this year, this December in particular, I have been extolling the practice of going to bed early. I feel like there’s a pattern easily seen and even more easily fallen into. You go to bed at 10, with your phone, dick around on the phone and go to sleep at 1. So you the next night think that well, you’re going to be up until 1 anyway, why bother going to bed, and so you stay up out of bed until say, 1 again, and then you go to bed with your phone and dick around for an hour or two, and you push this cycle.

You?

I mean me.

I mean me, I do this. I do this where I sit in my bed, on my laptop, and try to get writing done. Tonight, I’ve put down four drafts and I’m working on this one as well. In the morning, there is work to do, and I’m honestly looking forward to do it, and I want to do it while energised. I want to do it thinking about it and not slogging through it.

And that makes this moment, now, when I close my laptop at eleven o’clock and just turn off the light, head down in the dark, a treat.

A little few hours of sleep, just for me.

As a treat.

Decemberween 2022: Life SMP

Do you like reality TV? No? Oh okay that makes sense. Not saying that none of you do, but on average, I can reasonably assume

What about wrestling? Yeah! Yeah okay, probably, statistically, you do.

What about Minecraft? Yeah, okay, statistically, you also probably do!

The Life SMP is a Minecraft SMP (“Survival Multiplayer”) set up as in Hardcore mode, where you have a limited number of lives. You can die a total of 3 times and then that’s it, you’re out of the game. A bunch of professional Minecrafters get thrown into this space, with rules for each iteration and what you get is kind of a really good single season narrative you can see from multiple perspectives.

The storytelling this presents is really interesting to me — you’re basically getting a mix of reality TV, where players need resources to actually do things to affect the world and make things happen (including violence), but there’s also an element of shared fiction where people are creating things that one another needs to react to. There are grudges (real and exaggerated), there’s kayfabe (real and exaggerated), and unlike other long-form Minecraft content where there’s a sort of timeless vision, the Life setup is very clearly here for a good time, not for a long time.

There are three seasons of Life and it works well that each season gets better than the next. It’s some really good bingeable content for the holiday period – just put the playlist on the TV and let it run because it’ll have that effect where plot points may zip past, but the next video will show you that plot point in a different angle.

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Decemberween 2022: Rabbi Tovia Singer

Oh yeah, Decemberween, when I recommend a bunch of free, online content that I find enjoyable so you can partake of it in this period of Everything Being Busy, what kind of fun cool interesting media are we talking about today? Well, extremely deep Tanakh scholarship from what amounts to the internet version of a conservative Jewish call-in show.

Look, when I recommend media, you know I’m not recommending media veganism. I don’t think that Rabbi Singer is in any way going to line up with me on almost any front. I tolerate a pretty high level of what I’d call ‘coot factor’ when it comes to religious scholarship. I imagine, I assume, that say, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi who lives In Israel probably has some pretty cruddy views about oh, you know, maybe that country they’re living in called Palestine, and I’m not asking you to make exception to that.

Matthew corrupted Jewish Scriptures to craft a preposterous Christmas story - Rabbi Tovia Singer

Still, I have been listening to a lot of this guy this year, because of a specific area of scholarship where he’s been working very hard since the 1980s. Singer is an aggressive and constant opponent to the idea of Messianic Judaism.

Messianic Judaism is the idea of Christians trying to convert Jews. This is typically done by claiming that Christianity is compatible with Judaism, or that Judaism has been Christianity all along. There’s also a lot of imagery nonsense, like trying to use The Wordless Book style storytelling over the Seder to show that hey, doesn’t this bread remind you of Jesus?

What I’ve known for a long time is that the gospels are inconsistent, and this should be a problem for people who claim that the gospels represent divine literal truth. What I didn’t know is how much the New Testament is inconsistent with the Old Testament, where phrases that I knew didn’t line up are demonstrated changes in the text, rather than what I, an English language speaker thought growing up, that they were just translated differently.

Immanuel's Mother was No Virgin! Matthew Corrupted Isaiah – Rabbi Tovia Singer

Anyway, Rabbi Singer defends his position and his faith and his values, and provides a perspective on Christianity from the position of someone who knows it very well and who knows the faith it claims to own. I find these talks and these long form textual conversations about specific wording changes in the two components of the Christian Bible super interesting. What’s more, they’re just going to come at things on a different footing. Me, an atheist, pointing out how Christianity does feature ritual cannibalism and a human sacrifice, get eyerolls because of course I’d just ‘not get it’ because I’m not religious. But when someone who is religious brings those same ideas to task, that position looks very different.

It’s interesting to me, and Rabbi Singer seems to have an extraordinarily strong grasp of all the concepts. When he talks about Dispensationalism and Evangelical Christianity, his mastery of the topic aligns with what I know, and he justifies what he knows from texts that I can go look up (even if I have to trust others translating Hebrew). Some of it is still Preacher dialogue, and I’m familiar with that, but it’s still really damn interesting to me.

Happy Hanukkah.

Decemberween 2022: Yale Divinity School Lectures

… I promise I’m not the most boring man in the world.

Hebrew Bible Interpretation 1, Lecture 1

You know Yale Divinity School? I understand a Yale is a pretty important thing. Yales are famously important school related things. Anyway, you know how there’s that thing where schools put their lectures on Youtube, and you can watch them, for free? You might ask ‘who would do that?’

Well me.

Me, I did that.

Today.

I watched all 26 hour long lectures (at increased speed), which is looking at the Hebrew Bible, an examination of the Old Testament as a document that was made by people and for its own purpose, before it got hijacked by Christianity with that there dang New Testamenty thing.

Something I particularly like about this lecture series, and I know this is a small point, but something I genuinely really like, is that to my amusement, Dr Baden pronounces the Hebrew names in a Hebrew way — and even teases and makes fun of the Americanised pronunciations. Why’s that a big deal? Because I had no idea that I was hearing Americanised pronunciations!

I really like Dr Joel Baden’s delivery, I find him fun to listen to, I like his delivery style and I really enjoyed watching these lectures, and I learned a lot. It’s free. Check out the full playlist here!

Decemberween 2022: DOUBLE KING

Hey, did you ever watch Australian mid-afternoon TV and occasionally see in some little two-to-ten minute British animations that operated around some principle that had nothing to do with anything but you watched purely as some insight into the minds of the creator. Sometimes they implied a story and sometimes they were just more about a character, to give you an idea of what the character might be, even if they weren’t necessarily telling you what they were.

Anyway,

Decemberween 2022: The Worst Things For Sale

I haven’t mentioned this before?

Surely I’ve mentioned this before, goddamn.

Okay, so The Worst Things For Sale is a daily-sometimes-weekly-as-I-write-this blog that is very simply just finding weird things that you can buy, usually on Amazon, and talking about them. Sometimes there’s a delightful sting of the purely scientific, where the author of the blog goes and does the (sometimes quite basic) math to point out the foolishness of the product, which can be convenient. Sometimes it just points to the product and goes: Really, look at this.

It’s a pretty cynical blog, in that it mostly points out that a lot of products that are ‘of their moment’ age poorly. Another common type of product is specific niche interests that someone is trying to capitalise on and how the people who are into that thing might wind up feeling short-shifted by the products bought for them.

The items are often hilarious out of their context, but what the blog has got going for it in a big way is that the archive is deep: you can just scroll through it, a month at a time and go through years of content while you just laugh your ass off at the variety of weird and horrifying things that some people have tried to put up on Amazon.

The people behind it also made Garbage Brain University and they’ve started a new podcast called Everything Is Real, about conspiracy theories. Uh they also make Toothpaste for Dinner and Married To The Sea and also that one chart joke about doing everything while crying I show my students and –

Look, these people make a bunch of cool stuff. Check out this one for a fun binge read.

Decemberween 2022: Magic Documentaries

Okay, Magic: The Gathering content for Decemberween. I know, I know, some of you aren’t into this game and don’t want to watch anything relating to the game made by the company that treated Orion Black terribly. But I do watch content based on this game, I do care about it (even if I feel it’s always appropriate to mention the way the game is made by a company that treated Orion Black terribly), and some of that content is really interesting to me.

Last year I got in the habit of watching a set of daily content creators who just shared videos of them playing the game on camera in a way that I liked. This year I thought I’d highlight some of those video producers that, in my opinion, treat Magic: The Gathering like the sport that it is, and make some really cool game documentaries about it. Liiike this great video by Rhystic Studies on Red Deck Wins, an archetype that kind of taught everyone playing the game early on what math was:

And for a similar long-form, here’s Pretty Deece that I don’t think I’m necessarily always in agreement of, but it’s a good channel for providing this kind of content, more zoomed in on specific periods of time rather than on the history of archetypes and what it means or how it feels.

The BEST MTG Match Ever Played | Pretty Deece

Want to engage with the game but you’re social distancing this Decemberween, not because you have to or anything but because you’ve realised how awful a lot of the people you were successfully avoiding these past few years were? Well, check out these neat channels!

Decemberween 2022: ASMR Recommendations

Each year, now, as a tradition, I share a list of the ASMR artists I have discovered and engaged with throughout the year. Ostensibly, this is to promote them, but we all know that that’s not really how this works. Now I’m in the habit of doing it because I can look back at each entry and see if I’ve stayed engaged with the same artists over time. It’s a neat kind of diary!

Continue Reading →

Game Pile: Jelle’s Marble Runs

Is a spectator playing a game?

Well, they’re doing something, right? If the audience, if the crowd, wasn’t a factor in a sports presentation then there wouldn’t be a meaningful idea of ‘home team’ advantage. We know that spectators in a sport influence the game that’s being played, after all — if nothing else, there are a lot of times in Baseball’s history in particular where a game was concluded, thanks to the actions of the spectators.

MARBULA ONE S3 GP12 Mirage Meowntain - Race (FINAL)

Now, hang on, you might argue that that’s not playing the game, and yeah, maybe it’s not. It’s concluding the game, with a different set of priorities. But the knowledge that fans can do that kind of thing, concerns that the reactions of the fans could curtail the game certainly play into the game’s players’ functions. They are an influence on the playing of the game, so we can definitely not say that they are separate from it.

But let’s say that that’s a material concern; that the game is agnostic of the spectator behaviour, and that the game is only defined by the rules that they experience. This is a great big discussion, something you can delve into at length through The Philosophy Of Sport, but that mighty tome is built on the work of Bernard Suits, the author of the Grasshopper, Life Games And Utopia. In that work, Suits forwards a definition of games that I think has achieved widespread academic adoption, which is that a game is The consensual overcoming of unnecessary obstacles.

Marble Race: ML22 E12: Domino Bowling | Jelle's Marble Runs

Now I’ve written about this in the past, when I ruminated on the question of whether Carlos Santana truly ‘played’ SIlent Hill with his controller of Rob Thomas. But that’s about streamers and an engaged audience; an audience, like the spectators, who are present to the player, who are in a way connected to the scenario. They influence the game by dint of engaging with the player.

What about an audience who are completely disconnected? What if we took the audience completely out of the sport, let’s put them in a remote location, where they can’t say or do anything to the players, like the esports community of South Korea’s Starcraft channels. For lower-tier matches, outside of code A (at least ten years ago when I was paying a lot more attention), players weren’t getting a live audience, but their games were being broadcasted to satisfy a bottomless demand… and we know in that case, that nerves, choking, all are factors that the audience’s existence can impose on the players.

Okay, so what if we remove the ability of the audience to influence the players. What if the players are somehow, emotionally, unaffectable by the attention of an audience? What if they were cold, efficient, and entirely automated in their play experience in a way that could be equalised and fair? And in order to make sure they’re not too complex, let’s make these game players as simple as possible such that they can’t fail or break or be otherwise impacted, meaning the game can operate in the purest possible way, without any psychological influence of the audience.

Are those spectators playing a game?

Yes.

Marble Race: Marble League 2021 - E14 Sand Rally

In that simplest possible definition, there is a goal, and the spectator is trying to achieve the goal, with a consensually-chosen unnecessary obstacle: Specifically, the goal is to get their chosen simplified actor into a victory position, with a control mechanism that is completely deprived of all functional agency.

The spectator wants a player to win, they want to succeed, but the only means they have to influence the game are by cheering and by wanting. They negotiate, they pray, they plan, they strategise, they try to find a way to see their chosen player win, or get better results, or wind up where they want them to be, all through no means at all, through the least effective means possible.

Oh yeah, and uh, Jelle’s marble runs is a super sick youtube channel with lots of long-form, child-safe content that is watching marbles being run through races, with just enough fictional structure to treat these marbles like teams and players, that you can get attached to a particular marble, go Goose. If you want something engaging and interesting, it’s super fun to watch. Hell just writing up this article took longer because I was too busy watching the videos of the marble runs.

Decemberween 2022: Casual Geographic

Yeah I’m late to the party here, no I don’t care.

How One Animal Glitched The System

This channel, which I only know as mndiaye_97, because quite frankly time spent investigating all the personal details of these creators in the name of blog articles inevitably brings to my attention something that I don’t want to know and then I feel obligated to report on it, is one of those great examples of Tiktok deforming media structures. It’s a bunch of tiktok styled media, with the tools for remixing the program gives you, the awkward angled cutoff, high-speed delivery and focus on the spectacle rather than long-form detail and oh my god I’m trying to copy his speaking style, this is all one sentence isn’t it oh god how do I break out of th

Anyway, I like this channel. It’s full of animal facts. It’s fun. It’s also bleak and dark, because it’s a bunch of animal facts that in many cases, suck and are violent. But it’s still engaging as hell to me to hear about squids and octopi and the occasional weird looking things a hippo or a coyote or a donkey does. Plus I really like the way it doesn’t fixate on a Formal Presentation Style and instead it’s talking about things in a way that demonstrates mastery of a topic without complying with an idea of ‘proper’ terminology.

In October 2021, Casual Geographic mentioned ‘Thank you so much for one million!!’ and when I read that in May, they were at two million. Six months for a million subscribers, that seems a nice rate.

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