• "A great deal of what is called `digital art’ is not digital art at all, and it seems many digital artists seem ashamed of the digital.  In digital installation art, the screen and keyboard are literally hidden in a box somewhere, as if words were a point of shame.  The digital source code behind the work is not shown, and all digital output is only viewable by the artist or a technician for debugging purposes.  The experience of the actual work is often entirely analog, the participant moves an arm, and observes an analog movement in response, in sight, sound or motor control.  They may choose to make jerky, discontinuous movements, and get a discontinuous movement in response, but this is far from the complexity of digital language.  This kind of installation forms a hall of mirrors.  You move your arm around and look for how your movement has been contorted."
  • "If I were in London now or in the next few weeks, instead of Frieze I'd probably be getting to these shows." Rod's lists are always good.
  • I've used the Settings plugin a lot, but it's very old and dusty. This is a nice fork of it, ported to Rails 3, and saved for future reference.
  • "In a sense, a child, by definition, shrinks Scribblenauts’ scope. The game’s potential solutions are necessarily limited by vocabulary, so players with a smaller vocabulary have fewer options open to them. But, free of the dry, efficient logic of adulthood, a child’s imagination also opens the game up in ways beyond most adults’ reach."
  • "No longer does the virtual simply enslave and deceive. Instead, it filters into the real—blurring any obvious, hierarchal distinction between the two worlds. The virtual in these films resembles more so the surreal life of our subconscious drives and desires, a mysterious source of power and revelation, than the programmed realm of illusion concocted by The Matrix. Perhaps we have come to spend more time on the computer than communicating face-to-face with other flesh-and-bone creatures, or smartphones have practically bent our bodies into question marks. But what I would argue has really shaped the virtual dimension in these films is the videogame, which has now come to nearly permeate our everyday imagination."
  • "No longer does the virtual simply enslave and deceive. Instead, it filters into the real—blurring any obvious, hierarchal distinction between the two worlds. The virtual in these films resembles more so the surreal life of our subconscious drives and desires, a mysterious source of power and revelation, than the programmed realm of illusion concocted by The Matrix. Perhaps we have come to spend more time on the computer than communicating face-to-face with other flesh-and-bone creatures, or smartphones have practically bent our bodies into question marks. But what I would argue has really shaped the virtual dimension in these films is the videogame, which has now come to nearly permeate our everyday imagination."
  • "By enabling the brain to manipulate with virtual systems, to engage with simulation, it creates systems than span the mental and the virtual, the biological and the electrical. Also, even more significantly to my point, our imagination is not a description as a book is a textual description, or a film is a visual description. It is, instead, a model." This is good, and the links are great, too.
  • "Reach, on the other hand, without its player, is an epic waiting to happen, a set of ludics waiting to be given enactment. More than any other comparison I could make, I think this one points out the value of thinking about games like Reach in the light of epics like the Iliad: these two kinds of practomime share the enormously important characteristic of living through re-performance, of gaining their meaning through iteration according to the rules laid down by the practomime." This is good: game as structure, the core loop as enacted by the player being what brings it to life, structures it according to its audience.
  • "Far Cry 2 invites fatalism, pessimism, and near-suicidal tactics because optimism and strategy went on holiday to Leboa-Sako and got murdered just like everything else. Hoping for the best doesn’t work. Being clever doesn’t work. Nothing good will ever happen to you in Far Cry 2′s Africa, and none of your carefully-designed plans will ever bear fruit."
  • "The optical future of architectural ornament: light with content. <br />
    <br />
    That is, you get home with your digital camera and you click back through to see what you've photographed—and there are words, shapes, and objects hovering there in the street, or inside the buildings you once stood within, visual data only revealed through long-exposures." Brilliant.
  • "After seeing there is a turing complete language in game, I felt like I should do something interesting with redstone in Minecraft. People already have done clocks and adders so I wanted to do something a little different while also be potentially useful. As a result, I designed out a ticker display." At least as crazy as those LittleBigPlanet calculators.
  • "Nelson, as described by IDEO in the video above, does so much work for you. It throws multiple perspectives into the equation, killing the unreliable narrator with the gifts of foresight and hindsight. It does away with the unexplainable appeal of a surprising hit novel giving you a league table of books to pick from according to their “impact on popular opinion and debate.” You’ll struggle to form your own opinion as you jump through the layers that Nelson offers you, given a perspective like a student browbeaten by an overbearing A-Level tutor." I similarly disliked their attempts to not only redesign the book, but to try to redesign narrative, in "Alice" – as if people hadn't tried, and as if what narrative _really_ needed was just a good design firm to take a crack at it.

Cowboys and Batman

13 December 2009

When I was reading Brandon‘s round up of the year’s games at Boing Boing, I stumbled upon this fantastic quotation about one player’s experience of Scribblenauts:

For example, a friend at work solves most problems with a jetpack and a lasso, instead of a grappling gun. In his heart he’s a cowboy, and in mine I’m Batman. That the game lets both of us express that is awesome.

- comment by ‘Periphera’

I’ve already linked to this in my delicious stream, but the more I think about this, the more I love it.

I loved that the way players approach problems in the game is tied to their own imaginations – I know that my solutions in that game are.

But as I thought on it, I loved the delineation of the world – into people who are Batman, and people who are cowboys.

Batman’s a toolsmith; not only does he rely on his tools (as will as prowess) to solve problems, but he manufactures new ones to fit the task. His toolkit becomes more diverse as the problems he solves do, and he’ll use any and all available technology to influence what he builds. So he’s one kind of hacker, if you like: he’ll glue anything and everything together, pick up tiny fragments of techniques, languages, platforms, patterns, and bodge them together. (Toolsmithery is a practice and metaphor I’m very fond of for hacking/coding – the first part of building anything is building the tools you need. My dad’s a model engineer, and has spent as much time building tools as building a steam engine, I reckon).

The cowboy is more pragmatic. He has one tool – a lasso, or a gun, or perhaps just a prairie stare – and he uses that to solve all problems. He’s still using wit and ingenuity, but channeled through the single tool that he’s master of. Again, another kind of hacker: one favoured tool that they’re master of, and can be applied to all problems; the best of the bash/Perl hackers I’ve met are much like this.

I talked to Webb in the pub on Friday about this. He instantly asserted that he’s a cowboy. That fits. I’m pretty sure I’m a Batman.

And now I have another lens to view the world through.