Photographic Game Space

The critically acclaimed psychological adventure game Trauma finally came out earlier this year, as a free-to-play browser game as well as a paid app for Mac OS. This week it became one of the top ten paid apps. The game is about searching through the memories of a patient suffering from mental trauma, by piecing together places and events from a series of connected photographs. It’s a unique and rich aesthetic experience, though as a whole project it still feels unfinished.

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Selling to social selves

Facebook has become more panoptic. In doing so, it is leading the trend towards greater sharing online, a loss of anonymity, and the growth of a huge market in making cyberspace social. Google, threatened by the transformation of the online economy from links to likes, is trying to follow suit, holding services that people have come to depend upon ransom to its real names policy. Facebook’s policy change is, as always, motivated by the desire to increase advertising revenue, by making it easier for advertisers to target users who are most likely to buy particular products and services. This post is about advertising. It’s illustrated with beautiful Shiseido ads that, I suspect, speak not to the social self, but to something that Facebook can’t touch in its current state. Continue reading

Cornbread with sundried tomatoes and olives

Cornbread has become a major part of my life. Easy to make, easy to vary the flavour, and easy to incorporate in lots of different dishes, baking a large corn bread is a great way of having tasty food at hand to be eaten at any time of day. When it’s fresh it’s great on its own as a breakfast or snack, then as it gets firmer it’s great with a vegetable sauce, and towards the end of its life it makes the most delicious croutons for a really satisfying salad. Continue reading

Falling in love with Akihabara again: Retro Games

Mandarake Nakano Broadway

Early on in my stay in Japan this year, a friend of mine introduced me to the Mandarake store in Nakano broadway. It’s huge, and sells many beautiful books and Pullip and Blythe dolls, and also has a handsome collection of retro games and consoles for sale. It’s the place I bought my Dreamcast from, and although it was a little on the pricey side at 10,000 yen (about 80 British quid at the moment, due to the absurdly expensive yen) it’s in mint condition and is a historically interesting limited edition, so I’m fairly happy. However, the retro games stores I later found in Akihabara still kicked its ass.

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Falling in love with Akihabara again: Queen Dolce

I’ve just come home after a month-long research trip in Japan, during which I re-discovered my love of Akihabara. I loved the things you find in Akihabara long before I ever set foot in the place – in fact, by the time I actually went on my first trip to Japan, my university course had peed on my geeky parade by immersing me in more acceptable things like Edo period woodblock prints and religious history. So most of the magic of Akihabara passed me by, because the lonely teenage otaku in me was lost behind a head full of academia. But no longer! Now I’m lucky enough to be studying computer games, pursuing electronics as a hobby which artists sometimes pay me for, and occasionally writing about genderqueer fashion. All three of those things are great excuses for me to spend endless hours trawling the streets of Akiba. Continue reading

Gamification in history: game mechanics as social models

Being a grown-up is not fun and games. To amend this, some cheerful people from a nice part of the world, probably California, invented gamification. I’ve seen some Stanford computer science lectures on iTunesU from a few years ago that seem to express the first buds of gamifying theories. Now we are beginning to see the fruits of those theories. Apparently more and more workplaces and commercial enterprises have modified their working practices to incorporate reward badges for hitting targets, points systems, sometimes level-up mechanics to represent your productivity/consumer loyalty. Continue reading

Desktop Wallpaper 19.8.11

It’s been a while! Here’s a photo I took in the underground walkway near South Ken station. Don’t thank me, thank Illford film.

Maoist DapperQ

Just a quick note to say that I’ve written a new article for which you can check out here – it’s a summary of someone else’s work on female masculinity in Maoist China.

Virtual Reality Design Logic in Copenhagen

Today was the last day of my brief visit to Copenhagen for the Against Procedurality seminar at IT University. After going to the Design Center (meh) I decided to take myself on an architectural walk using a map provided by the Architecture Centre, which I visited a couple of days ago. I popped into the Royal Library to use their internet, so that I could go on the CopenhagenX website and get information about some of the sights I was going to see – you’re supposed to buy the book to go with the map, but this way was cheaper and I was perfectly happy with it. I planned a 2-3 hour walk that would take me out of the city and home again. This was kind of a strange thing to do, because it meant leaving a lot of historical sites behind me and heading into a post-industrial wasteland, but it turned out to be very interesting. I wish more cities had architectural maps available like this, because it really does turn the cityscape into an exhibition of sorts, and with an extensive map such as the one made by Copenhagen X you end up finding very striking buildings in unexpected places.

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Materiality and Procedurality

This is my position paper for a seminar in IT Copenhagen’s game studies department called ‘Against Procedurality’. It has Portal 2 spoilers in it. Also spoilers for my presentation on Tuesday :P Anyway, I don’t usually get to put things I write academically up here because they’re so long, so I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity to post a short piece of work. Enjoy!

‘As humans we experience our world through the materiality of things. We walk on concrete, wooden or carpeted floors and drink tea from a ceramic, paper, plastic or polystyrene cup. There is a continuous, invisible exchange taking place between us, our objects and our environment.’- Karen Richmond, Thingness Symposium, Camberwell College of Arts

‘Don’t get yourself all covered in the gel. We haven’t entirely nailed down what element it is, but I’ll tell you this: it’s a lively one, and it does NOT like the human skeleton.’ – Cave Johnson, Portal 2

Materiality refers to the emotional and pragmatic significance of materials. Wood feels familiar, tactile and reassuring. Plastic feels like anything and nothing all at once – it feels more alien the more it attempts to emulate the familiar. When games involve virtual worlds, part of their procedurality is devoted to the materiality of the game-worlds.

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