Affiliated with the University of California's systemwide
Humanities Research Institute
The MacArthur Foundation
My daughter on Goldieblox — The toy start-up Goldieblox has been in the news this week thanks to an ugly public fight over fair use and right of publicity with the Beastie Boys (they've since relented). But the company first gained public attention over a year ago when they first launched the Kickstarter for "an engineering toy for girls." Back when the crowdfunding campaign launched, I asked my daughter (then 10 years old) if she wanted to take a look at it and possibly write something about her impressions. (Reminder, she's practicing to take over the family business, so to speak. Here's some of her... (read more)
DRM free for Windows and Mac. Get it at the Humble Store or via Storybundle. — In 2010 I released a game called A Slow Year. It was a strange game on many levels: made for the Atari VCS, and dubbed "game poems," and composed as a kind of chapbook. The game was a finalist in the Nuovo category at the 2010 Independent Game Festival, and it won the Vanguard and Virtuoso awards at Indiecade 2010. I released it in two forms, as a signed, numbered limited edition set of twenty-five in a hand-crafted leather box with Atari cartridge (now sold out), and as a paperback book with CD for Windows and Mac. That approach necessarily... (read more)
A Mexican Food Index to Alien Phenomenology — Here's a complete list of all mentions of Mexican food in my book Alien Phenomenology, or What it's Like To Be A Thing: They cover plates of enchiladas as shrubs cover the hundreds of square miles of their high desert home. (3) Tumbling in vented steel cylinders, chiles crackle over the open flame of roasting. (3) Reality is reaffirmed, and humans are allowed to live within it alongside the sea urchins, kudzu, enchiladas, quasars, and Tesla coils. (5) The scoria cone and the green chile remain, even as they partake of systems of plate tectonics, enchiladas, tourism, or digestion. (7)... (read more)
IBT has an interesting interview with Bas Seelen of Spilgames, explaining how the audience for casual games has expanded: At first it was mainly women that played casual games online but now we have three brands to cater for a wide range audience because of the uptake from different demographics. So we have come full circle, […]
— Perfectly adequate home in decent area. Architecturally coherent, after a fashion. Updated, insofar as it was once renovated, probably in the 1970s or 1990s, but in a manner that did more harm than good. Features rooms, hallways, ceilings, and other details unremarkable in a structure meant to be a residence. The home is situated on a plot of land of an ordinary size. Priced by means of numbers. Homeowners feel that they are entitled to a 10% annual appreciation despite having purchased the property just before the total collapse of the real estate market. * * * New build, the latest example... (read more)
How McDonald's strange, seasonal sandwich explains the rest of its menu — Originally published at The Atlantic Each year, the McRib makes a brief visit to Earth. Its arrival elicits reactions ranging from horror to awe. And for good reason: this would-be rib sandwich is really a restructured pork patty pressed into the rough shape of a slab of ribs, its slathering of barbecue sauce acting as camouflage as much as coating. “Pork” is a generous term, since the McRib has traditionally been fashioned from otherwise unmarketable pig parts like tripe, heart, and stomach, material that is not only cheap but also easier to mold and bind into a coherent, predetermined shape.... (read more)
About that word, ludology: A few years ago, we tried to identify the historical first use of the word. My search lead me to identify Mihaly (Flow) Csikszentmihalyi’s 1982 article ”Does Being Human Matter – On Some Interpretive Problems of Comparative Ludology”. Reading Csikszentmihalyi’s article, it always stood out that he does not seem to be introducing ludology, but […]
Feeling overwhelmed online? Maybe it's because you're working dozens of jobs — Originally published at The Atlantic In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes famously argued that by the time a century had passed, developed societies would be able to replace work with leisure thanks to widespread wealth and surplus. “We shall do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich to-day,” he wrote, “only too glad to have small duties and tasks and routines.” Eighty years hence, it’s hard to find a moment in the day not filled with a duty or task or routine. If anything, it would seem that work has overtaken leisure almost entirely. We work increasingly hard... (read more)
A response to Kevin Werbach on MOOC "rock stars" — Kevin Werbach, a Wharton professor who has been teaching a MOOC on gamification (I know, my two favorite tastes together at last!), has written a Chronicle post decrying the use of the "rock star" moniker for MOOC profs. "The rock-star meme implies that teaching is all about performance," says Werbach. Of course, it's possible that the rock star metaphor works precisely because all that matters is performance. One of the arguments I've made about MOOCs is that they are a kind of entertainment media that extend today's trends in para-educationalism: TED talks, big idea books, and so forth. So to... (read more)
Speculations on the company's contribution to moral philosophy — Originally published at The Atlantic Last week, another distasteful use of your personal information by Google came to light: The company plans to attach your name and likeness to advertisements delivered across its products without your permission. As happens every time the search giant does something unseemly, Google's plan to turn its users into unwitting endorsers has inspired a new round of jabs at Google's famous slogan "Don't be evil." While Google has deemphasized the motto over time, it remains prominent in the company's corporate code of conduct, and, as a cornerstone of its 2004 Founder's IPO Letter, the motto... (read more)
Deep in our underground hollowed-out volcanic lair, ninja scientists have developed an algorithm that I think will have a large impact on both science and commerce. We call it "Social Value." Social Value is the amount of behavior that one person generates among their friends. An anology might be the ripple on the social pond. Let's say this person goes to see a movie, listens to a song, or plays a game. Now let's say that this person is influential. How much more likely are their friends to go see the movie, hear the song, or play the game? Each...
For your theoretical pleasure, Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research has just published its latest issue (Volume 13, Issue 1, September 2013). All articles are available at http://gamestudies.org/1301/ Contents A Kinesthetic Theory of Videogames: Time-Critical Challenge and Aporetic Rhematic by Veli-Matti Karhulahti http://gamestudies.org/1301/articles/karhulahti_kinesthetic_theory_of_the_videogame This article looks into the mostly unexplored difference between kinesthetic and […]
Gone Home: a videogame about releasing secrets — Originally published at the Los Angeles Review of Books Gone Home is a videogame about releasing secrets, the kind of secrets that you should have known all along. It is set in Oregon circa 1995, and it tells the story of an ordinary family. As the game starts, you find yourself on the porch of an old house. You are Katie Greenbriar, a twenty year-old student who has just returned from a year abroad to the home your family moved into while you were away. The player maneuvers Katie using the controls common in modern games, piloting her around 3d... (read more)
Clearly demarcated as blatant self-promotion: I'm happy to announce that an effort I've been working on for about 3 years in semi-stealth mode is now live. After doing big data work for the spooks in the government and running a team of social and computer scientists, a few of us spun out a commercial venture I dubbed Ninja Metrics.* Much of this comes from constantly asking game companies for data, then getting smart people to do cool things with it. Our team has now published 80 papers on game data, which is kind of ridiculous. It was time to put...
I felt it a bit sad when Game Developer Magazine closed down in July. Though it was for a long clear that specialist magazines were threatened by, well, the internet, GDMag did provide an edited sense of what was happening in the game industry at any given time (with a North American slant, of course). […]
It's not easy being a bank. Blizzard's experiment with a real-money trading system in its game Diablo III has come to an end. It is a good thing too. By embedding real money in its service, Blizzard was vitiating any claim that D3 was separate from the real economy and therefore not subject to real world taxes and laws. What a terrible precedent that would have made.