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The four-letter N word

13 June 2019 — No Time To Play

Lately, people keep coming to online marketplaces and ask if it's all right to publish games that expound certain ideologies. They invariably turn out to be Nazis. They'll say so unprompted; simply wait a little. It's scary how soon they'll start with the usual spiel about "free speech" and how liberals, the big meanies, supposedly apply the four-letter N word to anyone they don't like.

Just in case it's not clear: that's a myth. The word in question has a widely accepted meaning based on ample historical precedent. Maybe you've heard of a little dance a while ago called World War II. It "only" resulted in 20 million dead, more than the population of Romania nowadays. When you wear a brown shirt with a swastika on the sleeve and do the Nazi salute? It's a safe bet that next thing we know you're going to advocate for the genocide of certain marginalized groups, like Jews, Roma, queer people, or the elderly and disabled.

It happens every single time. Funny that.

Also funny how adherents of other ideologies, like Anarchists and Communists, feel no need to ask if it's all right to publish games about their political message. Nor do people who make games about Syrian refugees, or the situation in Gaza. They also never seem to complain about being "silenced", even as mainstream media systematically vilify all these groups if they're mentioned at all.

Gameing is among the only safe places for those who have no voice, along with fan fiction and indie comics. Or so it was until three years and change ago. Now we live in a world where the creators of Wolfenstein have to defend the idea that people who want to kill others for being different should be fought by any means necessary.

Somehow, all those fictional jackboot-wearing demons and wizards with their superweapons don't scare me nearly as much as the average dudes in brown shirts with their cowlicks. The latter can all too easily kill me for real.

No, it's not all right to let them speak. Though Wormtongue might disagree.

Tags: history, politics

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Weekly Links #268

05 May 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! As expected, my game prototype took another week to finish, or almost. I took a break before starting on a more presentable version; in the mean time, you can enjoy it in command-line glory, like the original mainframe game:

(I was going to embed the gist here, but it turns out to pull the whole damn thing, not just a nice little box with a "view more" link like any reasonable person would expect from, you know, an embed code. So hop over to GitHub to get Space Cruiser Orion. Bonus points if you get the reference. Classic sci-fi for the win!)

You'll need a Python interpreter (normally version 3, but 2 might just work), and some familiarity with the subgenre; there is extensive built-in help, but no tutorial. And it could use one, the game being quite a bit more involved than it appears at first. Which is what drew me to it in the first place, and what makes a modern port worth doing. Wish I had the energy for many of them. Speaking of which.

In the mean time, I also wrote a 700-word review of Space Trader, a now-classic mobile game that I somehow never heard of when my Palm was still new, so I'm catching up belatedly. One thing the review doesn't mention is how many other ports there are apart from the two Android versions: to iPhone, Windows and even Java. The latter works, too, so you can play pretty much anywhere.

As for the news, this week we have a chat with Julian Gollop of X-Com fame, and a piece about politics in videogames. Details after the cut.

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Tags: history, interview, game-design, politics, classics, review

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