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Weekly Links #285

01 September 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone. This week, the game industry is having its very own #MeToo moment, as victims of harassment and rape stand up and speak out all together. As a man, I tried to keep my mouth shut for the most part, because this is a time to let women be heard. Let me add just one thing.

We've all known for a long time that the game industry is an incredibly toxic place, and this hurts everyone. Got my own war stories that I thought were pretty damn bad. But what I'm hearing these days makes me shudder. Once again, my cynical self is left in the dust as things go off the deep end. This, folks, is how bad we've allowed things to become. Crunch and GG were part of a pattern, see. Now at last we're getting the whole picture... and it's worthy of a horror story.

Enough with the excuses. You know what to do. No more praising these men to heaven and back. No more letting it slide. If you can demand extra romance options in your favorite game, you can also demand that the people working on it are treated with respect. For that matter, call out sexism in the games themselves, because it's often a red flag. Not to mention it perpetuates incredibly damaging ideas of how real women ought to be treated. In game companies and everywhere else in society. Which these days is already crumbling as it is. And we're running out of time to fix pretty much anything. Help out already.

In recent years, I started to notice how fearfully women look at me simply because I happen to be walking behind them on the street. In broad daylight, in circulated places. And I have these monsters to thank for it. One of them I even praised repeatedly in my newsletters.

Never again.

(Edit: woke up to the news that one of the people unveiled as abusers in this scandal took his own life. Which only caused even more abuse to be heaped upon... the victims. Good going, people. You didn't learn a thing from this whole story.)

In the way of gamedev, this week we have a write-up about cultural appropriation, and an article of my own about game cameras, in addition to a new request for help.

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Tags: news, politics, representation, worldbuilding, graphics

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Weekly Links #283

18 August 2019 — No Time To Play

Hello, everyone! Those of my readers who also follow me on Mastodon already know this, but for everyone else I have a surprise: as of this week, ASCII Mapper has a desktop edition, as originally planned 20 months ago. There was no time for a proper write-up before the soft launch last evening, so for now let's just say it looks like this:

(Screenshot of a desktop application showing a network of pathways drawn in ASCII art, and assorted controls.)

and already has more features than the original web edition. More details coming soon; in the mean time, you can also get it on Itch.io and on GitHub. Development will continue as time allows.

In the way of news, this week we have a discussion of politics in games, a retrospective of Pac-Mania, and words from the world of interactive fiction. Details after the cut.

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Tags: tools, politics, retrogaming, game-design, interactive-fiction

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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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