Hello! The newsletter keeps chugging along now... for those of you who'd like more of an intro to what precisely is going on here, you can check out the first issue before reading on.
My first VN project is on itch now! I’ve made some minor improvements on it since the jam, and wrote a small devlog about them as well as the directions the project is going in. As of right now, it’s about an hour to play and sketches out the general characters, themes, and trajectory of the plot. To phrase it like your typical patch notes, I’m hoping to gradually implement new sections that better balance character motivation and add new features to the existing themes of technocapitalism, work and identity, and finally get around to adding the long-hyped sex scene add ons.
I also wrote some rapid-fire zine reviews of the zines I got from GZF, which were all super inspiring! I’m definitely one of those people where the design and feel of a book is, well, not SO important that it overshadows the content, but it can really make a book feel like a cherished object or lucky find, especially when it comes slightly softened up in a used book store. Zines are a place where, I think, writers an artist can really go crazy with this angle, which is something I like about them beyond their cheapness and utility.
I’m still working on my longer review of The House in Fata Morgana which will also include some more general observations about Visual Novels and the history of first-person address in games in general. I’m also increasingly contemplating a concept I encountered at an academic conference on arts and heritage crime, that I think would be interesting to apply to videogames.
Essentially, it argues that some cases of theft/vandalism/etc can only be explained by the object itself having a particular will and command over someone, to be beseeching, in essence. Not in a literal sense, but in the sense that, for example, the theft of a Stradivarius violin is related to the idea that its current owner is an undeserving partner to it. The full-on culpability vs. full-on “personal responsibility” binary of how people tend to break down many things relating to videogames from the effects of depictions of violence to gambling mechanics has always been unsatisfying to me, but the idea of a videogame as an object that is asking me to have a certain relationship to it miiight make more sense?
Hopefully I’ll also have some academic writing news to share soon! Things move remarkably slow there, but after MUCH pain I got to see the pre-print version of something I’m kind of pleased with, which is the best you can hope for after peer review.
I finished The Magic Mountain, which was overall strange, very beautiful in parts, and altogether a lot of meat for visual novel writing (constrained to a particular location, ideological character “types,” the emotional resonance of events mattering more than their “realistic” or practical qualities, an everyman main character getting pulled between these ideas and also having to engage in a cryptic self-improvement regimen, etc).
In terms of reading fiction, I’ve moved on to Mike Philips’ crime thriller The Dancing Face which is about the heist of a Benin bronze mask from a British art gallery, and already the art world characters, from the security guard and museum admin assistant who witness the theft to the meetings of pro-repatriation academics and activists where the main character meets his co-conspirators are so real and well-observed, which is always gratifying to see, as a sometime museum worker.
In the meantime, I also finished The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites, which was primarily entertaining for its stunt material processing antics, but also does some interesting grounded contemplation of contrasting tendencies in the low tech space, namely, is it feasible/practical/somehow meaningful to do it all or at least know how to do it all yourself? I find a lot of this idea kind of counterproductive and against the general spirit of low-teching and the issues Thwaites runs into get at why. I also finished Alenda Chang’s Playing Nature. I recommend specifically the chapter on “Entropy,” which very adeptly ties representations of farming and resource extraction in gaming to the lack of concern and visibility regarding its increasing technological and energy demands.
So far as articles go, this dispatch from a longtime participant in Glasgow-based anti-eviction actions provides a lot of practical background on the recent deportation raid resistance that made a splash in the news. Relating to the details I appreciated in The Dancing Face above, this review of Culture Strike highlights a lot of the issues with things that tend to get stymied in committees and “bringing in additional perspectives” at the cultural level. I liked this article about difficulty curves in the Dragon Warrior series, which I feel like does a really good close-reading of a very particular part of a game in context, and comes to unexpected conclusions. And finally, mushrooms are cool.
Anyways, my birthday is also on Friday, so, like last year, I’ve programmed a little screening/party for Zone, the pandemic social space developed by fellow low-techie candle. In lieu of any in person activities, gifts, meet-ups, etc, for my big three-oh, you’re welcome to come along and watch some of my favorite films with me. Oh and also, it’ll be right after my first vaccination appointment, so yay! That’s all for now…
Thank you again for your support,