The Week

3

I still can’t believe Iwata is dead. I found out about his death while at JFK International Airport waiting for Trish’s parents to arrive. I was completely stunned.

I still am.

I spent the week in New York City visiting with developers and publishers checking out a bulk of the games shown off at E3.

I got a chance to hang out with a slew of folks during a big PlayStation event, got my hands (and head) on the HTC Vive virtual reality headset, played some Electronic Arts and Activision games and then visited Nintendo’s New York office to see the company’s E3 builds.

It’s always fun to get to spend time in the company of so many talented people.

What I read that I liked

Emanuel Maiberg has a neat story over on Motherboard about the doctor who treats eSports athletes and their injuries. “If you don’t rest the body doesn’t have a chance to heal itself, to go into a homeostatic state and say okay, now I can repair myself,” Dr. Levi said. “Whether it’s non-stop gaming or non-stop MMA training, the body doesn’t like that, and there’s a price.”

Bijan Stephen writes about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book Between the World and Me in an article entitled How to Live Within a Black Body. “If you were to map the black bodies destroyed by American police this year, you would have what looks like the shadow of a cancer creeping steadily across the lower 48; the names would bloom across the states in the way that a malignant lung tumor might, from as common and as lethal a cause. In his latest book, Between the World and Me, journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates interrogates the effects of a life lived under the gun, aware of the ever-present violence that is systematically and relentlessly perpetrated against black people in America.”

An examination of how Facebook’s news feeds work by Victor Luckerson. “How a controversial feature grew into one of the most influential products on the Internet”

Colin Campbell exams the life and death of Electronic Arts’ soul, in this deep dive into one of the world’s biggest game makers. “If EA’s brand marketing was a call to action for the game developer as a person of note, its computer game packaging was a love letter to the games themselves and to the art of media.”

I love the Smithsonian Magazine, mostly because seemingly everything they run, I love reading. In this article, Kimbra Cutlip breaks down the deep impact the Scopes Trial had on science journalism. “John Thomas Scopes was Dayton’s high school football coach and substitute biology teacher. Portrayed today as a hero of great conviction, Scopes did not specifically recall teaching evolution. He did, however, believe the law was unjust, and the town leaders were able to persuade him to stand trial for their cause, although their cause had little to do with evolution. Their aim was simply to draw visitors and their wallets into town for the trial.”

A moment of self-aggrandizing introspection

Back when BioShock came out I managed to convince Ken Levine and the head of the Ayn Rand Institute to talk about objectivism in the game.

Etc.

I finished reading Ernest Cline’s Armada. It’s not as good as his first, but I enjoyed it. (I hope to write something about that for Polygon soonish). Most of my week was taken up by traveling back and forth between my house and the city. It’s an hour and a half to two hour trip each way, so I end up not doing much more than working and chugging along on a train (and working) on those days.

My brother and son have started working on putting together a Twitch channel of sorts. I’m not sure yet if they’re planning on doing a podcast dealio or a streaming thingie. It sounds like it could be fun though.

This weekend we’re going to have a cookout and invite some friends over. I plan on doing a lot of nothing. That and trying to decide if I should switch from Comcast cable to Fire TV and an assortment of apps.

2

Comic-Con is in full bloom, packed with gaming news, movie trailers and not a few amazing web series. A lot of people I’ve been talking to this week feel like SDCC is becoming less of a comic convention and more of a pop culture convention.

They’re probably right, though I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

What I read that I liked

I’m a sucker for book lists, and while this one over at io9 isn’t the best, it is neat to see some of the sci-fi books professors are using to teach with.

Rosalind Wiseman has a fantastic piece over on Time about the inherent misperceptions some people have of boys and video games. “Kids are fed up with Kate Upton. When the ads for Game of War started showing up on my students’ phones last year—they haven’t stopped—many were annoyed. They hated that it was impossible to close the ad, forcing them instead to watch the video until the end. But what really irritated them was Ms. Upton, in a full-cleavage-baring white flowing dress.”

Rachel Nuwar discusses new research on the decline in bumblebees and how it’s linked to climate change over on Smithsonian.Com.  “To probe the mystery, scientists from Canada, Europe and the U.S. turned to bumblebee observation records collected across Europe and North America, dating back 110 years and encompassing 67 species.”

Colin Cambell has a great, deep read on the reinvention of Lara Croft over on Polygon. “Camilla Luddington is frowning seven different ways. She’s an experienced actor, so each frown carries its own nuance and meaning: defiance, confusion, vulnerability, fear.”

Rukmini Callimachi led a team of reporters at the New York Times to pull together a fascinating look at ISIS and how it recruits young americans. I missed it last week, if you did too, you should absolutely take the time to read it this weekend. “Alex, a 23-year-old Sunday school teacher and babysitter, was trembling with excitement the day she told her Twitter followers that she had converted to Islam.”

Josh Dzieza’s profile of website The Awl seems to be the most talked about story in my circles, and for good reason. It’s a deftly written, nuanced description of not the website, but the people who drive it. That I know quite a lot of them might make it feel more engrossing to me, but anyone who starts reading this story will find it hard to stop. “As more content is published directly onto Facebook, users will gradually lose a sense of who’s producing what. The most consequential journalism becomes just another unit of content in a single stream of music videos, movie trailers, updates from friends and relatives, advertisements, and viral tidbits from sites adept at gaming fast-changing algorithms and behaviors. Readerships that seem large now will turn out to be as ephemeral as Snapchats.”

A moment of self-aggrandizing introspection

I stumbled across a police blotter entry about a man dying of a heart attack one night in the middle of a swamp. After a month or so of reporting on and off, I ended up writing this story about snail hunting in the moonlit waters of Florida.

Etc.

This week has been completely absorbed by meetings and helping out the away team covering San Diego Comic-Con. I put my longer stories on hold to spend time popping out a dozen or so dailies a day from the show and help where I can in terms of editing and asset wrangling.

I also put my reading on hold to try and zip through Eric Cline’s soon-to-be-released Armada. It just arrived, so I haven’t gotten very far. Speaking of Armada, when I was looking for it on Amazon, the shopping website let me know that people that purchased the book about video games and aliens also tended to purchase Harper Lee’s new book. (You can read the first chapter of that right here.) I suspect that may not be the case.

My left arm has been feeling tingly and numb for a few days now. I’m fairly certain it isn’t heart related, but it has reminded me to schedule my check in. I’ve gained a disgusting amount of weight, a first for me. And it’s had all kinds of weird implications. Like the other day, watching Clue while lying on the floor and feeling the weight of my body pressing my into the thick carpet, it was weird. I probably should do something about that.

We somehow managed not to see Jurassic World yet, but I have high hopes for this weekend.

On Sunday, Trish’s parents arrive from Australia for their summer stay. At some point we’re all going to Montreal and I will be eating obscene amounts of fancy gravy-soaked french fries.

1

I’m going to start writing a little weekly thing summarizing the big stories I’ve read and enjoyed. Most of them will be about video games, but not all of them. I’ll likely evolve this over time. Think of it as a Daily Note to myself … as sad as that sounds.

What I read that I liked

David Shimomura has an interesting story over on Kill Screen which examines Kojima’s “dark and often troubling preoccupation with the human body and the basic dignity of humanness.”

Hua Hsu talks about the impact video games have had on popular music over in the New Yorker, by writing about the book Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack. “There is,” Hsu writes, “an entire alternate history of modern music that revolves around figures like Kondo, Hip Tanaka, and Nobuo Uematsu, whose scores for the Final Fantasy series are now performed in concert halls.”

Paul Theroux returns to the town that inspired To Kill a Mockingbird to examine what’s changed and what hasn’t for Smithsonian Magazine. “Every year, a highly praised and lively dramatization of the novel is put on by the town’s Mockingbird Players, with dramatic courtroom action in the Old Courthouse. But Nannie Ruth smiled when she was asked whether she’d ever seen it. “You won’t find more than four or five black people in the audience,” a local man told me later. “They’ve lived it. They’ve been there. They don’t want to be taken there again. They want to deal with the real thing that’s going on now.”

Over on Design Oriented you can try applying the Vlambeer Scale of Quality to your favorite games with a handy tool inspired by Jan Willen Nijman’s game design talk.

The Murder in Exam Room 15 is a wonderful examination of the escalating battle between patients and healthcare written by Chris Sweeney for Boston Magazine. “For 20 more minutes, the two men continued to talk. No one outside the exam room heard a sound, until all at once two blasts from a .40-caliber pistol tore through the morning calm.”

Jack Smith IV (I can’t help but think he’s a robot now, better than the last three models) does a nice job of examining Disney’s odd little hybrid between video games and toys: The Playmation line for Mic.com. It’s a little PR-heavy, a little breathless, but it’s also packed with interesting insight into the way Disney thinks and designs.

A moment of self-aggrandizing introspection

Ex Machina really is a great sci-fi movie and you should see it if you haven’t. Here’s what I wrote about the movie and the people who made it.

Etc.

I’m most actively reading Seveneves, Neal Stephenson’s latest, right now and it’s pretty good. I somehow accidentally purchased Bum Rap, a book I’ve never heard of by an author I never heard of, and will likely dig into that soon too because … providence?

I bought a clutch of old CDs from a library sale the other week and immediately imported them into my digital library. So right now I’m listening to a collection of 70s love songs (the best love songs) 80s rock and one-hit wonders and a mix of artists I’ve never heard of singing songs that are sometimes great, sometimes awful.

We’re hoping to go see Jurassic World this weekend and in preparation rewatched the first three. I think I may like the third more than the first, but maybe I’m crazy. Finally watched John Wick. It was fine, but not nearly as good as everyone lead me to believe it would be. Maybe I don’t like turtlenecks as much as the next person.

I’ve been tinkering a bit with Bierzerkers, Counter-Strike: GO and VainGlory.

Now that I own an Amazon Echo I’ve become obsessed with getting it to do things it wasn’t designed to do. My latest goal is to get it to boot-up my computer when I ask it to and to flash the lights in my son’s room when an alarm goes off. I guess that’s better than using it to send text messages to the slack room where everyone at Polygon works. There’s something wrong with me.


Let me know what you think, if you want more of something or less of something and I’ll keep it in mind for next week.