fireplace vr

Stupid Hackathon celebrates the creativity of useless tech

San Francisco’s residents can’t escape the blossoming tech start-up culture, no matter how hard they try. It’s a strange place where it’s not out of the ordinary to hear of another “techie” (an affectionate term San Franciscans use for the influx of tech workers) pitching their app to an unassuming local at a public place, be it yet another dating app or a Yelp-esque knock off. Apps and start-ups are everywhere in San Francisco—techies alongside ‘em, fiending to throw their business cards at you even while you’re enjoying a Japanese curry at the city’s outskirts. The most bewildering part of living…

Only One

Kanye West’s videogame is gonna be very Kanye West

Yesterday, Kanye West debuted his new album, The Life of Pablo, at Madison Square Garden. The “listening event” is a long-standing power-move in the most entrenched corners of the record industry—a complementary-wine-and-shrimp sort of affair, where people stand around and maybe take notes on a record while the artist either stares at them intently or, like, falls asleep in a corner, surrounded by well-wishers. Ye’s event represents a reinvention of the form for the Spotify era, turning an insiders-only thing into a streaming-platform cosign, a fashion show, a free, democratized listening event, and an actual documentary of how boring and weird…


Unfold the inner heart of solids in this zen-like puzzle game

Clint Siu went to a lakeside bench in the middle of the Swedish woods almost every day for two months, writing ideas and designing puzzles. It was June 2015 and Siu had moved to Stugan, the Swedish non-profit accelerator that started last year, to work on _PRISM, a zen-like minimalistic game in which players unfold the external layers of solids by solving puzzles and try to reach their center. As an American artist who used to work in Hollywood making FX for movies like World War Z (2013) and TV shows like Cosmos (2014), Siu found that being next to nature and away from the constant noise of big…


The creator of QWOP now wants to mess with your eyes

I can’t trust my eyeballs right now. Just typing this black font onto this white space is steeped in something my body recognizes as danger. I think I see snakes wrestling across the gaps between the words. No, it’s worse than that. Oh god. You might laugh, or you might be outright confused right now, but I can guarantee that in a few minutes you will know what I’m going through. I’ve just played through QWOP (2008) creator Bennett Foddy’s Zebra, which he plainly describes as “another little game.” It is not just another little game. It’s the devil in stripes and…

Dwarf Fortress

There’s now a bot that can play Dwarf Fortress for you

In some ways, you can think of a community as a machine—some members grow food products to be turned into meals, which then feed the members responsible for producing raw materials, so they can serve others that may hone those materials into goods that represent economic viability. With more members and more land, the community-machine expands its ability to produce, maybe infinitely. And “infinite” is a useful word to a person looking at Dwarf Fortress (2006) for the first time—it’s hard to communicate just how much information there is in one session. It’s not technically infinite, but the average new world has…


Kissing sim Smooth Operator will have you wrestling tonsils like a pro

When you think about it, kissing is pretty weird—all those sloshing fluids and semi-controllable fleshy bits. The point, I am told, is not to think about kissing. Good luck with that. You are not—I repeat: ARE NOT—going to go through life without thinking about kissing. It’s just not going to happen. So you might as well concede that kissing is a bit weird. Smooth Operator, which Beardo Games released for iOS on Thursday, embraces the weirdness of kissing. That is not to say that the game is anti-kissing—far from it. Smooth Operator wants you to kiss. It wants you to…

witness lights

The unrelenting science of The Witness

When I played a demo version of The Witness at a Sony event in 2013, I was offered two approaches: 1) I could be lead through a basic tutorial of the way the game’s puzzle systems work, or 2) I could be left to wander around the island landscape and discover it at my whim. I chose the latter option, only encountered a handful of the game’s signature line-tracing puzzle panels, and spent the rest of my time gawking at the natural and architectural framework of the island. I strolled down to a seashore under a desert cliff where a…

The Flame in the Flood

The Flame in the Flood’s post-disaster journey begins on February 24th

Boy, videogames sure do want out of the narrow, crate-filled corridors of their youth, nowadays! First-person hiking simulator Firewatch has been receiving critical praise all week, in no small part because of its beautiful renditions of the American Northwest. Now The Flame in the Flood, a game about a little girl surviving a post-disaster America, is also striking out for the wilderness with a release date: it’ll be out on February 24th for Windows, Mac, and Xbox One. But it isn’t emotional hardship behind Scout, the young protagonist of The Flame in the Flood; it’s torrential rains, which will be…

Frog Days

A videogame about exploring the virtual worlds of 1995

Nostalgia for 1990s graphics and the decade’s range of operating systems is hellfire right now. It’s hot as shit and we can’t get enough it. Hence projects like Windows93 exist. Videogames, too, are increasingly incorporating or fully mimicking the early days of consumer-focused computer technology. Take a look at skeleton flower,  Solitaire.exe, Her Story, and Emily is Away for starters. We’re all growing up while desperately clawing back through the years to get one last sip on that fluorescent pink curly straw and throw gunge at each other. The 1990s it is not, but goddamn if we can’t pretend it is.…