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Second Life is the newest front in America’s electoral ugliness

There is officially nowhere you can go to hide from the interminable agony that is this election, especially online. To wit: Cory Doctorow, by way of Motherboard, reports that tensions between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump loyalists have boiled over on Second Life (2003). More to the point, Trump supporters have attacked Sanders HQ, which is apparently a not-that-socialist roman fort. “Peace was shattered,” Doctorow writes, “when Second Life‘s Donald Trump supporters laid siege to the building, firing virtual guns whose rounds exploded into swastika flags at Sanders central.” the toxic discourse around the edges of this campaign cannot be avoided…

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Thailand’s military junta is distorting the videogame market

On May 22, 2014, after months of anti-government protests, the Royal Thai Armed Forces overthrew the country’s government, repealed its constitution, and established rule by military junta. It was a momentous event that flew under Western radars by dint of being the country’s 12th coup since 1932. The junta promised an eventual return to democratic rule, but on the coup’s second anniversary there is little reason to expect a handover to civilian power any time soon. All of which is to say that you have to look really hard for good news from Thailand. And Venture Beat, a reliable source…

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Nova Alea has a go at criticizing the state of urban housing

Molleindustria’s Nova Alea is a parable in search of a game. It is the story of real estate speculation, housing bubbles, and capitalism run amok. The story takes place on a chessboard—that or a graveyard for skyscrapers. Maybe both. “For its masters,” the gentle-voiced narrator intones, “the city was a matrix of financial abstractions.” Note the use of the past tense: that’s the first sign you’re inside a parable. The powers of finance are represented by a tilted pink cube—think Tony Rosenthal’s “Alamo,” but cuter—that floats above the city. More accurately, it looms, dropping capital in underdeveloped neighborhoods and hopefully…

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Steno Hero might make transcription tolerable

There are many reasons a writer might resort to fabulism. None of them are sufficient justifications, but some are more understandable than others. Chief among these reasons, one imagines, is the undeniable fact that transcription is miserable, tedious work. Steno Hero, with apologies to Donald Trump but mainly to its creators, aims to make stenography great fun again. Talk about an uphill battle. It’s like karaoke, only instead of belting out lyrics to songs, you type them in sync with the music. Good luck with that. Mechanically, Steno Hero is Guitar Hero with words instead of notes. (The name may…

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Apple says politically-charged Palestinian game isn’t a “game” at all

Liyla and the Shadows of War is a game about a young girl living in Gaza during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much more than that because Apple has declared it too political to count as a game in its App Store. On Tuesday afternoon, developer Rasheed Abueideh said Liyla had been rejected for not being appropriate for the “Game” category and shared a message from Apple that read: As we discussed, please revise the app category for your app and remove it from Games, since we found that your app is not appropriate in the Games category. It…

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Ubisoft designer captures the mystique of Tokyo at night

Liam Wong, Ubisoft’s graphic design director, takes dope photographs. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The obvious temptation with Wong’s photography, which is posted on Instagram and sold on Society 6, is to liken it to his work in videogames. Insofar as games are our main point of reference when thinking about Wong’s aesthetic choices, this temptation is understandable. Yet doing so deprives the viewer of the opportunity to think about Wong’s photography on its own terms. Shinjuku Nights / 新宿 / One night it rained. The city came to life. I got lost in the beauty of Tokyo at…

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FPS has something to say about videogames and guns. But what?

Hugo Arcier’s FPS is about last year’s attacks in Paris, though it is not immediately clear in precisely what way. We know this because the artist says as much on his website: “FPS is a post November 2015 Paris attacks art piece. The artist deals with blindness hijacking video game codes, in particular of first person shooter game. The only visible elements are pyrotechnic effects, gunshots, muzzles flashes, sparks, impacts, smokes.” In practice, what that means is that a black space is lit up by flares from something vaguely resembling a videogame gun. They linger in the air, like lasers at…

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Old computers are made cool again in this photography project

The idea of innovation is often much cooler than innovation itself. Jetpacks, for instance, still capture the imagination in ways that a Boeing 737 does not. The former still looks like the future, even if that is a qualification it only holds because such a future has always failed to materialize. The latter—a future that has become our present—is the minivan of the skies: decidedly unsexy but nonetheless important. The jetpack in this context is an unrequited high school crush, the sort of idea best left in the past that still has an emotional hold on you. Ideas fester, and…

Institute for New Feelings
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Artists explore how we express feelings through technology

The mindfulness group meets every Wednesday in a room with obscenely grimy chairs and an even more obscenely good view. This week’s subject was emotions. There they were, laid out in a circle: six basic emotions—anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise—each sprouting a few sub-emotions, which in turn each birthed two more specific variants. Here’s the rub: There are more positive than negative emotions. Midway through the proceedings, the eldest participant asked about an emotion she’d been feeling—why wasn’t it on the chart? Well, which one most closely resembles your emotion, the discussion leader asked? It was one of the basic six, but like…