A Machine for Pigs
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The Aztec pessimism of A Machine for Pigs

“When, for instance, a man had fallen into one of the rendering tanks and had been made into pure leaf lard and peerless fertilizer, there was no use letting the fact out and making his family unhappy.” —The Jungle, Upton Sinclair We are familiar with Aztec myth only insofar as it is a byword for cruelty and human sacrifice. The image of the reluctant offering climbing the stone steps of the pyramids at Tenochtitlan only to have their chest cut open and their beating heart plucked out is repulsive to both the value we place in human life and our…

game of the goose 1
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The insightful history of one of the first modern board games

Though many people might think that board games are a relatively modern phenomenon, the likes of Trouble (1965) and The Game of Life (1960) were actually preceded by years and years of table-based entertainment, flung as far and wide as Egypt, India, and ancient China. A brief glimpse into this long and storied history is provided by the Grolier Club in New York and their exhibition The Royal Game of the Goose: Four Hundred Years of Printed Board Games. Curated by Adrian Seville, this exhibit interrogates the many different forms of “The Game of the Goose”—one of the first modern-style…

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You can visit an historically accurate 1920s Berlin in Second Life

In 2007, Jo Yardely visited Second Life (2003) for the first time. She looked around, took in the view, and left immediately. “[Second Life] was a place where weird people spent all their time chatting about uninteresting things,” she said on her blog, “pretending they were having virtual hanky panky or spending real money on virtual rubbish.” You risked being griefed. Most of the simulations looked “horrendous.” Everyone’s fashion sense was terrible. Nine years later, Yardley runs one of the most successful historical simulations in Second Life. Her version of 1920s Berlin has over 100 tenants and regularly hosts events that…

Dark Souls 3
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Dark Souls III and the color purple

You first encounter them in the Undead Settlement. It’s a moment of incongruous reprieve: having rolled and dashed your way through a hail of human-sized arrows and swarms of rake-wielding peasants, you come up a hill and into a dark, somber cathedral that all but invites you to stop and smell its flowers. With their violet hue and soft yellow centers, these delicate beauties scattered around the building seem more unlikely than any of the monstrosities you’ve been busy butchering. Dark Souls III’s kingdom of Lothric has, up to this point, largely displayed the same taste for earth tones favored…

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Videogames and the digital baroque

During the 17th century in Europe and her colonies, mankind was forcibly removed from the center of the universe and cast adrift in an indifferent cosmos devoid of greater purpose or meaning. This was accomplished not by any supernatural power but by advancements in technology, particularly optics: telescopes could chart the motions of previously obscure celestial bodies while microscopes could, for the first time, see the living cells that made up human bodies. Earth turned out not to be the center of the universe but one of many planets that orbited the Sun; an average star among countless others in…

Return of the Obra Dinn
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Return Of The Obra Dinn’s historical fiction gets even eerier in new demo

Lucas Pope, of Papers Please (2013) fame, has been working on his new project, Return of the Obra Dinn, for nearly two years now. Back in October 2014, he released the first build of the game, which ran for 10 minutes in length and showed off its stylistic 1-bit rendering. Updates on the game’s progress since then have all arrived in the form of a devlog, except the latest, which comes with a new demo to play. It features a host of improvements, such as a new intro sequence with fully voiced dialogue, a remodeled top deck, a new flashback, a small…

lionssonglead
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The Lion’s Song aims to depict the loneliness of history’s greatest minds

Originally created as a short title for a 2014 Ludum Dare game jam, old-timey narrative adventure game The Lion’s Song is now getting a full release. According to a new trailer for the game, four episodes are planned in total, expanding it beyond the “finely honed short story” of the original and into an extended interrogation of academic life in fin-de-siecle Austria. The game stars three different turn-of-the-century artists and scientists as they struggle to find inspiration and learn how to cope with the pressures of success, as well as those of their time period. “To succeed in a world of…

Optikammer
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Optikammer will let you play with the 19th century’s weirdest toys

In 1878, famous industrialist Leland Stanford (yes, that Stanford) wanted the answer to a very important, deeply contested question: do all four of a horse’s hooves ever come off the ground when they gallop? So he did what all millionaires do and he spent money, commissioning the photographer Eadweard Muybridge to photograph a horse in motion. The resulting series, known as Sallie Gardner at a Gallop, is perhaps one of the most famous early images and a precursor to the technology that would be used by the Lumière brothers in the 1890s to produce films. By taking 24 cameras and rigging them around a track,…

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The demolition of Japan’s videogame history

In the eastern region of Kyoto, Japan, there lies an area named Higashiyama, filled with shrines, temples, and the Kyoto National Museum. It was here in Higashiyama that Nintendo built an office complex with buildings adjacent to one another that the company’s greatest designers worked in. Almost everything videogame-related that Nintendo developed before the year 2000 came from the complex known as 60 Kamitakamatsu-cho—from the original Game & Watch and Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), to Donkey Kong (1981), Super Mario Bros. (1985), The Legend of Zelda (1986), and Metroid (1986). But while these games can still be played the buildings…