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New website celebrates stories inspired by pre-broadband internet

Described as “a literary/graphic project…built by three artists with strong interests in screens”, websafe2k16 seeks to provide a platform for memories of a pre-broadband Internet. Using the Web Safe color palette, and its 216 colors, as a point of reference, the project consists of 216 authors who write 216 words each, inspired by a specific color in the web safe range. Beginning 2/16/16, one piece is published daily. The swatches and text of the site provide a homogeneous backdrop for the varied experiences of the authors. The site is a sparse visual landscape filled with odd and unexpected artefacts Old internet pages are…

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An upcoming puzzle game tasks you with decoding classic literature

In the world of Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, books have been outlawed and are burned en masse by the state, only kept in small collections by the occasional revolutionary. Instead of reading, the majority of people spend their free time in “entertainment parlors,” rooms lined with massive screens that constantly broadcast Dora the Explorer-style call-and-response programs meant to elicit the illusion of interactivity. It’s a pointed premise, conceived during the early years of the television’s rise to prominence in the American household. It also reflects a constant theme in Bradbury’s work: that with advances in technology, culture tends…

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Umberto Eco and his legacy in open-world games

At the very end of his playful Postscript to The Name of the Rose (1980), Umberto Eco made a casually sibylline gesture toward the future of interactive fiction. “It seems,” Eco wrote, “that the Parisian Oulipo group has recently constructed a matrix of all possible murder-story situations and has found that there is still to be written a book in which the murderer is the reader.” And a few lines later, with a wink: “Any true detection should reveal that we are the guilty party.” The text either ends or begins here, depending on your interpretation. OuLiPo (Ouvroir de Littérature…

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Why videogames love Alice in Wonderland

The bed is on the ceiling. The faucet is dripping up. A fish floats above you, bleating sonorous pun-filled pronouncements: “The sweet scent of bile hangs like a condemned man.” In the center of the room is a tiny door; on the table, a potion. “I’m constantly observing my declining behavior as if through a looking glass,” the protagonist mutters to himself. I think you might know what happens next. Why do videogames love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)? Again and again they return to it as a reference point, regardless of genre, regardless of style. What I just described…

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Timruk explores the layers of historic violence beneath its beauty

Pages contain bodies and blood both literal and metaphorical. Illustrations and text occupy a confined world of disarray, littered with skulls. Among this is the beauty of rain falling and of bright wallpaper colors. A world where your hands are not your own. This is a world of contrasts, the world of Timruk, the world of Somewhere. Studio Oleomingus is simultaneously in the business of beauty and violence. Its latest game is called Timruk, which is a fragment of the larger upcoming videogame project Somewhere, following on from the studio’s previous off-shoot, Rituals. All these games have in common a thematic basis in colonial India but Timruk…

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SUPERHOT and the unique temporality of videogames

When the Wachowskis transported bullet-time over from Hong Kong cinema to The Matrix (1999), mainstream western audiences were wowed. This was the beginning of something new for action cinema, the ability for the camera to pivot around action, playing a moment from a multiplicity of angles that stunned and awed in equal measure. The camera was unhinged from static points, instead echoing the orbital movement of a clock or pendulum. In the years following, slow-mo sequences in games misguidedly attempted to convert what was so fascinating about that spectacle into something the player could experience. Instead, it only introduced the…

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Article

Playing Paris like a game

I have never been to Paris. In my provincial life I’ve never even left the United States. Despite or, perhaps, due to my localism, I was beguiled by the vision of the city given by Luc Sante in his 2015 book The Other Paris. Sante provides an underground history of the city, of its crime and prostitution, its low-wage work and lowbrow entertainments, its intoxications and insurrections. As fluent as he is with tales of murderous gangsters and wayward streetwalkers, what really comes across in The Other Paris is Sante’s deep mourning for the lost topography of the city. The…

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Go Sunset a Watchman

This past summer saw, within a month of each other, the arrival of two of the year’s most unwanted works: Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman and Tale of Tale’s Sunset. No one asked for, and no one is celebrating, Watchman’s publication. Leaving aside the troubling context surrounding the “discovery” of the book’s manuscript and the alleged role Lee’s caretaker had in its release, there is always an uncomfortable silence after the shattering of an idol. That’s despite the deconsecration of Atticus Finch being especially timely in the context of, say, the swell of the Black Lives Matter movement. In…

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A model for referencing videogames in literature

Generally when literature alludes to other media—Facebook, texting, film, the song “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train—my first reaction is to cringe. At its worst these mentions feel unnatural, lazy—the author’s gawky attempt to connect to the modern world or to an artistic tradition by simply referencing it. But even good media references can be jarring. Haruki Murakami’s thoughtful incorporation of jazz and classical music into his work, for instance, still has a weirdness to it. Perhaps this can be pinned down to degrees of separation from reality. When reading a work of fiction, it is typically odd to see mentions…