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News

The Invisible Hand wants to make trading exciting, but also boring

Working as a trader used to be a glamorous—if also morally dubious—job. Note the use of the past tense in that sentence: Wall Street (1987), with its yelling into phones and power-suits, power-lunches, and power-everything-else is a thing of the past. It’s not for nothing that the most exciting cultural portrayal of traders in recent years, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), is set in the recent past. What happened? In short: math and computers. The balance of power shifted from those executing trades to those who created the models on which those trades were based. In The Hidden Role…

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Review

The Westport Independent does*** ***** understand censorship

The Westport Independent is a game about journalism. And so, in the interests of good journalism, a full disclosure is in order: I was employed as an editor at a newspaper company in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post Group, from 2012-2015. This is important because The Westport Independent is, specifically, a game about the self-censoring of journalism. And the South China Morning Post is a frequent target for accusations of self-censorship due to pressure from the Chinese Communist Party. I’ve seen self-censorship happen and I’ve seen it been falsely accused. Point is, I know it when I see…

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News

Finally, a videogame that doesn’t fetishize nostalgia

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”  – Thomas Wolfe Even the air feels different at home, at once fresher yet also somehow more suffocating. The moment you step off the bus (or train or plane or Delorean), you can already feel the walls…

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News

Unsolicited shows us the begrudging lives behind junk mail

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Unsolicited (PC, Mac, Linux)  BY Lucas Pope Given the vacuity of the junk mail that mailboxes regularly puke onto entrance mats, you’d be forgiven to think there wasn’t a single soul behind it. In one respect, you’re right, as the souls of the people who are paid to produce junk mail probably died a long time ago. Such is the nature of the job. This is something you’ll discover as you play Lucas Pope’s latest game, Unsolicited. Similar to Pope’s celebrated solo debut Papers, Please, Unsolicited has you sorting…

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News

Return of the Obra Dinn update details the challenges of 1-bit rendering

Since announcing it a year ago, Lucas Pope has been hard at work on the flashback-driven mystery game Return of the Obra Dinn, his follow-up to Papers, Please. Last October, he released a rough build of Obra Dinn to play for free, showing off the primary dynamic of the game’s puzzle. You are an East India Company insurance adjuster armed with a magical pocket watch and a logbook. The watch allows to replay moments from the bloody story of a ghost ship as you investigate its crew’s disappearance and try to track the details. “Of the characters in the demo,…

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News

If Papers, Please was about judging souls at the gates of heaven

“Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.” – Mark Twain Absolutism is absolutism, no matter how you slice it. Whether worshipping a God or a state, christianity or communism, absolute answers to complex questions often lead people down iffy moral territories. Papers, Please extolled this truth in the context of communism. Forcing players to pass judgement on powerless immigrants, it revealed the inhumanity behind the bureaucratic state system—an educational (if not entirely unpredictable) takeaway for most players. But the religion-centric translation of Lucas Pope’s critically acclaimed game, entitled For the Love of God, shows just how absolutism can sneak…