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Review

Homefront: The Revolution is everything wrong with America

By the most recent estimate of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there are just under 300 non-governmental militias active in the United States. Though the specifics of their agendas vary, their shibboleth is what’s often labeled “insurrection theory,” the supposed right of the body politic to take up arms against tyranny, no matter its source. What constitutes tyranny is rather open to interpretation—one group, Posse Comitatus, rejects the validity of both fiat money and driver’s licenses, along with more familiar grievances about income tax and gun control—but, in every case, there is a common antagonist: an overbearing, conspiratorial government…

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News

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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News

How Twitter bots could sway the outcome of the presidential election

n the midst of the most unprecedented election season in recent history, questioning the political power of technology is now more important than ever. Over on Wired, Samuel Wooley and Phil Howard investigated how social platform’s could be changing the course of history with propaganda bots. Elsewhere, Twitter was recently accused of purposefully pulling a trending hashtag that critiqued presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Facebook is being investigated for political bias in its trending topics. People now see that these are not just platforms, but curated and published media. And, like all published media, they come with a bias, be it…

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News

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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News

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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News

1979 Revolution shows the nastier side of Iran’s historical uprising

1979 Revolution, the upcoming adventure game following the political revolution that took place that year in Iran, just got a new trailer. It’s the most in-depth look at the game we’ve seen so far, and it paints a desperate picture for both the country and the game’s photojournalist protagonist Reza Shirazi. Neutrality no longer seems a viable option The trailer opens in a small interrogation chamber with Shirazi in handcuffs and a prison jumpsuit, scratches and bruises marking his face. A menacing, clean-cut man wielding a club addresses him. “In a clear voice for the machine,” he explains, gesturing to…

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Review

The perverse ideology of The Division

In the first few hours of The Division, you will be bombarded with phone recordings, resources and consumables, an overwhelming litany of damage numbers and weapon mods. It puts you in such a constant state of information overload that after a while it’s easier to ignore everything but the essentials. You come to assume that, as long as you are shooting, progress is being made. Stalking the cold streets of an abandoned New York City, running missions to collect supplies for upgrades, assaulting strongholds and rescuing hostages, the rhythm of the game is a familiar one. It’s one that has…

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Feature

The forgotten politics behind Contra’s name

Do a quick Google search of “contra.” Browsing the first few pages, you should see a saturation of links about the videogame—the now-primary version of the word—sprinkled with other definitions. Next in the deck is contra as preposition: “against, contrary, or opposed to,” suitingly enough. Then, a “contemporary New York cuisine” restaurant; contra-dancing, a folksy flirty form adaptable to many musical styles; the second album by Vampire Weekend; and eventually, peeking through before being closed out again, you’ll stumble upon the elephant in the room. Contras are the name of the group of soldiers from Nicaragua that Ronald Reagan cultivated…

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Feature

The Art of Escape

This article was funded with support from Longreads members. * * * No one wore stripes that spring and summer in Leavenworth. Stripes were for rule breakers, and no one was breaking the rules. “Baseball As A Corrective” read the front page of the New York Times that May. It was 1912 and “the magic of baseball” had “wrought a wonderful change in the United States Penitentiary.” For the first time in Leavenworth’s history, for months at a time, everyone behaved, because everyone wanted to play or watch the baseball games. “Chronic trouble makers began to be so good that the…