Cheating, play, trangression and art

Other players: narrative subversion 
Originally uploaded by salvital.

Joystiq reports that people who introduce "3rd party programs" hack and ‘cheat’ in World of Warcraft (which I’ve not played yet, but peer pressure is building…) will be "permanently removed".

This made me think back to some of the people I met during my work on Play I did last year, and some ‘grief-play’ fun I had with them at a games theory conference…

Continue reading “Cheating, play, trangression and art”

Losing my edge

"I’m losing my edge.

I’m losing my edge.

I can hear the footsteps every night on the decks.

But I was there.

I was there in 1974 at the first Suicide practices in a loft in New York City.

I was working on the organ sounds with much patience.

I was there when Captain Beefheart started up his first band.

I told him, "Don’t do it that way. You’ll never make a dime."

I was there.

I was the first guy playing Daft Punk to the rock kids.

I played it at CBGB’s.

Everybody thought I was crazy.

We all know.

I was there.

I was there.

I’ve never been wrong.

I used to work in the record store.

I had everything before anyone.

I was there in the Paradise Garage DJ booth with Larry Levan.

I was there in Jamaica during the great sound clashes.

I woke up naked on the beach in Ibiza in 1988.

But I’m losing my edge to better-looking people with better ideas and more talent.

And they’re actually really, really nice.

I’m losing my edge.

L.C.D. Soundsystem, "Losing my edge"

The tennis ball hack


Think back to the 80’s…

Konami’s Track and Field performance-enhancing hack using a tennis ball to pummel the buttons faster than any unaided human would find possible.

Often talked about this in the pub with wistful tones, but can’t find any evidence on the web. Do you have an action-shot of someone playing Track and Field with a tennis ball?


See also: from 2002, Anders Hansson on Track and Field Game Mechanics at Gamasutra (reg. reqd.)

"I wanted to keep the original button mashing control method of earlier  track and field games. Some games have, in a misdirected attempt to evolve the genre, abandoned the classical brutal control method in favor for more sophisticated (in a superficial sense) methods. In my opinion the physical quality of the original control method involves the player to a much higher degree and is much closer to the spirit of the sport that it tries to simulate."


received today in Flickrmail:

“Hi, I couldn’t find an e-mail address for you on your website, so this is the next-best thing.

I just wanted to let you know that I’ve finally unsubbed from your “work” RSS feed today, because I could no longer handle the overwhelming churn of snapshots and links that were drowning out your writing. Is there some place I could get a no-flickr and no-delicious feed out of your site?


Oh well. Please yerselves.

Practical Synasthesia

Alan Moore, interviewed:

"There’s an awful lot of synasthesia, I mean one of the greatest writers, a lot of the greatest writers, one of my favourites, Vladimir Nabakoff, he was a synasthetic…to him, the letter ‘O’ was white, the word ‘Moscow’ was green flecked with gold…olive green, flecked with gold. I can see that. And it’s a good thing to try and develop. Synasthesia is a great literary tool. You’ll be able to come up with perfect metaphors that are really striking and strange, because they maybe jump from one sense to another – try describing a smell in musical terms.

Actually, it can be quite easy. Also, it’s how we tend to do things anyway. They’ve just proven that – you know when Jilly Gordon gets on a roll on The Food Program and she’s talking about: “’s a kind of buttery, composty, tractory – I’m getting peat, I’m getting burning tyres…”. Now they’ve done tests – those people who describe the flavour and bouquet of wine, they’re not describing the flavour or the bouquet at all – they are synasthetically describing the colour. They’re taking visual cues. They did things where they’d put an odourless and tasteless colour agent into white wine to make it look like red wine, and then they’d note the kind of language the wine-tasters were using. When it was white wine they were using: “…buttery, new-mown hay”…you know, yellow, basically, was what they were saying, whereas when it was red wine they were saying: “…its wonderfully fruity, blackcurranty”…talking about red things. It’s synasthesia. It’s how a lot of our senses…I think synasthesia is probably a lot more common than the sensory aberration that it’s made out to be, and there’s probably a key there, somewhere, to how we sense everything. Synasthesia. There’s something there."

I hope so.

It would be wonderful to harness synasthesia in the UI of mobile devices. Going beyond multimedia output and multimodal interfaces – delivering meaning in Gladwellesque thin-slices of preattentive recognised patterns.

I’ve got about a month of my time in April to look into this at work. I’m thinking of looking at the Mindhackers, Damasio, Hiroshii Ishii, Ben(s) Fry and Schneiderman, and Ambient Devices as a start.

I’m very aware this is far from an exhaustive list; and moreover, it’s only the cognitive science / interface research worlds I’m thinking of so far.

I have a feeling, inspired by Alan Moore’s thoughts,  that looking into other fields of sensory endeavour might also be revealing: sculpture, painting, drama – or ritual, religious or otherwise – ways of constructing feelings and understanding through all our senses.

Ns_sensesIt it looks like we have at least 21 of them to play with…

With recent announcements of the increasing capabilites for new visual possibilites (Flash, SVG in Nokia mobiles) and coincident pronouncements on the constraining nature of the WIMP interface hangover into  the mobile context, I think it’s a good time to look into this.

Anyway – if you have any thoughts or contributions, or want to get in touch about the subject, leave me a comment, trackback or drop me a line to the usual address…

See also, Abe Burmeister’s reflections on the seminal "Interface Culture" some 8 years on from the publication of Johnson’s book.

Alien Mind Gangsters

From Onion AV Club interview with Howard Scott Warshaw, creator of Yars Revenge and Raiders of the Lost Ark on the Atari 2600 – his theory on how Steven Spielberg is an Alien Mind Gangster :

"I had this theory that in the early ’80s, we were very close to contact from aliens and other planets and stuff like that. I felt that if the aliens were going to come down, if people were smart enough to visit Earth, then they were smart enough not to come down and say "Hi!" They would send a recon team, a sort of advance team to culturalize the planet, and prepare it to meet the aliens; not like in The Day The Earth Stood Still.

Spielberg had done a couple of movies like E.T. and Close Encounters, some of the first movies that had portrayed aliens as non-threatening people to us. Those movies became hugely successful. They were seen all over the planet, literally. So my theory was that Spielberg was the engineer of the advance team. His job was to make movies that showed aliens in a positive light.

O: Now he’s making War Of The Worlds. What does that do to your theory?

HSW: Maybe they didn’t follow through with their bonus check."

Found via Gonzalo’s

Are you Nathan Barley?

On the advent of Barley’s arrival on UK TV (rendered by the dream-team of surreal bile lovers everywhere Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris), Momus asks himself the question that all in the late-90s who  stared into Brooker’s dark twisted mirror have surely asked –  whether he is Nathan Barley:

"Nathan was listening to drum’n’bass, looking at websites on his Nokia
Communicator, or reading an issue of Sleazenation magazine in a Tokyo
hotel room. So was I. Brooker observed these foibles with black Nazi
bile, though, and condemned Barley to die a thousand ignominious
fantasy deaths for them. On the strength of the trailers,
the actual TV show looks a lot milder, though funny and promising.
Perhaps the sins of the 90s have been exculpated by the much worse
excesses of the Naughties."

And, speaking of "excesses of the Naughties" it seems that Nathan lives on, and if anything has moved further to the dark-side. This from Monday’s MediaGuardian "How to be a creative director" article:

"Half my day is a managerial role and the other half
is helping the creative team with ideas. My
computer skills are still fairly rudimentary, but my colleagues are on
hand for the technical elements while I create the concepts. Glue started off doing simple
web banners, but now we’re making games, consumer-facing websites,
campaign-led microsites and on line interactive video content. All this
is helped by the spread of broadband. We’re always looking for new
things to do and we don’t just put offline ideas online. One of our
biggest projects recently was producing the online rebuttal to Super
Size Me for McDonald’s."

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