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Posts Tagged ‘games’

The Worst Game

November 24, 2015 | by

Just as Nabokov would’ve wanted it.

The other day, I invented the worst game ever. It all started in the supermarket when I passed the processed cheeses. Velveeta, I read. Then, somehow, I found myself thinking, Velveeta, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Vel-vee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Vel. Vee. Ta.

This was quite bad enough, but understandable. I tried it with Chiquita, and Ryvita, and then I forgot about it, because, well, it’s asinine. Then, later in the day, I realized I was muttering, “Flour. Light of my life, fire of my loins.” And later, the same thing, but with asphalt subbed in. Read More »

Gamelife: The Game

October 12, 2015 | by

Michael Clune’s Gamelife is an excellent new memoir about computer games. We could tell you all about it, but there are better means of description: as Clune writes, “computer games taught me how to imagine something so it lasts, so it feels real.”

With that in mind, we’ve gotten together with Farrar, Straus and Giroux to present Gamelife, the world’s first computer game about a memoir about computer games. No floppy disk required—simply click below to begin.

Click to play.

If you’d rather hear more about the book the old-fashioned way, I’ll be talking to Clune tomorrow night, Tuesday, October 13, at McNally Jackson. The event begins at 7:30 p.m.

Twain Trove, and Other News

May 5, 2015 | by


John White Alexander’s portrait of Twain, ca. 1912.


  • At UC Berkeley, scholars have discovered a cache of stories by Mark Twain, written when he was a twenty-nine-year-old newspaperman in San Francisco. “His topics range from San Francisco police—who at one point attempted, unsuccessfully, to sue Twain for comparing their chief to a dog chasing its tail to impress its mistress—to mining accidents.”
  • Filmmakers have always struggled in depicting the act of writing. Authors in movies tend to act, all too realistically, like total bores—sitting there, typing, thinking, gazing out windows, et cetera. But it is possible to make good films about writing. One of them is Joachim Trier’s Reprise, which “recognizes that much of the stuff of writing and literary circles is, well, talk. And unlike many other such films, it can talk that talk.”
  • Bellow had a way with similes: “When Professor Ravelstein laughs, he throws his head back ‘like Picasso’s wounded horse in Guernica’ … Eddie Walish has a woodwind laugh ‘closer to oboe than to clarinet, and he releases his laugh from the wide end of his nose as well as from his carved pumpkin mouth’ … A man with a wooden leg walks ‘bending and straightening gracefully like a gondolier.’ ”
  • In the late sixties, the progenitors of land art were “literal groundbreakers”—a new documentary, Troublemakers, tries to rediscover their works, many of which have “succumbed to natural forces.”
  • Plenty of horror video games borrow from Dracula—but they take only the “shallowest trappings” from Stoker, preferring instead to lean on Lovecraft. A new game, Bloodborne, “offers a backward lens into a particularly strange point in horror history in which the anxieties of a changing world found its way into the monsters and terrors of the genre.”

They Can’t Take That Away from Me

October 8, 2014 | by

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 5.24.09 PM

On this, the eve of the announcement of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy seems so furtive, so inscrutable. The suspense is palpable. Bookies are collecting bets; laureled authors around the globe are making steeples of their hands, entertaining their wildest fantasies. But if you want a quick and easy way to dispel the mythos, to lend a touch of levity to the pomp and circumstance of this nervous hour, just spend a few minutes with the Nobel’s Lord of the Flies game.

It is heinously unfun.

Really. Endodontic surgery is more fun than this game.

In its first stage, you match certain quotations and objects from the novel (glasses, bananas, a pig’s head on a pike) to their respective characters. From there, you’re invited to do more matching, this time pairing objects to themes (“Law and Order,” “Hope and Rescue”) that are mounted to palm trees. But wait—wait—what’s that theme there on the right?

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Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 5.24.53 PM

Look, I know it’s pedantic, but at the moment it’s all we’ve got—a typo, a typographical error, disseminated by the offices of the highest literary prize in the land. A sign of fallibility from these infallible Swedes!

May it offer some succor to those writers perennially rumored to be Nobel front-runners—all those who are passed over, year after gnomic Swedish year. I may never join that banquet in Stockholm, your Philip Roths and Thomas Pynchons can say, but at least I can spell supervision.



June 12, 2014 | by


Which is it?

I have a terrible feeling that the game “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” is an endangered species. Granted, my evidence is strictly anecdotal—several kids I know had never heard of it—but this is nonetheless a cause for serious concern.

It’s not that I was ever so great at the game; on car trips, my heart always sank when anyone identified the category as “mineral” because my knowledge was so scant. And let’s face it, as guessing-games go, it’s a bit of a dud: with none of the urgency of Twenty Questions and none of the glamour of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, poor old Linnaeus can feel like a bore.

But I don’t think the game is in trouble just because it’s slow. The contemporary material world is complicated. Last night, I put myself to sleep going through the various objects in my bedroom and attempting to classify them. It did not go well; several times I had to cheat by looking up the component parts of my humidifier (mineral), the shell of generic ibuprofen (animal) and the filling of my knockoff Tempur-Pedic pillow (surprisingly, vegetal). Short of a degree in inorganic chemistry—or a bylaw prohibiting the inclusion of anything invented after, say, 1950—the game is nearly impossible. “Mineral ascendant,” I scrawled in my notebook. Read More »

Drinking with Salinger

September 10, 2013 | by


On Sunday, I saw Salinger. Having seen the trailer, not to mention the posters, my companions and I had reason to expect a certain degree of bombast. As such, we came armed with skepticism and whiskey, hoping to hear some interesting interviews, see some neat archival footage, and learn a little something in the bargain. What we learned is that you cannot go into this movie without a highly organized game plan. 

I will not attempt a review of Salinger; plenty of people much smarter and better qualified than I have done so already. What I can do, by way of a public service, is extend the following warnings to anyone who would attempt to play a drinking game while watching Salinger, because it is a road fraught with peril.

We entered into the experience with a level of naivete that, today, seems laughable. We had only one half-formed rule: whenever anyone on screen says “recluse,” everyone takes a drink. Alas! Within fifteen minutes we had depleted the miniature bottle of whiskey I had recently been given in a gift bag. The documentary clocks in at 129 minutes. On the other hand, sufficient supplies would have left us supine and slack-jawed. In order to help other moviegoers, my companions and I quickly compiled a list of warnings.

If one wishes to play a drinking game while watching Salinger, and wishes to avoid illness, potential alcohol poisoning, or complete inebriation, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES do the following:

  • Drink whenever a random actor inexplicably says something with tremendous authority.
  • Drink whenever a random actor or writer whose career is based in areas completely unrelated to the writing and/or criticism of fiction holds forth with tremendous authority from an empty movie theater, an empty five-star restaurant, or the back of a moving vehicle.
  • Drink whenever one hears the sounds of typewriter keys, presumably hard at work on mysterious manuscript that will eventually be imprisoned in vault.
  • Drink whenever a reenactor who looks nothing like J. D. Salinger sits around being tortured by the world/humanity/horrors of war.
  • Drink whenever horrors of war are indicated with literal battlefield sound effects.
  • Drink whenever a structure commonly referred to as a “house” is described as a “bunker.”
  • Drink whenever you see a covered bridge.
  • Drink whenever someone who harassed J. D. Salinger talks with a total lack of embarrassment about bothering him.
  • Drink when you start to feel exactly the way you did when you first saw Bambi and realized you were Man and evil and you hated yourself and humanity (which is what is really scary about Bambi, not just the shooting). 

You may drink in the following circumstances:

  • When you discover WHAT HAPPENED TO J. D. SALINGER.

Prepared in consultation with Matthew Colvard, Taylor Anne Lane, and Peter Wolfgang.