The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘gaming’

Ready Player None

January 7, 2016 | by

Talking to Jonathan Blow about his new game, The Witness.

From The Witness.

“Don’t print this,” Jonathan Blow tells me. I’ve just asked him how his game The Witness is going to end, having spent an hour playing it alone at the Bryant Park Hotel—in a suite I’d discovered was actually Blow’s personal room when I got a glass of water. He’d gone to the lobby so I wouldn’t feel like I was being watched as I played. I felt immediately conscious of being in someone else’s space as I stepped through the bedroom to reach the bathroom sink. The bed was still unmade; a small bag sat agape on a chair beside a pile of clothes in the corner. Blow’s games excel at making one conscious of these things: of being in someone else’s territory, at once intimate and opaque. Like unknowingly stepping into someone’s bedroom, it’s natural, when you play his games, to want to make sure you can find your way back out again, even as you think about going further in.

Blow is the designer of two commercial games—2008’s Braid and now The Witness, due out later this month—and he’s as much a point of fascination as his creations. A 2012 profile in The Atlantic by Taylor Clark called him “the most dangerous gamer.” Though Braid added, by his own admission, “a lot of zeroes” to his bank account, he lives in a largely unfurnished apartment in Oakland, displaying what Clark described as “a total indifference toward the material fruits of wealth.” His longtime friend and programmer, Chris Hecker, told Clark, “You have to approach Jon on Jon’s terms. It’s not ‘Let’s go out and have fun.’ It’s more like ‘Let’s discuss this topic,’ or ‘Let’s work on our games.’ You don’t ask Jon to hang out, because he’ll just say ‘Why?’ ” Read More »

The Brothers 40K

September 24, 2014 | by

War game as money pit.


Ork Boyz from a recent version of Warhammer 40,000.

When you’re growing up, having a brother close to you in age means you’re never alone. There’s someone to share your clothes and chores, your blame and punishment, and, as was my case, your bedroom—my brother and I were together even in a state of sleepy unconsciousness. The second of my two oldest brothers predates me by a mere ten and a half months. When we were young everyone thought we were twins; even we secretly thought so for a while. A major, if less apparent, perk of our bond was that we could partake of enthusiasms we wouldn’t have wanted others to know about—not our friends, nor the girls we had crushes on, nor anyone, really.

The summer before high school we stumbled on something unbelievably uncool. If we hadn’t had each other for company, I like to think we wouldn’t have given the endeavor a second thought. We had our reputations to uphold, after all. His was being cool—he was a drummer in a punk band whose members, including a female bass player he would later start dating, were much older than he was. My brother drank a can of Mountain Dew every morning for breakfast and wanted everyone to know about it. I had considerably less to lose: I awkwardly straddled the world of jocks and skateboarders, with mixed results. But since my brother and I had each other, we found no reason to limit our interests, however obscure, unpopular, or geeky they may have appeared, and however much they might have jeopardized us in the eyes of our peers.

The pursuit I speak of is Warhammer 40,000, a dystopian, futuristic tabletop war game set in the forty-first millennium, a combination of Risk and Dungeons & Dragons with a sci-fi twist. Read More »


Playing the Field

August 11, 2011 | by

Kacie Kinzer, Tweenbot, 2009, cardboard, paper, ink, batteries, motor, and wheels, 36 x 8 1/2 x 14 in. Photo © Scott Rudd

On a recent balmy night, in the courtyard of the Museum of Modern Art, I watch a dozen adults hop excitedly between platters of white, gray, and black arrayed in a circle. They move at a waltzlike pace, stepping, stopping, pointing. This strange spectacle isn’t an art project, exactly, but a game: part of a one-night arcade organized by the magazine Kill Screen for MoMA’s exhibition of interactive objects, “Talk to Me.”

The game is called Starry Heaven, after Kant’s epigram that the two things that fill him with wonder and awe are “the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” The rules of Starry Heaven, however, are decidedly unfriendly to anyone following the moral law within him. As players move from disc to disc toward the center of the circle, they must conspire with each other to point at another player on an adjacent disk, banishing him. “It requires them to collaborate with their fellow players—and to stab them in the back,” says Eric Zimmerman, who designed the game with Nathalie Pozzi, an architect. “It tells a perverse moral fable.”

Another game, in the museum’s lobby, takes a more laissez-faire approach to pitting players against each other. It has only one rule—to follow the instructions that appear on a screen—but the game’s title, BUTTON, for Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now, encourages players to break it. As I walk toward the five-foot-wide screen, it tells the four men standing in front of it that the first one to hit his button ten times will lose. They run, dive, grabbing their bucket-size rubber buttons from the floor—and then they stop, seemingly at a loss. Cautiously they press their own buttons, watching each other: a suicide pact. Then, one of them grabs his neighbor’s button and starts bashing it furiously. People in line cheer as the screen shows his competitor’s animal avatars blasted by lightening bolts. He walks away with his arms raised in triumph. Read More »