Little is publicly available about Boston’s notorious gay bar, Ramrod. Being involved with organizing events there for the past two years I have done a fair amount of research via the internet and speaking with the more oldschool staff. Whether a result of the increasingly less affordable neighborhood, city officials dictating what are acceptable lifestyles for grown adults, or the changing gay bar scene in general, rest easy, it is no longer the “scary” bustling leather bar it once was. I was told in the beginning I was the only outside promoter that still referred to the club as “Ramrod”. Others opting for the more palatable, Machine, as “Ramrod” apparently scares off straight men, women and the more timid of the queer community. But I assure you, this space is open to all willing to shake off that stigma. Punk Night (Tuesdays) and other events bring out an eclectic crowd. Punks, Skins, Cross Dressers, Hardcores, Metalheads, Goths/etc of all ages(21+), cliques, and neighborhoods. Through Ramrod we have provided an after-party spot for bands ranging from Japan’s ZYANOSE to ALKALINE TRIO. We’ve hosted gigs for touring acts like Sweden’s INFERNOH and BOOM BOOM KID from Argentina, as well as from Boston’s diverse local scene. Whether it’s the LIFE IS POSERS release party, the IGNOREROCK’N’ROLLHEROES record fair, or your friend’s first time DJing as a guest at Boston’s only weekly Punk DJ night, there really is something for all facets of Punk culture and other fringe/outsider communities. If Punk and its related sub-genres isn’t your thing – come out on Thursdays for free Karaoke!
“Let’s Players” record themselves talking while they play games; Maddy Myers of Paste Games prefers to sing. Last month, she released her first solo project Peace in Space, a three-song EP written and sung from the perspective of Samus Aran in Super Metroid. As Myers puts it, the EP is “fan fiction set to music.”
I checked in with Myers shortly before the release of Peace in Space to learn more about the inspiration behind her “Metroid musical” and to ask her what it was like to write from the perspective of one of gaming’s most famous female protagonists.
Peace in Space, I learned, has had a long incubation period. Although Myers recorded the songs fairly recently, she first wrote them three years ago. Returning to them now, she says, is like “uncovering the artifacts of my old life.” The fact that Myers compares this process to Samus scanning artifacts in a Metroid game is indicative of Myers’ deep identification with the character.
The “old life,” for Myers, is a time defined by solitude. Three years ago, Myers was living alone for the first time: no family, friends, or roommates. It was during this time that she was first introduced to the Metroid series. She first played the Metroid Prime games before seeking out and completing every other game in the series.
In Super Metroid, Myers found a female hero who “lives alone and works alone.” Peace in Space, Myers says, is “what I felt while I was playing,” a direct translation of Myers’ experience of the game into song. But, because her experience of the Metroid series is inextricably bound up in her experience of striking out on her own, Peace in Space is also a deeply personal album.
“It’s theoretically about Metroid,” Myers says. “But it’s also egotistically about me, about my life, about reevaluating it. Samus is the metaphor that I held onto during that process.”
During this pensive time in Myers’ life, she filled in the space left by Samus’ silence with a combination of Metroid “head canon”and her own feelings about living alone.
“If you spend too much time by yourself, you start to lose your mind,” Myers observes. “You have to go through patterns to remind yourself that you’re still alive.”
The songs in the Peace in Space EP each repeat these patterns in different ways. The opening number, “Varia” slowly builds from a contemplative mood to a determined one as Samus discovers the tools that the Chozo have left behind to help her complete her mission.
“It’s like going back to your old bedroom,” she says, “and finding something that you’re really touched by.”
“Varia” follows Samus as she suits up and defeats her enemies. She sings: “I’m getting stronger every second / And I’m going to survive / I’m gonna wade into liquid fire and come out alive.” “Varia,” Myers summarizes, is about Samus’ mission but it’s also about “finding and rebuilding yourself.”
The second song, “Ridley’s Theme,” finds Myers breaking from traditional conceptualizations of Samus as a wounded woman who will never be able to overcome her childhood trauma.
“I wanted to make her human without making her irreperably damaged,” Myers explains. “I’ve always had a problem with the idea that Samus is extremely psychologically damaged from this trauma and she’ll never get over it. There’s probably a good way to write her tragedy, but maybe a woman should write it.”
“Ridley’s Theme” presents a strong, confident Samus unfazed by her past. The defiant tone of the song, Myers notes, is an intentional counterpoint to the sexist way in which most narrative media depict psychological trauma as an insurmountable obstacle for women. Metroid: Other M controversially indulged in this bad habit, presenting the player with a weaker, more vulnerable Samus. But Myers’ Samus is ready for Ridley.
“I knew you would find me,” she sings. “And now I will waste you.”
“Meditation,” the third and final song on the EP, is the heart of Peace in Space. The song features the lyric, “Everything is gonna be okay,” sung over and over again.
“This is the sort of thing that Samus would have to tell herself all the time,” Myers explains.
But “Meditation,” like “Ridley’s Theme” respectfully toes the line between self-doubt and complete breakdown. Samus gives voice to her fears (“What if I’m caught off guard, and I’m not prepared after all?”) but ultimately overcomes them in a quiet moment of self-assured triumph (“I am always my own hero”).
For Myers, “Meditation” is about accepting your weaknesses without losing sight of your strengths. The Samus of “Meditation” expresses trepidation but knows that she “actually has to do something in her moment of truth.” Samus, like Myers, finds a hero in herself during a difficult moment.
“In Super Metroid,” Myers recalls, “Samus is just investigating the situation independently. It’s all about her own journey. She’s doing it because she wants to know what’s going to happen. It’s her own life. And that really intrigues me: people doing things for their own benefit and thinking, ‘I’m worth it.’”
As a whole, Peace in Space serves as a brief but ambitious exploration of loneliness, determination and self-worth told through the lens of Super Metroid. Over the course of three songs, Myers constructs a compelling version of Samus: a solitary woman who intimately knows both her limits and her capabilities.
But Myers is not content with the songs in the EP alone. In the future, she would like to expand the project to include songs performed by other characters: Mother Brain, Ridley, perhaps even a baby Metroid. Although her dream of a stage play might be impossible to license, Myers still envisions a Metroid musical concept album in her future. Like Samus, she has some work left to do.Peace in Space is available for download for $3 USD on Maddy Myers’ Bandcamp.
|Click to be taken to the show page for episode 59 of Literary Treks!|
Or just wanna hang out with some of the SB/Smash it Dead Collective and watch a movie/eat a bunch of food?
Support Boston is a group that formed a couple years ago to address issues surrounding sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and other fucked up power dynamics present in the DIY/punk/hardcore scene in Boston.
We’d love to tell you all more about our group, what we’ve been doing and reading, and how we believe we can best support the survivors in our lives. Really, any questions you have (or ideas and insight you would like to share) is super encouraged!
This is a vegan pot-luck, but everyone in the collective will be cooking, so no pressure if you just wanna bring some chips.
The movie we are showing is Josie and the Pussycats.
He was perhaps the ultimate human achievement: a sentient artificial life-form—self-aware, self-determining, possessing a mind and a body far surpassing that of his makers, and imbued with the potential to evolve beyond the scope of his programming.
And then Data was destroyed.
Four years later, Data’s creator, Noonien Soong, sacrificed his life and resurrected his android son, who in turn revived the positronic brain of his own artificial daughter, Lal. Having resigned his commission, the former Starfleet officer now works to make his way on an alien world, while also coming to grips with the very human notion of wanting versus having a child.
But complicating Data’s new life is an unexpected nemesis from years ago on the U.S.S. Enterprise—the holographic master criminal Professor James Moriarty. Long believed to be imprisoned in a memory solid, Moriarty has created a siphon into the "real" world as a being of light and thought. Moriarty wants the solid form that he was once told he could never have, and seeks to manipulate Data into finding another android body for him to permanently inhabit . . . even if it means that is Data himself.
Returning to the story begun in the novel Immortal Coil and continuing in the bestselling Cold Equations trilogy, this is the next fascinating chapter in the artificial life of one of Star Trek’s most enduring characters.
Deep Space 9 is once again becoming an important way station in the Alpha Quadrant for many different people with many different agendas. Uniquely crewed by representatives of different species from both the Khitomer Powers and the Typhon Pact, the Federation science and exploration vessel Athene Donald stops at the station as its final port of call before heading into uncharted territories. The whole project is the brainchild of Dr. Katherine Pulaski, who hopes that science will do what diplomacy alone cannot, and help various powers put aside the tensions of recent years, returning to scientific research and the exploration of space On DS9, base commander Ro Laren has her hands full with the sudden arrival of a ragtag flotilla of small ships crewed by a group calling themselves the People of the Open Sky. Ro is not keen on handling this first-contact duty, but becomes increasingly intrigued by the People, who are made up of several hitherto unknown species. Describing themselves as explorers, they are interested in everything about the station. Ro begins to enjoy her assignment, particularly as she takes counsel from the logs of Jean-Luc Picard. Blackmer, however, is more suspicious about these apparently friendly arrivals and monitors their movements around DS9...Sounds pretty interesting! You can pre-order The Missing from Amazon using the links below!
If you missed it on MTV, my episode of True Life is now available to watch on the MTV True Life website here for your viewing pleasure!
love and light –
We are very excited to add a new type of performance to our yearly fest: two very special zine/book readings by Imogen Binnie and Christy Road! Please be sure to arrive early (with your vegan pancakes and tofu scramble in hand…) to check them out.
Christy is a Cuban-American writer, visual artist, and member of the band the Homewreckers (also playing SATURDAY afternoon!). Her zine, Greenzine began in 1997. Since then, she has also released Indestructible, Bad Habits, and Spit and Passion — all of which blend her artwork with personal stories of growing up “in the closet,” healing from an abusive relationship, and more. In addition to creating these works, Christy also leads discussions and zine workshops in various places. You can see more of her artwork on her website: http://www.croadcore.org/
Imogen is a trans woman who plays in the band Correspondences (playing SUNDAY at the fest!) writes about her experiences and ideas in books, zines, and a monthly column in Maximum Rock n Roll. Her zines include The Fact That It’s Funny Doesn’t Make It A Joke and Stereotype Threat, and she has also had stories published in various anthologies. You can read more of her writing on her blog: http://www.keepyourbridgesburning.com/
|Into the freezer for an hour before adding the Vanilla Whipped Cream|
I mentioned in my last post how inspired I was by Chef Fran, whose book Vegan Chocolate dazzled and delighted me once I got the chance to fully peruse its pages upon my return from New York. I was mesmerized, particularly, but the beautiful photo of chocolate ganache, which was just simply a big bowl of glorious, shiny, deep and rich chocolate. No need to get fancy, there. A bowl of chocolate sauce was enough to pique my curiosity and had me testing things in the kitchen very shortly after my return, as tired as I was feeling… Did I mention that I do not do well on less than 8 hours of sleep?
Anyways, I headed to Whole Foods to see if I could find an unsweetened Bakers Chocolate so that I could start testing recipes for a low-sugar ganache using alternative sweeteners. But once I got to Whole Foods, I found something better: vegan chocolate chips sweetened with…
That’s right, a sugar-free, vegan and certified gluten-free chocolate chip is now available commercially! Finally, someone picked up on the fact that there was a dire need for a product that fit these multiple dietary criteria. Lily’ Dark Chocolate Baking Chips do not disappoint. Big side note: keep reading labels, as most of the Lily’s bars — as opposed to chips — I found are not vegan and contain milk fat.
Ironically, I fear that Chef Fran would not approve of these chips. She does not like stevia because it’s heavily processed and she can taste its bitterness. But if you have a less refined palate like mine — and are looking for lower-sugar alternative due to past struggles with candida after years of being on antibiotics for Lyme disease — then these chips should be a suitable alternative to sugar-filled sweets!
Chef Fran also likes her chocolate to have a higher cocoa percentage, and I do, too, normally. But I kinda liked how these strawberries ended up being reminiscent of a milder milk chocolate, as it may help bridge the gap for chocolate lovers and non-lovers alike.
There are many wonderful things about these strawberries. First of all, they are simple to make, as there is no baking involved. Additionally, you’re getting a low-sugar and lower-calorie sweet that’s naturally portion controlled. One chocolate strawberry might satisfy a sweet tooth, while keeping the added carbs, sugar or fat to a minimum. Plus, strawberries are a naturally low-sugar fruit, keeping them within the confines of many anti-candida diets (including the one my doctor put me on several years ago…from which I’ve admittedly strayed).
I hope you enjoy these sweet little treats. Ideally, while the ganache holds up pretty well after it has set, I would recommend storing these in the refrigerator until ready to serve or eat. Because of the moisture content of the strawberries, chocolate is more prone to melting on these than, say, a cookie.
Thank you, Chef Fran, for your beautiful book, and for inspiring these sugar-free yummies (I’ll pretend I didn’t hear your expressed dislike for stevia…)
Chocolate Ganache Strawberries:
Chocolate sauce makes enough to cover a pint of strawberries, plus a little left over for fun
One pint (preferably organic) strawberries, washed and laid flat to dry completely; keep stems on
3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
7 drops NuNaturals vanilla stevia
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or other nuts (optional)
1. Heat soy milk over low to medium heat in a small saucepan for about 5 minutes, or until warm but NOT boiling.
2. Add chocolate chips to a medium-sized heat-proof bowl. Once soy milk is warmed, pour into bowl with chocolate chips and stir until chips are melted. Add stevia drops and continue to stir until combined. Do not whisk or stir too vigorously, but make sure that everything is smooth and combined.
3. Let sauce sit for about 15 minutes. Test with one strawberry by dipping. Sauce should stay on strawberry with minimal dripping. Keep dipping to cover each strawberry about 3/4 with some red flesh still showing at top. Sprinkle with chopped nuts, or lightly roll strawberry over a shallow plate of chopped nuts. Lay flat on parchment paper. Continue with remaining strawberries.
4. Refrigerate Strawberries until chocolate has set, about 15-20 minutes. Can refrigerate for up to 24 hours before serving.
I ran this workshop at the NYU Game Center in February 2014 as a part of their Personal Best series in Feminist Game Design. My goal was to build on work done by others outside of digital games (in analog play, art, queer studies, etc.) to indicate some possible directions for future-oriented queer digital play. I drew heavily on José Esteban Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia — though I think the connection between play and queer utopias is one that needs further elaborating. I am also indebted to Avery McDaldno and Joli St. Patrick, whose 2013 QGCon talk on moving beyond representation as the metric of queerness in games essentially sparked this entire workshop. Thank you so much to everyone who came out — the energy and ideas you generated were truly powerful. Many thanks also to Toni Pizza, Gwynna Forgham-Thrift, Winnie Song (who designed the most gorgeous event poster I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing my name on) and everyone else at the NYU Game Center who helped put this event together.
I saw the new Hunger Games movie the other day and, honestly, I was bored. For anyone who isn’t familiar with it, the series describes a utopia in which a decadent and urban capital exploits a number of outlying districts, forcing their children to participate in annual bloodsports as a means of keeping them demoralized. The books and movies participate in all kinds of well-trod ideas about dystopia and futurity. The oppressive capital is coded as feminine, urban, excessive, and queer. The hero of the story, Katniss Everdeen, represents a kind of masculine heterosexuality that inevitably triumphs, restoring rural authenticity and the rightful place of the family. That Katniss is a woman makes some difference, but not much – this is still a story I’ve heard a million times before.
And you know what? I’m bored of dystopia.
I recently heard someone describe dystopia as a genre where the contemporary daily, real experiences of oppression are finally visited on white people, and I think there’s a lot of truth to this. More broadly, dystopia as a genre often seems to lack any real future-oriented political imagination. Dystopias are reactionary projections that don’t do anything for us in the here and now. In many ways, imagining dystopia is a safer activity than imagining utopia – the latter involves projecting our hopes, desires, and fantasies, rather than simply our fears.
Maybe even moreso than film, games are lousy with dystopias. Maybe it’s because our design is still so focused around violent physical conflict, and these settings provide convenient backdrops. Maybe it’s because moreso than other media, the people making games are overwhelmingly white men. Regardless of the reason, I’m tired of it. I want to start thinking about play and utopias. But not just any kind: queer play and queer utopias.
So let’s talk about queer play. The phrase “queer games” was thrown around a lot in late 2012 and early 2013. Like most of these kinds of groupings, it’s an artificial and kind of shaky term, but the games most often named as part of it are well-known: dys4ia, Mainichi, Howling Dogs, and so forth. These and other works are what got me into making videogames – they convinced me that digital play could be used to tell distinctly queer stories.
But since then, I’ve noticed a pattern. Many of these works have received critical acclaim within games circles – even as they’ve been simultaneously vilified and discounted as non-games. But outside of these communities – outside of people already invested in videogames for one reason or another – there’s relatively little knowledge or interest in them.
How many times have I told another queer about a powerful game about oppression or struggle only to hear them reply “I don’t really play those kinds of games… I play games to escape” — if they play games at all. As someone working in the medium, this is obviously a tremendously frustrating thing to hear. At the same time, I’m interested in creating games for other queers and not as a kind of empathy tourism for straight people. So simply ignoring these comments is not an option for me. Instead, I think we have to theorize the notion of games as queer escapes.
Muñoz conceptualized queer escapes in his text Cruising Utopia. The book’s project is a reclamation of utopianism through art in the face of an academic queer context that seems relentlessly present-focused and critical. For Muñoz, contemporary queer studies and mainstream queer politics are both insufficient for queer political struggles because they are ultimately “antisocial” models which fail to imagine radically different futures. Mainstream queer political movements are too short-sighted, focused on assimilationist goals like marriage and military inclusion, a far cry from their more radical origins. And contemporary queer studies seems to be heavily invested in a “romance of negativity”, focusing on present and ceding the future as the privileged domain of heterosexual reproduction.
Of course, there are a number of reasons for these moves. At the most basic level, there is a kind of appeal to pragmatism that insists that we attend to the here and now without being distracted by dreams of what might be. But Muñoz argues that that in a context in which our lives are restrictively structured by systems of power, it is not enough for art to dwell on present pain. We need work that goes beyond representing struggle to imagining otherwise; painting pictures of what might be and in doing so, implicitly critiquing the here and now.
For Muñoz, the stark line we sometimes draw between escapism and radical politics is illusory. He argues that escape “need not be a surrender, but, instead, may be more like a refusal of the dominant order and its systemic violence,” adding that “queer fantasy is linked to utopian longing, and together the two can become contributing conditions of possibility for political transformation.” In order words, escapes can be important not just as temporary refuges, but as sites for exercising our hope and imagination.
Maybe it seems strange to think of hope as something that takes practice. But as people who are subjected by systems of power, it’s so easy to let go of the future. When we’re trying to survive on a daily basis, imagining radically different worlds can seem like a luxury. But Muñoz’s point is that it is precisely for that reason that we need to constantly rekindle our imaginations about what might be.
Tonight I want to think about these ideas specifically in relation to digital games. I want to think about the kinds of work we’ve been doing as marginalized people in and around games, and about how we might use games as a means of performing futurity and imagining otherwise. And most of all I want to rekindle our hopes, together, that we can build other worlds.
Moving Beyond Representation
I think a lot of us, especially those of us who are informed by media and literary studies, find it very easy to treat games as texts – we want to read them in the same way as a poem, or a film, or a TV show. A lot of queer and feminist readings of games are coming from this perspective, because queer and gender studies in US academia have been so closely tied to literary theory.
Representation matters, but a focus on what games look like risks missing what games do. Joli St Patrick and Avery McDaldno gave a talk on this subject at the Queerness & Games Conference last year, where they argued that “putting a veneer of queerness over games doesn’t create queer games, it creates pinkwashing.” As they describe it, the frame of representation and inclusion often elides deeper issues of mechanics. Game systems are inscribed with the politics of their designers, and if we fail to examine those systems in favor of focusing on surface imagery, then we will end up playing straight games. In this account, the inclusion of recognizably gay and trans characters is carried out through a male, colonial gaze and is useful insofar as it will help to sell those straight games to queer players. Similarly, Ed Chang’s work on queerness and games questions the inclusion of options like same-sex marriage in games like Fable as window-dressing that doesn’t actually change the way in which the game is played.
Furthermore, a focus on representation can end up favoring traditionally-structured games, big-budget affairs with voice acting and three-dimensionally rendered spaces and characters. We end up getting more excited about a queer or trans character in a mainstream roleplaying game than we do about the work of actual queer and trans people, who often do not have access to the tools, money, or skills required to create these kinds of experiences, or else are not interested in creating them in the first place.
For instance, I know a number of trans women making games whose work is clearly influenced by their experience. But their work isn’t necessarily representational and does not often feature recognizable avatar-characters. Indeed, for me part of the excitement around their work is the destabilization of assumptions around what videogames look like: the eschewing of unitary individual player-characters, clear representational narratives, and so forth. So while it can be exciting to see trans or queer characters in our favorite big budget games, there’s always the danger that that becomes our focus. We need to think about queer mechanics and forms of play.
St Patrick and McDaldno provide two frames for thinking about queer mechanics: creating queer utopias and validating current struggles. Both are important and can even appear in the same game. But as I’ve discussed, I think that most work towards queering digital games has focused on the latter. Arguably, “queer games” as constructed in late 2012 and early 2013 built this frame of struggle into the concept; most of the games that were positioned as emblematic of the category related painful and upsetting experiences such as dealing with gender dysphoria, navigating medical structures, and facing harassment and abuse. (The elision — through the somewhat sanitizing language of “queer games” — of the fact that the overwhelming majority of these games were made by trans women and deal with the specificity of trans women’s experiences is a development that has yet to be fully explored.)
So, in thinking about these possibilities, I want to focus on their potential for gesturing towards queer utopias – providing us glimpses of the then and there rather than lingering solely on the struggle of the here and now. Even so, by thinking about what might be, the construction of queer utopias implicitly works to critique the present.
St Patrick and McDaldno work in analog story games and so their talk was focused on work in this format. Here I want to think through the ways we might translate some of their insights to work in digital games, and about some additional possibilities for specifically digital queer mechanics.
1. The Fruitful Void: the fruitful void refers to the idea that the game is about whatever is conspicuously absent from its mechanics. Queerness is often formulated as being about the uncategorizable, so it makes sense to think about ways that we can usefully write absences into a game. When we think about digital games, if we drill deep enough, the logic of binary computation rules all of our mechanics. So rather than attempt to code the full range of possible desires and object choices into our games, perhaps sometimes they could be left unstructured. McDaldno provides their game Monsterhearts as an example – it’s a game where players take on the roles of teenage monsters, and it’s fundamentally about attraction. However, there’s no real sexual orientation mechanic – this is left to the players.
2. Coding Fluidity/Uncertainty: McDaldno and St. Patrick describe stats as “straight mechanics” that enable a linear journey from more to less powerful. In contrast, they describe queer lives as multidirectional, indicating a need to disrupt clearness and linearity in rulesets.
It may seem that the notion of stats is much more fundamental to digital games, which by necessity track a number of variables and present this information to the player for them to review at any time. For some writers like David Golumbia, the vast majority of digital role-playing games are about acquiring power as represented through mechanics like stats and experience points. What would it mean for a contemporary RPG to reject some of these conventions of progression?
3. Character Nonmonogamy: character monogamy is a way of describing the convention, often unquestioned in tabletop roleplaying games, that each player takes on the role of a single character at a time. This convention was imported to many digital games, starting with RPGs. It’s easy to see this in huge contemporary roleplaying games where the player controls a single character throughout the game, building their power and telling a story centralized around this one avatar figure. This convention reflects a number of myths and narratives around individualism, progress, and class. McDaldno and St. Patrick suggest that unpacking character ownership in tabletop games might thus be a way of unpacking some of these narratives and building more collective stories.
Think about the roleplaying titles of Bioware, which have often been a site for discussion of queerness in games. What if we moved the conversation away from representation and towards the assumption of character monogamy? What would a Mass Effect series where the player shifts between viewpoints rather than occupying the avatar-role of Shepard throughout look like? Or more radically, what would a similar game designed to be played by multiple players telling a story collaboratively look like?
4. Explicit Power Dynamics: it’s often taboo to talk about and name power, much less to play with it. And digital games haven’t done a great job of exploring explicit power dynamics, though there are some examples. Most obviously, anna anthropy’s work has sought to code kink dynamics into digital play in a variety of ways. In her platformer game Mighty Jill-Off, the player takes on the role of a submissive attempting to prove her devotion to her domme via climbing an obstacle-laden tower. anna’s text-based work deals with power dynamics as well, often placing the player in fantastical scenarios exploring fictional sub/domme relationships and the power dynamics inherent in the player/designer relationship that so often go unremarked upon.
Some of my work has attempted to explore these ideas too – in particular, my text game Consensual Torture Simulator was an effort to conspicuously invest the player with a sense of negotiated power.
5. Enshrining the Prepostrous: games don’t need to be hyperrealistic physics engines! “Grimdark” games are an easy target here, but we might also look to the ways that many games ensconce themselves in a protective layer of irony. Games could use more camp and hyper-sincerity! Take a game like Dominique Pamplemousse, a musical claymation detective game all made by a single artist, Deirdre Kiai. It’s totally prepostrous and silly and endearing and unashamedly so, and centralizes the experience of a genderqueer protagonist.
These are all mechanics that McDaldno and St. Patrick identify with regards to analog games, and I think many of them are transferable to digital work. But we can also identify other possibilities that are unique to digital games, many of which are already implicit in analog story games:
7. Disrupting Time: according to Elizabeth Freeman in Time Binds, linear time is straight. The vast majority of videogames accept straight time — time as a constant, progressive, flowing structure; think about games that refuse this structure and introduce breaks, ruptures, that borrow well-established techniques from film to depict time queerly. Thirty Flights of Loving is a good example, as a first-person game that uses jump cuts to shake up and disrupt the player’s experience of time.
8. Nonrepresentational Spaces: what would it mean to reject the goal of photorealistic representations of places and bodies? Of course, many of us outside of the mainstream games industry already reject this goal to some extent – but we can go further in affirming the value of building digital spaces to explore aspects of the world that often go unnoticed or that create entirely new ones. For instance, Stephen Lavelle’s game Slave of God places the player in the space of a nightclub, but chooses to emphasize intensity of feeling in order to create an experience that is in a way “truer” than a photorealistic representation might be.
9. Unconventional Movement: conventions in FPSs and RPGs dictate that player movement is smooth and frictionless; players glide through the world with perfect ease and are free to go wherever they please within the confines of the space. For me, the fantasy of free movement is tied in open-world games to colonial masculinities – so many of these games place the player in a fantastical open space in which they have no ties to community or place and are free to explore a supposedly “empty” frontier. Games can experiment with other forms of movement that challenges these assumptions. However, unconventional movement need not always be introduced as a means of reproducing limitations or conveying struggle; some games use unrealistic or unusual moves of movement to convey exuberence or joy. (e.g. The Floor is Jelly)
10. Modeling Bodies: bodies in so many videogames are inexhaustible machines capable of traveling forever and exerting tremendous force; they rarely break down or fail; games could explore different forms of embodiment in ways that don’t necessarily involve more accurate simulations of processes but that evoke embodiment in different ways. Games like QWOP or Surgeon Simulator represent one means of approaching the topic. My game Consensual Torture Simulator is another, in which the player is tasked with topping a consenting partner while also managing the limitations of their own body. For anyone who hasn’t done it before, wielding a flogger eventually tires you out, and even slapping or spanking someone can take a toll on your hand. In that game I wanted to show this kind of interplay of limitations and exertion without reducing it to a simple gauge or number.
11. Shifting Play(er) Assumptions: the product model of videogames assumes a singular player using a game product on a console or personal computer; public play and local multiplayer games can be understood as discarded formats that can be adopted. Elizabeth Freeman describes queerness not as being on the cutting edge of newness, as it is commonly understood, but as basking in the fading glow of the past. And for all games’ uncritical obsession with so-called retro aesthetics, I think there’s something to that idea. Models like unconventional online play, distributed play, etc. that have been rejected by mainstream videogames can be reappropriated and put to use (e.g. Brace, Soundself, etc.)
Thinking about queer play might require us to step out of common sense thinking about videogames. Many recognizable genres of digital games come with so much mechanical baggage that we either need to be prepared to do a lot of unpacking or else to jettison genre and start from a more basic level of mechanics.
The rest of the workshop was spent in several activities: identifying mechanics that reproduce normative thinking in mainstream games; playing through several examples of games that invoke queer mechanics; and finally, considering ways that we might twist and queer existing games to make them more interesting and useful. The notes from these activities are reproduced below.
Games with an asterisk were examples played live at the workshop – all of these games do interesting and vital things and invoke the kinds of queer mechanics described above. Most of these games are free, though a few are commercial.
*Ultimate Flirt-Off – Diego Garcia
*SABBAT – ohnoproblems
*Slave of God – increpare
Pale Machine – Ben Esposito & bo-en
Queers in Love at the End of the World – anna anthropy
Thirty Flights of Loving – Brendon Chung
Reset – Lydia Neon
The Floor is Jelly – Ian Snyder
Soundself – Robin Arnott
Dream Fishing – Sophie Houlden
This first set of notes was generated by participants after having been asked to analyze existing mainstream games through the lens of their mechanics, thinking about the ways in which what the player was doing – rather than the representations being depicted – could be understood as reproducing normative ideas about topics like bodies, power, and control.
Civilization-esque games and RTS games and management games
Big Buck Hunter
FPS games, e.g. Far Cry Blood Dragon
The following notes were later generated after another activity in which participants were asked to take the game they had previously discussed – or another game – and think about ways they might twist and queer some of the mechanics of play to produce more interesting and useful results.
I have a lot of clothes, and in the dozen or so homes I've lived in, many have had very little closet space. Here is 12+ years worth of tips on how to cram your stuff into the minimal space you have. Women may benefit the most from these tips, but men might learn a thing or two!
The fan-made web series Star Trek Continues is set immediately after the end of the original Star Trek series, following the Enterprise through the rest of its five-year mission. In this episode, the crew encounters a troubled Orion slave girl—but can they rescue her without causing an interstellar incident?
Web: The next time you're planning a trip, head to Orbitz's Labs section and take a look at the Hotel Rates Heatmap. It might save you some cash by helping you figure out when the rates of your visiting city are likely to be at their lowest.
Get a hefty dose of off-beat pop with that oh-so-90′s style downtempo funk twist with the return of the inimitable, idiosyncratic Cibo Matto. Your writer last saw the band on their 2011 reunion tour, where they put on a really eclectic and fun full-band set, covering all of the abstract weirdness of Viva! La Woman, the quirky pop of Stereo* Type A, and even brought a slew of new material that was a logical (or illogical) continuation of their sonic melange of funk, hip-hop, tropicalia, disco, afrobeat, and musique concrete. Tonight they’re coming back, touring on their first LP in 15 YEARS, Hotel Valentine -out on Valentine’s Day, of course. The single “MFN” channels a bit of M.I.A.’s synth-heavy dub/hip-hop hybrid sound with classic sassy Cibo Matto surreal humor. Brooklyn’s Salt Cathedral should definitely not be missed, as their skilled blend of mathy post-rock and shimmering tropical pop sounds like it was made as much for the mind as the dancefloor.
9pm // 18+ // $22
Here’s one of the books that saved my life when I first moved to suburban/countryside (inaka) Japan in 2003 without any knowledge about how to live as a vegan in Japan. I had no idea what I was in store for (and especially because 5 years ago, there was MUCH LESS that I could eat, and the farther you get from Tokyo or Kyoto, that’s the case too). But this little book and being able to read Japanese pretty well made my home cooking life much, much easier. It also gave me a little basic knowledge about Japanese cooking, eating, and ingredients that made me feel much more brave about exploring the different and new vegetables and other ingredients I could get at the grocery store and at the awesome farmer’s market that took place in a drug store parking lot down the street from me. (Oh, how I miss it!)
The link is to Japanese Amazon.com (where I note that the price is just enough to get you free shipping – so what’s stopping you?), but you can but it in the US (and I presume other countries) too. Actually, I bought it in my last year of college and brought it to Japan with me.
One thing I just love about this book is that it taught me a lot about more traditional Japanese food – the recipes in it aren’t “new” just because they’re vegan. I learned about some great Japanese comfort food in here, and the winter soup and stew recipes are especially awesome.
One downside, however, is that you can’t get a lot of the fake meat ingredients in Japan, and so you can only make things like kara-age tempeh (one of my favorites) in the US. Well, unless you find some place that will sell you tempeh (probably somewhere in Tokyo does this?) for an incredible markup. Well, just a warning that about 70% of these recipes can be made in Japan, maybe 20% only in the US, and 20% only in Japan (I’m just estimating here, but some of them use a lot of fake meat, whereas others use a lot of products that I don’t really see in the US, like mochi, daikon greens, konnyaku, and okara).
In any case, I don’t think you’ll regret getting this. My own copy is bent, torn, and covered in various liquids – it’s gone through two trips to Japan, to Pittsburgh, to New York, and to Michigan. I’ve been using it for 6 years now and it’s been a great help.
Roll into Lower Allston TONIGHT as four local riffblasters rip it up for a great cause! Smash it Dead Fest is an annual 2-day festival in Cambridge packed to the brim with live music, workshops, and readings to raise money for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. This year’s fest falls on March 28-30, and with a little over a month away organizers are in full effect looking to surpass the nearly $5,000 raised at last year’s festival. To aid them in their goal, the SBC pays host with a STACKED night of fiery rippers that will lift you up as you shake it down. Dive into the weekend on a crest of distorted bliss with noisey punk-poppers Fleabite, funk-infused rock rippers Sun Young, garage-punk brawlers Wet Dress, and the blues-drenched grooves of Bigbuckhunter! Sick tunes for a great cause? Sounds like a done deal, to me! Holla at the FB page for location details.
8PM // All Ages // DONATE!!
The post SMASH IT DEAD BENEFIT: SUN YOUNG, FLEABITE, WET DRESS, BIGBUCKHUNTER, @ SBC appeared first on The Boston Hassle.
Okay, now this is clever. Paul Bettany, the voice of Jarvis (Tony Stark's AI butler) for all three Iron Man movies has been cast to play the Vision, the ass-kicking android and frequent member of the Avengers. Which means Jarvis is about to go sentient. Awesome.
Tomorrow People had a shaky start, but has been steadily improving week by week. But last night's episode was probably the first time this show could legitimately claim to be great, rather than just watchable. Here are all the fist-pumping "fuck yeah" moments in last night's episode.
Knights of Badassdom is finally coming to VOD next week, and it's about damn time. This horror comedy is about live action role-playing gamers who accidentally stumble across a real spell book, with hilarious performances from fan favorites like Peter Dinklage and Summer Glau. The real mystery is why we had to wait so long to watch this great flick.