American Prometheus

31/12/2009

Eugene Henderson suffers.  In the middle of his sixth decade, he yearns to ‘burst the spirit’s sleep’, to experience the deeper truths of life.  Tired of his American life, Henderson takes a trip to Africa, to the ‘bed of mankind’, in the hopes of silencing the voice of desire (‘I want, I want’) in his soul by smothering it with rich experiences  – experiences he believes can only be found ‘off the beaten track’.  Henderson flees the ‘privation of high conduct’ that plagues his life in the States.  Into Africa he journeys with his guide, the native Romilayu, seeking something like religious epiphany, a revelation to stir the sediment of his soul.  After a brief but fateful encounter with the Arnewi tribe, Henderson finds himself among the Wariri and in the company of their king, Dahfu.  It is Dahfu that prods Henderson awake and it is from Dahfu that Henderson – and, by extension, the reader – comes to understand the primary theme of the novel: the acceptance of death as a part of life. Read the rest of this entry »

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Kill Screen

28/12/2009

There has been little in the way of meaningful criticism about the video game medium to date.  By this I mean the kind of discussion about video games that generates further discussion, that is not a terminal point, that encourages the spread of ideas and debate and the contemplation of its place in our society, and that views this medium as an art form as revealing of human nature as any other.  Though, as to the last point, there has not been a video game yet that has moved me in the way great art does, for all the smart sociological commentary that has been produced.

But now there is a new movement in the critical approach to video games; a true dialectic of this distinctly modern medium is about to begin.  A new magazine called Kill Screen will soon be launching, and founding editor Jamin Brophy-Warren promises to take a different approach than the traditional review/preview format of video game magazines:

“I find a lot of games criticism horribly boring,” he says. “They read like CNET reviews — a complete focus on the technical aspects of the game. That works well for a reviewing a flat-screen television, but it’s a terrible way to write about games. If we continue to buy into the delusion that games are merely software and should be evaluated solely on their graphical fidelity and feature set, then we cannot expect the medium to go forward.

“So if you mean criticism as it’s widely practiced in game writing, then absolutely not. But if you mean writing that is critical of games as art form, then of course.”

Thanks to Gamasutra for the news.

Stop the spread.  Let the Australian government know your opinion.  I would urge all those interested to submit their opinion.  This can be as easy as filling out a questionnaire, so don’t be lazy.  I will be doing not only that, but also submitting a longer essay on why I believe an R18+ rating should be introduced for video games.  Once submitted, I will post said essay here also.

You have until 28th of February, 2010 to submit your paper.

http://www.ag.gov.au/gamesclassification

The New York Times have published an article (via TEV) on the failure of Cormac McCarthy’s typewriter, a machine on which he wrote “every book [he has] written including three not published.”  McCarthy estimates “about five million words over a period of 50 years” have been written using the instrument.  He plans to auction his typewriter, with the proceeds going to the Santa Fe Institute, an NPO with which he is affiliated.

But what value does this machine have?  Well, Christie’s estimates it will reach upwards of $15,000 USD.  Glenn Horowitz, the man handling the auction said, in reference to the “complex, almost otherwordly fiction” that has been written on the typewriter, that “it’s as if Mount Rushmore was carved with a Swiss Army Knife.”  As apt as the analogy is, it also highlights the fact that the real worth of the machine is incommensurate with the value of the work produced using it.  It can only be of real value to the magpie collector of antiquities, or the enthusiast of obsolete technology.  Who would want a pocketknife over Mount Rushmore?  It’s not the hammer and nails that matter, but the house you build with them.