Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights


This Link Drag is Pointless

Last time there were twelve links. This time, merely a dozen. In this episode: thoughts on the first-person screamer, the blurring of casual and hardcore, Facebook makes a play for the next big space, and does art need to have a point?      

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Marginalia 8


Grasmere, 2006

Marginalia is an eclectic compilation of links tailored for game developers. Links contributed by Amanda Lange, Ben Serviss, Raph Koster, Tale of Tales and Miguel Sicart.

In this edition: the mundanity of excellence, violence as narrative, and the price of secrecy in game development.

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This Link Drag is Ellen Paged

Twelve links shall rule them all. In this episode: Ellen Page is gay, Rich Stanton loves Revengeance, droqen pells his hoggam, an economist tells you that Eve tells you nothing about economics and why isn't everyone watching The Smash Brothers already?

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This Link Drag is Back

Okay, I killed it last year. But it's back with a simpler format. Instead of doing painstaking write-ups for each link, I'm sticking to Name - Author - Quote. Click if you want, click if you don't want. I'm also not going to structure the links at all - the old Sideways links are now mixed in with all the game ones. The upside is that it's easier for me to knock these out.

In this episode: Stuart Campbell moans about digital distribution (a man after my own heart). Pippin Barr finds Thomas Was Alone dreadfully dull. Joe Martin has the skinny on the original Deus Ex design document.

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The 2013 Review


Warning Sign.

It’s the last Electron Dance post of 2013, so it is time to take stock of what I wrote and what you didn’t read, you stupid filthy dingbats. And did you know Electron Dance was on the Sunday Papers nine times this year? I know, poor show!

Also revealed: the top ten posts. Everybody likes Top Ten posts, right?   

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Marginalia 7

Shiodome Station, Christmas 2003

Shiodome Station, Christmas 2003

Marginalia is an eclectic compilation of links tailored for game developers. Links contributed by Amanda Lange, Ben Serviss and Raph Koster.

In this Christmas edition: why we should embrace luck, why some people like Beyond: Two Souls and how the Jump Point Search algorithm works.

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Marginalia 6

Pontoon Dock DLR Station (under construction), London 2004

Pontoon Dock DLR Station (under construction), London 2004

Marginalia is an eclectic compilation of links tailored for game developers. Links contributed by Amanda Lange (GameSprout), Clara Fernández-Vara (NYU Game Center), Christoffer Holmgård (ITU Copenhagen), Miguel Sicart (ITU Copenhagen) and Raph Koster.

In this edition: how videogames made oral storytelling culture new again, political art made with computer technology and putting the player back into game design.

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Marginalia 5


Looking out from the Bridge of Sighs, Venice 2006

Marginalia is an eclectic compilation of links tailored for game developers. Links contributed by Amanda Lange (GameSprout), Clara Fernández-Vara (NYU Game Center), Christoffer Holmgård (ITU Copenhagen) and Nicolau Chaud (Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer).

In this edition: how games trivialize serious subjects, political videogames, videogame communities that refuse to die and non-linear storytelling.

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Talking Point: The Business of Literature

Throughout August, HM is on sabbatical.


Extract from Richard Nash's essay "What Is the Business of Literature?" (Spring 2013).

Selling a book, print or digital, turns out to be far from the only way to generate revenue from all the remarkable cultural activity that goes into the creation and dissemination of literature and ideas. Recall again all the schmoozing, learning, practice, hustling, reading upon reading upon reading that goes into the various editorial components of publishing; the pattern recognition; the storytelling that editors do, that sales reps do, that publicists do, that the bookstore staff does. Recall the average feted poet who makes more money at a weekend visiting-writer gig than her royalties are likely to earn her in an entire year. You begin to realize that the business of literature is the business of making culture, not just the business of manufacturing bound books. This, in turn, means that the increased difficulty of selling bound books in a traditional manner (and the lower price point in selling digital books) is not going to be a significant challenge over the long run, except to free the business of literature from the limitations imposed when one is producing things rather than ideas and stories. Book culture is not print fetishism; it is the swirl and gurgle of idea and style in the expression of stories and concepts—the conversation, polemic, narrative force that goes on within and between texts, within and between people as they write, revise, discover, and respond to those texts. That swirl and gurgle does happen to have a home for print fetishism, as it has a home for digital fetishism. This is what literature has always been. Being yoked to the Industrial Revolution’s machines for analog reproduction, accompanied by an arbitrary process for selecting what should be reproduced, will prove to be an anomaly in the history of literature, useful as that phase was for the democratization of access to reading. The publisher is an orchestrator in the world of book culture, not a machine for sorting manuscripts and supplying a small number of those manuscripts in improved and bound form to a large number of people via a retailer-based supply chain best suited for the distribution of cornflakes, not ideas.

A business born out of the invention of mechanical reproduction transforms and transcends the very circumstances of its inception, and again has the potential to continue to transform and transcend itself—to disrupt industries like education, to drive the movie industry, to empower the gaming industry. Book culture is in far less peril than many choose to assume, for the notion of an imperiled book culture assumes that book culture is a beast far more refined, rarified, and fragile than it actually is. By defining books as against technology, we deny our true selves, we deny the power of the book. Let’s restore to publishing its true reputation—not as a hedge against the future, not as a bulwark against radical change, not as a citadel amidst the barbarians, but rather as the future at hand, as the radical agent of change, as the barbarian. The business of literature is blowing shit up.

Go read the whole essay.


Talking Point: Generational War

Throughout August, HM is on sabbatical.


Extract from Jonathan McCalmont's essay "Sub-Cultural Darwinism: Some Thoughts on the Rise and Fall of Fandoms" (July 2012).

A young fandom is a fandom content to experience stories for the first time and a fandom content to experience stories for the first time is also a fandom that does not require particularly sophisticated takes on traditional forms and narratives. It is only when people start to get a little bit older and a little bit more jaded that the old stories begin to seem boring. Thus, a popular culture attuned to the needs of older fans can also be culturally vibrant; this is what we mean when we talk about forms and cultures reaching a certain level of maturity.

The aesthetic difficulties associated with aging sub-cultures only become evident once this first wave of maturity and ‘cleverness’ begins to lose its appeal. As audiences and creators become more sophisticated and the need to appeal to younger, less sophisticated audiences becomes less pressing, many forms of popular culture begin to turn away from the world and in on themselves. An excellent example of this kind of cultural decadence is Grant Morrison’s widely celebrated All-Star Superman.

Morrison’s take on Superman is gleefully iconoclastic in so far as it flamboyantly rejects the dominant paradigm of presenting super heroes as psychologically flawed and conflicted individuals. This fashion for tortured superheroics originates in the 1980s when works such as Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns attempted to resolve the tension inherent in the fact that adults were reading about super heroes despite knowing full well that costumed vigilantism is a disastrously bad idea. Miller and Moore attempted to resolve this conflict by acknowledging both the morally problematic nature of costumed vigilantism and the fact that you would have to be fucking insane to think that putting on a rubber pervert suit would ever solve anything. What makes both Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns ‘clever’ and postmodern is the fact that they acknowledge, exaggerate and satirise the problems of their own form.

The problem with this particular piece of cleverness is that it proved so popular and influential that it effectively replaced the approach to super hero comics that it claimed to be deconstructing. Thus, American comics moved from being simple-minded and quasi-fascistic moral fantasies in which the good guys always win to being simple-minded and quasi-fascistic moral fantasies in which the good guys are always miserable psychopaths standing in the rain. Bored with the preposterous and hypocritical angst of the post-Watchmen era, Morrison set out to create a comic that celebrated the enjoyably uplifting weirdness of pre-Watchmen super hero comics. The problem with All-Star Superman is that in order to fully appreciate it you have to be familiar with both the traditional Superman comics that Morrison is celebrating and the increasing staleness of the dark and postmodern turn in American comics initiated by the likes of Moore and Miller. If you are aware of the source materials and share Morrison’s boredom with grimdark psychopaths in cloaks then All-Star Superman will seem both provocative and long overdue. However, if you are only a casual comics fan or young enough to be new to the form then All-Star Superman is likely to come across as little more than an impenetrable mess of disconnected plotlines and meaningless images.

Go read the whole essay.