September 28, 2018 fkirschner

Every weekend, we’ll compile a very subjective list of “most noteworthy reading of the past week”. This is shamelessly copied from  Rockpapershotgun, and also from Eyebeam’s ReBlog (when RSS was still a thing). Maybe not quite as witty and humorous. Editors will change.

As the beginning of the semester draws closer, lots of re-reading of some older-yet-still-super-informative articles to link to this week.

First up is Will Franker’s excellent and concise intro to performativity “Gender is dead, long live gender: just what is ‘performativity’?” on, covering some much needed historical ground on how language became performative:
It’s unfortunate that popular culture often reduces performativity to the idea that ‘gender is a social construct’. This catchphrase sets the ‘social’ against the ‘natural’, and implies that gender is merely an artificial layer, encrusted by choice onto the supposedly more fundamental reality of sex. But Butler was careful to avoid arguing for a simple split between nature and culture, or sex and gender. For her, gender wasn’t predetermined by nature or biology, nor was it simply ‘made up’ by culture. Rather, Butler insisted that gender resides in repeated words and actions, words and actions that both shape and are shaped by the bodies of real, flesh-and-blood human beings. And crucially, such repetitions are rarely performed freely.


News from the structuralism-in-storytelling front: this post from January 2015 by Sam Kabo Ashwell hung out in my mobile browser for so long, it developed its own html5 animated dustcloud. I shall be putting the tab to sleep now. This eternally important most basic of basic writeups on choice based storytelling can live forever in here.
When I was analysing the structures of CYOA works a few years back, I began to recognise some strong recurring design patterns. I came up with some home-brewed terminology, but didn’t ever lay it out in a nice clear way. This is a non-exhaustive look at some of the more common approaches, somewhat-updated (a lot has changed since then).


On to more recent events, this BBC Radio Feature on Automata is excellent (via @wmmna on Twitter):
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of real and imagined machines that appear to be living, and the questions they raise about life and creation. Even in myth they are made by humans, not born. The classical Greeks built some and designed others, but the knowledge of how to make automata and the principles behind them was lost in the Latin Christian West, remaining in the Greek-speaking and Arabic-speaking world. Western travellers to those regions struggled to explain what they saw, attributing magical powers. The advance of clockwork raised further questions about what was distinctly human, prompting Hobbes to argue that humans were sophisticated machines, an argument explored in the Enlightenment and beyond.


Meanwhile, on the internet, video-game mobs are still concerned with the existence of women in, like, all the things.
Things hit a fever pitch over the weekend, when the discussion got picked up by people like YouTuber Arch Warhammer—who made a video entitled “Creative Assembly Don’t Want You To Play Their Games”— and others outside the Total War: Rome II community like Gamergate-friendly blog One Angry Gamer and, eventually, neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer.(Quote from Nathan Greyson on


There are ridiculous amounts of interconnected YouTube Content creators that engage in “discussions” on these topics. It’s getting so bad, that it seems almost impossible to find a Let’s Play Channel that doesn’t occasionally rant about Social Justice Warriors (SJW) ruining gaming. It might just be me, or maybe, just maybe, it’s built into YouTube’s algorithm, as Jonas Kaiser and Adrian Rauchfleisch from HIIG have studied:
When talking about online misinformation, bots, echo chambers, filter bubbles, and all the other concepts that might make anyone fear for our democracies, we usually talk about Twitter and Facebook. Much less discussed is the 1.5-billion-users-in-a-month social media behemoth YouTube, the 2nd most visited website in the US and worldwide, which US teens use much more frequently than Facebook or Twitter, and which is increasingly also being used as a news source. Recently, a Guardian piece shed some light into the problematic function of YouTube’s video recommendation. Zeynep Tufekci even called YouTube “the Great Radicalizer”.

So you can imagine how happy I was to find Shaun. Particularly enjoyed them talking about another, less visible but still mind-blowingly stupid “controversy” on the new DOOM game.


And, in case you were wondering why I like RPS so much (and you should too), check out this Colonialist Critique of the underlying systems of the Civilization games. They even manage to have a somewhat civilized comments section.
The idea of perpetual growth underpins much of our society, but games seem uniquely committed to it as a medium. It can be seen everywhere from the chase for highscores to the consumerist dreams of The Sims, who buy better things in order to enjoy better lives. Perhaps gaming’s roots in the toy and consumer electronics industries are one reason for the emphasis on growth; the constant hankering for bigger, faster, more. We climb the tech tree, we level up, we collect bigger and bigger weapons because of a widespread assumption that growth is an inherent good.

What if, just thinking out loud here, but what if we would finally start engaging in meaningful discussions on algorithmic and systemic systems that people can tinker with to simulate social-, economic-, or political structures, otherwise known as “videogames”? Yeah, I have no idea how that would ever work out either.



Here is a free “People’s guide to AI” booklet funded by Open Society Foundation from a refreshingly diversified group of authors. Much Love! If you want to send them some money, go buy the physical copy for 7$. And no, George Soros has not given us any money for this blog post.



And finally, I highly enjoyed this long retelling of this year’s “Forum Alpbach” gathering in Austria (via a friend’s Facebook account). It’s in German:
Alles, was Rang und Namen hat oder gerne hätte, tanzt hier an. Präsidenten, Ministerinnen, Chefredaktoren, Grossindustrielle, Generäle. Und ihre Entourage. Keiner lässt sich das alljährliche Schaulaufen nehmen. Die Profis geben den Takt an, die Anfänger stolpern nach. Am Ende tanzen sie alle den Walzer unter Freunden oder, wie man hier sagt, den Walzer der «Verhaberung». Ihr Parkett sind die 200 Meter zwischen Kongresszentrum und Absturzkaschemme Jakober. Auf diesen 200 Metern offenbart sich Österreich.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy your weekend!