• Where Do I Go

    I can see the end coming for Twitter and I have no idea where to go once it dies. I’ve been on social media in one form or another for almost thirty years now, and virtually all of my social interactions with people at this point are online, and it feels like there’s no where to go.

    I don’t do photos or videos or music or anything like that, so TikTok and Instagram and whatever else is out, and I don’t do well in online communities where everything that you say has to be part of an explicit conversations, so the various fractional Discords don’t work, either. Social media works best for me when it’s a place to mutter, either jokes or monologues or stories or freak outs, and there isn’t much left like that. The web in general has moved back away from people having their own little soap boxes.

    I can come here, and I will, but I have no audience here, no community. It’s just me, shouting into a void.

  • Heaven’s Vault: Conscience is not enough

    most of the game is translation

    Okay, so in one of the cities in the game Heaven’s Vault there are… well, they’re not *slaves,* per se, more like day laborers, but your robot companion and all of your non-laborer friends are very clear that these are basically slaves and “hiring” one is pretty fucked up. But whatever, video games, right? I’m a big damn hero, so I buy the laborer with the shattered arm who knows how to get to a dig site where the academic I’m trying to track down went and tell him that congratulations, he’s free now but please show me the dig site first.

    And the game lets me tell him to call me by my name, but he insists on calling me “boss” instead, and I promise to take him anywhere he wants to go and he’s all

    I’m like, you can just draw me a map if you want! and he’s all, no, I have to take you there, I can’t draw the rivers you need to navigate, so off we go.

    When get there, he doesn’t want to come into the tent where he shattered his arm (fair enough), but when I come back out he’s gone, so the robot and I go to track him down. He’s up in an empty camp with a woman the last person who “hired” them had abandoned, and I’m all, great, plenty of room on the boat, where do you want to go, and they’re all


    Fuck you, we’re going to take your boat. you’re a well-connected academic, someone will come looking for you, fuck off.

    It didn’t work, on account of it’s a sci fi story and the robot and I just teleported back to the boat while they were walking back, but they were all, eh, we tried, and all I could say was, yeah, no, fair enough.

    I dropped them off at a market moon I’d visited earlier on the other side of nebula, and they were all, okay, well, see you never, and then fucked off. The game’s willingness to not reward the player with any kind of moral judgment or gratitude felt honestly substantial.

    Slavery is a depressingly common element of a lot of video games, particularly in science fiction and fantasy games, but I’m still thinking about this moment in Heaven’s Vault days later. A lot of games would have made you a monster for buying or selling slaves; a lot of games would have made you a hero for freeing one slave. This was more like, yeah, you talk a good game, but at the end of the day you still *bought a dude* because he had something you wanted, and it’s awful that you even took that in stride as an option.

    As far as I can know within the game’s fiction, I left those two laborers absolutely better off than they were before… but I never should have had that power in the first place, and it was monstrous that I did. My ability to radically change someone’s life on a whim is monstrous, regardless of whether I never used it or used it constantly. They would have been entirely justified if I’d died on that moon; that would have been the only disruption of my life on par with what I’d done to them.

    There are plenty of games that critique the player, and plenty that critique systems of power, but you don’t see so many that critique the player for thinking they could upend a system they benefit from on an individual level and that’s enough to make them a good person. It’s a very delicate moral lesson the game does mostly nothing to drive home; my telling of the story is significantly blunter than the actual experience. But it’s lingered—there was a moment in the bit I played tonight where one of the women that was disgusted that I’d bought a slave wanted to cavalierly tinker with my robot’s brain to satisfy our mutual burning curiosity, and I thought about the laborer, how I’d casually used him as an object to advance the game, and I told her to leave it alone.

  • Fic: Bootleg

    Violence and the threat of violence hang in the air. The Great Detective is discomfited; this hits closer to home. Heavy footfalls echo off the walls of the alleyways he turns down; a sleek black car hops the curb and brushes against the hem of his coat.

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    we watched that rescue rangers movie and i had some feelings about why it was bad

  • Fic: The Midas Touch

    So he does, touches the raw tooth, I mean, and a gold crown appears in his other hand with a tiny pop!

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    This one comes with a little light music.

  • Joker 2: This Joke’s For You

    Kinda hope that Joker 2 models itself on another Scorsese movie starring Robert Deniro

  • Fic: Out of the Machinery

    A new season of plays has landed and we are sorting through it desperate to match character to cast, cast to crew, to grab space while we still can, before the ice rises and we seal our eyes shut with frozen tears yet again.

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  • Fic: Spare Me And God Will Spare You

    Cordray’s been captured, which obviously isn’t ideal, just rotten timing and worse luck, wrong place, wrong time, wrong stars at her birth, maybe.

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  • Flick: The King and I


    Terrible songs, wall-to-wall racism, a shapeless nothing of a plot, and a romance that consists of one (1) dance. The costumes are nice, and you get to see Yul Brynner’s abs, I guess, but otherwise this biiiiiites.


    Still chewing through the backlog; only six more to go before I’ve got everything ported over. I’ll admit I’m looking forward to only writing one or two of these things per week, instead of three or four!

  • Mind Scanners

    a mind forever scanning

    So I’m playing this game called Mind Scanners, which is a Papers, Please-alike focusing on an industrialized mental health provider in a maybe-dystopian city after a massive asteroid strike. Kind of Papers, Please crossed with WarioWare? A whole toolkit of various treatment gizmos that are functionally different minigames. It’s got a really cool look, with a chunky, pixel aesthetic just detailed enough to make the various grotesque gadgets pop. All the tech has a mid-80s scifi heft to it, with a tinge of cheerful body horror — you’ll force people to sing into a throat collar, suction out parts of their back skin, scan their eyeball for signs of illness, and it’s a disconcerting sectioning of the body, but not necessarily harmful or unpleasant for the patients, or at least not any more than actual medical procedures.

    there’s a heavy reliance on fax machines

    Where the game falls a little bit apart for me is its inability or unwillingness to present a society as actually dystopian as the current US. Sure, you’ll get thrown outside the wall to the Fleshworms if you don’t keep up your daily rent, but the world I’m playing this game in has seen a massive rise in homelessness and cities respond with police violence, hostile architecture, and camp sweeps to drive their own displaced citizens out, so… Just the idea of free mental health care provided by the city for the benefit of its citizens based on a widespread system of taxation to guarantee that no one is uncared for seems wildly, radically utopian.

    not really that much harsher than reality

    And you can very easily help people simply by doing your job. There’s always the risk of fucking up and erasing someone’s personality, but that’s not inherent in the job; with the right tools, skills, and care, the treatments you provide do actually help people. Your diagnoses aren’t arbitrary, and the system isn’t inescapably harmful, which feels like the wrong tone to take for the sort of grim mood the art and narrative are otherwise trying to set. No one comes along behind you and destroys people you helped, which leaves the impression that the problem with a mind controlling police state — or police states in general, since you don’t interact with any other representatives of authority much — is that the wrong people are at the reins. That the problem is just a few bad apples, and, well, you can throw in with the revolutionaries and fix all the (off-screen) abuses in just over a month if things are that bad.

    another satisfied patient

    Maybe the problem is that I played my first game on Easy difficulty; there was never enough risk of being thrown out of the city, so I never had to push through a treatment to avoid exile and lobotomize a patient. That’s always a bit of a risk with games of this subgenre — easier difficulties remove the desperation that drives you to do monstrous things just to survive, and without that complicity in abuse (or willingness to sacrifice your game rather than become complicit), the point of the game kind of dissolves.

  • Fic: In The Summer We Remember Winter

    They wrapped you in chains you could have shrugged off like cobwebs and cracked the ice to sink you in the pond next to the old kennels. You watched their shadows pass away as you settled to the bottom, blood heavy in your belly like the stone they tied to your ankles, lungs flat and empty until the water wormed its way in, surrounded by the scattered bones of the dogs no one needed.

    (read more…)
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