The veil of foreshadowing

She floated in a void. This was not a usual occurrence in her life, as best as she could tell. Suddenly, a line of text appeared, shouting:

DO NOT BE ALARMED. THIS IS THE INTRODUCTORY PHASE

Ever so slightly alarmed by this revelation, she wondered just what or whom she was being introduced to

YOU HAVE BEEN PLACED BEHIND A VEIL OF IGNORANCE

That sounded more than a little familiar. She could vaguely remember what it was all about. The memory became stronger as the mysterious lines of text spouted exposition about choosing the best kind of society on the premise that you do not know your place in it. This went on for quite some time

Then, the baby kicked

“Well then”, she thought. This was the first piece of useful information she’d gotten all day

Gamers said it could not be done

They faced a challenge. Or, more correctly, a meta-challenge. As a game development studio that specialized in making exceedingly difficult games, they had a reputation of making very difficult games indeed. So far, they had managed to perform the difficult balancing act of keeping things difficult but not completely impossible. To be sure, most players would give up and declare their games impossible, but the games were (in an ever more technical sense) not actually impossible. Just headscratchingly, hairpullingly difficult

At various points during the studio’s many years of doing business, the question of whether they’d achieved peak difficulty had arisen. Every time, the gamers had responded by taking what seemed to be impossible challenges and rendering them far easier than they should have been. Using tools, strategies and vernaculars that became increasingly opaque and specific with each iterations, the gamer base responded by demanding more difficulty, bigger challenges and larger impossibilities

This time, however, doubt lingered in the air. They’d thrown everything that could be thrown into a game, and even the kitchen sink based challenges had eventually been overcome. All hell-class difficulty spikes had been employed, having already used the ideas previously deemed to be of merely limbo, purgatory and wrath levels of non-completability.  In short, they were fresh out of hells

If only, one developer mused, there were additional hells. That’d do it

They did not know it at the time, but this one off-hand remark was just the inspiration that was needed. After some deliberation, it was decided that the next step in the studio’s trajectory would be to hire a slew of literary scholars, of which at least one had read both Dante and Joyce. It was time to up the difficulty to new, previously unimagined levels

Alive and/or kicking

She had died

This was a very confusing thought to have. She’d always imagined being dead as a great big nothing, the darkness to end all light, the absence to define all things. This whole business of surprised realization was not at all in the cards. And yet, here she was

Besides being when not expecting to be, she also found she was not what she expected to be. Rather than the comfortable but limited form that had been her from birth until death, she was larger somehow. More cosmic. More capable of bringing universes into being and ending them, as suited her whim. More ambiently omnipotent. That had definitely not been part of the skill set of her mortal coil

As she examined this greatly expanded capability of getting things done, she thought a phrase common to her generation:

I understand and accept these new terms and conditions

Speedy scene transitions for writers in a hurry

There is now a door in the closet. Don’t ask

The protagonist entered a mansion through the wrong door. They are promptly sent on a deep expedition to the asteroid belt beyond Mars until things cool off

One of the protagonists notices a rock that doesn’t look like normal rocks. This is what they do now

The chorus comments that something is amiss

Eagles

After glancing a painting, the protagonist suddenly remembered with unusual vividness and verbosity that one time when

A presumably benevolent forest bard barges into the situation and recites poetry for a while

As they carefully opened the outer door, they found out they were not on a space ship after all

Following the dictum that it is better to rule in hell than serve in heaven, we went

As the music started to play, everything faded away

He awoke. This surprised him to a great extent

As she awoke, she noticed the dinosaur was still there

As the bear creatures carried me away,

Among the great certainties of space travel, was the fact that space elevators take a long time

The drugs kicked in faster than I thought

While the invention of teleportation sure sped things up, it was considered polite to ask first

Computer, end program

A new character enters from stage left. They bring news

The cat escaped. We followed

The need to soliloquy suddenly grips one of the usually silent characters

There is one new notification

This snowball has more gravity than it should have

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Thus, we suddenly found ourselves in

Snake magic. Why did it have to be snake magic

Having thus closed the book, she sighed

Expelliarmus

A small clockwork device lay on the floor. As I cautiously picked it up, it started to whir and rotate in an ever faster manner

Let me tell you one thing: budget cuts sure shift things around

We fell. It took a while

Have you heard about the Kenosha Kid?

It was at that moment my spider sense started tingling

Everything is almost ready to go. There’s just one thing left

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?…And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom , my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.

Wishing well

1. Give me the virtues and wisdom required to gracefully face the situations I will find myself in

2.

3.

Big data, 8-bit style

His job was related to big data and data extrapolation. The first two first words simply meant he worked with computers, while the second pair was a bit of clever marketing speak to indicate that he worked with forecasting whilst at the same time clearly not saying he worked with forecasting. Which, in short, meant he got invited to a lot of forecasting events, where everyone talked about different ways of predicting the future, possibly using computers in some way. For those not savvy to the distinction between extrapolation and forecasting, he was indistinguishable from those busy attempting to predict the future

The reason for insisting that he was not, in fact, in the prediction business was that his big data did not work. Trends that had looked the same for decades suddenly changed, while temporary movements became permanent fixtures of the data landscape. This was true only so long you did not apply this analytical heuristic, however; it almost seemed as if looking at the data changed it by means of some unclear causation. Given the data, it made no sense whatsoever, yet there it was. And it was his job to find something useful to do with this tangled mess of all the things. Somehow

Rather than digging in and galaxy braining the data, he had opted for another method of dealing with the pervasive random fluctuations. Whenever he needed to perform some public function relating to his job, he consulted the I Ching. Not because it worked (although it had a better success rate than most of the algorithms in use), but because it too was something depicted as a predictive tool when it explicitly and specifically was not

In his heart of heart, he suspected many of his conference peers and network buddies performed similar extracurricular activities, but that admitting this would demolish the prediction business as we know it

This was the only prediction he made with a statistically significant degree of certainty

Narrative cohesion

It had been a long day of adventuring. A hostage situation in a goblin camp (resolved peacefully, thank the yods), before a long trek to the mine entrance. There, it had taken long, arduous hours to figure out how the ancient mechanical puzzle lock were to be opened, and they had almost given up hope before one of the younger party members accidentally poked the correct lever. Inside the mines, the party had tried and failed to parley with the dwarven authorities, which necessitated the slightly less than lawful act of jailbreaking. Once outside the grand city, a fierce battle with a pack of phase spiders had pushed everyone to the limits of their respective endurances, and thus camp had been made. At camp, the party members discussed plans to evade the search parties that were sure to follow them when the cause of the system-wide prison break was eventually discovered. These deliberations continued long into the depths of night

Early the next morning, the party awoke well rested and ready to face a new day of adventuring and spelunking

The art of gracefully begging to differ

Being the moderator of a feminist facebook community was dramatic. Ironically, it was also very predictable. Something about the combination of drama and predictability spoke to her, like some unsung poem of modernity being scrawled on so many metaphorical walls. It almost took on the quality of a soap opera – everything happened at extreme velocities whilst also somehow standing completely still. At no point did anything change, yet the details of the standstill could enthrall the unwary for years upon end

This is not to say she hadn’t learnt anything from the experience. Far from it. Somehow, she had acquired the force of discursive obviousness that allowed her to instantly disable any troll wanting to stir and/or wreak havoc. Not by means of outright banning the offender (although that is always, in her opinion, an acceptable option), but by simply agreeing with the troll in question. This worked exceptionally well with those who entered into the group with the time-honored introduction “I don’t actually know anything about feminism, but I think my outsider’s perspective might shed some light on matters, if you but let it”. She let it, by responding thusly:

“I’m happy to see that you acknowledge your ignorance, and your further contributions will be read accordingly”

Until this day, only a single person had managed to not dig themselves into a hole after this radical agreement. The inherent irony of disagreeing with oneself seemed to be a radically new concept to many; they begged to differ even as she agreed ever more profusely

This, too, was part of the unseen multivolume, multimodal poem. Perhaps she’d sing it some day. Just to spite modernity

How to do time in an untimely fashion

Trying to capture travelers from the future is an inherently disadvantageous situation. Being from the future, your prospective captives already know the lay of the land and the overall historical forces at work at the present moment; the great uncertainty of what is to come has become the epitome of certainty. While the particulars might elude their grasp, the general overall picture will serve them well enough for the purposes of escaping

However. This foreknowledge can be used against them, especially in cases when they try to blend in. Knowing the future means knowing things that are unthought of and possibly even unthinkable in the present, often to such a degree that the unthinkability has faded into the mists of time. Thus, the way to trap them is to make impossible statements invoking every flight of fancy imaginable, and see how ruffled they become. Those unaccustomed to telecommunication, for instance, will balk at the merest suggestion of it, while those whose lives are permeated by it at every turn will barely blink at the notion

And that is their undoing. That is how we shall get the bastards

On the playing of video games

Of the two words involved in the concept of “video games”, “games” have traditionally received a substantially larger attention than “video”. See, for instance Atkins and Krzywinska (2007), Flanagan (2009), Isbister (2016), Juul (2005), Huizinga (1949), de Koven (2013), Pearce (2009), Schmidt (2018), Taylor (2006) or Wittgenstein (1953). However, the “video” component also requires its theoretical due

A video is a device for encoding and decoding video tapes

 

 

References

Atkins, B., & Krzywinska, T. (ed) (2007). Videogame, player, text. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Flanagan, M. (2009). Critical play: radical game design. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Isbister, K. (2016). How games move us: emotion by design. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Juul, J. (2005). Half-real: video games between real rules and fictional worlds. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Huizinga, J. (1949). Homo ludens: a study of the play-element in culture. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

de Koven, B. (2013). The well-played games: a player’s philosophy. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press

Pearce, C. (2009). Communities of play: emergent cultures in multiplayer games and virtual worlds. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Schmidt, M. (2018). Gotta go fast: measured rationalities and rational measurements in the context of speedrunning. Master Thesis: Örebro University.

Taylor, T. L. (2006). Play between worlds: exploring online game culture. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Wittgenstein, L. (1953). Philosophical investigations. Oxford: Blackwell.