It's safe to say that August 2014 has been an absolute nightmare, and I'll be glad to see the whole thing end. The past couple weeks in particular have been bad in the gaming corner of the internet, and the only consolation I can draw from it is that 1) compared to everything else that's happened around the world this month it could really be so much worse, and 2) at least some absolutely outstanding articles have come out of it all. Too many to share individually, in fact.
If you want to catch up on what's been going with August's lesser calamities in the world of video games (or just get a fresh perspective on the subject), here's your weekend reading list:
There’s lots of virtual art in Second Life, but can Minecraft also be turned into platform for creating new works of online artistry? DC Spensley, a Bay Area-based artist widely known in Second Life for his live SkyDance performances, recently orchestrated a live performance on a Minecraft server. Behold MineOpticon, shown simultaneously in Vancouver and San Francisco:
“[I] figured that when horses came out in Minecraft,” Spensley tells me, “it would be good to respond with something quirky… This illustrates what I mean about being somewhat agnostic about which virtual world I use.”
To pull this show off, Spensley’s collaborators logged into a Minecraft server from literally all over the world, for both the rehearsal and the live show:
“MineOpticon performers were in California, Florida, Vancouver and Manahattan. Like any virtual world they logged on from their location to rehearse for many months before the shows. The technical director Bill Cruikshank (Jesting Rabbit) logged in from Australia and our composer (Yagiz Mungan from Turkey via Purdue University) just happened to be in SF on a job.”
The differences between Second Life and Minecraft as an artist’s plaform? DC Spensley tells me both have their advantages and disadvantages:
When I talk about my childhood spent in the back seat of a minivan playing an imported Japanese copy of Tails Adventure on my Game Gear, or on the living room floor meandering through the levels of Gauntlet Legends, or scouring anything resembling an arcade with my fingers crossed for a Hydro Thunder machine, you might mistake me for a Gamer. When I talk about slightly more recent events -- eliminating challengers in one hit with my overtrained Absol in Pokemon X/Y, almost miraculously sniping enemies off with a shotgun in Fallout: New Vegas, completing the entirety of an Assassin's Creed game without ever using anything but the wristblades -- you could be forgiven for again thinking that I'm a Gamer.
But I wasn't, and I'm not.
I'm not trying to prove my gaming cred here, nor am I trying to make a point about how easily my interests can be dismissed by someone with an agenda. The fact is that I've been playing video games regularly for as long as I can remember, but I've never called or even considered myself a Gamer... And I'm not about to start any time soon.
In the wake of the DMCA drama that's been stirring up the Second Life fashion world, I recently surveyed a group of SL content creators about their thoughts on and experiences with the DMCA process. I wanted to know how often their businesses and hobbies are affected by DMCA claims, and whther or not they think it's a good fit in Second Life.
Some of the results were surprising, while some of them weren't at all. Take a look for yourself:
Some very scary threats have just been made against me and my family. Contacting authorities now.— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) August 27, 2014
The best evidence Anita Sarkeesian is basically right in her videos about sexism in games, it occurred to me yesterday, is any time they're posted, you wind up with long comments from angry males complaining about her anonymously online, almost invariably making assertions that are patently inaccurate or ridiculous, if not outright wrong.
There's a much darker point of evidence: Anita Sarkeesian is the constant target of death threats from angry male gamers, the most recent of which happened after her latest video went online.
If there's one thing I've learned after 10+ years of blogging about Second Life, any general statement you plan to make about the virtual world always requires an "on the other hand". So, while it's generally true that Second Life machinima is waning, it's also true, on the other hand, that SL machinima like this pretty spectacular surfing montage by ChanAndMe are still being made. Watch:
I love the jagged montage editing that cuts to the music and the cinematography, which at its swoopiest, looks like real world surfing footage. (Am from Hawaii and surfed, can confirm.)
On the other hand (yes, this other hand has an other hand), this excellent machinima also showcases the limitations of Second Life machinima which other creators mentioned in this comment thread:
Polygon's Charlie Hall recently posted a video tour of one of the most mind-blowing Minecraft builds I've ever seen. As Hall floats through and around an ingeniously made 1 KB hard drive that exists entirely within Minecraft, its creator Cory Littley walks both him and the viewer through its meticulous construction.
Littley's hard drive (like the Minecraft calculators and such that have come before it) relies on redstone, an item in the game that conducts a current used to power various devices. In my experience, redstone's simplest applications are easy enough to wrap your head around. If all you need are a few lamps, powered rail cars, or maybe an automatic door it's not hard to get a handle on how to use it, but things get exponentially more complicated the larger and more intricate your project is. That's what makes Littley's hard drive so incredibly impressive, even if it's barely big enough to hold the text of this post.
Don't just take my word for it: Watch the tour for yourself on Polygon.