Thursday, July 5, 2018

Complete Event Schedule For DexCon 21 This Week

Description: Logo for DEXCON 21

It's been a little quiet on The Code lately, and that's because I've been hard at work with Kitsune Entertainment to bring interactive improvisational gaming to Dexcon 21 at the Morristown Hyatt Regency & Conference Center in Morristown, New Jersey from the 5th to the 8th! I'm taking it easy today (though if you see me wandering around, please say hello!), and will be helping run the following events this weekend:

Friday, July 6th 2PM - 4PM:
The Purgatory Saloon; "Oreo Madness" by Kitsune Entertainment.

From the minds that brought you the Adventures of Dr. Dolotts comes a new LARP series. Welcome to the Purgatory Saloon! I'm the proprietor, Mr. White. We have an interesting predicament going on at the Purgatory. It would seem that we are under siege by Oreo cookies. They just keep popping up all over the place with no end to their invasion in sight. How are we going to solve this little dilemma? Help! Please? Players will create a Purgatory Saloon customer who happens to be present at the time of the incident in question, and then role play that character in a bar-type scenario. This is a pure role play event with no combat whatsoever.

Friday, July 6th 4PM - 6PM:
The Purgatory Saloon; "A Lean Lunchtime with a Two Drink Minimum" by Kitsune Entertainment.

We're open at all hours of the day, much to the chagrin of our staff. Today's tale comes in the form of what happens at the Purgatory during that little thing called Lunchtime. Now, as we aren't known for our food, just our ambiance, it begs the question of why people are even here at all. Well, we'll both find that out together, won't we? Players will create a Purgatory Saloon customer who happens to be present at the time of the incident in question, and then role play that character in a bar-type scenario. This is a pure role play event with no combat whatsoever.

Friday, July 6th 6PM - 8PM:
The Purgatory Saloon; "Regular's Night" by Kitsune Entertainment.

The Proprietor, Mr. White, is hard at work keeping the Saloon's wild assortment of regulars entertained with a night just for them. Those regulars are from all walks of life, temporal eras, and even planets in the galaxy. What will happen? Even Mr. White doesn't know. What he does know is that once you become a regular, you won't ever want to leave. For this LARP, players will invent one of the Purgatory's regulars and then role play the character in a bar-type setting. This is a pure role play event with no combat whatsoever.

Friday, July 6th 10PM - Midnight:

The Purgatory Saloon; "A Cold Night for the Newbies" by Kitsune Entertainment.

You're a new face here. Here at the Purgatory, we like new faces. New faces keep us in business. Now, I know that what you're thinking. You have no clue how you got here tonight, as this place was not your intended destination. Honestly, I don't know how you got here either. But the Purgatory does. It always knows. Eventually, as the night wears on, you'll find out as well. It may shock you. It may surprise you. But I can guarantee it will change your life. Come on in, sit down and have a drink, and tell us all your story. For this LARP, players will invent one of the Purgatory's new customers and then role play the character in a bar-type setting. This is a pure role play event with no combat whatsoever.

Saturday, July 7th 2PM - 4PM:
Clue, the LARP; "The Great Cheesecake Mystery" by Kitsune Entertainment.

Celebrity Cooking Host, Mr. John Boddy, is about to host an episode of his famous televised cooking competition, "Mr. Boddy's Cutthroat Kitchen". He's assembled an interesting assortment of individuals for the event. A single slice of his world-famous cheesecake. A slice this size has been known to fetch thousands of dollars. However, that prized slice has gone missing! What happened to it? Whodunit? The classic characters of Clue are coming together where murder is the order of the day. Yes, there will be cheesecake. All character slots are completely filled. You may sign up for this event as an Alternate in case of a no-show.

Saturday, July 7th 4PM - 6PM:Clue, the LARP; "The Boddy Mansion Murders" by Kitsune Entertainment.

Mrs. Jane Meadow-Brook, the head of Meadow-Brook Tours, is taking people on a tour of some of the United States' most infamously haunted locations. The latest destination is Boddy Mansion, where it is said that the spirit of the often murdered John Boddy uncomfortably rests. What will happen on this tour? Will the tourists be confronted by the restless spirit of John Boddy? If so, will the tourists add to Boddy Mansion's legacy of death? The classic characters of Clue are coming together where murder is the order of the day. This LARP will take place in a dimly lit environment.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Telltale Tell-All: How Toxic Work Culture Drives Away Best Devs

Description: "Telltale Games Will Remember That"

Writing for The Verge, Megan Farokhmanesh, does a deep dive into the arduous working condition in the video game industry in general, and one award winning studio in particular. As she explains:
These conditions almost always hit one group the hardest: developers, or the people who actually make the games. Layoffs are a pervasive fact of life, even at successful studios where developers are often hired en masse to help hit tight deadlines and then fired to cut costs after the game ships or is canceled. With the next deadline, the cycle begins anew. Overwork, job insecurity, and profound burnout are omnipresent concerns; more than three-quarters of developers report working under “crunch” conditions, which can mean working up to 20 hours a day and more than 100 hours a week. These practices can have a significant and debilitating cost to employees, one that often feels baked into video game development culture.
And how does Telltale Games, the studio that done everything from The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones to Batman and Sam and Max episodic games factor into this? Farokhmanesh elaborates:
The story of Telltale — its rise, decline, and potential reformation — is not just the story of the missteps of one studio. It’s a shocking window into the $36 billion video game industry (which is now so large and lucrative that it rivals the film industry), and how its worst practices can grind down and burn out even the most devoted and valuable employees.
The entire article is important for anyone interested in the human cost of the video games they enjoy, and what is currently being done, and can be done about working conditions in the future.Read the whole thing.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Flash Memory: Preserving Web Games For The Future

Description: A tombstone with a tuft of grass with the
symbol for the program Adobe Flash wedged in it at an angle.

Last year, Adobe announced that it was slowly phasing out support for its Flash player plugin, with support ending in 2 years. Most modern browsers are phrasing out support of Flash before then.

That also means that over 20 years of game and interactive animation history could vanish with it. Enter the Archive Team. Ben Latimore writes about the project in a Medium piece, saying:
"... Flash is arguably the largest treasure trove of unpreserved gaming history today... Spanning literal[ly] tens of thousands of games over a period of twenty years, the library of Flash games, breadth and depth, outlives any other game console on the market. 
When your browser no longer has the plugin to run those games, what happens to them?"
The answer the Archive Project has advanced is BlueMaxima’s Flashpoint, which serves as the connection for preservation of Flash game collections. Latimore runs a discord server for the project here where you can download the current archive, make requests and discuss the project itself.

His Medium post about his effort to prevent thousands of games from disappearing is worth a read, so check out the whole article here.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Fanvid Friday: The Greatest Teacher, Failure Is

Last year, I shared a bit about the history of fan videos and the culture and people who make them. Today I want to share an amazing fan video from Heroes Fan Productions titled "The Greatest Teacher Failure Is" that focuses on the legacies of both Yoda and Luke Skywalker. It's a great display of masterful editing and music choice that examines the ways that Luke Skywalker and Yoda both attempted to shape new Jedi for the Jedi Order and how they both failed, and what to learn from it. It's by turns bittersweet, reflective, and uplifiting.

You can watch it here:



A tip of the keyboard to user motherboxing for cluing me in to this video's existence.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Latest Steven Universe Episode Changes EVERYTHING


The most recent episode of the Carton Network series Steven Universe, entitled "A Pale Rose" dropped a stunning revelation that affects the entire series' backstory as well as existing relationships in the show.

I'm going to review the reveal, some of the hints that I think were dropped along the way, and what it means about the show's characters AND characterization.

Discussion in this post from here on out will be a gigantic spoiler, so I've put the rest of the post behind a "read more" link. Click below to read the rest of the post.

May '18 Thanks & How You Can Help The Code, Get Free Stuff!

Here's this month's Patron Thank Yous:
  • Cargo, who had nothing to link to, but is a great dude! Thanks, Cargo. 
  • Daphny Drucilla Delight David! Their Patreon is here
  • Fluffy! Check out their stuff at beesbuzz.biz
  • Gabriel Gentile, on twitter at GabrielCGentile
This month's free Patron-exclusive download will be up next week.

What's The Patreon Stuff About, Anyhow?

The Code is helped by the patrons I just thanked. In addition to geek ephemera and the esoterically nerdy, I use this blog to focus on marginalized voices and perspectives, advocate for inclusiveness in media fandoms and sub-cultures, signal boost diverse creators and share stuff that can be food for thought.

I also create experimental electronic music and art prints & apparel under the name lowercase t, and perform improvisational readings with the Overly Dramatic Readers.

I also help people! Some of the ways I do that:
  • I co-host several charity fundraisers with The Munchausen Society every year
  • Advocate for strong anti-harassment policies and safe spaces at conventions
  • Organize public relations, media outreach, recorded an audio book & designed the website for a disabled dad's panel on disability for Bronycon; it was so successful he was invited back 2 more times!
  • And More!
I want to keep doing this work, and working with & helping people and also be compensated for my time and effort. My ultimate dream is to be able to offer a bi-monthly podcast along with a blog updated every day of the week. I know times are rough for a lot of people, so I've set this campaign to charge monthly-- no matter what, you'll only be charged the amount you chose to pledge once every month. 

I have rewards for every single support level I offer, too! Check it out:

$1 a month:
TIP JAR 

You'll get: 

  • My thanks & gratitude
  • Your name listed in a special "Thank You" post on The Code every month
  • Access to Patron-only posts and updates
  • One free Patron only exclusive download each month

$3 a month
CUP OF COFFEE

You'll get:

  • Your name listed in a special Thank You post on The Code
  • Access to Patron-only updates
  • Free Patron only exclusive download every month
  • Monthly link/plug to whatever you want-- your website, a project, your YouTube channel-- you name it!


$5 a month
LUNCH TIME


You'll get:

  • All rewards for previous tiers (named in the monthly thank you post, Patron-only update access, free monthly Patron only download, free plug on The Code)
  • free music download of a track of your choice from lowercase t every month!
  • Special Tiny Treasures envelope hand crafted & hand picked just for you, sealed with a wax seal and mailed directly to you!



$10 a month
SURPRISE MYSTERY CARE PACKAGE


You'll get:

  • All rewards for previous tiers, including the Tiny Treasures 
  • A special Mystery Surprise Care Package made just for you mailed to you EVERY MONTH. It'll be a CARE package stuffed to the brim with fun stuff like novelties, toys, magazines, surprises and a hand-made doodle from me.




$20 a month
PIZZA TIME


You'll get:

  • All previous tier rewards (including the Monthly Mystery Surprise Package)
  • Every month you can request a post on The Code on a topic of your choosing or get a free music track made just for you based on a title you make up!
Click here to find out how you can become a Patron for as little as a dollar a month-- that's 3 cents a day.

If you don't want a monthly commitment but would still like to help out, you can send any amount you choose one time only by going through PayPal here, and you don't even need a paypal account.

Not a fan of PayPal? You can buy me a coffee via Ko-Fi!

NEW Reward Announcement: Tiny Treasures

I offer people who subscribe to my Patreon various rewards: shout-outs, link-backs, free downloads, and even large surprise packages. Today, I'm happy to announce a new reward perk: Tiny Treasures!

I take hand-crafted tiny envelopes, like these:

Description: A small brown envelope with a black &
white drawing of a fox in the lower right hand corner. A
single quarter is displayed at the bottom corner for size
comparison. The envelope is approximately 3 quarters
high and 3 quarters wide.

... fill them with cards and stickers like these:

Description: An assortment of stickers scattered
across a table and atop a tiny treasures envelope.
... and individually seal each envelope with a wax stamp seal.



I love sending surprises in the mail, I love cute tiny things, I love hand-picking and hand-crafting stuff. So if you like getting tiny treasure surprises in the mail, and want to help support The Code, the Tiny Treasures perk is available to anyone who becomes a patron at the $5/level or above!



Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Mass' Effect: Why Are Fat People Vilified In Video Games?

Description: Screenshot from Silent Hill 2. A fat, white man
with blond hair wearing a backwards baseball cap & striped shirt
points a finger towards the camera, with the subtitle "You've been
laughin' at me all along, haven't you?" displayed at the bottom.
As a fat guy, I've gotten a lot of strangers commenting on my right to exist in public space over the years (and I have it easier than a fat woman or person of color). The way fat people are pilloried as character in the virtual space of video games is pretty gross, too. Producer and essayist Anshuman Iddamsetty looks at the multi-billion dollar entertainment industry that is video gaming contributes to this in "How Video Games Demonize Fat People" for The Outline. Idamsetty's essay goes into a deep dive in speaking with professors, motion-capture actors, game players, game developers and others connected to the industry to take a long look at both the root causes and the effects, intended or otherwise, of demonizing fat bodies.

Here's an excerpt:
if the fear of alienating a player is so great that lazy tropes are somehow safer, this alone doesn’t account for their frequency — if a fat body appears at all.
Sunset Overdrive was released in 2014 by Insomniac Games. Part zombie shooter, part Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, the Xbox One exclusive boasted a robust customization system that let you be whatever you wanted — except fat. “We wanted to put our time into wild outfits instead of technology to bloat up people or bloat them down,” Sunset Overdrive director Drew Murray told Kotaku. (“Bloat” — what a word to describe my body. )
Later in the piece, a shape emerges. “You have so much other complexity in all the things you can wear, the hair, the animations,” said Insomniac CEO Ted Price. “We had to pick our battles, and that was kind of where we chose to draw the line.”
The essay is a bracing but necessary look at not just the history of video games as technical development, but also as popular entertainment, and how certain story telling and design decisions in video games as a medium seem baked into the process from the beginning. Please, give the whole essay a read.

I'm also interested in hearing from other gamers-- have any of these examples ever made you feel a certain way? Do you have any to add yourself? Sound off in the comments.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Video Game Subtitles: The Good & The Bad

Nowadays, most video games, from the tiniest independent title to the AAA blockbusters have subtitles. Subtitles are important not just for the Deaf and hard of hearing-- players with audio processing disorders need them too, as well as player who need the voices or sound lowered for whatever reason. Max Deryagin, an expert consultant on subtitles whose work has appeared in hundreds of videos, is also an avid video game player. His thoughst on what video game with subtitles often fail to do correctly is a well-thought-out article with plenty of examples from last year about what not do to. Here's an example of an irritating problem I ran into way too often: crappy contrast between the subtitle text and the actual game environment...

if the game is highly dynamic, you don't have much time to focus on the subs, so it can be really hard to keep up with them when the contrast is low. Let me demonstrate that in the video clip below. Try to pay attention both to the image and the text. (The clips are muted to imitate not hearing the dialogue well, when you'd want to enable subtitles.)


Subtitles in Star Wars Battlefront II from Max Deryagin on Vimeo.


Ridiculous, isn't it? I can't even read the text in time, let alone enjoy the scenery or concentrate on the action.

Max's post includes a lot more common subtitling implementation mistakes from last year, so whether you're a game player or a game developer, it's essential reading.

As with previous posts I've made on accessibility, these issues don't just affect gamers with disabilities. Making games-- or whatever content you're distributing-- accessible makes them available to a wider audience, and if just a little thought and consideration goes into these measures at the beginning, they can be both super easy and super cheap to include from the get-go.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Leveling the Playing Field: Video Games & Accessibility

Description: Close up of a pair of hands holding a Playstation
4 controller. The controller is a deep blue, and a light on the front
of the controller glows brightly.
Accessibility in video games is more than just creating specialized controllers. It's an issue that doesn't even have to be particularly time-consuming or expensive, as long as you make sure to think of it at the beginning instead of bolting it on at the end. So why are ways to make video games accessible still so sparsely implemented? Why does change keep happening so incrementally, if at all? How can this be fixed? Why is the video game industry so slow to adopt techniques that have made entertainment media accessible in other domains? In "How Games Can Better Accommodate Disabled Players", Waypoint's Mike Diver interviews Ian Hamilton, an game development consultant and advocate for increasing video game accessibility for game players with disabilities. An excerpt:
"Awareness, though, can be hard to come by directly—the circumstances in which games are made are not the same as those in which games are played. Console games are not played on a 27-inch monitor, 18 inches from your face; but that's often the environment in which day-to-day UI decisions are made... There's no reason why the system can't be designed and implemented before the content it's going to display is finalized. That's something I'd dearly love to see addressed at an engine level, as there's really no need for developers to keep reinventing the wheel every time—especially when it's so often reinvented as a square. Again, as with a great deal in accessibility, this isn't rocket science to solve, at all. It's just about actually getting it done."

The discussion of subtitles in video games was of particular interest to me. I always play with subtitles on, as I have an auditory processing disorder and there are times that I just can't focus on the dialogue any other way. Hamilton also talks about controller remapping, colorblind mode and more. The entire article's a great read, so do read the whole thing.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Wrestling With Depression: Gentleman Gervis Speaks On Mental Health

As most longtime readers of The Code know, I'm a huge fan of pro wrestling, especially independent pro wrestling. One of the appeals of smaller scale pro wrestling is that fans get the opportunity to be closer to the action. The indie wrestlers themselves are often much more accessible to fans than those in the big leagues of WWE. One of my favorite pro wrestlers is a grappler by the name of Gentleman Jervis, and meeting him 5 years ago was one of my highlights as a fan. Don't believe me? Here's a picture:

One of the qualities that sets Jervis apart from other pro wrestlers is his relentless gentleness and kindness. In the squared circle, Jervis is more likely to use grappling techniques that will make his opponent unable to move instead of fisticuffs. He employs a sleeper hold... in which he rocks the opponent to sleep instead of chocking them out. And he persona of "The World's Sweetest Man" extends to his presence online from Reddit to social media. In an interview last year with EPSN, Jervis said:
"I want to be a beacon of light on the internet, and I feel in order to do that, I must also navigate the dark crevices and bring out the light in the situation. I try to be nice with everything I do and say, and I think that's translated to my physical life, my real life. My digital life and my digital personas are very sweet and kind, and now my physical persona has assumed that form as well. You have to put out the niceness and create the light that you wish to see reflected upon you."
Which is why it might have been surprising to some when he recently announced he had grappled with depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. He recently wrote a blog post about it, entitled "On Sweetness And Suicide". An excerpt:
My mistake was believing that... I could face depression on my own with exercise, healthy eating and positivity. These things are extremely beneficial to one’s health, but sometimes these habits are just not enough. Some depression sufferers like me need medicated assistance as well and that’s okay! ... My outward appearance is a projection of sweetness, friendliness, and understanding. Sometimes, I am not so nice. Sometimes I am downright mean. My self-hate and anger boil over and I become a monster to those around me. A Rottenbelly. Though I am not proud of these moments, I am also not ashamed. Just like anyone else, I can be weak at times. But I can also be strong. Part of being strong is accepting your actions, forgiving yourself for them, apologizing to any parties who may be hurt or offended and correcting your behavior for the future.  
The entire entry is an honest account of the struggles he faced, the thoughts he had, his history with mental health, and the support he received and is an engaging read. Give it a look, won't you?




Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life PS4 Review

Does The Dragon of Dojima's Swan Song Strike The Right Notes?

Description: Screenshot of a close-up of of the back of Kiryu Kazama. He is shirtless,
showing off a muscular back adorned with an elaborately detailed dragon tattoo.
The Yakuza series has followed the life of Kiryu Kazama, a legendary yakuza who rose through the ranks of Japanese organized crime, only to try to leave it behind while trying to balance conflicted loyalties, family ties, and doing what's right. Billed as the first all-new Yakuza game for the PS4 and as the close to a chapter of a series lead, there's a lot riding on this PS4 game's shoulders. Yakuza 6 has to improve on the presentation of the series as a whole, bring a starring character's arc to a close, but not be so daunting that it alienates newcomers to the series. Does it succeed? Find out after the jump.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New Archive of 30 Years' Classic Sci-Fi Available For Free

Archive.org recently added a gigantic collection of the influential science fiction magazine Galaxy Science Fiction to its site that is free for anyone to read, worldwide. While it's not a complete collection of the magazine's run, there are many pieces of sci-fi history in the collection. Get the details after the jump.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Muslim World's History of Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fiction


Writing for Aeon, Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad delves into the long, rich tradition of speculative fiction in Muslim culture, including some of the first examples of feminist fiction in the early 1900s. As he points out, it's not really all that surprising when you consider the background it came from:

Western readers often overlook the Muslim world’s speculative fiction... Some of the first forays into the genre were the utopias dreamt up during the cultural flowering of the Golden Age. As the Islamic empire expanded from the Arabian peninsula to capture territories spanning from Spain to India, literature addressed the problem of how to integrate such a vast array of cultures and people...We also have the Muslim world to thank for one of the first works of feminist science fiction. 

He draws a line from the high fantasy tales of the Golden Age to the early 1800s to today, and it's a pretty interesting journal. And if that whets your appetite, you can find more at www.islamscifi.com .

Friday, August 11, 2017

Rare Recordings of Indigenous Language Saved By Today's Tech

This week, on International Indigenous Peoples Day, UC Berkley announced that efforts were underway to use new non-invasive scanning procedures to archive and preserve recordings of indigenous California languages.



UC Berkeley said in an announcement:
Berkeley researchers are using optical scan technology to transfer recordings from thousands of decaying wax cylinders, preserving audio of 78 indigenous California languages, most of which were recorded more than a century ago. Many of the recordings contain the only audio in the world of several of the languages, and others hold unknown stories and songs.
The collection will be made available to indigenous communities, as well as to scholars and the public.
The video above link has interviews with the linguistics and physics researchers, an archive specialist, and a descendant of a tribe that has no surviving "old-timer" speakers to teach the language.

fff

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Listen Up: Rolling 12s

Rolling 12s theme is built around the world of tabletop gaming and looking at some of the more unique forms of storytelling that the format allows. In particular, Rolling 12s features audio drama content focused on black characters and black tabletop players. The main stories, "Monde Demasque" and "Hallows Eve" centers on a Vampiric court of black women fighting for survival in territory staked out (no pun intended) in Houston.

The podcast is currently on hiatus, so now's the time to get caught up on episodes! You can listen via Rolling 12s on stitcher, on Google Play or via iOS.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

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