Category Archives: 2011.05

Roundup of Unusual Size: Fan Remakes, Fan Covers, Fan Cosplay. Fans Rule.

(art credit needed!)

An excellent assortment tonight, my friends. Let’s get right to it.


First off the high shelf: a little slice of the games studies life as told by Dan Golding, and an experience I can painfully, painfully relate to. As can half the game studies folk I follow on Twitter, apparently.

Also on the games studies front, but more broadly academia in general, Georgia Tech’s Ian Bogost (who shall leave no cow unclicked) addresses all those dreadfully unreadable academic texts and what to do about it.

Moving over to Gamasutra’s member blogs, Bruce Adams writes on the virtues of limitations. And over on the news section of the site, here’s an overview of GDC Vault’s latest offerings.

Dire Critical friend Joel Goodwin at Electron Dance sent this our way: a great interview with Brian Moriarty. Frankly, all Joel had to tell me was the name.


This electric guitar cover of Portal 2‘s ending theme is just amazing. Be sure to grab the mp3 at the link below the vid!

On a similar Valve note, check this out: it’s a fan-remake of the original Half-Life and it looks incredible.

And dear cosmos, somehow this Minecraft creeper plushie is even more frightening than the real thing.

Finally, one for all you Doctor Who fans out there: a little genderswap cosplay.


Happy Walt Whitman’s 192nd birthday! Have a poem.


Courtesy of io9’s Alasdair Williams, take a gander at this galaxy whose center supermassive blackhole shoots plasma jets bigger than the galaxy itself.

Continuing on yesterday’s Sam Harris article on free will versus determinism, here’s a unique counterpoint which showed up in my feeds today by way of Lifehacker: believing in free will gives you free will.

Via Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait and courtesy of NASA, this amazing photograph of Space Shuttle Endeavour‘s last spacedock.


Um, so, now that it’s official that hacking can be an act of war, and China has already hacked Google, does this mean Google and China are at war?

And on that note, it seem Sony is embroiled in an endless war themselves. At this point I just feel sorry for them.


I would like to draw your attention to this headline for a minute. This one I pulled from Eurogamer, but similar ones cropped up almost immediately on The Escapist and elsewhere.

“News: Catherine has ‘topless female demons'”

>topless female demons


And people wonder what’s wrong with mainstream games journalism.

Roundup of Unusual Size: Tropebusting, Fan Portals and the Seven Pillars of Game Design (Now with more Nightmare Mode!)

Steampunk Portal fanart by risachantag @ deviantArt

I’m pleased to announce, as I did earlier today on Twitter, that starting immediately the Roundups of Unusual Size will be also reblogged at Dire Critical friend Patricia Hernandez’s fantastic Nightmare Mode game news and commentary site. Maybe this will give me some impetus to get them done earlier in the day from now on. *shifty glance*

I’ve no idea how Patricia is intending to introduce these to her readers but for all those just joining us by syndication or link, welcome to the ROUS! We’re sort of like Critical Distance, except we post on the six days of the week that Ben Abraham doesn’t, and there are usually more non-game-related articles… So I guess we’re actually more like Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s Sunday Papers, except less British.

Like the CD crew, I too accept article recommendations, so if you find a piece you want promoted (on any geektacular subject) please feel free to send it my way by Twitter or email!


Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett takes a break from the publication’s usual rumor-mongering and lingerie-clad obscure Japanese voice actresses for a nice mini-biography of Satoshi Tajiri, the man who gave us Pokemon.

Did you preorder Duke Nukem Forever way back in 1997? Don’t worry. GameStop will still honor it.

The Border House’s new guest post tackles some of the problematic underpinnings of game “matriarchies.” And, of course, I’m a total geek for the title.

And as always, as Monday rolls around I like to take a look back at Sunday’s Critical Distance roundup to deliver a few choice picks of my own:

First, Tanner Higgin at Gaming the System muses about the trap of representation: “From my perspective, if we are to adequately describe and transform how race is communicated in videogames, we need to focus our attention on how representation is structured, and the politics of production behind this structure. Without an eye to the underlying causes of inequities in representation, our critiques of stereotype, or calls for multi-racial/ethnic/cultural equity will be severely limited in effect.”

Second, from Sarah Elmaleh, a post all about Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure that is absolutely perfect.

Lastly, a useful, practical and far-encompassing list of what makes games good by Tom Francis. I have few critiques for his observations here.


I know that look in your eye. It says you want a Portal fan film. You’re welcome. Want more Portal fan production funtimes? Here is this amazing cosplay routine.


Old Spice Guy as a Marvel superhero? Um… yes. Just yes.


Confound these mirrors, acting all quantum.

Sam Harris is kind of a jerkface, but quite honestly I think TED talks bring that out in everybody. Despite all efforts to focus on games reading this summer I keep getting distracted by discourses on determinism and religious skepticism, so this new blog post of his focused on exactly that is quite nice for a little distraction. (Since I’m out of Sherlock to watch. Sob.)


Out of the corner of my eye, I thought “PBS” was “PSN” and could only think “oh, not again.”

Via Jezebel’s Anna North, here is a piece on ABC News about how little sense combat restrictions on servicewomen make sense in wars that don’t have a front line. A familiar talking point, but I’d like if this got some sustained attention.

What a tragically missed opportunity to nuke them all from orbit. KKK counterprotesting the Westboro Baptist Church- who will survive?!

Roundup of Unusual Size: Just GRIN and bear it.

I’m watching Hellboy for the first time. Among other things, because it’s an eight hour shift at work and if I don’t refocus my eyes frequently I’ll be halfway blind this time tomorrow.

Short list tonight, as we saunter into the weekend. ROUSes return Monday with more news than you can shake a joystick at.

(See! I made a gaming pun! Whoohoo.)


I’m sorry. I know this is my medium of choice and I should be happy about the kind of mainstream attention it occasionally gets, but this is tacky and sad.

If you believe bankrupted game studio GRIN, Square Enix is both low-tech and doesn’t recognize its own screenshots.


Oh cosmos. Do I want to look? It’s the trailer for David Fincher’s American Girl With a Dragon Tattoo adaptation.


Jezebel’s Lane Moore takes a look at some of the shows on television she sees as indicative of manxiety.

I really don’t know if Deadpool’s the comic book hero you want to go around emulating. Sooner or later someone’s going to test the whole regeneration thing. Also, what is fourthwalling the real world like? Frightening idea.

This week’s be-glad-you-aren’t: be glad you aren’t in a Utah “school for troubled teens”.

Roundup of Unusual Size: Action-RPGs, Animal Oddities and Astrocrystals (Oh and Fanboys)

And that’s how Equestria was made.

So yes. Smallish collection tonight, but I’m hoping you’re having a more relaxing night than I am.


Via GameSetWatch, Hardcore Gaming 101 has a fantastic history of the Western action-RPG.

Gus Mastrapa, writing in his Pretension +1 column for Joystick Division laments that fanboys are killing the conversation.

And so the military-entertainment complex marches on.

Abandoned Places

Wonderful photo series of Project Buran, an abandoned Russian space shuttle project. I just got a few shivers.


Here’s your daily dose of creepy from Jezebel: the neo-medieval habits of tomorrow’s ruling classes.

To wash your brain of that, here is a bit of Jungian musing from The Mary Sue on how our fictional crushes inform our personalities.

Wait, wait, I need to creep you out again. WITH NATURE. Or just as frequently, intentional mad science breeding experiments, which leads us neatly into tonight’s next section…


Someday I’m going to figure out why astronomy/astrology are a favorite subject of girls’ cartoons (Sailor Moon, My Little Pony) and yet that vanishes as we grow up. Seems very anti-intellectual. Maybe the magic and mystery of space cedes into harder SF and that’s such a heavily territorialized boy space that girls back away from it.

…Yes, I was going somewhere with this. The universe is effin magic.

Roundup of Unusual Size: So much space. Gotta see it all.

Heck yeah, Seth Green dressed as Joker. Marry me.

A bit spare on the gaming articles tonight. However! A really strong selection of science articles should keep you entertained. There’s even a musical number. Also, a dude dressed as Captain America.


Tadhg Kelly of What Games Are delivers what I consider to be the most elegantly simple and coherent explanation of why gamification is a morbidly awful idea: games work because they are closed, simple systems in which we can expect fairness. Life, obviously, is not.

It’s the Nyan Cat – Robot Unicorn Attack Singularity!


I’ve been concerned about Pixar’s Brave after reports started filtering in about its directorial problems, but I gotta admit it’s looking pretty good. Oh man, that hair.


Hey, what’s going on in this new J.J. Abrams television sh– wait, Hurley?


Here’s a different sort of symphony of science: a sonata of supernovae.

More from io9, Tim Barribeau reports that infants actually exhibit complex common sense. Yeah, well, you still can’t start a car with a breadstick, okay? Meanwhile, Annalee Newitz reports that those bastard lunarians made off with half our water! And over in their regular Ask a Physicist corner, Dr. Goldberg explains what a teaspoon of neutron star is capable of. I seem to remember a bit of this punching through the floor on Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

And it’s data like this that I keep wanting to show to my old creationist Astronomy professor (yes… I know). If this were a designed universe, why wouldn’t electrons be absolutely, mathematically perfect spheres? Talk about a sloppy watchmaker.


Over on Skepchick, Rebecca Watson tackles “Women’s Intuition and Other Fairytales”. Glad I’m not the only one who failed to see “women’s intuition” as a positive myth.

This, my friends, is how John McCain could have won in 2008.

Finally, a bit of a twofer from Cory Doctorow about Twitter: a book rec for Tweets from Tahrir, the legacy of the #Jan26 Egyptian revolution and a crowdsourced Bloomsday project translating Ulysses to Twitter shortform.

Roundup of Unusual Size: This calls for Sad Luna in Space.

…Poor Luna. :(

Tonight we have a neat selection of deep reading, design fundamentals and sciiiiiience. Read on.


Lucas Blair continues his feature on effective achievement design over on Gamasutra.

Futurismic’s Jonathan McCalmont has a deep analysis up on Christine Love’s don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story.

You got your academia in my games again: GAMBIT has linked the event lecture videos from Videogames 101, held earlier this month at the MIT Museum.

This hurts me so deep.

Your new astronomy-themed PC game pick via Kotaku’s Stephen Totillo: Universe Sandbox.


So many ruined pieces of fanart. WHY.

Taken as a sort of counterpoint to the Stanford prison experiment, here’s a new research paper on the psychology of heroism.

I just can’t get enough of the story of these conjoined twins who actually share brain tissue… and apparently one another’s thoughts.

The Large Hadron Collider doesn’t seem to be making with the god particles yet, but they have created matter so dense, the only thing denser would be a black hole.

Here’s a new one for first-world parents to use to scare their MMO-addicted offspring: If you think games are so fun to play, how would you like it if I sold you to a Chinese prison gold farm?!


Pst– torrenting? Cory Doctorow recommends OneSwarm for all your privacy needs.

Roundup of Unusual Size: Cheer up Kojima, have a ponycorn.

(No, I did not take this photo.)

The less said about work tonight the better. On the plus side, my copy of Halo and Philosophy is expected to arrive by Thursday!

Tonight’s roundup includes a healthy selection of Gamasutra punditry, a neat audience study on kids and violent media (the result is not what you expect), sad Kojima being sad, and… well I hate to spoil it for you but ponycorns. They’re like ponies and unicorns merged into one being!


We start off tonight with some Gamasutra opinion pieces and member blogs. First off is Pete Garcin who posits story games have a lot to learn from sports games. Then, from the member blogs, we have Guy Hasson’s entry on the “closed doors” of worldbuilding, James Sadler’s defense of local multiplayer, and Marc Bell’s gander at death rooms and monster closets.

Kojima-san… :c

Kotaku’s got a new piece all about Ken Levine.

This has been making the rounds of game blogs today but it bears repeating. Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure!


A new study suggests that kids don’t actually like violence in their media.

And yes– I thought Brian Ashcraft was full of bashcraft as usual with this one, but take a look at the finer details of what he purports to be shots from the Ace Attorney movie set.


Via Boing Boing, how cultural differences affect your sleeping patterns.

And from Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait, check out these supernovae that are going off “like firecrackers”. Also on the spaaaace side, why is the black hole at the center of our galaxy spinning faster and faster?


Jezebel’s Niina Pollari has an interesting take on how Facebook reinforces pre-medieval, communal courtship ritual.

Roundup of Unusual Size: Dancing Mythbusters, sciencing Mitu Khandaker and ruminating Maggie Greene

Holy crap that’s a lot of links. Also, why have I been using “more” tags on these? This isn’t Livejournal! There’s no cutting in roundups!

…I am strongly resisting using another Cuttershy macro, I really am. Anyhow, read on. There is a hefty selection of gaming, science AND film articles tonight. Plus one that really got my bleating mountainous quadruped.

O Academia

Maggie Greene (formerly of Kotaku’s Weekend Reader and by and large the reason I got into games criticism) has a post up in which she discusses the cancellation of the Fullbright-Hays competition and what its ramifications are.


Simon Carless talks about the future of games and China. And Your Critic’s latest Beyond the Girl Gamer installment, The System of the Worlds, is now live.

Kotaku’s Brian Crecente actually has an interesting in-depth piece about themes of domestic violence in BioShock Infinite.

Okay, maybe Joystick Division friends Topless Robot can corner the Top 10 niche too. Here are their Top 10 best videogame musical numbers.

In my perfect world, Gus Mastrapa, N’Gai Croal, Clint Hocking and my former games criticism professor William Huber ( are on a panel together, forever. Maybe with short bathroom breaks. Anyway, here is Croal writing for Edge on the dangerous conservativism of mainstream gaming.

I read about this earlier in the week via Journalfen and thought it must have been old news. Guess not! How about a casual game that dictates what you get to do based on gender stereotypes?

A few highlights from yesterday’s Sunday Papers: Radiator Blog talks about the Indie FPS (or lack thereof), Alexander James Moore reflects on the hardness of game-making, and Martin Lugton writes a bit about obedience in the BioShock series.

Lastly, I knew even before I moused over the link that this one came from fellow Carl Sagan and astronomy aficionada Mitu Khandaker, in which she asks: Are Games Astronomy?


Takashi Miike directing a Phoenix Wright film? This will either be the Best Thing Ever or incredibly painful. (Please be awesome please be awesome please be awesome.)

Well, that’s fantastic. The 3D film fad is even ruining your 2D films.

An official French spinoff of The Matrix? I am surprisingly okay with this.


Interested in making a living as a writer? Here’s yet another how-to book. But at least this one sounds a little interesting.


Allies in unlikely quarters: here’s a Minnesota GOP legislator speaking in support of gay marriage.

On Saturday I linked a post about a Canadian couple raising their child without gender restrictions. Jezebel has a response on how this might backfire on them. Honestly I’ve never thought of “OTHER people will be judgmental” as a good excuse to not do something, but meh.

What Am I Looking At

Mary Sue’s Susana Polo put it best: Throw Carl Sagan or a velociraptor into this somehow and the internet might explode. That sounds like a challenge if you ask me.


Speaking of musical Tesla coils.

Also via The Mary Sue, I could listen to this dude talk science all day.

Smithsonian’s Laura Helmuth debunks some top ten myths about the brain.

Imagine having your brain completely reset in your 20s. This woman’s story is pretty incredible.

You’ve no doubt read a bit about this in the past, but Discovery’s Nic Halverson has a news piece up on DNA-based computing.

And from io9’s Alasdair Williams, science proves small words are sexy.



Roundup of Unusual Size: Quoth Phil Plait, “teach a man to reason and he’ll think for a lifetime.”

Fanart by risachantag at deviantArt


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Roundup of Unusual Size: Run Rapture Run

I wish this existed.

Feeling so very unqualified for anything. Except linklists. Oh, but I vaguely suspect I’m unqualified for those too.

Being sick sucks. :(

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