The Sunday Papers | Rock Paper Shotgun

Sundays are for leveling vigor. Don’t be a hero now. Get that baseline 60. You’ll need it. Before you hit the motivational high of turning a two-shot into a three-shot, let’s read this week’s best writing about games (and game related things!)

For Eurogamer, Graeme Mason told the story of Captain Blood, not to be confused with Captain Blood, Captain Blood (2024), or Cap’n Blood (my cat*). This one’s a odd gem of a 1988 Atari game about tracking down your clones across the galaxy and murdering them, with a fascinating communication interface.

“Captain Blood’s constraint was to make a universal text adventure game, playable by every player on the planet and transcending languages,” notes Ulrich. “I liked the icon-based language, such as ‘Me love you’ and ‘You beautiful you strong’. It worked in every language, and I realised that by combining a hundred words/icons, you could express a real scenario with humour.” This means of communication, dubbed the Universal Protocol of Communication – UPCOM – became the main gameplay of Captain Blood. “We simulated intelligence using big data – I wrote hundreds of sentences with icons representing the characters’ knowledge, history, secrets and, of course, the precious coordinates of inhabited planets.”

This piece about coolness, scarcity and subculture by Ryan Broderick of Garbage Day resonated with me quite a bit, since what ‘subculture’ actually means in an age where you can acclimate yourself to a scene in a few hours of Googling is something I think about often. I don’t wholly mean this as a negative, of course. Artists, gamemakers, and the like being able to reach an audience without needing to rely on labels on publishers is a beautiful thing. But I also think maybe the feeling of being part of something small and special and new can create precious experiences with both art and community that may not be replicable when these avenues are removed. I’ve never been especially into vinyl – my dad ran a record shop, and as Broderick points out, coolness is scarcity – but, to give an example, the phrase ‘online crate digging’ always struck me as lacking something fundamental.

All that said, I do think there is something weird happening to the way we understand subcultures. These communities, of course, still exist. There are punks and metalheads and hippies and queer kids and weebs and ravers and all the rest. And, thanks to the internet, there are more sub- and sub-subcultures than ever, with platforms like TikTok generating new ones every day. But, also, thanks to the internet, the barrier for entry into these communities has, effectively, been eliminated. You can go consume their respective lore on Reddit or YouTube, pop over to Amazon or Hot Topic, grab some gear, and off you go.

At Futurism, Frank Landymore wrote about the copywriter who found himself the “last human standing” as his 60-strong team were slowly replaced by AI. Grim.

Months later, management decided to cut humans out of the loop almost completely. Going forward, the AI model would generate articles in their entirety. Shoddy automation was here, and as a consequence, most of the writers lost their jobs. Miller kept his — though his role was going to be a bit different than before.

Now, he was tasked with polishing up the AI’s lackluster prose, and, to quote the BBC, “make it sound more human.” If only there was a way of doing that with, uh, human writers.

Stop Elevating Mediocre Indie Games is an thoughtful and, honestly, quite rousing video by Pixel A Day, a million miles away from the ill-informed ragebait its title might suggest. No shade, YouTubers gotta eat. I’d recommended just watching the ‘Why it all matters’ section if you’re strapped for time, and also because then you don’t have to hear mean things about the nice cat game. I’ll be thinking about the design intention distinction made here between ‘indie’ and ‘AAA in miniature’ for some time.

The video Earth has Terrible Worldbuilding is a fun little celebration of the planet’s many oddities. I haven’t finished the new Folding Ideas video I Don’t Know James Rolfe yet, but you’ll be pleased to know it’s fairly manageable at a svelte hour and fifteen. The incredibly dedicated fan who was remaking the entirety of Final Fantasy 7 in Little Big Planet appears to have finished the project. Music this week is Cut Your Hair by Pavement, because it’s never a bad time to listen to Pavement. Have a great weekend!

* Not a real cat. I’m really warming to the name though.

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