Hard gam­i­fi­ca­tion (the Nor­mal kind) takes an activ­i­ty-sit­u­a­tion or struc­ture of some sort and strat­i­fies it, sup­pos­ed­ly mak­ing it sup­pos­ed­ly more ‘game-like’, but real­ly just more goal-direct­ed, met­ric, capa­ble of being eval­u­at­ed in terms of opti­mum behav­iors (“address­ing our prob­lems”). Soft gam­i­fi­ca­tion solves no quan­tifi­able prob­lems; instead, it pos­es ques­tions. It mere­ly takes an activity/situation, and ADDS DEGREES OF FREEDOM such that it is more mal­leable (more PLAYED, more of a game).

wombflash for­est: Notes On Eric Zimmerman’s “Man­i­festo for a Ludic Century”

Read this a while back. Still great. High­light­ing this idea because I think there’s a lot here.

If you want to under­stand the deep­est mal­func­tions of sys­tems, pay atten­tion to the rules, and to who has pow­er over them.

Lever­age Points: Places to Inter­vene in a Sys­tem — The Donel­la Mead­ows Institute

Prob­a­bly some of the best sys­tems the­o­ry I’ve read in a while. There is so much over­lap between how the author looks at things and how game design­ers do, it’s eerie. Many of the sug­ges­tions here could be mod­eled with Machi­na­tions, in fact.

But Williams had stepped out­side the arbi­trar­i­ly defined bor­ders of bas­ket­ball form. This was an act of pure art, and not just because it was utter­ly and entire­ly super­flu­ous. Any mat­ter of stan­dard sparkle could have got­ten the ball into Lafrentz’s hands and past a frozen defend­er. Instead, Williams took the behind the back pass, firm­ly entrenched the NBA’s canon, and styl­ized it to the high heav­ens. Cre­ativ­i­ty for the sake of cre­ativ­i­ty, art at its most basic level.

From The Elbow: On Jason Williams’ Great­est Pass | The Classical

Enjoy­able com­par­i­son between an imag­i­na­tive bas­ket­ball play­er and the arrival of mod­ern art in the US. It’s a good exam­ple of a sys­tem (in this case a pro­fes­sion­al sport) being pushed out of a local opti­mum (a par­tic­u­lar style of play).

Above all, the move­ments of the six­ties allowed for the mass revival of free mar­ket doc­trines that had large­ly been aban­doned since the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. It’s no coin­ci­dence that the same gen­er­a­tion who, as teenagers, made the Cul­tur­al Rev­o­lu­tion in Chi­na was the one who, as forty-year-olds, presided over the intro­duc­tion of cap­i­tal­ism. Since the eight­ies, “free­dom” has come to mean “the mar­ket,” and “the mar­ket” has come to be seen as iden­ti­cal with capitalism—even, iron­i­cal­ly, in places like Chi­na, which had known sophis­ti­cat­ed mar­kets for thou­sands of years, but rarely any­thing that could be described as cap­i­tal­ism. […] What hap­pens when the cre­ation of that sense of fail­ure, of the com­plete inef­fec­tive­ness of polit­i­cal action against the sys­tem, becomes the chief objec­tive of those in pow­er? […] The politi­cians, CEOs, trade bureau­crats, and so forth who reg­u­lar­ly meet at sum­mits like Davos or the G20 may have done a mis­er­able job in cre­at­ing a world cap­i­tal­ist econ­o­my that meets the needs of a major­i­ty of the world’s inhab­i­tants (let alone pro­duces hope, hap­pi­ness, secu­ri­ty, or mean­ing), but they have suc­ceed­ed mag­nif­i­cent­ly in con­vinc­ing the world that capitalism—and not just cap­i­tal­ism, but exact­ly the finan­cial­ized, semi­feu­dal cap­i­tal­ism we hap­pen to have right now—is the only viable eco­nom­ic sys­tem. If you think about it, this is a remark­able accom­plish­ment. […] Myself, I am less inter­est­ed in decid­ing what sort of eco­nom­ic sys­tem we should have in a free soci­ety than in cre­at­ing the means by which peo­ple can make such deci­sions for them­selves. […] Labor, sim­i­lar­ly, should be rene­go­ti­at­ed. Sub­mit­ting one­self to labor discipline—supervision, con­trol, even the self-con­trol of the ambi­tious self-employed—does not make one a bet­ter per­son. In most real­ly impor­tant ways, it prob­a­bly makes one worse. To under­go it is a mis­for­tune that at best is some­times nec­es­sary. Yet it’s only when we reject the idea that such labor is vir­tu­ous in itself that we can start to ask what is vir­tu­ous about labor. To which the answer is obvi­ous. Labor is vir­tu­ous if it helps oth­ers. A rene­go­ti­at­ed def­i­n­i­tion of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty should make it eas­i­er to reimag­ine the very nature of what work is, since, among oth­er things, it will mean that tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment will be redi­rect­ed less toward cre­at­ing ever more con­sumer prod­ucts and ever more dis­ci­plined labor, and more toward elim­i­nat­ing those forms of labor entire­ly. […] Why not a plan­e­tary debt can­cel­la­tion, as broad as prac­ti­cal­ly pos­si­ble, fol­lowed by a mass reduc­tion in work­ing hours: a four-hour day, per­haps, or a guar­an­teed five-month vaca­tion? This might not only save the plan­et but also (since it’s not like every­one would just be sit­ting around in their new­found hours of free­dom) begin to change our basic con­cep­tions of what val­ue-cre­at­ing labor might actu­al­ly be.

A Prac­ti­cal Utopian’s Guide to the Com­ing Col­lapse | David Grae­ber | The Baffler

Strate­gies for change that do not pre­scribe the out­come but are main­ly focused on increas­ing society’s pos­si­bil­i­ty space (as described by Grae­ber here) make a lot of sense to the game design­er in me.

Resis­tance and sur­veil­lance: The design of today’s dig­i­tal tools makes the two insep­a­ra­ble. And how to think about this is a real chal­lenge. […] When the time for my pan­el arrived, I high­light­ed a recent study in Nature on vot­ing behav­ior. By alter­ing a mes­sage designed to encour­age peo­ple to vote so that it came with affir­ma­tion from a person’s social net­work, rather than being imper­son­al, the researchers had shown that they could per­suade more peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in an elec­tion. Com­bine such nudges with psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­files, drawn from our online data, and a polit­i­cal cam­paign could achieve a lev­el of manip­u­la­tion that exceeds that pos­si­ble via blunt tele­vi­sion adverts. How might they do it in prac­tice? Con­sid­er that some peo­ple are prone to vot­ing con­ser­v­a­tive when con­front­ed with fear­ful sce­nar­ios. If your psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­file puts you in that group, a cam­paign could send you a mes­sage that ignites your fears in just the right way. And for your neigh­bor who gets mad at scare­mon­ger­ing? To her, they’ll present a com­mit­ment to a minor pol­i­cy that the cam­paign knows she’s inter­est­ed in—and make it sound like it’s a major com­mit­ment. It’s all indi­vid­u­al­ized. It’s all opaque. You don’t see what she sees, and she doesn’t see what you see. Giv­en the small mar­gins by which elec­tions get decided—a fact well under­stood by the polit­i­cal oper­a­tives who filled the room—I argued that it was pos­si­ble that minor adjust­ments to Face­book or Google’s algo­rithms could tilt an elec­tion. I’m not sure if the oper­a­tives were as excit­ed by this pos­si­bil­i­ty as I was afraid of it. […] To make sense of the sur­veil­lance states that we live in, we need to do bet­ter than alle­gories and thought exper­i­ments, espe­cial­ly those that derive from a very dif­fer­ent sys­tem of con­trol. We need to con­sid­er how the pow­er of sur­veil­lance is being imag­ined and used, right now, by gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions. We need to update our night­mares. […] That’s what a street protest does, in its essence: It makes you feel not alone. We should leave aside the stale argu­ments about protests that hap­pen on the street ver­sus those that take place online. There’s one key fea­ture that the Inter­net and the street share: They make us vis­i­ble to each oth­er. That is their pow­er. […] To under­stand the actual—and tru­ly disturbing—power of sur­veil­lance, it’s bet­ter to turn to a thinker who knows about real pris­ons: the Ital­ian writer, politi­cian, and philoso­pher Anto­nio Gram­sci, who was jailed by Mus­soli­ni and did most of his work while locked up. Gram­sci under­stood that the most pow­er­ful means of con­trol avail­able to a mod­ern cap­i­tal­ist state is not coer­cion or impris­on­ment, but the abil­i­ty to shape the world of ideas. The essence of some of Gramsci’s argu­ments can be seen in anoth­er great dystopi­an nov­el of the 20th cen­tu­ry. In Brave New World, Aldous Hux­ley envi­sions a state that eschews exis­ten­tial ter­ror in favor of a drug, soma, that keeps its cit­i­zens hap­py and pliant.

Is the Inter­net good or bad? Yes.  — Mat­ter — Medium

OK, this is one of the best things I’ve read on Occu­py Gezi Park in ages or prob­a­bly ever. Last year I wrote up my thoughts on game­ful design and the built envi­ron­ment in a chap­ter for The Game­ful World and what emerged was main­ly about leg­i­bil­i­ty and resis­tance. This arti­cle describes in great detail both the work­ings and val­ue of street protests and the mech­a­nisms by which con­tem­po­rary West­ern regimes (attempt to) con­trol peo­ple. In my chap­ter I sug­gest­ed that fuzzing, mak­ing one­self illeg­i­ble, is the most effec­tive strat­e­gy for resis­tance in this day and age. I think that is sup­port­ed by what Zeynep Tufek­ci argues here.

Hijika­ta explained the pol­i­tics of ghosts to me, as well as the oppor­tu­ni­ty and the risk they rep­re­sent­ed for the peo­ple of Tohoku. ‘We realised that so many peo­ple were hav­ing expe­ri­ences like this,’ he said, ‘but there were peo­ple tak­ing advan­tage of them. Try­ing to sell them this and that, telling them: “This will give you relief.”’ He met a woman who had lost her son in the dis­as­ter, and who was trou­bled by a sense of being haunt­ed. She went to the hos­pi­tal: the doc­tor gave her anti-depres­sants. She went to the tem­ple: the priest sold her an amulet, and told her to read the sutras. ‘But all she want­ed,’ he said, ‘was to see her son again. There are so many like her. They don’t care if they are ghosts – they want to encounter ghosts.’ ‘Giv­en all that, we thought we had to do some­thing. Of course, there are some peo­ple who are expe­ri­enc­ing trau­ma, and if your men­tal health is suf­fer­ing then you need med­ical treat­ment. Oth­er peo­ple will rely on the pow­er of reli­gion, and that is their choice. What we do is to cre­ate a place where peo­ple can accept the fact that they are wit­ness­ing the super­nat­ur­al. We pro­vide an alter­na­tive for help­ing peo­ple through the pow­er of lit­er­a­ture.’ Hijika­ta revived a lit­er­ary form which had flour­ished in the feu­dal era: the kaidan, or ‘weird tale’. Kaidankai, or ‘weird tale par­ties’, had been a pop­u­lar sum­mer pas­time, when the deli­cious chill impart­ed by ghost sto­ries served as a form of pre-indus­tri­al air con­di­tion­ing. Hijikata’s kaidankai were held in mod­ern com­mu­ni­ty cen­tres and pub­lic halls. They would begin with a read­ing by one of his authors. Then mem­bers of the audi­ence would share expe­ri­ences of their own: stu­dents, house­wives, work­ing peo­ple, retirees. He organ­ised kaidan-writ­ing com­pe­ti­tions, and pub­lished the best of them in an anthology.

Richard Lloyd Par­ry · Ghosts of the Tsuna­mi · LRB 6 Feb­ru­ary 2014

This is an amaz­ing piece on death, dis­as­ter, grief, reli­gion and the super­nat­ur­al that I would expect to read in Fortean Times, not the Lon­don Review of Books. The pas­sages high­light­ed here remind­ed me of the film Kwaidan, which I first learned about thanks to it being list­ed as a source of inspi­ra­tion for the out­stand­ing indie role­play­ing game Dogs in the Vine­yard. Hat tip: Justin Pickard.