“Mana did not make it into the D&D rulebook because Gary Gygax and the other creators of D&D based their magic system on the novels of Jack Vance, where a limited number of spells could be memorized, cast once, and then forgotten.”
One of many amazing insights into how the concept of mana made its way from Polynesian antiquity into today’s gamer culture.
Potato salad satisfies these and all other doomed attempts to systematize humor, which might be the only way to understand it: It is humor-shaped and perfectly optimized. If it was ever whimsical it isn’t anymore—there is too much money, too much potential, tied up with this salad. But this foundation of whimsy has created circumstances in which more capital is equated with more humor, which is too horrible an idea to even joke about: It is a transcendence that is out of our control, a villain, an invader, an awakening of The Old Ones, a Dire Event, or at least a Portent. What’s funnier than $37,115 for potato salad? $47,115 for potato salad, ha ha. What’s funnier than $47,115? $100,000. With every new dollar it feels more urgent to a viewer that he attach his name and his dollars to the thing, which is now obscured entirely by noise—a fee for ensuring that you’re in on the joke.
Things start to come together with M. Night Shyamalan, hit-yourself-in-the-forehead obviousness. The “you” in “you are mountain” doesn’t refer to the terraformed 3D game object, at all. Instead, it describes the game itself. You are not mountain; rather, you are Mountain. You play as the abyss between the human and the alpine.
Two things are particularly great about this: (1) Bogost writes about the actual experience of playing the game in stead of the idea of the game (2) he pulls in the larger media ecosystem to further illuminate the significance of the work.
“While walking in residential areas, I am capturing the wireless signals of security cameras that are placed in and outdoors by the residents using a camera and a receiver. With this I explore the boundaries between the public and the private. It reflects on the changing attitude towards surveillance and safety.”
“The really good creative people are always organized, it’s true. The difference is efficiency. If you have an agenda—a schedule—you will be better. In order to have moments of chaos and anarchy and creativity, you have to be very ordered so that when the moment arrives it doesn’t put things out of whack.”
“As a matter of historical analysis, the relationship between secrecy and privacy can be stated in an axiom: the defense of privacy follows, and never precedes, the emergence of new technologies for the exposure of secrets. In other words, the case for privacy always comes too late. The horse is out of the barn. The post office has opened your mail. Your photograph is on Facebook. Google already knows that, notwithstanding your demographic, you hate kale.”
“Something creepy happened when mystery became secular, secrecy became a technology, and privacy became a right. The inviolability of the self replaced the inscrutability of God. No wonder people got buggy about it.”
“In the twentieth century, the golden age of public relations, publicity, meaning the attention of the press, came to be something that many private citizens sought out and even paid for. This has led, in our own time, to the paradox of an American culture obsessed, at once, with being seen and with being hidden, a world in which the only thing more cherished than privacy is publicity. In this world, we chronicle our lives on Facebook while demanding the latest and best form of privacy protection—ciphers of numbers and letters—so that no one can violate the selves we have so entirely contrived to expose.”
Just a marvellous historical account of how the concepts of privacy, secrecy, mystery, publicity and transparency developed under the influence of new technologies.
If there is a definitional fight to have, let’s preserve the term ‘sharing,’ reserving it not for anti-economic niceness, but for economic relations that have a social thickness to them. This is why I began with the dematerialization history of systems of shared use. In the end, sharing is about the messy negotiation of access to goods, goods that in the name of sustainability become more scarce. Capitalism is an alienated way of handling those negotiations; sharing forces you to negotiate with aliens.
I appreciate this piece’s zooming in on the notion of friction as a source of meaningful interactions.
So here is the most clichéd nightmare of neoliberalism: precarious post-safety-net existence is embraced (for these systems are not being imposed by governments — rather the reverse: people appear to be supporting the new systems themselves) in ways that turn personal identity and social relations into money-making opportunities.