Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cascadia, Bioregionalism, and Sense of Place in Game Design (Lost Levels 2014)

Lost Levels is one of my very favorite yearly events, if an event can be called so in its second year of existence. Held in Yerba Buena Gardens on the thursday of the weeklong Game Developers Conference, it is a free and radically inclusive unconference/picnic. Crowds gather under arcadian boughs to hear speakers hold forth on deep or amusing topics, or to take part in discussions about what game studies is, or to engage in non-competitive dance-offs. It feeds the soul and reminds us of the communicative testament of not using powerpoint.

Naturally, I have gotten swept up in the proceedings, and given talks the last two years about topics which I care about but the average indie game developer/critic/weirdo might not be aware of. Last year I ranted for five minutes on “Postmodern Sports,” explaining the alienation of the college athlete and comparing Alabama football to a nineteenth-century army. This year, I talked about Cascadia, bioregionalism, and fostering a greater sense of place in game design.

Games writer Marshall Sandoval was in attendance, and recently mused on the topic of "Regional Authenticity" in this PopMatters post, so I figured it was time to write up my talk. This is faintly updated based on some more recent information, but it carries over the gist of what I meant to say.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On Skeletor Affirmations and Supervillain Psychology

If you and I are 'friends' on facebook, you may have seen me sharing images from "Skeletor is Love," now active for roughly one year. It's been buzzfed, and blogged, and anthologized, and fed through, and yet I still find it worth following.

In part, it is because the figure of Skeletor provides an ironic, tongue-in-cheek vehicle for straightforwardly earnest and possibly corny statements. I can feel safe that my social-media-hologram will not be negatively affected by sharing it, because the text is adjoining Skeletor, rather than a picture of a skinny white woman doing yoga on a beach. Of course, I also appreciate being gently uplifting, knowing that for all our snark, of the dozens of people who might see my post, one of them might really need it. It's a challenge to be positive and helpful without resorting to smarm. (This is one of the reasons that for all my wariness of TED-talk-types, I refrain from throwing Jane McGonigal under the bus.)

That's all well and good, but why Skeletor? Why not He-Man (or She-Ra) affirmations? I think this has something to do with the figure of the villain in an episodic cartoon format, and how that relates to positive thinking.