on Spore and the gospel

The sadly underwhelming Spore was a 2008 PC game that allowed the player to experience and guide life from the cellular level right up to interstellar civilisation. You’d start off controlling an amoeba-like creature, absorbing nutrients and running away from larger micro-organisms; then progress to controlling a creature as it hunts for food and dodges predators; then a tribe, then a nation as it warred with its rivals; and finally you’d be planning space missions as your planet-state collected precious cargo or exotic life forms from other star systems.

At every single level of play there was something to worry about. Neutralising a source of worry at one stage merely opened up a new horizon of worry: achieving a large enough size on the microbial levels merely meant you’d now have to worry about finding more food (and running from larger predators) to stay alive; achieving safety from predators in a tribe merely meant worrying about other tribes, then other cities, and finally other planets. Achieving what you wanted at each stage did nothing to take away the worry and the challenge.

That’s what (supposedly) made the game work, made it playable as a game. And rather depressingly this is the game we are in everyday. Continue reading “on Spore and the gospel”

on two types of self-censorship

Both my parents are pretty artsy people, so there is some nude art at home. There’s a statue of some kind of nymph – that used to terrify me as a child, not so much because of her nudity but because of her dead-eyed, Nefertiti-esque face – and a couple of nude paintings. But one time, anticipating that family friends (and their young kids) were coming over, my mom decided to discreetly stash away some of our collection for the time being. Continue reading “on two types of self-censorship”

on faceless mooks

Houses on fire, screams in the background, heavily-armed, swastika’d soldiers and flame-spewing, mechanical beasts swaggering around.

“Monsters did this.”
“Not monsters – men.”

So starts the latest trailer to Wolfenstein II. The trailer itself is a gory, expletive-filled affair, but it deflates itself right off the bat. It fails to live up to its own rhetoric within the first few seconds. Continue reading “on faceless mooks”

on craftsmanship

Too late in life I’ve discovered: I’m a craftsman.

By trade I’m a teacher, and though (on most days) I’d call myself a pretty good one, I’ve recently found that what makes me feel good is not teaching, but making things. Producing tangible things – my latest pet project is carving on rubber slabs with lino knives. I started small, but I am getting better at it everyday. I can see it. As I said, tangible. I also produce educational videos, digital art, which is… less… tangible.

This is what occupies my weekends these days. Only just a couple of months ago my weekends would be exclusively for recharging – my Monday to Friday would be so balls-to-the-wall that if I didn’t sleep all day Saturday and Sunday, I’d start feeling physically ill. Church became an exalted burden. Continue reading “on craftsmanship”

on the stories we tell

Hong Kong, my home, was rocked by major protests in 2014. Localist riots and student-led scuffles break out much more regularly now than in my parents’ day.

In June 2016, the UK voted by referendum to leave the EU. There was a spike in reported racial crimes across the country in the weeks afterward.

In July 2016 a French North African and an Afghan refugee launched attacks in Nice, France, and Wurzburg, Germany. There is little evidence for any coordination between both attacks, though Islamic State has claimed responsibility for both.

In the same month, a girl in the Indian state of Haryana was assaulted and gang-raped, allegedly by the same men who had been convicted of gang-raping her in 2013.

And as the 2016 US Presidential Election draws ever closer, both Republican and Democrat supporters are stepping up their rhetoric. International opinion mostly sides against Trump.

Every one of these stories stars a clear villain (though tellingly no clear heroes emerge). Who is to blame? Continue reading “on the stories we tell”

on wizardry

I might just become a wizard.

If you don’t know what this means I might be speaking to the wrong crowd (and yes I appreciate it’s a pretty raunchy term, but you get my meaning). But it has puzzled me for a while because I’d always thought I was enough of a romantic that this wouldn’t happen. I’m gushy and emotional enough, I’m sensitive enough, I’m not afraid of commitment… what gives? Continue reading “on wizardry”

on love

There is a cryptic line in the film Alexander, where the Persian warrior Pharnakes says to Alexander on his wedding night, “In the ways of my country, those who love too much lose everything. Those who love with irony last.”

I’m not sure why that line has stuck in my head even after so many years – it’s not particularly helpful, and as far as I know it’s mostly a load of orientalist crap; there is no provenance beyond a possible garbling of a sermon by Ali, brother of the Prophet Muhammad.

But by happy coincidence I think this line speaks more truth than it seems to. Continue reading “on love”

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