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And it’s the weirdest, most ambitious splorts simulation game to ever exist

It’s the 26th of September 2020. The Hades Tigers enter the diamond for the last game of their best-of-five series against the Philadelphia Pies. They’re tied 2–2. This is for all the marbles. The winner will advance to Grand Finals of the Internet League Blaseball and face the dominant Baltimore Crabs. Both teams have already won two Leagues: the third win, according to the Forbidden Book Of Blaseball, would make either team, and Blaseball itself, “ascend”. No one quite knows what that means.


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Disco Elysium, Studio Za/um

One of the first things you do in Disco Elysium is look into a mirror. You don’t know who’s staring back. You have an expression on your face you will probably try, and probably fail, to get rid of. That is what you will do for the entirety of the game: look at the world, which is a mirror of Harry’s — the protagonist’s — alcohol addled brain, and try to make sense of what stares back. The fundamental premise of most RPGs is that as you progress you become better at killing, healing, defending, etc. In Disco, as you interact with the world you become better at understanding just what kind of animal is looking doe-eyed at the mirror. You pet mailboxes or spinkick fascists and become further and further attuned to every ultrabright billionaire in shipping containers or rustling of the wind on the dilapidated sea shore. Experience points go towards increasing skills with names like “esprit de corps” and “electrochemistry” and “inland empire”, which are all voices in your head that will, when appropriate, interject into the game’s dialogue and push you towards one or the other choice, as well as help succeed in relevant skill checks. The skills act as a greek chorus staffed by your worst vices and most inscrutable habits. Electrochemistry wants you to feel the thrill of a drug rushing up your spine, Esprit De Corps reminds you that you are cursed to be a cop, Inland Empire gets you in tune with your horrid necktie. Disco Elysium’s point is that when we look into a mirror we never really know what we see, and that’s fine. That’s human. …


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Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

When I was young, I’d ace all my tests except one or two — usually math, which I would fail completely. I could instinctively grasp every other subject with very little effort. But that meant I didn’t have the willpower to endure long study sessions and engage with information beyond my comfort zone. In high school, after receiving a particularly low grade, I decided to fix that. So I started taking notes.

My reasoning was: if I can not understand things by listening in class or skimming the textbook, I will be able to if I rewrite them in my own hand, organized in my own way. I believe a similiar reasoning is what pushes many to start such a project. For others, it might be the desire to store information they may want access to later. It might be the necessity to create a shared knowledge base within a team. Or a mixture of any of these reasons and I’m sure many others. …


What the next ten years could look like.

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Photo by Josh Nuttall on Unsplash

Statistically speaking, you are a twenty or thirtysomething from a majority English-speaking country. The next ten years will be what’s commonly considered some of the best of your life. Here’s what, statistically speaking, they will look like.

I’m no expert on the topics I’ll talk about, just someone who’s very, very worried. Perhaps too much so. I’ll use information widely available and comprehensible to laypeople like you and me. I’ll also link it so you can review it yourself.

According to the IPCC, climate change will — no matter what we do — lead to an overall increase of around 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2030 if past trends holds up. That might not sound like much, but we’re currently at 1 degree above pre-industrial levels and we’ve seen massive wildfires in the USA and Australia that were exacerbated by it, as well as extreme weather phenomena all over the world. Even if we manage to hit the most ambitious emission reduction targets (we most likely won’t), the next ten years will still feature an increasingly warmer climate before the trend stops or reverses. …


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It’s all fun and games when there’s a Planet B

In Factorio, you build up a thousand different little machines to transform the raw resources you extract from the environment into a thousand other different machines. You can turn copper and steel into a laser turret, or into a computer board and even a spider mech. You transform the bare landscape of the alien planet in which you crash landed into an endless megafactory that takes five minutes to walk across. Steel and concrete first overlap and later submerge the surface, as you reshuffle everything you touch into a precise interlocking grid built to your every specification. Eventually, lost in this promethean dream, you lose track of which object fulfils what function, and are only loosely aware of the inputs and outputs of this immense machine you build. …


Jorge Luis Borges on the ontological proof for the existence of God.

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Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote a piece of what we would now call “microfiction” in The Aleph and Other Stories:

“I close my eyes and see a flock of birds. The vision lasts a second, or perhaps less; I am not sure how many birds I saw. Was the number of birds definite or indefinite? The problem involves the existence of God. If God exists, the number is definite, because God knows how many birds I saw. If God does not exist, the number is indefinite, because no one can have counted. In this case I saw fewer than ten birds (let us say) and more than one, but did not see nine, eight, seven, six, four, three, or two birds. I saw a number between ten and one, which was not nine, eight, seven, six, five, etc. That integer — not-nine, not-eight, not-seven, not-six, not-five, etc. — is inconceivable. …


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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Kurt Vonnegut once gave a talk about the way in which he analyzed stories. It’s one of the most simple and enlightening methods I’ve ever seen. In this article I’ll explore how to apply it to the stories you tell. Here’s the lecture. If you don’t want to watch the video, then keep reading. I will proceed as if you hadn’t.

A rejected thesis

Vonnegut called this theory his “prettiest contribution to culture.” But it was rejected when he presented it as his thesis for an MD in anthropology “because it was so simple and looked like too much fun.” …


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Hanatarash live, still from a bootleg recording

If you were to give some god-like artificial intelligence out of an Asimov story the task of creating the ultimate noise music band, after processing every single noise musician to ever exist it’d produce a perfect copy of Hanatarash, a Japanese noise duo formed in 1984. Things their frontman Yamatsuka Eye did on stage:

  • Frequently brought random pieces of machinery on stage
  • Destroyed said machinery, and threw the pieces at the audience
  • Cut a dead cat in two with a machete
  • Threw the aforementioned cat’s halves at the audience
  • Tied a circular saw to his back and almost cut off his own leg with…

About

Joe Ferrante

I make things and deal in Very Good Ideas.

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