Linkspam: May 12th, 2017

This is my monthly linkspam, which includes some articles I found interesting, and some brief commentary.

Video games are better without stories – Ian Bogost argues that video games just aren’t as good at storytelling as movies or literature.  Currently the best stories seem to be told through environmental storytelling, which falls quite short of the interactive storytelling often envisioned.  This is a point I’m sympathetic to, having played several games that were widely praised for their story, and being frankly disappointed at how poorly they compare to even mediocre literature.

As far as my personal calculations go, it’s not so much a question of what the medium of video games is capable of. To me, the question is, “Is it economically feasible for the medium to produce good stories that go beyond mainstream tastes?”  For me, movies fail this test because either they need to sell to a broad audience (which generally doesn’t include me), or they need to be poorly produced.  Video games are also in a bad position, but they may get better as development costs go down.

I found this link via Critical Distance, which paired Ian Bogost’s article with several critiques.  To be honest, I was really put off by that Gamasutra article, which started out by complaining that this whole debate had been dismissed by academics since 2005, and then immediately followed this with the complaint that Ian Bogost was being elitist.  Games critics, why are you bad?  Patrick Klepek makes good points though.

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Three views on social justice in atheism

Previously, I wrote a post framing social justice as a meta-movement, a movement which seeks to change how all other movements are run. Here I’ll talk about how that applies to atheism.

Why should the atheist community pay attention to social justice? The reasoning is quite elementary: The atheist community is a community. All communities should pay some attention to social justice. Therefore the atheist community should pay some attention to social justice.

Some atheists like to argue that social justice is beyond the scope of atheism. The argument goes that the community should take a neutral position, thus being inclusive of people with various relationships to social justice. However, this is missing the point. The “scope” of the community doesn’t really matter for the argument. All that matters is that it’s a community. As I said before, the same argument applies to the physics community, despite it being obvious that social justice is outside the scope of physics. The “neutral” position is not really neutral, but directly in opposition to the goals of social justice.

However, there are various degrees of “pay attention to social justice” which I describe below.

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Social justice as a meta-movement

What we think of as social justice advocacy today is a conglomeration of many groups and causes. The core groups are women, ethnic minorities, queer people, and people with disabilities. But there are also other groups that we don’t immediately think about, like polyamory or fat activism.

So, what’s the best way to think of the social justice movement? Is it a single movement with many facets, or is it an umbrella term for many distinct movements?

Here’s one way to think about it (not necessarily the only way or the best way). Social justice is a meta-movement, which seeks to change how social movements and communities work. According to common social justice standards, a feminist movement should pay attention to race. An anti-racist movement should pay attention to queer people. A queer movement should pay attention to disabilities, and so on.

There are a number of justifications for this, which I attempt to list:

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Origami: 360-piece polyhedron

A polyhedra made out of 360 edges
Double Sided Concave Hexagonal Ring Solid by Tomoko Fuse

The local origami club wanted to make something big for an activities fair, so we worked together to fold 360 pieces and assemble them together. You can see the result above (along with a few other models they had for display).  Assembly was quite tricky, because at this size the weight of the model pulls itself apart.

I don’t think this polyhedron has a name.  Let’s see, there are 20 hexagons, 12 pentagons, 90 squares, and 60 triangles.  All in all, there are 182 faces, 360 edges, and 180 vertices.

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