Trans representation in Tell Me Why

Tell Me Why is probably the highest profile example of a trans character in video games. Not the biggest game to feature a trans character, nor the game that places the most focus on trans characters, but something in the middle. A game with a trans protagonist, but not about trans issues, which was made by a medium-sized studio.

I didn’t think I would be playing this one, because I did not care for the writing in DONTNOD’s seminal game Life is Strange.  But, there’s a free giveaway for the month of June on Steam. Furthermore, I was intrigued by the controversy around the game, most clearly expressed by Dia Lacina’s review, “‘Tell Me Why’ Smothers Its Representation in Bubble Wrap“. Despite Lacina’s critical stance, it only made me more eager to form my own opinion.

cn: mild spoilers for events in the early game
[Read more…]

Challenging puzzle game tiers

I play a lot of challenging puzzle games. For others who are interested in the same niche, I’ve made a bit of a tier list.  Rather than using the classic S/A/B/C/D/F tier system, I’ve chosen more evocative tiers, which are not necessarily organized from best to worst.

The list only includes games that I’ve played and that I remember well enough. I’m also using an arbitrary definition of the “challenging puzzle” genre. (Honestly, Zach-like programming games ought to qualify, but I didn’t put them in this list so.)

Games winning my highest praise

Baba is You – This critically acclaimed game combines an entertaining and clever premise with amazing level design. Puzzlers looking for a challenge will also enjoy the optional puzzles, which go quite deep.

Recursed – A hidden gem, rough around the edges, but absolutely mind-blowing once you get into it. Chests within chests within chests within chests. Chests that contain themselves, or each other. Recursion beyond my wildest dreams!

Toki Tori 2 – The best metroidvania puzzler I’ve ever played. Instead of gaining new abilities, you gain new insights into the mechanics, finding new branch points and solving clever puzzles.

[Read more…]

Link Roundup: June 2021

This month, I’m doing a little mini-series where I journal about Google Alerts that I get on asexuality.  Not sure that interests anyone, but for me it’s some harmless fun.

Just a few links this month.

Happy humans and the atheist ‘A’s; the symbolism of AHS+ | AHS+ Blog – I rather appreciate this tour through the many symbols adopted by atheists, humanists, and associated groups.  I think most of these are quite good, honestly, although that may just be because we selectively forget the bad ones.  For example, does anyone remember the symbol of the Rational Response Squad?  The less said about them, the better.

Why Scientists Know More About Sexy Plants | Rebecca Watson (text/video, 10 min) – I’m fascinated by the time lapse video of Watson’s moving houseplant.  There’s also discussion of scientists’ bias towards plants and animals that look more interesting.

Vaccines: A Measured response | H Bomberguy (video, 1:44 hours) – The video walks through the story of how the modern anti-vaccine movement began.  It starts out with a single low-quality study by (former) doctor Andrew Wakefield, making a connection between autism and the MMR vaccine.  But what initially just looks like bad science turns out to be way more fraudulent and malicious.  I remember hearing about Andrew Wakefield back when the story broke, but I never had the full story spelled out for me.  The interesting thing is, since news of Andrew Wakefield’s fraud was primarily covered in the UK, vaccine hesitancy in the UK is lower than in other countries.  I suppose here in the US we’ve absorbed vaccine hesitancy through osmosis, with few people understanding its origins in a fraudulent doctor.

The physics of jigsaw puzzles

Wholesome jigsaw puzzle youtuber Karen Kavett recently did a challenge where she assembled a 1000 piece puzzle by selecting 100 pieces at random at a time. For a while, this just looked like a bunch of scattered pieces with only a few connections. But once she had 700 or 800 pieces, the whole puzzle started to come together, despite the gaps.

I found this fascinating, because it is a live demonstration of a concept in physics/math: the percolative transition. This is something I often think about when assembling puzzles.

[Read more…]

Two corners of the internet

Transcript: The thing to understand about the plastic crazy straw design world is that there are two main camps: The professonals--designing for established brands--and the hobbyists. The hobbyist mailing lists are full of drama, with friction between the regulars and a splinter group focused on loops... Caption: Human subcultures are nested fractally. There's no bottom.

Source: XKCD

I like to talk about what it’s like to blog, and I’ve contrasted it with other platforms such as Tumblr and Twitter. However, it should be emphasized that Tumblr and Twitter are really not that far off from blogging; I complain about them because they sit in my own personal uncanny valley of social media. We risk overgeneralizing if we only look at blogs and blog-adjacent platforms. Even XKCD’s observation about fractal subcultures seems a bit biased towards blogging, and I’m not sure it’s really accurate as a generalization.

So the purpose of this post is to explore two other forms of internet interaction, which to me seem exotic. Each of these forms of interaction is used by a member of my immediate family, and I’ve been watching how they engage with it.

[Read more…]

Origami: Rotating tetrahedrons

rotating tetrahedrons

Rotating Tetrahedrons, designed by Tomoko Fuse

This origami model is a fidget.  You can rotate the tetrahedrons endlessly.  Kids love it.  They don’t last forever, but that’s okay, just make more!  I actually have a bunch of these lying around, because I include it in my origami class.

If you’d like to try this one, I recommend this Happy Origami video.  It’s also possible to make one with a single sheet of paper, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  This particular version uses six sheets of paper, so I can get the rainbow colors in, but it’s a bit of a challenge, so I don’t recommend it on first attempt.