Smithsonian - 'You Can Get Placebo Sleep' →

Interesting. I've been getting really spotty sleep for the last couple of months, and I've noticed that it's worse any time I think got bad sleep, even if my sleepcycle tells me otherwise.

Sneaky Cards →

Real-world 'quest' cards, where almost everything is designed to brighten someone's day, or at least make it more interesting. The multiplayer aspect almost turns it into a card-based ARG.

Netflix's dumbed-down algorithms →

Felix Salmon has a great write-up on the recent changes to Netflix's recommendation scheme. Basically, Netflix is a victim of its own success.

NPR's interview with Allie Brosh →

Allie Brosh (of Hyperbole and a Half) gave an amazing interview to Terry Gross a while ago where they cover a lot of subjects, including her struggles with depression. It's the most honest and raw interview I've ever heard and I don't want to ruin it. But she also talks about why she draws in such a deliberately crude style, which I found fascinating.

The reason I draw myself this way is that I feel that this absurd squiggly thing is actually a much more accurate representation of myself than I am. It's a better tool for communicating my sense of humor and actually getting across what I'm trying to say than, say, being there in the flesh. ...

It's me on the inside. That's what I'm like when I view myself. I am this crude absurd little thing, this squiggly little thing on the inside. So it's more of a raw representation of what it feels like to be me.

Cards Against Humanity’s '$5 More' Black Friday Sale →

We called our contact at Amazon and explained the idea for the sale to them. They thought it was funny but were also pretty annoyed - apparently monkeying with pricing on the biggest sales day of the year isn’t as funny to Amazon as it is to us.

I wish more companies were as playful or as honest as the Cards Against Humanity guys.

Agrippa - A Book of the Dead →

From Wikipedia:

Agrippa (a book of the dead) is a work of art created by speculative fiction novelist William Gibson, artist Dennis Ashbaugh and publisher Kevin Begos Jr. in 1992. The work consists of a 300-line semi-autobiographical electronic poem by Gibson, embedded in an artist's book by Ashbaugh. Gibson's text focused on the ethereal nature of memories (the title is taken from a photo album). Its principal notoriety arose from the fact that the poem, stored on a 3.5" floppy disk, was programmed to encrypt itself after a single use; similarly, the pages of the artist's book were treated with photosensitive chemicals, effecting the gradual fading of the words and images from the book's first exposure to light.

There's something really magical about this. I love Jason Rohrer's Chain World, a game that is played once then passed to another player. But there's something special about the physicality of Gibson and Ashbaugh's book. Something beautifully ephemeral.

Second Homes for Leisure Living →

Between my love for 60s illustrations and my love for a well-designed A-Frame, this book is pretty much pornography for me.

Airships →

Even though I know these are all real, my brain can't process them. They're like something from an alternate reality.

How Atari box art turned 8-bit games into virtual wonderlands →

I sometimes worry that my old-man nostalgia is getting the better of me, but looking at these cartridges just nailed it for me. The covers of 8-bit games were things of beauty. Never mind that the graphics could never live up to the promise of the cover = your imagination filled in the details.

BBC defends Baroness Thatcher Ding Dong song decision →

This is really interesting. Even though the song is back in the charts, the BBC will only play 5 seconds of 'Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead' on the Chart Show. They're not censoring a song, they're censoring a context.

Roger Corman school of Game Development →

After he finished filming The Raven, Roger Corman decided that since he already had the large, gothic sets built, he could re-use them (and sets leftover from other films) to quickly knock together another film, The Terror. He effectively got two films for (roughly) the price of one.

With another console cycle just around the corner, we can expect a tidal wave of news stories about the rising cost of game development. "Now that everything is in super-high-res 4K HD, creating art assets costs more than the GDP of some European nations" they'll probably say.

This is why I love what Ubisoft have done with Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Rather than just scrapping all the work they did on Far Cry 3, or even just knocking together some boring DLC for extra multiplayer maps, they're re-using the assets in a completely new and interesting way. A way I'm really excited to play.

Inside the Old City Hall Subway Station →

I've mentioned this before, but I always find it weird when I read about these "hidden" places that I've visited in a videogame (in this case, I think a level of The Darkness took place in this subway station). It's weird to have memories of places you've never visited before.

Kentucky Route Zero →

highhorse

Dead End Thrills is a lovely blog that takes screenshots of beautiful games and presents them as best they can. For example, to generate this lovely image from Stalker, they used nine graphical mods. These are things you can add to the game to make it look even prettier. To produce the image from Kentucky Route Zero above? None. Just a bit of offline antialiasing in Photoshop to smooth some of the lines.

It's a beautiful game. And now you can buy it on Steam.

Inbox Zero for Life →

I've been following this routine for a couple of weeks now and, so far, it seems to be working. I process my inbox a couple of times a day and then spend the rest of my time in the 'starred' section, clearing out anything that needs some attention. One thing I've noticed about this is that I'm much more likely to reply to an email now, even if it's just a two-word response. I'm usually prone to procrastinating about replying to people, especially if the answer is in the negative. Strange that this email strategy seems to have broken me of this.

Unfortunately, Sparrow seems to be the only desktop Mac mail client to support Gmail keyboard shortcuts. Mail client developers: support Gmail keyboard shortcuts!

Kitbashed →

Michael Heilemann's site is to Star Wars what Lee Unkrich's The Overlook Hotel is to The Shining. Exhaustive and written by a true obsessive. Beautiful.

Depression Quest →

Even if you're not suffering from depression (or if you think you're not suffering from depression), you should play this. Touching and extremely well-done.

How Netflix is turning viewers into puppets →

This is interesting. Netflix analysed its data and concluded that a lot of people liked political thrillers, a lot of people liked Kevin Spacey and a lot of people liked films directed by David Fincher. And so the first show they've bankrolled is a political thriller starring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher. And rather than some lowest-common-denominator, design-by-committee bullshit, it actually turned out pretty good.

Gamers are the ultimate trolls →

I am guilty of this myself, of course. When Half Life started and the creators were showing me the living, breathing world outside of the rail car, I was too busy to notice, trying to jump out of the car through the window. In Half Life 2, when Alyx was telling me something important, I couldn’t hear it over the explosions of the grenades I kept throwing at her.

This week's This American Life has a story about how babies are like scientists, and by doing things like, say, dropping their forks on the ground, they're actually working out the logic of the world. Because each game is different, with different rules and different logic, players have to do their own experiments. It's just a bonus that these experiments so often lead to hilarious, ridiculous situations.

Little Printer: A portrait in the nude →

I think that Berg's Little Printer is a great idea. It's right in the middle of the junction between magical technology and tactile physicality (I also think its £199 price-point is insane). This is a really nice insight into the design process behind it.

Old school →

Middlemojo interview Frank Black

Q: Wait a minute. Didn’t you just buy a house in Northampton?

A: Yeah. We’re already moving. It’s a little more in the country. They want to have chickens and grow flowers and stuff. We got rid of TV, there’s no computers, no electronics. It’s old school. And the kids haven’t said peep about it.

Q: How old are the kids?

A: Three, five, six, eleven, and thirteen. It’s so loud. It’s crazy.

Q: You do loud and crazy.

A: Yeah, yeah. Everybody’s loud. Let me show you some pictures [on his iPhone].

Do you see what happened there? "No computers, no electronics. It's old school". But he still has an iPhone. Everyone has a smartphone now, but they're so ubiquitous that no-one even thinks of them as being a "computer". Warren Ellis was totally right. People don't even think about or recognise the magic around them.

(Incidentally, Middlemojo.com is just wonderful. A blog about creative people approaching middle age. Why hasn't this been done before?)

Storyboard - Read the TV and Movies you don't want to watch →

Storyboard was born of my insane desire to consume videos without actually having to watch them. Normally that would involve putting the TV on in the background and ignoring the video while listening to the audio, but what about the reverse? All visual without the audio. On my kindle.

This reminds me of the line in Douglas Coupland's Microserfs about people turning on subtitles and watching films in fast-forward because it's more time-efficient.

The Shining board game →

SHNGMAP1

"The Shining" is a game based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. One player controls the evil and sentient Overlook hotel, the other the Torrence family, winter caretakers of the haunted estate. Using ambiant hedge animals, terrifying phantoms and possibly human possession, the hotel tried to claim young, psychically gifted Danny as it's own - by killing him!

This sounds amazing.

Herp Derp YouTube Comments →

Speaking of stupid comments, I recently installed the Herp Derp extension for Chrome. It turns every YouTube comment into "herp derp derp", and it has dramatically improved my experience with that site.

We should retire Aaron's number →

This is something I've thought about a lot. What will happen to all my accounts after I die? Will my digital legacy just lie dormant while slowly being eroded by entropy? It's a sobering thought. All the gold I've been dispensing on this blog and on my twitter account -- gone. That would be sad. But for this to happen to Aaron Schwarz? That would be absolutely tragic. Dave Winer proposes a solution: that the internet at large takes a role in curating Aaron's content as important historical artefacts. A lovely idea.