terribleminds

chuck wendig. penmonkey
www.terribleminds.com

The point of any art is to make you feel some irreducible, numinous, complicated emotion. The characters in a story are inconsequential, literally (Romeo and Juliet never lived, never died, and are less worthy of our sympathy and care than the bacterial culture in my yogurt this morning, because at least that was a real, living thing). Insofar as imaginary people matter, it’s because their made-up, not-real adventures make you feel those complicated and interesting emotions. But it’s a very roundabout way of getting people to feel stuff. Novels do it by tricking your limbic system into mistaking the adventures of not-real people for things happening to real people.

Games and comics do it differently — there’s some of that “caring about not-real people” stuff, but there’s also a lot more of the “here’s a visual image that, because of its own formal characteristics, its colors and composition, makes you feel a thing just by looking at it.” The relationship between words about made-up people and pictures is like the relationship between talk-therapy and SSRIs — the former is supposed to get your brain to generate interesting psychological effects, the latter just imposes the effects right on your brain by altering its chemical makeup.

Games have other mechanics, of course, that are inaccessible to comics. They make you physically engage with the art, using your body (or at least your fingers) to make the art-thing happen. I think that recruiting more senses and modes probably makes the effect more immediate and possibly more profound, inasmuch as there are more mechanisms at play with which to evoke that inchoate and irreducible etcetera. There’s just stuff that you probably can’t feel (or not as readily) by reading about stuff, that’s accessible when you’re moving your body. Psychologically, of course, but physiologically too: things that happen to your brain and your thought processes when you are directing movement, as opposed to when you’re imagining it.

Games also engage a different kind of puzzle-solving mental apparatus; Raph Koster calls games something like, “NP-hard problems that can only be solved through the iterative application of heuristics.” Which is fancy math talk, but it means that games are interesting in part because they present puzzles whose ideal solutions are indeterminate — for example, there are more possible games of chess than there are hydrogen atoms in the universe, so you can’t “solve” chess the way you can tic-tac-toe, by mapping out every possible chess game and ensuring that you always play towards a non-losing outcome.

Because you can’t solve these puzzles with pure logic, you have to apply heuristics — rules of thumb — that you develop through a combination of intuition and reasoned thinking, and that you refine by trying them and varying them, more or less systematically, in order to improve your performance in the game. This variation and retrying is what Koster means by “iteration.”

This has a lot in common with “reality.” There’s no optimal way to be alive and human in the world, no Plato’s Republic course of “right action” that will reliably produce a happy outcome for you. All you can do is try your best, developing theories of how to conduct your life and refining them as time goes by.

Games, then, are microcosmic versions of life. It’s not surprising that they engage our attention and our fascination, because the reason our ancestors survived to have the children that we became is that they were reasonably good at this process. When processes like this emerge, they give us both satisfaction from mastery, and an almost irresistible urge to play on. They’re rehearsal for the only “life skill” that matters — figuring out how to come up with rules of thumb for hard problems, and how to refine them or discard them if they don’t work.

invisiblelad:

lovelyandbrown:

thisiseverydayracism:

The prison-industrial complex is just a myth…right?

Jesus he didn’t even have us do the damn math. He just said it.

…yeah. I suppose there’s no point in finding flowery rhetoric for it. “Putting people in jail is good for business” is pretty much the size of it. 

invisiblelad:

lovelyandbrown:

thisiseverydayracism:

The prison-industrial complex is just a myth…right?

Jesus he didn’t even have us do the damn math. He just said it.

…yeah. I suppose there’s no point in finding flowery rhetoric for it. “Putting people in jail is good for business” is pretty much the size of it. 

(via vixyish)

Me:

*playing Tomb Raider*

Grandmother who is visiting for the weekend:

Mind if I sit with you?

Me:

*squirming slightly because there is gore and swearing in this game and my grandmother is a sweet old lady: Um, if you want to.

Grandmother:

*sits* Thank you, dear.

Me:

*continuing to play for about five minutes*

Grandmother:

Grandmother:

Grandmother:

LOOK OUT THERE ARE THREE COMING DOWN THE HILL

Grandmother:

THAT WAS POINT BLANK HOW ARE THEY ALIVE

Grandmother:

OOOHH YOU MADE THAT EXPLODE

Grandmother:

STOP KILLING MY GRANDDAUGHTER

Grandmother:

KILL THEM KILL THEM ALL

Grandmother:

OHHHHH YOU SHOT HIM IN THE HEAD OHHHHHHHHH

Grandmother:

RUN RUN RUN YOU'RE ABOUT TO DIE RUN

Grandmother:

OKAY NOW KILL THEM ALL

Me:

*slowly turns to look at her* Grandma

Grandmother:

*sweet smile* Hmm?

Me:

Grandma oh my god

Grandmother:

*more smiling* Well, hurry up and kill everyone else, I want to see you save this Sam person.

Me:

Me:

Grandmother:

Kill them.

“The secret to writing is so simple it tickles: Write as much as you can. As fast as you can. Finish your shit. Hit your deadlines. Try very hard not to suck. That’s it. That’s my secret. Don’t tell anyone or I’ll charge you with espionage and shit in your fish tank.”

—   Chuck Wendig (via theoldaeroplane)

(Source: terribleminds.com, via theoldaeroplane)

newlyvulcan:

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Permuted Press: A New Age of Fuckery

briankeene:

There is a justified uproar about the business practices of Permuted Press right now. You can read all about it via Graeme Reynolds, Gabrielle Faust, and R. Thomas Riley, (three newer authors whom I have an immense amount of respect for) and William Miekle (who’s been at this I think as…

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But it’s scaaaaary, you say. Sure, sure, yes, it can be. That sacrificial component can be terrifying. It feels like exposing yourself — some kind of intellectual, creative nudity, like running through somebody else’s mind, naked. Stripped bare. To the skin. Maybe to the bone. What might you say? What might you reveal? Who are you? Who will read you?

(via rat-insatiable)

The Deal With Desborough

ettinjiggywithit:

This was written by request for some friends dealing with Goobergate. Feel free to reshare, but don’t use it as an excuse to be a shithead. Thanks.

So, James “Desborough” Desborough. What’s up with that guy?

I’ve been asked by people less familiar with the online tabletop RPG community to give them a summary, so here it is. Most links and images were submitted because like hell am I digging it up myself, words are my own.

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