Interactivity – The Core of Video Game Aesthetics

Theory of Objective Video Game Aesthetics

If an artist wants tell a story, why would he do so through a video game? Paintings are more immediate. Books are better at providing details and allowing the reader to fill in the blanks with his own imagination. Movies give the creator more control over presentation. Television is better equipped to tackle sprawling or episodic stories.

But only video games are interactive. Video games are the only artistic medium designed to give the consumer control over content. This connection can exist in seemingly endless forms from controlling individuals within a linear narrative to steering civilizations throughout history.  Understanding how video game developers can create, manage, and even limit interactivity, is the key to the success of video games as an artistic medium.

I don’t have a complete understanding of all the ways in which interactivity can be used. For one thing, I am not personally a developer, but more…

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The Transistor, Part 3: Endless Reinvention

Creatures of Thought

For over a hundred years the analog dog wagged the digital tail. The effort to extend the reach of our senses – sight, hearing, even (after a manner of speaking) touch, drove engineers and scientists to search for better components for telegraph, telephone, radio and radar equipment. It was a happy accident that this also opened the door to new kinds of digital machines.1 I set out to tell the story of this repeated exaptation, whereby telecommunications engineers supplied the raw materials of the first digital computers, and sometimes even designed and built such computers themselves.

By the 1960s, however, this fruitful relationship came to a close, and so too does my story. The makers of digital equipment no longer had any need to look outward to the world of the telegraph, telephone, and radio for new and improved switches, because the transistor itself provided a seemingly inexhaustible vein of…

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Leaf-Node weakness in Bitcoin Merkle Tree Design


This document describes a weakness in Bitcoin Design that reduces the security of SPV proofs and therefore SPV Wallets.  The weakness was discovered by me on August 2017, but during the responsable disclosure process I learnt it was previously known by some prominent members of the Bitcoin Core team. Using this weakness an attacker can create a valid SPV proof for a fake payment to a victim that is using a SPV wallet, the payment amount being an arbitrary number of bitcoins, and trick the victim into accepting this payment as valid.  Happily, exploiting this bug requires brute-forcing between 69 and 73 bits (depending on initial investment), each operation being a double SHA2, and there are very simple probabilistic protections that SPV wallets can implement easily. For example, an attack can be carried on with an investment of 3M USD (*). It is assumed that most SPV wallets will be…

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Organicity in abstract strategy games

Nick Bentley Games

Note: This post wasn’t written by me (Nick Bentley), but rather by one of my game design mentors, Christian Freeling:

freeling-1 …who is probably insane

Christian is an éminence grise in the world of combinatorial games and I wouldn’t be the designer I am without him. He’s designed some of the best games in the world, imo, but deep combinatorial games are rarely published, so his accomplishments aren’t widely known. This situation is, if not tragic, at least deeply silly.

In any case, it’s an honor to present the essay below. It’s about a quality Christian prizes in games (as do I), which he calls organicity. It’s a quality he speaks of often, but it’s not an easy concept to understand and discussions of the subject can spiral into confusion. This essay can be seen as an attempt to remedy that. 

You can read more by Christian at his website, Mindsports

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All watched over by machines – a review of Yasha Levine’s “Surveillance Valley”


There is something rather precious about Google employees, and Internet users, who earnestly believe the “don’t be evil” line. Though those three words have often been taken to represent a sort of ethos, their primary function is as a steam vent – providing a useful way to allow building pressure to escape before it can become explosive. While “don’t be evil” is associated with Google, most of the giants of Silicon Valley have their own variations of this comforting ideological façade: Apple’s “think different,” Facebook’s talk of “connecting the world,” the smiles on the side of Amazon boxes. And when a revelation troubles this carefully constructed exterior – when it turns out Google is involved in building military drones, when it turns out that Amazon is making facial recognition software for the police – people react in shock and outrage. How could this company do this?!?

What these revelations challenge…

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After a long road, I’ve finally launched my first game!

Kneeling Bean Studio

Currently, I am a 40 year old husband, father of 4.5 gremlins, and full-time software developer.

I started working on this project ~2.5 years ago at the beginning of 2016. I had been a software developer for about 13 years prior to deciding to start working on this game. I had also done countless hobby game projects on the side for years so I wasn’t a total n00b at getting a game project off the ground.

In the time since I started on this game, a lot has happened in life. Our 4th child was born a few months into the project. I changed jobs a while after that. My father died from cancer last June, which was absolutely devastating. And we are expecting gremlin #5 this August. With all that going on, sometimes weeks would pass where I wasn’t able to touch the game. But that’s okay, because this…

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Algorithmic glass ceiling in social networks: the effects of social recommendations on network diversity

the morning paper

Algorithmic glass ceiling in social networks: the effects of social recommendations on network diversity Stoica et al., WWW’18

(If you don’t have ACM Digital Library access, the paper can be accessed either by following the link above directly from The Morning Paper blog site, or from the WWW 2018 proceedings page).

Social networks were meant to connect us and bring us together. This paper shows that while they might be quite successful at doing this in the small, on a macro scale they’re actually doing the opposite. Not only do they reinforce and sustain disparities among groups, but they actually reinforce the rate at which disparity grows. I.e., they’re driving us apart. This happens due to the rich-get-richer phenomenon resulting from friend/follow recommendation algorithms.

… we find that prominent social recommendation algorithms can exacerbate the under-representation of certain demographic groups at the top of the social hierarchy… Our…

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