Saturday, August 20, 2022


old, and new, and old, and old.

Paul Schrader,

I recently watched a demonstration by the guys from Rockstar Games who did the Western video game Red Dead Redemption. They said that all new technology is essentially run by techies. And then at some point, somebody comes in from another field and makes it universal. And they were hoping that we were getting to that point with video games. We’re not there yet. It’s still in the realm of the techies.

Interview at the NYRB, with Gabriel Winslow-Yost, of the NYRB, published alongside his essay/review of/on the game The Stanley Parable. The NYRB interviews itself: the interviewer, Daniel Drake, is interviewing his boss. 

...I’ll sidestep the question, as you do in your essay, of whether or not video games are art to ask instead: What dimension do video games act along that elevates them above other games, or makes them an art? I typically find, after playing a game, even my favorites, that I come away less interested in the world and more interested in the game and the obsessive reward-seeking it fosters.

I didn’t mean to sidestep it so much as take it for granted: they are obviously art! But I also think that making arguments about why they are is kind of a mug’s game—if you believe they are, you’re better off by just demonstrating it, taking games seriously by talking about them the way you would any other artwork.

I do think playing many of them can feel all-consuming, and sometimes that can be pretty gross. Video games have access to compulsion—that kind of deep-seated slot-machine feeling—and the mindless cleaning-up-the-kitchen zone-out in a way that other art forms don’t. But I think that’s also one of the things that makes them especially interesting, when it’s deployed well. A good game can turn compulsion and mindless acquiescence in interesting directions: forcing you to disobey, as something like The Stanley Parable does, or forcing you to go along with something obviously objectionable, as a number of games have done. (Things like Spec Ops: The Line, say, which pretended to be a run-of-the-mill macho military shooter, but then made “your” character commit a war crime and descend into madness.)

"that can be pretty gross." the language of preadolescence. There's no question that games are an art form; it's a question of what sort, and of maturity. 

More generally, video games are better than books or movies or whatever at depicting feelings related to your own actions: compulsion, triumph, regret, unease.

The discovery of the other, not in infancy but the cusp of adolescence. I'll take what I can get.

I'm remembering something from years ago. I thought it was Rosalind Krauss, ("Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism") but it isn't. Or maybe I was extrapolating and arguing with the essay? A treatment for narcissism involving the patient sitting in front of a monitor with a video camera above it—now it would be your computer. The image of is no longer a reflection, and the disconnect forces a break. 

Winslow-Yost is describing the same process. Again: Robert Wilson, T.S. Eliot etc. The gradual acceptance of the physical body, of the self among others, of time, of death. The discovery of experience. And it all goes back to my essay from 1987. And it's all here.

repeats: Addiction by Design

As recently as the mid-1980s, machine gamblers who wished to continue play when they ran out of money were required to leave their machines, make their way to an automatic teller machine (ATM) on the casino floor to acquire cash, and finally, purchase rolls of coins from cashier cages or change attendants roving the floor with coin carts, before returning to play.

...By 1997 it had become possible for players to directly access their checking accounts from the machines, transferring up to $1,000 per day in the form of play credits. Nevada deferred approval for this technology in 2003, for it came too close to violating a state law that bans the merging of ATM functions into slot machines (on the reasoning that this might facilitate “impulse play” and exacerbate problematic gambling behavior). But given the numerous jurisdictions without this legal obstacle, gambling technology companies have continued to develop systems that allow direct access to finances from machines.

I was in Las Vegas in 2008 working a trade show with some friends. On the last night we went out. I told Natasha years later that on that night I loved Vegas. Around the high rollers and their servants and hangers on, I almost forgot the misery I'd watched for four days. For the first time I felt no pity: I was free.  The dealers. the bartenders and the strippers were all top shelf and well-paid. It brought me back to childhood and the Here-You-May-Do-Anything Inn. In Mahagonny the only crime is to be broke.

We started out at at tourist bar on the strip. It was depressing. J's brother asked the bartender where he went to drink. "The biggest room in the house." He drank at home. J spent the time playing blackjack on the built-in screen under his shot glass at the bar. He was glassy-eyed, focusing inward, calculating, "wired in". We knew not to interrupt. After a half hour the bartender payed him and we left. 

Click the fucking links. 

Drake's first paragraph.
The New York Review of Books expanded its purview beyond books almost immediately, with a pointed review of “non-books” by John Hollander in the very first issue,...


The “non-book” has been a successful commodity for a long time. It now appears to have become a genre as well. The class of non-books includes the whole range of coloring books, photographs of infants, animals, or Famous Paintings being forced to say things by means of captions or balloons, the doctored news photographs, etc. Picture prevails over text in the non-book, and yet the result is not a book of pictures. It may have originated in the bound volumes of cartoonists’ work and the “grown-up” comic strip collections (Barnaby, Pogo, Peanuts), but it does not contain cartoons. It is a gimmick in book format. There are often non-books on the best-seller lists, and lately they have been appearing for children as well.

It is a deplorable tradition. And yet,...

"It is a deplorable tradition." The "non book" predates the "book" by years, if not decades. From snobbery to slumming, but slumming is snobbery. 

Winslow-Yost has the look of an Aspie who's beginning to outgrow his childishness, but only just. The New York Review of books or movies or whatever... 

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