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by Nick Dinicola

31 Jul 2009

The Sims 3, like all the Sim games and really anything by Will Wright, is a playground in which we can make our own stories. Sometimes we try to keep thing realistic, but the potential for insanity is never far away. The Sims has always been a great source for over-the-top melodrama befitting the worst daytime soap, but it’s also a source of far more serious stories.

One that stands out is the blog “Alice and Kev.” Alice and Kev are homeless Sims. Kev is described as “…mean-spirited, quick to anger, and inappropriate. He also dislikes children, and he’s insane. He’s basically the worst Dad in the world.” His daughter Alice “…has a kind heart, but suffers from clumsiness and low self-esteem.” Each blog post is a snapshot of their daily lives, and while some are humorous, there’s an undercurrent of sadness running through the entire blog. Reading about the hardships Alice faces while trying to go to school and dealing with a father who hates her is frighteningly realistic, and seeing the joy she gets out of simple things like a good meal and a bed are both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Kev provides some comic relief with his haphazard attempts at love, but it’s also hard not to feel sorry for him when his attempts constantly fail, and the drama returns when he comes back “home” and takes his anger out on Alice. It’s a captivating story in its own right, but this premise has been done before with The Sims 2 and can be reproduced by anyone who has the game, what really makes “Alice and Kev” unique is its presentation.

Its blog reads like a documentary. Its creator, Robin Burkinshaw, takes himself out of the story as much as possible. He doesn’t mention himself in the writing unless he’s talking about a specific aspect of the game, such as personality traits or life goals. He doesn’t even exert much control over Alice and Kev, or at least that’s how it seems. Of course he must exert some control over them, and the fact that this story may be purposefully constructed is always in the back of the reader’s mind. At one point Kev starts walking and doesn’t stop, wandering the open land for a couple days before returning home. A commenter points out that Sims don’t normally do this, and it’s entirely possible that Robin made Kev go away so Alice could have a chance to bond with a neighbor. But exactly how much control Robin exerts over the Sims is irrelevant, it’s how much control he’s perceived to exert that matters. And since he doesn’t mention himself much in each post, his presence is easily forgotten.

By removing himself, the player, from the story, Robin has switched the focus to the characters. The blog becomes a story about the Sims, not of someone playing The Sims. This makes it more appealing because it seems as if this story doesn’t have an author. Even though it’s clearly a straight narrative, since the characters are the focus and the player is (almost) nowhere to be seen, events feel natural, spontaneous, and unpredictable. There’s an authenticity to their actions: Even though they may just be AI, the AI is making these decisions on its own. The possibilities of what these Sims might do, free from any player input, is just as fascinating as the actual story of their lives. 

The blog is on hiatus now, but there are more than enough posts already written to introduce new readers and make them care. No matter what comes next, “Alice and Kev” has proved itself to be a unique kind of story: Part game, part documentary, Robin has turned the open world of The Sims 3 into a directed social commentary. I don’t know when the posts will resume again, but I know I’ll be watching closely.

by Timothy Gabriele

31 Jul 2009

Hot Chip redo “Transmission”, reduce the urgency, shove in some groovy vocoder, and crank up the balearic steel drums. Not nearly as bad as it sounds, but definitely a pale shade of the original.

by Tommy Marx

31 Jul 2009

In 1985, Paul Hardcastle, a talented jazz musician, released a single that topped the dance chart, reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100, and spent five weeks as the number one song in the United Kingdom. And his inspiration was an ABC television documentary on the Vietnam War.

It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely hit. Hardcastle combined an instrumental track with Peter Thomas discussing post-traumatic stress disorder, added a disco beat and a group of women singing, “All those who remember the war, they won’t forget what they’ve seen,” and had a massive hit. More amazingly, he took what could have been a cheesy or disrespectful disaster and ended up with a compelling recording that reminded a younger generation that war comes at an incredibly high price.

Although Paul Hardcastle never had another track chart on the Billboard Hot 100, he recently won the Billboard Smooth Jazz “Artist of the Year” award for 2008 and continues to be a well-respected artist. Hardcastle’s producer back in 1985, Simon Fuller (creator of American Idol), named his management company 19 Entertainment after the song.

And 24 years later, teenagers are still fighting in wars and dying thousands of miles from home.

by PopMatters Staff

30 Jul 2009

Dam-Funk
Toeachizown
(Stones Throw)
Releasing: 27 October (US)

SONG LIST
01 Toeachizown
02 Mirrors
03 (My Funk Goes) On & On
04 LAtrifying
05 Let’s Take Off (Far Away!)
06 Tunnels
07 Searchin’ 4 Funk’s Future
08 Flying V Ride
09 Candy Dancin’
10 Burn Straight Thru U
11 10 West
12 I Wanna Know
13 Rollin’
14 Love Is Here 2nite (I Can Feel It)
15 Could I Be Losing Another Lover?
16 Show Me the Way U Feel
17 One Less Day
18 I Wanna Thank U (4 Steppin’ Into My Life)

CD #2
01 Brookside Park
02 Hood Pass Intact
03 Kill ‘Dat aka Killdatmuthafu*ka
04 Mobbin’ Thru Busters
05 Boogie Slyde
06 Come On Outside
07 The Sky Is Ours
08 Nu-Frontiers
09 Spacecapades
10 Fantasy
11 Keep Lookin’ 2 the Sky

Dam-Funk
“Toeachizown” [MP3]
     

by PopMatters Staff

30 Jul 2009

Neon Indian
Milky Ways
(Lefse)
Releasing: 13 October (US)

SONG LIST
01 (AM)r†
02 Deadbeat Summer
03 Laughing Gas
04 Terminally Chill
05 (If I Knew, I’d Tell You)
06 6669 (i dont know if you know)
07 Should Have Taken Acid With You
08 Mind, Drips
09 Psychic Chasms
10 Local Joke
11 Ephemeral Artery
12 7000 (reprise)

Neon Indian
“Should Have Taken Acid With You” [MP3]
     

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Searching for Wholesome Online Fun: LDS Gamers

// Moving Pixels

"While being skeptical about the Church ever officially endorsing video games, LDS gamers remains hopeful about the future, knowing that Mormon society is slowly growing to appreciate gaming.

READ the article