Games

Games Into Space

What game would we put on a satellite to be seen by alien life someday?

On September 9th, 2008 the United Nations announced they would be launching a probe into outer-space. Its main goal would be to take photos of several of Jupiter’s moons, do a closer fly-by of Pluto, and eventually launch itself into the heliosphere that lies on the outskirts of our solar system. As with the original Voyager satellites, several discs and storage devices would be equipped on it so that anyone who found it could gain a better understanding of our species. Thanks to advances in data storage, several terabytes worth of data could now be stored on the Satellite that would be christened ‘Cheng Ho One’ after the famous Chinese explorer. In addition to the thousands of songs, photos, movies, and books being stored on the satellite, it has been decided by the committee that a video game should be stored on it. As with all the other media on the satellite, public internet forums were opened in all great nations so that the entire global community could decide which game would be placed on the satellite. The following is various excerpts from the transcript of those debates.

12:24:32

PudgePacket : Firsties! And Call of Duty 4 is defenetly what we shuld put on there!

DukeMa : I don’t see why we should have to do just one game. Some games I love: Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Mass Effect, Psychonauts, and Final Fantasy should definitely all be on there!

PudgePacket : wtf, no one has ever heard of those games and even if they do they suck becuase no one has heard of them

Frank D : I think we should remember that this is the game by which an alien species is going to judge our entire race. How do we even explain the nature of a game to another species? How do we explain that violence as recreation is not the same thing as actual war? We don’t want to gi- COMMENT EXCEEDS FORUM POSTING LIMIT

DukeMa : @ PudgePacket

They’re all great games and would definitely be great if an alien species saw them. They’re all perfect classics and just because they’re old doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be good picks for going into Cheng Ho.

JoeBlow : @ DukeMa

Good God, those games are considered old? What about Duke Nukem, Populous, or just plain old Super Mario Brothers? We also can’t rule out something like the original SpaceWar! It was the first video game after all.

Frank D : Actually, SpaceWar wasn’t necessarily the first game ever made. If we look at the pure ludological and anthropological history of games then we ca- COMMENT EXCEEDS FORUM POSTING LIMIT

4:15:54

MegaMagi224 : Look, I’m not saying Halo 3 is a bad game. But you yourself said I wouldn’t truly appreciate the game unless I played the entire trilogy, read all the backstory, and the thrown-away screenplays.

PudgePacket : Screw the fanboys! And did someone up there say Tomb Raider? Rolling on floor. Laughing my ass off.

Frank D : Pudge, Tomb Raider may be a bit ridiculous in terms of Lara’s physical proportions but she’s also a strong, independent woman in a sea of games about saving the Princess.

PudgePacket : COMMENT DELETED DUE TO PROFANITY

xxgirltankxx Hey, I’m a girl and I don’t think that! I think we should put Fallout on there. Their the best RPG’s around because you could do anything you wanted!

Megator99 @ xxgirltankxx

A game about how we nuked ourselves into oblivion and then kept fighting and nuking ourselves anyways? I’m not really sure that’s what we want on a satellite that an alien species might pick up. I’m with whoever up above said Halo.

JoeBlow9943 : Oh right, a video game about our war with the first alien species we ever met. That’d be great. Dumbass. These are some of my favorite games: Ico, Road Rage, Pain Killer, and definitely Psychonauts.

10:19:04

Frank D : Look, I’m sure we all appreciate the suggestion of PacMan. But sockpuppeting the forums and voting for it over and over again isn’t getting us anywhere.

CrapTalk33 : Has anyone said Shadow of the Colossus yet? Because that game is amazing.

xxgirltankxx : Dude, most of the people who play that game who are human don’t understand what the Hell is going on, why would a space alien? I think it should be Psychonauts.

Frank D : OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! IT’S JUST A QUIRKY AND INTERESTING GAME. The necessity of an acrimonious army of fans supporting it can’t change that fact. It’s just the gaming equivalent of the wacky B movie. We need something that is representative of the entire glo- COMMENT EXCEEDS FORUM POSTING LIMIT

TechMachek : Maybe we should have the most technologically advanced game? I think Crysis is the best looking game out there.

MegaMagi75 : Yeah right, I doubt even the space aliens have a computer that can run it. Has anyone checked the South Korean forums yet? They all unanimously voted for Starcraft. I don’t really like RTS games though. Has anyone said Call of Duty 4 yet? I think that should go.

Frank D : COMMENT DELETED DUE TO PROFANITY

The forums closed after three days of heated debate. The Cheng Ho committee, after reviewing the forums, were unable to conclude which game the video game discussion had selected. Having never played games themselves and no proper understanding of what games were considered good, they instead decided to save space and put the complete collection of Everybody Loves Raymond where the video game would’ve gone. Not wanting the gaming community to be left out, they did include a game that the committee itself selected: the Flying Toaster Screensaver.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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Features

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Nonetheless, there are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. There are singers tackling deep, universal matters of the heart and mind. Artists continuing to mess around with a genre that can sometimes seem fixed, but never really is. Musicians and singers have been experimenting within the genre forever, and continue to. As Charlie Worsham sings, "let's try something new / for old time's sake." - Dave Heaton

10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton



9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton



8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge



7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge



6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

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Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

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