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Ryan Burke's otherworldly photos are better than sci-fi

A photographer and makeup artist based in New York City, Ryan Burke creates characters from the best sci-fi series you've never seen.

"The portraits I create express a perspective on human styling that does not rely on conventional clothing, hair, makeup or accessories but rather an aesthetic derived from the use of unusual materials and makeup to create otherworldly personas," writes Burke. (Some images may be NSFW.)

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Here's a wistful, intriguing game you need to play this week

strangelife1 Video games can vividly render the memories you can't get back.

Memories such as how it felt when you were in high school, and your best friend's parents got divorced, and when her dad got to take her out to dinner at the weekend, you got to come. And on the way home he was letting you listen to your alt-rock radio, and you just sat there quietly, consumed by feelings you were too young to understand.

Or how it is when you and her are friends and then you're not friends, and then one day you might kind of be friends again, and you return to her house, where you used to play, except this time you're older and everyone's older, and things are achingly familiar and alien at the same time. Or when your friend needs something from you and life is huge and confusing, and you don't quite know what to say. Seriously, there are some video games that can give you that.

The latest of these is Life is Strange, from French team Dontnod Entertainment. A simple, dialogue and environment-driven character study, it follows photography student Max through her transition into a new school. As she navigates cliques, the threadwork of long-dropped relationships, and the pressure of authority figures, she also accidentally stumbles on the unexplained ability to rewind time and to re-do decisions.

lifeisstrange3 If you've ever played any kind of story-driven choice game -- for example, Telltale Games' The Walking Dead series, which is available on basically every platform -- you're familiar with the unique pang that comes with making a decision, realizing it'll haunt you, wondering how you would have felt about a different choice. Life Is Strange, which shares The Walking Dead's episodic format, uses its unique rewind mechanic to answer the sort of nagging what-ifs that pursue any player of story games -- and, fittingly, any person who thinks back to their teen years.

It feels like being able to press your finger into the binding of a Choose Your Own Adventure, in case you want to go back. It's like those half-remembered moments of your own youth, when every word out of your mouth felt crucial, pivotal: Would you re-do, if you could?

The currently-available first episode of Life is Strange is profoundly touching, populated with characters who feel like real kids, dorm rooms and family homes and wistful backyards that feel like real places. Do you remember the first time you, grown a bit bigger, returned to someplace you used to play? You and her, in her room with the posters, letting the music play? You still remember, don't you, what it feels like to make your way through an endless corridor of lockers, bodies and souls, chatter and friction? This game uses memories like these to craft its sentimental high points, even as the time-rewind mechanic promises to make each player's experience as Max feel carefully-chosen and meaningful.

Life is Strange is simple and lovely and anyone can play it. It has a beautiful, handmade-feel diary full of art and stickers for you to read if you get lost or you forget what's going on. If you have a PC, a PS3, a PS4, an Xbox 360 or an Xbox One, you can try the first episode for just $4.99.

Guiding a flock of birds through the sky is surprisingly emotional

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.21.58 AM Behold The Sun, a simple, lovely interactive experience created by Cameron Kunzelman where you guide a growing flock of birds through the sky as the sun slowly sets behind them. I'm not saying it's about brevity of life and how the connections we make to others are ultimately what give existence meaning, but it's not not about that. Play it here.

The creator of a best-selling exercise game on being fat and loving her body

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If you've never tried the fitness app Zombies, Run, imagine a long series of tiny radio plays set during the zombie apocalypse that ask you to run to various locations on crucial missions—with the undead hot on your heels.

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Game illustrates sexual consent using skin contact as the controller

Consent can be an uncomfortable subject, an often-complex and personal form of negotiation that people rarely get a chance to practice outside the moments that precede sexual encounters. Allison Cole, Jessica Rose Marcotte and Zachary Miller of Tweed Couch Games want to help change that with In Tune, an interactive experience that asks people to "negotiate and communicate their own physical boundaries with a partner using skin-to-skin contact as the main controller of the game."

Players form teams of two with someone they trust and don "consent bracelets" that register skin contact. During the game, they're presented with a series of two-person poses that involve varying levels of touching, and must talk to their partner about what which ones they want to emulate, and which ones they want to skip.

Consent is never implicit, and can never be given or taken by only one person. Saying yes to one pose or embrace doesn't carry over to the next one, just like consent doesn't carry over between different sex acts and encounters. It's worth checking out the rules of play for In Tune, which are useful not only for the purposes of the game, but also life:

Remember: Never touch someone without their consistent, enthusiastic and freely given consent. Consent is not a static or stagnant thing; it is a continuing negotiation of comfort levels and boundaries. Consent is not a single action; it is a complicated continuation of actions. Consent can evolve, can be revoked and can never be taken from you.

In Tune, which recently appeared at the Indiecade East gaming conference, offers participants a valuable framework for consent—something that both sex education programs and popular media ideas about romance tend to ignore—and an opportunity to practice it in a safe environment with structured rules. Remember: Even when people understand the idea of consent, that doesn't mean they know how to negotiate the process of giving and asking for it with ease or grace. Practice makes perfect.

Keep Working: a game about the nightmare of consumerism

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If the anti-consumerist ethos of Fight Club were translated into a Minecraft game, it might look a little like Keep Working, an "interactive music video" by a developer known as Bean Chon.

As you navigate your blocky, repetitive life, you're bombarded by pop-up advertisements that turn the world into a sort of walking catalog, admonishing you to stop being a loser and start living the good life."A HARD WORKER WILL BE A SUCCESS," insists the poster over your bed. As your daily grind grows old, and fails to offer these promised rewards, things take a darker turn. Try it out at Game Jolt or Itch.io. (You'll need Unity Web Player to play it.)

Listen: A chiptunes album by the Ninja Gaiden composer

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Keiji Yamagishi, aka the composer of the music for the original Ninja Gaiden, just released a chiptunes album that sounds like an alternate dimension soundtrack to the best NES game that never existed. Listen to Retro-Active Pt. 1 for free here, or download your own copy for $8.

 

This Is The Police, a game about power and corruption

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"You can love the police, you can hate the police, but you can’t argue that the police wield enormous power," writes the team behind This Is the Police, a game currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign. Part strategy game and part corruption simulator, it places you in the shoes of Jack Boyd, a 60-year-old police chief with only six months till retirement. Boyd has only one piece of unfinished business: He wants to make a half a million bucks before he steps down, any way he can.

The next 180 days won’t be just a mad dash for money. Jack will need to keep up his police work too. He’ll send his cops out to handle situations, he’ll coordinate action on scene, monitor the progress of key investigations, oversee the budget, hire and fire – every day, it’s dozens of key decisions that affect countless lives. Even just regular cop business poses lots of problems: a drunken patrolman might gun down a bystander while he’s aiming for an unarmed bully. And it’s not just the staff, it’s the increasingly crazy orders from the mayor's office – not to mention the press and their uncomfortable questions.

Based on the current screenshots, Boyd will also contend with labor disputes, organized crime, sexual harassment issues and protests involving issues of race. This is a Kickstarter project, with all the caveats that implies, but it's exciting to see more games that aspire to address the issues of power and corruption in law enforcement, especially ones that look this stylish. For better or worse, the game also plans to feature the voice of John St. John, aka the voice of Duke Nukem.

Creator of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that influenced games, online culture has died

R.A Montgomery, co-author of children’s book series “Choose Your Own Adventure,” died on Nov. 9 in Vermont. He was 78. Photo courtesy of Shannon Gilligan/Chooseco, LLC


R.A Montgomery, co-author of children’s book series “Choose Your Own Adventure,” died on Nov. 9 in Vermont. He was 78. Photo courtesy of Shannon Gilligan/Chooseco, LLC

Supercomputer_111108_gamebooksorg R.A. Montgomery, co-author and publisher of the long-running children’s book series “Choose Your Own Adventure,” which allowed generations of kids to choose from dozens of possible story endings, recently died at his home in Vermont.

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