Offworld Monday roundup: Nostalgia, magical girls and cybersex


This roundup is a new, regular Monday item here on Offworld, a special satellite transmission designed to highlight our favorite Offworld stories, wonderful trends, and the stories from elsewhere in the galaxy that got us talking.

The Offworld staff had a lot to say about nostalgia last week; days after I took out my sharpest knives to eviscerate the uncritical worship of nostalgia, Leigh burned down the house with her love letter to Final Fantasy VII, the much-beloved 1997 game that inspired joyous freakouts and emotional breakdowns when a remake was recently announced.

I fielded a lot of defensive responses to my piece from people demanding to know "what's wrong with nostalgia???" The answer, of course is that nothing is wrong with nostalgia; like so many things, it is only as good or bad as what we do with it. In her examination of why Final Fantasy VII matters, Leigh digs in deep, explaining the intense fan reaction through the lens of what the game meant to her:

How do I explain this? Do I go right to describing myself at 17 years old, standing at a train station in the winter, freezing in a summer dress, the only dress that looked good on me, hoping to meet my first boyfriend in person, a guy I'd met making up our own Final Fantasy VII characters on America Online? Something something quest for identity and the self, et cetera, safe place, blah blah?

Nostalgia, at its heart is about loss, about the secret passages created in the mind between the past and the present, between the things and people and places we loved, and where we are today; examining the shifting rope bridge you have built across that distance how you find the meaning, the relevance to who you are now.

You were a lonely kid in a small town running around inside a video game world, hoping to know what adulthood and purpose is really like, and you understand, then, that sometimes you can pray and pray and no one will answer. That all kinds of things are going to be taken from you.

One person on Twitter described it as a piece that "dances on the edge of hardened cynic and childlike enjoyment. Best in the field." Damn straight.

Zodiac Starforce

Zodiac Starforce

What happens to a magical girl team after they defeat the bad guy, go back to their regular lives in high school, and start growing apart? That's the question that the upcoming comic book Zodiac Starforce sets out to answer.

I spoke with the creators (and posted a six-page preview of the first issue) via Google hangout, and our chat was so delightful that I couldn't stop myself from sharing some of the excerpts, including our thoughts on the inexplicable bad boyfriends of amazing women:

good-hair (1)

I also read The Joy of Cybersex, a 1993 guide to digital boning that was recently scanned and archived by game developer Anna Anthropy. This 101 introduction to modems, "adult disks" and "teledildonics" is essentially what online sex looked like when the internet was a teenager, and it's awkward, weird, and wonderful. I'm particularly fond of the individual profiles of adult dial-up bulletin boards, the lost, floating sex cities of the internet from a bygone era. Bonus points because the survey is written by a woman, and reflects a bit of the early weirdness of being a lady online.

The forward to the book features a quote from Winston Churchill, and its exploration of virtual reality sex includes this strange and confusing promise:

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 12.35.12 PM

Sleep Furiously was our mobile game recommendation of the week; it is surely the best smartphone word game based on a quote by Noam Chomsky. Leigh also explored five of her favorite examples of mobile phones showing up within games, and got me addicted to Arrow Hero, the simplest rhythm game of all. Oh, and someone is tweeting every item in Katamari Damacy.

Transmissions from Elsewhere

At Polygon, Colin Campbell profiles the team developing the RPG crafting game called Crashlands, and how their perspective shifted profoundly when one of their members, Sam Coster, was diagnosed with Stage 4b cancer at age 23. You don't get much realer than interviews where a cancer survivor says, "If I die after this thing is done, I frankly would be pretty frickin' happy with the last thing I ever made."

Games often create social change in subtle but powerful ways, although occasionally its impact is very direct. The bug-swatting mobile game Mosquito Net has been out since 2013, and thanks to a collaboration between the Nairobi-based game developer Momentum Core and the Kenyan government, it has helped distribute one mosquito net to a family living in a malarial zone for each player who finished the game—over 1,400 nets in total.

Youtube star Pewdiepie inspires a lot of very intense love and hate with what are essentially very silly videos of him playing games, and he's responded to his critics in a surprisingly level-headed video about what he does for a living, how he knows it's a bit of silly, and what he's learned on his career arc from hot dog vendor to Youtube millionaire. As Patricia Hernandez notes, "Pewdiepie is famed for being unhinged while playing video games, but he's a person, too—and this is a video where you can see that shining through."

Over the weekend, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata passed away at the age 55. He's led the company since 2002, only the third president in Nintendo's lifetime, and presided over some of its most interesting and creative strategic moves, including the launch of the Wii. Iwata was well-liked by fans and colleagues, handling public events with a playful, approachable warmth. A programmer since even before he joined Nintendo in 1982, Iwata was one of few major game company CEOs with the heart of a game developer, and he had a stated commitment to avoid layoffs, another rarity for this business.

Kotaku has gathered tributes from all around the internet and social media from Iwata's colleagues, fans and friends, and if you love Nintendo games even just a little, it's tough to read it with a dry eye.

Not Games

Buzzfeed's Joseph Bernstein infiltrated an international teen white supremacist group, and his narration—and analysis—of the experience is indeed amazing.

If you'd like to have your heart broken into several jagged pieces, read this devastating article about the rape revelations in the '70s all-female rock band The Runaways.