Offworld Monday Reflection: Desert wars, desert horror, and Encarta on acid


Last Week on the Colony 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.

Here's a bit of exciting news: I've set up a TinyLetter for all friends of Offworld to subscribe to, so that you can receive our Monday reflection direct to your inbox. You know, just in case you don't browse the site every single day, or whatever. This is where we gather Offworld features, our favorite little games, and the things that have been on our mind from the week previous. Subscribe here and you'll never miss our best weekly stuff, and we promise we won't send you anything else. Except maybe warm wishes and rare secrets from time to time.

Latest Features

Maxwell Neely-Cohen, author of the novel Echo of the Boom, donated to Offworld this magnificent, fascinating piece on the complicated and multifaceted relationship between the zillion-dollar war video games industry and the real thing. It starts with the time he watched secret games of Counter-Strike between the IDF and Hezbollah, includes reflections from veterans, and places the war game juggernaut in wider context. I thought it was wonderful journalism and that we are lucky to have it.

I wrote an entirely-unplanned piece on some of the works of Jack King-Spooner, after I was prompted to revisit his extensive portfolio and then fell right in. These truly are remarkable games, provocative mixed-media poetic spaces—accessible to play, at turns charming and disturbing. Read about the game that ends with a guided medidation from a Play-Doh cowboy, or the one whose genuinely touching spiritual climax has an unfinished-looking sort of doll-figure singing Beyonce's "Halo" to you in a computer voice.

Offworld Games

I really, truly had fun with the medium on Offworld this week. Not that I don't always (who am I kidding; I don't always), but it's just consistently delightful to run around other people's imaginations in this way.

My favorite discovery of last week was Kitty Horrorshow's CHYRZA, a short, simple but affecting retrofuturist desert horror game abstractly about a pilgrimage and a pyramid. I just fell absolutely in love with it (and the README file warning that comes with it, about avoiding the file should it have appeared on your machine without your invitation)—read all about it and try it for yourself. We'll look into more of Kitty Horrorshow's work in the next couple weeks here at Offworld.


CHYRZA is not a new game, but here at Offworld we like to find ways to reject the traditional video games valueset whereby only new things are interesting. With that in mind Laura chose Tomorrow Corporation's Little Inferno as last week's Mobile Game of the Week. I'd actually forgotten about that one, and forgot it was on mobile, so it was really nice to revisit it through her eyes.

If you somehow missed hearing about the Ernest Hemingway-themed The Old Man Club, you should absolutely try it. It's a good one to send to your friends who don't like games, as an example about how simple mechanical exercises can create complex thought spaces. As you unrelentingly click your mouse to arm-wrestle absurdly-brawny opponents with fish heads, you naturally meditate on the stubborn masculinity that's the focus of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea.

We played a web-based interactive storybook called ENOUGH, which was spiritually and aesthetically transfxing; people like to use the word "trippy" anytime they see pretty colors, but this subterranean, luminescent digital artwork really feels like a journey. I've never been so happy to have applied the phrase "acid-dipped Microsoft Encarta CD-ROM".


This collection of tiny virtual cartridges from Farfin is a great find, too. You'll like them.

Transmissions from Elsewhere

Our friend Jenn Frank is back writing about video games. I hope she never quits again. You know, sometimes I feel like telling everybody I'm quitting, just to see what happens. I'll go away to an island on vacation for a month and hopefully I will return to a full inbox about what a shame it is and what a treasure I am.

…That probably wouldn't happen to me. But everyone is rightly very glad that Jenn is writing game stuff again. Her review of half-baked city builder Lethis: Path of Progress is just… you know, how it's done. She deftly illustrates the arc of lost trust and interest she felt as she dutifully persisted with it.

Not Games

Recently poet and former Spin Magazine writer Joshua Clover told, in a long series of Tweets, the story of how he surrendered a cushy arrangement living in France on lucrative contract to the music publication, right alongside September 11. Someone has Storified it and I really liked reading it, not just thanks to Clover's smart pacing as a storyteller, but because fundamentally I admire the way he thinks: Particularly when he has that moment of realization that he may not, in fact, be part of a journalistic cadre of savvy tastemakers, but may actually, basically, be writing adverts to sell CDs to kids.

The moment when you have that fear is really when you should leave. So many of us are still here, aren't we.