Offworld Monday reflection: Now with one hundred percent more digital plants

Our Monday reflection is a regular weekly 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. Sign up here to receive this digest each week via email—it's a great way to avoid missing anything.

Latest Features

Juliet Kahn's debut feature at Offworld is an exploration of the different ways boys and girls tend to be socialized around video games. Interestingly, it takes the shape of a dialogue with her sister, who confidently explains that while there are exceptions to the rule, most girls she knows have internalized all kinds of messages about who games are really intended for. Lots of women I know had a similar story: They loved games as adolescents and young teens, but grew apart from them as they grew up, while boys entrenched.

An exceptional video murder mystery called Contradiction: Spot the Liar set me off on a reminiscence on the "FMV" era of games: You know, live actors and filmic techniques to often dubious effects. Fundamentally I think an arbitrary quest for "realism" or "more Hollywood" often results in some wrong turns for game design, but the endlessly charming and funny Contradiction captures everything we love about that weird lobe of history and none of the worst bits.


Offworld games

Oh my god, we had so many games about nature. It was, like, nature week at Offworld. Do you like gardening? You can do it with a soda-powered jetpack underground, on a sunless alien planet, or with a cute ghost. Calmly re-assemble the pieces of a broken pot as you reflect on your life. Calmly soar on the wind as a flock of birds. Calmly die in a lurid forest.

You are one of us, now. Here is some creepy stuff to do with Sonic the Hedgehog, in case you ever miss the boring, old kind of video game.

Transmissions from elsewhere

The friendly crew of board game clowns at Shut Up & Sit Down recently returned from GenCon, a great big board game convention in Indiana. You know, I love board game conventions, because I have the liberty of only optionally working in physical games when I feel like it. I attended the UK Board Game Expo after a particularly stressful week of video game assholes on Twitter, and it was like a balm: A room full of earnest folks in World War II costumes, men in top hats really eager for you to try the card game they drew about pirate rabbits, and people trying to build tiny scaffolds with colorful cranes tied to their heads (a real game that I forget the name of). I often find people at board game conventions to be more sociable than the ones at video game things, probably because if board game fans weren't good at getting along face to face they wouldn't have anybody to play with.

You should totally watch this GenCon video, because it's incredibly funny and I'm really proud of my friends and colleagues Quinns, Matt and Pip for doing such a good job sharing the heart and spirit of the board game fandom. And also because I sing a jingle halfway through.

And speaking of playing in person, Hannah Nicklin has a wonderful piece on the work of Holly Gramazio, a designer who genuinely understands the universality of play, doesn't seem to be really bothered with the insistent designations that "video games" place upon designed interaction.

I am friends with everybody I just recommended you read/watch. It is one year on from "GamerGate" and I now have my own video game website I use to celebrate the work of the people I like and whom I think have accomplished interesting things. Nyah, nyah, I won.

Not Games

Photo by Ian Hughes [via]

Photo by Ian Hughes [via]

Hayley Campbell's work at BuzzFeed often involves photos of death masks and naked skeletons and skin carpets and scary things like that (I think she is winning too), but the latest photo gallery she posted contains some absolutely wonderful cruise ship photos from the 1990s, left behind by partygoers who never retrieved their branded memorabilia. The photographs, taken by Ian Hughes, are especially great at capturing the thing I imagine is awkward about cruises: You must have fun; you may not exit the watercraft. You are with these people for the duration.

Hayley also challenges us to remember all the women Lou Bega likes in his 1999 earworm "Mambo No. 5". I forgot Pamela. Try not to forget Pamela.