Orange alligator alarms South Carolina, internet

An orange alligator has taken up residence in a pond near Charleston, reports the Associated Press, baffling experts and locals alike. The most promising hypothesis for its unnatural color is that it wintered in a rusty culvert. The timely 5-foot metaphor for mindless aggression, complete with tiny stumpy extremities, will shed its skin "soon," assuming it survives long enough to do so.

Photo: Steve Tatum Read the rest

Flint is finished

Pittsburgh has its robots and even Detroit has its dreams, but some rustbelt cities have nothing much left. Flint, Michigan. Read the rest

Video games without people of color are not 'neutral'

The myth of white neutrality persists in the world of gaming, where black characters in fantasy games can be deemed less "realistic" than dragons.

What happens when you don't let players pick their race?

Plenty of people play games to escape their real lives, and the character creators some games offer let us imagine ourselves in whatever image we'd like: realistic or idealized, some version of ourselves. Or someone entirely other -- not just a chance to invent your very own fantasy character, but to live as them, in a sense.

I know a couple where one partner always builds one edition of the other in any game they play that allows for character selection. Isn't that romantic?

I'm also intrigued by the idea a game might take that choice away from me -- where every player has a different avatar, but it's not up to us. Like being born, almost, where we can't choose how we enter the world. Not everyone feels that way, apparently. My colleague Nathan Grayson has just covered the fascinating situation of Rust, where some players are upset to have lost control over their race.

Rust is a popular multiplayer game about surviving in chaos -- I don't play it myself, but my friends tell me haunting stories about scrabbling for resources, fearing one another in the dark. Now, thanks to a recent update, player appearances will be randomized, in order to create a diverse and natural look to the world, and also to make individual players more distinct from one another.

The avatar's physical features will be tied to players' IDs on Steam, the service they use to play Rust, so it'd take a disproportionate effort to attempt to get a new look. Read the rest