RIP Real Life
I realized this week that the Real Life magazine shut down towards the end of last year. In the recent months, as discussions around ChatGPT and LLMs spread like wildfire, I kept opening my RSS reader in hopes that a new essay had been published. My wish (and perhaps discomfort) was somewhat assuaged by thoughtful discussions throughout Hacker News and Mastodon.
Real Life was a great source to assess the impacts of technology from a wide array of angles. And it still is! Technology does not exist in a vacuum, and it is thus never neutral. It essential that as technologists we recognize and attempt to remediate the biases and blind-spots which often plague us.
Godspeed Real Life.
Re: Walking Zelda
Really enjoyed Craig Mod’s latest Ridgeline transmission for various reasons. He talks about his recent experience playing Zelda Breath of the Wild, and how that relates to his childhood, his walks in Japan, among other things.
You can then, as a 40-year-old grown-ass adult, decide to buy an OLED Switch and install Zelda: Breath of the Wild and commit a silly amount of time to not just beating the game (of course) but to walking and exploring and communing with that other self, that on-the-school-bus self, that surrounded-by-fear (so much fear, violence, nearby) self.
This part resonated with me. I’m not a 40-years-old grown-ass yet, but I’m on my way there. Videogames also played an important role in my upbringing. Over the years all sorts of games gifted my hours of great time: Pokemon, Zelda, Mario, Runescape, Halo, Warcraft, Age of Empires, Dota, etc.
And then, sometime in my early twenties video games left quietly through the back door. I can hypothesize a couple of reasons for this, but Craig makes a very clear point. It becomes harder to justify the time you need to invest into a video game. Notice how the words justify and invest crept up on me there. Back in the day I did not dare to put video games in a formula. But suddently, playing video games felt like a grind because for some reason I thought they were only worth playing if I got to the end with as little of a time commitment as possible.
Most of the time we just walked. We’d see a mountain on the horizon and go climb it – projected on the wall in a dark room, us sitting on beanbags on the floor. In the game we’d build a fire, marvel at the stars, sleep our character until dawn, wake to catch the sunrise. It was always a walk worth taking.
So maybe that’s a reason. Economic thinking makes its way in and suddenly we see playing video games as a zero-sum situation. That is not say that interests and hobbies do not shift over time, or that priorities change, etc. But you get the point. Nothing stops us from learning from younger versions of ourselves, and play just because.
Re: Buoyed by the flood
From Robin Sloan’s latest lab article.
So many choices —moral, economic, aesthetic—are vexing, ambiguous, legitimately challenging. This choice is easy. The pop-up increases newsletter subscriptions, and eventually sales: so what? Let them go. Earn that attention and business in better ways. Participate in the production of a shared space that is beautiful and respectful, rather than the opposite.
I appreciate Robin’s callout to eschew behaviors which we have been conditioned to adopt, just because. What else can we do without?
I’m experimenting with a different format here. Notes is my own feed of notes, thoughts, or comments. In IndieWeb parlance, a microblog. In the past I’ve relied on Twitter and, most recently, Mastodon for this. Maybe I’ll syndicate, maybe not. For now, my own thought garden.