Results


Could Ms. Pac-Man Train the Next Generation of Military Drones?

The New Yorker

Thirty-five years ago, while Martin Amis was writing "Money," one of the novels that defined the nineteen-eighties, he admitted to a distracting dalliance with another contemporary icon. "I have spent weeks in a PacMan-fed stupor, unwilling and unable to think about anything else," he wrote in "Invasion of the Space Invaders," his "addict's guide" to the nascent arcade. Amis was not alone in his obsession. The Japanese-made game, in which players guide an auto-munching yellow head through a Daedalian maze, consuming a trail of pellets while fleeing four candy-tone ghosts, earned more than a billion dollars in quarters in its first year, surpassing the highest-grossing "Star Wars" film at the time. Pac-Man towered, Amis wrote, over "a vast garbage dump of rocky romances and wrecked careers."


Alternate Endings

The New Yorker

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, young directors who go by the joint film credit Daniels, are known for reality-warped miniatures--short films, music videos, commercials--that are eerie yet playful in mood. Bloch called his software Treehouse and his company Interlude--the name hinting at a cultural gap between video games and movies which he sought to bridge. In Borges's telling, the novel remained a riddle--chaotic, fragmentary, impenetrable--for more than a century, until a British Sinologist deciphered it: the book, he discovered, sought to explore every possible decision that its characters could make, every narrative bifurcation, every parallel time line. Conversely, making choices in a video game often produces emotional withdrawal: players are either acquiring skills or using them reflexively to achieve discrete rewards.


On the Ranch with the Creators of "Westworld"

The New Yorker

My day job, in lieu of teaching creative writing like a normal person, is writing scripts for blockbuster video games. Last summer, while I watched a play-through of the then-unreleased Gears of War 4, for which I was the lead writer, something odd happened. The game's story called for a massive plane crash, out of which a single robot, operatically aflame, was intended to stride toward the player. Within the game's fiction, robots have hitherto opposed the player, but we wanted this particular burning robot to pose no immediate threat. The game programmers had thus switched off the hostility driven by the robot's artificial intelligence, allowing the player to walk past the hapless robot or shoot it.


All Alone in No Man's Sky

The New Yorker

If reality is a game--a vast, snow-globe-y sort of experiment that plays out according to the hard rules of physics and the loose rules of story--then it is, in contemporary game-design parlance, a persistent one. We enter it when it is already under way, and we hope, for the sake of our children, that we exit before it's finished. There are advantages and drawbacks for those who, like us, have arrived to this game relatively late. While we benefit from the invention of penicillin, of airplanes, of the Internet, we also suffer antibiotic resistance, looming climate disaster, online comments. And one pleasure enjoyed by our forebears, now largely denied to us, is the thrill of cartographic discovery.