My lens grew woozy when, from atop the manmade boulder, I showed it the view down, where Pearce and Valle were talking about one facet of life or another. It refused to look all the way down, and instead focused on the edges of the boulder around us, the handholds I would have to cling to for my descent.
These heights are nothing to fear. I’ve fallen many times from them, sometimes rather inelegantly, and always stood up again to continue climbing. Take care as you move upwards, though – the walls will sometimes bite.
what is gathered will disperse
Walking down into the Bart system sometimes feels like descending into the belly of a dragon, its thick breath rising out as you enter. It holds the accumulated breaths of tens of thousands of people, the heat radiating from those many bodies, and the scents of grease and dust swept in by their legs from every entry point in the city. Today that breath seemed unusually sickly; summer has given the great dragon a fever, perhaps.
I like the city well enough, but I am amazed at how much better I feel once I arrive back in Berkeley. The crowds are gone, the traffic is softer, there are trees whispering and wind chimes singing; it is very much as if I’ve been carrying around some added weight in the city, and it’s immediately removed when I step out of the Bart station.
There are people who live and work entirely in the dense areas of the city. I wonder how they feel when they travel to rural places, and so much of the constant noise they’ve grown accustomed to is hushed.
like an ancient day
I ate on the lawn by cupid’s abandoned bow again, and as I sat there the heavy summer sun wicked water from the grass, leaving it suspended in droplets on the underside of my salad lid. When the meal was gone and the debris packed away inside, I saw these little refracted worlds on the surface.
It was lovely to be out, but as I walked back to worked I felt sun-sapped, ready for a nap – summer is built for lazy days.
seasons wait for you now
More and more over the past few years I’ve come to view creative works – books, movies, music, video games, comics – as the product of a fellow human, something personally crafted, driven by inspiration and flawed like every person is, rather than as something materialized from the void by deep magic. Even if I am not as much of a creator, I’m seeing artists as peers, and the things they make as part of the lives they live, and that’s letting me appreciate creative pieces in a different way.
Through the creator of the PICO-8 I learned about this game, Strawberry Cubes, in which the world is constructed of cellular automata, growing and shifting in an aesthetic that straddles the line between mechanical and organic. You need to see it in motion to appreciate it; for a game working with such a simple palette it’s very eerie.
Loren Schmidt kept using the hashtag #altgames, which I’d never heard of, so I did some exploring. It turns out to be something of a subset of Indie game development; there seems to be a community growing around the concept, but it’s so young that most of the explanations online are made of clouds of Twitter messages.
@erichermit says: to me it’s like, making the game you want to play or tells the story you want tot ell w/o compromising for wide appeal?
@lectronice says: #indiedev is for people who want to make games to live, #altgames is for people who want to live to make games.
@inurashii says: To me, #altgames are works with alternative audience goals. They may be for a niche, or everybody, or the author themselves… …but the goal of #altgames is, in my belief, to evoke an emotion or set of emotions in the audience(s). To make them feel something.
(These tweets found here)
In short, these are games made by individuals driven by creative expression rather than by what’s profitable in the gaming industry. Altgames are tiny worlds to explore, or encapsulated emotions, or just an aesthetic to submerge yourself in for a moment, and I think that’s wonderful.
A lot of altgame talk discussed the economic difficulties of it: creators who want to create something that pretty much by definition is not marketable, that will appeal to only a few people (but hopefully resonate deeply with some of them). The quandary is how we go about supporting creators like this, who are working so hard in such a niche field.
There is also a strange sort of moral question to it – should these people even be spending so much time on work that few others will appreciate? It would have been an absurd use of time long ago, when every hand was needed for communities to survive, but we are reaching a point where very little human labor will be necessary to support everyone, and on that path to a post-scarcity economy, artist exploration will be so important.
I want to create, too; but I have decided thus far to be practical about things, to make a decent living instead of dedicating all of my time to creating. This does free my from a lot of economic stress, and in my remaining free time I can still make things – albeit slowly. What’s more, I afford to help support these other creators. Strawberry Cubes comes out on Thursday, and I’m looking forward to seeing what strange worlds Loren Schmidt has crafted.
It’s good to eat outside, to sit and absorb the sun-soaked world and remember how real it is. I’ve had a fair number of summers already, but the seasons are so well designed that whenever they return they feel like new again, and I’m always amazed at how lively the trees can be.
I’m light as a feather
Laurel and I had separate days today, but they began and ended in the same place. I went off to climb in the city, then built automated tests for Jacob’s site all evening; Laurel and Barbie went to play with kittens and then watched Netflix together, as they are wont to do.
I left home late tonight to be back here, even though Laurel was just about asleep already. It’s good we’re moving in together soon – it’s hard having a split home like this.
We’ll have trees to welcome us home instead of a hollow corridor, and I think that will be lovely.
talk things through
We went to watch some hollywood dinosaurs tonight – dragons, really, scaly creatures molded to match the bones we unearthed in the last hundred years. The story was almost self-consciously absurd, all explosions and claws and inevitable Movie Moments, but fun all the same.
I like this bridge we cross over to get to the theater – cool concrete with messages scrawled here and there, the train tracks passing beneath us, and a view of some peculiar colored fans, each spinning at different speeds, if you look over the edge.
It’s a good day for a lot of people today.