Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 10:00 on 13-04-2012, Rami
Originality, mostly. I'd like Fb to look a bit less like no effort had been put into it ;-)
at 09:18 on 13-04-2012, Arthur B
Just to help us pick, what criteria is the new font meant to fulfil that the old one didn't?
at 01:24 on 13-04-2012, Rami
Alignment issues should be fixed. New font(s) remain in trial for now; I'll have to do some more poking around, though, and suggested fonts welcome! (Ideally ones I can use e.g.
at 01:15 on 13-04-2012, Dan H
Same on my screen.

I confess to not being wild about the new font.
at 00:40 on 13-04-2012, Arthur B
On my screen the left-hand line P in "playpen" points to the middle of "e" in "Welcome" when it should be starting in line with the W...
at 00:38 on 13-04-2012, Rami
Indents on titles? Those shouldn't be there...

I'm experimenting a bit with new fonts, etc -- please bear with me, just trying to make FB a little snazzier!
at 00:37 on 13-04-2012, Arthur B
(Also the indents on titles are doing my head in.)
at 00:33 on 13-04-2012, Arthur B
Ow, the new font is hurting my eyes (it's too light against the white background and I'm having to strain to read...).
at 17:09 on 11-04-2012, James D
Just read The Moon Moth by Jack Vance, definitely one of his better short stories. He often writes about societies with bizarre modes of self-expression, sometimes involving music (as in Maske: Thaery) but this one features it as the central point of the story.

Vance slips in his typically sardonic social commentary, as the Sirenese society uses its vast wealth not to help one another but to establish a punishing social hierarchy that enslaves or excludes those at the lowest ranks, while idolizing self-sufficiency. Luck (and by extent, privilege) is an insulting concept, and everything good or bad is believed to be earned by the individual. There is the illusion of social mobility, in that any Sirenese (or even off-world) individual can wear any of their highly ritualized masks and thus appear as whatever social status they might want; however, pulling that off depends on their ability to express themselves using a large number of small, complicated musical instruments that are used to accompany conversation. A person perceived as playing above his station, especially an off-worlder, is quickly killed.

The protagonist is an off-world ambassador, who must navigate the Sirenese social complexities in order to catch a criminal, but the plot is more or less a frame for Vance's vibrant worldbuilding. I haven't read a lot of Vance's short stories outside of the Dying Earth anthology, but I think I'll have to track down a collection, if this is any indication of their quality.
at 13:24 on 11-04-2012, Wardog
Also I currently feel like my entire Internet life has devolved into watching Hunger Games parodies but ... well ... hot female Caesar Flickerman singing surely deserves special mention.
at 13:14 on 11-04-2012, Wardog
This is kind of tickling me. It's from what looks like an AWFUL (British?) reality TV show about ... err ... speed dating and publication humiliation, as much as I can tell. And, needless to say, is probably sexist as fuck BUT this clip (which is all of the show I've seen) is rather entertaining. I suspect it's the most sincere conversation two people can potentially have on that show :)
at 15:16 on 10-04-2012, James D
Yeah, it was pretty clear that they abandoned any attempts at serious sci-fi after the first game, and turned to more pulpy adventure stuff. Still, I thought the revelation that the Reapers reproduced via genocide was neat. I guess that was one of the dilemmas with the third game; in the first it's revealed that Sovereign itself is a Reaper, and that they're this race of giant spaceships that come back every 50K years to kill everything, in the second it's revealed that they're actually a combination of synthetic and organic life and reproduce by melting entire races down into goop, so what's left to reveal about them, really? Where they came from, of course, but considering that they originated millions of years in the past, how would the characters ever find out? It's hard to imagine a way that didn't just involve the players being told through ham-handed exposition, but it's pretty hard to imagine something worse than what they did. The game has way more problems than just the ending. The whole idea of the Catalyst is stupid as shit and completely neuters the Reapers. Might as well have just straight-up told the players "God did it, but for stupid reasons that Shepard can prove wrong in a sidequest."

Oh well, at least the gameplay is fun.
at 21:19 on 09-04-2012, Arthur B
These are all good arguments and I don't particularly disagree with any of them.

Then again we should have both seen this coming in ME2 with its expertly-placed buttshot camera angles.
at 20:08 on 09-04-2012, James D
Actually I found that somewhat easier to get my head around, given that the body was designed for infiltration, and it could be argued that big jugs might help distract guards or something. Yes, it's certainly the cheap way out of the human/AI romance plotline, but it's not like I came into Mass Effect 3 expecting thoughtful exploration of that sort of pithy sci-fi 'can a humnan and a machine FIND LOVE?' conundrum. Plus, the characters actually remark on EDI's appearance (read: big tits), unlike Ashely, whose huge change in appearance just goes wholly unnoticed. Her previously (relatively) tomboyish appearance was an important physical expression of her character, and to have that wiped away without comment to apparently provide more boner-fodder is tremendously insulting. It'd be like if Jack showed up sans tattoos and it was never explained or remarked upon.
at 19:41 on 09-04-2012, Arthur B
It is annoying.

What's really profoundly annoying is the way they gave EDI a body. Mostly because the design of the body competes with the other characters for Most Objectified NPC. But also there's a part of me which mourns the fact they chose to gave EDI a humanoid body at all. The idea of a man falling in love with an AI is a fascinating SF concept which is eviscerated if you actually give the AI in question a tangible body which can cuddle him (provided it isn't too strong of a cuddle, he's got that brittle bones issue), because once you do that then it's not a story about a man falling in love with a disembodied voice with a brain the size of the planet, it's a story about a man falling in love with a sexbot.
at 19:16 on 09-04-2012, James D
Sorry if everyone's sick of hearing about Mass Effect 3 around here, but does it bother anyone else that the female characters all seem to have gotten boob jobs since the previous games? Seriously, Ashley certainly did not have such gargantuan jugs in Mass Effect 1, nor did her armor accentuate said assets to such an extreme degree. On top of that, she seems to be wearing lots of makeup all the time, and her hair is now loose, instead of in a practical bun, as it used to be and as might be expected of a goddamn combat soldier.

It wouldn't bug me so much if they hadn't already established her as a tomboyish career soldier in the first game, and here they go putting her in Barbie armor and 'fridging' her for (so far) the whole time I've been playing. Seriously, did Ashley really need to be hypersexualized like that? Are there gamers out there whose dollars would be won or lost by the cup sizes of the female leads?
at 00:28 on 06-04-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
Excellent! We are in accord!
at 19:55 on 05-04-2012, Andy G
"I don't think you could ever arrive with a definition that would include everything considered of the genre fantasy and exclude everything considered something else" I agree with that.

"The problem comes when we begin to use such definitions to exclude literature, which will happen if we try to define it too closely" I agree with that too - but that just means we shouldn't try to define it too closely!

"In other words, I don't know what fantasy(or scifi) is, but I know it when I see it." Exactly, that's why we don't even *need* precise definitions.
at 19:50 on 05-04-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
Sorry, didn't see your later post. I agree with that as well, but I don't think you could ever arrive with a definition that would include everything considered of the genre fantasy and exclude everything considered something else. And that is the heart of my argument. That genre might be a helpful term but you shouldn't let it actually hinder you in any way.
at 19:48 on 05-04-2012, Janne Kirjasniemi
Andy: Yes, I agree. But I would argue that at least your example would be on a very superficially descriptive level. And I have no problem with such usage. The problem comes when we begin to use such definitions to exclude literature, which will happen if we try to define it too closely. Of course genres as such is a modern creation and it would be anachronistic to define historical literature as such, especially if we try to pigeonhole stuff into these genre categories. But for me at least, fantasy literature is a mixture of very different influences from very different sources and while the category of fantasy helps me to find new books or likeminded souls in the world, I do not like it to go much deeper than that. In other words, I don't know what fantasy(or scifi) is, but I know it when I see it.
at 19:33 on 05-04-2012, Andy G
I'm being nitpicky obviously. Saying you hate all fantasy is a pretty big generalisation. But I think you could pick out a breadth of really good authors from within fantasy as it is generally understood without having to reach out to Kafka and co.
at 19:27 on 05-04-2012, Andy G
@Janne: I agree that genre concepts have vague amorphous edges. But just because the edges are vague, it doesn't mean that anything goes. You can imagine that the concept of "fantasy" *could* conceivably be extended to include things like myths and legends, but the fact that it *could* hypothetically be extended doesn't mean that it actually *does* apply to those things. If someone said they were a massive fan of fantasy but it turned out that what they liked was myths, legends and magic realism and no multi-volume epics with elves and barbarians, you'd say they didn't really understand how to use the concept of "fantasy".
at 18:52 on 05-04-2012, James D
I just don't think you can limit fantasy like that, and I'm not sure there are *any* tropes or conventions that you can assign that apply to *all* fantasy, besides the incredibly broad 'includes a significant amount of elements which clearly couldn't exist in the real world.' Tropes and conventions are more the stuff of subgenres, like dragons & elves fantasy or dark urban fantasy or grimdark epic fantasy or whatever. Even basic stuff like magic, or being set in an invented world, are far from universal.