Symposium, May 7th: Kentucky Route Zero


EMILY: (To Ben) One of the first uses of the term grotesque to denote a literary genre is in Montaigne’s Essays. The Grotesque is often linked with satire and tragicomedy. It is an effective artistic means to convey grief and pain to the audience, and for this has been labeled by Thomas Mann as the “genuine antibourgeois style”.

BEN: Literary works of mixed genre are occasionally termed grotesque, as are “low” or non-literary genres such as pantomime and farce. Gothic writings often have grotesque components in terms of character, style and location. In other cases, the environment described may be grotesque – whether urban (Charles Dickens), or the literature of the American south which has sometimes been termed “Southern Gothic”.

BOB: In the 16th century, such artistic license and irrationality was controversial matter. Francisco de Holanda puts a defense in the mouth of Michelangelo in his third dialogue of Da Pintura Antiga, 1548:

“this insatiable desire of man sometimes prefers to an ordinary building, with its pillars and doors, one falsely constructed in grotesque style, with pillars formed of children growing out of stalks of flowers, with architraves and cornices of branches of myrtle and doorways of reeds and other things, all seeming impossible and contrary to reason, yet it may be really great work if it is performed by a skillful artist.”

STEVE: Wow, was that a quote block?

EMILY: Vasari, echoing Vitruvius, described the style as follows:

“Grotesques are a type of extremely licentious and absurd painting done by the ancients … without any logic, so that a weight is attached to a thin thread which could not support it, a horse is given legs made of leaves, a man has crane’s legs, with countless other impossible absurdities; and the bizarrer the painter’s imagination, the higher he was rated”.

STEVE: Well, that seems sort of harsh. Should we Discord at 8:30pm EDT? Is Discord a verb? I guess it is now. Let’s do that.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, April 30, 2020

Minecraft this Thursday! 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT.

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Symposium: Heaven’s Vault, April 2, 2020


This month, we look at Heaven’s Vault (2019). It is available on Steam, GoG, and PS4.

To start the conversation, play (or watch) at least the first hour of Heaven’s Vault (2019). This will give you a good idea of the use of language within the game. One of the first major choices, and the axis around which the game’s themes turn, is the interpretation of an ancient language and how it affects how characters think about the past and plan for the future. During different points in the game, decisions can be made around not only which characters to support and include on your journey, but also how an ancient civilization is contextualized through fragments of its language and their connection to each other.

A concept we will probably discuss in connection to this game is linguistic determinism (and the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis). How much does language affect our ability to think outside of it? And, in connection to Heaven’s Vault (2019), how has the competing stories of the “heaven’s vault” come to define the characters in the story and how they understand their world(s)?

Generally, it takes between 13-25 hours to finish the game, depending on choices made and what is explored. To exhaust all choices, upwards of 40 hours. Investing around an hour to play or watch will give you a good look into the basis of much of the game. However, experiences can differ considerably between players, so we will also probably discuss what we saw and who we decided to side with at different points or what places we invested more time in exploring. For those able to finish it (or watch the final choices), we will also discuss what happens with the titular location and how different character’s interpretations affect its meaning.

We will meet on Discord at 8:30pm EST / 5:30pm PST.


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Gaming Session: Minecraft, March 26, 2020

water discontinuityMinecraft this Thursday! 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT.

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Symposium: Spider-Man, March 5, 2020

For the March Symposium, we’ll be talking about Spider-Man.  Concretely, I’d like to talk about the specific genre that it fits in, the open-world AAA collectathon, and to compare the plot advancement aspects with the collection aspects of Spider-Man and other games in that genre.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, February 27, 2020

Minecraft this week! 8:30pm EST / 5:30pm PST, voice chat over Discord.

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Symposium: Minit, February 13, 2020

This week’s game is Minit, with Ariel leading the discussion.  Quoting them:

Minit is a Legend of Zelda-inspired game where the world resets every 60 seconds. We will be comparing Minit’s loops with the play experience of Baba Is You, and possibly traditional roguelikes.

Discussion will start at 8:30pm EST / 5:30pm PST.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, January 30, 2020

Minecraft this week!  Thursday at 8:30pm EST / 5:30pm PST.

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Symposium: Baba Is You, January 2, 2020

Our first Symposium of the decade will be on Baba Is You, hosted by Pat.  He says:

Baba is You is a puzzle game in which the player can directly alter the rules. At first, this simply means changing victory conditions to suit the player. As the game goes on, things get much more complicated. We will be playing the game with an eye to how the logic of the puzzles comes to reflect the logic of game development itself, especially code and overlapping rulesets.

Discussion starts at 8:30pm EST / 5:30pm PST, over Discord.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, December 19, 2019

Our final Minecraft session of the year will be this Thursday; 8:30pm EST / 5:30pm PST.

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