Open Worlds

My golly-gee education in state-of-the-art-form video games continues. For the past couple nights I’ve been playing Red Dead Redemption, which came out six years ago, or the Pleistocene era in tech terms. I’m coming to understand the possibilities of open world games in which you can just sort of wander around. I’ve shrugged off the main narrative to embark on excursions to a variety of … Continue reading Open Worlds

Mal de Débarquement

A little over a year ago, my sister came down with a strange vestibular condition called Mal de Débarquement. It’s where you still feel like you’re on a boat, plane, or other form of transportation long after you have disembarked. It’s an unpleasant, unbalanced sensation that typically afflicts people who have taken cruises or long flights. Amy deals with it with some balance exercises, but … Continue reading Mal de Débarquement

The Ethics of Taking Pictures of People While They’re in VR

Since I answer to no one with this blog, there’s no set of ethical guidelines but my own governing what I choose to post. Recently, I decided that I’d start asking permission to post pictures of people while they’re wearing headsets. There’s something gratifying about taking pictures of people in VR. They’re unaware that they’re being photographed and their body language is mapped to the world within VR and not the world outside. Since they’re not aware they’re being photographed, I can take my time setting up a shot. Watching someone use a Vive is almost like watching ballet. It can be quite beautiful.

How come people don’t look stupid when they wear a VR headset? Unlike the Google Glass, a Vive headset doesn’t make you look like a dork. Maybe part of it is that there really is no cultural precedent for this chunk of black plastic that you wear on your face. It’s not trying to get away with looking like an accessory that has existed for over a century. But maybe part of it also has to do with the absence of self-consciousness that the wearers exhibit in their posture and gestures.

Continue reading “The Ethics of Taking Pictures of People While They’re in VR”

SIXR’s Summer Cinematic VR Challenge and Hot Tub Party

Jeff Lewis demos one of the VR experiences created over a weekend near Discovery Park. Photo by Nikola Costa.

A quickly growing cohort of artists is inventing cinematic VR in Seattle. Last weekend about fifty cinematic VR pioneers gathered at a home known as the Birdhouse near Discovery Park to create 360 VR experiences. SIXR organized the event and suggested a theme: relaxation, inner peace, leisure, and introspection. I stopped by the event for a few hours on Saturday, finding myself in a funky private home full of good books and good people sharing ideas, food, code, and laughs. Despite the theme, the scene was buzzing with activity. Continue reading “SIXR’s Summer Cinematic VR Challenge and Hot Tub Party”

A Literary Snob Reassesses Video Games


I grew up with the video games of the eighties, the ones Ernest Cline memorializes in Ready Player One, the kinds of games that the kids in Stranger Things might play. Centipede, Moon Patrol, Road Blasters, and Punch-Out!! were my favorites. There were two arcades in my hometown, Mount Vernon, Washington, one in each mall. I was keenly interested in the laser disc-based animated game Dragon’s Lair, which was gorgeous to look at but impossible to play. I measured the quality of restaurants by whether they had good arcade games to play. I dumped a lot of lawn mowing money at Aladdin’s Castle, turning grass clippings into pixels.

My parents didn’t allow video games in the house, urging me instead to explore the acres of forest bordering our back yard. I read science fiction novels, listened to music, played guitar, checked out a comic book occasionally. Sometimes I’d go to an arcade, but video games were never my top choice of entertainment. In high school I had a friend who had a Nintendo. I played Super Mario on it maybe half a dozen times. Continue reading “A Literary Snob Reassesses Video Games”