Atari filed for bankruptcy

I had an Atari when I was a kid.  I was too young for it, really, Super Nintendo was already out when I got it, but my dad brought it home one day and it was awesome. Maybe nostalgia was already a big enough influence on my life back then that I cared about connecting with the history of video games, but I loved playing Atari.

Al Jazeera writes,

Video game company Atari SA said it has filed for bankruptcy protection in Paris and New York after it failed to find a successor to main shareholder and sole lender BlueBay.

The US operations in addition plan to separate from their French parent to seek independent capital to grow in digital and mobile games, Atari Inc said in a statement on Monday.

The US businesses plan to sell or restructure all or almost all of their assets in the next three to four months and are seeking $5.25 million in financing from Tenor Capital, Atari Inc added.

[...]

Atari SA said no investor had been willing to replace BlueBay as its reference shareholder and main creditor because of its French listing, complicated capital structure and the difficult economic and operating environment.

The company said it owed 21 million euros ($28 million) to BlueBay.

This news hurts my nostalgia bone, but the fact that the list of notable games at the bottom of the article is "Pong, Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command, Battlezone and Tempest," suggests that this company really is where it ought to be -- To my knowledge, Atari hasn't accomplished anything extraordinary lately, and a company can only live so long on nothing but a strong feeling that they deserve to be around.

Tetris Backwards

Boing Boing finds all the coolest games. Yesterday I blogged about A Slower Speed of Light; today, I want to point out Dream of Pixels, which is basically Tetris backwards.  Watching the video, I find it hard to imagine keeping up with it.  But, then, watching people play Tetris is sometimes hard to comprehend.  Here's the video,

and here's the website.

Jane McGonigal: Life-giving games

First thing's first: JANE McGONIGAL HAS A NEW TED TALK OMG HOLY CRAP THIS IS AWESOME

Ahem.

Now that I've got that out of my system.

I remember, when I was reading "Reality Is Broken," the chapter when Jane McGonigal discusses "Super Better," the game she invented to help her through the depression and recovery after a serious injury.  I don't remember, at the time, making the connection between my own depression and the variety of illnesses that other people are using Super Better to get through.

I don't know.  Maybe I did think of it.  There was a lot in that book that made me think, "There it is!  The solution to everything!"

In McGonigal's new TED talk, she points out, much more straightforwardly, that the tools she developed are a framework for improving one's life, in exactly the sort of way that everyone, not just people suffering from serious illness, can benefit from.

It's a little embarrassing, actually, to realize that I didn't make this connection in the first place.  The central theme of "Reality Is Broken" is positive psychology -- using science, psychology, analysis, and especially gamification, to move upwards from a neutral point and make life better, rather than just focusing on alleviating suffering and reducing exposure to unpleasant experiences.

The talk is great.  You should watch it.  You should also watch her other TED talk, which is more broadly about how gaming can make the world a better place, and read her book, Reality Is Broken, which is about using game style mechanisms to make everything better.

Neopoints

So, I didn't get around to researching Spectrum Crunch today.

Today was, all around, a pretty unproductive day, actually.  (Lots of commas in that sentence.)  I overslept till like 3pm, played Minecraft for a while (I'm building a bridge out of Jack o' lanterns) then switched over to Neopets.

While I think that these activities largely constitute a waste of time, there's also something very meditative about the minigames on Neopets.  There's one where you dodge ice cream for as long as you can, and I find when I'm playing it I get into a very slow breathing pattern and clear all my thoughts away.

Which leads me to wonder if it's possible that there's something psychologically transcendent about video game culture, especially with minigame-style puzzle games.  Tetris, Snake, all those old, simple games where it's just about focusing on getting better and better at a single, repetitive but still complex and challenging action.

I'll have the Spectrum Crunch article tomorrow, I promise.

Best wishes.

What.

When I can't think of something to blog about, one of the first places I go is reddit.  Not trying to steal content or anything, just looking for inspiration, perhaps something to comment on. Browsing through the Minecraft subreddit, I discovered this conversion guide for using Minecraft as a missionary tool.

I honestly can't tell whether it's a joke.  This looks like a real website, but it contains lines like this:

Also, the Endermen drop "enderpearls", which if you use on a pig will do absolutely nothing (a clear reference to Matthew 7:6).

Matthew 7:6 (NIV) says:

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

If Minecraft has any sort of religious undertone, I can't really see it as being Christian.  (spoilers:) The end of the game is a weirdly obscure new-agey sort of spirituality, and the enchantment of weapons, tools and armor seems more like witchcraft of the sort that gets Christians up in arms about stuff like Harry Potter than anything resembling traditional Christian values.

This website seems like it's too completely put together to be fake, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say this looks like the sort of crazy confirmation bias that, honestly, most people do about some thing or another.  I know I've personally done it, about personal relationships and semi-subconscious desires, and it tends to work out poorly for me.

It's weird to see people who've gone that far off the deep end, but I think it's worth remembering that that sort of crazy ins't a categorical difference, it's just a matter of degrees.

Minecraft and time budgeting

So, Minecraft came out today. I haven't had much time to play with the update of the game, so I don't really know how I like any of the new features.  I do know that the new sound effects for certain actions keep weirding me out, but I'm sure I'll get used to them.

But the new edition means Minecraft has just acquired even more potential to be a massive timesink.  And because I've got a lot of schoolwork, a novel, and plenty else besides, it's becoming even more important than it already was to start budgeting my time better.

I think I need to make room for the game.  Not just because I'm going to end up playing it anyway, so it's better to account for it in my plans, but because I think it is, to a degree, valuable in itself.

I've been reading Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal, which is about how video games make people happy.  And I have to say, I'm more than a little convinced by her argument that the sense of accomplishment I get from Minecraft is good for me.

It's important to keep it in moderation.  It's vital that I don't start compromising my other goals and projects to keep up with the video game.  But I do think that the reliable achievability of things in Minecraft makes it a healthy grounding for a regular source of cathartic achievement.

Sorry for the late post.  Talk to you tomorrow.