computers are made out of stories

Hi folks.

Since this is the first [issue? letter? missive?] I should try and explain what you’ve signed up to.

I’ve been struggling for a while now trying to figure out what to do with the things I make. When I first started making things on the internet I would upload them to my website, post a link on whatever forum I was currently frequenting, and maybe email some games or software sites that I knew would be interested.

And that worked pretty well. Until the forums died out. And most of the small scale games sites died out. And the ones that were left were no longer interested in writing about the kind of things I wanted to make. I was still making and releasing things the way I’d always done, but now it felt like I was tossing them into the void to disappear forever, drowned out by the noise of the internet.

The thing is though, I don’t think I need the attention I used to get from forums or articles on games sites. The things I make, I make for myself. Because they’re interesting to me. And I have a steady job, and a degree of financial security that a lot of my peers (and certainly most younger artists) don’t have. I would far rather what limited attention is out there is directed towards people who do need it.

What messed me up is that despite recognising that I don’t need other people’s attention for my work to be worthwhile, I still found myself working within systems oriented towards attention, towards selling yourself and your work. These heavily commercialised systems that we’ve built the internet around. And by those systems’ standards my work is a failure.

I also realised that my process of releasing things on the internet is boring. I would take screenshots, record a short video, make cover and banner images, write some short description, upload all the files… It’s tedious busywork. And busywork that has never really justified the effort it requires.

I don’t want to be bored by the things I make. I want the entire process to be interesting.

So to get to the point: from now until I get bored or run out of steam, I’m going to send out this newsletter once a month, with a link to a new interactive essay, or game, or formal experiment of some kind. At the end of that month I will delete that link, and never post it on the internet again.

I don’t think this solves all the problems I’ve had with releasing things on the internet, but it’s interesting to me, and it’s got me excited to upload things again. That seems important.

computers are made out of stories

I was thinking about how we talk about computers, and how that shapes our interactions with them. I think we get hung up on the idea that computers are machines, and therefore subject only to cold logic. We talk about algorithms and calculations. We make-believe that algorithms are neutral, free of bias and the messy complications that govern the physical world.

I was wondering what would happen if we talked about computers in terms of stories instead of code. If that might force us to acknowledge the complex, flawed human beings responsible for building these machines, for feeding them with data and instructions.

So I made this. It’s kind of slight, and it came out a bit like one of those adverts that try and convince you some corporate brand is enlightened and possessed of some fundamental insight into the nature of human experience, when really they’re just trying to sell you some soap.

But, well. It’ll do as a starting point for this project. And I’ll delete it in a month anyway.

Download computers are made out of stories

Controls: letters to play notes; space/return to advance

The Rules:

  • The file at this link will be deleted 1 month from now (04/05/19).

  • All downloads are zipfiles containing a Windows executable (I no longer own a Mac, and ran out of patience with Linux years ago).

  • All source code and assets are included, licensed under the GPL (code) and CC-BYSA (assets).

  • As long as you abide by those licenses, you can do whatever you want with the download.

Further Reading

Part of the inspiration for this project was the newsletters I’m subscribed to myself, particularly Joanne McNeil’s All My Stars, and Warren EllisOrbital Operations. Both range across a wide variety of topics and media, and give me a connection to the wider world that I’ve not found elsewhere. I’ll try and follow their lead.

Okay. Time for us to step back into the world. And I know. It's a world full of teeth and thorns and bitter machines. A world that will do everything it can to shake you off. Don't let it. Dig your heels in, hold on tight. I'm here too, holding on as best I can.

I'll see you again in a month.

Take care till then.