The “cookbook” in TSR’s 1991 D&D tome, The Dungeon Master’s Design Kit, is a legendary cheat sheet for rapidly conceiving remarkably fleshed out RPG scenarios by rolling dice and consulting tables. Donjon automates the template-and-die-driven scenario generator contained in TSR’s text, enabling visitors to spin up a near infinitude of compelling scenarios simply by hitting F5. But the “Adventure Generator” is just the tip of the iceberg at donjon, as the site provides an unequalled wealth of RPG map, character, and worldbuilding generators, all of which are designed with a great deal of thoughtfulness and elegance. Even if you aren’t into RPGs, donjon is worth a visit for its many clever takes on the random story generator and the procedural generation of narrative artifacts and spaces.
R. A. Lafferty’s crisply-written short story, “Slow Tuesday Night” (1965), envisions an oddly-familiar world of frenetic hustle where up-to-the-second “trend indicators” chart the fates of fads, fortunes, and families. A mini-masterpiece of time distortion science fiction, this classic short story (along with the rest of Lafferty’s delightful oeuvre) is not to be missed:
Freddy rented an office and had it furnished. This took one minute, negotiation, selection and installation being almost instantaneous. Then he invented the manus module; that took another minute. He then had it manufactured and marketed; in three minutes it was in the hands of key buyers.
It caught on. It was an attractive module. The flow of orders began within thirty seconds. By ten minutes after eight every important person had one of the new manus modules, and the trend had been set. The module began to sell in the millions. It was one of the most interesting fads of the night, or at least the early part of the night. (baenebooks.com)
Talk delivered at Different Games 2014. Explores how games “play with reality,” opening various avenues for inquiry around notions of environment and situation. Makes reference to Sartre, Goffman, and Baron Von Haussmann, among others, and offers up the following definition for game: “Games are semi-regulated situations that unfold over time and resolve based on the creative participation of one or more players.”
Founded by designers Elliott P. Montgomery and Chris Woebken, the Extrapolation Factory sets out to “explore the value of rapidly imagined, prototyped, deployed and evaluated visions of possible futures on an extended time scale.” In 2013, they won the Core77 award in the Speculative Design category for their project 99 cent futures, in which they held a design jam to create speculative products from the discount store of the future. When an exhibition incorporating 99 cent futures opened in China last December, CNN published this report.
This faux infomercial, currently airing without disclaimer at 4am on US cable network Adult Swim, takes some smart and merciless shots at MOOCs, gamification, and, of course, for-profit online “universities”. The level of detail here is impressive: pausing reveals hilariously complete mockups of user interfaces for things like managing “ThoughtCoins”, reporting other students for fraud, customizing shoddy Second Life-style virtual classroom avatars, and cashing in academic credits for sandwiches. “Whenever I want to learn something,” exclaims one of the breathless interview subjects, “I just buy some more ThoughtCoins and download some more facts.” The dystopia implied by the satire here should serve as a cautionary touchstone for anyone interested in exploring the roles privatization and technology will play in the future of education.