Followup to hit Until Dawn announced by Supermassive Games

I didn’t get around to sharing what I was most excited about from E3, which happened a month ago now. Fuck me, what happened to 2017?

So, Supermassive Games, developer of my 2015 Game of the Year, is releasing a new choose-your-own-adventure game, Hidden Agenda. Unlike Until Dawn, Hidden Agenda offers a multi-player mode, where friends vote for specific actions via their phones. While serial-killer plots have been done to death, Until Dawn offered a cool take on horror tropes, and I’m hoping Hidden Agenda will do the same for psychological thrillers.

Supermassive also announced The Inpatient, a prequel to Until Dawn. It’s set 60 years before the events of Until Dawn, in the Blackwood Sanitarium. The game will only be for Playstation VR, which might, maybe, make me take the plunge to a VR setup. I’m going to wait for some trusted reviews first. The whole stealth gameplay and hiding in lockers thing . . . I’m not sure about that. Outlast didn’t do it for me.

Both Hidden Agenda and The Inpatient should be out at the end of the year.

An apology from the NZ Parliament to gay men. And one from me too.

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In 1986 New Zealand Parliament passed the Homosexual Law Reform Bill, making it no longer illegal for Kiwi men to be criminalized for having consensual sex. It wasn’t just the men involved, either, but their families and friends: if you allowed gay sex to occur on your property you could lose your house. Gay men killed themselves rather than face a life where they would be reviled for being themselves. Prior to 1961 sodomy was punishable in NZ by life imprisonment. Suicide is arguably preferable.

This week the New Zealand Parliament offered a formal apology to all men who were convicted under anti-sodomy laws. Justice Minister Amy Adams explained the government “recognises the tremendous hurt and suffering those men and their families have gone through, and the continued effects the convictions have had on them.”

Labour MP Grant Robertson said, “Let us be clear, the illegality of homosexuality, the arrests and imprisonments and fear of that happening did not just ruin lives and destroy potential. It killed people . . . Hundreds, possibly thousands, of lives have been lost because of the shame, the stigma and the hurt caused by this Parliament and the way society viewed them as criminals. It is for all of that that we must apologise.”

The apology accompanies a unanimously passed law allowing convicted men to apply for a pardon. Families of deceased men can apply for a pardon on their behalf. Kudos to Wiremu Demchick, who started the Campaign to Pardon Gays in Aotearoa in 2014, gaining the support of the Green Party, and organizing a petition presented to parliament in 2016.

I owe a personal apology to those men. To all gay men.

In 1985 the Christian-based Coalition of Concerned Citizens organized a petition against the Homosexual Law Reform Bill, which was then working its was through the committee process. The group’s leader, Keith Hay, was steadfastly against legalizing gay sex: “Homosexuality is definitely sinful. If this legislation is passed you might come home and find a man on the back of your son. Legally there. It will be happening under the trees and bushes.” The Coalition was strongly influenced by the work of American psychologist Paul Cameron, who equated homosexuality with paedophilia.

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One of Paul Cameron’s publications

One day in 1985, in high school science class, my best friend pulled a sheet of paper from her bag and slid it across to me. “You have to sign this,” she said.

“What is it?” I asked.

“The government wants to make being gay legal,” she said. “We have to stop them.” Disgust shuddered across her face.

My first thought was, What’s ‘gay’? 

Yes, this was a real thing I didn’t know.

If you’re my age you don’t need to imagine a world without any representation of gay men and women. There were no gay TV characters, no out gay men as part of the community. 1980s New Zealand was incredibly oppressive about all kinds of sexual issues. I didn’t know what a condom looked like. Girls who ‘got into trouble’ had to leave school for “Bethany,” a mysterious live-in hostel. Sometimes mothers went into hospital for ‘women’s issues.’ We had no idea what these issues might be, or if we would also inevitably have them too. All we knew about was rugby, Knight Rider, and the Saturday night top 20 countdown.

I don’t know how many of those 800,000 signatures against the Homosexual Law Reform Bill were those of high school kids, but I know at least some were.

Because  I signed.

She was my best friend. I wanted to please her.

I didn’t want to show my ignorance.

I didn’t want to stand out.

I didn’t want to be ‘for’ something that was apparently disgusting.

And I signed.

It’s the single most shameful act of my life.

Three other girls at the table signed the petition. Others overheard and got up from their tables to come over and sign. Finally someone handed the form to Jo, a quiet girl, whose friends were all in other classes.

Jo shoved the paper away. “I’m not signing that,” she snapped. “There’s nothing wrong with being gay.”

My body still remembers the swell of shock that flowed through me, that someone would refuse to go along with the crowd. That saying, “No,” was a thing that was allowed. That someone would stand up and voice an unpopular opinion. That there was someone who thought being ‘gay,’ whatever that was, was okay, when clearly enough people were concerned about to it have organized a petition.

Thank you, Jo, for showing me what is was to be brave.

I was a fucking idiot and I signed, and became one of the ignorant, howling mob holding pitchforks.

I’m so, so sorry.

Ut does not scan

It never occurred to me to ask why the notes in a Western scale are called do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. The idea of which, by the way, is called Solfège. Then yesterday I learned that the sounds are the opening syllables of the words to the Latin hymn honoring St John the Baptist, Ut Queant Laxis, written in the 8th century. Seriously.

Ut queant laxīs    resonāre fībrīs
ra gestōrum    famulī tuōrum,
Solve pollūtī    labiī reātum,
Sancte Iōhannēs.

In English, that goes, So that your servants may, with loosened voices, resound the wonders of your deeds, clean the guilt from our stained lips, O Saint John.

The original scale was ut-re-mi-fa-so-la-si-ut. In the 16th century Giovanni Battista Doni renamed Ut (a closed sound) to Do (an open sound). Just as well, because Ut does not scan well. We’d have to sing, “Ut, a bastard, an utter bastard; re, a drop of golden sun… .”

And in the 19th century Sarah Glover – who clearly would have made a good code monkey – renamed Si to Ti so that each syllable started with a different letter, and also wrote a book that popularized the whole word/tone thing as a way of training your everyday Christian congregation to not sound so goddamn terrible.

Interestingly , it has been proposed that the concept of the system was one of the many Islamic contributions to Medieval Europe, through the Durar Mufaṣṣalāt scale of  dāl, rā’, mīm, fā’, ṣād, lām, tā’, which is known as the ‘Separated Pearls’. Isn’t that lovely?

And maybe now you too know something you didn’t know yesterday.

SOS: The Ultimate Escape offers disappointing avatar options

The big hit of the week in gaming has been the alpha test of battle royale multiplayer  SOS: The Ultimate Escape.

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Under the overarching narrative of a reality game show – with the audience voting for their fan favorites – players pick an avatar and compete to be one of three survivors to grab a relic and make it to the helo to be lifted off a monster-infested island. Rounds last 30 minutes, and the play is fast and – thanks to humans being humans – unpredictable.

The game looks great and I can’t wait for it to go to general release. The thing I’m mightily disappointed in is the avatar options.



You can play around with customizeable hair shade and length to individualize your avatar within pretty limited parameters.



Of course there are more caucasian males than any other option, but at least there’s an asian man and a black man (this is literally how low the bar is in gaming representation – I’m grateful there’s a grand total of two non-white options.) There is an option for a heavier male build. You’ll notice, however, there’s zero option to be a woman of color, or to be a woman of the same age as some of the male avatars.

Update: there is one older caucasian woman option.

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Yes, it’s an alpha build. But gamers are diverse, and we’ve been asking for avatars that reflect this for a mighty long time.

My hope is when Outpost Games take this to beta release they listen to us.


Update 5 July: here’s a pic of all the basic avatar options, linked to in the comments by Elizabeth, who may or may not be from Outcast Games. Maybe she’s just a salty fan of the game. Hell, I’m a fan of the game and I didn’t even get into the alpha.

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Lighting levels make the pic damn near useless, but I’ve squinted a lot, and I still don’t think I can see any black women.

The “missing black woman formation” is in itself problematic, but is still a useful basic check for diversity.

I’ll update as more info comes to light (heh, see what I did there?)

McMansion Hell will prevail

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One of my favorite blogs is McMansion Hell. But if you follow that link today you’ll find no blog there. That’s because Zillow doesn’t like Wagner mocking its clients’ houses, and is threatening to sue McMansion Hell because Zillow doesn’t understand the nature of US copyright law i.e. 1) Zillow doesn’t own the copyright to the photos on its site and therefore has no standing to sue 2) Kate Wagner, the genius behind Mcmansion Hell,definitely did not “violate the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse act” in copying the images from the site, and 3) fair use is a thing.

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Wagner doesn’t only mock. She’s written some in-depth and very readable articles about domestic architecture, and is the reason I now own A Field Guide to American Houses.I wish I could link you to one. But I can’t, because Zillow, and fuck them for that. (Wagner is also the reason I look at any tiny framed print on a large wall and think “An art!” )

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So bookmark McMansion Hell, and when Zillow inevitably cower back into their burrow and the site is restored, go check it out. In the meantime you could just go and marvel at this New Zealand McMansion I actually wanted to submit to Wagner today. I’ll just have to make up my own snarky commentary.

Interestingly, fair use is not a thing in New Zealand. Hairy Mclary is a beloved canine character from a best-selling series of children’s books. The publisher just successfully demanded an art work by Kiwi street artist Milton Springsteen be pulled from a charity auction for flood victims because it breached copyright. A spokesperson for Penguin Random House said, “it was probably a simple oversight on the part of the artist,” and “the artist would appreciate the need to accept artistic copyright.”


Milton Springsteen’s Beefed Up, and Kiwi icon Rita Angus’s seminal Cass (1936).

It might be true that “New Zealand copyright law [has] no defence for appropriation art” but the law is an ass. So is Zillow.


Update: 30 June

Zillow released this statement today:

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Surprisingly, Emily Heffter emailed me a copy directly, which I guess they did to everyone who blogged about the issue. Makes me feel like my insignificant singular voice adds some tiny contribution to resisting our dystopian times.

McMansion Hell will be posting tomorrow as scheduled. Check them out.