Search Results for: administrivia

Follow @TheGameshelf on Twitter

A few days ago I finally activated the long-dormant @TheGameshelf Twitter account, setting it up with Twitterfeed so that it automatically tweets links to new Gameshelf stories. If you love Twitter and you dig this blog too, do consider giving it a follow. [1]

[ The remainder of this post sinks into blogging-philosophy ruminations. Feel free to skip, or read the rest and play spot the tenuous connection the author draws to games. ]

I found motivation in an excellent article I read elsewhere in blog-land recently, an observation on how following seems to be eclipsing subscribing as the most salient verb for plugging oneself into a favored web-based information source. (I foolishly failed to bookmark the story; if this rings a bell to anyone, drop a note and I’ll link with gratitude.)

This notion complemented a worry I’ve long held that RSS and similar tech is just one step too nerdy for most people; plugging a subscription URL into a separate feed reader application (be it a desktop app or Google Reader) is fine for the technically oriented, but I can’t imagine a normal person hitting a “Subscribe” link, seeing a FeedBurner page that presents a bunch of weird, ugly buttons and the instruction to “click your choice”, and then doing anything else except quietly closing the browser window. A Twitter link, at least, provides clear instructions on how to follow up: Press this single, giant, sparkly button to permanently follow this feed! OK, done!

(Facebook’s fall-down simple Like! button on the page itself is simpler still. But I don’t like Facebook, and so have no current plans to adopt this button.)

Naturally, I love our technically oriented readers — and I’m not blind to the reality that a blog about games is going to have an audience that skews nerdy. But that doesn’t mean I wish to limit access to the nerds alone, and as we chew deeper into blogging’s second decade, I find it increasingly hard to deny that social networks have become a critical support for any online publication that wishes to attract a readership wider than those who know how OpenID works.

Why, yes, this does remind me of my feelings about browser-based interactive fiction, versus the old style of making the player go hunt down an interpreter before they can play your game. (See what I did there?)

[1] Not to be confused with @GameShelf, the twitter account of a game shop in Ontario.)

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Administrivia: We cleaned up the comments feed

The Gameshelf has long featured an RSS feed of comments. We have enough (excellent and lovely) readers to continually collect insightful public response, but too few readers to have long threads rapidly appear on most posts. The comments feed provides a nice way to catch all the conversation here despite its relaxed pace.

Unfortunately, one of the less-nice outcomes from this blog’s recent transition from Movable Type to Melody was the old comment-spam filter failing to make the jump across. This resulted in the comments feed becoming rather less readable than it used it be; even though our CAPTCHA keeps the bots out, we still get a trickle of lovingly hand-pasted spam from one SEO-stained wretch or another making their daily rounds.

Thanks to some helpful folks manning the Melody support desk, I managed to get TypePad AntiSpam off the ground, and it’s been running successfully for several days. So, please feel free to subscribe — or resubscribe, if the spam had already chased you away.

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Sorry for any RSS flooding

My apologies for the spamming this blog may have wrought on your feed reader (twice over, if you're subscribed to the comments feed as well). The new templates had a different idea of entries' unique ID strings than the previous ones did, probably confusing most RSS readers into displaying duplicate Gameshelf entries. I've now reset the IDs to their old patterns, and so that should be that.

Related: I purposefully chose to not import the old video-only RSS feed to this new blog. That was an artifact from back when I still considered the Gameshelf to be a video series with a supplementary blog, but all that changed last year. Little is lost: you can quite easily access all the videos we've published by visiting the Gameshelf TV category.

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The Gameshelf: now wider than ever

[Update: Comments should be working again; thanks to all who alerted me. Send me an email or a Twitter DM if things still seem amiss.]

This evening I switched The Gameshelf’s blog software from Movable Type to Melody. I also took the opportunity to finally roll out an entirely new site theme (a customized version of TwentyTen), something I’ve been meaning to do for months.

The sidebar’s blogrolls and links and such have all vanished, but they’ll bubble back presently. The old site had grown a lot of cruft that doesn’t really apply the to the blog anymore, and I decided to just scrape it all off and then re-apply the good stuff.

System-wide changes like this always carry a raft of hidden bugs. If you run into anything that looks or acts flat-out wrong, leave a comment here or shoot me an email. Thanks!

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A Journal of Independent Game Criticism

chess.jpgThe Gameshelf’s new header graphic represents this website’s first public acknowledgement of the philosophical shift it has undergone since its launch, now over two years ago. As the new subtitle suggests, this blog today tosses aside the notion of supporting a TV show, and instead embraces its identity as a source of independent, original game criticism.

At the start of 2008, I still thought of The Gameshelf as a Siskel-and-Ebert-style television program for reviewing non-mainstream games, with its new blog as simply a place for its cast and crew to note interesting news related to unusual games in between episodes. Two years after that, I had produced only one new episode. While the Diplomacy show stands as one of my proudest creative achievements to date, it’s not something I ever see myself replicating (at least not as a hobby), and my vision of producing new videos at a regular pace began to falter.

Over those same two years, however, the blog grew in its own directions. Zarf posted long essays on topics ranging from the continuing Myst saga to the pixel-art renaissance, and these drew new readers and comments. Kevin started making corkboard-style announcements of interesting events (particularly involving interacive fiction) around Boston, and I personally witnessed people at these events saying they’d heard about it on the blog. Clearly, while the TV show called The Gameshelf grew cold, the blog called “The Gameshelf” didn’t much care, and was finding its own ways to be awesome.

So, at the start of this year, I tried something new. After a rewarding wintertime stint of playing Team Fortress 2 with some new friends, I wrote a longish essay about my experiences, and the aspects that interested me the most from a critical standpoint. I really liked the result, and — crucially, for my needy ego — other folks around the web seemed to like it too. So I wrote some more, a new essay every other week or so. You can currently find the collection-so-far in a new category I humbly call Jmac on Games. (That name is subject to change, along with a hundred other details as I continue dinking around with styles and widgets.)

Writing these critical essays has not only changed how I see The Gameshelf, but how I see my own place in the world of digital games. When people ask me what I do now, instead of shruggingly saying “Well, I make a TV show, sort of, sometimes,” I say “I produce game criticism.” It’s clear to me that this is the broader aspect of what I wanted to do with the TV show all along, and by switching my primary medium from video to text, I’m able to actually ship new stuff with some semblance of regularity. While I’m not abandoning video-based criticism, I find it immensely relieving to let go the fiction, held for years, that I’m somehow a stronger video producer than expository writer.

I feel fortunate that, through the efforts of Andy, Kevin, and the less frequent posters, The Gameshelf proved a ready receptacle for this new effort to actually play to my own creative strengths. My hope is that the mix of all the authors’ posts gives us both the independent game criticism and the “other interesting stuff” promised by the new subtitle in the header.

And while I haven’t written much this month, I have a good excuse, anticipating the rollout a couple of new features (in the periodical sense of the word!) over the next week or two. I appreciate your continued reading the The Gameshelf, and would love to hear what you think, as always. In the meantime, watch this space…

Image: Amphora by Exekias of Ajax and Achilles playing a board game.

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SEO spammers: the door's over there

While Captchas make our comments sections reasonably proofed against automated spam, lately we've had a spate of SEO wankers visiting us. These folks make carefully handcrafted spam, manually posted, that serve only to provide backlinks to their clients' webpages. The idea is that, by sprinkling this URL across many different blogs, they can trick Google et al into thinking that people all over the internet are casually linking to their website. They probably charge at least as much for this per hour as I do in my own consulting job.

I've just modified the text that appears over posts' comment forms to state that folks posting only for SEO reasons are wasting their time, since Zarf or I will delete the URLs from obvious SEO comments as soon as we see them. (We will also delete the comments entirely, if the commenter didn't even try to be on-topic with the related post.)

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Comments should work again

Looks like we were having a problem with our Captcha system, and would-be commenters were being rejected for not entering their invisible Captcha words correctly. Whoopsie.

I've discarded Movable Type's built-in Captcha system in favor of reCaptcha, and everything seems to work fine now. Big thanks to all those who helped me sort this out!

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Tell me about comment problems

Howdy, Gameshelf readers,

I've heard tell of some problems folks have had leaving comments on this blog. If you encounter any yourself, please tell me about it in email. Add a description of what went wrong, including any error-message-ish text that might have appeared.

I've added this request to the canned text that appears above each post's comments form; hopefully we can eliminate whatever gremlin's gumming the works this time. Thanks for your help!

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Conquer by the Clock

Another little bit of behind-the-scenesery for you: I had a great deal of fun raiding The Prelinger Archives, a collection of public domain films, to fill out the Diplomacy episode's visuals. I expect it to be a well I'll return to often for future episodes.

One film I borrowed from extensively was Conquer by the Clock, a jawdropping American propaganda film from the WWII era. Not only is its delirious visual motif of belligerent, floating clocks wonderful (and quite useful for recontextualizing), but its message is a fascinating window into the psychology of a nation completely mobilized for war. Of particular note is the lesson that every time you take a break from work, soldiers die (and/or go insane). Think of that, the next time you take a minute to screw around reading game blogs!

On another note, I've added Twitter and Facebook links to the bottom of every post on this site, as well as a few other small design changes. Feel free to let me know what you think of them!

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A bit of housekeeping

I've been tidying up the place a bit. Please note, in our newly leaner left sidebar, that I've updated the blogroll ("Friends of the Shelf") section for the first time in more than a year, including several long-overdue links to people and places of interest to the game-studying reader. Explore and enjoy. (I also seem to have added more links to the "Ego Inflation" section, but I'll let those speak for themselves, ahem.)

Note also, in the same sidebar, the more obvious links to a page containing all the show's past episodes in an easy-to-watch format, as well as to another page that will instruct you in how to obtain copies of these same episodes on shiny, shiny DVDs.

The thing that finally had to get around to all this, in fact, was a kind viewer's purchase of a Gameshelf DVD set, despite my having done approximately nothing to promote them since my initial announcement months ago. This spurred me to, er, actually create the DVDs. And now that I've gone and made myself an inventory, it seemed prudent to sweep some of the cobwebs out of the storefront...

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Diplomacy Show is back up

Writing Yet Another post, just to get copacetic with alla y'all who read Gameshelf via RSS. If you tried to watch Episode 7, "Diplomacy", earlier today only to find that it didn't work - or that the video was missing entirely - please try again. It should be all better now.

And this is the last word on that. (If there any any other gaffes I missed, I'm not gonna pull the video down again; we'll just have to laugh at it together.) Thanks for your patience!

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Repairing Episode 7 - FIXED

Minutes after I made the last post, eagle-eyed Gameshelf librarian Doug Orleans informed me that the opening title identified the show as "Epsiode #7" [sic]. I really want to promote this episode more than I have any previous one, and a silly typo like that right out of the gate looks very unprofessional, so I tried to patch it. Sadly, my video-encoding kung-foo was not up to the task and I ended up breaking the whole deal, which is why the video is now missing entirely.

I'm now re-encoding the show from scratch, and should have a fresh and less embarrassingly spelled copy online before today is over. I'll update this post (and the last one) when it's up. Sorry for the unintentional tease!

Update: Fixed. Whee!

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Tweaks to Gameshelf RSS

If you are like most people, you can safely ignore this post and enjoy the next episodes of The Gameshelf as they happen to pop up here. You'll know them when you see them. The rest of you may be mildly interested in a bit of technical babbling and retrospective about a small change I've made to the blog's feeds.

I plan on publishing, in the near future, the first full 30-minute episode of The Gameshelf in two years. The blog you're now reading had its relaunch in early 2008, several months after the last episode went live, and therefore very few of the people now subscribed to its RSS feed (actually an Atom feed, but let's stick to tradition and call it "RSS") were subscribers when any prior episode went up. Given this fact, I've had to rethink how we distribute the show.

When I launched the show in 2005, distributing video over the internet was still a wild frontier, and I went with the option of treating The Gameshelf like a podcast. You'd subscribe to the feed, and when a new show came out, your feed reader would download it to your hard drive, letting you watch it at your leisure. Since then, of course, has come the rise of YouTube and other services that make both distributing and watching videos very easy. I feel safe in my assumption that most people would rather watch the video online and streaming, than have their reader unexpectedly suck down a quarter-gig of video and stash it locally.

Therefore, I have tweaked the full RSS feed to not include referenced video files as attachments. Posts linked to individual episodes will include an embedded video player and a hyperlink to a downloadable, high-quality version of the episode, just like they do already. But RSS feed readers won't download that file, under the assumption that you'd rather watch it with the embedded player than straight off your own hard drive.

If you would like to have your feed reader download video files, please subscribe separately to the video-only feed. That will continue to work just like a podcast, filling your hard drive up with Gameshelfy goodness every time we publish a new, original video.

if you have any questions about this - or if anything doesn't appear to work like I say it does - let me know with a comment or an email. Thanks!

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Cranky webserver / Deletionpedia

Sorry if you've been having a sad time trying to access (or, for some of you, post to) The Gameshelf lately. The jmac.org webserver has been acting very wonky for reasons I haven't sussed out yet. I beg your patience in the meantime.

For your troubles, please enjoy this vaguely game-related tidbit, which I shall feel free to cut-n-paste over from my personal blog:

Deletionpedia is a machine-generated website, built entirely from Wikipedia articles that have been deleted. It itself is not a wiki, even though it copies Wikipedia's page layout. The result is somewhat fantastic.

Its current featured article is this exhaustive list of all the weapons found in the tabletop wargame Warhammer 40,000, complete with what appears to be meticulously fan-made illustrations, many with labeled parts and exploded views. Someone put a hell of a lot of work into this. While I can see why the WP hivemind would give it the boot (WP is famously tolerant of nerdwank, but still has its limits), I'm oddly relieved to know that it's preserved elsewhere.

And there will be a lot of pages like this guy's, a short biography of "a British-based Starship captain, commentator on society and volunteer ticket collector on a steam railway". Or the sad tale of List of Films with Monkeys in Them, which was cut down before it could even grow past three items.

The list of magical things goes on, preserved forever. I am glad this exists.

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More comment apologies

Despite my earlier attempts to fine-tune things, almost every perfectly legitimate comment posted here within the last week has been marked as spam by our blog software. Since the only "spam" we were getting was made of misfiled real comments, I'm guessing that our CAPTCHA is doing its job just fine, and I've made further adjustments reflecting this to the spam filter.

Sorry, again - all your comments are up now. We'll keep a closer eye on things and make sure this doesn't happen a third time (fooey).

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Pylon online (and other stuff)

pylon.pngDoug Orleans' Pylon, winner of the 2007 Icehouse Game Design Competition as reported in Episode 6, is now an online game! It's hosted on the Volity Network, with art and programming by Doug himself. The user interface is rather basic but entirely functional, and the game's playable against both human and automated opponents. Give it a try!


(Special insider Gameshelf trivia: I referred to Doug as "Somerville's own" during that show, even though he had moved to Billerica, several towns away, by then. But I figured that he probably at least started to think about the game that would become Pylon while he still lived here, so it was all good.)


Some unrelated notes, while I'm here:


I discovered a couple of days ago that the spam-fighting features of this blog were wound a bit too tightly, and perfectly legitimate comments were getting treated as junk. If you got a message that your comment was being held for moderation, but you never saw it appear even days later, please accept my apologies! All such comments have been promoted to their rightful, visible status now, and I've tweaked the blog's spam-fighting settings to act a bit more lenient. Please let me know if you sense anything fishy going on in the future.

In happier news, I'm pleased to announce that production has begun on our first couple of new episodes for 2008. These shows will be different from those that came before, in several ways. We're trying new things with the format, and we're also shooting footage for more than one episode at once, which I will later edit into separate half-hour shows; this is my attempt to complete more than two shows per year. It's gonna be the best year yet for The Gameshelf, and we're happy to have you watching!

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Comments feed

Quick note: I just set up a comments feed, which you'll also find linked from the sidebar. Lemme know if it doesn't seem to work for you.

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The all-new Gameshelf Blog!

Before we start producing this year's crop of new shows - yes, I expect to actually make more than two! - I am pleased to announce the launch of the Gameshelf Blog. I've invited all the folks who have ever appeared in the show's credits to create an account here and share news in the Gameshelf spirit.

My goal is to foster our own little community of intelligent, if somewhat eclectic, game news and discussion. Expect interesting nuggets of notes and insights that the web's game-media core overlooks. And, hey, it will give you something to read while waiting for the next episode of The Gameshelf to appear.

We're all about two-way discussion here, so all posts are commentable! To post comments, you can create a free account, use an existing Livejournal / OpenID / TypeKey account, or post anonymously - but in that latter case we'll hold it for moderation before it shows up.

Please note the shiny new RSS feed that features every post on this blog, nicely complementing the existing RSS feed to only the epsiode videos. Enjoy!

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