We’re talking about video games and nature in this edition of What I’ve Been Reading. (Yes, sometimes gamers do go outside. Sometimes.)

  • Writing for The Atlantic, game scholar Ian Bogost argues that video games don’t need “characters,” per se, because they can be used to model systems that are broader than mere social interaction. He uses SimCity as an example, illustrating how it models urban forces. As a small counterpoint to Bogost, let’s not forget that these systems-based games abstract from issues of race, ethnicity, sexuality, etc., many of which play a role in shaping systems; many cities have ethnic or gay enclaves, for example.
  • Over at The Nib, Andy Warner has a comic strip illustrating how Burmese pythons have invaded the Florida Everglades. They’ve become a highly successful invasive species, reproducing at an alarming rate. So far, there hasn’t been much success at curbing their spread. A note to exotic pet owners: stop releasing your pets into the wild!
  • Last week, I linked to an essay by David Auerbach about online leftist movements. At his personal blog, The Watermelon Report, Donald Planey has a critique of the essay. Planey contends that Auerbach sees the state of online leftism as the aggregation of independent, individual decisions. Planey argues in favour of a more anthropological approach to analyzing these movements.
  • Writing for Destructoid, Anthony Burch argues against violent video games that criticize the player for indulging in violence. He contends that this is a shallow approach that never really explores why we might find violence entertaining.  I think Burch might be projecting some of the discussion surrounding violent video games onto the games themselves. Take Spec Ops: The Line, for example, which Burch mentions in his piece. It has its sights set a bit higher than merely admonishing players for killing virtual soldiers; it illustrates how our idealized war narratives act as a justification for military interventionism. But to hear game commentators tell it, you’d think the game were just about making you feel bad for playing military shooters. That being said, Burch makes some good points concerning how games should go about treating violence.
  • We’ve known for a while that plants can communicate to each other with chemical signals. Nic Fleming of BBC Earth summarizes some recent research about how plants may be connected to each other via fungi in a sort of “wood wide web.”

Enough jibber jabber. Back to work, people!