Play is older than culture. Culture needs human society, whereas animals play all the time. The origins of computers also lie in play—code-breaking and imitation games. Today, the gaming industry makes over one hundred billion dollars per year and we gamify everything from exercise to sex to sleep to crowdsourced scientific work. In the era of “do what you love,” the lines between work and play, pleasure and labor, blur. Our Play issue looks at at the games people play with technology—and what happens when we let technology play us.
You can find excerpts from the issue and the table of contents below.
"Man Bites Dog" by The Editors (full piece)
In the beginning was the game.
"Chasing the Pink" by Sarah Mason (excerpt at The Guardian)
A report from our gamified future.
"My Stepdad’s Huge Data Set" by Gustavo Turner (full piece)
What happens when data and porn collide?
"Control Freaks" by Jonny Bunning (excerpt at The Guardian)
How does an Apple Store work?
"From the Silicon Savannah to Sheba Valley" by Scott Malcomson (full piece)
A dispatch from the tech hubs of East Africa.
"Dropping Acid" by Shuja Haider (full piece)
A love letter to machine music.
"Mainframe, Interrupted: Joan Greenbaum on the Early Days of Tech Worker Organizing" (full piece)
A conversation about organizing tech workers before it was cool.
"The Art of Eyeball Harvesting: Shengwu Li on Online Advertising" (full piece)
A conversation about how companies monetize your attention.
"Game Workers of the World Unite: an Interview with an Anonymous Game Worker" (full piece)
A conversation with an organizer within the video game development industry.
"Network Effects: Raul Espejo on Cybernetic Socialism in Salvador Allende’s Chile"
A conversation about using computers to run an economy.
"Money Machines: an Interview with an Anonymous Algorithmic Trader"
An insider explains how algorithms are rewiring finance.
"U Mad?" by John Durham Peters
A meditation on trolling in the age of Trump.
"Where it is Easy to Do Good" by Everest Pipkin
The simple pleasures of living off the (virtual) land.
"Closed Worlds" by Heather Davidson
As one world closes, another one opens.
"The Antisocial Network" by Liz Pelly (full piece)
A reflection on DIY in the age of Facebook.
"Model Metropolis" by Kevin T. Baker
The strange prehistory and dangerous afterlife of SimCity.
"Not a Boy, Not Yet a Gamer" by Christopher J. Persaud
One teenager’s journey into the world of competitive gaming.
"(More or Less) All the Rock Models from Skyrim" by Everest Pipkin
An attempted collection of every rock from Skyrim.
"Roleplay, Interplay, Powerplay" by Jemuel Datiles, Laura Dempsey, Jamie L. Ferguson, Valdis Silins (online edition only)
Products and games from our near future that blur the line between play and labor.