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JONATHAN VOLK

BLACK WARRIOR REVIEW | Issue 38.2 | Essay

 

"Machina"

I hope Origin never shuts down Ultima Online. That they feed its servers electricity long after the last player leaves. That Britannia recycles itself in an endless loop. That game-explorers return in a hundred years to rediscover Britannia, to find its tower-castles crumbled, its forests regrown, its beaches smoothed like laundered napkins. And that they find it empty: meals on wooden tables moldered away, a sapling bloomed through the crease of an open book, birds nesting in the blank eyes of a Lord British statue. Let the Britannians disappear. They're real so long as we can't find them.

CAKETRAIN| No. 09 | Fiction

 

“The Minotaur Holds the Labyrinth”, “More Days”, “Crete”, “Disclaimer”

As to the matter of the turtle: father got us this when we were young. Brother had asked for a dog. I did not do to this turtle what our family remembers. I knew it was already dead or would be for most of existence. I perceived it to be what it mostly was. When I explain this to brother, he says it upsets him, but he did not care for this turtle.

DIAGRAM | Issue 10.4 | Fiction

“The Frank Lloyd Wright Project”

The third and fourth Project limbs became inextricable from one another, and to this day Project terrorists and Project builders move among one another, exchanging responsibilities, so that a dynamite bundle will be switched for a hammer and drooping tool belt, a building schematic replaced for a diagram detailing detonation. Terrorists break for lunch beside builders, chewing their white sandwich triangles so that it is inscrutable who is who, what is what, until a building reaching into the air begins to look like a chaotic explosion, and a disintegrating one resembles a careful design.

NEON| Issue #27 | Fiction

“Holiday”

I considered our rides the happiest parts of my life. And the densest: they sank through my memories like witches tied to stones.

I warned my daughters never to get in the cars of strangers, but when I said this my tongue was a knife waving through my mouth.

SERIOUS GAMES| Essay

But why do Board Game Geek users worship complexity above all other idols? I think part of their worship has to do with the anxiety of being taken seriously as gamers, which is mysteriously paradoxical. If we take away the older games, chess and go and poker, say, we’re left with a young medium, still in the “I DIDN’T ASK TO BE BORN” phase, and its relative immaturity expresses in ways that can turn off otherwise playful people, keeping them from the game table. There was a point in my early twenties when I craved complexity because I craved being seen as someone who was also complex. I proudly carried Infinite Jest on the subway, careful to hold the book open so that my hands didn’t obscure its title. The thrill of being seen doing something grandly complex by equally grandly complex people isn’t new or really at all impeachable—reading parlors used to exist precisely to allow readers to catch one another paging through an ever more fashionable way of being. 

DUNE THE RIGHT THING| Essay

Unlike the binary morality often present in, for example, many video games, Dune lets players perform in the drag of morality and amorality to a degree of complexity I find astonishing. Most other games feel fairer in comparison, and less interesting because of it. Board games like Dune can muddy their moral dimensions precisely because they have the advantage of being social. 

DARK SKY MAGAZINE | Issue 12 | Fiction

“Ushi-Oni”

At work, this demon consumes Noriko. She becomes possessive. She thinks of him as hers. Her demon. She says his name over and over. She types it into stretched-out email boxes; she changes the font and font-size; she centers and left-justifies and right-justifies it. She tries to make his name, in digital space, as large as he is in life. 

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