Going Fast for a Good Cause – Summer Games Done Quick
As I write this, I’m sitting at a rooftop bar in Minneapolis, where I’ve been all week for the Summer Games Done Quick marathon. The event, which is streamed live on Twitch, consists of gamers (called “speedrunners”) playing video games as fast as they can for seven straight days. It’s a hell of a spectacle, and one I’ve enjoyed watching for the last two years (and now, I’ve hopped on a plane to come check out the event live).
There are certain categories to most runs, like, for example, “any%,” which means to get to the end of the game as fast as you can. Plus, a lot of these runs are done on classic gaming systems (SNES and Nintendo 64 being the most popular) that often utilize frame-perfect glitches and tricks to make them much more impressive than simply holding down the A button to run fast.
Beyond all the tech and frame-perfect execution, the weeklong gaming marathon is done to raise money for Doctors Without Borders; viewers and attendees can pledge money to unlock certain incentives, bonus games, raffle prizes, and so on. On average, the semi-annual marathon (in January, the event is called Awesome Games Done Quick) raises more than $2 million each year for charity.
The Sober Morning After – the Return of Ke$ha
Ke$ha’s always been the sort of trashy dive-bar pop star that I’ve secretly liked. Her first hit “Tik Tok” is a party jam that I gravitated toward during my late-night grad school days. Behind her rough party-girl persona, Ke$ha’s got some real pipes, yet has always been seen as somehow lesser than pop stars like Lady Gaga or Katy Perry. In 2014, Ke$ha made headlines with a very famous legal battle with her producer Dr. Luke over claims of sexual abuse; she lost the case and remained locked into her contract with a man who terrified her.
That was, until a few months ago, when Dr. Luke decided to leave Sony, ending Ke$ha’s paralyzing contract deal, allowing her to release her own music. And she’s done just that – her first single and music video in four years, “Praying,” was released this week, with a full album on its way by the end of the summer.
The announcement was done via Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter, giving Ke$ha the platform to write an emotional letter to her fans. “This song is about coming to feel empathy for someone else even if they hurt you or scare you,” she says in the post. The ballad, as you’d expect, is emotionally-charged; in it, Ke$ha shows off a much deeper, huskier voice than the bouncy whine that launched her career – it’s a visceral reminder of her long struggle, paired with more obvious lyrical reminders, in lines like “I can thank you for how strong I have become and “I hope you find your peace, falling on your knees.”
The music video for “Praying” features a downtrodden Ke$ha, gazing somberly in the mirror as if waking up the morning after a party. She also walks on water and wields a baseball bat; scenes like these remind one – and not necessarily in a pleasing way – of Beyoncé’s Lemonade. The similarities distract, which stunts the emotional impact. Says Vox, “evoking Beyoncé’s imagery at the video’s onset dilutes the message, making it feel more like an homage than the emotional purge she says it is.” It seems even in her trying to reinvent herself, she still finds herself standing in the shadow of artists who’ve come before her.
above image: "ke$ha," becky sullivan / flickr