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Not For Resale
For generations, the trade-in store was a vital space for gaming culture. At the local game shop, people would swap old titles for new ones, talk shop with fellow customers, and keep their fingers on the pulse of what was happening in the industry. But as gaming goes digital, the fates of these brick and mortar stores are, at best, uncertain and, at worst, grim. Not For Resale, a documentary from filmmaker Kevin J. James, is a bittersweet requiem for these independent shops. It’s also a plea for archivists to carry on the work of preserving rare and classic games once the shops are gone. James profiles owners across the country, from California to Massachusetts, who have spent the past 15 years watching digital gaming steamroll their business model. Some of the interviewees readily criticize the new status quo. Downloaded games are usually associated with an account, they say, which makes selling games, giving them as gifts, or trading them complicated for consumers, if not impossible. Not For Resale is at its best when it explores this evolving concept of ownership. Owning a video game used to mean owning a disc or cartridge. What does it mean to “own” a string of code that might exist (wholly or in part) on a corporation’s servers? One store owner laments that, in the physical media days, people would build their collections for years and then come back in to sell, earning a chunk of their money back. No longer. While the documentary mourns the fall of used game shops, it also acknowledges the new world of opportunity that the digital space has opened for independent game developers. Now that creators can make their money back by putting their games online for download, barriers to entry that used to keep indies down are eroding. Join the Smithsonian American Art Museum for a virtual screening of this thoughtful, engaging and semi-sweet doc. The film streams at 7 p.m. on Aug. 2. Registration is available at eventbrite.com. Free. —Will Lennon
Philosophy and The Good Place
NBC’s hit series The Good Place said goodbye to fans this year after four seasons examining the ethics of the afterlife through a comedic lens. One episode explained the existentialism of Kierkegaard through rap; another sprayed blood and guts everywhere as part of a live demonstration of the trolley problem. Dr. Todd May of Clemson University served as one of the philosophical advisors to the show, where he helped the sitcom’s writers break down these moral dilemmas for a television audience. Fans were so interested in the philosophical theories featured in The Good Place that NBC granted Dr. May his own spin-off web series, Mother Forkin’ Morals, to teach viewers about the ethics of everyday life. Now that the show and web series have concluded, Dr. May is continuing the conversation as part of the Smithsonian’s virtual programming. He’ll dive deeper into the philosophical quandaries posed by The Good Place and discuss whether the redemptive ending of the show is truly possible. The event begins at 6:45 p.m. on Aug. 5 on Zoom. Registration is available at smithsonianassociates.org. $20–$25. —Mercedes Hesselroth