Tag: Ender’s Game

The penultimate week

The penultimate week

My apologies for the absence this last weekend, oh loyal viewers — wherever the five of you may be.

I took a little time for myself following the Honors Conference (both my panel and a few friend’s panels I attended on Saturday) to focus on the last few assignments I have to complete before the semester is over. Next week.

I’ve also spent a good chunk of the weekend letting the existential dread of realizing that “this week is my last full week of college” drape over me like a heavy blanket.

Seriously, what? That’s not real. Who allowed this?

To be fair, I may go back to school one day and get a Masters or teaching credential so I can be a teacher in my later years. Seems like that would be a cool way to give back after I make a name for myself.

But that’s not really a matter for here and now. I’m mostly just nervous about the incoming inevitability of having no excuses to not go after that name.

Because that is terrifying.

So I’ve been relishing my last few college-oriented assignments. Turning in my Internship hours, pulling my novel’s prep work together for the physical Honors project and watching old Stephen Colbert videos for Comm Law.

For my Gaming in American Culture class, my last assignment (other than the final paper) is to read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One for our discussion on virtual reality this Thursday.

Or… In my case, to re-read Ready Player One. Much like Ender’s Game, I read this book a few years ago. Well before the Spielberg adaptation was even announced.

Thus, similar to Ender’s Game, I’ve decided to take my re-consumption of the story in a different form: Listening to the audio book.

Cue YouTube-style Audible shill.

But not really, because Amazon isn’t paying me. If anything, I’m paying them — or at least my family is.

I will say the re-listen has been pretty worth it. Not only does the audio book make it easier to reacquaint myself with differences between the written and cinematic versions while doing other work, the act of listening is that much more fun because Wil Wheaton is reading it.

Wheaton’s reading leads to some beautifully meta moments, because he is personally mentioned in the story.

For instance, Wade Watts (the story’s protagonist) talks about Wheaton as a great representative of user interests on an elected council in the virtual reality world of the OASIS.

He says those lines without a shred of irony or winking to the audience, and it’s great.

But yeah… That has basically been my life. Everything y’all missed over the last couple days, other than helping a few friends through their own stressful life situations and watching Kill Bill with my family. Alyson had never seen it, and we needed to rectify that.

I know it’s a hot take for me to say it, but that movie is genuinely still incredible. A visual splendor.

If you need a little stress relief, like I have with all this impending graduation fatigue, go watch yourself some Tarantino. Or play a little Don’t Starve.

That’s my advice.

The Rochlins watch GTFO

The Rochlins watch GTFO

My Gaming in American Culture class has taken me all over the proverbial map when it comes to consuming all different kinds of media.

From tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons or Barbie to re-reading books like Ender’s Game or Ready Player One with new lenses. From watching terrible video game-based movies like Tom Hanks’ Mazes and Monsters to documentaries like Second Skin that touch on the psychological effects of an increasingly isolated digital culture.

For my upcoming class, I had to watch a kickstarted documentary from 2015 called GTFO.

But this time I was not alone. GTFO is all about the treatment of females in the video game industry — both in production and play. That particular subject matter drew interest from other members of the Rochlin household:

IMG_2577

I’m assuming they would have otherwise rolled their eyes at the prospect of a documentary about video games (or at least Aly would), so it’s nice that we all had a subject to collectively appreciate.

… Well, it’s not nice that we had to appreciate the examination of sexual harassment/discrimination/misogyny/insert-buzzword-here in any industry.

That’s about what you can expect here, if you’re interested in the subject.

Subjects ranged from women being pressured in professional eSports, the distinct lack of females in game production (only occupying about 10 percent of the industry), the day-to-day harassment in the voice chats of games like Call of Duty, and more large-scale harassment public scandals like Gamergate.

Though Gamergate was a smaller subject, as the major example of harassment highlighted was Aris Bakhtanians’ treatment of Miranda Pakozdi on a livestream marketing campaign for Street Fighter x Tekken in 2012.

I wasn’t privy to that particular story prior to the documentary, but luckily journalists like Jason Schreier have always done their jobs well.

It’s crazy stuff, but not that crazy. Which is an unfortunate takeaway of the documentary to me.

When interviewees shared and even read out examples of terrible rape- and death-threat filled messages they’d received while gaming, my mom and sister seemed pretty shocked.

And yeah, there was some pretty graphic and intense shit read out.

Yet I’ve been gaming for a long time and saw the proliferated multiplayer days of Halo 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on the Xbox 360 — before I refused to fix my broken console to spite my friends for some ultimately forgotten comment that annoyed me.

I’ve seen that kind of stuff happen, and I have a lot of female friends who play video games that have similar stories to tell.

So I can’t say I was surprised by anything in the documentary.

Which is unfortunate in itself, but the reality of the situation.

However, it’s not a reality that everyone knows about as multiple subjects remarked. The fact that such a well-composed and thorough documentary exists is great in that regard.

I’d definitely recommend watching it for that reason: More awareness is never a bad thing — even if it might put you back $5 for the day.

Especially given some interesting ideas fielded, such as hoping that encouraging more women to get involved at all levels would cause the toxicity to recess. It’s much harder to attack a woman if there are eight in the voice chat than if there’s only one or two.

But that’s enough of me sucking the oxygen out of the room.

I watched a documentary about treatment of women with a couple women, so it only seems right to let them have the last words.


Dara’s Corner:

I’ve always been aware of misogyny and how it is used in the video game industry. However, I was not prepared for how deeply pervasive it really was portrayed in this documentary. It think a lot of the problem stems from the anonymity allowed, and like my husband says, “on the internet, no one knows you are a dog…”


(And Introducing) Aly’s Corner:

Yayyy I finally get one of these! I walked into watching this thinking I’d be bored out of my mind, but it was actually super well done and intriguing for me. I never really considered myself a gamer, mostly because I can’t just sit down and spend hours finishing a game (Jason can attest to that), but the treatment that women in gaming go through is everywhere in society, and it’s kinda scary to see.

Gamers just want to have fun

Gamers just want to have fun

With this showing up in the mail earlier today, I suppose it’s as good a time to talk about it as any.

I’ve spared no shortage of copy writing about my Gaming in American Culture class. From not knowing what to write for my semester-long project to what I wrote about for my semester-long project, from my re-absorption of Ender’s Game for our discussion on militarization of video games to my new absorption of a Barbie game from the early 1900s.

Given my general adoration for all things video games, it makes sense that I’ve been enamored with so many things which have been assigned in this class.

It was a good decision to follow my friend Mimi into a random American Studies class as my ‘fun’ activity for my last semester of undergraduate college education.

One of the most interesting aspects of the class has been the gradual shift of my understanding of U.S. history based on different elements of popular culture that, for the most part, I already knew about.

For instance, that aforementioned analytical reading of Ender’s Game. Or our in-class discussion today about the 1983 Matthew Broderick classic WarGames.

Part of our discussion hinged on the shift from a World War II mentality of game theory in that the best way to win is to make sure your opponents can never fight again to a Cold War mentality of anxious peace through the zero sum game of the nuclear arms race (“The only way to win is not to play”).

But then we also tied the movie into discussions of early hacker culture with the development of Spacewar! in 1962, really the first game that taught people computers could be used for something other than work.

As well as the game that got banned at Stanford for being too addicting and inhibiting work (which you can now play in all its antiquated glory here!).

However, another branch of our discussion was the change in concepts of masculinity that came from gaming culture and nerd-driven movies in the 80s.

A shift from the grizzled frontier-pushing heroes of John Wayne to the intellectual digital frontier exploring cowboys of Matthew Broderick’s David teaching a computer to play tic-tac-toe.

That’s where Carly Kocurek’s book, Coin-Operated Americans, is going to pick up the slack for next week.

According to the blurb on the back, it “explores the development and implications of the ‘video gamer’ as a cultural identity,” most notably in relation to the perception of games as a “boy’s world.” But also looking at the moral panic stemming from 1976’s Death Race and other culture examining video games like Tron and WarGames.

Hence us watching the latter movie before reading the book.

That’s essentially my big task for the next week, getting through this little tome while dealing with Comm Law homework and such.

Luckily, now that my big networking event and midterms are out-of-the-way, I have a little extra time to settle down and read.

So if I wind up coming back in the near future with an obscure book review, now you know why.

Unraveling more YouTube recommendations

Unraveling more YouTube recommendations

You can spin this blog post today one of two ways.

Perhaps this is a public service for all of those affected by the over 10-hour Facebook outages that affected the social media platform and its company’s holdings (including Instagram and WhatsApp) for some reason other than a denial-of-service attack — an issue which they, in my opinion, hilariously had to go to another platform to report:

Those folks addicted to these apps like I sometimes become with Twitter are likely looking for something interesting to do to bide their time.

Interesting, time-wasting YouTube channels happen to be my area of expertise.

… Or, perhaps this post is a futile effort to write something on my blog daily, after a day of two-hour Comm Law exams and finishing my listen to Ender’s Game while at the gym where I could not come up with anything better than yesterday despite saying I would. But in place of that interesting subject matter, I’ve simply decided to guise my lazy alternative in the guise of the solution to a social media-driven turmoil that has long ended by the time I began writing; all due to the aforementioned requirements.

But I think we all know which is the true answer to the question.

That said, I’ve delayed the inevitable long enough.

While my parents travelled around California going to different doctor’s appointments on Monday, I was in charge of my sister back home. We more-or-less spent the afternoon sitting beside one another on the couch doing homework and watching YouTube videos.

Among the usual line-up of Game Grumps and Super Beard Bros. videos taking up time, we were recommended a strange looking think piece on the “Sonic the Hedgehog Bible.”

That’s the kind of offer we couldn’t refuse.

So we didn’t.

And thus we discovered the magic that is Unraveled: A show by the gaming news website Polygon, helmed by their video producer Brian David Gilbert.

As someone who appreciates few things more than highly-analytical, well-produced and funny content deeply examining video games, this YouTube series earns my highest recommendation.

The show, in essence, takes huge amounts of data and information from the video games themselves or from real-world (often governmental) organizations that can be used for video game applications and just distills them down into quippy 15-minute binges that use massive amounts of paper for on-the-wall diagrams with rarely an apology.

It’s a beautiful sight to behold.

While we started with their Sonic Bible episode, I was also a big fan of his dive into madness on the Legend of Zelda timeline, breakdown of hundreds of Mega Man Robot Masters and look at how Bowser’s army would be organized in relation to the U.S. Army.

An oddly prescient piece considering Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé announced his retirement just a few days after it dropped, leaving it in the hands of a man literally named Bowser.

I won’t say I’m much for conspiracy theories… But the truth is out there.

Anyway, yeah. That’s my recommendation for the night.

If a YouTube show can get my sister of all people excited to watch deep-diving video game content, you know it has to be good.

So give Unraveled a look, if you would.


Featured Image courtesy of Gaurav Shakya via Wikimedia Commons

Ten-dollars worth of nihilism

Ten-dollars worth of nihilism

As I battle the unholy combination of impulsively long writing and too much content in the form of video game mechanics and aesthetics for my first Gaming in American Culture paper, it’s about time for a break.

Because my 4-6 page restriction has long since been surpassed by a 10-page first draft, and I’m electing to take advantage of the Sunday deadline’s opportunity for procrastination.

Instead, why not write a blog post?

In lieu of something substantial (as I have spent my afternoon writing about video games and listening to Ender’s Game), I figure why not take advantage of the Cognitive Psychology student presentation I watched during class this morning?

As I’ve briefly discussed in the past, our main grade outside of exams in Cog Psych are coming from presentations we have to give on a professional study which will become the subject of our research papers.

The presentation given today was about the spacing effect: In which we memorize better by spacing out information rehearsal over long periods of time than with condensed study.

To show us how this worked, the group’s activity involved learning obscure vocabulary terms intersperced by periods of rest and cat videos.

If you know me at all by now, you know that I can’t let a particularly interesting vocabulary word slip by without making a “ten-dollar word of the day” post.

Thus, I present to you:


Nihilarian

Noun

  1. A person who deals with things lacking importance.

via the Collins Dictionary


As a long-time user of nihilism, both in my vocabulary and philosophical musings (particularly fun with YouTube dives into popular culture), I was quite interested to learn a new word with a similar root.

It’s a simple but poignant term. Nihil-, the Latin word for nothingness, mixed with the suffix of different jobs — reminiscent of words like librarian, technician, etc.

While the word was used to help us learn a facet of psychology, my introduction to nihilarian engaged an entirely different part of my brain.

Now I’m going to look for any excuse to use the phrase to describe a character in my novel. Because the Honors Project is such a hodgepodge of influences from my daily experiences that I may as well.

Perhaps it could apply to one of my new mantis people.

See, I very recently had the drive to include a race of praying mantis-like characters. The idea came serendipitously in a dream I had last night — which I suppose is the kind of intuition I’m listening to now.

Next thing you know I’ll be a full-blown spiritualist.

They may be Thri-kreen, a la my similar inclusion of Aarakocra bird people from Dungeons and Dragons lore (because literally everything exists in D&D apparently, and my friend Sam is great at pointing out the obscure bits).

Or they may be something more humanoid of my own creation, considering how uncomfortable I am with full-on bug people after seeing the D&D depiction.

Thri-kreen2
Image courtest of the Forgotten Realms Wiki.

Either way, mantis folk are coming. And one of them will likely deal with things lacking importance.


Image courtesy of Woolchan via Wikimedia Commons

Media re-consumption

Media re-consumption

Everyone always talks about the book being better than the movie.

But where do most people stand on the audio book compared to the book?

That’s pretty much what I’m going to be sussing out for myself in the next couple days as I listen to the Orson Scott Card classic Ender’s Game on Audible.

Not an ad for Audible, but could be an ad for Audible?

Hit me up, Audible. I could stand to listen to more books and it might help if I had extra motivation.

Anyway though. I will be listening to Ender’s Game over the next few days.

I’ve actually read the book before, years ago — sometime just before or after I blew through my Dad’s big physical collection of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series (condensed into one publication).

I was having a hell of a space phase back in Middle School/early High School, apparently.

However, as a part of the curriculum for Gaming in American Culture, I must read the book again. Apparently it fits in well with the themes of video game use by the military, our discussion for this upcoming class.

As much as I enjoyed the book years ago, and certain scenes continue to stick in my head (mostly the bursts of graphic violence and groin kicking oddly enough), I don’t exactly have a lot of time to sit down and read ~350 pages in the span of three days.

Midterms have stolen that from me.

So I’m going to be listening to the story instead. Work it in during my drives in place of podcasts for a while.

I don’t listen to audio books too often, so it should be interesting to see how the experience lives up to my time with the original book. Will I retain more? Will I notice things that I never have before? Will I use that momentum to finally go ahead and listen to/read the sequel novels past the quarter of Ender’s Shadow I read back in the day?

And the most important question of them all:

Will the audio book be better than the movie?

Yes, yes it will.

Because most things are better than suffering through Harrison Ford phoning things in.

Even if the rest of the movie was pretty good around that, from what I remember.

Now, I know what you must all be thinking. “Jason, is this really the peak highlight from your day? The most worthwhile thing you can talk about?”

To that I say… Yes. Kind of.

If I were to be completely honest, the most interesting part of my day was watching huge groups of butterflies migrate across Redondo Beach, as well as the rest of Southern California apparently.

When I was picking up my sister from school, there were so many butterflies going around that I thought they were leaves at first.

It was nuts.

But I also don’t have a lot to say on it considering I didn’t take photos or videos of the phenomenon. So that LA Taco article will have to do.

Beyond that, all my time today has been devoted to the gym and homework. So… Yeah, disregarding butterflies, listening to the audio book for a book I have already read is the most interesting part of my day.

Purely due to the more philosophical questions I’ll be considering about the difference in media consumption over the next few days.

So hey, maybe I’ll come back to this topic at the end of the week.

Or even if I don’t, maybe I’ll have some more interesting blog topics from here on out!

We’ll just have to see.

An impossible choice

An impossible choice

I want to put more effort into the post with my thoughts on classes this semester, so I’ll be saving that for tomorrow.

However, today I’m going to sort of ruin that by spoiling my thoughts on the class I’m looking forward to most.

All in service of discussing an existential crisis it has delivered unto me.

While most of my classes are wrapping up my Comm major, Psych minor and Honors distinction, one in particular stands out as being taken purely for myself.

An American Studies class: Gaming in American Society.

I’m no stranger to the American Studies department, as I did take an AMST course on  American Character during sophomore year. Yet that was mainly to fill a general education requirement.

I took Gaming in American Society simply because I adore gaming. Plus I have 21 years of experience in American society, I suppose.

After one class I’m already convinced taking it (as per the recommendation of my friend Mimi) was one of the better decisions I’ve made in my college career. Especially as a final semester swan song.

It’s a 400-level course with a good amount of “dumb fun” elements to the curriculum given its subject matter.

Our novel selection includes Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. We’re also watching a whole host of movies including 1983’s WarGames and 2012’s Indie Game the Movie, all about the development of titles like Super Meat Boy and Fez.

In other words I’ve already consumed a large chunk of the required materials.

The stuff I haven’t yet consumed seems plenty interesting in its own right, even outside of the bias that comes from knowing they stand in a pantheon of enjoyable media.

Hell there’s even a day where we’re just going to spend our three-hour class just playing Dungeons and Dragons. How sweet is that?

Another objectively cool element of the class is that essays are replaced by a long-form research project where we get to choose a game to analyze. Then the three papers we write will be pulled into one mega-paper as our final.

As someone who writes pseudo-game reviews on this blog and actual reviews for papers like the Daily Titan (big Nintendo hitters like Mario and Kirby at that), I should arguably be the most excited for this portion.

Yet I’ve hit a conundrum.

How the hell do I pick just ONE video game to analyze when I could arguably do it for any of my favorites?

Should I analyze one of my favorite nostalgic games of all time, like Pokémon Crystal?

Or for that matter one of the objectively better Pokémon games, given it is my favorite video game series. Perhaps Heartgold and Soulsilver or Black and White 2?

Maybe I should pick a game with more of a cultural impact considering I’ll need to write about its wider historical context. I could potentially use Ocarina of Time (or its 3DS remake), as much as games of that caliber have been analyzed to death in the past.

The Nintendo fanboy in me could downplay itself as well, leading me to analyze a game I enjoy but haven’t spent quite as much time with. Kingdom Hearts 2 or Simpson’s Hit and Run on the Playstation or even something like Don’t Starve or FTL as indie representation out of Steam.

That said, I could pick a game I straight up haven’t played before just to get a fresh take. Final Fantasy 7 has been gathering dust in my Steam library for a long time, and I do want an excuse to finally play it.

Even with all those options in the abstract, my mind did immediately wander in a particular direction when I found out about the assignment.

Recently, especially with the advent of the third Choose your Legends event in Fire Emblem Heroes, I’ve had the desire to go back and play Sacred Stones. My first and favorite Fire Emblem game.

Part of me couldn’t help but think about an interesting analysis coming out of Sacred Stones due to it being the first title released after Fire Emblem’s western debut.

… I was admittedly primed to go in that direction from watching The Geek Critique’s assertion that Smash Bros. Melee was a “kingmaker” for their series the other day.

That’s my most developed idea at the moment, but frankly I’m more than open to coming up with more in the weeks to come.

There are simply too many good games out there in need of analysis.

So I suppose that brings me to a call to arms of sorts. If any of you have ideas for a game I should try to analyze for my research paper (assuming it’s within my means), let me know somewhere on the Internet.

It’ll definitely be taking an unreasonable amount of my brain power for a good long time.