Wingardiam Leviosa!

Which video game or movie world would I like inhabit?  Easy.  The wizarding world of Harry Potter.  Where else could I cast spells to my heart’s content, taking classes on things like charms and defense against the dark arts?  The advantages to being a wizard are hard to pass up.

First off, there is flying.  How awesome would it be to be able to fly around on a broomstick whenever you pleased?  Traffic?  I don’t think so.  Getting from place to place would be a thousand times easier, not too mention incredibly fun.  Not only could I fly from class to class and town to town, but I could also participate in the coolest sport ever invented.  Quidditch.  I like to picture myself as a beater, wizzing around on my broomstick and using my club to protect Harry from the wicked bludgers.  There is no other sport that is nearly as thrilling or intense.

Fighting Lord Voldemort, evading dragons, and defeating basilisks would be all in a day’s work.  The excitement providing by living in the wizarding world is second to none.  If I went to Hogwarts I would obviously be in Gryffindor, naturally becoming the fourth member of Harry’s crew.  We would pal around during the day, drinking butterbeer and sharing laughs, and fight crime by night.

Another major bonus to living in this enchanting wizarding world would be all of the delicious and exotic candy that would be available to me.  Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans would allow me to eat anything I wanted in jelly bean form.  What could be better than that?  Not to mention chocolate colored frogs, cauldron cake, and fizzing whizzbees.  The variety is unmatched.

I cannot think of another fantasy world I would rather live in than the wizarding world of Harry Potter.  Not only could I play quidditch and eat delicious candy, but I could also cast spells and help take down the evil Lord Voldemort.  Being a wizard would be hard to pass up.

-George de Roziere

Not Your Average Comic Book

When I was first assigned the graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentleman for class I immediately assumed that it would be a quick and easy read.  I read Archie Comics for the majority of my childhood, I even had my own pretty extensive collection of them.  I assumed that Alan Moore’s work would be similar, and after flipping through the first few pages I saw many of the same elements I had seen when I was 10 years old.  However, after reading the first chapter I quickly realized that this was no book for children.  The level of imagery, symbolism, and allusion I encountered was equal to most other novels I have read for english classes, and if read too fast it was easy to miss out on the finer points of each panel.

Below is one panel from the second chapter of the first volume, entitled “Ghosts & Miracles.”  Upon first glance it seems that Miss Murray and Mr. Bond are casually discussing fictional events involving fictional characters, with no real significance outside of the novel.  They also are walking through a small alley in Britain, with a church on one side and some people hanging out around it.  After digesting this information on my first read I decided to turn the page.  Little did I know that upon closer inspection there were not only many allusions I missed but also a lot of imagery and symbolism.

What I thought were fictional characters that Moore created were actually allusions to works by other authors from different time periods.  Mr. Bond speaks of the astronomer Lavell and his discovery of incandescent gas on Mars, and after a quick Google search I discovered that he is actually an allusion to H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.”  Wells named an island in his novel Lavelle of Java, which is actually in reference to an M. Javelle of Nice who claimed to have seen a strange light coming from Mars in 1894.  The Reverend Septimus Harding is actually a character from Anthony Trollope’s Barchester novel series.  Miss Rosa Coote on the other hand is actually a fictional dominatrix from many Victorian era erotic novels.  Her last name comes from General Sir Eyre Coote who was involved in a flogging scandal in 1815.

In the background of this conversation is a church with a sign that reads “God Help Us” which signifies the desperation felt by many English citizens during this time period, and civil unrest is further emphasized by the man being thrown out of or pulled into the church window.  The poor environmental conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution is signified by the dirty watery sludge that is pooled up in the street, which a man is actually diving into while his companion looks on.  The overall darkness of the panel helps to convey the somber mood of both the conversation and the city.

It would be hard to consider Alan Moore’s work as a simple comic book when all of these allusions are present along with deep symbolism and imagery.  The complex nature of each panel makes graphic novels much more like actual novels than many people give them credit for.

-George de Roziere

Michelangelo, Renoir, Turbine?

Although the days where video games are displayed alongside paintings by Dali or Rodin’s Thinker are likely far away, it is not unreasonable to consider them a valid art form.  The amount of creative thinking and talent that is put into creating video games cannot be discounted.  They contain multiple forms of media that most people considers art, with both musical accompaniment and cinematic cut scenes.  Intricate story lines are also a major part of many video games, which are just as artful as many novels.

Many video games can be considered forms of art, but some specific games genres clearly emphasize the artistry aspect more than others.  RPG games with very detailed narratives allow the gamer to enter a fantasy world that is beautiful and captivating, especially in the case of LOTRO.  The visual experience by itself is breathtaking, as the construction of the landscape and the buildings is both sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing.  If that isn’t enough to make it art the creators of the game also provide music that uses tempo and pitch to give the player a more full understanding of the current situation that they face.  The music alone is very good and would suffice as art, but instead it adds dimension to the game that further qualifies it as an art form.  The detailed nature of each quest is a piece of art in its own right, as many different creative pieces are put together to make it work fluidly.

On the other hand some games can be seen as a blank canvas for the gamer to create their own masterpiece on because of the level of interactivity that they provide.  Games like Age of Empires and Zoo Tycoon offer the player to piece together their own landscape with endless possibilities.  Even sports games like FIFA can be played in ways that could be considered artful by fans and enthusiasts.  The interfaces themselves may not be considered works of art but they can be used creatively to produced pieces of art themselves.

Some people may argue that there are many tasteless and unimaginative video games that ruin the genre’s chances of being considered a form of art.  While there are clearly games out there that are not exactly masterpieces, the same is true of most all other forms of art.  Not all paintings are the Mona Lisa, nor do all authors write like Dickens.  A few bad apples should not be considered representative of the entire art form that is gaming.

-George de Roziere

Giving America a Bad Name

Wow.  That was all I could say after just riding one of the most intense emotional rollercoasters that I have ever been on.  The emotions evoked by King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters were both unexpected and captivating, as I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie, whenever I wasn’t falling out of it from laughing at the ridiculousness of some of the people in the documentary.

Aside from all of the absurd people and events that took place in the documentary, there is actually much that can be learned from Steve Wiebe’s journey to the top.  Video games provided him with an outlet for his frustration that really allowed him to leave all his personal struggles at the door when he entered the arcade, or in his case, his garage.  After losing his job Wiebe dedicated himself to becoming the best of the best, deciding to stop nowhere short of first place.  Had Wiebe not had this safe haven from his personal life then there is no telling where he would be now.  The game gave him something to work towards that could make him believe in himself again, and he was able to dedicate himself to a new job and become a science teacher beloved by all his students.

While video games brought out perseverance and hard work in Steve they actually brought out many negative characteristics in Billy Mitchell and his groupies.  The competitive nature of professional gaming led Billy to become an egotistical monster, who was one of the most frustrating people that I have ever encountered.  I have rarely someone to lose so badly before, and I found myself passionately rooting against him the entire movie.  His only redeeming quality was his love for America, coupled with his great collection of patriotic neckties.  However, in the end I came to the conclusion that Billy actually gave the USA a bad name, as his cowardice and arrogance are not values that should be admired in a true American.  His reluctance to compete against Steve in a live competition should have instantly decreased his credibly among the entire gaming community, however the corrupt nature of Twin Galaxies and his followers let Billy’s fear of losing slip by without criticism.

Video games helped Steve Wiebe finally succeed and come out on top in something, which he had never been able to do before.  They also helped him get his life back on track and made him a few new friends along the way.  They also brought out the worst in Billy, as his huge ego eventually overtook him and caused him to run from challenges and possibly even cheat.  I am still unconvinced of the credibility of Billy’s high-score tape that skipped from score to score and had a fuzzy line on the left-side of the screen quite frequently.  It was also an outrage that his taped score was counted and Steve’s was not, and they never even went to check to see if Billy’s machine was tampered with or not.  All in all this documentary was truly enthralling, and I was thrilled to see the underdog come out on top.

-George de Roziere

A Whole New World.

My favorite game of all time?  Not an easy choice.  My current favorite, FIFA, immediately came to mind.  There are not many better feelings than curling a free kick past your opponent’s goalkeeper and then doing a backflip in front of thousands of screaming fans to celebrate.  The added satisfaction of playing against one of your friends and beating them while talking trash the entire game is hard to beat.

However, as awesome as it is to relive my glory days as a 3rd grader dominating my AYSO league, one game stands above the rest when considering what game is truly my favorite.  Two words: Pokemon Red.  I cannot even remember how many times I have made it all the way to the end and beaten the Elite Four, and it is still just as gratifying as it was the first time.  As a trainer I felt deeply connected to my Pokemon, and each battle we won brought us closer together.  I will never forget my very first Pokemon, a precocious little fire-breather named Charmander.  We went through so much together: our first battle, our first badge, and eventually we became champions.

Not only did the companionship provided by the game hold me captive but also the sense of accomplishment I felt as I earned each of the eight badges truly enthralled me.  The badges made me stand out among all the trainers as someone to be both feared and respected.  Paired with the high levels of my Pokemon, those badges gave me a sense of power and importance that I had never felt before in any other game.  With the guidance of the trustworthy Professor Oak I quickly filled up my Pokedex, capturing every Pokemon that crossed my path.  I even managed to catch the legendary birds of Kanto, Moltres, Zapdos, and Atricuno, which only fueled my addiction.

No game has ever captured my attention quite like Pokemon has.  Although many different versions have been made, RED has been and always will be my favorite, as it introduced to the wonderful world of Pokemon.  The fantasy world filled with hundreds of exciting new animals paired with the captivating series of challenges make the game what it is for me to this day, my favorite game of all time.

George de Roziere

The Stereotypical Gamer?

Holed up in a dark basement somewhere.  Hasn’t showered in days.  Surrounded by empty bags of chips and cans of soda.  Afraid to go outside and see the light of day.  Held captive by a computer screen, completing tasks that have no merit in real life.  Cannot hold a conversation that isn’t via text message.  Homework taking a back seat to the game.

This is what most of my family and friends picture when they hear the word “gamer”.  And to be perfectly honest, during my first experience with LOTRO, I fit this stereotype in a way.  My roommate left our room around noon on Saturday, when I had just begun my quest.  He returned two and a half hours later to find me still playing in the complete darkness, wearing only my boxers, not showered, hadn’t eaten, and seemingly glued to my computer screen.  In fact, I’m writing this post under the same conditions.  Too much information?  Sorry.

Even though I may have been the target of some ridicule throughout the rest of the day because of this, it still did not take away from the sense of accomplishment that I got from finally reaching the stables in West Bree.  I had devoted much time and concentration to this endeavor and I was not going to let anyone discount that.  I may have missed the meeting time of 1PM, but I still got there eventually.

My family was somewhat surprised to hear that I had selected this class for my writing seminar, especially since I have never played online games before in my life.  But how bad could a class on LOTR possibly be?  I also knew that the word “gamer” to them carried somewhat of a stigma, as even my brother and I constantly playing FIFA in our spare time was sometimes frowned upon.  They believed that all my time spent playing “silly” video games could be spent doing things much more productive and beneficial to both myself and others.  And that’s probably true.  But just because I enjoy video games doesn’t mean that I don’t get my homework done and that I can’t hold a conversation, in fact on Saturday I was playing LOTRO as part of my homework!

Who am I to judge someone for doing something that they seem to enjoy so much?  And the same goes for other people.  There are plenty of other things, “guilty pleasures”, that people enjoy that do not really benefit society, such as watching reality TV.  As long as a healthy balance between work and play is found then how important is what that form of play actually is?  I have enjoyed my time spent gaming thus far and will continue to do so throughout at least the rest of the semester.

-George de Roziere