If only I could catch them all

I roll out of bed whenever I feel like—no essays or exams to worry about. Not even school to worry about. I don’t write so good, but who cares. I turn on the TV and the 365 day forecast for my town is seventy degrees and sunny. I go downstairs, say hello to my loving mother, and walk out my front door. Today’s activity, and every other beautiful days’ activity: catch some Pokemon. It’s just another day in the life in the Pokemon world.

I walk to the nearest grassy area, walk back and forth and run into a Pokemon. It’s just a level 6 Sandshrew, but I want one for my pokedex, so I take out my Alakazam and put it to sleep so I can capture it. If I want a little bit more of a challenge, maybe I’ll go to the power plant and try and maybe catch a glimpse of a Zappados. One day, I hope to fight in a gym and get a badge. One day.

Pallet town a bit too slow today? No problem. I’ll just whip out my level 89 flying Charizard, using one of the many technological advances that makes my life so easy—a pokeball, and I’ll be off to Vermillion city in no time. Too lazy to walk to the corner store? No problem. I’ll just take out my full sized bicycle which fits every so compactly into my tiny backpack, and head on over. Or maybe I’m in the mood for the lull of the perfectly blue waves and the caress of the soft ocean breeze. No problem. I’ll just hop onto the back of my level 64 Lapras and surf my way to tropical relaxation.

Life on Pokemon Earth is pretty easy. Because society revolves around Pokemon—the study, capture, and sport—citizens of Pokemon Earth take care of their environment and the natural habitats of the Pokemon. There is no factory pollution or gas guzzling vehicles ruining the ozone. Additionally, the advanced technology makes life much easier. People can store Pokemon on computers, use anti-gravity machines, teleport places, clone Pokemon, and even heal Pokemon instantaneously. (People could also be healed if they ever became sick or hurt, but they never are.) If I had to choose one video game world to live in, it would definitely be the world of Pokemon.


The The Extraordinary League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

“Wait, that’s the book you were talking about?” Said a friend when she saw The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore sitting on my desk. “That’s not a book; that’s a comic.”

“It’s a graphic nov” I managed to say, before she cut me off—“Tell me when you have some real reading for class.”

Graphic novels aren’t widely accepted as scholarly work. They are usually seen as picture books for kids, or as comics for “nerds” without value. I’m here to tell you that great graphic novels are as substantive and worthwhile as great novels, the same way a a movie can be. Below is a single panel from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The attention to minute details, and the plethora of fantastic allusions made in this graphic novel truly set it apart from a mere comic book.

This is one of four small panels, next to a large, page and a half panel. In this almost inconsequential panel, Moore gives the reader so much.

In the foreground there is a ragged, obviously poor gentlemen and a few boys dressed similarly. The details incorporated immerse the reader—the fingerless gloves, the cigarettes, the wart on his nose, and so much more. His low class and that of his young companions is affirmed from the way they talk. In the mid-ground there is a burning building and smoke. And In the background a flying ship can be seen bombing the buildings of London (the cause of the building fire.) This is what is understood at face value.

Now, onto the good stuff. In this panel on of the young boys refer to the older, ragged gentleman as Mr. Dodger. In the panel above this, the same boy tells Mr. Dodger that he has stole Mr. Quartermain’s purse (or “is tart’s purse.”) This automatically reminds any of us who have read Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist. This Mr. Dodger, is none other then the skillful and cunning Artful Dodger grown up. It seems he has started a gang of pickpocket children as well.

Moore also included another quick allusion. Mr. Dodger refers to one the boys as “Mitchell,” and the other as “Watts.” A quick google search of “Mitchell and Watts London” brought up the EastEnders Wikipedia page. Having never seen the show, I do not fully understand the reference, but the show, taking place in the East End of London, is about the Mitchell and Watts family. Although a bit anachronistic, it makes sense that these two would be in the east end, the sight of the bombings. Maybe these two are the ancestors the two families.

Finally, the flying ship in the background is the quintessential representation of steampunk technology. This great advancement which has the power for so much good, is also the source of so much destruction. This theme of the duality of technology is prominent throughout many steampunk novels.

The above was one panel. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is full of allusions and symbolism that makes it worthy of being called a a true graphic novel.


We Don’t Appreciate Art

“What emotions does it evoke?” asks every high-school English teacher of a painting upon reaching the “art section” of that year. “What does it make you feel? What was the intention of the artist?”

If the purpose of art is to convey an emotion and or an experience, then video games along with books, movies, sculptures, architecture, and paintings, should be considered art. When playing Assassin’s Creed II, I experienced the intended emotions; the excitement when racing across the roofs of Florence or the sadness when Ezio and his family are betrayed.

But art is more than just the communication of emotions. Art has countless purposes—communication, symbolism, expression, entertainment, and many, many more. With this broad purpose, how can video games not be art?

Consider again Assassin’s Creed II. The setting alone is art. If someone were to paint a beautiful scene of Renaissance Italy it would be accepted as art. Then why when entire cities are rebuilt in Assassin’s Creed II is it not considered art?

I think the crux of the issue is that once again video games get a bad rap. But this time, its not about those who play video games, but those who makes video games. I believe that when the general public sees a video game they do not understand the sheer amount of work that went into making that game. They fail to recognize that every detail they see, down to the tiniest crack in a stone wall, was placed on purpose, for them, the gamer. That huge game maps took just as much time if not more as creating a model representation. That great musical scores were written for their gaming experience (Hans Zimmer writing music for Modern Warfare 2 comes to mind.)

If many of the game aspects were taken out of context, and shown individually, I believe people would easily consider them art. But once there is intense interactivity and it becomes a “game” people automatically lose sight of the art. They see games as simple and mindless. All games are certainly not art. Most aren’t art. But as technology advances and more money is being spent of video games, I believe more video games will cross into the realm of art the same way movies did. People just need to understand that not all video games are a waste of time, and then they will begin to see the art in them.


Wiebe vs. Mitchell; Hekyll vs. Jekyll


King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters was one of the more, how should I say, interesting documentaries I have ever seen. It was an insight into a world that, quite frankly, I did not know existed. The classic-game sport, if I may call it that, is filled with corruption, agendas, and unethical practices. This came as a real surprise to me. I never considered that there could be any dispute over a game-record. But, like everything else, if there is a way to do something legitimately, there are a thousand ways to do it illegitimately.

Throughout the entire movie, it was clear that Twin Galaxies and its associates were Billy Mitchell supporters, and not the unbiased score keepers that they wanted to be seen as. Billy Mitchell was their meal ticket and therefore they wanted to protect his scores. Twin Galaxies gained off the fame of Billy Mitchell. This was evident when Steve Wiebe first beat Billy Mitchell’s high score and submitted his video evidence of it. But because Roy Shildt was involved with Steve Wiebe and even bought him a new Donkey Kong board, Wiebe’s score was attacked and delegitimized because of the history between Mitchell and Shildt.

Another example of the agenda and corruption of Twin Galaxies is that Mitchell, for all his talk, never competed live against Wiebe. He then, after all the controversy over Wiebe’s video submission, submitted a tape of him beating Wiebe’s record. And even before the tape was verified as a legitimate entry, Walter Day, supposed video game referee, declared that the in video score was accepted and entered it into Twin Galaxies. This was minutes after Day talked to Mitchell on the phone and told him the video had discrepancies and the master copy would have to be watched to verify the legitimacy of the score.

I couldn’t stand watching Wiebe get continually walked on throughout the documentary. This sport is so underpopulated that it is almost like a small community. Therefore they must self regulate because, well, no one else really cares. This left a lot of room for some shady practices.

However, through all this, the movie was great. The people in the high score gaming community are hilarious to watch, and are passionate about their sport. Billy Mitchell is a character in his own right, even if I despise him. And because in the final minute of the movie, after all seemed lost for Steve Wiebe, I found out he beat Mitchell’s high score and this time it was unequivocally accepted. Good had conquered evil, and all was right once more.



Gaming v.s. Playing

We’ve all played before, right? Maybe it was a card game like go fish when we were young, or a game of catch outside with an older sibling. But have we all gamed before? Do you game at Jenga with a younger sibling? What about picking up a controller when your buddies are playing FIFA? Is that gaming?

When do we game?

I’ve seen a friend sit in front of WOW for hours on end before, and he was definitely gaming. But, I’ve dabbled in WOW before, played here and there, and I believe I was just playing. This past summer, when I had some free time, I would play a game or two of Madden. It was a great way to relax, I enjoyed it, always turning of my PS3 satisfied. It was never very challenging, but that’s what I enjoyed about—the big plays and the easy win. My twin brother also played madden this past summer, and he plays on the hardest settings. He knows the NFL inside and out, making my football knowledge seem as if I was one of those girls asking “what is a down?” And when he plays Madden, he yells at the fictional players when they drop a ball and yells encouragement or just straight profanities if the game isn’t going as intended. I’ve seen him walk away from a Madden game crushed, as if he truly did just lose a NFL playoff game. But I’ve also seen him put down the controller so feeling so accomplished that nothing could ruin his day. He games; I play.

In all cases the “player” and the “gamer” both want to win or beat the game they are playing. In the example of my brother an me, we were both playing madden, and trying to win in the same way. But if we look at our relative enjoyment levels from a game in which we both won (but were both losing in the third quarter) but I was playing and he was gaming, it would look like this:

Game enjoyment levels

From my experience (beyond video games) you reap what you sow, you get what you put in. I believe this is the difference between gaming and playing. A gamer is focused in what he is doing, fully engrossed, fully affected by the outcome. A player on the other hand, is playing for leisure, to relax, without the intensity of a gamer. NFL players should be called gamers, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for that change.


You can be a Titan but not an orc: My friend’s attitudes about gaming.

After a long week of school, my friends and I would find ourselves at one of our houses and we would turn on the ps3 (or xbox or wii) and play some madden. We would take turns playing each other, one vs. one, the spectator’s yelling what they would have done differently, their approval, their disappointment.  When asked Saturday night what we did Friday after school, we would say “we just chilled—played madden.” This was regular. This was cool.

But if one Friday, like usual, my friends and I were at one of our houses and instead of turning on the ps3 (or xbox or wii) I said “lets play World of Warcraft today instead.” I would have received blank stares from half of my friends pretending not to know what WOW was, and “what are we, losers?” from the other half.

There is a unexplained social stigma in my group of friends (and many 19 year olds that I know) of MMORPG’s (massively multiplayer online role playing games.) The spectrum of video games and their “social standing” within my group of friends, with sports and console first person shooters on one end, and MMORPG games on the other, looks like this:

There is an association of MMORPG games and what is considered uncool, or nerdy. I’ve heard comments describing WOW ranging from “only losers play” to “why don’t they want to play in the real world” and “Its the game with magic, right? Are they seven?”

And I always have to wonder what is so different about sport games and FPS games? How many GTA players have ever killed someone and stolen a car? How many Madden players will play in the NFL? How many Halo players will become a cyborg and fight aliens?

There is a trend in the spectrum: as games incorporate more fantasy elements with larger multiplayer options, they slowly creep from the cool end of the spectrum to the nerdy end of the spectrum.

However, not is all lost for us fantasy enthusiasts. More fantasy based movies, novels and games are attracting larger audiences: the Lord of The Rings movie trilogy grossed $2.9 billion world wide, George R.R. Martin’s The Song of Ice and Fire book series was given an “A-” by Entertainment Weekly (very mainstream), has an HBO show based off of it named after the first book, A Game of Thrones, and is sold in the prestigious Rand Bookstore, and World of Warcraft has over 11 million users. Fantasy as a genre is slowly becoming more mainstream and therefore accepted. As this happens, the stigma of MMORPG games will fade and all their players can “just chill” as well.