For this side quest, I centered my construction around the question of “what do games teach us?”. I think that in every topic/assignment we explored in this class, we brought it back to what games offer their players. For the components of the pizza slice, I worked around the learning outcomes. Rhetorical situations was the most foundational topic we explored. Writing as a process and components of a game were also very central. For the toppings, I chose facets of this class that came out more naturally as a result of the discussions and assignments we were given.
When our group first came together for the Twine project, we realized that we wanted to show the challenges that one was forced to make early in the pandemic. We had decided on using meters to illustrate the challenging task of limiting COVID risk, keeping money afloat, and maintaining a strong mental capacity without stressors. We eventually realized that in fact, we did not have the capabilities to create meters. Although we were allowed to still incorporate meters into our proposal, this moment was our first reckoning with the immense work that it takes to create a game. As I reflect on this process, I have a great deal of respect for game creators in how they are able to seamlessly incorporate a storyline into the technical mechanics of the game.
Our group soon realized that the best way to develop this game, given our limitations, was through the storyline. Through conversations, we found that our initial game plot was not engaging. Every single person has had to make difficult choices during this pandemic, so why would someone choose to play the exact same scenario? In focusing on different socioeconomic classes, we wanted players to be able to see how the pandemic disproportionally affected people of lower income. In retrospect, we were doing exactly what Ian Bogost explains is part of the micro-ecology of games: creating empathy. In talking about the game Darfur is Dying, Bogost says “those games would do well to invite us to step into the smaller, more uncomfortable shoes of the downtrodden rather than the larger, more well-heeled shoes of the powerful.” In developing the game, we did not care for our players to learn about the frivolous choices that people in the high socioeconomic class, the “well-heeled shoes of the powerful,” face. Rather, by creating low, medium, and high options that a player can choose from, we were hoping to show the contrast in decisions among these different characters and thus have the players really delve into those small, uncomfortable shoes.
An initial challenge we faced when this group came together was finding a time to meet outside of class. Mudita, Pratyush, and Rishika are 10.5 hours ahead of me, so that was a bit of a barrier. I think we found, though, that despite coming from different places we all felt similarly about the struggles that people of low socioeconomic classes faced and were thus able to use all of our experiences to develop the plot. Nevertheless, I am incredibly grateful to the three for inviting me into their already assembled podcast group and working around the time barrier.
In the latest episode of The Longest Rainy Sunday, my group explored the game Democratic Socialism Simulator in which I served as the assistant producer.
In this episode, we focused on how the game poses the argument that the most ideal form of government is a moderate one. The name implies that this is a game that will embrace socialist-like ideals, yet it instead, mocks them. The actual feedback loop and mechanisms of the game shows that when decisions are consistently made under one viewpoint, problems arise. One problem that we focus on specifically, is the bankruptcy of the country when we make decisions that lean left–decisions that in my opinion, are fundamental human rights.
I greatly enjoyed being a part of creating this episode because we were able to incorporate topics from current day life other than the daily despair each one of us faces amidst a raging pandemic. We published this episode only one week after the presidential election, a time when many of us were entrenched in the outcomes because the repercussions for people both domestically and abroad could be severe. We had the liberty to thus reflect on this election and what factors may have contributed to Biden’s win. One point we make during this episode is how this game came out in February, amidst primary season. Many people believed that Biden should be the democratic elect because we needed a moderate president who would appeal to undecided and even republican voters. This viewpoint came at a time when Bernie Sanders and Biden were neck and neck in the race. Coincidently, the description of Democratic Socialism Simulator says that the game is “an attempt to prefigure the opportunities and challenges of a Sanders (or Sanders-like) presidency.” This game may have influenced people to abandon their support for Sanders after playing because it illustrates that a socialist government is unattainable and unrealistic. Other topics that we were able to integrate into our podcast was the role of young voters in this election as well as a reflection on Lincoln and FDR. I think this mechanism of incorporating political issues was very helpful because we were able to share our own opinions on this game and what a moderate presidency really means. In this way, our opinions gave the episode more character and helped it seem more natural.
In respect to the process of producing, I think our group has gotten very comfortable with creating a podcast episode. When we produced our first episode, Temple Run, we were all coming to the task without any experience. Granted, we did choose a game we were somewhat familiar with–yet we were still very new to analyzing a game with a critical analysis lens. Deciding on a game, formulating a thesis, and recording took much more time that first week than it did during this episode. Now, I believe we have the ability to approach any game (including those we have not played) and effectively create an argument. We also very seamlessly have gotten into the flow of creating the other components of this podcast episode like the summary, cover photo, and script. I think that, in the future, if I ever have to create a podcast episode for another class, I would not find it a daunting process.
Given that this was our final episode, I also want to thank Jiachen and Hayden for being really great group members during this process. I think we worked really well and efficiently, and for Jiachen, I have a great deal of respect for coordinating times with us when he was twelve hours ahead of us.
I was incredibly nervous about writing this essay, because I was unsure about how I could use parts of games as evidence for my ideas. I also needed to refresh myself on the games, a time consuming process, as I initially played these games some time ago. When I started writing, however, I felt that looking at these games in a critical lens was not entirely unfamiliar. From class and especially from the podcast episodes, I realized I had been analyzing games all semester.
I also thought the proposed essay structure would be difficult to follow. I actually did find it necessary to break the structure in my first part by having an entire paragraph on GRIS. I wanted to flesh out the analysis without confusing the readers between that and Life is Strange. Otherwise, though, it was incredibly odd to not have my thesis be in my semi-introductory paragraph. On the other hand, I did find that in placing my thesis in my third part, I was able to seamlessly conclude my essay with a sort of “so what?”. In the end, I really liked the way in which I intertwined trauma with the idea of alternate realities in the two games.
I chose a scene from Mean Girls as my iconic movie scene. Here is the original.
For this side quest, I created visual notes from a day in my chemistry class. We were learning about hybridization and the overlap of orbitals (regions of space where electrons exist) in the formation of bonds within a molecule. My teacher did show images to represent orbitals as it is one of the learning objectives for our class, but I hadn’t drawn and took the time to understand this concept myself. Through these drawings, I was able to solidify the types of bonds created and ask myself how and where I can represent the different lobes of hybridized bonds. I really tried to focus on the drawing of these molecules and limit the number of words on the page.
I switched to virtual note-taking with GoodNotes 5 when this semester started, but I have never used it solely to draw pictures. I find it most helpful when I can write on worksheets and implement images from my textbook interspersed with my notes. I also try not to re-write my notes or create study guides as a studying method because I don’t find it as effective as creating flashcards. I do think my method works well, but this side quest opened my mind up to how to take advantage of my tools and implement drawings as part of my understanding. For example, when I was completing this assignment, I finally understood where the orbitals come from and found gaps in my learning that I don’t think I would have realized previously. In addition, drawing images is certainly more accessible with my tablet given that the app refines shapes and I have a multitude of colors and pen sizes. Previously, though, I would not turn to drawing because I would spend too much time drawing a doodle/diagram out as opposed to actually learning and applying the concept.
The week our episode was due, I was initially stressed because creating a podcast is not something I had ever done before. Though, I am grateful for Hayden and Bob in how we all came together to produce an interesting and thoughtful episode.
Our first challenge was deciding on a game. While we did start somewhat in advance of the project, we admittedly were constrained by time. When we got together, we all came to consensus that foremost, we had to choose a game that we had all played. Hayden and Bob definitely had played more games than me, so it took a bit of narrowing down, but we did settle on Temple Run. I proposed it mainly because when I was looking for games, I found out that Temple Run is still one of the leading games on the Apple play store. It really does surprise me how games that are no longer in the mainstream view remain popular for quite a few years (in the case of Temple Run it was almost a decade). I wanted to explore this aspect as well as think about the mechanics of Temple Run because I felt that it spurred the era of 3-D simulator games. I was slightly hesitant about pursuing the game because it very much was so casual that it did not necessarily fit into the definition in this class. Though, retrospectively, I think this factor of Temple Run being somewhat of an odd game made it that much more interesting to explore in our episode, especially with the added aspect of the pandemic. We will not be exploring casual games for every episode, though, so for future weeks, we plan to choose games that we are necessarily familiar with.
We settled on roles based on our availability that week, and plan to switch for every episode. The responsibility was split up such that I, the producer, would be in charge of outlining the script of general ideas (including the sources) that we would cover as well as editing the episode. Hayden, the assistant producer, would be in charge of the transcript and Bob, the line producer, would create the cover picture and summary of the episode. We all, of course, contributed to the brainstorming of discussion topics and crafting of a main idea for the episode.
Looking back on my responsibilities, for the outline, I think I should have focused less on creating an actual script because our episode could have seemed more conversational. In terms of editing, I definitely do think I could have smoothed out the background noise or adjusted volumes more efficiently. Overall, however, the activity was more enjoyable than I had anticipated. I think being able to have the creative license to create something (video, podcast) has always been incredibly appealing to me, but I didn’t know how to even begin. After using Audacity and the Free Music Archive, I definitely see that I have areas to improve on, but I feel that operating the tools to create is not as much of a barrier as I thought it would be.
I do not think this is the most spectacular throw in the universe, especially after watching the girl with a paper airplane get hers into a trash can. Though, I do think this was the most spectacular way I could have went about it. I mean, what good is years of gymnastics if you can’t use it for moments like these? Seriously…I have never in my life, needed a one-handed cartwheel. Once I decided on the technique, it took quite a few tries, but I eventually got it in–a mini victory for the night!
Initial Thoughts: Wow, this game is touching. The graphics, the music-I feel transported to a new world. The image of starting on the floor evoked a feeling of real sadness. At the start I couldn’t figure out how to move, and then finally D started to work. I walked, slowly, until the music changed and I started to run-and now I could jump too! It felt invigorating to run, especially with the shift in music. There was definitely this sense of bliss because I was running in a world with disaster all around. I think the bright lights are spirits, helping me navigate through a broken world. The broken hands as pieces of destruction are undoubtedly, a bit unsettling.
Reflection: I am not sure what rules there are set for video games, but this game definitely felt different. I enjoyed this change immensely, though. I felt as if I was walking through a story, with the background as stunning water colors and my movements heavily influenced by the tone of the music. Although I didn’t know they were called platform-games until last week, I love this style of gaming. I think platform-games such as this one feel more realistic–in life, we are usually fighting against the internal struggles within us rather than the external struggles in front of us. In Gris, I felt the main avatar continuously pushing themself forward even when they were being pushed back. In anger for instance, the wind pushes against me. Every time I would make it slightly more forward, I rolled back in a ball and flew back. I had to continuously push myself to make it to the other side.
I think a video game is so powerful to tell a story of grief. Starting with the beginning, I understood from the side quest instructions that I was in the first stage of grief: denial. That is what denial must be, a figurative stage of walking, jumping, running–just doing anything to get a grip on what is going on. As gamers, we are in denial of the real message or conflict of the game in those initial stages. As grievers, we are processing that someone is no longer, a confusing reality that many face. In that regard, I think the creators were extremely successful in exploiting the medium because they were more easily able to evoke sadness and empathy from the users.
I have a complete lack of artistic skills so when I usually draw something, I hate it to no end. Though, this sketch, taken from a meme I have seen where a plushie is holding a knife (original meme is in the caption), makes me laugh to no end. It’s Kirby–the cutest avatar known to man with a knife twice its size. I found it so amusing that I sent the sketch to my friends and family group chats without any context. I know that Kirby is actually pink, but I’m not in my actual home this semester, so my art tools were pretty limited. I had to make do with a purple sharpie when I couldn’t find a pink marker. It might seem like a vampire or devil Kirby now, but to me, it’s just Kirby having a rough time this year.