Twine Game Reflection Post

Once you’ve completed your game presentation, each student on the team should write a reflection post  (around 250 words) that you’ll each publish to your separate sites. Think about and explain in your post how the proposal and presentation help you to fulfill the learning objectives for this course.

Describe the Experience

  • What were your most important contributions to the group project? What role(s) did you play on the team?
  • What processes did your team use to make sense of the assignment, brainstorm ideas, and complete the work?
  • What technologies or writing strategies did you employ to complete your individual work on this project?
  • How did you prepare to present your game to the class?
  • How do you feel about the final product that you produced? What would you do differently with the project if you could go back to the start and do it over?

Reflect on Your Learning

  • What new skills or strategies did you learn while working on this project?
  • What new technological or design skills did you develop?
  • Were the strategies, skills and procedures you used effectively during the various stages of the project?
  • Do you see any patterns in how you approached your role in the writing of this proposal and the other work you’ve done, say on the podcast episodes?
  • How can you apply the skills you used in crafting this game proposal to future writing projects? Where can you use these skills again?
  • What are you most proud of about the game that you created?

You don’t need to/won’t be able to answer all the above questions in the space provided, but hopefully they help you to meaningfully engage with the process of reflecting on your work on the assignment.

Super Mario in Quarantine

The Longest Rainy Sunday
Super Mario in Quarantine
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In this episode of the Longest Rainy Sunday, we bring our listeners to Super Mario Odyssey, which on one hand connects people’s childhood memories and emotions, but also extends horizons to the future modern world. In our podcast, we mainly analyze the elements that remained the same in Super Mario Odyssey when comparing it with previous versions in the series and the elements that become new in this newest version. Finally, we connect that with our current social and pandemic time, illustrating how Super Mario Odyssey is related to people’s daily lives under such a unique circumstance. 

Sources:

Super Mario Odyssey for Nintendo Switch – Nintendo Game Details. 

Thier, Dave. “‘Super Mario Odyssey’ Review: A Perfect Game With One Problem.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 2 Nov. 2017, .

Flanagan, Mary. Critical Play. I, “Introduction to Critical Play”. MIT Press, 2009. 

Transcript

Super-Mario-in-Quarantine

Download transcript

Reprogramming a Game by Playing It

I am nowhere near an expert on the Super Mario Brothers games but this brand new world record speedrun of SMB3 in 3 minutes is both confusing and fascinating. Before last month, the record speed run of SMB3 was about 11 minutes, but Zikubi cut the time down by 75% by actively reprogramming the game as he played it in order to open a wormhole to the ending.

In an explanation of a much earlier speed run record the blogger Kottke explains the beauty he sees in such pursuits:

In the video analysis of this speedrun, if you forget the video game part of it and all the negative connotations you might have about that, you get to see the collective effort of thousands of people over more than three decades who have studied a thing right down to the bare metal so that one person, standing on the shoulders of giants in a near-perfect performance, can do something no one has ever done before. Progress and understanding by groups of people happens exactly like this in manufacturing, art, science, engineering, design, social science, literature, and every other collective human endeavor…it’s what humans do. But since playing sports and video games is such a universal experience and you get to see it all happening right on the screen in front of you, it’s perhaps easier to grok SMB speedrun innovations more quickly than, say, how assembly line manufacturing has improved since 2000, recent innovations in art, how we got from the flip phone to iPhone X in only 10 years, or how CRISPR happened.

Week ahead: 6

9/17*
9/20
6 9/22
  • Fiasco/Alice is Missing Rulebooks
  • Setup games in class

This week, you’ll be playing one of these two games together in groups of 3-5 via Roll20. I’ll be sending you invitations to join games on the platform. After you play, you’ll write up a reflection about the game.

In class on Tuesday, you’ll get a chance to begin setting up your characters and the games.

We’ll also spend some time in class finalizing details on the podcast series.

Ranking walking simulators by how good the walking is

I mentioned in class on Tuesday that Gone Home is one of the originators of the genre: walking simulators, a term that was originally intended to be derisive because it wasn’t violent enough to be a game, but that it has since been embraced with a bunch of games that can all be designated as walking simulators. We’ll be playing a few other games this semester within the genre this semester.

Which reminded me of the video below, which is a Polygon video that ranks some of the examples from the genre according to how accurately they simulate the actual walking within the game.

Note that one game that makes a couple of cameos in the video, even though it is not ranked, is Night in the Woods, which was included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We won’t be playing that one together as a class, but if you want to play the game for a podcast episode, you might begin by asking whether it qualifies as a walking simulator. In the game you play as College dropout Mae Borowski when she returns home to the crumbling former mining town of Possum Springs seeking to resume her aimless former life and reconnect with the friends she left behind. But things aren’t the same. Home seems different now and her friends have grown and changed. Leaves are falling and the wind is growing colder. Strange things are happening as the light fades. And there’s something in the woods.

 

Week Ahead: 4

4 9/8
9/10* Ian Bogost “Media Microecology” and “Empathy” from How to Do Things with Videogames
9/13

In class on Tuesday, we’ll have two primary tasks:

  • We’ll continue to establish our own working definition for what a game is and to develop the basic theoretical framework we can rely on to analyze games by considering Steven Johnson’s argument in Everything Bad is Good for You and Mary Flanagan’s “Introduction to Critical Play.”
  • We’ll also need to establish the ground rules for the podcast series that this class will be be publishing this semester.

Make sure you have read over the assignment page for the podcast series. You’ll be divided into 6 groups of 3 students for the podcast series, then within each group you’ll take turns rotating through the 3 different roles as you produce episodes. That means by the end of the semester we will have together published 18 episodes of a podcast series exploring how games encourage us to think, feel, and behave.

I am going to encourage you to devote episodes to exploring games that were included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality this summer. The bundle included more than 1700 independent games and raised $8,149,349.66 for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Community Bail Fund in order to support protestors who continue to march for racial justice throughout the nation. I’ve put together a playlist called Play Make Write Think that highlights almost 50 of those games based on recommendations I’ve seen and based on my own perusal of the list of 1700+ games, just to help make the choice not so overwhelming. I purchased the full bundle and can make games from it available to you for the purposes of critical analysis in your podcast episodes.

In our class discussion on Tuesday, you will all need to be engaged in developing the rules for the series; for example, should each episode be devoted only to a single game or can we be allowed to compare two? and should we make every episode about one or more games from the Bundle, or should we allow the freedom to go outside the bundle for episodes? We will also need to come up with a title, begin drafting the text we’ll record for the introductory bumper, and think about what music we’ll use in the intro to set the tone.

After class, for the rest of the week

After Tuesday, you’ll have two short essays by Ian Bogost that will round out the theoretical foundation texts for the semester. Ian Bogost is a Professor of Media Studies and of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, has written or edited ten books on video games, and created the wildly-successful Cow-Clicker, a Facebook game critiquing Facebook games. These two essays are very short but they are fairly dense theoretical writing. Please read them carefully, paying special attention to “Media Microecology.” On September 15, we’ll have a special guest teacher discussing that essay with you so it’s very important that you come to class having read the essay and are prepared to discuss it.

I have also sent you all emails with information about the game we’ll be discussing on 9/15, Gone Home. Your side quest this week is to liveblog your playing of the game.

Week ahead: 3

8/30 Side Quest 1: Avatar
3 9/1
  • “Introduction” from Superbetter: The Power of Living Gamefully by Jane McGonigal
  • Play Depression Quest
9/3*
9/6 Side Quest 2: Combophoto

 

As of writing this on Sunday afternoon, 8 of you have already published your avatars on your sites and I’ve gotten them added to the Students Sites page. The syndication of students posts is still not fully automated because I’m waiting for three more students to let me know the URL for their sites. Once I get those and have finished setting up syndication, I’ll make the process fully automated so that when you publish a blog post to your site it will show up on the Student Posts page almost immediately. Until then, I need to run a manual update to pull posts in, so don’t worry if you publish your avatar post and it doesn’t show up until tomorrow.

Before class on Tuesday, play Depression Quest. It’s a browser based game where you play as someone living with depression. You are given a series of everyday life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment. You do not necessarily need to play to a conclusion, but play for at least an hour or so because we’ll use Depression Quest as our primary text for discussion on Tuesday, where we will be paying most attention to these two issues:

  • You’ll have read a couple different essays by Jane McGonigal (“What is a Game?” last week and the introduction to Superbetter this week) plus listened to the podcast analyzing Monopoly last week so we’ll spend some time thinking about the definitions she forwards for games and how they apply to Depression Quest (and Monopoly).
  • Last week, you also read Andrea Lunsford’s description of the terms we need to consider when we think about the rhetorical situation of a text or an author. Rhetorical situation is a really important term for any first year writing class, so we will spend a bit of time discussing those terms and then I will ask you to think about the rhetorical situation of Depression Quest.

After our synchronous class session, you’ll play the browser-based game Tangaroa Deep and read Steven Johnson’s essay in which he argues, amongst other things, that our increasingly complex games are making all of us smarter. And I’ll publish a discussion thread on Canvas where I’ll ask you to think about how Johnson’s article pertains to that game. We will also definitely spend some time in class next week discussing the Johnson article.

All of these discussions working out definitions of games and what kinds of things games can do to and for us will be really important in the coming weeks when we start playing some games that I have selected for you in greater depth and as you start choosing games you want to analyze in podcast episodes that we’ll publish as a class. We are laying the theoretical framework for future discussions, so please read carefully and come to class ready to ask questions about the texts’ arguments.

Also, your second side quest is another photography assignment that should be fun. You’ll be combining two different photos to create a new powerful image.

Links are for humans; URLs are for computers

URLs are for computers.

They are specific addresses that tell the web browser where to go to fetch data and show it to you in one form or another. The URL for the resources page on this site is https://eng101f20.davidmorgen.org/resources/. The URL for the oldest post on the course blog is https://eng101f20.davidmorgen.org/davids-posts/header-image-credits/. With a little awareness of the syntax, you can decode that information. If you wanted to read the page or post that I just referenced, you could copy that code and paste it into your browser to get there.

Sometimes people just paste URLs into emails or pages that they’re writing, and some applications (like the few most recent version of WordPress) will convert those URLs into links so that you at least don’t have to go to the trouble of copying and pasting the code as separate steps to get to the pages referenced. For example, one way to show you Gavin Aung Than’s comic adaptation of a quote by Jim Henson would be to just do this: http://zenpencils.com/comic/150-jim-henson-a-puppeteers-advice/. However, most of the time readers will find URLs confusing and uninviting, and it’s difficult for you to effectively contextualize that information smoothly.

Links are for humans

Links use HTML code to turn URLs into something that is readable and clear for humans. One way to create a link is manually, by inserting some HTML code around text that makes the text into a link, so

Check out Gavin Aung Than’s <a href=”http://zenpencils.com/comic/150-jim-henson-a-puppeteers-advice/”>brilliant comic adaptation</a> of a quote by Jim Henson.

looks like this in your browser

Check out Gavin Aung Than’s brilliant comic adaptation of a quote by Jim Henson.

Most of the time, though, you don’t need to insert links manually. When you’re in your WordPress post editor, you can create a link by highlighting the text or image that you want to become a link and selecting the button that looks like the links of a chain, then pasting the URL into the dialog box. But if you want to add a link to a comment you’re leaving on this site, you’ll need to know the HTML code to do so.

This distinction between URLs and links is important for our class because our first learning outcome states that over the course of the semester, you will “demonstrate understanding of audience” and learn to “use and adapt generic conventions, including organization, development, and style.” Using links instead of URLs is an important first step in understanding the reading needs of your audience and is an important stylistic and generic convention of writing for the web.

This distinction is also important because using links opens up a whole range of more interesting options for you that are unavailable when you merely drop URLs into your work. Jokes can be goofy commentaries or can offer useful insight on the topic at hand.