Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Step up, Real World

So, I just finished reading Everything Bad is Good For You, by Steven Johnson. The thesis of the book is that today's popular culture, which is generally considered to be mind-numbing, and making the average person dumber, is actually, on the whole, making us smarter. It has stuff like diagrams of the relationships between people on shows like Dallas compared to shows like 24, with complexity increasing incredibly with time. It looks at all facets of popular culture, from TV to movies to literacy, but particularly (to my interest) video games.

The book (which was a good short read that I recommend) points out that the brain always seeks to consume more complicated information. The brain is constantly trying to challenge itself - so it seeks situations in which it is challenged most. This is surprising, I find, considering that when the "brain is a muscle" analogy is used, it should be working as little as possible, considering that is what muscles do.

Anyway, the book visited the standard image of pop culture hatred: the 10-year-old white male sitting in front of his video game console for hours on end, eyes glazed over, ignoring the yells and shouts of those around him to "do something productive" - ignoring the real world. Well, maybe, just maybe, the video game world IS more exciting than the real world.

Think about it.

In the video game world (at least a well designed one) goals are clear. You have shiny numbers and a happy sound pop up when you've done something good. A loud honk occurs when you do something wrong, so you try again until you get the shiny numbers. People you meet give you clear goals (my kitten is stuck in a tree! Help!) NPCs that don't like you SAY so, and usually offer a way that you can appease them.

Is there anything wrong with this world? No. Except that spending too much time working on it, and not your real life can, ya know, make your real life suck.

So, Step up, Real World. You can do better. Maybe don't give me clear life goals (mine look something like:

Graduate University
- Pay Tuition for this year
- - Get Scholarship to pay Tuition
- - - Hand in Scholarship Application
- - - - Give Johsa Scholarship Application to edit.

But, at least let me know how I'm doing. Have people come up to me and say "You're looking nice today!" or run in fear if I am disheveled. (Fable, anyone?) Pat me on the back if I've just made you happy. Let me know if I piss you off - don't be passive agressive (you'll probably be ignored).

If you're reading this (does anyone?) make an effort to be honest with the people around you. Let them know how they're doing. Give them points. Congratulate them on their effort. This goes for anyone of all ages. The Real World can definitely afford to step up.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

more POLE and also flash

Another pole picture. Somehow these have the magic of turning out amazing all the time.

In other news, I'm finally going through something I have been promising myself I would for a while - learning Macromedia Flash. I'm keeping a learning diary too. Hopefully this will make sure I keep on doing this until I'm good at it, and don't flake out like I do with other things.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Media Priming

Any James Bond movie starts with some sort of giant chase scene. Our andrenaline is pumping within seconds that the objects on the video screen start to move.

Modern TV shows (especially serials like Lost or PrisonBreak) start with a familiar intro, as well as information from what has happened in the past few shows. We get excited about the plight of the characters in this next episode.

This priming is important, or otherwise the intended audience is not in the mood for for what is about to happen to them. Sort of like sex without the foreplay, or eye contact.

I've noticed this lack of priming when it comes to video games. We'll let this slide a little bit cuz video games are relatively new when it comes to a portion of emerging media. Typically when it comes to non-casual video games (e.g. Thief, Deus Ex, Half-Life, etc.) I play them late at night when I cannot sleep, or at other times when I need a break during the day and I don't have anyone around to entertain me.

These games I enter directly from a loading screen, usually in the middle of a mission. Now, I'm playing devil's advocate here, playing the game in the worst condition possible. But the point is that with a good game design, I shouldn't be allowed to.

So, I've landed WHEREVER, in the middle of a save game, with half-completed objectives (this is most noticeable in THIEF) and I am completely disoriented.

This is where, in game design schools, they need work on how to prime me.

Or maybe its just my fault.


The Greasepole was fantastic. 4 fucking hours. This was like it in first year (7 hours) except that it was cold and rainy, instead of sunny, and I was hungover from drinking since 4 am.

My friend Yuki took this picture, which is now part of the Wikipedia Article.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Ride Wit Me - Nelly

In continuing the recent trend of high school, music videos, my discovery of embedded youtube, and non-verbal blogging, here's something that uses all of those.

John Whitney
Chris Olthof
Chris' damn rich digs, including mercedes, audi and boat.
My cheap station wagon.

Note: this was made BEFORE "I want it that way", so the quality is worse.