WiWV Final Reflection

I found the process of writing this essay to be very reflective and difficult at the same time, mostly because the essence of this book is extremely vague, with lots of grey area for personal interpretation. Sean even alludes to this difficulty himself: his narration of his life directly after the accident describes how enigmatic his inner thoughts were when creating the Trace. However, after developing my thoughts, I realized there was a nice structure I could organize my paper into: proclaim my thesis, propose both aspects or my argument, have a synthesis of these two contrasting ideas, and then an antithesis suggesting a counterargument.

Overall, I was very pleased with the final results. The idea of drawing the line between reality and the inner creations of the mind may not even be accurate: perhaps the line doesn’t need to exist.

Wolf in White Van: Distinguishing Fantasy from Reality

The Alley by Flickr user ♦ Peter & Ute Grahlmann ♦

The Alley by Flickr user ♦ Peter & Ute Grahlmann ♦

Trace Italian serves as the escape vessel to fill the meaningless void in Sean’s mind, and the stories he creates are a physical manifestation of his trauma, “a compulsive outpouring of attempts to formulate narrative knowledge” (Luckhurst) to try and find some sense of purpose in life. What’s interesting is that the world Sean creates is impossible to distinguish from the real world. Maybe for Sean it’s better off this way.

Work cited:

Luckhurst, Roger. The Trauma Question. London and New York: Routledge, 2008.

KRZ Reflection

Kentucky Route Zero (KRZ) feels as much a game of fantasy as it is a game of realism. From the original setting of Kentucky to the imaginary underground highway of the zero, the game does a great job of incorporating two wildly contrasting ideas into one narrative, creating a game laced with real meaning but displayed in symbolic ways.

The most striking thing I noticed in KR0 is the visuals and disorientation of space. Even though the art seems minimalistic, there is still impeccable attention to detail that helps engulf the audience into the world of Kentucky (but also not-Kentucky). In the same way, the art also adds an element of “unrealness” that makes oddities like Julian seem feasible. Overall, the art contributes to the sense of uncertainty I felt throughout Act I and II. It was very difficult to gauge where exactly I was, especially after entering the Zero. It’s never really clear whether Conway and Shannon are inside or outside of whatever space they occupy, and to me this is a purposeful choice of the game. I feel that it doesn’t really matter what the place is; what matters to the game are the stories, stories of the people and their inability to find answers to problems.

Whether it’s the actual Zero itself, the Bureau of Reclaimed Spaces, or the Museum of Dwellings, there is a constant theme of lack of meaning, and a feeling of being lost. All of these places that I travel through make it difficult to understand the purpose of it all: why do I care about these places if all I want to do is deliver an antique to Dogwood Drive? It feels like this game is trying to emit some meaning to me that I am failing to grasp. Whether it’s some symbolic representation of a failed American Dream (think Julian displacing occupants from the museum… he’s a freaking eagle, nice symbolism) or perhaps some existential look on the journey through life, I feel like any meaning attributed is both correct and incorrect, which leads me to believe the real theme of the game is the theme of uncertainty and “meaninglessness”.

Fiasco Brief Reflection

Fiasco really takes advantage of the different creative thought processes each individual player possesses. For our group, it was really interesting to see just how different of paths we took in terms of character relationships (ex. crime, former lovers, etc.) and needs. Also, I felt that setting up the scene was much more intriguing than actually playing through it, because the setup provided the “toolbox” for creation of the scenes in each act.

However, for me the game was very frustrating at times. Even after reading the rulebook our group seemed to have a very difficult time beginning the game. I feel that for many players it may be a turnoff if the setup itself seems very strenuous. Maybe this was because none of us were used to tabletop games (I’ve played very few), or maybe it’s because some elements of the game were missing (ex. 8 die were missing). Because we were so unsure about the set up and it’s components it made playing through the acts and making up the scenes seem so tedious and, more importantly, less “real” feeling. On top of that, there was a central tendency to try and make the story more and more ridiculous and unrealistic, a trend I feel most players end up following.

“Doing Video Games With…” Podcast Reflection

For our podcast, it was difficult in the beginning to find the starting point for our discussion. The meaning of art has so many nuances and complications, so trying to find the angle of discussion required looking at the topic as holistically as possible. It was only after our discussion with Professor Morgen that we were able to find three questions to anchor down our discussion. My co-producer (Emma) and I proposed multiple talking points for each question and sketched out a rough outline of the podcast. We both agreed that the podcast would be more engaging and interesting if it was more conversational, avoiding reading words straight from a script. Some podcasts before us went with a set script, which made the podcast more informative and worked well for certain topics. Since art doesn’t really have a static definition, it was better for us to discuss it rather than sound like we were delivering facts.

Our primary goal was to allow listeners to contemplate the questions we proposed with us while they listened. We didn’t have any “right” or “wrong” answers for our questions, simply because art as a topic is so subjective. It was challenging for us to flesh out our own answers to the questions. Also, the initial search for a game was unproductive, because we were conflicted on choosing between a game that looked pretty aesthetically or a game that was a great “sandbox” game for creative expression. But, both Emma and I were very flexible, which helped make the production of the podcast efficient and enjoyable. We definitely developed some chemistry during the podcast, and we collaborated very well. Also, the production process was a much more different process of writing compared to the typical analytical essay. There was less of a draft with editing and more of a free flowing of ideas coming from two different minds.

I think the strategy to let the podcast be more conversational and free flowing worked well for us, allowing all of our ideas to come naturally and influence the podcast. By avoiding reading off the script, it helped me learn how to choose my words effectively and formulate my thoughts rather than just recite it off a sheet of paper. I feel that this skill can be applied to other writing pieces I do, as well as help me hear my own voice and better myself as a public speaker (used “like” too many times). I have learned that I am good at speaking casually without nervousness or anxiety.

Wolf in White Van: Escaping Reality

Source image, user Edwin Seppings

Source image, user Edwin Seppings

The sanctuary of Trace Italian: Sean’s place to find solace. Where do you go to find solace from the world? While the imaginary microcosm we conjure up will most likely be more forgiving for ourselves, it nonetheless serves the same purpose: to shield us from the cruelties and traumas reality can introduce into our lives. In Wolf in White Van, it is clear that a central theme revolves around the idea of reality versus imagination: more importantly, when imagination blurs between reality, becoming a world just as important to us as the real world. For Sean, Trace Italian represents a shelter, and after a gruesome accident that leaves his face in ruins, it becomes everything to him. His use of imagination to sculpt Trace Italian helps him deal with the traumas he deals with in real life, even going so far as to make it a role-playing game accessible to the public via the mail. However, while some his players may be able to traverse the game effectively, even the smartest ones can never make it to his sanctuary in the Kansas desert.

For Sean, Trace Italian is a world that helps him escape from reality, a world he was forced to craft as he laid in the hospital after his accident. Imagine yourself in his shoes, left with no other options, “faced with the choice of either inventing internal worlds or having no world at all to inhabit” (Darnielle 23). The whole world is merely a story up for interpretation, and in order to cope with the reality of things sometimes personal alterations of the story is necessary.

Work Cited:

Darnielle, John. Wolf in White Van. New York: Picador, 2015. Print.

Manuel’s Tavern Final Reflection

Ocean Race Map

Much like the complexity of the legs and the length of the journey during the yacht race, the writing process for this piece was much more difficult than expected. Source image from Skip_49

This tavern piece focused largely around the theme of collectiveness and universality. More specifically, this piece focused on how the history of the tavern isn’t confined to the walls of the tavern, describing events from all around the world. Also, there is a sense of unity, as the poster describes an event that is powerful enough to bring together so many contrasting cultures and nationalities to compete for one common goal collectively. Not only is the tavern’s history vast and rich, it invites any individual to come enjoy the history for themselves, no matter who they are or where they come from.

From all the close readings on the yacht race, it was clear that this event wasn’t catered to a specific country, unlike sports such as American football. The sheer scope of the event is quite extraordinary: not only are there over 20+ nationalities competing, the race also has legs that dock in every continent (excluding the the Arctic areas). So I really wanted to cater my piece to this idea of universality, because events such as this race are extremely unique (another comparable event is the Olympics, but on a much smaller scale). I feel this version of the piece focuses much more on global outreach and impact, as well as nuanced lessons the poster can teach. The piece evolved to be less about just how the history is super broad and global (like in the first draft), but more about fundamental human ideals such as cooperation and teamwork that are often overlooked. To me, there is a deeper meaning the poster tries to instill, making the tavern feel more open and accessible, as well as promoting a healthy and friendly milieu.

The way this piece evolved really helped me appreciate the tavern more, because I finally started to see why its walls and history are so heralded. My draft felt more like fact spewing in the beginning, focusing very little on any deeper meanings and nuances. But, as I began re-editing and thinking about the tavern itself, I realized that the poster and the race could symbolically represent ideals that are extremely paramount. My writing really progressed as I continued the process of 1) taking all the facts I knew, 2) compiling them holistically, and 3) applying them to unearth the essence of the poster. Eventually the piece became much more powerful and intriguing to read.

I think this piece would be a great opening introduction piece to the tavern. A topic such as universality and unity can really help coalesce all the artifacts on the tavern walls into one beautiful art piece. I’m quite proud with how the piece turned out, especially considering how hard I struggled in the beginning to discern any meaningful connections from this poster to the tavern. Overall, I think the steps I took in my research and writing became more and more effective as the assignment progressed, especially looking at the poster from a holistic viewpoint. Pieces like these are much more engaging than a typical analytical essay, due to the fact that it requires introspection more so than evidence-based fact spewing.

Atari Games: Instilling Nostalgia

Even after all the advancements in graphics, “realness”, and technology in the realm of gaming, there is still something truly endearing about the games of the past. Growing up, Nintendo games such as Pokemon on the Game Boy, or arcade games from Atari such as Pac-Man, were quintessential to my childhood. I remember spending hours on end in the space world of Galaga, or the obstacle-ridden map of Donkey Kong, or the Mario-esque progressions of Frogger. For me, Atari games have a special place in the gaming lore, maybe not for its innate meaning per say, but definitely for the role it played as an original game. When I think of a video or arcade game, the first thing that will always come to my mind is sitting around the Nintendo 64 or Atari console as a child at after school, playing so many times the game became an art form that I had the upmost expertise in.

Games like Galaga, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man are classic Atari games that, upon first inspection, may not seem to have any particular essence or meaning. But, games like these still require a certain form of perfection. Someone who plays the game once or twice definitely won’t have the expertise of someone who has played hundreds or even thousands of times. For many players, there is a healthy form of competition, almost like a sport. It takes practice of mechanics and understanding of game knowledge to efficiently progress through levels of Atari games and become better. Some of these skills are transferable, much like if you know how to play a clarinet you can pick up the saxophone easier. Some skills are not transferable: surviving in Pac-Man is a different form of pattern identification than shooting aliens in Space Invaders. There is always room to improve and become more proficient at a game, and because this improvement is so easily quantifiable (i.e your high score) and comparable, it adds to the competitive drive each player has.

While critics may argue these games fail to provide any meaning or merit to the minds of young children, I argue that these games help define a modern childhood, much like cracker jacks or card games. Atari games were not made to be intrinsically deep in meaning or substance. They were meant for the original purpose of a video game, which I argue is a beautifully casual and fun endeavor that leaves an impression. No matter how advanced, complicated, or “deep” video games may become, there will always be a lasting impact left behind by old school games from the Atari console or Nintendo Entertainment System. What this lasting impact may be is debatable, but for me I can always embrace the nostalgia or holding the Nintendo controller or the Atari console joystick as I blasted aliens or caught Pokemon with my friends.

Dys4ia and Depression Quest: Putting Us in Their Shoes

Dys4ia Intro

Source image from Wikipedia

In dys4ia and Depression Quest, there are different methods used to try and place the player in the shoes of people in a state of weakness. Both of these games focus less on the fun aspect and more on the empathetic linkage that is established between the main character and the audience. For me, I was able to feel a certain empathy for both characters in dys4ia and Depression Quest, which suggests both games did a good job and functioned correctly. However, there are certain aspects of the game that makes it difficult to play through.

Depression Quest

Source Image from Steam page

In the beginning of Depression Quest, it was hard for me to establish myself as the character due to the fact that the game almost lectured at me about who I was and what situation I was in. I feel games work better for me when I integrate myself into the character through my own actions. But, I did enjoy the choices I had to make and the storyline. I could really feel at certain points how difficult it was to make certain choices due to a utter disinterest in life.

dys4ia felt a lot more “game-like” with the bright colors and old school arcade-like graphics. For me, I really enjoyed this artistic choice, due to the fact that the person I play as is ambiguous: it doesn’t matter who that person is specifically, because that person is supposed to represent a larger population (transgenders). Also, the weirdness of the map designs and the sounds made me feel uncomfortable playing through, something I’m sure the designer intended to do. Overall, I felt this game did a better job of helping me understand the alienation felt by this character.

Both of these games worked well to establish empathy for the characters presented. For me, dys4ia was more succinct and created the same empathetic linkage to the audience as Depression Quest, but with a more interactive gameplay. While Depression Quest was good in establishing characters, the constant walls of text made the game difficult to traverse through.

Beginner’s Guide and Her Story: Different Forms of Trying to Find Meaning

Upon first glance, Beginner’s Guide and Her Story seem to be very different games with different gameplay. Specifically, Beginner’s Guide seemed to be much more linear, while Her Story was much more open to player input and interpretation. But, what’s similar is the complication of trying to find meaning, or any meaning at all, in each game. Also, is the meaning we come to correct?

Her Story Gameplay

Her Story has a very non-linear gameplay, and is very dependent on your searches and input to find clips and try to piece together a story. There is a lot of gray area as to where the “beginning” and “end” is. Source: Flickr image by GameofBattle

Her Story hinges very heavily on the actress and the story she tells, hence the title “Her Story”. This is similar to Beginner’s Guide in the sense that we are trying to understand the mind of Coda through the story of his “games”. But, what’s different is that this game has no clear timeline in the context of the person we are playing through, while Beginner’s Guide seemed to have progressions as you moved to different environments. In my opinion, I enjoyed the exploration aspect of Her Story, and how I could discover things for myself. It made Her Story much more of a game experience, especially when compared to previous games explored such as Dear Esther or Freshman Year. It also felt more compelling than Gone Home to me, partially because the topic was more suspenseful: murder.

Beginner's Guide was much more linear, but also much more difficult to ascribe meaning to than Her Story.

Beginner’s Guide was much more linear, but also much more difficult to ascribe meaning to than Her Story. Source: Flickr image by gryf_cs

Beginner’s Guide was much more difficult to try and ascribe meaning to. While in Her Story the meaning is pretty clear (solve the puzzle of the murder, and try and discover the “truth” for yourself), Beginner’s Guide revolved very heavily around confusion and the fundamental question: “What is meaning?” But, Beginner’s Guide was very compelling in that the actions made were my own actions. It may sound simple, but performing the actions of the person I was playing as drew a stronger connection between the character and me than in Her Story. In Her Story the overall “timeline” of the crime is already finished in a sense, and my character is more or less a lens to just piece together history. In this sense, Beginner’s Guide was more compelling.

Overall, both games had different mechanisms to bring you into the story, but the methods of gameplay contrasted quite significantly. Also, Her Story and Beginner’s Guide both tried to pound home a different meaning or ideal. In Her Story this meaning is more palpable and defined: find out about the crime. In Beginner’s Guide the meaning is more abstract: is there any at all?

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