Wolf in White Van Essay Reflection and Final Draft


Photo by R Pollard, titled “tex playing video games”

Wolf in White Van is a very unique novel that is hard to talk about much less write about.  It was hard to decide what I should focus in on when writing this essay since the novel is so complicated and there are so many different ways to look at it.  Once I decided on what I wanted to talk about, the essay wasn’t too terribly difficult to write considering it’s a very relatable book.  I appreciated the comfort I got from this assignment honestly.  It resembled a more traditional English class writing assignment, making me a little more confident in my abilities than I am when writing about video games and things I don’t feel very familiar with.  I definitely put this at one of my favorite assignments from the semester.  Visit my final draft here!

Wolf in White Van Essay


Wolf in White Van is a tragic novel written by John Darnielle.  Throughout the novel, Darnielle explores just how complicated it can be to deal with intense trauma.  He tells the story of Sean Phillips and how he handles his truamatic accident in a very unique way.  To read more about how every person handles trauma differently, continue reading at Everyone is Different.

Fiasco Reflection

My group got off to a bit of a rocky start trying to play Fiasco.


It took us two laptops, and two Iphones (with rules and internet cheats) and a lot of frustration to get us started. With literally hundreds of pages in instructions, one would think that this game would be so well explained that a kid could play it, I would say this is definitely not the case.  This game could easily be explained in three pages tops in a much simpler way.  If it’s possible, I think the directions were too detailed.  I think it was hard to focus on the point of the game and pick out what was actually important out of so much excess stuff that was crammed into the directions.

Although I had lots a reservations about the game before we started playing, the annoying and lengthy instructions were really the only thing I didn’t like about this game; although I’m not sure it feels like an actual game to me.  I enjoyed creating a ridiculous story line with absolutely no purpose and seeing where it went.  Once we started, it flowed very well and easily and it was extremely fun and entertaining to work together to create an absurd story about drug dealing, love, murder, suicide, and a magic polar bear.  I did, however, feel like there was no game-like aspect to this though.  Nothing the game made us do seemed to make a difference to how the story turned out.  It felt as though we were picking and rolling dice for no reason, except for the fact that we were told to.  I don’t think that our story would have turned out any differently if we had been instructed to simply create a story with given options for location, character relations, desires etc.  I think a lot of the stuff we were told to do was sort of pointless.

Even though it was a strange game and like nothing I’d ever done before, I enjoyed playing Fiasco.  I enjoyed getting to physically get with other people to play again rather than just staring at my computer screen.  I enjoyed the collaboration that was involved and I enjoyed the freedom to make our story whatever we wanted it to be.

Podcast Reflection

Having never created a podcast before, I was intrigued and a little nervous as to how the experience would turn out.  The process ended up working out differently than I had anticipated.  It was easy to fall under the assumption that Jordan and I could pick any video game that we wanted and magically have something astute to say about it that also related back to Bogost’s terms in his book.  This is not how making a podcast works.  We ended up having to start over once we got together to actually construct the podcast after we realized we couldn’t relate our original game (Mario Kart) back to any of the terms.  We then decided to work in the opposite direction.  After looking through the book and reading about each of the terms, we decided we wanted to do a podcast on exercise and then picked Wii Sports as our game to go with that.  After we were able to settle on an idea for our podcast the rest wasn’t actually all that hard.  We decided that I would pick apart the details from the book that related to what we wanted to say, and Jordan would research Wii Sports to look for anything that could be of use.  After that, we simply overlapped our work and wrote out what we wanted to say.  Bogost had a lot of interesting ideas about video games about exercise, “exergames” as he calls them, that we were able to relate to Wii Sports.

After we knew what we wanted to say in our podcast, we then had to figure out how to actually make the podcast, which was arguably the hardest part, even though it ended up being fairly simple.  I have used garage band a handful of times way back in middle school, but that is the extent of my podcasting experience.  I had no clue what I was doing.  It took me a few minutes to figure out what everything on the screen was and how to do what I wanted to do, but once we found our way around the application the whole thing came together pretty easily.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.27.59 PM

Overall, the experience was better than I was expecting it to be.  It was surprisingly easy to talk about a single video game for five minutes and turn that into a podcast.  My advice to future video game podcasters though would be to not save all of the work until the last minute.  Although the project is relatively straight forwards once you get into it, it takes a little while to figure out what direction you want to go in and get started with it.  If you give yourself a good amount of time to plan out your project, it should be a breeze.

DSY4IA and Depression Quest

These two games were very difficult for me to get through.  Dsy4ia didn’t really make much sense to me at all.  When playing it I was very confused as to what I was doing and why.  I felt like I was reading empowering words and then performing odd and simple tasks like little mini video games.  The message was interesting though.  I found it very captivating that this was the medium chosen to convey this message.  I think they did this because playing a game makes the issues feel more personal.  As a female playing the game, I felt as though the topics were relatable, but a male might not feel that way.  But by playing a game in which he feels as though what is being said applies to him, he might absorb what is being said more willingly.  Depression Quest, on the other hand, was hard to get through for other reasons.  It wasn’t very abstract and peculiar like Dsy4ia, and the point of the game wasn’t very difficult to figure out.  For me, it was too depressing, for lack of a better word.  Depression and suicide are somethings that have made an impact on my life in multiple ways so it was very difficult to be put into a situation where I as the player was the one suffering.  Maybe I’m not thinking openly enough, but I’m not sure if something that serious should ever be used as the topic for a “game.”  That could also be my dislike of the word game to describe it.  I think that the word “game” comes with certain positive and light hearted connotations that I don’t associate with the topic of depression.  Nevertheless, this game, like Dys4ia, gives the players the sense of feeling depression for themselves.  This can give people a bit of perspective on the issue because this is a way to experience it from the other side.  The game symbolically crosses out all options for the player to take that include trying to get out of the rut of the depression, this is probably because being happy and trying isn’t even an option for someone who is depressed.  I think both of these games go about achieving awareness for their issues by placing the player in the shoes of someone suffering from the issues at hand, forcing them to have empathy for others who actually are suffering, because they have gotten a taste for what that suffering is like.

Her Story vs Beginner’s Guide

These two games are very different in my opinion.  A common theme of the games that we’ve played, I’m not quite sure if it is in all games, is that there is always an end goal.  I think the difference comes mainly in how one gets to the end of that game.  Some games are more direct than others, not giving the player a lot of wiggle room on what they can do other than exactly what is necessary to get to the end; whereas there are other games in which there are tons and tons of things to do that arguably aren’t important to the game’s purpose at all.  Some games significantly help guide the player to the ending, whereas others focus more on letting the players figure it out for themselves.  I think it is in these ways that these two games are drastically different.  Each game has a set ending or goal that the player is trying to achieve.  In Beginner’s Guide, it is to figure out what the point of this all was and to see what the narrator is taking so long to say is.  In Her Story, it is to find out what really happened to Simon.  Her Story, in my opinion was a much less restrictive game.  It was possible to go off in one’s own direction without the game attempting to make sure you are still moving the right way towards the end goal.  In this game, there are plenty of things to do or moves to make that don’t help the player get closer to their end goal of solving the mystery.  I have always thought that this leniency in a game is something that I liked, but in this game it simply frustrated me.  Perhaps this is because I have been used to more structure from the games that we have played recently and didn’t like feeling like I was being set loose with no guidance in this game.  Beginner’s Guide, however, is much more like the structured games I have been used to playing recently.  In this game, I as a player didn’t do a whole lot.  I pretty much simply listened to the narrator tell me what to do, and then proceeded to do it.  I’m not sure that is very game like, but it’s nice not feeling hopeless without any idea of what to do.  I think a mix of structure and guidance of each game would create for the perfect game, a game that has a set end goal and helps steer the player in the right direction, while letting them still get to that goal mainly by themselves.

Dear Esther Reflection

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 11.13.40 PM

(My favorite part of the game, the amazing caves)

Dear Esther might be the most beautiful and realistic video game I’ve ever played.  I might not have the most extensive list of games that I’ve played to compare it to, but this game was truly incredible. Like Gone Home, this game is mostly comprised of exploring at the players curiosity.  There is a narrative and an overall ending point, but for me, the enjoyment came in simply exploring the games beauty.

I’ll admit that my first instinct was to figure out what I had to do to get to the end, and do only that. After experiencing the game for a little, and remembering my frustration in Gone Home that came from skipping all of the minute details in the game, I slowed down and began to try and just enjoy the game; which, believe it or not, I did. Walking around the exquisitely detailed landscape, I truly felt as if I was on this interesting island. I felt like I could feel the breeze that I saw moving each and every unique plant that I saw; and that I could hear my own footsteps echoing in the elaborate caves. It was a little frustrating at first when I realized that my character couldn’t interact with any of the setting, but that frustration quickly fizzled because the detail the details in absolutely everything made up for the minimal interaction.

Because the game itself was so beautiful, especially the cave chapter, I found myself enjoying the game for that reason.  I still don’t think that narrative games with not too much for the character to do are my favorite; but I do think that Dear Esther has helped me tremendously in being able to look past aspects of the game I may not love to find parts that really intrigue me.

My Avatar

class avatar

This adorable creature is my beloved dog.  He is quite honestly my best friend and my idol; having his care-free life and happiness is the absolute dream.  Maybe it’s corny or cliché, but I don’t know what I would do without him. He is the best listener and cuddle buddy out there and I dare say that out of everyone at home, I might miss him the most. He doesn’t sass me like the rest of my family and let’s face it, he is also way cuter than all of them.  I chose this picture of him as my avatar because he reminds me of home and simply fills me with happiness!

“Gone Home” Should Go Home

From the title of the game, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into.  So when I first appeared on the front stoop of my house at the start of the game, as my roommate can attest to, I got a little bit anxious.  The game was set in the neighborhood “psycho house” at around midnight on a stormy day.  Even though it was virtual, exploring an empty and eerie mansion in the middle of an intense thunderstorm definitely put me on edge. I would be lying if I said the sudden cracks of thunder and lightning didn’t make me jump or that I didn’t walk into each dark room expecting a ghost, murderer, zombie, or any other horrific creature to be waiting for me. Nevertheless, I made it through the game without getting hit by lightning or attacked by a monster.

After realizing the game wasn’t about trying to escape inevitable doom, I eventually realized it was about learning of my beloved sister’s journey of love.  For a little over two hours, I wondered around the house my family had moved into while I was overseas, stumbling upon my sister’s clues as to where she disappeared to.  Although I’m not completely sure if it was necessary, I ended up exploring each and every room in the house in great detail, not realizing that most of the details weren’t actually relevant to helping me get to the end of the game.  Eventually, after somehow finding my way to the attic from clues in journal entries and notes, I found the final message from my sister stating that she had run away with her “true love” Lonnie.  Why couldn’t she have just left me that note on the front door?  The character development of Sam, getting to hear her voice and feelings about the events that happened rather than just simply the hints themselves, made the game more bearable, but I still find myself genuinely confused as to the point of the game.

Although the storyline itself didn’t appeal to me, the details of the game, I thought, were quite incredible.  From my experience, in the few games I’ve played, the creators will typically make things that aren’t relevant to the game unaccessible; you can’t walk up to a random cup and throw it around. But in Gone Home, although it sometimes frustrated me, I could inspect just about everything in the house.  It was amazing to see all of the detail that the creators put into the game.  I loved being able to put a cassette into a tape player and listen to music and to sift through countless drawers full of very random things.  It made the game much easier to get through.

I wouldn’t say that I hated the game Gone Home, but it wasn’t my personal favorite.  I felt as though the game didn’t exactly have a point, so I constantly felt very frustrated.  The graphics and details were, however, incredible.  Overall, I would say the game was a very well created and beautiful pointless adventure.

1 2