Analyzing Wolf in White Van

After reading the book, a few blog posts and a couple drafts my analysis of Wolf in White Van has reached its end. The culmination of my breakdown on this novel can be read here. My essay Wolf in White Van: Lost in the Details reflects on the idea that Sean Phillips, the main character, uses fantasies to cope with the reality that he lives in after he attempts suicide.

I can’t say that I particularly liked this book or enjoyed writing the essay–because then I would be lying–but the novel did introduce a new way of looking at things. Details were not just details, a memory may not be just a memory: Wolf in White Van made me scrutinize the way I function in reality and what my coping mechanisms are.

Though I did not love this assignment I did find the insight it provided interesting and the ideas conveyed thought provoking.

realityPhoto Credits: Samantha Craddock

Wolf in White Van: Lost in the Details

My Wolf in White Van essay identifies Sean’s method of coping with trauma is getting lost in the details of realities and scenarios that he synthesizes. By creating extremely detailed false realities Sean is able to escape the grim monotony that has become his life and is able to cope with his injury. By examining the details and zooming in on his life, Sean is not forced to confront the big picture of the reality he is living and does not actually have to come to terms with what the consequences of his actions that faithf

Fiasco: RPGs and Entertaining Fake Realities

Never having the pleasure of taking part in a tabletop role playing game I must say that Fiasco was an interesting experience. My group, group 3, met up in the Starbucks at 7:00 P.M., awkwardly sat down and brought out our laptops to try and make sense of Fiasco’s rules. This was more challenging than anticipated. We spent over half and hour trying to set the darn game up! But this frustration was well rewarded: we wound up with whacky scenarios, weird settings, and bizarre characters to manipulate and play as. As a mainline and rather vanilla human being I laughed my butt off when the group member to my left set up our relationship as the drug dealer/manufacturer. I had no idea how to carry myself or handle myself in that role and it was fun for me to try and channel my inner Breaking Bad in order to create a more authentic character.

At the beginning of the game there was a general air of confusion and unease. We were all fidgety and had difficulties coming up with scenes and ideas; nobody had any idea how to react to each other or how to incorporate others into their plotlines. After we all gained more confidence and became more comfortable with one another we established our characters more and our scenes became more detailed. As the other characters and relationships came together and the plot began to solidify it was clear that there was some strange stuff happening in Antarctica. Also, we stopped being timid and began screwing each other over: There were stabbings and affairs and injuries, people lost limbs! Our plot was rather far-fetched but extremely entertaining. Anyone was perfectly capable of messing with everyone and we took full advantages of that, and in the end everyone died.

To me, this RPG is a step past a videogame. This is a game where you go beyond just navigating a character you become the character. You mold them, then assume their identity, and then, instead of just typing responses to other players or characters like one does in a videogame, you have to actually interact with the other players. Arguments get heated, fighting words are exchanged, and you can actually see how the actions and consequences affect all the people in the game. You have to look them in the eyes as you attempt to wreck their lives in order to better yours. This aspect of the game caught me off guard, I did not know how personally offended I would be when some imaginary character my character had a dysfunctional relationship with stabbed me in the back and tried to lead me to my doom. I also underestimated just how satisfying it was to come out on top, there was something about the claim that my character’s life sucked the least and that I was, in fact, victorious because I died last.

Fiasco definitely stressed the importance of learning objective Critical Thinking and Reading Results in Writing but in a very unconventional way. The definition of this objective on the website is “As they undertake scholarly inquiry and produce their own arguments, students summarize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the ideas of others.” Though I was not dealing with a piece of literature or a videogame in this situation I had to focus and analyze and evaluate my opponents. Are the outcomes of their turns displaying any patters? What was their though process behind that last move? What’s their endgame? What does their character want? Once I came to a possible answer to some of these questions I would develop counter measures that I could institute in order to combat the actions they executed against me.

Fiasco, once I got past the frustratingly tedious task of setting up, was one of the most interesting things I have done in Read Write Play as of yet. I would like to take this moment to state for the record that I was extremely proud of myself though, because I died last! I rolled a black 11, which is a very good role by the way, so I did not just die, somebody did not come by and just kill me, I murdered the drug dealer and then decided to off myself as to avoid trouble with the authorities. (So to the fake RPG police in Mactown, mwuahahaha you can’t convict me of anything because I’m dead!)


FiascoPhoto: Courtesy of Mady Arles

Manuel’s Tavern: Connections Reflection

When handed the Manuel’s Tavern assignment I was a little apprehensive but extremely excited as well. What drove me while I was writing was the idea that Manuel’s Tavern was all about establishing connections. When I toured the virtual North wall and read some of the preliminary drafts of other students it was clear just how deep the Tavern’s connections were to the community around it. I was lucky that I found the Angry Orchard sign because it meant that I could illustrate Manuel’s Tavern’s roots and the origin of how the sign got there through my own connections to it. I used the link between the hard cider sign, me, my father, and my old tournament softball days as a vehicle to help communicate this concept of connections.

Another spectacular outcome of this project is the fact it allowed me to explore writing as a process. In most academic courses throughout high school and college you are handed a research topic, told to analyze it and write an argument paper on it. In stark contrast this assignment let me investigate my own writing, learn more about my own creative process, how I write, and how I edit. After having written multiple drafts of the Manuel piece I know that peer and professional input are the key to successful writing. There must be an outside eye willing to pick apart and criticize the work put before them. An artifact of this is the fact that I then write another draft, but that also helps with the refining process.

manuels_lcoursey_oneuseonlyphoto credits: Lee Coursey

Wolf in White Van: The Beginning

At first I was extremely skeptical of this book. It was very disjointed with a choppy literary style, things were not clearly explained at all and for me it took a little getting used to. However as I read on and discovered more about Sean and his “accident,” when he shot himself in the face, I realized the literary style mimicked his experience and was supposed to aide the reader in understanding Sean’s situation and empathizing with him.

The fragmented and disorganized presentation of the materials provokes feelings of confusion and, to a certain extent frustration, in the readers. You just want to know what is going on, why this guy named Sean has a messed up face and what the deal is with this game he has going. But you can’t, you have to slowly gather information and piece it together. At times it seems pointless and so you concentrate on the obsolete details, other times something is actually happening so you pay attention to the action. This is the same way Sean clearly felt about his life. Sometimes it’s pointless. He needs to concentrate on the little things to get him through the day, like the hidden people in the painting in his room. Sometimes life seems like it’s really worth living, like when he meets Steve and Kevin. I thought it was extremely wise to use the writing style to help convey the more complex feelings of the main character that people would otherwise miss.


Sports and Space Invaders

This week I had the wonderful opportunity to explore some of my favorite arcade games I grew up playing at a local joint near my family’s vacation spot. With the help of Stella I was able to get reacquainted with Pac-man, Frogger and other iconic Atari games, including Space Invaders.

As you might guess Space Invaders is about invaders, from space. This game is one of the very first shooter games and the object is to destroy the aliens, it’s similar to Galaga–a personal favorite of mine. Here’s the thing, and I know I am not the only one who has heard this growing up, most adults warn younger people (especially kids and teenagers) away from video games. Their reasoning normally has something to do with video games being “useless,” “unproductive,” or “bad for brain development.” To this I say WRONG! ALL OF THEM ARE WRONG! I am not saying that it’s ok to spend 14 plus hours a day playing video games but they are, by no means, detrimental to anyone’s ‘development.’ In fact, as a varsity athlete, I find the older-style video games to be extremely helpful–games like Space Invaders in particular. Why? It’s all about strategy.

The whole objective of space invaders is to move around and shoot stuff so the educational value isn’t blatantly obvious to most people at first. However these games teach an extremely important skill: pattern recognition. Space Invaders comes down to can you find the pattern, play enough to recognize it and learn how to beat it, and then can you adapt your skills to identify and conquer the pattern of the next level. These are systematically generated patterns that also teach persistence to a certain degree using the element of positive reinforcement. When you learn the pattern you’re rewarded, if you can’t figure it out you keep trying until you do because, let’s be real, everyone loves to see their name on the leaderboard.

The greatest thing about the skill of pattern recognition is that people use it all the time in everyday life. Where I find this skill to be most useful is in sports. I play softball, this means that I have to identify and decode the pattern of pitches that are being throw by the opponent’s pitcher. Once I identify the pattern, I can predict with a relatively high degree of accuracy which pitch comes next and which one I should swing at. The faster I can identify the pattern, the more successful I will be at hitting. Space Invaders also makes me a better catcher because I need to know what patterns to use against the other batters by analyzing their tendencies individually. Kind of like the different levels in Space Invaders, each batter acts differently so by figuring out their pattern or batting rhythm I know what pattern of pitches to throw to prevent them from having a productive at bat.

This pattern recognition skill isn’t just found in softball and baseball, it’s found in chess, cards, and other situations that involve analysis and critical thinking of an external entity. Look for, example, at debate: Each person constructs an argument, the person with the better argument construction and presentation of facts wins. So if you are able to figure out what the person’s pattern of argument construction is you can unravel their argument pretty quickly. So the next time you kick butt at chess or cards or debate, or catch the game winning strike, you may want to give a quick nod to our good ol’ friend Space Invaders.

space-invaders-game_62147502273Image Credit: vecteezy

Reverence Podcast Reflection

There were multiple options for games on the table but we ultimately settled on The Binding of Isaac, which turned out to be extremely advantageous for the both of us. Stephen tackled the technical aspects of the podcast from the get-go, which was definitely in our best interest—technology and I have a complex relationship. I started by playing through the game and taking notes on the symbolism I came across and the significance of those symbols. I took and Ancient Mediterranean Studies class last semester and I am currently taking a Biblical Literature class so I was in my element and was able to identify and analyze the abundant religious symbolism in the game. We both roughed out a script together and in the end Stephen finished editing the podcast and we agreed on the final product.

Looking at podcasts that were already produced we wanted to stay within the general outline but we also wanted to add our own twist. That twist happened to be our style of script. Our script was outline because we wanted most of the material to be conversational and question guided. I thought this format made the podcast flow better and allowed us to explore the game more in depth because we didn’t have to work within the confines of the one script. We had our own reactions, our own take, and we were able to include the information that was most intriguing to us.

Our primary goal was to explore how reverence was presented in the Binding of Isaac even though the game is presented in a way that one might think it is mocking religion. We did this mostly through the exploration of symbols in the game so it was imperative that we paid close attention to the story, the drop items, and the characters. By relating the blasphemy rating to the symbols in the game we were able to effectively explore the relationship between reverence and The Binding of Isaac. Sadly we were not able to go as in depth as I would have liked to, there were some conversation topics that got cut out, for example the setting Sheol and the boss battle with Satan. The boss battle is briefly addressed in the podcast but Sheol is never touched upon. This game was so rich in content there was no time to discuss all of it, in fact we barely skimmed the surface in our podcast. If we had more time I would have loved to go deeper into the religious analysis of the game.

This podcast project emphasized Critical Thinking and Reading Resulting in Writing because it required Stephen and I to evaluate the product of another’s ideas and produce our own thoughts and arguments related to it. All in all this podcast was a huge learning experience for me and was extremely fun to create. Please check out the podcast episode Doing Video games with Reverence about The Binding of Isaac here!

isaacwidePhoto Credits: Binding of Isaac Steam

dys4ia and Depression Quest: More than just a game

The games we were tasked with playing this week, dys4ia and Depression Quest, really hit me hard. I approached the games in the same way I had approached all of the previous ones, with a sense of caution and curiosity. However there were certain points in the game where I had to stop and take a break, contemplate about what had just happened, how I felt about it. I had to take five so I could figure out my emotional response and sort myself out! It seems novel that a video game could provoke such a strong emotional response in someone. Normally that “weepy” response comes out when my favorite character in a book or play dies, not when I am playing a video game. Yet the video game designers were very resourceful and exploited this empathetic emotional response during very specific times in the game to make the player feel vulnerable.

In dys4ia I felt the moment that was designed to foster feelings of empathy was when the narrator was discussing how uncomfortable they felt in their own body. This moment was so effective, because whether we like it or not, everyone at one point or another has felt uncomfortable in their own skin. Maybe some people can identify with the narrator more than others but all people have felt discomfort or have been upset by something related by the way their body looks, acts, or feels. We have all had our moments of shame and self loathing. We have all been there, and that’s why that moment in dys4ia is so effective.

In Depression Quest I was able to personally empathize with the main character when he was discussing how everything felt meaningless and that he had no motivational drive. Someone important in my life suffers from clinical depression and I am their ‘Attic’ or ‘Amanda.’ It was hard for me to play as this person who felt trapped by their own life and by the people that cared for them. When it came to the decisions about what to do while talking to Attic and Amanda it was very startling to read the other options and the reasoning behind them. The ‘you really don’t feel like explaining, just tell them you’re ok. The feelings are too complicated’ or the ‘You don’t want to deal with them right now’ options made something inside me break. I have always been an outsider looking in, a caregiver trying to help and support but at that moment I had a much better understanding of what it was like, of what they felt. That realization drove me to borderline tears, but I’m glad it did. It gave me insight, I know now what it’s like. I feel that I have a better idea of what to do and how to help because, though I may never know what it is to experience clinical depression, I’m no longer just an outsider looking in.

Photo credits: Zoe QuinnScreen Shot 2016-02-22 at 4.33.50 PM

A Comparison: Her Story and Beginner’s Guide

I can confidently say that on the surface these two games have virtually nothing in common. Her Story is a sort of murder mystery game while the Beginner’s Guide is a game about half-finished video games. So where’s the connection? Besides both of them having the uncanny ability to make all the hours of my day disappear, they are both centered around player investigation.

In order for both of these games to be successful they need to draw in their players, to make them curious in some way, shape, or form. I’ve always been a puzzle and riddle junkie so Her Story was an instant hit with me. I was instantly entranced by the concept of browsing around a police database looking for clues. But what convinced me to keep playing, even though the lack of physical evidence was extremely vexing (let’s get real, actual cold cases have plenty of evidence as well as testimonies), was how complex and layered the story was. Even after I had put together all the pieces of the puzzle I kept wanting to find more details, learn more about Hannah and Eve and Simon. I wanted to find a finite answer with all of the details, one that was fit to answer all the questions of this baffling case. My curiosity kept telling me to go deeper, look closer, find out what this woman was hiding. I found, interestingly enough, that my curiosity told me the exact same message while I was playing Beginner’s Guide.

Though I found the beginning intriguing, half way through the Beginner’s Guide I started to become bored. Somewhere between the prison games and the wandering around with nothing to actually do or engage in I felt the urge to shut down the game, maybe I would play it later. Except my darn curiosity got the better of me. If you have ever heard the saying ‘Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back’ that was me. I desperately wanted to know who Coda was and why he wasn’t showing me the games instead of Davey.

Even though some of us may not always want to admit it, all people are curious, we like having all the answers. It’s why it bothers us or scares us when something is unknown. The ‘need to know’ that drives people to find huge scientific discoveries that change the way the world functions or that drives people to explore the absolute limits of anything and everything is the same ‘need to know’ that the games Her Story and Beginner’s Guide exploits. Her-Story-Footage-4Photo Credits: Sam Barlow

Check it Out: Unpacking Manuel’s

Unpacking Manuel’s Tavern: Angry Orchard

Unpacking Manuel’s

This week I was tasked with a little modern archeology homework. My job was to pick an item from the north wall of the iconic Manuel’s Tavern and learn about its history, what it is, and why it is connected to Manuel’s. I picked the Angry Orchard Hard Cider sign. It was an interesting item with a lot of history and some very touching personal connections to the blog writer (if I do say so myself). So take a closer look and get to know this amazing slice of history that has been in Atlanta since 1956!

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