1 Notes

I’ve been watching “The Guild" this past week and I must say, as a newer gamer, I appreciate so much about it. 
I grew up in a house with zero video games, and was of the belief that people who played them were just losers. You know the stereotype. Now that I have started gaming, I’ve been impressed by how much more there is to this type of entertainment. 
Sure, there are some truly nasty people who game, just as there are nasty people who knit, or dance, or wrestle, or play poker. Yes, the community is flawed and still has some serious growing up to do. 
But just watch this video of Todd Howard’s keynote speech at DICE 2012. (No seriously, watch it.) The amount of thought and analysis that he and his studio put into storytelling, structure, and experience is no different than if they were making a movie or writing a novel. 

World of Warcraft is a pretty astonishing creation. The game has been around for almost a decade and the art still looks amazing. It has millions of players of all levels of skill and obsession. It knows exactly how to tease you with carrots. It reinvents itself. It’s funny. It’s fun. 
I like that “The Guild” is willing to acknowledge the good and bad about gamers. It’s an honest (and hilarious) portrait. 

I’ve been watching “The Guild" this past week and I must say, as a newer gamer, I appreciate so much about it. 

I grew up in a house with zero video games, and was of the belief that people who played them were just losers. You know the stereotype. Now that I have started gaming, I’ve been impressed by how much more there is to this type of entertainment. 

Sure, there are some truly nasty people who game, just as there are nasty people who knit, or dance, or wrestle, or play poker. Yes, the community is flawed and still has some serious growing up to do. 

But just watch this video of Todd Howard’s keynote speech at DICE 2012. (No seriously, watch it.) The amount of thought and analysis that he and his studio put into storytelling, structure, and experience is no different than if they were making a movie or writing a novel. 

World of Warcraft is a pretty astonishing creation. The game has been around for almost a decade and the art still looks amazing. It has millions of players of all levels of skill and obsession. It knows exactly how to tease you with carrots. It reinvents itself. It’s funny. It’s fun. 

I like that “The Guild” is willing to acknowledge the good and bad about gamers. It’s an honest (and hilarious) portrait. 

4383 Notes

A Library for the Subway

scribnerbooks:

INGENIOUS!!

counterpunches:

image

image

imageimage


A trio of students from the Miami Ad School—Max Pilwat, Keri Tan and Ferdi Rodriguez—have came up with an innovative concept that allows people to read the first ten pages of popular books while riding the subway. 

Using near field communications (NFC) technology, commuters select the desired book from a list of popular titles and read its first ten pages—upon finishing, the reader will be informed of the closest library location from which they can pick up and read the rest of the book. 

This is a simple but ingenious idea that can be adopted and adapted to encourage reading in the 21st century, when new technology is changing the way we consume books. 

1 Notes

Occasional eavesdropping is the best part of working at a coffee joint. Right now, there’s a woman relating a peculiarly sad family history behind me. She’s told her companion about how her father dropped dead and her mother got cancer. It’s also a story about religion, about Judaism. Being Jewish has been a key thread through her life. It helped form her identity as a young woman when hers was the only Jewish family in her suburban town. And now she works for an organization related to Jewish culture. 

I love how willing most people are to tell everything about themselves. I have no idea how close a friend her companion is; I’d guess not very since she doesn’t know the family history. Maybe it’s a work friend, maybe an old schoolmate, maybe a lady from the same synagogue. But whatever the relationship is, this woman is totally at ease sharing her life story, her personal ties, her tragedies, her successes. I can’t see her and I don’t know her name, but I’m fascinated by what she’s saying. Clearly her companion is too, she keeps asking the pertinent questions to keep her talking. 

There are stories everywhere. You can learn about spiritual identity and god in the cafe around the corner if you’re there at the right time and place. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my work and my theology lesson.  

4 Notes

Why ‘Mass Effect’ is my favorite video game I’ve never played

image

Okay, that’s a slight overstatement. “Mass Effect 2” was one of the first games I played, but I didn’t get more than 20 minutes into it. Taken completely out of context, the talk about biotics and The Illusive Man made no sense to me and I couldn’t get into the story.

Then, just last year, my boyfriend decided that he wanted to replay the first two games before tackling the final installment of the trilogy. I happened to wander into the living room while he was investigating the reappearance of the rachni. I plopped down on the couch and watched. Over the next few nights, I observed Shepard’s race to stop Saren from destroying the Citadel. By the time BF moved on to the second installment, I was asking him to wait to play until I’d be home. 

I was totally invested in the story and the game. I got into debates about the characters and game structure with other friends who were replaying the series. I teared up when a certain scientist Salarian met his end. I squealed with glee almost every time Garrus opened his mouth. I thought the original ending of “Mass Effect 3” wasn’t nearly as horrendous as the fan backlash made it out, although the revision was a definite improvement.

My experience of watching “Mass Effect” was all the proof I needed in the argument about whether video games are art. They certainly can be. The trilogy certainly offered all the technical hallmarks of an artistic achievement, such as compelling dialogue, striking visuals, and ethical dilemmas. But the coolest thing about watching the game was how involved I got without being an artist in any way. I didn’t create the game and I’ve barely played it. Yet I was still able and excited to be a part of the experience of “Mass Effect.” I was the audience for a performance of the games and it triggered a strong emotional response in me that I wanted to share. It felt no different from being in the audience of a movie or a concert. 

Nobody has the exact same definition of art. I don’t think it really matters how you want to define it. What’s important in the debates about video games is that enough people believe in the creative power of the medium to start making more complex, more exciting, and more beautiful titles. However they get classified, video games will start to make bigger, bolder statements and that is what matters. 

I’m pleased to say that I do now have the first two “Mass Effect” games loaded on my computer. I can’t wait to take my turn as the artist.

Notes

123 Notes

1 Notes

Idle dreaming is often the essence of what we do.
Thomas Pynchon (via NYT)

1 Notes

Neuroplasticity

This is my new favorite word. I started reading “The Shallows,” which is highly interesting, and the first few chapters are a crash course in neurology. Neuroplasticity means the malleability of the brain, the ability for our neurons to form new connections.

It’s a pleasing way to think of our brains, flexible and active, always changing. Much nicer than the concept of a mere computer clicking away in our skulls, which was the old paradigm. But even ‘neuroplasticity’ feels like an oxymoron to me. How could something as organic and dynamic as our brains be compared to the processed variations of plastic? 

Despite the current understanding that our brains change, people seem to be locked into thinking of their minds as tools. Even the book refers to the brain’s response to changes in structure as “reprogramming.” And in casual conversations, I’ve heard the phrase “I just don’t have the bandwidth for it” used to explain feeling overwhelmed. Deep down, for all the wonders of how people think and feel, all the breakthroughs in understanding neurology, I think most of us secretly want to be cyborgs. 

862 Notes

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up (via austinkleon)

10921 Notes

uchicagoadmissions:

Indiana Jones Mystery Package

We don’t really even know how to start this post. Yesterday we received a package addressed to “Henry Walton Jones, Jr.”. We sort-of shrugged it off and put it in our bin of mail for student workers to sort and deliver to the right faculty member— we get the wrong mail a lot.

Little did we know what we were looking at. When our student mail worker snapped out of his finals-tired haze and realized who Dr. Jones was, we were sort of in luck: this package wasn’t meant for a random professor in the Stat department. It is addressed to “Indiana” Jones.

What we know: The package contained an incredibly detailed replica of “University of Chicago Professor” Abner Ravenwood’s journal from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. It looks only sort of like this one, but almost exactly like this one, so much so that we thought it might have been the one that was for sale on Ebay had we not seen some telling inconsistencies in cover color and “Ex Libris” page (and distinct lack of sword). The book itself is a bit dusty, and the cover is teal fabric with a red velvet spine, with weathered inserts and many postcards/pictures of Marion Ravenwood (and some cool old replica money) included. It’s clear that it is mostly, but not completely handmade, as although the included paper is weathered all of the “handwriting” and calligraphy lacks the telltale pressure marks of actual handwriting. 

What we don’t know: Why this came to us. The package does not actually have real stamps on it— the outside of the package was crinkly and dirty as if it came through the mail, but the stamps themselves are pasted on and look like they have been photocopied. There is no US postage on the package, but we did receive it in a bin of mail, and it is addressed to the physical address of our building, Rosenwald Hall, which has a distinctly different address from any other buildings where it might be appropriate to send it (Haskell Hall or the Oriental Institute Museum). However, although now home to the Econ department and College Admissions, Rosenwald Hall used to be the home to our departments of geology and geography

If you’re an applicant and sent this to us: Why? How? Did you make it? Why so awesome? If you’re a member of the University community and this belongs to you or you’ve gotten one like it before, PLEASE tell us how you acquired it, and whether or not yours came with a description— or if we’re making a big deal out of the fact that you accidentally slipped a gift for a friend in to the inter-university mail system. If you are an Indiana Jones enthusiast and have any idea who may have sent this to us or who made it, let us know that, too. 

We know this sounds like a joke/hoax… it’s not (at least, from our end).  Any hints, ideas, thoughts, or explanations are appreciated. We’ve been completely baffled as to why this was sent to us, in mostly a good way, but it’s clear this is a neat thing that either belongs somewhere else— or belongs in the halls of UChicago admissions history.

Internet: help us out. If you’re on Reddit (we’re not) or any other nerdly social media sites where we might get information about this, feel free to post far and wide and e-mail any answers, clues, ideas, thoughts, or musings to indianajonesjournal@uchicago.edu  (yes, we did set up an email account just to deal with this thing).