All posts by acarrier2014

A Scholarly Source on Videogames

http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/amp-a0034857.pdf features an incredibly in-depth, comprehensive investigation into the world of videogames and how they influence our everyday lives. If you have taken a serious interest in videogames as a result of this class, or if were already invested in the topic, I would strongly suggest that you read this piece.

For the rest of you, the posted piece is quite lengthy (13 pages long), so I will summarize it for you. This piece basically sums up all of the research I have been doing on the connection between videogames and our real lives, supporting all claims with compelling statistics and reputable research sources.

One statistic that stood out to me came at the very beginning of the piece, where it said that 97% of adolescents play videogames for at least one hour per day in the United States. Now, this does not mean that 97% are glued to their televisions; it could include leisurely playing Candy Crush on one’s smartphone. However, when one stops to think about it, this is an incredible statistic; 97 out of every 100 kids in the United States spends an hour a day playing some sort of videogame. What else is there that unites people so completely, other than basic human necessities such as eating and sleeping?

As one reads on, there are more interesting statistics and various reasons why videogames are actually great for the human mind. On page 6, it says that videogames are most widely used as a way for people to, “manage their moods and enhance their emotional states.” Many people take medicines to stablilize their moods and, of course, videogames cannot always replace medication, but it shows that they can be a way to restabilize moods that might be slightly out of whack. Videogames soothe frayed nerves and focus an individual who might be feeling overwhelmed or flustered. This makes videogames an important component of maintaining individual well-being.

The essay on the benefits of videogames is long and filled with positive statements on the influences of videogames and impressive sources to back them up. I would suggest this piece to anyone who is interested in videogames or who needs some inspiration on what to write about for the final paper.

What is Paradise?

An interesting question posed in the following article: http://realtruth.org/articles/346-vgaefr.html is “are videogames a paradise?”

This question interested me because most people know what the feelings associated with paradise are, but most do not have a clear picture that comes to mind when the word comes up; the feeling is much more understood than the concept itself.

What is paradise? Most people associate the feelings of relaxation and joy with the term, complete freedom from real world stresses. Most business sell the term with the image of a sandy beach and colorful cocktails, but it is really something that is different in the mind of each individual.

This article is interesting because it argues that videogames could be a sort of paradise for many people, creating the carefree, happy feelings that so many people associate with the term “paradise.”

Do you believe that videogames deserve to be considered a form of paradise, or are the two things completely independent of one another? What are your reasons for thinking so?

Videogames as an Education

http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2013/11/journalism-schools-dig-deeper-into-videogames/ features an article promotes the playing of videogames as a form of education. It lists schools that are incorporating videogame classes into their course catalogs and explains the benefits of such programs.

One major benefit of looking at videogames as a form of education is that, like in college courses, the people who play videogames learn more about themselves in relation to the surrounding world as they go along. It also enhances literacy and teaches real-world skills, like stopping to appreciate the moment. Lindsay Grace (featured in the article) has said, “As they [the gamers] walk, the world disappears, and if they stay still more of the world is revealed.” Videogames also force players to stay engage, creating more appreciation for the moment being experienced.

This is a great article for my research paper because it shows that, in addition to enhancing things like literacy and reaction time, it helps players to find a deeper understanding of themselves, which is what the main goal of education is. This shows that, depending on how they are used, videogames create more connections between the real world and the virtual world than many people are able to see.

A New Kind of Literacy

For my research paper, I have been doing a lot of reading on the influence videogames have on our real lives. Most of my posts on this topic have involved information on how playing videogames can be good or bad for individual people, but the article I found today http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2011/08/the-literacy-of-gaming-what-kids-learn-from-playing215/ shows that videogames should be taken much more seriously because they are affecting more than the individual; they are affecting society as a whole.

While society is a collection of individuals, I am not using this post to talk about influences on specific people, I’m talking about our culture as a whole. The provided article shows that videogames cannot be ignored because they are completely shifting the things that make up our society, such as the language that binds us all together. This article says that the very definition of literacy is being extended to include not only reading and writing, but playing videogames as well. This is because videogames esentially do what books do, explore human nature through someone else’s experiences, just through a different medium.

Another point that this article makes that I like is that much of the controversy surrounding videogames is related to content, not the videogame idea itself. This is interesting because if we can find a way to overcome the content issues, videogames could come to be fully embraced by the public and could become the new medium for developing literacy.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon

Spyro: Year of the Dragon is an incredible game because it has so many elements that keep bringing gamers back for more. Spyro is a dragon whose goal it is to collect as many gems and dragon eggs as possible as he moves through levels in an effort to beat the final boss at the final level: the sorceress. Each level is packed with portals into other worlds that have their own challenges and rewards: the chance to play as other beings, mini games featuring hockey, racing, skateboarding, interactions with unique characters…the world that Spyro lives in seems to go on forever, to the delight of gamers.

In order to get at the deeper meaning of the game, it is important to first outline what elements created the strongest emotional attachments. Fistly, a large portion of the game is dedicated to the constuction of the beautiful, detailed landscapes that Spyro is always acting in. The main levels are so beautiful, whether they be sprawling, grassy plains or a mystical setting with a night sky and crystals jutting from the ground. The smaller worlds that are entered through portals are littered with details that make it feel worth paying special attention to everything. This, when looked at on a greater scale, reveals a fascination with the surrounding world that is all too uncommon in real life. In real life, many of us are familiar with this feeling of appreciating the sheer beauty that is around us when we are traveling. Normal life is simply considered normal, and does not inspire us to look deeply into everything the way that landscapes in videogames like Spyro do.

The next big emotional attachment comes when Spyro finds one of hundreds of dragon eggs; this is one of the very best moments of play because it is an immediate reward (there is one upon the completion of every task) and it is frequent enough that it creates a mad desire for the next one, but it is not an experience that comes easily. Once a dragon egg is obtained, there is a deeply gratifying series of seconds in which a choir seems to sing as sparkles surround the egg and it hatches to reveal a baby dragon (a different one everytime) with its own name. The emotional attachment that goes with this moment can be attributed to the human desire to help others; at this moment, the gamer has saved a cute, baby dragon that smiles gratefully before it disappears into safety. The name attached to it makes the attachment seem real.

The landscape and saving of baby dragons make Spyro: Year of the Dragon a game that is easy to become attached to. The explanations for the detailed emotions associated with each experience can be tied together to say that the deeper meaning embedded in this videogame is that there is a lot of wonder and satisfaction that is attached to being in the moment and helping the people aroud us. It is all too uncommon for individuals to appreciate the surrounding area or to give too much thought to the people around them, let alone do both at the same time and with energy.

One aspect of the game that is easy to go unnoticed is the vast use of color. Everything in every single part of the game, from the little purple dragon himself to the gleaming gems littering landscapes, exists with a pop of color. These colors are so vibrant, they are a huge contribution to the beauty of the landscape itself and to the wonder associated with every part of the game. Real life is often depicted in dull, faded colors, and one can learn from this game that the use of vibrant colors can have a profound impact on mood and perspective.

Another mechanism that the Spyro game uses to keep players involved is the ability to run from place to place, and even the ability to glide. The gliding is a fun extra included in the game to make getting from place to place a more entralling experience, but the ability to run is definitely more deeply attached to the human desire to get things done as quickly as possible. In real life, people cannot really run to get things done; they can powerwalk, they can drive, they cannot run. This makes one think, how fun would it actually be to be able to literally run from one job to another? It is a satisfying experience in games like Spyro to be given a task and then to run right to it, having the control and freedom to take on a task as one desires. The makers of Spyro were intimately aware of greater human wants and needs, and took care to nurture them in Spyro: Year of the Dragon.

With credit to Ian Bogost, one other thing we can “do” with videogames, as inspired by Spyro: Year of the Dragon” is motivate people to live life, or put more simply, “live in the moment.” If people can run around their actual lives (even if they are not actually running) and find a way to truly appreciate each moment, to talk to the people around them, and to go out of their way to help someone in need, improvements in quality of life would be profound.

This does not have to sound far fetched. If one wants to literally run, one can go for a run through a village, around a neighborhood…it is not uncommon for runners to stop to talk to or help out surrounding people. Even if one does not want to run, speedwalking through grocery and department stores (as so many of us do), we can slow down for a moment to help someone who is struggling or compliment someone on what they’re wearing. This is the kind of awareness that the creators of Spyro are generating with their game.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon, is a game that is full of missions that need to be solved by talking to others and that are incredibly rewarding when they are solved. The various challenges all boil down to helping someone else out and looking carefully at the surrounding area for clues, which inspires feelings of humanity and an appreciation for the landscape. The deeper meaning of Spyro: Year of the Dragon is to live fully in the moment, and it does so by inspiring feelings of goodwill, appreciation, and accomplishment.

Sonic Dash: Game review

The vast majority of videogames I play are on the PS1, but I was thrilled to find that old favorite, Sonic, was available for the iPhone (it can also be played on the iPad). This was important to me because I do not own any other game consoles, so I think it is smart for games manufacturers to make their products available for smartphone, which is something that many non-gamers have and that make their videogames more accessible for everyone. The smartphone is also an excellent way to promote videogames like Sonic because consumers are then already familiar with the controls (there is only so much you can do with a phone) and have the ease of downloading them from already familiar software.

The great thing about Sonic Dash for the iPhone is that it contains the same elements that kept me coming back when I used to play it on older consoles. The sole objective of the game is to race through the level at a super fast speed collecting rings and avoiding/defeating enemies as you go, made more difficult by twists, turns, and enemies that come out of nowhere and take all of your rings. There is great satisfaction in making it to the end of a level and moving on to the next, greater challenge.

When I first downloaded this app, I was worried that it would not add up to playing it on the videogame console I had always played it on. I was wrong and I was right.

I was wrong because the graphics on the iPhone version, to me, are just as good as the real videogames’. The colors were vibrant; Sonic stood as a royal blue (when he was standing), the rings appeared to be glistening, and the background felt like somewhere I wanted to be (either a sunny beach, a thriving city, etc). This was always one aspect that I loved about Sonic, and they did not fail at preserving it as they modified it to be able to be played on the iPhone. The music was another things that always kept me coming back, and while it wasn’t quite as I’d remembered it, it still had the fast-paced music I remembered and the sound of thousands of pennies falling to the ground as opponents cost me my rings, which made losing seem ok. Overall, I was really impressed witht the way the game designers made the iPhone version of Sonic such an excellent representation of the real thing.

Something also worth pointing out is that characters are incredibly important in developing our relationship with a game and, surprisingly, the game developers did an excellent job of preserving the Sonic characters. Before you begin to play, there is a selection screen where you can choose who you want to play as (just like in the older games) and everyone seems to be in character. Sonic has his arms folded and is tapping his foot, Amy has her hands behind her back and is rolling upward on her toes, Knuckles looks like he’s about to take someone out, and Tails winks and spins his tails amiably. This, for me, is the most important part, and went a long way in getting me to download and keep this app on my phone.

I was also right to worry about playing this game on the iPhone because, like I thought, playing Sonic Dash on the iPhone was just not the same as playing it on the Playstation. The problem is that with the phone turned sideways, all I can really do is steer to collect rings and to collect hitting things. While the graphics and music are incredible, moving the phone back and forth is simply not the same as having so much more power with a controller, where I can leap over enemies, hit a series of commands to go paraticularly fast, etc. This problem is not something that the game designers could control; there is no replacing a Playstation controller when you have no controls to work with. The game designers did everything they could to make Sonic Dash for the iPhone as similar to the Sonic for videogame consoles as they could, and they did an excellent job; it just turns out that it’s not as much fun without access to all of the controls.

With this in mind, one thing I would suggest game developers do to improve this game would be to maybe make more controls available, just on the touchscreen. This might, then, take away from the actual game itself because of how much room it might take, but if they could find a way to do it without compromising the quality, I think that it would make the game a lot more successful with people like me. If they really wanted to get people to keep this game on their phones, they might want to even consider adding something that the original Sonic never had; keeping all of the key elements, adding something new might even draw seasoned gamers to the app market to keep the new and improved Sonic with them at all times. It is a marketing strategy worth considering.

Overall, the game developers did a great job with making Sonic Dash a portable representation of the real game that so many people loved; the music and graphics are right on, I could not have imagined them being any better. The available characters all seem to be in character, and the major elements of the game are all in place. If you are a longtime fan of the Sonic games like I am, you might want to give this game a try; it is a satisfying throwback. Just don’t expect to relive your childhood to the fullest here, the playing of the game itself is just not nearly as fun, so I would suggest keeping an open mind and trying it out. I liked this game a lot and played it for awhile, but, like many other apps, I ended up deleting this one from my phone. In the future, I think that things like adding touchscreen controls could persuade me to keep Sonic Dash on my phone a little longer.