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Post #7: Adding Your Own Flavor to the Piece

The reading for this week was yet another interesting one. With Those We Love Alive, by Porpentine, is a twine game or interactive game (with hyperlinks and various layers of codes) that works as a piece electronic literature. I would argue the that it does the job very well, with the way the reader interacts with the piece and goes about reading it. In a nutshell the story it’s very interesting as well: A story of fantasy in where you design artifacts for an alien empress. It’s dark and filled with both aspects of life and death.

I found the story itself to be very immersive with the way that I progressed each time. But perhaps this is because it really feels like a game (some sort of video game that I played when I was younger). And this type of game is one that is too familiar to many of us today. I say this because in the past when I was younger, I found myself playing these type of games in the computer at the library. But instead of words it was with pictures, and clicking on different parts of the picture would take you to new ones. So then again who doesn’t love games, in one form or another? This can be seen as the icing on the cake with this piece, as it works similar to a hook providing a bigger layer of interest and fun to the reader.

There is not a lot of images, since there is only text about the story and background audio music. This is because this piece is heavily focused on the story. But even so it’s interesting nonetheless. Being able to choose between different selections such as eye color, birth month, and your element, makes it feel personal as if you are designing for yourself the type of artificer you can be for the empress. And then you get to meet the empress as she rises from the lake, and her larvae skin loads across the lake. And as the story of progresses it focusses on the empress and you continue to be given choices on how to interact with her. The idea of hyperlinks being placed throughout the text, as they are bolded and colored, is fascinating as it doesn’t take away from the literature and literary style.

But as a reader, I really had my own experience of it. This being one where I felt that I was playing a game heavily on character creation. And in such a game I would create a character keeping in mind the empress. Each time I was given the option to select or design for myself, I felt as if I was adding a new piece or part to my own character through customization. To be honest I never in the past had the opportunity for such personal customization from just reading someone else’s fictional work or even from another electronic piece of literature. Because of this this piece felt original and very eye opening to the possibilities that can happen with an elit piece.

Thesis In Progress…

Last week was an emotional roller coaster ride for me. Yet things have been flowing quite nicely for me in my MA thesis voyage so far. Everything is falling into place seamlessly. So far all my puzzle pieces are connecting and I find myself questioning if it should be this easy or fun? But again I realize that possibly why my thesis project has been smooth sailing thus far, is because it’s truly become a passion project for me. It’s my story to tell, my real life story. There is something powerful and deeply meaningful in that fact and in the writing process I now find myself in during my MA thesis journey. The reason I open this post with what an emotional ride last week was is because it had to do with family. That’s a tough subject matter, especially when having to dig deep and unearth a lot of past hurt and pain within your own family tree. Adding to this complicated factor is that I come from a very private and proud old school Italian family, where such topics are meant to be kept hush hush.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post I decided to include two chapters dedicated to my older brother and other members of my family in my memoir. The reason I chose to do this is because I come from a long line of mental illness which effects both sides of my family. My older brother like myself is a OCD and anxiety sufferer. Other members of my family have suffered from substance abuse, depression, bi polar disorder, anxiety disorder and OCD. It’s important for me to explore this further because there is a strong genetic and hereditary link to OCD as I’ve learned over the extensive research I’ve done so far for my literature review. I also believe that by telling my brothers story along with my other family members stories, it will make my memoir that much more authentic, revealing and raw. Reading about my complicated family tree is a unique element that I think has relevance and will in fact make my particular memoir The Seashell stand out from other works within the memoir genre. I also firmly believe that if I don’t know where I come from, or where I’ve been, then how will I ever know where I’m going?

Let’s talk about this weeks thesis progress shall we?! After having a one on one meeting with Dr. Zamora after class, she suggested that I take a break from the emotional heaviness that is family and start focusing on a journal article of my choice from my literature review. Honestly I can really use this shift in gears and change of pace and I openly welcome it! Again Dr. Zamora’s heart felt advice and her loving care and consideration for each one of us and our various projects really means so very much to me. Thank you for always believing in us and our vision, even when at times we don’t believe in ourselves. #drzamorarocks! The article I decided to dissect for this week is a scholarly article about the pediatric onset of OCD. I discussed with Dr. Zamora the various articles and specific topics I chose to research for my literature review and I was excited and relieved that she thought all my topics were spot on! Phew! I was worried that my range of topics may not cover enough information but she reassured me that it did. #gome!

Thanks to Dr. Zamora’s guidance and encouragement I decided the first and most important article I should research this week is the manifestation of OCD in young children. Why? I think this is important to explore because although I was around eight or nine years old when my pediatrician first diagnosed me with anxiety, it wasn’t until many years later, in my early twenties, that I was officially diagnosed with the specific form of OCD. Those were some long, hard years in between. I wish my parents and I had the resources to help educate us about the genetic connection of OCD. I also wish we were able to read the studies and extensive research that proves children are indeed born with this specific disorder. Furthermore, new research suggests that OCD is not a mental illness but rather a brain disorder. Fascinating stuff! So for this week I’m prepared to read, re read, dissect and take copious amounts of notes to learn as much as I can about the pediatric onset of this debilitating brain disorder that I know all to well. A significant part of my memoir will take readers on a journey with little Nivey as my parents affectionately call me, and the struggles, shame and guilt I endured as a little girl living with this unknown monster that was plaguing me. The connection between the pediatric onset of OCD and my own personal story is a strong link, which is in desperate need of exploration and of telling.

Below I added a funny quote about OCD. I thought it was fitting because I am the ultimate coffee lover and can’t function without it. I’ve come full circle since first being diagnosed with this disorder over twenty years ago. I can tell you that the best medicine for my healing was and always will be: LAUGHTER! Enjoy guys, can’t wait to hear all about your progress next class! 🤩💕

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Wanna Play a Game

Upon starting Icarus Needs, the music reminds me of something that one ay listen to to help them fall asleep. Fitting because that is what has happened to the main character. Upon inspection of the start up and reviewing the directions, it says that the player can use W-A-S-D keys to move around or arrow buttons on the keyboard. Though I’m not sure why those letters.

Upon the beginning of my journey, I elected to go up the stairs instead of down. I came across another character that I thought would have interacted with me, the dog or cat. Instead I just moved right past it. When I went back to the left, it was no longer there. Icarus came to a phone that was off the hook and propped up on the wall, on the other end was another voice telling him “Icarus! You have to find..” before being disconnected. Icarus questioned the voice, “Kit! Is that you?” Then there was nothing else. The only progression in the screen that I could make was to the left back towards the stairs. Icarus decides to take the giant phone with him on his journey.

When I proceeded back to the stairs, I kept going to the left where I came across the animal figure again. This time Icarus interacts with it, even though it hisses at him while he calls it a nice kitty. LOL. I can see in the next screen, there was a key in a locked case. I have a filling that Icarus will be returning for this key. The cat will not let Icarus progress towards the key at this time. Maybe that silly kitty needs a bowl of milk or a mouse to chase.

So I headed back down the stairway. At the bottom of my decent, Icarus went to the right until he met a character that exclaimed he was a door and that Icarus needs a key to get past him. As Icarus turned back around, he exclaims that the character didnt look like a door, then questions if his remark was racists’. Now I need to really figure out how to obtain the locked key past that rascally kitty cat. Lets take our adventure down the hole. That’s right, Icarus is going down! The ladder that is people. Come on.

As I begin the downward slope of uncertainty, no not my life, the music changes to a more up beat tone. The prompts appear, didnt your mother warn you not to fall asleep playing video games. At the bottom of my descent, I take Icarus to the right. He came to a part of the tunnel that seemed to drop down, suddenly he uses the giant phone to lay down as a bridge so that he could cross.

Next Icarus finds himself fishing at the end of the tunnel. He doesn’t catch anything, but decides to take the net with him. Maybe this net will reach across the stubborn cat so he can get the key. Lets go try my theory. I was wrong…. Wait what did I just say? I am a guy that admitted he was wrong! Woah… Look out people!

Now I am perplexed. I can not go through the door without the key, and the net is all I have to distract the cat with. I do not recall any other direction of movement available. I guess I should go explore some more.

Upon traveling back to the right side of the stairs, where I first noticed an animal character, Icarus used the net to snatch it. Icarus exclaims “GOTCH YA!” Maybe I can use this animal to distract the stubborn one on the other side of the room. Ah ha!!! The small animal he netted was a mouse. I used it to distract the cat, and while the mouse appears to have ran in the hole in the wall, I was able to obtain the key from the case. Now I must go visit that door again.

After using the key, the game takes me to the exterior of the house. Different tones again and colors are different as well. It gives the feeling of leveling up. So now my adventure takes me outdoors. I promptly approached a roadside stand where the finest rope was available for purchase. I don’t need no stinking rope! What would I do with it in this dream of mine? I am sure to find out soon enough though.

I tried to climb up the tree, but there were pesky squirrels’ sitting there with their nuts all around them. Icarus was to afraid to move past them, so back down the tree he went. Icarus soon approached an opening to a well where he hears a voice call out his name. This is where he learns that he will need rope. Is that Kit down the hole? Did Kit fall down the well? Someone call the fire department!

When I returned to the rope, the vendor demands five apples for some rope. My opinion is that he would take three apples instead. Lets see if we can now go apple picking. After all, it is fall ya’ll.

Before I knew it, Icarus jumped into a hot air balloon that lead him to the top of the tree where the squirrels previously were. Icarus gathered the five apples and went back down the tree. Funny those squirrels had left by this time. Lets go exchange some apples for the rope.

After making the illegal exchange of goods, I ran for the well where I previously heard a voice calling my name. I throw the rope in and descend to the bottom. I can hear the voice calling me from the left, but while I’m down here, lets explore the other side. And by the way, the music has changed once again. This has a Mario brothers 3 feel to it. Down in the tunnels running around. What could go wrong? Right! Not like Icarus is having to jump off of pyramids to land at the top of a flag pole after each level.

After exploring to the right, Icarus discovers the other half of the giant telephone that he used at the beginning. It must have some meaning. Maybe its a transport device to come out of his sleep, but for now it is useless. Now to chase the voice on the other side. To his dismay, it isn’t Kit at the other end of the tunnel, it was the other piece of the telephone. A voice begins to tell Icarus that he needs to… before being disconnected once again. So Icarus takes the phone with him and climbs back up the well. Before I jumped on the hot air balloon earlier, there was a new level that needed a bridge for Icarus to cross over and into. Lets go try this phone bridge out.

Sure enough, a new level is my reward. Now Icarus enters the castle. Is this where he finds the princess? Ugggghhh I mean Kit. Upon entering the castle, Icarus is forced to jump into a bubbling pool of blood… Okay maybe its cherry soda. Either way, Icarus dived to the bottom to find a locked treasure chest. I guess another key is in my future.

I think my commentary on play by play action isn’t necessary anymore, although entertaining possibly, I shall just move through the game and conclude with my final thoughts and feedback.

Okay so this was a squirrelly piece of e-lit. Nuts to be blunt about it. LOL… OKAY OKAY… I’ll stop. It was entertaining. The final screen where there are the nine slides made it look like a comic book, which is what the author was going for. It makes me wonder what game he fell asleep to. I believe this is my favorite thus far.

Icarus Needs Reminds Me of Why I’m a Video Game Geek and Proud!

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When I first read the title of this latest Electronic Literature piece and realized it was about a guy who fell asleep playing a video game and was then transported into the actual game, I immediately thought of Kid Icarus the old school Nintendo game from the late 80’s. I remember playing this game as a young girl in the midst of my Nintendo craze and haze. I’m a self admitted video game geek and damn proud. To this very day, as a grown adult woman I have all 3 remastered mini consoles of: Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis with over 25 classic games pre programmed inside each console. How friggin’ cool is that!?! My inner ten year old self is literally dying of excitement! Let’s be honest my late 30 year old self is also jumping up and down with glee. As a kid growing up with an older brother and older cousins I was exposed to the new and exciting world of 80’s and 90’s video games early on. From Itari to Vectrex arcade, then on to Nintendo and Sega, I was immediately transfixed by the adventure and images I saw. Of course compared to the dazzling graphics and newer games of today featured on the new PS4, Xbox and Nintendo Switch, the old games I reminisce about and still enjoy playing, pale in comparison to the ultra realistic graphics of the newer games and consoles of today. But there is something to be said for the simpler days of video gaming. Where the story of two Italian plumbers and brothers who were on a mission to save Princess Peach and defeat Bowser. Super Mario Bros instantly became all the rage from this simple premise. Where game ideas and concepts about bass fishing, a big gorilla who sets off on a fun adventure and mischief with his little sidekick and motor bike riding on a small obstacle course could capture ones imagination and joy. This is what I love about being a gamer and why I chose to write about Icurus Needs. The simplicity, the fun, the joy, and the best part, getting lost in an imaginary world even for just a little while, just like Icurus did. I mean it doesn’t get much better than this. We could all use a little fun and adventure right about now.

If I’ve learned anything about my journey into the eclectic and dazzling world of Electronic Literature it’s to expect the unexpected. This was my experience with Icurus Needs. The interface and menu was simple enough. However, I was unable to play the actual game until I Googled it and found it on another gaming website: https://jayisgames.com/games/icarus-needs/. I was able to play the game myself through this website, which I’m glad I did because it enhanced the overall experience for me. After clicking around some I was able to find the two other games mentioned in the network website: Icarus Creeps and Icarus Tangents. I figured if I explored these I would have a better understanding of the game I was about to play. These two cartoons were interesting to say the least. I felt like I was watching a comic book strip come to life, which was pretty rad. I will say I did gain some insights into the author of these Icarus pieces. I wanted to know what made him tick. I can appreciate his quirky ways and contribution’s to the new gaming world via Electronic Literature. Okay, so on to my gaming experience with Icarus Needs. The game was easy to play. Just use the arrows on your keyboard as navigation and walk over various objects to pick them up. There was also a to-do list of sorts on the left hand side of the opening page of the video game. This helped you keep track of the missions you had to complete. Soon you find yourself walking through the various square boxes which to me, each represented a different scene within the video game. Similar I thought to scenes from a book. Ah ha!? This is where the literature part comes into play I thought. Again, being that it was configured with different colored squares that produced different images and words throughout, it made me feel like it was a comic book strip come to life! I thought that was pretty neat! It captured my full attention and sparked my interest to continue on and see what kind of trouble I can get Icarus and myself into.

On the right hand side of the screen every time you walk over a different item it shows up on a list. This made it easy to know what you picked up and what you didn’t. This was important because specific items were needed in order to advance in the game. I also loved the ease of the navigation by just using the arrows. The music was perfect and fit the tone and overall mood of this piece perfectly. I let it play out as I played the game and even now as I’m writing my post I’m letting the music play in the background. The graphics of this piece along with the simple mechanics and sounds reminded me of my old school video games that I mentioned above. The earlier games and consoles of the 80’s and 90’s were similar to the graphics found in Icarus Needs. Overall, this was a fun, interactive story adventure. I love the little thought bubbles and anecdotal conversations and thoughts that appeared throughout the piece. Some of my favorites were when it said Icarus’ Mother warned him not to fall asleep while playing a video game! Oh man, I wish I fell asleep playing Super Mario Bros! I always fantasized about being Princess Peach or Toad (he was my favorite). I also loved Yoshi when he was first introduced to Super Mario Bros in the early 90’s. I wanted to ride and battle Bowser with this cute little green dinosaur by my side! Rescuing the Princess and restoring peace to all the land, while riding off into the sunset. Ugh, how magical, I’m totes jealous of Icarus! The other conversational dialogue I enjoyed reading was when Icarus rides the hot air balloon to go find Kit and he’s asked if he ever dreams of flying but he says no he has a fear of heights, as he’s riding higher and higher up on the hot air balloon. I also love that the story had elements and themes of love because he was on a mission to find his girlfriend Kit who also got stuck in the game. I was determined to help him find Kit and ultimately I did! I also appreciate the fact that the game wasn’t super difficult or too maze like to follow. I believe that can detract from the fun of a game sometimes. It was just a straightforward fun story and adventure, filled with love, mystery, intrigue and suspense. The quote below is from one of the game reviewers from the website I played the game on. I think she summed up Icarus Needs perfectly.

Sometimes a game this basic doesn’t work well, yet Goodbrey perfectly balances witty remarks with just enough imagination so that it isn’t contrived or forced. Some players might wish for more challenge but I don’t think it’s needed here. Both the gameplay and the story work seamlessly together so neither feels tacked on. Icarus Needs works well in all the ways a game and story should: it holds up as its own character, engaging players and providing a satisfying bit of entertainment. You can smile at the end and say to yourself: This was time well spent. And that’s all we need to enjoy it.”

I totally agree. Now I’m off to play it for the fifth or like tenth time (I seriously need to get a life)! I want to defeat those darn pesky squirrels once and for all! Look proof below that I actually did beat the game, yay! Well, ciao guys, I’m excited for this weeks presentations! ❤

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My Surrealistic Pillow Sheet: Analyzing With Those We Love Alive and Icarus Needs

These pieces seem to skim over the surface of the brain, much like a silk pillow case skims your head as you lie down at night. But that is where the comfort stops. With those We Love Alive and Icarus Needs are strange, mysterious, and weird– veritable bits and bytes of unreality.

With Those We Love Alive

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Great Expectations Picture 45 | Havisham, Helena bonham carter, Miss  havisham
Miss Havisham: A Rotting Human Wedding Cake

I was stupidly excited for this piece. The introduction said that players got to draw sigils on their bodies. I saw some of the great images that people drew on their arms and legs. I was set to go with my ballpoint pen. What did I miss? I didn’t get a prompt to draw anything on myself. Was I supposed to draw the pink and purple words on me? But that doesn’t seem possible. It wasn’t in sync with what other players experienced!

Perhaps I was led into a different, non-drawing labyrinth because of my birth month, which was that of the “Broken Coffin.” The prompt told me that my real name was Sparna Umdof. I got to the agent of the Skull Empress and she told me that I was an artificer: “You make things. You were noted perhaps from your showings and sometimes victories, in the festivals and now you are going somewhere.” I was seriously thrilled. I’m an artist and I’m taking a journey? Let’s go, creepy Skull Empress and all!

Before proceeding, I’d like to underscore that the Empress was very disturbing. I got a sense of what was supposed to be female empowerment, but it was ugly and strange. If the Empress were a fruit, she’d be a rotting peach, strangely sweet-smelling, yet still revolting. She was still irresistible to behold, like the colorful, but old candy in Coraline. If the Empress were a person, she would most definitely be the haunting Miss Havisham of Dickens’ Great Expectations– a sweetly rotting human confection that is dangerous.

On to the journey! Oh the claustrophobia, literally, when I picked a choice that indicated that I was having trouble breathing! When I was offered the different breathing exercises, it was quiet uncomfortable because the sense of breathless confusion continued.

Honestly, I felt trapped during the entire game. I kept looping back to the same choices. True, the music was hauntingly beautiful and the ombre colors were a treat, but I didn’t get a resolution! Is that the point? I felt rather depressed, like I was circling the drain of the abyss somehow, despite the bright colors of the interface. The palace grounds took me to some dark places where there was a promise of renewal, yet a hard to describe wrong turn of events. Something happened that led the paths and cities to be barren. It made me very uncomfortable. It was almost as if I were visiting the barren remains of an apocalypse of a sort.

It was as if a dream were being deferred as I went through the piece. The Skull Empress had her palace grounds, but they did not really symbolize positive growth. It was just like going down a well, darker and darker and more unfamiliar as I continued to click.

Icarus Needs

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Icarus’ wings were plucked off before he came alive in this game, chopped up and put in the lovely container above to melt. I just did not get it. He was in search of Kit and they were both in a dream. That was good surrealism. I liked it. But what really happened during the game? I did not feel like my clicking resulted in anything whatsoever. Is Icarus just the gaming embodiment of a fait accompli? What was I supposed to learn? That video games can melt your consciousness and leave you feeling like you are in a fugue state? Let me be clear, I was not mad at the simplistic interface. But I wanted the game to go somewhere. It was over in a flash. Icarus really needed a long, restful nap. I think that this game was his hallucination. Perhaps the fact that I did not have an android to download the proper elements had something to do with the difficulty with the game.

Icarus definitely seemed to be in a labyrinth of some sort, as I believe he was wandering around his apartment in the dream.

These Loves Fly Just High Enough

            Both of the titles on this week’s reading list really piqued my interest. I have the pleasure of saying that I own and have owned every video game system minus two – Colleco Vision and Commodore 64.  I consider myself a gamer.  I love the story aspect of a good game.  I am a mission-based person.  Icarus Needs and With Those We Love Alive placed me on a mission.  I do not have access to Android so that limited my experience with Icarus Needs, however, the video gave me a great sense for the experience.  The experience With Those We Love Alive was straight forward, the controls were a breeze to use and the story kept me going – to a point.

            Icarus Needs instantly sparked images of the famous story of Icarus and his escape gone bad. Icarus in the famous tale wanted to return to the people he loved, unfortunately, he flew a bit too close to the sun.  I easily reminisced over the pixelated graphics In Icarus.  “The only thing missing is the ability to fly,” I thought.  The images brought back fond memories of the Atari and how important it was in my life.  As a child, video games were a way for me to connect the stories and ideas I had in my head to the real world.  Video games allowed me to play out my fantasies on the screen.  So when I play a new video game, I tend to try to get into the character’s head.  The protagonist in Icarus is on a mission to save his lady love from the evil King of Squirrels.  Love this image.  (I thought right away about a bag of cats.) King of Squirrels is already giving off a crazy vide.  The craziness gets off to an abrupt start when the protagonist encounters another entity in the game who describes himself as a door and the player must find the key.  OK, I’ve run into plenty of people (actual and virtual) who were not only bigger than a door, they were bigger than a house.  Whether or not racism would come into play never ever once crossed my mind.  The video shows the player retreating from the encounter asking him or herself, “He’s a door?  Doesn’t look like a door?  Is that racist?”  I would have never expected the story to take that kind of turn.  Both the image representing the player and the image representing the person being described as a door were both the same color.  They both had the same look.  I was a bit confused.  Then I retraced my steps and recognized that the setting is within a dream realm.  Good.  Racism is a nightmare. At least in this instance I can chose a righteous path.

            With Those We Love Alive is incredibly similar to my own chosen presentation title, The Hunt For The Gay Planet.  With Those We Love Alive, players read a selection and then make a choice as to which direction to travel.  In one instance you are in the palace.  In another instance you are out exploring the world.  What loved the most was that the player can go out in the woods and meditate.  The software actually instructs the player to breath and relax.  I had so much fun with the story and trying to see if I could change outcomes by selecting rotating paths.  Alas, I could not and that would be my only point of contention.  While open enough to explore the world in With Those…, has player pushed down a path.  Platforms such as these were designed to head off in a million different directions so that the fun of developing the story would never end. 

Back in the 1970s a game called Zork came out.  It is the framework for all games like this.  In Zork, players start off with the simple idea that they are standing in the woods a bit west of an old house.  From here it is anyone’s guess.  After entering the home, the only forced part of Zork, the world below the forest is wide open.  Both of these titles offer that experience to a degree.  I enjoyed the time jumping back into the past when I would play games like these to all hours of the night.  After I got the story to unlock – it was all about the high score.  While a high score isn’t the main accomplishment here, knowledge is. I like to think about how others think and these titles helped me to continue my mission toward understanding.         

“Pieces of Herself” by Juliet Davis

Whether it’s a frog “ribbit,” an animated drawing or a cut of a song, Juliet Davis makes it clear that this piece really emphasizes the idea that each audio, picture or place is a part of who this person is and how they were shaped or influenced. I also find it interesting that only select sounds repeat. 

I love the part in the Living Room where we hear that the woman didn’t pick things out based on price tags and even though she wears expensive items doesn’t mean that embodies who she is as a person. 

I love how this piece provides different pieces of a person based on where they are. The way they act in their living room is going to be different from how they act in the office or in an outside environment.

I think this elit piece is so important and relevant. We don’t all collect the same pieces to shape us and we don’t all interact in certain spaces to help for who we are. Life is based on experience and what you’ve taken from those experiences. 

This piece feels like a game of clue where you have to put together the clues you find and declare “It was Colonel Mustard in the library with the lead pipe.” I think it’s interesting that this piece is referred to as a game. It is a ‘create your own character’ kind of idea but doesn’t have the traditional standards that I’d classify as a game. I like that if you did not like the person you build, there was an option to erase and start over. I find this to be an interesting contrast between the experience of a game and  how we navigate real life. In a game, when we don’t like our character or are struggling with a level, we can restart until we get it right. When we talk about real life, it’s difficult to “replay” or “erase” certain scenarios and get the outcome we want all the time. However these levels or challenges become a part of us and shape how we may handle that level or experience later on in life. I know I have learned more from my failure and struggle than I have from my successes. I think at the heart of this piece is the idea that struggle shapes us and imprints who we are and how we handle life.