The Fallout Series

It’s Easter, you nerds! You know what that means. No more work! Jkjk, there’s plenty of work to be done in the coming week, I just wish we didn’t.

For this week I’ll be talking about a game that I was recently reminded of: Fallout 4, and Fallout: New Vegas. I regard both of these two games to be great at what they do: let the player take part in a post-apocalyptic world where the rules and laws of society are thrown out the window and so is your own sense of personal safety.

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Out of the two games I played Fallout: New Vegas first, to be more precise, I played Fallout: New Vegas when I was supposed to be studying for my ‘exphil’ exam the first semester of my time here at the University of Bergen. But alas, I was playing video games instead. (I passed the exam(s) just fine, don’t worry) Fallout: New Vegas was a dozy though, it was pretty old by anyone’s standard around the time I started playing it, but at the time it was released in 2010 it was considered a great release by the players.

The game starts with the players in the shoes of the playable character named ‘the courier’. The story only tells you the bare minimum of what you need to know to begin playing. You’re a courier and your package was intercepted and stolen by Benny (voiced by Matthew Perry!) who promptly tells you “it’s just business” before he shoots you in the head and leaves you in your already dug out grave in the Mojave Desert of ‘New Vegas’. What happens next is that you’re recovering from your head wound in a run-down medical center, with amnesia. From that point on, more or less, you’re able to decide for yourself what to do in this unfamiliar place.

The game itself starts and runs somewhat similar to the game I discusses in my previous blog, Dark Souls. The character’s past isn’t crucial to the plot going forward, what matters is what choices you make throughout the game following you picking up the remote controller.

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Fallout 4, however, is filled with references and plot twists depending on your past—a stark contradiction to its predecessor. Fallout 4 starts with your creating your character, witnessing a nuclear attack in American soil, entering the bomb shelter successfully, and you entering into your ‘cryo sleep’. Several plot twists and plot lines are revealed later in the story to have a deep impact because of the past. Fallout: New Vegas shows us how to make a traditional role-playing game where the character is you and you make the decisions—while Fallout 4 is more of a game that follows a strict storyline, with the occasional moment where you can make a slight impact on the overall story.

Despite this ‘huge’ difference in the two games of the same series, the game mechanicals and playstyle is very similar. With the addition of Fallout 3, all of these three games follow a somewhat cookie-cutter format of how the game is played. They’re all played in a third-person perspective, the game focuses on exploring the world around you to uncover the land and lore, siding with different factions tied together by war and differing ideologies, and the confrontation with several philosophical and ethical questions—which is a staple of the series by now.

With Easter just starting, perhaps it is the perfect time to do another dissection of these very different, yet very alike games. Happy Easter everyone. 🙂

 

Working with Audio???

I think I’m funny~

Anyway, this week we covered an almost confusing number of different subjects. So, please bear with me as I try to get wandering, wondering thoughts together ^.^

Empathy or Lack Thereof

One of this week’s topics was that of “empathy games”. According to this article by Eric Bartelson, empathy games are ones that confront players with “real human issues…things like depression, bullying, terminal illness, or suicide”. Through playing these games and “experiencing” these issues “first-hand”, players, ideally, develop a more complex understanding of the issue and so are able thereto forth to empathize better with people going though similar issues IRL.

At least, that’s theory.

Many game designers themselves are skeptical/critical of the idea that empathy can be developed to such an extent via game-play. More, many game designers seem that empathy is a skill every game should be striving to develop and so labeling any specific set of games as “empathy games” is redundant. In this way, and as Bartelson states, the divide seems to be over whether or not empathy is “a genre or a game mechanic”. Which, to me, is an interesting division and, to be honest, since I’m not someone who plays very many games, I’m not sure what side of the divide I fall on.

Certainly, I believe that a game alone cannot develop or refine one’s own empathy. That’s the reverse of the “video games incite violence” argument–spoiler they don’t and a government bogging down discussions about any particular reforms to even entertain the notion is grossly irresponsible and tbfh stalling but I digress…>.>. Like I mentioned in our Twitter chat on Tuesday night, you can have the best message in the world in your game but if players can’t connect that message to something on the outside, if there’s no transfer then I’m not sure how it helps facilitate genuine empathy.

See, I believe designers can direct their messages so that they are received within IRL context. But, I also believe:

My line of thinking seems to fall in line with Simon Parkin’s thoughts in this article in which the disconnect between creator intent and game design is discussed. Basically, Parkin reiterates what I just said: a game with a good idea but a bad follow-through is kind of a problem. More, that equation can create a problem. Parkin references a study in which the game Spent–an online game about surviving poverty–and its effects are researched. What the study found was that it actually made people, even those who sympathized with the poor prior to playing the game, empathize less with poor people. Essentially, the game made people believe poof people had more choices than they actually do in reality. Colleen Macklin, a game designer cited in this article, summarizes the phenomenon, “In a game you have complete agency, but in some life situations, people have no choice. If a game is trying to create empathy in this way, it can back-fire spectacularly.”

When creating a game you hope will instill a deeper sense of empathy, intent doesn’t seem to be enough. More, you have to be careful you’re not “game-ifying” a real situation too much or else you may alter the reality of it and so muddle/not accurately portray your message.

That said, a game I think “game-ified” an IRL situation just right is Bad News. I freakin’ loved this game.

In Bad News, players become the propagators and perpetuators of “fake news” online. “Drop all pretense of ethics and choose the path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate” the game encourages. The goal of this game is to gain as main “followers” as you can through establishing fake credibility online (mostly via Twitter). The other goal, in my opinion, is to be as obnoxious as you possibly can i.e channel Trump >.>..

I had a blast:

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I’ll admit, at first I was trying to be a good person and pick the “ethical” choices but once I realized that was losing me followers (and not the object of the game) I just went full on obnoxious. Spread an anti-vaxxer conspiracy theory??? Sure. Smear a legit news agency cause they had the audacity to report on something bad I actually did??? Why the hell not??

What can I say?

I got into it.

Anyway, fun aside, I do think this game illustrates the point it’s trying to make pretty clearly. Though, if you don’t have the cultural context–say you live in a 1-party state or your country doesn’t have access to much technology or internet–I don’t know how well the message would stick because it’s social commentary, in a way, right? I get that this game is trying to make a point of how fake news is made and propagated but I also think it’s trying to show just how easy it is to slip into that mindset/head-space where you’re more interested in sensationalizing issues, “making headlines”, and in gaining followers than in making ethical or responsible decisions. Even if that wasn’t an objective by design, this game did a damn fine job of bringing it to attention.

But, what do you think? More, after playing a so-called “empathy game”,  how do you feel?

Amping Things Up

Switching gears this week, we also began discussing sound as a means for storytelling.

Now, I have to admit I’m not super enthused for this shift in focus. Sound is not really my medium. Don’t get me wrong, I love my podcasts–listening to them while I’m doing my make-up in the morning–and I’d probably kill someone if I couldn’t listen to my music in the car but I’m not really into or interested in playing around with sound myself. The thought just doesn’t inspire the same excitement as talking about art or Elit.

That said, I’m open to learning more about how to use sound to tell a good story. I’m so used to it being background noise, I think it’ll be cool to explore it as its own kind of art and story.

For this week’s Make, I did attempt to explore sound as a means for telling a story. Check it:

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It’s not my best work but I’m happy enough with how it turned out. I’m a lot more rusty with Audacity than I thought I’d be but this video helped me out a lot. (I also totally forgot how to upload from Audacity to Soundcloud.)

Anyway, technical issues aside, the idea behind my little story here was inspired by the incessant clacking of my own keyboard. Once I decided I wanted that to be my background sound, I was able to establish the rest of the story.

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I added some notes in the margins once I found the sounds I wanted on freesound~

Really, my story is just a snippet of what it’s like to live online–closing yourself away to open up elsewhere, the incessant typing that gets increasing more frustrated as your message notifications keeps pinging, and the frustrated sigh that another annoying ping swallows up. Don’t get me wrong, I love the life digital means affords me but it can be freakin’ annoying sometimes~

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My view while workin’ on those bars~

My Make

Did you get that message??? Or, could it use some work?? Let me know and maybe you’ll get a ping-back 😉

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Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

This Week’s Spells:

*I love this throwback DDA ^.^ The book spine poetry was one of my face DDAs from the first time around. I enjoy combining my love of books with my burgeoning love of new new digital media. This DDA also gets me to “remix” real life, removing the context from my books and placing them in a new one. I love it~

*As for this DDA, I decided to take a close-up shot of my fave pinky highlighter (J. Cat Beauty’s You Glow Girl highlighter in the shade Bella Rose for any fellow make-up junkies ^.^). It looks like a cotton-candy floss universe, doesn’t it? ❤

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*I chose to look at the game our friends in Egypt, Ayah and Manar, are currently in the process of developing. Their game is designed to teach/inform players about illiteracy and how it affects the everyday lives of people and the choices they are able to make. Ayah and Manar talk about their game here and have a prototype you can play here. So far, I really like the project and thinks it’s shaping up to be a real learning tool. I talk more about what I think is effective so far in my comments on the posts so I highly recommend you check those out and, of course, the good work Ayah and Manar are doing!!

Dark Souls and it’s lore design

After hearing Elias’ presentation on Dark Souls, there are two parts that I consider crucial to the overall identity of the game that I want to touch upon. The post-apocalyptic scenario of the world—a key component of the core of the world of Dark Souls—and the ambiguity of the prophecy concerning the player. To do this however, I need to do a quick summary of the hidden plot of the Dark Souls, the plot that mostly takes place in the past. The character you play is in this weird position of being an inconsequential character to the world while at the same time he is the most important individual to the overarching plot of the game. Confused yet? Let’s go deeper.

There exists a prophecy in the world of Dark Souls that says that one day a ‘Hollow’ will “rekindle” the flame. (Hollows are humans who are slowly degenerating into a state of being Undead, essentially humans who are without hope or drive) This is the very same flame that Lord Gwyn chose to sacrifice himself to so many years ago in a desperate attempt to rekindle it as it was slowly fading away. The “flame”, essentially, represents life, humanity, and hope.

The character that you play in Dark Souls—an unnamed human—is supposed to represent the individual player that picks up the remote control. Making the character an unnamed human, with no ties to the past or future, make it the perfect avatar for the player. (Sort of how Link in the Legend of Zelda doesn’t have a voice, but instead is only given a different array of battle cries—this makes the character incredibly viable for any and all players to identify with.) Essentially, the character is you, me, anyone who has ever picked up the game, and anyone who will ever pick up the game in the future. Because that is the brilliance of the underlying plot of the game;  the light will keep fading regardless of how many people ultimately chose to sacrifice themselves for humanity. The “chosen one” really only refers to whoever eventually manages to make it through the entire journey of the game. Once that player is done and has successfully completed the game, the flame will start to fade again, an another will have to serve as the next sacrifice. The prophecy itself is self-fulfilling—which is a brilliant design on the game developers part.

Let’s talk about the post-apocalyptic state of the world of Dark Souls. This component to the game’s story is executed masterfully. There is no real narration in the game, anyone can play through the story without picking up on basically any of the lore of the world. As Elias said in his presentation of the game on Thursday, barely anyone understand the story on their first playthrough of the game. That’s because the story and lore is intentionally vague and shrouded. One of the ways of learning the history is to read the description of various items and objects found and uncovered throughout the world. These usually describe events and characterize the previous owners.

But the most interesting part of the game is the state of decay that it is already in by the time you arrive on the scene. The world is slowly dying around you, but just as evident as the corrosion of the world is to the player, so is the marvel of the former glory of the world. You’re able to travel through enormous castles, vast landscapes, and awe-inspiring dungeons. This world feels like it at one point in time was living and breathing. So, what then caused its demise? This intriguing conundrum is what drives the lore-enthusiasts on the Dark Souls community to seek more and more knowledge and pieces of information out of the game.

This design choice is part of what inspired me in my work this last semester in Mia’s class when I worked on developing ‘the Lord of Light’, my piece of interactive literature for that subject. My goal was to create a work in which the story of the world was unraveled piece by piece through documents and parchments written down by historians throughout history. Once the reader had gathered enough history I wanted to prompt the reader to make a executive decision on a crucial choice that would determine the fate of the characters involved in the piece. Sadly, my ambitions for the project outweighed my competence and time available. However, I do plan on continuing the ‘Lord of Light’ piece and I hope that I will be able to complete it in its intended design.

For anyone interested, here’s a link to the actual work:
https://writer.inklestudios.com/stories/jb86

 

Why We Always Playin’????

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The Name of the Game

This week, we said до свидания to digital art and began our exploration of games and gaming. To be honest, not a big topic of interest to me. Shocking, I know.

Anyway, to start off our discussion on the topic in class, Marissa led a round robin where each of us described a game, digital if we could or not, we liked to the class. We went in a circle and the person who followed you in the circle would tweet out the game the person ahead of them described along with an interesting detail about it if they could. I was behind Patrice and ahead of Vanessa~

Patrice doesn’t really play many games so she didn’t have much to share about them, but here’s what I tweeted out about what she did say:

Like many of us, Patrice has a game on her phone (Candy Crush) she’ll play when she’s bored (sometimes get sucked into for too long if she lets herself something all of us seem guilty of….) but other than that, she’s more familiar with traditional board games like Trouble.

Again, this seems to be the rule not the exception for almost all of us. I don’t play games on my phone as much as I used to but I was pretty competitive and sucked into them at the height of my interaction. My poisons of choice were called BookwormNeko Atsume and High School Story (later Hollywood University when the creators expanded their enterprise). The first game was a wordplay game where you would get a random assortment of letters and have to create words from them in order to gain points. But, some of the letters were “on fire” and if they reached the bottom of the screen before you were able to make a word, the “library” would burn and you’d lose.

As for the other games, they had longer term objectives. You had to collect fish in Neko Atsume which would be left by cats after you fed them or gave them a toy to play with. These fish were used to pay for better food and toys which would attract more cats who would leave more fish and also mementos (which you couldn’t actually do anything with so I’m not sure why they mattered now???) And in the school games, you essentially created a little high school or university that you could populate with different kinds of students (jocks, nerds, preps, slackers, skaters, goths, cheerleaders, etc). There was a main cast of characters that moved the game’s objectives (main quests and side quests) along and, usually, at the completion of a quest you’d get to add one of those characters to your school. There were also exclusive outfits and buildings and decorations you could “win” or buy. It was kind of like a really low-key version of Sims (which was an online game many, like myself, are pretty familiar with).

All this said, the game I actually chose to describe was a card game perhaps most known for its infamy: Cards Against Humanity. Vanessa captured how I summed the game up pretty well:

Basically, Cards Against Humanity is Apples to Apples for adults~

I’m realizing, now, though this description does nothing for anyone who doesn’t know what Apples to Apples is. So, let me break it down a bit more.

Cards Against Humanity is a card game in which you get a set of topic cards with prompts (coloured black with white writing) and another set of cards with a wide array of captions on them that could be used to respond to/answer the prompt cards (these are coloured white with black type). Usually, you play this game in a group of 3-4 or more. Minimum 3 players. Every player gets 7 white cards. The first player to get 7 black cards wins. Though, arguably, the real objective of this game is to get the biggest laugh or to garner the largest reaction with your card combo.

See, these cards don’t have your usual array of prompts or responses. No. At best, you could describe them as outlandish or odd and at worst, horribly, terribly offensive. If you have a delicate system or if your sensibilities are easily offended, this is most decidedly not the game for you. My friends and I love it.

If you’re curious about exactly what kind of subject matter Cards Against Humanity dabbles with, I’d suggest playing a few rounds online. As far as I know, all the cards you play with online are actually in one of the many decks. (In case you didn’t know, the game has many decks and many more expansion packs with all different kinds of themes and nonsense. For example, my friends and I usually play with the bigger, blacker deck ^.^

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There are even unofficial expansion packs like Crabs Adjust Humidity which are pretty great as well and the main company doesn’t care that these exist. Another great thing about this game is the company itself which has the same sense of humor expressed in the game. Like, one year they sold literal b*llshit on Black Friday. Arguably, stunts like that along with the creators’ general nihilistic and apathetic attitude–which appeals greatly to its disillusioned young adult audience–have helped propel this game into popularity.)

So, yeah, I just went off on a tangent.

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Anyway, let’s see if I can get back to the subject at hand….

While, surprisingly to me, not everyone knew about Cards Against Humanity, most of the class was familiar enough with it. Many of us have played it before or seen it online. Stephanie even referred to it a drinking game…

Anyway, other than more traditional board games like Trouble or card games like Cards Against Humanity, the only other kind of game most of us seemed familiar with was Sims. 

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(For anyone who doesn’t know, Sims is a collection of simulated computer/console games that, well, simulate life. You can essentially live out an entire life through a simulated character or collection of characters. There are many version and expansions of this game along with a large community of creators who make mods you can download–with varying degrees of success and implementation–to use in the game.)

Almost all of us could say we lost hours of our lives playing Sims.

Many of us bought the expansion packs. Some of us played on our computers others on consoles. Most of us didn’t connect with any of the community features–we liked to play on our own. Some of us like myself used cheats in game #boolproptestingcheatsenabledtrueforlife~ Point is, this was a digital game many of us knew.

I think only about 2 of us were video gamers, though most of us knew some of the bigger games like World of Warcraft or League of Legends (my best friend made it to Platinum 3 in League maining Sora and sometimes Jinxx–and I actually know what this means because I wrote a short research paper on online gaming discourse a few years back which might now come in handy). It seemed like there was little interest amongst our group in participating too much with these games. Though, the topic of E-sports and competitive online gaming did draw some more intrigue.

My only knowledge of anything like an online gaming community comes from my participation with Neopets. I haven’t played in a while but I used to go on the site ever day and play games to earn Neocoins I could use to buy different items for my Neopets (of which there were many species and of which I only had 2) or for my “home”. Every year, there was also a site-wide gaming event called the Altador Cup. You chose to play for one of 16-17 teams which each represented one of the “world’s” many lands. I always played for the Darigan Citadel and did pretty well, usually earning enough points playing the soccer-style game to buy some top-tier prizes from the prize shop at the end of the month-long event. I even got an “All Star” trophy one year that would be displayed on my user look-up.

Anyway, that’s about the depth of my knowledge on online gaming~

So, being that not many of us are all that familiar with digital games, I think this unit will be an interesting and possibly enlightening learning experience for all of us~

Why Do We Play So Much???

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What stemmed from our conversation on games was another discussion about the purpose of games. Many of us described using games, especially those on our phones, as a way to counteract or subvert boredom. Some of us described playing a game as just a way to pass time. For a few of us, playing games was more about winning them.

But, is there a greater purpose to playing games and to games themselves?

This is something explored by Radiolab in one of their podcasts about games. In the show, the hosts talk about games and their purposes from many different angles. Far too many to address in this one post. But, one of the most interesting parts of this discussion for me was when they began talking games as being a way to both explore/express the imagination–all that could be possible and a way to explore bigger ideas like fairness. I’ve never heard games described this way until now. Though, this idea does touch upon something I believe Katherine mentioned in class–that though we may describe games and our interactions with them as “mindless”, they aren’t really. We’re still engaging in a stimulating activity whether we acknowledge it or not. More, that stimulation is not stimulation for its own sake. Many games, especially, now provide these outlet for users to exercise creative thought processes they otherwise may not be able to. Theory holds that the skills developed in-game transfer over into other areas of life outside the game, improving skills such as multi-tasking or communication.

Another interesting topic the podcast touched on and that I had never heard of before was that of the “novelty” of games. No, not that novelty. But, this idea that whenever you play most games checkers excluded there comes a point in the game where you initiate an action or make a move that has never been made before. That is the novelty. In chess, this occurs once you leave the “book” which is an online archive of all the moves in chess games ever made which I have some thoughts on but that’s another story.... It’s the play that you decide to make that has never been decided in game in same circumstances. It’s the manifestation of your imagination but also the maneuver that shows you know the name of the game (or else it couldn’t be made). This phenomenon is not exclusive to chess, though perhaps with the existence of the “book”, it is easier to acknowledge and document.

To me, I guess, the novelty is the magic of games. It’s what games are all about. They give you these moments that will never occur again and ask you to make a choice, leave a mark. Do something different. Imagine. Create. Play. I think all games minus checkers have the potential to do this and that is why they are important.

What about you?

You play?

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Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

*DDAs this Week:

I made a QR code for my blog using, shockingly enough, a charcoal drawing of a skull I did about a year ago~ What do you think? Spookily perfect for me, yeah?

As for this DDA, I wrote a little diddy that’s all very my style. To be honest, I clicked through hand after hand of cards the site dealt before I came across one that inspired me. Then, I added some slashing red and black lines in Paint and voila~

This was a really cool DDA and I kind of wish we went over this while we were talking about gifs. I think this would have been a really simple demonstration of early gifdom (i.e the really early precursor to online gifs).

 My personal favourite for obvious reasons ^.^~

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*Speaking of games and fun alchemy, this was a really fun and cool game we played this week in class. I didn’t get to talk about it in the main body of this post but I did enjoy this game and found myself growing oddly competitive??? And, maybe it’s the Slytherin in me, but I actually looked up cheats (which, were surprising to me in that they even existed???) to make some of the things I wanted to in this little alchemy lab game. Judge me if you will but once I was able to find a way to make all the little objects I wanted to, I was having a lot of fun~

*As for fun podcasts that I love, I think how “fun” they are depends entirely upon your definition of the word. I’ve been a loyal Murderino for a while now so I have to recommend My Favorite Murder. It’s a podcast all about, you guessed it, murder–the hosts “favorite” murders that week. Each show explores two different murders and the circumstances around the crimes. And, despite the heavy subject matter, the hosts do a phenomenal job of adding tasteful brevity throughout the show. For any true crime fan like myself, it’s a must-listen.

Another great podcast is Last Podcast on the Left. Now, this is a highly inappropriate approach to discussing murders, true crime, and conspiracy theories but it is Great. The hosts have such a witty, conversational banter that almost seems entirely improv-ed because it comes so naturally. The one guy provides some hysterical voice acting as well. Highly recommend you listen to this show in a room away from anyone who would be offended by Cards Against Humanity. This show makes the game seem tame~

~Till Next Time~

The Long Dark

The shift from digital art to video games gives me the perfect opportunity to write about a game that I have become a huge fan of—and a video game category that I normally would not say that I am a fan of—the survial game, the Long Dark.

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The Long Dark was released into its beta stage the 22nd of September in 2014—I didn’t hear about it until at least 2016. The game is created by Hinterland Studios and is a ‘survival game’. I’ve poured about 300 hours into this game and loved every second of it. The premise is pretty straight forward; you’re the only surviving passenger from the emergency crash-landing of an airplane travelling across the wilderness of northern Canada. The game throws you into a highly hostile territory that would like nothing else than to see you perish. The game is highly focused on surviving, this is key as basically every mechanic of the game is either out to kill you or help you postpone that promise of eventual annihilation that waits around every corner.

Right of the bat you need to get your priorities straight and adept to your surroundings. First thing’s first; you’re injured from the plane crash, and as such you need to find some bandage, painkillers, and antiseptic to clean and dress your wounds. If you can’t find these things in your surrounding area you can always look for natural remedies provided from nature, such as ‘usnea’ aka ‘old man’s beard’, or ‘rose hip’, or ‘reishi mushroom’—these all function as medicine harvested from nature.

You’re clothes are torn and ragged from the plane crash making your susceptible to the cold and the cutting wind of the harsh and barren land. You’re afforded a few options here, scour the land for clothes left behind by others, tear up already destroyed clothes and repurpose the scraps of the cloth that this yields you, or create new articles of clothes from the pelt and fur or animals.

You’re both famished and parched—you need to find food and water to sate your hunger and appease your thirst. The issue of thirst might seem benign at first—you’re constantly surrounded by heavy snow—but there’s the issue of successfully lighting a fire to melt the snow to make it drinkable. You might also think that the material required to start a fire is readily available to you. They’re not. There’s the issue of finding small sticks to serve as your tinder, and either logs of wood or broken wooden furtiture to serve as the body for the fire. Additionally, you will either need the limited number of matches to light a fire—and those are usually hard to come by—or you can be exceedingly lucky and find a magnifying glass, but lo-and-behold, you need calm weather and clear sky for that one to work (and it only works in the outdoors).

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And then there’s the whole food poisoning part of the game. You might search far and wide to only find a single can of dog food stocked away in an abandoned cabin—only to realize once you open it that it’s past its expiration date. Way past it. But who can afford to be picky in the final days of armageddon? There are some other options available to you however. The game provides you with a few options for hunting the wildlife of Canada, there’s plenty of both rabbits, and deer to eat—both neither one is just going to keel over and present themselves to you, you need to hunt them on top of everything else going on. Rabbits can be lured into simplistic spring traps laid down by you once you’ve gone through the lengthy process of crafting them, or you can hunt them with either stones (used to stun them for long enough for you to grab ahold of them), bow and arrow, or rifle and bullets—the two latter options requiring either immense patience to search for and finally find, and the other one immense patience to craft from scratch. (Also, there’s somewhat of a learning curve to be able to handle the various devices at your disposal.)

I’ve talked about some of the wildlife present in the game, but did I forget to mention the carnivorous wildlife that’s out to get you? Both wolves and bears would love to dine on you if presented the chance. Wolves usually go in packs while the bears enjoy their solitude, the harder the difficulty you choose to play on the farther away both agents will detect your smell and start to chase you—you’ve got some ways of combating these predators however. I just mentioned both the bow and arrow, and the rifle and bullets a paragraph ago, but you can choose other ways of proceeding. The pacifist approach would be to just turn around and walk the other way should you either spot or suspect the presence of any animals. Tips to alert you would be either the howls of wolves, the remains of a fresh deer carcass (usually surrounded by crows circling overhead), the heavy breathing of bears, or fresh tracks in the snow made from either party. Sometimes you can successfully scare off either one, the wolves can be scared by the lighting of torches, flares, or rocks thrown by the player—while the bear will usually only run if it’s shot by the signal gun.

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Up until now I’ve mostly talked about the survival aspect of the Long Dark, but I would like to touch on a part of this game that I previously have never truly been able to appreciate in any other games before it—the soothing atmosphere. The Long Dark is filled with the ambient sounds that one would expect from today’s games, but there is something about the atmosphere and aura present in this game which strikes me as unique. Apart from the truly terrifying moments of panic when presented with the potential permanent death (which is the only death presented in the game) by either wolf, bear, disease, starvation, or hypothermia—the game offers numerous genuine moments of contemplation and reflection. Once you’re out of the immediate dangers of either one of the aforementioned perils you’re presented with the question of ‘what now?’ Do I look for new food sources, do I take some time out of my schedule to fortify my temporary home (or headquarter), do I put in the time and energy to craft additional tools, do I look for medicine in case of future mistakes or blunders, or do I leave the comfort of my home and head out to seek my fortune in a differ part of the land? With the worry of perma-death hanging over your head at all times, the time and energy that you put into your every action becomes that much more serious and consequential. Leaving your home could result in you being ambushed by a bear, while staying in one spot will eventually drain all of the resources in the immediate area—either chose comes with its potential rewards and consequences.

The game masterfully pulls out the survival instincts you didn’t necessarily know you had in you and makes you feel like you’re truly fighting to survive with every day that goes by. Every day you’re presented with the toll of being alive and what it means to provide enough resources for your body to function and develop.

The Long Dark, to me, is a game of self-realization—regardless of how cheesy that might sound. It successfully rekindled a long forgotten sense of survival instinct within me—and I can only hope that there are other people out there who experienced that same sensation that I did while playing the Long Dark.

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What Does It All Meme????

Tbh, I’m going to miss our discussions on digital art~

Arrested Development Crying GIF by HULU - Find & Share on GIPHY

Sad Will Ferrell GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Kim Kardashian Crying GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Gif that Just Keeps on Giving

Before I get into my reflection on digital art, I want to talk about our last hurrah for the Make Bank.

This week, we used what we learned from last week’s experimentation with Giphy to make two different kinds of gifs which I pronounce with a soft like in graphic image format fight me.

The first make asked us to gif a process. Of course, I chose to make a gif illustrating one of the many metalworking processes familiar to me. (For anyone who’s come to know me, I doubt that’s shocking~)

Anyway, here’s my gif-take on soldering:

Art Soldering GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

***Please do not attempt at home or in any other place not properly ventilated***

So, soldering is the process by which pieces/sheets of metal can be joined. In order to solder, you must first have *drum roll* solder (of which there are 3 kinds–hard, medium, & soft). Typically, start with hard solder and work your way down (the designations don’t refer to the composition or sturdiness of the solder but the temperature at which it melts, hard solder taking the longest to melt and soft the least; so, you want to start with hard solder and work your way down because you don’t want your solder to re-melt and flow every time you attach a new piece of metal to your project–it’d be constantly falling apart, yeah?) Anyway, my gif starts with me placing my chips of hard solder down (technically I should have sweat soldered this but tbh I couldn’t be bothered~)

From there, I torch the piece (soldering temperature is around 850 degrees Fahrenheit). Then, once you see the solder flow and melt, you have to quick quench the piece in water and then in the Pickle–which is a cleaning solution. Metal gets very dirty once heated–it’s a chemical reaction. After letting your piece sit in the Pickle for a few minutes, you can take it out–with copper (absolutely no steel in the Pickle) tongs!!! Don’t touch a piece of metal with Pickle on it!! It can cause your skin to peel–and run it under some water and clean it with a brass-bristled brush.

Ta-dah~ My last image shows a (relatively) cleaned and soldered piece.

I found this activity to be rather fun and engaging, kind of like the Most Fascinating Subject in The World make. Perhaps that’s because both projects ask us to remix and create digital work (memes and gifs) of subject matter from our own lives. To me, projects like these illustrate how memes and gifs, while ubiquitous and rather universal, start off in the personal and individual. It takes one person to notice something or tilt their perspective just so to create them. More, these projects provide opportunities for participation in remix culture in ways we can relate to on a personal level. I mean, we’re remixing parts of our lives, right? Adjusting the lights and the angles and making magic~

My Make

The other make we did this week asked us to reflect back on digital life or on digital art in gif form. How could we imagine one in gif form? What would that look like?

I chose to gif my experience/thoughts on digital art. Again, for those of you who know me, I doubt you’re shocked~

Anyway, check it:

Digital Art GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I’ve noticed that a lot of our discussion in class and in our blog posts has revolved around whether or not digital art is “Art.” Pointless conversation to tbh but I digress~ So, I made a gif to represent my feelings on the matter–Art is what you make of itIt’s what I make of it. It’s what we make of it. Just the ideal that real art has to be on a pedestal and labelled probably has every artist from Van Gogh to Duchamp to Rauschenberg to Roth and then some rolling in their graves.

Honestly, get out of here with that elitist nonsense. Art is what you make of it but it’s also historically been about challenging preconceived notion and the status quo and about calling bullsh*t on bullsh*t. If selfies, memes, and, of course, gifs aren’t doing at least one of those things, then idk what is???

Gotta stay hip with the trends, yeah???

My Make

Missed any of my other Makes? Don’t fret! You can catch up here. Currently holding steady at 3rd~ Started from the bottom….xD

Reflecting on the Gif of Digital Art

On that note, I think it’s time to get into that reflection on digital art…

But first *ahem*

Logic GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

(Had to get that out of my system~ Moving on….)

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts on digital art, I’m pretty sure you know my stance on it by now:

I dig it.

In my first post exploring digital art, I compared it to a kind of neo-Dadaism, calling it Degenerate Art 2.0. In the rise of this new medium, I see traces of a desire to respond to the growing absurdity of the world and the action’s of world leaders >.> with absurdity and nonsense which is something Dada itself sought to do. In many ways, Dada the 1st was a response to the absurdity of WWI, to all of these countries typically regarded as pinnacles of culture and of society fighting over 50 feet of mud. How do you create art after that? Dada showed us how.

From there, I explored the place of the selfie in digital art. In my post breaking down the history of the selfie, I talk about whether or not the selfie even constitutes as work of art. Survey said: not only yes, but that it constitutes a whole new genre of art. For the first time in a long while, new digital media has lowered the boundary for entry into the art sphere as well as created a whole new genre for it. The selfie is the art of the people, created for us by us. More, it has created a whole new kind of communication between us as well as a new way to be introspective. For those of you who have reservations about that claim, I highly suggest you check out my post on the matter as well as check out the Selfie section of the Digital Art Referencium~

If you still have doubts, I suggest you explore the #SelfieUnselfie make. To me, this is one of the most meaningful projects I’ve participated in. I explain why in more detail in my post reflecting specifically on the project but, in short, I think this project captures the essence of what selfies could be while also emphasizing their limitations. If there’s one thing our segment on Digital Life revealed, it’s that’s it is very easy to get caught up in the innovation and the glitz and the glamour of new online spaces and forget that we’re all still people behind our screens with insecurities and agendas and flaws and faults and so many other aspects of ourselves that would look damning under a microscope. More, there are parts of ourselves to appreciate and that can be appreciated without the easy outside validation digital platforms can so easily provide. The internet allows us to be so much more than ourselves but that doesn’t mean who we are offline matters any less.

After discussing the seflie, came good ol’ memes and gifs or, as I like to refer to them, the sprinkles of the internet~

I discuss my thoughts more in depth about memes in this post and about gifs in this post but ultimately I believe that gifs and memes truly embody that neo-Dada essence I mentioned earlier. They tap into that seemingly universal acknowledgement that the world is a pretty absurd place and turn it into art. And though many corporations are beginning to use memes and gifs for advertising purposes (as mentioned by Amy whose style I love ❤ and Michael in our studio visit this week), they are fairly democratic medium, another form of art that is made by the people for the people. A culture of remix and reciprocity has really risen up around these mediums as well, memeing the meme a fun make but also popular practice these days.

Tide Ad GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Tide Pods, anyone??? Stranger things, huh??

Overall, I find digital art to be an emergent and exploratory new medium for creation and reimagining and remixing. There has been and will continue to be a lot of trial and error but I think it is coming into it’s own. I mean, look at how many gif artists there are now? You or I could be the next big thing~

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Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

DDAs this Week:

*(This might be my fave DDA I’ve done in a while~) I made this one using the linked program to reflect how I feel a semester and a half into grad school~ #haven’tsleptin3days #ihatemyself~ #aesthetic

*For those who don’t know, I also write poetry. This semester, I’m actually taking a course on poetry. In this image, you can see some of the poems I’m working on for my collection. For me, every poem is both a beginning and an ending–I live my poem, yes, but it’s also where my feelings end up. More than that, though, poetry is what life sounds like, yeah?

*So… dis my cat~ Her name’s Dove and she’s kind of dopey and likes to chew on plastic. #imhallingherout #sorrynotsorry (On a serious note, what’s Felix got against cats????!! Lol for real this time, I took a photo of Dove with my phone, uploaded it to my computer, and then edited it in Paint, of all things. It wasn’t very difficult at all. The shapes are pre-made and the text is easy to overlay. 10/10 would recommend~)

Twit 1 & Twit 2

*Check out the twitter-chatter activity so far Spoiler I’ve got a big mouth:

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In the thick of it per usual lol~

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Queen of my own universe~

*Played the Garfield roulette and this is the comic I came up with. Funny? Savage? Thought-provoking??? None of the above?

*Found this gem in the Garfield as Garfield archive and had to share it~ (Also, relatable to the grad school experience)

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Goodies

*I made a thing! For anyone who doesn’t know, the open participants of NetNarr have started a project we are all welcome to participate in as well. It’s a great opportunity to practice some digital alchemy~ I remixed an old story of dark, ravenous magic. Hope you enjoy ^.^

*CrashCourse on Youtube (an educational channel run in large part by John and Hank Green) has just started a new course on Media Literacy. I think it’s pretty relevant to our course and worth a watch. Maybe an episode or two will be good to watch for class?

*Artsy Gifs is really cool to follow on Twitter. They share art-inspired gifs that I think are beautiful editions to any feed~

*I’ve almost finished reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read. I highly recommend you check out this book. It’s so relevant to the reality of racism and police brutality in America right now and it’s told through the lens of a 16-year-old, Black girl. These kinds of books that explore this kind of subject matter areso important.

Bone Girl Revisited

Hi~

For anyone who doesn’t know, the open participants of the NetNarr realm have started their own project and have invited us to participate as well. It’s an awesome opportunity to dabble with some digital alchemy~

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do at first–or if I would have time to do anything–but, miraculously, I’m on it with the time management this weekend and I also had a burst of creative inspiration. I decided to remix-ish an old story I wrote about a year ago that was inspired by a random bot prompt.

Originally, I posted the story here on my blog. Then, I uploaded a reading of the story to Soundcloud that I created using Audacity, complete with some simple sound effects I created crunching tortilla chips or snapping vine charcoal.

Now, I decided to make a pseudo-ish ELit work using Google slides. I would prefer to make it more interactive but I’m kind of working with what I’ve got on hand. A while back, I made a pretty cool and interactive ELit piece using Microsoft Powerpoint which has a lot more features than Google slides and is a bit more user-friendly in that regard (one you get used to the interface and all its buttons, of course). The only problem with using Powerpoint is that it makes the work a download so every time someone wants to see the work, they have to download it to their computer which, really, gives them free license to edit and disrupt it as well :/

Anyway, I made do and I’m pretty happy with what I came up with. I had a lot of fun find images to play off my work and even more fun editing them as well as playing around with Google slides’ meager selection of animation. I think my text effects, though subtle, are the most powerful editions I made to the work. They play off the spirit of the piece, if you will.

But enough rambling on from me.

Check it out for yourself and tell me what you think~

Bone Girl

(Please, let me know if there’s any issue with the link!)

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*Check out my Killing It tag for more spooky tales from my mind to yours~

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