Existentialism, children’s rhymes, and cyborgs

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Li͇̲̤͖̠fe̼̫͕͍ ̩͇͉̬i̲̬s͈͉͖̝̥͖ ͙̲̥̼̳̦̼bu̟̪̗̭͚t̼͎͓ ḁ̼̤̯͓̤ ̮̱d̦̰̞r͔̣̖͙̝̣͕e̹̝̟̟a̻͎̯̘m͍̥̥̮͔̭̱

Neuromancer blurs the line between reality and imagination with reckless abandon. It begs the question- what is reality? What is our place in it? The fact that Cyberspace is referred to as a “consensual hallucination” lets us know that it is not the physical world, but it is as intense and real of an experience as what we consider to be reality.  Where, then, do we draw the line? To us, dreams feel real as long as we experience them. Where would simstims and recorded memories fit in?

In class, we discussed the nature of AI and free will. In Neuromancer’s conversations with Case, he says “I call up the dead […] If your woman is a ghost, she doesn’t know it. Neither will you.” and “To live here [in his world] is to live. There is no difference.”. Linda’s postmortem life is real to her, and who is to say otherwise? Even in the ending, we can assume that Neuromancer managed to upload Case’s consciousness to the Matrix, possibly out of kindness to Linda Lee. After all, Neuromancer has said himself that personality is his medium. In that case, what makes him different than a human? I’ve met people with less personality than this fictional being.

This leads us to reflect on our own lives- how can you tell if you’re living in reality? Does it even matter? Lucid dreamers will tell you that there are several ways to know if you are dreaming. The numbers on a clock will be wrong, a mirror will show the wrong image (a monster if you’re unlucky), or any number of personal tells.

Definitely Gibsonesque

In today’s world, many of us spend more time engaged with technology than people. I know I do, and my optometrist is never very happy with me. Could we be classified as cyborgs, then? Living in two worlds at once, but never fully immersed and integrated with either? With the normalization of biotechnology and wearable tech, our current reality is not terribly far off of Gibson’s vision. Nobody bats an eye to silicone injections, robotic arms, pacemakers, or the fact that we have tiny supercomputers in our pockets that can access huge amounts of information nearly instantaneously. You could even say that we are physically attached to our tech- much like Molly’s body enhancements. We use artificial intelligence to assist us with common things like calling customer service, performing phone tasks, or just cleaning our floors. Whether this is a benefit or detriment depends on the user, of course, but temptation is all around us. Though we don’t quite have the cowboys and black markets of Chiba, cybercrime is incredibly common with roughly three attacks per minute and 17% of the online population becoming victims of digital theft.

So, was Gibson right? Like the open ending, we can’t be sure. The nature of life is that we all muddle through it together. Some wade through the muck, wether by circumstance or choice. Some carry others on their backs, or help along those who can’t swim. Some row in their boats. We change situations and companions, but in the end, the stream will lead us all to the same destination.


Gaming Reflection

I definitely had difficulty with this module simply because I am much more accustomed to a traditional class structure. I find comfort in rubrics, standards, routine, and structure. It was definitely difficult or me to wrap my head around having so much freedom to explore. I floundered around a bit in the beginning just because I didn’t know what to focus on!

Literally me.

In terms of the subject matter, the fact that there is so much material about games doesn’t help. There’s game theory, gamification, history, psychology and sociology, programming, design- literally everything. It probably would have been better for me to begin with a more rigid module.

However, in the end I did learn to appreciate it. My group did everything individually, which was a bit frustrating to try to present, but it was nice to be able to learn about what interested us. I’m very anal, so during the presentation I tried to rush through my points in order to make up for presentations that went long earlier. I think things would have gone better if our group was able to meet in person beforehand to run through the presentation, but that’s a minor issue.

I had originally wanted to look into gaming in real life- mobile apps like Ingress or Zombies, Run!, games on exercise machines, meaningful play- things like that. I even downloaded several of these apps and began using them. However, I ended up falling into a rabbit hole once I learned about the ’83 crash. It was just so interesting to me how the current gaming climate can be traced back to this incident. I read blogs, watched videos, found several documents, and made connections to the present day.

Then, I decided that wasn’t quite enough. For my science education class, we’re encouraged to learn Scratch because there are a ton of educational robots that can be programmed using it. So, I thought to give it a go. I’ve already written a blog post about my experiences with that, but in short I made a fairly simple Space Pong game. I actually presented this game to my education class and explained how everything worked, so I’m setting myself up to earn a Scratch Mastery badge.

In the end, I realized that though I do best with deadlines and requirements, there is value to the more open-ended class structure. That and Scratch are probably the most important thing that I learned, since I already have a fairly rich background in games.

Scratch That

I decided to try my hand at baby’s first programming with Scratch. I’ve used it before, but very lightly and only to look at how it worked. For my first project, I decided to aim small and just edit an existing starter.

What I ended up choosing

I played several of the featured games, then took a look inside to see how they were put together. Then, I looked at animations and artwork, taking note of those as well. Looking back, I could have made things easier on myself by just going through the tutorials, but I’m stubborn. I chose to use the Pong starter for my game. This was a bit more complicated than a maze, but not by much.

First, I just changed the appearance by changing the background and ball sprite. I didn’t realize I could duplicate scripts at this point, so I remade it by hand. I then decided to add another ball in the form of the moon. I had a lot of struggle with this one, because it would come in too early, stay even after game over, spin out of control, go too fast, everything. Eventually, I got it working the way I wanted. Then, I decided to add a Game Over screen. I ran into challenges here, as well. For both this and the moon, what helped me the most was looking at other examples to see how they did things. It was about 11pm by this point, and I decided to call it a day.

The next day, I had a break between classes and decided to try and work on my game a bit more. However, since I hadn’t gone through the tutorial and made an account, all of my work was erased. Womp womp.

The good news, though, is that it took under an hour to get everything back up and running to original levels, even with two custom sprites. At this point, I shared my game in the feedback channel.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any feedback. I kept playing and finding ways to make things better, though. I added arrow key controls and sounds, then called my work done for the day. After some feedback from Rose, I added an instruction sheet and changed the sizes of my sprites.

Here is the finished product, I’m fairly pleased with it. I’m sure I could have made something more sophisticated, such as a platformer or an original game, but I’m happy with what I made.


A Brief History of and Reflection on Games

I feel like I should declare a minor in game theory at this point. 

Since we don’t have a huge amount of time for this module, I decided to begin by looking at my world. Just in my living room, there is a milk crate full of videogames, three game systems, and a separate crate of board and card games. However, only several board games belong to me as I am what is known as A Filthy Casual. I don’t like first person games, I’m bad at quicktime events, and I don’t have the patience for MMOs. My Steam library has games such as Hatoful Boyfriend, Undertale, Bastion, and Minecraft. There are many games I enjoy watching others play, but that I don’t play myself for various reasons. League of Legends, Assassin’s Creed, Fallout 4, and the Zelda series come to mind. Generally, these are console games that I can’t invest hundreds of dollars into, or have gameplay elements I don’t like.

But where did my tastes come from? And were they my decision or has society pushed me along?

Growing up, my mom never had much disposable income. We weren’t destitute by any means, but my friends would get presents of game systems and designer backpacks for Christmas when I got science kits and school clothes. I would sometimes play games like SSB Melee or Kirby Air Ride at their houses, but at home I had a collection of PC games from cereal boxes and a multi-pack of STEM games (National Geographic, if I remember correctly?). I did love flash games, though and would play those for hours. As a result, I never saw the gradual tonal shift from children’s games to more “adult” war games like Halo or COD.

I don’t appreciate the hypermasculinity and gore of some more mass-market games, but my female roommates love them. They play games in a series, as the milk crate contains multiple installments of Fallout, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Fallout, Assassin’s Creed, and Halo. Granted, these are all fairly story-heavy and less Kill Everyone. Yet, the idea of video games being a Boys’ Club still persists, even though female gamers have surpassed men in number.

In fact, video games are the fastest-growing entertainment genre. This is clearly seen on the most popular channels on YouTube, as 18 of 50 are gaming channels. Let’s Players can make enough money to support themselves by partnerships and ad revenue from their videos- many of which get thousands of views, if not the tens of thousands that popular gamers command. We live in an era when professional gamers are scouted young, live and train in houses, sell team gear, and then quit around 30 due to injuries or wanting to settle down. Largely, these elite players are men.

Where did this idea come from? When videogames were created, they were marketed as a family entertainment system. In fact, Ms. (not Mrs.) PacMan came out shortly after PacMan due to the number of female players, under the direction of a production team that included plenty of women. There was no Y-chromosome-only fence put around the Atari, which leads us to…

The Videogame Crash of 1983

You see, what happened is that early videogames were popular and profitable enough that development companies began releasing sub-par product such as I Want My Mommy, re-skins of popular games, and games such as E.T.  and Fire Fly that were so bad, they annihilated sales of previously top-tier consoles.

We shall not speak of this again

These development companies also released glorified commercials that consumers either bought for a premium, or could get for “free” by sending in a certain number of certificates, box tops, wrappers, etc.

Ohhh yeah…

At the beginning of 1983, the video game industry as a whole peaked with revenues of $3.2 bil. By the end of 1985, this fell to roughly $100 mil, or a 97% decrease. To put this into context, the most recent stock market crash of 2008 decreased 54% from its peak in Oct. 2007 to March 2009 when it began to recover.

So how do you rebound from something like this? A little company called Nintendo had the answer: call something an entertainment system instead, and sell it as a toy rather than an electronic where consumers would be wary of it.

Thus, the Nintendo Entertainment System was born

You may notice that this system looks different than its predecessors. In fact, it looks a bit like a VCR, right? This was absolutely intentional, as a way to further the NES from older consoles. By this point, though, the toy aisles of many stores were segregated into pink and blue, so when Nintendo had to make a decision of how they would market their new “toy”,  they chose blue. The NES was marketed almost exclusively to boys, and this marketing followed them as they grew older, further objectifying women.

Other companies followed suit, riding in the tracks Nintendo cleared.

In 2012, the combined sales of sport, action, and shooting games released controlled 58.8% of total video game sales.

Modern companies seem to be getting the idea that girls play videogames too, though they market in a similarly heinous way. This is an ad from Sony’s Girlz Play Too campaign

This absolutely reminds me of what is currently happening with Lego Friends. Legos are just plastic bricks. They are not and have no reason to be a gendered toy. However, the girls I nanny only have Leggo friends sets in their pastel hues, pre-designed sets, and Polly Pocket-esuqe dolls. They build houses and shops one time, rather than building and rebuilding to use their imagination (thus buying fewer sets). Another horrific win for gendered marketing.

This brings me back to my original question- are my tastes in videogames my own, or were they implanted as a result of being too poor to own a variety of consoles and being a girl? I would like to think that they are my own, of course. Nobody wants to acknowledge the effect that marketing has on them. Though, maybe it’s just a coincidence that some of my favorite games have heart icons…



Grab the White-Out

Responsibilities don’t exist when it’s cold outside, right?

This is the fourth time I’ve remade my website in accordance with a class. As you see, I have a static “About Me” page up now, when I previously had my posts in reverse-chronological order. I prefer to use categories rather than subdomains on my website because it allows me to keep everything accessible and easily organized, and it’s a system I understand. As I wrote in my digital identity analysis, I’m not very concerned with my digital footprint right now as I expect to change my name within the next several years.

Setting up this blog was easier than previous iterations- I knew exactly what I was looking for. Simple, not photo-oriented, with a sidebar, top navigation, and a static page. The 2016 theme worked well for me, I just changed around the colors and some navigation menus. Previous themes I’ve used include Contango and Finch, which I definitely recommend.

The greatest challenges that I have had are updating my numerous plugins (jetpack is bae) and reaching my storage limits. I deleted all but the most recent backup, as well as some older images. Right now, I have everything broken up by class. I also use this page as a living CV, which I update periodically. I imagine that once I graduate, I’ll just download the best material onto my computer and let the domain name lapse before getting a new one.

Week 12- You’re killing me, smalls.

Stirrup Trouble got their first case this week. We spent the week gathering evidence by dividing and conquering. We split up the major players- BB&B among the three of us. I took on Burtis. Initially, I couldn’t get anything out of her. The preliminary evidence raised more questions than it answered. I gathered more evidence, but I don’t want to jump to conclusions. We’re playing with people’s lives, here. Jack could be anywhere. You could be Jack. Jack could be you.





First week with the team.

I’ve finally assembled my workforce. Donnie and Lilah should be great assets to me in this coming adventure. I wanted to start things off easy for them, just set up the public website and give them their first challenge. As many of you already know, my bananas were stolen several weeks ago under frightful circumstances. Delilah’s been a real peach- she learned that some alien named Obama actually stole them! I don’t know who this guy is, but I don’t trust him. He looks too determined. You won’t get my bananas again, Mr. Alien.

Donnie didn’t work on this case. But, he did design a logo for us. That’s nice. I guess he also sent Lilah a business card, because I don’t remember ever making one. Way to step up, Donnie. He seems to be having a little trouble adjusting to computers and technology, which seems strange. He said he’s from the ’40s, and since it’s currently 1952, I find that hard to believe. I think it’s just his own brand of humor. He also seems really sad, like he’s a widower or something.

I like Delilah, but I don’t really trust her. I know she thinks I’m batty. But, really- she’s spent all her life around horses and animals, I don’t think she’s very good with humans. Sure, she has a degree in Psychology, but you know who else did? Freud. All that guy cared about was penises. (I really hope she doesn’t like penises as much as Freud.)

I’m not very happy that she put our phone number and address online, but it’s not like I can take it down now. The internet owns it. That means that Google owns me now. I’m like Google’s sexy concubine.

We expect to be getting our first clients starting tomorrow, seeing as we’re ready to start rolling now. I was hoping for some disgruntled lovers, shady business deals, things like that. But, we’ve been getting tips recently about hunter green jackets, mysterious vacations, and Dutch ovens. I don’t know how they could all be related, but I bet there’s a Jack involved. There’s always a guy named Jack.


My final 3 bananas were for this assignment. I looked through everything that my team did this week, and I summed it all up here! I think I’ll keep doing this as new cases start coming in.

You’re all forgetting your roots.

I think I’ve asked “how did you make this” more than 5 times this week. If you were my employees, you would all have a stern talking to about following instructions. (more…)