Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What I've Learned From Video Games, Part 1

       I did a persuasive essay a while back as a final for an English class, about why video games are beneficial to kids. To an extent at least- as with most things gaming is best enjoyed in moderation. Obviously it's important to get out and actually get in some physical activity on a regular basis, but I want to go ahead and highlight some of the things that I, personally, have learned from being a lifelong gamer.

Cover Art for Kirby's Dream Land
I started gaming as a kid, having been given my cousin's old brick-sized original GameBoy. My mom took me to a yard sale where I picked up the Kirby's Dream Land. I spent hours at this game, and because it didn't have a save feature and I had no way of plugging my GameBoy into a power outlet, I restarted the game on a regular basis. So, what did I learn from my first gaming experience? Patience, and hand-eye coordination. Okay, so the jury's still out on the whole hand-eye coordination thing, but multiple studies* have shown that playing video games does improve hand-eye coordination. So really, one can just think how much more clumsy I would be were it not for darling Kirby.

See what I did there?

Screenshot from Sid Meier's Pirates!
Alright, patience; probably would've picked that up at some other point along the line, right? How about history? I went through a phase as a teenager where I was really into pirates (no, it was not sparked by Pirates of the Caribbean, it was because I got into reading One Piece in Shonen Jump) and although there were plenty of books and documentaries on them, it wasn't until I picked up a copy of Sid Meier's Pirates! that everything began to come to life for me. Like many "creative types" I'm not a strong learner when I have to sit still and read or listen to information being given to me, but with this immersive and (aside from the protagonists mission to save his family) historically accurate world playing out before me, I was able to gain a strong grasp of port locations, the challenges of sea life, the difference between a pirate and privateer, and what the controlling powers were during that time.
I'll have *much* more in this series later on, but for now I'll leave you with just these two tidbits.

* Articles: MSNBC and National Geographic.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The 90's Won't Leave Me Alone

       When driving, I tend to listen either to my iPod (phone), Pandora, or National Public Radio. Since it is the only actual radio station I ever listen to, my radio stays tuned to NPR pretty much exclusively. So this morning while en route to work, I decided I wanted to change albums I was playing on my iPod, which for me involves unplugging it momentarilly so that I can navigate through the menus (otherwise it's locked and just reads "iPod in Use"). The instant I unplugged my device, I heard something to the effect of this:
The makers of Transformers are set to begin work on another project, this time involving that blue-skinned, green-haired defender of nature, Captain Planet.
They then proceeded to play a soundclip of the theme from the old tv show- which is stuck in my head now, thank you very much NPR. There wasn't too much information on it, they only spoke for about 3 minutes or so, basically just saying that the franchise is going to be given an updated look and story.
       Producers Don Murphy and Susan Montford of Transformers fame will be working in conjunction with Cartoon Network to develop the film, which as of yet has no release date, although in one press release Murphy did make note of the development of a "series of films", indicating that, like Transformers, they plan to milk this thing to the bitter end.
       Given the state of the environment, and the Green movement which is gaining increasing popularity, I guess it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. Hopefully children will take to the idea of being friendlier to Mother Nature, although personally I never got into the show much as a kid (luckilly I was naturally a tiny bleeding-heart, animal-lover anyway). I kind of feel like this will wind up appealing more to young adults who grew up watching the show than to actual youths of today, but I've been wrong before.

I wonder if they'll let him keep the mullet?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Star Trekkery

     I find the juxtaposition of Kirk v. Picard really amusing. Picard is all diplomatic, and resorts to violence as a last-ditch effort, whereas Kirk's go-to response is almost always "punch" or "shoot". One of my favorite moments is in The Gamesters of Triskelion when he decides Shanna, the love interest in that episode, needs to be unconscious for a while. So, with all his fighting skills and military training, what method does he use for knocking her out? Well, he clocks her in the face like she was a man, of course.
     Picard is probably the ideal leader humanity could hope for, but Kirk is probably more realistic- for now, at least. We'll probably either end up in a TNG Federation-type scenario, or more of an everyone-is-dead-because-we've-killed-ourselves-off situation, but probably nothing in between. I'm leaning toward us blowing ourselves to bits, myself. Not that that's what I'd prefer, it just seems to be more the direction we're headed in. But I digress. And oh! I just noticed there's a Google + option on blogger now, how nifty.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Internet Memes: An Inside Joke Everyone Shares

     We've all had jokes shared by only two or three other individuals, and usually those are the most amusing. Most have also liked something really obscure, and felt the blind, unadulterated, bliss of stumbling across someone else who "gets it". There is something about the human psyche that values things that feel secret or special. If you have the impression that you're aware of something incredible that few people know about, there's a sense of excitement at getting to let others in on it. Internet memes are a lot like that, except that almost everyone is in on the secret. By simply visiting a site such as Reddit, 4chan, or Memebase daily, you can stay up-to-date with trending memes, and be the one to expose those who may not be online daily to the magic that is the internets. 

(Rage Guy)
But what exactly is an internet meme? The technical definition is:
an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture
So, an internet meme is an idea that spreads from person to person rapidly via the internet, often reproduced over and over in different way, but always holding with the same central base material. Take Rage Guy (left), for example. Rage Guy is one of the earlier internet memes, and many hold to the general guidelines it set forth. Essentially, most memes use a basic formula. Rage Guy memes, and similar ones like Everything Went Better Than Expected and F*ck Yea usually go something like "Panel 1, set up. Panel 2, lead in. Panel 3, conclusion. Panel 4, meme reaction." Many, though, are simple an image that is recaptioned with a similar theme, such as Insanity Wolf (below).

(Insanity Wolf)
 Additionally, internet meme source material can be virtually anything. Take The Most Interesting Man in the World meme for instance. It is based on a commercial for Dos Equis beer. Rickrolling was a popular meme that found it's way out of the internet an into "real life". Basically, if you can trick someone else into clicking on a link, reading the lyrics for, or listening to Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up, you've just rickrolled them.

There are countless kinds of internet memes out there, as new ones are being posted and going viral daily. I'll likely be doing several more posts in this series to give some basic introductory information to the different categories of internet meme, along with the other technology, entertainment, and pop culture news I'll be addressing.