Tag Archive for review

Game Review: Wayward Manor

the manorFrom the moment I saw @neilhimself post the Kickstarter of this game on Twitter, I was stoked. Neil Gaiman was making his first game?! Yeah.. I signed up as a backer immediately. With the darkness and imagination inherent in everything he touches, I couldn’t wait. But I did. The game was delayed something like 6 months. I was disappointed, but I was confident it was well worth the wait. Let me tell you that I was not disappointed.

The Look

I’d seen a few pictures on the website *cough* click here *cough* for the art, and it quickly became a motivating factor for me in backing the game. For me, one of Neil Gaiman’s hallmarks is the distinctive look of every world he creates. This was no different. His collaboration with The Odd Gentlemen and Moonshark is a no brainer; it works well.

While it isn’t grown up, per se, it is just disturbing enough to make me hesitate about how old a player might want to be before they play. My 10 year old daughter wouldn’t be afraid of the err… I won’t ruin it for you… but some of her friends would. The game is, after all, told from the perspective of a haunted house desperate for you (his spectral best friend) to rid him of the current inhabitants. People facing their darkest fears is the name of the game which makes the colors, shapes, and clarity very important. In this case, the colors are brilliant and well used, giving the objects a crispness that makes them distinctive, even in very full rooms. It isvery obvious what everything is and where everything is in relation to everything else. This is particularly important when completing levels.

neil himselfThe Play

The game is a storytelling puzzler. You are given a masterfully crafted story (because Neil… duh…) and there are levels in which you (the spectre) must scare various characters using their darkest fears (usually turning their vices against them). They have only so much resilience before they’re scare out of the room. You are given hints, if you need them, by clicking on the stationary “beings” in the room (e.g., ravens, gargoyles, cats, etc.), but the hints aren’t dead giveaways (which I definitely appreciated). No level is overly difficult, but no level is overly easy, either. This makes it worth the mulligans with no pesky raging to ruin the fun. That being said, there was one bug I found that necessitated restarting the level. Once I did (a half a dozen times), I figured out what I was doing wrong (skipping steps, of course) and fixed it. In general, if you can make a move, it is something that is immediately helpful.The game doesn’t let you mess up because it always provides a way out.

As far as controls go, there is nothing other than the mouse to use so it’s more or less intuitive. In order to get the text to move, just click the mouse anywhere (I tried the arrow key as there was an arrow, but no.. just click the mouse). If you can click on something in game, it will have a green essence. The more you scare the characters, the more green objects you have to continue scaring them with. There is nothing tricky about the game except the puzzles. Hallelujah!

paralax6The Sound

As part of the Kickstarter, I opted for the level that included a copy of the soundtrack. SO glad I did. The music is well done, the sounds are appropriate for the game play, and they rarely get annoying (the twins made me want to kick, well, a twin (which is okay, as my brothers happen to be 31 year old twins… I have options). Each character and/or haunt has its own set of ambient and direct sounds but nothing is too abrasive.

Replayability

Here’s the ONLY catch I see to this game. It’s short. I finished it in a few hours (Maybe 3 or 4). That being said, there are 3 achievements called “secret scares” that are available for each level. Once you get the feel of the game, going back through to try to get those wouldn’t be too bad, and the reactions of the characters are entertaining enough to make it worth your time and energy. Undoubtedly, you’ll get some inadvertently during your first run through, but if you’re into achievements at least you have options. Once you open the levels, you can jump right to them, so you don’t have to go ALL the way through the game to get to the desired level if you do decide to give it a go. You can also hold the mouse button to skip cut scenes, so there’s that. Overall, I would say it’s definitely worth the $9.99 on Steam regardless of how many times you obsessively pour over the achievement lists.

The Short Of It

This game is GORGEOUS. The sound is soothing, creepy, and rarely (if ever) grating. The story is a masterfully developed transmedia story, complete with story arc and hero’s journey (I loved the line about the hero’s journey in the game… you’ll see… it’s cute) spanning the website, the game, and YouTube videos done by none other than Neil himself (get it?! @neilhimself … I’m killin’ it today!). This game is worth picking up and telling your friends about. It’s not often you get a well made, engaging, puzzle game by a collection of gifted collaborators. And come on… It’s only $9.99. Preludes and Nocturnes costs more than that!theCast

Two Knights in Rep (And SO Much More)

SeeAlsoI FINALLY GOT TO SEE IT!!!

I know I have had this banner on my front page for a while now, but I was determined to leave it up until I finally got to see the show. Yesterday, I finally did it! I made my way over 3000 miles to see Waiting For Godot in rep at the Cort Theatre in Manhattan starring Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Shuler Hensley, and Billy Crudup. It was… phenomenal.

I’ve been a fan of Samuel Beckett since I studied the history of theatre in undergrad. I chose to do my final report on a playwright from Ireland who I didn’t know. As I’d taken Irish literature the year before, I knew what the typical component of Irish writing included, and was excited to see how that might translate into theatre. I was not disappointed.

Beckett, well known for his Theatre of the Absurd, is astounding. Doing the report, and being a psychology major, I decided to write the paper from a psychological analysis perspective, looking at Beckett’s history for clues as to what elements of his shows might mean. There are quite the number of pre-existing guesses about elements of Waiting. I digress.

When I watched the full version on YouTube, I fell in love with the show even more than just for my love of Beckett. Every time you watch it, there is more to notice. Beckett fills the dialog with connotations and insinuations, sarcasm, irony, and blatant honesty. It’s a utopia for semioticians.

That being said, McKellen and Stewart brought the characters an amount of depth that I hadn’t thought possible (even considering the playwright and his history of perspectives). Gogo was broken. Properly beaten down and only able to function when distractions took him away from his pain and aching. Didi was resilient. You could see his defiance; his determination to endure and make the best of everything, despite the glaring realities. Or were they? The thing that this version made very clear to me at the end was Didi’s desperate attempt to hold on to his reality. It made me think. It made me wonder what in Didi’s life could make him construct this reality, if it were his creation.

Hensley was phenomenal as Pozzo. After the first version I watched, I’d loathed the character. After Hensley breathed life into him, taking on a Southern American accent, I felt bad for him. I felt as though he was living a lie and covering it with a false confidence that oozed like Gogo’s wound. Lucky was also insanely amazing. The mannerisms, the energy while still being broken and weary, the way he brought his “thinking” to life… I was in awe. It was my favorite part of the show. Every actor was “on” and the words were done justice. A beautiful mind, indeed.

I could go on and on about it all. The set was brilliant and used fully. The sounds, the lighting… all of it was spot on and I am SO glad they gave us a little dance at the end. Everything about this show made it an experience I will never forget, and one that will keep Waiting For Godot at the top of my list of favorite plays forever. It ends in March. Make sure you see it; even if you have to travel 3000 miles to do so.

The Tetrad of Power

As discussed last week, Marshall McLuhan was a very insightful man. His theories on media (though they were renewed from someone whose theories had heavily influenced him, Teilhard de Chardin), have been- and continue to be- very influential on media enthusiasts and scholars. That being said, a call for a “scientific basis” (“McLuhan’s Laws of Media,” n.d.) was consistent. This post will briefly explain the tetrad and give an (attempted) example of its use.

TetradThe tetrad is McLuhan’s response to the call for his theory to be formalized (“McLuhan’s Laws of Media,” n.d.). Though the theory itself is not empirically derived, the results of analyses using the tetrad are (“Media : McLuhan/LawsOfMedia,” 2008). The tetrad describes the way media-which had been created by people- affects people and, in turn, communities of all sizes. It relates ways in which the media changes behaviors, reverses behaviors, renews behaviors, and eliminates behaviors.

A fun exercise (I think it’s fun…) is to attempt a tetrad of your favorite media. By media, of course, I don’t mean necessarily electronic. I mean a tool that is used to enhance our ability to communicate (much like McLuhan’s definition of technology). So a pencil, a phone, a typewriter, etc. In this case, I’m going to consider the eReader (I personally use a Nook, but there is a hack that allows the Kindle app on the Nook, so I read both on one eReader).

Enhances: An eReader accelerates and improves our access to books. It also enhances our ability to publish by allowing online, do-it-yourself publishing.

Reverses: An eReader, meant to make reading more convenient (e.g., libraries on a single device, no holding pages open, etc.), has made it so easy that you can access your content from a variety of devices. However, the ability to do so means choosing which device you want to material on, synchronizing bookmarks and highlights, and so on. In the end, having one book to keep track of is easier.

Kindle-e-reader-006Retrieves: eReaders bring us back to reading books. Where we had moved on to digital entertainment and audio books, eReaders allow people access to a variety of classic, new, self-published literature which motivates them to re-discover reading. The effect is reminiscent of the introduction of the Gutenberg press.

Obsolesces: The eReader makes the use of paper printing unnecessary. Not that its use has been done away with, but with the eReader, paper itself is no longer needed for printed literature.

The tetrad impacts media psychologists by giving us something to gauge existing media changes with, as well as a way to make educated guesses about emerging media. By understanding the uses for, and implications of, media and technologies, we can look to the past to see the future with regards to effects, developments, uses, and more. The more we contemplate how the media and technologies around us affect us, the more we understand about ourselves.

References:

McLuhan’s Laws of Media. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.horton.ednet.ns.ca/staff/scottbennett/media/index.html
Media : McLuhan/LawsOfMedia. (2008). Retrieved from http://deoxy.org/media/McLuhan/LawsOfMedia

Understanding Media Psychology… err…

understandng comicsUnderstanding Comics (McCloud, 1994) presents comic readers with a comparatively comprehensive look at comics (e.g., how they’re formatted, what cognitive processes they depend on, reality vs. abstract, etc.). A variety of these principles can be generalized and applied to other forms of media (McCloud, 1994). Understanding these principles lays a foundation for understand the field of media psychology.

EgocentricThe Story– McCloud (1994) points out the more iconic the face, drawn in the comic, the more we as the audience are able to see ourselves in the story. Robert McKee (1997) explains that stories are powerful because they carry universal truths. We connect with stories (and media) that help us to make sense of the world (Jenkins, Li, Drasuskopf, & Green, 2009). We enjoy stories more if they carry a personal meaning to us; something of significance that helps us identify with the situation or the characters (Green, Brock, & Kaufman, 2004). Additionally, media, such as social media, virtual communities, and role-playing games, allow users to uncover, verify, and even try on identities (Bessière, Seay, & Kiesler, 2007; Real Life + Virtual Life = One life by Dr. Jonathan Cabiria, 2008). The story and universality of comics are true for any medium carrying a story, facilitating immersion, whether for enjoyment, emotional response, or seeking to convey a message.

The GutterThe Message– Comics, as well as mediums such as books, films, games, and television, allow concepts and feelings to be understood in personal ways even though they are iconic and representative delivery methods (McCloud, 1994). We experience things using senses that are not required for consumption of the message. For example, in a video game, you may be looking at a computer screen and physically touching a mouse and/or keyboard, but the content may remind you of smells and sounds that are not presented in the book. Our minds fill in blanks based on experiences we’ve had. These blanks are in the blank space in comics, in the scenes we don’t see in movies, and in the events that are eluded to but never described in books, just to name a few. Memories, actions, thoughts, and physical responses are often conditioned to be triggered by a variety of stimuli (e.g., media) (Anderson, 2000).

The Conclusion– There are many ways in which the theories behind comics may be generalized into theories about other media and mediums. Here, we briefly explored message content, the universality of stories, and identity. However, concepts such as transmedia storytelling, branding, the influence of graphic design, persuasion and marketing, and global media are all presented to us by Scott McCloud (1994), but are concepts which are transferable to a great deal of the media used today and in the past. These concepts are all components of media psychology. When we understand these concepts and how they affect us, we can use positive media psychology to facilitate educational, social, and global advancements.

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References

Anderson, J. R. (2000). Learning and memory : an integrated approach. New York: Wiley.

Bessière, K., Seay, A. F., & Kiesler, S. (2007). The Ideal Elf: Identity Exploration in World of Warcraft. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(4), 530–535. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9994

Green, M., Brock, T., & Kaufman, G. (2004). Understanding media enjoyment: The role of transportation into narrative worlds. Communication Theory, 14(4), 311-327.

Jenkins, H., Li, X., Krauskopf, A., & Green, J. (2009). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead (part one):

Media viruses and memes. Retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2009/02/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead_p.html

McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: the invisible art. New York: William Morrow.

McKee, R. (1997). Story : substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. New York: Regan Books.

Real Life + Virtual Life = One life by Dr. Jonathan Cabiria. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3qwdQLSt2I&feature=youtube_gdata_player

 

Maybe Writing In My Blog Will Keep Me From Throwing My Lappy. Maybe.

Microsoft Sucks

Warning: This is a ginger rage article (i.e., explicit language)

Whoever created Word 2013 should have a cheese grater run over his/her/their feet just before making him/her/them walk on Tobasco sauce, lemon, and salt. Separately.

It. Is. Horrible. First of all, I don’t want a theme. I want to have complete control over my formatting, whether you think I can handle all the options or not. Make them available but not mandatory. Secondly, don’t make me type in a fucking text box. I don’t care how easy that makes it to move entire paragraphs to the corner of the page, it’s annoying; get it off my screen. This is Word, not publisher or whatever other creativity suite you’ve included. I am not making a website, thank you, I am attempting UNSUCCESSFULLY to do a HOMEWORK assignment! Third, not everyone writes only ONE page. WHY CAN’T I HAVE TWO PAGES???

I am trying to finish my homework! Word USED to be helpful! Now it’s making me take twice as long to write stuff cause I CAN’T SEE WHAT I’M WRITING!

And, for the record, I don’t care if I look like an idiot because I didn’t spend more than 3 hours looking for answers to my questions. It shouldn’t take more than the 3 hours I looked. “Small tweaks” shouldn’t lead a seasoned and highly functional 2010 user to lose their EVER LOVING MINDS when trying to get rid of a god damn text box and trying to see their SECOND PAGE! So, for those of you who have make it this far reading this post, please don’t leave me fixes in the comments. I don’t care. I’m done with 2013. I would rather have 2003 at this point.

Word, your bullshit took so long to mess with that my comp battery is dead and I still haven’t figured out how to see the rest of my paper!!! What. The. ACTUAL. Fuck?!

I still wanna throw my lappy. I am gonna go reinstall Word 2010 again. Wait… What do you mean this product key is not available for download? I already purchased your outdated-but-still-better-than-the-new-shit program.

I quit. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go sob in the fetal position until my deadline in two hours.