Tag Archive for storytelling

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

A Letter from the Future

2535397-poApril 2, 2034

Dear Po,

I am SO glad mommy chose this nickname for you! When your mommy was a little girl, I used to call her Monkey. I still call her monkey, actually. But sometimes she looks at me and goes, “Really.” It makes me laugh, so I keep doing it. You’re mommy is silly but I know she’s gonna be a super great mommy. She had a pretty good example. 😉 Anyway, I am writing this letter on the day you’re born so when you’re older you’ll know what things are like now, and how they’ve changed! BUT. Before I can do that, I want to tell you how much things have changed over the last two generations of our family. I’ll start with when I was little,  talk about what your mommy was like growing up, and then I’ll tell you what it’s like while YOU’RE a baby!

When I was a little girl, I remember we used to have analog phones. That meant, we had to have them wired into the wall so we couldn’t take them with us. And the only thing they did was call people. We pushed buttons (or put our finger in a hole and dragged the hole around in a circle and then let it go! HA!) and the phone rang at someone else’s house. Then we could hear their voice and they could hear ours. That was it. If they weren’t home, we just tried again another time. Then we got tape recorders for when people were out, and we could leave a message. We used to have to rewind the tape, though. Otherwise, we didn’t have room for the messages! I remember my first gaming console was an Atari 2600. It had one joystick and one button. I had a computer too. But the computer required commands, so we had to know what we were doing to start programs (and those usually came on “floppy disks”. I got to play the Nintendo, I had a tape deck/recorder and a VCR, I used to change the channels on the TV (there were only 3 or 4) with a knob that was ON the TV, and I had a pager. I kid you not… a pager.

Major_League_GamingSo I grew up, had a monkey, and my little monkey grew up. She got things like Web 2.0, social media (that’s stuff like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine… you can look those up). She loved to play games, too. We used to watch Twitch together. That’s where people play video games in front of their friends and people who want to watch them. They use a camera, a green screen, and some fancy software to project themselves onto their own channel. Then other people can come type into a chat room and the streamer can talk back at them. In fact, Twitch is probably one of the main reasons we ever got Major League Gaming. That started around the time I was in graduate school. We played games called MOBAs. People got really good at the games and started competing for lots of money against teams in other countries. The events got so big they made it into a major sporting event. It seemed pretty strange to be saying that games were a kind of sport, but the mental and physical exertion was pretty taxing and they figured that gaming and sports were two sides of the same coin.

world-of-warcraft-cumple-ocho-años-720x430Anyway, your mommy loved to play games called MMORPGs. Her very favorite was World of Warcraft. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it IS the predecessor of World of Hexcraft. In fact, she loved playing WoW so much that she decided to go into game acting as a career. She was SO excited when she got the job as the main hexenbeast antagonist! She works hard, but she loves interacting with the players and she gets paid really well to do it. Guess all that improv as a kiddo paid off for her. It’s funny when I go into the game and she sees me cause she comes up to me and hugs me, then says something evil to me and throws me out. It’s pretty cool to see her being a really great NPC. In fact, that’s how she met your daddy!

Brielle and Elrond met while working on WoH. Brie has been doing work as an actress on several popular video games. Your daddy, who was a developer for several of the games mommy worked on had a little bit of a crush on her, and he invited Brielle to play the main NPC. Video games, specifically augmented reality video games, thrive on immersive environments. During their time both creating and beta testing Hexcraft, Brielle and El had time to get to know each other. Of course, the first thing that Brielle noticed about El was his New Zealand accent (mommy used to do lots of silly accents when she was little… especially Monster High voices back when MH was a web series). Anyway, your daddy and your mommy used to Usher all the time, and sometimes mommy would go on dates with daddy in a closed beta game. Even though she was still in Saint Louis working at Blizzard, and El was in Portland volunteering at a chromo-change clinic, they still spent a lot of time Ushering back and forth and going on dates.

The end of menI remember when El first told Brie he was born XY. He was afraid mommy was gonna be upset, but we had a lot of friends who were transgendered when she was little, so she grew up around it and it totally didn’t faze her. In fact, your Great Guncle Micah and I used to go to support rallies when they were first considering legalizing chromo-changes. Nearly all of my friends were gay or trans, so when they discovered the chromo-change technique, we were all very excited. I’m sure by the time you read this, the chromo-change is old hat. I bet they’re even choosing the gender of their babies by now. But people are still getting used to it right now. It has changed the lives of so many people. Before the chromo-change, XY to XX couldn’t have babies after their change cause they were taking hormones to slowly make a shift, but their DNA wasn’t being changed to make the process complete. So they still had to live with some distinctly XY features depending on how early/late in life they made the change. Your daddy was born Arwen. New Zealand always had a pretty advanced set of medical and social norms, so they were among the first to begin using the chromo-change technique. Your daddy was very excited to go XX to XY. He went through the chromo-change when he was 10, the youngest person to be changed at that point. He was very lovely (I’m sure you’ve seen pictures), but puberty was much easier for him already having changed to XY. And he let your Grandma and Grandpa choose his name. Of course, since he was named after the elven princess from Lord of the Rings, they chose Arwen’s daddy, Elrond, to name him after.

Tap Tap BraceletAnyway, When your mommy was young, we used to have a program named Skype. That’s what I would use to being in voice chat groups with my friends when we played games. Well.. I used Skype and Team Speak, but TS was too structured, so we usually just used Skype. Skype also let us use cameras to talk to each other. We used to sit around smiling at each other like idiots. I remember one of my boyfriends, Ryan,  and I would have our video chats open while we played games so that every time we died in game, we could just watch the other person play. Then, when people got sick of just looking at each other, they made these cool bracelets that you could buy that when you tapped one, the person with the other one could feel it. It was cool to feel two taps for I love you, or whatever your secret code was. Then we got these machines that connected to computers. Each person could have one, and they could kiss it, and the machine on the other end would move the same way! So two people could kiss these machines, but it felt like you were kissing the other person! It wasn’t quite the same, but hey! With all the long-distance relationships going on, it was at least better than just staring at each other. 😀

holodeckAnyway, after a lot of these types of machines, and people making augmented reality applications, 4D movies, they finally realized that they could make what everyone has come to call Holodecks (they named it after this OOOOOLD show, Star Trek). Basically, we have these rooms that we can walk into and we tell the rooms where we want to go. The rooms are pretty big, so you can travel in the space, but you can only go so far (it’s not the same as games, where you don’t move physically, so you can go where ever you want in the game world). So you just tell Usher exactly where you want to go, and you can go. But the cool thing is it’s just like you’re actually there. The temperature in the room, the sounds, the interactions… the room transforms into the space and you can see everyone else in that spot. So even though you can’t walk past a certain point, you can see people who are further away from that spot (and you can readjust your spot if you need to). They have all kinds of suits and machines that you can get as mods for Usher so you can hug people, or do all kinds of other things (sadly, some people are still cyber bullying, but it seems like we’ll never quite get rid of that disinhibition).

I remember when Papa and I got married (I was just about your mom’s age), we all went to Girdwood (a town about a 45 minute drive from Anchorage, where your mommy and I grew up). We all had to drive, and a few people even had to drive all the way out two or three times cause they were bring stuff to us. Who would have ever thought that by the time your mommy and daddy were getting married, we would be able to use Usher to just attend the wedding in virtual-person? I remember the last time I had Ushered to France before that was for your Great Uncle Frankie’s performance of Tartuffe. But mommy was always excited about Paris, so that’s where we went. It was a private event, though, so we were able to do it right in front of the Eiffel Tower. In private event rooms, Usher uses the place but doesn’t show you the people. Since we were all Ushering in, we didn’t need to see anyone that was actually there. I just love virtual layering. I am so glad I was able to go to your mommy and daddy’s wedding, get to see all of our friends from over the years (mommy’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Krumland was even there!) and see how they’re all doing.

mlp__friendship_is_robots_by_uc77-d4d9jgfMommy’s best friend, Paige, works for a toy manufacturer as a designer. When she and mommy were little they used to watch a lot of My Little Pony (generation 4… right now we’re on gen 7), so she designed a virtual toy of their original characters from when they were little. Mommy projected it onto her wall at home in her office so she can always smile when she sees it. I’m SO glad for virtual wallpaper. I was TERRIBLE at painting (even though your papa keeps trying to get me to paint walls… he just won’t let go of the old ways of doing some things). But Paige did a really great job on mommy’s virtual toy. I used to have a stuffed animal collection of over 200 stuffed animals. Some of them got passed on to your mommy (but she didn’t want them so they ended up in my room when I was her age). When Paige started her design career, she took my animals and made them virtual so I could always have them, but they didn’t take up space. It’s like they’re there, but I only have to pick up the toy chip when we clean or move. SO much easier, and I still get to look at my happy memories. It’s also how your mommy still has her collection of all of the original Monster High and Ever After High dolls. She did save a few just for you, though. In fact, you’re gumming Ghoulia’s head as I sit next to you and write this. I’m so glad you turned out to have red hair like me. I hope you give my monkey just as much grief as she gave me. I’m so proud of her, though. And I can’t wait to see how much smarter you are (us Metcalf girls keep getting smarter and smarter!)

Welp! I should be wrapping this up. I’m sure you have better things to do than sit around reading a novel that your Nana wrote just cause she got emotional the day you were born (can you blame me? I’ve been waiting forever to me a Nana!). And you probably know all of the stuff I wrote already. So I’ll just end this by saying that no matter how many things change in your lifetime like they did in mine, no matter how many technologies come and go, no matter how many ways people find to solve problems (or create them), no matter what happens in your life… I will always be proud of you, I will always love you, and you will always be my little Panda Po. Nana loves you, baby!

 <33333333 Nana Melody

images

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.

Digital Connections in a Digital Landscape

RuinsDigital citizenship is a blanket term describing challenges and shifts that result from communities being geographically far more widespread and driven by electronic communication and connection. As with any stereotypical Western community, we consider individual needs in social contexts. The landscape of digital citizenship has undergone monumental change, as have the social groups served by that citizenship (Ohler, 2010). In this post, I will consider the transformation of one such group- extended family- as well as the transformation of the face of digital citizenship, and finally what these changing landscapes mean to media psychologists.

I remember getting two very sad phone calls as a child. The first came in second grade from my “boyfriend” Ryan. He called to tell me he was moving to Washington DC and he wouldn’t be coming back from Christmas break; I cried for days. The second call came when my best friend, Erin, moved to Hawaii. I got what we now affectionately refer to as “snail mail” letters from her a few times, but there is only so long a 6th grader can keep that up. Both of these examples involve people being separated across country, but even a move across town used to mean never seeing someone again. Telephones were (and are) amazing ways to keep in contact with loved ones, but if you lost the number in a move, or the number changed you were out of luck. Add this to the cost of out-of-state and long distance charges or collect calls, and it became nearly impossible to sustain geographically dispersed relationships. Luckily, media has helped us overcome these tribulations.

With each new media development, our ability to stay in contact has improved. From phones, to local bulletin board systems using 2400 baud external modem connections, each progression was a step closer to social media and constant contact. Now we have clouds, social media, and Google search to help us remember or find phone numbers. And that’s only if we want phone numbers. Email addresses, URLs, social media accounts… they all facilitate the (re)connection of loved ones. One simple search (along with a, hopefully, recognizable avatar), and you can reconnect with the entirety of your past (and yes, I reconnected with Erin). snail-mail-suzikThis climax of intense media availability resolves with relationships that have shifted from physically centered connections to relationships that are more sociomentally centered (Chayko, 2008). We get to know others more fully, and make connections with them based on interests and emotions, rather than appearance. Suddenly, distances aren’t so insurmountable, and we find ourselves connecting with others across the globe. As we ride off into the sunset at the end of this narrative arc, we take with us every friend and family member we’ve ever cared to reconnect with, thanks to evolved digital mediation.

With the proliferation of constantly developing media that connects us in a variety of ways, the responsibilities and rights so cherished and fought over throughout history (Ohler, 2010) shift and evolve as well. Online anonymity gives way to disinhibition, flaming, and dishonesty (Joinson, 2007). It also, however, allows us to explore who we are and what we value (Burke & Stets, 2009). Validating identities- if we can wade through the cyberbullies and hackers- helps meet some of our basic needs on the individual level. But the civic traditions of our ancestors haven’t been completely lost on us. Social norms and constraints motivate us to participate in a global community where collective intelligence (Jenkins, 2008) and critical value (Shirky, 2010) push the limits of what we could have created in the times of the Spartans, Romans, Italians, or Revolutionaries (Ohler, 2010).

Media has allowed our communities to expand almost infinitely and, as my hero’s uncle aptly said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Ancient civilizations trudged through the fight for participation in their communities. That fight was punctuated by the creation of media. spider-man-ethicsTheatre, text, movies, and so on allowed them to spread communication further, thereby spreading influence (Ohler, 2010). The climax of this narrative is the culmination of seemingly endless forms of communication to the farthest reaches of the Earth (and beyond), and a people who are more altruistic while simultaneously becoming aggressively antagonistic. How can we overcome the antagonists? How does civility overcome disinhibition? That’s where media psychologists come in.

As media psychologists, we have the tools to create our own critically valuable footprint in the sand. By understanding the way people do and are likely to act given the constantly evolving media, we are able to educate others (using the light side of the “Force”), help them learn what it means to be a digital citizen, and how to share with others the rights and responsibilities inherent in membership.

As global, digital, and local communities evolve, adapt, and merge, our power as citizens follows proportionately. With that power, we have a responsibility to protect ourselves and others, allowing all citizens the chance to get what they need from the communities while creating opportunities for others to simultaneously do the same. If the world comes to an apocalyptic, riotous, cannibalistic end when technology defies us so, then, must we flourish, support, and defend in times of connection.

References:

Burke, P., & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.
Joinson, A. (2007). Disinhibition and the internet. In J. Gackenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the internet : intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. (pp. 76-92). Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier/Academic Press.
Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press.
Shirky, C. (2010). How cognitive surplus will change the world. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/clay_shirky_how_cognitive_surplus_will_change_the_world.html
Jenkins, H. (2008). Convergence culture where old and new media collide. New York; London: New York University Press.