Monthly Archives: April 2010

So A Little Embarrassing but Relevant

So the other day a friend and I were reminiscing about the book we read as preteens. As we discussed Meg Cabot books, (Princess Diaries or Mediator series anyone?) Amanda showed me Cabot’s website. Aside from being dismayed about the fact she has given in to the teen vampire trend, I noticed this quote in her FAQ section about readers who write fan fiction:

“I loved writing fan fiction too but those characters don’t belong to you. They belong to another writer, such as George Lucas, or me. You can’t publish the stories you are writing about that author’s characters, or you will be sued. Fan fiction is fun, but once you’ve perfected your craft, you’re kind of just wasting your time and talent when you could be making up your own characters in stories you could sell later.”

Meg Cabot, like the author of Why Heather Can Write, views fan fiction as a step on the way to becoming a great writer. Are these analyses valid? I think fan fiction has a different value than your own fiction writing because it’s a way of interacting with a text and making it your own that most readers don’t experience. While fan fiction can help writers to improve their craft and be a step to writing your own fiction, looking at fan fiction as a stepping-stone undermines its value. Fan fiction encourages readers to imagine a different version of the text and explore issues the author left untouched in the original.

The last part of the quote “you could be making up stories in stories you could sell later” also seems to misunderstand the goals of some writers. Many people write as a creative outlet, or as a hobby. Labeling all non-commercially intended writing as “a waste of time” is incredibly close-minded. What do you think of this quote?

Skinput Updated

I don’t know if anyone remembers my blog post on Skinput, but now Chris Harrison has put out an official paper describing more of the ideology and technology behind Skinput. It’s now apparent that Skinput is meant to skip over the use of tables and flat surfaces that it seems as though are concurrently in development. Harrison’s point is that a flat surface is not always readily available, whereas we carry our appendages with us wherever we go. After Harrison goes into more of the reasons why Skinput is the next logical step for mobile devices, he begins to talk a bit about the science behind it. He explains that, when a finger taps your arm, it creates longitudinal and tranverse waves which radiate out until they reach the bone, and are eventually picked up by the bone conduction microphone of the Skinput’s sensor. The thing that surprised me the most about Skinput, is that it is surprisingly accurate. The points which they use to collect data are, on average, 87% accurate which, if you think about how often you can get a touch screen to do what you want it to, is excellent. Another thing which surprised me, was that accuracy changed fairly little with BMI (Although for people in the upper 50 percentile, accuracy did drop to a little over 80%). Overall, I thought the paper was thoroughly interesting, and, at a mere ten pages (nine if you don’t count the bibliography at the end) it’s an easy read. I hope that someday I’ll be able to experience Skinput on a product.
The paper can be found here.

Which wife is this man cheating on?

After reading Is This Man Cheating on his Wife, my question wasn’t IS this man cheating on his wife, but which wife is he cheating on? It seems as though he has two wives, and, although only one is legal in the eyes of the law, he is very committed to both of them. However, considering that he spends 6 hours a weekday, and up to 14 at a time on weekends on Second Life, I think it is obvious which one he is more dedicated to. This account reminded me of the MOOs and MUDs which we were talking about earlier in the year, however, it seems as though this time, the effects of spending too much time in the digital world are trickling over into real life. His wife seems to be growing more and more fed up with the amount of time his Second Life playing is taking up (especially since she seems to think that it infringes upon his time spent with her) and, considering that they have only been married for seven months, it seems as though this marriage is doomed to fail. If this were the case, I would completely and utterly back up the wife. Because, while they have promised their presence in sickness and in health, it seems as though the husband has neither been attentive, nor truly faithful . I’m interested, however, in seeing what others think. Are you all as appalled with this man’s behavior as I am? Or, am I over-reacting, and reading far too much into a simple game? What would you do if your significant other spent all his time with a digital spouse?

I remember watching Red vs. Blue when I was 16

One Saturday afternoon, I was over visiting my cousins. After a long day at the pool it was only routine to relax by the T.V., play some Gamecube, or go online.
“Dude, you have to check this out, it’s so f****** funny!” My cousin yelled across the room from the computer. I went over and watched my first episode of Red vs. Blue. It was super hilarious!
I can see now how machinima is so easy to produce yet so creative and fun. I’m pretty jealous of Michael Burns for finding money in something so fun. The physics of the game and the ability for the camera to change angles and to have replays in different speed settings makes it so much more interesting. I looked up Goldberg machines on Halo after reading the Spartan Life contest and I was pleased to see so many creative videos. Working with machinima seems like a fun hobby. I have included a fun Goldberg machine video I found!


CCBCD Spring Concert!

The Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company is having its annual Spring concert Do You Believe in Magic?  this weekend!

You guys, please come support all of our hard work throughout the year in this spectacular, magical event!

It takes place in Big Bridges Auditorium at Pomona on the following dates:

Friday, April 30: 7 PM

Saturday, May 1: 7 PM

Sunday, May 2: 11 AM

You are guaranteed a great time, it will take your minds off finals and stress for a little bit, and it is a great way to see what all of us ballroom people have been up to.  Tickets are generally $15 but we have received subsidies that allow us to sell them for only $5 to students ( $10 for faculty)! You can buy your ticket from me during class or contatct me at for more info. A big part of the money we collect will go towards purchasing more costumes, which are very very expensive (anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for one).

This is a really exciting event for me personally since I will be performing 4 routines. This is a big jump from last semester when I only had 1 so I am both thrilled and a bit nervous. I’m in the lindy hop, polka, salsa and paso doble routines and all of them are absolutely amazing! I love the spirit of our team, how organized we are and how much we achieve every year. Basically, dancing makes me feel alive 🙂

Here’s a little scoop of one of our campus team routines, just to get you guys a bit excited:


Cantina Crawl

A million years ago, when I first showed you “Fett’s Vette,” I mentioned there being a video that used the form of the machinima music video to relate the history of the conflict between Sony (who were behind Star Wars Galaxies) and the players who had adopted the performance professions within the gameworld. The video had originally been posted to YouTube, but at some point had the audio stripped because of assumed copyright violations. I’ve rediscovered it elsewhere, though, so for your viewing pleasure, Cantina Crawl 12.


Gamer Theory: The Rise and Fall of Interests in a Gaming World

I found this reading very interesting since I had never really thought about gaming to this extreme depth before.  Many of these thoughts have passed my mind while either playing a game, (usually when I feel like I’ve been playing it way too long), but I had never analyzed it critically.  I was mainly interested with the Vice City topic and the topics on Sims since they are games that I have played before.  The ideas within the text were interesting, but I had mixed feelings about the way they were presented.

I would have liked the ideas to have been a bit more concrete as I felt I was reading something less informational and more artistic.  While I was able to draw on most of the parallelism to the real world as with the utopia, I feel like a more concrete analysis would have been more suitable in some parts.
The format itself was interesting also and I enjoyed the different pages, but I think the text could have been a little bit better and possibly organized into not so big of chunks.  I felt like 1 giant pages was slabbed over 5 slides with no real distinction in some slides as to why is should be separate from the previous.

With that said, the idea that Vice city is limitless and yet has boundaries almost seemed like a paradox.  I had never really compared games to the real world in depth before as I said though it has crossed my mind, especially in rpg’s.  In vice city you really have no limits within the world itself to go anywhere as long as you advance through the game, but you can’t escape the world itself.  In a way you are the master of your own universe.

Something else that I had thought about before that ties into this is when you are able to acquire the helicopter (which may not have been in vice city but in one of the GTA games).   Here you are really able to push your boundaries to the limits and really access any area within the game you would like.  This is where you really gain the sense that the world you had been running around in isnt as big as you thought it was afterall.

This got me thinking about games such as WoW or any other game in which there is a world to explore.  I think part of the reason we are so initially intrigued by these games is the world they create, but I;ve also noticed that this interest dwindles  after you’ve explored and have become familiar with the world.  My theory is that there is a peak point in which enjoyment within the game is reached as you have explored a certain amount or even all of the game.  If you think about it, when you first enter a game with a decentl sized world, it seems kind of overwhelming at first, maybe even discouraging.  As you play, you are able to become a little more familiar with the world and can move around freely, but still have the sense of exploring an unfamiliar ground.  This combination of unfimilarness with the the ability to move freely is what I think can make a game very interesting.  However, once you’ve become so familiar with it, the game loses it’s sense of excitement is certain aspects and it is played more a long the line of just wanting to play the game where you do not concern yourself as much with your surroundings.   If you were to graph this, I think it would look something like a bell curve.

This is just a theory and I would be curious if anyone would agree with me on this though I think it’s something everyone does subconsciously with almost any game though the degree changes depending on the type of game.   In Wow this process lasts much longer I would say than maybe Vice City.  However, the process for this would last longer in Vice City than let’s say an old Mario game on the gameboy.

Turning the Algorithm Loose (for the most part): Alice and Kev

On turning the algorithm loose in a game…

Check out Alice and Kev if you haven’t already. It’s a pretty heart-wrenching story (for those of you with hearts…) using screenshots from the Sims 3. It’s an experiment on homelessness in the Sims (removing all of the belongings of an abusive, mean-spirited Sim father and his kind-hearted daughter) and a documentation of the characters’ interactions in the Sims world. It’s interesting to see how the two characters interact based on the personality traits and life goals they are given in the beginning of the game.

Alice and Kev

Gamer Theory: comments on content and form

The content:

In Gamer Theory, Mackenzie Wark compares the actual world (gamespace) to the world of video games by analyzing games such as Katamari Damaci, The Sims, Civilization III, and SimEarth. He starts off by describing the game world as a place similar to Plato’s cave (from “Allegory of the Cave”), in which the images (“shadows”) that gamers see are not truly representative of the real world. We know that the “real world” is out there and that it’s different from the world of video games; however, the closer we look the more similarities we see between the real world and video games. Although we may have considered video games to be a tool used merely for entertainment/educational purposes and existing in its own digital realm, I’m starting to believe that video games can have a larger (and perhaps moral) purpose as well as an effect on our perception of the actual world.

Through the lens of the gamer, life (gamespace) is a game made up of algorithms with plenty of unknowns/variables.

“The game is true in that its algorithm is consistent, but this very consistency negates a world that is not.” (card 32 of Gamer Theory, Chapter 2: on the Sims)

Wark conveys that although life may be perceived as a game through these lens, the actual world lacks the consistency of its “algorithms” when compared to video games. While for the most part, life is filled with many goals (and subgoals) that we must achieve in order to succeed (by the average person’s standard of success), simply achieving all of these goals won’t necessarily lead to success. Similarly, bad things happen to good people, even when they perform actions that deserve rewards and supposedly will lead to success.

The form:

After taking a User Interface class, I learned that if an interface wasn’t intuitive on the first try (i.e. you need to read a manual to use the interface), it probably isn’t a good interface. Anyway, while the implementation of comments/reader feedback was brilliant and the cards reminded me of our earlier readings on the beginning of the internet/computers, having the text split into so many cards made the reading seem very segmented, and perhaps less book-like. The search box should have been made more visible, so that readers would notice it and use it to look for cards they had read a while ago and wished to quote based on key words they remembered. It’s a very interesting way to represent the text, but I think the cards could have been longer than a paragraph each or at least separated by topic to have more purpose.

Ultraviolence + YouTube

Innocent users featuring copyright-backed media in their short films for educational purposes aren’t the only ones getting their content yanked off YouTube; it happens to the pros, too.

After YouTube pulled M.I.A’s video for ‘Born Free’ off the site due to violent content and sexual imagery, the Sri Lankan rapper ‘took over’ Pitchfork’s Twitter account and told hipsters and music snobs everywhere what she thought: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO▬►▬► ♫ ♥ ♥♥♥♥♥!!

Much in contrast with what happens to lesser-known artists when their work is stripped from YouTube, it seems this action was a positive thing for M.I.A.  Since, the blogosphere has gone wild over her new album.  Vimeo is still hosting the video, which I’ve been linked to at least five times today.  If you haven’t yet, now you have.

—-Warning: this video is not safe for the workplace!—–

Truthfully, “Born Free” shocked me little more than Lady Gaga’s “Telephone”, the last music video that caused this much commotion.  For those who haven’t seen it, “Telephone” is a gritty, colorful 9.5 minute short featuring Tarantino references, Batman, and Beyonce.  It, too, is explicit.  However, YouTube hasn’t yet removed the “clean” version of the video—deemed “clean”, apparently, merely because Gag’s private parts are pixelated.  Doesn’t seem too different than the original to me.

So, a few questions: Do you approve of YouTube’s decision to remove M.I.A’s video?  What do you think about this recent crop of extended-length, super-explicit music videos being produced?  Artists have long since used violence and sexual content in crafting visual narratives to accompany their music, but do videos like these go too far?  Or, rather, is this simply one of the few remaining ways in which an artist can create buzz surrounding his or her work?

(Btdubs–sorry if you read this thinking it’d have something to do with A Clockwork Orange.  I just watched the movie again and merely had it on zee brain.)