Jul
01
2010
0

Dreams & Dragons – Success Club Two

So, the fifteenth may have slipped by without a Success Club update.  I’m sure you’re all very upset with me, but I have a good reason, promise!

My To-Do List Progress:

  • Portfolio: 0%
  • Housekeeping: 40%

Music is “everybodys family is messed up including yours and especially mine” by Kristin Kitko.

Play
Share
Written by StingRay in: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,
Jun
02
2010
0

Dreams & Dragons – Success Club One

I’ve quit my day job.  I’ve got eighteen months to find a career.  This is my first step towards staying focused.

Current To-Do List:

  • Get my portfolio in order
  • Get my house in order
  • Figure out just what those first two mean, and how to go about accomplishing them

Music is Blue Sunny Day by Jonathan Coulton.

Play
Share
Written by StingRay in: Life | Tags: , , ,
May
20
2010
0

Roger Ebert is Old

As the final project in one of my classes I chose to do a multi-part, multi-genre exploration on Games & Art. Where do they intersect? Do they intersect at all? What ramifications emerge? I decided this on Tuesday, April 13th.

Three days later, Roger Ebert made a proclamation that video games, no matter how they try, can never be art. The Internet exploded, as the Internet is wont to do.

I initially thought, “Great! Plenty of research material.” Then I realized that my space in the discussion was quickly shrinking. With so many people writing about, responding to, rebutting and rebuking Ebert, where could my voice fit in? Where would I be able to carve out a niche that wasn’t just a repetition of someone’s already published opinion?

I felt like I didn’t have time to carve out that niche, and I dropped the initial premise. The project went in a different direction, and we even talked a bit about the subject in a recent episode of The Way of the Game. I still wanted to respond to Ebert, though. My geeks hackles were up.

“I know!” I thought, “I’ll write a scathing satirical response! I’ll attack his favorite medium and turn his empty statements and dismissive tones and utter ignorance right back around on him!”

But when I started to write the piece, I just felt tired. When I went over his article, I felt less and less annoyed and more and more sorry for the guy. And then I realized why.

Roger Ebert is a crotchety old man.

Crotchety old man, welcome to the future.Seriously. Look at the guy. This is not a man who is ever going to understand video games. This is not a man who will ever agree with any artistic point of view that isn’t his own.

He’s a critic. His job is to formulate an opinion and stick to it. When it comes to movies, I think he performs that job quite well. He’s knowledgeable. He’s experienced. He’s film-literate. He’s watched more movies than all the people in my family combined. I trust that when he comes up with an opinion about a movie, whether I agree with it or not, it will be an opinion based upon solid evidence with substantial claims to back it up.

When it comes to video games, Roger Ebert is ignorant, naïve, and utterly illiterate. His opinions are based solely on his gut reaction, rather than any sort of experience.

When I look at Roger Ebert, I imagine trying to explain my connection with games to my grandmother. Why do I feel this connection? What do games inspire in me? How do they affect my perception of the world? I can’t answer these questions. At least, I can’t answer these questions in a way that my grandmother would understand.

And if I can’t explain it to my grandmother, a woman who loves me and takes interest in my life, how am I supposed to explain it to Roger Ebert?

I’m not sure it’s worth trying. Let him live with his beliefs, while I live with mine. All art forms have gone through this phase, and there are people far more knowledgeable than I who can argue for the side of video games.

I just want to wish Roger Ebert the best. When he finally goes to his reserved seat in the sky, the only people that will remember his anti-game stance will be the geeks.

With any luck, we’ll have the good graces not to mention it.

Share
Jun
05
2009
1

Thanks, Ernie.

“The first draft of everything is shit.”  I’m going to get this writ large on the wall behind my computer.

That’s the conclusion of everything I’ve been thinking as I’ve tried to write something here four times now.  I’m kind of freaking out that my first drafts aren’t high enough quality, aren’t up to my standards, aren’t something I want to read.  This is causing all kinds of issues.  It shouldn’t be, though, and maybe big, black, six inch tall letters will help me get over it and write.

Share
Written by StingRay in: Uncategorized |
May
31
2009
0

The Trouble With Trouble

I’ve been asked for clarification of a Twitter post I made earlier today.  Since “clarify” and “Twitter” aren’t exactly words that mesh well, I figured I’d make use of my beleaguered blog.

First, the tweet: I have issues coming up with good antagonists. This leads to issues developing plots, which leads to issues writing stories. This annoys me.

Joe from The Podge Cast asked for examples.  I have two right here on the blog.  My steampunky, alternate-history, whatever you want to call it story, the one I tried to get through the Snowflake Method with, is the prime example.  In that story, I have a lot of ideas for the world.  I have characters that are well-rounded and have a lot of depth (at least, that’s how they are in my head).  There are conflicts between the main characters, which is great, but I’m finding the problem arises when I look to outside conflicts.

The characters will tend to do what they’ve always done and avoid their problems.  They’ll go their separate ways until whatever’s wrong cools down, then they’ll meet up again and start the cycle over.  I need something that forces them to stick together.  I’ve got a vague idea of a politician that can cause problems.  The Crawlers are a threat, but humanity has survived and dealt with them for a long while, now, so they’re not an imminent danger.  Pirates?  Maybe?  I dunno.

I get to thinking about the antagonists of my stories, and I start to peter out.  I want to focus on my world and my heroes.  I want to know who they are, where they come from, where they’re going, how they handle themselves in the face of adversity…. Shit.

Now, I’m no expert at this, but whether you want to write character-driven fiction or plot-driven fiction, you need some “bad guys,” you need something there to stand between your characters and their goals.  I seem to have issues with that.

On the positive, though, I’m figuring out that I have issues with that.  Now I know my weakness, I can start sorting it out.  (Thanks, Basher.)  Maybe I don’t have clear cut enough goals for my characters.  Maybe I haven’t thought out an expansive enough world.  Maybe I need to go through a character outline based around antagonists, rather than protagonists.  Maybe I need to find a writer’s group.  Maybe….

I dunno.  I’m sure once I’ve got this worked out, I’ll find some new road block in my way, but it’s a start, for now.

Share
Written by StingRay in: Writing | Tags: , , , , , ,
May
25
2009
0

Game Cryer Review: Plants vs. Zombies

I originally intended to write a casual-games-roundup review.  I don’t know about you, but my time has moved past “precious” and reached a state of practical non-existence.  That was my plan until I downloaded Plants vs. Zombies.  Now if you tell my wife I claimed to have no time to play video games, she would probably laugh at you, and then punch me.  Over the last few days, I have lost far too many hours of both sleep and productivity to this game.

Plants vs. Zombies is the latest release from PopCap Games.  It’s an area-defense game where you’re protecting your house from the zombie horde by planting a variety of rather violent flora.  The game is available for download for both Mac and PC directly from PopCap, and is also on Steam, for those so inclined.  In addition to the main gameplay, there are a surprising number of mini-games, a couple of puzzle modes, and a “Zen Garden.”  The game is deep, funny and highly replayable.  I enjoyed it immensely. (more…)

Share
Written by StingRay in: Uncategorized |
Apr
25
2009
0

Game Cryer Review: Mirror’s Edge

A developer’s video at E3 2007, and a two-stage gameplay demo released at the end of October 2008, worked me into a geek frenzy over Mirror’s Edge. The setting, a totalitarian society where packages and information you don’t want tracked are delivered by couriers called Runners, was intriguing. The graphic style, full of stark cityscapes and rooftops, was fresh. Best of all, the gameplay perspective was first person, but the focus was to be on running, climbing and traversing the city, rather than shooting. A fresh, innovative game coming out of the monolithic EA? Yeah, this had promise.

I picked up my copy shortly after the game released in early November. Did it live up to expectations? Well, sort of. Mirror’s Edge gets a lot right. The free-running areas, based on the martial art of Parkour, is exhilarating when you’re in a groove, and “Runner’s Vision,” a system that colors red specific objects that can help you find your way, is effective and unobtrusive. The combat, though, is an altogether different beast, the story is largely forgettable and the controls can be a bit fiddly. In the long run, your enjoyment of the game may come down to how well you deal with frustration. (more…)

Share
Written by StingRay in: Uncategorized |
Apr
09
2009
0

Snowflake Method – Post Mortem

I realize I never put a cap on the Snowflake Method series I was writing.  That’s largely because I’ve put the project on hold for a little while.  As I got into the steps of the Snowflake Method, it became apparent to me that I didn’t really have a plot that I could outline, even in simple terms.  I have a compelling (for me) premise, but my grasp on the world and the characters is rather weak.

In reading over the outline of the Snowflake Method, I mistakenly thought that this would come to me as I wrote.  That was foolish hope, of course, but it was worth trying out.  Through NaNoWriMo and the Snowflake Method, I’ve learned more about writing fiction than through all the schooling I’ve had.  The most important thing I’ve learned: I’m not ready to write a novel just yet.  If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right, not just fill pages with random words.  A page of writing that has no intention of surviving edits is no better than a blank page.

As such, I decided to take a break and read a book I was supposed to read back in my first run through college, ten years ago: Story, by Robert McKee.  It’s a book aimed at screenwriters, but writing fiction is writing fiction, and nearly all of the lessons contained within apply across the board.  I won’t go into the specifics of what I took away from the book, with the exception of the final lesson.

Near the very end, McKee talks about the process of writing.  What he recommends is almost exactly the same thing as the Snowflake Method, only laid out in broad strokes.  He says start small, build an overall outline, an act by act outline, a scene by scene outline.  When you’ve finished the outlines, you should be able to finish the screenplay incredibly quickly.

The trick, though, is that the work is all front-loaded.  He says it may take only a month to write the outlines and the screenplay, but that’s preceded by five months of note-taking and napkin-scribbling about characters, plots and the world of the film.  And that’s the part that I’m missing.  I tried to skip straight to the outlines, not really considering that I might need a bit more preparation, thinking that everything would come together as I write.  When McKee wrote about time spent taking notes and saying “Here’s a random idea.  Here’s an interesting character.  Here’s a piece of world.  Here’s how things might happen midway,” a light when on above my head.

Here is a path I can follow.  Here is what I was missing from NaNoWriMo and the Snowflake Method.  So, I’m in note taking mode.  I’ve got my NEO, for when long ideas strike me, and I’ve got a stack of index cards tossed in my bag for the small ideas.  When my story is more coherent, and my world better formed in my mind, I’ll return to the outlines, and maybe I’ll get a novel (or possibly a screenplay) out of this premise yet.

Share
Written by StingRay in: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,
Mar
21
2009
1

The AlphaSmart Neo – NotAReview

I received my AlphaSmart Neo in the mail a couple of a weeks ago.  The Neo is basically an old-school word processor with absolutely no bells and whistles.  It lets you type on it.  It has spell check.  It has a calculator.  That’s it.  From what I can tell, you can plug it in to any computer anywhere and transfer your writing directly into any text document you have open.

I’ve been meaning to write a full on review about the Neo.  The problem is, my review ends up sounding a lot like all the other reviews I read while researching the Neo.  What my review boils down to is that I love it.  It’s portable.  It’s easy to use.  I can fire it up, jot down some notes and turn it off in less time than it would take to uncap a pen and write the notes down longhand.  The entry before this about America’s leadership was written entirely that way, behind the register at work, in small snippets as ideas came to me.

I’m easily distracted.  If I have anything that I can do that isn’t what I should be doing, I’ll do that instead.  If you’re at all like me, and you want something to write on that has absolutely no distractions, just stop here and buy the Neo now.  It’s worth the money.

If you want more information, more in depth analysis, more of a real review, here are a couple that I recommend, and I agree with everything they say one hundred percent.

Blogger News Network – Part OnePart TwoPart ThreeOn the Road

Digital Bits

LitWack

Share
Written by StingRay in: Reviews | Tags: , , , ,
Mar
17
2009
3

Ranting About Politics Long Since Past

Every day I go to work, I see a commemorative issue of Newsweek magazine celebrating the inauguration of President Obama.  Ignoring for the moment that it’s been two months since the inauguration, what bothers me about the cover is the quote from the President’s speech: “We are ready to lead once more.”

I’m pretty sure he’s not talking about the Democrat Party.  Certainly, since taking control of Congress in ’06, they had failed to show any sort of leadership, allowing Bush to continue doing pretty much anything he wanted.  There was lots of bickering and complaining about the administration’s policies, but little was done to force a change of those policies.  The Democrats took control and then said, “Wait till the presidential election.  We’ll start doing stuff then.”

But that’s not what the President was talking about.  No, in his speech, he was addressing the entire nation, and as such, he was saying that America is ready to lead again.  Here’s the problem with that statement: when, since the end of the Cold War, has the United States not led the world?  

We are the last surviving super power.  We are the richest and most powerful country in the world.  We have no choice but to lead.  We couldn’t hand the reigns over to another country, even if we wanted to.

You’re welcome to disagree with the direction we’ve been going over the last eight years, the last sixteen years, the last thirty.  You’ll be hard pressed to convince me that we were not leading in all that time, though.

There are areas, certainly, where the U.S. lags behind, where we could do better, but overall, we still lead.  What America does, the rest of the world responds to.  What America accepts or rejects affects the rest of the world’s perceptions.  The world does not act without first considering America’s current position, and what our reaction might be.

The statement “We are ready to lead once more” is nothing more than empty rhetoric and pandering to the anti-Bush crowd.  At best, it is a sound bite representing politics as usual.  At worst, it represents a complete failure to recognize America’s place in the world.  Either way, I’m tired of walking past it every day.

Share
Written by StingRay in: Rants | Tags: , , , , ,

Powered by WordPress | Aeros Theme | TheBuckmaker.com WordPress Themes