Henry David Thoreau advised his peers, “Let us first be simple and well as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over our brows, and take up a little life into our pores.” Thoreau’s contemporaries professed similar emotional, individualist, and idealist sentiments. I respect authors of the American Romantic and Victorian period of literature; however, I don’t always enjoy wading through their sometimes ornate language. I recently discovered a few video game titles that provide a new format to interact with work from this period.
I recently watched independent animation film director and designer Léo Verrier’s short film, Dripped. The 8-minute film presented a fictional story of a burglar who stole famous paintings from museums and proceeded to eat the artwork. Shortly after the thief consumed an artwork, his body morphed into a figure or design from the specific painting. I like to imagine that Verrier came up with this idea for his film after viewing a Picasso. Many artists find inspiration in existing art.
Before I came to The Strong, I taught writing and literature courses at the Rochester Institute of Technology and elsewhere, which fits right in with writing electronic games blogs. As video games occupy more and more of our playtime, it is not surprising that some educators are finding opportunities to use gaming to teach writing and critical reading skills. Here are three examples I find particularly interesting:
I have wanderlust. In college, I found like-minded companions in Dean and Sal from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. In one passage, Sal recognized why he felt compelled to travel and explained that he had “no place he could stay in without getting tired of it and because there was nowhere to go but everywhere, rolling under the stars.” I still relate to his sentiments; however, my lifestyle does not always permit sporadic adventures. Now when I feel the need to hit the open road, I turn to video games for adventure and exploration.
In the past, many considered mind-wandering a tool used to procrastinate; however, psychologists and neuroscientists today agree it is a vital cognitive tool. Psychologist Jonathan Schooler explained that allowing the mind to wander provides opportunities to explore additional possibilities and often leads to “bursts of creative insight.” This caused me to think about how daydreaming impacts both the process of creating video games and the way individuals experience game play.
Since the 17th century, individuals have discussed the possibility of extraterrestrial beings. What is the possibility of extraterrestrial life? “Guaranteed,” Harvard physicist and search for extraterrestrial intelligent life leader Paul Horowitz declared in a 1996 interview with Time Magazine. It is “so overwhelmingly likely that I’d give you almost any odds you’d like,” he said. Not everyone shares Horowitz’s confidence, but most people still delight in films, books, TV, and educational programming about the subject.
Designer Robert Morris once said that “simplicity of form is not necessarily simplicity of experience.” I found this especially pertinent to the simple, yet stunning game play of both PixelJunk Eden and NightSky. In PixelJunk Eden, a player controls Grimp as he jumps and swings across plant life to activate seeds in the different gardens. Multi-media artist Baiyon’s (Tomohisa Kuramitsu) work inspired the game, and the visual aesthetics of the gardens remain relatively simple.
Modern Americans are constantly bombarded with choices—local markets sell up to 25 different brands of water, media sources overload us with reports from the campaign trail, and college freshman opening a course catalog can be overwhelmed with options. Some people believe that choice rationally reflects desires, traits, and situations, and if we’re grounded in our beliefs and values, then making a decision should prove relatively easy.