Showing posts with label video games. Show all posts
Showing posts with label video games. Show all posts

Review: SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient -Powered by the Science of Games

SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient -Powered by the Science of Games SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient -Powered by the Science of Games by Jane McGonigal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So I first fell in nerd-love with Jane McGonigal when she performed a TED Talk and wrote her first book (Reality Is Broken). SuperBetter is even better and there's also a great TED Talk to introduce it. Or rather, if Reality Is Broken gave readers a well-researched argument for why gaming is an important part of our human nature, SuperBetter gives us the guide on how to actually make life more like a game and improve mental, emotional, physical, and social health. She stacks the first half talking about the game she has devised (SuperBetter) and the research it has been built and tested upon. For the second half, she breaks down how you can play the game on your own and with friends. There is even an app and website you can log your gaming efforts into. What I like so much about McGonigal's prose is that it is accessible and lively. She's encouraging throughout for people to make even the smallest bit of progress to their goals. Additionally, the ways to play the game she offers up are actually really smart ways of just improving one's life without having to start some dread and draconian regime. If you want to change your life and have fun doing it, check out this book!

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Review: Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation

Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation by Blake J. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blake Harris takes readers on an engaging journey into the history of video games as he explores the history of Sega Genesis from its meteoric rise to its slow unraveling. Harris provides a detailed account of actions, conversations, and key events. His narrative focus is centered on Tom Kalinske, the CEO of Sega America who took up the charge against Nintendo, the juggernaut of video game consoles in the 1980s. For the most part, Harris does a solid job of presenting Kalinske as the protagonist in this drama of RPG proportions but manages to do so without entirely demonizing Nintendo. He brings up the overall criticisms and specific actions of Nintendo and yet avoids painting individuals as simplistic villains. For a gamer like myself who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, it was fascinating to hear and learning about the gaming wars that went on from the corporate point of view as opposed to my own experience. If there was but one flaw in the book, it would only be that Harris' stopped with the Kalinske's exit. It makes perfect sense for the book, but it would be fascinating to get such an in depth history of the gaming industry up through the present.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Recommendations on Social Media Books

I do a lot of reading as we all know and I'm quite interested in social media and its relevance to modern society.  I regularly get asked for recommendations for books to help get a grasp on social media.  I often find it hard to recommend just one book.  It's like asking who is your favorite pet or child.  Well, here is my list of books on social media that I've read and found useful.  It's a list of books I both like (Jeff Jarvis, I'm looking at you) and dislike (Nicholas Carr, this one's for you), but all of which are relevant in the discussion.  This list was composed in November, 2013.  I anticipate that I will need to update it again in another year as I continue to devour books on the subject.  All that being said, if there's any that strike your fancy, that you've read, or that you're interested in knowing more about, don't hesitate to let me know.

The cumulative knowledge that I have culled from reading all of these has been that social media may be a new format of interaction for us but is not entirely in terms of how we excahnge and have dialogue among humans.  There is ample meaningless communications that go on day-to-day ("Hi, how are you?") and there's also deep and profound communications that occur.  Social media is no different--except that unlike ever before, it can be captured and quantified.  So while some may think Twitter is a sign of the end-times and full of irrelevant material, they miss how much of our day-to-day is full of irrelevance and meaningless banter ("It's a nice day.").    And like many things in our culture, it's easy to point to simplicity (ignorant tweets) than to point to complexity (because that requires context and nuance).  But there is more value to be gained than problems when as we move into social media.

Recommended Books for Social Media

Book Cover:  The Digital Divide ed by Mark Bauerlein Image Source:
  • Anderson, Chris. Free: The Future of a Radical Price. New York: Hyperion, 2009. Print.
  • Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. New York: Hyperion, 2006. Print.
  • Anderson, Chris. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. New York: Crown Business, 2012. Print.
  • Andrews, Lori B. I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy. New York: Free Press, 2012. Print.
  • Ariely, Dan. The (honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-Especially Ourselves. , 2012. Print.
  • Bauerlein, Mark. The Digital Divide: Arguments for and against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2011. Print.
  • Berger, Jonah. Contagious: Why Things Catch on. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Print.
  • Bilton, Nick. I Live in the Future and Here's How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted. New York: Crown Business, 2010. Print.
  • Blascovich, Jim, and Jeremy Bailenson. Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution. New York: William Morrow, 2011. Print.
  • Botsman, Rachel, and Roo Rogers. What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. New York: Harper Business, 2010. Print.
  • Boyle, James. The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2008. Print.
  • Brown, BrenĂ©. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Center City, Minn: Hazelden, 2010. Print.
  • Carr, Nicholas G. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. 50 Digital Ideas: You Really Need to Know. London: Quercus, 2011. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. Fun Inc: Why Games Are the 21st Century's Most Serious Business. London: Virgin, 2010. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. How to Thrive in the Digital Age. London: Macmillan, 2012. Print.
  • Christakis, Nicholas A, and James H. Fowler. Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. New York: Little, Brown and Co, 2009. Print.
  • Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. New York: Penguin Press, 2009. Print.
  • Diaz-Ortiz, Claire. Twitter for Good: Change the World One Tweet at a Time. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.
  • Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York: Random House, 2012. Print.
  • Matthew, and Soumitra Dutta. Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World. Chichester, England: Wiley, 2008. Internet resource.
  • Forni, Pier M. Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002. Print. Fraser,
  • Gottschall, Jonathan. The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Print.
  • Hadnagy, Christopher. Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley, 2011. Print.
  • Holiday, Ryan. Trust Me I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. New York: Portfolio, 2012. Print.
  • Howe, Jeff. Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business. New York: Crown Business, 2008. Print.
  • Jarvis, Jeff. Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print.
  • Johnson, Steven. Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. New York: Riverhead Books, 2005. Print.
  • Johnson, Steven. Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age. New York: Riverhead Books, 2012. Print.
  • Lanier, Jaron. You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. Print.
  • Levine, Robert. Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back. New York: Doubleday, 2011. Print.
  • Li, Charlene. Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010. Print.
  • McRaney, David. You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself. , 2013. Print.
  • McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. Print.
  • Mele, Nicco. The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath. , 2013. Print.
  • Mycoskie, Blake. Start Something That Matters. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2011. Print.
  • Pariser, Eli. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. Print.
  • Partnoy, Frank. Wait: The Art and Science of Delay. New York: PublicAffairs, 2012. Print.
  • Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Viking, 1985. Print.
  • Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Knopf, 1992. Print.
  • Reese, Byron. Infinite Progress: How the Internet and Technology Will End Ignorance, Disease, Poverty, Hunger, and War. Austin, Tex: Greenleaf Book Group, 2013. Print.
  • Rifkin, Jeremy. The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.
  • Rushkoff, Douglas, and Leland Purvis. Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press, 2011. Print.
  • Rushkoff, Douglas. Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. New York: Current, 2013. Print.
  • Shirky, Clay. Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. Print.
  • Shirky, Clay. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. Print.
  • Sommers, Sam. Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World. New York: Riverhead Books, 2011. Print.
  • Steiner, Christopher. Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2012. Print.
  • Sunstein, Cass R. Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge. New York ;Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

Book cover: Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott.  Image Source:
  • Tapscott, Don. Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.
  • Tavris, Carol, and Elliot Aronson. Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. Orlando, Fla: Harcourt, 2007. Print.
  • Thomas, Douglas, and John S. Brown. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?, 2011. Print.
  • Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.
  • Waal, F B. M. The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society. New York: Harmony Books, 2009. Print.
  • Wasik, Bill. And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture. New York: Viking, 2009. Print.
  • Weinberger, David. Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.
  • Williams, Juan. Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate. New York: Crown Publishers, 2011. Print.

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A Youth Well (Mis)Spent: (Video)Games of My Mind

I was that kid.  I loved video games and was completely devoted to them.   Those that are out there that remember my 5th grade elementary class with Mr. Mercier will remember the ceaseless barage of video game references when it came to homework.  We had vocabulary and we had to make a sentence for each new word.  I made sure every sentence had something to do with video games.  (In retrospect, I wonder if committing myself to focusing on one arena lent to both learning the words more meaningfully and my interesting in writing fiction).  I had my first Nintendo (over the course of several years, I would end up with two since the first one broke from over use) by 2nd grade, my first Supernintendo by 7th grade, and several other game systems including Gameboys, Sega, and Playstation along the way.

Over the years, I fell in love with different games.  There was the original Super Mario Brothers, Tetris, Legend of Zelda, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out (I remember the first time I beat Piston Honda--epic win for me!), Wizards and Warriors,  Excitebike, E.V.O., Actraiser, Super Marioland, to name a few.  But there is one game that still lingers; that still embodies and triggers a great deal of whimsy, escape, magic, powerful storytelling, and just purse delight.  Final Fantasy II was the first RPG I played as a child that I grew to love dearly. (Note:  It was originally released on Super Nintendo as Final Fantasy II, but is widely recognized as Final Fantasy IV due to numbering in Japan)  It was as potent and as immersive story for my childhood as Star Wars and the Marvel Comics universe.

Final Fantasy II

The first time I played it, I had rented it from Tri-City Video (remember video stores?).  I didn't really get it at the time.  The closest I had come to an RPG up to that point was Legend of Zelda, which slightly counted, but was not quite the same (for instance, regular battling monsters would not result in increased experience or improved magical talent).  So I had trouble understanding the concepts behind Final Fantasy.  It was also right on the cusp of the internet (or rather internet in my house--sometime around this time, we acquired Prodigy, but I don't remember that being of much help to me in any capacity).  I (gasp!) read the manual and slowly made my wait through it.  It had interesting characters (Cecil, Kain the Dragoon, Tellah the Sage, and Rydia) and slowly but surely pulled me into its narrative.  It was an enjoyable and complex narrative (for a middle-schooler and early high school student, mind you) that dealt with worlds colliding, betrayals, salvations, and achieving one's potential.  The graphics weren't great by any means, but the story grew increasingly complex and interesting--the graphics didn't need to be done well; the narrative filled in the gaps.  Characters died or suffered greatly and it hit the user.  After all, some of these characters the player might have spent 20+ hours of adventuring and training with; only to see them turned to stone or sacrifice themselves so that the mission could continue.  But the most palpable experience of the game, was its ending.  After what culminated in over 100 hours of work often, the finale was equally rewarding.  The ending was my first experience on the level of what an epic ending can look like (You can view Part 1 here--go about 5 minutes into the video, and part 2 here).  I don't think I cried, but I was overwhelmed.  The story had ended and to some degree, I was left with sadness--the characters I had journeyed with were gone.  I could revisit them and adventure with them again (which I certainly did), but not anew.  It was, in fact, "game over."

I continued playing it for a while, trying to find all its little treasures and seeing how powerful I could make my characters, but eventually, my time with it was supplanted by Final Fantasy III (also known in Japan as Final Fantasy VI) and the new challenges that invoked.  Hurrah--new characters, new adventures, new challenges.  I sought out other RPGs and for a while go into the Phantasy Star series.  But eventually, in my freshman year of college, Final Fantasy VII emerged and I embraced it as it embraced me.

But always, when I thought of RPGs, my mind would go instantly to Final Fantasy II.  It's ending was clear but there was more to the story to be told.  I contemplated several times writing a novel that would serve as a sequel or tell the story of Final Fantasy II and its aftermath.  What happened after that?  There is a happy-ever-ending feeling to it, but there are some hanging strings, namely, Kain, who happened to be my favorite.  It was early narrative video gaming at its best and I wanted more.

Final Fantasy II: The After Years

So last summer, while playing around on my Wii; I came across information that there was now an extended version of Final Fantasy II called:  Final Fantasy II:  The After Years.  I was amazed and instantly purchased it on the Wii game system (it was a downloadable game).  And so there I was last summer, playing away just like I had some 20 years ago, thoroughly enjoying returning to these characters in learning about what has changed for them, nearly 20 years later (the story takes place about 20-30 years later).  I took my time and I delighted in returning to this world I had known so well and seeing the ways that it had changed (programming and time change all things--hahaha).

I played the game all last summer; after class, in the cooler hours of the evening, jamming away at the keypad, watching movies on another screen or listening to audiobooks.  It was delightful.  But the end of the summer drew near as did the end of the game.  As I got into the final dungeon of this game, I hesitated.  I continued in the same area, collecting experience and skills within the game without much desire to move forward.  In fact, I stopped in late August and did not revisit the game until this past July, nearly a year later.

Playing Final Fantasy II:  The After Years jettisoned me back into my youth like no time machine ever could.  I had flashbacks of the different peaks of the story, how the story made me felt, and what was going on in my life.  It triggered memories largely forgotten, including a summer day in eighth grade where I played away deep in the final dungeon of the game, battling blue dragoons (only as ferocious as behemoths), sitting on an ottoman, the TV mere feet from my face and my grandmother coming upstairs and seeing me play there.  She was finishing a roll of film on her disposable camera and took a snapshot of me.  Random moments like that.

I wasn't ready to end the game.  I dreaded the end of the game.  In so many ways, it was deeply connected to and interwoven with the experiences and emotions I connected with the Woods,  I lost myself in the story; I was in the world and these companions I fought along side.  It was as deep as any reading that touched me at the time and to boot, unlike so many other things in the life of a child and young adult; I was in control (albeit to a limited degree).  Thus, I was not ready to let that go last summer.  To end the game was to end that deep connection I was feeling with that time and place of my childhood.

This summer, on a whim, I returned to the game and started replaying it.  Maybe I was ready to end that connection or maybe I found someway to still hold onto it, but this would be the summer that I finished the game.  (Side Note:  In the making of this post, I came across there is a 3rd addition to this series--that takes place between Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy II:  The After Years, but it seems largely impossible to get a hold of in the US--and I'm ok with that).

Playing it this time around was just as enjoyable as last year and I had forgotten parts of the story so it pulled me back in fairly easy.  I again made it to the final dungeon; I maximized the attributes of my characters' skills through repeated fights and lingering. When it came time for the final boss, my characters did well and the end came.  It wasn't as grand as an experience as my youth.  That's likely because I've experienced a great deal of epic story endings since in novels, movies, comics, and games.  It's clear I have a more critical view of these things too since I can also recognize the ending was a bit forced--like the creators didn't know where to go with it entirely.

The ending after the final boss also felt disappointing.  The loops are largely closed but done so in five minutes--not the grandeur style of the original game.  I take this with a grain of salt though.  I'm more jaded about this ending in large part because I know more now about what it mean to play Final Fantasy II the first time around.  I realize the excitement of a brand new world opening up as opposed to returning to it.  There is that certain magic of newness that can be hard to recapture.  Playing the continuation of the game brought some of it back but more importantly, it reminded me of what I felt and experienced those many years ago.

Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.