reading06 — computer graphics

reading06 — computer graphics and LOTR

Whether it is in the theater or in your living room, computer graphics play a significant role in modern film-making and video games. How important are these visuals to you in terms of the overall experience? Consider, when do graphics detract rather than enhance these mediums and how do you compare modern 3D computer graphics to older say hand-drawn animation or 2D sprite-based graphics?

Graphics have come a long way in the way we indulge in entertainment. They have influence everywhere, from the types of movies/television shows that are possible to create to how video gamers enjoy different games. To explain, I believe it is best to compare two instances of entertainment that are quite similar, but just created 10+ years apart: Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings.

I just recently watched Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring for probably the 2nd or the 3rd time. I liked it. It’s quite easy to follow while having an extensive lore and it is easy to fall in love with Gandalf (and become quite sad when he sacrifices himself). The entertainment comes from the characters, from the funny appearance of the hobbits, from Gimli trailing behind Legolas in the running scene, and from many other parts of the story.

I have seen the entirety of the Game of Thrones series three times through at this point I believe (about 63 hours… ouch). It is by far my favorite show and the best way I’ve found to describe it to others that do not know much about it is to say it is a television version of Lord of the Rings. They have a lot of similarities. I believe it is somewhat easy to follow the major points, but it also has a crazy detailed lore akin to the Lord of the Rings lore. The characters are easy to hate/love and there is entertainment everywhere, from the relationships and betrayals between the characters, the development, and the creativity of the fantasy. It is a great story, BUT it is added to by one important thing: computer graphics.

Looking at the landscape, the smoothness, the cgi of the two, one is obviously created in 2001 and one is obviously created last year. I liked one, and loved the other. I think this shows where my opinion lays in modern computer graphics; I like them and they add a lot to the entertainment. I feel much more immersed in the product that is put out today than I do watching production from 20 years ago, and that is okay. Not all stories/games require fancy graphics. For example, I enjoy the simplicity of Call of Duty Black Ops II compared to the trash game that game out last year where you could fly around on a jet pack and everything was a laser. Even nowadays, Fortnite, the hottest game of 2017/2018, has terrible, janky graphics compared to games out today. But that doesn’t matter, because the game is what is most important.

In the end, better is always better. Better stories will always be liked over worse ones, and you can make all stories better to an extreme with improved graphics.

reading05 —

reading05 — video game peripherals

Video games have historically been physically passive experiences (ie. players sit and interact via stationary input devices). With devices such as the Kinect and Wiimotes and rhythm games such as Rock Band, there has been a push for more physically demanding and interactive games. What do you make of these types of games? Do you enjoy them or do you prefer old fashion passive gaming? What about the potential for things like virtual reality or even augmented reality?

For me, the reasons for playing video games usually breaks down into three categories: for social interactions, for the challenge/entertainment, and for therapy. Social video games would include playing FIFA, Madden, 2k, Mario Kart, Fortnite, etc. Basically any game where I can easily play with my buddies, either in direct competition or on a team together. For challenge and entertainment can also include these games, but it would be different sort of game modes, for example: MyCareer for 2k. For therapy, it is usually games I am very good at or have played a ton in my life and I can just play by myself in a very relaxed manner. Think of Pokemon, Minecraft, or one of my favorites, Basketball GM.

I think it’s important to classify the reasons why we play video games when we think of video game peripherals or the concepts behind virtual reality or augmented reality video games. They could either fit into one of these reasons, or create another entire valid reason for playing video games, but they will never truly just take over video gaming. Just looking at what I would call my “therapy video games”, I see games that I want to lay down or sit comfy and just let go of the world for a bit. This type of gaming doesn’t really fit into something like DDR or a Wiimote shooting game (unless the person playing has played the game so much, it is just instinctual actions). With that being said, virtual reality and augmented reality are breaking new grounds on what it means to ‘play’ a video game. I’ve seen videos of people playing pool just like they would in real life, but with a headset on. I’ve seen awesome hand-grips that let people pick up guns and shoot with them in the game. These games take a lot of hardware, a lot of concentration, and also a lot of skill. With the games being so real, I find it difficult to imagine that someone would enjoy them when they are just bad. The intuition in playing a virtual reality shooter game seems a higher than using a button layout that people have been using their entire life.

One thing that I would love to see out of this development in the next few years would be the return of racing games. Arcade racers were huge back in the day and I remember playing a lot of great racing games when I was younger. Still today, I love Mario Kart Wii, despite not using the wheel attachment. With the way racing games are controlled (i.e. you are sitting in a chair and have very strict movements), I see a very good opportunity to create a really cool environment with VR/AR that would bring back a genre that has kind of dipped in the last several years.

reading04 — choosing your console

reading04 — choosing your console

What distinguishes one video game console from another? That is, why would a video gamer choose one platform over another? Hardware specs? Price? Portability? Games? What is/was your favorite console?

When choosing a console, there are many things to consider. Is this your first one? If not, what do you already have? Are you looking for an entertainment system or are you trying to play a game that is exclusive to a certain console? Luckily in today’s market, there is not too much disparity in the prices of the basic consoles, but even with similar price tags, the consoles can be very different.

Look at the Switch for example. It changes what it means to sit back and game. You don’t just have to be on the couch or at home. But for this portability, some hardware and access is limited. If you want to watch Netflix or surf the web, it will be much more comfortable to perform these tasks on an Xbox or PlayStation in my experience. Uniqueness should not be forgotten though; Zelda or Mario games are only gonna come out on your Nintendo consoles.

Taking this all into account (and with a little bias), I prefer an Xbox over other systems. There are three main reasons: familiarity, friends, and feel. I understand the Xbox menu. I know how to do things. It all makes sense. My friends are also all on Xbox. I can play games with them and interact with them. And finally, the feel on controllers just is best for Xbox in my opinion. PlayStation controllers feel too long and clunky and I feel like I am going to break a Switch joystick every time I pick it up. This is not meant to put any of the other consoles down, as I have had great experiences on all of them and think that it is not really a choice where you can go wrong. It is all just preference and people have to decide between many great options.

For my artifact exploration, I decided to finally try out The Oregon Trail. It’s a very famous game that I had never played before. Users use text input to travel from Missouri to Oregon as a pioneer in the 1800s. Rivers, disease, and scarcity of resources are all obstacles to the ultimate goal: earn as many points as possible. I ended up getting all 5 (!!) of my wagon members to Oregon on my first try. Overall, I had fun with the game and see why people have been playing it for almost 30 years.


reading03 — PCs

reading03 — PC gaming

How is gaming on a personal computer different from gaming on a video console? What are the advantages and disadvantages of either platform? What sort of games are better suited for either type of system?

Today, there are so many different types of video games, it makes sense that some are better with a controller on a console, and some are better on a mouse and keyboard with a computer. People everywhere build their own computers or buy cool gaming ones and spend hours on hours playing. Personally, I grew up as a kid playing mostly games on a computer because I didn’t have a console, but today I spend almost 100% of my gaming on my Xbox.

As a kid, it was better to play on a computer because of why kids loves iPads. I could go to or pop in one of 100 disks my older brothers had and try out just tons of games. It didn’t cost me $60 to try out a new one and I could stop playing if I ever grew bored. This is quite different than reasons people used to play on a computer and why people play on computers now, but it did let me explore a ton to try and find the best games for me. Eventually, I also got into N64, GameBoys, and a Wii, but it all started on a computer.

Today, one of the biggest factors for gaming on console is just numbers. All of my friends have an Xbox, why would I think about getting a Play Station or a gaming computer? I mostly want to play with them, so my preference on how to game is not that important. That being said, if I were more serious about video gaming, I would most certainly use a PC. For example, I love the game Fortnite right now. It is tons of fun to play on my Xbox, but the controller layout is so inferior to what it would be on mouse & keyboard. It is a shooter and can get very quick, so hot keys are valuable; it is just better to play it on a console if your goal is to be the best.

For my video game exploring, I chose to play Space Invaders. I actually recreated this game as a Sophomore for my Fund Comp I project, so it was nice to see how the emulator compared to what I made a couple years ago. This game is extremely simple and I don’t see how it would necessarily be better on a PC or a console which speaks to why PC gaming started. It was just more accessible and you could put more on there in the beginning when everything was simple, just how I got into gaming when I was a kid.

reading00: Video games and board games

reading00: video games and board games

What is the relationship between traditional board games and modern video games?

One of my favorite parts about college is those lazy days. The types of days where you and your buddies hang out all day and for the most part, do absolutely nothing productive. That doesn’t mean nothing is done though, because the lack of productivity is just the result of being engulfed into a day of gaming. Whether or not it’s playing Fortnite for hours, playing Risk until everyone quits, or tossing the controllers across the room so everyone can get in on some FIFA, those days have been some of the most enjoyable days of my college experience. No responsibilities, just enjoyment. I think this is where we can see the true relationship between traditional board games and modern video games: they are both fun and provide an escape.

If you look around the app stores nowadays, you might notice that a lot of games there are just phone versions of games that people have been playing forever. Tic-tac-toe, Checkers, Chess, Spades, Hearts, Euchre, Monopoly. It’s endless and it helps show us even deeper these two entertainment platforms are connected. See, it all started with board games. Strategy, skill, the ability to play over and over again are traits of both and the way that technology has created a giant culture of modern video gaming displays that it is there to enhance. Instead of having to carry around cards or owning the actual boxes, people can nowadays pay a few dollars for an app that gives them tons of games. Or, you can pay a few hundred dollars for an entertainment system that gives you seemingly infinite choices. Today, it’s just easier to lose days to the fun of video games. I don’t have to sit across the table from my friend to challenge him in a game of strategy or even be in the same room to go gun down some kids on Xbox. Access to games is cheap and everywhere.