Movie Review — The Wizard

Movie Review — The Wizard

The Wizard was a fun, cute movie about a video game protege (Jimmy) and his half brother (Corey) alongside a new friend (Haley) running away to California to participate in a video game competition. Along the way, they have some memorable moments. Corey and Haley build a good dynamic, slowly building a slight crush towards each other, but also making decisions on how to proceed on their adventure. Jimmy has some great moments hustling older individuals for cash and I enjoyed his character development. He doesn’t say much, but you can see his dedication by the amount of time and effort he puts into the games and winning. At one point, he even declares his desire to keep going when Corey and Haley want to quit. When he was intimidated by Lucas and The Glove, I felt very anxious for him and upset that he didn’t defeat him right then and there.

There are a couple side stories in this movie that are cool, too. There’s a battle against the detective and Jimmy and Corey’s family. There’s the background story of Jennifer that hits the feels quite a bit. With these and the main story, I was definitely entertained for the 100 minutes of film. It was a little quirky and cheesy at times, but that comes with any kids movie.

7/10, great for an academic assignment

reading11 — Social Issues

reading11 — Social Issues

How do video games impact social issues such as addiction and gun violence? Should video games be more heavily regulated, or is the current ESRB sufficient? Are games a symptom, a cause, or possibly a cure for modern social ills?

There have been many court cases and studies about how video games affect young children, specifically whether or not they make them more aggressive. Last year, I took a course that discussed issues of free speech that included whether or not video game designers should be allowed to put such gruesome simulations to the public. Animations and video games have gotten to the point that they can seem real, but from everything that was discovered and discussed and studied, it did not seem that video games brought children to violence. So, on the point of aggression, I do firmly believe ESRB is sufficient. At some point, parents need to be parents and monitor what they’re kids watch, see, and play.

On the topic of addiction, I think there is more to be figured out. We have so many games out there today that are incredibly amusing, satisfying, time consuming, and addicting. They can be free games on your phone, on your Xbox/PS4, on your laptop. They can be paid games. They are everywhere and extremely accessible. And there’s a good reason for that. They can essentially print money. Ads, micro-transcations, or any attempt to thin your (or your parent’s wallet) are littered around these games. I would say because of the business side of these issues, games are essentially a platform to deliver addiction and take advantage of it onto susceptible individuals out there. There is another side of this though; some people love the entertainment factors. What’s $10 for endless hours of entertainments? Who are we to tell these people how to live? These are the questions that make it difficult to heavily regulate any social issue, including video game addiction.

To fix these issues, I think as a society we need to work to figuring out why certain people become addicted or aggressive and begin to educate everyone on what happens when you indulge in gaming entertainment. Parents who did not grow up playing video games need to be aware of why their children love these games, how they work, and what needs to be done to ensure that there is a healthy balance between entertainment and life.

reading10 — eSports

reading10 — eSports

What do you think of eSports or competitive video gaming? Are you a competitor or a spectator? If so, which games? Is esports something that will reach the level of an Olympic event and should it receive the same level of recognition and support as other types of competitive activities?

While I have never competed in an eSports competition, I lived with a guy who has competed in dozens of Smash tournaments during college. I was able to learn a lot from him about the game through conversation, and when a big tournament was on and his favorite gamer was competing, I would watch with him. As someone from the outside, it was a ton of fun to watch. The community, the “meta”, the scale of competition that was occurring from two guys crouched in front of a CRT television was remarkable. I’m not sure if it will ever reach the level of an Olympic event, but that shouldn’t be the litmus test of success for this industry. Today, there are people out there that are able to show off their skills and make a living off it. There are competitions all over the world where people of the same interests come together to compete. This year, there was even a draft for the best NBA 2k players out there. There is competition flowing and there are people out there enjoying it and loving it. I’d say that what we have now is great for eSports and I only think it’s going to get bigger. The growth of Twitch and other video game streaming services makes it very accessible for people to watch and learn about the games. The commentators in every single match I’ve ever watched were very well informed and entertaining and as the gaming industry grows, I feel like that will just keep improving and get people to join in on the fun.

reading09 — Strikes and Spares

reading09 — Strikes and Spares

Is there still a charm to arcades? How do these environments and games fit into the modern gaming ecosystem, especially know that we have PC games, console games, and mobile games?

Personally, my day at Strikes and Spares was one of my favorite days of class this semester. There wasn’t any lecture or learning like a normal classroom, but within the context of this class, I feel like I was able to enjoy the arcade more so than before. There was nostalgia in some of the games that I’ve been playing ever since I can remember, but there were also new experiences. For example, I got to play Deal or No Deal. The bright lights and fun music made it a fun experience and I didn’t get rid of the jackpot case until the very last pick (it was sad at the time, but still fun). There was a beer pong simulator game that I’d never seen before and enjoyed trying. There was the classic Hoop Fever and ski ball and countless other machines that I was fine putting my money into. It was a lot of fun.

With that being said, there was one issue I had with Strikes and Spares that I feel is very detrimental to the future of arcades. There were not tickets!! All the money I wanted to play with was preloaded onto an arcade card which was then used to swipe on each of the machines. When the game was done, the tickets were then uploaded onto that card. It might make things easier and save paper, but the fun memories I have of being at an arcade as a kid are just watching more and more tickets come out. The feeling of watching your winning just grow and grow and walking around with a huge bundle of winnings was what made arcades the best. Now, they are still fun, but I hope they find a way to replace that feeling for the kids of the future.

Arcades are much different than the way modern gaming. They are very social as you want to either play with others, compete with them, or just have them watch you win. It’d be very difficult to find a single arcade game that is better than most video games, but the fact that you have dozens of machines all in one building with dozens of people with different interests playing together, makes for a very fun environment.

reading08 — Mobile Games

reading08 — Mobile Games

The rise of mobile gaming has largely been fueled by the growth in casual gaming and social gaming. Do you view this as a positive or negative phenonemon, especially considering that mobile gaming is now surpassing the traditional PC and console markets in terms of revenue? Moreover, how do you feel about the associated business models (ie. free-to-play and micro-transactions) that come with mobile gaming and casual gaming? Is this a democratization of gaming or a debasing of this form of entertainment?

With the addition of mobile gaming in our society, we have more people who claim that they “play” video games. They are extremely accessible, both in price/availability and in the sheer amount of talent or attention that someone needs to play them. Where in the past you had to go to an arcade and spend money on each attempt at a game, now anyone can download a free game on their phone and play endlessly. Personally, I see this as a positive phenomenon. More people are able to enjoy the fun of video games! It might not be the pure form of video games that some people identify with, but the larger the community, the better in my opinion. It could be problematic that traditional PC and console markets are getting overcome in revenue production, but I do not believe that the success of a subset of video games will ever eliminate another portion. For example, just because television shows or streaming services are up and coming and can make more money than the film industry, there is not been a sharp decline in the movies that are being produced.

Additionally, mobile gaming can be seen as a way of supplementing the entertainment of console and PC gaming. Fortnite, 2018’s hottest game, recently came out with a mobile version of their game that allows people on mobile to ability to play with PC and console players. We are becoming more networked, more connected, and the video game community is growing and benefiting from it.

While all of this can be looked at positively, I will admit that Mobile Gaming is not all perfect. I do not love the way that they earn their money. Micro-transactions, whether they are speed-ups, level-ups, or an integrated part of the game like Battlefront II, can be detrimental to my enjoyment of a game. Candy Crush or games like Haypi Kingdom (a personal favorite when I was younger), take advantage of impatient people that can spend tons of money to turn the game from a challenging/strategic competition into a slot machine that plays closer to the lottery than a video game. Especially when you consider that some games just sell you “packs” of cards/upgrades that are completely random, putting money into these games is not much different than gambling.

Finally, I would like to highlight one of my favorite games nowadays. It is simple, straightforward, and easy, and has never cost me any money. It’s Euchre. I have been able to play this game and other games like it (i.e. Spades) for years by myself or connected with others and I find it very enjoyable. Additionally, the only micro-transaction possible is paying $1 to get rid of ads. While it is not a novel game, I very much enjoy the fact that there are always simple and fun games out there that are free to play.

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.