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The day has come where I write my final blog post for #NetNarr, where has this semester gone?! 10 blog posts later, and I’m still going strong (even if this last post is a little late)!
So I thought I’d just give a brief summary of the course, and how I’ve felt about it overall. Coming into the course, I was a bit worried that everyone would be super into gaming and know how to do all-things-technology, but that certainly wasn’t the case (which I was very glad about). Studying music as my major, I came into it with no previous experience of gaming (unless you count playing Just Dance and Sing Star on the PlayStation with my little sister!). Now, I can definitely say I have more knowledge about the history of games, and technology as a whole, which I guess means that me taking this course was a success! From making memes and GIFs; to playing empathy games; to learning about electronic literature, and, after a 5 year Twitter silence, I’ve reactivated my account, which I hope I will continue to use after this course is over! I’ve really enjoyed doing the DDAs (Mia even gave me a shout out in class, which I was proud of ). I will sign off with my final DDAs of the course, and a meme I just made!
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!
This week I watched the studio visit on Gaming and Learning with Remi Kalir and Keegan Long-Wheeler, on the topic of empathy games. The people that took part in the studio visit spoke about educational games, games used in real life, everyday games and of course; video games. An interesting aspect of everyday life was spoken about during the session. In daily life at school or university, students will try to follow a certain set of rules, or say or do certain things so that they can obtain the highest grade. Or even how, especially among children, tasks are made into games so that they are completed faster. Sports involve games too. There are just so many elements of our lives that are essentially made into playtime
What is an empathy game?
Many games (without falling into the category ‘empathy game’) cause you to feel empathy when you play them. However, empathy games themselves strive to tackle real-life issues such as addiction, health and mental health issues, and financial problems
Empathy: ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’ (Google definition).
For the second part of this week’s blog, we had to download a game from the website Steam. I had heard of the website before from a few of my friends, but never really knew what it was, let alone downloaded or played any games on it. I watched the trailers for all of the games that Mia suggested and decided on one called ‘That Dragon, Cancer’. The name itself intrigued me, and I thought that it would probably be a very emotional game to play.
The game is about the journey of a very young boy called Joel, who is suffering from cancer. It is a story told by Joel’s family, of braveness through all of his trips to the hospital, and the highs and the lows of the illness. His father, Ryan Green, began designing the game as a coping method for what was going on with his son, and to try and process what was going on around him. At the end of a three year struggle, Joel sadly lost the fight with cancer.
I thought the graphics of the game were very interesting. The characters had no faces, which I thought added to the general sombre ambience of the game. While making it slightly impersonal, it also made the feelings more accessible to the audience. The player is able to imagine the character with cancer as perhaps someone close to them, who has been through the illness themselves, making it easier to empathize.
I found some videos on YouTube by the creators of ‘That Dragon, Cancer’, of which I found incredibly interesting. Watching them gave me an insight into the reasons behind the creation of the game, and the choices they made regarding the storyline. I watched a TED talk given by Joel’s mother Amy Green, in response to people who had frowned upon their decision to make a game out of their son’s cancer struggle. She said that there had been responses such as ‘who would want to play that?’ and ‘how have those parents dared to make a game out of something as serious as cancer?’. Amy Green responds by saying that the game is where she and her family go to remember Joel. She explains that the original idea and name for the game came from one night where she made up a bedtime story for her two older sons about a brave knight who was fighting a dragon (cancer). I thought this was a really beautiful idea.
The actual ‘playing’ of the game is relatively simple. There aren’t really any choices that the player can make that will impact the outcome, it is more of a journey that you go on for the 2 hours of gameplay. The game is essentially the player witnessing Joel’s everyday life. I found this unusual, as players of most video games expect to be able to make decisions that will impact the outcome of their game. However, with ‘That Dragon, Cancer’ this concept is taken away. I believe this is to mirror the reality of the illness, in that none of the decisions you make in real life can impact the outcome of cancer. The more you click through the game, the more you find out about his life. This adds to the empathy the player feels playing the game, as they feel just a fraction of the hopelessness and desperation that the family felt towards their Joel. You also can’t win at the game, as the outcome is always the same tragic ending.
The game is aimed to be of some comfort to anyone going through a similarly hard time in their life. Many people have said it has brought them feelings of ease and helped them through their hard time, which I think is a beautiful thing.
Amy Green concluded her TED talk by responding again to critics that question their decision to make their experiences into a video game, by explaining that when you have children; everything is a game.
This week in class, we had a series of students presenting games that they were particularly passionate about or had relevance to the work we were doing in class. In particular, I found the peer games showcase of the game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, by Rikke to be very interesting. It is a game that focuses heavily on mental health, an aspect that you wouldn’t tend to associate with a game.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is an empathy game, based on Celtic culture where you play as a warrior named Senua. Senua has to defeat otherworldly entities to rescue her dead lover from the goddess Hela. The protagonist suffers from psychosis, a condition where thoughts and emotions are so warped that contact is lost with external reality. Senua has voices in her head telling her what to do, and the player experiences this first hand with the very realistic sound effects of the game. In particular, through the use of panning through the left and right headphones, it makes it incredibly realistic and creepy, and as if the voices are really in your head. Sometimes during the game, the whispering voices become so prominent that it is increasingly difficult to focus on anything else in the world around her. This effectively mimics the conditions that someone with psychosis would experience, in which I think the game is incredibly good at portraying empathy. The very realistic graphics of Senua and the world around her also adds to these realistic effects.
The game has received an amazing response from people actually suffering from psychosis, and they praise the game for helping them to cope with their illness. People say that they have shown the game to their friends and family to try to explain what they are going through with their mental illness. They also say that Senua’s Sacrifice has given them a sense that they are not alone, and that it is amazing to know that there other people are out there going through the same illness.
This game is definitely not for everyone, in fact, I think playing it for ages would leave a big imprint as it really seems to get inside of your head. I also wouldn’t recommend it to children. However, I think that if a game is able to help someone suffering from any illness out there, then I say: that’s amazing.
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I was not able to take part in the Emilio studio visit myself, but I watched the video after it went live.
It got me thinking about my past experiences with technology. Growing up in England, my family had a massive box-like TV in the lounge that weighed a tonne. It had 5 channels, and I was only allowed to watch it on the weekends. I got my first phone when I went to secondary school in 2008, which was a Nokia brick phone and had 2 games on it (snake and ping pong) and had no internet.
Thinking about how far technology has come in the last 10 years is actually a little scary. My next phone was a pink flip up phone (which was all the rage in 2010), I remember feeling really jealous that my friend’s phone had a (very fuzzy) front facing camera on it. The phones I’ve had since then have gradually got more and more technologically advanced, to the iPhone 5 I have today. It can do all sorts of things that 10 years ago-me would have only dreamt would be possible to do from a phone; such as editing a photo, tracking your steps or doing online shopping.
Furthermore, at home, we didn’t have even have WiFi. We had a dongle that plugged into your laptop if you needed to use the internet, which meant that only one person in the family could use the internet at a time. Crazy to think about that now.
My sister, who is 7 years younger than me, has just started secondary school herself and already has an iPhone 6 as her first phone.
I’m trying to imagine what technology will look like 10 years from now, and it’s making my head hurt!!
To conclude this short, but sweet blog post enjoy some of my DDA’s from this week:
Have a great week
This week was winter break so we haven’t had any lectures for our NetNarr module. So we were set some home assignments to do instead, including the #selfieunselfie project. Mia has designed this project as an installation to be featured in the Bergen Public Library from Spring 2018. First, we had to take a selfie that we would be comfortable posting on social media and explain why. This is my response:
‘I’m not normally someone who would post a selfie just of my face. If it’s a selfie with me and friend that’s different because I see it as a nice memory of us. But I don’t like the focus to be entirely on my face. I would post this selfie online as I like the way my hair has been styled and think that the angle of the lighting gives my face a nice shape. I like the way my make up looks, plus the pose I’m pulling gives off a slightly mysterious vibe!
All these reasons, however, sound very superficial to me so I still wouldn’t actually post this on my social media!’
The next part of the project is to deconstruct the selfie and talk about what is missing from it, parts of my identity that is not present in the selfie:
‘Of course, selfies are based entirely on aesthetics, so my selfie doesn’t show anything beyond what you would see by looking at my face. My passion for singing and my love for music is missing from the picture. The selfie doesn’t demonstrate how much I love nature and Norwegian mountains, or my love for dogs (especially my own two back at home in England). Or how much I love food and cooking and baking when I’m feeling adventurous. This raises a question as to the first impression you get by looking at someone for the first time. By looking at someone’s face (or a picture of it; a selfie) all you see are their facial features and nothing beyond that. The ability to know things about that person stops at the barrier of the selfie.’
The last part of the project is to post an ‘unselfie’; something that represents a different aspect of yourself, without showing any part of the self:
‘Since coming to Norway almost 8 months ago now, nature has become such a big part of my life. Before arriving here in August 2017, I had never even set foot on a mountain, never mind about climbing one. But within a week of coming to Bergen I had already hiked the tallest mountain in Bergen, Ulriken. Since then I haven’t stopped.
Hiking, sunsets and incredible views have become such an important part of my life that I hope to carry with me when I go back to England. This is one of my favourite photos I took from a hike in Bergen.’
I think that this project is a very thoughtful comment on what society consider’s ‘acceptable’ for social media and why. The standards that people compare themselves against when posting selfies are photos of celebrities that have usually been significantly edited and photoshopped. These goals are unattainable as they aren’t real!
I think people need to be reminded of that more often when being critical of themselves and other people.
So this blog post is a little late as I’ve had my sister visiting me in Bergen for the week, and work has taken a bit of a backseat (whoops). Nevertheless, I’m back!
Last week in the lecture I participated in my first ever ‘live twitter stream’, which was a really interesting experience. We watched a short video in class called ‘Sky Magic Live at Mt. Fuji: Drone Ballet Show’. This piece of digital art is an advert for Sky Magic. it features drones dancing about in the night sky and a digitized drum beat, contrasted with the natural beauty of a volcano in the background and native people playing indigenous instruments.
I thought that the video was rather beautiful and also that it represented a much deeper meaning than some flashing lights in the sky. We watched the video twice then were presented with some questions and asked to tweet our responses to the questions.
Here is one of my responses:
After the live Twitter stream ended and everyone had answered the questions on Twitter, Mia asked the class for any volunteers to read out their tweets. No one put their hand up (including me, but I’m never one in class to put my hand up!!).
I found this quite bizarre, that everyone was willing to put their ideas on a digital platform, where anyone in the digital world can read their answers, but no one wanted to share their thoughts in real life. It gave me food for thought.
I thought this was quite a powerful metaphor for real life in that many people ‘tweet’ or post a facebook status that they would never say in reality. Many people use technology as a mask to hide behind, and use social media as a platform to voice their opinions, where in real life they may not be confident enough to do so. In some senses this can be a positive thing, if someone is too shy to say something in real life (perhaps similar to me sometimes) then it is a great space to voice an opinion. Paradoxically, social media can also be a weapon. For example, cyberbullying is such a prominent aspect of modern life. It takes far less thought to post a hurtful comment online, as you don’t necessarily have to deal with the consequences and reaction of others, compared to having an argument in real life with someone.
This week has made me reflect on the kind of comments I, and other people, post online comparative to what they would say in real life. It’s almost like when people are online, they are speaking a universal language that is completely different to real life.
To conclude this blog post I thought I’d share my #dda of this week
When attempting to describe what I learnt in my lectures this week to my Mum, she got very confused, muttering things like ‘what the hell is a meme’ and ‘I don’t get it’.
Never in a million years did I ever think that I would ever learn how to make a meme, never mind about receiving class credit for it!!
However, when telling my 13-year-old sister that I made a meme this week in my class, she got very excited and jealous that I would be ‘studying’ what she does for fun! After learning about my sudden interest in memes, my sister then sent me about 20 of her favourite saved memes. It seems that I (quite literally) need to get down with the kids.
We only had one #Netnarr lecture this week. We learnt a briefly about the history of the digital photograph which was really interesting. As a complete beginner to the subject, at the start of this module, I honestly struggled to see the connection between a painting by Van Gogh and a meme (or a piece of digital art). But, when Mia broke it down in class I realised when you look at the basic concepts of what ‘art’ actually is, there really aren’t that many differences.
With digital art, there is always going to be a question of authenticity, as there isn’t one ‘original’ copy, and someone will always be able to ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ it. However, with it being online, it makes it very accessible to the global public and therefore the ability to spread fast (you’re able to post a video one day then wake up the next day and it’s viral!). As opposed to when an artist finishes a new painting/photograph which tours between art galleries in different cities, and only the people visiting the art galleries can view the art. It has got me thinking about the power of social media and digital art.
To conclude my blog post, here are my #dda’s from this week.