Thursday, July 23, 2009

34 Days...

...until my end of summer road trip begins!

The basic outline:

August 25th - Last day at perceptive software, finish packing & load my car.
August 26th - Drive to Salt Lake!
August 27 & 28th - Hang out in Salt Lake, visit friends and family, and recover from 16 hour drive.
August 29th - Drive to Washington state!
August 30th-September 5th - Hang out in Washington, visit Seattle, maybe Forks... :)
September 6th - Drive to Rexburg!
September 7th - Move in to new apartment!
September 8th - Try out for Collegiate Singers
September 10th - Classes start!

I'm pretty excited about this. I've never been to Washington, and I've never seen an ocean, two things I plan to remedy. Plus I'll get to hang out with Erik which is always awesome.

As for me, things are continuing along. I'm trying to decide what to buy with the money remaining for the end of summer, that is the money that isn't already set aside for college and my Christmas flight home.

Things I want:

- a new suit. I haven't bought a new one since summer of 2005, while I was on my mission. The one I have is entering the end of its days I think...

- a GPS for my car. While I believe in my ability to follow a printed instructional from google maps, having a nice voice telling me when to turn in my upcoming road trip into undiscovered territory would be nice...

- a Bose stereo dock for my iPod touch so I don't have to always listen with my headphones or my laptop speakers which are...atrocious....

- new headphones from Apple. They have a really nice set of in-ear buds that form to your inner ear so they aren't bulky or over the ear like earmuffs, but they also fit so they don't hurt after a while...

- new clothes. Most of my clothes are getting on in years, and I haven't really been getting new ones. Plus I'm a huge pack rat which means I have to really force myself to get rid of stuff. Moving almost everything I own across the country every six months helps, but my wardrobe needs a little Spring...well Summer Cleaning.

That about covers my current wish-list. I have a few, more-exorbitant wishes, like a new desktop PC, but that can wait until next summer or more. I'm not sure that I'll be able to afford all of the above. Probably not in fact, so the rub comes in trying to be 'responsible' and choose which ones I want more, or the ones that are close to needs...

I'll let you guys know... :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

"Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked" - My perspective

Henry Jenkins, the director of comparative studies at MIT, wrote an essay about eight myths of gaming that he clearly, and very well I might add, destroyed eight gaming stereotypes.

This essay in its entirety, complete with citations, can be found here on PBS' website:

I'm going to copy it here and share it all with you, because I thought it was amazing, and add my own two cents. Hope you enjoy and/or learn something. To anyone who holds any of these stereotypes dear to the center of your being, I hope that you read it through, and that the pain of the following paradigm shift won't be too bad.

Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked

Henry Jenkins
MIT Professor

A large gap exists between the public's perception of video games and what the research actually shows. The following is an attempt to separate fact from fiction.

1. The availability of video games has led to an epidemic of youth violence.

According to federal crime statistics, the rate of juvenile violent crime in the United States is at a 30-year low. Researchers find that people serving time for violent crimes typically consume less media before committing their crimes than the average person in the general population. It's true that young offenders who have committed school shootings in America have also been game players. But young people in general are more likely to be gamers — 90 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls play. The overwhelming majority of kids who play do NOT commit antisocial acts. According to a 2001 U.S. Surgeon General's report, the strongest risk factors for school shootings centered on mental stability and the quality of home life, not media exposure. The moral panic over violent video games is doubly harmful. It has led adult authorities to be more suspicious and hostile to many kids who already feel cut off from the system. It also misdirects energy away from eliminating the actual causes of youth violence and allows problems to continue to fester.

(My thoughts: What's great about this, is that just because someone doesn't understand something doesn't mean they can't try to prove it's 'dangerous' through the use of heavy handed statistics. You have to ask yourself, what's easier: Blaming an outside media influence for your child's behavior, or accepting responsibility as a parent for not teaching your children ethics and morals. Just food for thought.)

2. Scientific evidence links violent game play with youth aggression.

Claims like this are based on the work of researchers who represent one relatively narrow school of research, "media effects." This research includes some 300 studies of media violence. But most of those studies are inconclusive and many have been criticized on methodological grounds. In these studies, media images are removed from any narrative context. Subjects are asked to engage with content that they would not normally consume and may not understand. Finally, the laboratory context is radically different from the environments where games would normally be played. Most studies found a correlation, not a causal relationship, which means the research could simply show that aggressive people like aggressive entertainment. That's why the vague term "links" is used here. If there is a consensus emerging around this research, it is that violent video games may be one risk factor - when coupled with other more immediate, real-world influences — which can contribute to anti-social behavior. But no research has found that video games are a primary factor or that violent video game play could turn an otherwise normal person into a killer.

(My thoughts: I remember what my statistics teacher in college told us repeatedly, almost every class period. "Statistics, studies, experiments prove nothing! All they can do is provide evidence toward one conclusion or another." The truth is, the opponents of video games, as stated above in the article, have done a very bad job at proving much of anything")

3. Children are the primary market for video games.

While most American kids do play video games, the center of the video game market has shifted older as the first generation of gamers continues to play into adulthood. Already 62 percent of the console market and 66 percent of the PC market is age 18 or older. The game industry caters to adult tastes. Meanwhile, a sizable number of parents ignore game ratings because they assume that games are for kids. One quarter of children ages 11 to 16 identify an M-Rated (Mature Content) game as among their favorites. Clearly, more should be done to restrict advertising and marketing that targets young consumers with mature content, and to educate parents about the media choices they are facing. But parents need to share some of the responsibility for making decisions about what is appropriate for their children. The news on this front is not all bad. The Federal Trade Commission has found that 83 percent of game purchases for underage consumers are made by parents or by parents and children together.

(My thoughts: The fact that 83 percent of game purchases for underage consumers of any kind are made by parents or with children and parents together proves one of my above points. If you aren't educated about video game ratings, even so much as to know that M really does mean Mature, then it's your fault that your child is playing an adult-oriented video game. Should an eleven year old be playing Grand Theft Auto 4? No! But his -parents- should be the ones keeping him from buying it, not Rockstar Games or Xbox.)

4. Almost no girls play computer games.

Historically, the video game market has been predominantly male. However, the percentage of women playing games has steadily increased over the past decade. Women now slightly outnumber men playing Web-based games. Spurred by the belief that games were an important gateway into other kinds of digital literacy, efforts were made in the mid-90s to build games that appealed to girls. More recent games such as The Sims were huge crossover successes that attracted many women who had never played games before. Given the historic imbalance in the game market (and among people working inside the game industry), the presence of sexist stereotyping in games is hardly surprising. Yet it's also important to note that female game characters are often portrayed as powerful and independent. In his book Killing Monsters, Gerard Jones argues that young girls often build upon these representations of strong women warriors as a means of building up their self confidence in confronting challenges in their everyday lives.

(My thoughts: Girls that play video games are awesome... that's all)

5. Because games are used to train soldiers to kill, they have the same impact on the kids who play them.

Former military psychologist and moral reformer David Grossman argues that because the military uses games in training (including, he claims, training soldiers to shoot and kill), the generation of young people who play such games are similarly being brutalized and conditioned to be aggressive in their everyday social interactions.

Grossman's model only works if:

* we remove training and education from a meaningful cultural context.
* we assume learners have no conscious goals and that they show no resistance to what they are being taught.
* we assume that they unwittingly apply what they learn in a fantasy environment to real world spaces.

The military uses games as part of a specific curriculum, with clearly defined goals, in a context where students actively want to learn and have a need for the information being transmitted. There are consequences for not mastering those skills. That being said, a growing body of research does suggest that games can enhance learning. In his recent book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, James Gee describes game players as active problem solvers who do not see mistakes as errors, but as opportunities for improvement. Players search for newer, better solutions to problems and challenges, he says. And they are encouraged to constantly form and test hypotheses. This research points to a fundamentally different model of how and what players learn from games.

(My thoughts: Contrary to popular belief, video games do not turn you into a mindless zombie who can take no thought for itself. You still have the ultimate choice in every circumstance how you behave in any situation.)

6. Video games are not a meaningful form of expression.

On April 19, 2002, U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Sr. ruled that video games do not convey ideas and thus enjoy no constitutional protection. As evidence, Saint Louis County presented the judge with videotaped excerpts from four games, all within a narrow range of genres, and all the subject of previous controversy. Overturning a similar decision in Indianapolis, Federal Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner noted: "Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low. It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault are aware." Posner adds, "To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it." Many early games were little more than shooting galleries where players were encouraged to blast everything that moved. Many current games are designed to be ethical testing grounds. They allow players to navigate an expansive and open-ended world, make their own choices and witness their consequences. The Sims designer Will Wright argues that games are perhaps the only medium that allows us to experience guilt over the actions of fictional characters. In a movie, one can always pull back and condemn the character or the artist when they cross certain social boundaries. But in playing a game, we choose what happens to the characters. In the right circumstances, we can be encouraged to examine our own values by seeing how we behave within virtual space.

(My thoughts: I loved this paragraph. Having played the Sims and all its incarnations, as well as many many modern RPG's. Video games of this nature, and many video games in general that have freedom of choice in their game design, allow you to truly explore the consequences of actions in a safe environment that won't affect the outside world. This makes video games the only truly interactive art form that engages mind, body and heart.)

7. Video game play is socially isolating.

Much video game play is social. Almost 60 percent of frequent gamers play with friends. Thirty-three percent play with siblings and 25 percent play with spouses or parents. Even games designed for single players are often played socially, with one person giving advice to another holding a joystick. A growing number of games are designed for multiple players — for either cooperative play in the same space or online play with distributed players. Sociologist Talmadge Wright has logged many hours observing online communities interact with and react to violent video games, concluding that meta-gaming (conversation about game content) provides a context for thinking about rules and rule-breaking. In this way there are really two games taking place simultaneously: one, the explicit conflict and combat on the screen; the other, the implicit cooperation and comradeship between the players. Two players may be fighting to death on screen and growing closer as friends off screen. Social expectations are reaffirmed through the social contract governing play, even as they are symbolically cast aside within the transgressive fantasies represented onscreen.

(My thoughts: People who still think this to this day are -completely- stupid. I only play many of the video games that I play because of my friends. Some of them even just because of Ryan. Video games are among the most social of activities that you can participate in, at any age.)

8. Video game play is desensitizing.

Classic studies of play behavior among primates suggest that apes make basic distinctions between play fighting and actual combat. In some circumstances, they seem to take pleasure wrestling and tousling with each other. In others, they might rip each other apart in mortal combat. Game designer and play theorist Eric Zimmerman describes the ways we understand play as distinctive from reality as entering the "magic circle." The same action — say, sweeping a floor — may take on different meanings in play (as in playing house) than in reality (housework). Play allows kids to express feelings and impulses that have to be carefully held in check in their real-world interactions. Media reformers argue that playing violent video games can cause a lack of empathy for real-world victims. Yet, a child who responds to a video game the same way he or she responds to a real-world tragedy could be showing symptoms of being severely emotionally disturbed. Here's where the media effects research, which often uses punching rubber dolls as a marker of real-world aggression, becomes problematic. The kid who is punching a toy designed for this purpose is still within the "magic circle" of play and understands her actions on those terms. Such research shows us only that violent play leads to more violent play.

(My thoughts: This is just funny...almost. I've been playing video games nearly all my life. I remember playing them for the first time at our friend Dean's house when we first moved to Kansas City, which puts my first gaming experiences at somewhere between ages 3-6. I've played games of all type, from adventure to first person shooter, real time strategy, etc. Everything from the most violent video games of Prototype, GTA, Rainbow 6, Call of Duty - to the most harmless of games like Mario Paint, DDR and Rock Band. I'm no closer to harming another person or stealing a car than I have been for the last twenty years.

To those who fight against video games I ask: Please, get new arguments.

Those of you who've read to the end, I'm planning on writing an entire essay of my own for gaming from a Mormon perspective. Something I've wanted to do ever since my mission really. Stay tuned :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And again...

So, after being chastised at the family reunion, here I am writing in my blog again. Just so you all know, the reason I didn't write again after my last one is the '0' in front of the comments. I just assumed no one was reading it. My bad...

So, since the end of April...where to start?

I'm currently working as a 'Development Support Intern' at Perceptive Software here in Kansas City. This is the opportunity I wrote about in my last blog that my awesome friend Mike was able to secure for me. So I now have an awesome full time job for the rest of the summer and am saving up money for the next year of school, as well as buying new toys...

Speaking of money for college, I was able to secure a Pell Grant for this upcoming year. Talk about a huge load off my back. This means that I will be able to fully involve myself with everything it means to be a music major, including all the practices, concerts, etc, have a social life, enjoy college life, and not have to work during school! I'm stoked.

Speaking of new toys. I joined the dark side and bought my first Apple product in the form of the 32 gigabyte iPod touch. It's beautiful. People ask me why I didn't just get the iPhone. First off, I'm not able to pay over $100/month for the plan that I would need to make it my cell service. Second, the iPod touch is basically the world's best PDA/pocket PC...though I guess it would be pocketMac in this case. I'm looking forward to having it at school, so I don't always have to lug my 17" laptop with me to class.

I think I'm going to start doing my blog in sections or categories. Seems interesting. Especially since otherwise I'll just babble on for way too long. We'll see how it goes.


I'm in the middle of about four or five books at the moment. I'll read a chapter or two in one and then get tired of a non-moving storyline and move on to the others. The current exceptions to this are the newest books in the Star Wars universe. I'm always excited enough with them to read them from start to finish. Usually within two or three days. The next one comes out in August.

The other books I'm reading at the moment are: Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind. Small Favor (A novel in the Dresden Files, book 10 I think) by Jim Butcher, Academ's Fury(Book 2 in the Codex Alera series) by Jim Butcher, and Dune by Frank Herbert.

Don't get me wrong, they're all good. I just seem to not be able to stay with one book for an extended period of time. I think this is a combination of my excitement to actually get to read this summer, and having so many books on my list to want to read that I'm overloading myself.


As many of you know, I play World of Warcraft. I know, I know, blah blah, waste of time, blah blah waste of money. Save it. I enjoy it, and it's fun to play, especially with friends. Perhaps I'll write an entire blogpost dedicated to my defense of WoW and its normal players. Who knows.

New games that I've tried and enjoyed. Sims 3 and Prototype. I've always liked the Sims, though only in small bursts.

Prototype is actually very fun. A little dark, and obviously violent, but fun. Basically think of Grand Theft Auto, without all the sexual content, meets I Am Legend. Free roaming world, cool powers, interesting storyline. Literally jump from skyscraper to skyscraper on the island of Manhatten, built almost perfectly to scale. Very awesome.


Though I already answered this question about thirty times at the reunion, and it's mostly family that reads this anyway, I'll share it again just in case. I will be going back to BYU-Idaho. I registered for my classes in June and I'm really looking forward to going back.

I think that's probably enough updating for now. Comment if you want me to write about different stuff, otherwise I'm going to stick with this general style. Hope everyone has a great week!