Interaction and Autism: How Games Help

Education, Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

Video games, unlike any other medium, offer the opportunity to help socialize children who have Autism.

(Article published on SaveGame.)

As an educator, I have an interest in researching how video games can help us to better understand learning through interaction, play, and experience. Despite their often negative reputation for being a “waste of time,” video games still provide us with a unique medium of entertainment because they require direct interaction from the player. This aspect introduces a new dimension in how forms of entertainment and media affect us, especially in fields like medicine and psychology.

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On Wolves: The Fragility of Ecosystems

Journalism, Portfolio, Thoughts

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir

The game Okami is a beautiful title that puts you in control of  Amaterasu, the Shinto goddess of the sun, who comes to earth in the guise of a white wolf. Throughout the game your goal is to heal the world around you, giving life to plants and animals. The actions of the game, in essence, involve nature fixing itself. While Okami was not necessarily created with the purpose of displaying the importance of biodiversity in ecosystems, the wolf-like goddess affects her environment much like real wolves do in their natural world. Wolves have such a massive impact on eco-systems, in fact, that their very existence changed the geography of a landscape.

On Cities and Towns

Creative and Personal, Portfolio, Thoughts

“This is the first time I’ve ever lived downtown in a large city before.” I said insecurely, fidgeting with my diet coke. Its glass was perspiring and cool to the touch, a welcome distraction from the conversations going on around me.

By this point I had lived in D.C. for about a month; my romantic notions of this political town were already waning.

(Did I ever mention that I don’t like politics?)

“Seriously?” the man across from me scoffed in disbelief, as if I was alien to him. “Oh that’s right, you came from the south… near Atlanta, right? There’s nothing really there.” He went on to describe lack of intelligence and high obesity rates that plagued the southeastern United States.  And racism. And ignorance.

On Perception and Judgement

Creative and Personal, Portfolio, Thoughts

It was my first time exploring San Francisco on my own.

I was already in love with the city. The cool air and lack of humidity calmed the hairs on my head, hairs that normally fly up at the sense of a single drop of southern humidity.

Here everything, including the interior of buildings, had the musty smell of the ocean. Here the earth learned to deal with a lack of rain by masking the environment in a morning fog–a fog that slowly drifted away as the day progressed, like an artist unveiling a masterpiece.

Infamous: First Light in the Right Direction

Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

Why the narrative and voices we are exposed to in games matter.

(Article published on Gameranx.)

There was a point in time where I thought I was immune to the gender of a protagonist in a game or movie. The majority of games I played, unless an RPG that allowed you to build a character, presented a male as the quintessential hero. I didn’t mind. I was young and accepted it.

But a spark ignited when I first saw that Samus, from the Metriod series, was a female. Precipitously, this character meant so much more. For the first time, the vulnerabilities I often felt about being a girl were shed. 

2Player: Time to Get Hyped for Destiny

Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

Without further ado, here is inaugural episode of Ryan Winslett and I’s new podcast hosted by Cinema Blend…. but it’s WRITTEN. Because why not check to see if people actually read anymore, am I right? This week’s focus is on Destiny:

There’s no denying that Destiny is shaping up to be one of the biggest launches of the year, set to arrive on PlayStation and Xbox home consoles on Sept. 9. The PlayStation beta begins this Thursday, with the Xbox crowd joining in on the fun just one week later. In other words, the whole world is about to find out whether or not the folks at Bungie, developers of the Halo series, are able to deliver on their promise to mix first-

On the Infinite and Everything

Creative and Personal, Portfolio, Thoughts

I thought the moment I passed my Master’s defense my brain would shutdown.

That it would pause for a little while before preparing to pick up the last bits of the semester–to finish teaching, grading, researching, and learning.

It would be like those movies where a nuclear bomb goes off and then the chilling moment of silence ensues as remnants of dust dance to the ground.

On the Man with One Arm

Creative and Personal, Portfolio, Thoughts

I blame my parents for my absurd curiosity and wonderment about the world.

What horrible things to instill upon a child.

Both of them flew for Delta… my dad a pilot and my mom a flight attendant. Their conversations of love and life were like something out of the movies. They met in an airport in Miami and among tales of convertibles catching fire and almost ingesting engagement rings in champagne they embraced each other and their exploration of culture. I remember day dreaming to my dad’s stories—seeing the Northern Lights from the cockpit of a 747, watching the sunrise over the equator, base jumping in South America, meeting amazing individuals who all had their own stories to tell. He described these seemingly esoteric moments in a way that made me feel like I was there, floating in the sky. With his words I could close my eyes and feel like a part of everything.

Clockwork Empires: Victorian Steampunk at its Finest

Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

Victorian dry humor and horror find their way into the gaming universe with Clockwork Empires.

(Article published at Gameranx).

As I sat down to preview Gaslamp’s  Clockwork Empires, I was met by three developers feverishly discussing the Victorian era in all of its opulent historical background. CEO Daniel Jacobsen, Art Director David Baumgart, and Technical Director Nicholas Vining knew their stuff. As an English major I was enthused—sitting in a room of game developers who reminisced on reading Dickens and Tennyson—but I was more intrigued when they told me that all of this was inspiration for their game. Everything from canonical literature, steampunk, ludicrous invention, and even the occult were all used in the game not merely out of the idea of absurdity, but out of an actual historical mindset held in perhaps one of the most long-winded but fascinating literary periods.

Conversations We Should Have: Bioware’s Manveer Heir on Diversity in Video Games

Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

Bioware’s Manveer Heir discusses the importance of diversity in the development of video games.

(Article published on Gameranx.)

When I first started studying and writing about media and games, discussing diversity within the medium never crossed my mind. I was naïve in my idealism—complacent in ignoring the nuanced bread crumbs that would eventually lead to conversations we should all be having. But this changed when I began to attend industry conferences, a change elicited largely thanks to people like Bioware’s Manveer Heir (a designer currently working on the Mass Effect franchise).