The gaming community has expanded dramatically in the past 30 years. With smart phones, IPads, and flash gaming websites, nearly everyone is a gamer and nearly everyone is connected. Angry Birds, Words with Friends, and Draw Something are games just as much as Diablo 3, Modern Warfare, and Pokémon. Such games allow this community to play together and communicate with one another on a completely different level (pun intentional).
So if nearly everyone is technically a gamer, we ought to revisit the ancient question: What makes a game great?
This question of quality is more relevant than ever because games are taking up more and more of our time. I can recall at least five instances when some of my colleagues were playing some sort of game on their phone during a meeting. I can recall at least one friend playing a game on her phone while speaking to her date. And I’m sure we can all imagine a few students playing some game on their phone during class. We might as well be playing something worthwhile if we are going to spend so much time engaged to an LCD screen.
Whom you ask this question of quality to often determines the answer you receive. The basic idea being that the “awesomeness” of the video game is in the eye of the gamer; that the only thing that matters is that you become involved and hold discourse with it.
I disagree with this mindset.
I’m not satisfied with an answer that makes every game worthwhile. On that system, you could argue that every form of entertainment is just as valid as the next. You can say that dog fighting is just as valid as political debate, or that watching The Kardashians is just as good as someone listening to This American Life; that reading Twilight is just as good as attending a rendition of Romeo and Juliet. Now you might be tempted to call me out on this false analogy; that my examples are not the same thing as games, that some of my examples involve real people doing things that could be considered hurtful to themselves or others, but that’s just the point: Bad games can hurt you.
Bad games can hurt you because what we do for fun leaves a mark on what we become. And when our characters essentially determine our fate, then we ought to be careful how we choose to entertain ourselves.
So back to the question…
I argue that great games have a special kind of difficulty; difficulty not by poor design or bad controls, but difficulty in terms of achieving a connection between gamer and game. At some point that game has to hook you beyond the graphics and beyond the novelty of the premise; at some point that game has to challenge you intellectually and force reflection on your perspective; at some point that game has to compel you to reassess your idea at what it all means and reassess how you provide what it wants from you. At some point you have to improve as a person in a meaningful and ethical way. The game cannot simply cater to the urge of escapism or avoidance; it has to make you confront your own humanity.
So that’s it. I have no real examples that I can give you that wouldn’t be outdated. I simply urge you to look at what you are playing on your phone, pc, console, or whatever other electronic device you are currently talking to and ask yourself briefly, “What’s this game really doing for me?” Because if the answer isn’t pleasant, then you might as well put it down and talk to the person you’re with.
And yes, this is a satire.
On Wednesday, May 16th, hundreds of elementary, middle, and high school students from schools all over the Newport Mesa Unified School District poured into the CMHS large Gym, each clutching a different musical instrument and wearing uniforms that separated them from the others. As each student found his or her respective seat among the masses, they settled down and placed their sheet music upon a medley of music stands, each bearing a different school’s name. While the students were different, the sheets of paper each held were the same.
This gathering of musically-driven students was the annual District Instrumental Festival, which has been held at CMHS for the past 5 years. At this festival, coordinated by Scott Fitzpatrick, members of instrumental groups from all over NMUSD come together and play songs as one, unified group. With help from Mrs. Gilboe, director of the CMHS bands, and student volunteer Kayla Javier, the gym became a meeting place for all of these students with one passion: creating beautiful music.
The event started with a farewell to a retiring teacher and a recognition to a woman who has contributed thousands of dollars to the music program through a kayaking fundraiser. The elementary school bands played the first selection of the night, “Rainbow Connection,” conducted by TeWinkle band director Mr. McFadden, and then followed up with “Louie Louie,” conducted by Davis band director Mr. Shiskovsky. Next, the middle school bands played “Engines of Resistance,” conducted by Estancia director Mrs. Sato. This was followed up by a performance of several folk songs by the combined string groups, conducted by Kaiser music teacher Mrs. Seidman. The various violins, violas, and other string instruments were supplemented by singing. Next, Corona del Mar director Mr. Jamora conducted the high school bands in “The Great Locomotive Chase.” Finally, all the groups except for the strings combined to play “Liberty Eagle March,” conducted by Mrs. Gilboe.
Overall, the night was a great success thanks to parent and teacher volunteers, the hard work and collaboration of music teachers across the school district, and the effort and planning of student favorite Mr. Fitzpatrick. The Festival was an excellent showcase of the talented and vital instrumental programs here in the district.
“I think it is a great event for the NMUSD community. Music should be about growth and collaboration, which the evening definitely is. I think it is great that it is open for the whole community. I think it is great to see the growth from elementary - high school. I think it can be inspiring for the younger musicians in particular. It is also fun to collaborate with other schools/musicians and directors. I love the idea of the big mass band finale as well!” said Mrs. Gilboe.
In The Avengers, Nick Fury, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent brings together a group of superheroes to protect Earth from the destruction of Loki and his army. Loki is the brother of Thor who is a God from another planet.
Mr. Poveda, as you can tell by his superhero-themed classroom, loves comic books and superhero movies. He said that the Avengers is, “One of the best movies I’ve ever seen.”
When it comes to superhero movies, The Avengers is by far one of the most successful. The first weekend it was released it grossed over $200 million, which is $30.8 million more than the last Harry Potter movie made in its opening weekend.
The Avengers movie was great, but what few people think about was the comics that came before them. Most of us think back to each characters individual movie before we think of the comic book.
“The main difference between the Avengers the comics and the movies is [in] the Avengers there’s Giant Man and The Wasp and they didn’t have them in the movie,” said Johnny Magnusen, an avid comic book reader. In the movie they replaced Giant Man and The Wasp with Hawkeye and Black Widow.
However Mr. Poveda did say that he thinks they brought in Hawkeye and Black Widow “because they’re the only two that don’t have any powers. They’re the ones that it’s their raw skill. I think they brought them in as more of the human element of raw skill, talent, and hard work.”
I went into this movie expecting Black Widow, played by Scarlet Johansson, to be the sex appeal to draw boys in, but her role was much larger than that.
Mr. Poveda said, “I think the way it's advertised and the way people see it, she was definitely advertised for her to be the sex appeal role but when you actually watch the movie you realize that there’s a really important role for her. And it’s not at the end; it’s in the middle where she rescues Hawkeye and figures out Loki’s plan.”
One of the major distractions in this movie is the way that they portrayed the size of the Hulk and Thor. At some parts, Hulk was only a bit bigger than Thor, but that at other parts Hulk was three or four times the size of Thor. There is a scene where Thor and Loki battle and they seem to be the same size and then a few minutes later, Hulk goes in and throws Loki around like he’s the size of a baby doll.
Besides a few little things here and there, the movie was a good movie. It holds your attention, it is funny, it has a unique storyline, and the characters are more than just black and white. The producers took the time to work in some character development between the action scenes. And all the battles seem somewhat realistic in that the graphics are well done.
Mr. Poveda said, “In terms of the movie I think if you compare it to any of the other comic book movies/superhero movies what distinguishes it above the rest is storyline, very very good storyline, and you’re never bored. Other movies there’s always a time of where they’re trying to get background in so you can learn a little bit about the characters, this is a movie where there is none of that… You’re not bored. Which is why I think I liked it so much because even in Avatar and Harry Potter there was always some downtime in those movies and in this movie it kept going the whole time, and it wasn’t even action, it was dialogue.”
Pictures by Kyle Picco.
Costa Mesa's Choir Department had a concert, "Mad about Mozart" featuring one of the most famous composers in the history of music, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The performance took place in the lyceum and showcased the history of Mozart’s through a projection which relayed personal background on Mozart every time the choir finished singing a song.
Much of the music that was sung by the choir gave off a very dramatic effect and served to gather the attention of everyone in the lyceum. While at times the voices of the choir were loud and booming with strength, there were parts when the soothing side kicked in and was filled with a calm and melodious tone. The music definitely gave off a strong vibe that was meant to draw the audience in and captivate them with this historical music.
Listening to the classical symphonies sung by the choir, the harmony makes the listener long for more. In contrast to the music of today, these pieces provided a portal to a whole new world for those who had yet to experience the original works of Mozart. In general, the concert was well played and a great success, for although the choir was performing a piece from the 17th century, they never failed to satisfy.
There were a number of highlights in the concert. First is the soprano solo by Hayley Smith in Laudate Dominum, which I thought was quite remarkable considering the high vocal range needed to sing the solo part. Also notable was the professional instrumental that Jerry Wilhoit, Frances Johnston, and Linda White provided for the choir and everyone to hear. While Wilhoit and Johnston wowed the gathered with their expertise on the piano, Linda White showed wonderful skill in playing the flute and percussion. The only critique I have is that I felt that the boys in the choir should have been slightly deeper for the work to be perfect, but all in all the concert was quite enjoyable.
This was a very good concert and was worth watching as I listened to the combination of high and deep tones come together resulting in a remarkable chorus that attracted my attention and kept me listening.
On Wednesday, April 25th, the Lyceum stage was dominated by a mix of black shirted middle school students and Renaissance era people, wielding instruments from the clarinet to the electric bass. This unusual spectacle was the CMHS Band program’s annual Bravo concert. Every year, the students from the Intermediate and Advanced bands gather to play a variety of songs based around a certain theme. This year, that theme was the Renaissance, reflected in the period costumes worn by the Advanced Band.
Beginning with a trumpet fanfare played by Advanced Band members Chris Henrriquez, Paul Tran, Jesus Flores, and Everett Brown, the masters of ceremonies Kyanna Truong, Edwin Quevedo, Loralee Sepsey, and Melanie Kisler descended the aisles of the Lyceum and introduced the concert.
Beginning with the Intermediate Band playing “3 Renaissance Dances,” Mrs. Gilboe vigorously conducted while the large group of middle schoolers showed off the skills they had acquired from years past. After the second Intermediate Band song, “Sword Dance,” the masters of ceremonies invited Mr. and Mrs. Piatti to the front, two Advanced Band parents instrumental in running the Band program’s fundraising activities, including competitions, fireworks stands, and candy sales.
After they were “knighted” by Edwin Quevedo and gave their respective speeches, the Advanced Band appeared on stage to perform their portion of the concert. Dressed in everything from puffy velour pants and feathered hats to Romeo and Juliet-esque dresses, they began with the stately processional “Earl of Oxford’s March.” After this was the greatly contrasting “Music of the English Renaissance,” which featured a sad, depressing march and a lively folk song. Closing up the Advanced Band’s portion was the classical “Themes from Romeo and Juliet.” Due to the 2011-2012 Marching Band field show’s basis in the classic Shakespearean story, Mrs. Gilboe felt that it was an appropriate close to their season.
At the end of the concert, the Intermediate Band joined their older counterparts to play the closing number, “Knights of Destiny.” Greeting by a rising crescendo of applause to match the music played by the musicians that night, Bravo was a successful concert and a great showcase of CMHS’s instrumental talent.
a music sharing and blogging website recently posted their April Math Awareness Month participation through the reviewing of several hip hop songs that talk about math in unique ways. With albums like ABC by the Jackson Five becoming so popular it isn’t too much of a surprise that numerical lyrics would be the next big thing These tracks however have much more significant and influential lyrics then that of little Michael Jackson’s “You went to school
to learn, girl Things you never, never knew before I before E except after C And why two plus two makes four Now, now, now I'm gonna teach you Teach you, teach you All about love, dear, all about love Sit yourself down, take a seat All you gotta do is repeat after me A B C, easy as one, two, three. Are simple as do re mi A B C, one, two, three, baby, you and me girl.” These lyrics however take math to a whole other level, relating numbers and mathematical equations with drugs, society, biology, relationships and of course the ever-present in the hip hop/rap game, a bit of beef.
The list of ten artists most appealing to me included Beyonce’s Countdown, Jay-Z’s Takeover, and the classic tracks Mathematics by Mos Def, The Magic Number by De la Soul, and 1,2, Here’ What we Gon’ do with KRS One, RZA and True Master ripping up the rhyme. Of course I have to show some love for The Firm’s Affirmative Action and Talib Kweli and Dilated People’s Live on Stage due to their continually great lyricism and fast paced beats that blend beautifully. In the words of BOOMBOX site, “A clever play on words and the right flow can make any equation sound like a hip-hop quotable.” “The Magic Number” by De la Soul
is just like any other lighthearted, fun and eclectic track only the focus is on the power of the three. The fact is, it is hard to defeat the group of the three De la Soul members, Maseo (Vincent Mason), Posdnous (Kelvin Mercer), and Dave (David Jude Jolicoeur
). "Three forms the soul to a positive sum/ Dance to this fix and flex every muscle/ Space can be filled if you rise like my lumber/ Advance to the tune but don't do the hustle/ Shake, rattle, roll to my magic number/ Now you may try to subtract it/ But it just won't go away/ Three times one? What is it? One, two, three/ And that's the magic number.” The lyrics though simple and easily flowing aren’t like most recent songs that over focus on the rhyme and forget that true lyricism isn’t all about the words rhyming with each other every other verse.
“Countdown” by Beyonce although is a recently released song is very sweet and less provocative than many other lyrics. She not only discusses her love for her husband Jay-Z but displays her feelings of happiness and gratefulness for having a new family of three. “My baby is a 10/ We dressing to the nine/ He pick me up, we eight/ Make me feel so lucky seven/ He kiss me in his six/ We be making love in five/ Still the one I do this four/ I'm trying to make us three/ From that two/ He still the one. ” The fun beat and old school type video along with her display of affection make this a great use of math and numbers to sum it all up.
The last song I feel deserves mentioning is definitely not in the negative sum of the total respect deserved for this mathematical list. “Mathematics”, by Mos Def
displays his talent for being able to talk about and reflect on things that many are a part of but do not know how to communicate. Def effortlessly talks about social ills while keeping with the theme of the track. “Yo, it's one universal law but two sides to every story/ Three strikes and you be in for life, mandatory/ Four MC's murdered in the last four years/ I ain't tryin' to be the fifth one, the millennium is here/ Yo, it's 6 million ways to die, from the seven deadly thrills/ Eight-year-olds gettin' found with 9 mills/ It's 10PM, where your seeds at? What's the deal.”This line from the extremely well written and performed track isn’t as much of an equation or reference to geometry as it is a simple countdown in which he describes the negatives of ghetto life and his avoidance of being consumed by the fame he has received over the years through his rap career.
All in all the use of equations, geometric note and just plain numbers to discuss things far more complex than one plus one equals two makes these artists that much further from today’s artists that can only repeat what has already been said and continue to make it even more cliché.