August 30, 2006

First impressions of an old foe: Videogaming Fun 101

The layout is fun. Fun. Fun. But I'm left wondering if the book would've cost half the price if the cartoons were left out. Oh never mind. I got it on sale on Half.com.

I guess my first, first impression of A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster was that of disgust. I don't like games post-Mario. I think I got extremely dizzy once when a 3-D game got stuck in "View the Room" mode, swinging me round and round. I don't like game shows, and simulation situations freak me out. Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled about purchasing books about games or their design.

However, I'm warming up to it all. Koster's book is fun to look at, even if I do not find playing games, especially Interactive Fiction with its specific syntax, a pleasureable experience. The cartoons on the right-hand side of each page are enough to keep me reading, and the text of the book is making the foreign a bit more local.

I took a jaunt down memory lane while I was reading up about videogaming. I thought about my experiences with the illusive princess in Mario, and how I pretended like I was playing arcade games, watching the demo, when I'd already spent my allowance on notebook paper and stickers.

Koster left me wondering, however, would saving my money to play the videogame have been a better investment? In fact, in one section of the book, he relates that women may develop spatial relationship skills that become permanent after playing games, thus, perhaps putting women on par with men in that area. I don't know how that could affect me, per se, but it's interesting that a) women do not possess that skill to the extent men do and b) we can learn it--FROM A VIDEOGAME.

Fascinating.

Koster's ongoing dialogue with violence and innate processes is perhaps the most interesting part, though. Cheating and stockpiling are to prepare the player for the uncertain journeys ahead. Life, I guess, but with more ka-booms.

"This is what games are for. They teach us things so that we can minimize risk and know what choices to make. Phrased another way, the destiny of games is to become boring, not to be fun. Those of us who want games to be fun are fighting a losing battle against the human brain because fun is a process and routine is its destination."

So now I know why some of my friends come to class looking ragged: not from staying up working on that paper, but for the indefatiguable search for fun, when it was there all along in each ka-boom and bullet wound.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 2:07 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 19, 2006

Surprises at SHU for me and for you

There was hay everywhere. Seton Hill University seems to have finally gotten in touch with its agricultural side or its refurbishing one. For those who have not returned yet to SHU, you are in for a surprise. Grass growing techniques aside, I was amazed at what I found on campus last night.

  • A new parking lot. There are actual walkways for the pedestrians to stroll upon. Two of them line the main A-Lot--one down the center and another positioned on the hillside above the other parking lots. As a commuter I was almost counting the spots in A-Lot, making sure that we didn't lose any parking, but it doesn't seem that we have. In fact, the lot looks bigger with its straight parking spaces and two-way drives. There are more stop signs across the lot, however, but that, I'm sure is to reduce the chances of pedestrian and car crashes that may result from the changed traffic pattern. What does that mean? The shuttle may take a half an hour, rather than fifteen minutes.
  • New lounges. In Sullivan Hall's old, nasty weight room, I was surprised to find a lounge full of furniture fit for a coffee house. The seating can move, but it is all pieced together like a jigsaw. The effect is pretty groovy, yet with its clean lines, very organized.

    The old commuter lounge in Maura Hall with its huge big screen television has been upgraded very nicely. The big screen with non-functional buttons has been replaced by a widescreen and its own stand with DVD capabilities underneath. The furniture is a la coffeehouse again, but cozy. I know--I watched a movie in there and didn't have to reposition once.

    The billard table has a stained-glass lamp dangling from the ceiling and real cues and racks. The lamps, which are secured to the walls, have ivy draped around them, and there is a gorgeous Victorian-style lamp where the flag mural used to be.

    New computer seating and a new television are featured in the extension of the commuter lounge, along with, for the first time, a remote control on a cord. I noticed more beige commuter lockers in that area, as well.

  • Varnished wood. The entire school looks like it has been polished to a spit shine. You know those ugly outdoor stairs leading into the Canevin/Lowe buildings? They are beautiful wood; I guess we didn't notice underneath all the mud we tracked in.
  • Missing hedges. Those hedges that I always had to walk around when I was dead tired are miraculously gone. Clipper, a hedge-gnawing fairy, finally took mercy on us and they are gone.
  • Televisions in the weight room. I can't say that I have used the weight room in the past year that it has been open, but I'm planning to now. Looking out over Greensburg is only interesting for a while. I would much rather catch up on the news while running or walking on a treadmill. And the Setonian/EC office is so close...
  • The NEW SETONIAN/EYE CONTACT OFFICE. The two-level space is beginning to come together. We have comfortable lounge couches, lamps and end tables thanks to Karissa and her divine mother. Diana and I did a little work last night, putting things in their place and moving some furniture. We just need hooked up, decorated and the staff to come back with their summer-tanned smiling faces and we'll be back to it. :-)

With lighter workload and these improvements to the happening spots at SHU, I am excited about another year back. I never was one for the senioritis bug. Let's just hope when students return, these spaces will remain the eye-catching areas I saw last night--or at least a remnant of them.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 2:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 10, 2006

Consciousness of evil

There are at least four helicopters circling around my town. Since my bed is up against my window panes, the first thing I heard when I opened my eyes was the scary sweep of an aircraft unnaturally close to my head. I really don't know why they are there, but I made some quick and groggy connections.

Oliver Stone's World Trade Center film is coming out today, and after a mad dash to my computer for information on what was happening in the world, I discovered the foiled plot to blow up Britain. America's odd color-code system has been raised to its highest level ever.

I have no idea what the helicopters mean outside my window, but what I did and my train of thought speak of a new consciousness of terror in the United States--that maybe American minds are connected to world political events not only through a gas pump.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 9:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 7, 2006

The stamp of camp

When I was 14, camp was the culmination of two things: a candy fundraiser of half-melted chocolates and gooey gummy worms and a summer of relative boredom. For me, camp held many things in store, including fast rides on the waterslide, a sweet tan on the beach, and a chance to try boating, as per the brochure. This time was no different.

Back then Camp Michindoh and my denomination, Open Bible made every slimy Hershey's bar I slapped into a customer's hand more than worthwhile and exceeded every expectation of summer fun and spiritual revival.

However, since my two trips Michindoh while I was in youth group, I had heard that church camp was going downhill with fewer campers and sad upkeep of the camp grounds. Sadly, before traveling this past week, I mentally prepared myself to reconcile my former memories of a bustling camp of noisy teens to a delapidated set of sheds inhabited by a few ghost children.

After pulling into the camp and seeing its intact and beautiful state under the now-stable new owners, I was uplifted; and hearing that 40 more campers than the previous year were enrolled was even better news.

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When we arrived on Monday the temperature spiked 100 degrees and at night, on my top bunk, around 110. The rayon fabric was about unbearable, but after throwing it off and sleeping on a sheet, I was okay. Thankfully, that was the one hot night the whole trip, but the days were another story.

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The next morning, I savored the first camp breakfast. Though camp food is always held right down there beside hospital and airplane fare, I am astonished at Camp Michindoh's quality for three meals a day all week. Needless to say, there weren't any calls home from Michindoh campers about going hungry.

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The day at camp is structured around worship and ministry services, so after breakfast, a morning service is held with songs and then the group is split in two. One group went with my church's affiliate college: EBC, for improv, skit and testimonial time and the other learned about Master's Commission, a nine-month Peace Corps-like program.

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After that service is lunch and then free time.

During my free time, I was doing this....

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Flying down the waterslide.

And this...
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Flying off the blob. Not shown in the picture is the pier--I jumped off one end, crawled across to the other side, and sat there with my legs bent. When Scott Radford, my church's youth leader jumped off the pier onto the blob, I was catapaulted. What a rush!

I also took part in an indoor volleyball game and a kickball game. Though I was on a winning team that swept the whole competition, I lost in kickball by two runs. Shucks. The camp PR team takes photos and videos of the entire camp experience, and captured me missing the kickball, my leg extended straight out and the ball underneath it. We got some laughs out of that one.

My church's boys got in trouble the third day of camp. They stayed out past the 12:30 curfew and were throwing waterballoons into girls' cabins. They were punished with kitchen duty. Here they are with their bus pans. For shame, gentlemen. :-)

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On Wednesday night, storms rolled in and the waterslide wasn't open for our night period. Though I wanted another chance to beat all the church boys down the waterslide (which I did the following night), the showing of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a great idea. How relaxing after a week of on-the-go action!

My favorite part of the week by far, however, was the last night of services. Everyone spent the entire week having a great time and getting plugged into what God is trying to say without distraction. The final night is a great time to just really listen and worship and that's what we did. We took communion and each counselor prayed over each camper and each camper over each counselor. As an adult, this meant a lot to me, but I can just imagine how special it was for the kids to be viewed as an individual and important to the church and to God.

Coming home is always a downer, but I think I brought home more than dirty tee-shirts and wet swimsuits--I brought back a renewed self in Christ. Time away from the madness of life and fun with friends is a great way to wind up the summer. And I went canoeing, climbed a big hill, swam in the algaefied lake and caught a glimpse of that embarrassing unmentionable...mission accomplished.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 10:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack