A Friend’s Rant About Schooling

I actually had a decent experience with the school system in my state. When it comes to Texas, however, I have often commented on how some of the practices and policies put into place are ridiculous. A few days ago, a friend of mine shared some reflections with me that I thought were interesting. I should note that I don’t agree with her proposal of “voluntary schooling”. However, I do agree that everyone should be held accountable for their schooling, that some kids should be “left behind” for as long as it takes for them to “get it”, and that the school system should implement real (that is, not politically, ideologically, or economically driven) reforms. At any rate, here is my friend’s comment (name erased to preserve her privacy).

I often times think back on the way I approached high school versus the way I approached college, and it was something like this: high school didn’t mean anything, so I didn’t try at all; college meant everything, so I gave it my all. In high school, I made Bs and Cs in Calculus. In college, I had the highest grade in my calculus class (over 100). In high school, I barely popped open a book. At A&M, I graduated summa cum laude. At UTA, I had a 4.0. Why the difference? Because high school did not feel like a place to learn. High school often felt like it was a joke. That there was cushion along the way to make everything fine and nice and wonderful, and it didn’t matter. Didn’t really matter at all.

I often think the thing that might have helped me most is for a teacher to sit down with me and admit the farce. For someone to say, “You’re right. The academic system here is a joke. None of the students take anything seriously. There is no hard core learning to be done. The teachers are spread thin and underpaid. It’s all hanging together via band-aids. But, you can nevertheless work within the ridiculousness. Now that we have admitted that it’s ridiculous, let’s move beyond that and get some practice in for when it’s not one big joke.” Someone admitting reality would have helped me.

And, frankly, it was not a single teacher’s fault. They seemed as helpless as the students in terms of the core of the problem.

What do I think the core of the problem is? Education should be free, but not mandatory. If it’s mandatory, and passing students on to the next level is encouraged if not pressured, then students are not there out of their own desire. They are there for the system’s desire. It reeks of being contrived. And what it needs is to be real. What there needs to be is real-world pressure. And pressure can only really be applied if a school could take or leave a student.

If a system allows kids to stay in high school who take education to mean nothing, I have no respect for that system, and there is no obvious reason for me to put forth effort within that system. High school should be as difficult as college and completely voluntary. You go there because you want to. You stay there because you are actually accomplishing something, not coasting. It’s the atmosphere that’s the problem.

That being said, I had fun in high school. I may not have found a reason to care about it, but it was fun. So, maybe that’s something – having four years of your life to devote to having a good time before the next four are devoted to actual work and self-improvement.


Gender Equality through Progression Mechanics – An Analysis of Final Fantasy II’s Progression System

FFII_PSP_LogoBuilding on the traditional JRPG elements found in the first Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II gave readers a more detailed narrative, characters with a purpose beyond that of rescuing crystals and saving the world, and elaborate and complex progression mechanics. Released on 1988, the narrative of Final Fantasy II begins as the three main characters, Firion, Maria, and Guy, are in the company of the temporary character Leon and are attacked by knights of a rival kingdom and left for dead. The three main characters, Firion, Maria, and Guy, are rescued by the Princess of Fynn, Hilda, who is at that point in the narrative serving as the leader of a rebel base in the town of Alatair. the three main characters ask Hilda to join her army of rebels, but she declines, as the characters are too inexperienced. The three characters then set off on a quest to attempt to rescue Leon.

Each of the three main characters have a core motivation that spurs them on their quest. Firion, a friend of Maria and Leon, is driven by the desire to seek out revenge. He hopes to destroy the empire in hopes of avenging his fallen family. Maria, Firion and Guy’s childhood friend, is the female lead of the game. Her motivation to embark on a quest involve an attempt to rescue her brother Leon who disappears during the opening sequence of the game. The third main character, Guy, doesn’t have much of a historical background. All that the player knows is that he is a friend to Firion and Maria, and that he has an ability to speak to animals.

Final_Fantasy_II_partyIt would be simple to state that there is no evidence in the narrative or in the design of the characters that shows objectification of the characters. Indeed, the design of the characters – both the in-game sprites as well as the game art – treats both genders fairly. However, it seems to me more prudent and exponentially more fruitful to turn our gaze towards the integral elements that make a video game a “game” – its mechanics. In order to fully understand what Final Fantasy II suggests about women, it would be prudent to see how the game mechanics affect character progress throughout the game. We will, then, use the approach advocated by Ian Bogost in Persuasive Games (2006), where he suggests that to find out how a video game makes arguments, the player should consider game mechanics and how they act in relation to the message being explored.

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This is Not the Last Console Generation; Nintendo Should Not Go Mobile

This post was originally published in Gamasutra, but at the recommendation of a friend I have decided to re-post here.

what-does-2013s-ces-mean-future-video-gamesThere are recent prognostications  by industry analysts arguing that video games as we know them are on a lifeline and that the current generation of hardware is the last gaming generation. Their predictions are often accompanied with grandiose statements about how the future of gaming will be found in the mobile market. This most recent round of doom-saying is spurred by Michael Pachter’s recent comments in a Cloud Gaming USA, where he argued that because the most recent Call of Duty only has 25 million players while Candy Crush Saga has 350 million, video game publishers should go into the mobile market and disregard console gaming, as “there won’t be a next cycle” [of video game consoles]. Analysts and game journalists alike further argue that another reason that will precipitate the death of the console are the alleged low sales numbers. Buzzwords like “low adoption rate” and “small user base” seem to flood publications. Last time that someone made this argument, I offered a counter-point using available data. This time, I will use a comparative approach to show that based on the current sales numbers, the gaming industry as a whole is just as healthy as it was at this point in previous cycles.

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Insert Coin to Continue: An Argument Against the “All Games Will Inevitably Go Mobile” Predictions

This post was originally published at Gamasutra on October 25th, 2013. At the recommendations of a friend, I have decided to re-post it over here in my own page.

what-does-2013s-ces-mean-future-video-gamesThere have been a few articles recently predicting the doom of the game industry because of statistical analyses. Of these, the more commonly known pieces are ‘Game Over’ and ‘Third to a Billion’, both published at ASYMCO  by Horace Dediu. Through his analyses, he concludes that the videogame industry is dying. This is, of course, not a novel or revolutionary claim to make. Whether the culprits are poor design choices, rehashed title lineups, or a flood of boring games coupled with gamers getting old, many commentators [some more eloquent and well versed than others] seem to agree that, in one way or another, “games are dying”. Andrew Groen at Penny Arcade argues that the industry is not dying, that it’s simply changing. In his piece, he talks about how slower growth does not mean death, and I agree. He also makes the argument that gaming is shifting to a more mobile-friendly market and refining itself to do away with high-priced AA titles and turn them instead into AAA experiences. Others still hope that the industry will shift from a console-centric market to a PC-centric one through Steam and their peripherals. All of these arguments have merit and they address Dediu’s charts presented in his ‘Third to a Billion’ piece on how android devices are dominating sales charts over traditional consoles. This is of no surprise, really. Videogame consoles are released on an 8 to 10 year cycle and are fairly task-specific. A Nintendo Wii, for example, only plays Wii games, and the term “Nintendo Wii” refers to only one piece of hardware: the Nintendo Wii. An “Android Device”, however, is far more than just “one thing”. My phone, which I update every five or so years,  is an android device. My sister’s phone, which she updates every other month, it seems, is an Android device. The HTC One, the LG Optimus, the Motorola Droid, and the Samsung Galaxy are all “Android Devices”. Furthermore, the Galaxy Tab, the Barns and Noble Nook, the Kindle Fire, the Google Nexus, and the Asus Transformer are all “Android devices”. Heck, even some car PCs, such as the BMW E46 Android CarPC, are “android devices”. And so, it’s no surprise that when Dediu juxtaposes game console adoption rates to the adoption rates of “Android devices”, more commonly known as ‘smartphones and tablets’, that the artifact that is considered a necessity in our culture – one that many people buy a new one every year – would have the superior numbers. Smartphones and tablets are, after all, multipurpose devices that double as gaming platforms and not gaming platforms into themselves. Still, deceptive as his implications may be, his analysis and overall assertion that “Android devices”  sell more than game consoles is undeniable, and I have no contention with it.

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