Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Brief (personal) History of Gaming

I graduated about 4 months with a B.S. in Game Design. It has been an interesting road and I have learned a lot along the way, but I constantly felt that I was behind. Yes, I did grow up on games, but not really on video games that much except the ones I played on the Commodore 64. Up until I was in middle school, the only times I played console games was when my mom made my brother let me tag along to his friends’ house. They set me in front of the TV and stuck the controller in my hand and went off to do their own stuff and I was making Sonic roll across the screen so I wasn't too worried.

Mostly I played board, card, and word games and there are always strong memories associated with games. My mom is so sweet almost all the time and everyone sees her as being so sweet and mild. They have never played a game of Monopoly, Risk, or Scrabble with her. She is ruthless. She is a merciless goddess on the board game battlefield. 

And. She. Is. Glorious.
My mom has a scorched Earth policy when playing games (Source)

My strategy when I was younger playing Risk with my family was to pit my brother and dad against my mom. It was relatively easy since I was the youngest and not seen as a threat, but it never worked out quite how I planned. She slaughtered them and they only whittled her down a little but not nearly enough.
This is what one of our games might end up looking. I'm the blue. She ran out of pawns.

 As I got older I got better, and a lot of this can be attributed to my mom and the lessons I learned playing against her. Another skill I honed from playing with my mom was a certain level of stubbornness that keeps me trying even though the odds aren’t good.

While I have a lot of good memories associated with games, I also have some painful ones. I have sprained my arm three times during playground and other made-up games, bruised my hand playing the crocodile game, and managed to get tendonitis due to overplaying video games. To this day I still have an aversion to chess and checkers because my brother taught me checkers with a baseball bat. But even with all that, I still love games because even sometimes an injury is a time to take comfort in playing games. As my dad and I sat waiting tor one of the many times I had to get an x-ray, we played Octo. I made up the name because I can’t remember if we ever had a name for it. In  Octo, you build words of a part of speech such as the prefix oct-. It takes no paper, no score, just a spoken game where you imagine the results. To this day I still remember waiting to be called in and, even though pain was shooting through my arm, I was laughing at the thought on an octopan, a pan with eight handles.

Two things happened when I was in middle school: my grandma’s neighbor had a granddaughter around my age and she had an SNES and my brother got an SNES. I loved playing with my brother, but it never lasted long. I am 5 years younger than him and each year apart, seems to increase the annoyance factor exponentially. We’d play until my constantly moving with Mario annoyed him enough and I was kicked out. It was always a lot easier with my friend; she really didn’t care if I leaned when jumping a chasm. One day she got Zombies Ate My Neighbors (ZAMN) and that is when I fell in love.
ZAMN was the first game I remember playing that was truly co-op. We didn’t have to wait for one person to get through their turn or die; we could both play at the same time. It was also one of the first console games that I have played where one of could play as a regular girl. It may not seem like a huge deal and a lot of people see it as a feminist thing, but it is so much simpler than that. We want our PC to be an extension of ourselves and we want to be able to identify with it. It’s the same thing when you play Monopoly and fights break out over who gets what token. All Hell breaks loose if someone has to be the iron. While ZAMN had its flaws such as too many weapons to scroll through and a level that can act as a stop point but even with these flaws, it has my heart completely.

My first love
When I got into high school, my brother went into the Army and left me his SNES. It wasn’t until later that I got my own copy of ZAMN. The SNES moved around with me and for my 22nd birthday, I finally got my wish. My parents asked me what I wanted and the only thing that I could think of was a copy of ZAMN. My parents took me to Corvette Diner right after my play and presented me with ZAMN and a couple of Scooby Doo birthday cards. It was the absolute most perfect birthday.

This game remains my most played SNES game and is the game residing in the console as I write this. It continues to influence and inspire me. Whenever I find I doubt myself or question if I chose the right field of study, I start playing. I remember that even when I die, I get a little further each time. I may never have gotten through the whole game, but I never give up. I play and all the connections from my past bubble to the surface sparkling and I am renewed.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Recipe For a Great Cook

I’ve had many people tell they can’t cook. I’m not the best cook, but I know how to cook and for my tastes, I consider myself a good cook. I was very fortunate – I had three people who taught me how to cook. These three people were my grandma, my dad, and my grandma Lee’s neighbor, The Major.

I'm here to help (Source)

Many people will go on about ingredients, temperatures, recipes, and preparation techniques being the most important things about cooking. Some overly sentimental people will tell you the most important thing is the love you put into the food. While those are all important (though the jury is still out on the love thing), they aren’t the most important. You can have all of those things and still mess it up if you are lacking the most important aspects of cooking:

1.     Patience
2.     Imagination
3.     Bravery

Full Disclosure: This did happen once...(Source)

My grandma embodied patience. She taught me how to wait. When to check on things and when to leave them alone and let them cook. She taught me to take the time to prepare the ingredients from a meal properly. She taught me stirring and letting things cook to savory perfection. Patience is the hardest for me to learn and I still struggle with it today; this is why I am only a good cook and not a great cook. But patience is the difference between having a moist and flavorful chicken breast as opposed to a dry and tasteless thing.

My father exudes imagination in everything he does, and cooking is no different. My dad is always ready to try a new recipe or just throw things together and see what happens. Not everything turns out perfect, but some things do and if there were no experimentation, we would miss out on those great dishes.

The Major wasn’t called The Major for nothing. He had been in the military and I never knew his real name, he was always introduced as The Major. He only taught me one dish, orange chicken, but the lesson in bravery may have been even more important than the dish itself. It was an instance and that one instance has stuck with me ever since. We needed some eggs and he taught me to crack the egg and empty its contents with one hand. My first egg fell on the floor. He didn’t get mad about the mess, we just cleaned it up and I tried again and this time I got it in the bowl.  Such a single, simple moment, but it taught me not to be afraid in the kitchen. Being careful is important, but not being afraid of messes, sharp objects, open flames, and errors is also important.

Be Patient: They’ll be done when they’re done.
Be Imaginative: Feel free to experiment and create new combinations.
Be Brave: Don’t be afraid of failing, just clean up and try again.
This took all day to make, the recipe for the
potatoes is my own design, and it was delicious