I’m in a glass case of emotion! … and wrapping up DS106…

Before I get into the details, make sure you read the actual story first! Check it out here.

Despite all of the late nights wrapping up work for this course, this final project made it all worth it. To be completely honest, this story isn’t really about Eric. It’s about me. Although I definitely embellished and exaggerated many aspects of the story, I was unquestionably addicted to video games when I was in college. Specifically, I was addicted to Halo. This addiction almost cost me everything. I was indeed staying up until all hours of the night playing Halo, and I definitely skipped the majority of my classes. It was so bad that I withdrew from two classes just so I didn’t get an F. Despite this “strategy,” my freshman year GPA was a dismal .96 (Animal House comes to mind…).

This didn’t change anything, though, as I was academically dismissed from school after the fall semester of my sophomore year. At the time, I honestly didn’t even think about the fact that my love for Halo could have possibly been the cause for my dismissal. I naively believed that I was just having a really hard time adjusting from high school to college. Although I didn’t eschew all of my relationships like Eric did in the story, I definitely went out less (as an adult, this doesn’t sound too bad, but this was college!) and prioritized Halo over my social life. My wakeup call, though, was indeed a text from a good friend. It happened just as I was about to purchase a plane ticket to a Major League Gaming tournament in Orlando. I took a real hard look at myself that night, and this assignment has brought many of those emotions. I’m grateful to be able to tell my story and hope that this in some way helps build some credibility for video game addiction as a recognized and treatable addiction.

Ok, so that was the background—now on to the story itself. I tried really hard to follow Pixar’s 4th rule of storytelling (Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.), but also tried really hard to let the story flow naturally. While the story structure is evident, I tried to find other ways of introducing each section and ways to veer a little off script at times. This was important to me because although a good story follows a structure, it doesn’t necessarily follow it to a tee each and every time. In a good story, there are always twists and turns—that’s what makes it interesting. Although my story may not have had many overt twists or turns, the concept of video game addiction itself is one that is only now starting to gain some credibility in the psychology field. The story itself is the twist.

In terms of media, I wanted to tie the story together by adding a handful of media objects. I first created an image in Photoshop showing the game cover for Halo on Xbox, and overlaid separate images of a game controller and a headset. To make each of the overlaid images stand out a bit more, I added outer glow and drop shadow effects to each of them. I chose yellow and red as my outer glow colors to symbolize the warning signs of video game addiction (think of a traffic light…). Next, I created an audio file using Audacity to simulate the Halo ringtone that Eric made for his cell phone. To do this, I downloaded the Halo theme song and a clip of a dial-up modem. The Halo theme song obviously represented the game, and the modem sound represented the online gaming experience. I cut the clips in Audacity and staggered the time that the modem sound came in to make it come in right when the pace of the theme song started to pick up. Then, I faded out the clips to clean up the endings, and uploaded the final product to SoundCloud.

The next piece of media was a video I created, but I will skip over that for now—I’ll discuss this later. Finally, I created one last image. This was a piece of clipart I found online of the weight of the world being lifted from a character’s shoulders, similar to how Eric felt at the end of the story. I also found a Halo logo on Google Images and used the Magnetic Lasso tool in Photoshop to extract the logo from its black background. I then added an outer glow and drop shadow effect to the logo and laid it all over the globe. I chose a blue outer glow since blue is a very calming color and this was symbolizing a feeling of inner peace and clarity.

Ok, so let’s go back to the video I created. I thought it was important to add some media to the story that truly showed the dark side of video game addiction. While this is NOT me in the video, I am a little ashamed and embarrassed to admit that while in the throes of my video game addiction, I occasionally cursed at the TV. The cursing itself in the video is humorous, but the raw emotion is actually kind of terrifying. In order to create this video, I was actually able to find clip of a kid screaming at his TV while playing Halo. However, I also found a video of people repeatedly dying in Halo (people have way too much time on their hands!), and was able to splice in some of the dying clips to sync up with the kid screaming at the TV. I think overall it paints a pretty powerful picture of video game addiction, and I hope people realize how serious it can actually be.

Whew! That about wraps it up. Since I hate ending on a serious note, here’s a picture that sums up how I feel about having to finish up this course:

nooooooo

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Video games ruined my life. Good thing I have two extra lives.

One hot summer day, Eric, a student at the local state college, decided he needed some new excitement in his life. He had heard a lot of good things from his friends about a new video game for Xbox called Halo, so he decided to go buy it. Eric had been playing video games for years, but he had heard this one was different. This one was a first-person shooter and apparently had some really amazing graphics, but this particular game allowed players to play against each other online. Eric was excited about being able to play against people from around the world, so he drove down to the mall to purchase a copy.

Eric started small, only playing the game a few times a week after he returned from class. His copy of Halo came with a special edition headset and controller that allowed him to communicate and interact with the people he was playing with in ways that in other games was not possible (click the image below to see what they looked like!).

halo poster with controller and headset

But the more Eric continued to play the game, the more he wanted to continue to get better and better. He was a pretty self-motivated person to begin with, and this motivation drove him to try to be the best in anything he did. He began playing with the same people every night; sometimes into the wee hours of the morning. He loved playing Halo so much that he even decided to change his ringtone on his cellphone:

Once Eric started playing Halo into the wee hours of the morning, he started sleeping through his classes. He was too tired to go to class, and even when he woke up, all he wanted to do was play more Halo. Although Eric had historically been a pretty diligent student, Halo started to become more important to him than school. Skipping classes meant he started missing assignments, and as a result, his grades began to suffer. However, Eric didn’t care. He only wanted to get better and better at Halo.

This continued desire to improve at Halo began to wear on Eric’s relationships. He had always been a pretty sociable guy with a large group of friends and a busy social calendar. However, the countless hours of Halo began replacing the parties and get-togethers Eric was accustomed to attending. After a while, Eric’s friends stopped calling because they knew he would rather stay in and play Halo than come and hang out with them. Eric had seemingly made new friends online in Halo, but he didn’t realize how this was affecting his real friendships.

The more Eric played, the more the game wore on his emotions. While he was oblivious to his deteriorating friendships, the lack of sleep combined with his overwhelming desire to improve began to make him very agitated. He started losing his patience easily, and his roommates were often awaken in the middle of the night by him screaming and cursing at the TV. In fact, one roommate even videotaped one such encounter (unbeknownst to Eric):

Please note, this video contains language that may not be appropriate for all viewers……

There was seemingly no hope for Eric to break this detrimental pattern. Eric was playing Halo 15-20 hours a day, failing all of his classes, and was completely estranged from all of his friends. His only friends were people he never met in person, only online. In one of his many online sessions, one of his ‘new friends’ mentioned a big Halo tournament that was happening down in Orlando, FL. They all decided that they would buy plane tickets and pay the registration fee that evening. That night, Eric got on his computer and started searching for plane tickets. He found the perfect ticket and entered his credit card information. As he was about to submit and pay to confirm his reservation, Eric received a text message from an old friend asking him to come to a party that night. He hadn’t talked to this friend in months, but the result of the text was an emotional tidal wave. Eric became self-aware for the first time since that warm summer day when he first bought Halo. He realized that he was addicted to the game, and all of the other things he cared about had suffered dramatically as a result.

Fighting back tears, Eric responded to his friend’s text message. Determined to beat his addiction, Eric asked his friend for help. Within minutes, Eric’s friend knocked on the door and came in to console him. The wakeup call did not cure Eric’s addiction, but it was a step in the right direction. Although it was easy enough to stop playing Halo, the uphill battle that Eric faced as a result of his addiction was far from over. He was still failing his classes, and many of his friends were hurt by how he seemingly stopped caring about them for months on end. However, that same drive and personal motivation that brought Eric down the path to video game addiction helped him get back on his feet. Determined to mend all the bridges he burned, Eric resolved to turn his life around. He went out with his friend for one of the most fun nights of his life, and smiled as he went to bed that night feeling like the weight of the world had finally been lifted off his shoulders.

weight-off-my-shoulders

Storified and Non-Storified Content: Week 6-7

For this week’s storified content, I wanted to start to build on one of the ideas I had previously. I really like what I talked about last week, focusing on video game addiction (If you missed it, check it out here). I want to take this one step further to truly make it a story that I can use for my final project. I think that the true story is not about video game addiction, but of the struggle for the person addicted to video games. I have lived this story myself when I was in college, so it hits very close to home (I was academically dismissed from school as a result–don’t worry, I got back in!). The real story here starts with some recreational video game use. It then progresses into a more competitive environment, leading to the addiction aspect. Certain things suffer in the person’s life as a result of the addiction (i.e. relationships, schoolwork, etc.), and then there is the eventual realization that the addiction is very real and very unhealthy. The person then overcomes the addiction and is a better person as a result. This story definitely has a happy ending, but there are countless struggles and hardships along the way. I think this would be a really good thing to focus on for the final project, and the wheels are already turning for some fun media that I can add to my post 🙂

Musicless Music Video

This was another fun one for me–music videos can be some of the strangest films, even when the actual music is playing. Just like the actual song, a music video is often a piece of art and an artist’s expression in and of itself. That’s why I like this assignment so much. It lets me ruin an artist’s vision and create my own! That sounds awful, but I think it’s a lot of fun to be able to take inspiration from other people and turn it into something new. As you might have expected, I decided to take a comedic approach to this. I chose a very dark and sinister music video (Raining Blood by Slayer), and decided to make it a little lighter. I found a sound effect of a guy laughing in a sinister manner, but he has a cold so it doesn’t end up sounding very sinister. Then, just as the band hits the stage, the Benny Hill theme song comes in. Seeing a heavy metal band headbanging to the Benny Hill theme is definitely something special to behold! To cap it all off, I added in a little girl giggling at the very end because who wouldn’t want to laugh after all that?! Check it out here:

Do The Hitch Cut!

I gave this one a shot because I just think there are endless possibilities. This technique, as Alfred Hitchcock describes, is a way to use editing to change the emotion of a scene. As he describes, the same reaction can appear very differently depending on what you cut to/from. For my example, I found three video clips on YouTube. First, I found a funny clip of a dog on a couch. Then, I found a clip of Jim Carrey and Conan O’Brien laughing. Lastly, I found a clip of a tornado ripping through a suburban backyard. As you can imagine, puppies and tornados generally elicit drastically different reactions. In my mashup, Carrey and O’Brien laugh at the funny dog clip, making them seem like fun-loving people. However, the clip then cuts to the tornado ripping through the backyard and then shows Carrey and O’Brien laughing again, making them appear sadistic and unsympathetic. Check it out here:

Look, Listen, Analyze!

For this blog, I chose to watch a clip from one of my favorite movies–Ocean’s 12 (the first one was better, but I still love this scene!). This particular scene is great because it is a perfect demonstration of why I love these movies so much. The on-screen chemistry between George Clooney and Brad Pitt is comedic gold! Check out the clip here:

So in order to analyze this clip, I first turned the volume all the way down and watched it with no sound. Right off the bat, the room is dark and the person in the frame is shrouded in shadows. There is a sliver of light coming in through the curtained window, implying that the person in the frame was awakened suddenly in the morning. The person picks up the phone and his head drops, implying that he received some bad news. Finally, he switches on a light. The camera then cuts to a shot of a door opening and Brad Pitt standing behind it. The door opening could symbolize that a certain amount of time has passed. You still don’t see the face of the person on the left of the frame, but the implication is that this is the same person who was just awaken suddenly. Finally, the camera cuts to show George Clooney looking confused. There is dialogue between the two, and each time someone speaks, the camera cuts to show them from over the other person’s shoulder. This signifies an exchange of conversation and tries to put the viewer into the scene and give them a “real” perspective. Finally, Pitt invites Clooney into the room and the camera cuts to a small TV. The TV plays for a bit and then the camera cuts to the two guys on the couch drinking wine. In between Pitt and Clooney is a another curtained window with a sliver of light coming through, just like when the scene started. Neither person is looking at one another–they’re just staring straight ahead at the TV. However, there is an implication of a comfortable relationship between the two. They drink their wine simultaneously, exchange a few sporadic comments, but otherwise not much takes place after they sit on that couch.

Next, I only listened to the scene. The first sound is a phone ringing and a person abruptly getting up to answer it. There’s some sighing when the voice on the phone tells him it is time to wake up, signifying that this is an unexpected call. Next, the sound cuts to a knock on a door and a door opening, introducing another character into the scene. There’s an exchange between the two characters and they realize that the wakeup call was actually a trick. The character who opened the door invites the other inside, and it sounds like a TV show or movie is playing in the background. This sound continues throughout the rest of the scene, almost like it is a necessary distraction to the conversation. Additionally, once the TV starts playing, the conversation begins to die down with very few words exchanged between the two characters. Finally, one of the characters makes a comment about what’s on the TV and music immediately starts playing, signifying the end of the scene.

Lastly, I watched the scene as intended–with audio and video. This is why the scene is one of my favorites–the chemistry between the two is so good, so comfortable, and so funny. It is like the two are so comfortable with one another that once they sit on the couch, they are effectively having two separate conversations but it isn’t weird at all. Brad Pitt is talking about his problems and George Clooney doesn’t even address them when he finally speaks, but there is an implication that their friendship runs so deep that it doesn’t matter. Pitt is also in a bathrobe, implying that the two are just very comfortable around one another. The relationship is effortless, and this is why the interactions are so good.

Reading Movies

When I was in college, I took a couple film classes. While I enjoy occasionally going to the movies, I certainly never considered myself a film buff. I enjoy the action, the comedy, the emotions of film, but I didn’t realize how little I appreciated those things until I took those classes. Learning how to look at a film from a director’s eyes lends itself to an unbelievable viewing perspective. You start to realize that there isn’t a single object inside the frame that is just there “randomly.” Everything has a purpose, everything means something. So I was excited to get back into this with this blog assignment.

As I read through How to read a movie by Roger Ebert, I was reminded of the hours I spent in class going through some of the classic films from the last century. I also watched videos about two of my favorite directors–Quentin Tarantino and Alfred Hitchcock. Tarantino’s use of low angle shots almost always stays true to Ebert’s suggestion that the person being shown exhibits dominance or importance. Truthfully, though, I was much more interested in the Hitchcock video. In the video, he suggests that film editing, and cuts in particular, can have a powerful impact on the way the viewer perceives a scene. As he says, the same smile can be sweet when the guy is looking at a mom and her baby, but infinitely more creepy when looking at a girl in a bikini.

This implies that a director should always use cuts to his or her advantage. However, this doesn’t mean using an obscene number of cuts in every film. My absolute favorite Hitchcock movie is Rope, in which Hitchcock only used 10 cuts in the entire film. This makes each cut so much more impactful, so much more meaningful. To anyone interested in film editing and composition, I highly recommend watching Rope (or any Hitchcock move, for that matter!).

A blog by a cool guy writing about cool things.