Category Archives: Design

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.




This was a really interesting exercise! I love photography–I even had a darkroom setup in my parents basement in high school. I took a few pictures earlier this evening to try out some of the techniques we learned about this week. The first technique I experimented with was from @AnnyCow. The technique she described was to “plan your photos.” My fiancee and I have an English bulldog, and I know that she sits at the front door to our apartment any time one of us leaves. So I had my fiancee step outside for a second and came up with this gem:

photo 3

The next technique I tried is forced perspective, from the slideshare by Darren Kuropatwa. I got the idea from an accidental photo I took of a buddy years ago on July 4th:


I don’t think I matched the goofiness with the one I took this evening, I think our dog eating my fiancee’s toe is pretty funny as well:

photo 2

Last but not least, I tried a variation on the “looking thru the lens” technique, posted here by Alan Levine. I set up three iPhones, with the ones in front and in the back both with their cameras on. I ended up getting kind of a cool purple reflection effect on the blank screen of the middle phone. Check it out:

photo 1

I tried to get creative with things I had readily accessible at home, so hopefully you all like what I’ve done!

Shapes of Stories

As I watched Kurt Vonnegut talking about the shapes of stories, all I could think of was my favorite TV series of all time: South Park. Almost all South Park episodes are broken up into three separate acts and/or plots; all of which converging at the end to create a comedic masterpiece. While it is literally impossible for me to pick my favorite South Park episode, the first one I thought of was “Hell On Earth 2006.” In this the first act of this episode, Satan wants to throw himself a “super sweet sixteen”-style Halloween party. He is super excited about it so at the beginning of the episode, everything is great. He wants to surprise everyone with a Ferrari-shaped cake, and enlists the help of Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy to go retrieve it from the baker. This, however, is where everything starts to go downhill. The three serial killers are portrayed as parodies of the Three Stooges, messing up left and right, and end up not getting the cake. As a result, Satan is stuck with an Acura cake, rather than a Ferrari cake. In the second act, Satan has said he will not invite members of the Church clergy so the Church tries to think of ways to either get in to the party or to sabotage it. In the final act, the kids of South Park accidentally summon Biggie Smalls in an homage to Beetlejuice (saying his name three times in a row). In the chart below, you can see the progression of the story. It starts off great, since Satan is excited about the party. Then, however, everything goes downhill. The squiggly lines at the bottom show all three storylines struggling, but by the end of the episode, Satan realizes he is being too childish and lets everyone in to the party. Thus, the story ends happily.

kv_south park

As far as one of the rules Pixar uses, I think number 13 always applies to South Park. The rule states:

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

In “Hell On Earth 2006,” Satan is really good at being a diva. He has an opinion on literally everything, and when things don’t go his way, he freaks out like a teenager. Similarly, all other main characters have strong opinions.

When it comes to a story spine, South Park also fits in nicely. For example:

Once upon a time, Satan wanted to throw an enormous Halloween party.

Every day, he thought of more and more ideas for the party, enlististing three serial killers to help him gather supplies.

But one day, Satan realized the three serial killers were incompetent and could not complete their assigned tasks.

Because of that, he became upset and turned into a diva teenager.

Because of that, he disinvited members of the churge clergy from the party.

Because of that, members of the church clergy plotted to sabotage the party.

Until finally, Satan realized that his party should be open to all people.

And ever since then, he was loved by all threw the best Halloween party ever.