Monday, December 17, 2007

Your Moment of Zen

A new Legend of Rock

Instructions: Go to Wikipedia and hit 'random article.' This is the name of your band. Hit it again. This is the name of your album. Do this 15 more times for the names of each track on your album.

Band Name: USS Lady of the Lake
Album Name: Lexicon Universale

Track List:
1. Bosc Pear
2. Penpol
3. Secure Electronic Transaction
4. 17th United States Congress
5. 1884 in Mexico
6. Fairport Harding High School
7. Joins (Concurrency Library)
8. Economic Zones of Russia
9. Sumgait Massacre
10. Stockade
11. Desmond Flower
12. Jackson Township
13. The Simpsons (Season 17)
14. Sutton Palace
15. List of Brightest Stars

I am not really sure what kind of band this would be, but I am 100% positive that their songs are extremely political and full of all kinds of unkind sarcasm and irony.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Superior Storytelling

I am fairly confident that stories have always been humanities #1 form of entertainment, and that is still true. If you look at the stuff we all do for fun most of them involve listening to stories (TV, Movies, Books, some music, theater, etc.) Over the past few months I have become convinced that video games are the single best way to tell a story. Since October I have played four games that completely convinced me of this. All four games took a different approach, but all four games were amazing storytellers. The story was not always one I liked, but I was always left amazed by the way the story was told. What follows is a brief explanation as to what made the story telling of these games great, and if you are a gamer there will be SPOILERS You've been warned.

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Bioshock used the video game device of the silent protagonist. The game is first person, and the character that the player controls never talks. The philosophy behind this is that the player is then the character. Unfortunately, this means that the story develops around the player and does not really include the player in a more powerful way. Bioshock tells a good story because it nails the setting. Bioshock takes place in a failed underwater utopia that was suppose to be the pinnacle of human development, but in a powerful statement the society destroyed itself. The game creates this world in such a way that is believable and more vivid than any book or movie could ever portray. Gameplay wise, the game is very linear. That is, the whole game is designed to get from point A to Point B. The genius of the story though is that it comes up with a deliciously sinister and twisted reason as to why this is the case (at least for the first 2/3 of the game). I won't say what that twist is because that would just be to much of a spoiler.

Call of Duty 4

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I like a good action movie. Usually in action movies the plot takes backseat to explosions, but in good action movies the plot is just as explosive as the effects. Call of Duty 4 is the best "action movie" that I have "watched." Seriously this takes all of the reasons that make movies like The Rock, Blackhawk Down, and other such movies awesome and makes it interactive. Typically first person shooter war games do not tell a true story. They are more or less a disjointed collection of sequential battles. However, COD4 tells a complete narrative, that is a little far fetched to be realistic, but is solid enough that the writers of the game should sell the script to Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay. The strength of this game comes from the first person aspect. Imagine watching Blackhawk Down from the perspective of a single solider (minus the motion sickness that would be caused by a jerky camera), and you begin to get a good idea of how this game plays out.

Assassin's Creed
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In the end, I did not like the story of this game (let's just say if the watchdog groups that freaked out at the claims that the Davinci Code made about Jesus then their head would explode out of rage from what this game claims). However, I did very much appreciate the story telling of the game. The game tells the story a disgraced Medieval Assassin earning his honor back during the third crusade. However, the way the story told is really good because it develops in two different ways at the same time. Technically, the majority of the game set during the Crusade is just a memory, and this is not a medieval action game but a sci-fi game. The premise is that everyone genetically carries their ancestors memories, and a modern day bar tender is abducted because he holds memories that mysterious corporation wants. Thus the majority of the game is leading up to the key memory this corporation wants. As the game progresses in both the memory and the "real world" the story gets deeper and more tangled. Usually in open world action games like this one the game's story usually gets as deep as "kill the bad guys", but the plot of Assassin's Creed is more like something that Dan Brown might write.

Mass Effect

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I fear that I can not put into words just how incredible I think this game is. Well actually, I might. As far as the story and the universe the story takes place in, I consider Mass Effect only second to Star Wars. If you know how big of a fan I am of the Star Wars series, then you will realize just how big of a statement that is. The story telling in this game is amazing, because more than any other game I have played I was the main character. Everyone who plays Mass Effect plays "Commander Shepherd" but everyone's Shepherd is different. The choices you make about who your character is actually affect the narrative. The plot is also really good and straight up Space Opera, again only second to Star Wars. Where Mass Effect succeeded is, just like a great book, it actually made me care for the characters. If you like good stories, then quite simply you need to play Mass Effect.

These four games convinced me that video games are the most superior way to tell stories, because unlike any other form of storytelling the game is experiential. Video games are diverse, and there are tons of mindless racing games, annual sports release, and shallow game all about killing bad guys. However, I hope that more and more good stories become playable.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Itunes (the one and only volume)

It appears that my brother occasionally has a good idea (who knew?). He gave a full briefing (four complete post as a matter of fact) on his Itunes library and habits. Abigail and I share our Ipod, which means the music collection is ridiculously diverse. It might be the only ipod in the world where a song from The Phantom of the Opera could conceivably be followed by an obscure hardcore band. Our complete Ipod music collection is 2,851 songs big. This clocks in at 7.7 days and a sizable 10.27 gigs. Usually when I listen to the Ipod (which I often do when driving back and forth from Seminary) I listen to a playlist I titled "Absolute Favorites". This playlist comes in at 350 Songs, all of which I like so I am always listening to a song I like. Many of the top songs in this list are songs that Abigail also likes, and she has a tendency to listen to the same song over and over and over and over . .. (you get the picture). Anyway, to completely rip off the brilliance of my brother's post I am going to share the top 25 songs from this play list. The number in the parentheses is the playcount.

1. Our Great God-Todd Agnew (44): Abigail bought this song less than a month ago, and she has already listened to it more than any other song we own.

2. Wholly Yours-David Crowder Band (42): I posted a blog about this song a while ago, and it is still my absolute favorite song.

3. You Give Love a Bad Name-Blake Lewis (37): I believe the original of this song was by Bon Jovi (?). However, this version is by Blake Lewis of American Idol fame, and once again the high play count is due to Abigail.

4. My Jesus- Todd Agnew (31): This song was bought the same time as Our Great God, and has not been listened to quite as much. It does have an awesome line though, "My Jesus would not be accepted in my church, the blood and dirt on his feet my stain the carpet."

5. Paint it Black-Gina Clocksen (30): This is also an American Idol remake of a classic, and while it might be music heresy, I like this version more than the original.

6. The Wonderful Cross-Stephen Curtis Chapman (30): A wonderful song that updates a Christian classic.

7. Meant to Live-Switchfoot (29): Not only is this a good rock song, but I like the lyrics a lot too.

8. Undignified-David Crowder Band (29): I believe this list will show that I like David Crowder Band a lot. This is a really fun song.

9. Killer Queen-Queen (28): Classic Rock is more my brother's area than mine, but I do like Queen and this is a good one of theirs (though not my favorite)

10. You are So Good to me- Third Day (28): This is a good worship song, and a bit of a rarity as it focuses on all parts of the Trinity equally.

And here is a round up of the rest: 11. Glory Revealed by Candi Pearson Shelton (27) 12. Here is Our King by David Crowder Band (26) 13. Be Thou My Vision by Lifescapes (26) 14. Grace Like Rain by Todd Agnew (25) 15. Blessed Be Your Name by Tree 63 (25) 16. Halo Theme: Corpomix by Corporeal (24) 17. Mad World by Michael Andrews (24) 18. Sunday Bloody Sunday by Pillar (24) 19. How You Remind Me by Nickleback (23) 20. How Great Thou Art by Charlie Hall (22) 21. Black Horse and the Cherry Tree by KT Tunstall (22) 22. Everything by Pillar (22) 23. Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen (22) 24. Puppet by Thousand Foot Krutch (22) 25. Home by Daughtry (22)