I love Jane McGonigal's creativity in finding ways to reinvent gaming. She is clearly an intensely creative designer with an eye on the bigger pictureI love Jane McGonigal's creativity in finding ways to reinvent gaming. She is clearly an intensely creative designer with an eye on the bigger picture of what games might be able to help the human race accomplish.
That said, I felt the potential was being overstated through a glossing over of details. Here's my favorite example (and this is a paraphrasing):
According to a book called Outliers, people who are absolutely brilliant at something have invested roughly 10,000 hours in developing the skill by the time they are 21. Since the 80's, 21-year-olds have on average spent 10,000 hours playing video games. Therefore, many people are brilliant at the skills taught by video games.
Video games, among other things, teach cooperation and collaboration. Therefore, we have tons of people who are absolutely brilliant at collaboration. These people can use their powers of collaboration to save the world if given the right context for doing so.
Here's the problem I'm seeing in sentence 3: As far as I can tell, video games teach a broad range of skills because they are different from one another. While my time playing strategy games has developed a certain skill set, my time playing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game has taught me about timing, and about how many times you have to jump-kick Rocksteady in his head to kill him. Granted, if someone spent 10,000 hours playing World of Warcraft, they would undoubtedly be a brilliant WoW-player, and would know all the ins and outs of raiding, duels, guild dynamics, and a variety of other complex skills.
But if you've spent 10,000 hours playing Resident Evil, you're just good at killing zombies with a knife. This skill could come in handy during the inevitable zombie apocalypse, but it's not collaboration. In summary, it doesn't make sense to say all of your gaming experience is building upon the same skill. This is like saying 10,000 hours spent in national parks makes you a brilliant botanist.
That aside, I really find what I learned in this book invaluable. Reading about the innovative games that have been created for the sake of (a) making people happier, (b) enhancing reality, and (c) saving the world, has given me a lot of new ideas to think about in my search for ways to teach sustainability through video games. Now, I realize that some people are already finding new solutions to environmental problems through creative gaming. This is an incredibly inspiring thought.
My favorite new discovery is the game now known as "Sparked." In this game, you are a superhero capable of rescuing real people with real problems. Players can broadcast their availability to save the day, as well as things they need in order to be 'rescued.' In real life, you are capable of helping people who for one reason or another are unable to accomplish something on their own, and you can gain recognition and "level up" as a superhero through these efforts.
Really, this game does nothing but make it easier and more fun to help complete strangers. And this is awesome.
Jane McGonigal views game design as a dynamic field which has more untapped potential than any other medium for making social change. On this, I totally agree. If you're a gamer, or someone who is under the mistaken impression that games are a waste of time, read this book.
Tyrion Lannister's horse was rubbing him raw as they rode onward, the branches of the trees above them swaying in a branch-like way. Ravens flew aboutTyrion Lannister's horse was rubbing him raw as they rode onward, the branches of the trees above them swaying in a branch-like way. Ravens flew about among them, and clouds of dust hovered like halos around the hooves of their steeds.
Wiping sweat from his brow, Tyrion spoke to yet another minor character you've never seen before. "I hear that the Morvin and the Shornpel clans have sided with Darvus Farier from the great city of Bee Eff Eee, and are pushing forward late king Baratheon's bastard's scullery maid's uncle's melanoma as the true heir to the throne."
The minor character chortled as he spooned up some of the newt egg soup. It had been spiced with cloves and the lightest touch of pepper, and leaves of cilantro floated like corpses upon its surface. Eating a side of braised elk spleen and a hunk of bread with a cheese sauce, the minor character said, "If so, even more of the action is likely to shift away from the viewpoint characters, and THEN we'll see whether any of the characters from the first volume even make it to the final book, A Trample of Turtles."
"But," Tyrion pondered aloud, eating inch-long prawns from a trencher filled with a hot butter sauce, "If the Starks send nine hundred of their men from the outer borders of ThatoneplaceImentionedOnce, and they move down toward the Lannister forces on Dragon's Fjord before the Lannister forces can unite with the Great Army of the Unwashed Men, perhaps they can defeat the bunjillion soldiers in the south now being ushered in the general direction of King's Landing by that one other guy. I can't remember his name. You know, the one?"
The minor character shrugged, tearing a piece from his bread bowl and dipping it into a small puddle of balsamic vinegar. "You forget about the people beyond the wall, and the dragons in the east, and Bobbert, King Robert's mechanic. He now claims to have been conceived with the king's own cum, and thus has a claim to the throne."
Tyrion scratched his chin. "That does throw a new light on how convoluted things are becoming."
They continued riding, their horses traveling gradually. More branches passed overhead. It felt as if the traveling had gone on indefinitely, and the audience was more than capable of empathizing. Tyrion munched on fresh radishes and drank a bold red wine from a skin hanging from his belt. The wine was rich, with plum flavorings and an oaky aftertaste.
"But," said Tyrion, suggesting another possible set of things that could happen. He made reference to an event that happened nine-hundred pages ago, but remembered it wrong, then postulated what the possible outcome could be. They rode onward. Minor Character munched on some pine nuts.
SUDDENLY, SOMETHING EPIC WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!
Eudaknow An Eudongivafuck, minor noble from Shelbyville, rubbed his temple, filled with anxiety at being introduced as a new viewpoint character 9,600 pages into the series. How would he live up to the amazing characters who had come before him and died so tragically? Perhaps because he had a valid claim to the throne, Having been the barista in King Robert's favorite coffeehouse. Yeah, that was the ticket. Riding his steed/ship across the desert/glenn/ocean/alley, he traveled gradually, wondering when he would arrive. Discussing with the others upon the ship, he theorized about possible outcomes of the conflicts in Westeros, all the while eating a succulent pomegranate, red juices running down his chin like he'd just been chewing on afterbirth.
SUDDENLY, SOMETHING AMAZING WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!
The titties tittied, jiggling with much breastful bosomliness. The oiled girls with Brazilian waxes down below wrestled and licked each other's areolas, but it was only to help you become immersed in a realistic depiction of the ancient world. As the breasts bosomed with titful abandon, Tyrion ate shark flank. It had been buttered, cooked for twenty minutes at 345 degrees, then drizzled with a lemon sauce and allowed to cool for five minutes. The flavor was only mildly fishy, and Tyrion burped, taking another drink of the white zinfandel before digging into the raspberry crepes with a chocolate fondu. "But still, Measter, you must understand the possibilities of that event rely on Stannis placing all of his trust in the moody lords of the upper northwest. They are known for being fickle and not holding to their oaths, and Stannis is more likely to try and seize the Port of Skulls. Will the king's ninth bastard even survive that battle? If so, at what cost to Stannis? Plus, what happens if the Lannisters and the Starks team up, and get Batman to join them, and Stannis can only get Iron Man? What then?"
Measter laughed at the dwarf. "That may be, dwarf. You might be short and a dwarf, but you have a mind as sharp as a blade. But you are very tiny, in case that had escaped anyone's notice. Even so, if Stannis enlists Dumbledore, Gandalf and Belgarion, he will be more than a match for the team-up of Lannister, Batman and Stark. Even if they get Rocky Balboa and Wesley Willis on their side."
Tyrion watched the boobs. "But what about Joshua Lyman? Because he could totally take Dumbledore, and maybe Iron Man."
Tyrion ate a lamb gyro, thinking back to the exciting thing that happened after the last chapter ended, thinking of it in an ambiguous and incomplete way. Since it had been 100 pages since his last chapter, you had entirely forgotten what the exciting thing at the end of the chapter was anyway, so it was not much of a loss. "Well," he said, "Now that all of the titties have jiggled sufficiently, we must needs be back on the road."
They rode their steeds along a road, hooves raising up halos of dust, the ravens flittering about in the branches and saying what words they had picked up from the conversation. "Death!" "Dumbledore!" "Titties!"
The half-man, who was short and a dwarf, wiped the sweat from his brow.
What can I say about Double Feature? What can be said about Double Feature? It is the story of (A) a bunch of stereotypes pretending to be charactersWhat can I say about Double Feature? What can be said about Double Feature? It is the story of (A) a bunch of stereotypes pretending to be characters who wander into the jungle for abstract reasons and then begin to die violently because of savage, cannibalistic natives and piranhas coated in fur; and (B) the story of a woman who dies because of her asshat boyfriend being a total piece of shit, and then comes back to life as a screwnicorn because of yet another asshat male, and then she is rejected by him, and so she goes on a rampage killing men with the big metal phallic symbol sticking out of her head.
I mean. . . why talk about the plot? These are plots straight out of nightmares, ruled more by the id than by any sense of internal logic. So I'm not going to talk about the plot. These authors don't need plots. They need drugs. Lots of drugs.
Vernon D. Burns seems absolutely obsessed with gender roles, constantly mocking them while seemingly unable to escape them. Some of the scenes are so fucking sexist you have to wonder if he somehow gets off on this. I mean, this IS his second book where a woman is knocked unconscious before being fondled and masturbated upon. And he has so far published 2 books, so 100% of his books include a scene like this. Also, this dude has a serious obsession with cum. Apparently some men can cum so profusely that "it was like he was peeing."
And Albert Clapp? The other author writes almost exactly the same as Burns, and shares the same obsession with gender. In his case, there's a much clearer feminist message, and there is significantly less misogyny related to the female protagonist. But I wonder if this is just because she doesn't have a human-female body, and this renders her unsexed in a way that saves her from the misogyny thrust upon the other females in this novella, whose breasts "bounce like speed bags" when they jump.
Clapp seems to hate women slightly less than men, who he depicts as total mouth-breathers who are in a constant state of pain and turmoil whenever their testicles aren't expelling semen. (Other than the old scientist, who instead of wanting to control women through having degrading sex with them, wants only to turn them into frankenstein monsters and force them to do manual labor at his winery (Yes. He is a scientist and also a wine maker (although he apparently sucks at both jobs))).
So why did I enjoy this more than Gods of the Jungle Planet? This is why: Like Faulkner and many other great writers, V.D. Burns has a style that is hard to comprehend at first, and I now feel like I get the joke. Like, really, REALLY get it.
The joke is that we destroy each other through perpetuating stereotypes--gender and non-gender-based stereotypes--and that popular art does nothing but reflect this violence back upon us in a feedback loop, simplifying us into caricatures that ALSO become a part of our collective identity. Art is, then, both a result and a catalyst for hatred and violence against the social other, whether this is womankind, an ethnic minority, or even an age bracket. By pushing these roles upon ourselves and then reminding ourselves in a constant stream of narratives what these roles are, we are perpetuating the patriarchy.
Vernon's joke--seemingly his ONLY joke--is to go so over the top in social and fictional caricatures that we can still be shocked by them, and to never let up even when the joke has long since stopped being funny. This is Andy Kaufman wrestling. This is Bill Hicks doing the goatboy routine. This is an artist trying his damnedest to be funny in a way that makes you very uncomfortable, and shocks you into thought.
Is it accidentally a glorification of violence? Does it work as a nihilistic satire? Is it an echo-chamber for the neuroses expressed in other popular fiction, or is it just really, really, incredibly bad writing by an idiot?
I can't say what it is for you; for me, this is a meditation on the violence of divisive art, yet it is divisive art, and cannot help but desensitize us further. So, it is filled with more hopelessness than the lives of its shallow and buxom protagonists. This is tastelessly funny, but we're laughing at the hopelessness of our own condition, our own inability to put ourselves in the shoes of others, our constant effort to silence one another through cultural labels. This book....what can be said?
And I love the horse-secks joke on the last page. ...more
Have you ever been lied to by a five-year old? Where the kid starts telling you a story that is obviously made up, but every time the kid starts gettiHave you ever been lied to by a five-year old? Where the kid starts telling you a story that is obviously made up, but every time the kid starts getting bored with it, they add new ridiculous details that make it even more implausible? And they have no self-awareness that will help them realize you know they're pulling every idea straight out of their ass? You ever had that happen? That's what reading this book is like.
Except it's not written by a five-year old. No: this A.D.D.-influenced opus is a randomly-selected wad of cliches all balled up and squashed together, united with the cheap glue of irony. This book tries so hard to be a loving parody of pulp sci fi, yet in this attempt falls on its face and then starts crying like a little bitch. Because, unlike classics of pulp sci fi, it never for a moment is able to take itself seriously. That missing feeling of authenticity is why I can't give this book the prestigious 3 stars of Killer Crabs.
If I could give this book 2.5 stars, that's what it would get. The quality of the writing is a one; the ridiculousness of the storyline is a four; the witty humor is a three; the constant barrage of inept sex scenes is a 1.5. Add them all, divide by four, and add .13 for the faux-book blurbs at the end, and you get 2.5.
And yes, to answer those questions you've been asking yourself: this book was really written by the same Vernon D. Burns who wrote such other classics as Sharkzilla, Cavern of the Diarrhia Monster, and the Gluyns, Elf Warrior Triacontatrology (thirty-book series). So, yes, the book is just as stupid as all those other books.
You haven't read any of them? I suppose that's not surprising. After all none of the books by Burns have ever been published before now. Vernon has been writing one book a week now for the last seventy two years, and he estimates that he has sent roughly 9,000 query letters to presses great and small. Now, at the age of 102, he has decided to go the self-publication route.
Why has he been turned down? Is it because he has no concept of linearity, and dead characters all of a sudden turn out to be alive, important events are skipped over remorselessly, and the world of his novels contain no internal logic whatsoever? Or is it because his sex scenes would make Ron Jeremy feel violated?
No. It's because Gods of the Jungle Planet--and I would assume these other titles as well--break all laws of physics. You see, at a certain point, literature becomes so bad that it's good. This is a law of physics. This is why Evil Dead II and Troll 2 are both scientifically proven to be better than Amistad.
However, Gods of the Jungle Planet is worse than both of these movies, yet does not become so bad it's good. It remains bad in a bad kind of way. It is paradoxical.
Perhaps I'm not the best person to review this book, though. . . after all, I got bored while reading Douglas Adams, and I also helped write Gods of the Jungle Planet. You don't think any real-life parents would be cruel enough to name their kid V.D. Burns, do you?
So, you can't really trust me to be objective, right? It could be even worse than I'm making it out to be. Or it could be better, because books that try to remain funny for 200 pages usually start feeling tedious about halfway through for me. I cannot be a good judge of them.
I suppose if you want to know how bad/good this is, you'll just have to read it. You can buy it right now on Amazon.com, temporarily discounted to whatever price it's at now! ...more
Sometimes as I finish a book I didn't enjoy, I relish the thought of writing the review that will tear the author a new asshole. I had a distinctly diSometimes as I finish a book I didn't enjoy, I relish the thought of writing the review that will tear the author a new asshole. I had a distinctly different reaction as I reached the end of Wolves Dressed as Men, because I didn't enjoy it, AND it was written by a friend.
I was confused. Last year, I read Steve's debut, Muscle Memory, and it narrowly missed being in my 2010 top ten. Literally just missed it; it was number eleven. MM was clever, surprising, constantly funny and poignant, and it ended perfectly.
Then, a few months later, I read this, and it was...well, an unpleasant experience. Werewolves? I fucking hate werewolves! And I'm beyond tired of the whole supernatural romance thing....publishing companies have been vomiting out so many empty calories' worth of supernatural romance that it's quite possibly a fatal disorder, and when it finally suffers a heart attack and dies on its own bathroom floor as a DIRECT RESULT of its own self-destructive tendencies, I'll be first in line to laugh and point. Err, but, back to the book: after loving his first book, this one just didn't leave much of an impression at all.
Despite what some people would tell you, though, I'm not a total jerk: I talked to Steve before deciding to write a review because I wanted to see what was up with this. It turns out this was his FIRST book--written first--even though MM was the first book published. So this novella is fair game to be picked on, because you're SUPPOSED to pick on people's first novels. First novels are usually a teeth-sharpening process, and almost always end up being generic supernatural romance novels. Hemmingway's first book? Supernatural romance. Faulkner? Southern supernatural romance. Even the greatest novelist of our time, Guy N Smith, started his illustrious career with a supernatural horror novel that was basically a proxy of Twilight, only more hot chicks and mutant crabs were involved.
So, when I write my debut, you ALL have permission to pick on it. Unless I never manage to get anything published, in which case I'd appreciate it if you just softly tell me I'm truly an awesome writer and it's what's on the inside that counts, or some crap like that to make me feel like less of a failure.
Back to the book. I've had a lot of caffeine, btw.
I shall recount for you the reasons this book didn't work for me.
1. The lack of humor. This book took itself surprisingly seriously considering it was a supernatural romance. And, the characters were archetypal in...well, in much the same way the characters in my first novel were archetypal. I had the good fortune of being turned down by all the publishers, though, so I don't get to be publicly humiliated.
2. THE BACK COVER IS PINK. Pink. I'm not a homophobe or anything, but I don't want to carry a goddamned pink book around Phoenix.
3. As seems to happen increasingly, I knew what was going to happen before it happened with all of the plot points. I'm not sure if this was the result of foreshadowing or the use of these archetypal characters, but either way, I prefer my reading experiences to be surprising. And to not be populated with werewolves. Or detectives. I kind of hate detective fiction.
Those are my bones of contention, and I don't really want to click the "Save" button now, because this is the second time in a row I've read a book by a friend and then written a negative review of it. But, dammit, if I don't give them honest ratings, I might as well not even be here reviewing them. I DO NOT LIE unless money is involved.
But I can assure you I'll be buying the next thing Steve publishes--I can't wait to see what comes after Muscle Memory.
By the way, the official day for burning Muscle Memory is July first, so I suggest buying several copies before then so you don't get left out on all the fun! ...more