What a fun book! Despite being for kids, I enjoyed this romp around the solar system, reminding me of the scale of things and how they work. I even leWhat a fun book! Despite being for kids, I enjoyed this romp around the solar system, reminding me of the scale of things and how they work. I even learned something I never knew about black holes!...more
What if our video game characters were self-aware? Or what if we lived inside a video game? It's a theme that has surprisingly long legs, as evidencedWhat if our video game characters were self-aware? Or what if we lived inside a video game? It's a theme that has surprisingly long legs, as evidenced by the quality of the 13 stories that compose this anthology.
I found myself most enjoying the stories that clearly referenced specific games or genres — especially Alois Wittwer's "A Perfect Apple", examining life in the town of Animal Crossing. Also notable are Ian Miles Cheong's "The Hierarchy of Needs", which parodies the fruitlessness of achieving a high score in a game like Galaga; Shelley Du's contemplation of free will in a fantasy RPG, "See You on the Other Side"; and "Patched Up", Ryan Morning's look at MOBA character types hamstrung by bugs and glitches.
Although the anthology starts and ends weak, there are enough gems in the middle to raise the sum of the parts above average. What a bizarre and enjoyable collection....more
I'd been wanting to reread Altered Carbon — then along comes David Brin and scratches the same itch. I enjoyed his take on cloning people and the multI'd been wanting to reread Altered Carbon — then along comes David Brin and scratches the same itch. I enjoyed his take on cloning people and the multiple characters he created. My only complaints were that there was a lot of exposition, such that one character had to be literally tied down to listen to it all; the last few chapters were a metaphysical slog; and some of the mysteries had solutions the reader never could've guessed. But I still thoroughly enjoyed it and gave me a new appreciation for the likes of Surrogates, Dollhouse, and even 6th Day....more
What a breath of fresh air! In an era of emotional, anecdotal narratives where I cringe to read the comments and tweets sure to follow, along comes ShWhat a breath of fresh air! In an era of emotional, anecdotal narratives where I cringe to read the comments and tweets sure to follow, along comes Sheri Graner Ray with a research-based look at the differences in how men and women interact with technology and games. She offers suggestions not for changing or taking away the games men play, but how to expand the market. This book, written by a developer for developers, offers practical advice for expanding the market and improving the bottom line—nothing more.
The only downside to this book: it was released in 2003, well before the prominence of mobile, social, and casual gaming. If there is a second edition (and I'm told there will be), I'll be first in line to see how the scene has changed....more
I was drawn to Bad For You, released in 2014, because it appeared to be about the exact topic of my 2001 thesis: moral panics over youth culture and jI was drawn to Bad For You, released in 2014, because it appeared to be about the exact topic of my 2001 thesis: moral panics over youth culture and juvenile delinquency. In 100 pages of text, I reviewed how the press has portrayed comic books, rock 'n roll, Dungeons & Dragons, and video games as causal to the corruption of youth.
With the exception of rock 'n roll, Bad For You covers these topics in five broad categories of activities that children are discouraged or barred from enjoying: comics, games, technology, play, and thought. Each chapter is about 35 pages and mixes black-and-white comic panels with longer prose. Bad For You is current as of 2012, referencing the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Despite my previous research into these areas, I learned a great deal from this book, especially in the areas I hadn't written about. The chapter on "Play" reviews the history of the American education system. I didn't realize its origin had much the same inspirations and influences as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World — how terrifying! The authors come down harshly on standardized testing and recommend more diverse, individualized curricula including science, arts, sports, and critical thinking. I also didn't realize the transformation America's playgrounds had undergone — and not for the better.
The chapter on "Thought" looks at the many clashes that students have had with authority. If children can be tried as adults in court, shouldn't they have the same rights and freedoms as adults? Instead, according to Bad For You, schools are the only place in the country where people can be legally beaten. Eek.
I have only two concerns about this book. First, an early chapter explains the difference between correlation and causation, and that just because two things are happening at the same time does not mean they're related. Yet the book then falls into that trap multiple times, such as by demonstrating that youth violence is down while video game sales are up. That's bad science!
There was also at least one factual error when the authors note that Atari founded Chuck E. Cheese as a way to market their arcade games to children. What's true is that Nolan Bushnell was the founder of both Atari and Chuck E. Cheese — but the connection stops there.
Overall, I enjoyed this book: it reviewed some familiar ground while giving me plenty of new material to mull over. Although it's ostensibly aimed at kids, I would instead recommend it to adults who can think more critically about the text and perhaps do something with their findings....more
This book isn't just better than its intolerably terrible predecessor, EarthBound, but is a satisfying read in its own right. The author dissects thThis book isn't just better than its intolerably terrible predecessor, EarthBound, but is a satisfying read in its own right. The author dissects the Super NES and DS classic Chrono Trigger: the ethnic and religious identities of the game's characters, the synergy of their magics, the logic of the game's time travel, and the challenges of translation (as represented by original interviews with Ted Woolsey and Tom Slattery). Williams relates the game to his own life, but only when necessary and relevant, keeping this from being a dull memoir. Since the book is written first and foremost by a gamer, not an academic, the text is accessible, though it sometimes leads to superficial observations: counting the number of humans in Crono's world is an interesting mental exercise, but I don't know that it leads to any significant findings about the population. Still, I enjoyed reading about a game I haven't played in nearly twenty years; it left me wanting to dust off my original cartridge and become a time traveller once again....more
I loved Robopocalypse, which was everything I expected from World War Z. But whereas the first book told a clever story naturally, Robogenesis felt foI loved Robopocalypse, which was everything I expected from World War Z. But whereas the first book told a clever story naturally, Robogenesis felt forced. Too many threads were developed without any payoff, whereas other threads lacked an origin, leaving me to wonder where they came from or how they tied into the book's predecessor. Robopocalypse stood well on its own without needing this sequel....more
I was hooked on the first Machine of Death anthology and wasted no time picking up the sequel. I enjoyed these tales as well, from the first one thatI was hooked on the first Machine of Death anthology and wasted no time picking up the sequel. I enjoyed these tales as well, from the first one that made me cry ("Old Age, Surrounded by Loved Ones"), to the short, humorous ones ("Made Into Delicious Cheeseburger"), to the chilling ("Two One Six"), to the alternative settings ("In Battle, Alone and Forgotten").
But I felt that there were a few too many alternative settings. Whether it was set millions of years in the future, a cyberpunk reality, the French Revolution, or as an invasion of aliens posing as vending machines, some of them were just too weird, which distracted from what I felt should be the focus: the consequences of knowing how you would die.
Fortunately, there were enough good, clever, thoughtful, and creative tales in this set to make it a worthy follow-up. Should they pursue a third, I wouldn't hesitate to grab it....more
Dating is hard, no matter what your demographic, but geeks have some negative stereotypes to overcome. I picked up Eric Smith's book to see what advicDating is hard, no matter what your demographic, but geeks have some negative stereotypes to overcome. I picked up Eric Smith's book to see what advice he might have.
For those of you seeking your Player Two, Smith breaks down the game into seven stages, including getting your life in order, asking her out, preparing for the first date, and having the first date, as well as end-stage games such as moving in together or breaking up. Little of the material is groundbreaking, such as "Stand up straight" and "Be confident", or where to meet potential partners, including not only traditional outlets like comic book shops and arcades (do those still exist?), but also Facebook, OKCupid.com, and MMORPGs. Most of the advice is stuff I've intuited, though maybe if someone had given me this book a decade or two ago, it would've saved me some grief.
Smith may not be offering original advice, but he does try wrapping it in a unique context. There are so many cloying video game references, so many of them unnecessary to the dialogue, that it was originally difficult to see past how clever the author was trying to be. His demonstrations of geekdom work best when serving as metaphor, such as by giving examples of fictional characters to emulate or not.
One thing to keep in mind is that the book is steadfastly heteronormative: it's written for straight men looking to meet and engage straight women in a traditional, monogamous relationship. Although Smith acknowledges early on that some of the advice can be applied to women looking to meet men, there is no acknowledgement of the existence of other lifestyles. Smith is also exceedingly optimistic that every woman a geek meets is single and available, and that if you play your cards right, you can score a date — there's no advice for determining if the other party is available, which at my age I find they're often not.
To be clear, this is not a "pick-up artist" book. Smith advocates against practices such as negging and instead encourages readers to be chivalrous but not sexist.
I did enjoy the book: despite a few typos, it's easy to read, and the pixel art is a fun complement. But since I've read no other dating books, I have nothing to compare it to. At the least, I hoped reading this book on public transit might pique some other geek's interest into initiating a conversation — but no such luck was to be had....more