Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Non-wedding-related goals for this summer:

 I am taking one class and planning my wedding, but I want to do other things too. Specifically:

1. Start learning Japanese. I've checked out some books from the library, including one of those "complete course"s with audio CD. It helps that Adam likes teaching me. I might not be literate for a while, but I can at least say "I'm sorry, I don't speak Japanese." (I'm still working on "Where is the nearest bus stop?" and "Where is my suitcase?")

2. Read fiction that is not for a class. I started on this one by reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I'm almost done with Oblivion, and then I have some books my professor lent me (which are for fun I promise). I'm also trying to read more "serious" graphic novels so I can have something to say when I read manga. These include The Sandman series and random new graphic novels that appear in the BYU library. Currently Epileptic is one of these.

3. Start research for thesis. This should include playing text-based adventure games... but honestly, they're not my favorite type of game. Usually they are so hard! I think I just have to make myself get used to them. I've also ordered some books that have to do with ergodic literature (interactive text), hypertext, narrative in computer games, and other related subjects, which hopefully will be interesting even not in conjunction with my thesis. I'm excited for the book Twisty Little Passages.  I've also decided that The Eleventh Hour is definitely ergodic literature and as such I should probably spend some time studying it. That and the annotated Alice in Wonderland.

4. Play more video games. Related to (3), I do think that playing video games will help inspire my thesis ideas. I'm still not sure what exactly I can say about how text-based adventure games are cool. Do they use fantasy in a way different from literature? How are the puzzles related to the meaning of the game, if there is any connection? So, for example, Chrono Trigger has some puzzles that do not seem very meaningful. In the prehistoric era you have to refrain from fighting the beetles right away so they can dig a hole in the ground for you, and choosing which hole to go down is pretty much random until you get an idea of what the dungeon is like. But the cooler puzzles are the ones that require time-travel. The one with the castle ghost and Frog is especially interesting. So, you can visit the castle in the present and try to fight the ghost there, but you can't beat him. Instead, you have to go back in time and give some tools to this carpenter (okay, that part was lame) and kill all the monsters there in the past. Well... now that I'm writing it that doesn't really make sense either. Can you think of examples of cool puzzles in video games that contributed to the meaning of the game?

5. Keep up on Latin and Russian (and Spanish?)? This is a more secondary goal that I'm always thinking about and feel badly about when I realize how much I've forgotten. I was thinking of buying Wheelock's Latin (I have Freundlich, which has a gorgeous cover design, so maybe I don't need Wheelock), but instead I found this Latin reader called Lingua Latina and I am SO EXCITED for it to come in the mail. It is entirely in Latin (except for an word index in the back) and tries to teach Latin in a more fluid, organic way, (with lots of pictures) rather than the rote memorization and decoding that I learned in high school (yes, we worked on The Aenied, but I never ever thought in Latin; all the time I was translating it into English in my head). I have one of those silly Latin phrasebooks somewhere I bought on sale at the bookstore, which was cool, but I hope this will be EVEN COOLER.

As for Russian... I have plenty of materials. One time I was at DI and found like three Russian books! I have some children's books in Russian along with a collection of stories, but they're really hard to read! I also have a collection of Russian animated cartoons (which have no subtitles and are also hard to understand). I have a "First 1,000 words" book and that nice book of Russian roots (I love word roots, which probably explains my excitement about Latin). I have some Pimsleur mp3s, and while I appreciate their pedagogical soundness, they are incredibly boring to listen to. I also have a dictionary for foreigners. It defines the word in Russian and also has one-word definitions in English, French, Spanish, and... probably German. The downside is that it's not very fun to read. One of my very favorite books to read has been the Russian Graded Readers I-V. It is so cool! It defines each word the first time it appears, and then gradually introduces more words and tenses. The first one is a story from A Hero of Our Time dumbed-down into all present tense. They add in past tenses as you go on along with more vocabulary. All of the selections are from easily read famous Russian authors with the vocabulary simplified so you're not always looking words up (which to me is one of the most boring parts of reading things in a different language). The tragic thing about this reader is that it is out of print. (One of my Russian profs sent us the PDF files of the first two parts, which I would say is totally fair use. I have my own copy of the reader which I miraculously found at DI. I had another copy too, and I sold it to a classmate.) On the subject of "things I am passionate about" I think we can add "language acquisition tools that take advantage of cognitive science."

Anyway, if you're still there, I still want to know your opinions on meaningful video game puzzles and any amazing foreign language materials you've encountered.


Emily said...

Pimsleur full courses are dang expensive but amazing. Often libraries have them.

Emily said...

Oh, oops, you think they're boring. Nevermind then.

Whistler said...

Ah, maybe boring was the wrong word. I got frustrated because I couldn't read/visualize what I was saying. But it is good for building aural vocabulary and pronunciation.

Andrea said...

Ah, I wouldn't recommend working on more than one language at once. I tried brushing up on Spanish while studying Japanese and I was like, "Sumimasen, pero lapiz o sanbon querimasu." Maybe Russian and Latin are dissimilar enough that it would work; not sure. Hey, you could just watch GitS and study Japanese and Russian! :-D

Games with meaningful puzzles? Hmmm . . . not sure. But, in Final Fantasy games, often the "magic system" and the "level up system" and "why are there monsters?" that you take for granted are often revealed to be a part of the story.

OK, I'm back 5 hours later and here's some good examples:
Neverwinter Nights modules Elegia Eternum and Excrucio Eternum: You fight monsters that represent psychological disorders (among other things).
In Dragon Age (and, to a lesser extent, Baldur's Gate I & II), many of the decisions you make completely change the destinies of the people around you. A lot of these are morally difficult questions, forcing the player to think about things like "What is more important, forgiveness or safety?" or "Do the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many?" or "What are important qualities for a leader to have?"

In the Silent Hill mystery/adventure/horror series, some of the puzzles involve getting into the mind of the sometimes twisted characters, and monsters often symbolized different emotions.

In Myst, the puzzles help tell the story as you are learning about who Atrus and his sons are and what the history of the island is and why there are no people around, etc.

I haven't played Heavy Rain yet, but it's an interactive movie/detective game that probably has some elements like this.

Flower is a PS3 game where you bring color and life back to a drab urbanized world by making flowers bloom. It's very cathartic.

Hope this helps! This is one of my favorite topics, so I'd be happy to be a research resource. :-D

Tiff said...

wow... I wish I could make playing video games somehow linked to my education. haha. Do you know about kongregate? I love this game called continuity on there. What's a text based adventure game?

Whistler said...

A text-based adventure game is one where there are no graphics and everything is described with words. All your moves are words that you type in, too. So in a way it's a type of literature.

Charly said...

Whatever your strongest foreign language is, you can listen to albums, read newspapers, read board game instructions in that language (er, hope it's not Coast Salish or Estonian in that case . . . ), etc.

For my less-strong foreign language, Romanian, I stumbled upon a film about Romanians in Cedar City. Who have to battle a polygamist. It's quite amazing, and has Romanian subtitles (it's filmed in badly-accented and -syntaxed English). Reading the subtitles helps me. I also downloaded Poesii on the Kindle, but tediously looking up words is actually one of the more fun parts of language learning to me.

I really like online quizzes, but not in language per se: e.g., a geography quiz en français. Then you see how the language is used more organically.

With Spanish, I would just go find some native-Spanish-speakers to talk to! I started absorbing regular verb conjugations just through work one time.