...in focusing our and our students' reflections and writing on a practice such as gaming, we are both honoring an emerging interest among many students and helping students work in platforms that, in some cases, mimic the kinds of writing environments and situations that students might find themselves in outside our classes...Moreoever, my emphasis on inviting students to consider connections across modes of writing and writing environments cuts to the heart of what we as compositionists should be doing: offering students a diversity of writing experiences and encouraging them to become more conscious writers--that is, writers rhetorically aware of how audience, genre, and tone work in a variety of writing environments.
--Jonathan Alexander, "Gaming, Student Literacies, and the Classroom: Some Possibilities for Transformation"
Of dominant focus in this chapter is the idea of a nuclear apocalypse. While perhaps no longer as likely as an environmental catastrophe or the spread of some incurable disease (which may or may not turn us all into zombies), the notion of civilization and humanity decimated by nuclear war was once dominant.
Within the medium of videogames, too, are post-apocalyptic scenarios becoming popular, and the latest in the Fallout series is no longer the most recent example. That might belong to Borderlands, a first-person shooter (FPS) with role-playing elements, or to Fallen Earth, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) set in the Grand Canyon after a series of natural disasters decimate the U.S. population. 2010 will see the release of at least two more videogames with a post-apocalyptic bent, id Software's Rage and Obsidian Entertainment's Fallout: New Vegas.
Another possible, tangential inspiration involves Winston Churchill, who appears as an inspirational hologram in Jack McDevitt's "Never Despair," and a malfunctioning Protectron robot which believes itself to be Button Gwinnett, second signatory of the Declaration of Independence, in Fallout 3's "Stealing Indepence" side-quest.
"Stealing Independence," though, represents a situation in which completion of the quest does not result in an automatic karma gain or loss. Dialogue options with Button include a self-destruct command and words of encouragement to keep fighting the good fight. As in most of the in-game situations, such options are rather black and white, but this still shows how the exertion of greater degrees of control and influence is often what causes the player to accrue good karma or evil karma.
I make explicit reference to these past written works not only to reveal some of the potential inspirations for the design and development of Fallout 3 as well as its morality and survival elements but also because the authors of such important literature often impart particular aspects in words better than those I might have chosen myself.
"If Megawar is committed by the superpowers, how long will survivors keep the illusion that somehow 'our' government is less our enemy than 'their' government, or that they are different from us?" (xix) Fallout 3 provides an answer to Miller's question, offering examples of human existence that are, to some degree, successful without government. Instead, the duality of morality and simple survival dominate, particularly in the smaller communities of Canterbury Commons and Megaton. Places with greater governmental control, like the Republic of Dave and Rivet City, have more evidence of conflicts of interest.
Rather than make reference to this sub-genre of science fiction as 'post-holocaust,' a term which saw greater acceptance in years past, Miller introduces "Megawar...another barbaric neologism" (xiii) to not only identify war at the end of civilization but also to not diminish the memory of the mass murder of Jews living in Europe during World War II. I think this different term also adheres rather well to Miller's later layout of nuclear armageddon, how, more often than not in this sub-genre, Megawar "happens offstage, between stories, and the rest is about the survivors, the orphans of a psychopathic civilization" (xiv). This is as much the case in Fallout 3 as in other Megawar-type representations.
- "The most obvious difference between real essays and the things one has to write in school is that real essays are not exclusively about English literature. Certainly schools should teach students how to write. But due to a series of historical accidents the teaching of writing has gotten mixed together with the study of literature."
Three Tweets for the Web
- "Many critics of contemporary life want our culture to remain like a long-distance relationship at a time when most of us are growing into something more mature. We assemble culture for ourselves, creating and committing ourselves to a fascinating brocade."
From North Carolina, a model of how to transform education
- "Many conservatives savaged the plan as 'social engineering' and said it was doomed to fail. Some parents were angry, and a few decamped for the private school system – until the results came in. Within a decade, Raleigh went from one of the worst-performing districts in America to one of the best."
- "In video games, then, we do become one with our character – at least as much as acting out a role in a play allows us to vicariously experience being an another being."
A Regular Writing Routine
- "...waiting around until you have enough time is just another excuse not to write."
The future of college may be virtual
- "Might finding the right class online become more important than which institution was offering it? What happens if colleges or even specialized online-only education companies provide essentially the same Economics 101 course? Does geography cease to matter and do low-cost providers win out?"
"He not busy being born is busy dying"
- "As authors and publishers explore the new world of online reading and writing, we need to do more than just translate print books to an electronic screen. We have a future to invent!"
"...email was better suited to the way we used to use the Internet—logging off and on, checking our messages in bursts. Now, we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun."Computer program proves Shakespeare didn't work alone, researchers claim [Times Online]
"The 400-year-old mystery of whether William Shakespeare was the author of an unattributed play about Edward III may have been solved by a computer program designed to detect plagiarism."
Adaptive games promise high scores for everyone [New Scientist]
"For those who fret that their hard-earned money might be wasted on a dud computer game, help could soon be at hand. A new breed of game aims to suit everyone by adapting to an individual's playing style."Death of the Author [Edge]
"From the Machiavellian wrangling of Eve Online’s player-sustained universe to that last, improbably perfect, sticky grenade that garners you a Killtacular, player expression is rapidly overshadowing the script and setting."100 years of Big Content fearing technology--in their own words [Ars Technica]
"In 1906, famous composer John Philip Sousa took to Appleton's Magazine to pen an essay decrying the latest piratical threat to his livelihood, to the entire body politic, and to "musical taste" itself. His concern? The player piano and the gramophone, which stripped the life from real, human, soulful live performances."Public Attitudes to New Technology: Lessons for Regulators [ScienceDaily]
"New technologies may change our lives for the better, but sometimes they have risks. Communicating those benefits and risks to the public, and developing regulations to deal with them, can be difficult — particularly if there's already public opposition to the technology."Does your social class determine your online social network? [CNN]
"...almost 23 percent of Facebook users earn more than $100,000 a year, compared to slightly more than 16 percent of MySpace users. On the other end of the spectrum, 37 percent of MySpace members earn less than $50,000 annually, compared with about 28 percent of Facebook users."They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?
"There can be no mistake. This is when he breaks her. Her expression flattens. Her eyes go blank. She appears to be dissociating. Slowly, she turns from the camera, going somewhere else, inside herself, anywhere but here."Book Sprints [FLOSS]
"This book describes how to carry out collaborative authoring in a short time with the express goal of having a publishable book at the end."Employees skirting office web blocks to get Facebook, Twitter fix [Globe and Mail]
''...while the move by companies and school boards to block sites deemed productivity killers is on the rise, so are attempts by resourceful employees and students to dodge those barriers, using mobile devices or connecting through proxy servers."