Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Serious Gaming

This is a pretty interesting article about a new wave of "Serious Games" which take real life scenarios such as the conflict in the middle east or food distribution in areas of poverty, and craft them into games. In playing them, players immerse themselves in the complexities of different sides of the situation.

As a member of the generation that grew up on Mario brothers, and an admitted addict to the Baldur's Gate/Icewind Dale series of RPG's (that's Role Playing Games--to you uninitiated), I am behind this movement all the way. I can attest to the addictive nature of gameplay--at some point during the times I was playing most intensively, I was logging 10-12 hours per day, something which I know contributed heavily to my RSI. I loved the aspect of RPGs which allowed me to build a character and imbibe it with experience and to collect worldly goods on its behalf. The storylines in these games were mesmerizing and left me always wanting to find out the consequences of the decisions I'd made, and how the plot would unfold.

A time of reckoning came when I realized how much time I was investing in these characters which essentially only existed in the context of the game I was playing. They, and the knowledge of that world, had no real value in the "real world". The saddest thought came when I realized if I'd spent the same amount of time in building a hobby or skill (in my other interests like basketball, pool, or guitar playing), I'd have been expert. All this changes with "serious games", as the game play can help one to understand the subtleties of events in the real world! (I always did wonder why it was so hard to distribute our food surpluses to the poor. Just take the sacks of corn and ship them to africa, right?)

When I see the youth of today, I know that the world they are growing up in is significantly different than the one I experienced. There are so many ways that technology has broken down communication and knowledge gathering barriers. The advent of serious games is yet another very positive example of this, and I applaud their makers in harnessing technological resources to explain complex experiences and situations in a way that is appealing, and understandable. Plus, it takes all the guilt out of the equation--you get all the immersion, all the fun, and you learn something in the end, too!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Yo Quiero Tacos

I was tickled to find this NY times feature on the best tacos between LA and SF. Check it out! I was never a big fan of tacos as a kid, when my corrupted understanding of what they were involved that hard, U-shaped shell which usually held some salty-seasoned ground beef, a few strips of iceberg lettuce, and velveeta. But since moving out here to California that all changed. I first fell in love with tacos through introduction of my frosh year roommate Edith, a mexican native, whose father **actually ran the border between LA and Mexico**. The source was this grubby one room restaurant off telegraph avenue, where the grill was in front, and had just a few dirty benches clustered around small, greasy tables. It wasn't the type of establishment I would have frequented on my own, but all that changed when I sampled their fares. The tacos were made of tender, slightly fried corn tortillas, stacked two to a taco. and the beef was actually in chunks, like eating a steak that had already been cut up for you! eating those tacos was how I finally learned to appreciate the contrast of raw onion and a salty base meat. and I thought it was so thoughtful and inventive how they always provided a wedge of juicy lime, and crisp fresh radish as contrast.

The restaurant (whose name I can't even remember) had closed by my senior year but I was happy to find tacos of a similar (though inferior) breed at a number of restaurants in the area. In fact, I came to understand that what I had associated to be a "taco" in my youth was wrong and I actually enjoyed them very much.

My own taco search continued after moving down to the peninsula after graduation. the first place I started to frequent was El Charrito, at the intersection of Holly and El Camino in belmont. but a personal favorite that c and i found together (in our early days--which might be part of the reason why I always find the food so delicious) is La Taqueria. It's featured in this new york times article, and you can see our own picture here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

So here's the idea....

Hey folks,

Yep, I finally joined the 21st century. Check it out! and come back often since I think the posts will be frequent until I catch up. For some of you, this'll be like a walk down memory lane. enjoy.

If anyone is a blogger expert--let me know! I have questions that I can't seem to find answers for...