Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Growth of High Technology:
Part II: What's More Important In Life

Possible spoilers from the third Pokémon movie, Spell of the Unown.

I asserted at the end of Part I of The Growth of High Technology that we already have the tools to create happy, satisfied lives. And I believe that the answer to creating such lives cannot be found merely in the pursuit of technology, but rather in the many, varied activities that make up human life today. I believe, really, that the activities that people enjoy are far more important than the pursuit of the high technology, convenience, and ease that would destroy those activities.

In the third Pokémon movie, one of the major driving forces in the plot is a five-year-old girl named Molly Hale. Molly’s father is partially an archaeologist, but is also an authority, as much as anyone is, on legendary Pokémon. And his studies keep him away from home and finally lead to his disappearance early in the movie. Of course, Molly is devastated by her father’s disappearance, especially since she seemed to be a very lonely child to begin with.

However, the point of this story is not entirely what effect the elder Hale’s pursuit of knowledge had on his daughter. The message, I think, is best shared in the ending theme song, To Know the Unknown: “I don’t want all the answers, ‘cause one thing is true: as long as my heart beats, I’ll always love you. So I don’t need to know the unknown.”

As ephemeral as human emotion can be, it is also integral to being human. Love, friendship, anger, and all of the numerous other emotions that one can feel are part of life. The path towards creating a future that all humans can find happiness in includes, along its journey, accepting that the human body and the nature of humanity is as good as it needs to be. We do not need to improve the capabilities of the human body; we do not need to spend our time decoding all of the secrets of the universe.

I will not try to argue that humanity is perfect in nature; the atrocities that humans have committed and still are committing in all corners of the world cannot be denied. However, these problems are not ones to solve by changing or upgrading the human mind. Unfortunately, there will always be those people without respect for their fellow man, either in today’s world or in a future of high technology. And for all of the atrocities that are held up as evidence of humanity’s faults, I can gladly point to even more things that humanity has done for good. I refuse to believe that humans are essentially evil or destructive, not in a world that shows no small amount of respect for the ideals of justice, freedom, and equality.

And I will gladly argue that humans are as perfect in form as we need to be. The human body is not a perfect machine from an engineering standpoint, to be sure. There are so many ways that humans can be damaged, and so many things that we can’t do. The problem with that standpoint is that humans are not cars, to be made as safe and reliable as possible with a bunch of features besides. Humanity has existed for no small amount of time, and become the dominant creature of this planet, so I hardly think we could need that much improvement.

When it comes down to the essential point, focusing on humanity’s faults is no way to create a happy future. As clichéd as it sounds, we need to focus on the positive things of human life in order to create such a future for humanity. What do you enjoy in life? Some, like myself, find joy in the work we put into personal improvement. As I commented in Part I, I’m a runner, and I’d like to believe that I work reasonably hard to improve my running ability. I enjoy that; it’s one of the things that I can take pride in.

And yet, in a future of high technology, I wouldn’t have that joy. After all, it will only take one genetically-engineered runner to make the rest of us completely obsolete. If these technologies come to fruition, I’ll have the choice between upgrading myself or being unable to compete. The ability I have to try to improve myself and work for personal pride will be gone, and unrecoverable besides.

I know there are those people that take pride in teaching, or scientific research, or any number of other activities. Composing music, writing books (or a blog like this one), playing chess… the list goes on and on. And yet, in a technological future where efficiency is the goal, people probably wouldn’t be doing any of them. After all, computers can teach, conduct research, create music, write, and play chess far more effectively than slow, weak human minds can.

Yet happiness lies in those activities. People vastly enjoy many of those, and in a future of high technology, such sources of happiness would disappear. How can we create a happier future in such a manner? Creating a happier future must necessarily be based in embracing such activities as uniquely human, and encouraging the pursuit of those activities that people enjoy.

Going back to the movie, in Spell of the Unown the lives of the Hale family were not significantly improved when the elder Hale discovered more about the Unown, the rare Pokémon that was his particular concern. However, at the conclusion of the movie, the elder Hale returns to his daughter, and the scenes playing during the credits also show the return of Molly’s mother as well. When the elder Hale backed off from his research and came back to his family, their lives improved dramatically.

That is what’s more important in life: not the endless quest for greater power, in the mistaken belief that humanity, either as an organism or as a race, is seriously flawed. Rather, the pursuit of human life, in whatever form. The pursuit of greater understanding, a quest to improve oneself through one’s own hard work, the effort put into a hobby or task that one enjoys…… all of those are what will truly bring happiness to human lives, and those are goals that we do not need the power of high technology to find.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Why the Importance of Peace is Overstated

It's not the second part of The Growth of High Technology, but I'm working on that. It'll be here eventually.

Possible spoilers from Star Wars: Episode III (as if anyone hasn’t seen that movie), Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, and a book titled Epic.

Peace, stability, security. All sound like important goals. Especially peace; right now in the U.S. political climate, there’s a massive debate on the subject, especially as it relates to the war in Iraq. People tend to view peace as superior to war, and I can’t say I entirely disagree with that idea.

Yet I also believe that there are things more important that peace or stability. Which doesn’t mean that I think war is a good thing, but sometimes, it’s better than the peaceful, stable alternative. And frankly, Star Wars is probably too obvious of an example of that.

After all, when Chancellor Palpatine made his speech before the Senate about what the Jedi had done and announced the formation of the Empire, he emphasized the positive to an extent. He spoke of ensuring the security and continuing stability, along with the justification, “for a safe and secure society.” And with all due respect, I can’t say that the Empire wasn’t a stable, secure government.

If the priority of a populace is on peace and stability, they might get just that. And indeed, for the decade and more that the Empire reigned supreme, I have no doubt that the vast majority of the Empire lived in what could be called peace. They weren’t living in fear of the Separatist droid armies or some other major threat. For most, the idea that there were stormtroopers was probably viewed as a good thing; after all, said forces would protect the people from outside threats.

And yet, who can call the Empire a good society? If the standard used is the presence of a peaceful, stable, secure society for the majority of people, then by that standard, the Empire is a good society. The standard used, however, is flawed, for a number of different reasons.

The first of those is the importance placed on peace. As was expressed in the Gundam Wing movie, Endless Waltz, “peace is not something that is just given to you.” People cannot sit back and wait for peace to arrive, and people cannot ignore the fact that there will be threats in the world. Pacifism is a lofty ideal, but as the movie demonstrated, it can only work when every single person in the world is a pacifist.

If a government disarms completely or nearly so, as the Earth Sphere Unified Nation did, they become a target. There was no one capable of fighting the army that landed and took control. And that shows why peace must take a backseat to preparation. A nation or a group of people that cannot defend itself against groups that have no desire for peace is a nation that will fall to such groups.

In addition, the presence of weapons that can be used for war is not an assured war. Peace can be maintained even in the presence of weapons. Disarmament is not a path to peace any more than maintaining weapons is a path to war. In the end, the presence or absence of a peaceful society will be decided by the people of that society. If the people either place too much importance on military power or on the absence of such weapons, the ability to maintain peace will be severely hindered.

The importance of stability in that standard is also a problem. Certainly, stability is often preferable to the alternative. That said, though, if the choice is between a stable Empire and an unstable civil war between the Empire and the Rebellion, who can say that they’d prefer the stability? Sometimes, action must be taken. Justice carries more importance than stability.

One book I’ve read, titled Epic, is another excellent example of how the ideals of peace and stability can be seriously misused. In the world that the book describes, a person’s life is all but dependent on their ability in the game world, Epic, that everyone in the world participates in. Any physical violence in the real world is a crime punishable with immediate exile. Legal challenges and many other issues are resolved through player-vs-player combat in the arena. And unsurprisingly, those people in charge of this society are the ones with the best players.

Thus, any challenge to the decisions of the central ruling committee ends in combat against them, which inevitably results in death. In essence, that committee can do anything, and no one can argue. And when the main characters of the novel earn enough money to become a threat to this committee’s characters, one of the rulers of this society lectures his fellows, “We preside over a society of what, five million souls? A peaceful society, a stable society. And what keeps it so? Epic. […] A better system of government has rarely been achieved. Certainly the warfare that our ancestors fled has no possibility of appearing.”

Again, I see the importance placed on peace and stability, on the lack of any physical violence. And yet. The people of that world are ruled over by an oligarchy that cares nothing for their welfare. Anyone who defies the government dies, even if that death is only in a virtual world. Is this a good society, or one that deserves to be ranked high?

In the end, the message I can find in all of these different worlds is much the same as the one that motivated the creation of the Declaration of Independence. “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” Sometimes, peace and stability isn’t enough. People deserve more than just stability.

And if the choice is between a stable, peaceful rule by a government that ignores the ideals of justice and liberty and an unstable time of war to overthrow such a government, then I say: let there be war.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Growth of High Technology:
Part I: The Promise of Utopia?

I felt the need to split this into two parts as it continued to grow steadily. Not that I have a problem with too much to write, but I just can’t drown everyone in text. And I apologize for the delay in updating; AP tests coinciding with final exams and a major chorus concert made the last week sheer hell. On a happier note, it was literally the last week; of high school if nothing else.

I suspect that the spoiler warning will become standard issue. For this one, I’ll be referring to the video game BioShock and a manga called Aqua.

Hopefully, we’re all familiar with the growing development of technology. It’s visible everywhere: computers get faster almost every week, cars powered by electricity or solar power are announced, and many other examples. And almost without exception, we herald these changes and improvements as better. We’ve grown to the point where we consider new technology to be a good thing.

But is it a good thing in and of itself? Is improvement simply to make a more powerful computer a good thing? And the million-dollar question: do we apply the idea that everything is a system to improve upon to our own bodies?

For me, the answer is a resounding no to all. And I can gladly call upon many, many examples from the fantasy worlds that I enjoy to defend that point.

The most obvious example from the games that I know comes from BioShock. As a quick caveat, I have not actually played the game; my knowledge of the game comes secondhand from sources such as the Plot Summary article on GameFAQs. (For those interested in seeing that themselves, go to GameFAQs through the link I have, search for BioShock, and click on FAQs.) And even then, it’s not really the game play or what the protagonist does that really concerns this topic. It’s the back story, the events that set the stage for the game, that provide a chilling example of the faults of high technology.

Admittedly, that quick comment doesn’t do the many factors in the fall of Rapture any justice. For those unfamiliar with the story, a man named Andrew Ryan built an underwater city called Rapture to break from the ideals of the world. He wanted a purely capitalist society where no one would be obligated to share what they had, as people in the U.S. and the Soviet Union had to. The city quickly became a haven for what Ryan felt were the best examples of mankind, and indeed, their technology progressed much faster than the rest of the world’s.

That didn’t exactly save them, however. When a new substance was commercialized by a man named Frank Fontaine, Rapture slowly descended into war. This substance, called Adam, had the power to change the human body in unimaginable ways. And yet, as this new technology granted Fontaine ever more power and influence, it also led to Ryan’s strong desire to eliminate him. The resulting civil war destroyed the city as the utopia that Ryan intended it to be.

The point behind all the back story is that the technology of Rapture didn’t help improve the lives of its citizens. While it certainly wasn’t the only factor involved, it also was a contributor. I see the story of Rapture as a warning: the warning that an ever-increasing march toward “better” technology isn’t certainly going to improve the lives of people.

As with anything, the real determinant of what our lives are like won’t be directly connected to how advanced our technology is. As human beings throughout history have found, the enjoyment that one gets out of life is connected to what you do with that life.

Simply making our lives more convenient isn’t going to ensure that we’re happier. As Akari Mizunashi put it in the first volume of Aqua, “All the cities are progressing with beautification and simplification. It’s very neat and tidy. And shopping, and work—unlike here, you can do everything from home. It’s very convenient. But… I feel like something is missing in those neat, tidy, convenient cities.” That, I think, exemplifies this reason against a continued improvement of technology. Some things can’t be quantified in science, and those are exactly the things that would be missing.

How do you measure the joy that one gets from a job well done? The pride when one is praised by a parent? Or the determination to complete a task? These are all things that the future would ask us to sacrifice, if the future holds a continued race to higher and higher levels of power.

Akari left those neat, tidy, convenient cities to come to a different world. She came to do a job that in the advanced world would be a computer’s job, as a gondolier and tour guide in a city much like Venice. Yet that is what she wanted to do, and what her attention was devoted towards from the day she left that advanced world. She sought that determination, that pride and joy in her life. In a world of the highest possible technology, she wouldn’t find those things, and neither would anyone else.

Simply upgrading ourselves so that we can run faster, breathe underwater, or even fire lightning bolts from our hands isn’t a ticket to bliss. I am a runner; I enjoy track and cross-country. But I can’t say that I’d be considerably happier if I could improve my time with genetic modification or nanotechnology. Either would improve my fairly mediocre 11:04 two-mile race, yes. But I take pride in what I do. I work to improve my capability as a runner, and I find joy in doing so.

That last race, when I set that 11:04, was one of the best races I’ve ever been in. I was constantly changing positions with two other runners, with first place in that heat as the prize. It was a matter of sheer determination at the end there. I fell behind the leader by four seconds at the end, and only barely held second place against the other runner. That race required all of my skill and determination, for sure.

And had I been “improved” to be able to run 10:34 rather than 11:04, then one of two things would have happened. Either I would have won because the others were not enhanced, or they also would have been enhanced and nothing would have changed. What would my victory have proven, then? That I had a better geneticist than the other two? Certainly, not that I was a better athlete or runner than they were. When I win, or when I set a personal best time, I take the joy from the fact that my work paid off, not from the victory or the personal record itself.

So, what does this say about the growth of high technology? That it is nowhere near an assured utopia for all. Rapture tried to create that; they failed spectacularly in a manner that assured death for all involved. Akari found herself in the growth of such a “utopia,” and found it to be unsatisfying. Why then must we continue to strive for such a false hope, when we already have the tools to create happy, satisfied lives?

Of course, I have no doubt that some question our ability to create happy lives. That, however, is a subject I’ll address with my next major post.

Friday, May 9, 2008

An Archvillain's Take On Moral Behavior

I'm opening this with a spoiler warning: if you haven't finished the first season of the anime series Magic Knight Rayearth, or haven't finished the campaign mode of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, then I would finish those before you read this. I'll be quoting the villains of both from very late in the season and the campaign, and I wouldn't want to ruin anything for anyone.

I'm sure that many of us are familiar with those people that call themselves moral and virtuous. I personally know at least one person that really is one of the most moral people I've ever met. Likewise, I've met people that claim to be righteous or moral. Sometimes they are, but for anyone that would take that title, there are a few major pitfalls to avoid. And ironically enough, it's the villains of most games that bring those pitfalls into the spotlight.

As a side note, one of the anime series that I actually have the complete DVDs for, if the spoiler warning didn't tip you off already, is called Magic Knight Rayearth. For those unfamiliar with the series, Magic Knight Rayearth describes the adventures of three schoolgirls transported to an alternate world of magic and monsters. Their goal is to save that world by defeating the High Priest, Zagato, that kidnapped the princess.

That description makes it sound very clichéd, but it really is a very complicated situation and a very interesting story. One of the key mechanics in this alternate world, called Cephiro, is that the world is a land of the will. A strong will does more for a person than anything else in the world. Magic is powered by convictions and beliefs, and determination literally ensures victory.

One of Zagato's minions was in love with the High Priest. She betrayed everything else, including her former teacher, to fight for Zagato. Near the end of the series, she learned that Zagato was actually in love with the princess. This destroyed her usually calm demeanor, and she lamented that everything she had done was for him. Zagato responded coldly, "No. You fought for yourself. People always fight for themselves. You are no different. It was not for me. If you look, you'll see that you fought for your own heart."

I can hear the righteous of the world yelling, "No, that isn't true! I help others!" Well, yes, maybe. I can hardly deny that some are motivated by the needs of others. But can any of us ever say that we're completely devoted to the needs of others? Can you truly, honestly say that what you want never even enters the picture?

As an example of what I'm trying to say, I'll gladly refer to Magic Knight Rayearth yet again. The three girls that were transported to Cephiro were (understandably) extremely disoriented when they first arrived. Think about it: what would you do if you were standing in a skyscraper's observation deck one moment and falling out of the sky in a strange world the next? I can bet there aren't too many people that would just coolly brush themselves off and accept that they weren't where they came from.

Yet then the problem emerged. When they first came to Cephiro, they didn't question the situation that they were in. They focused on the next goal that they had been given, and didn't stop to question what was happening to them. They were often more concerned with getting back to Tokyo and protecting each other than they were about the world that they were in. And as much as they may have said that they were going to save the princess and save Cephiro and its people, I have to find some serious flaws in their reasoning and their motivations.

Thus does Magic Knight Rayearth illuminate a major pitfall of altruism: when those that are trying to help have other motivations behind it. Helping others to get people to see you and admire you is wrong. If a person helps others merely to be recognized by his friends and associates, then what happens when he no longer needs or wants more time in the limelight? And for those who like happy endings, the protagonists of Magic Knight Rayearth recognized this as well as the first season ended. Throughout the second season, they devoted themselves to actually helping Cephiro, rather than just following instructions. They realized that if they were going to help Cephiro and its people, they needed to focus on, well, helping Cephiro.

It's put best in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. In that game, the world was devastated by a rain of meteors that nearly meant the end of days. The sun was blocked out for over a year, and the majority of the world's surface was damaged in the fall. The main character of the campaign, Will, tags along with and eventually becomes the commander of a division of troops that remained intact and now focuses on helping as many people as they can. However, the head of a military contractor, Caulder, welcomes the devastation. After all, a world without much organization or government means no restrictions on scientific progress, and no restrictions on experiments that would be kindly called "despicable."

When Will finally reaches Caulder's main base, Caulder mercilessly assaults the basis behind Will's actions. He tells Will, "You have simply been conditioned to accept the values of society. And now you unthinkingly spout those same values to me. Do you not fight? Do you not kill? Is this not for selfish reasons?" And, there is a tiny bit of sense in what he says. After all, who's to say whether one does good things for the people that benefit, or for that sense of righteousness that one gets when one does good things?

Yet Will has a perfect response. Although this isn't the direct response, Will does eventually say, "If those ideas aren't my own? If he conditioned me? Then that's fine. Keep your theories, Caulder. What's important is that I help people. I have no other ambitions. That is what my heart tells me to do, and my heart is my own."

If you're going to be a righteous person, then take the lessons of Magic Knight Rayearth and Advance Wars: Days of Ruin seriously. If you want to help people, don't do so for the accolades you'll get or the rewards that society gives you. Don't do the right thing because you'll be rewarded for it. (Far too often, you won't be.) Don't do the right thing because you have to, whether because you know nothing else (Magic Knight Rayearth) or because someone else would punish you otherwise. Do the right thing because you want to. Do the right thing because it is the right thing.

Huh, I thought this would be about conflict more in general. Oh well. In any case, I mentioned scientific progress when I talked about Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. For my next article, I'm addressing that in more detail, and asking a very hard question: when should we tell the scientists "no more"?

Monday, May 5, 2008

My links

I might as well describe the sites I've linked to a little, so that anyone reading this knows what those sites are and why I've linked to them. So, here we go.

Topping my list is Giant in the Playground Games. Aside from having a forum for discussion of all sorts of games, especially Dungeons and Dragons, GitP is also home to one of the best webcomics I've read, Order of the Stick. If you like parody comics that poke fun at roleplaying games, I highly recommend it.

Second on the list is The Nerd Report. This is another blog that was started at almost the same time mine was, and I took note of it. The people working on that blog are trying to create a news site for nerds, and since I'm one such, I thought that I'd gladly support them in that goal.

Following that is GameFAQs. I use this site whenever I need help with a video game. The site features guides contributed by really anyone for just about any game you can think of. I've always turned there first when I was looking for game help online, and I've usually gotten that help as well.

Finally, we have This website is bascially a Flash game arcade, and there are quite a few games on there that I enjoy. If you want to waste some time playing Flash games online, that site is as good as any to find something to do.

Ten Years of Pokémon.
What Have I Learned?

Pokémon. Easily one of the most well-known video game franchises ever, and also one of the most successful. For those people that have been under a rock for the past ten years, Pokémon had its start as a game where the player took on the role of a Pokémon trainer. The goal was to capture these creatures called Pokémon and train them to do battle with other trainers and their Pokémon. I say that that was how the game started because of the fact that it inspired dozens of spin-offs, including anything from photography (Pokémon Snap) to pinball (Pokémon Pinball and its sequel) to dungeon exploration (Pokémon Mystery Dungeon). The derivatives of the original Pokémon games aren’t even limited to video games, as there is also a Pokémon animated TV series and several animated feature-length films, along with a trading card game and any number of toys and accessories.

Despite these many, varied Pokémon items, there are still games that keep to the original format. From the original Red and Blue versions, the games have gone through four generations. Each generation has added new Pokémon and changed the world that the game takes place in. Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl represent the newest games in the series that maintain the exploration, capture, and battle that Pokémon was built upon.

I first played Pokémon almost ten years ago, when Pokémon Blue was released in the U.S. in September of 1998. I’ve been enjoying the games of the Pokémon world ever since. The question now is: was the time I spent enjoying myself pointless entertainment? Or is there some meaning, some lesson I can take from my long years of game play?

As should be obvious, the answers to those questions aren’t simple. Looking back on how I played Pokémon, I’m forced to come to the conclusion that there’s more than one way to play the game.

When I was younger, first playing Pokémon Blue, I wasn’t exactly old enough to worry too much about such questions. I didn’t really worry about how I was playing the game either. I considered it a mark of pride that I could use my Wartortle, a Water-type Pokémon, to defeat the challenges of the third Gym, Lt. Surge’s Electric-type Gym. After all, since I was at a disadvantage, obviously I was good to be able to win with a disadvantage. The fact that my Wartortle was ten levels higher than all of the Gym Leader’s Pokémon didn’t strike me as odd, nor did I think about what that meant for my victory. I was playing the game, and I was enjoying myself. Certainly, there was nothing wrong in what I was doing. And yet, I wasn’t really getting everything I could out of the game.

Fast-forward to the release of Pokémon Diamond. I hadn’t played Pokémon games for almost four years, since I ignored the releases of FireRed, LeafGreen, and Emerald, along with the fact that I had finished and become bored with Sapphire shortly after its release. I picked up the game again, and this time I played very differently. Rather than using my starter Pokémon all of the time, and ignoring type advantages in favor of raw power, I trained every Pokémon on my team. I played using all six of the Pokémon I could have in my party, using my type advantages to overcome the opponents who were now higher level than I was.

The culmination of that was my battle against the Elite Four. (Although, why they don’t just call them the Elite Five is beyond me, since there’s always the Champion after the Elite Four.) That fight taught me how Lt. Surge felt. My Pokémon were constantly lower-level, and for the final two battles, I was facing at least a ten level disadvantage almost constantly. And the first time I fought them, I lost. I didn’t take that defeat too badly though. Actually, I had expected it the whole time. While I took on the Elite Four that first time, I was taking notes, though. They weren’t much more than “use this Pokémon against this enemy” repeated for the entire Elite Four, but that was enough. I was able to limit my losses and conserve my recovery items the second time through, and succeeded in defeating them.

What does that say about the value of the Pokémon games? In the end, Pokémon is a tactical battle game. To win, the player has to be able to either overpower the enemy or exploit the enemy’s weaknesses. Overpowering force isn’t hard, and I managed to enjoy myself using the same Pokémon over and over again. But that isn’t all that I got out of Pokémon in the end. When I came back to the game in high school, I took the second route. I focused on using the weaknesses of each Pokémon to find attacks that would be more effective. I had to plan out my actions and choices of attack to overcome the same overpowering force that I had used years ago.

I had to plan, and I had to think. Strategy and tactics are very important when one plays the game without overpowering force. Since then, I’ve built three different teams, including a Lv. 5 and under team that required a vast amount of planning and effort to create. I faced down a four-Pokémon team controlled by another human being, the issue here being that he had one level 100, two level 90, and one level 76 Pokémon to my six level 73 Pokémon. A seventeen-level disadvantage should not be overcome at all, especially not when there’s a human being directing those attacks, yet I nearly defeated him, and I still can say what I should have done differently to win the battle outright.

In the end, Pokémon has taught me about thinking and planning ahead, about strategy and tactics. What’s the most effective way for me to achieve this goal? How are we going to carry out this order? Answering those questions is fundamental regardless of what the goal is, whether it be the arbitrary target of a video game or the requirements of a job ten years in the future. Being able to make a plan, whether that plan is for a strategic challenge in a video game or a project assigned to a manager in a corporation, can only aid in becoming a better leader.

And I haven’t even begun to talk about the animated series or any of the movies. But those are subjects for another time. For my next article, I’ll take what I’ve seen in anything from anime to video games to address a fundamental human question: why do we fight?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A quick note about updates

I'm going to endeavor to update this as often as possible. After thinking it over, I realized that a month was overkill for developing new stuff. For now, considering the rest of my life and its demands on my time, I want to try to get something new up every week. I might not be able to get the articles done in a week, but I'll have something new at least that often.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Hello to anyone reading this. I'll be posting under the name Counterpower, a name I use in all sorts of places whenever I need a pseudonym. I figured that I'd start my blog with a little introduction about who I am and what I think about the world.

First of all, I'm still a student. I'll be going to college for the first time around the end of August 2008. I am definitely looking forward to the changes I'll be experiencing, starting out in college and learning more about the world. I can actually be eager about schoolwork, although the last few days of high school have pretty much destroyed my usual enthusiasm.

When I have free time, I usually unwind with video games, computer games, etc. Hence the title of the blog. Although, I also enjoy reading science fiction, fantasy, adventure, and similar fare. And not all of my games are electronic; I also enjoy pencil-and-paper roleplaying games. That is to say, Dungeons and Dragons. Finally, I watch some TV, although I'm sure it's much less than the norm for my generation. I definitely prefer using my TV for videogames. When I do watch TV, it's for cartoons or the Discovery Channel. I also have a few DVDs, almost all of which are anime. However, my lesiure time activities will get a lot more attention later.

I am solidly liberal, and when I actually do turn 18 I'll definitely be a Democrat. Fair warning to anyone who doesn't want to read a liberal's opinion. Although, I'd like to believe that my political leanings will be irrelevant to the things I'll be talking about.

And on that note: what I'm generally going to make this blog about. Quick note, though: I don't plan on holding to a schedule or entirely devoting myself to one topic. I plan on trying to get something new every month, and I'll see if that needs to change. Neither is every post going to be in the same general category; although I do have a focus, I'll gladly comment on anything that I particularly want to write about.

Caveats aside, now I'll really get to my focus. Basically, this is how I feel: video games, computer games, anime, any form of contemporary entertainment, really, gets the short end of the stick in the world at large. Video games are denounced as a waste of time and effort, especially. I've heard this opinion from more than one teacher or adult, that games are nothing but juvenile entertainment. If one believed all of the hype from some groups, one would never watch TV again for fear of being irrevocably poisoned. The movies, TV shows, games, and books that are being produced today inspire violence, witchcraft, escapism, and sloth. How is the world going to survive the relentless tide of younger people growing up under these influences?

Well, I won't deny that video games are entertainment, and I certainly won't deny that they've had an influence on people. What I question is just how bad that influence is. Will all of my forms of entertainment really destroy me? I highly doubt it. In fact, I firmly believe that I've developed a little with Mario and Pikachu. While video games, computer games, (most) TV and movies, certainly are entertainment, that doesn't mean that I can't learn something from them anyway. That's what I plan on exploring in this blog: what lessons have been learned from or reinforced by my chosen forms of entertainment? I've had more than enough of talking about theme, meaning, and all of the like in English class, but what happens when I turn those analytical techniques to movies, TV shows, or video games?

I've already given it some thought, so I know where I'm going to start. My next article will address a ten-year phenomenon, in the words of Wikipedia "the second most successful and lucrative video game-based media franchise in the world": Pokémon!