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To an ex-girlfriend

A letter from a BBA Student explaining why he has decided to tchakafy his girlfriend.

Dear Kulsum,
I feel great regret to tell you that I have decided not to carry on the relationship between us any further. I must assure you that I have not made this decision suddenly, but rather, it has been the outcome of a rigorous value analysis process, which I shall explain in detail below.

From the last three months, I have observed a significant decline in the number. of calls you have made, which is a clear indication that the life-cycle of our relationship is facing a decline. I have tried extending it through numerous promotional policies including: 'increasing the quality and number of dates, gifts, and responding to your calls JIT ('Just in time').

But unfortunately, my policies have proven incompetent with your mood fluctuations. The decline theory is further strengthened by the argument that our individual planning and managing process has become very incoherent.

Apart from the disadvantages of being with you, I would also like to point out a few added advantages of this shift. As you probably know, I am currently romantically incorporating (going out) with Sokina, who is the daughter of a prominent business magnate. This is likely to create a massive rightward shift in the long-run supply curve in terms of my assets. In addition, I am achieving better returns in the short term as well.

For example, Sokina uses the SIM of the same operator and so I can benefit from the 'Friends & Family' system. This allows me to save 1.4 tk per pulse which amounts to 168 tk per hour! I no longer have to stay up till midnight to talk. Other than that, now I have to put up with a lot less 'nekami', and unlike most other girls Sokina has a great sense of humour. This means I do not have to worry about jharu-peta, every time I want to crack a joke.

There are advantages in terms of the external stakeholders as well. Unlike your dad, Sokina's dad is a proper gentleman and I am not scared of him. This is immensely motivating when it comes to achieving my romantic objectives.

I am also enjoying an additional advantage over other competitors: being a student of the university he owns. The professors are forced to set a minimum GPA level of 3.8 in my case, which is perfectly inelastic in relation to my studying.

Evaluating all aspects, I believe it is clear that my decision is the best amongst the available choices. It is likely to be beneficiary, for me, and it is not in my best interest to analyse what is best for you.

Best Regards,

Videogames as mainstream media
Yay or Nay?

Consider these factoids:
  • the Xbox game, Halo 2, earned $125m on day one, breaking the all-time opening day records for any form of media;
  • Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima was hailed as one of The 20 Most Influential People of the 21st Century by Newsweek;
  • the US Army is utilising games like America's Army for recruiting purposes and Full Spectrum Warrior for combat training;
  • the Sony PlayStation received an Emmy Award for 'Outstanding Achievement in Technology and Advanced New Media';
  • Nintendo's Mario character has earned himself a wax figure at the Hollywood Wax Museum in lieu of The Matrix's Neo and Trinity!

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
It also proves a very important point: videogames are no longer the niche hobby that they once were. It's no exaggeration to say that it's slowly become mainstream media much like films, books or even music. Today's games are indeed a far cry from the blips and flashes of Pong or Space Invaders. Titles like the Grand Theft Auto and Legend of Zelda have sold hundreds of millions of copies over the past few years. Yet how is this phenomenon permeating into the masses?

Before, media 'entertainment' could be referred to that gleaned from reading books/comics, watching films/television and listening to music. All those forms run strong today, but among them (with the exception of music) they lack one feature: interactivity. Then came videogames.

For the first time, you were in near-complete control of the action, the drama and the suspense; being able to carve your own level of entertainment is a key point of the attraction towards gaming. In a society where we demand more control of our hectic lives, games are becoming an extension of our natural tendencies and much like other media, a sort of escape from reality. That's only the beginning. Besides the fact that playing games is enjoyable in itself, they aren't just about mashing buttons; there are titles that make you stop and think, questions about ethics and morality are raised but aren't those the tasks of books and movies? Not anymore. Elements of captivating storylines and multidimensional characters are not just seen from the mere audiences' perspective. By combining that essential spice of interactivity, videogames provide the melting pot where all other media forms converge to allow experiences beyond the norm.

Games have been coined as childish, trivial pastimes by our elders, but with the complexities and minutiae involved in today's titles, they are anything but. The casual person may see a game as nothing more than pointing a gun and shooting everything. These titles can be viewed as stereotypes that run rampant and mar the image of videogames as a creative media. But doesn't that happen for movies and books as well?

There are many games that simply brim with a 'feel-good' factor that people enjoy from movies, TV or books in a way that just comes naturally. In Mario you run through levels just by timing jumps, defeating enemies and traversing through traps. It's the simplicity of it all combined with other aspects that makes it so utterly compelling. Titles like this offer genuinely addictive fun without any strings attached. Sports titles are ones that have truly become a part of the mainstream now. In the same way that physically playing sports is a way of bringing people together into a competitive environment, the game renditions can do the same. One will be surprised to know how much strategising and co-ordination a sports videogame often requires. These also bring out the competitive spirits within the players and you see the same fervour that one sees on the pitch or the field. In Europe, thousands of gamers unite to play in 'PES (Pro Evolution Soccer) Football Tournaments' sponsored by the developer Konami. There are real cash prizes involved but besides that, everyone does have a genuinely enjoyable experience: they're not only there to win, but to have fun. That's one of the beauties of gaming: being able to feel genuine gratification from what appears to be an artificial medium.

However, don't let that lead you to think gaming is about sheer mindless merrymaking. Books like 1984 and movies like Citizen Kane are thought-provoking ventures that seek to question many an event, creed or emotion. Philosophical musing and moral issues are endeavours that one does not normally associate with videogames yet that is further from the truth than you think. Deus Ex dealt with swirling Government conspiracies that were seemingly fantastical, yet were quite close to many truths. A prime example is the Metal Gear Solid series. Through the medium of gaming, Director Hideo Kojima has passed along many an ideology. One such analogy centered on the theme of dealing with ramifications of nuclear proliferation. In the award-winning MGS2, you are given enemies who display incredibly life-like AI. While confronting them you can either kill them or harmlessly tranquilise them. The fact that a videogame allows you to consider morals in such situations only hints towards the depths that can explored via this medium. Issues like preserving the past, data manipulation, being able to control society and questioning the morality of human dogmas were all major points being brought up these are terrifyingly relevant real-world topics but gasp, they're being discussed and pondered over in a videogame… and brilliantly so! You'll be surprised how many of these ideologies run parallel to the musings of minds like Shakespeare and Nietzsche; videogames are becoming rather complex beasts.

A key feature that is becoming prevalent in other games is this similar tendency to pass along significant messages that are relevant to the consumers, the times and various situations. Remember why kids learnt more about 'green issues' from Captain Planet rather than the stern Geography teacher at school? It wasn't the messages themselves, rather the medium that changed their attitude towards accepting and assimilating the ideas. Surprisingly, games have the power to influence, and even moreso today.

The similarities between games and movies are increasing with each new game release. Gamers demand engrossing storylines, compelling characters and cinema-quality presentation in their titles. This has lead to the creation of vast, sweeping epics like the Final Fantasy series to the alluring sci-fi world of Halo. These are, in many ways, the gaming incarnations of films like The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. Development studios now share many of Hollywood's key assets for such games: gaffers (lighting professionals), conceptual designers, voice-actors, scriptwriters to even world-renowned music composers and directors! It's also become in vogue to release game tie-ins of new (and old) films. Examples range from the upcoming King Kong to recent films like Batman Begins to classics like The Godfather and Star Wars. These collaborations exist due to the fact that these companies firmly appreciate gaming as a solid entertainment medium with immense commercial potential. Plus, the financial risks are justified since they are catering to a ready-made fan-base. It's an interesting relationship that has lead to both industries using mutual talent.

By now most of you must have heard of the 'World Cyber Games' event that is observed annually. Thousands of players from all over the world, proudly representing their home countries, battle it out for virtual supremacy where the victor not only wins a rather substantial cash prize but also earns fame and glory well atleast among the gaming populace! With the numbers burgeoning each year alongside big-name sponsors as well, this tournament is slowly but surely becoming a pretty well-known event and is earning some much deserved International recognition. On a smaller scale, friends and family congregating together for gaming events like LAN parties (using both PCs and consoles) is becoming rather common.

Music was something less touched upon in gaming but it was a presence without which much of the experience loses it charm. From the pastoral fantasy themes in Legend of Zelda to the evocative orchestrations in Halo 2, the music has certainly evolved, but the emotional impact remains as potent as ever. Many people associate music with particular themes (as in musical themes) that appeal to their sensibilities and it's that association that is the basis of the 'band': you listen to a particular band because you are receptive to their brand of music. Games like Mario and Metal Gear Solid have themes that have become famous and loved all over the world: not only because the themes are amazing (they are, really!) but because they have the organic appeal of the magic of music. But music isn't just an accompaniment; often it is the essence of gameplay. Revolutionary titles like Amplitude and Rez have utilised the alluring power of music to build a gameplay foundation. These are 'higher concept' games that do away with traditional or standard game mechanics in order to appeal to a select audience. Examples are rare yet their presence is important in establishing games as art form.

Going on the topic of art form, it must be noted that there are many a title that deserve to be called true works of art. Be it from an aesthetic standpoint or from an ethereal experience, games have come closer to the intangible medium of art. Take Ico for example. Your main task is to accompany a young woman to safety by traversing through a gargantuan trap-laden castle. The premise is tried-and-true but in terms of execution it's a far more delicate, otherworldly experience. When a game is able to evoke emotions like fear, awe, tension and hope (as well as the opposite) without the use of typical methods like gauges or even music, then it's an entirely different beast altogether. Words like 'evocative' and 'soul-stirring' are often used to describe art or music, but they can be used, to the full essence of their meanings, for videogames in such instances. But it doesn't have to be intangible all the time! Games can be direct showcases of creative artistry through aesthetic design as well.

Makes you think doesn't it?
All this often leads to other trains of thought, though. If videogames are such powerful media, then they will naturally have addicting or influential tendencies as well. This leads to an issue that has raised many a head today: videogame-induced violence. While there are numerous studies that are supportive of this fact, an equal number say otherwise. However, it wouldn't be prudent to say that violent titles like Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Kombat are good for society. There were very good reasons as to why there were so many legal ramifications when various questionable materials were found in both games. These aren't the only offenders mind you! I myself have heard of isolated incidents where children have acted on violent urges induced by playing a particular videogame. There are also situations where people become so engrossed that they often lose awareness of reality. Health factors are also relevant when over-playing and lack of physical activity come into consideration; poor posture, eye-strain and RSI are notable side-effects although those are the results of extended play. Playing in bursts is the safest way to go. When videogames are able to manipulate emotion on such scales that rational thought is often cast aside, the possibilities are worrying. This is something that needs to be carefully regulated. However, the same case remains with R-rated or suggestive films, explicit music lyrics, et al for the rest of the media world.

So, there you have it. I may have changed your opinion or at least given you many points to ponder about. In the end, it is the mass population that will decide whether videogaming is here to stay or not.

Visit my blog le-chupacabra.blogspot.com and chime in with your comments and what-not.

By Le Chupacabra


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