July 13, 2012

Caring About the Globe… and Why we Don’t

Filed under: Opinion,Writing — Screenhog @ 9:02 am

Last week, CBC radio – Canada’s national radio station – were discussing a question: why don’t people care more about global climate change? Now, there was a lot of discussion back and forth, much of it from people that were genuinely surprised that there even WERE people who don’t care about it.

It doesn’t surprise me at all.

There was a study done once on how people donate to charity. (I promise this will relate to the climate change thing in a moment.) The study did two tests. In the first test, people were given $5 for performing a survey, but after the survey, they were told about how there were a million people in some African nation who were in desperate need of food, water, and medicine. They were then given the chance to donate some of their $5 towards the charity.

In the second test, other people were still given $5 for performing a survey, but after the survey, they were told about a single child in that nation who was in desperate need of food, water, and medicine, with some details were given about that child’s life and family. The second group was also given the chance to donate some of their $5 towards the charity.

The people who donated towards the million people in Africa gave an average of $1.14. The people who donated to the child gave an average of $2.38.1 That’s more than double. Crazy, but true. See, when people see a challenge that they truly can’t do something about on their own, they’re less likely to even try. A million people? I can’t possibly help that many. One person? Sure, I can help!

So, what does this have to do with climate change?

(click to read the rest of this post…)

  1. Source: “Made To Stick”, written by Chip and Dan Heath, 2007

June 12, 2012

The Wii U – Nintendo knows exactly what it’s doing

Filed under: Opinion,Video Games,Writing — Tags: — Screenhog @ 8:43 pm

I’ve made it no secret in the past that my favorite video game console of all time is the Nintendo Wii. So, I’ve been following the news about the Wii U, Nintendo’s upcoming console, with quite a bit of interest. Many of Nintendo’s fans have been wondering why the Wii’s successor looks the way it does. A tablet with buttons? What was Nintendo thinking? To be honest, I wondered the same thing, until I thought some more and realized that the Wii U is exactly what Nintendo’s next console had to be.

First, some background. When it launched in 2006, the Nintendo Wii caught the world by storm. For over 2 years after that launch, it was difficult to even find the Wii on store shelves. As of May 2012, over 90 million Wiis have been sold. Despite heavy declines in recent years, the system has been huge for Nintendo. However, the Wii also had some faults, some which got worse with age (such as the lack of support for HDTVs). Nintendo knew that it would have to make a new console soon, and that it would need these features:

- Backwards compatibility. When your previous console sold 90 million units, it would be a serious mistake to make those games impossible to play on your brand new console. (I’m looking at you, Playstation)
- High-definition support. HDTVs were relatively uncommon in 2006. Now, not so much.
- Better ways to connect online.

There are others, I’m sure, but I want to focus on the first one, backwards compatibility. To make the new console work with Wii games, it needs to support the Wii Remote, which is a big restriction. But, it also has to have something unique, something that will make the new console truly feel like an upgrade. What to do?

Nintendo’s answer? Turn the next-generation Wii into a gigantic Nintendo DS.

The DS was launched in 2004, and when its various incarnations are included – DS Lite, DSi, and DSi XL – it has sold a combined 150 million units. The newer 3DS, while having a slow start, has become a good-selling console as well, and both the DS and 3DS lines have been remarkably capable in a variety of game genres.

The handheld DS console has two screens, and games are played one screen or the other depending on context. The bottom screen is touch sensitive, the top screen is not. The left side has a D-Pad (directional buttons shaped like a plus sign), while the right side has four circular buttons in a diamond shape. On the top corners of the lower screen, there are two “shoulder buttons” for additional functions.

I have just described the DS. I have also just described the Wii U.

This is the Wii U. It has two screens; your TV, and the Wii U Gamepad, which looks a whole lot like the bottom screen of the DS. The Gamepad has a touch-sensitive screen that can communicate with the main TV screen. The Wii U is a super-sized DS.

I’m not the only one to figure this out, by the way. Scribblenauts, a popular game series for the DS, is making its way to the Wii U, and it appears to play just the same way on the Wii U as it did on the DS.

Bottom line, Nintendo knows what it’s doing with the Wii U.

Now, for some predictions about the Wii U:

- Scribblenauts won’t be the only major DS franchise to come to the Wii U. Other DS titles, like Pokemon and Rhythm Heaven, would be natural fits to move to the console.
- There will be more video games that end in the letter “u” released in the next two years than in the entire history of games combined.
- The Wii U will be less successful than the Wii was. The Wii was a perfect storm of popularity, and expecting Nintendo to beat that is unfair.
- At least a few of the most popular games on the Wii U will be completely new games, not based on any existing Nintendo IP (Mario, Zelda, etc.). The over-reliance on sequels isn’t healthy.
- I will help make a game for the Wii U. (At the moment, this is wishful thinking, but I am hopeful that it will come true.)

September 12, 2009

Humpty

Filed under: Opinion,Sketch — Screenhog @ 5:00 pm

In the story of Humpty Dumpty, “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” Am I the only one that has ever asked why they even let the horses try to put Humpty together again? They’re horses, for crying out loud… it’s not like they’re out in hayfields across the midwestern United States weaving hay into blankets or creating mud sculptures. They do not have a particularly delicate touch when it comes to arts and crafts… for that matter, they don’t even have thumbs.

Come to think of it, the story doesn’t even mention that Humpty is an egg… I wouldn’t be surprised if that weird little rhyme actually has some kind of deeper meeting or political statement or something. If “Ring Around the Rosy” is about the Black Plague, who knows evil lurks in Humpty Dumpty.

August 15, 2009

The Internet

Filed under: Comics,Opinion — Tags: — Screenhog @ 11:40 am

In 1995 there was a short-lived Warner Bros. cartoon called Freakazoid!, in which the title character got his superhero powers by entering cyberspace and gaining all of the knowledge of the Internet. The cartoon itself became a zany piece of animation history that has to be seen to be believed, but the concept of gaining superhero powers through the Internet was very interesting.

You have to understand that this was 1995. There was no Facebook, no YouTube, no Google, and no Flash animations. Yahoo was only a year old, Netscape Navigator was the most popular web browser, and most people entered the Internet at speeds that would make the above comic take about 10 seconds to download.

And yet, none of this mattered to the early pioneers of the Internet, because they had accomplished their goal of allowing people from any part of the world to share information. Doctors could find cures for diseases from medical papers written in a different continent the day before, families could contact their relatives in a foreign land without paying expensive long distance charges, and artists could show millions of people lovable animations of hamsters dancing to a Disney song played at twice its speed.

Wait… what?
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April 10, 2009

Easter

Filed under: Christianity,Opinion — Tags: — Screenhog @ 6:00 pm

Easter is the most important Christian holiday of the year, but it certainly hides its importance a little too well. If you were to look at any department store at Christmas, and then again at Easter, you’d conclude that Christmas is the big one. In fact, I’d even argue that if you were to look at most churches at those two times, Christmas is the bigger one.

Christmas is certainly easier to wrap your head around… “a baby is born that will save the world”. That’s nice. Isn’t that nice? Almost superheroic, really. Let’s add to that stuff like “people gave him expensive gifts to celebrate his birth”. Oh, that’s even better! That gives me a way to celebrate! I’ll give gifts! I’ll get gifts! Christmas is the best time of the year!

Easter. That’s a lot tougher to celebrate. The baby that was born grows into a man named Jesus, is convicted of crimes, killed, but then rises from the dead within a few days informing people that he’s actually the Son of God. The details of his death are gruesome, and the details of his resurrection are, to most people, unbelievable.

How exactly are we supposed to turn something like Easter into foil-covered chocolates or wrapping paper? I’ve seen Biblical wrapping paper at Christmastime, with nativity scenes and angels and shepherds, but never Easter. An empty tomb, a crucified man, God having a victory over demonic forces… all of it is very difficult to commercialize, and so we celebrate it with bunnies and chicks and eggs and a host of odd symbols based on ancient Babylonian customs that don’t make sense to us. But, in doing so, we are forced to ignore this:

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”

If Jesus was just a nice guy who said a few nice things and died in a horrible way, then everything changes. All Christians become lunatics, and all people of this earth lose the one true source of hope, freedom, and a relationship with God.

But, if it did happen, and Jesus did die to cover everything that you did wrong before rising from the dead and conquering death… well, then you have a choice, don’t you? Do you accept the gift? Do you want to be saved?

Many of the people I know don’t want to answer yes or no to that question… they’d rather just avoid the question entirely, and get on with their lives. I imagine that this is probably why we still have the Easter Bunny… it’s a lot easier to believe that we get a few days off work to celebrate a rabbit than having to answer that question that the annoying Christians keep asking: Do you want to know Jesus?

I won’t ask you that question. All I can say is that it’s been well worth it for me. :)

Happy Easter!

January 23, 2009

Human Brussels Sprouts

Filed under: Christianity,Opinion — Screenhog @ 10:36 pm

So, I came across this in the Bible recently:

“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.”

Upon reading this, I was hit with the strangest thought – Christians are human brussels sprouts.

You know about brussels sprouts, right? They have this certain chemical inside of them that certain people can taste and other people can’t, and this is one of the reasons why some people find that they taste horribly bitter, while others don’t find that true at all (and, in fact, will even say they taste sweet sometimes).

Now, I don’t have a sense of smell – that’s a topic for another day – so whenever I hear about “aroma”, that’s pretty much the closest thing I can relate it to, and when the verses I was reading talked about the same aroma being fragrant or deathly to different people, it clicked with me. As a Christian, I have a message that I’m supposed to tell the whole world. It’s a message of extreme importance, and it has saved my life. And yet, to many people, that same message reeks.

I don’t really know how to deal with that yet. I’m sure I talk about Christianity proportionally more on this site than I do in real life. I want to show people my faith properly, and this is the best way I know how to do it… giving any reader the freedom to walk away from what I’m saying at any time. But, if the message of the Gospel really is the most important message in the world, shouldn’t I be telling everyone about it, no matter how much it reeks for them?

I don’t know. All I know is that sometimes, people learn to like brussels sprouts.

December 12, 2008

Superman Vision

Filed under: Comics,Opinion — Screenhog @ 7:43 pm
Fact 1: Lead crystal is made up of at least 20% lead.
Fact 2: Superman can not see through lead.
Question: Can Superman see through lead crystal?

This was a real conversation that came up at work about a month ago.

(click to read the rest of this post…)

November 18, 2008

I like the Wii

Filed under: Opinion,Video Games — Screenhog @ 6:40 pm

I like the Wii. As a console, I really enjoy it. Wii Power!

I also frequent many video game sites, and have gotten the impression that, at best, the Wii has a few pretty good games, and at worst, it’s a mockery of video game consoles and an insult to serious gamers.

I don’t know if I’m a “serious gamer”. What I do know is that it’s as though Nintendo probed my brain to find out what I’d want in a video game system, made most of it happen, and threw in some extras that I would never have dreamed of.

Here’s the thing. I do not like first-person shooters. I don’t like sports games. I don’t like horror games. I do not own a high-resolution televison. I do not have a home theater surround sound setup. At this point, Xbox and PS3 have pretty much already lost me.

What do I like? I like platformers. I like humorous games. I like adventures and solving puzzles. I like being able to hold my hands more than a foot apart and still play a game. I even like to work up a sweat while playing a video game in my own home sometimes.

You know what else? I have no problem whatsoever with not playing a video game for months on end. When it’s the summertime, I want to be outdoors more often! I want to do other things sometimes! Video gaming is not my life!

I like Mario. I like Zelda. I wish I could buy about 50 of the games on Virtual Console. So what if I have to store them on SD cards, I don’t care. There is more than enough video game entertainment to last me a long time on the puny little white console. And when the time comes, I’d love to design a game for it. I already have design documents for it.

Yes, there are really people out there who play and enjoy the Wii. And I am one of them.

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