Tag Archives: entertainment

Games for Change

-Brianna Huber

Video games are good for more than just entertainment. They can be used as a tool to teach people valuable ideas and lessons about how the world works. Games for Change is a website with a wide array of online and downloadable games that do precisely that.

After skimming the site, I decided to choose a few games that looked interesting and see what they were all about. Below is a short list of a few that I found particularly interesting.

Against All Odds

This game allows the user to experience what it is like to be a refugee. The game is divided into three sections: “War and Conflict,” “Border Country,” and “New Life.” Across each of these three sections you have to complete tasks like surviving an interrogation, escaping across the border into a neighboring country after deciding what to bring with you, and finding a job in your new country once you’ve been granted permission to work there. The game highlights some of the tough choices refugees must make in their decision to flee injustice and allowed me to better understand the hardships some people must face on a daily basis.

Win the White House

In this game, you are a politician running for president of the United States. After choosing a candidate to run as, you must choose your platform and key issues to support, then run for office in primaries and a general election. Along the way you can fund-raise, run commercials, take polls, and make personal appearances in individual states to try and earn votes. This game wasn’t quite as profound as Against All Odds, but it’s still a fun way to get a firsthand idea about the democratic process.

Unmanned

Unmanned seeks to challenge the concepts of war presented in most first-person-shooter style video games and present some of the realities of war from the perspective of an operator of an unmanned aerial vehicle. You don’t face combat directly; you only deal with targets on-screen. In between assignments, you go about your civilian life with your wife and son and are supposed to take note of how your involvement in the war effort relates to these interactions. Based on your responses to certain situations, you can earn medals. I only earned two out of eight or so that I encountered, one of which was for being a good dad. I never figured out what I was supposed to do during my missions, whether I was supposed to be shooting at someone or even how to shoot, and my commanding officer would constantly get mad at me for that. It’s kind of a strange, slower paced game, but I guess that’s part of what makes it interesting: the fact that parts of it go against our more commonly held notions of war.

A Closed World

This game was created in response to a lack of LGBT relevant content in video games. I thought it was interestingly symbolic. The design is similar to that of classic Pokemon games for Gameboy in that you wander through forest mazes using your keyboard’s arrow keys and encounter monsters. But the forest represents something unknown and taboo (the LGBT community or lifestyle), while the monsters are “demons” that represent negative influences that society has on your LGBT character. You can attack demons with ‘logic,’ ‘passion,’ or ‘ethics.’ If your attacks are unsuccessful, you lose “resolve” which you can regain if you “take a breath.” The idea behind the game is interesting, and it is a prototype, but I feel like it would be more effective if it had a greater sense of depth.

These are just a few of the games available through Games for Change. You can find others on topics from education, to the environment, to health issues. If there’s a topic that you’ve wanted to gain a better understanding of, there just might be an applicable game waiting for you. I suggest you go check the site out.

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Pop-Culture Connoisseur: BBC’s Sherlock vs. CBS’s Elementary

-Brianna Huber

When word that CBS was planning to create their own modern-day take on Sherlock Holmes reached the creators of BBC’s Sherlock, they did not take the news well. Sue Vertue, an executive producer of Sherlock, told the press that CBS was interested in doing a remake of the BBC series; but after their interest came to naught, CBS went their own route, and Elementary was born.

When news of Elementary first appeared, I worried that it would be an Americanized rip-off of the BBC series. To add to the drama, CBS cast Jonny Lee Miller as their Sherlock Holmes. Miller was already friends with Benedict Cumberbatch, the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes, after the two actors starred together in a National Theatre production of Frankenstein.

While I worried about developments with Elementary, I was also undeniably curious. When the show’s pilot aired on September 27th last year, I tuned in. It’s been almost a whole season now and I’ve actually grown to like the show. It’s completely different from BBC’s Sherlock and for me, the two are able to peacefully co-exist.

Sherlock begins when Sherlock Holmes and John Watson (Martin Freeman) are introduced by a mutual friend because they’re both in search of a flatmate. They move in together at 221B Baker Street in London and adventure inevitably ensues. A lot of characters from the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are around – including Detective Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves), Sherlock’s brother Mycroft (Mark Gatiss), and of course, the nefarious Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) – but there are also new ones, like lab tech Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) and Anderson (Jonathan Aris), whose sole reason for existing seems to be to annoy Sherlock.

Sherlock and John are now on a first-name basis. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is often bitter and aloof, with moments of genuine affection here and there. If Sherlock lets his warmer side show, it’s usually only around John. When he makes deductions, he talks so fast it’s hard to keep up, but that works well in giving the viewer a sense of what it might be like inside his head. Freeman’s John is a retired army doctor who’s recently returned from Afghanistan. Where Sherlock’s the brain, John is the brawn and the heart. When Sherlock goes overboard with his deductions or insults someone, John is the one to smooth it over and bring him back into line. As in the ACD stories, John acts as a “reflector of light” for Sherlock to bounce ideas off of.

Elementary is different from Sherlock in almost every way. Instead of London, it takes place in New York; and instead of having a white, male Watson, the show has Lucy Liu as Joan Watson.

The set-up is that Sherlock is just out of drug rehab and Watson has been hired by Sherlock’s father to be his “sober companion” and prevent him from relapsing. Watson is a former surgeon who left medicine after one of her patients died on the operating table. Both Sherlock and Watson have their own emotional baggage and aren’t as quick to take to one another as their BBC equivalents, but when they do, their dynamic is wonderful.

Compared to Cumberbatch’s interpretation, Miller’s Sherlock has a much softer side. He’s nicer. He still comes with plenty of eccentricities and a dark side that comes out on occasion, but his sarcasm has a more lighthearted vibe to it. He’s more open to input from others, as well as the possibility that he can sometimes be wrong.

Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is tall, svelte, and wears suits and dress shirts while Miller’s take on the character is a bit scruffier, covered in tattoos, and wears jeans and ironic t-shirts.

In Elementary, Watson’s role in Sherlock’s life is a lot more hands-on. In Sherlock, Sherlock and John are best friends and would each die for the other if necessary, but Sherlock does most of the deducing and John’s sort of along for the ride. With Joan Watson, we get to watch her grow. With each new case, she learns more about how Sherlock operates, or draws from her medical background and makes her own intellectual contributions to solving the mystery at hand.

While Sherlock has a large number of ACD characters, Elementary has very few. For a while, I worried that the show didn’t feel “Holmesian” enough and too much like another police procedural, but after seeing the most recent episode, I have a newfound hope. Right now, with our first hint toward Moriarty, there are a lot of possible routes for the show to take.

When Elementary first aired, it created a great schism within the Sherlock Holmes fandom–BBC fans on one side, CBS fans on the other. Since then, things have settled down. It’s clear now that Elementary is nothing like Sherlock. It’s possible to be a fan of both shows at the same time.

If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes and haven’t yet seen either of these two shows, I recommend checking them out; and if you like them both, don’t worry about picking a side.

Images used in illustration from BBC Press Office and http://fempop.com