Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Obsessed Culture


-Emily Fraysse

I play “Magic: The Gathering,” have a collection of all the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings DVDs, display a Where the Wild Things Are poster, read graphic novels such as V for Vendetta and Watchmen, and watch anime films like Spirited Away.

I believe that we are not only the “lost culture” in the ways of being glued to our cell phones and iPods, but that we are “lost” in the realm of these make-believe lands, characters, and stories. I find that today more people are open to reading graphic novels and comics, and are obsessed with pop culture, horror, sci-fi, anime, gaming, film, and fantasy in general. While the range of fantasy literature is vast, it usually involves a type of magic in an imaginary world and plays out stereotypes like clever thieves, wizards, dangerous monsters, and dark threats. The gaming industry has contributed to pop culture as well as advancing videogame technology. This has had a sociological, psychological, and cultural impact on the individuals who play, as well as the rest of civilization.

Men and women alike gather at Comic Cons around the world, dressed to the nines in homemade or store-bought costumes of sci-fi or fantasy characters. For that day, they get to look and live like their obsession or merely a favored individual.  Just as Michelangelo sculpted his iconic, muscular statue of David, many of the characters seen in these genres epitomize what the male and female bodies are supposed to look like. The men tend to look built, fit, and agile, while the women tend to look beautiful, thin, and wear revealing clothing.

Much of fantasy-themed literature and gaming emphasizes the male ideals of heroism, responsibility, and power. In the popular game Skyrim, the hero spends his or her time running around a vast world, going on daunting quests, collecting weapons, improving skills, and battling demonic animals in order to protect the relatively peaceful community that they live in. The same ideals are seen in J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of the Ring or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

The lands are spectacular, imaginative works of splendid beauty like ancient forests, forgotten caves, and little villages. Usually, years of thought and grueling work goes into them, as seen in the film The Indie Game, which highlights the history of gaming, the tedious process that gaming developers go through, and the effect that it has on consumers.

“It’s not just a game,” Phil Fish, creator of the game Fez, said in the film. “I’m so closely attached to it. This is my identity.” His game sold 20,000 units the first day it debuted and a year later hit the 200,000 mark.

In a society that constantly seems to be dealing with an overwhelming amount of unsolved problems and issues, gaming allows the user an escape to become a part of a different world. Despite the ideals of grandeur that the quirky tales and characters play out, the underlying grand themes are displayed in a sort of juvenile and child-like tenor. It is almost like regular gamers should be diagnosed with the Peter Pan effect—they reach out to these games to enter another world, where making a potion or combat have no serious consequence other than having the potion go wrong or losing a leg during the battle and grudgingly having to restart the game. But it also goes deeper than that. It is a way of communication, a relation with a character. Jonathan Blow, the creator of Braid, said his game was “making it was about ‘let me take my deepest flaws and vulnerabilities and put them in the game.’” And that was exactly what he did.

Image by Andy Simmons.

Visually Oriented: Now that Hogwarts is vacant, where is J.K. Rowling?

-Emily Fraysse

In October 1999, when my sister and I were 7 and 9 years old, our mother picked us up from elementary school and took us to a local synagogue to see an upcoming author speak in my small hometown of Lafayette, California. She was on a promotional tour for the third book of her new series. She read the second book out loud to a crowd of a mere four hundred, while people with plush snowy white owls perched on their arms were gathered around the perimeter of the room. After, she sat at one of the tables and greeted every person while signing copies of her new book. Little did I know that the humble, hardly-famous woman that signed my copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban would, in just a few short years, create a magical world full of creativity that would spark the imaginative minds of all ages.

Before the first book of the series came out, Rowling experienced the death of her mother, a divorce, poverty, and depression. The idea for the first book came to her on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990, and she began scribbling down story after story of made-up characters–her friends, Harry, Hermione, and Ron–on a napkin. Since then, it has been a whirlwind. In the film “A Year in The Life” (2007), Rowling goes back to her old flat where she finished the first Harry Potter book. “This is really where I turned my life around completely,” Rowling says. “My life changed so much in this flat.” Stepping into the child’s room of her old flat, where the entire Harry Potter series resided on the bookshelf.

It has been fifteen years since the UK version of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone came out and Rowling has now produced a grand total of seven Harry Potter books, eight Harry Potter films, three children’s books relating to the Harry Potter series, a few articles, a short story (also relating to the Harry Potter series and was auctioned off for charity), and more recently an adult book called The Casual Vacancy. In June of 2010 the franchise developed a theme park, which was built in Orlando, Florida. Due to the success of the park in Florida, two other theme parks are under construction in California and Japan, both due to open in 2016.

Despite the enormous obstacles she has overcome and her overwhelming success, the most interesting fact about the first female novelist billionaire is that she is no longer a billionaire.

Dropped from the Forbes billionaries list in 2012, she has stepped down to millionaire status due to the high taxes in Britain and the overwhelming amount that she has donated to various charities (an estimated $160 million in total). She has even founded her own charity, Lumos, which helps disadvantaged children in Europe. Over the years she has won an array of literary awards and honorary degrees and in 2011 opened up “Pottermore,” a website dedicated to the franchise and is the only place to buy Harry Potter eBooks and digital audio downloads.

 With an uneasy relationship with the media, Rowling is seen today as more of a recluse tucked away in her Scotland home. She does very few interviews and talks, but when she does, it is brilliant. In 2008, she was the Commencement speaker at the Harvard University graduation and spoke about “the fringe benefits of failure,” something she has been quite familiar with during her life.

 Although the probability that more tales of the famous magical trio is slim, Rowling’s words and wisdom have taught the world about fear, friendship, and love.

Party Like it's 1990!

-Drew Dakessian

I am a child of the ’90s, and I am proud. I grew up in a decade when morality still meant something, and music that you could dance to was not automatically deemed uncool. Fortunately, in recent years my nostalgia for the culture of the ’90s has found an outlet.

If you had a pulse in 1997, you probably are still trying (and failing) to get the song “Barbie Girl” out of your head. For that, you can thank the Danish bubblegum/dance pop group Aqua. With 11 singles (including three you might actually have heard before), the dulcet tones of Aqua were with me through countless Harry Potter books and childhood dance parties.

In 2010, Aqua released a greatest hits compilation featuring three new singles, which was followed up last year by a new full-length release available as an import to us United States fans (assuming I’m not the only one). You can sit on your high horse and extol the political resonance of Lady gaga, or you can shake what your mama gave you and celebrate the ethereal beauty of life. If you prefer the latter, go with Aqua.

Without a doubt, one of the most seminal TV show of the 1990s was Boy Meets World, which ran on ABC from 1993 to 2000. Like many other children of the ‘90s, I was captivated by the story of Cory “Hey, I’m average” Matthews, Shawn, his sensitive best friend from the wrong side of the tracks, Topanga, his beautiful and brilliant girlfriend, his increasingly clueless yet profound brother Eric, and his ever-sagacious teacher/next-door neighbor Mr. Feeny. The show gave us such timeless pearls of wisdom as “Life’s tough, get a helmet,” and “Tears are the thank-you-notes of the soul.” It was dramatic; it was hilarious.

Recently, ABC Family has obtained the rights to Boy Meets World, airing it in 2.5-hour mini marathons most weekday mornings beginning at 7 a.m. Do yourself a favor: join me in watching them and picking up on the sexual innuendo and subtle class commentary that went right over my curly head way back at the turn of the 21st century.

The ’90s would have been nothing without the trans media marvel Pokemon. The TV show, movies, and trading card game were all well and good, but the true highlight of the Pokemon franchise was its original product, a series of Game Boy games. I can think of few things more thrilling in 1999 than setting out to defeat all eight Pokemon gym leaders while attempting to capture and train all 151 (and then 251 and then 386 and then 493) Pokemon. It was a hero’s quest set to lo-fi synth music (think early Rilo Kiley, but repetitive). We are all grown up now, but when our love interests fail to call, or we fail midterms for no apparent reason, wouldn’t it be nice to escape into the world of Pokemon, where we can save the game before an important life event, and go back and restart if things don’t work out the way we wanted?

If your answer is a resounding ‘yes,’ I have good news: you don’t have to wait until the next time you return to your childhood home to dig up your old, scratched Game Boy from under your bed (don’t try to pretend you ever actually parted with it). Every single Pokemon game has been uploaded in its original, authentic format to Playr.org, where I and innumerable other children of the ’90s with bad cases of arrested development can indulge our desire to regress. And you know what? I’m not even embarrassed. After all, there are few things more deliciously nihilistic than getting two Dittos to battle each other.

How-To Play Quidditch

– Heather Ah San

On a Saturday morning, walking past Gerlinger lawn, you’ve probably seen some college kids, running through the mud, broom in hand. And by now, you’ve probably figured out what they’re playing: Quidditch.

Sure, Quidditch in Harry Potter world requires flying, but at the University of Oregon, the UO Muggle Quidditch Team finds a way around that.

The concept of muggle Quidditch originated in 2006 at Middlebury College in Vermont. Since then, the no-fly muggle sport of Quidditch has become wildly popular among US colleges and universities.

To many outsiders, playing Quidditch is a quandary, especially without the use of magic. And for non-Harry Potter fans, Quidditch is even more baffling.

So for those who are curious, here is an inside look on how-to play muggle Quidditch:

1. Find a field

Any field, as long as it’s long enough and wide enough to run up and down. If you want to keep it “official” to the rulebook (yes, believe it or not, there’s an official rule book) consult the International Quidditch Association rulebook. Here’s a picture of how it should be set up:

2. Equipment

The next step is to acquire playing equipment. You will need six goal posts, three for each side of the field. The goals are three circles of varying height, the tallest in the middle, and the two smaller posts on each side. Again, you can be technical and follow the rulebook, but a good rule of thumb is to put them far enough apart to run through, but no farther than that. Be creative with how you make your goal posts- you can use hoola hoops or pipe to create the goal, and attach it to a pipe, either weighed down and attached to a bucket of cement or staked down in the ground, just make sure it’s sturdy.

The only other equipment you really need is a Quaffle and three Bludgers. A Quaffle should be a light, medium sized ball like a volleyball, and the Bludgers should also be light and small (make sure you can’t cause any permanent damage with a bludger. You’re throwing them at people – think of something you might use for dodge ball).

Lastly, you need something to identify the Snitch. The UO muggle Quidditch league uses a yellow sock with an object to weigh it down, but some league’s dress up the Snitch in full flying snitch attire. Just make sure the Snitch can run in its costume (another drawback to muggle Quidditch).

3. Players

Obviously, you will need players. The number per position can vary, but the average number per team is as follows: 3 chasers, 2 beaters, 1 keeper and 1 seeker. Now what exactly do these players do?

Chaser: These players move the Quaffle up and down the field, either running with it or passing it to score a goal through the opposing team’s hoop. Kicking the ball up and down the field is not permitted

Beater: These players throw the Bludger at opposing players to knock them out of play. They can throw them at chasers or beaters, and can also be thrown at. If a player is hit, they must drop their bludger and run around their team’s goal post.

Keeper: This keeper defends the team’s goal post. They can wrestle the ball away from an opposing team member, throw or kick the ball to the other side, or block a throw. They are not affected by Bludgers.

Seeker: The seeker searches for the snitch. If he/she catches it they earn an automatic 30 points. The seeker can be knocked out by a Bludger.

4. The Game

The goal of the game is to score the most points. The number of points can vary, though 50 is a good rule of thumb, ten points per scored goal.

At the beginning of the game, the Snitch runs around within the designated spot (normally outside of the field), then the seekers chase after the Snitch after a head start.

On the field, the Quaffle and Bludgers are lined in the middle. Each team is equidistant from the balls. Once the game begins, the players aim to get control of the Quaffle (each team can only have control of two Bludgers out of the three).

The rest is pretty simple, and the rules are flexible. The real goal of the game is to have fun, get a little muddy, and live in the world Harry Potter for a few hours.