LIBRARY OVERFLOW: GOOD OMENS

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Some books feel like coming home. I’m not sure if I could really tell you the first time I read Good Omens (sometime in college maybe?) because I’m certain the book came in this worn, dropped in the bath, dogeared condition. It’s always felt like a comfortable, curl up by the fire, know every word but it still stirs feelings inside you book. Perhaps that Catholic upbringing of mine has something to do with how familiar the themes of the book seem, as well as the gentle way the grandiose has become familiarly mundane out of sheer infectious contact with humanity. It might just be the readable, welcoming writing style of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, who write like they’re the best of friends welcoming you into the secret they’ve been whispering and laughing about for hours. (Read More)

PARTICLE MACE: A MAGFEST REVIEW

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Particle Mace is self-described as "a game about trying not to die, but that's impossible." Rather than the more traditional means of shooting, your only weapons are the tiny maces you are dragging along (and trying to swing) behind your ship. Knocking those into things will cause them to explode, sometimes into much smaller versions of themselves, whereas knocking your ship into things will cause you to die. First impressions of the game were that it was some version of the legendary Asteroids meets Geometry Wars, but with a truly inventive mechanic the game leaves those comparisons to the merely aesthetic and reminiscent game modes. Particle Mace is fast paced, exciting, and filled with close calls and moments wherein your utter surprise at your survival  leads to your imminent death. A sort of "I shouldn't be alive -- oh wait, I'm not" vicious cycle in the style of many of yesteryear's best arcade games.  (Read More)

LEARNING WITH PORTALS

Back in September of 2011, the White House unveiled plans for what was called Digital Promise, which sought to put the development of learning software, including educational games, into practice. Partnered with them, much to the surprise of some, was Valve Software, the video game developer of the very popular Half-Life and Portal titles. At a press event, USAToday even quoted Valve co-founder Gabe Newell as joking, “We were like, ‘Aren’t we enemies? Aren’t we entertainment, and isn’t that in opposition to education?’” However, since 2011, Portal (and now Portal 2) has made itself a staple of video game based learning in many classrooms. (Read More)

USING MINECRAFT IN THE CLASSROOM

“What happens when we give students an alternate reality in which to play, experiment, create, collaborate — and yes — sometimes make a hot mess of failure?” asks Diane Main, the Assistant Director of Instructional Techology (Upper School) at the Harker School in San Jose, California. The short answer: “Thrive.” These games are things that students already have access to, and are already teaching themselves with. Whether it is basic coding, to learn how to mod in items that they desire but cannot build, or simply researching how to build bigger and better items, students are already utilizing these games as learning resources. Mojang, the developers, have been very open about the potential use of their game as a teaching tool, and are working with organizations such as MinecraftEdu to make it a reality.  (Read More)