BrowserQuest

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Behold, the power of HTML5!

Watching the Internet grow up, in my life time, has been both a joy and a thrill. I fondly remember the days of BBS and “high speed” 28.8 baud modems. The geeky awesomeness of dialing up a friend and typing back and forth late into the night helped cement lifelong friendships for me.

Fast forward a few tech cycles and suddenly HTML5 is powering projects of wonder. For instance, the amazing folks over at Mozilla have created a pretty cool tech demo titled BrowserQuest. This game reminds me of Zelda, Pokemon and old-school RPGs. I highly suggest taking it for a whirl. Being able to just play the game without having to install plugins and what-not is a sight to behold.

Repost: Points

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Achievements. Trophies. Icing on a video gamer’s cake.

The virtual playgrounds of Xbox LIVE and Playstation Network (PSN) each feature what basically amount to mini-games, the achievement/ trophy grind. In a battle that has no meaning, players try and see who can out achieve and out trophy their fellow gamer. Street cred in its digital essence.

I was recently playing through Uncharted, when I noticed I was receiving trophies for “50 headshots” and “100 kills with a pistol”. While I knew that these trophies really didn’t mean much, they kind of did. The more I played the more I noticed how much I liked receiving these in-game accomplishments. It was as if someone had come and patted me on the back, every once in awhile, for completing some soulless task.

Many of us work thankless jobs; jobs where negativity thrives in the absence of praise. These small, pointless, meaningless achievements and trophies are a breath of fresh air after a hard day of work. Even though I know that they mean nothing, ultimately they do. In the rush of everyday life, the rewards systems employed by these online networks reinforce that feeling that your actually achieving something for the time your investing.

One has to openly wonder though if all this icing is somehow fattening our egos. Will we come to expect being praised for doing something as simple as getting dressed? I wonder…

(Somewhat related: In marriage, the points don’t come as easily… Check out the video below!)

Good Intentions

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Today has been one of those days where I have had truly good intentions and all of them have been thrown out the door. Last week, I resolved to start walking over my lunch hour, two times a week. So today my wife packed me lunch (she is awesome!) and I set out determined to exercise my way through the work hour. But:

  • I forgot my walking shoes. I figured this out this morning as I was driving down our street. Because I was already running a little late, I had no time to turn around.
  • My headphones are no where to be found. Usually, I keep my headphones with my ipod…not today.

I am not trying to say that I am easily defeated. I could have walked in my work boots and listened to the sounds of nature. However, I am also in the middle of trying to put my mind around teaching 10 chapters of Joshua in one night. I think I’m going to reschedule my walk and instead use this lunch hour to:

  • Read
  • Stitch semi-coherent thoughts together
  • and Pray

Wish me luck!

The Onion Layers of Time

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As I posted yesterday, the book Quitter is really make me re-consider different things in my life. Amazingly, Jon Acuff has been able to put into words things that I have thought about but have never been able to articulate.

As we advance in years, I believe that we all wish that we would personally be able to grow and mature with time as well. For some, growth and maturity are unattainable due to personal life choices; for others, growing in maturity and stature are a knowingly made decision.

Before I was married, I had all the time in the world to pursue what I wanted to pursue. If I wanted to go out with friends for coffee at 2am, I could. If I wanted to sit down and play a videogame every evening, for hours on end, I could do so as well. I was a free man and time was all mine.

As I dated and was soon married, my time quickly became our time. No longer did I have the freedom to do what I wanted to do. I had to now take my wife into consideration. What did she want to do? What could we do together? There was nothing wrong or bad about this change in the way I spent my time. Like an onion, I had simply discovered a new layer of personal depth; like an onion, my time had also grown thinner in peeling away that new layer.

The birth of our son set into motion the equation of: my time + our time = his time.

Age, growth and maturity force us to constantly evaluate the things that matter to us. Are we spending our free time pursuing the things that we love or the things that we simply like? This got me thinking about videogames and my constant struggle to figure out where they place in my life. Do I love them or just like them? Are they keeping me from pursuing the things that I love?

What about you?

Quitter

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A few weeks ago I downloaded the audio book Quitter by Jon Acuff. Ever since then, I have been slowly making my way through the book. As each chapter unfolds, I have found God using it to attack lies I have accepted as truth. Quitter has made me re-realize that:

  • Our American culture celebrates those who quit their jobs to pursue their dreams. What about those that stay and persevere? What about the day-to-day realities of supporting oneself and family?
  • Blogging at work, doing anything besides what your paid to do, is stealing from your employer. Not sure I’ve ever thought of it like that, but Jon tells it like it is.
  • When pursuing a dream, coming up with a plan is not always the first step. Jon talks about  the importance of looking at what your passionate over, practicing on that, and then charting out/ planning where you’d like that passion to go. Makes sense to me.

I have really enjoyed what I have listened to so far. I have also enjoyed listening to the book being actually read by the author. Seems to add more authenticity to what is being said.

Digitally Numb: How Media And Video Games Desensitize Us

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Last week, I wrote a series on video game addiction. If you haven’t had a chance to read my posts, you can catch up on them here, here and here. This week, I would like to shift gears and talk about another video game related topic, desensitization. 

Desensitize –  To make a person emotionally insensitive or unresponsive, as by long exposure or repeated shocks. – American Heritage Medical Dictionary

“What are you looking at?”

Sometime in the first grade, Jacob, the next door neighbor boy, invited me and a few other neighbors over for a sleep over birthday party. I remember playing with whatever toys he had received that evening and then watching the movie Aliens. Up until that point, my parents had protected me pretty well. Sure the other neighbor boys, Jeff and Joe, had introduced me to the Jaws film series–which made me seriously afraid of swimming pools and water, especially water.–. Aliens, though, was on a whole new level. Though my memory is a bit fuzzy, I clearly remember heads exploding into pudding-like goo, aliens decimating humans and a woman fighting to protect a little girl. To make matters worse, after watching the movie we slept outside, in a tent, in the backyard. Away from parents and terrified, one of the neighbor boys, Jeff, left at 2am and walked home. I struggled to sleep that night.

The media that we consume, whether it is of the interactive nature such as video games or more passive such as a film, serves to desensitize our very souls. With each repeated gameplay session/ viewing, we further and further become numb to that which at one time terrified us. The soul begins to develop callouses as a learning and as a defense mechanism. Subconsciously and consciously, we then seek out the next thrill, the next experience that will only ultimately numb us from whatever level of violence or emotion we just encountered.

This week, I’d like to talk a bit more on this subject of desensitizing our souls. To share my personal stories, those of others and examine whether this innocence lost is simply a rite of passage or somehow a good thing. I invite you to join me in this conversation in either the comments section below, Twitter or via email.

Note (3/21/12): I would like to take a bit more time to think through this topic. Expect a re-visit sometime in the near future. Again, if you have any thoughts please feel free to share. Thanks!

Travel Journal: Indiana or Bust!

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“Beep, beep, beep!”

The alarm read 3am. I felt like I had awoken from a nightmare. I had just fallen asleep 4 hours earlier. Even in my groggy state, I knew that a few hours of darkness laid between me and sleep once more. 96.4 miles to be exact between South Bend, Indiana and the Chicago O’Hare Airport in Illinois. I had a 7am flight to catch and it was time to get up.

Rewind: Friday, March 9, 2012

My friend Jon and I had flown into Chicago, Friday morning, for our friend Jeremy’s wedding. Jon was the best man and I was “also” the best man. Seriously, that was how the wedding program read. The last of the three amigos from LeTourneau University was about to get married.

Jon and I spent a chunk of Friday traveling, picking up/ trying on tuxes (my pants were M.C. Hammer-ish, thankfully I got this fixed) and attending the wedding rehearsal/ rehearsal dinner. The wedding rehearsal was uneventful. Well, besides the two nephews that were having fun running around. Family and friends looked on as we practiced walking, standing and trying to be quiet. The wedding coordinator, Lynn, even placed tape on the carpet so that we would know exactly where to stand–she did an amazing job!–. The rehearsal dinner afterwards was held at Tippecanoe Place in historic South Bend. I have to say that it was quite impressive! Being from Southern California, I was most impressed that the restuarant featured a place where one could check-in their coats. I’ve seen stuff like that in the movies! Guess movies don’t lie.

After dinner, we took the groom out for a night of wild debauchery. By which I mean go-karts, miniature golf, bowling and a nightcap at Steak and Shake. Good times were had and wisdom was bestowed.

Just don't ask...

Saturday, March 10, 2012: D-Day

Jon and I got up Saturday morning and went out hunting for car “decorating” supplies. We weren’t too successful. Luckily, the bride’s parents were awesome enough to have bought a few choice “supplies” (Alissa, it was your parents fault!). After that, we went and picked up some re-fitted tuxes and headed to the church.

Stained glass, wooden pews and candlelit lanterns. Beautiful.

From 12pm till about 4pm, we took wedding pictures. If I learned anything from my own wedding it is that it is of utmost importance to do this beforehand. The bride and groom were very wise to do this. Kudos!

The wedding started at 4:30pm and was absolutely beautiful. I loved the hymns that were sung, the father of the groom officiating the ceremony, and the bride and groom wiping away each-other’s tears. It was a sweet time of praising God for His faithfulness and for bringing Jeremy and Alissa together.

After watching my traveling companion, Jon, get married a little over a year earlier, I felt that this was somehow the end of an era. All three of us, Jon, Jeremy, and I were now married. Each of us have found a companion to walk through life with.

Evening Blur

The wedding reception was elegant and filled with filet mignon. I was a happy man. Speeches were given, dances were danced and I almost caught my shirt on fire. Never stand too close to a candle!

The sanctioned rain of birdseed greeted the newlyweds as they dashed for their car. Humorously, someone had forgotten to unlock the car… which gave the groom’s nephew enough time to pelt his new bride square in the back with a small bag of birdseed.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

“Beep, beep, beep!”

And like that, the weekend was over. It was time for Jon and I to travel in reverse.

The memories I have of my weekend in Indiana are ones that I won’t soon forget. God used this weekend to remind me that I am not alone. That I do indeed have life friends who are just scattered across the country. I am resolved not to let these friends slip away but to actively pursue them. Even if that means only meeting up once a year.

Indiana, thank you for a good time. As a somewhat wise man once said, “Good morning, good evening, and good night.”

Video Game Addiction: Level 3

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Think of gaming like you would think of reading a book…when you sit down to read a book, you are totally in it…but then you close it…you are done. I think gaming should be like that. – Scott

The problem with video games as a hobby is that the hobby doesn’t stop when the game is turned off. Magazines, web sites, and discussion boards further fuel what can easily become a second obsession, the video game culture itself.

Through out the day, I find myself visiting various video game related sites to check out the latest news, reviews and editorials–all of course happening on pre-determined breaks–. Quite quickly, this habit can become distracting as my thoughts all rotate around my hobby. Now I am sure that a sports nut checks the stats of his favorite teams/ players through out the day. People desire to stay connected to that which they like. However, I have had times where I have needed to cut back. I have found that all the professional and enthusiast press chatter can actually serve to depreciate my love of gaming. Sometimes one has to experience the artwork without the critic’s comments coursing through the back of his mind.

| .:. |

My good friend Cory Anderson, of teencounselingsd.com, saw that I was writing this series on video game addiction and wrote me the following (thanks Cory!):

A book I highly recommend on the subject is called Hyperstimulation by Georgianna, Underhill, and Kelland. I know two of the authors, they worked on the teen addiction recovery book with me.
Another simple principle we use to distinguish addiction is “the 4 C’s”:
1) Can’t control – there is a pattern of out of control behavior
2) Consequences – severe consequences due to the compulsive behavior (related to relationships, work, school, legal or health)
3) Can’t stop – even in light of the consequences present
4) Coping mechanism – using the behavior to numb or escape difficult life or emotional circumstances
Hope this helps further the cause, you and the other blogger are doing a great service!

Our Actions Impact Others

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Our actions impact others. Period. 

Recently I was reading about a guy named Jonah. Jonah was told to go to a city that was known to support terrorism. Being that the city of Nineveh’s reputation that wasn’t all that positive, Jonah decided not to go. In the process of running from his mission, Jonah ends up putting the men on the boat he escapes on, and all their cargo, in jeopardy. Jonah’s selfish actions not only almost cost the sailor’s livelihoods but their very lives as well. All of this could had been avoided had Jonah been obedient to God telling him to go to Nineveh and speak His word to the people.

Our actions carry life and death consequences. Period.

When Achan heard the news that that the battle hadn’t gone well, he must have known deep within his soul that it was his fault. 36 people had died. The battle of Ai was supposed to have been easy. Something was wrong and Israel’s leader, Joshua, knew it. After some heavy sifting of thousands of people, Achan stood at the forefront. He confessed that he had been disobedient and had gone against what God had said about taking things from Jericho. Achan had disobeyed and had stolen from what was to be devoted to God. Because of his actions, Achan, his family and all of his possessions were destroyed by rock and flame.

Bible stories are easy to gloss over, especially after you have heard the same stories repeatedly. I personally find that it is easy to miss the bigger narrative that God is writing. In the above two examples of Jonah and Achan, both men did not take into consideration the consequences of their actions on others. In Jonah’s case, the men and their cargo could have perished in the storm; In Achan’s case, Achan and his family suffered due to his disobedience. Both stories have gotten me thinking about the ramifications of my own actions. How will my daily actions impact my:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Workplace, etc.

I want to encourage you today to look at the bigger picture.

How have your actions impacted those around you?

Video Game Addiction: Level 2

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Jordan Ekeroth, over at Follow & Engage, has been writing a series on video game addiction lately. In his second post, “Engage: Game Addiction Part 2”, Jordan says that gaming can be “compulsive”. I couldn’t agree more.

I have witnessed the devastation of video gaming taken to the level of obsession. Which is to say the hobby taken to levels where a gamer’s health, relationships, and job become affected. In college, I remember guys on my dorm floor staying up until all hours of the night playing the latest game. For some this was perfectly normal behavior as they used video games as a means to blow off stress in between homework sessions; For others, video games were the only thing they lived and breathed. As the sun rose and fell, they played with little regards for personal hygiene or school work in general. Those that fed this obsessive behavior either wizened up after a devastating semester of failing grades or dropped out.

College, in particular, is an interesting time of learning all about personal responsibility and life in general. I remember what I consider to be a “lost summer”. I had driven home to California from my college in East Texas. I had left my girlfriend, my friends, and the sheltered life that college brings–sheltered from reality that is–. In an effort to have fun and just chill out, I ended up playing World of Warcraft that entire summer. Day and night, night and day, I sat at my parent’s kitchen table and leveled my character. Working hard to out level my friends who worked during the day. I feel stupid talking about this now, as that time seems like time completely wasted, but it is what it is. I was obsessed over the game.

My personal relationships began to suffer during this time. I drove my parents nuts, almost lost my girlfriend, and did nothing to grow myself physically/ spiritually. What I do know from my experience is that:

  • I will never again let a game control me like that, ever.
  • Video games, as with any other media medium, can quickly become an easy way to disengage and escape from reality. For me during this time, I was escaping getting a job for 3 months and trying to ignore the nagging of my Mom to get a job (she was right!).

What about you? Are video games more than just a hobby?

Repost: Order

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Order

Note: I wrote this back in 2009. Ever since my summer of being anchored to the kitchen table playing World of Warcraft, the fine line between hobby and addiction has been on my mind. Enjoy! – Bryan

Hobby: an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.”

What happens when a hobby starts to consume ones waking thoughts?

In my pursuit of finding the balance between my electronic hobby and life, I have found myself walking a fine line between hobby and addiction.

Video games are not a casual hobby but a culture. At one time the video game culture was regulated to ones living room but this is no longer true. The Internet now serves to connect a gamers living room to the rest of the world. News, reviews, and varying editorial run rampant and at different levels of professionalism.

Culture: the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.”

No longer are we, as a society, unplugged. The Internet is present in our cellphones, handheld game systems, and even local coffee shops. Not being able to unplug allows one to have constant access to the vast reaches of cyberspace. For me, this means that I have unlimited access to the gaming culture. Throughout the day I find myself reading various videogame related sites. On the outside, there is nothing wrong with this, but I have found myself treading the fine line between hobby and addiction.

As a Christian, I find that my love for videogames and video game culture are often in conflict with my spiritual life. There are times when I should be praying when instead I am thinking about the latest MMO; times when I should be reading my Bible and instead I am reading the latest video game magazine.

To fight against the tide of addiction, I have found that it is best to take a step back and remove whatever it is that is dragging me down. Balance between my hobby and life is not what I seek, but order in the my life’s priorities.

Find yourself overwhelmed by a hobby? I encourage you to take a step back and find order.

Video Game Addiction: Level 1

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Video game addiction is a topic that flares up just about as often as the devastating Southern California wild fires. Which is to say that every year the words “video games” and “addiction” get tossed into the media blender. Unquestioningly accepted as truth, the case for video game addiction is built upon statements such as,  “My son plays My Little Pony’s Adventures in 128 Bit Land x-amount of hours, he must be an addict!” Is it fair though to compare video games to something as addictive as sex, drugs or alcohol? Take a look at the following DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition) Diagnostic Criteria for Alcohol Dependence entry below:

A maladaptive pattern of alcohol use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three or more of the following seven criteria, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:

1. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

a) A need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect.

b) Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.

2. Withdrawal, as defined by either of the following:

a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol (refer to DSM-IV for further details).

b) Alcohol is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

3. Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.

4. There is a persistent desire or there are unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.

5. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol or recover from its effects.

6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.

7. Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the alcohol (e.g., continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption).

Now, I can see how video game “addiction” can be compared to alcohol dependence. There are many similarities:

  • The Time Escalation Component: Where the gamer increases his gaming time as he becomes more engrossed in the game.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Especially from games that employ the “carrot on a stick” philosophy (“just have to get to the next level…”).
  • Gaming Culture: Checking out video game web sites through out the day. Reading the latest walkthrough and immersing oneself into the particular game’s community.
  • The Social Sacrifice: Family, friends and loved ones fall to the wayside as the gamer becomes more immersed in the game. This, in my opinion, is when things become a problem. The gamer has lost any sort of balance between the digital and the real. Welcome to the world of escapism.

What do you think?

  • Are video games and alcohol on the same level?
  • Do we overuse the word addiction?
  • Is this a matter of what society deems acceptable?
  • Could you apply what was written above to your favorite hobby?

Leave a comment below and let me know.

Overwhelmed, Tired, Angry, Scared, Frustrated and Certainly Not Caffeinated

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As a blogger, I often write posts that end up being tossed into the void known as the “draft folder”. Perhaps I wasn’t comfortable publishing the particular post at the time or maybe even felt that it was too personal . The last thing I want for JohnnyBGamer to become is a place for me to serve cheese and whine (even if it is potentially of a high quality). With that being said, below is a post I wrote sometime back in September. Back then, I was on the verge of having my gallbladder taken out. I think the title says it all.

Call me a baby but this stuff is too strong!

The world feels as if it is grinding to an abrupt stop and I am not holding onto anything in order to brace myself. I feel unsteady on my feet, vulnerable to damage. Financial pressures lap at my legs like a cold pond in October. Which for some reason reminds me of birds migrating south for the winter. Isn’t that how life is. One moment we are flying free, traveling forward, unaware of the hunter’s standing below ready to fire.

My thoughts are dripping out like my coffee maker sputtering its last molecules of java into the pot. It seems that my visit to the surgeon yesterday has done nothing to help me focus today. Not that I thought that the visit would bring about any sort of epiphany. I do know now that I will soon be parting with a friend I have had all my life; a friend who is no longer pulling his weight. My gallbladder has got to go.

Do you ever have one of those days where you feel like you stepped out the door at the wrong time? The skies suddenly opening up with a down pouring rain, destroying the hair and the clothing you spent so much time on. Certainly one of those days where it would have been better to just stay in bed. I kind of feel like that today.

We all have our ups and downs. Days where we feel that our lives have amounted to very little. In a way, on days like today, we, I, exchange the truth for a lie. We forget about all that we have accomplished and focus on the things we have yet to attain.

To think that I thought it prudent to excuse my morning cup of coffee this morning.

The Old Republic

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Yesterday, the State of Texas celebrated it’s 174th birthday. Happy birthday Texas!

Speaking of other old republics, I started downloading Star Wars: The Old Republic last night. As of this moment, my download is almost done! My plans are to create a Han Solo type character–hey, I’ve always called myself a scoundrel!–. I am really looking forward to playing the game and comparing it to my other BioWare experience, Mass Effect 2.

Hope everyone has a great weekend. The high today, here in East Texas, is 62 degrees. A nice change from the 80 degree weather we have oddly experienced this past week. Until next time.