Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Fallout 4 and The People: Gaming with Moral Compass

Fallout 4 screenshot of main quest ending cut scene:
War. War Never Changes

With this post, the cat that lives on the porch at Abernathy farm is permanently out of the post- apocalyptic cardboard box: I am a huge, nerdly fan of the Fallout video game series.

I give my characters thoughts,  and I help them come to terms with their decisions:

At the end of it all, I returned to Sanctuary Hills, not ready to face my synthetic son, Shaun. How could he ever replace the flesh and blood man I'd betrayed? He'd referred to his mother as "collateral damage," and I'd never really gotten over the sting of it. Was that what drove me, in the end, to destroy the Institute, his legacy? I don't think so: I think it was his insistence on creating his own "collateral damage" of the people I'd come to know and knew I needed to protect.  I removed my power armor, stored away my weapons in the workshop, and changed into a clean, blue suit. I ignored the congratulatory conversations; only Nick Valentine, with the conscientiousness of a prewar man, seemed to truly understand the heaviness of my heart and soul. 

Making Moral Decisions in Fallout 4

Fallout 4 has a permanent home in our PlayStation 4.  I've played through Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Fallout 4 several times, each time telling myself I'm going to make different decisions, follow different paths, complete different quests, or complete quests differently.  Every single time, however, I play as though I'm Captain America, making decisions based on nothing more nor less than my own (and Cap's) moral compass. Where does my plan to do things differently go awry?  In Fallout 4, specifically, I can't bring myself to ignore Preston's pleas for help defending The Castle from The Institute, so I save The Castle, and I lock myself into the same ending I've seen each time I've played the game. All of those innocent settlers and Minutemen at The Castle need me. I cannot ignore the call for help from the people.

Speaking of the people, the main reason I cannot bring myself to work with a faction is because the factions don't care for the entirety of the Commonwealth, the entirety of the population, the people. The Brotherhood of Steel, though it would be fantastic to see Liberty Prime in action, again, have horrendously awful things to say to Nick, my synth friend, or Hancock, my ghoul friend. The Brotherhood would rather see them all eviscerated by Deathclaws than lift a finger to help them live better lives. The Railroad folks care mostly about the synths and eliminating The Institute scientists and civilians. The Institute wants to replace real people with synthetic people, create a dangerous nuclear reactor, all the while refusing to help the people of the Commonwealth. Each and every faction wants to destroy freedom, create and maintain strict control, and determine who does or does not get marked as an enemy.

Making Moral Decisions in Life

It pains me to say so, but in Trump's America, these "decisions" to take under my protection all of the people or only some of the people are too close to real life, are they not?  Of course I have to do the right thing: These aren't really "decisions" I give myself liberty to make. I have to remember that all the people of the Commonwealth, whether they are people trapped in irradiated bodies or people whose minds are trapped in synthetic bodies, all deserve the opportunity to live together in peace. Pitting one faction against another accomplishes nothing. It never does, and therein lies the lesson that makes me repeat all the same decisions I've made in the past, just more emphatically. Even when gaming, I must remember that this country is made up of the people. We have a moral obligation to help all the people.

Did I do the right thing? Only time will tell, just as time will make the sting of my decisions over the past several months fade from the forefront of my mind. Only after the memories fade will I be able to intellectualize this new world and what it has made of me and my moral compass.  In the end, I chose to protect the entirety of the people, and I cannot fathom ever regretting that.

Want to read more? try

Remove Mobile Strike Video Advertisements
What is Toyification?
The Power of Story: The Power of Narrative

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Make-up: Carmindize or Contour?

Are you living in a three dimensional world?
Does anyone remember Carmindy from What Not to Wear? She always exuded an easy-peasy confidence and an easy-breezy style. This translated, too, to the way she taught her makeover guests how to do their faces. Emphasizing what made a guest already beautiful was her thing.

I was so completely impressed with her and her "5 Minute Face" that I practiced it until I perfected it and could list all my favorite products and their shade numbers by using only one hand. When and if I received a compliment on my makeup, I proudly told the complimenter that I "Carmindized."

Fast forward five years, since the show went off the air, and I haven't worn makeup but a few times in all those years. I've been sick, really sick, and it just wasn't something I had the energy or inclination to do. Now that I'm feeling better and interested in wearing a little makeup, again, I'm absolutely horrified by new makeup trends. They're scary, created by celebrities I don't respect very much, and complicated. More than that, though, these new trends mimic a troubling trend in the way people think about their own faces and their own lives.

Why do women demonstrating makeup on YouTube look dirty, like an online army of  Mary Poppinses and their sooty rooftop compacts? Some of them look green, some purple, and most look startlingly grey. Yes, I've heard of contouring, and I'm good at it because I was trained in stage makeup and did an A+ Mad Hatter and an extreme aging sample for my final exam. It's not something I would wear to the local Mexican restaurant for enchiladas rancheras and a side of guacamole, however. What about when people look at the side of such a face from as close as the next table instead of the fourth row of a theatre? Dirt: It looks like dirt. In real life we don't just get frontal views of one another, but this look wasn't really meant for real life or anything other than frontal views, was it? I don't think it ever was.

In an age where each second of each minute of each hour of each day is captured by photographic evidence, people are thinking about faces in a frontal photographic way. They are thinking of themselves in two dimensions. Today's makeup is photographic makeup sans a lighting designer, talking head video makeup, social media makeup, character makeup - albeit not quite as extreme as the Mad Hatter. It's makeup for people hitting the clubs and taking duck-face Instagram images. It's not the easy-breezy "5 Minute Face" we saw practiced from 2003 to 2013 on TLC. It's not even about getting out into the world and being true to oneself, which is what Carmindy constantly emphasized. Is that advice to be oneself really that outdated?

Give me back my "5 Minute Face," my naturally dimensional face, please.  Being a naturally multidimensional person and putting on a face that shows others I want to be in the world, the real world, is so much more my style than putting on a face that's meant only for living a series of two-dimensional photo ops.

Want to read more? Try 

Stitch Fix Review: Styling at 40
Product Review: MICA Beauty Cosmetics Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel
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Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What if . . . ? A Brief Case for Learning Community Classroom Design

What if . . . we designed active learning spaces with collapsible walls?

Learning communities can take many forms. Some are based on grouping students by extracurricular activities and interests, some are based on course or disciplinary groupings, and some are based on the teaching philosophies and pedagogical methods of groups of faculty members.

No matter how a learning community is created, however, something that remains consistent is the need for those students in that community to learn together.  That need requires a space, and a space designed for learning communities will facilitate that sense of, well . . . community.

What if  . . . collapsible walls allowed for the expansion of learning communities, team teaching, and cooperative learning?

What if more institutions adopted the structure of learning communities, team teaching, and cooperative learning?  What would that look like?  One idea is to utilize one specific design element, the folding wall room divider, and one specific logistical consideration, block scheduling of students and faculty.

This solution requires each participating faculty member, in this case two, to teach two back-to-back sections of their class while their partner does the same. Classes happen concurrently. Students take one class, then the other, while their counterparts take the same classes in reverse order. As the semester progresses and the course materials begin to merge, the room divider can be opened, allowing for the faculty members to team teach for the day, both class blocks, perhaps offering lecture materials to the entire group, or perhaps allowing students to merge into large groups to brainstorm or collaborate on project-based learning assignments. The room can be arranged into areas that allow for faculty to mentor, meet, or otherwise assist individuals or groups of students. The room would allow for visitors, including community members and guest speakers, panel discussions, debates, and a whole host of collaborative learning activities.

What if . . . we opened our classrooms to community members as guest speakers?

The possibilities greatly expand, in this scenario, for facilitating the creation of working relationships among students, among faculty, and between students and faculty. These types of relationships increase engagement and student achievement, as faculty are able to become part of students' figurative and quite literal, circles.

What if . . . this is an option worth exploring? 

To read more about teaching and learning, try

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.