Sunday, April 18, 2010

Life lessons from video games

I have played a lot of video games in my day. They are a form of entertainment, pure and simple. But as I look back, I'm surprised to see what I've learned and what I can learn from them.

A few years ago, I played a game on my roommate's computer called Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR). The plot centers around Jedi who lived years before the Star Wars saga began. A people, some of whom are Jedi, work together to stop an evil Sith from taking over the galaxy (to no one's surprise). As I played the game, my characters would "level up," or become more powerful. When they leveled up, I could choose how they developed; they would develop skill with various force powers, such as Force speed, the ability to destroy droids, or Force choke (Darth Vader's signature move).

I was pretty put out when I discovered that I couldn't develop every ability and make a character who did it all. I have always enjoyed making my characters so irresistibly powerful that no foe could possibly challenge them. It's still possible to make the character ludicrously powerful, but not in every way; the player is forced to choose some sort of emphasis.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Engineers and scientists

It’s easy to think of scientists and engineers as the same group of people. Both stereotypically wear glasses and use pocket protectors. Both use words that no one else understands and then has trouble figuring out what wasn’t clear. Both know about (and, for some unfathomable reason, enjoy thinking about) incomprehensible things. They commonly take the same classes and discuss the same concepts, although they sometimes use different terminology or notation; for example, many engineers use j and many scientists use i to denote the second root of unity (colloquially, the square root of -1).