Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Platypus Rolls On

With the "Iliad" finished, my students are now moving into our textbook unit on Ancient Greece. Already, I can see that they understand the information at a deeper level than in the past. Beyond that, the literature teacher has also caught the Classical infection, and is having the students read "Antigone" before they launch into the Odyssey in February. That means that if my plan to do a unit on the "Aeneid" at the end of the year goes through, the 9th and 10th graders will have four classical works under their belts. That's a good, solid start.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Super Platypus RPG?

As I look back through this series of posts, I notice that a constant theme comes up: enchantment. A good video game should have loads of it. By enchantment, I mean that delightful sense of the "other" that commands our whole attention and alters our perceptions of reality. Think of the last time you watched a really good play. Was there a moment during the performance when you forgot that you were watching a series of staged actions and felt "caught up" into another world? That is the sensation that a well-made game strives to create. The only difference is that the audience can now interact with the drama.

The designer of the popular "Super Mario Brothers" series said that he strove to create a "magic garden" that players were invited to explore. I think that is what has always drawn me to these games. It's the same impulse that led me into the world of the theater: a desire not just to view, but to be a part of something "other."

Turn off the lights. Place the key in the lock. Open the door. Step in to fairy land.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rage, Platypus- Sing the Rage of...

Today marks the end of my experimental "Iliad" unit for my 9th and 10th graders. We have just finished 24 days of Homer. On the whole, I think it was a resounding success. I only had one small-scale mutiny to put down, and many great moments to offset it. In addition, several kids positively caught fire. One of them even picked up Dante's "Inferno" on his own initiative and is eating it up. I'm busy writing down a final lesson plan set for the unit that I'll be putting on file. If all goes well, I'll be doing the "Aeneid" with them at the end of next semester. Meanwhile, we'll see how they do with the "Odyssey" for the English teacher.

Great Books Work!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Chrono Platypus

My Kids: "Mr Harrington! Mr Harrington! There's an awesome new video game coming out."

Me: "What's it called?"

My Kids: "Chrono Trigger. It looks awesome!"

Me: "It is. I played that game when I was your age. It's one of my favorites."

My Kids: *stunned disbelief* "You played it? That's awesome!"

Just glad to know that quality entertainment is being passed on to the next generation.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Platypus Knows JUSTIN BAILEY*********

What is adventure? Why do we all have this part of ourselves that longs for something beyond the world of safe and comfortable things? Why do we like being scared?

I tried to think what made "Metroid" such an instant classic. It's one of the oldest Nintendo games I can remember, and yet they're still making sequels to it today.

The clinging metroids seem to be the key. They remind me vaguely of the "face-huggers" in "Alien." There's also that sense of dark and mysterious "other" in every corner of the game. The eerie effect is only reinforced by the soundtrack. Like "Alien," there's very little frantic action in "Metroid," but rather a sense of deepening mystery and creeping dred. Unlike "Alien," however, it has an added sense of enchantment that runs throughout the game. 8-bits and all, the imaginary world of Zebes and its bizare flora and fauna are marvelous. Something in it taught me what it means to have an adventure; that longing for and experienceing of the other. Could I have understood at that time, it was all in Dante (what do they teach them in these schools?). In a strange way, I think my childhood of playing video games fitted me to understand and appreciate Dante in a way I wouldn't have otherwise. I had already followed Samus Arran into and back out of the Inferno.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

CT Platypus

Interesting article from my home-state here.