Saturday, February 02, 2008

Transition States (and a game review, too)

One theme that runs throughout discussions of college is change. Learning to learn. Figuring out where you actually want to go with your life. "Finding yourself" (and we all know how I feel about that). Experimentation, if that's your cup of tea. I don't doubt that certain people change; many of my friends certainly have. But I sort of don't know that I've changed much at all since I started school. Granted, I can now watch House and get the meaning of "allosteric inhibitor" or watch the French station on GTCN and catch about every tenth word, but that seems like a pure function of learning, not of personality development.

I recently clicked on the wrong button in Gmail, one that sent me hurtling back to summer 2005 (that strange, strange time between high school and college), and I decided to read some of my correspondence from that era. My writing style is essentially the same. The things I talk about are the same--at least the topics are; the amount of experience I can draw on is something like fifteen percent greater now. The only major change, as far as I can tell, is the people I talk to now.

I think everyone I'm friends with or who may read Isoceleria is, by this point, out of high school. They're out of high school to varying degrees, ranging from less than a year to decades. Think back to your Summer 2005 (whether it be summer 2007 or summer 1976 or anywhere in between) and try and recall your promises to keep in touch with high school friends. How many of them did you contact once you got to college? How many of them did you see again? How many did you actually make a continuous effort through college (and beyond) to stay in touch with? Two and a half years into college, I can say that there are less than ten people from high school I talk to regularly--and that number would probably be even lower if a few of them didn't go to my college.

The best way to measure anything--anything--relating to college is Facebook. That place is a data miner's dream, something that people like my dad can only dream about having unmitigated access to. You can gauge across people--popular culture, or counter culture; when projects are due and tests are scheduled. Or you can find out very important things about an individual person--a relationship just isn't "official" until it's on Facebook, after all. Looking at who sends me messages, it's shifted gradually over the last few year from people I knew from high school to people I know from college.

And now, friends and acquaintances are threatening to do things like "get a job" and "go to grad school". What's going to happen to college friendships once that happens? Does it all dry up, except for a select few, like high school friendships mostly seemed to do? I'm not sure if that's a bad thing (it doesn't seem like a good thing; the best thing we can hope for is neutral).

One major change that I definitely have noticed, and that definitely does seem like a good thing, is that I'm a lot more confident in my personal aesthetic. I know what I think looks good, sounds good, tastes good, is worth spending time on. As a corollary, I'm increasingly impressed with (or attracted to, in a select few cases) people who also have strongly defined aesthetics, and impatient with people who don't have them.

That hasn't changed me from liking good video gaming, though. The usual cycle of "let's all play World of Warcraft" is back in full swing, so I've retreated to some games of my own.

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

I'm one of those Nintendo fanboys who believes that Twilight Princess's predecessor, Ocarina of Time, was brilliant, possibly the best video game ever. Twilight Princess might just surpass it. I'm not done with it--probably about a third to halfway, knowing Zelda games--and I'm already this impressed.

Twilight Princess relies on the Zelda mainstays of sequential dungeoneering, progressive item upgrades, delightfully frustrating item collection side-quests, and a strangely dressed man with pointy elf ears saving a mystical princess. So I won't go into those details.

Where Twilight Princess really shines, though, is in its storyline. The one knock on Ocarina of Time--the part that made people give it A's instead of A+'s--was that the downtime between dungeons was clearly the throwaway part of the game, merely designed as a linear railroad until the next part of the Item Collection Main Quest. In Twilight Princess, however, there are things like plot twists. Important NPCs with memorable character traits. Epic mounted combat. Even a bit of intrigue. Add all of that to everything good about Ocarina of Time, don't make the Oblivion mistake of getting rid of good things from the original game, and you have something truly spectacular.

Currently listening: The Execution of All Things, Rilo Kiley

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