On June 26, 2017, the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. For many, including myself, this was the time to reflect on what the series had given them and to celebrate the magical world once again. For me, the Harry Potter series was crucial to my development as a reader and a writer. I began my journey with the magical series in 2001 when I was 9 years old. I didn't come across the books on my own; I went to Catholic school so they weren't openly discussed. Instead, my mom's friend suggested that I read them. I remember that it took me a while to decide that I liked the first book, but once it finally got going I was hooked. In that same year, the first movie came out on my birthday and I begged my dad to take me. I remember trying to finish reading the book before we left to see it, but I was unsuccessful, so my dad let me stay up unusually late when we got home so I could finish reading it to make sure the movie got it right. For the most part, it did. I moved more quickly through the next two books; Harry Potter and The Prizoner of Azkaban quickly became my favorite. It introduced two of my favorite characters, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, neither of which survived the series 1. Around this same time, I discovered fanfiction. As someone who had been writing and telling stories from a young age, this sounded like a great opportunity to expand my writing skills. I didn't have to build a world around what I was writing, I just had to work with what already existed. Writing fanfiction really solidified my desire to be a writer, and I remember that the feedback that I got was generally helpful. It also gave me a safe space to work through some of my adolescent emotions 2, since I didn't always feel that I could off of the page.
"Mare Köiva reports many stories of human bloodsuckers. An old lady told Köiva, 'After the war there had been blood takers, blood-suckers in Tartu. They had been dark men, but they had also some Estonians in their company. A blonde girl danced with a young man at a party and started to try how her ring would fit on his finger. And finally she left it there. But later she phoned and asked him to bring her ring back. The boy went but did not come back. His family started to search for him and found him when half of his blood had been removed from his body and he had fainted. But he still survived'. Köiva also reported that when she was a schoolgirl, she and her friends were terrified by rumors that people were driving black cars (supposedly Russian Pobedas) round the country, kidnapping people and sucking their blood. The drained bodies were later thrown out and left by the roadside." -Mare Köiva, Estonia, 1950's (Bennett 189-190)3. We all know the image: a sharp toothed, pale monster, bending down to suck the blood from a helpless victim's neck. Less known, however, is the folk legends of black vans patrolling the countryside, looking for victims to steal blood from to sell on the black market. These legends, called "blood theft legends," are most popularly circulated in Eastern Europe, where they reflect the real circumstances of organ theft that are common there. Blood theft has a long and varied history throughout the urban legends of Eastern Europe, from religious monsters to vampires to blood-stealing legends that are popular today. But what is this history? And what can it tell us about society today? The earliest tales of blood-snatching come from anti-semitic sentiments; gory and persistent rumors of Jews murdering young Christian children for ritualistic purposes date all the way back to the Middle Ages1. Referred to as "Blood Libel legends", they paint Jews as cannibals that terrorize and consume their Christian neighbors. The idea that a sacrilegious figure on the fringe of society would drink the blood of an innocent child or established member of society manifested later in the development of the vampiric myth. According to folklorist Kathryn Morris2, "In late seventeenth century, strange stories began to emerge out of eastern Europe. They typically described some person who, having died under unusual circumstances, returned to terrorize his family and neighbors. These revenants would often suck the blood of their victims before returning to their graves. When exhumed, their bodies would be uncorrupted and their veins full."
As someone who seems to always be a part of too many fandoms, has too many interests, and not enough time to tend to them all, I find it interesting when some of these aspects find a way to connect to each other. Watching anime is one of my favorite pastimes and I am currently watching an anime series called Saki. The show follows a high school mahjong club as they prepare and compete to attend the national mahjong tournament1. After reaching a little over the halfway point of the first season, I concluded that it might be a good idea to get a sense of what is going on during the game. So, I began my research. The first important bit of information that I came across was that mahjong is not a super popular game outside of Asia; most people don't recognize that there is a difference between the solitaire games (like the one I played as a kid) and the real game of mahjong that is presented in the anime. Solitaire mahjong is a matching game, while mahjong is played with four people and is similar to gin rummy. Each player has thirteen tiles and the goal is to come up with as many pairs, runs, three of a kind, or four of a kind with the thirteen tiles that they have in conjunction with the fourteenth tile that they draw2. There are also three types of mahjong: Chinese, Japanese, and American. In all three varieties of mahjong, there are four players and the game begins by rolling dice to determine which wind each player will play. The player with the highest number sits as the East wind and will be the dealer, followed by the South, North, and West winds, and the game moves counter-clockwise. After this simple start to the game, the rules vary depending on the type of mahjong being played. In the Chinese3 and Japanese versions of the game, each player picks up and discards a tile each hand with the goal of obtaining a winning hand with all 14 tiles, however, Japanese4 mahjong also uses riichi sticks that are used for bets and scoring. The American version uses a card of standard hand, has more tiles, and includes joker tiles. The game also begins with the "charleston," which is the passing of three unwanted tiles from one player to another5. Each version of mahjong also has different point systems, which makes the game even more complicated.
VelvetDove has been a community member of RivalCastMedia almost right from the beginning, engaging with RCM chats and podcasts since the summer of 2015. The author of "Sims Saturday," creator of the new RCM video series Reality House, as well as a frequent guest on several streamed podcasts, VelvetDove is no stranger to publishing content and working with RCM. Recently, Velvet Dove responded to interview questions by one of RCM's interns, sharing more about her gaming and writing history. Let's get to know more about this longtime RCM member and beloved personality. Can you tell me a bit about your work with RivalCastMedia? With RCM, I have a weekly blog based on a long running Sims 3 game. I stream games on the weekend, with a costream with another RCM personality called "Chaos will Ensure," a solo stream of fighting games called "Girl Fight," and a co-stream on Sundays called "Sunday Morning Heroes." I have also started a youtube video series reality show, played in Sims 4 and modeled after "Big Brother."
Have you ever wanted to do something? Wanted to do it so much that it felt wrong not to drop everything for it? What caused you to want it? A favorite book that made you want to create the same kinds of stories? Or a movie's soundtrack that filled your mind with ideas for compositions? It could even be as simple as the want to make a chicken pot pie that you saw on TV. What you felt was the inevitable and amazing feeling of inspiration. And while it may be unavoidable, just how important is it to the creative process?1 Inspiration is really good when you need a subject matter to work with. For a writer, it can build a story, or even a world, from absolutely nothing. One author who knows this well is Jim Butcher. Butcher is the author of the Codex Alera series and the Dresden Files series. He has recently released The Aeronaut's Windlass, the first book of his new series the Cinder Spires. He has gone on record saying Codex Alera came from a forum thread where he participated in an argument between lousy subject and wonderful execution versus wonderful subject and lousy execution. The former believed that all a book needs to be good is great execution while the latter said that you only needed a good subject matter and everything else would just fit into place. Butcher put himself firmly on the side of the former. He was told to put his money where his mouth was "by letting [one of the arguers] give [Butcher] a cheesy central story concept, which I would then use in an original novel." Naturally, Butcher told him to give two concepts and that they would both be used.2 Those concepts were the Lost Roman Legion and Pokemon. Using those two concepts, Butcher made a New York Bestselling Book series about the descendants of the Lost Legion using environmental spirits as friends and servants. Now, it may seem like a stretch to call that 'inspiration.' So, let me point you toward a relative novice's work. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I have started and am maintaining a "Story a Week" blog. Basically, I write a complete story in a week and every day I must write at least 1000 words. I have been doing this for about twelve weeks and so I have twelve different stories. Why do I bring this up? Well, every story I have written so far has been inspired by something. One of my stories, 'The Path Home,' is 7000 words of one woman's trials and tribulations of returning home after a horrific fight. It was inspired by the song 'The Path' by Miracle of Sound. Is it a loose tie? Sure it is. All I did was use the main idea behind the song. Yet, it inspired a complete story that could be put in a compilation further down the line or on my portfolio. And I am just friggin' proud of it.
Good article. I'd be curious though to expand more on your definition of what it means to be a gamer and why you feel that way. Should there be a blanket definition or should it be diversified? Again I would be curious with more of your take on it.
Taking Video Games Seriously: Will Academia Ever Break into Video Games like it Has in Literature and Film? When one hears the word "videogames," rarely does a thought association with "scholarly" occur soon after. Or even a long time after. Let's be real, videogames and anything to do with academia don't immediately seem to have anything to do with one another. The idea of taking games "seriously" as works of art is simply laughable to some. But not all.
This summer, the RCM Writing department started its first Summer Writing program with four college interns from around the US. For August, they were asked to write about whether they feel the media has a more positive or a more negative slant regarding gaming culture. Ray's essay is the fourth installment in this four-part series. When it comes to gaming culture, media tends to have a more negative than positive view. Whenever media gives a positive view to the world about gaming, it then turns right around and presents a negative approach to gaming. This immediate contradiction gives a heavier weight to the negative side and overshadows the positives. Of course, gaming culture is seen as fun, and interactive. Media keeps gamers updated on the latest news about what is happening in the gaming world. While media does a good job of pushing people to play games and become gamers, it contradicts itself by then shifting focus to the negative. Whenever there is a news broadcast or article that is about video games, there is always a negative connotation about what it is doing to young kids. For example, games such as the Grand Theft Auto series and Call of Duty series show kids violent images such as murder, weaponry, and sexual images, which media deems as harmful to children. Also, media depicts video games as distractions that keep children in a fantasy world away from reality, which prevents a child from learning and growing up which keeps them in a childlike state.
This summer, the RCM Writing department started its first Summer Writing program with four college interns from around the US. For August, they were asked to write about whether they feel the media has a more positive or a more negative slant regarding gaming culture. Emily's essay is the third installment in this four-part series.
Video gaming as a platform is no stranger to criticism in mass media. Since the creation of Pong, there's been no shortage of critics complaining that games are too violent, too distracting, too inappropriate for anyone but adults to play. It doesn't help that there's been article after article perpetuating negative stereotypes of those in the gaming community; off of the top of my head, there's the violent teenager who gets his kicks murdering others in Call of Duty, from the middle aged man child playing World of Warcraft in his basement, and, more recently, the app addicted millennial more focused on Candy Crush than where they're walking.
This summer, the RCM Writing department started its first Summer Writing program with four college interns from around the US. For August, they were asked to write about whether they feel the media has a more positive or a more negative slant regarding gaming culture. Elizabeth's essay is the second installment in this four-part series.
Gaming culture has struggled with its public image almost since its beginning. One of the first gaming controversies started right at the start of gaming's rise to popularity in the late 1970's. It concerned "Death Race", a game where the player won points by mowing over pedestrian-resembling ghouls, and sparked a debate about violence in video games that plummeted gaming culture's reputation, turning the public's perception of games as a fun family pastime into the gateway to a life of violent crime. This first condemnation of gaming was far from the last, as Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto followed, sparking controversies about violent and sexual themes in gaming that still continue to this day. Mainstream media has tended to drag gaming culture through the mud, focusing on stories that only show the ugly side of games. To me, mainstream media such as Fox News or CNN tends only to focus on games when the subject centers around a negative aspect of gaming culture, such as gaming addiction, sexism within the industry, or their long-time tirade of whether games encourage violence or not. Gaming culture has not had it easy; the consensus by major news outlets is that games encourage bad habits and unsafe ideas, and are mostly played by fringe weirdos. Nowadays, after the integration of gaming to mainstream pop culture, this pedaling of negative aspects of gaming could be attributed more to the overall tendency for news outlets to prioritize negative news over positive because it brings higher ratings––but regardless the reason, gaming culture is still not spoken of very highly.