Sunday, 31 January 2016

5 games that taught me something as a child (kind of).

5 games that taught me something as a child (kind of)

As a teacher, it can be a bit worrying when primary school aged children regularly tell you about how they've been playing Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto V. However, video games and board games can also be incredibly beneficial in helping to teach children. This can be shown through the creativity of a game like Minecraft or Tim Rylands using Myst to help children with their writing. Here are a few games that I think taught me something (some unexpectedly) when I was a child. 

Risk - Geography

Obviously, Risk misses out a fair few countries and also uses old and now redundant names for a lot of the countries. However, as a basic tool for teaching me the layout of the different continents I feel that Risk did actually teach me something. 

 Image result for risk board game

Civilization II - History

I remember my teacher being genuinely impressed at my knowledge of Roman military, town names, technology and leaders when we started our Roman topic at school. Little did she know that the vast majority of this knowledge had come from obsessively playing Civilization. 

 Image result for civilization ii

Theme Hospital - Maths

There were a few games I played that involved some level of money management but this is the main one that sticks out. You are constantly having to make calculations based on how much money you need to make and how your financial decisions are going to impact you getting there.

 Image result for theme hospital

Spider-Man Cartoon Maker - English

A game where you have to make your own Spider-Man cartoons? I can't think of many better ways to have gotten a young me interested in writing my own story lines and dialogue for different characters. Granted, most my cartoons did end in an unimaginative plethora of explosions; I was basically a young Michael Bay. 

 Image result for spiderman cartoon maker

Music - Music 

The imaginatively titled, Music, for the PS1 was surprisingly versatile in allowing my twelve-year-old self to create different tracks. Even my bowl haircut and complete lack of musical ability couldn't stop me from briefly thinking I was going to be the next Fatboy Slim. 

 Image result for music ps1


Sunday, 24 January 2016

Book Review - 'The Color Purple'.

Book Review - 'The Color Purple'

'The color Purple' is a novel by Alice Walker that was first published in 1982. It is the first ANYTHING that I have ever read by Alice Walker. The only thing I knew about 'The Color Purple' prior to reading was when I heard Oprah talking about the novel on television (she was in the film version). I remember thinking the plot sounded interesting but still hadn't ever got round to reading it until recently. 

The sum up the novel in very basic terms, it is about a woman called Celie who goes from having an abusive childhood to being in an abusive marriage that she has no choice over. She loses contact with her sister who was the only person who had shown her any kindness until she meets another woman who inspires and supports her to develop some confidence and self worth. However, like most great novels, it is about so much more than this. The novel touches on issues of race, sexuality, gender roles and so many other important and relevant issues. What is so impressive about this book is that it does it all without trying to be grandiose. The writing remains so humble, genuine and relatable throughout that it feels like a personal journey from start to finish. 

It's similar to the last book I wrote about, 'The Perks of Being A Wallflower', in that the story is told through the medium of letters written by the protagonist and has a strong narrative voice. The difference being that Alice Walker's narrative is perfectly written throughout. When I first started reading the story I thought the distinctive style of writing would take a while to get used to but it very quickly revealed itself to have a natural, seamless quality about it and the voice of Celie comes as naturally as if she was talking to you herself.

When I finished reading 'The Color Purple' I was left with the sense that it was one of the best novels I have ever read and that it had really left a lasting impression on me. In an age where opinions dressed as facts bombard us on social media it was a much more powerful experience to read an incredible novel expertly addressing the issues which are just as relevant now as they were then. I would give 'The Color Purple' a perfect score: 10/10.



Sunday, 10 January 2016

Book Review - The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Book Review - The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This is a coming of age novel written by Stephen Chbosky which was published in 1999. It recently became more famous due to a film of the novel being released starring Emma Watson. I have never seen the film but I feel that Emma Watson does seem the perfect person to be playing the character of the main love interest, Sam. 

The novel has many of the cliche's that you would expect from a coming of age novel. The main character is intelligent, shy and unpopular. His love interest doesn't appear to have the same interest in him and his friends are all a bit cooler than he is.  Sounds like standard fare really. However, cliche's are okay if they're done well and this is definitely an example of these cliche's being effective and believable. Charlie, the protagonist, tells his story through a series of letters which works well alongside the strong narrative voice to make Charlie seem very believable. This helps the reader to become invested in the story and continue to maintain a level of empathy with the character which is needed as he goes through the usual and unusual turbulences of teenage life. Despite his intelligence, he makes many naive decisions and you can't help but feel that he would benefit from the readers advice at certain points in the story (even though most of us have probably made the same mistakes).

The novel dips nicely between being funny and being serious. There is a darkish tone which runs through much of the story and the ending gives some explanation for this. However, the story being so up and down emotionally parallels nicely with the turbulent nature of the teenage years being portrayed as well as the multitude of issues being dealt with. Despite this, much of the novel is also just about Charlie having fun with his friends and the awkward situations he gets himself into or creates are often humorous as well as sad. My only real criticism of the novel is that Charlie cries ALOT. It starts to become a bit ridiculous when another paragraph ends with something along the lines of 'I couldn't help it, I felt myself burst into tears' despite the same thing happening two paragraphs ago. The crying was a bit overkill but this is only a small criticism for an otherwise good novel. I enjoyed reading Charlie's story, the believability of the writing and the relatable nature of many of the situations portrayed meant my interest was well maintained right up until the final paragraph. 

Overall, I would rate 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' 7 bananas out of 10.