Author Archives: bartkoas

Dr. Michio Kaku

Yesterday, on March 9, 2020, I attended the campus leadership lecture led by Dr. Michio Kaku. Dr. Kaku is most famous for being a co-theorist of string theory and has also written several best-selling books about physics and the future. Additionally, he also has been in several TV documentaries about his discoveries and even hosts a podcast. Currently, he teaches theoretical physics at City University of New York and I must say, even though I am not good at physics, I would love to be in one of his classes. Dr. Kaku explained things in his lecture that should have been extremely complicated, but he made complex ideas and concepts sound easy to grasp. Dr. Kaku had a sense of humor that was apparent throughout his talk. I was quite surprised about how much of a great personality he has, considering he is so brilliant. The lecture was one of the quickest hours of my life. 

I have always been fascinated with the future. What will it be like? Will it be possible to make myself immortal? Will flying cars exist? Can I teleport? As I have gotten older, these questions have frequented my mind less and less. However, Dr. Kaku was the opposite and showed what can be developed and conceptualized with those probing questions. Not only that, but Dr. Kaku expanded outside of the realm of physics and applied his findings and theories to outside sectors, such as healthcare, finance, and the humanities. Hearing Dr. Kaku reaffirm that humanities, reading, and writing will always be important to the professor made me happy because I feel that so many scientists are so quick to dismiss things like that. 

Considering history, there have been several identifiable “booms:” the Industrial Revolution, the inventions that came out of the Cold War, the computer boom, the robotics boom, and the ever-looming artificial intelligence (AI) boom. AI and virtual reality (VR) are already prevalent in today’s world, but not in a way that can benefit all of society. For example, most people associate AI and VR with the Oculus Rift or comparable headsets. However, AI and VR can extend into the world of art. Dr. Kaku showed some crude images that had been printed from dreams using modern and seemingly futuristic technology. He extended out simple images by saying that one day, we will be able to record our dreams and watch them in videos the morning after. Continuing off of that, maybe one day, Alzheimer’s patients will be able to have a memory chip in their brains that can help combat the symptoms. There are so many possibilities considering AI, VR, and the future. Hearing someone as well-respected in the field as Dr. Kaku made the child in me excited. 

One thing that is drilled into my head as a finance major is risk. We must analyze all risk, where it came from, and how we can get rid of it. I feel like a lot of other people do not consider this, but I was happy when someone decided to ask about the riskiness of having AI and VR controlling our lives and being implemented into our cars and houses. It is a huge invasion of privacy, but Dr. Kaku addressed the question appropriately and mentioned how Big Brother is always watching us. Additionally, he mentioned that like everything else, there is a degree of risk that may not be certain or completely known. That is something that will be better known when it becomes apparent. That information can help combat future risk, although it cannot be fully eliminated. Another thing that I believe could have also been addressed during this question is ethics regarding AI and VR. As Dr. Kaku is such a famous scientist, it would have been interesting to hear what he thinks about the ethics of the government listening in and the little privacy we do have. I do think it was interesting that he did mention that the Internet was never created to be private, though.

Following the lecture, I attended the reception. As expected, there was a very long line to go meet him and of course, it had been a long day for him so there was not any time to ask a question or speak with him. However, being able to have gotten the opportunity to meet someone so respectable is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not only that, but so many scientific things that I have heard have some connection to Dr. Kaku. Hearing him speak reignited the flame in the child inside of me and has me considering all the possibilities that come with the future. One of Dr. Kaku’s books is next on my reading list. I am also thrilled that Miami University offers us opportunities like this to engage with leaders in their respective fields through lecture series like these. Prior to this, all the on-campus lectures I had attended had been through Farmer, since those tend to align more closely with my interests. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how applicable another field could be to my life. In the future, I plan to look more into the lecture series on campus to see who else is speaking.

Game of the Week: Ladies and Gentlemen

This week, we played Ladies and Gentlemen in class. I have been looking forward to playing this in class since J.S. said that this was the first game he chose for this class. I liked the structure of playing in randomly assigned teams of “ladies and gentlemen” and how each side (lady or gentleman) had to use our partner’s advantages to help us win the game occurring on our side. The gentleman was responsible for trading stocks and making money, while the lady was responsible for shopping for the most elegant gown. I was unsure of what side I wanted to choose because in my life, I love to trade stocks to make money so I can buy elegant things!

Playing the game was interesting, although I do not understand the ladies’ side (since the gentlemen’s side was easier to understand, that is the side I chose to play). As a man, I got to collect resources to fulfill contracts. Each contract gave me money. When I returned home from work, my wife had gone and found some beautiful thing to wear to the ball. I have no idea how my lovely lady shopped or what made a dress prettier than another, but I did my best to dress her the best I could (this was funny because I had a guy as my wife).

In this game, I feel that gender roles were important to how the game was played, but I’m not looking to get into a discussion about that. Although the gentlemen’s side was easier, they were the “leader” of the game; they made the money and had final say in bonuses and what to buy. Knowing that would have been useful prior to starting the game. Otherwise, I would have taken on more of a leadership role instead of hiding behind my wife.

In today’s political climate, having a game that forces people to conform to certain “norms” can be looked down on. Everyone is forced to be heterosexual and a male or female. There probably are people who will not play this game because of this, but it is easy to overlook the roles to just enjoy the game. My mom would really enjoy playing this game because she is really good at seeing good things quickly (for looking for resources) and she has quite the eye for fashion, too.

Game of the Week: Atlantis

This week, we played Atlantis in class. So far, I think this was the most fun game I have ever played. I loved how there were so many different options for game play, like expansion packs for more options or the possibility of alliances forming. Individuals can also include “house rules” for their games to add more interesting options and another layer of complexity. This is a game that I will definitely need to either go to the Strategic Gaming Club to play or buy it for myself.

Each player starts off with 10 Meeple. Going clockwise, each person places one Merson until all are placed. Then, each player must place two boats to transport their Meeple off the sinking island and to safety. To start, the first player makes three moves with their Meeple or an unoccupied boat. After, the player flips a tile. If it is green, the player must play it instantly. If it is red, the player can hold onto it and play it on their next turn before moving their Meeple. Since each Merson has a point value assigned to it, the objective of the game is to get the most Meeple points to islands. I think part of the reason I really enjoyed this is because I won both games and got lots of Meeple to safety.

Being a leader is imperative to this game. Although there is not a distinct “leader” who runs the game like there are in others we have played, everyone needs to be their own leader and decide what strategy they want to use. Having strong leadership skills is important because if you go out and sink two ships with a total of six Meeple, your opponents might not like you a lot and begin to target you. But who knows? Maybe that was your strategy…

I got super into this game and honestly could spend an entire day playing it. If I am being completely honest, I am not sure who I would recommend this game to. I don’t know anyone who would be interested, so my goal is to introduce this game to some of my friends and hopefully get a group of people together to play frequently.

This Week in Game Design

For This Week in Game Design, I decided to investigate virtual reality. I chose this because it is an emerging technology and can be applicable in both video games and in the real world. For example, my mother sometimes volunteers at a school for the blind. They have a state-of-the-art VR room for people who are seeing to give them a chance to see what it is like being blind or visually impaired. In addition to putting on headsets and wearing headphones to further enhance the experience, this room also has different textures on the floor and walls to offer a fully interactive space. For example, you can “be” a person with glaucoma crossing a busy road or at the grocery store. While virtual reality can help people understand other’s positions, it is also really cool and offers a unique gaming experience. When considering the capabilities of VR, there are three areas in which I believe VR should be further explored: VR in relation to stress, VR as a means of training first responders, and the effects of VR in the field of medicine.

Virtual reality could be a way to reduce stress in teenagers and adults. According to an article by Jessica Lofgren for the Carrick Institute, VR can be used for different types of stress relief. The first method of stress relief is relaxing. By using VR to relax, you can do things like meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and yoga. Additionally, people are shown different environments to make the experience as personal and calming as possible. Another form of stress-relief from VR is engaging. People can interact with things virtually and the environment is customizable to help people relax in an active way that they prefer. For example, there are fight games if someone is angry and needs to smash a plate or two. The final one is personalized. This is a newer development, but it is developed on distinctive features derived from the users’ memory. This would probably include artificial intelligence, which could provide an experience that lets a person take a walk down memory lane. Since so many people are extremely stressed all the time, using VR could be an interesting way to unwind. It can be as involved or as uninvolved as the user wants. Personally, I would use relaxation VR and do something calming, like walking on trails or sitting on a nice beach. 

Another area of research in training first responders. The Shenandoah Center for Immersive Learning created simulators to present at a public safety open house. Using VR to train first responders is a smart use of the technology because it allows people in training to be put into a simulated situation where they can apply the skills they were taught and see how one course of action could have a different outcome, either for better or worse. The director of the Emergency Preparedness Instructional Center agreed, saying that he is more prepared to handle real-world tasks than before due to the additional training. This is a direct link to show that virtual reality can help keep our neighborhoods safer because our first responders feel better equipped to handle certain situations. Additionally, using VR to train could open the possibilities of making it easier to deal with cybercrime. Understanding the technology behind virtual reality forces everyone in the unit to be more familiar with current technology, which can lead to improvement in tracking and preventing online crimes. It seems like Shenandoah first responders had a positive experience with this training and I firmly believe that other departments, especially those in large cities, can benefit from VR training. 

The final area of research to investigate regarding VR is in the field of medicine. Like the first responders, using VR in a hospital could help surgeons train before performing surgery. Additionally, it allows for practice and means that more skilled specialists could be available in the workforce. Already, there have been some visible advantages to VR in the healthcare industry. VR can be used to treat chronic pain because it forces the brain to not focus on the pain. This also shortens the duration that people will need to stay in a hospital. VR has proven effective in fighting memory loss. Through VR, memories of Alzheimer’s patients can be jogged by helping them to recall past experiences through associations, places, or images. Having a family member with severe memory loss can be a strain on a person, but being able to see them have a breakthrough or remember something significant could be a huge comfort.  Virtual reality has a place in medicine and can be used to improve the overall health of the population through trainings and treatments. 

Virtual reality and other video games can be seen as “pointless” or as “time-wasters.” However, virtual reality has the potential to improve everyone’s lives. As of now, most virtual reality headsets are marketed towards people who play video games, and thus, is labeled as a video game. This is a major issue, because as expressed, there are several different areas in which VR can be used to improve the world. In the future, it would be very interesting to see how VR becomes a part of our daily routines because of the convenience and flexibility it offers.

Game of the Week: Mysterium

This week in class, we played Mysterium. Like every single game in this class, I had no idea how to play when I got to class, even though I read all the instructions and watched the video. However, I was pleased to experience that game play was much more simple than I was anticipating. I know a lot of people around me said this, but Mysterium was like a more advanced version of Clue.

There were four players and one “ghost.” The ghost was recently killed and is trying to avenge their murderer. To do this, the ghost hands a photo card to each player. The photo card is meant to give some indication to the player about who the murderer was, the location in which it happened, and the murder item. Each player has their own scenario but can share information on their cards to see who has what scenario. When a person decides on a person, place, or thing, they move their player to that card and people can vote if they think that person is right or wrong. The ghost provides feedback about who is right or wrong and whoever is right proceeds to the next level. When everyone figures out all the pieces to their puzzle, the ghost reveals a few more images to show who the killer is. Each player then votes on the scenario they think is right. If the majority guess right, everyone wins.

The ghost is, without a doubt, the leader in this game. They provide the proper images for each scenario and guide each player into correctly figuring out who the murderer is. The ghost is unable to talk, so they can only communicate through the image cards. This takes an immense amount of leadership because the ghost has to be able to figure out everyone’s communication styles quickly and silently to point them in the right direction.

This game was really fun and I am considering getting it for personal use. My cousin Elsa is 10, and I recently introduced her to Clue, which she quickly fell in love with. The thing with Clue is that is does not have as many options as Mysterium and we both quickly got bored. I will show her this game if I purchase it when I get home.

RECON Reflection

On February 21th, 2020, I did something I have never done before and something I thought I would never do: attend a video game conference. Under any normal circumstance, I would not have attended. I did not know anyone there and I have no clue how to play video games. However, there was an exception: Ultimate Werewolf. We played Ultimate Werewolf on the first day of class and it was so much fun that I just had to go to RECON to play it again. 

Since I did not want to go to RECON alone, I decided to bring my boyfriend with me. He plays more video games than I do and actually had some semblance as to what was happening. We arrived shortly before midnight, pumped to play Ultimate Werewolf. It was his first time playing and since I enjoyed it so much, he figured that he would try his hand at the game too.

This version of Werewolf was much different than what we played in class. This was the “legacy” mode, where instead of Werewolves versus Villagers, it was Werewolves versus Villagers versus the British versus the person who had to guess what team would end up dying (I forgot his character name). Upon receiving my card, I realized that I was the Diseased and had Coronavirus (defined by the Moderator). This meant that if I died, the Werewolves could not kill anyone that night either, since they also had Coronavirus. I was amused to be the Diseased since my role protected my fellow villagers for another night. In a way, my role reminded me of the “medic” but in a more broad way, as they saved the entire village for a night. I was looking forward to learning the dynamic of the group and becoming more involved as the game continued, but unfortunately, I was killed on the first night. I ended up being okay with this since my boyfriend was still in the game and I could watch him try to live until the last possible second. Surprisingly, he made it nearly to the end and his team, the Brits, were the victors of the game.

The Legacy version of this game was quite interesting and very bloody. It seemed like as someone died, they were able to also kill another person or two along with them. For example, everytime one of the Brits died, they had to take out someone to either their left or their right in addition to them. There was also the unique role of the Leprechaun who had the power to shift the wolves’ target either one to the left or the right.  As I watched, I saw that the Leprechaun saved a few people on the Villager team a few times. I also saw how my boyfriend was supposed to be killed twice, but because of the Leprechaun, he made it out alive. 

This version of Ultimate Werewolf was less fun than the way we played in class on Week 1. Part of that has to do with the fact that no one knew anyone during Week 1, whereas everyone playing at RECON seemed to know each other and quite well, too. When I entered the Armstrong Pavilion at around midnight, I was immediately stressed and a bit anxious. Usually, whenever I walk into a room at Miami, I am able to recognize a handful of people and approach them for conversation and guidance. This was not the case with RECON. I only knew myself and my boyfriend, and I tend to get extremely introverted in situations when I do not know people. As a result, I mostly people-watched and did not interact with many individuals. I think I would have had more fun at this event if I knew more people or if everyone was a stranger. 

After leaving from Armstrong, my boyfriend made an observation to me. I am a business student and spend most of my time in Farmer, so I know so many people who are involved within the business community. When I walk into a room full of business students, it is not weird, awkward, or stressful because I know a handful of people in each room. However, someone like my biology major boyfriend walks into a room full of business students and is stressed because he does not know anyone or what is going on, so he likes to stand back and people-watch.  Me walking into RECON resembled him walking into a gathering with business students. I was simply at an event where I knew no one, so I kept to myself. 

Although I only saw about two hours worth of RECON, it looked like it was a blast for people who enjoy gaming. There were screens everywhere and video games of all kinds were being played. I had another friend who ended up going to RECON for a different event and he had a phenomenal time. I would not be surprised if I found myself here again next year to people-watch and try my hand at some non-video games. Had it not been for EDL290, I would have never known that RECON existed and I never would have had a chance to see a gaming event on Miami’s campus. It is a goal of mine to try to attend as many things outside of my scope of interests while I am in school, and this ticked off another thing on the list for me. I will say that I did enjoy RECON more than anticipated and look forward to possibly attending other gaming events on campus.

Game of the Week: Betrayal

In class this past week, we played Betrayal at House on the Hill. I had never heard of this game (I have not heard of most games that we will play in class), but I read the instructions and prepared for class as usual. After reviewing the instructions a handful of times and watching instructional videos, I still did not get the gist of the game, but figured I would probably pick up on it when we started playing in groups.

The two other people at my table were very helpful in explaining how to play the game, but I still did not understand the objective. They held my hand and led me through proper game instruction as we progressed. All I know is that one of the players became the Traitor and battled me twice, killed me off (twice) and that is how he won. The turn-to-turn game interaction was fun and gave me ideas for my own board game that I need to design.

Each of us chose a character that had different stats and advantages. As we drew cards, our stats could improve or we could get injured, thus leaving us with some form of disadvantages. We could draw omens that would harm the group, items to help us improve, and events that made our character do something. There are several different endings to this game that are determined by rolling the die and reading that number in a little booklet. Our ending involved some dead bride who ended up doubly killing me when I was trying to get the corpse to the attic in time for the wedding.

Throughout the game, the two other players demonstrated a high level of leadership. They both guided me before and during game play, ensuring that I also had fun. It was a kind thing for them to do, considering they were both familiar with the game and I was brand new. Additionally, both of them displayed leadership when we understood who the Traitor was. They both led the team and made decision strategies for their “teams” (would be more applicable if there were more players to form teams) on how to win the game. Ultimately, my team lost due to two poor rolls of dice.

This game was fun, but given the opportunity, I do not think I would play this again. However, I think my dad would enjoy this game. He likes games that are intricate and involve different endings because they “add adventure to the games.” I will have to introduce Betrayal to him.

-Alexandra Bartkoske

Game of the Week: Mental Blocks

This week, we played both Hanabi and Mental Blocks in class. Both were interesting games that required everyone’s cooperation to complete and win. As someone with little to no board game experience, this was my first time playing cooperative games since I was a young child. These two were a great introduction to the topic and were more fun to play than I expected. For the purpose of this post, I will discuss my experiences with Mental Blocks.

Mental Blocks was challenging, although my group excelled at the game and finished every shape well before time was up. The hardest part of Mental Blocks was the restriction. On the first round, we were able to touch all shapes and colors and arrange them to show our team what the card looked like from individual perspectives. After the restriction, we had to get creative and ask someone on our team to touch a certain block for us, or even better, use two blocks that we could touch to pick up the third. In general, the “leader” of each round was the person who had the card that identified the shape of the structure. For our group, Nico got that card two out of three times and became our designated “leader.”

This game was a great introduction to cooperative games, and the fact that it required thought and cooperation made it that much better. I will have to refer this game to my boyfriend, Camron, as he enjoys mental games and would have really enjoyed playing this game in class.

-Alexandra Bartkoske

Game of the Week: Ultimate Werewolf

For the first week of EDL290, we played Ultimate Werewolf. I loved a variation of this game as a child (Mafia, for those familiar), so seeing a more complex version available for adults was incredible and greatly nostalgic. The game had several roles, from Cupid selecting lovers to the two Masons whose names we could not say in fear of sudden death. My favorite was actually the one I played: the Spellcaster, who had the ability to silence someone for each round of the game.

Usually, I have experienced this game with people that I know and have some degree of friendship with. For the first time, I walked into the room and played this game with a group of 30 people that I had never met. This part was difficult because when you play with friends, you know their “tells.” We had no way of gauging who was being honest and who was lying. We had to trust our instincts and our past experiences with human interaction to determine who was lying about their role and who was being honest with the class.

I tried to lead the group in the first round by breaking the ice and asking everyone how their day was. However, the true leadership was shown when one person suggested we should kill someone off. Eventually, someone lead the followers and brought them to the initial leader by agreeing with killing off that person. Seeing how a group of strangers interacted with each other and how leadership in each turn was determined was an interesting perspective. I enjoyed interacting with the people around me, especially after I died and the Seer came forward with his knowledge. I think it was smart that the Seer kept his identity a secret until he figured out who was a wolf.

Overall, this game was a blast and was a phenomenal introduction to this course. I plan to figure out how to play this with a normal deck of cards and invite my friends over to play it. I’m sure they would love to fight over who the “bad guy” is.

-Alexandra Bartkoske