Sat07222017

Last updateWed, 12 Jul 2017 2am

Entertainment

Get Educated With Video Games

Zero EscapeIn my classes at Monmouth, every now and then I’m introduced to a concept which I already know something of from a video game. I remember last year, in Dr. Patten’s intro to political science course, when he explained the prisoner’s dilemma to us. I was already familiar with the concept thanks to Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, and this helped my group to avoid a potential 10-year prison sentence in our exercise.

Before I get into this though, let me just add a quick disclaimer: if you hear something in a video game that interests you, you should research it independently; it doesn’t have to be extensive, but be sure at least give it a quick google. Most games are works of fiction, and often they take creative license, even when they present something as factual. To illustrate this: in the video game Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, a curious incident involving chemistry is discussed. According to the game, in 1920, due to an accident involving the transport of liquid glycerin, a sample of glycerin crystallized. This was curious because glycerin had never been crystallized before, and afterwards glycerin everywhere started to crystallize spontaneously.

To call this story about glycerin half-true would be giving it too much credit; some research was done on the crystallization of glycerin in the 1920’s, but that’s about all the truth there. However, due to the game’s presentation, this story actually fooled a good number of people. Many players thought the game was summarizing a historical event, when in actuality the game was combining a semi-popular occult myth with the plot of Cat’s Cradle, a popular Kurt Vonnegut novel. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is highly regarded for having a story made up of interesting facts and compelling fiction; unfortunately, as has been illustrated, occasionally the two blend together.

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A Closer Look at “The Legend of Heroes”

LH TCSThe Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Cold Steel is long and at times nonsensical, much like its title. To be completely honest, I went into Legend of Heroes expecting a 20-ish hour game and a very easy review. The premise of the game is basically teenagers going to school and fighting stuff… Where have I seen this before? Oh, right, Valkyria Chronicles 2, Final Fantasy Type-0, every Persona game ever, Harry Potter, and in a million other cheap knockoffs. The image running with this story actually mirrors one released for Final Fantasy: Type-0, right down to the protagonist holding a flag (no one will accuse this game of being original). Actually, in many ways this game feels like a PG version of Final Fantasy: Type-0; there’s a very similar premise/setting, but no mature content about the horrors of war. That said, as a whole I’m glad that I played The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Cold Steel, and I look forward to the sequel.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Cold Steel is a fantasy JRPG (Japanese role-playing game) set in a semi-modern world. Gameplay makes use of tactical turn-based combat and several social sim elements (interactions with other characters provide character depth and story information). And, as I may have mentioned earlier, the foundation of its plot is not exactly an original concept; actually, it’s probably the most overused premise in the genre right now. Knowing this, I went into Legend of Heroes not expecting much, and my first hour in-game didn’t change that opinion for the better. I was initially quite unimpressed by Legend of Heroes’ dated graphics and total lack of animated cut scenes; if someone had told me this was a 2007 game, I’d have believed them.

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Meet the Masterminds Behind “Jordan Belfort”

Jordan Belfort Walker DylWes Walker and Dyl are the masterminds behind “Jordan Belfort,” Spotify’s “#1 College Song” from 2015. Many college students are guilty of having this song on his or her playlist, which is truly something special when considering that Walker and Dyl are college students themselves. Walker attends Temple University and Dyl goes to Tulane University, and while being students, they were still able to produce a popular hit like “Jordan Belfort.” The song has received over 30 million hits on SoundCloud and YouTube, and on the iTunes pop chart, the song peaked at #29. This success is what ultimately led them to landing a deal with major label Atlantic Records. After talking with Walker and Dyl, I learned some pretty cool things about their careers, their successful song and what inspires them to do what they do.

The two have been best friends since middle school, and after they both got into the music scene from DJ-ing, they decided to collaborate together on this catchy tune. The two are always stimulated and inspired from being surrounded by so much music, which is what led them to start recording stuff on their own. Walker said, “I slowly gained a liking to all and everything hip-hop culture, and all my friends would freestyle together and that is when I started producing instrumentals and actually recording raps.” What originally started out as mindless fun has turned into a career for both Walker and Dyl, which is something that still amazes them and makes them proud to be making music. When asked how they feel about having the most popular song in the U.S. amongst college students, Walker said, “I kind of still don’t believe it. Almost every college kid in America has heard my goofy voice. Something really special indeed.”

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Pollak Set to Rock Through the Decades

Pollack RTAFive decades of rock n’ roll music are coming to Pollak Theater in a powerhouse, one-night only concert hosted by University senior and professional violinist Taylor Hope on Thursday, April 24. Hope will be joined by accomplished local musicians such as Glen Burtnik, Joe Bellia, Joe LaFragola, and Bob Stasiak as the ensemble takes audiences through the evolution of the rock genre, from the groovy vibes of the 1960’s to the cutting edge styles of today.

Hope, currently studying music and math at the University, worked closely with faculty and contemporaries in the music industry to develop her show, “Rockin’ Through the Decades.” The concert is in addition to Hope’s senior recital, and proceeds generated from ticket sales will be donated back to the University.

“I came up with the idea last year to put on a concert to wrap up my senior year at Monmouth and to donate the proceeds back to the music department,” said Hope. “It’s been a great experience putting together a show from scratch, from having a vision and being able to execute it. I’m so lucky to know so many talented musicians and am so fortunate to have some of them join me for the show.”

One of these guests, Burtnik, is a former member of the Styx revival and host of popular “Summer of Love” 1960’s concert. In addition to his myriad of accomplishments and over four decades of experience in the music industry, Burtnik has a long history of performing with Hope.

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Blue Hawk Records: Artists of the Week, Britt Cannarozzi & Band

BHR Cannarozzi BandBritt Cannarozzi & Band

Members: Britt Cannarozzi – vocals/songwriting, Chris Durham – bass, Vinnie Espinosa – guitar, Steve Filippone – drums

Genre: Pop

How did you guys decide to form a band?

Britt: Originally, I wrote this melody and these lyrics, and then I asked Vinnie a while ago to help me out with it, and we did the music and everything for it. Then we asked Chris and Steve to jump in on it, and it kind of just happened like that. And now we jam a lot and they helped me record the demo.

What got you interested in music?

Britt: I’ve been singing since I was little, and I love writing words, so I’ve just always done that. Then I switched my major a few times and switched schools a few times, and now I’m doing this.

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Blue Hawk Records: Artist of the Week, Dan Amatto

BHR Dan AmattoDan Amatto

From:  Paramus, NJ

Genre: Pop/Rock

What got you interested in music? 

Actually, it was a total fluke. I was just trying to find something to do in fifth grade, and I landed on that.

How long have you been making your own music? 

Since I was around 14.

What has been your biggest musical accomplishment so far? Have you had any big gigs?

To me, just playing in Asbury. Just the fact that I was across the street from The Stone Pony was huge to me.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future regarding music? 

Release an EP of my own stuff and just play anywhere around here and just get the word out.

What artists have influenced you?

Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Frank Sinatra, and John Mayer.

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Blue Hawk Records: Artists of the Week,The Carousers

BHR Artists of Week 2016 2Blue Hawk Records is Monmouth University’s student-run record label. Each semester, the club works with the Applied Music Industry class to produce a compilation CD that features Monmouth’s aspiring musicians. This semester, students and faculty members auditioned for the label and six artists were chosen to be on the new CD. The artists are recording their original songs in a professional setting at Lakehouse Recording Studios in Asbury Park. The album will be released on April 20, and a release show will be held on that date. For more information about the artists, visit the blog at bluehawkrecords.wordpress.com, or follow Blue Hawk Records on social media.

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Blue Hawk Records: Artist of the Week, Taylor Puzzio

BHR Artists of Week 2016 1Blue Hawk Records is Monmouth University’s student-run record label. Each semester, the club works with the Applied Music Industry class to produce a compilation CD that features Monmouth’s aspiring musicians. This semester, students and faculty members auditioned for the label and six artists were chosen to be on the new CD. The artists are recording their original songs in a professional setting at Lakehouse Recording Studios in Asbury Park. The album will be released on April 20, and a release show will be held on that date. For more information about the artists, visit the blog at bluehawkrecords.wordpress.com, or follow Blue Hawk Records on social media.

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“The Walking Dead” Concludes with Cliffhanger

The Walking Dead CliffhangerProducer Denise Huth was asked to describe the season finale of The Walking Dead in one word. She replied, “Negan.” Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, bears the nauseating name, which has evoked excitement from various viewers and complete despair from others. The episode delivered on Huth’s promise. Season 6, episode 16 was as tense as it was unsatisfying.

Approaching this season finale, the characters show complete disregard to the protection of the safe-zone community Alexandria. From Carol’s (Melissa McBride) annoying hide and seek attempt, to Darryl’s (Norman Reedus) quest for revenge, Alexandria is more dead than the walkers gnawing on its walls. Tell Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) to say a prayer and hang a vacancy sign on the front gate.

In the episode, director Greg Nicotero shows multiple vantage points. The viewer follows Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) crew as well as Carol and Morgan (Lennie James) through their individual travels. Unbeknownst to Rick and the rest of the group, the previous episode revealed that key players in the “Team Alexandria” fighting force were taken by a group of people called “The Saviors.” So, with half the group gone or taken captive and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) having painful pregnancy issues, Rick makes the call to leave in search of a doctor.

The idea of laying low is completely thrown out of the RV’s rear window as the gang piles in. While Rick’s unit heads to their allies in the Hilltop, Morgan searches for and finds Carol. Carol will not comply with Morgan’s pleas for her to return to Alexandria, insisting that Morgan leave immediately. The writer, Robert Kirkman, does a great job pairing this character combination and highlighting the fact that their beliefs differ on so many levels.

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“Black Desert Online”: A Time-Saving Time Sink

Black Desert OnlineMMORPGs, or massively multiplayer online role playing games, are often thought of as “time sinks.” Games in this genre typically expect players to sink hundreds of hours into them (perhaps thousands, in some rare cases). Black Desert Online is an entirely different animal in that it expects the average player to log over 1000 hours, and quite quickly. Black Desert has been designed to accommodate players with limited free time; due to several innovative new systems it allows one to accomplish hours of work with minutes of play. I personally feel that these features make Black Desert an ideal MMORPG for college students, but more on that later.

Similar to the popular Guild Wars: 2 and TERA, Black Desert is an action MMORPG in a high-fantasy setting. In terms of quality, it’s on a level of its own; Black Desert is hands-down the best-looking MMORPG on the market today but still manages to be very well optimized. The sound is also praise-worthy, containing a number of orchestral tracks, all deliberately lacking vocals so as to increase longevity. Two of Black Desert’s shortcomings are the voice acting and story, even though this is pretty standard in MMORPGs (particularly ones translated from Korean). As such, I was personally willing to give Black Desert a pass on this, although some might not.

Moving onto the gameplay, action combat in MMORPGs is notoriously clunky and imprecise, but Black Desert is by far the best I’ve ever seen. There is no comparison between Black Desert to others in its genre, and the quality of its combat is closer to what I would expect from an Assassin’s Creed title. Gameplay in Black Desert isn’t limited to combat though, as there are a number of occupations in game called “life skills.” These include fishing, cooking, hunting with a rifle, alchemy, taming horses, trading and more. It’s perfectly viable to neglect combat somewhat in favor of sharpening your life skills.

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Record Store Day Rolls Around

Record Store Day 2016The third Saturday of every April marks an annual event that is well known to every novelty collector and hipster across the country: Record Store Day. Record Store Day is a celebration of purchasing vinyl recordings, the oldest and most official way of collecting music. On Record Store Day, musicians and record labels release exclusive copies of their work on vinyl (either a 12-inch or a 7-inch), CDs, or even taped recordings. Musicians will also make appearances, host Q&As, and even perform at local store in celebration of this event. The first Record Store Day occurred on April 19, 2008, and has been a massive success in the following years. It has expanded to over 1,400 independent record stores in the United States and has been catching on across several continents.

It is worth noting that all stores that participate on this day are independently owned, meaning they are not under control by any major record label. The stores partake in this event because of their passion for music and their love of this format. That being said, not all record stores will have every release that is mentioned on the official list, which turns the event into an Easter egg hunt with everyone going in to search for the most exclusive of releases.

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Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication 
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Monmouth University
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Phone:(732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151
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