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Alan Li’s Blog

Final Reflection/Cover letter

This site is an archive of the work I completed as part of ENG101 at Emory University during spring semester 2020, link to website:

ENG 101 is the most unexpected and unconventional class I have ever taken. As the name implied, I was prepared for intense conventional reading and writing tasks throughout the semester. Before taking this class, I didn’t know many other forms of media are also categorized as writing, neither did I understand the importance of being creative and breaking boundaries can be even more important than language skills. Over the semester, instead of worrying about English as my second language, I developed a new way of thinking and a more gameful view of the world around me. The course develops around five key objectives: rhetorical composition, reading, and critical thinking, writing, collaboration, and digital citizenship. The last two concentrations encourage us to be more than writers, but collaborators and publishers to express ourselves for a broader audience. 

We started the semester with weekly side quests that introduced techniques like web design, photo-editing, sketching, blogging, etc. Learning these skills and challenging our imagination was the foundation for later tasks. Most assignments required complex thinking and designing before actual work. For example, combo photo production required thinking about different but similar objects that not only overlap but also with a hidden meaning. I used the combination between a Porsche and a frog, which have similar silhouettes and remind viewers the beauty of nature also exists in timeless designs. This experience also inspires me to learn more about photo and video editing in the future. Lectures in class bring new perspectives for games and life. Analyzing games and the book Superbetter reminds me that games are designed for more than entertainment, but also with life lessons and real-life skills. As we discussed in many podcasts, games frequently encourage endurance, courage, stepping outside of your comfort zone, and finding your true self, which are all important but hard lessons to learn. Yet, games deliver these messages without the requirement of conscious learning, benefiting our long-term development alongside entertainment. The experience with game analysis completely changed my previous view for games to be meaningless and time-consuming. As the world faces the pandemic of COVID-19, digital technology becomes even more prominent. After schools shut down, the best ways of learning also transitioned from traditional lecturing to interactive games and activities that take advantage of the digital platform. My biology lab even changed part of the final exam to an activity about infectious disease, educating us with the basic knowledge we need to know. Simulations with trials and errors in the program make knowledge more visually accessible and easier to understand. In a broad sense, gaming is the future of education.

As COVID-19 changed the course planning, home taskings became the main assignments after spring break. Unconventional tasks no one expected, yet achievable in almost all households make these tasks manageable but challenging. I remember doing the first “throw a piece of paper into a bin” task. Without a second thought, I went with a paper plane throw. Paper planes reminded me of my childhood when I filled my room with paper planes and all I thought about was how to improve my design to make these planes more stable and fly further. This task brought the first beam of light into my lockdown. As the tasks go on, they become more complicated and harder to plan. My hardest task was the trousers assignment, which was too open-ended that I don’t know where or how to start. Ideas such as cutting the trousers in pieces or using them as face masks were soon ruled out. I got my inspiration after looking at the apples on my desk. The straight design of trousers resembles a digestive track and performing a “trousers eating apple” time-lapse video soon received my approval. Living alone is a limitation for these assignments since I could only have the camera stationed if I need to be in the video. Learning how to combat limitations and innovate even at a disadvantage became another skill I learned over the home tasking series production. Creating a movie scene was changed many times due to this limitation until I realized the famous line from Terminator was shot from a stationary and upward viewing angle. Using what I have and make it to the best is the main take-away for this series. Home taskings made my lockdown much more interesting, and just like Superbetter, lockdowns help me appreciate normal days even more and I will be capable of becoming not only better but super better after this experience. 

Podcasts have been the most memorable experience of this class. I remember being the line producer for the first episode and nervous about the task I have never faced before. The recording studio was hard to use, and it took me more than an hour to finally have headphones ready and synchronized for production. Even though I did not have the highest responsibility as a line producer, being there with my teammates, figuring out what to do was a tremendous amount of work and built up the experience for upcoming episodes with more responsibilities. My episode was the last one for our team and everyone was already experienced, which gave me more space to focus on the contents I wanted to deliver. Choosing the game is the first step in production. After listening to previous episodes and found that most of the games are about being competitive and require skills and practice to be a better player, I wanted a game that is distinct from mainstream games and have more meanings for the real life. In the heat of the pandemic, Monument Valley became my choice to bring a peaceful and relaxed gaming experience for my audience. Monument Valley is a non-competitive game that focused on aesthetics, imagination that aims to challenge the view of dimensionality in audiences. The music, design, and simple rules make this a relaxing game and provide players with a surreal kingdom to slow down, think, and appreciate. In the discussion phase of the episode planning, I and my assistant producer decided to spend less than the usual amount of time explaining rules, probing, skills, and focus more on its real-life meanings and lessons. The true way to appreciate Monument Valley is to understand the game setting and willing to break your existing belief of dimensionality or definition of possible. As I mentioned in the podcast reflection, “Many seemingly impossible shapes and structures are suddenly possible in this game and challenge users to abandon their current belief of dimensions to enjoy the imaginary world this game creates for us.” Describing this game to the audience clearly without visual demonstration is one potential issue I focused on during the drafting phase, and my team decided to use metaphors and references to real-life objects for the best possible verbal explanation. Being adaptable, willing to step outside of your comfort zone and tackle a large problem by dividing it into smaller, achievable goals are the main lessons for players of this game. Just like what I did with my podcast, breaking down the projects into different parts and solve each one with maximum effort makes the overarching goal much more achievable and organized. 

Lessons from this class have benefitted me in other classes as well throughout the semester. As the transition to online learning changes the lab schedule much more than lecture classes, my biology lab set up a week’s assignment to design an independent research proposal. Planning and designing have been the key elements for almost all assignments in ENG 101, especially in podcasts and home taskings. By breaking down the bio assignment into brainstorming, organizing thought from group members, thinking of potential confounding/control/experiment variables, writing out the procedure in detail, and analyzing the data obtained. All the skills that are practiced throughout this class made the bio assignment much more manageable. ENG 101 brought many critical skills to my attention, and I will keep developing these skills to best prepare for the future. 

ENG 101 has been an amazing class that teaches us English and composition in an untraditional way. Unbound by traditional five-paragraph format, we are encouraged to use digital technology and learn through gaming. Many discussions in class are more philosophical and require our critical thinking skills more than outstanding word choices or composition skills, which relieves my stress as an international student. I learned much more from this class than any other English class before, and many skills I will keep developing as part of my interest. I am thankful for developing a new gameful view of the world that teaches me to be not only better but Superbetter.