So remember that challenge journal requirement for this class? That makes one of us.
Well, to be fair with myself, I hadn’t completely forgotten about this aspect of course. It just got tucked away deep beneath a healthy amount of other priorities, and, perhaps more significantly, beneath a thick layer of doubt that I had that this reflection process was going to be at all useful for me. This stems largely from the fact that I really didn’t see how any of my prior work related to what I chose to do for my capstone: an analysis of the narrative capabilities of video games. How many posts could I make where I compare how my experience writing English papers for the last four years relates to my analytical approach to video game narrative? It seemed like a road that hit a dead end quickly, so I suppose subconsciously I kept the need to write these journals buried deep.
But a deadline is a deadline, so finally I cracked my knuckles and really started to put my head into this. Thinking back to all those English papers, I still found there was very little to say. Then the most obvious starting point finally hit me: my gateway project, of course.
My gateway project was titled “Empathy and Fiction,” and was essentially me rambling for several scrolls worth of a webpage on the complexities of empathizing with fictional characters who we would be hesitant to empathize with in reality – characters like Walter White from Breaking Bad, Jamie Lannister from Game of Thrones, and Omar Little from The Wire. While I’ve got mixed feelings about the end result, it was still a tremendously fun project to work on, as it allowed me to engage with media that I actually enjoyed for a change, and challenged myself to articulate the nuanced experience of connecting with stories and works of art.
As it turns out, I haven’t exactly wandered far from these habits, as my capstone project is built on these exact same ideas. I get to write about the experience of playing some of my favorite games, and putting into words exactly what it is about those experiences that makes them truly unique has been as challenging as it has been rewarding.
Realizing this, however, has brought with it a certain degree of unease, as how can I avoid making the same mistakes that I feel left my gateway project somewhat lacking? Perhaps the biggest difference, though, is that I never really felt I had a handle on what I was writing about with my gateway. I had ideas, sure, but I had way too big of a target, attempting to outline fundamental elements of the experience of fiction as a concept, when really, most of the examples I was pulling from where only coming from television (as I’m sure the three examples above gave away), which made the few examples I pulled from elsewhere feel out of place. I was so absorbed in these grandiose ambitious, I didn’t realize that by actually limiting my scope, I may have actually opened myself up to more interested and nuanced conclusions. This wasn’t all thanks my ignorance, though, as like I said, I knew from early on that this topic was larger than my capabilities. What I couldn’t realize at the time was that it wasn’t the fault of my own ability, but because what I was striving for was always going to be too big to fail. Had I realized this, perhaps I would have been more willing to readjust the project’s scope, rather than brute-force my way to conclusions as I ended up having to.
It would’ve been easy for me to make the exact same mistake on my capstone project, I’m sure, and frankly I’m surprised that I didn’t. The difference, I suppose, has been that I’ve approached this project from a much more deliberate scope straight from the start, limiting myself to video games, a medium I have particular confidence in my own knowledge of, rather than the entire canon of fiction altogether. Of course, even saying that the work of my capstone could apply to any and all video games is, at the very least, ambitious, so I must continue to be cautious in how I frame both my arguments and my understanding of the medium as a whole. So far, I like to think I’ve succeeded in this, and while I’ll keep up my efforts to this end, we won’t know one way or another until it’s all well and done.