Monday, March 12, 2007

"Sven Kommt!" a.k.a. birds do it, bees do it, even polygamous bouncing sheep do it.

Okay. If you know German and, perhaps, the use of puns, you can probably guess from the name of the German video game "Sven Kommt!" (it means "Sven Comes!" in English) what the game is about. If that wasn't clear enough: there were splatters of white, I can only assume, paint, in the background of the animated cartoon title "Sven Kommt!"

People can have a very, very sick imagination.

At first I thought it was this harmless game (my friend's brother's friend brought him a copy from Germany) since the display was completely in animated cartoon - much like Super Mario Bros or Crash Bandicoot. My first impression was, SO CUTE! The main character was this black male sheep who always looked happy (a better word might be "contented") and he didn't walk but instead he bounced around with a proud, alpha male gait and a huge smile - ready to charm the white female sheep placed all around him, picking flowers, lying on grass, etc. Turns out he was ready to do a lot more than "charming" those white sheep.

I wondered, what does he have to do to get to the next level? Then, defying all moral standards, my friend grabbed the mouse and did the most unthinkable thing, she made the black sheep approach one of those helpless white sheep and bounced on it over and over until the white sheep EXPLODED! (Please remember that these are cartoon animated SHEEP) And then Sven (the black sheep) approached another white sheep and did it again with a different style (throwing it up and down), and then it approached another, and another, and another, until it got to the next level, where there were even MORE white sheep to, um, bounce on.

Moreover, in the game Sven can use something that looked like a candywrapper to assist him in his bouncing. But if he used the candywrapper, it would take a longer time for the white sheep to explode, meaning, a lower score. Hence, it is better not to use the candy wrapper.

I thought, Whoa. Do they not censor their video games in Germany?!? Whatever happened to the importance of a pure childhood of innocence, where kids only watch Disney cartoons or play Sonic the Hedgehog? And what kind of message are they trying to send? The more the merrier? Candies are bad for you? You need to score to score?

My friend, S, who was a guy, asked my other friend, T, who was a girl, when she was playing the game, "Don't you feel offended by the game?" T replied, "No, I actually feel empowered!" My other friend thought the game "frees you from stress".

I told them, I think it's an interesting - certainly unique - game, but in order to make it educational - or at least morally justified, the end of the game should be changed. I think in the end Sven should be shown meeting a sheep doctor who showed him his sheep blood test result and told him that he has positively been infected by HIV and will soon suffer from AIDS. And after he comes out of the clinic, there should be hoards of white pregnant female sheep asking for him to take care of them and be responsible.

And then Sven should never be able to bounce again. Ever.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Slow and Excruciatingly Painful Death of My Stressball

The story began around two very long years ago in another lifetime across the strait of Malacca, in a teeny-weeny little island surrounded by the ocean. There was a school populated by very stressful (arts) students about to face the most important trial so far in their eventful, albeit short-lived, lives: the dreadful, horrible, monstrous A-Levels. Okay, enough intro.
When I was about to face the exams period in junior college, the head of my faculty gave each of us in the arts faculty a bouncy ball. Before we were given the ball they (the faculty) made us watch a movie on a sheep who felt really sad every time after he was shaved but then met a frog (I think it was a frog if I recall correctly) who told him that every time he feels sad he can feel happy again by BOUNCING around. So the sheep started to bounce around following the frog’s lead (ignore for a moment the fact that sheep can’t actually bounce up and down in reality, except in cartoons like this and games like Sven Kommt - but that’s another story altogether), and guess what? The sheep felt HAPPY again!!! So the moral of the story was, you can actually control your state of mind – you can be happy if you want to. Like that famous quote: “If you want to be happy, be”. So every time you feel sad, just remember that you can just BOUNCE BACK and be happy again. Then they gave us the ball to remind us of the message. The ball could bounce around and every time I felt stressed out I used to squeeze it. It was coloured in different shades of orange and it was bouncy and squishy and I couldn’t leave home without it; I carried it everywhere. It was, as they say in the Lord of the Rings, “my precious”. We were supposed to be together forever (sounds like a boyband song lyric).
Even after I returned back across the borders to continue my studies in my shanty little village town, so that I can take care of my family and help support my two little sisters (okay it’s going a bit far...), I still carry my orange stressball around in my pencilcase. It went bounce, bounce, bounce... when I failed a french test... bounce, bounce... when my car got stolen... bounce, bounce... when my grandma passed away... bounce, bounce... when Spain and the Netherlands lost in the World Cup... bounce, bounce... bounce, bounce, bounce it went all the time, helping me recover. I thought we would bounce forever, me and my orange stressball. But, alas, nothing in this world lasts forever (I learned that a long time ago when I lost thousands of mp3s that took years for me to collect because of a single computer virus), and the same thing goes for my poor, poor stressball.
A few days ago, I came back from campus and, as usual, put my bag on the living room table and went to the kitchen to fix myself some supper. It was a tote bag and as it had no zippers in the first place, it was always open. Inside was my black pencilcase and as I was rushing out of my International Relations 101 class to catch the elevator, the pencilcase was unzipped. My orange stressball was inside.
My sister, who is in fifth grade, came into the living room and started to rummage through my bag and my pencilcase, all the time making very serious accusations about how I’ve ruined her life by borrowing her correction pen (tip-x) without asking her first (she does that all the time, she’s totally dramatic; gifted, I’d say). In the process, she managed to pour the entire content of my pencilcase on the living room floor. And the stressball rolled across the living room floor (I can only imagine this happening as I was in the kitchen during this whole episode so this part is a hypothesis) and out the open entrance to the patio, and eventually reached the garden. By this I mean it had entered, how shall I put it, the Sovereign Territory of the Killer Puppies. My half-siberian wolverine, Nero, and my recently adopted beagle (that actually looks like a hamster because of his brown-and-white fur), Bruno, are notorious – despite their young age – for tearing down any interloper who dares enter the garden (they attacked everything from old sandals to my three-year-old cousin). Their powerful and persistent bites are known to destroy everything from elastic rubber bones to sturdy plastic bones to garden rocks and stones, and even, once, bricks.
Hence, the inevitable happened. When I came out of the kitchen, curious of the unusual silent at this hour (the puppies usually make a lot of noise around that time because it was time for their afternoon wallk), I saw it. The Remains a.k.a. whatever was left of my orange stressball a.k.a. shreds of orange plastic scattered across the green grass. Nero and Bruno were already on to their next conquest, a green sponge that we use to clean the cars. I can only imagine the slow and excruciatingly painful death my stressball had to endure; the silent torture as the beasts tore away its skin, little by little, bit by bit, like they did in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I can only imagine it calling at me silently, asking for my help, asking for me to give it salvation, to take it away from the agonizing torment. And I wasn’t there. I wasn’t there when it needs me most, while it’s been with me through my hardest times, bouncing hard up and down, making me bounce back too. And what was I doing when it was dying?
I was drinking bloody Swiss Miss. With Marshmallows.
I didn’t know what to say. I can’t yell at the puppies, can I? There is no way I can possibly make them understand the extent of moral and psychological damage they have caused me, the history behind the stressball, or how they have taken the most pragmatic tool that provides me instant moral support. And it was ORANGE. My favourite colour. I was shattered.
First, I wanted revenge; I thought (foolishly), maybe I should feed them fish food or something, or tie them for days and bring other dogs (their friends) to watch them being grounded to embarass them (I know, it’s ridiculous, but obviously I wasn’t thinking clearly). But later I came to my senses and realized that indeed, nothing lasts forever. My stressball had had a full life, it had served its creational purpose which is to help keep people happy – and it has, indeed, kept me happy.
Wherever you are now, stressball, I hope you are still bouncing happily... bounce... bounce... bounce.