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2010 June

Video game blog helps consumers make decisions

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At VGameU.org, students take what they learned in class and use it to test the latest video games. The blog includes reviews of more than a dozen games including Red Dead Redemption, which scored an A, and Sonic the Hedgehog, which scored a C-. The reviews are based on criteria such as challenge, graphics, ease of controls, replay value and narrative.

Parents can learn about the level of violence, gender stereotyping and potential addictiveness of each game—in addition to information about entertainment value.

Students in Associate Professor of Communication  Marina Krcmar’s class studied the video game industry; motivations for game play; the effects of virtual environments on learning; and the effects of violent video game play on aggression. Four students — Sal Scifo, Matt DiDomenico, Ford St. John and T.J. Scholberg — volunteered to spend time outside class to review games. Based on what they read and discussed in class, they worked with Krcmar on criteria for the reviews.

Krcmar’s research focuses on the effects of games and the influence of video game violence on children and adolescents. She has also studied why some people choose not to watch television. “Living Without the Screen” was published by Routledge.


Tanning addiction

prominence_sohoAmericans, especially young women, continue to spend too much time sunbathing and in tanning beds, though well aware of the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation. Why?

“In the 19th century, middle- and upper-class wives and daughters stayed safely indoors. When venturing out, they carried parasols to protect their skin and their social status. Farmer’s wives and daughters worked outdoors,” says history professor Simone Caron. “At the turn of the century, the ‘new woman’ emerged. She was college educated and engaged in sports, such as tennis, bike riding and golf. A tan became a sign of a fit and educated woman. Pale skin began to represent either the older generation or sickly factory workers. Tan skin today is associated with ‘youth,’ so everyone wants to be tan despite the health risks.”

Cases of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, have increased among women in their 20s in the past 5 years. According to an article in the New York Times, When Tanning Turns Into an Addiction, people may be drawn to tan not just for the social approval but because it feels good. Studies, such as the one conducted by researchers at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, suggest pleasure-giving endorphins in the brains of UV abusers may stimulate tanning addiction. In addition to the cultural appeal of tan skin, mood enhancement and relaxation may make it difficult to resist the dangers of sunbathing and tanning bed use.

Kids to explore Japanese culture at summer camps

kiteChildren will be making colorful kites, painting kimonos and learning a traditional Japanese dance at the Museum of Anthropology’s summer camps for kids ages 6 through 12. They will also be rolling and eating sushi—a challenge even for adults.

Mako Aoki, who is visiting Wake Forest this year on a grant from the Japanese Outreach Initiative, will be co-teaching the camp.

Camps are held July 5-9, July 12-16 and July 19-23 from 9 a.m.-noon. Local television journalists can make arrangements to visit a class by contacting the news center at 336.758.5237. Media relations can provide information on best times to visit for television and photography.

Film professor Peter Brunette dies unexpectedly

brunetteFilm professor Peter Brunette died June 16 while attending the Taormina Film Festival in Italy. He was 66. Messages appeared on Twitter expressing sorrow over Brunette’s death, including one from film critic Roger Ebert noting the passing of a “friend, colleague, and good man.” The aperture cinema, an independent theater in downtown Winston-Salem wrote, “He was a great friend to us and will be missed.”

Brunette, a respected and well-known film historian, author and critic, joined the faculty in 2004. He was a Reynolds professor of film studies and director of the film studies program.

Share you memories and condolences for Peter Brunette by signing his Guestbook.

Free legal advice for Triad-area entrepreneurs

20080807virgil8100The dream of starting your own business can become a nightmare when legal questions arise. But for those interested, free legal advice is available June 15 through the Wake Forest Community Law & Business Clinic during “Ask A Lawyer Day.

Steve Virgil, clinic director and Wake Forest law professor, says the number of people interested in launching a business has increased in the last six months to a year. “Many have been downsized by major employers, and when they leave, they are interested in using severance funds as seed money to start a business.” The economic downturn seems to have spiked an interest in entrepreneurship and innovation.

In the past, the lawyers and 3rd-year students certified to practice who work at the clinic have addressed a wide variety of questions from how to structure a business to taxes to questions on hiring employees. But the question that always comes up: If something happens, am I liable. “The answer to that question depends on the kind of business you’re running and what kinds of things you can foresee happening. If you’re planning on operating a firing range, the potential for liability issues is much higher than if you’re planning to start a photography business,” Virgil says.

Though people are welcome to visit the clinic throughout the year, the Ask a Lawyer workshop gives even more businesses and nonprofits access to the professional resources of Wake Forest School of Law. Though appointments are available (336.631.1931), walk-in visitors can talk with someone between 1 and 4 p.m. about legal concerns related to business.

Taking the lead: Sharon Andrews talks about her latest role

sharon.andrewsTheatre professor Sharon Andrews plays the lead in “Kimberly Akimbo,” a play about a 16-year-old with an aging disease. The play runs at The Paper Lantern Theatre Company through June 20.

Is it difficult to play a teenager?
At Wake Forest, we are always asking young actors to play older characters, so I did think about the difference between adding to ‘what you know and have experienced’ to play older as opposed to stripping away and forgetting in order to play younger. Playing any character requires that you put your own self aside and create the person who needs and wants what your character needs and wants. As long as Kimberly is healthy and limber it is not hard to stay 16 because I can move and behave 16, but there is a point in the play where that has to go away, and it is a real challenge to present an aging and ill body while still working from a 16-year-old mind. I don’t think I have ever had this much fun building and playing a character. The girl that David Lindsey Abaire has created is an inspiration and living inside her spirit for awhile is a gift.

How does performing in the play make you a better teacher?
This is a great question, and the answer is one of the primary reasons I took on this role. I don’t act often because my primary focus is directing, but I do teach acting, in fact I have an acting class this fall. What performing does is put me right in the middle of what I am asking an acting student to do. Nothing is hypothetical because I have gone through the process myself. Most importantly it keeps the exchange between us honest and it gives me a new sense of excitement about sharing our work. This DOES NOT mean that I spend much time in class talking about ‘when I was on stage’ because that is tedious and more about ego than teaching, but it does mean that I have a more immediate relationship to the process, so teaching it is more fun.

How did you reach back to those teen years?
Intensive play analysis work has to be done to get very clear on who this person is and what she wants and what her relationships to the other characters is all about. This work is done both privately and in rehearsals. To ‘remember’ 16, I watched some television shows like “My So Called Life” and movies like “Juno.” I also observed teenagers in action, watching for postures and attitudes that I could borrow.

What is your most challenging scene?
Technically, it is the last scene because there is a lot of coordination between light and sound and acting, and we have to be responding to so many things that are not really there like live scary animals crawling all over our car. It is a scene that particularly calls for imagination and concentration.


Stress of rocky relationships harder on men than women

holding_handsContrary to popular belief, the ups and downs of romantic relationships have a greater effect on the mental health of young men than women, according to a new study by sociology professor Robin Simon. Defying stereotypes, the study suggests that young men suffer more than women when a relationship ends—though they often pretend to be indifferent. For young men, their romantic partners are often their primary source of intimacy—in contrast to young women who are more likely to have close relationships with family and friends. Their research also indicated that men get more emotional benefits from ongoing happy romantic relationships than women do.

Social media: make it worthwhile

social mediaA question that comes up when discussing social media is, “Are we getting the results we’re looking for from our videos, podcasts, photo galleries, audio slide shows, Tweets and blogs?”

Ricky Van Veen (’03) in an article on CNN Tech today says before making a video, ask why anyone would want to watch it. Van Veen was the keynote speaker at the Mashable Media Summit in New York, and is the founder of CollegeHumor. “We only shoot for 9s and 10s [on a scale of 10],” Van Veen said, “On the Internet, 5s and 6s don’t matter.”