Monday, November 21, 2011

"The End"

I recently came across an educational computer game called "The End".  The game was developed by UK broadcaster Channel 4, specifically their C4 education branch.   Channel 4 commissioned the software developer Preloaded to write the program, geared specifically to 14-19 year olds.  The game also just earned a BIMA Award for "Best Game" this month.

The producer Charles Batho says, "The End sets out to level the playing field, presenting a variety of views about life and mortality from famous thinkers of our time. It's not a non-religious game, just philosophical"

I found it interesting that in designing the game, the producers actually interviewed 14 - 19 year olds, asking them about death, even having them draw out their ideal funeral.

The game starts after you design your own character. In the first moments in suburbia, a meteor falls from the sky and your character is whisked into the afterlife. There are several objectives at hand, as you explore 3 different worlds.  First is to collect "death objects", you do this by playing logic games at the end of each level.  There are also quotes about death and living by famous people interspersed throughout the level.

The level itself is peaceful. The character walks and jumps around collecting stars and light. No worries if you fall off a cliff, your character is already dead, so you get as many re-trys as you want.

A sub theme to this game is self identity. There are yes/no questions in each level that you must answer. These questions are purely personality driven, for example, "Is it possible to be happy simply living in the moment?" and "Would you still be yourself if your mind was put into another body?"

Each question you answer gives a more accurate plotting on something called the Death Dial.  This aligns your personality with other famous thinkers.  These questions then become a conversation piece as those who play the game can ask others what their philosophy is.

The best news- the game is free.  You can play it this moment at

For such a heavy topic the developers did a good job making something approachable, fun, and slipping in a little philosophy as well.

Monday, November 21, 2011 by Amy Clarkson · 0

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Great Gig in the Sky

Buried in the middle of Pink Floyd's album, The Dark Side of the Moon, I never really paid a lot of attention to this song, The Great Gig in the Sky. I actually always thought it was a bit strange. It has very few words and these are difficult to understand. The only lyrics are spoken:

"And I am not frightened of dying. Any time will do, I don't mind. Why should I be frightened of dying? There's no reason for it — you've got to go sometime."

Near the end of the song (around 3:30), spoken very, very quietly: "I never said I was frightened of dying." Although song lore states that it is actually "if you hear this whispering, your dying".

The remainder of the song consists of a woman, Clare Tory, wailing to the music.

The song initially started out as organ music accompanied by Bible verses and passages from religious speeches. This earlier version was called "The Mortality Sequence". When they recorded the song, they changed the organ music to piano and worked with various types of sounds for the main "lyrics" such as NASA communications. They finally decided to go with the wailing.

So other than the title, how is this song about death? When Richard Wright was initially writing the sequence, he wasn't thinking death. Some pointed out that the song starts out slow, gets loud and angry then drifts off and this has been compared to death. (I haven't seen a lot of deaths that start out slow then get angry, but the drifting off I can see.) Some have compared the wailing to crying, grief, mourning. Others feel the wailing is supposed to be full of fear, terror. I guess that would refer back to the fear of dying lines spoken at the beginning of the song.

Monday, November 14, 2011 by Amber Wollesen, MD · 0