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Personal Narrative – An Empty Silence

Posted in Uncategorized on November 29, 2018 by David W

This personal narrative was written in English 10, depicting a story several years ago when I was performing in a hospital.


David Wang

Mr. Herzberg

English 10

November 29th

Rationale

In my narrative “An Empty Silence,” I have told the story of a performance in a hospital, the struggles I faced while performing, and how the performance has shaped and changed me.

 

At the beginning of the story, I’ve used words and phrases such as “forsaken,” “grim,” “a morgue with some added-on decorations” as well as imagery in the fourth and fifth paragraph to capture the overall resentful mood my younger self had felt regarding the performance. Doing so also served to foreshadow the struggles I faced while performing (the climax).

 

In the rising action, my younger self was characterized to be nervous and frightful at the idea of performing before an audience. To emphasize this trait of my character, I used literary techniques such as simile (“brittle like a thin sheet of ice”), alliteration (“split-second stutter”), and repetition of “or” in the 7th paragraph. Through using the symbol of my black jacket, I’ve also shown the introverted nature of my younger self as well as character progression. In the beginning, I’ve established my jacket as an item that could potentially symbolize introvertedness (“enjoy some time away from the world,” etc.). In the end, however, I had finally progressed to take off my jacket and embrace my overcoming of the challenge.

 

As the story progressed towards the climax, I’ve slowed down the pace of the story by emphasizing time (“three seconds … three eternities” (paragraph 15)) and used more short sentence structures (e.g., in paragraph 14) to underscore the panic I had experienced and the thoughts in my mind, further characterizing myself to be a terrified performer.

 

Throughout the entire story, I’d used second-person POV in a few sections to interact with the reader and make the narrative seem more like they were hearing a story rather than reading.

 

Finally, I’ve established this moment’s significance, how this moment has affected me and emphasizing the importance of the few seconds of “empty silence.”

 

 

 

An Empty Silence

I sigh to myself. This might’ve just been one of the worst decision I’ve ever made. And that’s saying a lot.

 

Now think about anything gross – Like that sick smell of an uncleaned bathroom, with the smell of rotten eggs, with the taste of sour milk, with that disgusting dirty laundry that you hadn’t washed for months. Multiply that by fifty, and you might have an idea of how that stupid hospital felt.

 

I stepped through the entrance and put on my black jacket, holding sheets of music in my arms. I always loved this jacket – its sleeves were long enough to droop over your hands, and its collar is long enough to cover half of your face. Slide down a bit, and you’d enjoy some time away from the world. I’d insist on wearing this jacket whenever I go out, no matter if it was below freezing point or boiling under the sun. Yea… I don’t get me either.

 

As I walked, I couldn’t help but look up at the lobby… and I instantly regretted it. Here are the stereotypical pristine white walls that just happened to juxtapose with the yellow-sick patients perfectly to make this forsaken place seem just so much grimmer. I know these blooming plants were supposed to seem lively, with that whole “Fengshui” thing people believe in. The place looked like a morgue with some added-on decorations.

 

We arrive at the waiting room. A few couches lay on the side, occupied with even more patients. The moist, damp, hot air from outside filled the room, mixing with the odor of medicine. The gray glass roof above didn’t let through any of the fraction of sunlight that did manage to slide past the gray overcast ahead. The carpet and the floor tiles were stained, probably from one guy that threw up in here a few days ago. A black grand piano stood in the middle, with ropes fencing it off and a sign saying “do not touch.” The lady who led us here smiled at us, expecting us to go on. We were supposed to perform here for a charity, to share with everyone “Chinese musical culture” and “the beauty of the arts” and whatnot. From what I’ve seen so far, everyone here was exceptionally excited to hear this “beauty of the arts.” Even we had to pretend that we genuinely appreciated what we were going to play and definitely not there for an additional point on our college applications. Everyone else around me looked as awkward as I did, standing in the middle with an audience number of approximately two guys in the lobby and a squirrel looking through the window.

 

I watched my friend step forward to the carpet. The lobby seemed awfully quiet the moment she moved her feet. I held my breath, and my heartbeat echoed through my chest. A step. Another step. Her expression seemed calm, sure. I secretly hoped she truly was. She brought her flute up to her lips. To be honest, I was dead petrified.

 

She played the first note. To me, the normally graceful melody seemed strange and out of place today. You might think watching someone else wouldn’t be as stressful, or that having a small audience would make it easier to concentrate. You’d be terribly wrong. The silence made the music’s atmosphere seem brittle like a thin sheet of ice. I mean… don’t get me wrong – it sounded beautiful, but I couldn’t bring myself to sit and enjoy the music. I kept imagining myself in her place, and if she presses a wrong key, or inhales on the wrong beat, or stutters with the rhythm, or forgets the music… With every split-second stutter in the music, my heart shook.

 

She kept playing. I shifted around in my seat and had just realized that my black jacket felt damp and cold around me. The guy on the sofa playing video games with his earphones on, while another was humming to himself. So much for “sharing music”… so far, only the other performers and the squirrel seemed to be paying attention.

 

A few nervous attacks later, I heard the final note. Her expression laxed as she hurried off the stage.

 

And only after about 10 seconds of silence did I realize that it was my turn to perform.

 

I walked up. I wouldn’t admit it at the time, but I was shivering – whether that was from nervousness or from the air conditioner seemed so cold all of a sudden.

 

I tried to calm myself – which never works when you intentionally want to calm yourself. The overcast had cleared, and a stream of warmth penetrated through the translucent colored windows. The carpet was soft under my feet. Maybe because I was getting used to it, but the smell of medicine didn’t seem as suffocating anymore. I didn’t look at the audience behind me, now with half a dozen parents and kids that have come to the hospital. I just forced my legs to stop shaking, and I began.

 

It started off well. The stream of notes came naturally to me. The notes and music always felt different from practice. I didn’t let myself think too much about the piece. I felt warmer, a little confidence trickling back to me. I pictured my music. I pictured myself in the mountains, then in the sea, then in the sky… I let myself take a glance back at the audience… and my brain froze.

 

My fingers stuttered. What was next? What was next? What? The series of notes… the flourish… the chord-y part… then what? Grimacing, I paused. I started a few measures back, hoping the music would come back to me. It didn’t.

 

My brain frantically searched for any piece of music that I could connect. Oh, I’d rather make up a few measures than awkwardly stop and walk back. I tried to think with the few brain cells I had left. Think. I didn’t dare look or listen to the audience. Those three seconds of emptiness, devoid of sound. The clock ticked, and with each tick my heart sank further. My friend shuffled nervously behind me. Four seconds passed. My breath shook as I desperately searched for any notes in my memory. Five seconds passed. I shook my head. My hands didn’t seem to listen to my brain. My heart drummed, and my hands were numb as the blood abandoned them. An eternity passed. I scrambled desperately for any melody in my mind. What came next? Two eternities passed. Three eternities…

 

I didn’t dare think. I played a G. An F came from nowhere. Then a C… Each note seemed to come more fluently – yet they didn’t seem to come from a piece I’ve played. My brain struggled to sprint ahead of my hands, inventing a new melody, connecting that with chords, adding flourishes… I pretended it was just another practice session, doing impromptu in my room. I kept incredibly still in my black jacket. I was here, alone. I was alone.

I let my heart slow. I hadn’t even realized I was holding my breath until I played my last note. I’d earned an applause, and finally let my shoulders loose. It wasn’t perfect. It was barely good, for god’s sake. But I had done it.

 

Looking back now, I wasn’t even sure how I’d done it – I used to be afraid to talk to the sandwich lady to make me lunch, and would shake when performing in front of two or three people. I didn’t realize how challenging the moment had been for an introverted and terrified performer like me, but I somehow progressed through. Nowadays, I’ve gotten better at talking, presenting, performing… but that was all from the turning point that was this petrifying performance – the few seconds of empty silence.

 

 

 

 

 

Passion Project Weekly Update #13

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2018 by David W

This week, I’ve been working on finding & contacting an audience to share my product & progress with.

I found that the place I’ve been learning C at would be happy for me to share and present my experience with other students. I’ve been trying to establish occasions for presentations before summer break, and I was able to find a time on June 13. I would share my game, what I’ve been doing, how I’ve been learning C# & Unity, and so on. In the meantime, I will continue to develop and finalize my game until that date, hopefully finishing a more complete prototype before the presentation.

^ Place for Presentation ^

Passion Project Weekly Update #12

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2018 by David W

I’ve pretty much finished with my passion project except with the texturing. The basic game mechanics are finalized and adjustments were made based off of feedback from peers. I wish to reflect my work this week, and in the following week I’ll be able to share my game with the audience I’ll contact.

What you did and why?

I’ve always been interested in creating and programming. I was familiar with the C (language), and I’ve made some basic programs with the language before. Now, I wish to explore a new platform that provides much more freedom along with the programming language that comes with it. I found unity to be a powerful application that is relatively easy to use. It has a pre-made library for physics interactions and also has many options for the user to customize. The C# language it uses also has certain similarities with C, and thus I only need to learn the syntax and not the logics.

Making a game like this has always appealed to me as an interesting project. Passion Project was a valuable chance for me to accomplish this goal.

What went well?

I felt I’ve learned the unity engine and the language quicker than I’d anticipated. Though creating the game was challenging, I was able to complete it without that many difficulties. Creating the different aspects of the game i.e. controls, physics, mechanics / interactions felt straightforward after my experience with programming, and that made creating my final product a lot easier.

What would you do differently if you were to do this again?

If I were to do this again, I would prioritize completing a basic shape of the game rather than focusing on only the mechanics & codes. I felt it would make sense to finish the hardest part of the experience first (the programming), and finish the easier parts (the aesthetics i.e. textures, sounds, backgrounds, menus etc.) later. However, I’ve realized that without the menu, background and other resources, the game felt incomplete and ugly. However, without a mechanic or two, the game still had its principle and was still playable – it simply lacked interest.

What did you learn?

I’ve learned many skills throughout this project. Besides understanding how to use the unity engine and learning a new language, I was able to understand the different fragments of programming one would need in creating a game. This would definitely come helpful in pursuing and understanding future AI & computer science, two future paths that I’ve begun exploring. Furthermore, C# helped me in learning Python (a new programming language I’m learning) as it served as a transition between a very basic language for operating systems and a more developed language for AI & robotics.

What will you continue/not continue with this project (on your own)?

I will definitely finish the game on my own. I have many ideas on how to develop the game further / finalize the project. I still need to add unique textures & models for everything, to add a main menu, add a levels menu, etc. The game currently feels very incomplete and still in its prototype stage, and I wish to fix that in the coming weeks.

Passion Project Weekly Update #11

Posted in Uncategorized on May 13, 2018 by David W

This week I’ve finished a new level. This level introduces a lot of different new mechanics and a new powerup that Timothy and Siming have suggested for me to add. When the player first enters the level, he/she must choose a gate that randomly contains either the newly introduced powerup or a debuff.

The powerup gives the player infinite energy for a period of time. When the powerup fades, the player maintains the same amount of energy they had before they obtained the powerup.

After that, the player runs through a field of obstacles that are triggered through pressure plates.

Finally, the player finds a jump pad that launches the player into the air. The player is then unaffected by gravity, hovering in the air as he/she must dodge a series of closely packed obstacles. This level is much shorter compared to the others, but is much more challenging as it requires a very thorough knowledge of the level through time and time of testing. The game is approaching its ending, with only one more upcoming level.

Passion Project Weekly Update #10

Posted in Uncategorized on May 13, 2018 by David W

This week I’ve had more people playtest the game and make certain tweaks in order to adjust the game difficulty, but mainly fixing any bugs or exploits possible. Playtesters (mainly Jeremy Ng and Timothy Chau) have found many parts of the game that can either be avoided through jumping & rewinding at the right time or have found in a glitched game mechanic that can be taken advantage of. These glitches are often concerning the scripts in charge of running important game mechanics – so when a section must be changed, one must change all other scripts relating to the affected sections or it would result in a faulty game.

For example, in the script responsible for the rewinding mechanic, it must change a variable in the player object called “Is Kinematic”.

This variable allows the player to not be affected by gravity when it rewinds. However, in toggling this variable, it stops the player’s movement for a split second. This results in exploits when a person spam-presses the rewind key when out of energy to slow down the play speed. I’ve attempted to fix this by introducing two new variables when the player rewinds that represents the acceleration the player has. This patch helps reduce the power of the exploit, as the speed of the player will quickly escalate back to its original velocity, but does not solve the root of the problem.

 

Also, there are also issues with the compatibility and processing speed of the laptop. Because unity requires the simultaneous processing of the physics of all the object involved in the game, it’s quite taxing for a computer like an apple laptop. This results in gameplay glitches where some obstacles cannot reliably move the same way, and can also cause errors in the processing of player movement. For example, the highlighted obstacle is supposed to roll towards the -x direction (towards the player) when the player model comes into a certain range. However, the obstacle shown here often does not move, or moves at a much slower rate. This was because of the constant “collision” between the brown platforms in the image and the white flooring. This was fixed by introducing gaps between the floor and all the obstacles, and changing the “constraints” and “isKinematic” options for most obstacles to reduce the processing power needed to run the scene.

Passion Project Weekly Update #9

Posted in Uncategorized on May 13, 2018 by David W

This week I’ve mainly focused on the development and changing of the game levels. I’ve found many different people that were interested in playtesting the prototype, and I’ve gotten feedback from many people including Jeremy Ng, William Li, Douglas Chan, Siming Feng, etc. I tried to change the game according to their feedback as much as possible.

  1. The first piece of feedback I got was that the controls of the game felt very challenging to start with. I’ve seen people struggling with the tutorial level. To respond to this, I’ve changed the acceleration of the controls a bit so the game wouldn’t seem as fast. Furthermore, I’ve changed the tutorial level obstacles to make it easier, as I found everyone felt a lot more comfortable after trying the tutorial at least once or twice. I’ve also made sure to make players aware of the choice between using the WASD keys and the arrow keys to control, as many people had a strong preference of one or the other, and can find the game very difficult if not using their preference as control keys.
  2. The second piece of advice I got was about the forward acceleration of the game. As mentioned in previous updates, there is a “rewind” mechanic built into the game, and rewinding would break the momentum of the game and thus make it much easier to control. I’ve found many different people exploiting this bug and cheating through many parts of the level. To fix this, I’ve reprogrammed the code responsible for rewinding. The code would still break the momentum of the game, as the point of the mechanic itself was to give a spare second for the players to react to incoming obstacles. However, I’ve made the rewinding mechanic maintain the player’s original acceleration (as the game goes on, the acceleration of the player increases). This way, the speed of the game would build up very quickly after the short break, and the mechanic would still function well and avoid opportunities for exploitation. I’ve also made the rewinding cost more energy so it would be more costly to use the rewinding ability.
  3. The final piece of advice I’ve gotten was to make the game more interactive with the player. I had 2 powerups last week, and the rest of the game was composed of merely two simple mechanics and four controls. This week, I’ve finished

Passion Project Weekly Update #8

Posted in Uncategorized on April 22, 2018 by David W

This week I’ve been busy preparing for summative tests, and I was busy during the weekend, so, unfortunately, I couldn’t accomplish as much as I wanted to during the two sessions.

In the time I did have, I focused on reprogramming and debugging certain codes that I have in my files, finding better ways to accomplish the same tasks in order to either reduce the strain on the computer (and therefore make the game run smoother) or to find any problems that I’ve missed during my initial programming.

I’ve redone some obstacles, so that’ll also further balance the difficulty of the levels to make it hard but not impossible. The video below shows myself working on fixing a bug with the jumping mechanic that the game currently has.

Passion Project Weekly Update #7

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2018 by David W

This week I’ve begun the creation of the actual levels, as I’m pretty much finished with all the mechanics in the game. I’ve spent a lot of time designing the end-of-level portal, with custom particles and animated textures. I’ve programmed a script for this as well to make sure it runs smoothly and does its function.

I’ve also worked on the first two levels (excluding the tutorial level included in the last update). They’re still a bit short and requires some more work next week. I feel the need to alter the speed of the game a bit and change the rigidbody scripts of the obstacles to make the collisions more smooth. I’ve realized that with computers like Macbooks that don’t have as much processing power, the first time it loads many scenes it will delay a long time, which is something else I must take into account when designing the levels.

Next week I plan on finishing the first three levels (including tutorial) and perhaps create a “levels” menu. I’ll also start working on level 4 / 5 if I have more time.

Passion Project Weekly Update #6

Posted in Uncategorized on March 15, 2018 by David W

Video:

Game Effect Showcase

This week I’ve focused on additional gameplay programming. I’ve completed the gameplay system:

  1. The player would run forward automatically, controlling his/her directions with A/D or Left/Right arrow
  2. The player can press W or Space to jump over obstacles
  3. The player can press S or Shift to rewind time and thus go back to a point in time up to around 1.5 seconds before
  4. The player has an energy bar displayed at the bottom of the screen. Jumping or rewinding costs energy
  5. The player can pick up powerups
    1. The star completely refills the energy bar, which currently remains the only way to recharge (I’ve tried automatic recharging and found it to be too powerful, and thus I’ve removed it from the game)
    2. The vial/flask powerup grants the player an invulnerable effect for a limited time, allowing him to destroy obstacles and respawn if fallen off the platform. The invulnerable effect comes with a red skybox effect as shown above

The entire gameplay system is completed, and the only major update I need is to design the levels. I’ve run into difficulties when programming for the invulnerability and rewinding of time, but the rest was surprisingly easy with a tool like Unity.

 

Passion Project Weekly Update #5

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2018 by David W

This week I’ve continued to work on the menu system. I’ve completed the main menu with functioning buttons, including the play button, the options button, and the quit button. Also, I’ve completed options to change quality and volume as well as full screen. This took me longer than I’d expected as I wasn’t familiar with unity’s game option system, and the programming of C# had to be integrated into the unity system. I’ve learned how this worked on youtube and completed the two menus in a week. Next week I want to start making powerups, and after that begin designing the levels.