Eve Online and One Thing Leading to Another

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After a crushing defeat at the hands of my Calculus test, I thought I needed a suitable diversion from the current state of this blog. I flipped the computer screen off, crumpled the scratch paper used for the exam, and began to reflect on how I ended up pursuing Calculus literacy in the first place.

I would love to say it was my own self motivation or the desire to teach myself new things, or that I was inspired by the brilliant and amazing engineers and scientists in my current job. Maybe it was a combination of all of those things, and as reasons, they sound wonderful, but were still seemingly slight variations of the truth. As I leaned back in my chair, pondering why I was attempting this self inflicted mathematical gunshot wound, the word “gaming” flashed through my grey matter, followed closely by the word “coding.”

I originally joined this maker movement in an unofficial capacity. Instead of manifesting physical objects out of wood and electronic circuits, I wrote code for digital worlds. I loved the beauty of object based language; how simple lines of text could manifest Mario jumping on a Goomba, or little Mac “Punching Out” Mike Tyson (The Tyson character in the game would later be replaced by Mr. Dream). I started with Javascript, then moved onto Java, followed by C++, and finally, I ended up working with a game specific language called GML. It was not until I was a few coding projects in, coding an RC pro am clone, that I realized I didn’t understand the mathematics required to manifest objects in my game in precise locations. I didn’t understand the words tangent and secant and therefore couldn’t get the code right. I flashed through some Khan Academy classes, “Math is Fun” classes, and  I even solicited advice from learned colleagues; I experienced brief revelations, though it wasn’t enough to keep my enthusiasm for coding and game making from waning. I just didn’t have the basics down.

My thoughts on this subject were momentarily and welcomely interrupted by my son seeking attention for his newest lego creation. A spaceship. (spaceship, spaceSHIP, SPACESHIP!). I noticed some influence of the Rogue One U-Wing. Cool.  As Jack ran off, satisfied with his marketing campaign, I leaned forward, chair creaking, still thinking about Calculus and now, apparently, spaceships. Coding was just one branch of the multi-forked path toward mathematics and now that spaceships were imprinted on my mind,  It occurred to me that I only took an interest in coding because of my love for video gaming.

My sons lego creation reminded me that I am quite the connoisseur of electronic entertainment and in particular, the long standing love affair I have with an open world game called Eve Online. (My wife calls eve “The other woman”, sometimes jokingly). Unlike other games, Eve Online rewards the player that has an understanding of complex systems and mathematics. If a player can understand summation notation or calculate instantaneous rate of change, they are more likely to make a lucrative investment in the in-game market; likewise, an understanding of radians and the unit circle is critical for understanding the relationship of turret rotation and the angular velocity of a potential target; a skill needed for conflict within the digital world. Eve is a game for learned adults, so in a way,  the game and the community that embodies it are somewhat culpable for inspiring me to get to this point in my life.

My attention is now directed back my monitors and trying to finish this post. Blogging about the Military and Maker movement has been therapeutic, and I hope that it will continue to be so. If not, it is at least encouraging me to continue down this uneasy path of self-learning; but I need to also make time for old passions like Eve Online. Through all of this reflection, it is easy to see how one thing leads to another. Gaming leads to coding, coding leads to mathematics, Calculus is contained in mathematics, and learning about a gaussian curve reminds me of Eve Online. No matter how long the reflection period lasts, I wind up at the beginning of a loop and ultimately back to blowing up internet spaceships. I’m now at 2(pi) in the circle, and in honor of this revelation, I’m going to add two new categories to this blog: Gaming and Coding. If Eve Online can inspire me to take a calculus class this late in life, even when my habits are formed in concrete, then surely there is some more inspiration I can glean from it. I might actually even code a complete game. We’ll see.

P.S. Turns out I didn’t do as poorly on my Calculus tests as I thought. My initial grade was not reflecting the short answer problems. Maybe I’ve got this stuff down after all.

 

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