General Interest

Building A World Through Song - The Art of Video Game Soundtracks

By Tatiana Montero

  It is inherent in humans to assign memories to songs. Music is undoubtedly the backbone of most media. In particular, video games are essentially hollow without their respective soundtracks because they are vital to storytelling and immersion. 

The most well-known video game tracks are main themes. A good main theme is one that is timeless, one that allows players to recollect memories from just a few chords. For instance, the theme “Techno Syndrome” causes many to instantly recall the popular fighting game franchise, Mortal Kombat. The song’s fast pace and violent synths instantly lead one’s imagination to brutal fights. 

While main themes are important, background music is vital to crafting a game’s atmosphere. The post-apocalyptic story game, The Last of Us, utilizes its soundtrack to paint its characters' complex circumstances. Variants of the same tracks can be heard within different moments of the game’s story. These variations create familiar, melancholy

tunes that emphasize that the game's world, one that is ravaged by violent infected and dilapidated cities, is inescapable. The game’s composer, Gustavo Santaolalla, says that he “did the music for a story, not a video game”. 

Similarly, background music is fundamental to the exploration within the action-adventure game, Red Dead Redemption 2. As one explores a vast 19th century western landscape, they are accompanied by faint, echoey guitar plucks. These subtle melodies bring life to the game’s open world. As players ride their horses through grassy plains and bustling towns, they become the game’s protagonist. 

Video game soundtracks wield one sole responsibility: to elicit emotion. This task is nowhere more evident than in horror games. The first-person survival-horror game Resident Evil 7 masters the creation of tension both through the use and absence of music. The game’s primary setting is an ominous, decrepit house, where a violent family’s sole purpose is to hunt down the player. As one traverses desolate, narrow hallways, a deafening silence follows. Only when one of the murderous family members makes their presence known does music reappear through unsettling and suspenseful violin screeches. The game’s masterful manipulation of sound is enough to not only make players jump out of their seats in fear, but to linger long after the game is turned off. 

Furthermore, the popular 3D sandbox game, Minecraft, is known for its soundtrack. On Spotify alone, the game’s albums have nearly one billion streams. Minecraft’s most renowned tracks, such as its self-titled theme, “Subwoofer Lullaby”, and “Aria Math” were made by German musician C418. Through the use of dreamlike synths, gentle drums, piano chords, and various other musical tools, the soundtrack covers a wide range of moods. Minecraft’s music creates serenity and adventurousness while simultaneously highlighting the game’s underlying poignancy. In “Can You Dig It: Fact Meets Minecraft Composer C418”, from, C418 mentions, “I think the narrative I had in mind was the kind of loneliness that the game exudes.” Minecraft’s soundtrack adeptly resonates with millions, causing players to question why they feel such strong emotions over a block game.

In essence, soundtracks are necessary and powerful tools in gaming. Background music creates atmosphere and narrative immersion, as exemplified by The Last of Us and Red Dead Redemption 2. The power of a video game soundtrack lies in its ability to invoke emotion, as seen within Resident Evil 7's purposeful use of music to create a foreboding and terrifying atmosphere. Even a seemingly simple game such as Minecraft has music that evokes a plethora of emotions, notably a sense of loneliness that mirrors the game's essence. In other words, video game soundtracks are more than a mere accessory; they are powerful storytellers that help etch virtual experiences into the memories of millions.

Attention Span Before and After Remote Learning

By Jennifer Zheng

When was the last time you completed all your tasks without any distractions? This includes tasks that require full concentration of attention and does not include countless scrolling around on the Internet. As the use of technologies and the Internet has increased dramatically after quarantine, attention span has been found to have an inverse relationship. This change could cause increased stress and anxiety and, overall, lead to a future generation struggling with a decline in proficiency and productivity.

First off, regarding the concept of measures of attention span, Frontiers in Cognition states, “Attention span is quantified as the maximum amount of time that a participant continuously maintained an optimal “in the zone” sustained attention state while performing a continuous performance task.” 

Remote learning allows students to be exposed to many online platforms during the school day. This exposure can also include platforms like games, social media, and YouTube, making it very likely for students to get distracted. Unlike prior to remote learning, students can get away with not paying attention in class and multitask on many tasks at the same time. It may appear that grades and exams were also taken less seriously by schools, leading to an unbalanced consequence for the majority of student's actions. Without corresponding consequences, students are more likely to continue their newly formed habits, leading to further declines in attention spans. Whether that includes completing classwork or scrolling on online platforms, this will lead to an overall decline in attention span. In “Your attention span is shrinking, but you can grow it back” by Lois M. Collins of Deseret News, she states, “Studies show the interruptions and lack of focus also raise anxiety and stress while lowering productivity. The brain pays while trying to switch attention back and forth, leading to errors and missed deadlines.”

Some students relate this to a decrease in attention span, less engagement in daily activities, and other negative effects. Bayside High School junior Allison Lai recalls, “When I finally returned to school in person, I found myself to be extremely overwhelmed physically and mentally with my schedule and all of the tasks that needed to be completed. Remote learning had allowed me to become less engaged in my daily activities because of the introduction of social media apps and the rise of short video content that took advantage of the time people had at home. With the return to ‘normalcy’, I had a lot more on my plate now that there were more tasks to do that went beyond typing on a computer and walking ten feet to my desk. It was also more difficult to focus on these activities because I was so used to being able to click a few buttons or do a couple makeshift busy work assignments that were assigned. Overall, remote learning altered some habits I had prior to remote learning, but over time with in-person learning, I was able to regain those habits and the ability to have a strong attention span.”

Bayside High School junior Zyan Raguro states, “Remote learning at first didn’t really feel like a big change; everyday was basically the same as the days before remote learning started, but as it went on for longer than people thought it would, I found myself to be less engaged with classes, I’d have a difficult time completing assignments, and overall I had a lower attention span than before remote learning.”

Additionally, Bayside High School junior Joseph Seo points out that no consequences were also one of the factors that impacted his academic growth. “Remote learning has impacted me as a person by stunting my academic growth. In one of the most crucial years of school, remote learning gave no consequences to whether I participated or did my work, which for me decreased the amount and quality of the schoolwork I was doing. Although at the time I took it as a blessing that I could sleep on a Zoom call, my grades and my attention span dropped dramatically. The reason why is that I wasn’t forced to actively focus on the material and could just click away when bored, shortening my attention span drastically. Although there were mainly negative effects, one positive was that I connected with my friends daily on the Internet, as opposed to simply having short, passing conversations with them. Overall, remote learning was probably the least optimal way to learn material, and it’s no surprise that my academic performance decreased.”

Even though there was a drop in attention span after remote learning, there are also students who do see the benefits of remote learning. Bayside High School Rongfu Kuang states, “Remote learning has profoundly influenced my personal growth by fostering adaptability, self-discipline, and a heightened sense of responsibility. Navigating virtual education has also sharpened my technological proficiency. While the flexibility of virtual classes has allowed me to engage with course materials more intentionally, the constant digital interface poses a challenge, occasionally fragmenting my focus and requiring heightened discipline to navigate digital learning effectively.”

It is important to keep in mind that even though there is an overall decline in attention span and academic performance, this shouldn't stop students from gaining it back through efforts, a change of habits, eliminating distraction factors, and increasing discipline. 

Learning to Survive: The Changing Dynamics of Student Education 

By Ephrata Habte

The history of the student education system has undergone significant transformations over the years. Education has evolved from informal settings and apprenticeships to formalized institutions. In the United States, the education system has witnessed substantial changes, influenced by societal, economic, and technological developments. 

Education has evolved from its origins within informal settings to the rise of common schools in the 19th century. The 20th century brought about standardized testing, and recent decades emphasize the integration of technology and standardized testing for accountability. Today, the contemporary education system is characterized by a fixed curriculum and a focus on college readiness.

Mattheau Pascual, a junior at Bayside High School, voices his frustration as he states, “If the education system was beneficial, it should be career focused and life forced. Standardized tests are unnecessary and add additional stress.” 

Giancarlo Alvarez, a junior attending Bayside High School, voices similar concerns as he states, “Take the MAP test, for instance. Its benefits are questionable, and some teachers find it frustrating, considering the time spent that could be dedicated to more pertinent topics, especially in Regents or AP classes.” 

In essence, Pascual’s and Alvarez’s perspectives contribute to the broader discourse on education reform, emphasizing the need for a curriculum that not only imparts knowledge but also equips students with skills directly applicable to their chosen career paths.

Amidst the evolving landscape of student education, a prevailing concern emerges - the focus on grades rather than enduring knowledge. In an article from Harvard University, "Why Focusing on Grades Is a Barrier to Learning”, Gerald E. Knesek states, “What’s apparent in all this focus on grades is that there’s no real emphasis on learning—the true purpose of education.” This phenomenon raises questions about the long-term impact of education, as students may leave the education system without retaining knowledge that extends beyond exams. 

Aditi Sinha, a junior at Bayside High School, stated, “A majority of students aim to succeed…but those who do not try within their academics or participate in school activities in a positive manner do not see such a benefit from this system.” Striking a balance between achieving grades and instilling a passion for lifelong learning is crucial to the effectiveness of the education system, ensuring that students not only pass exams but also carry valuable insights with them into their future.

Aryana Cheng, a junior at Bayside High School, shares her concern for schools giving the wrong ideas to students. “[School] doesn't set the students up right for the real world. The way the education system is set up…it limits what a student can do. We are conditioned to pass tests for success but not focus on truly learning for success and skills.” Cheng's perspective indicates a potential inadvertent cultivation of a narrow view on success, which may impede the development of critical thinking skills and creativity. 

According to an article from neaToday, “Standardized Testing is Still Failing Students”, by Cindy Long, “On a standardized test, there is only one right answer…But educators know when students are engaged in authentic and meaningful tasks, they can arrive at answers that are not entirely wrong or entirely right.” This critique aligns with the evolving understanding of success, emphasizing the importance of individual talents, creativity, and adaptability beyond academic achievements, and underscores the necessity for an educational paradigm that encourages students to explore their unique strengths and aspirations in a broader, more holistic perspective on success.

Bayside High School’s CTE programs prepare students for careers beyond high school. Although students must take exams such as Regents to graduate, these CTE programs supplement a need for real world experience in various careers.   

As we navigate the future of education, can we foster an environment that not only ensures academic success but also cultivates the diverse skills and adaptability essential for real-world achievements?

Advancements in Smart Glasses Technology

By Jenny Wang

In the dynamic realm of technology, augmented reality (AR) stands out as a pioneering innovation set to transform our interactions with the surrounding world. Among its advancements are smart glasses, turning everyday eyewear into a wearable technology seamlessly integrating digital content into our real-world experiences. While smart glasses aren't a new concept, recent strides in AI technologies have overcome challenges, making them sleeker and more lightweight after initial iterations struggled with issues like bulkiness and limited battery life.

The genesis of smart glasses dates back to the 1960s when computer scientist Ivan Sutherland introduced the concept of a "head-mounted display" (HMD), projecting digital images directly onto the user's field of vision. However, it wasn't until the early 1980s that the first true smart glasses prototype emerged. Stephen Mann, a University of Toronto professor, designed the “Remote Associate Memory” (RAM), featuring a head-mounted display with a camera for augmented reality experiences. These early iterations laid the foundation for ongoing research and development in the field. 

In 2013, Google introduced Google Glass, a pivotal moment for smart glasses. The Google Glass featured a head-mounted display, built-in camera, microphone, and wireless connectivity, allowing users to capture media and access information. Despite facing challenges and discontinuation in 2015, Google Glass influenced the market. Companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook subsequently entered the smart glasses arena, emphasizing its lasting impact. 

The recently launched Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses represent a notable advancement in smart eyewear. These glasses, available in diverse styles and colors, cater to both aesthetic preferences and functionality, with each pair priced between $200 and $300. Boasting features such as voice command, an ultra-wide camera, charging cases, and a sleek design, the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses can be used for prescription purposes or as sunglasses. Their versatility extends to content creators, offering on-the-go recording without the need for additional devices. 

Bayside High School senior Tiffany Zheng states, “I think Smart Glasses are really nice and make it easier to record moments with friends and family since you won't need your phone out at all times.” Controlled through touch, tap, or swipe gestures on the frame, users can also utilize vocal commands, aligning with interactions with virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri. The glasses can seamlessly direct displays through smartphones or wearables, providing users with a multifaceted experience, from cinematic movie viewing to 3D navigation assistance and immersive gaming. 

Smart Glasses are a very unique piece of technology, however, the camera function may raise privacy concerns. Bayside High School senior Stacy Chen conveys, “I think they are convenient when I don’t have my phone on me to take pictures, yet a disadvantage I can see is taking photos of people without their consent and without their knowledge since the glasses are very disguised.” 

However, Bayside High School Junior Chloe Chen feels that smart glasses like the Meta Ray Bans are “still worth the buy because they allow you to access the Internet easily and function the same as an iPhone would.” Nonetheless, the smart glasses’ vast functions can make it a justifiable purchase to some people.