Inside The Circle: Here’s How Awesome New Writing Intern Karoline Castillo-Troncoso Joined Our Nonprofit!

Karoline works on her play. It includes a thoughtful riff on VR games. Photo: Harold Goldberg

By Karoline Castillo-Troncoso

My name’s Karoline. I’m 15, and as I’m writing this, it is July, meaning that I am a soon-to-be high school sophomore (by the grace of God). I am an aspiring performer (which in my case refers to utilizing my vocal instrument and learning how to use the piano). But games have always been a part of my life in one way, shape, or form. Whether it’s those cool math/ABCya! games (such as Math Bingo or Math Man) that developed one third of my childhood experience, or console games (such as GTA, games played on the Wii, etc.) that I rarely played unless I was over at a cousin’s house who happened to have one. I never knew much about games—no more than the fact that I enjoyed playing them, nor did I comprehend or have any knowledge of what went behind the process of making games. That was until I attended TAPCo (Theatre Arts Production Company) for my first year of high school.

          After school in my algebra classroom is where I learned about the Critics Circle which was introduced to me by my then algebra teacher: Steven Spera. And I decided to join! With Harold, Whitney and Isaac, I encountered a unique experience that allowed me to begin to understand the complexity of video games. The Critics Circle encouraged freedom for creative thinking while demonstrating the importance of every element within creating a story, which required lots of imagination. We read the Lynn Nottage one-act play, “Crumbs from the Table of Joy,” I enjoyed the significance of tight dialogue within a social justice plot that took place decades ago in Brooklyn. We learned about the structure of a story and its crucial components which you may know as exposition, the rising action, the climax, falling action, and the resolution. 

The Lynn Nottage one-act play was a guide for the narrative, game-oriented script entries we were instructed to write in the Critics Circle. In a few words, my script entry was based upon the idea of how the dangers of VR can result in the misinterpretation between reality and virtual reality: spaces in which we create false realities for ourselves to dabble in. A scholarship would be awarded at the completion of this script by the New York Videogame Critics Circle.

          I was so grateful to win the scholarship! There was a paid internship that became available to me after winning and I am currently participating in it. To my understanding, the first part is based on creating an interactive game through a resource known as Twine. The details of the game are collected from Bronx stories interns and senior interns had imagined or lived through prior to beginning this process. My Bronx story consists of a memory which was reminiscent of my childhood. 

Whenever I think of my childhood and all of the experiences that occurred in my young age, this memory is one that always comes to mind: It was a warm summer day, and I lived near an uncle of mine. We were very close—so much so, he felt like a father figure in my life. People from an outside perspective may describe his personality as lukewarm. I say this because he outwardly showed little enthusiasm and seemed to lack warmth—which may seem ironic considering he worked in a bodega which is a job that inherently requires a lot of socializing. But whenever we’d interact, he would greet me with a warm, genuine smile, followed by a big hug. The best way I could describe his love for me is by comparing it to that of a father’s love for his daughter. This is relevant because my uncle was almost like a protagonist in my childhood. He lived a few feet away from my family and me, and his job was located around the same distance away. So whenever my parents would go to work miles away, he’d be there. He would always take my sister and me to the park; we’d help around at his job which was a family business, we’d run errands for the business with him, etc! We’d go buy merchandise and I’d usually ask for candy or something of the sort. That being said, candy always caught my eye when entering the store—I have a severe sweet tooth—one which my parents frequently have warned me about. 

          But one particular summer day, I was eager to go to the park. I’d whine and bother, and he was quite hard to crack. We didn’t go to the park, but I rode my scooter as my uncle sat in a chair on a corner adjacent to our street. My mistake was riding my scooter on rocky, uneven concrete, at accelerating speeds. I rode as fast as my then-little legs could take me, until I went flying. I felt a sharp pain and realized the majority of the epidermis had been scraped off of a portion of my lower knee. I began hysterically crying, as any young child would, and my uncle was there to pick me up just as I fell. 

He put me on his shoulders and took me home. By then, I had stopped crying—not because the pain had ceased, but probably because I was in shock from the whole situation, and this was one of my first experiences with trauma. I decided to write about this experience in my Bronx story because it is one which has been stored in my long-term memory, and I truly believe it’s an event I’ll never forget. Not only that, my story demonstrates the importance of a child’s innocence and its maintenance: an aspect which is almost, if not completely, disregarded by today’s society. Also, we’re so easily engulfed by technology, the media and how it effortlessly influences naive minds. I think that’s one of the reasons I like games: there’s an innocence to some of the best ones, a wonderful feeling of wonder and positivity.

Karoline Castillo-Troncoso is one of our newest New York Videogame Critics Circle interns from the Bronx. Welcome aboard, Karoline!

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