Saturday, April 30, 2011

YouTube works for me!

Here is another video by that dynamic team of Super Ultra Guy and Silver Moon on Plants vs Zombies.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Honouring Individual Gaming Styles & Lego Universe

I don't believe in "airing dirty laundry" by griping publicly about anything - the last post was quite an exception, although I tried hard to ensure that it was not a complaint directed at anyone. We did end up having a conversation in the car with every member of the family to sort out exactly what kind of observers they'd prefer to have around when playing Plants vs Zombies. I won't replay the talk, but it seems to have been quite profitable. Actually, it may have less to do with sorting out our individual gaming styles and more about the introduction of a new game to our family collection: the MMO Lego Universe.

We were not planning to buy Lego Universe, even though our son has been quite interested in obtaining it ever since he learned of its existence. We have enough MMOs to take care of, and this was an online game we'd need to pay to play. We thought our boy would lose interest too quickly to make it worth the while. However, my husband learned that the company was offering a trial membership at a greatly reduced price, and so my husband joined. The membership we have entitled us to four separate characters. It just so happens that there are four people in our immediate family, and so each person has their own character. Here's a brief introduction.

Daughter = Serene Sassy Cloud, a member of the Paradox faction

Son = Toxic Acid Laser, a member of the the Assembly faction

Father = Groovy Stoic Savant, a member of the Sentinel faction

Mother = Totally Spiffy Owl, no faction joined (the rest of the family made my character for me and chose my name - I'm lucky it's a pretty nice one!)

Father, son, and daughter have been playing together a lot. It's installed on my husband's computer, so he's been doing less writing when the children are around, but they are playing together. Everyone except for me has built a house in the BlockYard. As I type this, hubby is playing on boy's account while both kids watch. Each night when I sit with my son at bedtime, he is eager to tell me some new piece of information about the world. Last night, it was how he built his house and his new animal companion. The night before, it was about the four factions and their pros and cons. I'm not sure what it will be tonight. I asked them what their favourite part of the game was so far. Here are their responses.

Daughter = "So far, my favourite part of the game was joining my faction because I get new gear and new attacks."

Son = "Basically when I'm doing my faction, and when I can gain a new pet. My favourite pet is the bunny."

Husband = "Building stuff"

And so the ebb and flow of focus games in the household changes once again. Stay tuned for more (although equally irregular) observations.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Plants vs Zombies - Unsolicited Advice

Rather than post another video, I wanted to mention a small bone of contention in our household surrounding Plants vs Zombies. You'll see how the two incidents are related.

1) A few days ago, I noticed that my son was not running downstairs to the computer the minute he heard the Plants vs Zombies theme song music. I went to investigate and it turns out he had misunderstood a comment from my husband. My son said, "Dad says he doesn't want me to watch him anymore." We had a little chat and my husband explained that our son was watching him and "being bossy" and trying to tell my husband what to do. After he refused to stop all the extra editorial comments, my husband asked him to go do something else and let him play on his own.

2) I started my own file on the family Plants vs Zombies account. As I've mentioned numerous times, I'm not the best gamer in the house. My husband came to watch me play and help me out, but I started to get stressed out when he'd say "no, don't put that Pea Shooter so close to the front; you need range and the zombies will eat them too quickly" or "why did you choose to use the cherry bomb instead of plant more sunflowers?" I only played one or two rounds and then stopped. There's only so much constructive criticism one can take at once.

So, it's interesting to see that although gaming can be social in terms of watcher and player, having a "back seat driver" can be a real pain-in-the-backside. For the viewer, seeing "obvious" mistakes, it can be frustrating to holler advice that isn't taken and see errors made in front of you. For the player, having the challenge of a critic in addition to the challenge of the game itself can be a real discouragement. Add the usual family dynamics (father-son, mother-daughter, and other variations), it can be even more off-putting. As I was typing this, my husband had to walk away from watching my daughter play the new Lego Universe MMO. We'll see if we learn anything from my reflection (although I doubt the rest of the family reads this blog). Car conversation?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Plants vs Zombies - Final wave!

Here is another Plants vs Zombies "Super Ultra Man & Silver Moon" commentary video. In the one I tried to upload but couldn't, the kids comment on how their dad selects his plants for battle. It's funny that the kids know a lot about which plants to pick, but they don't want to start their own game to play themselves. That video was over 3 minutes, so it had trouble getting on the blog. This clip, at 2:16, is a shorter one and I believe it deals with the final wave of zombies coming after James. (One of these days, I should upload them to YouTube, but I'm not sure how many people other than the readers of this blog would be interested in hearing them wax poetic about the plants you can choose.) - Edited to note: I used my YouTube account, finally! Let's see if it works!

I've started my own Plants vs Zombies adventure on James' account, but I'll make that the subject of another post.

Plants vs Zombies - The Zen Garden Experience

Super-ultra Man and Silver Moon (the kids' alter-egos that provide "video game commentary videos") have produced a new video on taking care of the Zen Garden in the PC version of Plants vs Zombies. Here it is.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Plants vs Zombies - Interview with another fan

Here's my brief interview with another fan of the game in our household.

Mom: What's your favourite plant in the game?

Daughter: That would be a hard one. I'd have to say one of these three: cattail, seashroom or umbrella leaf. They're all very cute plus they are pretty good plants to attack with and defend with.

Mom: Why do you like watching the game?

Daughter: I like watching the game because it's cool and I get to see all the different types of plants and zombies. Plus, it has a lot of action.

Mom: What do you think of dad's playing?

Daughter: I think daddy really plans out his attacks very well. They're very strategic and powerful against the zombies.

Mom: What do you think was the scariest moment in the game?

Daughter: The scariest moment I've seen in the game was when daddy was fighting the final boss because he was really hard to beat and I thought he (daddy) was going to die.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Plants vs Zombies - Interview with a fan

Here's my interview with a young male fan of Plants vs Zombies.

Mom: What is your favourite plant?

Son: I like the Hypnoshroom because it has lots of colours and I like lots of colours.

Mom: Why do like the game?

Son: Because I think it's cool. It has lots of meaning to it. It makes it looks like it's really live.

Mom: What do you think about dad's playing?

Son: It's cool. He takes a bit of time before he chooses plants.

Mom: What was the scariest moment in the game

Son: It was like the gargantuan throws its imp and you look like you're going to die and you need to act quick and you're scared 'cause the music goes dun dun dun dun!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Plants vs Zombies - How the invasion began

My house has been overrun with zombies! (Plants vs Zombies, that is)

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter was at a sleepover and her brother was missing her quite acutely. To prevent him from feeling too lonely or bored without his chief playmate around, my husband bought a PC copy of the game "Plants vs Zombies". My husband has played a version of it "Peace Bloom vs Ghoul", on World of Warcraft, so he knew the basic schtick. What he didn't realize was how insanely popular the original game would be to the entire family. My son was glued to the screen as his dad played. Our little boy refused to play it himself, but he adored watching the action. My husband finished the entire game on adventure mode in one day. When my daughter returned home from her sleepover party, her brother was super-eager to tell her all about the game. She too enjoyed watching Dad battle the zombie hoard. The kids would run away if their father got too close to losing, but they would always come back to see more. It's actually quite funny to see how quickly they'll run downstairs once they hear the music from the game begin. The entire basement breaks out into a dance party when the music video appears at the end of the successful final battle.

Although it was meant as a present for the kids, my husband played it often, even when the kids weren't around to witness the games. He loves the strategy, the achievements, and the distraction (it seems to be the perfect "at work" game, since it can be paused at a moment's notice and resumes exactly where you left off).

The next few Family Gaming posts will focus on the Plants vs Zombies phenomenon in our household.

Friday, April 15, 2011

How Olimar Got to Hocatate - Chapter 4

Chapter 4 - Boo or Blue?

(calls all Pikmin) (Attacks wall fast)
A Pikmin but yet another colour Press (A) then (B) to change the colour. It's my Space Float an excellent swimmer like me. The Space float packed in case for emergency. Now Ive recover 7/30 Just 5 more parts should increase my ships capabilaties. It's my 1 # iom-ium jet. I used this in a contest and I won. The 1# iomium jet I use it to work with its brother. I've recoverd 8/30 just 4 more parts will increase my ships capabilaties.

(final chapter by my son, for now - all spelling based on original writing)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Super Smash Stories - Mother 3 and Sonic

Mother 3

After the death of his mother, Hinawa, Lucas must learn the Psi techique, as his brother Klaus did, and defeat the dark, techno-logicly advanced, billion play boy Parky and other terrors in New Pork City. With the help of his father's buddy, Duster, Princess Kumatora, and his dog, Boney, Lucas will tackle any challenge that comes his way.


Green Hill Zone is full of surprises. Princesses turning out to be spirits, Portals to other worlds, that type of stuff. All this is caused by Docter Eggman. Only one animal is strong enough and fast enough to beat him. The names Sonic. Sonic the Hedgehog.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How Olimar Got to Hocatate - Chapter 3

I realized (too late) that yesterday was the first day I missed making a post since I began this blog. Considering how busy things are at my work and home, I'm impressed with myself that I've posted daily since this blog began. Back to our regularly scheduled writing, but look for reflections on our household's latest obsession with "Plants vs Zombies".

Chapter 3 Radars help a lot!

(Gets yellow Pikmin) It's the whimsical Radar! The whisical radar helps find parts I need press (+) to see the map. I've recover 4/30 ship parts. Just 1 more part! It's the Nova blaster blasts stars to tiny pieces. I've recover 5/30 raised capabilities to a wider area! I found the Extraodinary bolt! The Extraodinary bolt its so Extraodinary. I've recover 6/30 Just 6 more parts will increase my ships capabilties. I'll go to sun set.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Super Smash Stories - Kirby And Zelda


A world full of food, stars, dreams ... and utter chaos. Giant war ships patrol the skies. Waddle Dees run abroad. Is there any one who can save the citezens of Dreamland? Fear not, for there is. He is brave. He is strong. He is pink. He is Kirby.

Legend of Zelda

Hyrule Kingdom. A place of evil. In its seemingly peaceful streets, creatures of darkness run wild. In other realms evil still rules. It is up to one elf and one elf alone to defeat Ganondorf. He (and Princess Zelda) must destroy the darkness, no matter what. He, Link, will save Hyrule.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

How Olimar Got to Hocatate - Chapter 2

My son's second chapter (spelling errors intact):

Chapter 2 - Another Pikmin !?

A new destination apeared! I called it The Forest of Hope. (Takes all red Pikmin) (Attacks wall rapidly) (Throws pikmin at Bulborb) Its the Eternal Fuel Dynamo! The Eternal fuel Dynamo no more candles for me. I've recover 2/30 parts Just 3 more ship parts will increase my ships capabilities. Its an yellow onion! A pikmin but a diffrent colour could it be diffrent from the red Pikmin? Why did they pick up those glowing stones? There exsplosin stone! I'll call the m bomb rocks they clear paths in my way! Its the shock Absorber! The shock Absorber one touch you get shocked. I've recover 3/30 Just 2 more parts. I need to find my Pikmin before sunset! 10! 9! 8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! 2! 1! 0!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Super Smash Stories - Mario

Now for a snippet from my daughter's "anthology" of short tales...

Mario: In a peaceful kingdom of mushroom men and turtle people, Here lives an overall clad figure, destined to save them all. He's handled eight-foot tall gorillas, Dragen/turtle kings who steal his girlfriend Peach and alien creatures. His name is a legend. His name is Mario.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How Olimar Got to Hocatate - Chapter 1

My son, who usually hates writing, has written four chapters so far of his book, titled "How Olimar Got to Hocatate". In Charles Dickens fashion, I will post a chapter a day of his story. I will try to intersperse it with my daughter's "Super Smash Stories" anthology of short stories. I will try not to correct any spellings they've used.

Chapter 1 - Crash on the Planet of the Plant People.

In outer space Beep Beep Beep Bang Crash! Pow! Splash! Boom!
I'm Captain Olimar while through space a meteoroid hit my ship I need 30 ship parts to get back home.
Interesting that thing made a seed I'll call it an onion now to the seed. I thinks its calling to me. Perhaps press [A] to Pluck it. (Plucks seed) Odd its alive they look like my favourite food pik pik Grand carrots I think I'll call them Pikmin ([A] Throw [B] call [C] dismiss.) That pellet made more Pikmin the onion is a mother ship! The pikmin are curious as children! They perform tasks. Its my engine theres no mistakes perhaps the pikmin could bring to my ship. I take wonderful step back to home.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Man to man conversations

I don't like to intrude on the conversations my husband has with our children when he's playing Left For Dead or World of Warcraft. However, a couple of nights ago, the chatter was so engaging and informative that I had to grab my camera and try and catch some of it. The really annoying part is that I missed some of the most interesting banter. Prior to taping, the "men" were talking about what's real and what's not real. The minute I pressed record, the dialogue stopped. It took a while before it started up again. Then, once I decided to stop recording, the two of them launched into a riveting description of what a bio-hazard was. Just my luck. Blogger has been having difficulty loading videos lately, so I hope this works. The talk is a little stilted at times, because my husband wears headphones while he plays, so sometimes he doesn't hear our son's questions.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pikmin Sneak Attack

Today, while working on Prezi on my laptop, my son approached me.

"Mom, how would you feel if you were on a planet?"

"Like, not Earth?"

"Yeah, say you were stuck there. How would you feel?"

"Well, would you be there with me?"


"Would Daddy be there?"


"Would Mary be there?"


"Then I'd be very sad."

"Would it be hard to do things?"

"Yes, I'd be all alone."

"But what if someone was there - like Pikmin? Wouldn't you want their help? So, it's not like slavery at all now, is it?"

At which point, my son walks over to the Pikmin sign-up sheet (which I've shared on this blog) that hangs on our fridge, and he erases the comment I wrote on there about Pikmin slavery. I didn't realize he disliked my opinion so much that he chose to debate me into a corner so that he could justify erasing that remark. This is the same boy that has several Pikmin file games saved, all of which he deliberately does not finish because he gets so sad when Olimar has to leave his Pikmin friends behind.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mommy Makes Game Things Too

Turns out that the kids aren't the only ones that make game-related artifacts. Once I started playing Webkinz again, I realized that my memory was not as good as it used to be, and I often forgot where certain rooms were located. I decided to make a map of the mansion, so that I could quickly jump to the room I needed. The funny thing is that my daughter did this years ago of her own accord, for probably very similar reasons. With mine, I decided to color code the map based on the room's purpose. I thought it was interesting to see how certain rooms clustered together (design? accident? unsure). My daughter looked at the map and said that she could tell this wasn't a real house, because it only has two bathrooms (and in the bath house, there's no toilet). Based on these "needs assessment", I'm toying with creating a few new rooms (mostly bedrooms to keep similar animals together for ease of location, and some theme rooms to house all our loot).

Speaking of loot and sleeping arrangements, a few of the other things I created (and why I didn't do them in a word processing document or spreadsheet, I have no idea - it just felt "right" to pull out the markers and pencils and design near the screen but apart from it) included a list of which pet sleeps in which bedroom, and an inventory of what is in each drawer/storage unit in each of the clothing rooms.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Standardized Tests - The Type The Boy Likes

One early evening, my son began scribbling away at a family project of his invention. He has decided to give everyone in the family a standardized test - on Pikmin. He told us that he was making it look just like his CAT test from last year and like the EQAO practice sheets he has this year. (I think CAT stands for Canadian Achievement Test and EQAO stands for Education Quality and Accountability Office test - actually, it's true > my husband just looked up the acronyms for me.) He told us that we had to bubble in the right answer. I said I didn't know much about Pikmin and could I cheat during the test by asking people for answers. The boy was shocked.

"Mom, we don't cheat at my school and you can't cheat on this test."

Thankfully, he did provide a bit of a review for us before the test. He said that blue Pikmin were water-related, red Pikmin were fire-related, and yellow Pikmin were electricity-related. He also said that purple Pikmin were very powerful. He made everyone in the family write the test, and then he collected all the papers and ran upstairs to immediately mark them. He brought them down one at a time with the marks and the score. He told us which answers we got wrong, and the correct answer. As I would have guessed, I earned the lowest score, with 4/6. My husband earned 5/6 and my daughter earned 6/6.

What can I say about this Pikmin standardized test? I have lots of theories or observations, but who knows how many of them are just guesses.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Just Dance: Personal Goals

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I play the Just Dance group of games (Just Dance, Just Dance 2 and Just Dance For Kids) as daily exercise and fun with my daughter. It's something we do together. The thing is, I'm in my late thirties and I have past extensive experience with dancing and choreography; she's eleven and only took a dance class when she was three. I worried that she'd be discouraged that every time we'd play, I'd always be the one that won. I know that the games have collaborative options, but she never chose those paths.

I can't remember who thought of this, but my girl began keeping a list in a journal of the scores she earned in Just Dance. Then, when we'd play a song we had done before, she'd compare her current score with her previous one and write down the highest number. What was great about this system was she could compete against herself, not against her mom. We'd both celebrate if she beat her old high score, just like we'd celebrate if I beat mine. She has started to do this for Just Dance For Kids. It's great for her self-esteem and still keeps the game interesting for us all, as we work through every song on the play list.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Just Dance: The Mommy Exercise Routine & "Boy Songs"

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and my renewed commitment to exercising regularly was well-intentioned for sure. I had used Wii Fit but working on my Masters capping paper torpedoed that and I found it discouraging to restart when none of my efforts ever made the top 10 personal accomplishments list. Then I discovered Just Dance. I love playing it with my daughter and even have short video clips of both kids playing it. I decided that Just Dance would be my new routine. I even put reward stickers in my calendar planner for every day I used it. January was great. Then in February I had to plan for several presentations at the Ontario Library Association Superconference and I became less regular.

On March 21 (the day I'm actually composing this blog post), my son said "Mom, I'm going to make some popcorn so it'll be like a theatre and I can watch you and M do Just Dance. You should do Just Dance." So, my daughter and I got our groove on and danced. I asked my son why he was so interested in having me do Just Dance.

First answer = "because I love you. It's good for you."
Second answer = "I don't knooooooow!"
Third answer = "because I like listening to the songs."

He just wants to watch us. He doesn't want to dance with us, which is mildly surprising because he is without a doubt the best dancer in the family. I say it's only a mild surprise because he may be a good dancer but he hates to lose any competition. I used to teach at a dance studio when I was in high school and university, so I have a bit of an advantage, and I don't try less so that the kids will win. I tried that once or twice and they noticed. My daughter handles it differently (but that is fodder for tomorrow's post). I'm grateful my girl doesn't share her brother's attitude, because I realized I wouldn't do Just Dance without her. It's not as fun doing it by yourself.

As the kids were getting ready for bed that night, I bemoaned the fact that the boy wouldn't dance with us. Then, my son introduced a new rationale for his reluctance: "there's not enough boy songs on there". "Yeah, we need manly songs. Boy songs. Tough guy songs." (He flexed his muscles as he said this.) His dad was there and egged him on.

"Like 'Bad to the Bone' ", his dad exclaimed.

We were playing Just Dance for Kids, which actually has several songs that use an all-boy dance cast. "Oh really? So name some boy songs you think should be there" I retorted. He couldn't come up with any.

His sister started to rag on him: "But you sing and dance to girl songs all the time. You like Lady Gaga. You like Katy Perry. What about that?"

Then he backtracked a bit - "It's not like I said I don't like the songs. But they aren't boy songs."