Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's Not Just Me!

I am a serious fan of Zoe Branigan-Pipe, a teacher in the Faculty of Education at Brock University in Hamilton. I have been a fan ever since she and I were on a "team" sharing web 2.0 tools and the different ways they can be used for teaching and learning. She made a great blog post about her sons and gaming today. It's clever and reflects what I see in my own house - kids learning and not even realizing it, because they aren't forced to do it. It's fun. It's rewarding. It's interesting. Today, her kids were planting sugar cane in Minecraft to make paper. Today, my family members were:
  • re-starting their Pokemon Heart Gold game ("I didn't get far before but now I know what to do") - before doing this, my girl researched online how to delete her game file off her DS and did it; she startled the heck out of the adults in the car with a lusty triumphant yell after defeating Gyrados
  • watching a Lego Universe game play video on YouTube (we didn't renew our subscription but the boy was reminiscing) and telling us all about the upcoming Kirby Mass Effect game coming out on Monday
  • playing Plants vs Zombies after a long hiatus and examining MMORPG statistics (hubby left WoW relatively recently after playing it solidly for five years but he still keeps abreast of news and WoW's subscription has dropped from 12 million to 11-point-something million which concerns Blizzard [the company] but still dwarfs every other MMO)
I posted my comments to her blog there. Another big influence of mine, Melanie McBride, has taught me that there is a danger of educators co-opting games, misunderstanding and cannibalizing them for their own aims. I hope to find that happy middle ground, where games are respected for what they are and also embraced in education.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Do we go easy on the girl?

My entries on this blog are going to expand in scope a bit more because my daughter and I are now involved in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with my husband and his friend. My daughter has played in a RPG prior to this with her father, but as he wrote in his own blog and I reported here a while back, she became very attached to her character and when adventures got intense, she worried, so she stopped playing. My husband's friend will be the GM and my husband, daughter and I each created two characters to play in the adventure, so that if anything happened to any of them, we still had another to play.

Tonight, instead of playing our D&D campaign, the group decided to play the board game Risk 2210 AD. We really like playing Risk and my daughter got interested in it through Risk God Storm and the mythology angle. My daughter came in first (34), my husband in second (30), me in third (9) and the family friend in fourth (8). Our friend brought up a good point - did she win because we refrained from attacking her when we could? Were we soft on her because she's 11 years old? My first response was no, because in Year 5, the final round, I swept in and broke her recently acquired monopoly of Asia and Europe. (She took it back but at least I tried.) I didn't attack her before because she wasn't in the areas I wanted to overthrow. However, does what he suggest have merit? I'll have to think about that the next time we play.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Surprise Volunteer

I received an email late tonight from someone whom I have never met in my school board but who knows of me. She forwarded this link about an opportunity for 6-10 year olds to help make a video game about online privacy. On a whim, I read the task description out loud to my 9 year old son, who immediately said "sign me up". To register the magnitude of this pronouncement, you have to realize that my son does not volunteer for anything. This is the same boy that cried last night because he did not want to go to school. This is the same kid who, up until this summer, never found any extra-curricular activities that he enjoyed enough to want to continue. Despite telling him that it was a long-term committment (9 sessions, 4 hours each session, spread out over 4 months), he replied "I'm a video-game type of guy. I'm interested."

If they do happen to select him, it will be interesting for all of us. My daughter has the whole "responsible digital citizen / using the Internet wisely" schtick down pat. If she comes across something that's too mature for her to hear or see, she navigates away from it and notifies us. My son? One of his favourite things to do is watch video game play-throughs on YouTube. Many of these videos are made my college-age men and sometimes they use "bad words". This wouldn't be much of a problem except that our boy like to repeat phrases he hears on these videos. (This is why I have a version of Monty Python's The Holy Grail bard song switched to honour zombies haunting my head.) Because of this tendancy, we had to put a rule in place that he could only watch videos either with no talking or by specific creators we knew were PG. After abiding by this restriction for a while, we were able to tell him that he could choose new videos but that if he heard swearing in them that he was responsible for finding a better one. His self-regulation needs a bit of work - the other day he asked if he could watch this certain video because "it only has the f-word in it".

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

As an occasional gamer in a heavily-gaming household, I get to observe a lot of people playing. These are a couple of things I've witnessed yesterday and today. I'll let you apply the judgement labels for yourself.

1) The kids had a play date with some friends. All four of them - two girls, two boys, from grades 4-8 - were playing together on their individual DS consoles, animatedly chatting and joking around.

2) It took a half-hour to go through a very frustrating conversation with our kids to realize that our son had left his DS cord at his friend's house and his friend had lost his own DS cord. How was I to know they differentiate between the DS and the DSi cords?

3) My son was trying to get through a hard section of Super Mario Galaxy and ended up crying on the couch because he just couldn't do it. "I wish there was a way I could help you buddy - I know you'll figure a way to beat it sometime, somehow" was the only consolation I could give.

4) A little while later, I heard my son talking to himself. The game music altered a bit. "Can you actually slow sections down?" I called out. After some tinkering, I heard a cheer from the living room. He was able to complete the section that had been aggravating him moments before. Much dancing and posturing followed in celebration.

5) I come back from running some errands to find that my son has already completed Super Mario Galaxy - two days after getting the game. Of course, this was with lots of intense, concentrated playing.
"This is why the boy needs or wants to get so many new games. At least he goes back and plays them after he's completed them" commented my husband.