Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Daily (Monkey) Grind

Today's entry is thanks to my boy. One of his latest fascinations is Nickelodeon's MMO "MonkeyQuest". He received a membership for his Christmas. He had been playing it for free prior to this. As with many MMOs, there are several tasks participants can do daily. My son decided to make a list of the things he could do, complete with Kirby illustrations. I'm not sure what Kirby has to do with monkeys, but there they are.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Skylanders as Sweetie Pies

Today's art sample is also from my daughter. Both of the kids received a lot of Skylander figures for Christmas. The main villain appears to the world as a giant floating head but is actually a weaselly egomaniac. My girl "chibi-ized" the Skylanders for the purpose of this drawing. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some final fan work from 2011 - Angry Birds

I was doing some cleaning over the holidays and that included tackling the big pile of paper my kids doodle and write on to sort it. Some get recycled, some get put in their portfolios, and a select few get scanned and posted here before going in the portfolio. The next month or so will be daily scan shares. (I love Blogger's advanced posting feature - this means I can pre-write posts during my vacation that will appear all January!)

This piece of art is courtesy of my daughter. My son played Angry Birds on a visiting friend's iPad and he then spend a great deal of time watching Angry Birds videos on YouTube. These are the characters they've encountered.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How do you choose?

Our family friend who games with us regularly is trying to arrange a time so he can come visit and we can all play. The big question is: what do we play? He loves Risk Legacy. Here are some photos from our last adventure.

We got to crack open a secret section now that we used all minor cities!
The board at the end. D won this time!
Having considered that, both families also received some great games for Christmas. D (our family friend) got Last Night On Earth, a cool zombie game that I wanted to buy my husband but couldn't find in the stores. So, do we do the tried and true, or tackle something new and different? Hubby will be chatting with buddy while they play Star Wars: The Old Republic online together (a fantastic MMO) so they'll probably decide then.

P.S. Hubby bought me the card game Spot It today while we were gallivanting about. Between that, Minecraft and reading my James Paul Gee book on video games, I'll have plenty to keep me occupied!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Have a Playful Holiday!

Merry Christmas everyone! Games of all shapes and sizes seemed to be the gift of choice this year. Some of the games our family members received as presents this year were:
  • King of Tokyo
  • Pandemic
  • Incan Gold
  • Forbidden Island
  • Arkham Horror
  • Skylanders
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns
The kids spent a lot of Christmas Day playing Skylanders together. It's a clever game both from the marketing perspective and the game play options. Between the two of them, they already have 13 figures and are itching to spend their Toys R Us gift cards to obtain more.

The game play didn't end when we went to my parents' house for Christmas dinner. Everyone there either watched or played my brother's interactive party game on the X-box, "Start the Party". It was silly and fun and a great way to get people from different generations to have fun together. May your holiday be just as playful and fun!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Risk Legacy

Yesterday, we went to my husband's friend's house to visit and to play Risk Legacy. The four of us (my husband, our daughter, my husband's friend, and I) were playing some role-playing games together (Labyrinth Lord) but that has petered out a bit and in its place, we've been playing board games. We used Risk Godstorm and then used Risk 2210. Our friend bought Risk Legacy for himself and this is the second time we've played.

Risk Legacy is very different from other Risk games. The goal each game is to earn four stars. You earn a star by taking someone else's headquarters, holding headquarters, or turning in four coin cards. In "regular" Risk, you win by taking over the world. In our first two Risk Legacy campaigns, there were many territories that no one touched, which was very odd to see. The unique part of Risk Legacy is that what happens in previous games affects current and future games. For instance, players write on the board. They sign a special spot when they win a game. They have the ability to found cities and rename continents. My husband's friend got pretty annoyed when I won the first game and decided to rename Australia "Womania". (I admit, it was a pretty lame name, but my defense is that I was ill with a cold while playing the game and not thinking straight.) You "unlock" new rules, cards and pieces when you get to certain stages. You play factions, which gives you certain advantages. I'll try and take a photo of the board the next time we play, to show how different it looks. Another reviewer talks about Risk Legacy here, and the popularity ranking on this site gives it a 8/10. For me, it took some getting used to but everyone else seems to be enjoying it a lot.  Prior winners get a missile instead of a free star at the beginning, making it harder to win twice in a row. Despite this handicap, I was doing quite well until the men ganged up on me to ensure that my daughter won instead of me - they didn't want me christening another continent with a tacky name!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Other Family Tales of Gaming Experiences

Today I met with my Gaming Educators PLC members as part of my self-directed learning for the union's "Federation Day". We learned a lot from each other but we especially appreciated the stories told by one of our members about her family's gaming adventures. She is the eldest of three children and everyone in their family, including her parents, are avid gamers. They've been doing this for a very long time. We encouraged my friend to share some of these stories and I offered this blog as a place for her to tell the tales. I hope she takes me up on the offer and occasionally posts here. You'll be educated and entertained by her anecdotes (but no pressure D!)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Inventing our own games

A short time ago on Twitter, Melanie McBride asked people to mention moments of play that they were involved with that were not related to organized sports or computer games. I replied with the tweet below as well as a short description of "The Snuggy Pillow Is Mine".

melanie mcbride
RT I in many ways eg w/ kids Nerf swords & board games, w/ hubby when I wash car windows (long "clean" story), w/ family-
The "Snuggy Pillow" game is a lot like Capture the Flag except it involves a lot more wrestling and centers around a well-liked smushy pillow. My husband, son and I were playing it yesterday when my son decided to put a new spin on it by hiding it under pillows and adding extra treasure. Here's a photo of his set-up.
Today the boy and I played a new game that he invented on his own - indoor sledding. He discovered that the sleeping bag that he's been using is slippery enough on the outside that he can propel himself down the stairs inside it and it slides well. His only complaint is that even though he puts pillows inside the sleeping bag, sliding multiple times down the stairs makes his butt sore. In fact, I was just interrupted from composing this blog post to examine the sign up list for the Kirby Rollercoaster (his name for indoor sledding). We had to put our names down on the list for the chance to ride and we got prizes when the ride ended. The boy's sister and I tried it out and my husband chose to merely watch. After doing it twice (with him sitting on my lap each time), I'm not keen to repeat the voyage, but he loves it and is busy drawing signs for his ride. We are game inventors here!

P.S. Our boy has decided to sleep in a sleeping bag in front of the Christmas tree because he can't wait for Christmas to get here. *shrugs*

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Others do it too!

Read this blog today if you want to see the possibilities of games in schools in a way that respects gaming.

I am honoured to be acquainted with this fine fellow behind the wonderful blog post - along with another educator, the three of us have been playing Minecraft together and planning to start Minecraft Clubs at our schools. My students are gung-ho about the idea. The day after I tweeted a reference to the club, no less than five kids approached me in the halls to ask if the rumor of a school Minecraft Club was true or not. Our school club hasn't even started yet and the thinking has already begun. All I've done so far is collect a list of names of interested students and updated my school's video drivers. Two students made a Minecraft test to help "weed out" "less dedicated" players. Their theory was that we shouldn't "waste our time" on players that aren't "serious" or will quit. I confessed to them that I would fail their Minecraft test.

"Maybe we should make an easier test?" they suggested.

I told them that I didn't want to penalize anyone who hadn't played the game before. I reassured them that I'd consider a fair way of choosing 6 members of my club out of the list of 31 potentials. Maybe I'd pick names randomly out of a hat. Maybe I'd offer it to students who aren't already members of a dozen clubs or teams. I'm not sure how I'll decide, but I'll figure it out. (I should mention that the two boys who created this test, wrote it and printed it out, are "reluctant writers".) I promise I won't turn this blog into my school blog (you can read that, including my Minecraft reflections, here) but the two may intersect.

Friday, December 2, 2011

GamerCamp Highlights

After that run of "retro-pictures", I'm ready to return to current reports of our family's gaming life.

On Sunday, November 27, I attended GamerCamp. This event was very different from the conferences I'm used to attending. I wasn't even 100% sure I was going to go at all. I had an all-day Ontario School Library Association council meeting on Saturday and I really didn't want to be away from my husband and children all weekend. I think it was my fear of being a fraud that forced me to show up - one of my deepest concerns is that I'm not as "good" or knowledgeable as people think I am and I never want to be seen as a poseur. I felt like if I want to delve into gaming seriously, I needed to visit things like this. (Heck, I'm still not confident that I count as a gamer myself, but that's another post for another day.)

My perfect Blokus board (I think I was yellow)
It took me a while to figure out how to enter George Brown College and after paying my entrance fee, I wandered around pretty hesitantly. My peanut allergy prevented me from chowing down at the 8-Bit Cereal Breakfast. I popped in and out of several rooms, quietly observing. I kept returning to the Snakes and Lattes Cafe where board games were spread out for people to try but I was a bit shy about jumping in. (This may surprise people who know me as quite the social extrovert but it was a new experience.) Once some of the Snakes and Lattes folks invited me to play, I settled down and started to really enjoy myself. I played Blokus twice and actually used up all my pieces to win the first round! I took a photo of my winning board. The winner of my second round of Blokus also took a photo of the board when *she* won. I thought I was the only person who did things like that! We also played Anomia and Spot On too. That was a lot of fun.
Playing Spot On - I think that's what it was called

I didn't get to check out any of the talks because I was in the middle of a board game when they were on. The board game room inspired me to do some Christmas shopping but before I left on my retail mission, I decided to attend a session called - I wasn't really clear what it was about but I'm so glad I stayed for it. It was run by a guy who, unbeknownst to me, is one of the people working with my children on the Ryerson University / Privacy Commission of Canada video game project. When I gave him my business card so that maybe we could talk about making an article for the magazine I help run, he said "You're M & P's mom, aren't you?" Ten of us came to play. It was like a live-action role-playing game (although I've never LARPed before, so that's just a guess on my part). We were scientists in Antarctica who were stranded at our base. The parts for the radio for contact with the outside world were strewn beyond our base walls and two "things" were present - they looked like us but they were contaminated and did not want the outside world to come to our aid. The goal of the scientists was to find 12 of the 20 radio parts and bring them back to base without getting infected by the things. The things were trying to infect as many of us as they could and destroy/hide any radio parts they found. There were Nerf guns with "serum" that we could use to neutralize the things only if we shot them in the chest.

The "1-Up Cake" - yummy!
This is how a quiet, shy teacher who knew no one but Jamie Woo, the organizer of GamerCamp, transformed into an intense scientist packing Nerf heat, chasing someone I had just met through the halls of George Brown college, yelling at the top of my lungs "TURN AROUND! TURN AROUND! I KNOW YOU'RE THE THING! PERRY'S THE THING!" Unfortunately, I got tricked. My scientist partner Harold and I were tracking Sandy, the other "thing" when she ran into the women's washroom. Another guy was following Sandy too and he bemoaned the fact that he couldn't follow her in. Since I was the only other female, I volunteered to go in after her. When I turned around to enter the bathroom, I got the tap on my back saying "you're infected" (in the game, you could be infected only if tapped from behind, either directly from a thing or from someone infected by the thing). The game was a lot of fun and when it was done, I was quivering with adrenaline. I wolfed down some cake, even though the servers didn't want me to eat because of my nut allergy, and then went shopping at 401 Games and Snakes and Lattes for board game gifts.

I'm really glad I attended. It was a lot of fun. Big thanks go to all the organizers of GamerCamp

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wii Sports Finale

This is almost like the final scene to my girl's epic comic on Wii Sports. This is also the end of this run on the blog of old drawings made by my kids. Posts following this one will deal with more current subject matter - the games they (and I) are playing right now, the projects they are involved in that center on gaming, and other related items.