Friday, March 30, 2012

Another Family's Initial Steps

In this blog, I try to focus on my family's gaming adventures and avoid my "professional" involvement with gaming as a teacher / teacher-librarian. However, this brief story relates to at-home play, so I thought it was worth repeating.

I gave a workshop in Brampton on Tuesday to a group of teacher-librarians. The topic was on wikis and one of the examples I gave was our multi-school Minecraft meeting place. I gushed a bit about how wonderful Minecraft is and how fun it is to play for me and the kids. During the second half of my workshop, I give time for participants to direct their learning, allowing them choice. Many of them explored my repository of lessons and other resources. As I wandered around, chatting and offering any assistance, I had a great conversation with "A". She is a teacher-librarian with two children of her own (in SK and grade 3). She was excited to see references to Webkinz on my site. Her children have accounts, with about 3 pets a piece logged on - I didn't tell her how many pets we have on our family Webkinz account because it's a little scary! She admired how adept her children were at navigating the online world and saw how her children were using math and language skills while playing. For instance, her son described how he wanted to buy a bathtub and he examined his Kinzcash balance, compared prices for the blue tub and white tub, and subtracted the cost from his funds to see what he'd have left. He was concerned that the bathtub purchase would significantly lower his savings, so he planned to play more games to earn more money. Financial literacy anyone?

She was a little worried about the online safety component and insisted that he delete anyone from his friends list that he didn't know in real life. I talked a bit about the measures Ganz has taken to make it a "safe place" by eliminating open chat but also briefly mentioned the "critical consumer" piece (because from what I understand, Ganz is an aggressive marketer and not very good about user privacy and their advertisers).

I did make a couple of overt suggestions that I hope she likes. I recommended getting a school Webkinz account and playing with her primary students. The kind of rich discussions, inquiry-based investigations, and open-ended tasks are just as good for her students as for her own children. It won't be the same because it's school, and her school board blocks so I don't know if it's even possible for her. My second recommendation was that she get her own Webkinz account and play with her kids. She agreed that her kids would be delighted to "show Mom the ropes" and be friends with her, exploring this fun new world together. Let's hope it's the start of another family's joint adventures in gaming.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Finding and Taming Cats on Minecraft - The Movie!

This is my second video created using Fraps, a program that one of my students introduced me to a couple of weeks ago. The free version only allows you to have 30 seconds of video but that's okay. This is a brief clip of Phisagrim with his recently domesticated cats. The journal entry about this is currently on the GamingEdus wiki and will be copied to this blog some time in the future. This is an especially important video because shortly after filming this, Phisagrim accidentally lost his cats when he teleported back home. It's the only memento he has of this server-first event.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Minecraft Journal Entry #54 & 55

March 15, 2012
(written March 16, 2012)
We played for a very long time because a) it's March Break and b) we couldn't get on prior to this because the server's IP address changed. In fact, we stayed up until past 1:00 a.m. playing!
Phisa made a "trouble house", in which players can post signs explaining in-game challenges they are having that they'd like to get some assistance with.

Appeals for help inside the "trouble house"

One of the signs said that someone would like to have a PvP battle arena in the Nether. We decided that it would be a great project to undertake. After finding our way back from the confusing woods (without any feline pets), Phisagrim became obsessed with a new task - he decided he wanted to make a sheep farm. What was bizarre was that he built this sheep farm near the Torch Trail, in an area that does not possess a lot of sheep!  He called his place "Lavender's Castle and Sheep Farm" after his first purple sheep.

Lavender and her baby enjoy their posh pad

Terragrim and I went wandering off to examine the Nether for a good place to build. Phisa called us back and to our surprise, he was able to find a few sheep to populate his farm. He dyed them bright colours and created a lavish home for them, complete with art inside the dwelling. Phisa asked us to guard his sheep while he worked on his building. While keeping watch, we saw a very rare spider jockey!

It's hard to see because it's dark, but the spider-jockey is there!

Terragrim went to bed earlier than the rest of us. I recommended that Phisa increase the size of his farm and began to build an extension. Tragedy nearly occurred when Phisa destroyed the dividing wall before I had completed making the walls to contain all the animals and his creatures started to escape. We worked quickly and caught all the wandering flock members with wheat. The pink ones seem particularly troublesome. I had a good talk with Phisa about how he was like Jesus the Good Shepherd because he went seeking his one lost sheep even after rescuing and caring for all the rest. Once they were all safe, we called it a night, eager to return and do some more.

March 16, 2012
Today was another long and fruitful session. We returned to Phisa's Sheep Farm to build yet another extension to the building.

I know my sheep, and mine know me!

While Terragrim and I slaved away on Phisa's animal husbandry project, Phisagrim began a new project - a nearby chicken coop, made entirely of gold. Terra and I returned to the Nether to scout out and finalize our PvP Nether plans. Phisa got frustrated because his chickens kept escaping his pen through a hole in the dwelling. Terra and I finally chose a place and began construction. The site of our PvP pre-battle zone is high up. There was glow stone in the rock already so we decided to continue the theme by building the floor out of that material. Phisa eventually came to the Nether but got excited about caging a magma cube and we were conscripted into his latest building project.

Not George the VI, but Sid

He played with his pet Magma Cube while Terra and I built the pen around him using smooth stone blocks. We even made viewing windows so that visitors could see the captured cube. He named his new pet cube "Sid" (inspired by GameChap).

Peek at the animals, just like at the zoo

Then Terra and I got back to work on the PvP area. I got a bit perturbed with Phisa because after all the help we gave him with his sheep castle, magma cage, and other projects, he was reluctant to even examine the original PvP area to tell us what we needed to have in the preparation huts because he didn't want to empty his inventory to enter the room. We made the prep huts out of Nether Brick, 6X6 and 4 blocks high. We even generated bedrock to use as the fence surrounding the entire pre-battle area.

We fight in style at the Glow Stone Battle Arena!

Phisa went off to build a new Snack Shack in the Nether (I didn't know it was a franchise) while I went off to build the battle arena. I had 5 x 64 blocks of Netherrack so I chose to build a flat landscape high up and build around the lava falls to make it especially difficult. Boy, was it difficult! Ghasts attacked me while I was building, creating holes in the floor and causing me to tumble far below into flames. I had to teleport home several times to jump in the water so I wouldn't die. I'm not even sure if the area will survive until the first actual battle there. I visited Phisa's new snack shop and decided I had accomplished enough for the day.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Minecraft Journal Entry #52 & 53

March 11, 2012
(written March 16, 2012)
I'll keep it short and simple today. We couldn't get on the GamingEdus server so instead we briefly went on the TDSB EDGE server. I accidentally gave Phisagrim OP status in this world and he started to go crazy, generating diamond armor and diamond weapons. Terragrim proclaimed "But Phisa, we promised to be like GameChap in Survival To The End - no OPing!" We left before he did anything too extreme to the environment. A creeper blew up the Grim Clan Safe House and I had to fix it.

Good looking players, sans armour, in safe house

March 12, 2012
(written March 16, 2012)
I don't recall too much about this session except that Praxis looks like he's been busy in our world. The doors to the Safe House have been replaced with iron doors so no zombies can break in. Unfortunately, something else (probably a creeper) still did enough damage to destroy the entire front of the shelter and we had to rebuild it. We went searching for ocelots in Lupis Landing and got lost.

New entrance to the main safe house

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Good in Games - Saving Lives!

My husband read this article to me from Cracked. Cracked is a humour online 'zine but some of their articles are interesting to read. Enjoy!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mass Effect 3, D&D and James Paul Gee's Identity

March Break is winding down here at our house which means we are trying to squeeze in as much game playing and fun as we can before we get back to school.

The kids aren't the only ones playing lots of things. My husband has begun to play Dungeons and Dragons with his special world, Dwimmermount, on Google Plus with people who have contributed to his Kickstarter project. Sometimes it's challenging to coordinate the schedules for this weekly Friday evening session but I can tell he enjoys it because by the end of the evening, his voice is hoarse from all the talking. You can read about their adventures on James' blog, Grognardia.

Hubby also purchased Mass Effect 3 and finished it. He said it took him about 20 hours over the course of a week. We talk about the games he plays and he was telling me how some people finished the whole thing in less than a day. Sometimes that mystifies me, how people can wait for months for something and then consume it so quickly instead of savoring it - but then I connect it to buying a long-awaited sequel to a book you've been dying to read. He also reported that many people were quite upset with the resolution of some of the plot elements and that some gamers are even starting a petition on Facebook to get BioWare to change it. These gamers are even collecting money for charity as part of their campaign and have raised quite a pretty penny so far. He said that he felt that there were enough suggestions and hints in Mass Effect1 and Mass Effect2 that this was the route the storyline was headed and that, although it may be a disappointment to some that things end the way they do, it was not the "betrayal" many players have complained that it was. Hubby felt that many people wanted a happy ending for their character and when it didn't happen the way they envisioned, they got angry. Some even suggest that it was a conspiracy.

This ties in nicely with the book I've been reading over March Break - What Video Games Have to Teach us About Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee. I just finished reading Chapter 3, on Learning and Identity. It was fascinating, and made me realize I should resurrect my grade 3 library lesson on "what is a researcher?" because it helped students construct their identity as a researcher just like the book's example of becoming a scientist. I could totally relate to Gee's description of the three identities: virtual (Diana as LIRAGRIM), real (DIANA as Liragrim) and projective (Diana AS Liragrim). For instance, there are a couple of pet dogs hanging around our various houses in Minecraft that do not belong to any of the Grims. They look kind of sad waiting there for their owners. Part of me has considered just slaying them to get them out of the way, but my projective identity balks at that - my virtual character Liragrim just successfully bred her dogs and got a puppy, and me in real life as a pet owner and Catholic (Chita and Chilli the chinchillas, Max and Wilbur the skinny pigs, and L'il Tweet the budgie) would object to euthanizing an animal just because they were "in the way". It was only recently that Phisagrim (aka my son) allowed me to kill pigs and chickens but I'm only permitted to kill animals that are not penned up - any of my farm animals cannot be slaughtered. The boy has no qualms about OPing steak so he can regain his health. We talked about it a bit and that's partly why he relented his strict stance - I think the fact that he gets XP by whacking a pig may have influenced his decision as well.

This is my favourite James Paul Gee quote so far in the book (from Chapter 2).

Good games ... are crafted in ways that encourage and facilitate active and critical learning and thinking (which is not to say that every player will take up this offer). The other is the people around the learner, other players and non-players. If these people encourage reflective meta-talk, thinking, and actions in regard to the design of the game, of video games more generally, and of other semiotic domains and their complex interrelationships, then this, too, can encourage and facilitate active and critical learning and thinking (though, again, the offer may not be taken up).

And this quote is why I don't feel guilty about staying up until 1:00 a.m. with my son helping him with his sheep breeding business on Minecraft, cursing the dimness of herd animals but grateful for their ability to be led and squeezing a little religious discussion in among the creeper-blasting.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March Madness - Just Dance 3 & Kirby's Return to Dreamland

It's March Break this week and naturally, the kids have spent a lot of their free time playing games. Believe it or not, playing by yourself can get a bit boring so this evening the entire family joined together to play Kirby's Return to Dreamland. The boy got to play Kirby and the rest of us took our usual supporting characters. The girl was Waddle Dee. I was Metaknight and hubby was King Deedeedee. We had borrowed enough Wiimotes so that we could all play simultaneously. My son adores playing this in a group because he can be the superstar and we follow him around getting the odd shot in against enemies. We can't take his power-ups - we are mostly just comic side-kicks, which suits him just fine. The kids love their father's impersonation of King Deedeedee, based on the 1980s cartoon we viewed on YouTube. Part of the fun of playing is hearing their dad utter phrases like "Helllllp meee" and "I'm feeling magnamenous today".

Only the female members of the household played Just Dance 3 because the boys only wanted "manly" songs like "Bad to the Bone" and "The Wanderer" - it's a family joke that these are hubby's theme songs. We sweated a lot and the girl knew most of the songs we used. It was a lot of fun to play together.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Minecraft Journal Entry #50 & 51

March 6, 2012

 Today we explored Minecraft 1.2, the amazing expansion that we've heard so much about from GameChap. Many changes have been added to the Game Edus world, many of them fun and enjoyable. But with every wonder, there is a terror as well. We found this out the hard way.
 It started out with talking. Phisa and I were very excited for new mobs, such as the protective Iron Golems and Shy Ocelots. But first, we had to find and/or craft these critters. Being an expert, Phisa created an army of Golems in no time flat. 

Terra and Phisa pose with "Golly" the Iron Golem

 While Phisa tried out his new toys on some unfortunate skeletons, Lira and I headed towards the NPC Village to confirm more Minecraft Myths. On the way, we investigated our new cheat code set up. We can no longer teleport home, which is a huge disadvantage. We also found out that our "teleport to another player code" has changed its formula slightly:

/tp (you) (player you want to port to)

 In the village, we found a shocking sight. Well, maybe not that shocking for me and Phisa, but Lira sure seemed excited. Two villagers were standing in a wheat field, holding hands. Then, minutes later, out popped a pint sized, baby villager. They are surprisingly fast and tricky, too. They seemed to have fun, locking me in a room. Before you knew it, there were over 7 baby villagers, chasing each other in the fields.

Baby villager! (But why must the "love dance" be outside near wheat?)

 Then, night fell, and the villagers began to pile inside their houses. At first, we thought it may have been a special party or ceremony, since villagers rarely go inside over night. These are the people who can calmly to creepers. Curious, we decided to head inside and have a look.

Terra investigates the crowd while a kid sits at the table

 Inside, the whole village was gathered in a small corner, as if hiding. We didn't realize why until it was too late. There was a new sound, a sound I've never heard before, but still scared me. At the door was a zombie, attempting to bust open it.

Add in the sound, and this is "Walking Dead" level scary!

 Eventually, he broke in. Lira tried to face him, but I found myself cowering in a corner. The villagers were unscathed as the zombie was defeated. But when we tried to go out and fight we found more foes awaiting us. A creeper blew up one house, sadly, and one villager child was killed by another zombie. But despite the minor damages, the village looked almost untouched in the end.
 Then we went searching for Ocelots by my house. We got lost a bunch of times, and nearly died, thanks to the creepers and the holes they blew in the ice. But we did find one good thing. Phisa and Lira found some wolves and got them to mate. Out popped a baby wolf, whom Lira loved to pieces.

Lira's itty-bitty cutesy-wutsy baby PUPPY!

 With our new litter, we ventured off to what appeared to be a Jungle Biome at first, but turned out to be a larger marsh.
 We returned home, and experienced another break-in at the Safehouse. A creeper found his way into the house, and is still lurking in the corridors beneath. I'm deciding to avoid the Safehouse for the next little while.
 Despite all of the dangers, we've had a great time in the new patch.

March 7, 2012

Today was frustrating and rewarding. My grade 2 Minecraft fan and I had a great conversation at recess about the new additions and I finally mentioned something he'd never heard of: Herobrine. I have to print him out an article about this mysterious and mythical Minecraft figure for him to read soon. In my school's Minecraft Club, we tried to access the multi-school server but we were still blocked from accessing the port. The three volunteers that offered to stay after school to try it out (plus Terragrim - I had to pick her up from school) decided to play in single player mode while I made phone calls to Praxismaxis and to the EDGE Lab (where I had the pleasure of speaking with "Mrs. Praxis"). MCEPIC0 was playing in creative mode and spawned some ocelots. Terra watched eagerly and was a bit jealous. MC and Hellcrafterz showed me how to create an automatic door using redstone and pistons. I took notes so I'd remember.

The Gaming Edus server wasn't up during most of the evening but Prax turned it on early enough for the Grims to squeeze 90 minutes of play time. We actually split up to try different things. Terra and Phisa went exploring to find jungle biomes in the hopes of finding some ocelots. I decided to attempt to make the automatic gate - my very first invention using redstone technology. I chose to make it near the ladder route to the Safe House to keep it protected from invaders. It was a bit hard because my pistons wouldn't position in the proper way and I had to keep breaking them down and resetting them. The creeper in the safe house seems to have vanished, although I think there's a skeleton archer in the mine near the safe house; while building, he'd try to pop up out of the ground to get me but was too far below to reach. My gate works, although Phisa critically remarked "Nice gate Mom, but you know that they can just get access to the entrance by going around the back".

My first technological creation - an automatic door!

I quickly checked the TDSB / EDGE lab server connection from home and it worked like a charm. I made the Agnes Macphail PS Safe House a bit more cozy and useful and logged out.

An unusual shape but a nice home-away-from-home for Grims

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Minecraft Journal Entry #48 & 49

March 3, 2012 (actually, I think it was March 2, 2012)

It's been way too long but we're baaaaaaack!
We went on our GamingEdu server and we initially weren't sure what to do. Phisa collected saplings and Terra wandered.
I'm not sure who came up with the idea, but we decided to build a house in a remote area and then blow it up!
(Other notable events that occurred prior to the big blow-up: Terra found a second NPC village and there was a lunar eclipse!)

Lunar eclipse!
Terra in deep conversation with a villager

Praxis came on and he and I "talked shop" for a bit about our upcoming webinar and the open port issues at school. Phisa wanted purple dye and Praxis gave him hints but wouldn't tell him exactly what to do (he said it was "student-centered inquiry", which didn't impress Phisa much but he figured it out in the end). We chatted among ourselves and created some other questions we wanted to investigate - for instance, could we build a plant-based roof? What materials could we make a house with? What materials could survive an explosion?
The cactus roof didn't work, even though we put a layer of sand. We ended up making a cactus fence around our house, which was useful when spiders and other monsters came snooping around. We created a house with a layer of wood, bedrock (which we made with our OP powers), diamond, and glowstone. The glowstone was a nice touch - it illuminated our project throughout the night.

An inside view of our soon-to-be-demolished structure

Praxis had to leave before we were done but we promised to record our endeavors. Phisa was in charge of the demolitions and he put the redstone stuff. When we tried it the first time, it didn't work. Then he figured out what went wrong and fixed it. (Ask him what he did - I'm unclear what changed.)

The second time was the charm. I learned how to edit my videos on my old desktop using Nero and so I could have a video that could be public (I edited out the kids' images). Here's our first explosion!

March 4th 2012 (although actually March 3, 2012)

Terragrim's Minecraft Report:

 Last night, after our eventful evening of explosions, the Grims were talking about other possible projects to work on. So, in the end, we settled on one. Since Phisa had learned how to make dye the previous day, he decided to put this skill to good use, by making a dye factory. We also came up with an extra frill to the project: connected a rainbow to the roof, made of coloured wool.
 But first things first. We had to find a good spot for our factory. Somewhere high, a mountain maybe, on Lupus Landing. After a bit of searching, Phisa and I found the perfect location, on a mountain near Mel's Egyptian house.
 Once Lira got on, things really got cooking. Our house began to take shape after the first few minutes. The walls started out as wood, but building our TNT-test subject had spoiled us. We decided to add some glowstone, which proved useful, working through the night. We added windows the next morning.
 While Lira worked on the walls, Phisa contributed to making the floor out of diamond blocks. I shot a few creepers, to keep us and the house safe from damage. In this, I achieved level 12, the highest level I've ever been.

Inside the Dye Factory with diamond flooring!

 The roof was the biggest project. Steepled, and made of glass. It was a challenge, taking into consideration how high off the ground we were. One misstep, and all my levels would go down the toilet. Luckily, we managed to finish it within a day, without any deaths.

Outside view of the Dye Factory - well fortified, indeed!

 The next day, we added some extra touches. A bed, furnace, crafting table and chests of wool and dye inside the house, as well as a protective cactus barrier outside.
 The rainbow would have to wait til tomorrow.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Minecraft Journal Entry #46 & 47

February 21, 2012
Time flies when you are having fun, especially fun in a group! When the Grims went online tonight, MissColby was present and we were eager to show her all the new things in the world. We PvPd a bit. Praxis joined us, to our delight. Phisagrim has become quite the entrepeneur/capitalist.

Pouring rain in the PvP area

He loves running his Snack Shack although he was sad that there wasn't a constant stream of customers. Prax gave him good advice; we'll see if he takes it. I decided to rob his store. He ignored me until I hit him a few times with my sword and then stole his cakes. He caught up with me and pummeled me until I returned the stolen merchandise and promised not to steal (cakes) again. We loved the lightning storm we saw. We fought creatures near the Trading Post and admired Praxismaxis' "house on a floating island". We fought more creatures near the NPC village and rescued an ingrate Squidward from the well. The adults swapped a bit of Shakespeare talk and planned for our F2F meeting this coming week. We foresee a Hunger-Games-esque arena but MissC needs to read the books first. We ended with some more PvP matches (everyone is quite good) and vowed to return soon.

February 22, 2012
(but written March 7, 2012) - I enchanted my sword with a special bookstand, courtesy of Phisagrim. That's all I can recall.

Ooh sparkly sword!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Minecraft Journal Entry #44 & 45

February 19, 2012
(but written February 20)
A brief synopsis of the day in Minecraft. We found out Praxis had made a PvP Battle Arena so we went to check it out. Praxis was there briefly and showed us how it worked. We had some matches. At night the monsters join in the fight - on no one's side. A creeper blew up part of the arena so we fixed it. It was a lot of fun.

And may the odds be EVER in your favour!

February 20, 2012
(dictated by Phisagrim)

Today we had all sorts of fun. We battled each other at the Island of Doom. We even increased how long we can go there. You can watch more and also I had a very cool idea to make a snack stand without a mod. I gave people food while the others watched the others fight. 

Praxismaxis and I spent a lot of time on the big bridge and we were working on the snack stand plus the battle arena. He made another abandoned fortress. We made some trees and surprisingly, I got an apple. Here's what I've learned about apples.
  • it's a one out of a few chances to find one in the leaves of a tree
  • you can eat cake when it is placed
I might even hire someone for my food stand in Gaming Edus, so if you are the lucky person, you get to work at my stand. I will pay them a golden sword. Soon I am going to make my mod. It's armor that can spawn enemies. I am going to do a new class for PvP called monster tamer. It is able to tame monsters with a monster staff and feeding it red vile substance to make it stronger. It will also give you leather armour. I am also planning something - a trading store. For example, a wore-down golden sword for a stone sword. Isn't that wonderful? But of course, you'll have to find it by yourself. If you want a hint, here's one word: Lapis Lazuli House. So look around there if you really really want to find it. That's all I have to say. Thank you for listening. Goodbye.

(report by Terragrim)
 As Phisa stated above, before we even started playing, he had the idea of building a trading post out in the middle of no where, for travelers to replenish their stock of food, armour and weapons. They could also use it as a place to rest for the night and escape from monsters.

The trading post. Think "The Hudson's Bay Co." in Minecraft.

 We decided to go to work after a few rounds of PvP in Praxis's updated arena, complete with Count Doom's abandoned mausoleum. While Phisa stayed behind to help Praxis even further, Lira and I went off into the wilds of Lupus Landing to scout out the perfect location for our trading post.
 We didn't want it to be too close to other buildings, other wise it would be pointless. Then again, we couldn't have it too far removed, or else no one would find it. So we settled on a place in between: The Field of Monsters, via the Torch Trail II. In broad daylight these rolling hills are harmless open spaces full of wild life. But at night, it becomes the most popular hang out for beasties, and a great place to earn experience. 
 We set to work straight away. Lira wanted the Trading Post to be visited, so we constructed a huge diamond sign on front, much like the highlighter yellow "Rayman" sign hanging above Lira's house. When we were finished, the sign read "TRADE".
 Next, we worked on building the other walls out of NetherRock. Surprisingly, it was a fairly sturdy building material. My only complaint on this process was our mathematical failures. We continued to place the wrong amount of bricks, due to our inability to count properly.
 Once these walls were mostly finished, we began on the roof. It wasn't anything special at first, just a normal, flat roof. I was nearly half done when Lira realized that I had built it too low, causing the room to be pitch black inside. With a huge amount of grumbling, I destroyed, then rebuilt the roof, adding skylights (at Lira's request) to brighten the room.
 We then added windows along the walls. Still, it was fairly dark and empty in our large, 25-by-12 house.
 Through the cold, rainy night, we included decorations and furniture, such as torches, beds, chests and signs. It was hard to label the chests with categories. We always seemed to forget something.
 We spent the rest of our time trapped in the house, while a creeper-costumer waited for us to open for business. I decided to exit through the opposing set of doors, and shoot him from the roof. Other creepers came out to play, and the boys came to defeat them. One creeper blew a hole right next to the house, leaving the blocks quivering and glowing black. Having watched too many GameChap videos, Phisa and I presumed it to be TNT. Praxis told us it was just a glitch, and we were relieved that our work wouldn't be ruined.
 We returned to the Isle of Doom for one last set of matches. Lira and I did one on one for the last match, while Praxis ordered food at Phisa's Treat Stand. I won in the end, and we all went for cake.
 And until our next adventure, we're living happily ever after.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Minecraft Journal Entry #42 & 43

February 14, 2012
(written Feb. 18/12)
How did YOU spend your Valentine's Day? After our family went out to dinner, we went on Minecraft and we were lucky enough to see both Praxismaxis and MissColby. MissColby got a new skin, which we liked very much.

The gorgeous MissColby!

Terra gave a tour of the secret Nether portal room in the safe house, accessible through a waterfall. It's tricky getting in via this route.We went beastie-squashing outside the safe house and then entered the Nether. We couldn't stay too long because it was a school night for everyone.

Getting there is part of the challenge!

February 18, 2012

 Today was full of exciting accomplishments. When we first got on, Phisa immediately ran to see Praxis (who was online at the time). After he finished all his greetings, he started on his latest project. A very dangerous Silverfish spawner. Outside Lira's house, I must add.

It's ALIIIIIIIIVE! Silverfish aquarium anyone?

 Meanwhile, while Phisa tried to catch the creature he accidentally set loose, I was out doing what I do best: looking for NPC Villages. Without much luck, at first. But after about half an hour of wandering, I came across a small watery area, full of nothing but grass, pigs and sheep. It was fairly flat terrain, with a few little hills. I followed it for quite a while until I saw a tower, like a church spire. I walked towards it and gasped. The impossible had happened. I had found my village.

 I could tell from its size that it wasn't a village I had found before. It was fairly large, with a wide variety of buildings. Houses, the church I had seen before, a forge and the town's well. This village even had lamp posts crafted from fence posts and torches. And of course, it was inhabited by my dark skinned, big-nosed friends the villagers.

 I was thrilled. Lira decided to teleport to me, so as to see it for herself. It was a smart move on her part, and a benefit to me. As I did with Mel's Lapis house and my own house, I built the highest tower I could so it could be seen from a great distance. Once I couldn't go any higher, I ported down to Lira, then tried to retrace my steps.

No one could miss this indicator!

 Phisa decided to join us. Night was coming, so we went for another round of beastie squashing. We were very brave, with me taking on an ender, Phisa shooting creatures left and right and Lira, fighting 6 creepers head on. 

 In the morning, I continued retracing my steps, making another torch trail from the village to the closest landmark. I followed my path back to a pair of sandy mountains, sporting a waterfall and an all-too familiar house of glass, gold and lapis lazuli. I climbed the mountain, a path of torches behind me. I finally reached the Egyptian looking building, stopping my path with a sign, telling the reader to follow the path to the village.
 Before we logged out, I held up in the Lapis house overnight, ready for my next adventure in the village.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Minecraft Journal Entry #40 & 41

February 11, 2012

Phisagrim's Report (typed by Lira, dictated by Phisa)

Topic = Nether Blow Out!

Obvious to the topic, me and Liragrim were in the Nether. We were trying to find another Magma Cube to name it George the Second, since the first one died. We looked at lava falls because apparently they spawn near lava falls. We were attacked by Ghasts. I found out that Pigmen don't attack you unless you do. The Pigmen sometimes drop gold nuggets or rotten flesh. To our sudden surprise, we ended up in a wrong place. We were lost so we had to build a house. Of course, I am not giving up easily to find a magma cube. To another sudden surprise, we found George, the magma cube. He was in a little river, stuck. I tried to help him. Of course, I broke some of the netharock and he went down shore. Unfortunately, we didn't get to keep him but we did get to take a picture. 

George the Second!

We were building a house where we were first got lost. It was a huge success. It has a roof. You have a place to hide from fireballs and you have a place to shoot. It reminds me of a castle. I did an obsidian floor. It was good but I wasn't sure if it was sturdy enough for fireballs. We shot some Ghasts and one of them, surprisingly, dropped a Ghast tear. They're very rare, according to myself. Then we exited the Nether and we exited the game. That's all I have to say; thank you for listening. 

Zombie pig men barge into our nearly built house, uninvited!

February 12, 2012
The Grims went on Minecraft together and found evidence of Praxismaxis' creativity - near my house (Casa Lira) was a pack of wolves milling around with a sign that indicated that Praxis' pack was consorting with Phisa's large group.

Doggie day care!

While fiddling around and peeking at the portal in the safe house (and learning the hard way that zombie pig men don't *care* if you shoot them "by accident"), I got a private message from the man himself saying he'd join us online. I fetched my camera so I could capture the reaction Phisa and Terra always have when Praxis appears in the game. There was only one problem - our computers are all quite close together and Phisa happened to glance over and saw Praxis' name on the screen. So much for the surprise!

We decided to spend time together in the Nether. We had a great time discovering Netherwart plants and walking on the glass bridge to the Nether fortress. Praxis made a marvelous glass house at the foot of a lava fall.

If Dante had a condo in Hell, would it look like this?

The big news of the night was the successful battle against a new set of creatures we hadn't encountered before - blazes. Phisa made a great tank, tackling the beasties head-on. Terra was very clever; she brought portable water and flooded certain hallways so that when were set on fire, we could extinguish ourselves safely. I died tonight because of the lava but I wasn't carrying too much with me so it wasn't a horrible blow. We ended at 6pm because we all needed to eat dinner. It was a lot of fun.

Fighting blazes bravely!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Minecraft Journal Entry #39

February 9th 2012

Terragrim's Minecraft Journal
 Today was full of adventures in the Nether. We started off slow at first, with Phisa working on his Water Multiplier and me exploring Lupus Landing in hopes of finding the Village. Lira joined my party half way, as we wandered aimlessly.
 Things really heated up when Praxis came on half way through. You should've seen Phisa's face light up as the name popped up on screen.
 True to our agreement from last time, Phisa joined us in the Nether, along with Praxis. Much like last time, a welcoming party composed of Ghasts met us. I ran as fast as I could to the Nether Safehouse. Lira fell out of the wrong side of the portal, and had to walk up the mountain of NetherRock to reach us.

Praxismaxis, master of his domain!

 When we were united, the boys took out the Ghast with their bows, while I watched from afar. Unfortunately, another Ghast took it's place. And the next. And the next. We came to the conclusion that killing Ghasts, although temporarily helpful, would get us no where.
 So we went on to killing Pig Zombies. We caught ourselves on fire a fair number of times, but this didn't matter much. Since the laws of Physics don't apply in the Nether World, we found plenty of water to extinguish our flames.
 Speaking of flames, this was where Phisa's paradise came in. While in a pool of water, we found that there was someone behind us, trying to kill us. We turned around to find quite a few Magma Cubes there to ambush us. We fought them off as best we could, but they only made more. They reminded me of the Hydra. Each time you knock one down, it splits into three more.
 We were able to defeat them, along with the accompanying Pig Men and Ghast, with a bit of effort. I was just about to go into the Nether House when Praxis called us over. He had found himself a "friend." A small Magma Cube. He seemed to be quite social, always jumping up to the nearest player. We weren't sure if he was trying to hug us, or hurt us, but we didn't care.

Near the Netherworld Safehouse

 The creature took a special liking to Phisa, following him around everywhere. Phisa gladly returned the slime-like beast's affections, and named him George.
 However, George's life was short lived. He fell into a puddle, only minutes after being named, and melted. Phisa was greatly aggrieved, but soon moved on. 
 But I think don't he'll recover from this next event. While the rest of us were off on our own, Praxis building something, Lira recovering from a Ghast attack, and me exploring Praxis's second Nether Portal, Phisa took on a mob of 5 or 6 Pig Men. Unfortunately, the Pig Men won the battle, leaving Phisa shamed and scared to venture back into the Nether.

Talking with George

 While this was happening, I found that the Portal lead to a secret room in the Safehouse (In the real world's Safehouse, not the Nether Safehouse) only accessible by waterfall.
 In short, we had an eventful night.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Minecraft Journal Entry #37 & 38

February 7, 2012

Tonight the Grims went to the new TDSB Multi-School server to help Lira make the Agnes Macphail shelter. To keep with the spirit of the server, we did not import our armour or get via OP powers any extraneous items. Actually, I was the only one with OP powers at all. This was a big change of play style for Terra and Phisa. They said that they found they got hungrier faster so I had a lot of requests for food handouts. I didn't want to make any furnaces so that I'd leave the game spot up to the other players to do, so I happily used code 366 and 364 to distribute steaks and roast chickens to the hungry. Terra had a bittersweet experience - she found a populated village almost right away in this new world! She was happy to see that the villagers were not a figment of her imagination but she was annoyed that she found them so easily here and has STILL not found them on the gaming edus world. We took a lot of photos and left everything intact.

Terra with a villager in the TDSB server NPC town.

We chose to place the Macphail shelter a bit farther away from both the main shelter and the village, next to the ocean and a natural mining pit. I was tempted to make it fancy but I kept it simple. Terra and Phisa wandered away after providing preliminary help. You'll have to ask them what they did - I was too busy building a decent shelter based on Terra's suggestions.

February 8, 2012
I had one of those awesome teaching days that make you glad to be an educator and Minecraft had a lot to do with it. I tried a differentiated ICT task for the grade 4s - they could choose to either write about one of the photos found on the gallery here on this wiki (for language) or design a shelter we can build on the Grade 4 Land single player world (for math). After they had completed their task, they had to email me and attach their work. The best plans would earn the creator time to control Liragrim for some Minecraft time during library period last thing today. The students were amazing and I loved how they further differentiated the process - some were on YouTube researching Minecraft houses by watching videos, some were on Notebook 10 drawing their houses, some were on this wiki grabbing pictures, some were on Microsoft Word typing up their description, and some were on their school Gmail sending me their work. I sent the principal up to check out their efforts. I nearly fainted when a certain boy, who hates school and never does work voluntarily, asked me if he and his partner could stay in at recess to finish his work and email it! Looks like we are going to have several weeks of Minecraft play because so many kids did such amazing things! When they played in the library on the SMART Board, they began to build their house using the dimensions they described in their plans. They made wood and then stone based tools. They dug super super deep during the night to get to needed rock types like iron as well as to avoid creeper attacks. The kids have done a lot of research on their own time. While watching the group leaders dig during the night, I heard one proclaim "they got down to the bedrock!" and another kid asked "what's bedrock?" so the first kid explained it with a Minecraft & science explanation involving sedimentary rock and in-game properties ("you can't break it"). I really should video tape all the rich discussion. It was awesome!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Minecraft Journal Entry #35 & 36

February 4, 2012

We hadn't played together in a while so we went on briefly while husband/father went to the store for dinner supplies.
We explored the deepest hole in the world, according to the signs left by Praxis. Praxis actually left a lot of signs around the place.

Exploring the holes

We saw a new type of rock in the depths we had never seen before that was hard, if not impossible, for us to break with our diamond pickaxes. We were going to explore further but Terra got nervous being so far underground. We went back up. Phisagrim decided to build a TNT cannon out of obsidian he gathered underground where he found his first slime. Terragrim chose to explore the desert and other terrain near her house. Everyone except Phisa quit early for dinner; Phisa finished his cannon but it didn't work. He did some more research, with the help of his dad, to discover better building strategies.

February 6 2012

Terragrim's Minecraft Report:
 Today we decided to be adventurous. It started when we found Praxis's new Nether Portal. Having only seen the Nether in GameChap videos, Lira and I started to explore.
 Despite Phisa's cocky, adventurous exterior, he was the only one who did not venture into the hellish dimension.

Terragrim enters the Nether Portal!

 So we walked through the portal. We found ourselves in a redstone wasteland, with lava waterfalls pouring out of every crevasse. We took our first steps out and found a Ghast there to meet us. Lira stayed to fight, while I ran into a nearby building to hide. Outside, Lira burned to death, thanks to the Ghast, while I warily watched an armed pigman zombie stalk me. 

Lava waterfall!

 The Ghast decided to stalk me too, blowing up the door to the house and nearly killing me in the blast. I ported home almost immediately, happy to return to my house, surrounded by Zombies and Creepers.
 I think that this experience in the Nether has helped me appreciate the "safety" of our beautiful world. After that, I decided to explore some more in that beautiful world. First, Lira, Phisa and I explored Praxis's "biggest hole on earth". We tried to take the challenge and dig deeper, but to no avail. The rock seems unbreakable.
 Then, I tried to explore Lupus Landing for the village that I'm beginning to doubt the existence of. I found nothing, as I thought.

 While I was exploring, Phisa was making a portal to the Aether (an area only accessed with the assistance of a mod.) and posting signs about the area all around the main base. Lira had already returned to the Nether 3 times.

 I returned to the mainland after Phisa announced a challenge: to find all of his signs.
 Lira and I set out to find them. The first were fairly easy. One was by Lira's house, another by Phisa's race course. The next were a bit more challenging. Thanks to a few hints, we found them at the "Beef Baron's Palace" (the middle of the cow infested sea) and Spooky Village.

Finding Phisa's hidden signs (near the Rayman words)

 With 5 minutes of computer time left, Lira and I ventured back into the Nether for one last adventure. Upon arrival, I fell in a pool of lava and nearly burned to death, while Lira fought off not one, but two pigman zombies.
 We then returned home, leaving me with a few questions. Questions I will attempt to answer next time.

Liragrim's Journal entry - Today I had my first Minecraft Club meeting and it was AWESOME! We didn't actually play. We only chose/uploaded our skins and tried out the club wiki at and people wrote quite a bit! I felt bad because my attention was divided between Minecraft Club, helping the Student Council tag candygrams, and conducting Silver Birch book chats. The club members didn't mind. I got my Pay Pal troubles settled and I will fix up the new accounts this week so Terra and Phisa can maintain their identities.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Minecraft Journal Entry #34

January 31, 2012

Yesterday I met with my school's Minecraft Club members. I think my students are clever, insightful and a pleasure to be with!
Our discussion items were to establish our group norms for in-class / in-game conduct and to arrange our pre-play plans.

Here are the in-game rules for my school:
1) don't go in other people's houses without permission
2) don't grieve (take items you don't own / destroy other people's stuff)
3) fighting is only allowed in the battle arena (which they'll build)
4) you can ask but don't beg for stuff - the students will create individual, school and whole-community chests for items (chest types determined by signs)
5) no OP powers (depends on if we have challenges to complete)
6) no swearing in chat

Here are the in-club rules for my school:
i) you must come unless you have a good reason (detention is not good, remedial help is)
ii) you must contribute to the wiki journal
iii) you must access the TDSB / EDGE Lab server only during club times

The consequence for not following club or game rules = the "3 strikes" method (three warnings and then you are kicked out)
All of these rules were designed by the students. Aren't they great?!

 Terragrim's Minecraft Report:
 Today was our snow day. It started out at my frozen lake, where I was giving Praxis a tour of my new house. Phisa ported to us to see what we were doing, yet paid us little attention.
 While Lira, Praxis and I went to explore my new neighbourhood, Phisa crafted "Snow Golems". However, we didn't know this until we returned from our outing, watching wolves kill sheep and attempting to kill creepers ourselves. When we came back, Phisa unveiled his creation and dubbed it "Jay". I was slightly unnerved by Jay, with his snowman-like body and jack-o-lantern head. Not knowing how to control Jay, Phisa left it to wander in my woods, leaving a path of snow in his wake. But since it's always snowy here, I can't tell where he went, nor would I care to find out.

Phisagrim poses with Jay, his snow golem

 We decided to return to the main land, after the boys left. Lira decided to craft a bow first, after a creeper encounter that night. Once finished, we set off across my nature trail, which will forever remain track free (Terragrim is based off of the nature-smart aspect of the intelligence, and won't allow polluting trains in her woods.) We took a cart back to the mainland, where we found yet more golems lurking about. I named the others Kay and Ray, as well Phisa's creation of Jay 2. And 3. By default, all golems were Jay's, unless stated otherwise by their creator.
 We also returned to find a huge sign reading "Rayman" above Lira's house, that bore resemblance to the Hollywood sign. Lira wasn't pleased, but didn't say so.
 By the time night fell, we found a grand total of 7 golems "protecting" our livestock. Once the moon was up, I sat on safe house roof to look at Phisa's work. What I found was an ambush. A group of skeleton archers, zombies and the occasional creeper was gathered around the safe house. Phisa and Lira fended most of them off with their bows and arrows, but the damage we found the next morning was great. Nearly half of the golems were defeated that night, True, they had protected us with snowballs, as Phisa had told us, but they had also been blown up. The pig pen was in bad shape. One wall had been completely blown off.

Examining the carnage

  We tried to repair the damage, but we didn't get very far. Tomorrow, my project is to restore the pig pen, the golems and Phisa's happiness. The boy loves his Jay's.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Minecraft Journal Entry #32 & 33

January 28, 2012

Terra and I finished building the pathway to her now-completed house so it's easy to find. We have a torch trail from the Lupis Landing station to the lava pit, and the White Way that takes travelers from the pit to Mary's house. There was  a lot of snow around so we collected some and the three of us decided to have a snowball and egg fight in the main area.

Phisagrim pelts me with snowballs!

Terra determined the areas for us to conduct our battle - borders were the Gaming Edu sign, Phisa's racetrack, the pig pen and the tiny lake. Terra reminds me of pre-WW1 battles and Phisa reminds me of post-Vietname era warfare. Terra set out the ground rules for the battle in advance and then we began. Phisa decided to make his own rules. This was the first time we had done any PvPing type of activities together in the game. We ran out of snowballs and eggs pretty quickly, so Phisa decided to use fireballs on us. We were not amused. I didn't die - I just lost 2 hearts of health.

Liragrim burns as Terra watches - this wasn't part of the plan!

I asked Phisa if it'd be fair if I took 2 hearts off him as payment. He agreed but he just couldn't help himself - when I hit him with my sword, he hit back. After we both lost 2 hearts, we agreed to a temporary cease-fire. I private-messaged Terra to tell her about a command I saw in the help files ("burn 'player' ") and Phisa started getting nervous. "What are you gonna do to me?" he'd ask. Now I get the whole Cold War deal - the only reason the boy didn't continue his attacks on us was because he was scared we would retaliate with something even stronger and more deadly. I wasn't that mad - I actually took photos of me in flames - but Terra was annoyed. We all retired to our respective houses to cook and tidy and explore.

January 29, 2012
Pre-Game Reflection
I have decided to buy two more student accounts and let my own children keep their Terragrim and Phisagrim accounts. It was getting close to the time where I'd hand over the accounts to my students to play but I felt like I was erasing their identities. I'm also contemplating creating my own server and having just my family play on it so the boy can have his special mods. More later.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How a 40 Year Old has fun

Today, March 1, 2012, is my 40th birthday. Birthdays aren't a big deal to me, unless they are my children's birthdays, in which case I pull out all the stops for a memorable celebration. I'll go to dinner with my husband, my two children, and my parents and later I'll co-present with my husband at our church's Marriage Preparation course. I thought I'd take a break from the Minecraft Journal updates to share a bit about another way that this forty-year old woman has fun - she plays in a family D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) campaign.

I'm not a skilled RPGer (role playing gamer) but I'm willing to try. Usually my husband is the DM (dungeon master) but this time our family friend Dave is running the adventure. The last time our daughter participated in D&D, she had become so attached to her character that she didn't want to do anything in case the character died. To counter this, we all made two characters we'd play simultaneously so that there would be a back-up character in case something disastrous happened. Here's a drawing of all the main PCs (player characters) as illustrated by my 12 year old.

We aren't playing the most recent edition of D&D because my husband prefers the "old-school" versions - his blog, Grognardia, exemplifies this. Here are some scans of our character sheets so you can get an idea of the wide variety of people in our game.

 We've had three adventures so far. To help me with my terrible memory, I've been sketching the main plot points. (In Minecraft, I can just use screen shots but I don't have that luxury with our table top game.) Here's my drawing - can you tell what's been happening so far?

I may be "old" now that I'm 40 but I think that playing these games with my family will keep me young at heart for years to come.