Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Today, the entire family, including my visiting mother-in-law, decided to play a board game. We chose Telestrations. We just bought this for ourselves after enjoy the hilarity of this game when our family friend brought it over ages ago.

We laughed so hard that my stomach hurt! This is a game where it's fun whether or not you have drawing ability. Grandma was notoriously bad at both guessing the visual clues and drawing. This was my daughter's sketch. What do you think the word was supposed to be?

If you guessed popcorn, you'd be right.

Grandma wrote "firebug".

Another amusing moment was when my daughter mis-read my son's word: "wrinkles". Instead, she thought it said "urinals". Sometimes it's just as much fun to mess up as it is to get it right. Is that true for other games? Too bad it's not true for school.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mario Kart Tragedy and Lego Batman Triumph

ABC Wide World of Sports used to have a montage that went on about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, with a very famous video clip of a skier plummeting down a mountain. This week, my son has experienced both as he's played his favourite video games.

Paper Mario Helper Characters by The Girl
 My son is a Mario Kart expert but the one achievement that has eluded him is the mirror mode cup. He decided during this summer to try to capture this prize but it's very hard. He knows the tracks so well that he instinctively turns in the direction he knows that it goes - but in mirror mode, they are all reversed. He has to get first place in every race four times to earn the trophy and although he is improving, he wasn't able to get it. He had to go in his room to weep in frustration. Poor kid.

Don't feel too sorry for him, however, because he has been successful with another goal he set - to completely finish Lego Batman 2.

The Boy's Lego Heroica diagram.

 He has unlocked every single character, earned over a billion (yes, that's right, not a million but a billion) studs, and mastered every achievement, so much so that the civilians that used to run around Gotham in a panic are all gone - because everything has been solved. It took him about a month to complete. He was very excited to show Super Girl to his sister.

The boy perseveres when he wants to - not because of any artificial extrinsic rewards like badges and levels (please note the difference, educators who want to "gamify" things) but because he himself has chosen the goal. (Before I go off on a rant about two certain blogs I follow that ignore James Paul Gee's book and the lessons inside, I'll stop there.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

More Kirby Combos

I hope I don't accidentally re-blog these photos, because I was trying to post in alphabetical order based on scan names, and this topic has brought some later drawings to the fore.

If you've read this blog with any frequency, you will know that my nearly 10-year-old son absolutely adores Kirby. Most of his drawings involve some incarnation of Kirby. During his weekly comic making classes in July, Kirby was a favourite subject. In these three drawings shared today, you'll see Kirby in some very different scenarios.

The first photo is of "Kirby Craft", a combination of Kirby and Minecraft. I'm not exactly sure what's going on in this illustration - maybe the boy will consent to using our new dictation software and tell me what's up.

The middle drawing is a combination of Kirby with Tom and Jerry - yes, the old cat and mouse team. His personal caption reads: "Tom and Jerry Tales / More Powers To You 2 / Kirby Special (sic)  / New Powers, New Rings, and More!"

The last visual is related to a fellow Nintendo character - Super Paper Mario.

There are several versions and the boy really likes the Thousand Year Door game. Here's his cover if the game was about Kirby instead of Mario.

Do these pictures lack imagination or are they full of imagination? I like to think that combining things that usually don't go together - even if it's two separate video game characters or situations - is using some creative muscle.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Mushroom Kingdom for a Kirby Poster

I hope readers don't mind if I combine art with some short stories on life with my gaming family - there's only so many times I can say "and here's a drawing my son did with Kirby". (Actually, the amount of times I have said it and will say it, or some version of it, will continue to rise.)

To my left is what I called "100 Kirbys".

We have been doing a major overhaul of both of our children's rooms this summer. We finished my daughter's room, including all clothes, her closet, every container, under the bed, and walls, in about three days. My son's room took longer, despite it being smaller. Like his sister, we re-evaluated the posters he hung on his wall and, with his input, made some changes.

Down came one of his Pokemon posters and his Ben 10 visual. We added another Sonic to the walls (so he has two Sonic, two Mario, two Pokemon and one Angry Birds as decoration). What he really, really wants is a Kirby poster, but we haven't seen one at our local malls or stores.

Naturally, we turn to the Internet to help us with our quest. We found t-shirts and saw some Minecraft posters but weren't impressed with the images. If only we could take one of his illustrations (like Epic Kirby, to my right) or one of his Minecraft screen shots and make it a poster size. Oh, I know we can - many photo development places offer poster-sized reproductions of pictures - but is reproducing one of his own illustrations super-sized worth the $30 or whatever it would cost?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Angry Birds on iPad and on Paper

This is the cover page of my son's Angry Birds Space comic (and I've learned that "Pig Bang" is the pun-filled name of the first level of Angry Birds Space). I now know this because we broke down and bought an iPad and the very first app that I uploaded was Angry Birds Space.

Why did we buy an iPad? I think I've alluded to this in previous posts - both our kids love to draw and I've heard that professional graphic designers use tablets to sketch. It would be nice to avoid killing many trees with the oodles of paper used to doodle. I've also learned from my colleague and friend that we'll need to get an iPad stylus because a 3DS stylus is too tiny and sharp. I just loaded Angry Birds Seasons in addition to ABS - I wonder if this will lead to a slew of Angry Birds Seasons-themed drawings?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Inside Bowser and Game-in-a-Day

Time for some work from my girl. This is her interpretation of Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. The kids like to return to games like this that they've finished to replay it, or get all the coins or trophies, or whatever. It's good that some games have replay value, because it doesn't take my boy long at all to complete a video game. He got Phineas and Ferb during the summer and was finished in just an afternoon. I think Lego Batman 2 took him 3 days to do the whole storyline, but he replays that game a lot, trying to gain access to new super heroes and super villains. Hubby, daughter and I were chatting and remembering what it was like when the male members of the family played the final level of Super Mario. It was so intense that the youngest player was physically quaking and vowed, after he beat it with his dad, never to play it again because it was so difficult. (That's too bad because hubby enjoyed the challenge.) My son just got some Pokemon-like game called Fossil Fighters and it looks like he won't be able to breeze through it like many of his others. Does that make it good or bad? We'll see.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Angry Birds in Space Captivates

 I am finally getting around to sharing some of the latest scans from my children's portfolios, along with a little reflection now and then. First up is Angry Birds Space. I've posted three drawings here by my boys that lovingly capture the Angry Birds in Space and compare them to their "normal" or "Earth-bound" cousins. I asked my son why he prefers Angry Birds Space and he likes the powers that the birds have - and he is a big fan of the purple bird, purple being his favourite colour and not a hue option in the regular version.

I've also mentioned that my son refuses to allow us to buy him Angry Birds to play on our desktop or laptop computers. He only wants to play it on a tablet, where he can launch the birds with his finger instead of the mouse. Why is this so important to him? Maybe it's a different game for him with this more immediate flinging? Maybe it was the first way he was introduced to the game and wants to play it this way? I'm not sure.

We are in the market for purchasing a tablet, not because of Angry Birds, but because of these drawings you see. My boy has expressed interest in becoming either a comic book creator or video game designer when he grows up. He spends a lot of time drawing on his Nintendo 3DS. Since it actually doesn't have a draw program per se, what he does is takes a photograph and uses the graffiti function to completely cover the photo with his own illustration (usually something Kirby-related). My husband and I know professional illustrators and graphic designers and I've heard that they use tablets to draw their work. We are looking into the various types of tablets, so if you have any advice (advice, not spam), please share in the comments.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Angry Birds - The Card Game

The other day, we went into a neat games cafe called Snakes and Lattes and my son saw a game that intrigued him: Angry Birds, the group card game. Since the boy usually balks at family board games, we bought it and tried it out. It's pretty simple. Each player gets six cards and you set them up in whatever order you want. You roll two dice and if the colour of the bird matches that on your lowest card, you can remove it from your structure. (The green pigs in my hand in the photo on the left mean that I had to roll a double of any bird to get rid of that card.) If, during your turn, you aren't able to get rid of your card, you pick a treat from another deck of cards. You have to get rid of all your cards AND physically knock over the king pig by flicking the dice at the figure to win. We played two games. My daughter won the first round and my son won the second, which means he may consent to playing again in the future. (Did I mention the boy is a sore loser?) Hubby said that he felt there was just enough strategy needed in the game to keep it from being a totally random kids' game. Since we don't own the Angry Birds video game (because my son refuses to play it on anything except for an iPad or iPhone - he likes taking his finger to manipulate the birds into flight rather than a mouse), this will be the only way he gets to play this game he likes (for now - Grandma is in town and itching to buy her only grandchildren some new playthings.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Laser Quest

Yesterday, in an effort to do something outside the house, we decided to take the kids to play Laser Quest for the first time. We wanted to "test the waters" because we were considering hosting the boy's upcoming birthday party at Laser Quest and wanted to ensure he liked it. (We tried Playdium a few years back and it turns out he hated the place, despite being a big video game fan.)

We only played one game, with the four of us and seven other strangers. I was curious to see if our video game prowess would translate into results at Laser Quest - and this answer was mixed. In terms of our family, my son was first, then my daughter, and then, surprisingly, I beat my husband. We suspect that my husband's strategy (which was to go where no one else could find him and just take sniper-like shots at people) reduced his score. Here are some of the interesting scores for my husband and for me. (The kids left their score sheets in the car.)

# of beams: me = 260 / hubby = 558
ratio %: me = 5% / hubby = 1%
rank: me = 9 / hubby = 11
score: me = 80 / hubby = 56

people I tagged: Kirby 3X, BRS 2X, Hayyu 1X, Likeaboss 3X, Devin 2X, James 2X
people tagged me: Kirby 7X, BRS 3X, Phantom 2X, Hayyu 10X, Likeaboss 5X, Devin 1X, James 1X

people hubby tagged: Car 1X, Kirby 3X, Diana 1X, Phantom 1X, Devin 2X
people tagged hubby: Kirby 2X, Diana 2X, BRS 1X, Hayyu 1X, Devin 3X

It was fun and we'll be playing again for my son's birthday (although it will be mainly the kids). Fire away!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Trash Talk in Mario Kart

Funny, I scanned all those pictures and I haven't posted a single one yet. It's just that the kids have been pretty active this summer with gaming, so I've been leaning towards more current reflections on the actions as they occur. My son, who will happily bounce from screen to screen with no time in between if we let him (and for the most part we do, unless I notice that it's been six hours straight or he's forgotten to eat because he's mesmerized), has been having a blast playing Mario Kart with his dad.

One of the key features of the boys' play is the amount of trash talking that goes on. It rarely happens when I play Mario Kart with my son, and I suspect that's because he and his father are more evenly matched; trash talking me would be mean if he did it to me because I am so clearly inferior a player. The kinds of comments I get from the boy amount to "wow Mom, at least you weren't last this time" or "Mom, you're getting a bit better - you only fell twice". It's interesting to hear how the trash talk ebbs and flows based on how they are doing. Often it's directed at each other but sometimes it's aimed at the NPCs that also race with them.

I allow trash talk between my husband and son because it's a way to safely express bravado and pecking order. Also, it's at home and I think if we were playing at school, I'd be more inclined to want to have "appropriate conversations", even though trash talk can be appropriate. Maybe next time I'll note what gets said and how they work so that no one gets their feelings hurt - because somehow, when it's between the two of them, it never escalates. When it's the siblings, however, it's a different story. I wonder why.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Plasticine Pikmin

Okay, technically it's clay, not Plasticine, but I couldn't resist the alliteration.

My kids have a lot of projects on the go this summer. The boy wants to make an Angry Birds claymation video as well as a Pikmin version. He asked his sister for help making the models and this is what they've created so far. I'm pretty impressed. I can hardly wait to see their movie.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Shantae Kirby

Today (July 6), my son created a brand-new hybrid. He made a clay model of "Shantae Kirby". Shantae is a character in a new video game of his (that has a very good reputation as one of the best DS games around, according to my husband who researched it before buying it for our son). Shantae is a half-genie fighter with purple hair and a belly shirt. My boy adores Kirby and so he combined his old love Kirby with his new obsession Shantae. You can't see it in the photo too well, but the boy did a great job on the hair details. I noticed just as I was checking the spelling of this game that my boy has created a "Shantae Sculpting Challenge" for the family. We'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Gaming XP Patterns & Chapter 1 Universes Combined

I scanned over fifty pieces of art on Canada Day for posting on this blog over the next few weeks. This doesn't even count the colour pieces of art that I have in a pile. I apologize in advance if I accidentally scan and share an illustration that I already did beforehand. I really need to develop a system so I can keep track. (Note to self: tagging my posts might help!)

I've noticed some patterns and trends in the recent work I sifted through.

1) My daughter is doing more artwork related to her online role play wikis. She and her friends have a Hunger Games "play" that they've created and she's drawn group shots of the characters. She also loves Shugo Kara, Inlacta, Vocaloid, and other Japanese-ish topics. Since this blog is supposed to be for game-related creations, you may not see as many of her pieces on here as before. It's not because she's stopped drawing. In fact, she and her brother are going to a series of comic creation workshops in July.

2) My son is obsessed with Kirby. He combines Kirby with any and everything. He just recently declared that when he grows up, he wants to either be a video game designer or a comic book writer. There are also a lot of started-but-not-finished projects that he's done. His panels are often small squares jam-packed on a page. I didn't scan every page of some of his books (because I'd be in front of the computer forever) but I hope I've given a good sample.

I found this piece, unusual because it's mostly text, in his pile. I've transcribed it below:

Chapter 1 universes combined

One day In an alternet universe everything was fine until Ding! The leaer of the tribes Diaspeared into space and ended some wierd place it was called the Hatnet as they all the leaders picked there hats when they went up to pay the others were suprised they asked who the were and there names are so they notced the same things happened to each one so there working together to find the portal so they can live happilly peacfully and safully.
PS: Petor uses colourful bubbles for his powers note: Powers is something different Petor example: Mike Kirby > Music Petor all Petors hats have an intenna

Monday, July 2, 2012

Open Letter to Lego Universe

My son wrote this note and we forgot to mail it. I've transcribed it below, with all spelling and punctuation errors intact.

Tues. Mar. 27, 2012

Dear creators of Lego Universe,

Hello I am Peter 9 year old boy in 4th grade. I love lego universe.

I did buy the member ship Not the free way the money way also I thought of cool pets for lego universe that adds only if your a member a Gorilla you need a banana it wants a girl (Its like King Kong) A frog wants a fly Remember to write back and think about new pets for lego universe.

Love Peter,
PS: I really love the way you made lego universe
PSS: May name is ************ (he added his screen name to the letter)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Castle Ravenloft

Yesterday, our gaming buddy Dave came over and we decided to play Castle Ravenloft, the D&D board game hubby purchased for his Father's Day gift. I played the Rogue, my daughter played the Ranger, James played the Cleric and Dave was the fighter. There are actually scenarios for single player use, which I found fascinating. Since this was our first foray into the game, the booklet suggested we try the second listed adventure. In this "episode", our band was trying to obtain a special object for another cleric, who claimed that possessing it might defeat the horrid vampire that possesses Castle Ravenloft and torments the nearby townsfolk.

There were a lot of cards to play and keep track of, which I found a bit challenging. Each turn had three phases - the hero portion, the explorer portion, and the villain portion. The castle revealed itself slowly, piece by piece, and if you didn't place a tile (which automatically generated at least one monster in the room), you had to pick an encounter card, which usually led to more monsters, traps, and environmental factors. Despite all this, and despite the fact that we were all level 1 characters, we actually did quite well. The above photo shows the members of the party fighting a skeleton and what we think is a zombie.

The tiles were arranged so that eventually we would find the chapel room, the only good place in a dwelling of pure evil. We thought we were doomed because we were under the power of another environmental card which stated that whenever we had to face a new monster, we had to select the top two cards and use the monster that was more powerful. That's why near the end, we were faced with a skeleton, a ghoul, a wraith, and a cobold.

The odds were stacked against us but many of the players had treasure rewards that gave extra power. Considering that just a few turns prior to the climax, three of us were completely out of hit points and we had to use all the health surge tokens available to bring us back, it was a minor miracle that we were able to defeat all our foes and seize the special magic item. James and Dave really enjoyed the game. I wasn't as thrilled, but this was also my first time and it took a while to get used to the rules.

Get ready for a flurry of daily posts on the Family Gaming XP blog, now that it's summer, as I've finally got time to write, scan drawings, and share.