Sunday, October 28, 2012

ECOO - Gaming is "in"

I've already reflected, wearing my "educator hat" on my experiences at the annual ECOO (the Education Computing Organization of Ontario) conference - you can see what I wrote at . I want to think about it from a gaming / gamer point of view.

There were a lot of sessions dedicated to video games at the conference. I was only there on Friday but even on just that one day, there was:
1) Teaching Math, History and Geography Through Video Games by David Hutchison
2) Engaging at-risk boys through the use of video games by Jeff Pelich
3) Play with TNT & Other Lessons from Minecraft by Liam O'Donnell, Diana Maliszewski & Denise Colby

I ran the third and the first two were on simultaneously, so I couldn't attend all of them. I went to the second one and learned about some neat new games. I couldn't download one I really wanted - Mechanarium - because it's for iPad2 and up. Bummer! However, I did buy Gesundheit and my son really likes it. In fact, he has written an epic novel (in his words) about Gesundheit in Minecraft.

There are a lot of people interested in games and education. It's interesting to see how they position themselves. I was reading this very cool article that Daniel Joseph shared on his Twitter feed about how ethnographic researchers in MMOs position themselves as experts by reporting how long and often they played the game. Then there's the flip side: a friend of mine was chatting with the author of a paper on Second Life and the author had never played the game ever, despite having written extensively on it.

The same is true for those in the field of education - Jeff Pelich began his talk by emphatically stating that he is NOT a gamer. This took me a bit by surprise, especially since later on in his session, he described playing Plants vs Zombies for two weeks straight before playing it with his students. How can you play but not be a player? My colleagues and I discussed the possible reasons and theorized that it could be a stigma to be seen as a gamer. Gamer might equal social outcast, nerd, or dweeb.

The philosophy of the GamingEdus, the group that plays Minecraft, is that it's important for adults to play, to game alongside the students as an equal. I can testify that I'm no "uber-gamer" - you'll see an upcoming post about me and "Minecraft Welfare" but I do feel that people that want to use the game should play the game.

Enough pontificating - back to playing Minecraft (and uploading photos from our recent Risk Legacy game with surprising results!)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Carcassonne in photos

Yesterday, we had two good family friends come over. We didn't have enough time to play Risk Legacy so instead we played three games of Telestrations - the most amusing drawing was supposed to be wrinkles, which morphed into chest hair, which turned into bacteria. We also had the chance to play a new game that we owned but had never opened before: Carcassonne.

Carcassonne is tile game where players build and try to strategically claim roads, monasteries, towns and castles. Since my husband doesn't like to play [insulting adjective] European games, it was just the remaining three adults that participated. I decided to document the growing map of tiles through photographs.

This was the first photo taken. I'm green, DH was blue and DM was red.

Here it is, increasing in size. I was able to claim that town in the middle early on in the game.

You can see more roads spreading around as the game progressed.

In the upper left corner, you can see a battle brewing between DH and DM over a large city with castles.

I skipped a couple of other photos to show this one. I was able to share that big land mass with DM by finishing it and putting enough men in the area.

The map grew and grew but it began to get tricky with fewer tiles left around. DH had many of her meeples (a new word I learned and used from playing this game) tied up in monasteries in the middle.

I skipped a couple more photos (I took a lot for some reason) and this was one of the last photos I took. I began building another city next to the hotly contested one in the upper left corner of the board (from my perspective). I couldn't finish it but I earned enough points to win the game.

This is what the scoreboard looks like. In the end, it was relatively close. I had 50 points. DH's monastery strategy pulled her ahead of DM in the end but not enough to catch me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How do you act when no one watches?

One of the younger players on our GamingEdus Minecraft server created a server of his own. Phisagrim once ditched me because W's server was up and he was on. W has kindly offered membership to all the Grims on his server and it's pretty epic. A few nights ago, while the GamingEdus founders were planning for a workshop via Google +, we decided to visit W's server. He has a lot of members, amassed from all over the place, and there were maybe about four other teens playing when we popped in. One of our founders was concerned that our presence was negatively affecting the natural play environment - because Will knows that we are a) adults and b) teachers. However, I was really impressed with W's comment, so much that I took a screen shot of it.

Of course, not everyone was happy with a mixed-group on Minecraft. Look at the last screen shot I took.

It just makes me wonder, with all the stuff in the news about cyber-bullying, how things might be different if adults (and not just the trolls) wandered the spaces where youth go online, and what if those same youth internalized W's sentiment?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Webkinz kindies and goofing off

Unlike the rest of my family, I have a very hard time "goofing off" on the computer. My girl can spend hours on her RPG forums. The boy is addicted to watching play-through videos on YouTube or playing a plethora of video games. Even hubby can while away the hours with ease reading the various blogs to which he subscribes. For me, after checking my various email accounts and skimming my Twitter stream, I'm at a loss for how to spend my time on the Internet. I felt like I needed to re-learn the skill of "goofing off online" and so I added a new pet to our roster on Webkinz.

I've written about Webkinz in the past. It's been a while since I played and I was partly inspired by a boy at my school who takes every opportunity during my yard duties to chat at great length with me about the video games he plays. He's very eclectic in his choices - he likes Call of Duty and many of those first-person shooter games, but he also is crazy for Minecraft and Roblox, and he recently got into Webkinz, of all things. Plus, I use Webkinz with my kindergarten students for "media class" - they are the ones who direct the action and there are plenty of teachable moments. I have one school account and three kindergarten classes, so as part of our inquiry about what we can/can't control, we learned about voting and they chose the name of our newest Webkinz toy on the school account. The toy whale's name? Ottoman. Don't ask me where they came up with the idea - the voting results were very close between this option, Ninjago, and One Hundred Million but Ottoman squeaked ahead by two votes. This week, one group decided to cook on the stove. Another class spent a lot of time shopping for flowers for our garden. The third class enjoyed using the (virtual) bathroom over and over. Watching them play whetted my appetite for a bit of my own Webkinz fun.

When I added Molasses the donkey to our roster, I learned that we have 82 registered Webkinz on our family account. That's a lot of toys! The funny thing is that playing on Webkinz felt a lot more like "goofing off" than playing on Minecraft. Why is that? I spent a few happy hours buying Molasses a bed in the horse room, adding a second balloon room, moving the greenhouse to a different location, and peeking at the different animals now available. Is it because Webkinz doesn't feel like life or death like Minecraft? Is it because I play Webkinz solo? Is it the frivolous spending rather than purposeful building as the main activities? I'm not sure why the distinction exists in my mind, but at least I have an option if I don't feel like reading or doing my work/chores - hello Webkinz!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

No biblical scholars here - just creative workers

I seriously need to get back into the habit of writing my journal (either on this blog or on the GamingEdus wiki/website) after we play Minecraft. On Thanksgiving Monday, we had a full house and Terragrim decided she wanted to explore some remote areas of the world. We used the special "map from space" link on our wiki to locate some unknown regions and travel there. She found our first naturally occurring Egyptian building! Phisagrim, being the great protector of historic sites, promptly set a huge swath of TNT very close the building and blew a crater in the earth nearby.

The pyramid was safe but the left side was flooded. Then Phisagrim decided to make a racetrack leading from the pyramid - remind me not to let this player anywhere near Gisa, okay? Since this new landscape was already altered, I chose to recreate the biblical plagues of Egypt. Well, it took several guesses and some research to learn that there are not 7 and not 12 but 10 plagues that befall Egypt in the story of Exodus. We need to brush up a bit on our knowledge of the Old Testament. What I really enjoyed was trying to figure out how to depict the plagues using our relatively mod-less world on Gaming Edus.

1st Plague: River turns to blood (or lava) Ex.7:19
Phisagrim installed a dispenser for our frog/slime plague (Ex.8:4)
I think I've mentioned on this blog (or was it on Twitter) that my son knew about the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the story of Abraham and Isaac from video games (such as The Binding of Isaac). I was totally shocked earlier that play session when he entered Technascribe's medieval village church, approached the altar, and began to recite some prayers we hear during Mass on Sundays. Just before you get any notions that he got too into it, he then built a fence around the altar (and I told him Vatican 2 had eliminated the use of altar rails) and he popped a village priest inside.

Here he is: Pope Innocent the 13th saying Mass!
A bit of the gospel, a bit of the closing rite - and we answer!
 If I'm not too tired out, I'll try to write about my return to Webkinz so I can learn how to chill!

Monday, October 1, 2012

PvPing vs your kid feels good!

Yesterday, my son and I played Minecraft. I was pretty ticked off with him for a variety of in-game and out-of-game reasons. My in-game reasons? #1 - he chose to build his "Where's My Water" video game experiment over my pig farm; when he tried it out, he flooded my pig sties and I had to spend time repairing my animal shelter and euthanizing escaped pigs. #2 - he wanted to play in the PvP zones and I typed in chat that I'd play with him after I finished fixing my pig pens; the minute I finished my work, he logged off the server! I won't share the out-of-game reasons because I want to preserve his dignity and privacy - no need to air dirty laundry unnecessarily.

I persuaded him to log back on for a PvP match. His sister and our server host joined us to provide even teams. It was a lot of fun! I don't think I've ever played a better round of PvP. We have three PvP zones on our Minecraft server (island of doom, cave and nether) and we chose the Island of Doom. I smite my son with my sword. I pierced his hide with arrows. I ambushed him and slew him where he stood. I faced him in honourable battle and slaughtered him. I stole his team's block in the Capture the Flag and scored points.

Do you know what? After annihilating him in a PvP match, I wasn't as frustrated and infuriated with him as much as before. In fact, we teamed up together to play some more PvP in the cave zone. Now, I have to make it clear that I've never, ever spanked my children. I don't believe in corporal punishment. I don't know what parents feel like while or after they've physically disciplined their children. This was definitely a guilt-free way for me to express my irritation with my boy in a socially acceptable fashion - and it was enjoyable too! He even tried to "make it up to me" by building a huge purple container around his water contraption - I appreciate the gesture, even though it's still leaking over my pigs.