Friday, December 7, 2012

Post Where I talk about ECOO 2012 and go off topic

Overdue reflection of ECOO.  Thank goodness I am not being marked on this!

This was my first time attending ECOO and I was lucky enough to be presenting with my two GamingEdus, Liam and Diana.  We presented on Minecraft in the classroom, and it went well -I think- as we had a pretty full room.  What I enjoyed most about our session was that some female students who were (I learned later) presenting with their teacher @royanlee*.   They arrived early, because they had heard we were presenting on Minecraft and wanted to check it out.  Fortunately, we had decided to bring our laptops with us and connect them to our Minecraft server to play.  It was great having students, then teachers come up and try out the game for themselves. 

I went to a couple of workshops and learned about a couple of web tools that I hadn't heard about before before including Popcorn.  I can't really explain it, but I think it is pretty cool.  A very, very, basic description would be to say that it combines video, and live web content that you can access while watching.  I really need to spend some time with it and play around, at least until I get the basics of it so I can let my students loose on it and have them show me what they can do.   

Much of what I got from ECOO was additional resources, validation for some of my beliefs around education (mostly from small group discussion with people before and after sessions), and a few things that challenged me.  Or to be more accurate: got my back up.

One of the things that got me was a comment about gaming along the lines of: he (the person presenting) uses games in the classroom, but that he wasn't a 'gamer'.  I didn't understand why he felt the need to say that.  As far as I'm concerned, if you play games you're a gamer.  To me it's just a matter of what's your game or games.  I respected that this he discovered for himself the ability for games to engage students; I just didn't see why he needed a disclaimer.  Talking about it with Liam and Diana we and came up with a few reasons why people would feel the need to do this.  Possibilities we discussed included : being intimidated by 'hard core gamers,' fear for being labeled a geek or nerd, and similarly the fear of not being taken seriously.  I'm sure we had other reasons too, but it's been a while and I forget.  It's stupid, but that comment got in the way of my engaging to his presentation for a while, but once I got over it, I found that much of what he spoke about came alongside my own understanding of how games can be a catalyst in the classroom.

On another note this past week I went through some old recordings of others workshops I had been too, and found another session (from the OLA Super Conference) where one of the presenters admitted -at their gaming workshop- that they did not game, and had to spend the last couple of weeks researching to prepare for the session.  Why?!?  

Sorry, I feel that I have gone well off topic here.  Anyways, to sum up: ECOO was a good experience, and everyone should play games proudly.

*is it weird that I find it easier to write people's twitter handles rather than their actual name?  I actually had to stop myself from refereing to Diana and Liam as @MzMollyTL and @liamodonnell.

Here is a random thought about writing this blog post: I had to go through this post, (which I first started writing on my phone, then my computer, and finally my tablet) and make sure I capitalized my 'I's. It seems I becoming so use to my phone and tablet automatically correcting it that I don't even think about it.  I was surprised that I had to give a mini lesson with my junior students about capitalization rules, especially the use of 'I' last week too. Are these two things connected? Are my students not capitalizing 'I' because they are use to their phones doing it for them, or did they really not know that they needed to capitalize 'I'?  Just wondering.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Being a Slaker and Loving It!

I found this old post from the summer in my unpublished folder as I was avoiding work and thought I would share it.  In it I plug, being lazy, some books, a cafe and the YouTube show Tabletop.

It's summer and as I read my tweet feeds I feel like a slacker as I haven't really done much to enrich my professional development or deepen my understanding of the things I hold to be true.  In June I selected a pile of professional texts to read; they are still in a lovely pile in my living room.  However, I have made a great strides in my 'pure enjoyment' pile*.  Maybe I will start getting back to work next week, but right now I am enjoying reading and playing games with my friends.  Two things in particular that have helped me on the gaming side of my life are: Snakes and Lattes and Tabletop.

If you live in Toronto, you probably know about Snakes and Lattes.  For those who don't, Snakes and  Lattes is a cafe where you pay a $5.00 fee to play as many games as you want for however long you want, while enjoying a beverage or snack. Believe me, whatever game you want, they got it.  (Although recently I heard they have a banned list with games like Hungry Hippos on it)  I have spent many afternoons/evenings here this summer.  I even had a meeting her with @MzMolly and @liamodonnell to talk about gaming, without actually playing any games.  I bought a game here that I plan to bring to my class in the fall, Story Cubes, (a big hit with my students thanks @MzMolly!) and games for myself, including Gloom and Ticket to Ride.  I love these games, and would not have heard of it if it had not been for Tabletop.

I watch a lot of 'lifestyle' programming on television.  Home renovations, decorating, cooking, and so on.  I have yet tried to try anything that has been taught to me on any of these shows.  A few months ago I heard about Tabletop through a tweet from @wilw.  I was intrigued, and a bit worried.  I  looked forward to watching it on YouTube; learning about new games, seeing if they feature any games I already play etc.  But I also worried: what if it sucks?  Thankfully I had nothing to worry about.  I have enjoyed every episode of tabletop, and I have even watched a couple of them twice.

For those of you who do not know, Tabletop is a lifestyle program on Geek & Sundry, a YouTube channel.  Each week a different game is featured.  Wil Wheaton gathers 3 other people (usually celebrities from the geek and/or gaming world) to play the game with him.   They go through the basics of the game and we watch the hijinks ensue as it is being played.  While, Wil is adept at all the games that are featured, his guests are often not.  They do not show the whole game (the show is only around 30 mins), they do show enough to whet your gaming appetite.

<end random plug here>

* Storm of Swords, and Feast of Crows by George RR Martin, Divergent and Insurgent, by Veronica Roth.  Next up Goliath by Scott Westerfeld and and Dances with Dragons, by George RR Martin.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Family Games Night (D&D Lite Part Deux)

A couple of months ago I wrote about my memories of D&D as a child with my father.  I don't recall responding badly to my disastrous first D&D experience (read: pouting and whining), and yet for one reason or another, my dad didn't offer to DM (Dungeon Master) a game for almost 10 years.  In the meantime our family played Colecovision, (followed by Nintendo), cards, and board games together.  Until one day we were introduced to HeroQuest

HeroQuest took our family gaming to a whole  new level.  At first we just ran the events as laid out in the quest book that came with the game.  Quickly however, we out grew these scenarios, and the game just didn't seem like much of a challenge.  Just when it looked like this game would be banished to the 'basement of forgotten games' my father decided it was about time he took over and become a DM once more.  He planned new adventures and once a week we would play them.  Sometimes my mom would act as DM, and my dad would join the campaign.  I think I may have tried my hand at it -being DM- one time, but I am sure I must be wrong, cause I just can't see me wanting to do that, because controlling a game seems like too much responsibility for me... but I digress.  What really matters is we used the bones of the game to create a whole new experience.

Most games were played by just our family but occasionally my friend Louise would play.   I was around 17 and my siblings were about 13 (Alan) and 12 (Kat) when we started playing this game.  Being a 13 year old, my brother was beginning to explore his boundaries as only an early teen can: annoying the heck out of me and my sister more than usual, and sabotaging family fun when he could.  HeroQuest was perfect for this, as he would just run into rooms and aggro everything and causing our party to wipe.  (Yes, Virginia, people did that before Leeroy Jenkins.)  This was an unwelcome twist to the game.  Until one day someone asked the DM: "Can we kill the dwarf?"  My father thought for a moment and answered: "Yes, but you will have to roll for it."

This became our standard response to Alan's 'Jenkin-ish' behaviour from then on out, and it add an additional chllenge to the game.  We became aware that not only were there skeletons and monsters out there to get you, but the members of your party could turn on you too.  To be honest we mostly just attacked the dwarf when he stepped out of line, but there was always the possibility that the tables could turn.

I think one of the best things I learned from playing HeroQuest with my family is that it is okay to play a game, then break it, and re-create it. All that, and in the process have even more fun than when you first opened the box.

(P.S. The teacher in me might reflect on this experience and think there was value in playing like this because we had to collaborate in many ways: identify the problem(s) in the game, create a solution, test it, refine, retest, while communicating effectively, and positively in order to established shared norms and goals.  Or something like that.  But really it was just fun.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Lord of the Minecraft

I wish I had actually read The Lord of the Flies, because then I would know for sure if the title for this entry is accurate.  Somehow I managed to go my whole educational career without having to read it, and some might say that it was a lucky miss. But I digress, this post is about the descent into madness and chaos that my Minecraft club took on Monday.  It was awesome. 

Here is how it all started: At the beginning of my Minecraft club I informed the members (four grade 8's three grade 6's and one grade 5 who was absent for this meeting) that their world would not be available for the second week in a row, and that we would be in the alternate 'world' again.  I also let them know that I got an email from @liamodonnell letting us, @MzMollytl and I, know that he had given his own club the option of being in creative mode or survival in our shared world.  I let them know I would do the same for them too.  Up to this point our clubs were survival only.

I expected the possibly of having creative mode in our joint game would make them happy, but much to my surprise all but one said they would prefer to stay in survival mode.  They were very insistent that survival mode is the only 'real' way to play.  The one student who asked to be in creative mode was given a pass from judgement because: a) he was in a younger grade and b) he was working with another member of the club and they just figured they would share the resources to build their base together.  Being younger, and using creative mode to build a base, was deem acceptable.
Then we logged in.

As the club members got their bearings and started making plans for what they needed to accomplish they also began to notice what the other club (Highland Heights) had done when they played in creative mode.  They saw the different building materials and things that they had been able to use: there were crazy looking treehouses, (one with tamed wolves in it), another with a lava 'waterfall,' suspicious looking cavities in the ground and TNT left piled in different areas to name a few.  Two members who were struggling with building a treehouse, that they had begun last week, were the next to ask for creative mode: "just so we can finish the building and then we will go back to survival."  Lest they be judged harshly by their peers. The group accepted this and continued with their construction.  

Then one of my members asked to blow up some TNT.  We discussed it, and I caved, stressing :"Just this once, and not too big!"  I have to say, I usually don't give in so quickly but they were finding TNT deposits in areas and craters, so there was a precedent.  From there things started spiraling into chaos.  It was actually kinda amusing to watch.  My students who, at the beginning, were so adamant that survival mode was the only way to play Minecraft properly  started to come to the dark side.  At around the time of the first explosion, the club from Agnes Macphail also joined the server.

Everyone who had creative mode started getting creative -go figure.  It got to the point that it was no longer practical to  play in survival.  Especially if you wanted to survive more than 5 minutes.  Lava, Ghasts and TNT were everywhere.  Only one student in my club retained their survival status, and lived to tell the tale.  Like a post-apocalyptic movie he decided to abandon the destruction on the surface of the world and began again underground.  I think one student from Agnes Macphail stayed in survival mode too, but I do not know how they managed. 

All in all everyone had a great time.  Although I feared what the Highland Heights club would find if they logged back into this world.  What I really found fascinating, was how quickly the members of my group changed from: "creative is cheating!" "look at these people using creative, they need to stop" to  "I'll try creative" and "give me creative mode!"  Anarchy!

Is this an example of why students shouldn't play in creative mode at school?  No, I don't think so.  This is just the activity that can lead to so much more.  As the students were leaving they were talking about how much fun it was to go crazy in game, but they were glad they would be able to go back to their own world  soon, and get back to 'work'.  In their conversation there was so much material that could lead to more deeper conversations.  Why is it okay to destroy a world that isn't 'yours'?  Doesn't it belong to someone?  What about the environment you are effecting?  Are there examples of your in-game behaviour in the real world? What would be the impact of your actions if this was the real world?  And so on...  There are opportunities to  connect this event to Social Studies, Science and Technology, Language and even Health and Physical Education.

All in all, good game. 

Below are some pictures of the chaos.

Cross posted on:  on Denise's Club Journal

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What is Game Based Learning?

There are a lot of companies and people that claim to have great games for higher order thinking skills that are great for Game Based Learning (GBL).  Yet, even though they use the right words in their pitches, post, pintersets etc.. I am left feeling like Indigo Montoya in The Princess Bride: I do not think those words mean what you think they mean.

At the same time I wonder if I know what those words mean.  There are a lot of people who talk about what Game Based Learning is, and how to incorporate it in the classroom, but some of the messages I am hearing/reading are often conflicting and contrary to my understanding and/or personal philosophy around GBL.  Is there a widely accepted definition of Game Based Learning?

Here are some of the things I believe about Game Based Learning, and please add to my understanding or correct something that I don't represent accurately:
-Student lead
-Engages students in creative critical thinking skills
-Not just computer games
-educational without having to be "Educational" -if that makes any sense
-Games students can 'break' and remodel, revise, rebuild
(Here is where I would normally wax poetic about Minecraft, but you can just peek at the gamingeducators wiki I belong to with @MzMollyTL and @liamodonnell)

What I think I am seeing is more of lately is Gamification being called Game Based Learning.  I really think there needs to be more clarification here because the two concepts are very different.

Gamification (click for an infographic) -in my opinion- is like a sticker program for behaviour.  Students complete certain game labeled task, and get a reward in; badges, exp. points etc...  Sounds cool and often is.  What I'm afraid of is that with this kind of program students, with time, will see through the educational modification to their regular program and stop buying into what is being 'gamified'.  Students who do not have as many badges as their peers being among the first to opt out of the program.  I won't lie, I have often become a slave to gaining achievements in games I play  *cough* W.O.W. *cough,*  but after time, and seeing my friends out achieve me, I stopped caring.  Now playing Diablo III I see that there are achievements, and I do experience some satisfaction when I gain an achievement, but I don't really care, nor do I try to game in a way that will purposefully gain more achievements.

Honestly, as a teacher of close to 10 years I have not yet seen this type of modification work for a whole year, whether because of student rebellion against it, teacher burn out from having to administer it, or a combination of both.  That being said, I know there are wonderful educators who are able to overcome both the obstacles I mentioned above.  There are some great looking gamification programs that have been built by educators too. But I still don't think that makes it Game Based Learning. 

I do believe the two approaches to using games in the class is motivated by the same basic goal: to engage, motivate, and scaffold students so they can achieve more.  Yet the two have very different strategies for reaching their goals.  Kinda like the whole language vs. phonics debates.

Perhaps I am being a bit pedantic by stressing the difference I see between Game Based Learning and Gamification.  But honestly, I see them as two different animals.

So what is Game Based Learning anyway? Who should I read?  Where am I misinformed?

(Note: I used the word "scaffold" because I think it appropriate and just in case my friend @nodycer decides to read this.)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Happy Mother's Day (a little early)

When I played WOW there would be times when people would say to each other over Guild, or Barren's chat: "you play like my mom."  This statement was never intended to make that player feel good.  What I use to say to those insulting people in defense of the poor faildruid they tormented was: "you wish you played like my mom."

My mom has maxed out the levels, of all her characters, on every server she plays on in WOW.  She has even deleted some of her alts (characters) to make room for new ones on servers she likes.  She quests, raids and PVPs.  She is über. (In fact, I think of both my parents as the ones in this video:

My mom started gaming back when we had ColecoVision, but she really 'got into' games when we got the Nintendo and The Legend of Zelda.  However, the game that really hooked her into the gaming world was the computer game Age of Empires.  That was her gateway drug to the MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role-playing game).

When I was just out of university and my brother, sister and I were still living at home, there were 4 computers in the house.  (Which seemed kinda ridiculous at the time... and maybe still is for a family of 5).  I think it was my brother who first suggested that we all play Age of Empires together.  So we did.  I think Alan, my brother, thought he would dominate the game, crushing us under the strength of his armies.  Imagine his horror when our sweet, gentle mother destroyed all of his forces, farms and towns.

This became the theme to almost all the times we played together.  Sometimes it would be me, and my siblings with my mom, and sometimes my dad would take one of our places.  But invariably my mom would play, and dominate the game.

Every game I would think: "This is it!  This time I will beat her!"  Then after a 15 minutes I would begin to panic and have paranoid thoughts like: "Where is she?"  "It's too quiet." "Should I risk looking for her and attacking?  She is probably close by..."  Then I would hear the frustrated, anguished cries of my brother, sister or father echo through the house as my mom wipe the digital board with him/her.  Then the real panic would set in.  There would be is a few minutes of frenzied building up of my defenses before she came after me.  Then it would be all over. And she would continue on to her next victim.

We really should have known better; my mom was a natural at the game, and she practiced.  She had my dad downloading fan made scenarios to play, as well as making her ones to play himself.  What we should have done was bonded over our repeated trouncing, and joined forces against her.  But we stubbornly remained fighting in the style of: "everyone for themselves".  I think part of the problem was that we were physically isolated.  We played in different parts of house.  If we had Ventrilo or Mumble it would have been easier to coordinate our efforts.

My brother was so desperate for a win that he went so far as to find cheat codes to defeat her. And I think the essence of his actions was why we didn't join forces against her: we all wanted the glory of bringing down mom for ourselves.

Never happened.

That's my mom: pwning N00bs and taking names.

Hoping your mom is as über as mine!  Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Teacher Teaching Teacher Gaming Educator Reflection

I had the opportunity to participate in a podcast/google+ hang out last week with Teachers Teaching Teachers about Minecraft (thanks to @liamodonnell for including me and  @MzMollyTL).  It was interesting to talk to other educator about Minecraft in the class, and share ideas and experiences.  I wish we had more time to talk, and really dig into what we believe the educational value of the gaming is, and debate our philosophies on game based learning in general.  That being said, there were still great things discussed.  One of the topics we touched on has been bouncing around in my head since then. We came close to discussing the idea of planning activities for students to do in game vs. allowing students to explore on their own and it stuck with me all week.

There were some interesting points for planning structured activities for students and one of the scenarios discussed appealed to me. However, generally speaking, I am in the ‘just let them play’ camp.  The discussions, problem solving, team building and discovery that come out of the exploration of the game is amazing (just letting them play).  The writing that the game inspires gives opportunities for students to write about something they are interested in, and have it be authentic too.  In the case of the wiki we are working on with students in our Minecraft club, it give students a place to vent, ask questions, share what they are doing, and the resources they have found that have aided them.  

One of the interesting things that was said about planning activities for students to do in Minecraft was that there is a segment of the student population who get into Minecraft and say: ‘I don’t know what to do.’  Hence the need to have a structured environment with tasks the teacher has set to complete.  I get that, and it reminds me of a discussion I had with another teacher who came by during one of my club day and was observing what students were doing.  He expressed that he didn’t think this game would engage students for a long period of time because there was nothing to do in the game other than kill sheep.  My counter argument was: there is everything to do!  The possibilities of Minecraft are as endless as your imagination.  Something I, and the educators hanging out on Wednesday at Teachers Teaching Teacher, saw as we toured @MinecraftTeachr’s server.  (I am still geeking out over the replica of the Enterprise).

Which brings me back to the students who log in and say ‘I don’t know what to do.’  This is not an unusual comment to hear in class when students are faced with a blank page in their journals.  Being given a blank slate can be very intimidating.   And I think the problem is roughly the same in writing as it is in Minecraft: the number of possibilities is too much and sometimes you just don’t know what to do or where to start.  This got me thinking about what we do in language to address that problem: we generate lists of things we can do/write about and refer to it when we are stumped.  It would be interesting to see the kinds of lists students produce if given the same task to do for Minecraft.  

I think I’m gonna try that today in my club. (I’ll post pics here for now).

Decided to put them here too.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I'm a Woman Gamer Hear Me Roar! (If I am successful at my d20 roll)

I have a small problem; I sometimes feel embarrassed to admit that I am a gamer. I'm not ashamed of being a gamer.  The embarrassment I initial feel is just the automatic/default response I have when I let it be known in conversations with non-gamers that I have  firsthand knowledge about MMO's, tabletop, or video games.  Non-gamers always seem to look at me as though I have just loudly announced: "I am the Queen of Fairyland and I ride a plaid pony! Whee!"

(Not that I would ride a pony if I were the Queen of Fairyland, especially a plaid one.  Everyone knows I prefer traveling by hippogriff.)

Anyways, after I get over the looks ranging from quizzical, pitting, confused, and sometimes more than a little bit disgusted, I feel a sense of indignation wash over me.  What gives them the right to make me feel 'less than' because of the way I choose to have fun?  Is it because I'm a girl?  Would they be less surprised if I announced my love of gaming if I were a man?  More and more these days I am beginning to think the extreme reactions I often get are more because I am a female gamer and less because I am gamer.

For example, I was at a meeting this morning and gaming came up in conversation during a break.  One of the women I was talking with was surprised by my depth of knowledge about gaming and said that I would get along well with her husband.  She then followed up by saying something along the lines of how it must be hard for me being a female gamer when there are so few women into gaming.  This surprised me a bit, because I realized just how often I hear that in conversations with non-gamers.  And while many of the people I game with are women, we are not perceived as the norm.  Is it just that I have been been fortunate enough to be surrounded by female gamers, or are there really so few women gamers?

What is it about being a female gamer that is so taboo?  Is it some weird 'nice women don't...' throw back to the past?  Are only men allowed to have all the fun?  And when you really think about it, gaming is not that much different than any other social gathering.  People (women) often meet socially under the guise of accomplishing something; whether it is a knitting group, a book club etc. (To which, incidentally, I both belong.)  These are social gatherings around a common interest.  Gaming is no different.  Why is it seen as different?

Lot of questions.  Maybe I need to do some research.

On a happier note, even though I still have run ins with gaming Luddites, my 'circle of gamers' is increasing.  In the passed month I spent a lovely evening gaming with MzMolly, and I am going to a gaming evening with a new friend from my knitting circle in couple of weeks.  Zombies beware!  AND there is a new gamer friendly You Tube channel: Geek and Sundry, that has a very strong female voice, and a great tabletop gaming, lifestyle program.  Life is good and it is only going to get better.

Hippogriffs for everybody!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Thank you Eye of the Beholder

There is a level in the video game Eye of the Beholder near the end (just before the one where the giant creepy eyeball (Beholder) would wander down hallways to destroy your party) I hated with heat of a thousand suns.  I could never find my way around all the corridors.  I always got turned around and ended up in the same place I started.  The first time I got though I was so happy and relieved; I couldn't believe my luck.  Then my party wiped -stupid creepy eyeball- and I had to start at the last place that I had saved.  The beginning of the tower.  Stupid game.  A weaker person would have given up; not me though.  Sure I walked away from the computer calling out string of not so nice words  about the game, but I came back.  Eventually.

Anyways, to make a long story short, it was that game that really made me question my sense of direction- or lack thereof.  If I couldn't navigate my way through a virtual world how could I find my way in the real world?  I used the frustration I felt playing that stupid level to learn how to be a better navigator.  To be able to mentally keep track of my path and to use map effectively became (and still is) very important to me.  'Cause let's face it, not every game has good maps, and not everyone has GPS.  I still have moments of difficulty with reading the maps in SWTOR but other than that I am pretty good.

So if you don't have GPS, my 'mad map reading skillz' make me a pretty good person to have in your car.

Thank you Eye of the Beholder!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Brother-in-law posted this pic on his Facebook...

Just wanted to share.  I have no idea where he got it from.  Probably could have just tweeted it, but what the hay here it is:

Monday, February 6, 2012

D&D in a dark basement. Live the cliche!

I had never really gotten passed my ill fated D&D adventure with my cousins.  Even though I totally owned HeroQuest, and had some rpg computer games under my belt (Betrayal at Krondor, Eye of the Beholder) I still felt a void in my gaming life.  I had not mastered D&D and therefore felt like a gaming fraud.  My friend Louise felt a similar hole in her life, but I believe it was more a result of cutting her teeth on HeroQuest and wanting more.  Louise had joined many of my family's modified HeroQuest games -a story for another time and was on the road to becoming a serious gamer.  But what did two girls in the suburbs know about D&D, or where to find an active D&D gaming group for that matter?  Not much. 

Fortunately, we had a friend, who had friends who played D&D on the weekends.  What luck right?  Needless to say we were really excited about getting an invite to join the group one Saturday.  Matt, our friend with the connections, helped us to create our characters and even gave us some beautiful pencil drawings of his interpretation of what our characters looked like.  I wish I still knew where my character drawing was.  I have a feeling that one of my siblings took it.  Just like they took the handpainted figurines I rightful stole from my dad.  Anyway, this time I picked a rogue character to play  I figured as a rogue I would be able to take a hit.  As it turns out the rogue class is the type of character I still prefer.

The day of the campaign arrived and Matt walked us to his friends house for the game.  For the next couple of hours we played, talked and laughed.  It was great.  I didn't die once!  But then again we had a pretty big party: 2 warriors, 1 rogue, 1 magic user and a priest.  Everything was going great until I started noticing the the world around me -the real world that is.  We were in a cold basement that had a foul stale smell.  The DM got a nose bleed early in the game and had to play the rest of it with toilet paper up his nose.  Then I noticed that one of the players was the really 'dark' guy from school, who reminded me of the unibomber, kinda creeped me out.  In the end, even though we really did enjoyed the game, both Louise and I agreed that we were not going to do that again.  It was too close to cliche for comfort.

I sometimes wish I hadn't been so shallow and continued to go.  But even as I write this it occurs to me that the guys never actually invited us to play again either.  Who knows, maybe they were put off by having girls play with them.  Perhaps we were too n00bish.  I'll never know for sure.

And another thing, why is the cliche of D&D gaming that of a group of social misfits gaming in the basement?  Everyone else I know who has D&D gaming groups are well adjusted and play in the dinning room (better table space).  Something to think about.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Memories of Family Games Night (D n' D)

My family plays games. Ever since I can remember my parents made sure that we spent time playing together. It wasn't a 'thou shalt' every Thursday night thing, not that there is anything wrong with that.  But it was often, and it evolved as we grew up, and our interests changed.

One of my first memories of my parents gaming, is really just vague images of my dad having his friends over for D n' D. I don't remember anything specific, just that I wished I could play too. I also remember the annoyance of having to go to bed just as the game started. It was a big mystery to me what they did.  All I knew was that it involved dice, little metal figurines my dad painted, and all sorts of maps. In short: pretty cool.

Imagine my happiness when my older cousins Josh and Virgil came over to visit when I was 10 and my dad offered to DM a game for us.  I couldn't believe it my luck. Dungeons and Dragons was a game for adults!  This was my chance to enter in to a world of adventure and fantasy that I had been blocked from my whole life.  Now if only I understood how to play the game...

I got to be the magic user, while Josh and Virg were a fighter and a priest. My dad sat at his desk looking very serious, while we sat on the nearby couch and chairs.  I wondered if my cousins would notice that I had no idea what I was doing. 

Even though I didn't really understand what was going on, I was still happy to be there.  I got to finally play, and use the cool 20 sided die my dad had.  (I loved the colours and the novelty of them). These were my dad's special dice that we were not allowed to play with them, touch them, and it was better not to even think about them. My fingers itched to touch them. I had visions of this game going on for hours and the great adventures we would have. I wanted to destroy an ogre with a fireball!

I lasted maybe 2 rooms in the dungeon before my dad informed me that I died as a result of my injuries from the first skirmish. The priest forgot to heal me. Game over. It totally sucked.

My next 'real' foray into the world of Dungeon and Dragons was much more fun, really cliche, but much more fun.  But that's another story.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Minecraft lego! For real?!?

Thinkgeek tweeted about this a couple of days ago.  I think I know what I want for my birthday. 

Ya know... just to display in the library... not to actually play with or anything...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What's your game?

When I think about different types of gamers I usually think along the lines of computer gamers vs. console gamers.  Or gamers who prefer FPS games to RPG.  Generally speaking, when I think of gaming, or gamers, my mind  goes to electronic games. This is not to say I don't play board games, I love board games.  But I just figured if you play boardgames, you enjoy all boardgames.  I only recently realized  how wrong I was and that there are different types of board game gamers. 

I know, you are thinking: 'Uh... duh newb!'  But I honestly just assumed that everyone had the same exposure to a variety of boardgames growing up that I had.  That their parents, being responsible and concerned with their childs' development made sure to expose them to an assortment of different games, teaching them to appreciate all games for their unique qualities.

It was my last -board- games night with friends from work that awakened me to the reality that everyone games differently in every gaming format.  My friends are a definite type of gamer; they prefer to play group party games like Cranium, Taboo and Ouburst.  Any game that involves yelling, teams, and opportunities for amusing outbursts are an instant success.  I enjoy these games too, but as I also realized that night, those are not my preferred game. 

I had been dying to introduce my friends to one of my favourite role playing (lite) strategy games: Betrayal at House on the Hill, -think Clue meets Scooby Doo -on steroids.  What could possibly go wrong?  I had already played this game numerous times with other friends and my family.  It is quite simply an awesome, fun filled game.  It has excellent plots, twists, and opportunities for you to collaborate to destroy a common enemy... unless you turn out to be the traitor, then all bets are off.  

Imagine my dismay when the game flopped.  Just when things were getting interesting!  The haunt had just begun, and I looked looked around to my friends getting ready to do some serious ploting only to discover they were all staring at their phones! checking Facebook, texting, tweeting, and generally not engaged.  I was so disappointed.  Here I had suffered through endless party games and now had the chance to really game and my friends had checked out.  How could this have happened?  (My one consolation was that at least I wasn't the only one who was disengaged during the party game portion of the night; one friend actually fell asleep during Taboo, even with one of his teammates yelling in his ear.  He left early.  Ah good times!)

And that's when I realized two things:
1. I'm a bit of a game snob despite my assertion that I love all games,
2. That there is a board game for every group/individual... you just need to agree on which genre to choose.
And I guess the same goes for every game format, from computer, console, board and card games; there are subcategories and genres that appeal to different people.  It just means like in everything in life that sometimes you'll have to compromise.  Even if it means playing Taboo... again.