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I played video games with Younger Nephew yesterday. He gets more fun to hang out with all the time. He's still very much a strong-willed kid, but he's learning to put a layer of social polish on it. For example, now when he wants to make sure I'm paying attention to something, he says, "Aunt Wendy, I think you're really going to want to see this."

He went through my game collection and picked out three games he wanted to try: Mass Effect 2, Lego Marvel Superheroes, and The Witcher 3. I can't possibly let him play The Witcher 3 -- it's waaaay too dark and adult. But he said he wanted to try it last, so I figured we just wouldn't get to it, and we didn't.

Mass Effect 2 is a game we've tried before - last time he didn't get through the intro, although he was clearly captivated by the graphics. This time he played for a little over an hour. He needed a little extra coaching to get through the tutorial, he mostly chose his dialogue options at random, and I did the hacking mini-game where you have to match code segments. He was very adept at the circuit matching mini-game once I explained it to him, though, and he got remarkably good at navigating the interface by the time we finished.

Then we switched to Lego Marvel Superheroes. The Lego games are really fun for kids and adults to play together.
In a recent performance review discussion with my manager, she suggested that I do some work on my presentation and public speaking skills. Mine are adequate, but I think I'm more distinguished by my lack of fear of public speaking than by great skill. As a child, I was actually terrified by public speaking, and would do almost anything to avoid it. This fear was slowly ground out of me by stints on the high school debate team (I was terrible at debate), Constitution team, and various other academic competitions that required impromptu speaking; class presentations in college; and teaching during grad school. In the middle of my first year of grad school, I stepped onto a stage in a 150-person lecture hall on the U.C. Berkeley campus to deliver a pre-exam review. I looked into the lemur-like eyes of a full house of undergraduates desperately hoping that I would impart to them in the next three hours the knowledge that they had failed to acquire all semester. The atrophied remnants of my fear sighed heavily and slunk off somewhere down Telegraph Ave., never to trouble me again.

Anyhow, there was one obvious place to go to get some training for my fearless semi-competence: Toastmasters. People have been recommending to me that I do Toastmasters for years now, but I've always found some excuse not to do it. But my employer has their very own Toastmasters chapter, that meets right here on campus, so I decided that I would bite the bullet and go visit a meeting today.

The meeting started with someone giving a pre-prepared speech, which we all got to evaluate. Then there's this thing called "Table Topics", where someone comes up with a topic, and everyone who wants to can give a 1-2 minute speech on this topic. Our topic today was "reincarnation," and what immediately sprang to my mind was my character in the Legend of the Five Rings game I'm currently playing in, who has been repeatedly reincarnated. So, I began my speech with, "I don't believe in reincarnation, but I do play role playing games." I then managed to give a reasonably concise explanation of what a table top roleplaying game is, what Legend of the Five Rings is about, and how my character discovered that she was reincarnated. And then wrapped it up by observing that playing RPGs is sort of like being reincarnated, because you get to experience being many people. All in 1 minute 58 seconds.

At the end of the meeting, everyone voted on their favorite table topic speech. I was the winner. I got a ribbon and everything! Not too bad for my first try!

I made a chain mail dice bag! It's a very simple one - I made a flat sheet of European 4-in-1 weave, folded it in half and closed it up along the side, and then closed it up along the bottom. Then I threaded a shoelace through the top row of rings at the opening, and used a cord lock fastener to allow it to be cinched tight to keep the bag closed.

Now I need to decide what my next project should be. I am thinking of just making a flat sheet of maille as a kind of a stress toy - there is something very relaxing about pouring a sheet of maille from hand to hand. But beyond that, I think I want something that will require learning a new weave. 
I spent three hours or so this afternoon playing Lego Star Wars with Younger Nephew. It's pretty neat to observe the difference between the first time we gamed together, back in November or so: his hand-eye coordination is better, his problem solving skills are better (he not only solved some of the puzzles himself, but was much quicker to grasp what I was getting at when I suggested a solution to a puzzle), and his attention span was much longer. He's even more fun to play with than he was before.

He's also really into Star Wars.

I also got an interesting demonstration of the development of the capacity for delayed gratification: when his dad came to pick him up and we had finished playing, Younger Nephew wandered into the kitchen. I asked him if he was hungry or thirsty, and he asked if he could look in the fridge. I told him he could, and he opened the fridge, spotted a Cherry Coke Zero, and asked if he could have it. I said, "Yes, if your dad says it's okay."

His dad said, "Well, you can have the Cherry Coke now, or we can go get ice cream and you can have ice cream."

Younger Nephew looked very thoughtfully at the Cherry Coke for about 30 seconds.

"You get to pick," I said. "But I think I would go for the ice cream."

He looked thoughtfully at the Coke a bit longer, sighed, and said, "I think you are right." And put the Coke back in the fridge.

That was such a hard decision for the little guy.
I was quite...startled is the word, I discover that the actor who voiced Blackwall in Dragon Age: Inquistion is voicing a mohawk-wearing tattooed dwarven crime boss named "The Cleaver" in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.

Though a real lack of typecasting would involve a fantasy game where the guys with Northern accents all got to be well-dressed posh bastards. I won't hold my breath.
An afternoon of video gaming with Younger Nephew was a success. We mostly played Lego Star Wars, but we also tried out Lego Marvel Superheroes (which I think might actually have been my favorite), and Lego Batman. The Lego games are just about perfect for a kid and an adult to play in co-op mode. And I don't think I've ever seen Younger Nephew persevere at a difficult task as long as he worked at some of the bits of Lego Star Wars that he had trouble getting through. If Jane McGonigal is right about games building resilience, we built Younger Nephew some Jedi-level resilience.

Younger Nephew spotted my copy of Mass Effect 2 and asked if he could try it. I told him that it was kind of complicated game and that I'd have to read a lot of it to him, but we could try. After a couple of minutes of the prologue, he handed the controller back to me and said, "This game is too complicated!" He was absolutely riveted by the opening cutscenes, though. Someday, we'll play Bioware games together.
My Younger Nephew is kind of obsessed with video games, and doesn't have access to a video game console at home, so we've hatched plans to have him come over and play at my house. The catch is, at 5 years old, I don't think he really has the reading skills (or possibly even the interest in sustained narrative) to get really into the story-based RPGs that make up the bulk of my gaming. (Also, games like Dragon Age 2 seem a touch...traumatic for a 5 year old.) I have a few games that I think he might like - Katamari Damacy and Lego Batman spring to mind - but I'd like to pick up one or two more just to have a variety of things on hand.

So I'm looking for recommendations for good games for kids. They don't necessarily have to be games specifically developed for kids - first person shooters or driving games would probably be right up Younger Nephew's alley - but I'd like to avoid exposing him to excessively adult content. (I should probably hide Grand Theft Auto before he comes over.) Bonus points if they've got a co-op or multiplayer mode that a kid and an adult could play together.
The great "Unpack all the boxes in the garage" project continues. After several weekends of unpacking stuff that mostly went straight to the trash, recycling, or "Donate to Goodwill" pile, I unearthed some real goodies today. I found a box that contained some carefully hoarded relics of my early geekery, going back to elementary school.
So I took some photos... )

(no subject)

Jul. 24th, 2011 10:37 pm
wshaffer: (evil_laugh)
I've just spent way too much of my evening chortling over Go Make Me a Sandwich, a blog devoted to humorous critique of sexism in gaming (both computer/console games as well as tabletop RPGs and the like.) I particularly love the posts where the author takes some particularly ludicrous piece of art that violates both the laws of anatomy and physics, analyzes what's wrong with it, and redraws it to be more plausible. Not only are they funny, they're like mini-workshops for artists on how to do the female figure right.
So, I'd seen this linked on Geek Feminism, but didn't actually get to watch it until [ profile] obadiah cued it up on his iPhone for me when we got together to do some writing yesterday. It is a thing of beauty, and if you've ever even dabbled in tabletop RPGs, you need to see it.

I keep trying to rewrite the lyrics to be more applicable to the game I'm currently in, but there's just no way to get, "Roll an enormous double handful of D10 and add your auto-successes," to fit either the meter or the rhyme scheme.

Roll a D6 from Connor Anderson on Vimeo.

And yes, you can buy the song from iTunes.
Got home from work yesterday in a really bad mood. Started chopping up vegetables for dinner, and immediately felt the bad mood lift. Apparently, the purposeful wielding of a large sharp knife is very therapeutic.

My newly attained cheerfulness was then cemented by a gaming session with Daniel, [ profile] swan_tower and [ profile] kniedzw. I think it's entirely possible that the sassiness of my character in game is directly related to the number of snarky remarks I've had to prevent myself from uttering in real life.

Anyway, today is a new day, and a Friday, and my work computer now appears to be entirely free of viruses and other malware (touch wood). So today's going to be a good day.

Odds and Ends

Dec. 6th, 2009 08:31 pm
wshaffer: (bannakaffalatta)
A recent episode of the BBC's From Our Own Correspondent informs me that the Samoan word for cowardice translates as "uncompleted tattoo". Of course, in Samoa, they throw you into the ocean after each tattooing session, because having ink hammered into your flesh with sharpened pig tusks isn't painful enough.

I think it was reading this New York Times article about the supposed "controversy" about a gay romance in Dragon Age: Origins that finally tipped us over into buying the game. I haven't had a chance to play yet, but I've done my bit to support gay elves.

Had a grand old time this afternoon watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Nightmare Before Christmas. (Hey, just because I'm Jewish doesn't mean I can't enjoy a good Christmas movie.) Thanks, [ profile] swan_tower!

And, look, BBC 7 is broadcasting a radio version of Red Dwarf! (Looks like it's probably an abridged adaptation of the novels, read by Chris Barrie.) I'll definitely check it out.
I usually find Radio 4's Thinking Allowed pleasantly thought-provoking, but a good chunk of the most recent episode was mostly just provoking. It was devoted to the premise that men just aren't growing up any more. Three principal pieces of evidence were invoked for this thesis:
1. Men are living with their parents longer than they used to.
2. Men are getting married later in life than they used to.
3. It's now considered entirely socially acceptable for men to play video games.

Let's take a look at these, shall we? )
Actually, that's what really boggles me about the "Thinking Allowed" episode. Everyone involved seems to be working from a shared definition of "grown-up" that no one ever actually bothers to articulate. I think that if I had to define grown up, I'd probably define it as, "Capable of independently fulfilling a reasonable number of one's obligations to one's family and society." Which I think you can still do while being single, living in your mom's basement, and owning a PlayStation.