Doom 3 – I wasn’t scared…

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The sky is red as are the walls of the scientific research facility I’ve been exploring for the past few days. Demons roam the bloody hallways, hiding, ready to jump out and meet my machine gun. A lot of meetings have taken place here. Meetings featuring the roaring of my personal arsenal and demons flooding in from a gateway to Hell. Teleportation science run amok.

Walking down a dimly lit corridor, I know that there are demons waiting for my brand of clean up. I go to turn a corner and….

AHHHHHHHHHH! Someone touched my back… someone is behind me!

I rip my headphones off only to hear laughter from the guys on my dorm floor. I’m shaking with adrenaline. That day in college, I learned a few valuable lessons:

  1. Always face your computer to where no one can sneak up on you.
  2. Headphones, while cool, are not always your friends.

Doom 3

I’ll never forget how scared I was to play Doom 3 after having the guys sneak up on me. I did not play Doom 3 after that incident. The magic and the tension were gone.

What was the last game that scared you?

An Evening with Fortnite – Crossplay Enabled

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“Get on the Battle Bus, dad.”

“I’m not jumping out of that.”

“Just get on the bus.”

[Later, having exited the bus, we are now parachuting over an island that doesn’t appear to have a name…]

“Where should we go, Wyatt?”

“Umm… Lazy Links? Tilted Towers?”

“Just set a beacon and I’ll meet you there.”

“Okay.”

“I’ve got a gun for you, dad. You’re going the wrong way! LOOK OUT FOR THOSE MONSTERS!”

“Where are you? How can you tell if there are enemies around?”

“There are enemies dad!”

“Where?”

“I don’t know, I just heard one.”

[Somehow, we both end up in a gas station. A fellow player notices us and starts shooting.]

“Wyatt, there is a guy outside by the gas pumps.”

“WHERE?”

“THERE! He is right there! Get HIM!”

Pew. Pew. Pew.

“Guess we are dead? Should we go back to the lobby?”

“Yeah, dad, let’s play again.”

Wyatt and I tried to get Fortnite, on the PS4 and the Switch, to communicate a few weeks ago, shortly after crossplay was enabled. For some reason, we couldn’t receive friend invites at that time and thus couldn’t see each other in-game. So last night, we checked again and found that crossplay is now running in a stable manner. We were able to quickly become friends and enter into a match together.

So there we were:

  • Me, playing on the PS4 hooked up to the living room TV.
  • Wyatt, playing on the Switch, sitting next to me on the couch.

We ran around the cartoony world and kept dying. But the boy was super excited to be playing Fortnite with me. One of those moments where I wasn’t super enthused to be playing the game, but I was happy to just be hanging out with him.

Last night, I was reminded that often, as a parent, you have to do things your kids want you to do. You have to suck it up, quit being the boss, and enter into the worlds of play your kids are inviting you into. Whether that is playing LEGO, shooting each other outside with NERF, or playing Fortnite co-op, you are making memories with your kids. You want your kids to say: “My dad used to play with me.” Gotta remind myself of that.

Dad for the Win – Where is my cell phone?

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I couldn’t find my cell phone last night.

I looked in the living room. Nothing.

I looked in the bedroom. Nothing.

I looked all over before bed. Nothing!

Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

Woke up this morning and continued my search. Finally decided to have Tab call my phone. Thinking that despite my prior search it might be in our room, I walked towards the back of the house.

Suddenly, my son appears looking half awake.

“Dad, your phone was in my room.”

Well, I guess I found my phone and woke Wyatt up in the process.

A Thursday dad FTW moment bought to you by: I should have stayed in bed.

An Evening Expedition – Atlantis: The Lost Empire

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Wyatt wasn’t feeling well last night. I think Texas is trying to take him out. That’s right, the State of Texas decided to swap our weather from the high 90’s to cloudy, cool, and rainy. Overnight. The human body seems to take issue with sudden weather changes. Anywho, him not feeling great led to some great snuggle time on the couch (I love this). We watched Atlantis: The Lost Empire via Netflix.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get over:

  • The beauty of the animation in this movie. I love the style and mix of traditional and computer animation.
  • How many people die within the film’s opening 20 minutes.
  • How much action there is for an animated Disney movie. Wyatt loved it after snubbing the movie, for months, anytime I offered to watch it with him.
  • The Disneyland attraction we lost due to the film’s performance at the box office.
  • How cool it is to hear Michael J. Fox voice protagonist Milo.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire - Milo

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is up there, for me, on my list of Disney movies that dare to be different. Movies such as:

  • Lilo & Stitch
  • Treasure Planet
  •  A Goofy Movie

While we were watching the movie, I let developer Greg Labanov’s Wandersong download in the background. Will be blogging about this game soon.

 

From Across the Net: “Double-Minded: Christian Culture’s Diametrically-Opposed Views of Marriage and Singleness”

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11 years into marriage, it is easy for me to forget that I wasn’t married until I was 25 years old. What I’ll never forget though were the years in-between high school graduation and marriage. The churches I was a part of did not know how to handle those who were single. Nathan Marchand, whose book I reviewed sometime back, touches on this “single limbo time” period in his piece titled “Double-Minded: Christian Culture’s Diametrically-Opposed Views of Marriage and Singleness“.

What the church needs is consistency. Celebrate marriage with everyone. Help singles maximize their lives where they are and don’t shame them for desiring a spouse. For those rare few who’ve been called to singleness, give them opportunities not afforded to married people. Modes of service don’t decrease with marriage—they just change.

Marriage is hard, but so is singleness. (you can read more in the link above)

Churches, that I have been a part of, have been structured like this:

  • Nursery
  • Preschool
  • Elementary
  • Middle School / High School
  • College (which is often a thrown together class)
  • AND THEN Adult General Population (Big Church)

We go from structure-structure-structure to nothing. I agree with Nathan, I think that we, as Christians, could be doing better. Speaking into the single years instead of letting culture show how it is to be done. By opening up our homes, speaking truth/being real (remembering those hard years), and being intentional with singles ministry (not throwing rando-Bob to deal with this area), we might have a chance. The Apostle Paul said that singleness is a gift and so is marriage.

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

You’re Going to Hell

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“If you wore your hair past your ears, you were going to hell.”

“If you wore a colored dress shirt to church, instead of a white shirt, you were going to hell.”

“If you were at a stop light and looked poorly at a woman and then got into a wreck and died, you were going to hell.”

The list of rules and unofficial law went on and on. Deep diving into the insanity of whether you wore a short sleeve shirt versus a long sleeve shirt, to church, determining your eternal destination.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

“God’s grace was something that was preached but not understood.”

God reminded me this past week that we all come from different places. Even members of the same church, who are fellow believers in Christ, have prior built foundations. Rules and family situations, that may have felt true and normal at the time, which turned out to be built on lies of men.

I’m reminded that if the backdrops of our lives can differ so much with those that are around us, what about those that we encounter online?

I think we can easily assume that others are just like us. Raised, perhaps, in stable families; Raised in churches that were more about God’s grace versus invented “Biblical” law.

“I was afraid to read the Bible.”

We assume so much in our day-to-day interactions. This week, when I was able to actually listen to someone, I heard a different story than my own. I had assumed, perhaps projected my own experience, and I was wrong.

God is teaching me to listen more intently. I can’t imagine growing up without the peace that God has shown me through his grace. I can’t imagine thinking that my slightest action was going to send me to hell. I’m sure my wearing shorts to church, more often than not, would secure me a permanent place there… if the laws I described above were founded in truth. Thankfully, God, in his grace, isn’t concerned about my clothing.

The lies of the devil are prevalent. His lies even infect the church. Be aware. Listen. Lift a fellow brother or sister up. Speak truth.

Peace.

Moving Along

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I wrestle over writing on the topics of faith, parenting, and gaming. Realizing that faith and gaming seem like polar opposite topics pitted against each other. I have a tendency to lean more towards gaming when I write as those posts get more clicks. That’s me being real. I hate how when I log into JBG, the first thing I see are the site statistics.

Over the years, I’ve been told to focus my blog more. Focus more on gaming, keep your faith and life posts to yourself or better yet, journal or start another blog for those. I’ve even had some encourage me to quit blogging, as it is a perceived waste of my time, and focus on writing for professional outlets.

Photo by Alexandru STAVRICĂ on Unsplash

In the shower this morning (where I do all my deep thinking, of course), I had one of those realizations that I’ve been allowing others, even complete strangers, to influence my thinking. Had to pray over this:

God help me to move on, to not be stuck on the past nor by what people have said. I’m tired of feeling held back by past hurt.

All of the above to say, that I’m going to keep writing. I’m going to keep blogging on the topics of faith, parenting, and gaming. Hopefully some of you find my writing helpful, insightful, funny, or just plain ludicrous.

Drop me a note in the comments section, if you have a moment. Let me know if you have benefited from joining me on this life journey. Thank you, as always, for reading. It means a lot to me.

Bryan

Fortnite Strangers

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This month, Game Informer interviewed a professional Fortnite player, Cesar Sainz, who moonlights as a pro gaming coach. Imagine inviting a stranger, into your home via the Internet, and allowing them to coach your kid to be a better Fortnite player. Check out this quote from the piece:

Do you ever interact with parents at all about the lessons? Do you get a sense of what they think?

I’ve never really interacted with them. I’m just another person on the internet and they’re like “Oh, we get it.” A lot of the times when kids are around 10 or 11, we’ll speak a little at the beginning of the lesson, and they’ll say “Yeah, my son wants to get better.” It just seems like they want their kids to be super happy. Maybe they might not fully understand it but they see that being good at this game makes their kid extremely happy.

Hi, Parental Judgement here. Even through a professional coaching web site, wouldn’t you, as a parent, want to know who is speaking to your child? I’m sure that they’ve been vetted through the coaching web site but still. How about a little engagement in your child’s hobby, parents? Engagement that goes beyond opening your wallet and shoveling out money so that your kid can pay-to-win in real life.

I was talking to a friend recently. He had watched Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He couldn’t believe how bad the movie was– for the record, I loved it!–.

“How can these people keep making the same mistakes?”

I want to know the same thing, parents. Why would you ever allow someone into your home, with a direct connection to your kids ear, without knowing who this person is? The dinosaurs keep getting out; the kids keep having bad things happen to them. Strengthen the perimeter fence, parents, and engage beyond the wallet.

Revisited – The Onion Layers of Time

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I wrote this back in March of 2012. I can tell you that I’ve chilled out a bit since then. No longer do I feel angry or frustrated when I don’t get to play a game in the evening. I’ve gotten to where I might game once a week (IF). I more so now enjoy the time I’m spending with my family. Just needed to grow up and discover a few more layers. Always thankful to Shrek for that analogy. – Bryan

As we advance in years, I believe that we all wish that we would personally be able to grow and mature with time as well. For some, growth and maturity are unattainable due to personal life choices; for others, growing in maturity and stature are a knowingly made decision.

Before I was married, I had all the time in the world to pursue what I wanted to pursue. If I wanted to go out with friends for coffee at 2AM, I could. If I wanted to sit down and play a video game every evening, for hours on end, I could do so as well. I was a free man and time was all mine.

Photo by Thomas Martinsen on Unsplash

As I dated and was soon married, my time quickly became our time. No longer did I have the freedom to do what I wanted to do. I had to now take my wife into consideration. What did she want to do? What could we do together? There was nothing wrong or bad about this change in the way I spent my time. Like an onion, I had simply discovered a new layer of personal depth; like an onion, my time had also grown thinner in peeling away that new layer.

The birth of our son set into motion the equation of: my time + our time = his time.

Age, growth and maturity force us to constantly evaluate the things that matter to us. Are we spending our free time pursuing the things that we love or the things that we simply like? This got me thinking about video games and my constant struggle to figure out where they place in my life. Do I love them or just like them? Are they keeping me from pursuing the things that I love?

What about you?

From Across the Net – “The Cost of Surrounding Yourself with Negative People”

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In our culture of “unfriending” and “muting” others, I found this piece by Tim Challies titled “The Cost of Surrounding Yourself with Negative People” refreshing.

It turns out that there is something far more costly than being with negative people: The cost of avoiding negative people, and thus, avoiding the kind of life that Jesus calls us to.

You can read more here.

Photo by Tom Roberts on Unsplash

Internet of Buttholes

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I wasn’t allowed to say the word butthole growing up.

Butthole

Butthole

Butthole

Slinging that word at a sibling was considered a no-no and led, at least for awhile, to getting my mouth washed out with soap.

The Internet is full of buttholes. Those people we normally wouldn’t allow within 5 feet of us who are now snuggled up to our screens. Writing comments on our blogs and saying things on our social media pages that they would never say to our faces… or maybe they would say those things?

Photo by Marc Schäfer on Unsplash

I’m tired of the buttholes ruining the Internet. I’m tired of:

  • The Josh Groban fan who got mad at my not liking Josh Groban’s CHARACTER in his latest show.
  • That person who doesn’t like me blogging and yet calls me a friend.
  • Those on twitter who have made it a hellish cesspool of negativity versus allowing it to be the amazing news tool it originally was.
  • Those on Facebook who think that it’s the best place ever to hash out politics and deep theological debates. (Add twitter to this comment too.)

Today I declare war on the buttholes. Go away! Your words are like poison to the soul. 

My shields are up. I’m not going to let some random internet person ruin my day NOR be the cause of me getting my mouth washed out with soap for calling them…

A butthole.

(Not that that would happen. I’m an adult now. I can say adult things. I think.)

From Across the Net – “Vancouver Canucks Ban Video Games While On The Road”

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This made me smile. There is something humorous about a big boy hockey team being told video games are a no-no.

As reported by The Province, Canucks’ center and alternate captain Bo Horvat explains that video games are presenting a distraction from players interacting with each other, as they’re just playing a lot of Fortnite instead.

“Yeah, that’s definitely a no-go on the road,” Horvat said. “No more Fortnite. No more bringing video games on the road. It’s strictly team meals, team dinners and hanging out with the guys. So we put an end to that.”

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “School-Year Screen-Time Rules from a Teacher”

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I enjoyed this piece, “School-Year Screen-Time Rules from a Teacher“, by Rebecca Young over at Common Sense Media.

Last year Fortnite invaded my middle school classroom — as I believe it did to middle school classrooms across the country. Students who were usually on task and high-performing were nodding off and “forgetting” to do their homework. The morning conversations about how late they stayed up or who was the last man standing became part of our early morning check-ins. Then the phone calls with parents started: Over several months, I had numerous telephone and after-school meetings with parents concerned about their kids’ performance. When I brought up screen time, there were a range of reactions. Some parents seemed oblivious as to what their children were doing after hours, some didn’t know how to rein in screen time, and some thought they had it all under control — but clearly did not.

You can read more here.

From Across the Net – “Should You Play Violent Video Games?”

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The recent extended stay of Fortnite, in my house, has me questioning video game violence once more. Specifically the language we use when playing violent games. The so-called Power Rangers Effect where kids start to do ninja moves after watching the show. But instead of ninja moves, using game specific weapons when talking/playing: “I’m going to kill you with my SMG.” Dr. Schut does a great job diving into the topic of video game violence.

I wish I could give you a simple formula: do this and don’t do that. But life doesn’t usually work out so neatly. I think the lines vary from person to person, from situation to situation, from mood to mood.

You can read more of Dr. Schut’s article titled “Should You Play Violent Video Games?” over at Love Thy Nerd.

Video Games and Attitude

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We have a rule in Hall household that goes something like this:

When you start to get angry or frustrated at a video game, you need to turn it off and take a break.

This rule applies to myself and to my son. Years of playing video games has taught me that taking a break, when angry or frustrated, is beneficial. Even when you are so frustrated that all you want to do is keep pushing through, I’ve found that it is best to stop. There is something taking a break does to the brain. As a kid, I remember pausing a game overnight and then being able to destroy a boss, that was previously impossible, the next day.

But what about when a game causes attitude? Anger that one can’t play longer or even has to quit? I remember a period when I was playing Mass Effect 2 a few years ago. I’d play the game late into the night, ignoring my bride, who would end up giving up and going to bed. I felt a pull while playing that game, a drive to see where the story went. Mass Effect 2 had it’s hooks in me just as World of Warcraft did years before.

I know that I can have issues with some games. Even though I haven’t been hooked on a game in awhile, I know that the right combination of design elements can take me down.

The same is true with my son. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild pushed all the right buttons for him. It was all that he and the kids at church were talking about. I’d constantly hear about the Divine Powers:

  • Revali’s Gale
  • Daruk’s Protection
  • Mipha’s Grace
  • Urbosa’s Fury

I’d hear so much about Breath of the Wild that I thought I was going to go nuts. And the attitude that came with the game, whenever he had to quit, was frustrating.

Tabitha and I find ourselves at the same attitude point again with Fortnite. But this time it’s a little different due to gaming elements Fortnite embraces (your child is being manipulated):

  1. The Store with Artificial Demand – When you log into the game, you can easily tab over to the Fortnite store. Here you can look/obsess/covet the latest in Fortnite cosmetics. Some of these cosmetics are available for a limited time, playing into an artificial demand where kids think they have to purchase something before it is gone.
  2. The Subscription with a Shady Pay-to-Win-with-Time Formula – Once you buy the $10 Battle Pass, Fortnite is all about unlocking tiers, which then unlock different cosmetics/skins/cool looking things. Fortnite developers Epic Games boasts on their website that the Battle Pass equals: 100 tiers, 100 rewards. One marketing bullet point states that it takes 75-150 hours worth of gameplay to unlock everything in the Battle Pass. Fortnite encourages players to dump as much time as they can into the game through their shady tier/unlock scheme. A pay-to-win-with-time formula, aimed at children.
  3. The Feedback Loop – A typical match takes 20 minutes to play. Unless you are knocked out of the match, in which case you can just jump into another match… and another match… and another match. This creates a feel good feedback loop for your brain. Just one more match, mom.

What is a parent to do? Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • On the Nintendo Switch, you can set a screen time timer to help manage your child’s play. There are several options to choose from when the timer runs out, including shutting down the console (if you are feeling evil; Do not provoke your children… – Ephesians 6:4). Each console has different parental settings, read up on them, empower yourself.
  • Parent. Talk to your child about their attitude. Be ready to follow through with consequences (don’t offer empty threats). Also don’t be afraid to have your child take a day off a game.

Gaming attitude is something our parents did not have to deal with as much as we have to–although I say that while clearly remembering my Mom taking away the NES controllers–. So set some boundaries/consequences and read up/educate yourself on the tools you have at your disposal. Learn about the game your child is playing, the one you are growing to hate because of their attitude. You never know, you might learn something about your child and be able to help them set healthy boundaries to use later on in their adult lives.

You are the parent. You do not deal nor negotiate with emotional terrorism.

Gaming is a privilege, not a right. (I can’t believe I just wrote that as a dad who games.)

How are you working through your child’s attitude when it comes to games?