In the Shadows of Fortnite

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Last November, Tabitha and I were struggling through the Fortnite craze with Wyatt. At the time, I penned a blog post that opened with this:

“I feel caught between being a parent and a gamer. Caught between my son loving Fortnite and me seeing the game for what it is, exploitative. I find myself fighting the urge to erase the game from my house. To pretend that Fortnite does not exist and funnel Wyatt towards games that are not built upon:

  • The addictive free-to-play foundations of games such as Candy Crush and Clash of Clans. Games that are built to encourage consumers to spend real life money to advance/keep playing. Pay-to-win, children!
  • Female characters designed to be objectified/sexual eye candy.
  • A non-stop gameplay loop.
  • An in-game store that creates an artificial need to buy skins (think: clothing/costumes) and items that will expire within an arbitrary time limit.

I can feel my parents surging within me, screaming, “JUST PULL THE PLUG!” But I’m trying to push through that deep rooted feeling. I’m trying to like Fortnite for my son; I’m trying to parent through it.”

I wrote much more than what I’m sharing above. The Fortnite post was up, on this site, for a couple of hours until I removed it. Not that I disagreed with anything that I had written, but I realized that the game had changed.

There comes a point, in parenting, where you need to work through things on your own. I realized that I was painting myself, as a parent, into a corner. Failing to realize:

  • That my attitude towards Fornite might change in the future.
  • That one day Wyatt might discover my blog and read what I have written about him.
  • That I want to be careful with how I represent my son online.
  • That some things are best worked out as a family. Privately.

Yes, we struggled as a family through Fortnite. I know many of you did. But me writing that unpublished blog post made me re-think how I blog about myself and my family. Not everything that happens in our homes, with our kids, needs to end up online.

E3 2019 – Halo Infinite

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The mere mention of Halo immediately brings me back to the first time I discovered Christians gaming together. I will never forget spending an evening with Fuller Theological Seminary students, playing Halo over a network. There is nothing quite like playing games together.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle – Versus Mode

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Wyatt and I just discovered the versus mode in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. The versus mode, for those who do not know, unlocks all character skills while pitting players against one another. Powered up mayhem ensues with each 15 to 20 minute match.

We’ve enjoyed strategically moving about the board while blowing each other away in hilarious fashion. Our match conversations are often full of trash talking while others are completely silent.

SILENT = SERIOUS!

I cannot recommend this mode enough. Reminds me of something that I would have poured hours into in high school. Our discovery of versus mode has breathed new life into Kingdom Battle for my family. If you have the game, grab a friend and check it out.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

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T: “Just give me a minute to move the shield around.”

B: “Okay.” Continues flying towards the death ray blocking the path as if nothing was said.

T: “BRYAN!”

An explosion rocks the screen. We. Are. Dead.

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Tabitha, Wyatt, and I battled through the first level of Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. I could feel the tension as we all raced around the pink spaceship. Each of us scrambling to man the proper command console:

  • Pilot – Thrusters
  • Block – Shield
  • Search – Radar
  • Fire – Guns / Super Gun

Meanwhile, enemies kept attacking from all directions. To be stationary is to be space dust.

Communication is not optional:

T: “Give me a moment to move the shield around this time.”

B: “Okay, I can do that. Wyatt, are you firing back?”

W: “Yes!”

Our second run through the first level went much better than the first run. We survived!

But I’m not sure whether we’ll be playing Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime again soon. Even if the boy kept asking:

“Can we play the lovers game?”

INVERSUS

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wavesplinter4/5 – INVERSUS is a smart shooter that challenges your brain through unique movement and solid gameplay mechanics. A great game to play with your kids and to pull out when friends and family come over.

Wave SplinterTitle: INVERSUS
Developer: Hypersect
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4
Reviews on: PlayStation 4
MSRP: $14.99

*INVERSUS was reviewed using a code provided by Evolve PR.

Understanding Minecraft through Cooperative Play

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Over the weekend, Wyatt and I played Minecraft for a couple of hours. Straight. I’ve never really understood the game. Sure, I get that it is virtual LEGOS. You can dig caves, build forts, the imagination is the limit. But I didn’t understand Minecraft until I played it co-op with my son.

We started our play session separated from one another. I worked on a castle; Wyatt worked on a village/farm. Eventually we figured out that the game has an in-game map. We found each other!

Wyatt begged me to come see his village. So I did. But my castle called to me, come finish me! So I left. Wyatt followed. My castle soon became a joint creation, our castle. Glowing pumpkins, emerald blocks, materials I would never choose, the boy placed with relish.

Playing the game cooperatively, split-screen, allowed us to create our own in-game narrative. Our creations telling the story of a seven-year-old and a thirty-five-year-old living in a block-filled land.

We have built great things together. Cooperatively, through the magic of Minecraft.

I finally understand.

Wyatt (top screen); Me (bottom screen). Built a tower of light.

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Wyatt (top screen); Me (bottom screen). Built an epic sky road that spans to a distant mountain.

Theology Gaming Review: Super Mega Baseball – Extra Innings

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Super Mega Baseball seems perfect for fathers and sons to play together (or mothers and daughters, for that matter). It’s not too hard to give your opponent a leg up if they’re still learning the game. And even better, you can play co-op against the computer if you don’t want to oppose each other. It makes me wish I had my own five year old to play the game with. – Super Mega Baseball – Extra Innings

Video Games – Better Together

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I am a social gamer. I enjoy talking about video games more, oftentimes, than actually playing them. I also prefer playing through a game co-op versus playing single-player. Unless the single-player mechanics/gameplay are mind-blowing, then sign me up. There is something compelling about sharing a game experience. Whether that is shooting aliens together in a Halo game or operating on a patient in tandem in Trauma Center. Video games are best played with one another.

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Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and Halo: Combat Evolved were two games I played through with my friend Cory. Fun times where we would purposefully get together, drink the soda, and push through the game at hand. Finding/equipping new gear, fragging enemies, and general friendship created fond memories for me. I miss those times.

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When we first started dating, I brought my silver GameCube over to Tabitha’s house. She was not a gamer, but I wanted her to fall in love with video games, like me. So I introduced her to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I can still remember her trying to get through the pirate ship’s hold. Lanterns swaying, platforms threatening to disappear, the game proved challenging for her. And yet, she made it.

Our gaming together has continued since we married.

  • Super Mario Galaxy
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
  • Tomb Raider and the Guardian of Light

The above are a small sampling of series that we have played together. Sometimes even playing with a walkthrough in hand. Don’t judge.

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My son and I have started our own tradition of playing video games together. With him, just as with my wife, I have had to learn to chill out and watch how I talk while playing. I hope that:

  • Memories are being made. Good memories.
  • Muscle memory and skills are developing
  • My love of virtual worlds is being passed on

Surrounded by people, encouraged by friends, gaming together is awesome.

Let the Mario Parties begin.

Am I Giving My 6-Year-Old Video Game Drugs?

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Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure was my first attempt to play a video game with Wyatt. He would climb onto my lap and I would give him charge over a few buttons. We’d press on, together, through the colorful lands of Skylands, father and son.

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The toys to life market has exploded since the original Skylanders debuted. Disney has followed suite with their own Disney Infinity and LEGO with LEGO Dimensions. The race for your nostalgic memories blended together with basic compulsive behaviors is on.

Skylanders: Superchargers, Disney Infinity, and LEGO Dimensions are not cheap. Each brand forces you to buy a base set, at prices ranging from $75 to $100. If you want to go beyond the initial starter pack characters, prepare to pay $15 per character. Want to play, I mean “unlock” more of the game levels you’ve already bought? The ransom price will be $30 per expansion. Good times for kids like Veruca Salt; bad times for a child who only gets a video game on their birthday.

As a parent, I wonder at what I have introduced my son to. Am I no better than a drug dealer, pushing the latest video game with expensive add-ons? What about the morality and business model of a developer who is double-dipping? Buy the initial game for x-amount and then pay more to play the rest. Is this fair?

Take LEGO Dimensions for instance. The main game, according to some reviews, is 12 hours in length. Which is not a bad amount of gameplay for $100, at $8/hour. But, any of the past LEGO games have been whole. Yes, they have lacked an accompanied physical LEGO set, but they have been fully unlocked. Interested in Portal themed levels, Mr. Nerd? That will be $30 please. Content that is already on disc, waiting to be saved.

In our brave new world of toys to life, I wonder how long consumers will stand for buying the same product 5-6 times. On a positive note, Skylanders: Superchargers only requires four vehicles to experience the game.  None of the content gated to specific types of figures, as it has been in the past. A step in the right direction.

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But who am I kidding? I can rant and rave about pricing structures till the end of this blog. Will LEGO Dimensions make my Christmas list? OH YEAH! I can’t pass up playing with Gandalf, Batman, and Wyldstyle. No matter the cost, playing this game with Wyatt will be awesome. LEGO told me so.

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. – Ecclesiastes 1:14 (NIV)