Introducing: The Long Hall Podcast

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Well, I finally did it. I finally:

  • Sat down and planned things out
  • Scheduled a guest
  • Recorded
  • Edited (I may hate Audacity)
  • And Posted

All that said, I would like to introduce you to my new podcast project, The Long Hall.

Take a listen to the pilot episode and tell me what you think in the comments below.

Beyond the Pixels of Minecraft: Story Mode

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Minecraft: Story Mode has taken over our household. Soon after my last post, Wyatt and I beat Episode 1 – ‘The Order of the Stone’. We finally figured out that the game plays better if I hold the controller. Allowing me to read the dialogue answer options and then press the corresponding button. This setup keeps the experience frustration free. Also prevents us from calling someone an idiot, in-game, on accident.

Lukas is a good guy.

Lukas is a good guy.

Story Time:

There was a moment in Episode 1 where the characters are huddled in a hut. Rain falls outside, everyone exhausted, stomachs grumbling. Axel, the big tough guy of the group, offers everyone a cookie, except for Lukas, who he doesn’t like. The game offers us a choice:

  • Eat the cookie?
  • Or give the cookie to Lukas?

We ended up giving our cookie to a thankful Lukas. Wyatt couldn’t figure out why Axel was being such a jerk. So we discussed group dynamics and treating others as you want to be treated. A teachable moment brought about by a video game? Why not.

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We are now moving through Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 2 – ‘Assembly Required’. Enjoying our time with Jesse, Reuben the pig, and Lukas. Turns out Jesse didn’t have to adventure on alone.

The Joys of Minecraft: Story Mode

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I surprised Wyatt last night with the first episode of Minecraft: Story Mode. He was happy. Commanding the PS4 controller, he guided protagonist Jesse and friends to EnderCon.

“I really wish his name wasn’t Jesse,” Wyatt told me as I put him to bed later on.

“Jesse is both a girl’s name and a boy’s name.”

“Oh.”

And so it began.

The signature of all Telltale Games, dialogue decisions, reared their red eyes like a cave spider. I found myself scrambling to read all of the choices aloud with their corresponding button shapes. Stress. Filled. Chaos.

Dialogue timer is at the bottom of the screen (middle green bar).

Dialogue timer is at the bottom of the screen (middle green bar).

“Hit the triangle button!”

The boy presses the x button, calling someone on screen an idiot.

“Wyatt!”

“I’m sorry!”

Some games click, others don’t. And that’s okay. 

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Tabitha walked into the living room about the time a “hell yeah” was exclaimed twice in a row. One of those classic mom moments. The game had been fine up until then. Positive elements of friendship and being true to yourself had been explored before she walked in. I promise.

Five Nights At Freddy’s and Minecraft: Story Mode are spoken about with reverence in our home. Playground hype has carried the scares of Freddy’s and the tales of the Ender Dragon to our dinner table. I am happy to help the boy gain some playground cred. I’m just not sure we are ready to finish this block-filled adventure.

In fact, we are going to finish up the first episode and call it a day. Maybe we’ll revisit this series in a few years when he is older. Able to read the dialogue at a rapid rate and make decisions. Mature enough to understand the “hell yeah’s” being thrown at him.

We’ll continue exploring the regular version of Minecraft. Jesse will have to adventure on, alone.

A Crash Course On The ESRB

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The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) looms large over the video game industry. A non-profit, self-regulating body, they exist to help parents make informed choices.

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My wife, Tabitha, and I were in a GameStop. Standing in line, we watched a father and son approach the register. The store clerk looked at the game, asked the parent, “do you know that this is rated M and that it has the following in it?” Dad, shocked, decided to pass on the game due to listed content. Him and his son walked away from the register empty-handed. The ESRB rating had informed the parent; the ESRB rating had done its job.

The recent release of Minecraft: Story Mode sent me on a quest of my own. I found the ESRB’s nebulous content descriptors lacking. Just what is the ESRB? Do they screen/play every video game released? How exactly do they determine whether content is age-appropriate or not? Reading through the helpful FAQ the ESRB has posted on their website, I learned that:

  • Submitting games to the ESRB is completely voluntary. Yet, retailers and console manufactures have created policies requiring games carry an ESRB rating. The entire system is self-policing, in a way.

ESRB raters do not play reviewed video game submissions due to:

  • The volume of games submitted
  • Personal bias/worldview
  • Differing in-game experiences (especially games that feature choice)

Raters do revisit games after release to verify accuracy of disclosed content*. Which is good to know.

Each game features a Rating Summary (recently rated games are featured on the ESRB home page). Check out the example below from Yo-Kai Watch:

This is a role-playing game in which players search for and capture ghost-like creatures (Yo-Kai) around a city. Players identify and interact with various Yo-Kai, earn their friendship, and use them in turn-based combat against other creatures. Damage is indicated by colorful light effects, smacking/zapping sounds, and depleting hit points. The dialogue includes some references to violence (e.g.,“This will only hurt for a minute…After I cut your heart out…You won’t feel a thing.”). The game includes several depictions and references to bodily functions: a Yo-Kai called Snotsolong with mucous dripping from its nose; Yo-Kai (Cheeksqueek and Buttsqueek) with buttocks for heads that use flatulence-like attacks (Text reads “Emits an evil fart that significantly lowers the SPD of its enemies.”).

For parents everywhere, the ESRB represents a first line of defense in making an informed purchase for your child.

Game on.

Wave Splinter*Disclosed content is submitted by the developer to the ESRB highlighting possible problematic content.

For more information on the ESRB and their rating process, you can click here.

Potty Bricks – Minecraft: Story Mode

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Wyatt and I have yet to delve into the blocky depths of full blown Minecraft. The first-person shooter (FPS) control scheme and complex user interface (UI) are obstacles. Barriers that have kept us from moving beyond the demo.

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Telltale Games recently released Minecraft: Story Mode. The game received an Everyone 10+ rating for “Fantasy Violence” and “Mild Language”. I visited the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) website to verify rating and descriptors.

esrb ratings symbol for e10 games

EVERYONE 10+Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.

  • Violence – Scenes involving aggressive conflict. May contain bloodless dismemberment
  • Language – Mild to moderate use of profanity

The ESRB site fails to illuminate exactly what I am putting in front of my son. What does “Mild Language” mean? Common childhood words such as: Jerk, Stupid, Buttface? Or are we moving into the territory of: Hell, Damn, and Ass?

Story Time: When Wyatt was still learning how to talk, he started saying the word “dammit”. Now he wasn’t around other kids at the time. My wife and I watched what we said around him. But this was his favorite word. Even after telling him not to use it, he would mutter it under his breath when angry. Kind of funny looking back. Kids repeat what they hear. Even if the parents can’t figure out where they are hearing it.

Nebulous content descriptors are a poor tool. So I decided to go to a source I could trust, I talked to my friend Josh, who had recently played the game. Josh told me that there are instances of:

“What the hell.”

“Freaking.” A lot.

My wife and I have a decision to make on this game. Do we allow it in our home? Are we ready to let our 6 year old hear things above the school playground? I’m not sure. Each family has to decide what they let into their home. Even if it is as minor as a little freaking hell.

Check out Josh’s video on the game below.