Fond memories of Animal Crossing and encouraging social skills

Posted by dkidwell on May 31st, 2012 — Posted in parenting

Recently I had a conversation about Animal Crossing, and while it’s been years, reflecting back, it’s a really wonderful social game.

Animal Crossing puts players in a patently adorable city (the sort that Nintendo absolutely excels in) and encourages you to explore the city, meet it’s citizens and engage in activities in the little community.

My oldest (who just graduated high school!) played with me for years – tending our homes and the little city. As he heads off to college, there are a few things that struck me as particularly educational in animal crossing.

1) Responsibility

As my son heads off to college, responsibility is one of those key skills he needs, and if there’s one thing Animal Crossing teaches, it’s this. He’ll be met with many responsibilities on campus (ok, not quite the real world while he’s still in a dorm) that harken back to those Animal Crossing moments. We spent hours working to pay off the Animal Crossing mortgage and taking care of the house and grounds. Pulling weeds in both the real and virtual yards! There’s something about a quite game of Animal Crossing after a day of work or a Foxy Bingo game – Nintendo’s music and world is both relaxing and reinforcing!

2) Timekeeping

Turn up at someone’s house too late? They’ve gone to bed. Leave talking to someone and catching up for too long? They get upset. Animal Crossing’s social structure is similar to ours in that you do have to try and ensure you’re not attempting to engage with people at antisocial hours. While you could tamper with the time settings on your Wii or Gamecube, doing so takes such a deliberate effort that you are at least aware that you are tinkering with time!

3) Being a good citizen

Being a good citizen is an amazing opportunity you have in Animal Crossing that just doesn’t come into play in most games. Make friends, and they will give you gifts – but you have to be genuine (no sending nonsense letters without content, you have to mean it)! Do them favours, and they’ll always talk to you. Uproot some weeds, and you’ll soon find that your town starts getting a higher rating. Dig up holes – a museum full of fossils. Animal Crossing is all about making the effort, although it’s best to think of it this way, rather than simply as a mechanic to get people to give you cool stuff!

Animal Crossing is one of the most inventive, fun, sweet games that’s ever been released, and whether it teaches you to have a better world approach or not, you’ll have a great time. If AC is one of those games you meant to play and didn’t – go back to it! If you are looking for a summer game, you’ll likely find a great price on a used version at your local game store. Highly worth it – it’s a beautifully designed game.

Parent 2009 Conundrum #1 – Our Xbox dies right after Christmas

Posted by dkidwell on January 2nd, 2009 — Posted in parenting

16 months into our Xbox 360′s life and there it is – The Red Ring of Death.   H. was out slaying zombies on New Year’s Eve (a worthy pasttime), and 5 minutes later, we’ve got the evil eye coming from the Xbox.   We bought the Elite model in hopes that we’d avoid this fate, but seems that didn’t help.

The evening continues as we make homemade eggnog and await the coming of the New Year with family.   Discussion and debates abound, with an occassional pause to go unplug the thing yet again in hopes that “this time!” the Xbox will cheerily come back to fully zombie-slaying mode.  Nope!

The discussion:  how long have we had this thing?  Should it be under warranty?  Wasn’t this issue solved by the time we late adopted bought ours?

The debate:   Is the a class-action suit we can join?  Will the store take it back?  Which store did we buy it at anyway?  If they can’t fix it, what then?  How long are we willing to go without one?

For the moment, we’ve opted to neglect the box, finish painting the upstairs, and spend the boys gaming time in Warhammer Online.   But once the paint is dry, we’ll need to try and get it fixed.  This silly box is a big draw for my son’s highschool buddies and we’ve really got a nice selection of games for the things.

Sigh, I suppose I should just get in line behind all the Microsoft Vista support requests and wait and see?

Gamers and geeks in Seoul

Posted by dkidwell on March 31st, 2008 — Posted in parenting

Kinki Robot Store

Just arrived home from Seoul – and since I haven’t had time to actually blog about it I’ll post a quick teaser…

I found the most wonderful toy store – Kinki Robot- built for geeks and collectors. Here you can find small plastic figures that are the 2008 equivalent of the “Smurf” figurines in the 80s. Fascinated with the Simpsons? Irresitably attracted to Ugly Dolls? Any form of anime is likely to have a figurine set to match.

Ah – and how does a little store like this make any money? The attraction of collections – every figurine is sold in a randomized box, complete with rare items. A figurine runs $5-10 dollars, so to finish off a collection of a dozen you are likely to drop a hefty amount of won.

I expect I’ll be back – the 3 figures I brought home were a huge hit!

“Ron Paul Rally in World of Warcraft”, or “How your child is likely to learn about political candidates”

Posted by dkidwell on January 3rd, 2008 — Posted in parenting, politics, World of Warcraft

Earlier today, 240 characters in the massively multi-player online game World of Warcraft gathered together for a rally that spanned continents in their virtual world. Even as I type that, I realize just how foreign most of what I’ve just said must sound. But yes – 240 players in a video game gathered to rally for Ron Paul.

Nice coverage of the event is available here.

This is likely to be the first time my 14 year old son hears of a candidate for U.S. President outside of the usual droning of adults, teachers and news pundits. Which means – this is likely to be the first he hears from his peers – his constituency.

That’s a mighty powerful thing.

Not too many 14 year olds are politically aware, and those that are likely to have parents that talk about it. I’ve got no research to back that up, but I doubt it would take me long to find some. I’m just going to rattle off some of the things I find really striking about this – bear with me, or go look at something cool instead:

  • Gathering 240 characters together takes considerable management and planning. You’re asking 240 accounts (keeping in mind that some folks have more than one account) to gather and hop online for a coordinated activity. Most activities in game require 5 people, and for larger events 40 may get together. Rarely would you need to gather this many. There’s a whole chain of logistics involved in actually making this happen, and it’s every bit as impressive as real life rallies.
  • Players are considering moving their characters to play in this particular group even if that means changing servers. That may not sound like a big deal, but some of these players have years of work built up in their primary character, and uprooting him to move to a new server is not trivial (it costs about $25 but the real costs are in leaving your community in the old neighborhood.)
  • Over the years, communities of players ebb and flow. Factions within groups crop up and guilds rise and fall. But what if guilds congregated to join in something deeper and rooted in the real world – say an ideology of freedom and limited government? If I were Blizzard (or a community manager in any game) I’d be proactively looking for ways to foster that. As a mom, I’m planning to ask my son about the guild tonite and see if he’s heard of it. From there I expect we’ll wander into a dialogue about the monetary policy, Ron Paul thoughts on the gold standard and the relevance of that for gold in World of Warcraft.
  • World of Warcraft has 9 Million + players and as such, 240 characters isn’t that many. But, considering the subscription costs of those characters, just that group is paying ~ $3,600 a month to play. Some of those may be 10 day trial accounts, but I’d be willing to bet most of them are not. Not sure where I was going with that thought, but if I was managing a political campaigns internet efforts, I’d be looking at that kind of thing.
  • Gamers as a constituency are an interesting lot. Tech savvy and engaged (on their terms) in participating in online activities, I’d be wanting to reach out to that group to rock the vote.
  • The activity in game echoes in forums and blog postings where the players hang out. Not only are they talking about the candidate in game, but they are expounding on it, linking and, most likely, verbally abusing one another on any number of related sites.

I think this is the beginning of a very interesting avenue for public discourse and activity. I absolutely love the idea that a group of gamers is participating in our political process and bringing that discourse into their virtual world.

If there is one thing I’d hope for the political inclinations of my kids, it’s that they are knowledgeable and participate in the political process. Rallies in World of Warcraft bode very well for that.

Hannah Montana – not this Christmas!

Posted by dkidwell on December 15th, 2007 — Posted in parenting

If 15 years ago someone told me how I was going to spend the morning of December 15th, 2007, I would dismissed them in a haughty fashion:

“Donna, in 15 years you will wake up at 5:45am on a Saturday morning to stand in line with a bunch of tired parents waiting patiently for concert tickets for the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus.

Not only that, but you will have arrived late to work the morning before so that you could get a wristband that guaranteed you a chance to stand in line the next morning.

You’ll wait in line for over 4 hours, only to leave with an Achy Breaky Heart and no tickets.”

Yep, I would have thought you were insane.