Kids and their games – Danette Schardt-Cordova

Kids and their games – Danette Schardt-Cordova

I am a gamer. I am completely and unrepentantly a gamer and have been since I was introduced to Atari (long live Pong!) at age 11, personal computers at age 12(does anyone even remember the affectionately nick named TRaSh 80 Color Computer 3 from Radio Shack?) and good ‘ole Dungeons and Dragons at age 14. Now days except for the bi-monthly AD&D game I run for my kids and a couple of their friends I do most of my gaming on the computer and a lot of it online. Even among other gaming people (of all ages) I get many strange looks for actually insisting on doing my gaming on the PC instead of any of the many console systems that can be found. But I do have a real reason for why I prefer it. Games, even open ended games like many RPGs are (that’s Role Playing Games for the unfamiliar) are still fully set and planned out requiring only that you remember two or three key strategies for several different games no matter how different they appear from the outer package. Computer games on the other hand ask for much more.

A few years ago my kids got me into this little indie game they had found. I usually describe it as Lego blocks on the computer since that is the basic premise, you take blocks and you build stuff with it. On the surface this is a game most would dismiss out of hand since in the age of such graphic and programing marvels as World of Warcraft, Skyrim and Halo the environment consists of lots and lots…and lots of blocks and the graphics are very simple eight bit. For those without kids that game was Minecraft, I think even the hermit in the cave has heard of this game by now. No one can really agree on what exactly makes this game so popular and truthfully that’s not the point of this anyway. I will however note that my three kids (19, 15, and 11) who are notorious for binging on a game for a month or two and then abandoning it have come *back* to this game multiple times so it has a stay-ability that a lot of games now days don’t seem to have.

What makes this game so interesting for this though is what it can teach our kids when they play it, even in the dreaded console version. At the most base, straight out of the box level it not only encourages imagination and creativity but planning, requiring not only envisioning the final result but organizing, keeping track of and acquiring the resources necessary for the project that is being worked on. People playing this game have recreated-in block form-everything from the Taj Majal to King’s Landing to a 1 block to one inch recreation of their bedroom to a working computer(only simple math but yes fully working computer within the game restrictions). And we aren’t talking about “oh that kinda, might be it” but true, beautiful, very realistic reproductions.

Another popular use for this is the very common pixel art often used for cross stitch and quilting. These works of detail oriented art have included things so well done as to fool the viewer into thinking it is a drawing or low resolution picture. I’ve seen reproductions of everything from Nyan Cat to well-known Nintendo icons to the iconic Da Vinci painting “The Mona Lisa”

In addition to this there is the versatility of these games. Ever since 1986 when the first Construction Kit was introduced players have been making modifications or ‘mods’. While they have been available for some time it really wasn’t until May 2002 and June 2002 when Bethesda released Morrowind and BioWare released Neverwinter Nights with the Construction Set as part and parcel of the game that the concept really became big. It is so big that the Elder Scrolls series has four different websites where mod content for the games can be found.

In Minecraft the first possible mods are called resource packs (changed from the original texture packs as it now includes the ability to change even the music in the game). A simple Google search for ‘resource packs minecraft’ nets you over 2 million hits in less than a quarter of a second. There are packs that change the art from the original 16×16 format to a simpler 8×8 to allow it to run better on lower computers to a mind boggling(and RAM hogging) 512×512 format. Those of all ages have made these for every reason from “I want it to look prettier” to “I want it to look like this thing there”. A quick scan of one of several sites hosting these show pack that simply clean up the art to packs that are homages to everything from Star Wars to Nintendo’s Link to Candyland. Many of these packs require the author to not only be artistic but familiar with programs such as Paint, Photoshop and GIMP. These packs have been made with everything a simple mouse to drawing tablets.

Another piece of editable work is one that one of my own daughters (who claims she’s not artistic at all) participates in. The term skin or skins is used for the look of the avatar that represents the player. These have also been used to pay homages but have birthed a plethora of original art that have led to the popularity of ‘skin competitions’. The making of these requires the learning of yet another art program as well as an artistic eye.

Not interested in art but still want to build something and don’t think you have enough blocks? Add in the More Blocks mod that adds enough blocks to the game to keep even the busiest, build happy for years. Maybe the next thing you build will have you learning architecture.

Like the farming mechanics? Try your hand at Magical Crops that has recipes for making seeds for every resource available in the program including the metals.

Want to pretend you’re Merlin? Have a look at Thaumcraft or Witchery.

Rather play with some Tech? There’s Applied Energistics or Buildcraft.

Not enough trees? How about Biomes ‘O Plently!

Adding in this content makes the kids playing have to learn more than just how to point and shoot at something. They have to learn mapmaking, accounting, wiring (yes the tech ones can get that fussy), energy creation and consumption, ecology, forestry. And most of the time? They don’t even realize it! Heck they go looking for stuff that teaches this to them themselves!

And the best part of it? Most of the people making these? Had to learn how to make them first. Had to teach themselves or be taught how to use the programs or the programing. At least two of the authors I know for a fact ended up going into the field of programming because of making mods for Minecraft. So the next time your kids ask for a game? If they already have a computer look see if it’s available on the PC with a construction set attached. Who knows you might turn out to have the next ‘Notch’ in your house. Because I can certainly get behind something that just might be the push needed to gel a future career choice for my kid.

109 responses to “Kids and their games – Danette Schardt-Cordova

  1. I not only remember the CoCo 3, but the original CoCo as well. Moreover, I still have my first computer, the original Radio Shack Trash-80 (later known as the Model I), in working order. I think I even have the manuals somewhere; but not, alas, the boxes, which would turn the thing into a collectible. (In my humble but infallible opinion, collectors are nuts.)

    *shakes cane* Now get off my lawn, you and your newfangled PC!

    • ObOnTopic: Those early 8-bit hobby machines, a.k.a. ‘bitty boxes’, or better yet, ‘programmable toasters’, had a lot of the same charm and appeal as Minecraft. You had to get into the nuts and bolts and learn how to program things yourself; though you weren’t likely to learn about things like economics and ecology unless you specifically researched them to help you write a program. However, Dave Ahl’s BASIC Computer Games introduced a lot of us to different kinds of simulations and trained us to think in terms of complex systems with intrinsic feedback loops: which is half the basis of both economics and ecology.

    • You could take one of those old eight-bit machines, put a dozen Raspberry Pi boards inside, and build your own Beowulf cluster…

      • I used to have Microsoft’s Z80 add-in board for my Apple ][.

      • I have a couple of $20K Silicon Graphics Octane workstations kicking around in my barn. (Lucky for me I didn’t pay the $20k, I got them almost for free from a buddy.) A Raspi model 1 blows them out of the water in all respects. The new Model 2, it’s not even fair.

        Cluster of Raspis, awesome science project for any budding Poindexters out there. Use one to crank out Pi to some asinine number of digits. There’s contests for that kind of thing apparently. Firs one to a trillion digits wins a cookie or something.

        • There’s a “benchmark” for a new software packaging/management tool that is how many instances of a Web site you can get running on a RaspPi. The current record is 2334.

  2. Another great aspect of Minecraft mods, especially the “tech” mods like Buildcraft, Thermal Expansion, Applied Energistics, and so on, is how they teach you to think like an engineer. There’s all these blocks that do one small task, like pipes that can transfer items, and filters that can pick and choose which item goes into which pipe, but it’s up to you to hook them up so that they do what you want. Which means your kids are figuring out how to use smaller tools to make larger machines, right from the get-go as they play.

    Oh, and then there’s the Forestry mod and its tree breeding and bee breeding. When your kids learn about Mendelian genetics later on in high school, they’re going to exclaim, “Oh, that’s just like the bees in Minecraft!”

    It’s a great, sneaky way of making sure that even your kids’ play time is teaching them useful knowledge.

    • And I need to learn useful knowledge like checking the comment notification box. 🙂

    • Open computers and ComputerCraft — you write programs that can interact with the Minecraft world, including the technical — and some magical — mods.

      RailCraft — trains, including simple switching and signaling systems. Trains can require fuel and water, and you can build massive boilers to power your base.

  3. Speaking of games… 2 1/2 weeks and fallout 4 will devour my life.

    • Lol… You and me both. I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to it (because everything else is going to go on hold, including my writing) or not…

    • Space Engineers is going to release “planets” Real Soon Now — small planetoids, really, but with atmospheres and life and possibly hostile creatures.

      No idea what I’ll do with a planet, but can’t wait to see what’s possible.

    • I’ll just be giving up sleep. I don’t see how else I can keep Wee Dave alive *and* play Fallout4.

    • SheSellsSeashells

      I am counting DOWN. Not sure what it says about me that I am looking forward to crafting and town planning at least as much as story and Shooting Scary Things (I will probably be a sneaky sniper type. Again.)

    • My wife is a cruel woman. We don’t have enough money for everything, so I have to make choice between a Fallout 4 Xbox One bundle or a new iPhone 6s Plus. I think she is trying to have me dies from stress. I should check and see if she has taken out a large insurance policy on me…

  4. Polliwog the 'Ette

    Bringing it all together, Son is using the Age of Wonders 3 editor to make a map of the world he created for a homebrew tabletop game and MineCraft to build the keep that will be the groups headquarters since we’re starting at higher level than usual.

    • The Other Sean

      On the world/map creation front, the demo program at http://www-cs-students.stanford.edu/~amitp/game-programming/polygon-map-generation/ is very interesting. Appropriate for an island or continent, though, not an entire world. There’s also a JavaScript/WebGL world generator based upon similar concepts – there may be a link from the web site above.

      There are also a few tectonics-based world generators, but they tend to be somewhat slow. They all seem based upon a single CS bachelor’s thesis from a few years back by a student somewhere in Scandinavia.

      There are a couple textual-based world/nation/city generators out there, as well.

  5. Another game which appeals to the same sort of kid is Kerbal Space Program. You build spacecraft, crewed by adorably incompetent Little Green Men, and use them to conduct space missions. Teaches physics and also encourages the same “figure out new uses for standard parts” mentality.

    • And teaches orbital mechanics surprisingly effectively.

      • Yup. The school where I teach has some kids who take AP physics just so they can do better in Kerbal. *shakes head* I wonder if their parents know?

    • Kerbal Space Program. You start with a solar system, a box of rocket parts and a race of suicidal little green men who love exploring and explosions. Your mission is to help them.

      You and your child will learn many valuable lessons about space travel and life.

      Lessons like:
      When building rockets, the pointy end of the rocket goes up.
      If you are willing to ask the question ‘What could possibly go wrong’ you can learn that failure is always an option.
      If it moves and it’s not meant to, add struts.
      If it doesn’t move and it’s supposed to. Add boosters.
      If it goes boom, something either went very wrong, or very right.
      Embrace the motto Ad Astra Explodius
      Learn new words like Periapsis and Lithobraking See also: ‘Crashing’
      Get creative with acronyms like R.U.D – Rapid Unplanned Disassembly and W.W.J.D. – What Would Jeb Do. See also: ‘Crashing’ and ‘Exploding’
      Learn heroism and persistance from brave Kerbalnauts.
       “…And then I noticed Jebediah was scared, and I felt fear like I never had before.”
      “We must have landed, Bill’s stopped screaming”

      Last but not least, always remember to combobulate the discombobulator.

  6. I’ve been meaning to buy Minecraft but I can never seem to actually commit. Perhaps it’ll be a treat for myself for Christmas? One of the things that intrigues me is that I can build my fantasy world of Westlande instead of relying on pen and paper.

    • A couple of buddies at work said I should check it out, they had set up their own server and it was just the two of them playing on it. So I went home and played with the free version for a little bit and then sprang for it that evening and then went to bed. Keep in mind this would be only a couple of weeks before beta 1.0 rolled out. After work the next day I went home about 5:30 and sat down to play for “just a few minutes until I make dinner.” I swear it was only like 15 minutes after I sat down that I got up to go to the bathroom and discovered that it was almost midnight. So, after taking care of business, changing out of my work clothes, and grabbing some ice water, I went back in to play “for just a few minutes until I get finished building this thing.” And got out of my chair to go back to the bathroom at 5 AM. At which point I said, “Well, I might as well take my shower and get ready for work so I can finish up that thing in Minecraft before I have to leave. And I better set an alarm on my phone…”

      That day at work sucked really bad. But I did remember to fix dinner before sitting down to play Minecraft that night. Yeah, it won over even sleep. And I swear I was only going to play it for a little while before going to bed…around midnight. By that time, I had joined my buddies’ server and we had a grand old time playing together. And that server is still runs just a survival world. (Which makes fighting Elder Guardians a right difficult task).

    • SheSellsSeashells

      It’s pretty awesome. Holly Lisle, who’s an author I adore, builds spaceships in Minecraft for proper scene-setting and action-scene-plotting.

  7. I’m not sure, but I think that gaming over the years (starting from the ‘Adventure’ text game for CP/M, through various video games, then trailing off for a few years until Portal came along on the XBox…) has helped me stay mentally flexible. It’s the problem-solving games I prefer, as well as ones with engaging story lines. (Like Fallout, lol…)

    Currently I’m working through both Destiny and Pneuma. Pneuma’s a very beautiful game that I STILL haven’t quite figured out what I’m supposed to accomplish… which is part of the fun.

  8. This piece could fit almost perfectly into my gaming bio in every way but the Atari. I also started on the Trash 80 and my first console was the glorious Pong console. I later moved up to the Intellivision while everyone else had Ataris. I was also introduced to Minecraft by my kids who abandon games but find themselves going back to Minecraft. I’ve spent way too many hours mining keeping my ears open for the hissing sound of the dreaded creepers.

    I just prefer sandbox games on the PC as well. To this day I only play X3 Terran Conflict (amazing space sim) and SimCity4 for pure sandboxes. Baldur’s Gate (and its sequel) and Medieval 2 Total War, both titles heavily modded. I just can’t get into throwaway games, or closed-ended and/or linear plot games. My dream game would be a combination of a Total War game for real time battle sim and turn-based campaign merged with something like Caesar III for the city management portion.

    • I’m hoping they build a game that mixes the political plots of “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” with “Rome: Total War” and “SimCity”.

      Could you just imagine the possibilities?

      • The latest Nobunaga’s Ambition (also by Koei) probably has the Three Kingdoms stuff that you’re looking for. And the combat module is decent.

    • I went in different directions – but I also loved Caesar III – I still play occasionally. But I fell in love with Civilization – talk about a time sink! I still have Civ-5 on my home PC and play periodically. Just won as the British last week in fact. For the first time I won a Utopia victory with only 4 or 5 cities. Lots of fun.

      The game I still wish for is a new version of MOO (Masters of Orion). Great game. And it looks like I might get my wish – they announced a relaunch in June!

      -John

      • The Other Sean

        The Civilization games are dangerously addictive.

        • I can quit any time I like. After one more turn.

          • The Other Sean

            [snort]

            I’ve heard that before!

            My first try at college involved living in a dorm, and one night Brian from across the hall wanted to play Civ on my computer. My roommate was studying and I was was reading a novel, so I said sure. At some point I fell asleep. When I awoke the next morning, Brian was still playing Civ. My roommate Marc and I had both slept through 7+ hours of Brian’s Civ gaming, and he was still at it when I got back from breakfast an hour later. 🙂

            I’m not sure what he did about a bathroom overnight. Our dorm rooms didn’t have their own, and the dorm room doors auto-locked. Maybe he propped the dorm room door open with something?

            • Its well known that you don’t need potty breaks while playing Civilization.
              🙂

            • I’m not sure what he did about a bathroom overnight.

              Depends on which edition of the game. I think in 1 and 2 he only needed Construction to build Aqueducts, in IV I think it’s Math and Masonry. Never played III, and couldn’t get into V.

              Now, 2-liter soda bottles (aka the gamer’s bathroom substitute) are not available until Plastics…

      • My husband will no longer play Civ with me because I always win. Was teaching a friend how to play and we didn’t sleep for 3 days. Now, it gets saved for vacations or I will literally get nothing else done.

  9. There’s also Besieged 😉 Design silly siege engines and test them on innocent windmills and such!

    I also liked the Myst series of games because of their consistent internal logic. It felt very “right” to a scientific mind, not like the pixel-hunt type games that make no sense. The same group did do some children’s educational games.

  10. Christopher M. Chupik

    Growing up, I played a lot of Sierra games: King’s Quest, Space Quest, Quest For Glory, all the quests. But there was one thing in the early games that drove me NUTS: stairs. You had to climb stairs and if you slipped, you died. I can’t tell you how many times I died on stairs. When King’s Quest IV finally had automatic stair-climbing, I was very relieved.

  11. c4games…I mean comments

  12. I overdosed on Doom and Quake when I was a grown man, then stopped playing cold turkey. My brain doesn’t do well on a constant diet of KILL KILL KILL!!!!! Makes me a bit twitchy. Planning assault angles in the parking garage is a game for young men, not 50 year olds.

    Minecraft is a -fabulous- game for kids. Most important, it’s fun. The hacking and the mod packs make them very fluent with the operating system and with Java, two important life skills in our brave new world.

    It is also safe. Servers out there are mostly pretty good about booting off pervs and jerks, or you HOST YOUR OWN at pretty much zero cost. As mentioned above even the dorky Raspberry Pi can be a Minecraft server for a few kids.

    If you have kids and you’ve never heard of Minecraft, they’re probably playing it when you’re not looking. There’s a console version and even a teensy weensy android version for phones. Probably an Apple one too.

    • Yeah, I was too old to get into the shoot’n’scoot games that were all the rage when gaming arcades were The Thing. The only game I liked sufficiently to develop proficiency and rack up high scores was Q-bert.

      For whatever subliminal reason the arcade games were far more to my liking than the at-home versions.

      • Tetris. Tetris is fun.

        • Yes, Tetris was the only computer game* I ever spent absurd amounts of time on.

          *Does not include solitaire and various computerized versions of related card games. I typically play those merely as finger-fiddlin’ while watching videos, mindless activity to keep from nodding off.

          There were a variety of games which were pleasantly undemanding of attention computerizations of actual games, such as Othello (Apples & Oranges) which are simply more convenient to play on a computer but which i do not think rise to the level of computer games.

        • Tetris is an evil time suck. Which is why it was a good thing that the free Tetris site went off line for a while and I had to stop playing.

      • When I was an undergrad, Qbert was popular right after midterms and finals. People would have the character jump around a few times, and then deliberately leap off the edge… Just for the fading scream.

        • Duck Hunt

          Spoiler… did you know it’s possible to shoot the ducks and not just the damn dog in that game?

        • I liked to do that in Lemmings 😀 The little nuclear cloud over their heads was very soothing in times of trial.

          • I LOVED Lemmings. I especially liked to blow them all up when it was time to stop playing. The giggle probably disturbed my parents more than a little.

          • There was a mod for DOOM that turned the final monster into Barney the Dinosaur. I found that carving Barney with a chainsaw was amazingly therapeutic……8-)

  13. My attitude toward gaming has always been that I already had an abundance of things to consume my time and money and had no need (nor capacity) for more. That gaming might be superior to my ongoing time sinks is irrelevant; being conservative means having the right to resist change.

    That said, I’ve no reason to believe gaming any more destructive of time and lives than most other recreations, and a darn sight superior to many. I don’t ever recall hearing of somebody blowing out a knee or getting a concussion from gaming (from fellow gamers, perhaps.)

    Much of the to-do over this seems to be generated by those who professionally (or ideologically) are pre-disposed to View With Alarm, and if they were not warning of The Dangers of Games they would be inveighing against something else, whatever would focus attention on them.

    • > I don’t ever recall hearing of somebody blowing out a knee or getting a concussion from gaming (from fellow gamers, perhaps.)

      Well, that is dealing with people, and they are know as The Most Dangerous Game.

    • I don’t ever recall hearing of somebody blowing out a knee or getting a concussion from gaming

      When LARPing goes wrong…

    • The Other Sean

      I don’t ever recall hearing of somebody blowing out a knee or getting a concussion from gaming (from fellow gamers, perhaps.)

      Wait for VR glasses and motion-sensing devices to really take off, and you might start seeing that type of thing.

    • Ah, well, when a friend who is well over 6 feet tall is playing a wii game with his lovely wife, those retaining straps come in handy to keep the control from crashing into breakable things. Unfortunately, when one is a little too enthusiastic and puts control and hand through the ceiling….

      Thankfully, he missed the joists, so it was only drywall. Otherwise there might have been a broken hand.

      • Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Tennis with a 4 year old will give any mid-30’s woman heart palpitations. I’m lucky I didn’t break something.

  14. The first video game I saw was an arcade pong at a truck stop, and sort of went “eh.” People went nuts over the home version, and discovered screen burn-in.

    Remember the Altair, and the Heathkit computers, and analog computer kits. Then there was the Coleco, and Commodore, and Atari. Sears and Western Auto had one, And, of course, the Tandy, and the Apple, and cassette interfaces to save data and programs in tones.

    My intro to programming was programmable calculators. Then there was a Tandy 4D at work, with two 8″ floppy drives and tiny memory compared to today – and the OS and BASIC interpreter took half of it.

    I was a later-comer to computer games, first with some sort of value pack in XT that was on an office computer. Found text based games frustrating as you had to figure out the syntax even when you’d figured out the solution. It was much more fun to hack the save files. Better than cheat codes.

    The old text-based games are still out there, including The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Great fun if you’re into that sort of thing. Alas, I don’t think a playable version of Discworld is out there. The demo was a hoot and a half, not only in the game, but if you kept clicking on the characters, you had dialog like:

    Cook to Rincewind: “I could have been a wizard, but they found my parents were married.”

    • “and discovered screen burn-in.” – you’re not counting all the screens with an always-visible C:/> prompt?

      I don’t game much – too busy with LARP, community theatre tech, restoration of a house built in 1901, etc. – different kind of hands-on. SFF reading keeps the imagination working, news and blogs take more time than I should allow but can’t resist. Still – good to know more about the nephew’s fascination with Minecraft.

      • Pong predated DOS by a few years, and DOS ran on computers with separate monitors (usually monochrome green). Pong was the first home computer game and connected to the TV. A-B switches were extra, IIRC. Anyway, the things would sometimes get left on, and burn patterns into the TV screen.

  15. does anyone even remember the affectionately nick named TRaSh 80 Color Computer 3 from Radio Shack?

    I remember the computer… the affection, not so much. 😉

    • Meh, apparently messed up the closing tag.

      • Yeah, that was more of a sarcastic affection than anything. I still remember spending 30 hours typing in a couple thousand lines of code, hitting run and having it crash because I missed a comma somewhere. o.O

        • In college, one semester I bought a computer account on the DEC mainframe (mostly to play Rogue), and tried to write a BASIC program to roll up AD&D characters.

          That computer hated dwarves… it always gave them minimum hit points. I couldn’t figure it out, so I showed it to a Comp Sci major in my gaming group, and HE couldn’t spot a mistake. We concluded that DEC was run by elves.

  16. Polliwog the 'Ette

    I have to admit that my preference of computers for RPGs is that it means I don’t have to deal with the ton of paperwork involved in “real” RPGs since the computer keeps track of all that for me.

    I also like the graphics of ones like World of Warcraft because I like the *feel* of exploring but hate being wet, cold, tired, hungry, or in danger which doesn’t leave much room for actual exploring.

    I’m glad the kids like the building/doing games better since I have to admit to being a terrible role model in this case.

    • I have to admit, my everquest (and later) warcraft addiction was easily explained within the first five minutes of Everquest. I believe it transpired like this.

      “SQUUEEEEEE! It’s a MUD (Mush / Muck/ Moo) Where I DON’T have to keep notepads of north-north-east-down!”

  17. Birthday Girl

    On a tangent, my kids learned basic economics from playing Runescape and Neopets – they learned about supply and demand and pricing, quality vs affordability, etc. By the time we got around to talking about these concepts with the kids, it was second nature to them due to the games.

  18. Pardon my tangent, but Happy Back to the Future day everyone! I am happily wearing my 1985 BC t-shirt.

  19. First computer I messed with in person was an Altair 8080, along with a remote VAX I ran programming assignments on via punched-paper-tape on a teletype. Then the HS computer lab got an Apple ][. I got ito games when I was in college, when I worked at a computer retailer that sold Atari 400 and 800 – it’s still amazing to me how much game they stuffed into those tiny capacity cartidges.

    I dropped plenty of quarters outside the student union on arcade games like Battlezone, but the frist thing that really wowed me was MS Flight Sim on the PC, in it’s vector graphics glory. The first thing that really got me hooked was Harpoon, after I entered the cubicle workday world. I remember launching my CAP, scheduling recon, maybe some strikes and setting up my formations and patrol areas, then setting it to run real time and checking back in every once in a while while working. But that didn’t last more than a few months. he same with the Clancy-based shooters – I solved the puzzles and then dropped them.

    I got into the massive multiplayer air combat sim stuff a few years later, starting with Air Warrior, basically as a conscious decision to not be sitting passively watching the tube so much after work. The community was what kept me there, and then major events. I ended up running B-17 bomber missions into Germany with more than 100 planes on a side – lots of work getting the strike planning and squadron stuff figured out, but running the thing live was really amazing.

    Then a girlfriend (now wife) and more real life happened and I drifted away. I still jump on a massive multiplayer sim (WWII Online/Battlefield Europe) now and again, but I need to build up a new gaming PC to be able to take another look into that world. I’ve also been playing World of Tanks on my pad – again, real people on the other end.

    The thing that attracts me there, as is the case here at the EYBSP establishment, is the community of interest. The solo computer games can hold my attention for a bit, and they really are amazong nowadays, but iunless I get set up to go head to head it’s all just gaming the AI.

  20. The first paragraph sounds like one written by someone who hasn’t played many console games in a very long time. Console games have as many deep games as PC games these days, and some console exclusives are much deeper than the majority of PC games. (Look at things like Disgaea 5, for instance. It’s as complex as most of the niche strategy games on PC and built in a layered fashion so you can go as fancy as you want in your strategy and go from dealing dozens of points of damage up to trillions of points if you work at it enough.)

    Most PC games don’t ask you to do your own mapping any more, unlike the Etrian Odyssey and Persona Q games on 3DS.

    • Actually here at home we own(hope I remember all of them) –
      Playstation (1)
      Playstation 2
      Playstation 3
      Wii
      Gamecube
      Gameboy Color
      Gameboy Color Advanced
      Nintendo DS Lite

      I think I may be missing one or two but I think you get the idea. I do play on the consoles with the kids now and again but I truly prefer playing on the PC. I’m fairly certain that not a single one of my PC games is vanilla(no mods) at all. Granted on one of the games(Elder Scrolls Morrowind to be exact) 90% are just graphics mods with a few quest extending mods but yeah *all* modded.

      I will admit to having a game genre bias (I primarily play RPGs) so that is what I will play even on the console but my game for Morrowind for example on the console is *vastly* different from my game on the PC.

      • Well, the argument you made in that paragraph was for complexity of games, rather than for the mods available on the platforms. The mods thing is actually a good argument. If you’re playing solely games that also exist on PC and mods are available on PC, but not consoles, then that will be the case. Mods aren’t completely exclusive to PC however, Unreal Tournament had mods on the PS3, and Fallout 4 will have mods on both the Xbox One and PS4 eventually. I imagine if that goes well, we’ll see some of the same modding capacity come to the consoles more. There was also things like Little Big Planet and Sound Shapes that had extensive ability to modify the game and release new levels.

        My ability to play PC games is a bit reduced though because I left the Windows sphere over a year ago. I only rarely reboot back to windows to play Galactic Civilizations 3.

        Personally, I prefer vanilla games myself. I rarely mod anything because by the time I’ve played what was originally there in the game, I’m tired of it and I want to move on to something new. Though, there’s multiple types of gamers and some will just play one or two games for thousands of hours with mods rather than playing one game for between 1 and 150 hours and then move to something else.

        I also primarily play RPGs, but I find most western RPGs to be very bland and repetitive, perhaps because they were intended to be modded so heavily so sometimes the developers don’t try as hard to make them interesting or unique in themselves. They also tend to (in more recent entries) have you just control a single character, which I find too limiting.

        • Patrick Chester

          My usual modding habits end up with me restarting the game because I had a better idea on how something should work. 😮

          Still play because its fun.

          (Civ4, in this case.)

        • One of my girls is into Little Big Planet and yes it does allow making of new levels which does mean that they are working on logic and deduction but after only a little bit it seemed to me that even the submitted levels were getting repetitive. I think I played about 5 levels before I was wondering if there was something different. I will say this about it though. I *love* the idea that some of the level require cooperation between two and sometimes three people to get 100% of the goodies. As far as modding on consoles? Guess we’ll have to see if that works. I’m sure it’ll require a steep learning curve and that’s what I’m looking forward to.

          Ah, yes I’m one who can stick with a single game for many, many hours. My kids also say I’m something called “A Completionist” which means I have to try and complete as much as I can, especially if there is something that keeps track of that. I’ve restarted games more than once so I can get this milestone or that marker. My girls on the other hand — one could care less about any milestones, she is like you – playing for a while before moving onto something new, another will play for a good long while and the last plays in spurts, sometimes cycling through three or four games over the course of a month. The only game all three have in common is Minecraft, each with their own list of mods (thus the reason for using it as my example) which means they each get a different game, despite playing the same title.

          Unfortunately yes even some of the RPGs can do that. Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age have mostly managed to avoid that trap (ES more than DA) and is likely why they are my favorite ones to this day even with only one character to control. I’m always interested in hearing about new to me games. Do you have any that are on a ‘Might Play Again’ list?

          • I’m not much of a completionist, the closest I come to that is getting platinum trophies, and I only have about 27 of those.

            As for interesting games that I might go back and play again, they recently put Grandia 2 on PC, and that was a really good game I played 15 years ago, might be worth a revisit. The combat system in that is heavy on watching what the enemy is doing and gauging if you can get there in time to interrupt them when they’re doing a large, damaging attack. It’s realtime until you get to the action line, then pauses for you to pick what that character will be doing during their action phase. I don’t really remember if Grandia 2’s combat was as good as Grandia 3 because at that point I wasn’t as in-tune with the complexities of the game system when I played it, but I’m sure it’s at least close.

            Another I’ve been tempted to replay was Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter. It’s actually a short game, you can beat it in as little as 8-10 hours if you get it perfect the first time, but chances are you’ll have to do several tries to finish it. The combat system has your 3 characters moving around battle map, then you have 3 attacks on each of 3 levels attached to your weapon, You have to use the lower level skill of each of the 3 to use the higher level during an attack, and combo moves together to do optimal damage against your enemy. Depending on how efficiently you defeat the enemy, you get bonus party exp, which you can either use immediately, or save for later. Saving it is where it gets to be interesting. Each run you will slowly use up your dragon meter which lets you essentially become unbeatable in a certain battle if you use it, but once it reaches max you lose and have to restart from the beginning, but your weapons you find with their skills and your party experience carries over to the next attempt. It becomes a game of knowing how much to carry over, and how much to use for the current attempt, and knowing when you’re simply outclassed and you need to build everything up for another run. It’s on PS2, only, so it’s a bit harder to find.

            I’ve already mentioned Disgaea, which is an outstanding game along with NIS’s other strategy games, Phantom Brave and Makai Kingdom. I could basically pick any one of those up when bored and play for hours and they’re structured so that you almost always have something you could be doing to improve your party. Hardly any of these have reached outside of the Playstation line though, so no PC ports yet. The storylines in these games tend towards the “Silly charaters, serious plot” tropes. Like the comic Drive and to some extent Schlock Mercenary does.

            There’s also Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, which isn’t quite as good as the other 3 games, but is primarily known for its solid combat systems and solid, deep storylines. I’m often tempted to go through again and get 100% of the bracer points and the hidden weapon for the main character so I can carry it forward to the upcoming sequel. This one has a PC release as well.

            Also mentioned the Etrian Odyssey and Persona Q games, they’re more simplistic, taking after old Eye of the Beholder and Wizardry style games, but worth taking a look at if you miss the old drawing-your-own-maps-on-graphpaper style games of old

  21. Minecraft is a great game to play with your kids—or godsons, in our case. We have a “family server” where all of us can connect and work in the same world, and cooperate with one another where necessary. And yes, this server runs a customized mod pack, the “Erbosoft Plus! Pack.” While I didn’t write the mods in that pack myself, I did put them together into the unique combination we use, resolving certain conflicts to make them all work together. (I often wind up building machinery for people, since I’m pretty good at dealing with IndustrialCraft 2. My personal “base” in our world has a whole slew of processing machinery, powered by a nuclear reactor. My fiancee, on the other hand, uses the Forestry mod to breed trees and butterflies, and my godsons’ mother is the beekeeper.)

    The thing you might have to make sure of is that your kids are playing online in a safe environment. Our server is whitelisted, meaning only certain people can connect to it (me, my fiancee, our godchildren, their mother, and a few members of my fiancee’s gaming clan), and I’m the only one that can add more people to the whitelist. I did once have to ban one of my godsons for a short time, until he got his grades back up…

  22. For the educational potential of games: I’d like to throw out a mention for Kerbal Space Program. That one is way too much fun. And you’ll end up learning orbital mechanics and rocketry by doing.

    Minecraft is pretty addictive. They have the whole random-reward operant conditioning thing going with all the contingent goals needed to satisfy your overarching plan.

    I ran a minecraft server for a while. Unfortunately, I only had one regular visitor to my minecraft world. 😛 No one else I knew had the time to sink (I didn’t really either.).

    • I still run a Minecraft server myself. I’m slowly decreasing how much I play it though now that most of the people on my server have stopped dropping by so much. I’m thinking of inviting some new people to join though, especially now that my Arcology is much closer to being finished.

    • reddragonhawk

      My kid plays Kerbal. It’s a pretty brainy game.

  23. Has anyone here, when exposed to a game with a modding “construction set” been the type to spend more time messing around with the set than playing the actual game?

    I remember Neverwinter Nights: I spent maybe a week deep in the guts of the scripting language. At the end of it, I had a persistent “home base” castle thing that kept items from other games persistently from launch to launch. 😛

    • The Other Sean

      Yes. With both Doom 2 and Duke Nukem 3D I spent far more time creating starships, space stations, castles, secret underground bases, etc. than actually wasting baddies.

    • Yep, first time I played Morrowind(gifted to me by the husband actually) I probably spent just as much time playing the game as I did playing with the construction set. Mostly because I wanted certain magical items that weren’t available in game. 😛

  24. reddragonhawk

    Minecraft is so much fun when you can play with others. I have lost access to the computer of mine that actually has it, which makes me sad. I may have to figure out how to access it. My kid bought me the key for that game 🙂

    • It’s actually a subscription thing, so you just need to figure out what your username and password are and you can redownload it. minecraft.net and login, then try the forgot username option.

  25. My son loves Minecraft and he hosts the server for all his friends at school. It gets funny when he gets texts messages at football practice that they want to play and he turned his computer off. I messed around with it when it was in open beta, had fun, then kinda got busy doing other things. While I was at work one day, my son found my save and “improved” everything. He is no longer allowed on my computer. The castle looks good, though.

  26. unrepentant_chocoholic

    Yeah. My kids love minecraft.

    I’m not so sure about encouraging them program. Better some respectable profession, like a stripper or garbage collector.