May 27, 2012

Gamer Mom

I've been thinking for a couple of days that I should write something about Gamer Mom. OK, backtracking a little for non-gamers and people whose gaming is confined to games that are primarily for entertainment. There is a genre of games that are really about handling a hard-to-discuss topic through the medium of gaming. Most of them I find a bit shallow, but I think this one is rather good. This is a game about family breakdown and personal obsessions. I haven't won it yet (you win by persuading your family to join you in a game of 'World of Warcraft', which sounds like an odd sort of victory to me, but there you go) but I've spent some time trying. I find the actual time spent playing distressing; anyone who's ever spent any time in any sort of human relationships will recognise a lot of the responses.

A commenter ('mechtroid') on the excellent gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun, checked out the source code and discovered a massive easter egg; the comments include the author's story of how he came to write the game based on his personal family experiences. He's (no surprises here) a videogame-monologuing Aspie who struggles to engage his family in the things that interest him.

I had two major insights from playing the game and reading the backstory. The first harked back to the parenting course we did last year, Webster Stratton Incredible Years. One of the first things the course teaches is 'special time', which is short, daily, and (critical this) child-led. Now, with Jonathan we had to put some restrictions around gaming, so that he could not choose, every day, to play games on the iPad while we watched. But even so we allowed some of that. The author of this game, despite now being in his 20s, never got enough 'special time' with either of his parents. He's still living with them, and he still doesn't.

The second is that we're all gamers round here; and my family were all gamers too. I'm sure there are lots of ways in which our family is odd, but we have this; playing games together is just part of what you do if you're a family. Eating meals together without electronic devices at the table, too, but I think that's another story.

Posted by Alison Scott at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2012

Chipping Away at My Defences

Because I don't live under a rock, I noticed that Diablo III was about to launch, DRM riddled and very expensive. I have a certain amount of history with Diablo, perhaps the most lush and polished examples of my favourite genre, the roguelike. Actually, Diablo is not a proper roguelike, or at least, it's nothing like enough roguelike. History is required here. The original Diablo was a sparkling mashup of two brilliant genre-defining games, Rogue and Gauntlet. Gauntlet was never roguelike at all, and it's those bits of Diablo that aren't roguelike. The expectation in 'proper' roguelikes is that you will not quite understand what is going on, and as a result you will probably put a foot wrong and die (permanently), but learn something in the process which helps for the next go. But anyway, until someone makes a game as brutal and unforgiving as Shiren the Wanderer with as much polish as Diablo, this will have to do. And Diablo III does have a hardcore mode, though locked at the start.

Luckily, my main computer is a Mac. What's more, it's nearly five years old. So there was no serious chance that Blizzard would release a Mac version of Diablo III on day 1. Except that they did. And there was no serious chance that it would play on my mid-2007 iMac or my mid-2010 MacBook Air. But there were videos showing the latter, and the former met the minimum specifications.

Anyway, once I'd finished most of the week 10 homework on MITx, I succumbed. And it's running perfectly well on my mid-2007 iMac, on the lowest graphics settings and at 1280x800 not 1920x1200 -- see the sample footage. In a shock move that will surprise nobody, I am playing a female ranged weapon user called Illyria.

Anyway, if you'll excuse me, I have to go save New Tristram from the forces of darkness. Dinner tonight: the world's easiest slow cook; a pre-seasoned Waitrose pork joint, covered with the barbecue sauce it came with and a small bottle of fizzy pop (in this case ginger beer; root beer is traditional but you can also use actual beer of course) and stuffed in the slow cooker for an entire lush mob-spawning loot-grabbing demon-killing day. We will eat this with red cabbage (leftover from the last time I cooked it) and the fresh bread made with yesterday's beetroot cooking water. It's not pink! You have to put puree in it to make it pink, apparently. It did rise alarmingly, what with all the sugar in the beet water. Next time we'll make a small loaf.

Posted by Alison Scott at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)