I’m With Porg

 

I haven’t seen Star Wars Episode 8 yet.  But I’ve seen the trailers and at 1 minute and 32 seconds in to this trailer https://youtu.be/Q0CbN8sfihY we see a Porg.  It’s like a furry penguin I guess.  Sort of … like if you crossed a teddy bear and a penguin.  I don’t know what it is, but it’s adorable.

I was worried before Episode 7 about BB-8.  “What if the movie is bad?”  I worried.  “What if this rolly-polly droid is terrible?”  “I can’t let myself get too excited about the new movie or BB-8 because I might get hurt!”  But I think we all agree my worry was for nothing, Episode 7 and BB-8 were GREAT!

What was I worried about?  BB-8 was GREAT!  It’s true because it ryhms!

I’m not doing that again.  I’m not hedging my bets.  I’m not protecting my nerd heart by refusing to love Porgs until I see the movie.  I EMBRACE THE PORG!  They look cute, and funny, and cool.  And who knows if they’ll be in the movie very much or if they’ll be as iconic and awesome as Ewoks are?  I’m excited to find out.  I’m hoping they’ll be in all the scenes.

Look at this guy!  This is the star of the show!

I was worried before Episode 7 that the movie would be bad, worrying about BB-8 was just a small part of that great worry.  But I have no doubt that Episode 8 will be great.  7 was great, Rogue One was great, the Rebels series on TV is going great, the Star Wars universe is really on a roll pumping out great stuff!  I’m confident that Episode 8 will be great and that Porgs will be great along with it!  Bring on The Last Jedi and bring on the Porgs!!!

Holiday Shopping

 

A friend of mine has a kid who likes video games.  So buying a Christmas present for him should be easy peasy for someone like me.  The trouble is, he already owns them all.

“So Jake, what do you want for Christmas?”  I asked him.

“Fidget spinners!”

“You already have some.  You’re twirling one right now.”

“You don’t “twirl” a fidget spinner, you SPIN THEM!  And I want more!  They have some that glow in the dark and some that are metal and some that ….”

“What about video games?  Don’t you want any video games?”

“I don’t think they have any new ones.”

“What?  Of course they have new ones, there’s a whole industry that makes new ones all day long!”

“I already have them all.”

“No you don’t.”

“Have you even spun a fidget spinner on your nose?  It’s so cool watch this.”

So there I was, sitting on a sofa with a kid who apparently owned all the video games in the world and all he wanted to do was to spin things on his nose.

Back in my day I got one new Nintendo game every few months.  I literally had to pick up poop in the backyard to earn my allowance and I had to save that allowance for months to afford a new game.  So there was always a ton of games I wanted but couldn’t get yet.  They made games faster than I could buy them (this is different than my life as an adult where I buy them faster than I can play them).  So when Christmas came around boy oh boy did I have a list of things I wanted!

I think I spent as much time reading about games I didn’t have in Nintendo Power magazine as I did playing the ones I actually owned.  By the time I’d finally get a game I had already memorized the maps and the key combos.  I knew how to play the game before I unwrapped it.  I had been planning for the moment I would plug in the cartridge for months.  I had STUDIED for it.  When I didn’t like a game it was because I had already played it in my imagination long before I got the real thing and I liked the version I made up better.  It was a harsh lesson in expectations and disappointment, one that I instantly forgot the next time I saw an ad for a new game.

Wanting the games was as much a part of the hobby as playing them was.

This kid doesn’t know how good he has it.  He doesn’t have to do chores to save money to buy his games.  I think his only chore is doing his homework.  Homework isn’t a chore, I mean it is a chore but it isn’t a chore you have to do to get your allowance.  It’s a chore you have to do anyway and you don’t get paid for it.  (Which is actually kinda backwards because things I did for money as a child are the housekeeping chores I do as an adult for free whereas school is more analogous to my day job which I do get paid for).  He doesn’t have anything to look forward too.  He already has them all.  At least the ones he wants.

I guess I could buy him a fidget spinner.  They’re pretty cheap.  And with the money I save maybe I’ll buy myself that new Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 game for the Switch, it looks SUPER good.  And then Jake and I are BOTH happy.

Dialog Options

In games like Fallout or Mass Effect you often have dialog options.  These happen during conversations where you can choose between three or four things for your character to say.  Now at first you might complain that this system is very limiting, you can only choose what you say out of the options the game presents you with.  You lack the freedom of real life where you can choose to say or do anything at all.

I propose that in real life our options are also limited.  In the middle of a conversation you can really only choose to say something that you can think of.  In the moments between the other person asking you a question and you responding you can’t think of every possible thing you could say.  Only one or two or maybe a few ideas will pop into your head.  Then you choose the best one, say it, and see how they resond.  Then hours later you’ll think of something better, you’ll think of the thing you “should” have said.  But basically you couldn’t have said that, it was impossible to say it, because you didn’t think of it at the time.  And you can’t possibly say something that doesn’t occur to you.

The same thing happens with our actions.  Often we have more time to make big decisions and that extra time lets us think of more choices to consider but we still can’t think of every single possible action.  When I’m trying to decide where to eat lunch I sometimes find myself in the middle of the meal when I suddenly think of another place that I would have preferred.  But I didn’t even think of that restaurant while I was making the decision.  Technically I could eat lunch at any restaurant in the city but realistically that’s too many choices to think about.  So I chose from the dozen or so that I thought of at the time.

Our actions are limited by our imagination.  I think there’s two truths that come out of that realization.  One is that we can try harder to be more flexible and imaginative when we’re thinking about our choices.  Try to stretch ourselves to think up an extra option or two more than we normally do.  If we make a habit out of imagining more options to choose from I think it will become easier and more natural over time.  And having more options to choose from is always good.  The other truth is that we need to be less critical of ourselves for saying or doing things that we later learn were poor choices.  We need to accept that in that moment we made the best choice we could with the information and the ideas that we had.  Wishing we had done something else that didn’t even occur to us at the time accomplishes nothing.  You might remember the choice you wish you made just in case you find yourself in the that situation again in the future, but as for what’s already been done don’t beat yourself up about it.

What’s In A Name?

What we’ve named computer things is a bit strange sometimes.  Now I like the “keyboard”, in terms of what we call it.  It’s a board with keys on it.  That’s great.  Although if I’m honest I don’t care for calling them keys, they’re buttons.  So I think a keyboard should be called a buttonboard.

 

I understand why we call the computer mouse a “mouse”.  It’s got sort of the right shape and the cord looks a bit like it’s mouse’s tail.  But I don’t like the idea of holding a “mouse” all day.  And cordless mice are like tail-less mice which is also weird.  I’d like to call the mouse something else.  Like the Clicker.  “Move the clicker over the file and then double click the clicker.”  I might say to a user.  I think Clicker is way better.

 

What the actual “computer” is sometimes confuses people.  The monitor is not the computer (well maybe if you’re talking about an iMac that’s acceptable).  The Hard Drive is not the computer.  The CPU is not the computer.  Basically the computer is the sum of all the parts in the “tower” or “case”.  It’s like how the brain isn’t just the amygdala or the … I don’t know the names of other parts of the brain.  At any rate, the brain is all those different pieces put together.  And so is the computer, it’s all those different parts combined.  I don’t know that we need to rename the computer, we just need to educate people so they stop calling monitors computers and computers hard drives.

 

3.5” floppy disk, it doesn’t matter anymore but those were cover by a hard plastic shell.  The media inside was floppy but still, it was silly to call it floppy when you had to break it apart to reach the floppy part.

 

I think it’s silly that we still call the little computers we keep in our pockets “Cell Phones”.  We run a million different applications on them including spreadsheet programs, fitness trackers, music players, games and many more.  They are our calendars and electronic personal assistants.  They are how we check email, both personal and work.  But because one of the billion things they can do is to make and receive phone calls we still call them “phones”.  It’s just that telephone calls aren’t really their main purpose anymore.  We should call them Pocket Computers.  Or Pocke-comps.  Or Pokuters.

Lego Luke’s Landspeeder 75173

I build another Lego set last weekend.  This was set #75173 Luke’s Landspeeder and it was a great build.  It’s a classic part of the Star Wars movie series even and is a really distinct looking vehicle.  And since it comes with a minifig of Luke, See Threepio, Obi-Wan and a Sand People person it’s just filled with Star Wars goodness!

 

It’s worth it for the characters alone!

 

It’s a quick and easy build, perfect for when you want something that you can start and finish in one sitting.  And it’s pretty simply, I didn’t scratch my head a lot like some builds.  All in all I give it 5 out of 5.  I also recorded a speed build which you can find below.

 

The Fall Of Leaves

 

When I was in 1st grade the teacher took us outside one day to gather leaves that had changed color and fallen from the trees.  We were told to find the “best” leaves, the “nicest” ones.  I had never felt strongly for leaves before but suddenly a competition broke out among us for who could find the “best” one.  It was a nice time.

 

“Mine is the best because it’s biggest!”

 

“Mine is better because it’s a darker red!”

 

“Mine’s bigger than yours so MINE’S the biggest!”

 

“You can’t count the stem!”

 

“Mine has more bumpy things so mine’s the best!”

 

“Mine is a prettier orange than everyone else’s so mine’s the best!”

 

“Mine tastes the best!”

 

“Ewwwww!  Don’t lick them!  ACK!  Don’t EAT THEM!!!”

 

It didn’t really occur to us that there wasn’t a definitive way to determine the quality of fall leaves.  We all thought ours was the best for one reason or another.

 

When we came inside we preserved our “best” ones between pieces of wax paper.  Then we added string and hung them from the ceiling.  For a while, and even after the snow fell outside, our fall leaves hung above our heads in that classroom.  They were pretty nice decoration.  And the debates about whose was best slowly died away as we realized they are all good, and the effect of having a whole bunch of them was nicer than if we only had one “best” one.

 

Today I was walking down the sidewalk thinking about all the fallen leaves.  “Somebody should rake these up and throw them away!” I thought.  “Of course I don’t want to do it, that unpleasant chore of raking leaves.  But SOMEBODY certainly should get rid of these ugly dead things.  They are constant reminders of the encroaching winter!  Be gone stupid dead leaves!”

 

And then I remembered how special those leaves had been when I was young.  How I appreciated their beauty and enjoyed them outside and in.  How I had spent time looking at leaf after leaf deciding which one I liked best.  How as a child I could appreciate how pretty they were.  I remembered how much joy those fallen leaves had brought me.

 

I think that if I could look at fallen leaves the same way that I did as a child I’d probably be a happier person.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

A few years ago somebody must have said, “What would a child friendly shooter by Nintendo be like?” and thus we have Splatoon.  Then somebody, possibly the same weirdo who wanted a Nintendo shooter game, must have said, “What would a child friendly X-Com by Nintendo be like?” and thus we have Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.  And it’s really good.

 

I don’t know much about Rabbids but I know a butt-ton about the Super Mario universe.  Watching the two interact is pretty dang fun.

 

Basically it’s a turn based, top down, grid layout, tactical strategy game.  You have three characters on your team and there’s a bunch of enemies depending on the level.  You move Mario to a position on the map, maybe behind cover for added defense or up on higher terrain to improve damage, then you have him shoot an enemy with his gun (yeah, it’s weird that Mario has a gun, even though it’s a cartoonish silly gun) and lastly you may choose to have him activate a special ability.  Then you do the same with your other two characters (two Rabbids cos playing as Luigi and Princess Peach at first but you unlock more characters as you play).  Then the enemies have their turn.  Round and round you go until everybody on one teams dies.  But because it’s kid friendly nobody really dies.  After you defeat them the enemy Rabbids just come to their senses and stop being evil.  And when they run out of hit points Mario and the rest of Team Good Guys just become dazed and sort of take a nap on the battlefield.  It’s the least violent a tactical war game could possibly be.

 

Mario hiding behind half cover shooting an enemy, exactly like X-Com!

What’s surprising is that it’s much deeper than I expected.  Your characters have a skill tree that they can level up.  There are weapons for each character to unlock with special abilities as well as lots of characters themselves to be found.  The enemies have special moves too like one large Rabbid enemy charges directly at whomever shoots them the moment they get shot (instead of just waiting for their turn).  So you have to strategically surround them with characters who can keep pulling the Rabbid back and forth in such a way that he never reaches anybody.  There’s even boss battles with unique mechanics.  The maps don’t repeat, each is unique and most have the terrain laid out in a way that’s impactfull and interesting.  Luigi is basically a sniper which I didn’t expect to see in this game at all.  Despite the fluff there’s a real good strategy game in there.

 

Luigi is a sniper, that’s awesome but also kinda weird.

 

It has a fun cast of characters.  The Rabbids, characters from a series of games I don’t know much about, are basically insane.  They are funny, but also mischievous, and not terribly bright.  The interactions between the Rabbids and classic Mario characters are pretty cute.  Toad and Toadette are also there, getting lost like they do.  And it features lots of classic Mario characters and enemies like Chain-Chomps and even Donkey Kong.  Although Donkey Kong is a giant Rabbid who likes bananas now.  It’s all very light hearted and funny.

 

Rabbid Kong, just like the classic arcade game from my youth.

 

So basically we haven’t found a game genre yet that can’t be Nintendo-ified.

Lego Rebel U-Wing Fighter 75155

I enjoy building Lego sets.  Is that a weird hobby for a grown-up?  I dunno, maybe.  For me constructing Lego is relaxing and chill and calming.  And when you finish you have a really cool model to display.  Finished sets are decoration, unfinished sets are a fun thing to do on a Friday night.

My latest build was the Star Wars Rebel U-Wing Fighter set # 75155 from the movie Rogue One.  This is a really cool looking model that looks great on my shelf.  I liked this ship in the movie because it felt like the classic ship designs while still being something new and original.  It won’t ever be as famous as the Millennium Falcon but it was home to the Rogue One crew for a little while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sliding doors on either side of the hull are pretty slick.  Lego these days have so many well engineered moving pieces.

The cockpit opens and shuts and the set comes with this generic pilot guy.

 

The big ol’ engines on the back look very cool!

 

This might be the only way to get Lego Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor.

 

 

All in all it was fun to build and looks great on display.  5 of 5, would assemble again.

The Point

 

I play a lot of Sandbox Games.  Minecraft being the most popular example.  But when non-sandbox gamers hear about Minecraft they usually say something like, “What’s the point of that?”

 

Fun?

 

I get it.  We often play games that you can eventually win.  Or MMO’s that, even if you never beat the game, you can gain levels or beat a hard dungeon or get a cool piece of gear and say, “I accomplished this!!!”  Or we play competitive games like Heroes of the Storm or Overwatch where the point is to win as many times as you can against the best players you can.  Or we play clicker games where … well the goals is to make the numbers get bigger.  And actually aren’t most of our games about making the numbers get bigger?

 

The point of most games is to accomplish a goal.  My favorite game at the moment is Zelda Breath Of The Wild (the best Zelda maybe EVER) and the point of that game is to kill Gannon.  Now that goal is vague, you can play a loooooong time before ever fighting Gannon.  But you can also skip almost all of the game and kill him right away.   There are speed runs of people doing that in less than 1 hour.  I mean they start a new game, wake up naked in the shrine of resurrection, and are killing Gannon one hour later.  That’s amazing!  That’s a challenge and it’s a goal they set for themselves.  But for me what’s great about Zelda BotW is that there’s a huge world to explore and exploring it is FUN.  That’s why I’m in there, that’s what I enjoy, exploring the world.  And once I win the game, hopefully after finding close to 100% of the neat things, I’ll move on to other games.

 

So when someone hears I play Minecraft, or Kerbal Space Program or Farming Simulator and they ask, “What’s the point?”  I know what they mean.  They like to have goals to work towards.  In a sandbox game you aren’t explicitly given a goal by the game.  You make up your own and I love that.  I like getting into Minecraft and thinking about what I want to do and then doing it.  When games tell me what to do, for example when WoW gives me a quest, sometimes I think, “I don’t want to do that.  I have an idea of my own that I like better.”  Kerbal has a mode that gives you “missions” that are basically quests, they tell you what goals to pursue.  I never play that mode.  If I feel like building a colony on Mars (called Duna in Kerbal) then that’s what I’m going to do!  If I wanted somebody telling me I can’t build a Mars colony I’d work for the real NASA.

 

On the other hand I understand why people enjoy being given a quest, goal or point.  People like having direction, they enjoy a narrative or simply knowing what they’re supposed to be doing.  Have you ever watched someone play Minecraft who doesn’t like sandbox games?  The first thing they say is, “What am I supposed to do?”   And if you answer, “Whatever you want!” they just quit the game.  That’s not fun for them.  What they want is a goal to work towards and to achieve.  Solving problems and accomplishing goals and making progression is part of the fun for them.  And sometimes for me too.  As long as the task being given is enjoyable then it’s still fun.  Again, the point isn’t actually to do whatever task the game is giving you it’s just to have fun.  And the goals and quests are supposed to be a way to facilitate fun for people who like that sort of structure.  You could argue the point is to beat the game or finish the quest or whatever but really the point is still to just have fun.

 

Whether a person likes open sandbox games or games with strict goals and progression probably says a lot about their psychology.

 

It goes beyond video games of course.  What’s the point of building Lego’s or collecting Funko Pops or painting WarHammer models or watching TV or reading books or playing golf or any of our other hobbies?  The point of any and all recreation is to enjoy the experience and to be revitalized in your mind and body.  To rest and prepare yourself for your work or whatever challenges you face in life.  If your recreation has any point beyond your personal enjoyment then you’re doing it wrong.