Oh Creativity Where Art Thou?

I used to be a creative person. It wasn’t that long ago either. I have a notebook from a week or two ago, give a week or two ago, where I started work on the background for a setting, preferably for a series of stories, but could be turned into a setting for a game. Either way, a detailed setting with characters was unfolding. A friend of mine asked me to assist on a set of rules and then with a game setting. Happy to oblige I did both…notice the past tense.

Admittedly, the whole home thing threw me for a creative loop, but I thought I would have rebounded by now. Nope. Not even close. Not even with Minecraft sideways thinking; I do have a rather nice monorail system connecting my castle with the bases of the kids. Constructing a monorail system is not why I play Minecraft, but the reason I do play Minecraft is eluding me.

Floating around my skull at all times are the logistics of the move.

  • What is packed?
  • What needs to be packed?
  • What order should the remaining stuff get packed?
  • Can I pack the kitchen?
  • Do we need clothing?
  • When the move starts what order is this house moved into the new house?
  • Why is the bank sending us paperwork for a loan that the bank told us we don’t qualify for?

And so on…I wouldn’t mind if the logistics worked with creativity and I could do both, but as stated earlier and many times before this whole move thing has thrown all of us for a loop. I thought I was on the downside of the loop though.

I can jot down notes for future creative ideas, but nothing more than notes. I don’t mind notes, except when all I have is notes. I want to force creativity to come back, but the more I try to be creative the more Minecraft I find myself playing. Have I mentioned, I hate Minecraft?

Funny thing when asked for something creative, like my friend did, I can quickly come up with an answer and elaborate upon that answer and it looks good. Guess what happened later that night when I went to expand upon it? If you guessed, nothing followed by Minecraft and more nothing, you would be correct.

It bugs me. I know why, which is nice, I am not floundering about pained by my lack of creativity because it is the middle of semester and I am buried under a ton of busy work. I am actually busy, but I’d like a bit more creativity during this period is all.

Oh Creativity Where Art Thou?



Decisions Decisions

I’ve found myself stuck watching the kids play Minecraft Story Mode by Tell Tale Games. No spoilers. The story is interesting. The characters are fun. And more interesting to me, is the thought of, if Minecraft could be combined with Minecraft Story Mode I would give the game a try. I like the idea of having a campaign to play in the sandbox world with goals to complete and items to find that you can’t craft in game.

I had heard a lot of good things about Tell Tale Game’s episodic stories, but until Minecraft had not played or watched any. Now I am wondering how much enjoyment I would get from playing. Quick Time Events annoy me, which there are a lot of, but watching the kids choose a dialog option and then seeing the results of those choices stick with them is fascinating. That is probably what gets me to sit down and give the series a try.

Prior to getting sucked into the kids activity, I spent time packing. As much stuff as I have packed, there is more to do. Although this is a diminishing activity (each thing I pack is one less and eventually everything will get packed), it feels like I am behind in packing and have so much more to do. Today for example, packing games.

We have a lot of games. A lot. The list does not cover all of the games. Games like books are heavy, in some cases heavier. Games like books have their time and then sit around a lot gathering dust. Normally, this is fine. Now is not normal, we are moving soon. How many heavy boxes full of stuff that has had its day do we want to move?

The answer is not many. Decisions on which books to keep and what to do with unwanted books are so much easier. Crap book, no need to pack. Reference book, pack. And so on. Unwanted books travel a short distance to a used bookstore where they will find a new owner. I like this circle of enjoyment for books.

Games…not so much. There are few games here that all of us agree on, stay or go. There are far more where one or more person has a fond memory of or something that keeps them from wanting to get rid of it. Its an interesting discussion, because a passionate, “We did this and that” while playing a game or a good “Do you remember that time” can sway those on the fence. Unfortunately, I do not want to move a ton of games that have not been played in a while because one or two people have a good story to tell.

What happens when the game gets to the new place? I can tell you after a lifetime of moving games, games that do not get played in one home do not suddenly become popular in a new place. And that is why I don’t want to move all of them. But the question remains what goes and what does not…for me a good chunk of what goes has already been packed, these are the games we were playing every weekend.

The rest…who knows at this point.


Up & Down or maybe Left & Right

I woke up feeling like the last time I got seriously punched in the head. Yes, there is a difference between punched in the head and seriously punched in the head; mostly the amount and duration of pain. This pain feels like seriously punched in the head. I only had to look out the window to see why. Clouds and the potential for rain. Why my sinuses are a very messed up rain detector I will never know. Please rain go away.

There were packing plans. If you are curious, plans to pack up Barb’s crafting materials starting with around 100 rolls of Duck Tape. I was not looking forward to that; if you think books are heavy, move a box full of Duck Tape. A similar experience and annoying, because I can’t read the Duck Tape. 🙂 Those plans went out the window with the headache or at least are out the window at this moment.

While I squinted at the world thru sinus headache eye (the other tried to be comforting by remaining closed to reduce the amount of incoming light), I read a good new email, that was followed up less than an hour later by a “well…not so fast” email. The good news was potentially actionable. The “well…not so fast” is not actionable. And that is where that ended for the day, up in the air.

Decided I would make lunch, hoping food would lessen the headache. The process of taking food orders did not improve the headache. And when all was said and done and after way more negotiation than I thought possible for lunch options of “I’m making hot dogs and fries or you can make a sandwich,” we ended up with hot dogs and fries. And I thought all was well in lunch land…

…until I woke from a nap. I needed a nap. The headache is smaller. The clouds and rain are still here. And sitting on a plate unloved, a hot dog. Why? Why ask for a hot dog if you are not going to eat it? I would ask, but I know the answer, “I don’t know” or “I forgot.”

Tired of being headachey and having gotten the dishes done; doing the dishes has me thinking I should pack the dishes. If the dishes are packed, I don’t have to clean them. Paper plates are perfectly acceptable to me for the time being and I have no issue with sporks. I will purchase sporks because they are fun, utilitarian, and like bendy straws the kids love them (so do I)…I decided to write and promptly got stuck.

My headache didn’t get me stuck, the act of naming and describing yet another thing got me stuck. What does that mean? If you said, Minecraft you are correct. Yep, another day of up/down and left/right. Soon enough I will put our cart back on track and we will go my path because I am sick of other people having final say so, especially if they are not going to take all of the relevant information.


At The Intersection of Minecraft and Writing

When writing gets stuck I try to do some sideways thinking. I don’t want to think about what I am writing about directly because that can lead to a stall out or worse, frustration leading towards abandoning the writing. Sideways thinking is the process of doing something reasonably easy and definitely not mind consuming or numbing; I need to be doing something, perferably creative, and while do that something my mind wanders. Typically, during sideways thinking I will hit upon a solution or a new way of seeing the issue.

Yesterday, stuck happened. Stuck usually involves naming something or creating something outside of my wheelhouse, such as architecture. Names are always a pain. Names, in my opinion, alert readers to the potential disposition of a character. Read a name and form an opinion. I try to carefully name important characters or places. Yesterday, an important character and a bad guy at that. Bad guy names tend to flow out easily and always sound like “bad guy” and that was what I was trying to avoid.

When I realized the name was not going to pop into my head I moved onto something else, describing where the yet to be named bad guy worked. Because the location is important I wanted to give more detail than I normally would. The problem, for me, is that there are a lot of words such as manufacturing plant or warehouse that instantly cause an image to pop into a reader’s head. I want the reader to see what I see and more importantly what the characters see, thus detail. Except I have a 3-D issue, in that I have a poor sense of scale and location in space. I need to draw out detailed maps and sketches. I had not done that yet. Now I am stuck twice.


Time for some sideways thinking and why not try to kill two birds with one stone, sideways think and try to build the location, this is where Minecraft comes in. I have written a bunch about Minecraft; in a nutshell I cannot stand creative mode especially the way my kids use it, but I enjoy survival for a couple of reasons, number one being sideways thinking.

Minecraft does not use a lot of mental energy to play. Get the blocks I want and build something. However, because I have to mine the blocks I have to do some thinking: where can I find the blocks, what tools do I need, and so on. Once I have the blocks I build. Normally nothing more than a series of squares connected by hallways or doorways. When sideways thinking, I do not put forth a lot of energy into being creative with my buildings. The past two days though, have been a different story.

A square turned into a square with some flair on the corners and then an attempt to make a circle out of square blocks and then some more flair and while sideways thinking did not lead to a name on the first day, I did end up with a new idea for the important location and a way to start describing it. Late last night, the name for the bad guy hit me.


Teaching Games (edited)

Teaching. I enjoy teaching others how to do, play, and so on. This weekend has been a lot of teaching. In this case teaching other people about games. I guess there is a certain teaching them how to play games, but to me that implies that I am teaching them how I play a game. I would preference that they learn the rules and that they learn how to play each game in their own way, thus not playing the game like I do. Thus, I spent a lot of time demonstrating and eplaining how to do things in the games.

Our kids like playing Minecraft, but they are horrible at teaching Minecraft to other people. So horrible, that adults have stopped playing altogether because of the horrible instruction. It was no surprise when a friend of theirs no longer wanted to play with them. After four or five game of Minecraft, the friend only knew to do what our kids did, which was fly and place blocks. The friend did not know how to craft, how to mine, or even what tools did what. That irked me, because I have spent a good chunk of my life teaching others how to play games and thought that they were learning how to teach games to people from watching me. Nope.

I spent about two hours with the friend, showing him the basics. The very basics. Here is how to craft. Here is why you need a lot of wood. Here is what happens when you use the wrong tool on a block. Here is how you mine in a successful, non-my kids way. And here is how you can tell what each block is just by looking at them. This was all beginner stuff and despite having been pulled through the tutorial by our kids, the friend wasn’t able to learn anything. How could the friend learn anything, when our kids are giving him the “express toutorial” consisting of “look here” and “see this” and “this does this?” Today, post Minecraft, his mother who had been watching me teach the friend, sat down to play for a while. Which lead to more lessons.

Rise of the Runelords has returned, we have a fifth player. With a new player comes teaching them how to play. Minecraft is easy to teach compared to Pathfinder Advenure Card Game. The first thing was picking out a character. Then explaining the character card. Then the cards that form the character deck. Then the game. Then the pieces of the game: locations, monsters, boons, and so on. Teaching a person about Pathfinder Adventure Card Game takes longer than showing them, but showing them leads to all sorts of questions and problems that are out of context. This is why I chose explanation first, then play.

The first game went better than expected. We won, which is always good, but more importantly the friend got to see all of the explanation in play and how the game works. There are plans to play another scenario tonight and that is always a sign that teaching went well.

Minecraft Card Game: Mini-Game Review

We play Minecraft. I play Minecraft in survival mode. The kids, in creative and Barb in whichever mode we happen to be playing our family game. I am ambivalent towards Minecraft. I think that as a concept Minecraft is excellent, the ability to create almost anything with the tools provided. In fact that is why the kids prefer creative mode over survival, they can instantly create what they want. My ambivalence stems from the game portion, which is lackluster. Very little interaction with anything other than the environment, no real goals other than those provided by me, and the villagers do less than nothing on a good day-on a bad day they are killed while I am mining. And the music, blows. It is depressing and does nothing to enhance the game. My opinion, I know, but this ambivalence is important.

Minecraft Card GameBecause we play Minecraft, when I saw the Minecraft Card Game, I thought, “Why not.” Maybe a quick way to have some fun between other games. Like many small box games, Minecraft Card Game is inexpensive, always a good thing. Inside the box you get a rules pamphlet and two stacks of cards. One stack is crafting; one side shows the materials necessary to craft the item on the backside. The other side is materials, which come in different denominations. Also included in the resource stack are TNT and creeper cards (wouldn’t be a Minecraft Game without creepers).

The goal of the game to craft X number of points worth of crafting cards. In addition to the materials required to craft the item is the number of points the card is worth. To craft an item, spend the necessary amount of indicated resources and claim the card. To use the tool, flip over the card and apply the effect.

Simple enough.

Set up the game with five stacks of 15 resource cards and 4 stacks of 6 crafting cards. On your turn, you get two actions.

  • “Mine” a resource-take the top resource card from a stack (can be done twice)
  • Craft an crafting card (can be done twice)
  • Use an item (can be done twice)
  • Claim a crafting card (you pick a crafting card that you want, but cannot craft to set aside for when you have the resources)

Absolutely nothing special about any of this, other than the TNT and Creeper card. The TNT card when claimed, gives the claimer the top card from the other resource stacks. The player chooses two resources and discards the rest of the cards. The creeper when revealed causes all of the players to discard a resource card unless you have a sword crafted.

Tools that can be crafted all provide a one time use: Sword, keeps you from discarding when a creeper is revealed. Axe, gives you two wood. Shovel, cause another player to lose an action. Pick, gain one action.

Our games lasted no more than 15 minutes and that was mostly due to someone watching TV instead of the game. Minecraft Card Game, does not require you to pay attention or interact with anyone at all-there in no real function in using a shovel to cause a player to lose a turn. The was very little excitement, other than a TNT Creeper chain that resulted in everyone losing all of their cards.

None of us could articulate our feelings about Minecraft Card Game other than, meh. We played it. We kind of had fun, mostly if you won. We may play it again to see if we missed something, but then again we may move onto another minigame.


Birthday Smack Down

My girl is a lot like me. We see the world through similar lens, mine is tinted with age and experience, and her’s is tinted wonder. Our girl turned seven and as per family tradition we did whatever she wanted. The tradition is not to do whatever she wants, but for the birthday person…you get the idea. Bare with me, I am sleep deprived.

For her birthday our girl wanted to play video games and open presents. I think she was still pissed about being on the losing side of the Imperial Assault campaign. After the obligatory game of Minecraft, which now that I have installed a lot of music on the Xbox is a lot of fun to play; killing creepers to Lady Gaga or Ministry is fun. 🙂 Then came Tomb Raider.

tomb-raider-2015_00438580I remember the original Tomb Raider, so I said sure why not play this newer version. Holy shitsnacks! I winced when Lara fell onto a sharp stick and using the control pad you yank the stick out of her side. Then there was the escape from the tunnels and creepy guy. My girl handled the whole thing like a trooper. Lara Croft is everything my girl has been looking for in a female video game character. She takes charge. She kicks ass and she can jump (my girl wanted me to point that out). Hunt down and gut deer, Lara and my girl were up for the challenge. Leg stuck in a bear trap with wolves on the prowl, shoot the wolves in the throat and then remove foot. I was in full proud papa mode. Normally, she will ask for help repeatedly during a game. Not this time, she only needed help twice and that was with a button smashing segment, she doesn’t smash buttons fast enough for the game. Tomb Raider embolden her.

“I ain’t sharing my popcorn with no whiny ass pussies,” she announced before challenging any of us to Mortal Kombat.

MortalkombatfondosThen for the next hour and a half proceeded to lay the smack down on anyone who challenged her and let me tell you the things she said…well for a girl of her age were as impressive as they were nonsensical. “Get over here and take your beating like a banana!” She meant that. “You did not just hit me. Take the back of my hand.” I stopped playing for five minutes because I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so hard.

This morning was less emboldened behavior and an interest in the finer things of birthdays, PRESENTS. Stated on gifts and pizza our girl has spent the rest of the day relaxing on Barbie movies and My Little Pony.