Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hey adults, stop telling gamers to stop gaming. Instead, respect, and redirect.

I hate it when I hear an adult, (especially a teacher!) react to a kid passionately playing a computer game by saying, "go outside," or in some other turn of phrase, squash their passion.

Good move adult role models. See passion in a kid, squash it.

Sure, it might be good advice. But there's two main reasons I think it's a mistake it doesn't usually work. Kids play more if adults react first by trying to stop them. They know the adults haven't given them the respect they deserve of trying to find out more about what games they are playing? Why? What's so fun about it? Now, they also know games are addictive, and they will need help balancing their play. But an uneducated response from an adult isn't the way. Learning about the kid's passion is the way.


Learn about and play their games, it's a sign of respect. How dare you comment on something you won't even try? Something you only watch. Ask a gamer to help you learn to play their free favorite games for a few minutes each. They will start to respect what you say more because you are respecting what they respect. Ask them who made the game? Why is it good? Have they written, or read, any reviews? Where do they find out the good games and how do they learn how to play them? What do they think about violence in the games?

Also, respect the valuable technology skills it takes to be a gamer. To be a gamer is to be good at computers. Gamers instal software, hardware, are often part of online communities and spend a lot of time reading, writing, and researching games. These are valuable skills in the workplace. Gaming is not vegging out on the couch with TV.


Consumption to Creation

A gamer in school is a jewel. They want to game, so they will usually gladly MAKE games if it can count for homework. Creating games teaches math, programming, writing, project management, art, graphics, storytelling, etc. Free tools, below, are very high quality.

Some Resources For Starting To Make Computer Games

  1. Scratch web based game development form MIT 
  2. Scratch Jr. for tablets/phones is a great starting point when young. 
  3. Minecraft.net, especially Minecraft Edu.
  4. Roblox.com. Development environment for older kids and adults.
  5. Unity game engine. Development environment for older kids and adults.
  6. Recent Article: Varsity Gamers: Making History and Dumbfounding Parents.

Redirect to a Career Game Industry

Gaming is a viable career for many skills and passions from programming to music, to lighting, to costumes, to finance, HR and management.  And that's what I'll spend the rest of the post talking about.

Ocean Quigley, creative director at Maxis

Now, when it comes to encouraging a kid to move into the industry as a worker when they are older,  I have to bring in an expert from the industry. I'm a simple technology integrator and teacher, not game designer.

My main source is my step-brother, Ocean Quigley.

Ocean has been working in the gaming business since we both got started in technology in San Francisco in mid-1990s. He started at the bottom as a 3D modeler and has risen to be the art director and creative director for a bunch of very famous games, some literally in the top 10 of all time, including Spore, SimCity and the Sims. He's also a painter who regularly has showings. Ocean is his real name by they way, and yes, his parents were hippies.

I talk to Ocean often about the industry, and I refer to  a write up he wrote a few years ago often: Breaking into the games business.

Ocean's main advice in any area where you are involved in creation, is that you have to be able to demonstrate a valuable skill. You have to show you can do the work, better then most, in some sort of digital portfolio.

Moving into the industry as a project manager, accountant, HR person, etc. is probably a bit more resume oriented, but you'll need some relationship to the gaming industry, and some passion about it. 

I'll also add to Ocean's advice that college for game design is more and more an option. Even the small state of Vermont has a great bachelors degree in game design at Champlain College. College is a good option for some people who might need the structure, because it allows one to have time to learn, and time to create actual proof of a skill by doing projects and documenting them in portfolio.

It's only one way though, Ocean in fact has, "dropped out of several prestigious colleges," as he says. While I observed him learning valuable skills in colleges, he was and is very, very disciplined and self-taught in art and computers since early in high school when I used to watch him do graphics on a Commodore 64 in the 80's while he taught himself to draw and sketch on paper. He carries a sketch book to this day, everywhere.

Ocean started in the industry making rent for a little room in a shared warehouse in San Francisco by working in Photoshop making images for game manuals, while he drew and painted. Then some new software came out for 3D modeling (3D Studio Max) and was just becoming the main tool for making models for games. Ocean was in the Bay Area where lots of game companies are, in a deadend job, and he had always dreamed of making worlds.

Ocean ended up breaking into the industry by teaching himself to use that new 3-D modeling software. then he created an amazing virtual trip through an art gallery from the point of view of a house fly. On the walls of this virtual art gallery were photos of oil paintings he had done! It worked, and got two major offers. He took the one from Maxis and started working on SimCity 2. 

Here are two other good lessons. One, know when to move to the right city, and two, know what software is hot. But remember, Ocean also aligned all this with his passion, not just because it was hot. Passion is paramount.

The fact that Ocean knows how to paint and draw has also been key. He married classical training in art with amazing skills with software. Many young people can, and do, learn how to use advanced software, but they don't know about timeless skills like color theory, composition, light, and art history. That means they usually end up working for someone like Ocean. Not a bad thing, as the pay is great on his teams, but if you want to go to the top, you need to go deeper then knowing which buttons to push.

So, if you ever see a gamer who seems like they would like to become a game creator, don't tell them to get outside, encourage them to bring gaming more into their life, their homework, careers, writing, research, and to try and create games, not just consume them.

Other Stuff about Ocean

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Study confirms my weight gain is my wife and kids fault!

"Fatherhood can affect the health of young men, above the already known effect of marriage,"

Washington Post, July 21, 2015.

Yes, men gain weight when they become dads, study confirms

From a "large-scale study that tracked more than 10,000 men over a 20-year period."


"While the BMI difference appears to be small, researchers write that the estimates might be "conservative.""


"We now realize the transition to fatherhood is an important developmental life stage for men's health," Garfield said.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Life Lesson: Bill Murray on how he learned to work with people by relaxing making people look good

Bill Murray, 63 years young, was recently in character on a panel at Comic-Con for his new movie Rock The Kasbah. During the QA 10 minutes and 2 seconds in, he had this gem of how he plays nice with others.  

“We try to be as relaxed as possible. It’s really the key for the way I like to work, is to be as relaxed as you can be. And that makes people feel comfortable. I came from Chicago and the Second City Theater and we were taught be a great director named Del Close that you don’t have to get tense when you’re working, you just try and think about making the other person look good, and then you don’t have to worry about yourself. And that’s the way I’ve learned to work. And when people see, holy cow, he’s not going to try and hammer me, or upstage me or anything, he wants to make me look good, then everybody relaxes and we had a lot of fun, we had good people.” 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Blogger going!

I got my Blogger going in my Web page! I am the man!!!

I'll give you $20 if you can bring a Dunhill Red in the next 2 seconds...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Family Update


Ivy can roll over. See below video about 30 seconds in. She seems upside down, but it's just that I'm holding my phone, with the flash lights on, above her as she looks back at me. Neat unintended effect!

Ivy is trying to stuff the entire world in her mouth, even innocent fawns are not safe.

She has left the "larvae" stage and entered into what Laura and I call the "anamatronic teddy bear" stage. Next is crawling. She is pulling the world into her mouth, can lift her head high during her tummy time, takes a bottle a little, and is possible for me to walk to sleep more. Doctor says she's about average weight, a little above average in height and head size. Oh, and she can say the sound "B" and has a vocabulary of different sounds upwards of about 8 meanings, I think...let's see. Happy, diatribe of playing-with-sounds-I-can-make, tired, sleepy, getting tired, hungry, I-will-that-thing-in-my-mouth-grunts, I'm-really-upset screams. Yes, eight.


Shaw is talking up a storm, specifically:
  • "My name is Mr. Propwash Junction." We have no idea where this came from, but we love it.
  • "No, YOU have two choices. Go pick some vegetables from the garden, or play with trucks!" Yesterday in response to one of us telling him to do something and that he had two choices. 
  • "Taxis are called need a taxis because you need a tax when you get in." He doesn't know how right he is!
  • "Biplanes are called biplanes because the pilot says, 'bye bye.'"
  • "Man jumpers are like thunder because they both are in the sky." We're still foggy on what a "Man Jumper" is, but we think it's a plane with parachutes. We're not sure how he came up with the word, but he loves it and sees Man Jumpers everywhere and tells stories about them constantly. 
  • "Yes I can!" in response to me saying, "You can't hit Ivy," as I wisked him upstairs for a time out in his room. He's right of course, because he had in fact just hit her.  Laura reminded me to say, "You MAY NOT hit Ivy," not "you can't."
He is getting smart, devious, observant, and I think he knows how to spell because spelling words out around him isn't working so much anymore. He is still learning how not to kick Ivy in the head when he's mad at her. But it only occasionally happens and so far no injuries. Most of the time he's tender and protective, and Ivy is endlessly entrained by watching him. He's still running below average in height, average in weight, and with an exceptionally big head.


Mother's beach in Kennebunk, Maine. Ivy is wearing an actual old-school bonnet. They are really good for sun!
Laura has a sore entire upper body from baby holding, is harried from two kids at home while she struggles to finish her graduate course in online research with baby-brain, but she is doing it! Ask her about the rest and she's hiding things well in this photo!


75 and still a fish!
My mother Bubbe is loving the water as usual. Seems to be enjoying renting our tiny-ish house and has made it wonderful inside and is babysitting and cooking. Amazing have a grandma 30 feet away! Not all good, more to coordinate, but a total net positive for sure!


Granpa Mimicking an old relative. He had the photo and frame restored.
 Back in Maine for the summer, moving with Shelia to a scaled down house, writing, working on building a road in some woods we own, seems okay from afar.


Betty's on the left her, watching her son get married.

My mother in law Betty has been off of Shaw duty and recently experienced her son getting married, and having the New York Times cover the wedding!

Achy Dad

Water. Good. Focus your gaze on the arms and shoulders, not the gut on the left side please.
 I'm back at work, which is good. I had a good vacation and was ready to get back to work.

It's amazingly hard with two kids. Everytime I feel the difficulty (emotionally, physically, mentally) I have to remind myself that this is THE HARDEST FEW YEARS for most marriages, and in the time-arch of raising children. At least in terms of the constant attention, worry, watching, pooping, peeing, screaming, etc. I'm sure harder times might come in different areas, like dealing with teenagers, but not in the day in and day out constancy of being the kind of parents that have one home fulltime and one working only about 40 hours a week (outside the house at least, I have side contacts I do at home).

It is a joyful and rich experience, but challenging too. But it is already changing for the better. Ivy, for example, is right now sleeping on my chest in a baby carrier while I type, and has started taking sips out of a bottle! And with Shaw is playing ball by himself with other kids, being mostly aware of cars, and going to sleep more and more with only a book or two read to him in bed.

As someone said, "The days are long, but the years are short." So in the blink of an eye they'll be in school and we'll probably miss having them around so much.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Kennebunkport Maine. Tips for a budget friendly family visit to Kennebunkport, Kennebunk, and Arundel Maine in the summer - from a former local.

Parsons Beach in Kennebunk Maine.

Just back from our last big trip of this summer to Kennebunkport Maine. Not as a tourist though. I grew up there!

Returning with a kid that can run, and my mother, for the first time opened my eyes to the wonderful parts of the area for families.

Here's my inside review of budget-friendly things to do with a family in this very touristy, and thus often expensive and crowded area.

Ivy at the first Maine welcome center rest area off 95 Northbound after Portsmouth, NH.
On the way into Maine on Rt 95 there's a great welcome center rest area with bathrooms, info on attractions, vending, dog run, woods, etc. It's the first one going north after Portsmouth, NH. 

Mother's Beach
Mother's beach, Kennebunk. Shangri La for kids. Seriously. A large new Jungle gym at a safe, small real beach, with a few tide pools. Few parking spots, all need a resident, or purchased day, permit. Go early, go often.

A lobster we pieced back together on Parsons beach.
Parson's Beach.  Kennebunk. Shhhh. A large natural beach and river mouth. No services except a single porta-potty. Limited parking. Go early. Drop off by portapotty and trail head to beach, then park. Permitting might start in 2016.
Kennebunk playground near downtown
The town of Kennebunk, not Kennebunkport, is a more normal town and it's well kept up and suited for walking and families. It's on the way to the beaches and before the worst traffic. Cheries Cafe in Kennebunk is very good with food, wine and coffee. Especially their large breakfast paninis.  Across the street is New Mornings Natural food store, and a Dairy Queen for ice cream. About 1/2 mile away is a great library with kid's section, and a public playground.  There is a bus from Kennebunk to the beaches too.

Rachel Carson trail
Rachel Carson Trail. Very near Parsons beach. Short walk, flat, groomed for strollers and yet in woods and marshes. Good for a walk before a long drive home.

Trolly ride!
Trolly Museam. Rides! And restoring trolly's buses, etc. since 1939.

Children's museum in Portland if it's raining. Small, but it's inside.
Finklepod Farm stand. The stand run by the youngest Wentworth, Noah. The Wentworths farm was the epicenter of the alternative school and its community when I was growing up, and still is!

Mom and I love a storm. This pic is at Cape Porpoise.

Maybe you'll be lucky enough to have a (small) storm roll in. We were! So exciting to go to the coast in a hard rain as the tide comes in, the surfers gather, and the surf roars.

High tide at Kennebunk beach during a heavy rain storm
Surfers at Kennebunk beach during a small storm. Shaw and met ones from Canada and Vermont.
Have a good trip!  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

PewDiePie Making 7 million+ on YouTube in 2014 is okay with me.

PewDiePie is all over the news because he made 7 million in 2014 on YouTube making videos of himself playing and reacting to computer games. 

For an hour last night I watched a few of his videos (current, past, early ones, etc) and his below response to all the money that he posted yesterday. Lots of folks are hating on him.

After taking a look at his work, here's why I'm not a hater.
  • He works really hard
  • He gave a million to charity.
  • He's good, and knows his tools
  • He gets entertainment
Basically, his passion intersected with a new technology (YouTube with ad money)