Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Family gaming

Warning: Gaming post. If you play World of Warcraft or a similar game, you might find it cute and heartwarming. If you don't, you will likely get lost in nerd terminology pretty quickly. You have been warned.

On Saturday, I ran a Warcraft dungeon called Razorfen Kraul with Ben, Lynnea, and my mom. We have been doing this off and on, once every 2-4 weeks or so, for several months. Ben (who is seven) started playing the game a long time ago, but only dabbled with it until he finally brought a particular character, a druid, all the way up to level 16 because he loved playing in animal forms.

That's when the fun started, because I had been explaining to him about dungeon fighting and he wanted to try it. I was hesitant to take this step, because Ben has kind of a short attention span, and I didn't want to ruin the fun of any strangers we might add to our group. But when I ran the idea by Lynnea and mom, they were both willing to join us, and I know them to be very kind and patient with Ben. Normally dungeons are done in groups of five, but the other three of us had characters that were higher levels than Ben, so we thought we might be able to handle it.

So I promised we'd try a dungeon that weekend, and I drilled three rules into his head repeatedly:
1. The tank (me) is the leader. Stay BEHIND the tank at all times. Do not wander off on your own, under any circumstances.
2. Attack only what I am attacking. (For you non-WoW players, this is important because tanks have to work to force individual opponents to attack them, and not the more lightly armored and vulnerable players.)
3. Be nice to everybody. Say thank you. Congratulate them when they get something good.

I repeated these rules, and made him repeat them back to me, many times throughout the week.

We ran the Deadmines dungeon. To everyone's surprise, it went off successfully. It took us two trips on separate occasions to beat VanCleef. But even on the first trip, what was amazing was that Ben followed directions. Oh, I think he had to be reminded of the rules a few times, but he always apologized for his mistakes and corrected them. And more importantly, we all had fun.

That was a few months ago. Now our team of four is more experienced in dungeoning together, we're all in the range of 25-30, and we still try to team up on a semi-regular basis. We've done some character switching, and at this point we have gotten into a nice groove with a very good mix of characters. You can click on our names below to see their current information.
  • Russell: Maddow. My character is still the tank, although I let Ben try tanking in bear form one time. She is a female human protection warrior who is named and styled after a certain TV and radio host.
  • Lynnea: Geighdayr. She is our healer. Her character is a male human holy priest. It's pronounced, um, "gaydar."
  • Ben: Siaindiss. Damage dealer. He's a male night elf feral druid. He used to specialize in spell attacks, but since he reached level 20 and learned to transform into a cat, he's been a feral-focused melee fighter. The named is pronounced "see-AIN-dis"; the random name generator picked it for him and he decided how to say it.
  • Sheryl: Gleeful. She is a female gnome warlock who takes care of our long range spell casting damage.
So the four of us ran Razorfen Kraul this weekend. It's a lesser known dungeon in the horde-controlled Barrens, that few alliance characters ever bother visiting.

It was a long, tough instance. It's populated by pig-men who have an annoying tendency to run away and gather reinforcements when they are injured. As a result, we had a lot of difficult fights that turned out to be much longer than we anticipated, and required a lot of split second decisions by everyone.

We went into it mostly blind, without reading a guide on WoWWiki. I just kept an eye on the dungeon map and guessed which way to go. We had to backtrack a few times.

Ben saved the day on more than one occasion. As a druid, he can temporarily turn into a bear and substitute tanking if I die, or turn into an elf and substitute healing if Lynnea dies. He won't necessarily think to do this on his own, but if we shout instructions then he'll remember. Both changes kept the team from wiping out at different times. I think we all died twice in several hours of play.

Three of us play from the same house, while mom is on a long distance connection from Santa Fe. She and I keep in voice contact during gameplay over Ventrilo.

Anyway, we all had fun, and all gained multiple levels before calling it an afternoon. We didn't quite reach the last boss, but we all felt we had seen plenty of RFK.

Now we're high enough to do Gnomeregan, so that's coming up next time.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Political thuggery

As you may have heard, Republicans are being encouraged to show up at town hall meetings, especially those hosted by Democrats, and shout them down about public health care. If you haven't heard it, get informed with this recent commentary and then come back.

There's a memo that's gone around that incited this stuff. In it, participants are urged to bring in questions that have been written for them, yell at the speaker, and disrupt any effort to answer the questions.

I'm actually quite in favor of political activism, but this isn't conversation -- it's intimidation.

I don't have a lot to add to the story, but I'd like to point out the stark contrast between this and another recent story about a "protest."

PZ Myers plans a trip to the creationism museum with around 200 fans. The museum fears a disruption, and PZ responds to their concerns by writing a very stern message to all participants:

You will not be disruptive. This is an information gathering mission that will make you a better informed individual to criticize bad ideas. Do not interfere with other visitors' ability to examine the place. Ask questions only where appropriate. Collect questions that you can ask of any of the real scientists who will be in our group. Do not get into loud arguments. If a discussion starts getting angry on either side I want you to be the ones to back off.

Remember, if you are calm, civil, and well-behaved, and you tour the "museum", we win. If you are calm, civil, and well-behaved, and the security guards throw you out because they don't like the fact that you're an atheist, we win. If you are angry, rude, and cause trouble that gives them a reasonable excuse to throw you out, we lose, and I will be very pissed off at you.

I think the difference speaks for itself.