Monday, January 16, 2012

What I want to do this year

Even though the first month of 2012 is half over, the year is young so I still have time to post this.  Last year I posted five things that I wanted to accomplish in 2011, and I did 3 out of 5 of them.  Overall that is pretty good I think.  Off that list, I hosted an event at Gen Con (which I hope to be be doing again this year).  Last year, I posted that I wanted to write regularly, and I got off to a good start to discover that, actually, no I did not want to write.  So I can cross that one off the list.  I also had on the list that I wanted to make my own game, and I did that as part of a board game design contest.  So as  I look ahead at 2012 and think about what steps I want to be intentional about in my life here is what I am thinking:

1.  Ride More (still)
This was on the list last year, and sadly I have to put it on the list (again).  I still have a bike, and once it warms up I have ZERO reasons why I should not get it out and ride it regularly.  Last year, in the Spring it was kind of hard to make time with the inflexibility of Abigail's job.  However, with her new job that is not the case.  Also, every time I thought about it I would make lame excuses like I do not have a water bottle attached to the bike, so I will get to thirsty.  The simple fact is that I am either going to do it or I am not.  This needs to be the year that I do it.

2.  Create a Board Game (again)
So last year, I technically accomplished this one.   However, while playable the game was not the best.  This was in part because it was created for a contest that had set perimeters about what kind of theme and mechanic the game had to have, plus it only had a three week time span to make the game.  I want to make a game that is good and playable.  I want to make a game that is good enough that I can list it on boardgamegeek as a print and play game or even publish the game through the "do it yourself" website  I have two ideas for this game.  One is a super hero adventure game that I have blogged about before.   The other is a game that has a character creation system and tries to capture a Call of Duty feel as a board game.  I used a very rough version of this second idea as part of a youth group lesson.  The lesson worked well, and the game worked well enough to convince me there might be something to it.

3.  Play Through All of Our Games
Abigail and I are attempting to play through all of our games in a year.  Not only that, but I am attempting to document our progress with mini reviews and session reports.  We are making good progress.  The reason why this post has been delayed is because I have spent my free time writing about the games we are playing instead.  Our game blog is starting to get a little bit of a following, which is really exciting.  I know I have already posted the link, but here it is again, please follow our progress:  Too Many Games!!

4.  Read All Four Gospels by Easter
Since on this past Sunday, I encouraged 400-500 people that they should do this, I had better make sure that I do as well!  There are still like 84 days before Easter, so this should not be to hard as long as I keep up with regularly reading the Bible.

5.  Listen to Music More  
I know that I do not listen to music anywhere near as much as most people.  I also know that compared to most people, music is mostly unimportant to me.  I am not the kind of person who "needs music to survive."  That being said, I understand the importance of music, especially for young children.  If I want Connor to grow up appreciating music then I need to make sure he is hearing music.  Which means I need to make the conscious effort to listen to it more (plus when he dances it is adorable).

6.  Begin playing an RPG
Between my experience with the writing project and running an RPG at Gen Con, I realized just how much I miss running a role playing game.  I really love  the creativity of creating a story and then bringing that story to life on the fly with other people.  I am really hoping that throughout the course of this year, I can recruit people and get a causal game going.  

Friday, January 06, 2012

The Video Game Post, 2012 Edition

Last year,  I made a similar video game post.  One of the things I wrote about is how I do not play video games as much as I use to.  In 2011, this became even more true.  I think the truth of the matter is that in the realm of video games I may be transitioning to a more casual player.  Evidence of this is the fact that unlike the past years I will not be posting a top ten list of my favorite video games of 2011. I will not even be posting a top five list.  I tried to put together a list, but I did not have five games that I liked this year.  I only bought three Xbox 360 games.  I liked one, disliked one, and was disappointed by the other.  The best I can offer is a top three list, so here are my best experiences with video games from 2011.

The best video game I played in 2011 was Batman Arkham City.  In fact, it is among the best video games I have ever played.  Everything about the game, the controls, graphics, music, and storyline work together perfectly to craft a fantastic batman story.  In this game I felt like I was playing Batman.  The original game, Arkham Asylum, was good but this one blew it away.  The second best game experience I had was Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare.  This  expansion pack for Red Dead Redemption introduced zombies into the wild west.   The length of the expansion was perfect.  Unlike the base game, Undead Nightmare did not outwear it's welcome and killing zombies is always fun.  The Wild West and zombies were a perfect mix.  Finally, the best iOS game I played in 2011 was Starbase Orion.  This 4X game is fairly light, but the controls are perfect for the iPad.  I played through it many times over the Fall.

In my video game post last year I also made mention of the agreement that Abigail and I have to get five video games a year, and I posted the games that I am considering.  One of the reasons that I only got three games this year is because the majority of the games I was interested in were delayed until this year.  This makes things harder this year, as there are potentially more games that I am interested in.  So here are the video games I am looking forward to in 2012:

Skyrim:  Technically, this game came out in 2011, but is the video game that I am most want to play.  Skyrim is an open world RPG.  This means that there is a big open world.  While there is a story, the players really get to define their own experience.   The previous game in Oblivion, was amazing, and I played it for well over 100 hours.  At some point in 2012 Skyrim should either drop a little in price or have a game of the year edition released.  Once of the those things happen, I plan on getting Skyrim.  It will for sure be one of the five games that I get this year.

Mass Effect 3:  I have blogged before about how much I enjoy the Mass Effect series.  I stand by my previous statement that Mass Effect is the best story I have ever experienced.  This is not because the story is so incredible (though it is good), it is because of the immersion within the story the game creates.  Mass Effect 2 continued this excellence, and I am very much looking forward to the final chapter.

Soul Calibur V:  I am a causal fan of fighting games.  I think this is mostly because two fighting games, Soul Calibur III and Mortal Kombat: Deception were everything I wanted from a fighting game.  However, every fighting game I have played since then has been a disappointment because they offer such a barebones single player experience.  I enjoyed Soul Calibur IV, so following up with the next game seems like a good choice.

Halo 4:  It is Halo.  I like Halo, and I have all of them.  This will be a great single player game and the multiplayer will be good as well.  This is also an absolute must get.

Aliens Colonial Marines:  This year a FPS about Aliens will be coming out.  It is made by Gearbox, and I have enjoyed their Brothers in Arms WWII games.  An Aliens game where I get to play as a Space Marine has a lot of potential, and I think the co-op multiplayer would be a blast.

Racoon City:  Racoon City is related to the Resident Evil game series.  Unlike previous Resident Evil games that have clunky third person controls, this is a full on first person shooter.  A first person shooter about shooting zombies.  Any shooter about blasting zombies is one that is of interest to me.  However, I will want to wait for reviews because first person shooters are a very western style of game, and Capcom is a very Japanese developer.  Sometimes when these two things cross it does not always work out.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier:  I really liked the Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter games.  This is the next game related to that.  However, the first iteration of Future Soldier was very troubled and re-done.  This is another games I will want to read reviews about to see how it has panned out.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2:  I am just assuming this game is coming out, since there has been a new Call of Duty every year that the Xbox 360 has been out.   I was very let down and did not care for this year's Call of Duty.  The game this year will be made by Treyarch games, and I do tend to like the Treyarch games more.  However, I am wondering if I might want to take a break from Call of Duty this year, so I can experience other games.  It will really come down to the reviews for Racoon City and Future Soldier.  If I get one of those, then I will be very tempted to skip out on Call of Duty.

Soul Calibur V comes out at the end of this month, so I will need to begin deciding which five games I  might want to get soon.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Top Ten Memories of 2011

This is Abigail's favorite post I make every year, and this is my tenth year to make one of these lists.  I know that  globally, 2011 was kind of a turbulent year.  This was a year of transition for us as well.   Two major things really gave this year a transitive feel.  First, this year we got to watch Connor transition from baby to boy.  At the beginning of the year, Connor barely knew 20 words and could not walk.  At the end of the year Connor knew well over 100 words, is beginning to talk in complete sentences, and runs everywhere.

The other big transition we faced this year was Abigail switching jobs from teaching to being a case manager for people with special needs.  Due to this transistion, this year really feels like two different years, with the first six months being one year and the second being the other year.  Despite having that odd feeling, it has still only been one year and here are the top ten memories I will have from this year.

10.  The Society of Crime Fighters
 While this is related to Gen Con, I think that this deserves its own entry.  I really enjoy being a game master in role playing games.  I love creating the back bone of a story and then work cooperatively with players to create the story.  Despite enjoying this, up until this year I had not done this since 2001.  At Gen Con this year, I signed up to run an RPG event.  I found  a neat system and came up with a pulp superhero adventure. The players were heroes who were conscripted by the government to investigate a Nazi experiment to create wolf-human hybrid super soldiers.  Leading up to Gen Con I ran through the adventure with two groups to practice and refine it.  The actual adventure went great and I had a blast. I think from now on, running a game at Gen Con is going to be something I try to do every year.

9.   Gen Con 2011
Gen Con really is one of the absolute highlights of my year.  Other than running the RPG, there were a couple of other things that made this a good Gen Con. First, this was the second time Abigail came with me.  We got to do a lot together and we even spent the night downtown.  Second, I got to meet up with one of my friends and college room mates during the event and that was cool.  Finally, I got to meet Tom Vasel, who hosts a podcast that Abigail and I listen to every week.

8.  Christmas
This Christmas will be a strong memory for a couple of reasons.  First on Christmas morning when Connor was going through his stocking he found a Thomas and Friends DVD.  The look of surprise and excitement was so great, so genuine, and so perfect.  It was the first time I have ever seen him have that kind of happy surprise.  The second reason was since Christmas was on a Sunday this year, I was asked to do a children's message during the service.  During this time, Connor came running up the center aisle shouting "daddy" the entire time.  This spontaneous act of love and affection will always be with me and was unbelievably cute.
7.  Nerf War Lock In
We did this at church last year, but I think this year was even more fun and incredibly epic.  For example, here is  a story from that night:  We were playing a game type where one team had to defend a bomb for 10 minutes and the other team had to defuse it.  Once a person was shot they were out.  We planted the bomb in the church basement kitchen. This location had a window and only one entrance making it very defensible.  A small group protected the kitchen, while the majority held the stairs.  Even though we were being attacked from both sides.  We were holding.  I was in the kitchen, and it was crazy.  Nerf darts were flying in as a dozen or so kids were shooting in to it.  Our medic was in the kitchen and he kept healing the defenders.  Eventually, we lost the stairs and the majority of the team was taken out.  I was hit and went down.  The medic healed me, and was then shot.  I had not gotten up yet and Nerf darts kept coming in to the kitchen.  My gun was empty and all of clips were used up.  All I had was single shot hold out blaster.  The general for the other team came into the kitchen.  I shot him.  As he dropped to his knees he said "I thought you were dead!" to which I could only respond "Not yet."  At which point I was shot twice and then the alarm went off signally the bomb had exploded.  Absolutely epic!

6.  Canoe Trip
One of the things we do every summer with the youth group is take a fun trip.  This year we went caving and canoeing in southern Indiana.  The Caving portion was a special group only spelunking tour that was a lot of fun.  It was mainly creek stomping through a cave with a small crawling portion.  The Canoe part was a seven mile trek down the Blue River.  I had not been canoeing since I worked at Cave Country Canoes when I was seventeen.  I find Canoeing down a river fun.  Even though I know that at this point hundreds of thousands of people have been down that same stretch of river there is still a sense of exploration and adventure. I would be really interested to canoe elsewhere at some point.    One fun part of this canoeing is that three of the canoes engaged in a race.  One of the canoes cut off the other, which caused them to turn into my canoe.  However, we did not change course, and we had enough speed that when we hit the side of their canoe we jostled them enough to cause the canoe to tip.

5.  Mission Trip
As I think I mentioned last year,  I think that as long as I work with a youth group that takes trips  then they will be on the list.  This year the youth group went to Huntsville, Alabama.  This year was also really special for me because we got to work with two friends from college.  This trip was a big lesson in flexibility for all I think.  A couple of weeks before we were to come, our main contact with an organization we were working with quit.  This meant things were thrown together at the last minute but it worked.  I think that every day we were doing exactly what we needed to do.  The best part was the youth from Avon got to work side by side with the youth from Gurley UMC.  The kids from these two churches were worlds apart, and it was excellent to watch the teens get over their own assumptions, biases, and comfort zones.  By the end of the week their was genuine acceptance and unity among teens who at the beginning of the week would have been hard pressed to associate with one another.  It was once again a good week.

4.  Vacation
Abigail started her new job on June 29th.  Because she started before July 1st, she was entitled to one week of vacation before the end of the year.  She took off the first week in November.  We did some stuff around the area like taking Connor to the Columbus Children's museum.  However, on Thursday night we dropped Connor off with my parents and then spent all day Friday and Saturday together without Connor.  This is the longest time we have spent together without Connor since he has born.  On Friday we split the day.  I planned the first half and Abigail planned the second. For my part, we went to the Incredible Pizza company.  This is like a Ci-Ci's combined with a super Dave and Busters.  We had a lot of fun doing duck pin bowling and go karts.  For Abigail's part we went to Lafayette.  While there she let me get a random game from a game store, took me to a diner with good hamburgers and awesome root beer, and then took me to a wolf park for "howl night."  On Saturday we headed back to Indianapolis to play board game with friends.  I love Connor dearly, but it was refreshing to spend an extended amount of time with just Abigail.
3. Camp
  While I technically directed camp several years ago, the camp I directed then only had like 20 some people. In 2011 I co-directed camp with two other local youth directors and our camp had 105 kids.  Even though it was the hottest week of the summer it was still a great week of camp.  My primary responsibility was camp activities, and one of my major functions was the all camp games.  I am very pleased that several of the camp staff let me know that the games we had were the best of the summer.  The best game we played was a "water balloon revolutionary war."  Over a hundred kids marched in formation and maneuvered around a field  throwing water balloons at each other.  It was really a great sight to behold.  It was a great and powerful week of camp, and we are already beginning to plan for next year.

2.  Walk to Emmaus
  This year I took part on the Walk to Emmaus.  To not lessen the impact of a walk for someone who may do it in the future, I will not give many details about what happened over the weekend.  However, I can say why this was meaningful for me.  I have a astigmatism which makes my vision blurry.  When I go to the eye doctor it is always amazing how they apply the lens to correct the blurriness.  Everything just comes into focus and clears up.  The walk was like applying this lens.  It really helped focus my faith and clear the blurriness that had begun to form around the edges.   The second thing that Emmaus really did for me is that the experience affirmed my call to ministry more powerfully than any other experience I had previously had.  While I do feel called to ministry I left the Walk with that call fully affirmed and I believe that affirmation has really made a difference in my ministry over the past couple of months as I have had a  greater confidence in it.

1.  Game Day
In the middle of November there was an all day Game Day at the church. For twelve hours we played games and 80 some people came to participate in it.  The Game Day was a lot of fun, but this entry is really a stand in for the every other week game night.  The Game On! Game Night started in February of 2011.  Every other week this year the game group has met.  Since graduating college, I have greatly desired something like this game day.  A chance to hang out with other people, doing something I enjoy, and making friends.  I am so happy that this actually got off the ground and has been very successful, and it really is the highlight of 2011 for me.

Too Many Games!!!

One of things that Abigail and I are going to attempt to do this year is play through all of our games.  Assuming that we do not get any new ones (which since there are two in the mail right now is not going to happen), we have 164 games.  To get them all played by the end of the year requires playing about 13 unique games a month. That should be doable for us.  However, we ideally want to get this done by the end of July.

One of the main reasons why we want to play through all of our games is to identify the games we do not want, so that we can get rid of them.  We want to know what games we are ready to part with by Gen Con so that we can include them in the Gen Con no-ship math trade, or if they do not trade sale them.  To play through all of the games by the end of July requires playing through 23 unique games a month which will be a lot harder!

Harder yet, is that I am hoping to document our attempt to do this.  I plan on blogging about each of our games as we play them, and we have a dedicated blog for this.  So if you are interested in games, bookmark it and follow along:   Too Many Games!!! Blog