Monday, August 19, 2013

Gen Con Dreams

It is Monday morning, the Monday after Gen Con.  In case you don't know what it is, you can check it out here:

It truly is, as they say, 'the Best Four Days in Gaming'.  In gaming, yes, and in people-watching and costume flaunting; four days of fantasy, sci-fi, graphic novels, heroes, damsels, elves, mages, clerics, daemons, Doctors and Deadpool; four days of attack points, strength, plus and minus, card-flipping, dice-throwing debauchery.  It is four days where society's 'Unnoticed' (in high school, at the office, in life) lift their voices as one and say, "We are here.  We exist.  We are 40,000 strong."   Four days of pure unadulterated joy; in short, an unabashed and much-needed celebration of geekery.

I'm a 54-year old mom, the mother of 22- and 16-year old boys.  I don't know how long we've been going to Gen Con. Long enough to remember checking the 16-year-old into the Training Grounds and walking around with his older brother.  Like many, we first came on a Sunday on a Family Pass--and that was enough to hook us.

Now, every year in January, we register for our 4-day passes.  In May, we sit by the countdown clock and hit 'Enter' as soon as it hits zero, waiting to see if we get all our events.  In June, we start on our costumes.  My boys, in past years, have been 'L', a steam-punk Zombie, Clu from 'Tron', the Black Hand Lantern, Roxas from Kingdom Hearts, Sasori from Naruto and this year, Evangellion (whatever that is--all I know is that the costume was a b****....).  In past years, I've gone as 'generic medieval'.  This year, I was Catelyn Stark.  Next year, considering the feedback I got on my costume, maybe Tyrion--since he's probably closer to my height....  8-/

For us, as a family, it is four days of heaven.  We've been going to Gen Con often enough that we now have Gen Con traditions. As we live in Greenfield--so lucky are we to be in driving distance of this awesome con--on Wednesday, we get in the car and come down together to get our passes at the Will-Call window.  We could have them mailed to us, but it gives us a chance to grab the event guide and study it before Thursday morning.  And it's like Christmas Eve.  We get psyched up.  We make our plan for the days for getting up early to park in our 'usual spot'.  Where we will meet for food (usually hitting our favorite Johnny Rocket's more than once over the four days).  We review our event schedule.  We spend the rest of Wednesday on last minute touches for our costumes.  We try and fail to go to bed early.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday--up early, drive, park and then, games and walking, walking, walking.  We love the exhibit hall, we love the auction room, we love the costumes.  We play our favorite games and demo a dozen more over the four days of the con.  We see people we know (more so every year....).  We take a ton of photos; sometimes we get our OWN photo taken.  We watch the progress of Cardhalla.  We make lists for purchasing.  We watch the costume parade and sometimes the Zombie Walk.  We attend Hickman's Killer Breakfast.  We comment on what's trending at Gen Con, what's new this year, and what's changed from last year.

Sunday is our calm day (so to speak).  No costumes today for us.  Just normal, comfortable walking-around clothes.  No obstructed vision.  No one is over-heated.  We wander through the exhibit hall and make our final game-purchase decisions.  We buy a t-shirt.  I get a new pair of earrings.  And when the hall closes, we meet at the info desk and make our way to PF Chang's, another Gen Con tradition.  We are bone-tired.  Carrying heavy bags.  We sit and eat rice with chopsticks and talk about what we've seen, and done, and what we want to be sure we fit in for next year.  Another Gen Con has passed.  The fastest four days of gaming for sure.

We've been to Disney as often as we've been to Gen Con.  It's hard to say which we enjoy more.  We talk about Disneys past and Gen Cons past equally and with equal nostalgia.  Gen Con, Disney,'s a toss-up.

Epilogue:  several years ago, my oldest son and I stayed late on a Friday night...later than we usually do.  We went to the Mayfair game hall to find someone to teach us Catan.  (Yes, at that time, we'd never played before.  Disclaimer:  Catan is 'a gateway game', be forewarned....).  We found a father and two sons who were willing to instruct us.  The father lived in Indy, but his grown sons lived in Texas and Seattle.  Every year, they met up at Gen Con and spent four days together playing games, catching up on each others' lives, and enjoying the heck out of the time spent together--at, of all places, Gen Con.

This is my hope for me and my sons, now a college sophomore and high school freshman.  That, wherever they are in life, wherever they go in this world, that come the first of August, they will come home to Indiana, to GenCon, and we will be like this father and his sons:  reunioning, playing games, people-watching, and enjoying the heck out of the time spent together.

To me, this is the legacy of Gen Con.  There are no restrictions in gaming, like there are in sports and many other things in life.  You can get too old to throw a football, to play one-on-one in the driveway, to hike the Grand Canyon, but you're never gonna be too old to play Settlers of Catan.  Gaming is ageless, sexless, universal, and eternal.  Long live Gen Con.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

In My Father's House, There are Many Rooms....

I had an epic dream last night.  I dreamed that I was in the house of my childhood--except that it wasn’t really.  It wasn’t a house that in my waking life I had ever been in before, but the feeling of the big old rambling house was that it was ‘home’.  It was a huge house, full of many, many rooms, each room full of things, the belongings, the accumulated memorabilia and ephemera of a lifetime.  

The house, which had been added on to and added on to over the generations, was a house of the accumulations of centuries of living and rooms of memories of a long and full life.  And we--the relatives with whom I was wandering through the house--had been alive a long, long time. 

We wandered from room to room, looking at things, toys, games, photos, items and rooms that evoked memories and places.  In some of the rooms were other relatives, old, still, but not really dead, just…part of the furniture, part of walls, the room itself in the particular room where they had chosen to finally take a rest.  And that’s what we, the relatives I stood with, were looking for--the room to finally take our rest.  

You see, we’d been alive for a long time, much longer than normal--like hundreds of years--and it had been a long, full and wonderful life.  And we were thinking that perhaps, it was time to stop, sit, and rest and we were looking for the room where we wanted to spend the remainder of our time.  

But as we wandered, looking at toys, photos, out the window, the stacks and piles of collected souvenirs of a lifetime of living, thinking through the memories that the plethora of belongings in each of the rooms evoked in us, one of us said, “There’re so many things I’d like to do just one more time before we rest.”  “We haven’t played this game in awhile.”  “I’d like to walk along the shores of Lake Superior again.”  “I need to get back to Street Fair just one more time.”  “I haven’t talked to so-and-so in ages…I should call her….”  So we kept walking….walking through the rooms, the many rooms of the age-old mansion….

Friday, January 25, 2013

Writing the Research Paper--another educational adventure with Ben

Hi, Mrs. Goble--

Here is a more coherent email about Ben's progress on the research paper.

I think I've told you what an 'difficult' child Ben can be.  He's probably, what do you call it, Oppositional-Defiant (?), ADD,  and OCD and most days it's a daily battle just to get him clean, clothed, and properly fed.  Then, we come to school work.  It's kind of amazing that I'm able to push him as hard as I push him to get the grades he gets.  He basically failed the 7th grade at his Brick & Mortar school, so I'm really very pleased with the progress he's made this year.

First of all, we're doing fine with the topic of researching a higher education option.  I know we had talked earlier about having him do last year's topic of researching a legend (Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, etc.), but two things happened:  1) he was looking up fantasy characters like Chuthulu (from HP Lovecraft) and Japanese anime gods and other amazingly obscure (and fictional) stuff....I decided that he needed a dose of reality, rather than more fantasy; 2) after the discussion about what he should DO a legend paper on, I made a second executive decision that I wasn't up to fighting my way through TWO research papers with him.

Second, we've turned in the first form of the first assignment where we listed our sources, the proper MLA form and a description of each source, but we have not turned in the second assignment where we list questions, list the source and write the answers in small boxes.  As you may or may not know, I preview a good number of the lessons and portfolio projects for Ben to try to find ways to approach the project in concrete and linear ways that won't overwhelm Ben (or me).  He gets frustrated with jotting things down on an organizing worksheet and then having to recopy it on an electronic form and then taking the notes and copying it again into research paper language.  It seems redundant and I don't blame him.  Sometimes I am amazed at what he can and can't process.  For example, we were looking at a list of campus organizations and clubs for BSU, and Ben was writing specific clubs HE would be interested in.  That is fine, but what were trying to do is come up with some general, blanket statements about the variety of opportunities for involvement at BSU.  In short, he was unable to look and read and come up with something like, "Ball State has a huge variety of student organizations including the Chess Club, the Anime Club, Belly-Dancing, and Intramural Sports."  It was interesting to see that.

In any case, what I'm getting at here is that neither one of us found the "Brain-Storming:  Research Questions and Notes" form to be useful to the project.  He's very easily frustrated and I didn't want to frustrate him more by trying to complete a form that didn't seem to fit into the flow of what we were doing.  So...I wanted to tell you what we ended up doing, if that is worth anything.

[This is a strategy I learned from the National Urban Association when they came to do a three-year project in IPS.]  Before yesterday's Live Lesson, I had had him make a list of ten questions he wanted to answer during the course of the research.  I copied all of those on to post-it notes.  We then added some questions after sitting through the Live Lesson yesterday.  Then, I had him look at the post-it notes and think generally about what kinds of questions we were asking.  We grouped them into these categories:  What You Need to do to Get Into the College, Basics about the School, What You Can Learn, and Living at College.  We went to the library this morning and proceeded to work on answering the questions one at a time, which he did in paragraph form in a Word document, which can then become a part of his final paper.  Using this strategy, we are now 1/3 of the way done with the entire paper.  I have to say that he and I are very pleased with the progress we've made.  We had fun researching Ball State and picking out some books about careers in animation and film.  It was a great morning.

So...anyway, if you need to count off on the project because we didn't fill out that form, that's fine, but I did want you to know that we learn the skill that the the form was teaching.

Mrs. Goble, thanks for being a good an understanding teacher.  I'm not saying that just so you'll excuse Ben from that paper, but I really do feel grateful to you and to INCA for providing a way for my son to be successful and for me to take an active part in his achievement.  It truly is a daily battle here, but I honestly think that he is making some progress, gaining some skills and so forth.  I don't know yet if college is in is future, but it's heartening to see, every once in awhile, a spark of interest from him in something academic and in his future.  :-)

Christine Schaefer