Games Mindsets People

Jocks playing Dungeons and Dragons

When you think about the types of people who play the game, you probably don’t think of jocks playing Dungeons and Dragons, but they do.

The stereotypical DnD player is probably a pimply teenager in their basement, or something, but this doesn’t give you an accurate picture of who is playing the game these days at all.

I’ve started getting back into Dungeons and Dragons in the last few weeks, and I really like how the game has evolved, and is very much going strong.

The people who are championing the game are diverse, and passionate about it.

I’ve just started watching some streamed DnD games, and really enjoyed this streamed game featuring Jocks Machina from June 2018:

There’s a great background interview for this game here, too:

I love this paradigm shift where people like these burly actors and sports professionals, who you wouldn’t expected to be into DnD, are super passionate about it.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Alex Chambers
Design Games

Machine assisted bowling – this might be considered cheating 🎳

This is funny. Pretty sure this doesn’t comply with bowling rules (whatever those may be):

I’m not sure if this is a real robot, but it’s pretty awesome either way.

Coding Games

My son stumbled into emacs … to play Tetris

My son is a Tetris fan lately. He’s competing with my friend in South Africa (they’re both playing the same game, and sending boasting screenshots by WhatsApp). He came to me with his laptop (actually mine, I’ve loaned it to him) over the weekend, excited to show me how he’s playing Tetris on the MacBook Air, in emacs

Tetris in emacs

He doesn’t really appreciate quite what emacs is (or Vim, for that matter), but he definitely loved this version.

Applications Coding Games

How hard could it be to setup a Minecraft server?

My son and his friends are getting back into Minecraft, and they’ve been playing on some random server that they have some issues with.

I gave it some thought, and decided that I could set up a Minecraft server for them on a Digital Ocean. I mean, how hard could this be, right?

It turns out, it isn’t that easy. At least, I’m hitting a wall with this after my initial setup. So, what I did was the following:

  • I first created a droplet on Digital Ocean, with a view to following this guide I found somewhere;
  • I installed the current Minecraft Server version on my shiny new droplet (via SSH);
  • There were a couple tutorials for configuring the server (here, here, and even here), but all I think I managed to do was install a bunch of stuff I don’t know how to use.
  • I did register a custom domain that I’m mapping to the droplet for when I eventually figure out how to configure the server.

I’ve reached out to a couple gaming colleagues to see if anyone has any ideas. In the meantime, I’m tempted to just go the official Minecraft server route if I can’t figure this out.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Randall Bruder
Games Mindsets

Fighting Waterblight Ganon in Legend of Zelda is like Groundhog Day

My gaming experience in Legend of Zelda was going so well, until I found myself facing Waterblight Ganon in the Divine Beast Vah Ruta. Defeating this creature requires a level of coordination that seems to elude me.

Waterblight Ganon in Legend of Zelda
Waterblight Ganon, right before it smites me for the nth time.

I’m slowly getting the hang of jumping out of the way (although in some rounds, my special skill seems to be jumping into the path of Waterblight Ganon’s spear), but when it comes to switching to an attack, or using my runes to smash incoming blocks of ice, I just seem to hit the wrong buttons. And die. Repeatedly.


Apparently this creature is the easiest of the four Divine Beast monsters, to boot. Hopefully this isn’t a case of me simply being the wrong generation to handle a dozen or so buttons on a controller. I don’t know how kids can be so coordinated.

Thankfully there are guides with tips on how to defeat these creatures. Unfortunately, you still need a level of skill to execute. My wife helpfully suggested that I just get my son to do this level for me. I’m tempted.

Entertainment Games

Legend of Zelda tops Fortnite for me

Two of the games we’ve been playing on our Nintendo Switch lately are Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Fortnite. I’ve been playing both games, and I think Legend of Zelda has become my favourite of the two games.

Fortnite is fun, for sure

My son is a huge Fortnite fan, and has been waiting for an opportunity to play the game since it launched. He started playing the game when it was released on Android, and really got into the game when we bought the Switch. I wasn’t that interested, initially, but started playing on the Switch.

If you’re not familiar with Fortnite, it’s a fun tactical shoot-em-up game where you can go play in a variety of game modes including 50 v 50 (where you are part of a group of 50 players going up another group of 50 players), a sniper shoot-out, you versus everyone else with the last player left alive winning the match, and even a playground mode where you can explore the space and hone your skills.

The game is more fun than I thought it would be. Sure, you spend your short time in the game shooting at other players, trying not to be killed by others, and escaping a lethal storm that creeps in from the edges of the island you on. On the other hand, it’s a very tactical game that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Games tend to be pretty short, and each game is a different opportunity to pick up new gear, improve your skills, and play with your friends. In that sense, it’s also a weird sort of game. My son could play for hours if we let him, and at the same time it’s also been a way for him to spend more time with his friends.

As for me, I’m still figuring this game out. Quite frankly, I’m terrible. I don’t build structures that tend to be highly recommended to protect you from other players, I can barely hit a moving target (which is problematic, obviously), and on the few occasions I’ve won the game, it’s been because I ran in the wrong direction.

Of course, I’ll improve when I play more. The thing is, I’ve become more of a Legend of Zelda fan so that’s where I spend more of my time.

Legend of Zelda is a varied adventure each time

Legend of Zelda is a quest game, basically. You start off having woken up from some sort of slumber, and slowly discover who you are, what’s been happening in this world in the century that you’ve been asleep, and what your ultimate goal is.

Unlike Fortnite, you play Legend of Zelda on your own. My kids and I each play the game. My son and I are quite a bit further along in the game than my daughter, and what amazes me is how much thought has gone into this game.

In Fortnite, you have pretty much the same landscape as your battlefield. Your task is collect better weapons, kill everyone else, and have fun in the short time you play each game.

Legend of Zelda feels like an open world that continuously surprises me. The initial quest seems pretty simple: collect a number of special objects, and then head off to fight the Big Bad. Except it isn’t.

Completing the initial quest is just the start of an expanded quest with increasing variations, surprises, twists, and turns. There seems to be something new to explore in the former kingdom of Hyrule each time I return to play.

This could be returning to a forest I ran through, only to discover hidden treasures all over the place. Or, perhaps, a whole new adventure sparked by a conversation with some random villager, or taking a different path to the last time.

Then there are mysterious shrines scattered across the land, each with a different test or puzzle to overcome. This game is pretty much what you make of it. There’s no straight line to the Big Bad, only degrees of complexity in your journey.

To add to that, the way you play will give you a very different experience of the game to another player. I’ve seen this when I watch my son play. He’s taken a very different direction in his game, and his experiences have been just as different.

What I don’t have, is the sense of watching my future game unfolding by watching him play. Sure, I gain some insight into other regions of the world that I haven’t explored yet, but my experiences will vary from his because I have different weapons, equipment, and a pretty different path.

Even though there are two expansion passes, I have a feeling that I’m going to be playing this game for quite some time before I need to add more complexity to my game.

Fortnite, on the other hand, is fun to play with friends, but lacks the intellectual challenge, and sheer diversity of options that Legend of Zelda delivers.

If I want to play something with my son, I’ll dive into Fortnite (he’s much better than I am, and enjoys taking me out with rocket launchers). When it comes to settling in for a couple hours to explore a world, kill monsters, and find cool weapons, I’ll head back to Hyrule.

Devices Games Mobile Tech

My new gaming adventure

I haven’t been much of a gamer (at least not since childhood), until I started a new, casual gaming adventure in the last week or two. It started when we bought a Nintendo Switch for home.

We opted for the Switch because it seemed to be a better choice for the whole family. I also really like the sorts of games I’ve been hearing about from Nintendo.

We started off with Legends of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Minecraft, and Fortnite (our son introduced me to this one). So far, Legends of Zelda is my favourite game on the Switch. It’s a remarkable adventure, and our son and I are constantly comparing notes about where to find gear, how to solve the next challenge, and how to stay alive in the game.

I’ve also started playing a game or two on my Android phone. I really enjoy Alto’s Adventure, in Zen mode. I like just skiing across the landscape, and getting back up each time I hit a rock, or fall down a crevice.

The imagery in Alto’s Adventure is wonderful. Even those moments after a crash have a profoundly contemplative feel to them,

My ideal would be to play Alto’s Adventure (or even the follow-up, Alto’s Odyssey – I haven’t started playing this one yet) on the Switch, but the game only seems to be available on iOS or Android.

Our next game is probably going to be Mario Kart 8. We want a game we can play together, and this one seems like a great option. I’m also looking forward to the launch of the Nintendo Switch Online service that seems like it will bring the older NES games to Switch devices as part of the subscription service.

The timing for this is great. I’m on vacation with our kids for the next two weeks, and playing games like these together are a great way to unwind between the outings we have planned.

Games People

Playful approaches to spam email

Spam email is the scourge of our modern communications infrastructure. We forget how much rubbish we receive because we have pretty good spam filters that hide it all from us. Still, it sits there in the background, accumulating until we take that immensely satisfying step of deleting all of it with a single click. Until next time.

James Veitch has a wonderful approach to spam. He turns dealing with it into a game that winds up tormenting the tormentors. In this first video, he tackles those annoyingly ineffective “unsubscribe” links:

In this next video he revealed what happened when he did that thing people say you should never do: he replied to spam email, with style. Brace yourself!

Awesome, right?

Image credit: Mathyas Kurmann