New Dimensions in Lego Fun

Last Christmas, my nephew gave my older son Lego Dimensions for the PS4. It took me until about 2 weeks ago to try it myself and I’m glad I finally did.

As a kid, I never really cared much for Lego. It was ok, but it didn’t really excite me; I never really had the knack for building cool stuff with it. Most of my creations were at the level of what the typical 3 year-old makes, only I was closer to 10. I had a friend who– in high school– made a Veritech fighter from Robotech out of Lego and the bloody thing looked better than the licensed toys in the store at that time. It even transformed without the need of any parts being removed. It worked like a Transformer. It was crazy.

When my older son, Aeddan, became interested in Lego a number of years ago, he was drawn to Ninjago. while I resisted at first, I eventually wound up watching several episode of the cartoon with him and enjoyed it more than I expected to. Over the years, we bought him a number of Ninjago games and although I never really played them, I occasionally watched him play and found myself becoming more and more of a Lego fan. When the Lego Movie came out, it cemented my new opinion of Lego as being pretty damn fun. I totally enjoyed the movie and am now looking forward to the Lego Batman movie.

When my son opened up Lego Dimensions, I didn’t think to much of it, figuring it was just another attempt at a Skylanders clone. We had tried Skylanders when I was desperately trying to find a game that could appeal to both of us and while we liked it, we didn’t really love it and thus didn’t invest a ton of time into it. Later, I picked up Disney Infinity, which I really liked (especially the Marvel stuff), but it didn’t do much for Aeddan. I figured it would be the same with Lego Dimensions.

I was both right and wrong. Aeddan isn’t into it that much– he seems to be outgrowing Lego (despite still occasionally being found with a Ninja in his pocket– but his brother is thrilled with it. As for me, I really, really like it too, although I am not so sure my wallet will.

The amazing thing about Lego Dimensions is the number of franchises it brings together. the basic pack has you team up with Batman, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings and Wildstyle from the Lego Movie. Seeing these characters together is just really cool. I loved seeing Batman (from the “real” Lego Batman world) meet up with the Lego Batman from the Lego Movie, and watching them try to out-Batman each other. When the trio make their way to the world of Oz, they encounter Dorothy and her friends on the yellow brick road and Batman exclaims “the Scarecrow! I knew it…” which had me laugh out loud at a video game for the first time in a long time. Later Batman ribs Gandalf about his magic, asking why he can’t cast spells like the Wicked Witch of the West.

I couldn’t resist picking up Superman and Wonder Woman and will probably get other heroes, especially if the rumour of Marvel Heroes being added turns out to be true. I also couldn’t resist picking up the Doctor Who character pack. That alone is worth the price of admission for me and hearing that Red Dwarf will be added is just smegging brilliant and the icing on the cake.

In terms of gameplay, it is pretty standard Lego game fare, except of course, for having the actual toys to build and play with, which I have surprised myself by enjoying far too much… With Ninjago, Ghostbuster, DC heroes, BBC characters, the Simpsons and others all coming together in one game, I really don’t know what isn’t to love about Lego Dimensions. It certainly appeals to a very wide audience and has proven to be a fun game that can be played by me and my kids. It may have taken the toys-to-game idea from Skylanders, and it may be the same Lego gameplay that we’ve seen dozens of times before, but everything just seems to come together so well.

Looks like this year, I will be the one asking for Lego at Chrismas.

I’d Rather Fight a Supervillain

Well, maybe not, but it’s a toss-up. Given that this site is intended to talk about being a parent, amoung other things, I thought I should do a post on parenting advice for teens. After all, aside from the “terrible twos,” which really aren’t all that bad, being the parent of a teen is the most trying part of being a parent for many of us.

The thing is, I am not sure I can really give advice. I mean, I’m just a dad like any other. I don’t have any Oprah-like advice to dole out. I have my days where I feel like I am just barely hanging on… but… My son is a good kid. I have a lot of trust in him. I know that while he may make some silly mistakes and questionable decisions, he has a good heart and will try to do the right thing.

While it may seem at times that some alien creature has taken over his body (which has grown with frightening speed over the past year or so) and he may appear to be on a quest to turn my hair grey or drive me screaming into the streets, there are also moments where the little boy he was shines through. As much as he wants to appear mature, he is still a kid. It’s easy sometimes– especially now that he’s officially the tallest person in the family and soon to need a razor– to think that he is all grown up; he can do pretty much everything by himself. It’s not that he needs us for much anymore, aside from a bit of nagging about homework or cleaning his room.

Except that he does need us.

Contrary to what he might think sometimes, he doesn’t have all the answers. Neither do we as parents, but we have a much better chance of finding them together, and I think that may be one bit of advice that I could give: work with your kids instead of trying to control everything, especially as they get older. Let them make their own decision where possible. there’s nothing wrong with that. You maintain the power to veto what you disagree with, but letting them start to decide things for themselves when possible is a good thing.

More than anything else, though, I think the best advice I can give in regards to parenting a teen is this: raise the best pre-teen that you can. Raise the best young child that you can. Raise the best toddler and baby that you can. By the time your kid is a teen, they are largely set on the path that they are going to walk. The easiest way to know that your teen has a level head, is trustworthy and a good decent person, is to know all that about them before they reach their teens.

Having kids is the best job in the world. So cliché, I know, but very true. My kids are the greatest part of my life. My son is growing into a wonderful man and I know he’ll be great so long as we can get through the raging hormones and crazy mood-swings.

So yeah, I guess there won’t really be much in the way of advice on this site after all. I’ll write about our experiences, things that we go through and how we survive them, but the only real advice to be had is just common sense: be with your kids as much as you can. get to know them. Be there for them when they need you and give them space when it’s safe to do so. Love them, trust them, have fun with them, because they’re awesome.

Tabletop Gaming with your Kids

I used to play D&D.

I started in grade 8 and played for a couple of years. Later, some friends (including the manager of a comic shop I made my purchases at) started a Shadowrun campaign and asked me to join. I did so, happily. When our GM left the group, I took over and spent more than a decade in that position.

We left Shadowrun when Vampire the Masquerade came out and I was the Storyteller for a multi-year campaign. I loved it, although I should have passed the Storyteller position to someone else sooner than I did, because I was worn-out creatively.

When my family moved to a new city, one of the things that I knew I would miss was gaming. I loved creating characters and stories. I loved getting together with ”the guys” once a week to fool around and have fun. Yes, I knew I would miss it, but… I looked forward to having my son to play with as he grew older.

I first tried introducing my older son to D&D (his brother is still too young). I figured that since I had started with D&D it would be a good idea to introduce him to RPGs the same way. I wasn’t about to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on the newest version, though… Fortunately, I still had my old, beloved Rules Cyclopedia, which in my opinion was one of the best D&D products they ever put out and used the Mystara setting, which I had very fond memories of.

Well, things didn’t go the way I planned….

I started of with a quick intro to character creation and then set my son loose on the unsuspecting world. He came across an elf who brought him to a dark, foreboding cave in the hopes of rescuing a missing companion. My son heard the cries of terror from within the cave and…

… ran back to town for more help.

Granted, it wasn’t the most heroic of choices, but one I could sympathise with. sadly, help arrived too late for the elf and his companion. sadder still, I found the game mechanics much more cumbersome than I remembered and this was basic D&D. I was a little disappointed (with the game, not my son) and pondered whether I was now too old to keep all that useless gaming info in my head. Looking up tables wasn’t as much fun as I remembered.

So, we set out to find a new game. An easier game. One that was a little less ”crunchy,” and focused more on the storytelling and character development. We also debated what type of campaign to try. Stick with fantasy? Science Fiction? Create our own world, or base it on an existing property?

Well, mainly it was me debating that. My son just wanted to have fun. So we (I) set out to find something that could appeal to us both and allow us (me) to build a fun setting and memorable characters. We have looked at a few systems, some more promising than others, but I think we have a winner. I’ll discuss some of the choices in future posts, but the main thing is, we look like we’re prepared to have some fun.  I still miss my gaming buddies, but this will be good, too.

 

–Craig

DC Comics Rebirth: The Good and The Less-Good So Far

Originally published 20/7/16

I’m a bit behind, so forgive me, but I do have a few thoughts on DC’s Rebirth event and the treatment of primary characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman so far.

For the most part, I am rather enjoying the issues I have read. Superman is back in a way that I have been hoping for for years. I may not have chosen to give him a son, personally, but hey, if Batman can have a kid, I guess Superman can as well. Certainly, he’s in a healthier relationship than Batman has ever been and John Kent (or White, or Smith…) seems ok by me so far.

Wonder Woman is seemingly about to undergo another explanation of her origin. I always liked the “fashioned-out-of-clay” origin myself, as it seemed suitably epic for a character with ties to the Greek gods. That was tossed out the window in the New 52, but it seems as though things are changing again. So far, I have no idea where they are going, but I am enjoying this introduction to the latest chapter of the character’s adventures.

Batman has fared a little less well, in my opinion. he is opening up to his various partners, including Red Robin, Nightwing and Batwoman, which is nice from a character-development point of view, but I can’t help but feel he’s been diminished somehow. He seems less capable in a way that I can’t quite explain. Plus, I am disturbed by the fact that so many people seem to be aware of his identity as Bruce Wayne. Given the whole setup for the events of Rebirth however, it’s clear that there will be some “cosmic” events taking place at some point, which may have an impact on this.

I really want to see where DC is going with this storyline. There are a number of questions that have been raised about various customers, their true origins, where things are going and what is the actual point of the New 52 (story-wise). On one hand it seems as though things may ultimately revert to the way there were pre-New 52 but with a few minor changes, but on the other hand, I’m not sure they’d risk alienating the newer fans.

Whatever might happen, I’m on board in a way that I haven’t been in years.

–Craig

 

 

DC Universe Rebirth: a Return to Heroic Heroes

I may be a bit premature in saying this, but it looks like DC Universe Rebirth is set to undo some of the darkness and cynicism found in comics today and bring back what I loved about DC comics and their heroes. So far, I am feeling pretty optimistic.

DC has arguably the most iconic superheroes: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash… these characters need no introduction to almost anyone you meet. I have travelled to the far side of the globe and seen people walking down the street with Superman shirts, or sporting his famous “S” on rings or other jewelry. These characters are known and loved by millions and with the current popularity of superheros in other forms of media such as movies and Netflix series, they are reaching new people daily.

I tend to be a bit more of a Marvel fan, but my first comics were Superman and Batman, “borrowed” from my brother’s collection (and then “enhanced” by my burgeoning skill with crayons…). I loved Superman and Batman right off the bat. No pun intended.

Now, I haven’t read everything that has been released yet, but having looked at the first several Rebirth issues, I am very excited and hopeful for what is to come. It looks like DC is going back to the classic “good guy” heroes that I grew up with and which I can share with my kids.

Over the years, comic characters have become progressively darker as anti-heroes gained in popularity. I see no real problem with those types of characters, but I don’t think that every character needs to be that way. While a character like Batman at DC or Daredevil at Marvel benefits from grittier stories, a hero like Superman is meant to be inspiring. Thankfully, the comics seem to be taking steps to bring back a sense of hope and a positive outlook.

Now we just need that in the movies.