Category Archives: gaming

The Best $26 I Have Ever Spent

I enjoy playing computer games. I recently reinstalled Township on my iPad. And it wasn’t long before I was reminded why I had deleted it the last time. At some point, in order to really advance in the game, the player is encouraged to spend some money. Maybe just a dollar or two or three or maybe more. It can happen quickly and sometimes too easily. I have found that, eventually, the game gets a little repetitive as, despite perks as you move through the levels, you are mostly asked to complete similar kinds of tasks required by the game.

This time, as I went to press the pay button a little too quickly, I was reminded that I could be building and harvesting and exploring almost for free in Minecraft. Since I don’t play on my iPad, Minecraft seems like more of a commitment, requiring a laptop and even a mouse. But even that is good as it makes game playing more intentional, not just something else to do because it’s easy and available.

I paid for Minecraft many years ago at a time when most education-focused websites and software was free. So, twenty six dollars seemed like a lot of money, particularly if you weren’t sure you would stick with it. I play about four times a year and have easily played for ten years: that’s less than a dollar a game. And, I can start and restart to my heart’s content so when I get tired of a particular simulation, I can start a new one, or move from game to game, maybe building something grand in creative mode or battling creepers in survival mode. And, ultimately, it remains interesting as I am the decision maker. There are rules to follow but they don’t dictate what I have to do as much as what I should or could do within the context of the game.

As I type this, I am downloading the iPad version and plan to try it out this evening. If I am going to “waste time” playing a game, at least I can do it mostly for free.

Composting in Minecraft

While I don’t play all the time, I do sometimes dive into Minecraft for a few days or a few weeks. I find it relaxing.

I started a new game about a week ago. A Minecraft screenshot showing gardens
I’ve gotten past the initial startup and am now building vegetable gardens. I like the way they have come together but I have a row of pumpkins that won’t fruit. Not sure why as the light is correct and they have a block next to them for the actual pumpkin.

I had a bunch of oak slabs left over from my roof project and discovered they could be used to make a composter. I placed it in the corner of the garden and didn’t think too much about it. Guess I figured it was decorative. Well, it turns out that it composts. And it particularly likes cake and pumpkin pie. Stuff it full of compostable stuff and you get bone meal back. The green crystals are the compost being made.


Settling for Two Stars

I am not much of a gamer, but I do like to play single player time management building games. The one I’m playing right now is Kingdom Chronicles 2. It is a typical game set in something of a Medieval type setting:  you collect resources, build farms, sawmills, quarries and diamond mines that produce additional resources that you use to clear roads and destroy enemies. It is a somewhat mindless diversion, but each level brings different challenges that require some strategy to solve. And, as it involves time, there is a reward for finishing quickly: you get three stars. (There are also points involved but I haven’t gotten that involved in how they work.) I go for the stars.

In Kingdom Chronicles 1, I was able to fairly easily earn three stars on my first try on each level. There were a couple later levels where a surprise part of the way through the level made me rethink my strategy and required a second try.  Finally, there were just a couple that sent me looking for cheats and video tutorials.

Kingdom Chronicles 2, on the other hand, has been much more challenging. At first, I stuck with my usual approach to playing: don’t move on until I’ve gotten three stars. But, even with the support of videos, I got stuck on a level.  I like the game, but playing the same level over and over with similar results was boring and I didn’t seem any closer to getting that third star.

So, I moved on. And I got two stars on the next level, and the next one, and pretty much every level since. I haven’t given up on that coveted third star, and  I’ve tried each one at least twice. For those where I seemed close, I may have watched a video or two.

Mostly, I just decided I wanted to play the game, and I was willing to settle for two stars. I wonder how this might apply to kids and school: we’ve all known kids who likes school, engage with classes, but don’t necessarily care about the grade. It is an external motivation that can take away the intrinsic joy of an activity.

Maybe some day, I’ll return and work on those three stars but for now, I’m settling for two and enjoying the game.


Relaxing With Minecraft

I am not much of a gamer but, for some reason, I find Minecraft very relaxing, even when I’m getting blown up and losing all my stuff. It’s pretty easy to avoid dying, actually, but if you just want to build, you can switch into the creative mode that is safe and offers up all the inventory you could ever want. Miners are doing some amazing things with this game/tool. If you are only vaguely aware of Minecraft, the official site is a good starting point for learning more.

I don’t play all the time–I binge for a few days every couple months–but in this go round, which has lasted a few days, I am pretty enamored of the world where was I was spawned. Easy access to resources along with some interesting new features and items. Normally, I play for awhile and then lose interest and delete the world. But, I may keep this one around and stop in now and then.

I was going to name this post Minecraft Mindfulness because playing the game has a flow-like quality that can shut out the rest of the world and focus my thoughts.

What do you do that others might see as “wasting time” but helps relax and focus your mind?

Revisiting a Favorite Game: Zoombinis

I cleaned up my iPad and found Zoombinis. This game was one of my favorites long ago, an I’ve written about playing it more recently.

I started up a new game and, thanks to a bit of vacation, got up to the more difficult levels pretty quickly. I decided to enlist an expert and found this great resource from Miss Norledge that links Zoombinis to maths. For now, I’m working through her advice about the Sneezing Cliffs and set theory, but I am looking forward to reading the rest of her tips.