Tag Archives: gaming

Educational games: Boon to childhood learning, or gateway drug to delinquent truancy?

A lot of parents out there think educational games for their kids are great. That their children can have fun while learning at the same time.

These parents are idiots.

Educational games are not great. They are dangerous.

They are a gateway drug to pain and trouble.

How do I know this? Because I’m an idiot.

The Missus and I recently introduced our toddlers to computer games. This was done with no small amount of trepidation.

The Missus worried the kids would park themselves in front of the computer, never to move again, and just slowly grow larger and larger.

And I don’t mean in height.

She also had an irrational fear about moss accumulation, and how one could safely scrape it off skin, but I allayed that fear by saying we’d just keep the computer room too dark for moss to grow.

I’m a genius that way.

My worry was more practical. I was terrified they’d get into online gambling, incur huge debts, and one day I’d wake up in a bathtub full of ice with a note saying, “Sorry, Daddy, but it was your kidneys or our kneecaps. Hope you don’t mind. Also, get to a hospital ASAP.”

Some nights, the nightmare is even worse. I’m in the tub, but because my kids can’t read or write yet, there is no note prompting me to get to a hospital so I try to go into work instead.

The dream doesn’t end well.

The first mistake we made was underestimating the computer savvy of three year olds.

The second mistake we made was resurrecting an old computer for the exclusive, lightly supervised use of the kiddos.

As I set up the computer and searched the web for suitable educational games, my kids sat on either side of me, absorbing every move I made.

In hindsight, the furtive huddling and quiet whispering in the days that followed should have tipped me off that trouble was afoot.

Soon my novice hackers were clicking on links, adjusting Flash settings, and typing stuff into Google.

They even managed to install Chrome on the machine. One day, I walked up to the computer, and there it was on their desktop.

All this despite still being illiterate.

The educational games gave them a taste for electronic entertainment, and knowing that clicking on words that are a different color on the screen will take you to a new web page introduced them, with just a few clicks, to less educational games.

Far less educational games.

Colorful games.

Noisy games.

Violent games.

Shortly after the computer game experiment began, my kids were running around shouting “Ninja punch!” while slamming their fists in the air.

To be sure, not our original intention.

This led inevitably to them running up to me, pounding on my stomach, back, thighs, or whatever part of me was handy and facing them, then darting away while taunting, “It’s game over for you, Daddy!”

It was during the course of these attacks that they discovered Daddy’s weakness.

And once discovered, they exploited it ruthlessly, as only toddlers can.

They began punching me in the junk.

And headbutting me in the junk.

The only thoughts that could form in that hazy, red cloud of pain I endured while curled in a fetal position was, “Thank goodness they’re too short to kick me.”

Then they started climbing into my bed at first light and kicking me in the junk.

So heed this warning, written to you from a hospital bed as I recover from not one, but two ruptured testicles, and bruising in that region so severe that heretofore they were unknown to medical science:

Don’t get your kids started on educational games. Because corporal punishment is illegal in most states, and that’s really the only thing that might stop them once they’ve moved on to the harder stuff.

And now, a word from our sponsor: me! My reproductive options may no longer be available, but my books still are!

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Posted by on 30 April 2013 in Life, Parenting


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Game Review: Hidden object games Letters from Nowhere and Special Enquiry Detail: The Hand that Feeds

So in my last blog post about hidden object games, I jokingly said that I’d approached and failed to get a response from a number of game vendors to see if I could get commercial consideration for featuring their games on my blog.

Obviously a joke, right? Because who, aside from myself, cares what appears on this blog?

And to be totally honest, there are days when even I don’t care.

But, lo and behold, a representative of a gaming company commented on that blog entry!

Either A) they have really good search bots combing the internet for references, any references, no matter how obscure, to tablet games, B) my reputation as a blogger is more impressive than I realized, or C) the rep being acquainted with my wife has something to do with this.

I prefer the middle option, but I’m not kidding myself.

So now that I have their attention, I feel like I should review some games.

I’m still fairly new to the hidden object game genre, but now that I’ve started a few and finished a couple, I think I can reasonably offer my opinions on the ones I finished.

First up, Letters from Nowhere.

I really liked this game. The description implied a supernatural element, which I admit didn’t excite me, but I downloaded the free trial anyway. And was hooked.

The hidden object puzzles were challenging. Objects are not always to scale, which means when you’re looking for a postage stamp, it could conceivably be the wall of that house in the distance. My first thought was, “Hey, that’s cheating!” but I quickly came to realize that it made for a more challenging, engaging game.

The game also makes good use of color as camouflage, blending hidden objects in with like-colored items and making finding everything a real exercise in concentration.

I’m a writer, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these games have a plot driving the action. Letters from Nowhere is no exception. The plot pushes you from search location to search location, and clues found in those searches open up additional levels.

That said, as a writer I don’t just want a plot, I want a good plot. The storyline in Letters to Nowhere isn’t going to win any literary awards, and there are events where, in the real world, the protagonist would say, “Huh, I appear to have a stalker. Time to call the police” instead of “Oh, I better go to the abandoned museum by myself and search in the dark, since my apparent stalker told me to.”

I understand why the plot has weak points – going to the police, for example,  would stop the game. You have to be a bit forgiving and remember this is a game, not a book, and let that sort of thing go. It’s just a bit harder for me.

Fortunately, the quality of the puzzles more than make up for any shortcomings in the plotting.

I will point out that this game is really Letters from Nowhere 1, and when you reach the end, you don’t get all the answers. For that, you need to play Letters from Nowhere 2. I enjoyed this game immensely, but was a little annoyed that I can’t have all my answers right now.

That said, I’ve started the sequel, and so far, it’s good too…

Special Enquiry Detail: The Hand that Feeds

I downloaded the trial for this game, and when I reached the end all too soon, I was all, “Nooo! Now I have to buy it!”

The first part plays very well, and the game expands on the hidden object genre by throwing in some forensics, interaction via email, and in general seemed like a game working ‘outside the box’.

The police procedural stuff seemed a bit light on authenticity, but there wasn’t enough for me to properly gauge it in the trial.

So I bought the game.

Things went downhill from there. If you read or watch police procedural shows, you will not like this game. The main protagonists are two detectives, and they keep doing things cops can’t do. Just involved in a shoot out? We’ll do the hidden object search rather than call for backup. In the middle of an interrogation and about to get an important disclosure from a suspect? Well, the Chief just called so never mind.

It drove me crazy. And yes, I said you have to be a bit forgiving of plot when reviewing Letters from Nowhere, but this was in-your-face wrong, and just booted me out of the game every time.

The quality of the puzzles was a bit of a letdown too. Sure, there were always one or two objects that were a (reasonable) challenge to find, but most were not. In some cases, the object would be on the floor, or on a table, surrounded by nothing else. And other objects were infuriatingly hard to find, because more than two-thirds were off the screen, and you couldn’t see the first third unless you zoomed in on that portion of the screen.

The game also has puzzles, including one mini-game where you have to sneak around an apartment building. It had a very PC game feel to it, and wasn’t what I was looking for. Watching the credits at the end confirmed that impression – Special Enquiry Detail was adapted from a PC game.

Another issue I had with this game was that sometimes the dialogue screens didn’t make sense – the words were all in English, but the order and choice of words just left me confused. This was fairly rare, but each time it happened, it pulled me out of the game.

I have to give the creators kudos for trying to expand the scope and feel of the hidden object game, but can’t help but feel let down by the poor attention to detail (some broken English, inauthentic police procedural, throwing in red herring suspects out of nowhere, some text scrolling off the screen so that the last letter or two of a word was missing).

Also, I found it disconcerting that while interviewing people, such as the murder victim’s parents and best friend, that the graphic of that person was smiling and not looking utterly crushed.

The trial portion of the game did a good job of hooking me, but the rest of the game disappointed. By the end, I didn’t care who the killer was. That said, I hope the developer continues to explore expanded the scope of the hidden object game as was done here, but while paying more attention to all the other details.

I have been comped some games, and once I’ve finished them, I’ll review them here as well.


Posted by on 23 March 2013 in Reviews


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The Geeks Won’t Inherit The Earth – We Need To Effin’ Take It!

In addition to author, engineer, and mercury-poisoned madman, I also identify as a nerd.

In my role as a science-oriented geek, I worry. We’re not churning out enough trekkies (or, as we refer to them in our household, ‘trekkers’) to reach the critical mass required to takeover the world by 2039.

I’m not just alarmed about this because of my mild OCD. Falling behind schedule on the takeover has a domino effect on everything that follows. And let’s be honest: who among us can wait more than seventeen years for reality television programs that humiliate jocks?

That’s right, jocks, come 2039, the toilet will be on the other head. I’m gonna nominate you for the first episode, Buford Donatello. Star quarterback or not, nobody who snatches Ian M. Dudley from his Science Exploration Club meeting in order to administer a swirly in the library commode can expect to go more than fifty years without payback.

I had just been elected club president, damn you! I was in the middle of my inauguration speech! And it would have been quite the stirring speech if I hadn’t been carried off, screaming like a toddler with his junk caught in a vise.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and the toilet water on this show will be very cold indeed.

But I digress.

We need more nerds. The sooner, the better.

But how, you ask, can we ensure a plentiful supply of this essential resource?

Smart parents.

Yes, we need to encourage smart men and smart women to reproduce.

With each other, preferably. Statistically speaking, mating with dumb people will dilute the nerd pool.

But like computer code, geekdom isn’t just inherited. Well, OK, like non-object-oriented computer code, it isn’t just inherited.

It’s also a learned behavior.

Not Nature versus Nurture, but Nature and Nurture.

We have to ramp up the little Einstein production and then we need to –gulp- raise them.

How can we do this?

It’s simple. I give you Nerd’s Law:

Raise thy nerdly offspring as you would raise thyself.

Homey is gonna go all 'roll a crit' on your jock ass!

This geek powerhouse-in-the-making rolled 16 for cuteness.

Or in other words, the sooner you introduce them to D&D, the better.

More specifically, keep your children out of the sun, encourage them to study hard in school, discourage them from participating in sports (head injuries!), and most importantly, teach them to use science to defeat bullies.

Nay! Not just defeat the bullies! Teach them to use dark, diabolical science to inspire absolute, bowel-voiding terror of all Nerdkind.

For, to paraphrase Machiavelli, it is better to be feared than to get your head dunked in a toilet.

And now, a word from our sponsor: me!
My books are available!

Marlowe and the Spacewoman:

Marlowe and the Spacewoman

Kleencut (FREE!):

So bad it won a Voidy for the next THREE consecutive years (would have been FOUR, but 2012 was a leap year)

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Posted by on 26 June 2012 in Life


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