How Do You Get Pikachu on a Bus? You Pokemon! It’s #PokemonGo

Are you aged between 29 – 39? Do you have a smartphone? If the answer to both of these is yes, then thank you for taking the time to read this instead of playing.

Sorry? Did you just ask what am I playing??! Although not officially released in the UK yet, I’m playing a bizarre online augmented reality game called Pokemon Go!

Remember this little dude?

Now, imagine that you had a pokeball only it was your phone… and then you saw a version of Google maps that helped you locate your Pokemon…. and when you found one you saw it augmented over an image (using your phone camera) of where you actually are. And there you have it – the 90s teenager version of Ingress. Same premise, cuter graphics, more addictive because you’re collecting cute stuff. 

The clever idea behind these augmented reality apps is that they encourage slothernly “teenagers” to walk & explore the local area (devs, the kids aren’t playing. Hello from the over 30s club). And it’s working. My Facebook feed is full of friends posting about going out walking just to capture more pixels… but what if you can’t?

I saw a number of tweets on launch day suggesting that the app is ableist as it encourages you to walk. I don’t wholly buy into that, but I am looking at ways that I can play without the walking bit…

1. Get out on wheels

Fair play to those who are walking, but some of us need a bit more help with mobility. As an alternative, I tested out playing whilst in the back of my work taxi on my way home. I captured a few, but drove past the training posts waaaay to quickly to use them (no. I didn’t ask to stop – I have a shred of dignity left). Potentially we could also start exploring with me in my wheelchair. This is a limited option locally as my ability to self propel on any camber or incline is crappy at best & the local pavements are so poorly maintained and cause enough jolting to take me out for days after a few minutes. (I did invite our local councillor to come for a walk with me… as yet no response). There are places however, with reasonably flat pavements without the cracks & dodgy drop curbs that we could explore.

2. Stick to places I go anyway

This sort of defeats the object. I would then be restricted to collecting at home (actually, not bad), at work (whooaah unprofessional), and at the “gym” (by gym, I mean pool where I bob about until the indignity of using the ducking stool has worn off, then sit in the warm bubbles massaging my back).

Oh, and Tesco. Maybe I’ll find a raikou in the knickers!

3. Invent an Accessible Life hack

Part of losing my mobility has been channelling all of my creativity into finding alternative ways to just do shit anyway. 

Can’t type – shout at ipad. Can’t stand – sit & be louder. Can’t swim – strap float to chest and paddle like a broken turtle. Can’t walk – get wheels. Can’t run– wheelchair racing. You get the idea…

So, what about combining “trips out” for the kids with collecting? We make it a family game. We drive somewhere, I collect what I can, then challenge the kids to collect as many as they can…. the only down side to this being trusting the kids with my phone ๐Ÿค”.

Ultimately, I’ve been waiting for this game for more moons than I cared to admit to. And OMFG I want the wearble! Just look at it! Loooooooook!

So after all the hype, I refuse to adult over this. I’m bloody well going to play. Even if I have to find a solution to this walking crap. I need to – I have a feeling they’ll be some “friendly  competition” at EGX this year ๐Ÿ•น๐Ÿ–ฒ๐ŸŽฎ

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Getting away from it all

A change is as good as a rest, so the saying goes. So rather than do my usual collapse in a heap this weekend, we did something highly unusual and went away (without the kids!) For the whole weekend .

One thing I’ve noticed since I went downhill over the summer is that I’ve suddenly dropped over 5 kilos without noticing. I’m not complaining! I’m also still getting weird and woozy when I’m pottering around on roboleg. I’m wondering if all this dragging around roboleg, walking with crutches & lugging the wheelchair around work is creating gym sessions by stealth… Either way, I’ve relocated my collarbones and not just because they hurt!

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It’s been a tiring week all round really. We implemented using the chair at work which, whilst it has had an immediate and noticeable impact on both my general levels of pain & tiredness, is a bloody knightmare to get up and down the building. After just a week, I’ve come to the realisation that I need to keep a spare upstairs at work. It’s just too much to keep dragging it upstairs  (there’s a lift,  but there are some steps in between, and SO many doors! Fire doors remain my nemesis ). So this week will be spent trawling the net for a second hand wheelchair for work.

We’ve been planning this weekend’s trip for months. In fact, planning started around February, with people we play online with travelling from all over (as far a Sweden!) just to meet up for the weekend and play games at the EGX games expo. It’s been one of those weekends that proves that meeting people online isn’t just for weirdos… well, not that kind of weirdo. And even though we’ll still see each other online next week, it made me a little bit sad that my “computer friends” live so far away. It’s been like a weekend long raid without the achievements.

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Sitting in the car on  Friday after work for 4 hours pretty much sent my pain levels to critical mass. Jokes were made about not feeling my feet, but when I realised that I was in so much pain that I couldn’t stand up to get from the car seat to my chair, I wobbled. Mr Geek was perfect as ever & just picked me up (he didn’t let on that it concerned him at all). We met up with everyone and joked through dinner. If I’m honest, aside from the disaster over tickets, I can’t remember a great deal. Everything was burning white hot and I was doing my best to pretend everything was fine. Bed helped. Sleeping is optional, just laying flat and having everything still and supported was so nice.

So today was the big day and we were all heading out in group cosplay to EGX and everything was trying to go wrong.

We’d spent so long making the sodding tabards that our costumes were a bit haphazard (mine a lot more so – Shell’s looked awesome)… I was sewing myself into my skirts as a message came through that Starx couldn’t make it as her eldest was pulling an exorcist and vomiting everywhere. (This basically means we need to come back next year because she can’t be left out!). Two of our group were stuck travelling home from holiday. Then safetypingate happened…. we had none. And our costumes needed “adjusting” (read : pinning to us because bits keep falling off ). We sent Mr Geek to the sainsburys over the road to hunt and gather pins whilst Shell and I fretted. It was all a bit surreal – we’ve been talking via team speak for nearly a decade, but never in person, and yet despite my usual inability to maintain a conversation, the magic of Facebook and WoW meant that we ended up chatting for nearly 24 hours.

Mr Geek & Mr M arrived armed with pins and we were finally ready!

It was packed and despite my previous reservations about meeting people when using the chair, I felt comfortable enough to move from close up selfies disguising that I was seated to a proper guild pic. It’s an interesting perspective being that much lower than the crowd – people stare at their phones and totally miss you, or in fact don’t miss you as they walk right into you. It’s quite frightening to be in a position where people don’t see you & the discreet positioning of the menfolk (clearing a path for me) didn’t go unnoticed. And despite my usual protestations that I’m perfectly independent, I was grateful that they were there & tanked for me.

So there you go. I’m in a chair, which is not something our priest has a spell for. However, the guild as a whole made me feel a whole lot more comfortable about being in it by just talking to me like a human (or gnome).

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Dentorm has been outrightly proclaimed the master of Gangbeasts with his evil Santa.

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And here we are at the end of our “grown up” weekend away. We still have another 4 hour drive home in the morning (it’s 1am and I’m in painkiller insomnia land :/ ), but whilst it’s been a bit of a physical trial, mentally, I feel a lot more me again. I’m still here. I don’t feel quite so lost.

*in game names are used to protect real identities. You know who you are ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m Unlikely to Be Making Anyone a Sammich

Over the past few weeks I’ve been following a story relating to the continued threats made to Anita Sarkeesian. These have ranged from the standard troll comments to detailed death and rape threats, and now to a threat against a university if they allowed her to speak. (Link here)

This woman must be about to unleash some awfully sensitive or dangerous information… oh. Hold on. No. She made a series of videos and blogs about feminism in gaming.

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I don’t particularly agree with some of the things she says. Having played games on various devices since I was tiny, I don’t think the games industry is trying to put women off. Those games that have become more and more misogynistic… I don’t buy them. Nor would I buy them for my kids.

I am a massive advocate for parents actually clueing themselves up on what a PEGI rating is and why buying an 18 rated game for a 10 year old is basically damaging.

I’ve gone off on a tangent…

My point is that I spend a large percentage of my life trying to show young people that anyone can enjoy tech, that being a geek is awesome (just try telling my kids that cryptography is boring – they have been getting encrypted messages from Dr X all week :p ), that girls can code just as well as boys, and developer creative hissy fits are a well recognised phenomenon.

Then I read the news.

Then I dwell on the dark corners of the world I’m encouraging these kids into.

With every living breath I try to pass on the absolute love I feel for Computer Science. But there’s that nagging doubt that it’s going to be tough for the outspoken.

What do I do? I keep going of course. If a pair of breasts close to a keyboard is such a threat, then that is not the fault of the breast-owner. That suggests some deep Freudian insecurity on the parts of these keyboard warriors.

Tim Berners-Lee created the internet to be a vast network of shared thoughts and ideas. By trying to silence one woman, they made her message go global in the national news. It seems the internet bit them back.

Why my kids won’t be playing GTA V

Lets just accept as fact that I’m an uncaring parent who has no concept of how to be cool. Then move on with life.

But while I’m here, let me explain the reasons why my kids aren’t playing the game. For the record, I probably will. I’ve played the others and had quite a lot of fun running over innocent people, then promptly getting arrested because, well let’s face it, my modus operandi when playing any game is rarely ‘stealthy’. I am what is generally known in a raid group as an “agro magnet”. I shoot stuff randomly, just to see what happens. I’ve been known to summon demons in the middle of a crowded city then sort of let them loose to rampage… Oops? I played an assassin with as much tact and diplomacy as a chuckle brother. I’m that arse that the healer just refuses to resurrect. I should go to meetings.

Anyway, I digress. Reasons for no play for my kids…

1. There is as yet no release date for PC. (Xbox and PS3 is midnight tonight – I shall be duly tormenting very overtired pupils tomorrow)

2. It’s age rated. The GTA series is PEGI rated as 18+ and yet a plethora of kids seem to be handed these games as entertainment. This has become a proper pet peeve of mine and leaves me ranting to anyone who will listen – age ratings are there for a reason! You make moral judgements in these games and often the consequences of your actions are not as they would be in real life. Instead of just looking at the pretty pictures, this is what the rating actually means:

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Would you still buy that for your young teen?

Kids are impressionable – let a child choose in a simulated environment to beat someone to death with a chair and you’re impacting on their moral code. Kids learn through play, and these games are not designed with teaching a moral code in mind.

Give an adult a simulated environment where they get to shoot people and beat them about the head with pink objects that are generally not used as weapons (oh yes, Vice City, I’m looking at you) and you have an hour or so of stress relief in a situation that they understand is just a game.

3. They have the monopoly on games anyway. They kick my arse at Just Dance. They have hijacked my iPad and have created some sort of minecraft รผber city, they run out my batteries on surgeon simulator. These games are mine! No you may not have a World of Warcraft account. My game. Get off my realm. I was here first!

I hold the same rule with games as I do with piercing a and tattoos – when you’re legally able to go out and get it yourself, then off you go. Until then, mummy gets all the fun stuff.

Welcome to Munchkinland. We represent the Computer Science Guild!

Oh bloody hell, what have I unleashed?

So yesterday, to give the kids a bit of a break as the exams are in full swing, our after school club became game central. Mainly because they needed some downtime and I’m fed up with them getting teary from overtiredness (expected this time of year, but they don’t need me barking extra orders at them). One young man rocked up with three volumes of D&D player guides and dice while I arrived with a set of Munchkin cards that I’d payed stupid amounts to get delivered in time for yesterday’s geek-fest.

So, Munckin grabs their attention as a quick play option and off we go…. Except they’ve sent me the French version! WTH?!

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But we are resilient geeks, and not only do we have Google translate, but we also have a languages scholar and Mrs B with her GCSE in French from 17 years ago (le sange a dans le table – I remembered more than I realised!). And we made it work. And oh my, it was funny. If you ever want to see people who will do essentially anything to sabotage their best friend’s chances of survival, give a bunch of 13 & 14 year olds Munchkin.

Why Munchkin? For me, it’s the obscure geeky references and it’s a gateway to slightly more in depth games. Because its silly, anyone can play. And if you needed more persuasion, check out these as cards with their occasional reference to Pratchett:

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Now all I need to do is convince LSH to play with it with me over half term! (Not much hope there)

A Trip to the Hobbit Shop

As now coined by TinyPants. Technically called Games Workshop, but Hobbit Shop is just way better.

In an attempt to grab their imagination in a non-computer type way, we’re introducing the kids to gaming. D&D seems a bit complex for them at age 7 & 8, so Warhammer it is. LSH played 40’000 as a kid (read before we met) & looked like a pig in proverbial when we walked in and the girls went crackers over the Hobbit style game (hence the shop name), so we compromised and went with the fantasy version. Elves and ratsBloody hell, that got expensive. But the reason for a short post tonight? I’m off to dab primer onto my army of rat people!

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Welcome to the offline world kids – the graphics are awsome.

I should blog something profound. The whole point of the Internet was to create easy and cost effective access to global knowledge, and yet here I am about to blog about my insignificant day, thus taking up more space and power…

I did something today that was totally unrelated to academia, but may just maybe inspire the next generation to use their imaginations rather than rely on MMORPGs for their fantasy fix. I agreed that as part of my farewell gesture, I would use our usual Thursday afternoon of computer related geekdom to finish the academic year by playing D&D with them.

Ultimately, the point of this diversion is to set them up with some team work and moral support in a world where the sports captain and dramatist rule. They will have each other, and know that this inclination towards the odd and away from jumping on each other on a muddy field has bred some of the finest minds known to man. They will know that it is ok to be an individual and I’m proud of them.

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Bring out the dice ๐Ÿ˜‰