Should You Risk Your Personal Data Just To Play A Video Game?

tg-might-magicIt had to happen. The manufacturer of software I use was breached and had data stolen. Such is a day in the life of a computer nerd. What ticks me off is that this is for a game I’ve played since 1986 and, up until now, I never had to risk my personal data to do so.

The company is Ubisoft, maker of fine games like Assassin’s Creed. But I’m talking about Might & Magic Heroes 6, a fantasy role-playing game. I have played this game since the very first Might & Magic in 1986, back on my trusty Apple IIe with extended 80-column graphics card and DuoDisk, because THAT’S HOW I ROLL.

Related article: PCMag: Ubisoft Database Hack Exposes Email Addresses, Passwords

Thirty Years Of Gameplay
I have played every iteration of this game to the present day. Every version of Might & Magic, every version of its sibling Heroes of Might & Magic. I’ve played it on the Apple II, on the Mac, on PCs under both DOS and Windows. I have played it off 5.25″ floppies. I’ve played it off CD. I’ve bought the expansion packs. I’ve bought the gold editions with the sexy maps. I have played the hell out of this game, and I have spent a lot of money doing so. Take a look at the picture above. That’s just some of the stuff I’ve collected over the decades of being a loyal Might & Magic customer.

In nearly 30 years of gameplay I never needed to give whatever company owned Might & Magic – New World Computing, in the beginning, then later 3DO and now Ubisoft – any kind of personally identifying information (PII). I bought the disk or CD in the store, installed it, played the game. That was it.

Now I’m A Marketing Drone
But now, my playing the game must be a data point in the vastness that is the modern-day marketing engine. My information must be scrupulously tallied, even if the company hanging onto it doesn’t take care of it. And now, because of their inability to safeguard my data, I have to take all the usual precautions: change passwords, check my computer, monitor my online accounts and my bank accounts for hacktivity. All to play a video game.

Except I Knew The Risks Going In
I knew, before I bought Might & Magic Heroes 6, that it would require me to install uPlay, Ubisoft’s “helper” app which, like other gaming companies’ apps, is basically a required DRM wrapper. So I researched uPlay to find out the scoop about their security (like you do).

I found out they’d had some incidents of bugs and whatnot, no more so than any other company, but nothing on the order of a Sony or a Blizzard. Again, being an infosec nerd, I knew this meant exactly nothing as far as whether Ubisoft might suffer a breach in the future. Of course they might. Anybody might.

But… I really wanna play Might & Magic…

So I Took Precautions To Secure My Gaming Environment
So I decided to buy Heroes 6 and put up with uPlay – with caveats. NOT on my main computer. NOT using a credit card or, heaven forbid, a debit card. Virtual computing and prepaid gift cards. The computer is scrupulously patched, operating system and applications, its antivirus updated before every gameplay, and firewalled to a fare-the-well.

I also use strong passwords that are Unique. On. EVERY. Site. That means the password I was using for uPlay was never used anywhere else and never will be again. Here’s the latest version of my super-duper password article if you want to learn how.

And None Of That Matters Because We’ll All Get Hacked Eventually
And I knew, as you should know, that all of this means exactly nothing as to whether I personally could suffer financial loss or identity theft due to a data breach, from this site or any other. I probably already have. So have you. All this does is mitigate my chances.

So when the word came out – yeah, the company that makes one of my favorite games got breached – I sighed and followed Ubisoft’s instructions for password change, and grumbled about having to divulge my PII just to play a game. But I wasn’t worried about my credit card, or my computer, and that’s peace of mind you can’t get from companies that siphon your data.

Needless to say I have no intention of purchasing the Xbox One – requires an always-on connection, plus camera and voice control which Microsoft pinky-swears you can turn off? Thanks, I’ll pass. And I’m starting to take a much closer look at independent games, where the developers are more interested in your patronage than your marketing data.

Will I play the next version of Might & Magic? I haven’t decided. I suppose it will depend on how DRM-y and data-mine-y it is.

(Also, Ubisoft – can you add back the Sylvan town type? Sanctuary’s fun and all, but I miss my treants and elves. That’d be great, thanks.)

On a related topic, as a geek woman who’s pretty damn done with all the harassment and shenanigans we’ve had to put up with lately, I have another bone to pick with Ubisoft over Might & Magic Heroes 6. But that is a topic for a future post, so stay tuned…

A Grownup Gamer’s Guide To Kids And Video Games

kids-internetAs a tech support specialist I’m often asked about kids and video games. To a non-tech-savvy parent, the world of video games is as confusing as a foreign language. What are they playing? With whom are they playing? Are they safe online?

So I wrote this guide as both a parent and a gamer. And what I’ve learned is that you don’t need to protect your kids from video games – you need to protect them from the violent video game culture.

Are all video games violent?

No, as those of you who play Words With Friends know. Some video games are fine for kids. I would even go so far to say that some video games are good for kids, and I’m one of those annoying parents who won’t let her kids have “screen time” except on weekends.

You may be interested in Seymour Papert’s book The Connected Family which discusses how families can benefit and learn from technology in positive ways. I like the Lego series, for example, because it encourages cooperative play and problem-solving. Little Big Planet does, too. Even good old Sonic has his place – there’s nothing wrong with letting your kids run a little hedgehog around mazes collecting rings. Studies have shown that playing video games has a relaxing quality to it, producing the same sorts of brainwaves as in deep meditation.

But I’m not about to let my kids play Bioshock Infinite or Call of Duty. Just as I would recommend your kids watch Doctor Who (TV-PG) but not Game of Thrones (TV-MA) even though I watch both, I wouldn’t recommend your kids play the more violent video games out there. It’s a matter of appropriate content.

How can I find out if games my kids are playing are appropriate?

Read up on the titles they like. A web search for “(name of game) parent guide” will bring up the info you need.

You can also go by the ESRB rating on the cover. These work just like movie and television ratings. There’s a nice ESRB Ratings Guide you can use as a reference.

How do I tell my kids that I don’t want them to play a particular game?

Don’t be afraid to say no. If you’re not sure if a game is appropriate, watch them play it. You might even play it with them! Your kids may try to tell you “everybody’s playing this” but I assure you, and them, that they can find games that are just as fun to play without the gore and violence. There are some things that simply have to wait until you’re an adult, and mature-rated video games are in that category.

Can kids talk to strangers through video games?

Yes. These games often involve speaking to other players via headset (voice) or in-game chat (text). That other player could be the kid next door, or some creep halfway across the world.

So how can I let them play with friends but not with strangers?

Um… you don’t, not if they’re playing a multiplayer game across the Internet. Most throw all the players into one big electronic arena. That’s why supervision is essential; it’s like letting your kid loose in a big city without a grownup.

You can, however, run your own game by connecting multiple consoles on your own network (called a LAN party; LAN means Local Area Network). That’s much safer because you know exactly who is playing, but you physically have to get together – oh no, human interaction!

What is the “violent video game culture” you mentioned?

You’ve probably heard of rape culture thanks to the recent high-profile cases that have been making the news. There has been a backlash in the geek community over geek women and the inappropriate comments and situations we often have to face. When geek women complain over sexist remarks in professional settings, we are frequently vilified and even harassed both on the Internet and in real life. It’s a sad state of affairs and, while many people are fighting against this, it is still a very real risk.

You can find more here:

As you can see this culture of misogyny and harassment is widespread in certain violent video game circles. In short, there are people out there who get their kicks through cyberbullying and continual harassment. This is not something to which you want to expose your kids.

How can I make playing video games both fun and safe for my kids?

Encourage your kids to play in a safe, supervised environment. Why not set up a rotating Game Night or LAN party with other parents? The kids can play the games that they enjoy, and you know they’re really playing with friends and not random Internet creeps. Who knows… you might even find yourself wanting to join in!

How do I set up parental controls for video games?

All modern gaming consoles have parental control features. Here are instructions for some of the most popular consoles.

On a computer, you can use the built-in parental controls for Windows and Mac, or you can use a third-party service like Norton Online Family (works on PC, Mac, and mobile devices). Bear in mind that parental controls can be bypassed by a savvy kid. If you really want to lock down your network, you can configure your router to block games. You’ll have to look at your specific router’s instructions for that.

How can I make my kids understand the importance of video game safety?

Your kids will probably feel betrayed that you don’t want them to play certain games anymore. They don’t understand why Lego Star Wars is okay but Bioshock is not.

Explain why these changes are necessary for their protection. Visit sites like NetSmartz together. Talk about online dangers and what they can do to avoid them. Explain that you’re going to follow video game ratings just as you do TV and movie ratings. (Put the onus on the ESRB, they won’t mind.)

Meet your kids halfway. Ask to join them in their world of video games so you can see what intrigues them about it. You might be surprised to find you enjoy video games yourself. There’s nothing wrong with Mom or Dad enjoying a game night of their own.

Speaking of which, the number-one question I get about video games is:

Wait… you’re an adult and you play video games? Why would an adult want to do that?

Why do adults like any hobby? Because it’s fun and stimulates the imagination. Many of today’s games are more like novels than arcade shoot-em-ups. You’re missing some good stories by not playing video games. (I’m thinking specifically of Dragon Age and Mass Effect, if you want to know. But there are many others.)

I’ve noticed that, for adults, video games are classified as socially acceptable or not acceptable. If I mention that I play FarmVille (which I don’t, simply because it’s not my cup of tea), that is socially acceptable. If I mention that I play Tales Of Graces (a Japanese fantasy role playing game) that’s not acceptable.

Part of it is that most non-gamers aren’t familiar with the latest titles. But another part of it is that grownups playing anything beyond a select few games is apparently weird. I don’t get that, but I never stopped playing video games. I’ve been gaming continuously since the days of my Atari 2600 and I still do so today.

Do you have questions about kids and video games? Ask in the comments!

Why Is Gaming Considered Unprofessional, And What Can Gamers Do About It?

Nerddom has achieved an unprecedented popularity of late, but there are still some aspects that remain anathema. Case in point: gamers, who are supposed to keep their video game playing in the closet.

Making the rounds is this tidbit about a Maine lawmaker who discusses her gaming in public instead of keeping it behind closed doors.

 Colleen Lachowicz is a Democratic candidate running for State Senate in Maine. She’s also a level 85 orc in the massively popular online game “World of Warcraft.” And for that, the Republican party says she is unfit for office.

[Lachowicz’s response] “I think it’s weird that I’m being targeted for playing online games. Apparently I’m in good company since there are 183 million other Americans who also enjoy online games. What’s next? Will I be ostracized for playing Angry Birds or Words with Friends? If so, guilty as charged!”

Many gamers, myself included, have experienced That Look when we mention we happen to like video games. Ironically, it’s the complicated role-playing and strategy games that get the most grief. If you profess a love of Farmville or Bejeweled, you’re in the clear.

But if you like fragging enemies in Halo or strategizing your way through Mass Effect, forget it. You’re a weirdo, a loser who belongs back in your parents’ basement eating Cheetos and lamenting your lack of social skills. You can’t POSSIBLY be a rational human being with a job and a life.

BBC News, reporting on the Laschowicz incident, quotes a gaming researcher:

“In my work, I’ve spoken with many people who in their regular lives have roles of significant responsibility (as doctors, managers, or educators) but who choose carefully with whom they disclose their gaming activity,” she told the BBC. “And disclosing their gaming activity is often accompanied by a degree of apology or embarrassment.”

But, she added, having a gamer run for office was a “heartening” development. “This would seem to run contrary to the other stereotypes that we love to assign to gamers: that they are lazy, antisocial people who don’t have a ‘real life’,” she said. “Maybe this will trigger some dialogue about our perceptions of gamers and the role that games can and should play in modern society.”

People can and do lose their jobs for being gamers – not for playing on company time but because their personal hobby supposedly shows they’re not “professional” enough. That’s when stereotyping nerds moves from simply not-funny into the realm of discrimination.

I was with a bunch of other parents at a school event recently. I didn’t know these parents well, and because I tend to live in a universe where gaming and cosplay and incessant watching of Doctor Who is considered “normal”, I sometimes forget that to other people, it isn’t.

One of the parents begins complaining about her teenage son. “He’s playing all these video games. I don’t know what to do.”

The other parents nod. I make the mistake of asking, “Which ones?”

She blinks. “What?”

“Which video games?”

“Um… some military ones. Call of Duty, I think. And some fantasy game.”

I give the wise nod of a gamer. “Skyrim, probably.”


“Skyrim. It’s a very popular fantasy RPG.”


“Role playing game. Skyrim is a popular fantasy role playing game. Not one of my personal favorites, I’m more into Dragon Age and Tales of Symphonia.”

By now the other parents are staring at me like I’ve got leprosy. The parent I’m talking to edges away. “So anyway,” she says to the other parents, “I’m trying to figure out how to get him to stop.”

I figure I’ve already put my foot in it, and it sounds like the kid needs some backup. “Video games are fun. As long as he’s meeting his responsibilities, why not let him play?”

Blank stares all around.

“Have you ever played a video game?” I ask. “A real video game, not Tetris or Scrabble. Not all of them are violent gorefests, you know. Not all of them are appropriate for every age level either, but that’s no reason to ban all games.”

The parent asks, “You actually play these games?”

“Yes. I actually play these games. They’re fun and I enjoy them. Your son probably does, too.”

Silence. The topic quickly turns to something else. I shrug and silently wish the kid luck because it sounds like he’s going to need it.

As a female gamer, I’ve noticed women are especially ridiculed for their gaming. Adults are not supposed to play video games. Women are not supposed to play video games. Middle-aged moms with kids are especially not supposed to play video games, much less brag about how they trounced the Arishok in single combat on nightmare level as an apostate mage in Dragon Age 2.

(Cone of cold, baby. I’m just sayin’.)

Honestly I think a lot of the problem is that people decide you’re supposed to give up all that childhood stuff when you become an adult. Unless you happen to live in the fandom world, which I suspect many of us do because it gives us the freedom to be kidlike about things like video games and Doctor Who and comic books.

Pure and simple, these people are jealous. They envy their fellow adults who are brave enough to embrace supposedly child-like things. It’s why people covertly read YA novels instead of admitting they like them. “I’m only reading Hunger Games because it’s so popular.” Uh-huh. Admit it, you keep a copy of A Wrinkle In Time under your pillow… and you STILL cry at the end.

What we as gamers need to do is make it known that you can be a gamer AND a professional (even – gasp! – a professional gamer). I’m a professional freelance tech writer. I’m also a level 35 spirit healer mage. Why is this a problem?

To my fellow female gamer Colleen Lachowicz I say: You go, girl. Kick some serious ass on behalf of gamers everywhere, in World of Warcraft and in the real world. We could use more of that.


To My High School Classmates From The Nerd You Used To Tease

Me, with sonic and sunflowers.

I received email recently from a former classmate requesting class news for the upcoming school alumnae newsletter. They should know better than to ask me. I’m far too likely to say something like:

Triona’s been busy with her new role as Champion of Kirkwall in the Dragon Age 2 video game. Between restless mages and the Qunari threat, there’s ever so much to do! After that it’s on to Tales Of Graces with its excellent graphics and catchy J-pop theme.

She highly recommends the new Captain Marvel comic as well as the Gambit limited series but says you can take a pass on AvX unless you’re a die-hard Marvel fan. Having finished A Song Of Ice And Fire (aka Game of Thrones) she’s excited about the latest book in Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series.

It wouldn’t be a Triona update without mention of computers, so she suggests you install the most insecure version of Adobe Flash possible. Be sure to activate Java while you’re at it. And don’t run antivirus; nobody needs that.

She wants all of you to know that being a middle-aged nerd is WAY more fun than being a mercilessly teased nerd in high school, and hopes you have boring, boring jobs that strangle you with ennui while she has a rockin’ good time dressing up like Amy Pond for the Doctor Who premiere.


How To Make Dragon Age Inspired Hair Jewelry (Cosplay)

(Anders-inspired jewelry. Hair by FemHawke.)

Are templars after you? Do your fellow mages keep begging you to return to the Circle of Magi before you get in even more trouble? Show your love for apostate freedom with hair jewelry inspired by Anders, my favorite possessed renegade mage. I only hope I did him Justice.

For this project I used (click on images to enlarge):

  • 1 feathered hat decoration
  • 2 hair feathers
  • 1 silver cat charm
  • 1 silver charm with gem
  • 1 pair gunmetal-and-jet earrings
  • 4 blue lightning bolt charms
  • 1 barrette
  • feathers and beads
  • sterling silver eyepins and jump rings
  • nylon cord
  • crafter’s glue

Glue feathers to the barrette.

Anders: Feathered Barrettte
(with Ser Pounce-A-Lot!)
I used a premade hat decoration with white and black feathers as a base. It already had a pin glued to it, so I glued a barrette underneath.That way I can wear it as a pin as well as in my hair. I added grey and teal feathers until I was satisfied with the look.

Add the beaded charm.

The original decoration came with a convenient bead at the top, which had a hole through it. I strung some beads on an eyepin, poked it through, and voila, the perfect spot for Ser Pounce-A-Lot. He’s got prey with him so you can see he lives up to his name. (They didn’t have any charms of cats swatting genlocks at the craft store, go figure.)

I glued the top of the eyepin in place so I don’t have to worry about it falling out. Remember, if you’re going to wear this at a con it’s probably going to take some abuse.

Attaching the former earrings to the feathers.

Justice: Feathers, Charms, And Lightning Bolts
I was looking for something that would dangle, so I decided to add a cord with feathers and a charm at the end to give it weight.

Annoying little pieces will try to get away from you.

I used premade hair feathers from the craft store and clipped off the combs on top, since they’ll be strung on a cord instead. I needed a way to hang them from the cord, so I snipped an eyepin in two, glued the pieces onto black felt, and glued those to the back of each feather. This is not as easy as it sounds, those pieces are tiny! I used tweezers and a craft stick to keep them in line.

Tip: be sure to let everything dry THOROUGHLY before going to the next step. I started trying to work with the feathers before they were dry and the eyepins started sliding around despite the glue. Once left to dry overnight it worked fine.

I found a pair of earrings I liked, removed the earring part and added a few jump rings. I also found these absolutely perfect blue lightning bolt charms! Then I attached feathers and charms to beaded eyepins made to match the ones I used for the barrette.

You need to make sure your jump rings are big enough for the cord to go through. I used 6mm open rings.

Almost done!

The Finished Product
The cord can be as long or as short as you like. I decided to make it about 12″ so it’s dangly but not in my way. Just make sure it’s long enough both to glue to the barrette and to work with while stringing the feathers. You can always make it too long and cut off what you don’t use. The piece I started with was about 14″ long and I shortened it when I put on the final charm.

This charm at the bottom gives it weight.

Tie a knot in the string where you want the feathers to dangle. Make sure it can’t slip through your jump rings! Glue the string to the back of the barrette we made earlier and let dry. It’s easier to string the feathers on the cord afterwards rather than before.

The last charm was simple. I took a silver bead, ran the cord through, strung the charm then pushed the end of the cord back through the bead. Cut off the excess cord and glue the end into the bead so it stays put.

Mage pride!

Voila! A lovely way to annoy Templars and show your support for mage rights.

Stay tuned, I’ve got matching earrings on the way. Then it’ll be Fenris’s turn.

Fangirl Movie Review: Dragon Age: Dawn Of The Seeker

I’ve been enjoying the Dragon Age universe for the past year or so. It’s got all your basics for good fantasy: epic battles, monsters, magic. Plus, it’s ideal for girl gamers like me who want to play a female role that is actually a FEMALE role and not a guy-hero in a skirt. Geek girls FTW!

So I was in fangirl heaven when Dragon Age: Dawn Of The Seeker came out the same week as the first issue of the Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover AND the season finale of Game of Thrones. So much fandom, so little time!

Message on the Chanter’s Board: Spoiler alert!

Dragon Age: Dawn Of The Seeker is a computer-animated film that acts as a prequel to the Dragon Age 2 video game. Those who have played the series know there’s quite a lot that happens between Dragon Age: Origins + Awakening and Dragon Age 2, so it’s nice to get a feel for that as well as some background for events in DA2.

The animation was good. As I said in my review of the Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover, if there is one thing I dislike it’s bad art. Other reviewers didn’t care for the CGI but I was fine with it. Give me decent visuals and I’m likely to put up with a few trailing plotlines or bad characterizations.

Fortunately there was also decent plot and characterization. I like Cassandra much more now than I did while she was interrogating poor Varric in DA2. There, she was mostly a bully with a closed mind only our smooth-talking dwarf could open. Here she demonstrates compassion, bravery, doubt, fear, regret. Most of all she has Attitude, and there’s nothing I like better than a strong female character with Attitude. (Except a certain possessed renegade mage in my boudoir, but I digress.)

And I like Galyan, except he seemed like your stereotypical Disney prince, didn’t he? The perfect Good Mage, a healer who’s not very good at combat but cares about small animals and little girls. I wish he’d had more personality than that.

I also thought the movie was heavy on the “apostates are bad, Circle mages are good” mantra. Especially given that, if you play a mage as I usually do, there is a big difference between an apostate and a blood mage. Sure, blood mages are by necessity apostates, but my Champion of Kirkwall is an apostate spirit healer (who, yes, took out the Arishok in single combat). It would have been nice to see Cassandra and Galyan spar over whether all apostates are truly evil, during the scene where Cassandra expresses her resentment toward mages while Galyan tries to convince her otherwise.

My main criticism is that I was expecting a few cameos and we didn’t get a single one. For a series that likes cameos, this seemed odd. Such as the aforementioned possessed mage, or an ex-slave from Tevinter… more Anders and Fenris, please! I figured at least Leliana would show up. I swear, for a bard-spy-assassin, that girl stands out. (Dye your hair, dear. Men always notice red.) And what of our gallant King of Ferelden? More Alistair, too!

I also wanted to know how Cassandra went from being rather sweet if single-minded in Dawn of the Seeker to the hardass we know in DA2. Can’t just be the haircut.

A bit more integration into the existing universe would have been nice, too, although I realize that’s difficult since the plots of the games can change radically depending on how you play them. Speaking of – kudos to David Gaider on overcoming that obstacle in his novels. I can only imagine how hard it must be when you have to write in a way that is consistent for all of the multiple potential plotlines in the games. As if writing a novel isn’t hard enough by itself!

I’m enjoying the expansion of the Dragon Age universe through novels, comics, video, and DLC. Eagerly awaiting Dragon Age 3!

Why Video Games Are Good For Your Kids

People are surprised that I allow my children to play video games. I constantly find media-fueled hype like this recent article from the BBC: Pupils ‘made more violent by computer games’

Bradford teacher Alison Sherratt is set to tell the ATL annual conference in Manchester that members of her reception class have been acting out scenes from games well above limit for their age.

“The inspiration for this motion was when I watched my class out on the playground throwing themselves out of the window of the play car in slow motion and acting out blood spurting from their bodies,” she says.

“I followed it up in circle time and talked about what they knew about playing games on the computer.”

She questions how to respond when one of her pupils asks her to join in a game by “stabbing a person in the back”.

Time to party like it’s 1979
For pity’s sake! We’ve had video games for generations and still these hidebound attitudes prevail? Let’s go over it again, folks: Not all video games are violent gorefests. Many of them are not only suitable for children, but can help teach valuable skills like problem solving and cooperative play.

The article eventually gets to the heart of the actual problem:

Ms Sherratt also raises concerns over children having access to games unsupervised in their rooms, and wonders whether their parents are checking on what they are doing.

Exactly. It’s not video games that are the problem, but parental supervision. Except the article only mentions that after we’ve stoked the flames of hysteria. There’s a big difference between My Little Pony and Grand Theft Auto. As parents it’s our responsibility to understand that difference.

Video games are a form of art
I play video games myself. Personally I don’t care for the first-person-shooter variety, but that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with FPS. I simply prefer RPGs like Tales of Symphonia and Dragon Age. I like games with character building, story arcs, and plots worthy of a good novel. In fact, that’s just what many modern video games are – unique universes in a new medium. Rather than television or books, we find art and beauty in video games.

(Art and beauty in video games? Yes. Read this article about the Art Of Video Games exhibit – at the Smithsonian. Good enough for ya?)

The games my kids play are similarly cooperative. We’re fond of the Lego series: Lego Star Wars, Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Harry Potter. I frequently find my kids working together to figure out how they can get beyond an obstacle or find a treasure. This cooperation translates to other aspects of their lives, as you can see when they play board games or build with real Legos.

How families can embrace technology
A former teacher recommended an excellent book which might change your views on kids and video games. The Connected Family: Bridging The Digital Generation Gap by Seymour Papert argues that technology is here to stay, and the only way we can deal with it as parents is to embrace it in ways that enhance our families.

I remember when the Atari 2600 came out, the Apple II, the PC, the family iMac, Sega Genesis. Today it’s Facebook and Twitter and Xbox – same principles, different technology. And every time something new comes out, a certain subset of people have to lash out at it in paranoia, as if this is something new and awful that has suddenly descended upon the planet. Again.

That’s not to say there aren’t dangers on the Internet. Believe me, it’s my job to educate parents on exactly what those dangers are. But you can’t avoid technology for the sake of keeping your kids safe. That’s like never driving your kids anywhere because there might be a car accident.

How our geeky household does it
Here at Chez Guidry, we almost always play video games as a family. The consoles are in the living room so everyone can participate, especially games like Wii Sports. Even if we parents aren’t playing we are still spending time with our kids.

That’s not to say we don’t have rules. Typically there’s no screen time during the school week. We make the occasional exception for important events (like new episodes of MythBusters, which as far as I’m concerned is educational science television). Screen is only allowed on the weekends, and only for limited periods of time. I will also make exceptions for reading ebooks on an e-reader if it’s real reading and not an interactive app that’s more game than book.

Do my kids fight these restrictions? Of course. They want to play video games all the time. (Hey, who doesn’t?) But I don’t let my kids play video games constantly. We don’t take handheld players in the car or to the pediatrician. They know they’ll get to play when it’s appropriate, and they also know that if a punishment goes beyond time-out, the next thing Mom’s going to say is, “You’re grounded from screen time.”

Do you play video games with your kids? What are some of your favorite family-friendly games? Share in the comments!


Life During Fandom

I swear, I was only thinking about my geeky plans for the weekend. Then one line of this popped into my head and I had to do the whole thing.

And I’m sorry. I’m really very, very sorry.

Life During Fandom

(with apologies to Talking Heads and the rest of the universe)

Heard of a con that is loaded with guest stars
Pack up your dice and let’s go
Heard of a bookstore out by the highway,
A place the muggles don’t know
The sound of Stargates off in the distance,
I’ve got a D.H.D. now
Lived in a TARDIS, lived on Darkover,
I’ve lived all over Known Space

This ain’t no starship, this ain’t no dungeon,
this ain’t no fooling around
No time for Tolkien or timey-wimey
I ain’t got time for that now

Transmit the virus to the invaders
Hope they will blow up someday
I got three novels, a couple short stories
But they’re all fanfic for now
On my friend’s TV Trek II is starting
everyone’s ready to KHAAAAN!
I filk in the daytime, I slide in the nightime,
I might not ever get home

This ain’t no starship, this ain’t no dungeon,
this ain’t no fooling around
This ain’t no Watchmen or InuYasha,
I ain’t got time for that now

Heard about Warcraft? Heard of Avengers?
Heard about Trek on Blu-Ray?
You ought to know not to stand by the airlock
somebody throw you out there
I got some Buffy, some Game of Thrones here
to last a couple of days
but I ain’t got no comics, ain’t got no manga,
ain’t got no Skyrim to play

Why be a mundane? God, that’d be boring!
Gonna read Hunger Games now
Can’t roll for damage, can’t find my phaser
I ain’t got time for that now

Trouble with nanites, we got you covered
We like our John Williams loud
We got computers, we’re checking Twitter
We’re all on Pinterest now
We dress like Cylons, we dress like browncoats,
or in a fez and bow tie
I’ve changed my cosplay so many times now
I don’t know what I look like

You kill that ogre, I’ll get the darkspawn
We make a pretty good team
Don’t get exhausted, you’re out of hit points
You ought to get you some CON

Burned all my Twilight. What good is Twilight?
I’d rather slit my own throat.
My books are breaking all of my bookshelves
Ooh, look! New reprint of Dune!