Saturday, November 26, 2011

Video Games for Beginners

I’m not ready to introduce my kids to video games, but I’m pretty sure they’re eventually going to become interested. So I occasionally ponder what games would be good to get little kids started on. It’s not enough that the game itself be “easy”, since beginning players have to get use to the idea of a controller (unless it’s a Kinect game I guess, but you get the point).  And of course there are “edutainment” games for little kids, but those don’t really count as video games. So here are a few games that I think would be relatively unstressful for beginning players:

(Actually, first a side comment: figuring out how to introduce new players to the classics is a different issue, which I deal with here.)

Yoshi’s Story

Yoshi’s Story has a lot going for it as a beginner’s game:

  • It’s relatively easy
  • Its storybook-themed graphics are “cute”
  • It features adorable baby dinosaurs as its protagonists.
  • It’s very forgiving. You clear levels by eating fruit, and fruit also refills your life meter.
  • It’s very short. Beating the game only requires going through six levels (although which level can vary based on how much you explore).
  • There’s a Trial Mode, where you can play individual levels you have visited in Story Mode.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

This game starts out pretty easy – I was able to verbally walk my younger siblings through rescuing Princess Zelda. And then the overworld opens up, and a beginning player can explore without having to worry about making progress.

Super Mario World

Super Mario World is definitely harder to beat than Yoshi’s Story, but it also has more options of where to go, and it has a lot of easy levels up front. It lets you back into them as well, and saving (after the first world) is fairly straightforward. The Game Boy Advance re-release is even easier.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Humbug – but not really

It’s a well-known fact that we commercialize holidays and spend a lot more time thinking about how to celebrate them than what they’re supposed to commemorate. That’s probably a bad thing in most cases, but I have a bit of self-justification that I’d like to offer the world. And I have a proposal for how to deal with this. Read on.

My Perspective

First, about Christmas. The point of Christmas is very important, probably second only to Easter. But consider something you always hear at Christmas time: “We should keep the spirit of Christmas all year.” And what spirit is that? The Spirit of Christ, of course. Putting it that way makes it easy to see how to commemorate the birth, life, and mission of the Savior all year. Pray. Study the scriptures. Attend church. Be good to people, and be willing to sacrifice to help them once in a while. That won’t preserve the festive feeling, but then again, does the festiveness of Christmas come from the religious origin? Not really. It comes from traditions – traditions that people made up.

So here’s my self-justification: I claim that as long as you are doing the stuff that God has asked us to do to remember Him on a daily and weekly basis, it’s not the end of the world if you also spend time with non-religious traditions, even if they happen to coincide with a holiday. (After all, the only “holiday” that God has actually asked us to observe [following the Resurrection of course] is the Sabbath.)

To take that a step further, consider what happens when Christmas traditions come into conflict with divinely-appointed traditions. Say Christmas falls on a Sunday. Do you cut short religious activity so you can observe mortal-made traditions? This applies to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as well, which brings us to…

My Proposal

I say we should reschedule our holidays to be more convenient, and to clearly separate the meaning of the day (if any) from the traditions around it. Specifically, here are the changes I propose:

  • Christmas

It is well-known that the date of December 25th has no particular meaning in Christianity. The Romans decided to celebrate Christmas on that day because it helped pagans blend the message of Christ with their current beliefs. Does this make Christmas a pagan holiday? Of course not. Nobody goes out and worships Roman deities on Christmas (or at all, for that matter). I mention this merely to point out that the date is flexible.

The other thing I want to point out is that, for a student, any time between the start of winter break and Christmas Day is essentially wasted, because you can’t play with the stuff you get. I think we could solve both this and the commercialization issues by making Christmas the Monday of the last full week of December. That way, Christmas Eve would always be on a Sunday and would therefore get extra religious focus. Also, if you believe in avoiding shopping on the Sabbath, you’d get the stress of mall work out of the way in advance. Then you’d open presents and stuff on Monday and have at least a full week to enjoy them before the year ends and you have to worry about school. You’d be embracing the commercial traditions on Monday, but only after spending what I think would be extra time remembering the real meaning of the holiday the day before.

  • Mother’s Day / Father’s Day

So this one won’t apply if you don’t choose to restrict what you do on Sunday, but I think it’s pretty inconvenient that these holidays fall on Sunday. You’re trying to celebrate motherhood, but meanwhile you’re trying to get the kids to church, you can’t go out to eat, etc. There’s not much time left to focus on the mom. These holidays should be on Saturdays instead.

  • Halloween

If there’s anyone who attaches any religious meaning to Halloween, I haven’t met them. If anything, it seems to have turned into a worship of evil in a lot of contexts. But as far as the fun, cute side of it goes, why would you ever want to have it on on a week night? If it always fell on a Friday night, you wouldn’t have to worry about getting to bed on time and stuff like that.

Of course, it has been pointed out to me that you might have fewer trouble makers if it were always on a week night. But it should be a fixed day of the week. (Again, Halloween on Sunday is lame.)