Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

A story in the middle of the night

Somewhere between 2:30 and 3:30 this morning, I was in that kind-of-awake state that wasn’t full awareness but still enough that the missed sleep caught up with me later in the day.

There was an idea. Really just a snapshot series of images and a few sentences of story, and I think I fought falling back to sleep entirely because I wanted to make sure I had them right, and I wanted to remember them later, but at the same time, getting out of bed to write them down would have disrupted the chain of thought. And I could see this character and the setting, and the weather and his casual, knowing grip of a sickle during a confrontation outside a stable.

This morning, I got up and wrote it down as part of the backstory for the Dungeons & Dragons character I’m creating, and doing that – just sitting at the keyboard and making something up – was something I felt like I hadn’t truly done in a long time, and it felt awfully damn good.

I sent those briefly-fleshed-out notes and my halfling rogue’s stat sheet over to the guy who’s going to be overseeing this adventure to see if I’d worked the numbers right and to get feedback on the way my character is shaping up. I also confessed to being a little bit intimidated by the rules and calculations.

See, over the weekend, while I was finally finishing up repainting the office – which I started almost a year ago – I started listening to the Penny Arcade / PvP / Wil Wheaton D&D podcasts as a kind of psyche-up and to get a feel for how the game flows (I started with Series Three, but the first two are archived here). And the podcasts have been absolutely stellar in the way of getting me excited about the game, but man – they figure and refigure their bonuses and penalties and actions and options with a blazing speed that leaves me saving vs. HeadSpinVomit. I mean, I don’t mind doing a little math in gameplay for strategy’s sake, but what have I gotten myself – and my lovely wife – into?

Kato responded with an Email of +10 Reassurance, some important notes about my character stats (several of which I had, in fact, not quite nailed, missing a crucial adjustment), and a few other pointers.

He also said he liked the little bit of backstory – That vivid scene, incidentally? My character’s not even in it: It’s his great-grandfather.  –  which felt like the first fiction I’d written in too long.

Absolutely worth an hour’s lost sleep in the dead of night.

Advertisements

May 11, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Games, geek, Ohio, writing | , , , , , | 3 Comments

PAX East: Day Two, Part 2

Scratch Fury, Destroyer of Worlds

Destroyer of Worlds

In February 2006, I was staying with my friends Ivan and Alexa while on assignment to cover Toy Fair in New York. The Saturday night before the show’s opening day, while a snowstorm dumped a couple feet on the whole region, Ivan showed me to the spare bedroom and also pointed out a stack of books he figured I might like. They were the first three volumes of Player vs. Player, and reading page after page after page of 1980s pop-culture references and nerd jokes and geek-tuned humor, I was totally hooked.

So it was very cool meeting PvP creator Scott Kurtz at PAX East on Saturday morning, pretty much just a few minutes after getting Wil Wheaton’s autograph.  Scott drew a picture of Scratch Fury: Destroyer of Worlds on the title page of the PvP collection I bought from his table, and when I mentioned that my wife and I happen to share a wedding anniversary with Brent Sienna and Jade Fontaine, he actually knuckled up for a fist bump. (Yes, I know May 4 is also the birthday of PvP itself, and that’s why he made it their wedding day.  It’s still cool, like having 1138 as a street address would be.)

And right next to him was Bill Amend of FoxTrot, who helped me complete an awfully neat trifecta that morning, signing both a really worn-out book I brought along, and a print of his own Penny Arcade/FoxTrot mashup.

When I met you, I was but the learner...

Both of these guys were very generous with their time and I really enjoyed meeting them and getting the chance to tell them in person how much I like their work.

Paul & Wendy and I had spent this whole morning together, and while they were at Paul and Storm‘s table talking about the upcoming concert that night, I saw a T-shirt I wanted, despite having only a little familiarity with the duo’s musical stylings. It just says “cheese” in sign language, semaphor, and French. Nothing else. And I do like me some cheese. And the shirt was on super-sale, so, Bonus.

After a lunch in the food court, Paul & Wendy and I took a stroll through the Expo Hall for awhile, and then decided to hit the Classic Arcade for a couple rounds before I needed to drive back to Rhode Island. Lessons learned: Free-play games are awesome, even when they suck, so I enjoyed the sit-down version of Buck Rogers – Planet of Zoom despite the fact that the game itself was far lamer than I remembered.

We played some Food Fight, and then Paul and I teamed up for a good round of Joust 2: Survival of the Fittest, even if we couldn’t figure out what the hell good transforming into a Pegasus was. (Turns out you’re heavier and can drop quicker for attack purposes. I looked it up for the next time I’m time traveling to the arcade at Twin Pines Mall.) With the ’80s music playing and my fingers mashing the “fly” button and my desperate attempts to avoid enemies and scoop up giant eggs, I could practically hear the whine of a DeLorean revving in the distance, and it seemed as good a way as any to finish up my time at PAX East.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Games, geek, Travel, video games | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

PAX East lookback, part 1.

PAX East relics

“Well,” as a certain hobbit once said, “I’m back.”

Total trip time, from leaving the bank on Thursday morning to pulling into our driveway last night: 84.5 hours, with more than a quarter of that time – 22 hours between Canton, Ohio and Pawtucket, R.I., and another 4.5 spent going to and from Boston on Friday and Saturday – spent sitting behind the steering wheel. Total mileage: 1,490.

And completely worth every highway minute and every white-lined mile.

After a late Thursday night hanging out with my friends and gracious hosts Aaron and Jessica, I headed into Boston late Friday morning and – after a maybe 45-minute extended detour due to my missing a massive sign reading, in effect, “BOSTON – THIS WAY” – I got to the Hynes Convention Center just after 1 p.m. and found a hugehugeHUGE entrance queue. (You will undoubtedly read elsewhere about the crowds and lines at the center – honestly, I come to expect them at things like this, so I adjust my expectations accordingly. Also, I know that a lot of people work extremely hard to organize these conventions, and they’re supposed to be fun after all.) Doors were set to open at 2 p.m.

I honestly didn’t expect that by the time I made my way up to the doors of the Main Hall that Wil Wheaton’s keynote speech venue would already be at capacity.  I mean, I knew that people would go straight there even though it wasn’t scheduled to start until 3 p.m., but I also figured maybe at some point, since they had divided the queue into “Expo Hall” and “Main Hall” lines, that someone would have established a cut-off point.

So, yeah, I was pretty disappointed, but I didn’t want to let it ruin my weekend, and besides, that’s when I ran into fellow GeekDad writer and panelist Dave Banks. While we were chatting and working our way over to the main expo hall, we caught up with two other contributors, Matt Blum and Doug Cornelius, who had also missed the keynote cut. Just after three o’clock, though, doing a little more wandering, we were passing the Main Hall doors and saw they were letting people in again, so we hopped in line. (Sadly, only Dave and I made it in,  since they cut things off again right behind us.)

See that blurry Wil Wheaton? That's the BIG screen. Actual Size Wil is the fuzzy dot BELOW that. Even from the wayback, though, he still kicked ass.

Wil was only about five minutes into his speech, so we got to take in most of it from our spots standing against the back wall, and while parts of it drew from stories he has told elsewhere, the keynote was by turns hilarious and nostalgic and heartfelt and inspiring.

A note on the convention offerings: Not being there for the video game industry displays and pre-release teasing and craziness, I was much more interested in the panels and kind off lower-key attractions like the old-school console gaming room – a working, playable Vectrex? are you KIDDING ME?!? and I wonder if anyone who sat down at the Atari 2600 actually put that E.T. cartridge in – and the American Classic Arcade Museum‘s free-play collection of games.

After the keynote, I met with my Ohio friends Paul and Wendy, and then it was time to go to dinner and establish what we believe to be the largest real-world gathering of GeekDad writers to date: With Michael Harrison and Natania Barron joining Matt and Dave and Doug and me, the bar is now set at a nice even half-dozen. I mentioned in an email to everyone this morning that it felt very much like we all had met before, even though most of us have only interacted through emails and podcasts.

We talked about a general framework for our 7 p.m. panel and wondered if anyone would show up other than to simply get off their feet for an hour. (A couple of us had peeked into the panel room earlier, and honestly, it looked awful big and seemed to have a great potential to be scarily empty.)

The six of us arrived back at that room at about 6:40 p.m., and figured the crowd in the hallway outside was lined up for something else. Ten minutes later, that line was gone, and we were looking at a fully-packed room of around 250-plus . Truthfully, this was nothing short of stunning, and I’m sure that words will utterly fail in describing how encouraging and wonderful it was, and though I know the odds are against it, if anyone who was in that audience stumbles across this blog: THANK YOU SO FREAKING MUCH!!!! Seriously – we each did a little introduction and talked about our kids and our geeklikes, and then as we started just generally talking about parenting and video games and movies and books and everything, people started raising their hands and asking questions and contributing their own experiences, and it was just a ton of fun. (Matt did a write-up at GeekDad, and Doug wrote a post for his blog, too, and both of them took photos so we know it was real.

Even with 70 minutes to fill – we had started early, since everyone was in the room anyway – the time just flew by, and there were still several hands up when we had to call it quits. Outside the room, a couple people came up to me to talk some more, and I saw other GeekDad writers having similar conversations. It’s almost three full days later and remembering it still makes me a little giddy.

Paul & Wendy had managed to get in, and they joined all of us for a post-panel trek for drinks, as did Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks author Ethan Gilsdorf, who, if I recall correctly, is a friend of Michael & Natania. His book has been on my to-read list for awhile, and even though it’s coming out in paperback this fall, after talking to him for awhile about writing, I couldn’t wait that long, so I ordered a copy this morning. He also bought a copy of Collect All 21!, which was an awfully nice thing to do.

We all went our separate ways once back at the convention center, since it was getting late, and while I was on my way out, I ran into Penny Arcade co-creator and PAX co-founder Mike Krahulik, capping a pretty damn fine day.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Games, geek, science fiction, Travel, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Five Things that Rocked at PAX East Day One

Meeting five of my fellow GeekDad writers, thus setting a new record for largest real-world gathering to date.

Wil Wheaton’s keynote.

Standing room only in the GeekDad “Bringing Up the Next Generation of Geeks” panel. (More on this when the weekend is over, but heartfelt thanks to everybody who came, because YOU MADE IT AWESOME.)

Running into Penny Arcade co-creator Mike Krahulik and getting a “special” snapshot for a friend back home.

Meeting and talking writing with  Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks author Ethan Gilsdorf.

March 27, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Games, geek, Travel, video games, Web/Tech, writing | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ten, nine, eight …

The 10 day countdown to PAX East is ON!

I’m super-psyched about this. It’s my first convention road trip since last year’s Penguicon, and I’m feeling a few similarities anticipation-wise, inasmuch as while I’ve never considered myself a hardcore gamer, there’s just a ridiculous amount of stuff on the schedule I’m excited to check out. (Of course, I’ve also prepared myself for the likelihood that at some point, I will be having so much fun generally geeking out that I will miss one or five of these things.)

I’ve already given the the two-color highlight marker treatment to my printout grid of the schedule, and in the interest of showing some restraint, I managed to keep my “MUST SEE” highlights to three. My “MAYBE” list, though? Yeah, that’s up to 20 events and panels, and there’s clearly no way I’m making it to all those, especially since there’s a fair bit of overlap.

The ultimate “must attend,” for me, of course, is the GeekDad panel, which, really, I still can’t believe I’m a part of because it’s just too unbelievably cool, and seeing us there on the program listing page still seems surreal:

Bringing up the Next Generation of Geeks
Wyvern Theatre
Friday, 7:00pm

How young is too young for The Hobbit? What should my kids’ first LEGO set be? How can I control my disgust if my child tells me he likes Jar Jar and the Ewoks? When should I buy my kids their first non-six-sided dice? These questions and many more will be discussed by writers for Wired.com’s GeekDad blog and other geek parents. Come share your stories and advice for how to make sure our kids grow up to be geeks like us! Don’t have kids? Show up and find out what may be in store for you if you ever do!

In fact, I’d bet that panel alone and the chance to sit down with fellow GeekDad writers Dave Banks, Natania Barron, Matt Blum, Doug Cornelius, Michael Harrison and Corrina Lawson will make this whole road trip worthwhile by itself.

And yet there is more, from what I figure will be the high-profile draws like Wil Wheaton’s keynote, concerts by MC Frontalot, Paul & Storm and Jonathan Coulton and the Penny Arcade creator panels to the more narrowly-focused offerings like this movie GET LAMP (I was a huge Infocom text adventure fan back in the Commodore 64 days) and a look back at other arcade and computer games of my youth.

As if all that wasn’t enough, this is my first visit to see my old friend Aaron on his turf since he moved to Rhode Island, and he’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.

Can’t wait.

March 16, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel, video games, Web/Tech | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

PAX East 2010: GeekDad Road Trip!

Though I made a brief note when this was initially approved and there has been some related Twitter chatter, I wanted to hold off on mentioning anything more about it until there was an official public announcement. So, check out this morning’s post over at WiredPlease Join GeekDad at PAX East 2010!

Boston. March 26-28. Be there, because This. Is Going. To. ROCK. \m/

Even with the 11- to 12-hour drive involved, I jumped at this as soon as GeekDad Assistant Editor and Frakking Genius Matt Blum put forth the proposal. And I can make it a totally budget-friendly trip since I’ve got a place to crash nearby, essentially making my costs for the weekend gas and food – and I’ve got no problem whatsoever packing myself a cooler loaded with bread and PB&J.

I absolutely cannot wait to meet and hang out with my fellow panelists and GeekDad writers, in whose mighty company I hope I shall not feel ashamed: Dave Banks, Natania Barron, Matt Blum, Doug Cornelius, Michael Harrison and Corrina Lawson. Sitting down and talking geek stuff and parenting with this crew is just so incredibly loaded with Potential Awesome.

(Penny Arcade? Of course the strip has addressed some of the issues of being a geek parent –just last month, in fact!)

And despite not considering myself a hardcore gamer, I have long been envious of those attending past Penny Arcade Expos out west, because it has always sounded like just a crazy fun nerdfest.  While the official Pax East site doesn’t have a schedule up yet, I did find a few unofficial compilations of just some of the stuff that should be going on, like this one, which mentions among others Bill Amend of Foxtrot(!!!) and writer Lev Grossman.

It also looks like this thing is going to be freaking HUGE: Joystiq is predicting 60,000 attendees, and the Penny Arcade founders said in mid-January that it’s going to be a sellout.

I’ve already got my T-shirt packed.

February 2, 2010 Posted by | Current Affairs, Games, geek, Science, science fiction, Travel, video games, Web/Tech, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So … Azrael would be, what, a warg?

If you don’t want to see Gargamel reimagined as the Dark Lord Sauron in today’s Penny Arcade comic, do not click here. Otherwise, feel free, because it’s funny. Also, the observation about “Aragorn’s Quest” in the first panel? Yeah, I can see that.

June 1, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Film, Games, geek, video games, Weblogs | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: