Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cool Things, Rants and Changes

So my Andewd is now 11.  Last week, we scoured the net (store websites) & he picked his gifts.  One of those gifts was this game, which at the time we didn't know was going to be stellar cool.  The game is called Skylanders Spyro's Adventure.  You can buy it for any platform (I think) - Xbox, Wii, PS3, DS.  It has web codes that you can use online so that you can apply your characters to the online version of the game.  This game is like a smorgasbord of fun, seriously!  First, I want to tell you how very cool this game is; then I'm going to rant about the rules, laws, whatever of supply and demand.

The complete game can be purchased for $70 for the Wii, PS3 and 3DS, $60 for the Xbox.  It comes with the game, the portal & 3 characters.  Most games on intro are priced around there ($50 - $60, typically), so I was thinking this price was a good deal because of all that comes with it.  One of the coolest things, which is entirely innovative as far as platform gaming, it has what's called a "portal of power".  It's a little round platform, about 4 inches in diameter with a white topside.  It's surrounded by what looks like stone (plastic) with neat-o little symbols on parts of it.  When you pull it out of the box, the first thing you realize is they give you batteries.  Who does that?  When you open the battery compartment, there is a little wireless USB inside that you will plug into your platform to communicate with the portal of power.  Add the batteries, turn it on (the power button is camouflaged, but you'll find it) and zippity, it lights up!  It goes through the colors of the rainbow.

Once the game begins, it will ask you to place a champion on the portal of power.  Eon, the old wizard like guy tells the tale of the lost Portal Masters and now you (the player) are here to stop the evil Portal Master Kaos from taking over the Skylands (or whatever).  The game comes prepackaged with 3 champions - Spyro (magical element), Trigger Happy (tech element) and Gil Grunt (water element).  You place on of those toy characters on the platform & they pop into the game.  They can be replaced by each other at any time during game play, except cut-scenes.  I find it incredibly cool that you can switch out your characters at will.

There are 32 different characters for this game, 4 for each element.  The elements that I didn't mention before are air, earth, life, death & fire.  Each character has special abilities and you can buy upgrades for all of them. The enemies are fun and funny, and for each new one introduced there is a short cut to a thought bubble with what to watch out for.  The enemies are minions of Kaos, setting out to foil your recovery of the power sources.

Game play is very kid friendly - smooth and pretty straight forward.  Tasks to reach the goals are easy to manage and the puzzles are not very puzzling.  As in many games for kids, there is no true dying, the characters need to rest until the next level once they've been knocked out.  It isn't a complex game at all which makes it extremely family friendly.  In my house, we are all playing and we are all having fun.

In each level, there are mini areas that can only be accessed by the character with that element.  This is where my rant comes in.  I didn't read all there was to read about the game.  I just thought it looked like a great game for kids and I loved the idea of plopping a little action figured on top of the portal & having that character come to life in the game.

In the beginning, I wasn't at all excited about having to purchase more characters to enhance the game.  It is kind of gimmicky.  When I did an online search for the characters & saw them listed for $15.99 (typically 17.99) & up for a single character I was of the mind that we didn't need any, that's just way too much to pay for a little action figure that isn't even necessary to get through the story.  I found one character via Amazon for $999,999.00. (it seems that one has been removed, because I can't find it any longer - but still...).  A 3 pack of characters retails at Walmart for $19.96 and single pack characters are only $8.96.  Those prices are much more manageable.

Since we got the game, we have been trying to buy more characters to use to play the areas that are only accessible by a certain elemental quality.  No one retailer can keep the characters in the store for more than an hour, no matter how many they get.  They won't tell you when they are getting them in and they tell you it's because they don't know.  Walmart was actually the most informative last week.  The CS person told me they were due a shipment of a lot of 54 sometime in the next week, not sure of the exact day.  So I called, every day. Twice a day.  The shipment came in on Monday.  I first called around 7:30 - 8:00 am.  The person I spoke to said there weren't any.  I called again later in the day & the person I spoke to that time told me they had sold out.  He also told me that people come in & buy them all out to resell them on ebay, for a 150% (and much higher) mark up.

Activision, Toys for Bob, whoever is responsible may not have anticipated the popularity of the game.  I understand that.  The game was released in Oct 2011.  You would think by now, they would understand that the supply of characters is not meeting the demand.  And free enterprising people are waiting outside the stores & gobbling up every single character that comes in so that we, the average mom who wants the characters for their kids, aren't getting the chance to purchase the characters unless we're willing to fork out extra cash to people who have no association to the game.  I refuse to do that.  We're left waiting until either Toys for Bob increases production or the popularity dies down.  You'd think that the manufacturer would want to be taking in the profit, rather than allowing these schmoes to be making it.

I won't knock ecommerce because of this, even though it is a huge factor in the lack of availability - just as it was when the Wii, PS3 & Xbox were new.  It's sucks that my son has some extra birthday money set aside for these things and he can't get them because the supply isn't meeting the demand.  Maybe it's a dumb rant, but it's how I feel.  I love playing games and this one is a lot of fun.  I would recommend it to anyone with kids any age, that like to play video games.


On to changes...I don't think I've ever been happy with the design of my blog.  Thing is, now I don't really have all that much time to fiddle with it.  You might see it different each time you drop by.  Eventually, I'll get it right.  I can design like the dickens for others, I just can't figure out what I want for my own.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Is it really nothing but a number?  I always thought that's how I felt about it.  Now that I'm back in school, I might be swaying in a different direction.  While there are people my age, around my age, and older than me I can feel the younger students regarding me in a different light.  Maybe it's a testament that I really wasn't getting out enough.  All of these observations are making me weigh how I view age at different times in my life.

At this stage of my life, I'll find myself watching reruns of old tv shows.  Not really old reruns, recent ones.  I was watching House the other day and it was an episode from 2007.  I thought Wow, that was 5 years ago - I was only 35.  We'll turn on a movie and I'll check the year it was made (thank you directv) and be exasperated that it's 12 or 14 years old.  What?  Those actors look so much younger!  Am I looking that much older, too?   10 years ago, I can honestly say, I didn't think this way.  These thoughts didn't go through my mind.  Maybe I'm realizing what all those older people in my life were telling me about time passing way too quickly.  I'm also seeing that time goes by more quickly (or seems to) with each year that passes.

When I look in the mirror, I don't see much age. I do see that I'm older, but I don't see "old".  I know that I am viewed as old by really young people.  I have conversations with nineteens & twenty somethings and I become fully aware at the respect they hold - maybe respect isn't the right word.  It's more of a "regard", as I mentioned earlier, they regard me in a different way.  I look in the mirror and don't see old, but I also absolutely do not feel old.  I feel just like I did at 19.  The only thing that feels different is my mind.  It feels more adept at life.  It feels a little wiser and it knows that there is something to be experienced, or learned, every day.  It's a consciousness that I think can only come with age, with living longer.  Each year that passes brings me to a better awareness of this.  If I look back, even the difference (in awareness) between 19 and 24 was astounding.

Another thing I am much more aware of, even though I've always had this in the back of my mind (as an adult), is how my elders feel.  I think about those who are in their 60s or above and think How must they feel?  I know that I feel the same inside, even though I look a little older - but they look a lot older.  I'm sure I'll have a better understanding of those feeling when I get there.  I can say that I'm treating them differently.  I'm trying to be more objective in realizing that they are the very same people today that they were when they were younger.  I didn't have thoughts like this 10 years ago, either.  Unconsciously, I think I always regarded them as if they were just old people.  And I have a great deal more respect for those who've lived longer than I have.  They know more than I do, they've experienced more than I have.  I think that's natural for all of us.

Then there's the idea that these older people do act differently.  As we get older, we direct ourselves more keenly toward everyday activities.  We take less for granted and even some of my friends who were excessively outspoken have toned it down.  We are still ourselves, but better.  I know this isn't true for everyone, but it is for most people.  I know people that respectfully carry themselves with their youth.  They seem the same, well, they are the same - they just have a youthfulness about them that so many people I know have lost.  One of my best friends now, Jill, is that way.  I take comfort in being around her innocence, her honesty and her ability to just be the same.

I just want to always remember, and be conscious of, the fact that we are all still the same, no matter what number of years have passed.  Those years do represent a simple number, but to everyone those numbers signify a lot more than what the first question of this blog post might convey.  Some years are labeled as milestones -  16, 18, 21, 30, 40, 50, 60, etc.  What signifies those as milestones is probably different for everyone.  16, 18 or 21 were not milestones for me, they were just birthdays.  30 and 40 did feel like they were milestones fro me.  What will 50 bring?  I don't want to be there, yet, and I think I won't want to be there when I get there.  It just sounds so old.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tough for some not so tough for others

There are probably some things I can blog about every day.  One of the better things about this being my blog, I can decide what's blog worthy & what isn't.  Most of what goes on in my life on a daily basis isn't, so much.  The whole purpose of this thing, to write.  Write, write, and write.  I just have to consider my topics.  But really, do I have to?  One of the things that drives me forward is "free writing".  It's what opens my mind up - even if what rolls under my fingers on the keyboard is blather.

In my writing course at school, we're working on a personal narrative.  I keep telling myself I don't like writing about  my life, yet it's what I do here.  Ha haaaaa!  Is this easier?  Yes, because it's free writing, not structured writing.  Our first draft of the narrative is due on Wednesday.  Then we get to participate in a peer review.  I like that part, when it's effective.  If the person critiquing my paper is afraid to be honest about what they read, then I can't make it right.  We've only done this once, so far - critiqued.  A bit more practice is in order because I don't believe I am an authority on the process of writing.  I can only critique a paper based on what I, the reader, want to be reading.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"waaahhhahahah" (muffled sounding crowd cheers)

That is what it would sound like if my blog were like the Superbowl of blogs - hey, the "once a year" thing fits.  It isn't.  I don't mind not having any fanfare because I've always been so inconsistent and I'm not really into that.

There has been a lot of good stuff going on in my life lately.  I started college in January.  Took the plunge into higher education.  I am enjoying my education so far, but I'm finding myself climbing the fence on my area of study.  I can go into more detail of that later.  For now, I just want to encourage myself to do this blog thing on a regular basis.

Writing has always been important in my life.  The earliest I can remember writing becoming important to me is around the age of 10 or so.  In order to write, I must write.  Even if it is blah.  Faithful friends and readers (echo, echo-o, echo-o-o) - okay, I am strictly speaking to myself because I need a good talking to - I duly swear to become a consistent blogger.  It is what I'm going to call "my craft".  I may not be good or perfect at it, but it's what I love.  I also promise to participate in one free write thing a month.

I think this is so often why I "go away".  I get myself involved in too many memes and want to do everything there is to do, comment on every blog I enjoy reading.  I am not that person, by nature.  I need to limit myself on what I get involved in, as far as blogging goes.  I just hope that I don't keep finding excellent blogs to read.    I know I will have my select few that I always return to and comment on.

You may notice as time passes that my writing may become a little more organized.  It may make more sense.  It may flow the way it's supposed to.  Of course, that's what a college writing course will do.  I will be able to apply that, at least, in my life.


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