Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Disappointing Mining Expedition

The Iowa City Public Library had a Minecraft event for tweens. I think I may have had some small part in helping them decide to have it, because when they announced one for teenagers on Twitter I pointed out to them that there were probably a lot of younger Minecraft players in the area that would also enjoy a meet-up at the library.

I probably won't go out of my way to take my daughter to the next one.

Some of the problems were simply first-time kinks, caused by an uncertainty about how many kids would show up, how many wouldn't already have their own Minecraft logons, and so on. Some of the problems were technical: the whole point of the meet-up was that the library now has its own Minecraft server, but not one of the kids had any luck actually getting onto the server, as far as I'm aware.

No, my problem is with the kids. And most likely, the crappy parenting that has gone on with those kids. When Cassie connected to a world where some of the other players were, as soon as she appeared some other player started hitting her character over and over, with the goal of "killing" her. When Cassie was quietly building a simple structure, some other player immediately started destroying blocks. What the heck is point of joining a multiplayer environment when all you want to do is alienate other players?

And I was surprised at this behavior, given that everyone was sitting in the same computer lab. It wouldn't have been too difficult to figure out where any specific kid was sitting and confront them. I wish I had been in the lab when some kid told Cassie, "Fuck you!" in the chat. All she was doing was asking someone why they were killing everyone around them, and she got that little gem in response. She wasn't bothered by it; she's probably seen worse in some of the public Minecraft servers she's been on. But it bothers me that some punk kid felt comfortable doing and saying that with at least three library employees wandering around and several parents in the room. Although to be honest, I don't think the employees were doing all that much in monitoring how the kids were interacting.

Because of the number of kids, they let the first wave play for an hour and then had everyone log off to let another group of kids on the computers. I don't think Cassie got to "play" with anyone. It was pretty much chaos, with very few (if any) kids actually playing together.

It didn't help that Cassie was the only girl there at first. By the time any other girls showed up, there was no room for them and they had to wait. I regret not asking the library employee if I pulled Cassie off the computer, could she be guaranteed a spot in the next wave so she could play with some other girls. I think she probably would have enjoyed that more. Now that I think of it, I wish the library would do a Minecraft meet-up for just girls. I think it would probably be less intimidating.

There were probably some of the boys that would've been fine to play with. You could kind of spot the true Minecraft nerds who would love to spend hours exploring caves or building intricate structures. Unfortunately, they were outnumbered by the kind of jerk kid whose motto is "let's break everything and ruin it for as many people as possible." And I know not all girls would play nice just because they're girls. One of my daughter's friends is a real pain in Minecraft. She's the kind of kid that feels comfortable making demands of me and complaining to me--in Minecraft chat, never in public; she won't even talk to me when I see her at school. She also feels fine destroying not only other players' creations, but mine as well. And she knows I could simply kick her off our server for good. I can only imagine the kind of tantrums she gets away with at home.

Anyway, if the library sorts out their server problems, maybe I'll ask if the server is set up to let players outside the network in. Then next time Cassie can simply log on from home, and she won't be limited to a short time on a PC but can still interact with other local Minecraft kids. And if they start acting like jerks again, she can simply log off and go play Sims.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Freed from the Desk

Something I've thought about lately is how I am one out of four people in this household without a laptop.

I purposely avoided getting myself a laptop (more correctly: a notebook computer; laptops will fry one's lap and any important adjacent bits) the last time I replaced my computer. I still wanted a desktop with components I could swap out in in the future and something that was beefy enough, videologically speaking, to handle most current games and graphics programs.

But I have noticed that while I sit and watch a DVRed program or Netflix or HBO GO, I'm often on my phone, looking up tidbits of information or tweeting random thoughts to the world--or at least, the hundred-and-thirty-odd people that claim to follow me. So I considered getting a fairly basic laptop of my own. This wouldn't be something to replace my home desktop, since I'm still probably 3 years away from upgrading that. Rather, I thought I could make good use of a fairly inexpensive, not-all-that-robust laptop for basic writing, Internet surfing, and tweeting. I could even still use most of my desktop's programs simply by installing TeamViewer and tunneling into my PC from across the room.

Today while shopping at Best Buy for something else, I saw that they had "Laptop Bundles" which merited a closer look. For a bit over $300, I ended up with an HP laptop that supposedly has a Pentium processor--although, I didn't look too closely into what generation. It also has Windows 8, an operating system I wasn't all that keen on investigating. (After half a day, I can give it a solid "meh." It's not horrible, but I see no point in it over Windows 7--an OS I have become used to and can even admit was a good replacement for Window XP.)

At any rate, I now have a laptop that can catch my even more random thoughts whilst watching TV and movies, since I won't have to battle my phone's texting keyboard to do so. If you're interested, tonight's selection is "The Holiday". I don't know that I can identify what grabs me so much about this film, but it does. Perhaps insights into my personality will slip out into the Internet while I watch it.

For that, I probably apologize.