Why create Reid TDR on YouTube with Minecraft? Part 1: Passion & Purpose with Daddy Droyd

I have embarked on a long-term journey with my two sons by introducing them to Video Games.  When I say “long term journey,” that requires some background and explanation.

When I was a child, I was lucky enough to have an Apple II+ computer with a tape drive (yes, cassette tape).  And before that, my father had a teletype computer that could connect through a 110 baud acoustic coupled modem (yes…110…not 15Meg…!!) to the mainframe at the university – and my sister and I could play Star Trek.  We would send a command to the mainframe and several minutes later a page of paper would print out a sector map indicating our location and that of any Klingons nearby.  My sister and I would also spend hours typing in the programs (written in Basic) at the end of Creative Computing magazine.   Our reward (after debugging the typos) might be a simple text game moving a “*” around the screen of our monochrome Apple II+.  And then we’d save our hours of work to tape (which could take 5-10 minutes).

This was my early childhood with computer games.

Some readers may not even know what a cassette tape is, or a cassette drive.   I could also mention 8” floppy discs, 5 ¼” floppies (and how to use a hole punch to double disc storage), 3 ¼ disks, CDs, CDRs, CDRWs, Downloads, Napster/Bit Torrent, and Streaming; however, that media storage/access evolution is just foreshadowing the likely speed of the journey with my boys.

As my own childhood developed through middle school, high school, and college, so did my enjoyment and experiences with Video Games.  I loved going to the Arcades when I was younger (which were where all the drug dealers hung out, according to my mother).  I bought books about how to master Pac-Man and Donkey Kong.  One of my friends was partial to Tempest and Defender.  I practiced and learned patterns and increased the length of time I could play for each Quarter ($0.25).  I enjoyed watching other experts play games that I was not good at – the same way I appreciate experiencing a performance by cellist or improv comedian.  It was a joy to see someone draw a crowd and beat a high score.  I loved this shared experience with a group of strangers, where everyone was hoping to see the player beat the game (or at least the high score).

And then, eventually, there were the multi-player arcade games: head-to-head fighting games (Street Fighter, Mortal Combat), cooperative games (Gauntlet), racing games, and more.  These added a new dimension in that it was more directly interactive and social – you could actually “talk trash” to your friend as you tried to out maneuver them, or ask for or offer help if your health was low (“warrior needs food, badly!”), or even slow down a bit to let a new player catch up, learn, and feel competitive.

Outside of the arcades, there was also a subculture of kids, uneducated in copyright law, who would share (i.e. copy) computer games, download games from BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) using their dial-up modems, and correspond on BBS sites to meet with complete strangers to trade games with each other.  It was its own ecosystem, and you could quickly learn the hierarchy and where were the best places and best people to connect with for certain types of games.

I loved playing games at my friends’ houses – on their TRS-80, their Commodore 64, their Atari, their Nintendo, their Apple, or their PC.  I loved the social nature of it, the competitive nature of it, and the challenge of doing something new and difficult.  It was a participatory media experience that you could share and create with your friend — rather than passive content absorption (like TV, movies, radio, concerts).

I can see now that I was mostly drawn to the games that had a challenge for the mind rather than reflexes.  Also, games that had some form of story progression drew me in quickly.  I would keep going like when drawn into a good book.  At the end of each chapter (or section of the game), I was compelled by the good games to see what would happen next.  Zork was great, but the Bard’s Tale and the Ultima series were brilliant in drawing me forward.  Mortal Combat was shockingly gross and challenging to beat your friend, but Archon was brilliant in combining combat with chess-like strategy.  I enjoyed the “simulator” games somewhat (flight simulator, SimCity, etc) yet never was compelled to continue with them.  Once I learned how to take off and land, the challenge dropped substantially.  Once I understood the patterns that worked in the game for building housing, developing industry, trading materials, production, taxes, food, and such, it was just a continuation of more, same, more with no story to compel me.

It was the game series Ultima that caused me to save allowance money and do odd jobs when I was 12 – so I could buy a sound card for the Apple computer and listen to Ultima’s breakthrough background music while I journeyed through its fantasy world and explored dungeons, islands, and towns.

Video Games!  The games where you play with or against your friend.  The ones where you save the world or the universe.  The ones that you have to make choices that impact the outcome in some way.  Ones where you have to explore or develop both tactics and strategies.  I’m always drawn to being the Hero, and overcoming challenges to move the Hero’s Story forward.

I still have notebooks full of details of all the towns of several of the Ultima games: every character, what they might need, what they said, whether there was a quest involved, what could be purchased at the stores in the city, key landmarks, inns, food, etc.  And I remember vividly some of my friends and I comparing notes and sharing tips as we each worked our way through the Ultima adventures individually, yet together.  It was a shared experience because we could talk about it at school and at orchestra and on the soccer field — while playing individually at our own pace at our own house.  We’d have “playdates” and pick up the adventure wherever the host’s party was.  We’d call each other on the phone when we found something cool that they might have missed in their game.

We did this with Video Games, just like we did with our favorite bands, books, actors, sports teams, hobbies, music, orchestral performances, and more.  Video Games were just another avenue of interest and a passion that connected people that shared those interests and passions.

And some of my friends took their passions from playing video games to programing games (and a decade later Crash Bandicoot emerged).  Others took their passions from gaming and work at computer development and service companies.  Others became Directors of IT and CTO’s (who also import classic arcade games from overseas, renovate/restore/fix them, and sell them as a hobby).  Others who used to setup LAN parties for our FPS (First Person Shooters) gaming sessions now run Divisions of chemical companies.  Others do traffic flow planning for municipalities.   And others became librarians who participate in civil war miniatures gaming conventions.  And some of them still hop online to play a quick session of Destiny or World of Warcraft or Portal 2 or Minecraft with friends.

Love it or hate it, video games are here to stay – and have grown as an industry to eclipse the movie, book, and music industries in different ways.  Now we even have professional gaming leagues and gaming talk shows and live game streaming channels and game competitions to fundraise for charities and video game YouTube personalities.   Video Gaming as a “genre” is consolidating and growing as much as it is subdividing and fragmenting – and there are so many niches’ in its ecosystem that it allows for new forms of art, entertainment, expression, competition, sport, business, collaboration, education, discussion, media, and pleasure.

Several game companies hire composers to write music for their games.  Some even have in-house musicians and recording studies.  Some have songs written for their games by popular artists (Portal, for example via Jonathan Colton.  Homeworld featured a Yes song.  And my memory informs me that either Doom or Quake may have used music composed by Trent Reznor).  Writers, sound designers, concept artists, digital artists, motion capture, animation, etc – all required contributors to games.

So, as a parent I can either tolerate it or embrace it.

Either way, every parent must make a conscious decision about it because in today’s world Video Games can’t be ignored.

Also, as a parent, while I don’t have to be expert at all the games my kids may experience and come across, I need to be competent and informed.  I need to help introduce them and guide them in this area of life just like other areas of life.

For example, I must learn, educate and mentor on:

  • the differences between reality vs. gaming
  • online gaming ethics
  • online gaming etiquette and language
  • online bullying
  • in-game purchases
  • how to safely engage in (or avoid) social gaming spaces with strangers
  • what the internet and YouTube can be used for
  • prioritizing and accomplishing real-life demands and challenges versus gaming ones
  • how to be a valuable creative producer rather than just a passive media consumer
  • how to take certain skills used in games and transfer them to real life (and vice versa)
  • how to problem solve
  • how to create puzzles and challenges for yourself and others
  • how to communicate effectively through requests and offers and commitments
  • how to collaborate and contribute as a team member
  • how to learn and improve through experimentation and practice
  • and so much more…

And more importantly, I need to participate with my kids – just like kicking a soccer ball with them, playing tag, teaching them to ride a bike, taking them to piano lessons, singing together, volunteering our time together, going to the library, hiking, teaching math, being silly, and playing Uno.   I need to play Video Games with them.

With Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality coming, I better be able to understand it, use it, identify pitfalls and seductive traps, participate with my kids, and develop ways to monitor and manage use of these new technologies.

How are you going to manage your child’s involvement in Video Games?

Will it be a passive sideline for entertainment?  A career path?  A broadcast platform?  A consumer or creator role?  A virtual social space to connect with friends?  An online etiquette and ethics teaching venue?

Let us know in the comments below!

Here’s Reid TDR’s YouTube Channel and Facebook Page

–Daddy Droyd   (@daddydroyd on twitter)

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