Category Archives: video games

Five Nightmares at Freddy’s

My son is obsessed with Five Nights at Freddy’s. He’s never played it. His older sister has never seen it. Boys in her class natter about it incessantly so through social osmosis he’s latched onto it, terrified. Someday* he’ll play it and wonder how it ate up so much sleep at the end of kindergarten.

We can’t talk it out. In his mind plain facts hunker down and shake. There is no solid ground when The Fear comes out, it touches everything. Freddy, like Chucky before him, is just a vessel**.

Freddy from Five Nights at Freddy'sIf the vessel can hold some of the general dark, I’m for it. Let Freddy hold as much as his sunken eyes can handle, as long as the air in my kids’ brain is clearer. Give the fear a place to rally so he can get more solid ground.

Maybe that’s horror at a tribal level, demons and witches sucking energy from pools of pain we dig around unpredictable things like jobs, sickness, rejection. The monster’s killed and we hope shotguns or sunlight works on personal demons too. Potential catharsis.

Some argue simulated catharsis unhelpfully medicate us — we’re too doped up on fantasy to face our own problems***. Maybe. Spending too long in worlds of carefully constructed narratives might lead us to oversimplify messy old Life, but spending zero time outside of messy old Life dulls down messy old Life.

At the bottom of all this is that I can’t control everything my kids see and what they’re scared of and I’m trying to make sense of it. I remember what it was like. I remember trading monster defense strategies with my friend (not play monsters – the ones really coming for you at night). And it burned off. I’m no longer afraid of the dark^, except its tendency to hide things like walls when I walk into them.

But for El Kindergartnero the Fear has kicked in. It needs something. If it wasn’t Freddy, maybe Slenderman. Scary robbers. Grease pens. The fear needs a vessel. All told, an aversion to life-size animatronic animals is specific and manageable. One building in town he doesn’t go to and he’s good, and that doesn’t break my heart any.

* Age 27, 28, somewhere in there.
** The 1988 horror movie doll has ground floor with k-6 kids in Boise.
*** Or bigger problems corporations or the government want us to look away from, like war, corruption, endless movie remakes.
^ Unless I just watched Jaws. None of this applies to Jaws.

“Modern Warfare, Black Ops and Ghosts all take themselves incredibly seriously. They present stories…”

Modern Warfare, Black Ops and Ghosts all take themselves incredibly seriously. They present stories that range from infantile to outright offensive as The Most Significant Texts Of Our Time, with cavernously empty characters booming their leaden clichés as if each word is life-changing, while shit falls down all around them. Pathos is gone, entirely replaced by bathos, trite platitudes exchanged with faux gravitas under the moody green lighting of a high-tech radar screen. Nothing-men with a deranged belief in their own significance, explaining to each other just how IMPORTANT the situation is, and how little time there is to lose. With a meticulously animated frown on their ghoulish console-face.

Rather than taking their stories seriously, these are games that instead only tell you that they’re being serious, over and over, in the hope that you’ll eventually believe it. They’re fatuous experiences, delivered po-faced, by a mentality that believes only shouting provides emotional emphasis. And they need not at all.

media literacy defined as putting hotpants on my avatar

My kids are media savvy. I won’t use the term Digital Natives. But they are savvy and get savvier ever day. I like the term Digital Natives, it explains the concept in the phrase itself, but I don’t agree with the baggage it carries, that kids intuitively know how to get around software, program in Perl, and hack into NSA security databases by the age of 11 because they grew up playing Flash motorcycle games and using Facebook. I think they get stuff that looks like stuff they know, and I think some tools (like Facebook) fit what makes sense to people. And, by the way, while I’m on my soapbox, that’s more of what people need, tools designed to be so simple and easy to use that anyone can do it, NOT another thing that does exactly what Facebook does, only it’s not Facebook.

Back to the story. Apparently it’s intuitive how to mess around with XBox avatars. My daughter who I guess I’ll call Squirrel likes to get into my Xbox Live account and dress me up like a woman. Not because she likes to dress up the avatars, she has her own avatar she can mess around with, but to tease me. Here’s what it looks like currently.


Because I don’t live and die by my XBox Live friends (I have 2 (two)) and I don’t play much online with the XBox, I don’t mind that my avatar sometimes has new hotpants when I log in. But I appreciate the care with which it’s done.

If parenting was a sim game

Let’s say you’re playing a sim/strategy game like Civilization. You and a mother city are maintaining two little cities. That don’t build anything for themselves. You gather all the materials and all the resources, even the ones that your city uses, and some a mother city use, but these little cities just take and take and take resources. (They look remarkably like a mix between your city and their mother city). You’ve managed a balance of resources up to this point, and the little cities have been a wonderful addition to your state, so you’re ready to level up. A cute little third city appears.

Normally in a game the third city would be a strain on resources – time, attention, energy would be the key investments here – and as long as the resources were allocated correctly the cities would maintain a balance. But in a realistic game, the following would happen.

1. The other two cities get fewer resources than they did before. As it turns out, there is a fixed rate at which you can gather gold from the mines, or cut down trees. You sensed this with the second city, but suddenly with the third city your Time Forest and Attention Mine cap off, when they are in more demand than ever.

2. The new little city has strict resource allocation schedules, roughly every two hours, but requires that the resource routes to other cities be temporarily shut down while the resources are allocated. Used to more constant allocation, the other cities begin to suspect they’re being cut off from resource allocation altogether and increase demands for resources in advance, with including special, unhealthy resource allocations regarding entertainment and sweet goods.

3. As a result of lowered resource level (still ENOUGH to survive and even thrive, just lower than their earlier levels) the first two little cities round up the citizens and decide to build in-town circuses. Which seem to have shows randomly, but especially at sundown, preventing any useful commnication or resources allocation. Many evenings it requires you to send in police to quiet the citizens, and some nights this doesn’t work out and the little cities’ citizens riot, which results in wide-spread jailing and removal of incentives like tax cuts or special resource allocations.

4. Your own city, which you thought was independent of the other cities, also takes a hit on resource allocation. The citizens complain, but don’t seem to complain as loudly as the the little cities, so it takes you by surprise when returning back home many citizens have passed out in the street. As it turns out guards at your gates who prevent invasions from zombies with the plague get resources at the same rate as other citizens, and every lunar cycle or two the city is overrun, which shuts the city down, sometimes for a day, sometimes for several days. Often these invasions began and were strengthened by attacks on your little cities.

5. As a stategy to get back to status quo, you instigate a strict day/night cycle for your citizens, the little cities don’t seem to understand it’s function or process. They fight the regiment by building more circuses and having more shows, particularly sundown shows. Then a new pattern emerges. The citizens begin to demand resources of seemingly little value at random times, interrupting the workers in the Energy Generating plant (particularly the REM and Dream divisions), which, as it turns out, directly feeds the logic paths of your citizens and workers. So your workers begin to forget to gather certain resources, and workers gathering energy or trading with other towns start getting distracted from their paths. So fewer resources are collected altogether.

6. Summits with the mother city increase in number and intensity, particularly regarding their relationship to the smaller cities. Consultants are brought in, who suggest that all of this behavior is completely normal and as the little cities grow the interactions between them, your city, and the mother city will all stabilize and everyone will soon grow used to the new resource allocation scheme. You find that many neighboring states experienced the same patterns when they added their third city. Some add that after adding a third city, it doesn’t matter how many more cities you add, the resource allocation appears to be the same.

Someone build this game. No one will play it. People want to play realisitic games, but not this realistic.

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