.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


April 27, 2007

Best! Day! Ever!

Yesterday's Bring Your Kid to Work Day at EA Chicago was truly outstanding. My kids and I had a wonderful, memorable day. I'll write more about it over the weekend.

April 25, 2007

Take Your Little Gamers To Work Day

Tomorrow is EA Chicago's Bring Your Kid(s) To Work Day, and my kids and I are very excited. We're going to take the train downtown together, which should get the day started nicely.

Naturally, all of this reminds me of the last time my kids visited me at work. And no, I'm not talking about this past October, when my wife and kids joined me for the grand opening of EA Chicago's new studio in the River North area of downtown Chicago. And since I mention it, that shindig wasn't the same as tomorrow promises to be. Oh, sure, there was a chocolate fountain and desserts galore, and my kids got to play Sims 2 Pets. That was swell. But other than that, the party was really for the grownups to have fun, especially the booming dance music in the arcade that made my kids cover their ears whenever they were near.

But I digress. What tomorrow makes me think of is the last time my kids visited me at my office during the workday - several years ago at ye olde folding carton company. What are some of the differences between those 2 times, you ask? Let's see now...

  • Makin' Boxes - Big drafty office to myself. No, really. I had to buy a space heater. :(
  • Makin' Games - big cubicle/action area that I share with smart, funny, swell folks who also love making games. :)
  • Makin' Boxes - my favorite thing about the office: I listened to sports radio, since I was told that I could listen to the radio at a reasonable volume from nine to eleven, which is only fair, since my co-worker was allowed to listen to her headphones while she's filing, so I should be able to listen to the radio while I'm collating so I don't see why I should have to turn down the radio because I enjoy listening at a reasonable volume from nine to eleven.
  • Makin' Games - my favorite thing about the office: the people, the neighborhood, the arcade, the roof deck (coming soon), the fact that I can express myself by displaying as many pieces of flair as I want, and of course, the fact that I'm making games for a living.
  • Makin' Boxes - my kids' favorite thing about the office: free stickers
  • Makin' Games - my kids' favorite thing about the office: arcade games, snacks, having a happy Dad.
  • Makin' Boxes - job that just wasn't right for me. :(
  • Makin' Games - job I love. :)
I'm sure there are more interesting comparisons I can come up with. So I'll publish this post now and I may add more stuff if I think of it.

So let's just say I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

April 18, 2007

Must See TV

This Sunday, I need to watch or Tivo Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. No, not so I can ogle the dreamy Ty Pennington (not that there's anything wrong with that). But because it will feature a company I respect doing something I greatly admire.

If you've read GameFam in the past, you know that I'm a fan of Insomniac Games, developers of the excellent Ratchet & Clank series.

Today I'm an even bigger fan of their work. Here's why (story below pasted from this article on Gamasutra).

In a refreshing story of industry goodwill, Resistance: Fall of Man and Ratchet & Clank developer Insomniac Games has teamed with ABC's television program Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to help a young boy who was recently paralyzed following an automobile accident.

The Lawton, OK boy, who counts video games among his favorite pastimes, was paralyzed last July when the family van lost control, collided with an oncoming vehicle, and flipped into a ditch. What's worse, two years prior the Westbrook family endured another tragedy, as James' father, then-SFC Gene Westbrook was hit by a mortar at an American camp mess hall in Baghdad, Iraq, an incident that left him paralyzed as well. On top of that, the day following James' accident, his father suffered a stroke, leaving him with further damage to his right arm and some memory loss.

James' mother, Peggy Westbrook, recovered quickly from the accident, but was left to take on the daunting task of trying to rehabilitate both her husband and son while raising the rest of the family. That task was made more difficult as the family had to maneuver two wheelchairs around their ranch home, which was not designed to be wheelchair accessible.

"We were immediately moved to do something special for the Westbrook family when we learned about their tragic situation and James' passion for video games design," commented Insomiac founder and CEO Ted Price. "For all of us at Insomniac, this opportunity to help such an amazing family with our game-making experience was a real honor.”

Insomniac developers marshaled their forces to produce what normally amounts to one month's worth of work in approximately one week's time, digitally inserting 9 year old James Westbrook's likeness into the upcoming PlayStation 3 title, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction.

“We've never inserted a member of the public into our video games, and we think it's incredibly appropriate that James will be the first gamer to enjoy that unique experience," added Price.

The episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which will feature an in-depth look at Insomniac's efforts to help James and his family, will air on Sunday, April 22.

How awesome is that?

EDIT: I knew that this story reminded me of another story. Hey, like this one (Ben's Game)!

April 16, 2007

Jack Thompson: Bottom-Feeding Opportunist

...or do you prefer Opportunistic Bottom-Feeder?

Even on a profoundly tragic day like today, when everyone else's thoughts and prayers are with the families of the innocent people who were murdered or wounded at Virginia Tech, he never misses an opportunity to inject his agenda where it doesn't belong.


UPDATE (4/17): Kotaku dissects some of that pesky lying that Thompson did on Fox yesterday.

Lying jackass.

April 14, 2007

Boom Boom Rock It!

While I didn't have the privilege of seeing Boom Boom Rocket on a big screen like my esteemed colleague (we have a series of small screens at EA Chicago), I did play the Xbox Live Arcade demo a couple days ago, and so far, I likes what I sees.

Basically, Boom Boom Rocket is what I hoped Fantavision would be. We tried Fantavision a couple years ago, and while some may hail it as a good puzzle game, as far as kids are concerned, it was too much puzzle, and not enough game.

But especially when you play on the Easy setting, Boom Boom Rocket is a basic, DDR-style rhythm game (you can choose between colored arrows, dots, or Xbox 360 controller buttons) that rewards the young player with delightful fireworks exploding across the sky as you play.

My kids haven't played yet, but I showed it to my daughter yesterday, and she was most definitely intrigued. After they try it out, I have a feeling we'll be spending a few Xbox Live points to buy the full version. I'll letcha know how they like it.

April 12, 2007

The New Jan Brady

For about a year and a half there, things were pretty easy.

I'd play a game with my kids...
Then write about it.
Play another game with my kids...
Write about that one.
Play yet another game with my kids...
Yup. Write about that one, too.

Since my job was to write columns and reviews about family gaming for GameDaily, I had no shortage of games to play and time to write about 'em.

The games came in, the columns went out.
The games came in, the columns went out.

Then I went and got myself hired at EA Chicago, which is freakin' awesome in a career aspiration kind of way, but which sucks in a having an endless supply of new games to play with and write about kind of way.

For the last several months now, I've been trying to figure out how to continue writing here at GameFam, while keeping the posts relevant, interesting, and plentiful. How did it work out? Well, seeing as how March '07 just went down in the books as my first completely postless month, not well. Not well at all.

Of course I still play games with my kids. Just not as many and not as often. But whether it's because I lack imagination, talent, insight, or whatever, I'm not sure how writing about playing the same game over and over again is either entertaining or informative for the reader.

On the upside, now we have more time to digest the games over the long haul. I had always felt that I was taking advantage of my children's love for games by throwing new ones at 'em every week. It was too much. It overwhelmed the system. Just as they got in the groove with one game, there was another game for us to play together, Sometimes that was good, but just as often, I wasn't so thrilled.

So after giving it much thought, I've decided that the only way for this ol' blog to stay afloat is for me to reinvent myself as a blogger.

GameFam's warm gooey center will still be games for kids and families, but I'm going to expand the description to include what it's like to be a gaming dad with gaming kids, with a job in the games industry. And maybe some other interesting unrelated crap along the way. We'll see how it goes.

I'm looking forward to seeing where this thing goes. For those of you still stopping by every once in a while, I hope you are too.

So, as I said in my very first GameFam post back in June, '05, stay tuned.