Video Game Family Time: Overcooked

Sometimes, sitting down to play with your kids can also include playing video games together with them, especially if it’s a lazy rainy weekend afternoon!

Here at Owls Well, we don’t see video games as a way for kids to isolate themselves but as a way for families and siblings to bond with each other over a shared experience.

In this Video Game Family Time series, I’ll be talking about some video games that we like to play together as a family and some rules that we have to keep everyone playing together nicely.

Here’s another game that is a lot of fun for a rainy afternoon: Overcooked!

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Picture Source: Ghost Town Games

Overcooked is a hilariously chaotic co-operative game by the two person team over at indie game studio, Ghost Town Games. It’s a real fun game that is guaranteed to have the whole family either working together like a well oiled machine or (much more likely) rolling on the floor cackling with glee as everything goes berserk.

In this game, players control cute little chefs who have to work together fulfil as many customer orders as possible (by preparing ingredients, cooking, plating and serving), whilst dodging hazards and obstacles, all within a fixed time limit. Each level is roughly 3-5 minutes long, and it usually takes about 2-3 rounds before everyone figures out how to work together to beat the level, so it’s a good game to play if you’re trying to keep game time really short.

This game has both a co-operative mode for up to four players as well as a competitive multiplayer mode where you can divide up into two teams. The controls are very straightforward so it’s good for beginners who are still working on their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, and the graphics are crisp and cute.

 

Whilst playing, we’d often find ourselves shouting out orders and instructions to each other, laughing our heads off whilst our little chefs crash into each other, burn the soup or accidentally fall out of the kitchen! I love the way that the game emphasises the importance of close communication between players, encouraging us to work together as a family to improve efficiency in our virtual kitchen!

We also like to take turns to designate a ‘head chef’ for each round, who will assign jobs and call out the orders as they come through!

When we are playing together in Overcooked, there are certain rules that we insist the children have to observe:

  1. We are kind to each other – no intentionally sabotaging the game or being nasty with our words
  2. We are helpful – we are partners and work together towards a common goal
  3. We remember to maintain our sense of humour – this is a game that involves some yelling and giving orders, but that doesn’t mean we get angry or upset with each other!
  4. When Mummy and Daddy say that game time is over, everyone puts their controllers down immediately with no fuss or bargaining.

If there’s a video game that you think is great fun for families – share it with me in the comments!

Video Game Family Time: Never Alone

Sometimes, sitting down to play with your kids can also include playing video games together with them, especially if it’s a lazy rainy weekend afternoon!

Here at Owls Well, we don’t see video games as a way for kids to isolate themselves but as a way for families and siblings to bond with each other over a shared experience.

In this Video Game Family Time series, I’ll be talking about some video games that we like to play together as a family and some rules that we have to keep everyone playing together nicely.

This time, I’ll be talking about a very beautifully crafted video game, Never Alone (Kisima Innitchuna).

Never Alone (Kisima Innitchuna) is a puzzle-platform game born from a collaboration between E-line Media (which specialises in educational games) and Upper One Games, a game company set up by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council which serves the Alaskan Native and American Indian people living in the Cook Inlet region.

The Upper One Games development team includes over 3 dozen Alaska Native elders, storytellers and cultural advisors from the Iñupiat people, who worked very intimately with all levels of the game design, to produce a game that celebrates Inuit folklore, cultural beliefs and values.

The game story follows the adventures of the Iñupiat girl, Nuna, and her arctic fox companion as they traverse the harsh but beautiful Northern Arctic in an attempt to solve the mystery of the endless winter. The game graphics are really something to behold, and are closely based on Alaskan Native art, whilst the story itself is a traditional tale licensed directly from the family that was first recorded telling it.

Never Alone – Game Trailer from Never Alone on Vimeo.

We like to play the game in local co-op mode, taking turns to play as as Nuna as well as the arctic fox. Most of the puzzles require the arctic fox and Nuna to work in tandem in order for the game to progress, and it is truly heartwarming to see J and Little E help each other through the game. The game narration is all in the Iñupiat dialect with subtitles, so it was lovely to see J immediately reading out the subtitles to Little E so that she could understand the story.

Additionally, solving new puzzle elements and entering new game areas also unlocks game ‘insights’ which are videos documenting information about the Northern arctic region and the Inuit way of life including interviews with Alaskan Native elders, storytellers and hunters. This is the part where we all get to sit back as a family and learn about a culture that is utterly different from what we know and how the people in that region adapted to their climate. It really is a journey!

When we are playing together in Never Alone, there are certain rules that we insist the children have to observe:

  1. We listen to each other’s ideas on how to solve each puzzle and try it out, even if we think it won’t work
  2. If a puzzle is difficult, we patiently try again and encourage each other to think of solutions – there will be no belittling of another person for having an idea that didn’t work
  3. We talk to each other nicely – there will be no yelling or getting over-excited during time sensitive sequences
  4. When Mummy and Daddy say that game time is over, everyone puts their controllers down immediately with no fuss or bargaining.

Do you think family video game time is a good way for families to spend time together? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Video Game Family Time: Resogun

Sometimes, sitting down to play with your kids can also include playing video games together with them, especially if it’s a lazy rainy weekend afternoon!

Here at Owls Well, we don’t see video games as a way for kids to isolate themselves but as a way for families and siblings to bond with each other over a shared experience.

In this Video Game Family Time series, I’ll be talking about some video games that we like to play together as a family and some rules that we have to keep everyone playing together nicely.

This time, I’ll be talking about one of the first games we played together, Resogun.

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Picture Source: Resogun Official Webpage

Resogun is a really fun shoot ’em up game from the Finnish indie game developer, Housemarque, which brings me back to the days when I used to play Choplifter on PC.

This is a side-scrolling video game, that is, the action is viewed from a side angle and onscreen characters move left-to-right and back again to achieve their objectives. Players control little spaceships and have to shoot invading alien ships whilst rescuing humans trapped in glass cages. The game is pretty fast paced, so it’s a good one to play if you want to keep the game time really short and yet satisfying (like 15-20 minutes).

We like this game for playing in pairs (the multiplayer function only goes up to two players), and the fact that in-game resources like special weapons, extra lives and bonuses, are shared between both players. This means that the game encourages cooperative play (not competitive play), and J and Little E have to work together to defeat the game, collect bonuses and upgrades, and protect each other when carrying a people to safety.

The game is also very simple to learn as it has a straightforward control system and really smooth graphics that are sensitive and responsive to the player. The challenge in the game lies in being able to react quickly and use special weapons more strategically as the levels progress in difficulty. This means that our 5 year old Little E can still play with our 8 year old J, and both of them are engaged in the game.

The little ships and people are very cute, and the alien spaceships are not visually frightening or ugly. The game does involve shooting down evil alien spaceships, with a great deal of cartoon violence (the ships explode into colourful pixels).

Another aspect of the game that I like is that you can build and customise your own ships. J and Little E get a kick out of designing their own spaceships and seeing them rendered in 3D!

Here’s an example of a ship that Little E designed for Valentine’s Day this year.

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Little E’s ship, the “Love Butterfly”

J also drew and coloured his own spaceship, the “Rainbow Tornado”.

Then, The Barn Owl and I helped them turn their drawings into playable ships that they could use in the game!

Each of them had to choose what sort of characteristics their ships would have based on how they like to play the game. Little E’s ship was made faster but with less firepower so that she could concentrate on saving more people and collecting bonuses (you can see the “Love Butterfly” carrying a little green man who is dangling from the belly of the ship in the picture below), whilst J’s ship is less agile but has stronger shields and firepower, as well as a bigger boost engine.

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J and Little E piloting the “Love Butterfly” and “Rainbow Tornado”

When we are playing together in Resogun, there are certain rules that we insist the children have to observe:

  1. We remember to be patient – we don’t get cross with each other if the game doesn’t go the way that we want, and we are kind with our words
  2. We listen to each other – we discuss and work together to form a common game strategy
  3. We take turns to be the team leader
  4. When Mummy and Daddy say that game time is over, everyone puts their controllers down immediately with no fuss or bargaining.

Do you think family video game time is a good way for families to spend time together? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Video Game Family Time: Minecraft

Sometimes, sitting down to play with your kids can also include playing video games together with them, especially if it’s a lazy rainy weekend afternoon!

Here at Owls Well, we don’t see video games as a way for kids to isolate themselves but as a way for families and siblings to bond with each other over a shared experience.

Growing up, ABC and I were fortunate enough to own a PC, where we played adventure games together going from text-based games like Zork, to graphic adventure games like King’s Quest and RPGs (Role Playing Games) like Quest for Glory! The Barn Owl didn’t have a computer but he owned a video game console and would play strategy or racing games together with his sister and his parents. So it only makes sense that we would join our children as they make their first few forays into the virtual world.

There are tons of multiplayer video games that are cooperative in nature with split-screen or couch modes which mean that families can sit together and play together.

In this Video Game Family Time series, I’ll be talking about some video games that we like to play together as a family and some rules that we have to keep everyone playing together nicely.

Let’s start with one of our favourite games, the very popular Minecraft.

Minecraft is what is considered a ‘sandbox’ video game, which means that it allows the player complete freedom to make open-ended choices as to how, when and what they want to do in the game world.

The biggest feature of Minecraft is the creative building aspect of the game which allows players to build complete 3D structures out of cubes that have various properties and textures. The game also includes resource gathering and crafting, exploration and combat.

There are several gameplay modes to choose from, but we only use two of these modes at the moment:

  1. Survival Mode: Players have to acquire resources to progress in the game, fight hostile night creatures and maintain their health and hunger status.
  2. Creative Mode: Players have infinite resources to build with and can create their own world or map, or even make their own mini-game.

There are also interactive online modes where players can share maps, worlds and even mini-game adventures they have built themselves in creative mode, or be spectators in another player’s game. They can even play multiplayer games with other online gamers. As our children are still young, we don’t feel that these online multiplayer features are for them right now, so we do not log into the internet whilst playing the game.

When we are playing together as a family, we usually choose to play in Survival Mode and we turn off the ‘Player vs Player’ option to encourage cooperative play instead of competitive play. This makes the game much fun because we have to work together as a family to get through the game.

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Owls Well in Minecraft

How do we work together in the game? Well, let’s take this picture as an example.

One of the first things you have to do when you start the game is to build a shelter to hide in so that you can avoid having to fight off monsters at night or have a place to recuperate after going on a night hunt! In the picture, you can see a simple house that we built together during one of our gameplay sessions.

The wood for the house was from trees that I cut down using an axe made by the Barn Owl. The glass windows were made by J from sand blocks that he heated in a furnace. The Barn Owl lured animals like sheep, pigs and cows into a wooden pen so that we could have a steady supply of food. Little E cleared the land and planted wheat which can be used to feed our livestock or used to bake bread, then she tamed dogs to help to protect the land. So you see, we created a base from which we can explore the rest of the game map at our own leisure.

The multiplayer mode can be played using a ‘split-screen view‘, which means that we can all be in the same room at the same time sharing the same screen. This also means that every player in the game does not have to do the exact same thing at the same time (although we try to stay around the same location) – for example, J happened reading books about pyramids and monuments, so he spent time building the ziggurats that you can see in the background of the picture, whilst Little E and I went fishing in the nearby lake.

One of the aspects of Minecraft that I like is how items are constructed as part of gameplay. For example, if I want to craft an iron pickaxe, I have to mine iron ore out of the ground, smelt it in a furnace to make iron ingots, then use several ingots in combination with a wooden stick in order to make a pickaxe. This gives kids an idea of some the real world processes involved the creation of manmade objects, and is one of the reasons why J and Little E were excited about visiting an exhibition on rocks and gemstones!

When we are playing together in Minecraft, there are certain rules that we insist the children have to observe:

  1. We play nice – that means no destroying each other’s buildings or killing each other’s pets, it also means that we are kind with our words
  2. We share – all resources must be shared and no one will be excluded from any in-game activity
  3. We are respectful towards each other – we ask before taking or using resources that have been stored away, especially if those resources are difficult to obtain
  4. We look out for each other – that means nobody gets left behind, we help defend each other against hostile creatures
  5. When Mummy and Daddy say that game time is over, everyone puts their controllers down immediately with no fuss or bargaining.

Do you think family video game time is a good way for families to spend time together? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Staying in with Video Games: All Glory to Arstozka

Okay, so I have been deep inside the Study Caves ™ and Work Mines ™ for the last few weeks and have, sadly, been unable to have a fun night on the town for a long time.  Still, in between chapters, I’ve been distracting myself from my studies by doing pseudo work at the immigration counter on the Arstozkan border in East Grestin.

Papers, Please is a surprisingly fun border-immigration-checkpoint simulator made by Dukope and is easily available in downloadable form for the low, low price of $9.99.  I caught wind of this game when it was still sitting in the Steam Greenlight community and have wholeheartedly backed its creation.  This game has been the darling of reviewers and critics this season and my favourite Canadian geek comedy group, Loading Ready Run, even made a parody video of it.

The story of the game is simple.  You have been chosen to work the immigration counter on the Arstozkan border in East Grestin.  Each day, you read the newspaper, then trudge through the cold snow to your tiny little immigration booth where you must decide whether to let people through the border based on the rules and the papers that they give you.  Your family is counting on you to process as many people per day as possible.  The more people you process, the more credits you earn, which allows you to pay for things such as food, heat, medicine and better living quarters.

The Paperwork!  It takes over my desk!

Processing a normal immigrant. In no particular order: Wanted Criminal list, Audio transcription of conversation, Rulebook (now with tabs!), Certificate of Vaccinations, Entry permit, Passport, ID Supplement and Citation.

This sounds simple enough, but as time wears on, paperwork starts to build up as different Ministries give you different instructions.  The Ministry of Information wants you to confiscate passports and pass on secret documentation, the Ministry of Justice wants you to identify and detain possible criminals, the Ministry of Health needs you to check everyone for proof of vaccinations and so on and so forth.  Failure to comply with ANY of these demands will result in the receipt of a citation, which charges a fine for the mistakes you’ve made.  This coupled with the cramped workplace you are given, and the dwindling resources you have in your booth results in you having to shuffle papers back and forth as you compare dates, examine document seals and scrutinise everything.  At the peak of paperwork in the game, I was looking at up to eight documents on my little desk at a time.

Dukope has a genius way of bringing the cold atmosphere of the heartless bureaucratic world that you live in through the gray tones of the game, but also through simple storytelling.  Some immigrants will tell you sob stories in order to get past the border, some will bluster at you and some may attempt bribery.

The loving family of Papers Please

My loving family

Despite your family being represented by little grey circles at the end of each day, you genuinely come to care for them and want them all to show an OK signal.  Simple touches like your son drawing a picture of you in crayon makes you want to ensure their safety.  This makes visits from the Ministry of Information all the more dangerous, since they always seem to imply that this family will be put in danger should you get caught helping others get over the border.

The game is surprisingly addictive and extremely fun.  It’s definitely a good example of what one can produce on a shoestring budget.  This game will improve your life.

All Glory to Arstozka.