Garden Glow 2017

We took the family to the Missouri Botanical Gardens this evening for the yearly Garden Glow, where the front half of the grounds is lit up with various Christmas light displays.

I took a host of pics with my phone and didn’t do any editing on them—just posting them up now because if I wait much longer, I won’t make the post. :)

If you are in the St. Louis area, I highly recommend the walk; it’s quite nice and it’s very different being in the gardens at night, which you normally cannot do.

Destiny 2: Month Two Gallery

I find myself hitting the screen capture button fairly often in this game, which is kind of nice. It gives me a record of what I’ve been doing and the things I’ve been messing with in the game.

My son and I are still playing together almost nightly, and it’s been a lot of fun. And we recently joined SafeGamers, giving us some groups we can play with who are respectful of our time and of us—a welcome change from a lot of online gaming experiences.

I’ve managed my first Destiny series raid, and cleared it a few times since then. I expect fewer screenshots next month, if only because I’m exhausting a lot of the content in the game prior to the first DLC release coming this December. (And I included the Legacy screenshots, which showcase some pretty neat art from various experiences I completed in the first game. I’m hoping my next Legacy is much more complete.)

Also, I’m aware there are some resolution problems with the carousel for these images; if you want to see the (much sharper) originals, use the button that appears when you are browsing the images in carousel.

Prelude to Combo Breaker

The road started yesterday morning, very early. We tossed the kids in the car and started on our way.

The weather was pretty crazy a good chunk of the drive up to the Chicago area, including this rather impressive-looking cloud formation:

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Before arriving at Pheasant Run for the 4 p.m. check-in, we decided to do a bit of a tour with the family to visit various locations from our college years—where we met and then got married, so a bit special to us.

After taking them around the Concordia University area, we met my in-laws for dinner and enjoyed some family food while we waited to take off for the venue.

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The floor wasn’t open yet (it opens up at noon today), and I had to be up for the volunteer orientation at 10 p.m., so we took the time to enjoy the resort and have some fun. So far’ it’s been a great stay and everyone is having a good time.

I got a good peek at the show floor, which is seriously impressive and I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing.

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If you are interested in following along while I see what I’m capable of this weekend and just play some games, meet some people, and have a good time, here’s my schedule and links to the brackets (with links to streams if my pool times are scheduled for stream). I’m also judging some brackets to give back to the community.

PLAY – Mystery Game: A1 – 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Friday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_myst_a1
(http://www.twitch.tv/teamsp00ky)

PLAY – Tekken 7: B1 – 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. Friday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_t7_b1
(http://www.twitch.tv/tekken)

ADMIN – Street Fighter V: E2 – 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_sfv_e2
(http://www.twitch.tv/bgcallisto)

PLAY – Killer Instinct: F1 – 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_ki_f1

PLAY – Street Fighter V: G4 – 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_sfv_g4
(http://www.twitch.tv/bgcallisto)

ADMIN – Tekken Ball: H1 – 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_tball_h1

PLAY – Tekken Ball: I2 – 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday
http://combobreaker.challonge.com/2016_tball_i2
(http://www.twitch.tv/tekken)

The floor is almost open – time to get playing. Here’s hoping to no 0-2!

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Family-Friendly Twitch

I’ve been watching events and streams on Twitch for some time now, but it’s been during my sabbatical break from work that I’ve spent a decent bit more time paying attention to what’s out there and what people are streaming.

Because it’s my children’s summer vacation, they have often been sitting and watching with me, learning about games (especially the classics!) and just spending time with their dad while he has time away from work. And partially because of that, I’ve noticed something:

Twitch has a massive outbreak of foul language on an awful lot of streams. And it makes the service and consequently the watching of games as a leisure activity for kids something difficult to recommend as a result.

When I stream, I do what I can to make sure my part of the stream is family-friendly. No swearing, no inappropriate references, nothing that would make me embarrassed to have my own kids watching the stream.

I decided to do this not only because of my own family, but also because of BigJon, who is currently my only Twitch subscription because his content is always family-friendly and his speed runs are a huge hit with my kids. His dedication to being family-friendly and keeping drama out of chat is a big inspiration to how I approach streaming.

GameJ06, aka BigJon, probably the most notable specifically family-friendly streamer on Twitch.

GameJ06, aka BigJon, probably the most notable specifically family-friendly streamer on Twitch.

A Hard Call?

I know it’s hard to find what that line is when trying to determine “family-friendly.” (For instance, what to do when I’m playing a game that has non-ff content in it, even though my own language and conduct would be family-friendly?)

But I’d love to see Twitch streamers change it up a bit and realize that we aren’t going to be able to inspire the next generation of speed runners, fighting game aficionados, or modders without providing them with streams they can watch with their parents and siblings.

My kids are heavily-influenced by the streams I watch. Because of BigJon, my autistic son is now super-into The Lost Levels. Because of things like Games Done Quick and Evo, which keep their commentary family-friendly (I think) on purpose, my oldest son has purchased Virtual Console copies of Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man. My daughter picks up the arcade stick once in a while and tries to learn Ultra Street Fighter IV and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

(Specific props to FGC commentators like James Chen, David Graham, Seth Killian, and skisonic, about whom I’ve noticed a tendency to keep the language clean even when crazy things are going down.)

There are lots of things I just won’t watch with my kids because the language is just too over-the-top–and I suspect it’s likely it limits the potential audience for lots of content. Several Mega Man X runners I respect otherwise are fountains of cursing. A runner I was going to watch who is playing through the entire NES catalog had to be turned off because the first sentence after I loaded the stream had two f-bombs in it.

I’m not anti-swearing. I think there’s a time and a place for it. But it doesn’t need to be in streams, and I want to think we can carve out a safe space for kids and families to be watching this content to engage and interest new generations in the games we love. (Not to mention the fact that it could have a significant halo effect in making the communities around these things friendlier to more people in-person.)

Teaming Up

I’d love to create a Twitch team that embraces the concept of family-friendly streaming. To find like-minded people and give them a place where families who want to watch together can find streams that would be language-free, non-discriminatory, non-sexual, etc.

Of course, there are problems with this, not the least of which reason is that I can’t create a team because I’m not streaming enough to build the audience one needs to be partnered (though time, we have time). :)

But there are other things to consider. What if I want to stream a Saints Row game (which is decidedly not kid-friendly) late at night my time, but I’m on the list and there are people either with kids up late or in a different time zone? How would you handle that? Splitting a stream into two streams isn’t always the solution to the problem because then partners wouldn’t get the full attention necessary.

And there’s the added problem that the non-web apps don’t support the team structure or (I believe) the mature flag on streams. (Thinking that members of the team could set the flag if they are streaming something not-appropriate.)

This is mostly thinking out loud, but it’s an interesting problem to consider.

So What Then?

In the meantime, I think the best thing I (and you, if you are interested) as a streamer can do is just make sure that I do what I can to keep my conduct family-friendly. If I’m playing a game that’s not, I can either turn on the mature flag or depend on viewers to know that what I’m playing doesn’t lie in that spectrum (and play later at night, of course).

I’m interested in your thoughts. What do you think about how family-friendly (or not) video game streaming is? Do you keep your stream that way on purpose? Do you think streamers shouldn’t care? Do you know of streams that are friendly that you’d like others to know about? Do you think this is important to growing the audience for this type of content?

Leave a comment on the post (all comments are moderated) with your musings.

My Office Today

With the kids home all day long with me, my office tends to be somewhat chaotic. This afternoon, though, it’s my little one sitting next to me watching Netflix on one screen while I work on migrations, launches, and support tickets on the other two.

I spoiled her a bit and gave her some popcorn because I can.

#huglife

Vacation

Working at Automattic is pretty much the gig of a lifetime. It’s the future of work: you can build your schedule as needs dictate, you get to work from anywhere, you can take time off as you need to attend to various needs and life events (for instance: I take all family birthdays off and that’s not seen as bad, but a cool thing to do), and you get to work with the greatest people.

And with that schedule freedom, it’s often tempting to not take an extended vacation. The type of self-starter who is attracted to the open work culture we have defined tends to not want to take extended time off. When you can schedule a day here and there to take care of needs, why would you disconnect for a week or two weeks at a time?

(Yes, I know what I am about to say is the way I see things and not everyone works this way.)

Taking extended time away from the day-to-day is important.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling ragged, distracted, almost out-of-it on some days. I wrangled a week where I had multiple projects converge on the same moment in time, and that week I worked several late nights and through meals during the day. I did this voluntarily—if anything, I always want to be dedicated to making sure the things I start are finished and are done right.

I even took a three-day weekend after doing this to give myself room to breathe, but in the end I had exhausted my body and mind and those things needed some extended time to think about other things and have other priorities.

I’m so fortunate to work at a company that gives me more freedom than I’ve ever had working anywhere else. The amount of time that I get to invest in being a husband and father as well as an Automattician is much greater than it would be just about anywhere else.

But for the next two weeks, I get to just be that husband. I get to focus on being Dad.1 It’s refreshing and clears the mind so it can come back and attend to the daily routine with a renewed focus and energy, which is good for everyone.

I have plans: we’re going to drive around St. Louis a lot and work on our family project of seeing all of the Cakeway to the West locations. Two of my children are finalists in a LEGO competition that is being held by the Botanical Garden. I’m taking care of things here for a few days so Amanda can go to an educational conference she wants to attend. I’m going to sit around and watch as much of Evo as I can with my kids and feel really bad about my Street Fighter IV skills for a weekend.

Last night, I started off my yearly fundraising for Extra Life with a 12-hour game marathon (that ended up being just 9 hours) that raised the first $30 for the year. I went to bed tired and exhausted, and slept in a bit longer than I would have normally.

I opened my eyes this morning to see my two-year-old daughter’s face about two inches from mine as she was climbing onto my bed. She exclaimed, “Hi, Daddy!” and then proceeded to make herself comfortable and give me hugs. She doesn’t know I’m taking two weeks off to spend more time with her.

But it was the kickoff to two weeks of recharge, and what a way to start.

No matter where you work, take the time to take time. Spend time with your family. Spend time with some books or some movies. Go somewhere you haven’t; do something you’ve never done. Grab your pack and hike into the woods or the mountains for a few days to commune with nature. Take a week or more and just spend that time being the you that you are when you aren’t working.

You’ll come back better for having done it. :)


  1. Obligatory mention that I work somewhere I feel perfectly safe leaving for two weeks; I know my teammates will take care of things and I’ll have plenty to do when I get back.