The Holidays, Family, Games, and Time Well-Spent
As pointed out last week, the Holidays are a terrible time for my productivity. But they’re great for just about everything else that I value in my life.
I love my family, and I love just relaxing and spending time with them, and playing around. In the grand order of how important things are to me, family-time ranks above writing-time. And there was a lot of it to be had these holidays past. Already, I miss it dearly.
In the few days leading up to Christmas I spent a lot of time just hanging out with family (plus one day laid up due to the aforementioned food poisoning). I did quite a bit of reading (including two fascinating articles, one on Göbekli Tepe and one on the fight against increasing desertification, and both of which were great fodder for story ideas) as well as the first third of David B. Coe‘s The Children of Amarid. There was also a lot of playing with my son B.T.
B.T. has increasingly become the source of my greatest joy in life. His verve and energy and enthusiasm for just about everything is infectious. It’s hard not to get caught up in the things that excite him. Right now that’s trains, planes, and automobiles (in that order) especially, as well as a goodly number of animals, and of course whatever Mommy and Daddy happen to be doing. He loves books and being read to. And he’s become a non-stop talker. (Interestingly, as his vocabulary has exploded, the ability of Mommy & Daddy to understand him has decreased; this is due to his toddler-speak pronunciation. He pronounced relatively few of the words he knows accurately. The ones he uses most frequently we’ve learned what he means, but the new ones he adds each day continue to elude us, and by “us” I mostly mean “me”.)
Then came Christmas, and more time with the family. I spent an inordinate amount of time on Christmas Day helping B.T. assemble train tracks. Did I mention he loves trains?
And we played more. When B.T. was down for a nap or in bed for the night, Dear Wife and I and other family members played. We played a game Dear Wife gave to a relative called Sole Mio, a fun card game where players try to collect enough ingredients to fill pizza orders. The trick is to try to fill your own pizza orders before another player uses the ingredients to fill their.
I believe I’ve talked before about the love Dear Wife and I share for games: board games, card games and complex strategy games. So, of course, Dear Wife and I gave each other games for Christmas as well. Dear Wife got Citadels, a game that’s long been on our wish-list. And I got Dominion: Intrigue, which is a stand-alone expansion to Dominion. Since then, Dear Wife and I have played some Citadels, but a lot of Dominion: Intrigue. The appeal of both games was that they include rules for two players, whereas a lot of the sort of games we play do not.
Citadels is a game where players are trying to build a city that outshines the cities of the other players. We’re talking a fantasy-inspired pseudo-medieval city, of course. They do this by adding new “districts” to their city – so districts are things like a Palace or a Great Library or a Magician’s Laboratory and so on. Adding a district costs Gold, so the players also have to collect Gold. The twist in the game is that each round, the players will embody a different “character” in their quest to build a city, characters like a Magician, a Bishop, a King, a Thief, a Warlord, and so on. Each Character has different powers and abilities, and there are strategic reasons for wanting to play one character or another. The characters each take their turn in a specific order, and the players select a character in a different order. It’s a very fun game, and fairly simple once you grasp the rules.
Dominion: Intrigue is also a card game with a similar premise. The players are trying to collect the most victory points in the forms of “Duchies”, “Estates”, and “Provinces” – that is, different size landholdings. They do so by collecting coins to purchase these holdings, and by collecting other cards that grant various abilities throughout the game. The twist with Dominion (both with the original and with Intrigue) is that the game is a deck-building game. Each player starts with an identical deck of 10 cards, and each turn they can increase the size of their deck by buying special ability cards, coin cards, and victory cards. Each turn, they play with a hand of five cards drawn from the deck, and as the deck grows and they play hands, the deck has to be reshuffled. Early in the game there’s a lot of reshuffling. But as we’ve gotten the hang of it, we’ve gotten a lot faster at playing it.
So over the holidays, and since, games have taken up a lot of time. And Dear Wife and I are having a blast!
Of course, board games and card games are not my only gaming love. I also love video games and computer games. And Christmas was bountiful on that front, as well. I got not only “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess“, a game that’s long been on my wish-list, but the more recent “Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword“, as well as a “Lego: Star Wars” game.
It’s unlikely, if you’re reading this blog, that I have to fill you in on the storied history of the Zelda games. I’m a pretty big fan of the series. Not the biggest (I’ve only played five of the games and only beaten two, and there are like a dozen now; mostly this is a system-limitation issue, as I’ve never owned any of the portable systems for which some versions of Zelda have been released), but pretty big. I never beat the original Zelda from the old 8-bit NES days, but I could get lost in it for hours. Later, in the days of the Nintendo-64, I finally triumphed in Ocarina of Time. Later, on my GameCube, I reached the end of The Wind Waker. At one point I nearly beat A Link to the Past, but I’ve since lost the ability to play that game. Anyway, I love the gameplay of Zelda games, and the recurring story of Link and Zelda and the Triforce and the battle against evil. So I subsequently lost a good amount of time to playing Twilight Princess. I’ve since realized that I’ll need to ration my Zelda time in order to make sure there’s room for writing.
You know. There’s a writing-lessons-to-be-learned post, I think, somewhere in all those Zelda games. Hmm. But not today.
In prior years I’ve also shared some of the more writerly things I got at Christmas. This year, there was less to speak of on that front. I did get one book: a paperback of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, which I’m now about a quarter-of-the-way through. (I intend to go back to Children of Amarid immediately after finishing Hunger Games.) Dear Wife got me some very nice magnetic book marks (that clip around a page, instead of sitting between two pages) so that I don’t have to go searching for a spare scrap of paper every time I start a new book. And I got several movie soundtracks, including soundtracks for “Willow”, “The Dark Crystal”, and one of the “Harry Potter” movies. The latter may not seem like a writing-related gift, but I love to write with a soundtrack. I’ll often try to pick the most thematically-appropriate tracks from movies and classical music in my possession to make a play-list that goes along with the scenes I’m trying to write. I’ll hopefully be doing that again in the near future.
So that’s how the Holidays and their immediate aftermath went down in my neck of the woods. And that goes a long way toward explaining why my wordcount has been… unspectacular… lately.