GeekDad Reviews the Dungeon Adventure

So the response to Dungeon Adventure have been pretty overwhelming. A few key highlights:

1. Sales of Dungeon Adventure exceeded my wife’s lifetime projection for it in about 12 hours.
2. I told Sasha, “Hey we sold 10 copies!” and she said, “cool! What’s a copy?”
3. I’ve already heard from a number of people who have played the game or who are excited to try it out, and so far the feedback has been awesome.

The best thing so far has been the awesome post at Wired’s GeekDad blog by Dave Banks.

As a father, I’ve waited patiently for nine years for my son to be old enough to play Dungeons & Dragons with me. But, if I’d been more enterprising, I could have invented a full blown RPG for young kids like Ben Garvey has done.

The Dungeon Adventure: An RPG for Pre-Schoolers

A while back Sasha and I were playing with some toys and I built a maze out of blocks. With the blocks we had, you couldn’t make a decent maze but it occured to me that our maze would make a decent D&D style dungeon. We had some of her figures walk through the maze fighting simple monsters, and I thought to myself, “I could make this work into a real game.”

Kids Dungeon Adventure RPG
The Dungeon Adventure RPG for Kids

Soon after that, the Dungeon Adventure was born. It’s simple enough for me and my 4 year old daughter to walk through a dungeon and complete a quest. Here’s how it works.

1. You build a dungeon out of blocks you already have.
2. You fill the dungeon with monster cards and treasure cards.
3. Set up an overall quest for the kid(s) to complete.
4. Have them walk through the dungeon and complete the quest.

The game uses a super simple battle system using normal, 6 sided dice and hitpoints.

Sasha playing Dungeon Adventure
Sasha playing Dungeon Adventure

After playing 5 or 6 times with more complex dungeons and more interesting stories, I decided we would try and sell a version of the Dungeon Adventure online as a download and print game. I set up a website for it this week and registered a domain name. Let me know what you think!

Everything Bad is Good For You

Parents can sometimes be appalled at the hypnotic effect that television has on toddlers; they see their otherwise active and vibrant children gazing silently, mouth agape at the screen, and they assume the worst: that television is turning their child into a zombie. The same feeling arises a few years later when they see their grade-schoolers navigating a video game world, oblivious to the reality that surrounds them. But these expressions are not signs of mental atrophy. They’re signs of focus.

2005’s Everything Good is Bad for You by Steve Johnson is a challenge to the idea that pop culture is ruining our brains. Mainstream television shows are quantifiably more complex and mentally demanding than the shows of previous decades, and video games test and develop our problem solving skills better than ever before. Definitely worth reading.

Why the Arsenic Aliens were Disappointing

Some bacteria learned to survive and thrive in an environment rich in Arsenic, a normally poisonous element to life. It’s poisonous because chemically it’s almost interchangeable with Phosphorus (note their same column position in the Periodic Table). It’s usually not interchangeable enough and ends up causing problems and interrupting all sorts of necessary biochemical reactions in your body, but these new forms of bacteria were able to work out the kinks and make Arsenic work.

Scientists created this new life form, not nature.

Very interesting, but profoundly disappointing from speculation earlier in the week. Even more disappointing is that the researchers didn’t even discover this bacteria using Arsenic in the wild. They “removed the phosphorus and replaced it with arsenic the microbes continued to grow. Subsequent analyses indicated that the arsenic was being used to produce the building blocks of new GFAJ-1 cells. ” (NASA)

At minimum I thought they had discovered life provably independent in origin from other life forms on Earth. This bacteria descended from the same path we did.

One of life’s great questions is, were we a fluke?

It’s likely that there is life out there in the Universe, but it’s unclear how rare it is. If we ever find bacterial life elsewhere in the solar system or discover that life “sparked” more than once on Earth we can assume the universe is full of aliens. That’s a discovery that would have “changed everything.”

Some day we'll find aliens

Rob Kolstad is an Asshole

This month’s Wired has a great article (not online yet, so no link) by Jason Fagone about the International Olympiad in Informatics where high school students from all over the world compete to solve problems through software. It’s fiercely competitive and has its own sub culture of super stars, namely Gennady Korotkevich of Belarus, who at 14 became the youngest world champion.

What should have been an inspiring and interesting look into this academic sport with open ended problems such as how to best determine the language of a given text string, went sour for me when Fagone brought up US coach, Rob Kolstad, who admits he doesn’t “know how to do most of the algorithms.” After Korotkevich won his second straight Olympiad at 15, Kolstad remarked, “the question is, will he die a virgin?

I expect smartasses with no respect for the brilliance of these kids to say something like that, but not someone who works with them every day and helps them train. He’s not someone I want to represent the US either.

Rob Kolstad
US Coach Rob Kolstad, who clearly does very well with the ladies.

Sorry, it just made me angry.

Scariest thing I’ve read all year: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

When Will Ferrel describes his George W Bush impression, he says he just imagines having a lot of “unearned confidence.” How would you know if you were one of these people? I first heard about the Dunning-Kruger effect in a comment on Hacker News and it immediately made me question a lot of things.

David Brent: Classic case of the Dunning-Kruger effect

The Dunning?Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor decisions and reaches erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes

Throughout my life I’ve forced myself to be confident in my abilities (ie. gotten out of my comfort zone) in an effort to improve my skills and do more things. I’ve always considered being optimistic and determined to succeed was a positive thing.

Luckily, according to Dunning and Kruger if I suffered from this effect I wouldn’t be able to recognize and change anyway. WIN.

Am I Achieving My 2010 Goals?

Ouch. I just looked up my goals for 2010 and I am NOT doing well. Here’s my progress so far.

1. Read 12 Books – Easily completed this already. A few I listened to using and I read the Purple Cow on my iPhone with the Kindle app.

So far I’ve read
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Ed Tufte
Priceless by William Poundstone
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
Daemon by Daniel Suarez
The Purple Cow by Seth Godin
Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Start with No by Jim Camp
Born to Run by Chris McDougall
The Road by Corman McCarthy
The Long Tail by Chris Anderson
The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

I’m still working on Under the Dome by Stephen King and Envisioning Information by Ed Tufte. Under the Dome is so big I can’t bring it with me when traveling. I’m about halfway through Ghost War, but I don’t know if I’ll finish it. It’s great, but it will take me forever.

2. Run a sub 23 minute 5K – There is no way this is happening this year. I ran one last month and my time was 25:14. I think I can get down to 24:30 in a month and I’m ok with that.

3. Write 5 Songs – Total failure. I really thought I’d be able to do this, but song writing has escaped me this year. I haven’t written a single new song. In fact, I’ve probably only written 2 in the last three years. Sad. I’ve been getting the bug to start playing more, though.

5. Finish my House – Well, I sold it so does that count? It sold in two days, which was awesome.

6. 6 batches of beer – Fail. I have a batch brewing now, but it’s my only 2010 batch.

So I’ve completed 2/6, but really failed at 4. Better luck next year!,