Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dragons without Dungeons

I’d like to blame it all on Mary. She’s the wise and gracious blogger who signs herself “Grandmother” at Journeys into Elderhood. A couple of weeks ago she wrote here about a surprising discovery: Never a computer gamer, she now found herself spending hours on something called Dragonvale.  

I took one look at her screenshots and I was hooked. Now I have screenshots of my own.
Mary was surprised that a computer game could absorb so much time and attention. I, on the other hand, am familiar with falling down a rabbit-hole, being bedazzled by eye candy and strategically placed sound effects, loving the challenge of solving new kinds of puzzles, and feeling driven to master them. Eventually I emerge and wonder where time has gone. I blame only myself. But I'm not really complaining. It's fun, and a person could have worse pastimes, right?

Poison dragon
Mary plays Dragonvale as a way to connect with her grandson, who lives halfway around the world. I decided to introduce it to Augie and Vi. They’re a little young for it, but they love zoos and they often play at being zookeepers and building habitats with their Legos. Dragonvale is an iPad version of a big dragon zoo, or theme park.

We agreed to make decisions together as we lay out habitats, populate them with different types of dragons, and add amenities for visitors. It didn't take long for the kids to get into the game. They love buying new features, deciding where to place a restaurant or a flower bed, deciding whether to upgrade our stone path to brick. Equally fun is curating the dragon collection, choosing which fanciful types to feature.

A player can purchase "eggs" for real money, but we aren't doing that. Instead, we use "breeding caves," choosing dragon types that seem likely to produce the hybrid we seek. The process often takes a day or two in real time. We are learning patience.

To offset the built-in waits, the game provides timely visual rewards--symbolic little starbursts for example, when we collect money or harvest the food we have learned to plant continuously. And we love the tiny princesses and wizards who hurry this way and that along our paths, not to mention the imaginative dragons.

Flower dragon
By agreement, I always do a few things to move the game forward when the kids aren't here. We don't open the iPad until 11 a.m., and they never push to see it earlier, but each morning Augie asks, "What's new, Grandma? Any new dragon babies, or eggs? Any complications?"

Wait until they find out on Monday that we just qualified for a third island, which will provide space for many new kinds of dragons. And that I bought the Colosseum so we can earn gems. And maybe, if all goes well, that I will have bred a Bloom Dragon before it becomes unavailable on Monday (it's seasonal and very hard to breed).

Plant dragon
None of this makes sense to you (except to Mary). But I'm writing about it because it has captured my imagination and soaked up my time, and that's why my last post was, um, a long time ago. Oh yes, and because the kids love it.

Augie decided Friday that when he's 8, he will have his own iPad and we'll each play our own game and then compare notes. Which, in fact, is exactly what Mary and her grandson are doing. Sounds like a plan.


Teresa Evangeline said...

What a fun way to connect with your grandchildren. I have never gotten involved with computer games, as I know I would fall down the rabbit hole as well. It does sound interesting and I think the challenge would be fun, too. I'm afraid I've gotten hooked by the Food Channel and am addicted to "Chopped." I can certainly understand your, uh, preoccupation. Or is this post-occupation? :)

stephen Hayes said...

The only game I play on the computer is Solitaire, and only when I have writer's block, which thankfully isn't too often. I do think this is a great way to connect with your grandson. Just be sure to let him win once and awhile.

Anita said...

Retirement is workin' out for you, isn't it. :)

I think it's great to spend time having fun; especially getting the grandkids involved, too.

Why not!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Wonderful! Time spent with the grands is always fun and exciting! The boys and I played a game on Facebook over the winter..they eventually got bored with it and so did I but it was fun while it lasted.
Augie has a plan..way to go Augie!! :)

Red said...

Sounds like a great game for creativity. Like the way you involve the kids in a collaborative way. My game is free cell...really mind numbing.

Sally Wessely said...

Fun. I best not check this out. After the two of you got hooked, I have to warn myself that I probably would do the same if I tried it. I have too much to do. I'm glad you are having such fun.

DJan said...

Thankfully I don't have anybody to play with, and since my life is so full already and no grandkids about, I'm safe! I can certainly enjoy reading about it here, though. I've been asked to play some word game on Facebook but I have resisted. I would definitely get hooked on that! It sounds like fun, though. Cute pictures! :-)

Jeanie said...

I think it is very cool that you have learned this game and are playing it with your grandkids. How great that it is something both you and the kids look forward to doing together.
Augie's plan tells you just how much fun he is having.

Ms Sparrow said...

I have successfully avoided getting into any online games so far. I am on-guard against this one now!

Linda Myers said...

I got very, very addicted to Farmville (on Facebook) several years ago. Your fun with the grandkids sounds fun and harmless, though.

D&D ideas said...

I'm always a bit skeptical about these sorts of games, having seen far too many of my friends lives become inundated with constant facebook requests, fields to sow and silly images to forward to keep their kids happy, and most of them look terrible too!

But this actually looks really appealing! Obviously I'm a bit biased since I'm a complete Dungeons and Dragons nerd, but even so I might have to check this out :)

Pearl said...

It's a great way to communicate/connect with people long-distance, isn't it? My son plays something online with people all over the world...


Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

What a fun way to connect with the grands...and be the cool grandparent on the block!!! Heeeheehehe!

Have yourself a fantastically blessed and beautiful day sweetie!!! :o)

Enjoy these memory makers!

Grandmother Mary said...

Wow! You really got into it! Isn't it great fun? I knew you'd like it! What's your game name and we can be friends so we can send each other a gem each day. They're hard to get other than winning them at the coliseum. I'm johnwarren3 since this iPad used to be my husbands. Check me out. I like how you've set up your Islands. Enjoy!

Susan Adcox said...

I'm not a computer gamer, but this sounds like something that a couple of my grandchildren would really get into and that I could tolerate. I really hate most video games, but something constructive like this could capture my heart.

AiringMyLaundry said...

Looks like a lot of fun!

Allyson said...

This is pretty much how it all went sideways for me, Neal, and Mom with Words with Friends. We are now all in competition with each other and celebrating small victories like 3-letter words that get 48 points. What's the first thing my husband said to me last Saturday morning? "I just played 'impolite' against your mom for 148 points!" Yes...these games are so addictive.


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