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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Radio Active #64: Opening New Portals to Geek Parenting

by Ken Newquist / April 9, 2008

This episode of Nuketown Radio Active is brought to you by the letter F. Also, Jordan turns five, we buy a car-camping tent, Nuketown gets upgrades to its anti-spam capabilities, Critical Hits blogs about the life of RPG gamers, Reaper announces modern day miniatures, and the MacMommy figures out how to balance teaching, technology, and raising a toddler.

Finally, I've got a review of Portal, the excellent puzzle game released as part of the Half-Life 2 Orange Box for Xbox 360 and Windows.

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Show Notes

  • Nuketown News
    • Jordan turns Five.
      • This heralds our first viewing of Chronicles of Narnia, which she greatly enjoy. Her favorite part? The cornation at the end. Next up is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (at her uring) and after that... maybe Star Wars?
        But how to *watch* Star Wars outside of the theatre and still get that maximum impact? I'm thinking a field trip to Erilar's house is in order... Also ... is it irrational me to not want her not to discover the secrets of Star Wars before she's watched the movies?
    • This Episode Brought to You By the Letter F
      • Luke's likes F words: Five, Frog, Fall. Really need to be careful not to swear in front of him this week... Also, Fuffy (sofa) and Fiffy (fish). A bunch of other words as well -- seat, me, please, help, sit, etc.
    • Geek Parents Warning
      • Don't watch The Mist. Ever. Even if you think you know how it ends based on the Stephen King short story ... because you don't. You really, really don't.
    • The Tent Caper
      • Went to Cabella's near Harrisburg to buy a tent for car camping. It's ... huge. (both the tent and Cabella's). And yes, this means camping is in my geeky future this summer. Fortunately, I have the DS...
    • Nuketown Upgrades Coming
      • Working on updating the site with new capabilities.
      • Thanks to a new anti-spam module, I've opened up comments so you no longer need an account (or to remember a password) to post comment.
      • Experimenting with the "Views" module to bring about the return of the links section.
      • Also looking at WYSIWYG editor (to speed up my posting) and native image support within Drupal (also to speed up posting).
  • Promo: RPG Podcasts
  • Netheads
    • Critical Hits
      • A blog about gaming life. Recent posts had interviews from the D&D Experience convention, Xbox 360 and Wii gaming commentary, and generally geekery (like the new DC direct-to-DVD releases of anime Batman and Justice League).
    • Reaper: Chronoscopes
    • The Mac Mommy
  • Promo: Accidental Survivors
  • Game Review: Portal
      • I got the Orange Box for Christmas, which includes Half-Life 2, Episodes 1 & 2, Team Fortress 2 ... and Portal.
      • Premise is simple: You're traped in a massive experimental complex, and must try and find your way out. To that end, you've been given a special portal forming gun. One creates an entrance doorway, the other and exit. You must navigate through the various challenges by throwing portals up on walls.
      • But it gets more complicated. There are triggers -- either weight or energy -- which you must setup, which sometimes means carefully herding balls of power around a room.
      • Also, gravity and velocity plays a big role; when you throw yourself off a cliff and exit through a portal, you do so with all of your velocity intact. This allows you to create a horizontal exit, but vertical entrance, and throw yourself across rooms.
    • Review
      • Very clever. Very puzzling. Very fun. If you're a geek. Otherwise, well, my wife describes it as the most boring game ever made. Worse then shooting communist boxes.
      • Jordan loves it; thinks my failures navigating rooms are hilarious, and likes to offer lots of advice.
      • Which is a major point in its favor: you can play this around kids (as long as you ignore the whole bloodstains on floor thing, which are very infrequent). Cool to see Jordan start to puzzle out how to move around the room.
      • Great for casual play; while some puzzles are infurating, it's easy to walk away from if needed (and what geek parent doesn't need to?)
      • Word to the wise though: It can be nauseau inducing. If NASA isn't using this to train astronauts, they should. It can be very difficult to re-orient yourself after jumping through a portal, and trying to orient yourself in the split second before you fall back through.
      • Increasingly amusing/psychoic computer companion is good for laughs.
  • Promo: SF Audio
  • Outro
Audio icon NuRA-2008-04-08.mp326.76 MB


I guess I'm a bit confused as to why Jordan's going to try to get through HP as a prerequisite to watching Star Wars. I know there were a few scenes in the Harry Potter movies that freaked me out (more startling me than anything else), and the stuff that's in even Sorcerer's Stone strikes me as way scarier than anything in A New Hope. I mean, even when Vader takes out Obi-Wan, he just disappears, and most of the deaths are via giant explosions....

One Word: Darth Vader. In the opening scenes of A New Hope, he strangles a Republic trooper, then tosses his lifeless body to the side. Hell, Jordan used to get freaked when she saw Darth Vader in LEGO Star Wars...

We're only talking about the first of the Harry Potter movies, which I think it's manageable, though I could see the Forbidden Forest scenes being a problem. Anything more than the first movie's going to have to wait; the spiders in the second movie would REALLY scare her...

I think I'd have to agree with Steve. I don't think that A New Hope is any scarier than Harry Potter 1, and perhaps less so.

The HP scary scenes are set in gloomy, spooky settings, with the requisite scary music, etc. Sure, Vader is super-menacing, but that opening scene is set in a brightly-lit corridor and accompanied by the Imperial March. While grim, it's not "spooky". I really think that first scene sets up Vader as the ultimate Bad Guy, but is more shocking than terrifying. IMO, HP1 might be much more bad-dream-inducing.

At any rate, just listened to the podcast this morning. You were describing how you wanted Jordie to see the movie in the most theatrical setting possible, and the whole time I was thinking, "I should invite them to watch it at our house." And then you mentioned it, and I had to laugh out loud. I think the guy that was pumping my gas at the time thought I was a bit touched...

At any rate, we would be super-honored to host Jordie's first screening of Star Wars. Just call and we'll pick a day. We'll have the popcorn ready, and the juice (and beer) properly chilled. We'll even dribble soda all over so the floor's properly theater-sticky. OK, maybe not that last bit... :D

There's also the near-torture of Princess Leia, the burning corpses of Luke's aunt and uncle, the sand people ... it can be scary stuff. It didn't bother me when I was five-going-on-six (stuff like the burning corpses probably just went over my head) but in this, I think Jordan and I are different.

I think this debates going to end up playing out time and again as I introduce Jordan to my favorite geek movies. I can't wait for her to see Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Matrix, and Lord of the Rings, but I know that's exactly what I'm going to have to do.

Hmm yes, I was forgetting about the smoldering skeletons - I think that may have freaked me out a bit seeing it as a kid. The Sandpeople were pretty scary too.

I think a lot of this depends on the age of the kid. We were very protective of our oldest son, and he still makes jokes about how his younger brother gets to do stuff much earlier than he did.

However, his younger brother has turned out to be very sensitive to frightening scenes in movies (he seems to process things at a deeper level in general) and so he actually has seen far fewer of these kind of movies. The spider scene in the first HP movie was much to much for him.

All the best stories throughout history were downright bloodthirsty and petrifying. Think about it, if you're a 3yo hearing Goldilocks and the Three Bears at bedtime ... A big bad wolf following you to Grandmother's house...?? Hello... If that's not twisted... I know why I had nightmares and I read the same stuff to my kids. Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter. Nothing beats a great story and I think it breeds culture and imagination...