Monday 11 April 2016

Diagon Alley, a birthday feast, an ugly cake, and presents!

If you've stumbled across this post before reading the others, you might want to read up a bit on what we've done at the party up until this point! Part One covers the entrance to the party and the initial trip to Diagon Alley to pick up school supplies; Part Two covers the Sorting Ceremony, the first few classes, and a fight with a troll; Part Three covers Potions, magical duels, and Quidditch!

Following Quidditch and the final "boss" battle, it was time for the students to use up all those tickets! There were lots of goodies for sale in Diagon Alley. I didn't snap any photos of the sweets available at Honeyduke's (they sold out too fast), but the kids got licorice wands, leprechaun gold (chocolate coins), pumpkin pasties, sour straws, and a few other things that I'm completely blanking on at the moment. They could also buy spare wands, scrolls, and spell cards if they wanted. Flourish & Blotts sold house-themed bookmarks  and feather quills (yes, the quills actually work as pens). Eeylop's Owl Emporium sold real flying owls. ;) Weasley's Wizard Wheezes sold out of a lot of things before I could take this picture, such as water guns and various sizes of sparklers. Pictured here are some of the items we still had left: Impervius Touchable Bubbles, Never-melting ice cubes, pinwheels, and Snitches.

Once the kids were finished their shopping, it was time for the dinner feast (meatballs, mashed potatoes, salad, roast chicken), and then CAKE! 

Please don't think my spelling is actually this bad, lol, those of you who have watched the Harry Potter movies will hopefully understanding why this cake looks/is written the way it is. And if you haven't seen the movie,

A- what is wrong with you, stop what you're doing and go watch it RIGHT NOW, and

B - here's the clip this cake references, the applicable scene starts at 1:30:

After dinner and cake it was time for presents! Here are some of the guests (seriously, this is only about half or them, lol) while my son opens up his gifts. You can see the robes, scarves/ties/headbands they got, plus a lot of their new owls hanging around.

Final picture: this present was a HUGE hit. I can't count how much time my boys have spent pouring over this since the party, they love it!

After the presents were opened, we started watching the first movie. Some of the kids stayed inside to watch it (a few hadn't seen it yet), but about half went outside to play more Quidditch! From what I'm hearing, all the kids slept REALLY well that night. ;) My kids had a blast and I think the guests did, too! Thanks for reading about the party... it was a whole lot of work but SO worth it!

Ectoplasm, Duelling Club, and QUIDDITCH!

If you've just landed on this post, you'll probably want to check out Part One, where the students enter through Platform 9 3/4 and visit Diagon Alley for their supplies, and Part Two where they take their first classes!

After defeating the troll that broke in to the grounds, it was time to get back to the business of magical learning with POTIONS CLASS! In this class, we learned how to use Powdered Bulb of Narcissus to make Carnivorous Narcissus Ectoplam that is capable of drawing out elevated feelings of ego and self-importance. Muggles often mistakenly refer to this as "Magnetic Slime", having no idea of its true magical properties.

Here's the full text and instructions if anyone's interested! Oh, and if you want to try it... Mermaid's Tears = water, Unicorn Hoof = Borax, Essence of Boomslang = Elmer's Glue, Powdered Root of Narcissus = iron filings/powder, and Narcissus Pollen Pellets = magnets (the stronger the better). I'll put the text in italics again so you can just scroll on past if you want (though I do recommend reading the first paragraph at least).


Carnivorous Narcissus Ectoplasm

Carnivorous Narcissus Ectoplasm is advantageous in the treatment of over-exposure to the narcissus plant as well as for treating natural occurences of symptoms such as over-confidence, egoism, and self-absorption. The narcissus elements within the subject/patient will be drawn from the subject towards the active reagent in this potion (powered bulb of narcissus), as elements from a narcissus plant will be irresistably attracted to themselves. When the ectoplasm is removed from the subject, the narcissal elements that have been pulled from the subject will be removed along with it.
WARNING: Subject may react violently to the withdrawl of the ectoplasm upon realization that it has removed their over-confidence and egoism.
SIDE EFFECTS MAY INCLUDE: crying, sudden onset of humility, questioning of the subject’s life choices, and desperation to regain possession of the ectoplasm.


Begin with a clean cauldron
Measure 1 cup Mermaid’s Tears and add to cauldron
Add 1/2 teaspoon ground Unicorn Hoof
Mix thoroughly until the Unicorn Hoof has thoroughly dissolved in to the Mermaid’s Tears

In a second Cauldron, measure 1/8 cup of Mermaid’s Tears
Add 2/3 cup Essence of Boomslang
Stir until the Mermaid’s Tears and Boomslang have completely combined.

Slowly stir the Unicorn Hoof mixute in to the Boomslang mixture.
Once the mixture has begun to congeal into an ectoplam, commence mixing it with your hands. When the desired consistency has been achieved, drain out the remaining Mermaid’s Tears.

Remove your ectoplasm from the cauldron and flatten it on to your work surface.
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon Powdered Bulb of Narcusses on to the ectoplasm.
Fold ectoplasm over the powder and work the powder into the ectoplasm until the powder is spread uniformly throughout it.
Continue adding Powdered Bulb of Narcissues 1 tablespoon at a time and incorporating it into the ectoplasm until a uniforn dark grey appearance is achieved.
Test the efficacy of your ectoplasm by holding a small Narcissus pollen pellet next to it. If the ectoplasm is attracted to the pollen pellet, your potion has been made properly.

 The end result! Kids who successfully create the ectoplasm (which was all of them) got tickets to spend later.

 After Potions class, we moved on to Charms! In Charms the students learned how to duel. My son (the birthday boy) actually came up with this whole battle system, which was loosely based on Wizard101. We made up and handed out spell cards to everyone as well, so they could keep track of which spells they could use and what they did. (If anyone's interested, I can post pics of the spell cards as well, but I'd have to go digging for them, lol.) 

After learning about how the duelling system works, the kids got to participate in duels against each other. No pictures of the duels, sadly... keeping score proved quite an interesting challenge! Here's the full text:


Each wizard has at their disposal three types of spells: Inate spells, House specialities, and Wand enchantments. Inate spells are those spells which all wizards have access to and can perform. Today we will be learning the three most basic inate spells. House specialities can only be cast by members of a particular house, as they have been developed by members over many years and are uniquely suited to the gifts and personalities of wizards who are drawn to that house. Finally, wand enchantments are not so much a spell as a natural enhancement to your magic. Depending on the core of your wand, the magic your wand performs may be enhanced in various ways as outlined below.

Inate Spells
Episkey - a rudimentary healing spell, Episkey heals one person for 2 health.
Reducto - a basic attack spell. Reducto deals 3 damage to an enemy.
Diffindo - a counter spell, Diffindo deals 1 damage to an enemy and prevents that enemy from using their house speciality spell the following turn.

House Specialities
Hufflepuff: Cave Totalum - Thanks to their loyalty and friendship, any spell performed by an ally after Cave Totalum is cast will now act as a group spell. Ie, Reducto will damage all enemies, Episkey will heal all allies, Diffindo will counter all enemies, etc.
Gryffindor: Courgiato - Always willing to face danger, Gryffindor’s spell deals 1 damage to the caster, but doubles the damage of the next attack cast by an ally. (If enchanced by Cave Totalum, Courgiato deals 1 damage for EVERY ally whose attack will be enchanced.)
Ravenclaw: Geminio - A Ravenclaw’s quick thinking allows them to act twice as quickly as others. Geminio allows one ally (including the caster, if desired) to cast two spells in a row.
Slytherin: Recanto - A Slytherin is able to get in his enemy’s way to further his own plans. Recanto cuts the effectiveness of any enemy’s spell in half the following round, causing the enemy’s attacks to do less damage and heals to be less helpful.

Wand Enchantments
Each wand has a core that helps it channel magic for its wizard. Each core is also more efficient at performing certain types of magic, and it lends these benefits to its owner.
Unicorn Hair Wands: all heals cast by this wand will heal for 1 extra health.
Dragon Heartstring Wands: all attacks cast by these wands will do 1 extra damage.
Phoenix Feather Wands: grant 1 resistance to all incoming attacks.

As a novice wizard, you begin any duel with 15 health. There are 30 seconds between rounds for you and your allies to discuss a battle plan and choose your spells. Each wizard may cast one spell per round in any order you choose. Duel bravely and wisely!

Following duelling practice it was time for QUIDDITCH! We had to modify the rules a little bit since we (believe it or not) do not actually have a magical Snitch. ;) Each team got 2 points for getting the Quaffle through a small hoop and 1 point for getting through a large hoop. (They also won tickets for scoring goals.) The first team to 10 won the match.
Video of the game in action! 
While two of the houses would compete against each other in Quidditch, the other houses were told that a dark wizard had stolen the Sorting Hat, along with a lot of other valuables! They were tasked with finding the dark wizard and duelling her. If they could defeat the wizard (who for you wizard101 players was my son's design of a "cheat boss"; she would cast Cave Totalum on the first round, and Bombarda on the second to deal 10 damage to all players, then just repeat this over and over), they would win a bag full of loot (candy and more tickets)! Unfortunately we didn't get any pictures of the "dark wizard", but the kids certainly found it challenging; only one team actually figured out how to win the battle, but MAN were they ever proud of themselves once they finally got it!

That was the last of our Hogwarts subjects for the day, and once the kids were done with battling the boss and had finished their Quidditch matches, they got to gather up their tickets and head back inside and to Diagon Alley to make their purchases, which I'll start a new post for.

Up Next: Part Four! The students make their return trip to Diagon Alley to spend their tickets, have a magical birthday feast, and watch the birthday boy open presents!

The Sorting, the first subjects, and an intruder!

If you haven't already read about Platform 9 3/4 and the student's initial trip to Diagon Alley to get their school supplies, click here!

Once the students picked up their wands, robes, and scrolls, it was time to head over to the Dining Hall for hte Sorting Ceremoney! Mr. Light pinned a two-way baby monitor in to the peak of the Sorting Hat and went in to the bathroom on the other side of the house. Through the monitor, he could hear what was going on, and when the kids sat down and put on the hat, he used the monitor to shout (from the hat) which house they had been sorted in to. The kids' responses were so adorable! 

 Thankfully, everyone seemed quite happy with where they ended up. After they got sorted, the kids all went to sit at their house tables. Waiting for them at their spot was a length of fabric in their house colours that they could wear to identify what school they'd been sorted in to; the kids wore them as ties, scarves, belts, headbands, ponytail wraps, tons of different things! You'll be able to see these in some of the pictures of the kids' playing in later posts.

Now that they were all sitting with their houses, it was time for History of Magic! We told the students to open their blue scrolls and explained that since so many of them were Muggle-borns, we would spend this first lesson going over an example of how Muggle history and Magical history interact with each other.

You can click on this image to read the scroll yourself, but for those who might have problems making out the tiny letters, here's the story as written on the scroll. I've put the story in italics, so if you want to skip it feel free to just scroll on past it until the italics stop.

History of Magic

The Legend of Narcissus as an example of Muggle misunderstanding.

Muggles look up to the ancient Greeks as the founders of philosophy, democracy, education, and many other worthwhile Muggle pursuits. What they do not realize, however, is the influence that the magical community had on many of their ancient Greek legends, which are of course not legends at all but feeble Muggle attempts to understand their occasional interactions with the ancient magical community. To illustrate this, we will examine the Muggle legend surrounding Narcissus.

In the Muggle legend, Narcissus was such an extraordinarily beautiful child that his parents became concerned about his ability to live a normal life. Out of concern, they visited the Seer Teiresias and inquired about what might happen to their son in his future. Teiresias told them that their son would live a long and happy life only if he “never came to know himself.” When Narcissus was sixteen he was walking in the woods and a woman named Echo saw him, falling madly in love with him and following after him as he walked. Narcissus, feeling someone shadowing his movements, asked “Who’s there?” Echo, enamored with his words, responded by saying“Who’s there?”just as he had. This repetition went on for some time until Echo decided to show herself. She tried to hug Narcissus who, confused and annoyed, stepped away from Echo, telling her to leave him alone. Echo was left heartbroken and spent the rest of her life wandering until nothing but an echo remained of her.

Nemesis, the god of revenge, heard Echo’s cries and decided to punish Narcissus for being so cold to her. He placed a lake in the forest where Narcissus was walking and caused Narcissus to see his own reflection in the water. He was so surprised by the beauty he saw there that he became completely enamored with himself. However, every time he reached in to the water to try to introduce himself, the reflection would disappear. And so, Narcissus slowly wasted away on the shores of the lake, staring at his own reflection, caring about nothing but his own beauty. The flowers that blossomed at the lake’s edge where he stood were named in his memory; the Narcissus flower.

Of course, the Muggles share this legend as a fairy story with its imagined gods and mystical beings, having no idea of the true magical circumstances behind the tale. In reality, there are only two magical beings who play a role in this story. The first is the Seer, Teiresias. Greek history is full of Seers who enjoy using their gifts to toy with the local Muggle populations (Teiresias, the Oracle, etc). These Seers would deliberately give the Muggles a small amount of information: not enough information to actually do anything about the future or prepare for it, but enough that they could later hold up their predictions and boast about their accuracy, privately mocking the Muggles.

The second magical being in this story is far more difficult to spot. In reality, the demise of Narcissus was not caused by an irate god of revenge or even his own beauty, but by an early Herbologist by the name of Apollo Deeproot. Rather than being a minor detail in the story, the Narcissus flower was, in fact, the cause of his trouble. Apollo Deeproot had spent many years developing a particularly efficacious strain of the Narcissus flower, commonly used in potions to increase self-esteem and one’s sense of worth. Narcissus happened to stumble upon Deeproot’s research field in his wanderings, and was overwhelmed by the potency of the flower, having such a boost to his self-confidence that he was literally unable to look away from what he now believed to be the most beautiful face in the world. The tale of Narcissus lead to the modern practice of greenhouse-based Herbology as it points out the potential for a breech in the Statute of Secrecy should an unsuspecting Muggle become exposed to some of the more potent strains of magical herbs, fungi, and flowers.

After History of Magic, it was time for...

Care of Magical Creatures!

There was a unicorn in the Forbidden Forest that seems to have lost its horn, and our job was to help reattach it. (AKA Pin the Horn on the Unicorn.) Student won tickets based on how close they got the horn to its correct positioning.

Next up was...

Having already learned about the magical properties of the Narcissus flower (AKA daffodils) in History of Magic, we transplanted some for our Herbology lesson. We began by discussing the uses for Narcissus, such as increasing self-confidence before major events such as job interviews or first dates, and the dangers of its overuse. We then began by mixing regular garden-variety dirt with magical expanding gardening fertilizer (aka peat pellets). For those of you who are unfamiliar with peat pellets, when soaked in water they do this:

We then separated the daffodils bulbs by pulling them out of their original containers, prying them apart, and having each student plant their own Narcissus flowers in their magically enchanced dirt. They were always warned to keep pets away from the narcissus bulb, which is toxic to dogs and cats. (Cats already have an over-inflated sense of their own importance and so the boost provide by the Narcisses can cause reckelss behaviour. Dogs, on the other hand, are so naturally self-effacing, humble, and obedient that a huge boost to their ego confuses them and they are no longer sure how to behave.) The kids all got to take home their new plants.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to get any pictures of what we did after Herbology, which was defeating the troll that brought in to the grounds of Hogwarts! By which I mean, we hung up a troll pinata in the yard and let the kids beat the stuffing out of it with it's own club. ;) They got tickets for successfully hitting it, and once it broke open they got plenty of candy and yet more tickets! They had a blast, and it gave our helpers time to clean up the tables for our next class, which I'll start a new post for.

Up Next: Part Three! Making ectoplasm in Potions class, Charms, Duelling Club, Quidditch, and a cheat boss battle! 

Beginning The Journey; Platform 9 3/4 and Diagon Alley

Before I begin, I'm just going to clarify that the party itself was CRAZY (with 22 kids in the house I'm not sure what else it would be, lol), so some of these pictures were taken either before or afterwards, because many of the ones we took DURING the party just like a whole bunch of kids in a crowd and don't let you actually SEE anything. ;)

When the guests came to the party, they had to enter the magical world through Platform 9 3/4.

After passing through Platform 9 3/4, they headed on up Diagon Alley to purchase their school supplies! Diagon Alley was located in our upstairs bedroom/playroom/school room, and each of the 3 rooms had two shops in it. The first room was...
Ollivander's and Weasley's Wizard Wheezes! Weasley's had wares for sale that the kids could buy at the end of the party; we did lots of activities during the party that let the kids earn tickets, which they could later use to buy stuff on their return trip to Diagon Alley. At the start of the party, however, they had no tickets yet so the focus in this room was on getting their wands! Before they could choose theri wand (or rather, before their wand could choose them), each student was asked a question that would determine what variety of wand they would receive. That question was:

You and your best friend have been taking classes on healing magic. Your best friend is a good healer, but you're the best in the class. One day, a dark wizard attacks the school. He is running around the grounds and attacking anyone he can find. Your best friend is injured and you want to help by healing them, but if you take the time to do this, the dark wizard will likely escape. What do you do?
A- Stop fighting and heal your friend. The dark wizard tries to attack the school all the time, there will be another chance to catch him. (If the student chooses this answer, they receive a Unicorn Hair wand which increases healing by 1.)
B- Chase after the dark wizard and battle him. Your friend is a good healer (even if not quite as good as you); they're more than capable of taking care of themselves. Besides, there's no knowing how many other people could hurt if you let him get away. (If the student chooses this option, they get a dragon heartstring wand, which increases attack power by 1.)
C- Cast a quick protective enchantment over your friend to keep them safe while they figure out how to heal themselves. It is possible that even a short spell like this could give the dark wizard time to get away, but you have to do SOMETHING to help your friend. (If the student choose this option, they receive a Phoenix Feather wand which gives them 1 resist to any incoming attack.)

Here are some of the wands they kids received! We actually ended up making even more wands before the party as the guest list grew a little, and we wanted to make sure we had spare wands left over for any kids who lost/broke theirs.

Next up in Diagon Alley was

Madam Malkin's and Honeydukes! As with Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, Honeydukes had treats available for tickets, but as the students hadn't earnd any tickets yet they couldn't actually buy them yet. However, in this room they each got a robe to wear for their day at Hogwarts (that they got to take home after the party). You'll see the robes on the kids in a few of the pictures in subsequent posts, but if anyone's curious about how we made 20 robes, here's a link to the tutorial we followed.

The final stop on Diagon Alley was....

Flourish & Blotts, along with Eeylop's Owl Emporium! The owls for sale at Eeylops could only be bought with tickets, but the kids could check them out during this first trip to Diagon Alley. At Flourish & Blotts, each student picked up their scrolls so that they could follow along with today's schoolwork. And yes, we actually did magical classes.

Red scroll for Charms, green scroll for Potions, blue scroll for History of Magic!

After getting all their school supplies from Diagon Alley, it was time to head over the Hogwart's Dining Hall, which I'll talk about in the next post.

Up Next: Part Two! The Sorting Ceremony, History of Magic, Care of Magical Creature, Herbology, and a battle with a troll who snuck in to the grounds!

Thursday 21 August 2014

Of buckets o' research

It's been a loooong time since I've used this blog, but since I can't fit everything I want to say into one tweet (or even facebook post!) I thought this would be a good medium to share my story. Or rather share Ed's story, I suppose.

Ed is my brother-in-law. We met when I was 18 years old and had just started dating Mr. Light, who is one of 5 children. I probably shouldn't say this lest my in laws find this blog, lol, but Ed and his wife have always been my favorite of Mr. Light's siblings.

Ed and his wife met in the 9th grade. He met her the first day of school and told all his friends that he was gonna marry that girl one day. They went out for a few weeks... at which point her Mom told her she was too young to be in a serious relationship and forbade her from seriously dating anyone until college. Ed refused to go on a single date with anyone else, even when she went out with other guys in their grade... even when they made fun of him for it. In 12th grade, his wife told her Mom she wasn't waiting any longer and that she was only ever REALLY interested in Ed. They started dating again even though she wasn't supposed to yet and married a few years later.

After high school Ed took an apprenticeship and went to work as a stonemason. He was extremely proud of his work... and his STRENGTH. I've never met another man (not even Mr, Light... sorry  honey) who could toss a bag of rocks over his shoulder and carry it around all day like it was nothing. Of course, Ed did like to show it off a little too, lol.

If you can't tell, Ed was a guy's guy. He was into restoring old muscle cars, home renovations, jet-skiing, and sports. A few years after they got married, he and his wife had two baby boys. They are now 11 and 13 and share their Dad's passion for football and cars. And GOSH are they strong (I wouldn't dare mess with them)!

A few years ago, Ed and his wife bought their dream home; an old century home in a small town in the country, right by a little lake. It was a wreck, but they were both handy and knew they could restore it. It took them three years of working every night, but they finally got it done; Ed took every chance he could to teach the boys how to use power tools, how to make sure something was structurally sound, how to hang drywall, how to know when their Mom had her mind set on a particular paint colour and wouldn't change her mind. ;) After the house was done, he started taking them into the garage with him and teaching them how to work on old cars.

Late in 2011, as winter was starting, Ed started having problems at work. He was having issues carting his work around with him. This wasn't a problem for his company; most of the other guys at the shop needed other workers to carry around the product anyway. But it annoyed Ed that he had to let someone else do part of what he considered HIS job. Soon afterwards, his work started suffering. His hands would cramp up, and he had problems holding his tools without shaking. They thought perhaps he was finally going to need carpal tunnel surgery, like most people in his profession eventually end up getting. But when he went to the doctor to get the diagnosis, they found no evidence of carpal tunnel. Take your vitamins, eat more veggies, they told him. You're older than you were when you started this job, take it easy on yourself.

A few weeks later he couldn't work at all anymore. Not only was his hand shaking, but he couldn't hold his tools at all, and his arms felt like they were going numb. He went back to the doctor, who agreed this problem was bigger than they original thought and ordered more tests.

They ran many different tests, and many of those tests they did multiple times. At first they told him they suspected Lyme disease. As a matter of fact, they suspected it so strongly that they didn't believe the first few negative tests and ordered them done over. Then they told him he had Multiple Sclerosis. After several months of believeing this diagnosis, the symptoms progressed further and began to be mis-aligned with MS. They re-tested him over several more months and eventually decided to rule out multiple sclerosis, along with a host of other possible diseases. The only thing that fit was ALS. From the onset of symptoms to official diagnosis was over a year.

THERE IS NO TEST TO DEFINITIVELY DIAGNOSIS ALS. It's diagnosed by analyzing symptoms and then slowly and carefully ruling out every other disease under the sun. If a patient is mis-diagnosed, some of the treatments for those diseases can actually speed up the progress of ALS.

By the time of his diagnosis, Ed was in a wheelchair. Not one to let the disease show him up, he and his wife tricked out his wheelchair to make it do crazy spins, wheelies, have a cupholder and even a heated seat! That chair became a bit of a symbol for them, I think. Yes, the disease was taking bits and pieces of him away, but he was still ED no matter what it did to him.

One day, Ed was doing  a wheelie in the kitchen. His chair tipped backward and he fell over. His vocal chords had already degenerated enough that no one could hear him calling for help. He was unable to move enough to get himself up off the ground. He wasn't able to get himself to the bathroom when he needed to use it (nor was he able to control that much anymore anyway). He lay there for about two hours before his boys came home from school and found him like that.

When you talk to his wife now, she says that was the day everything changed for him. That was the day he stopped feeling like he was still Ed.

Over the next few months, all Ed could really do any more was talk, and even that was barely possible. He used his energy to help plan a month-long trip to Italy for his wife and sons, for "when they finally were free to go."

Eventually he could no longer speak, or move. He was confined to bed and was in pain all the time. Thankfully (though it's an odd thing to be thankful for), this final stage passed more quickly for Ed than for many others with ALS. They knew the end was coming and everyone was able to say their goodbyes. Sleep did not come easily for him at the end because of the pain, but when he did finally fall asleep, his lungs stopped working and he passed peacefully.

It has been 11 months since Ed died. We are trying to decide how to honour his memory for the anniversary. This challenge seems like a good start, but there is no happily ever after here. ALS does not leave room for happy endings.

Please, when you do this challenge, realize that this is not a nameless, faceless disease. It is horrific. And who knows, it may well be perfectly treatable... but because there has been so little interest in research, we know very little about what can actually be done to help. Donation to this campaign MATTER. When you actively contribute, you are making difference. Please, keep it up, and know that what you're doing means the world to those who suffer.

The view from the villa in Italy that Ed booked
for his wife & sons, taken on their trip in May 2014.

Update: while we'd already done the icebucket challenge IRL, numerous people on twitter challenged us this afternoon, and so, here's a version just for our wizard friends! We now challenge Ditto, Kevin the Noob, and J. Todd Coleman!

Thursday 27 October 2011

of Egos, Alter-Egos, and who you REALLY are.

There was recently a thread on central that got my brain spinning - and admittedly, my heart hurting. The thread itself was innocuous enough, about about people's egos and alter-egos, but it got me thinking about a path I've seen countless people on. Notice I don't say countless wizards. I'm not talking about wizards. Wizards are nothing but a bunch of pixels that a person controls, and it's the people behind the screen - the hearts, the minds, the souls of those people - that is on my mind today.

Compared to many of you, I've been in this game a short time - barely over a year. In this relatively short period of time, I have seen a lot of things. I have seen people start this game as shy, quiet, humble players and turn into loudmouth PvP bullies. In the real world, I have known happily married couples that are loving, moral, salt-of-the-earth type people where one person gets sucked into a game, withdraws from their real life, and even starts up a 'second family' including a 'spouse' in game. Even worse, they feel no remorse or see no problem with it. I have seen people on game boards - smart people, adults with marriage and children and very real lives - let their lives be torn apart by games and their egos within it. I've heard someone say (a few phrases combined together here, but this was actually wording taken right from the horse's mouth), "I am the greatest player this game has ever seen. The fact that you would think rules that apply to other people should apply to me is absolutely absurb to me."

At some point, you can invest too much of yourself  into your alter ego within a game. It's important for EVERY gamer, Wizard101 or not, PvPer or not, well known or not,  to have a strong sense of who you REALLY are outside of those pixels. If you don't have that sense of your real world self, you start to lose track of everything that matters.

I am not Katherine Light. Katherine Light is a set of pixels I control sometimes, for fun. I am SO much more than that. Pick any member of this community and the same should be true for them. If that line is blurry for anyone - if you are muddying the space between your real world self and a character on a screen - it's time to take a step back.

I think a lot of problems in the arena and the game in general are caused by that. People lose track of who they really are (or are unhappy with who they really are), and rather than work on those issues they start to think that their value as a person is tied up with how their character does in a game. We as people are worth infinitely more than that, and it's sad to see people give up a part of who they really are in favour of having a character on a screen with a big ego.

You are a person, not a character. You are worthy of being valued. Your pixels are just pixels. Never, ever forget what you, the person behind the screen, truly value and who you really are.

Sunday 2 October 2011

What I learned - hosting a 4v4 tournament.

Well, The More The Moneyer Midlevel Mayhem tournament is completed and The Veneration are the champions! [round of applause!!!!!!!] We had some crazy fun, some tough matches, a lot of laughs and, of course being a competitive tournament, some drama.

The following is NOT intended to be a passive agressive jab at anyone. I know there's been some discussion about doing more 3v3 and 4v4 tournaments in general, and I thought it might be helpful for me share some of the lessons I've learned and the advice I would give to someone who wanted to set up something similar. You may not agree with this advice, and that's fine - it just things I wish I had known ahead of time that would have worked for me and that I wish I had followed myself.

1. You cannot be specific enough. Literally, you can't. How specific you choose to get is up to you, but there will always be something that crops up that you were not able to address. Explain your rules thoroughly, but make clear that any issues that come up outside of those rules are at your discretion to deal with how you see fit.

2. Don't justify or defend your decisions. You are running this show, so make the decisions that seem right to you. Whenever conflicts pop up (and they will pop up), people on one side or another will be annoyed with any decision you made. Explaining it, justifying it, and defending your choice only gives people the idea that they are up for discussion or debate. Let people complain or rage if they feel need to, but don't engage. "I stand by my decision." is all you need to stick with.

3. Be prepared to be the bad guy. No one will be happy with every choice you make when you're organizing a competitive event and are in direct contact with opposing sides, particularly in a game that has a lot of younger players. You need to be okay with people thinking you're the bad guy - and you need to be prepared to see a side of people you did not expect. Don't take it personally (even if it's being made personal).

4. Stress commitment to team leaders. The TMs don't say flaking is a big concern for nothing. Stress right from the beginning that you expect teams to be responsible and prompt as far as arranging matches, showing up for matches, keeping in contact with the team members to arrange matches, etc. Tell them that if they are not willing to commit to doing those things and stick with them, they may want not want to register. Have at least one alternate team for those teams that will flake anyway.

I may edit this post as more things occur to me, but all in all it was great to see people in genereal having fun, and playing a type of match you don't normally get to enjoy in ranked PvP. Thanks to everyone for coming out and supporting their favorite teams, their friends, and the tournament in general! I had a blast.

Also, Happy wizaversary to me! Woot! :)