Weekly Little Big Planet: magnetic

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Usul, we’ve got wormsign the likes of which even God has never seen.

This week’s community level is my favorite non-pinball pinball level I’ve played so far. You know what? Include actual LBP2 pinball levels in that, because I’ve yet to play one of those that works. This one is easy. It’s clever. And it’s worlds beyond any of those. The level is called Magnetic Fields. Isn’t my little magnetic spaceshippy thing up there nifty?

Now then, ready to have your mind blown with a full-on essay-length breakdown of this sweet little level?

After the jump, now for something completely different

Yeah, me neither. But now that we’ve ditched all those people who think Little Big Planet suxors and can’t understand why anyone in the world would be interested in talking or reading about it, let’s get down to what this column is really about.

A dingus who plays games.

I should have known better than to do this–something I’m sure I’ll be saying a lot–but I wasn’t thinking about anything other than needing to level up my Pokemons before an upcoming showdown my team had on the horizon. So all that was on my mind was getting everyone to level 25, that and the angle I was going to use in the game diary entry about it. The grinding at this point really was just about doing chores, not about playing a game. Kind of like how running wind-sprints in practice is not at all about playing basketball. Or at least doesn’t feel like it. It was with this mindset that I opened my DS to keep leveling in Pokemon White. While my kid was playing.

On the playground.

Look, I know I should have thought this through. Considered the consequences. I see that now. But I had a couple of things going on in my head. One, the aforementioned leveling. That was primary. Kind of a deadline situation. The other thing is that I have seriously never seen a kid open a DS at the playground at my kid’s school. Never. I’ve seen plenty of them goofing around with Mom’s iPhone. That happens all the time and nobody bats an eye. I’ve seen scary things happen with those iPhones too. Shit that’ll turn your Pokemon white. There’s an app that turns the iPhone into a little lightsaber and I watched one of my son’s more manic friends swing that thing about like it was an actual saber. Or, to be more accurate, like a sock filled with manure. My eyes grew wide as I imagined the phone slipping out of his hand and smashing against the wall or skittering into one of the huge puddles that my son was busy exploring. The kid’s mom noticed my expression and laughed.

“Not a bad excuse for an upgrade,” she said, shrugging.

“Right,” I replied, faking a knowing look as I recalled the beautiful, beautiful Jaguar her husband drives to drop the kid off every morning. I do not drive a Jaguar.

I’ve seen plenty of kids playing games on smart phones. Never seen a kid with a DS. So I just didn’t imagine any of them would care. I found a quiet spot against the wall far from the play structure, settled down on the ground and popped open the game. Just to be careful I cranked the sound way down.

It was like putting out a thumper on Dune.

One kid came over. Not one of my kid’s friends, just some random kid I’d never talked to.

“Is that a DS?” he asked.

“Yep,” I replied, weirdly nonchalant. Like I did this every day. I recall immediately thinking to myself, Where did that tone come from? Why are you trying to sound cool? I wasn’t. I think I was just feeling self-conscious. But it still sounded weird.

Without another word that kid plopped down beside me and leaned over to see what I was playing. Almost immediately another kid showed up.

“Is that a DS?” I nodded. “Is that your DS?” I nodded again, realizing this was getting weirder as I was playing my own game, not messing around with my son’s because I was bored while he was off playing. “Cool!” He settled next to me too, casually leaning on me, his elbow on my leg.

Before I could react to that two other kids ran over. These were my son’s normal playing buddies. One of them turned and yelled for my son, and then, just like that I had seven or eight kids grouped around me. Leaning over me. Leaning in so far their heads obscured the screen. I could barely tell what moves I was throwing.

“What are you playing?”

“Pokemon. White.”

“Is that yours?”

“That’s my dad’s DS,” my son answered for me, rescuing me from the oogy weirdness I’d begun to feel. He had this sweet tinge of pride in his voice. “He’s writing about that game.” Again, pride.

If my son were the least bit into playing any game that wasn’t Angry Birds or Cut the Rope on my wife’s iPad, I would have handed over my DS to him right then and there and let him put the team through its paces. But he’s not. He’s only really interested in playing those games if there is absolutely nothing else to do, like if we’re stuck in traffic and he’s finished all the books we brought along. He’d rather play freeze tag or wrestle, but since all his friends were gathered around, he took an interest. He got right up close to me and started asking questions about the game. Then he started suggesting moves.

“Can I choose the next one Pignite does?”

“Sure.”

“Ooh! My dad killed him with Flame Charge!”

“Actually they don’t get killed,” I said, educating. “They just faint.”

It went on like this for a while. Him suggesting moves as his friends and others crowded in to see what was going on. It was pretty sweet. Until two things happened. First, my kid started to get bored. Part of this was because there was a lot of running around and yelling to get in on the playground before we had to leave for home and get started on homework. But he was also getting bored because I was fighting the same creatures over and over again. The first couple of times I knocked out Sandile, my kid thought it was cool. Long about the tenth time I ran into that little croc in the deep sand he started to complain.

“How come you’re not fighting anyone else?”

How to explain grinding to a six-year old?

So my kid took off, taking a few of his friends with him. Then the other thing happened. Another dad came to pick up his kid and found him in the cluster of those trying to see the game. He looked at me, his eyes squinting a little bit. He smiled weakly, nodded politely, then shepherded his kid away. Great, I thought. I’ve just become that creepy guy on the playground.

I don’t know that this guy actually thought I was creepy. I was probably being self-conscious again. But that weird feeling returned and I started to feel creepy myself. How easily this had happened. Kids I didn’t even know came fluttering over and crammed right up against me. I’ve got an easy rapport with kids anyway. I used to teach and I volunteer in my kid’s classroom every week. Kids and pets tend to like me. But this was different. It was as if all sense of the boundaries these kids were supposed to have with strangers had been lowered like the shields of a spaceship. Just because I’d brought out my Pokemons.

A mother with whom I have a passing acquaintance showed up to get her daughter. “He’s playing Pokemon!” her daughter exclaimed. The mom gave me the same strained smile as she scooped up the girl’s backpack and headed out.

Time to close up shop.

I finished whatever battle I was in and snapped my DS shut. Sounds of disappointment came from those still assembled. “Sorry,” I mumbled as I took out one of my cooking magazines. They scattered.

Note to self. iPhone games at your kid’s school: Okay. Getting out your DS at the playground: Not Okay.

Got it.

Next time: a dingus drafted into company of heroes

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