Bends and Hitches, Crafts, forts & such, Knots, wood

Tribe

01.04.09 | 7 Comments

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About a month ago, my brother-in-law, Dwight, introduced Ford to a video game on his computer called Spore, an open-ended, metaverse game of evolution and social development. At first, I was skeptical of the game just as I am of all video games for Ford at his young age. I was raised without electronic media and have always assumed that it was inherently disruptive to a child’s cognitive and social development. In fact, the impetus behind the Boy’s Almanac project is the fear I have of my children losing touch with nature by the tractor beam of electronic media. I’m afraid that television (which has been gone two years from our home) and video games create restlessness, shorter attention spans, stifle physical activity, and–paradoxically–create boredom. For a few weeks I have stewed in conflict over what I thought the right or wrong might be of it, weighing other fears of early myopia and social withdrawal against the kindling of imagination and the fact that he must read and practice social strategy while playing. So I’ve followed this hunch pretty well up to the point where Ford started using the game as a springboard for all sorts of other learning experiences: discussions over biology, evolutionary principles, the strategy of leadership, making allies versus enemies, the earning of achievements, sketching out imaginary creatures, and ultimately, the most charming of all: the construction of a small-scale tribal village that he has built entirely on his own, right here in our front yard.

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weapons arsenal surrounded by: flowers!

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It’s a paranoia I’ve almost dismissed, but you know how stodgy people can become as they get older–I’m no exception, so I’m still very much on guard and setting limits to how long he can play. Gradually, he has moved on from Cell stage to Creature stage to Tribal stage…

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the green (paint) is some form of sustenance, some kind of tincture, I think he said.

So, to illustrate by endearment, now that he has moved on to the ‘tribe’ stage, food now replaces ‘DNA points’ that were used as currency in the ‘cell’ and ‘creature’ stages of the game. Food can now be used to attain new tribesmen, new structures or to make good with other tribes.

It’s a lot of work building a village before the afternoon rain sets in! So tribesmen are assigned roles, such as fishing or hunting or gathering. I am assigned the role of gatherer, and instructed to help collect beams for the tribal hut, which Ford then tied, thatched and tarpaulined.

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I did enough sawing before finally going Tom Sawyer on Ford. Doi! He felt totally emancipated, and cut the rest of the poles, himself!

Chas is assigned medicine man and he collects berries for their healing properties. And some radishes from the garden.

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By plan, their garden, in all its splendor, is only three feet north of the village anyway:

the kid's garden
kid's garden

After all, the tribe is a bunch of herbivores.

It is easy to tell what type of tribal leader Ford is; he appears to be well-rounded enough as he talks about building musical instruments for entertainment while thatching the weapons arsenal that holds his bows and arrows and spears. One can’t let the guard down.

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He also seems careful to maintain aesthetics:

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in the background: weapons arsenal, foreground: tribal offering of food and nourishment to visiting tribespeople

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He is also working on a totem pole, which he will brand as he allies with various other tribes in the next quest: for civilization.

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Personally, I’m thoroughly charmed with this enchanting tribal play. This is pretty sweet.

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“Wooden horns.” For making allies with people. He says, “When a tribe starts blowing whistles, then your tribe blows the horn back, copying them. That’s one way to make friends and allies. There’s two more ways: Shaking things, and blowing another horn-like thing.”

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I hope the play stays in this humble phase for a while. I’m not ready for any Thneed factories polluting my garden with grickle-grass, smog and soot.

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I know, though, that Ford has bigger plans. His directive, which he occasionally reaffirms at random: To explore space and find the center of the universe.

….Do we have enough wood for that?

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