Orlando is known for many things: tourists, bad drivers, strip malls, theme parks, and conventions. Luckily for us, Orlando is a relatively convention heavy city. If you like science fiction, comic books, movies, and gaming, it’s actually not a bad place to hang your hat. Each year at the Orlando Science Center we’re lucky enough to have Otronicon, a convention that focuses on gaming and new technology. I’m happy to say that 2011’s Otronicon is the best yet.
I want to preface this article with the knowledge that my wife, my sister in law and myself are all fine. Basically unscathed by a storm that was one of the largest in history out of the Atlantic and literally laid waste to a sizable portion of the eastern seaboard. I want to give my thanks and appreciation to the amazing work that the city where I live New York, and it’s first responders, pulled off in managing the needs of millions of people and the random emergencies that come up during a hurricane.
I am somewhat of a hurricane vet. It is hard to live in Florida for 30 years and not deal with a few hurricanes along the way. Whether it’s the threat of massive storms like Andrew and Katrina, or dealing with the amount of damage even small fast ones like Charlie can do to an area. It’s not just the flooding either. Hurricanes cause random damage from wind. Things like debris and shrapnel flying around in 90+ mph winds or roofs being torn from their houses. Fire pops up around the storm due to gas lines being broken or electrical hazards. These are things the fireman and police are attempting to deal with during the storm, let alone people trapped and on the verge of being killed in their own homes by flooding, falling trees and lord knows what else. Hurricanes can be terrifying if you are in the wrong area, they are rather unpredictable and horribly powerful. I’ve spent them in a closet while gigantic oak trees are falling all around me and I’ve spent them playing games in a living room with friends while waiting it out. During the storm is not even always the worst part. The aftermath of large storms like this often leave people homeless or without power. Nothing about hurricanes are to be taken lightly or in laughter. Right now millions are in need across the east coast.
My wife, my sister in law and myself spent it playing board games and watching movies in our living room. Accustomed to dealing with the sounds of a hurricane we were just hoping to not have to see any of the many trees in our neighborhood go down and that flooding would be at a minimum. We are in one of the higher parts of Brooklyn and were not requested to evacuate. First up was Clue, Simpson’s edition. Why Clue? It’s a classic. Spoiler alert, it was Krusty the Klown with the poisoned donut in the Android’s Dungeon. I hadn’t played Clue in quite a while. We had fun. We bounced between the rooms and noted all of our clues. The sisters played a very effective game of deception to where I guessed it was Krusty with the extend-o glove in Android’s Dungeon. So close. Melissa, my wife, ended up winning while Jenna, her sister, was still whittling down in which room it had taken place. Above the age of 21? Clue is much more fun with beer. Which, as a secondary note, is also how a hurricane can be a little more fun.
Second game? Small World. We talked about this game on the podcast a while ago and it never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to teach and how much fun it is to play. For a quick recap, Small World is a board game that is akin to Risk, if Risk were fun and fast. Each game takes about 45 minutes to play and the goal is to conquer as many lands for as long as possible. Each land earns you a coin or two and the person with more coins at the end of the game wins. The twist is how you play. You assume the roll of a varied race and gain a class. Something like a Flying Wizards or Seafaring Hobbits, maybe even Plundering Trolls. Each combination is random and varied, they are separate and dealt out at the beginning of the game. Each person chooses a combo and plays according to that combination. Are you seafaring rats? Then you better move in and spread out as much as you can. The next twist is that you can switch your combo out. That’s right, once your combination has run it’s course and you cannot take over any further lands, only one race gains people while playing, you can go into what Small World calls decline. You flip all your tokens over, choose a new combination and start all over again. Games are limited to 10 turns and the board will change out depending on the number of players. The game is fast, fun and always evolving. This was Jenna’s first play through and the verdict? It was a hit, so much so that she has continued to request a second play through long after the hurricane was over. The ending of this one? Jenna won with forest dwelling amazons.
So the third and final game was yet another classic, Monopoly. The Simpson’s Edition (I have a thing for the Simpson’s, maybe we’ll talk about it on a podcast sometime). You would think everyone knows how to play Monopoly. I mean come on, it’s Monopoly. Next to checkers and chess it may very well be the most ubiquitous game in the states. Well my wife and her sister had never played the game in the way 99% of the rest of the country has. So we spent the first 15 minutes going over the “real” rules plus one of my favorite bonus rules. Any money collected for taxes or community chest/chance goes directly into the center, whoever lands on Free Parking gets the pot. It’s fun and gives people who are on the downward spiral a way out. Jenna bought herself into bankruptcy and Melissa waited t0o long to build houses and ended up losing. Leaving me! I FINALLY WON A GAME! I had forgotten how much I enjoy Monopoly, although when Scott and our friends used to play it we were pretty brutal to each other. Games often ended in near fist fights. This time though, with the wind howling in the background, it was a blast.
Last up in our hurricane hold out was watching the third Paranormal Activity. I am not a huge fan of these movies. I thought the first one was interesting and sort of fun, the second one was horribly boring and the third one? Terrifying. Set in the 80’s following the two sisters from the first two movies, you learn of the beginning of said activities of the paranormal kind. The movie learned from the mistakes of the second one and spent much less time in setup mode. There were some unique and horribly unsettling camera tricks, like the camcorder mounted to a rotating fan. This leads to the slowest pan since Kubrick and it is terribly unsettling. My wife spent the movie hiding behind my shoulder and watching through her hands. It was a great pre-Halloween movie and a wonderful distraction from what was going on outside.
That brings us to now. We are fine, and I want to thank everyone that tweeted well wishes and checked up on us. Our phone has been in and out, but internet has remained mostly consistent. I’ve managed to check up on all of my friends in the area and everyone seems ok and in good spirits. That is sadly not the case for everyone. So if you are in a position to volunteer or give, then please do so. The easiest one is the Red Cross. I will include a good list below to find out where and how you can help. I hope you and your families and friends are OK and were either not in the path of this massive storm or weathered it with minimal complications. Hurricanes are never fun, never to be taken lightly, but sometimes can create a good excuse to go old school and spend some quality time with your family.