Saturday. At the STGCC.

This year’s STGCC is Matthew’s first proper “convention”.

So, what is the STGCC? It stands for the Singapore Toy Game and Comic Convention and 2017 is their tenth year running. So obviously, we were expecting toys, games and comics to be at the convention. And they pretty much were. Now, the world is filled with all sorts of toys, games and comics and it can be quite a daunting task figuring out what it is that you want to see. The variety at the STGCC was quite big, and although it tried to cater to pretty much everyone, there was still quite a big hole to fill. As for being Matthew’s first convention, it did its job.

First up, the toys. Toys R Us being what most kids have come to picture what a toy store look like, this convention will throw that notion out the window. We are not going to be looking at Barbie and G.I. Joes here (not the mass market versions anyway). We are looking at Tamashii Nation, Hot Toys, Robot Spirit, S.H.Figuarts, Nendoroids and the occasional Funko Pops. Hobby shops like Action City, Simply Toys, Mighty Jaxx and The Falcon’s Hangar were there selling STGCC exclusives. I was never really into buying expensive stuff but I was familiar with them and so was Matthew. Seeing them in their actual sculpted glory was something entirely different though. Even though they caught our attention, we never really dug deep into our pockets for every eye candy that we saw. Yes, we liked the Pacific Rim action figures and the Star Wars light sabers but they weren’t really our kinds of toys (yet). So we dug deep enough to satisfy our current hobbies. Gunpla and X-Wings miniatures.

They actually already belonged to another section of the convention which was the space for games. In this case, games meant collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, Vanguard, Yu-Gi-Oh and the like. It was also the space for table-top games like X-Wing Miniatures and Warhammer to name a few. In fact, a tournament was happening during the convention. It was when we were walking around that we were asked to sit down for a demo of The Walking Dead: All Out War. It was a game literally straight out of the TV show and comic books with the characters and scenarios that you can play out. The rules though, were a bit too complicated for novices such as Matthew and myself. When we moved on to the next table however, the Tanks game was pretty much spot on. It played similarly to the X-Wings Miniatures game and so we were able to get the hang of it pretty quickly. Not to mention the guys at Blitz and Peaces were very accommodating. We even had a German officer (in full military drab) building his tank with us at the booth. The conversation, to say the least, was lively and very informative. I wouldn’t have thought of getting a WW II history lesson while helping Matthew build a plastic tank!

The E-sports section was just nearby but we didn’t pay much attention to it. It is still not in the range of what interests Matthew at the moment. And thankfully so, as building a gaming rig (fun as it was during the time that I was into it) can be quite an expensive hobby. And that was just the rig without the games. I’m already obsessed with gaming keyboards and mice, not because I’m a gamer, but because I like the feel of these gaming peripherals. We did catch glimpses of some of the games, but they really didn’t pique Matthew’s curiosity at that moment.

I thought that the Akiba Zone was where we would actually see more anime related stuff, but it was for people that are more of an otaku than we were. Sadly, Matthew and I are just hobbyists in the anime world and not full blown geeks (yet). That may change depending on how the anime and manga industry grows around Matthew. And perhaps that will depend on his friends as well, but that remains to be seen.

Backtracking to the Star Wars world, we get reminded of this year’s STGCC theme. There were lots of Star Wars stuff. Including Rey’s speeder and the deck of the Millenium Falcon built to scale. Matthew being Matthew though, we didn’t have the heart to queue up for any souvenir photos for that Instagram post. Those duel-ready light sabres were very interesting though. As much as we would have liked to whack each other with those sabres though, we opted to forego them as well.

We walked around the convention hall a bit more to look at the weird and wonderful stuff that were on sale. Products that we have never heard of were there, Indie artists selling their ware, and weird things that you would never find in retail shops (ball sack pistols anyone?). There were handmade sculptures, handmade posters, handmade toys and comic books by independent artists. The place was nearly free-for-all and we had a good time.

By the end of the day, we had to pick something up to make the trip even more worth it than the experience we already had. So we picked out some toys to put in our toy box and we left the place happy. We didn’t get to make new friends yet, but the acquaintances that we managed to experience was a good step forward in the right direction. Maybe in the next convention, we wouldn’t be too shy.

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Go Poke a Monster

Pokemon GO.

If you haven’t heard of it, you have been living under a rock that has been buried under another rock. Seriously, it has been in the news and it has been spreading like the plague faster than a zombie apocalypse. It has been getting publicity that it doesn’t even need to pay for ads (although not all that publicity is good)!
So, Pokemon GO launched in Singapore last weekend and drones of zombies immediately popped out from everywhere. Despite the warnings and bad rep that it had been getting (mostly thanks to stupid people), it was a hit the moment it showed up in their respective app stores in Singapore. And yes, we have downloaded it.

Matthew had been doing his Pokemon research a few weeks back and he knows (more or less) what Pokemon GO is about. Unfortunately, even though I wanted to get Pikachu as our first Pokemon, Matthew wanted a Charmander instead. So we got Charmander. Now what?

I took to jogging to do some exercise and lose some weight. Pokemon GO became a motivator of sorts allowing me to reach stops and gyms while jogging. That can only be good right? Maybe if I had infinite data bundled into my mobile plan and a phone battery that recharges while moving it would. But I don’t, on both counts. The game is a crazy drain in battery life and mobile data (maybe not so much as I initially thought), there is no way around it if you want to play. Free Wi-Fi only helps ever so slightly but it isn’t a solution and lugging around a power bank isn’t really my cup of tea.
On top of this, the game actually requires you to have it “on” and running in order to track you. If you wanted to hatch that egg, you’d have to walk. You have to be moving slow enough for the app’s GPS tracking to locate you. So travelling by car isn’t really a hot idea (unless you drive at a snail’s pace). You do get Pokemons at bus stops and train stations but the GPS tracking isn’t the best nor the most accurate. If your expecting those rare monsters to just pop out of the woodwork, then you are terribly mistaken. You may get lucky, but more often than not, you have got to travel many many miles for that rare one to appear. Appearing is one thing and capturing it is another thing though. So good luck.

Is Pokemon GO the ultimate social game? Maybe it is. But it is a self proclaimed one. We are currently playing it but not to the point where we stay up all night and walk from east to west just to catch a Pokemon. You could say we’re casual players of the game. So don’t expect us to bag that Snorlax or Gyarados anytime soon. As long as it is done in good fun, there’s nothing wrong with Pokemon GO. Always remember that safety comes first and Pokemon GO is just a game. Don’t let it play you.

Citizen Kidznia

A job at the Soup Spoon

Kidzania. A standalone metropolis for kids just below the age of seventeen. A Kidzania citizen is entitled to several perks in this metropolitan city such as discounts in establishments and at the same time getting paid more for working in those establishments as well. Immigration for Kidzania Singapore opened in May, just in time for the upcoming school holidays in June. So what is it like in a Kidzanian world?

The Kidzania Post
The Kidzania Post

Well, for starters, Kidzania offers kids the chance to be independent and to have a look at the “working” world where adults rule. I mentioned “working” instead of the “real” world here because it sort of promotes that thought. I’m not saying that it is not good to let children experience a working world, but it is limiting to a child with a bigger imagination. So let’s take it at face value for now. The first time a kid enters Kidzania, they are issued some Kidzanian currency and an ATM card. All of these work well within Kidzania and immediately teaches kids the value of money and the importance of putting money in the pot. Opening a bank account automatically bumps the kids spending money, so it is recommended to stand in line and queue up at the bank as the first course of action. It is also recommended to pick up a map from the immigration counter because the place is deceptively big.

The Kidzania Post
Checking his bank balance

With money in hand, the kids are now free to roam around in their virtual world. Kids can use their money for various activities and if they ever run out, they can always queue up for a job somewhere. Here’s the deal, some establishments do have pre requisites such as passing an eye-test to get a driving license or a personal accident insurance before dangerously enrolling as a mountaineer. Simple things that are quite commendable as a tool to show children that life isn’t as easy as they may think. You can also spend your Kidzzos (that’s Kidzanian currency) to go and attend school or learn a skill or two. Getting higher education at the learning lab allows kids to earn more at certain establishments. This depends on what kind of class they took at the Learning Lab. They have to pay to learn, but they get something for it in return (just like how we adults are told to eat up courses for becoming relevant). Like I told Matthew, it is a good investment. There are skills that you pay to learn but have no financial advantage to your Kidzanian life, but hey, they can be fun (you know, just like us adults investing in our hobbies that cost us without any returns?). You do see the trend here, right?

A job at the Soup Spoon
A job at the Soup Spoon

Kidzania is a good place. It offers a lot to kids in terms of living in a normal world. And its a brilliant concept to teach kids the value of money and working hard (because everything in the bloody department store will cost your kids an arm and a leg’s worth of working). But that’s about it. The problem that I see with their utopian world is that it suggests that life is about working and spending your money. It has little to show kids how to be creative and to make their own dreams. It shows them a dream, a dream of a normal “working” world. And I’m afraid that it becomes subliminal to the point where all the establishments in Kidzania are recognizable real world establishments that we go to or work at.

All work and no play makes Jakjak a dull boy
All work and no play makes Jakjak a dull boy

On another note, entry is expensive. Especially if your kids want you to be with them inside Kidzania. As a caveat, only kids 8 years old and above are allowed without guardians/parents/slaves in tow. But of course, every parent and a half seems to want in on the action. For crying out loud, the point of make believe in Kidzania is to foster citizenship and independence among kids, so please stop being mother hens. Let them queue, let them hang out, let them do what the heck they want. It’s a kid’s place, let them be kids. There are enough adults supervising and managing the entire city to keep things in order so they don’t need “volunteer” parents bossing their kids about.

So should you bring your kids to Kidzania? Yes, of course. It is a great experience. Once may not be enough, in which case, get the Pazzport to get more out of your visit. Else, spend all the Kidzos before you leave the city (remember, its only worth something within Kidzania).

Watering Lego

When we first came to Legoland a few years ago, it was only the theme park that was around. It was new, bright and colourful but it was scorching hot and the queues were ginormous. When we came back this year, there was already a Legoland Water Park and more importantly, the Legoland Hotel had also been built up. Staying in a hotel sitting in between the two parks is the best thing you can have, at a price though, but I think it was worth it.

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Right after we had a romp at the theme park, we hurried back to the hotel to make the most of our time. We picked up some food and ate all the way through. A few minutes to digest and recharge were all that was needed before suiting up for the water park next door.

We were all hyped up on the way to the water park when it started to rain. But we went on ahead thinking you can’t get wet if you’re already wet. The theory was true, but the rain came down heavier and lightning soon got added to the mix. Needless to say, we were asked to stay away from the pools. We waited forever before the water park re-opened, but then there was only roughly an hour left before the park closed for the day. Guess what? That didn’t stop the kids.

Got raft, will travel
Got raft, will travel

We were immediately in the Build-A-Raft river where we hijacked somebody else’s raft that was already built. Since we were short on time, being pirates helped. We went around the river and looked at the slides. Yes, we had to have a go at them before the park closed. I picked up the boys and off we went to the nearest slides.

Come rain, come sun, it's all fun
Come rain, come sun, it’s all fun

We went around to a few of the slides, one of which was the Slide Racers. Three kids, three slides, one winner. In a gravity race, weight and an aerodynamic head plays a part giving me the win. We also went for the Brick Blaster and the Wave Rider which were more or less typical water slides. Both of which provided enough smiles as we slid down with the rain in our face and a pool of water waiting for us at the bottom of the slide. Alas the day came to an end too soon. We packed up hoping to get an early start the next day.

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We hit the buffet table early in the morning. I was surprised that the food tasted amazing. Most hotels don’t really have delicious food for their breakfast buffets, but Legoland does. Second and third servings weren’t uncommon. After breakfast, we were back in our swimsuits and on our way to the water park once more.

Sometimes being bright and early pays a good deal. For one thing, we were there to actually open up the water park. We literally had to wait for the actual gates to open up as we stood there in our swimming costumes. But hey, we were first at everything when we got in. For some reason, the river is always a must for Matthew. For every water park that we visited, we always went in and around the river.

As the barriers were lifted and the slides were opened, we were running towards them as well. Unable to figure out which one to get on to, we decided to build Lego boats to race first. And just like at the center, I lost to the kids as well. Sometimes, thinking too much is bad for you. Then we hit the slides.

Power sliding
Power sliding

Splash and Slide puts two of you in a big round red and yellow floater. You then slide down and around into a tunneling funnel. We went and did the Tidal Tube and the Brick Blaster one more time to get more slide time. Then the two rough nuts went on the Tidal Chaser for a race before winding down in the Lego Wave Pool. While the kids went about splashing and playing around, the wife and I just sprawled and enjoyed basking in the sun while waiting on the kids to finish. Of course, they never did finish on their own so we had to drag them out of the pool and back to the hotel where we took our final rest and packed our bags.

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While waiting for our ride, we scurried down to the Lego Theme Park to buy some Lego. I built three Minifigs and Matthew went on to buy his Lego Nexo Knight. Its the new Lego that is going to eat into the pockets of parents more than Ninjago probably would. Since this new series powers an App called Merlok 2.0. We all went home brick-happy and wouldn’t mind doing it again if we could have the water park to ourselves just like this.

Fancy a game of Munchkin?

Both Matthew and myself love watching Adventure Time with Finn and Jake. Similar to how we felt when Spongebob Squarepants aired some years back, Adventure Time wasn’t a cartoon. It was a lifestyle. But I don’t think that everyone saw it like we did. It was a hit, for whatever reason that people watched it for, Finn and Jake became household names (Peppermint Butler, Princess Bubblegum, Gunter and the rest came to as well). Adventure Time brought to life most of our fantasy adventures that were stuck in our head or at least made it as real as a Saturday morning cartoon can. It is still a great show until now, but what could be better than a Finn and Jake adventure?

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We had never heard of the game Munchkin until recently. We saw it at different stores and we were curious, but our curiosity never went beyond our thoughts. That ended (thankfully) when Munchkin mashed with Adventure Time and mum got the game for us last Christmas.

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Munchkin slash Adventure Time
Munchkin slash Adventure Time

Munchkin, based on what the box says, is a role-playing game that is dealt with cards. It’s old school simplicity makes it quite easy to pick up and play. Some elements of the game can be attributed to Dungeons and Dragons (but really, what role-playing game isn’t?), but is nowhere near as complicated as AD&D.

Mashed up with Adventure Time characters and basically the land of Ooo, it became even more visible to those not into the RPG thing. So what’s better than an adventure with Finn and Jake? Well, this is. Because we get to be in the adventure as Finn, Jake, heck even as Marceline.

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When we got the game, we played for hours on end. It is such an enjoyable game that we have become nerds all of a sudden. It’s cool. And we still play an hour or two whenever we get the chance. It proved to me that it wasn’t just a novelty that wears off, rather, it is that part of us that wants to go on an adventure. So, fancy a game of Munchkin?

Munchkin slash Adventure Time box art
Munchkin slash Adventure Time box art