So there are lots and lots of unschoolers that play Pokemon or Dragon Ball Z or whatever the latest Japanese card game is. I had to Google just to spell Pokemon, so clearly, we are not of that sort. Awhile back, however, Aleks got an interest in Bakugan from watching the cartoons on Cartoon Network's website (no TV does one no good these days). He then started drawing Bakugan of his very own. He also used the term "Creature Cards" to refer to them. Or so I thought.
At first, his bakugan were all quite small and he would cut playing-card-sized pieces of paper out of larger ones in order to draw them. Then he started insisting on full-sized creature cards. Actually, for awhile he started with the large ones, went to the small ones and for a long time now hasn't been drawing any at all. Until recently that is. These new ones are all "creature cards" and not "bakugan" at all, so I am told, and are full-sized sheets of letter paper. Which in itself is somewhat bothersome as I had to scour the art pile for blank sheets to print tax information this evening (thus a trip to OfficeMax or another such officey big box store is in order).
He's been drawing them lots the last couple of weeks. He took a bunch in his backpack to Jonas' house for his first sleepover back in November and they "played" the game then. A few weeks ago, he somehow talked ten-year-old Miranda into playing though. For Art Day this Tuesday, I'd had nothing planned due to being overwhelmed with Dumb Things I Gotta Do, so Aleks got everyone drawing their own creature cards and they all played. The mamas sat drinking tea in the dining room, discussing overwhelm and unschooling, and listening as the children all shouted out rules and their cards' attributes to one another. It was like Calvin Ball for role-playing cards.
What amazed me most was not just that Aleks had invented this game all by himself or the way that it was played, but that he talked others into believing it was a legitimate game as well, including kids much older than him who were already accustomed to role-playing card games. It gives me a strange, not-my-thing-but-validating-of-unschooling-nonetheless feeling. If he'd suddenly learned something phenomenal about quantum physics, it'd make a lot of sense to feel validated (and, come to think of it, I think he must know a bit about quantum physics just due to our discussions, huh). This, however, is strange and wonderful and brilliantly creative (despite the occasional tendency to lean on mass produced characters).
Speaking of leaning on mass-produced storylines and characters, an interesting discussion came up about that in We Are Wizards, a documentary about the genre of Harry Potter-associated rock music known as Wizard Rock. There was quite the argument for re-use of known characters that was quite convincing. Something about it being as old as time. Reminded me of Joseph Campbell somehow. Definitely check it out, if that strikes your fancy. At the very least, allow it to turn you on to Brad Neely. Oh dear, there I've gone hittin' my own little flow and totally neglected the story I was busy tellin'.
Ah yes, mass-produced characters. I have a sampling of some of the creature cards. I recognize this cycloptic alien dude, but I can't be sure from where. Either he's some form of Ugly Doll or else he's meant to represent Sheldon J. Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants. I'm guessing the latter. You can see that the "health" bar of this card is all filled in, which probably explains why I found it in the recycling - it could no longer be used. The small image on the right represents the card character's skills or attributes.
This is a King Cobra card. I liked that Aleks started drawing random animals. Though of course, like all children growing up in the 80s, he first learned of the King Cobra from Indiana Jones.
This one just delighted me so. This is a Water Bear creature card. Its only skill is hibernation. That may be why it hasn't been used yet.
This is a "color-changing chameleon" creature card. Aleks is very keen on the color-changing aspect of chameleons. He's really into chameleons. They have five toes, you know, and on the hind legs, they're arranged quite weird.
This one really made me quite excited. This is a frill lizard creature card. We have a plastic one that was brought back from Australia by a family friend and named Leonardo "Jon" DiCaprio. I think it was named that mostly to piss Jon off. And I don't know why the hatin' on Leo. It appears that this card's attributes is that he bites. I believe that triangle is a tooth.
This is an Iron Man creature card, also already used up. Aleks never even saw Iron Man, so he must be appearing in commercials somewhere or something.
This is a Spiderman creature card. Also expired. It always excites me to see Aleks color in his drawings. He doesn't like to. He draws very quickly and it takes too much time, usually.
This is Spiderman's enemy, Venom. It must be that Cartoon Network's website is showing some of this. Clearly, I am such a good mother as I pay so close attention to what my children are doing. They could be downloading porn for all I know.
Finally, Aleks' pièce de résistance, the three-headed dragon creature card. He worked exceptionally hard on this just to beat Miranda come Tuesday. He was so terribly proud of it that he had me scan it into the computer to post on the blog or on somebody's Facebook wall, come to think of it. Having it scanned came in quite handy when the original was damaged with water prior to game play. We were able to simply print out a new one. Which made us think that digital may be an excellent format for storing art in general.