Summer project: learning the Unity gaming engine.

One bedtime about 11 years ago, my 5yo daughter did not want to go to bed, so she asked me to tell her a story. Not to read one from a book — but to make one up for her.

She and her brother would often spend time on long car rides telling stories together. First they would agree on a premise, and then the girl would say what she wanted her character to do, and the boy, acting as narrator / dungeon master, would describe what happened next.

So instead of just telling a story for my daughter, I put her in a scenario — she was lost in the woods looking for the entrance to a cave. Not exactly original, but before long I had her encounter a gazebo that, when she entered it and pulled a lever, turned out to be connected by a cable to a steampunk airship that had been taken over by the Dastardly Count Catastrophe. That first adventure, which lasted a week or so, was a musical — each nightly episode included an ad-libbed song or two. Before long, the boy wanted in on the storytime. Each night, after turning off the light, I would spend about 15 minutes advancing the plot, and then we’d spend about 15 more minutes on “interactive time,” in which the kids would each pick a character to role-play.

I kept that story going for about five years. At one point, these stories were as real and important to the kids as any franchise; they went through a phase when they pulled apart their Star Wars and Indiana Jones Legos in order to make characters from “The Magnificent Blimpship.”  When the boy was 13 or 14 he grew more interested in reading his own nonfiction books at bedtime, and around the same time by age 10 or so the girl was so involved in theater that we had less time for the elaborate bedtime ritual.

The girl is now 16 and the boy 20. Bedtime is just a quick good-night, if even that. I have more free time in the evenings now. This summer, I’ve been trying to level up my skills in Blender 3D and the Unity game engine. Rather than just noodle around, I’ve given myself the task of trying to realize, in the form of a computer game, some of the characters and scenes from the bedtime stories the kids and I created.