PopCap Profile Liza Geonie and Family Zombies Help Family Bond….Seriously “I’m not a big gamer,” confesses Liza Geonie, a 37 year old behavior analyst for individuals with autism and developmental disorders. “But it’s different with Plants vs. Zombies.” Liza’s happy obsession with the game began during the drive home to Northport, NY after a short family vacation. While her husband drove and her three-year old son Cailen napped in the backseat, Liza started fiddling around with her husband’s iPad and began playing the game he’d been up all hour playing the night before. “That was it. I was hooked,” laughs Liza. “When we got home, I downloaded the game onto my laptop and became just as addicted as Angelo!” In no time at all the game was captivating the entire family, including Liza’s two stepdaughters Megan and Devin (ages 19 and 13).
“I didn’t really focus on moving up the levels initially—I just truly enjoyed playing the game and the challenge of it. But the best thing was that my husband and I were bonding over it. I started coming to him for techniques, advice, and so on.” Of course, it helped that Liza’s husband was playing the game just as avidly as she was. At the end of a long day the couple would unwind by bashing zombies side by side, he on his iPad and she on her laptop. “After I completed the game several times and kept moving up, I started craving some diversity, so I started getting into the mini games and puzzles. That is when I became a little obsessed with completing each stage to unlock the next puzzle. And that’s when Cailen really got involved—he LOVES the puzzles and mini-games and watching me play them.” Lately, however, Cailen is watching Liza play much less since he has begun playing on his own. “He picks all the plants he’s seen me pick—the giant Squash is our favorite—and he’s working out how to place plants. I’m trying not to give him too much advice though I did tell him to put the flowers in the back row or they’ll get eaten.”
Then again, Cailen was playing his own version of Plants vs. Zombies well before he started playing it on the iPad. “Sometimes,” confides Liza, “He will be playing by himself, playing with his little toys and I’ll overhear him saying, ‘Brainnsss…’. I think I have the only toddler who turns his toys into zombies. His daycare teacher mentioned that he talks about it sometimes, too. I have no idea what she thinks about us.”
That daycare teacher would likely be even more perplexed by another Geonie family ritual. Liza explains, “Every night since Cailen was a baby, my husband and I do silly things for bedtime where we act out scenarios from his favorite shows. Now, his favorite thing to do is play zombies. My husband comes in growling ‘Brrrainnns’ and Cailen and I take turns being the giant munching plant and the squash. Cailen loves the way the squash looks first, then goes “Hrmmm” and then jumps. He does it perfectly! It is so cute!” Liza gushes. Cailen has also memorized the entire Plants vs. Zombies song though he’s hardly alone in that—Liza will plug the iPad into the stereo and the whole family will sing along, including Megan and Devin (who have long since loaded the game onto their cell phones). Zombie sing-along dance parties are uncommonly common for the Geonie clan.
While Liza generally plays Plants vs. Zombies just for fun, she believes that the game has come with some unforeseen benefits. “I have a very stressful job, and sometimes strategizing during a game helps me get through a tough project. It gives me a nice mental break while working so I can get back on track. It can really wake me up mentally when I am doing work late at night.” Liza also makes a point of keeping active: she’s a runner and a Zumba dance instructor who started teaching a special needs Zumba class in September of 2010. “Teaching that class is enormously rewarding,” says Liza. “The unspoken things I get to experience in my special needs class are just magical.”
While the family may not agree on their favorite character in the Plants vs. Zombies—Liza is fond of the cacti, Cailen favors the squash, and Angelo likes the garlic—there is one thing everyone in the Geonie family can agree on: they love Plants vs. Zombies. Actually, make that two things they agree on. “Oh my gosh,” enthuses Liza, “We would LOVE a sequel!”