Ms. Fobes, who lives in Raymore, Mo., plans meals around discounts offered at the grocery store and always checks coupon apps on her cellphone before buying clothes. When, a little over a year ago, J. C. Penney stopped promoting sales and offering coupons and instead made a big deal about its "everyday" low prices, Ms. Fobes stopped shopping there. It wasn't that she thought the prices were bad, she said. She just wasn't having any fun.
"It may be a decent deal to buy that item for $5," said Ms. Fobes, who runs Penny Pinchin' Mom, a blog about couponing strategies. "But for someone like me, who's always looking for a sale or a coupon -- seeing that something is marked down 20 percent off, then being able to hand over the coupon to save, it just entices me," she said. "It's a rush."
That's from an article in the NY Times about J.C. Penney's recent overhaul by Ron Johnson, who sought to apply his Apple Store experience to the mid-range department chain. Being the sort of person who a) doesn't like to shop, and b) doesn't want any nonsense when I do need to shop, I don't often think about shopping as a game. But it clearly is a game for some. As we don't spend so much time on the savana anymore, the hunting of bargains and the gathering of sale items is about as primal as we get these days, aside from Halo and Call of Duty. But not every shopping experience is the same type of game. And maybe that's where Johnson slipped up. The Apple Store game is more aspirational: buying the best products for reasonable prices and feeling part of a place & company that's so minimalist, simple, smart, and cool. Maybe Penneys shoppers didn't want to play that game...not at Penneys anyway.
As chess increased in popularity across Europe in the 1800s, the proliferation in the variety of chess sets caused confusion amongst competitors, especially those hailing from different countries. The English typically used Barleycorn sets:
English saw a different design for every chess club: St. George sets with their appearance of stacked disks, Dublin sets with more rounded middles, and Northern Uprights with columns instead, as well as elaborate, easily tipped Barleycorn sets. Germany had delicate Selenus sets, beautiful beyond belief, but fragile, tippable, and problematic for play. To tell which piece is which on some of these sets one must count the stacked crown. France saw elegant Regence style sets with some of the most confusing signatures in history. As in the English sets, queen's were represented by orbs. The king's floral crown closely resembles the modern Staunton signature for the queen. Knights were always taller than bishops the old French sets. Bishops were represented as fools, not clergymen, and therefore lacked the signature miter. What was worse, the knights in these sets were sometimes simple turned designs, not the recognizable horse's head. This lead to common confusion as to which minor piece was which. The confusion of antique French knights and bishops is still a common problem today.
Then in the 1849, Nathaniel Cook designed and John Jaques began to sell a set that eventually came to be called the Staunton chess set:
Howard Staunton was regarded as the top chess player of his era and organized the first international chess tournament in 1851. Staunton endorsed the set and it soon became the standard in chess competitions and, later, the official standard of the World Chess Federation. The most recent iteration of the official Staunton set is Daniel Weil's design for World Chess:
If you're interested in learning more, Jimmy Stamp has a nice piece about the design of the original Staunton set and Weil's update at Smithsonian magazine.
Ten friends started playing tag in high school and just never stopped. Now they fly across the country, hide in the bushes, and sneak into houses to tag the other players.
"You're like a deer or elk in hunting season," says Joe Tombari, a high-school teacher in Spokane, who sometimes locks the door of his classroom during off-periods and checks under his car before he gets near it.
One February day in the mid-1990s, Mr. Tombari and his wife, then living in California, got a knock on the door from a friend. "Hey, Joe, you've got to check this out. You wouldn't believe what I just bought," he said, as he led the two out to his car.
What they didn't know was Sean Raftis, who was "It," had flown in from Seattle and was folded in the trunk of the Honda Accord. When the trunk was opened he leapt out and tagged Mr. Tombari, whose wife was so startled she fell backward off the curb and tore a ligament in her knee.
"I still feel bad about it," says Father Raftis, who is now a priest in Montana. "But I got Joe."
The Verge has a long look into casinos which includes an interesting section on the first blackjack computers. It also describes the main strategy employed by casinos to prevent and catch cheating: a shit ton of cameras.
They keep a close eye on the tables, since that's where cheating's most likely to occur. With 1080p high-definition cameras, surveillance operators can read cards and count chips -- a significant improvement over earlier cameras. And though facial recognition doesn't yet work reliably enough to replace human operators, Whiting's excited at the prospects of OCR. It's already proven useful for identifying license plates. The next step, he says, is reading cards and automatically assessing a player's strategy and skill level. In the future, maybe, the cameras will spot card counters and other advantage players without any operator intervention. (Whiting, a former advantage player himself, can often spot such players. Rather than kick them out, as some casinos did in the past, Aria simply limits their bets, making it economically disadvantageous to keep playing.)
With over a thousand cameras operating 24/7, the monitoring room creates tremendous amounts of data every day, most of which goes unseen. Six technicians watch about 40 monitors, but all the feeds are saved for later analysis. One day, as with OCR scanning, it might be possible to search all that data for suspicious activity. Say, a baccarat player who leaves his seat, disappears for a few minutes, and is replaced with another player who hits an impressive winning streak. An alert human might spot the collusion, but even better, video analytics might flag the scene for further review. The valuable trend in surveillance, Whiting says, is toward this data-driven analysis (even when much of the job still involves old-fashioned gumshoe work). "It's the data," he says, "And cameras now are data. So it's all data. It's just learning to understand that data is important."
Ultimately, catching cheaters is a small part of what casino surveillance teams do. There simply aren't that many cheats out there, compared to the number of purse-snatchers and pickpockets, the ordinary criminals that people like Ted Whiting deal with almost every day. When it comes to cheating, Whiting says, "We're never going to be ahead. Remember that people who get paid to catch the bad guys get paid whether they catch them or not. The cheats don't get paid unless they figure it out. So they're motivated, and they've succeeded. But once they do, we go full in."
Above cryptic crossword No 25,842 sat a set of special instructions: "Araucaria," it said, "has 18 down of the 19, which is being treated with 13 15".
Those who solved the puzzle found the answer to 18 was cancer, to 19 oesophagus, and to 13 15 palliative care. The solutions to some of the other clues were: Macmillan, nurse, stent, endoscopy, and sunset.
Speaking from his home in Cambridgeshire, Araucaria said this particular puzzle had not taken him very long, adding that a crossword had seemed the most fitting way to make the announcement.
"It seemed the natural thing to do somehow," he said. "It just seemed right."
The game's true origins, however, go unmentioned in the official literature. Three decades before Darrow's patent, in 1903, a Maryland actress named Lizzie Magie created a proto-Monopoly as a tool for teaching the philosophy of Henry George, a nineteenth-century writer who had popularized the notion that no single person could claim to "own" land. In his book Progress and Poverty (1879), George called private land ownership an "erroneous and destructive principle" and argued that land should be held in common, with members of society acting collectively as "the general landlord."
Magie called her invention The Landlord's Game, and when it was released in 1906 it looked remarkably similar to what we know today as Monopoly.
But it was Monopoly with a significant twist:
The game's most expensive properties to buy, and those most remunerative to own, were New York City's Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Wall Street. In place of Monopoly's "Go!" was a box marked "Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages." The Landlord Game's chief entertainment was the same as in Monopoly: competitors were to be saddled with debt and ultimately reduced to financial ruin, and only one person, the supermonopolist, would stand tall in the end. The players could, however, vote to do something not officially allowed in Monopoly: cooperate. Under this alternative rule set, they would pay land rent not to a property's title holder but into a common pot-the rent effectively socialized so that, as Magie later wrote, "Prosperity is achieved."
With a lengthy section on the philosophy underpinning the original version of the game, this is more interesting than an article about a board game has the right to be.
Here's a Quora answer about how those claw arcade games work. You know the ones, you've probably won once, but just once. My inclination was to call this a 'fascinating Quora answer,' but upon thinking about it, it's not fascinating. The machines work exactly how you think they would. The operators can vary the strength of the claw to screw you just bad enough you keep sliding in your dollar bills.
Basically, most crane games are designed so the claw is randomly (and only once in many games) strong enough to let players win. Some even weaken in strength after a short time so players get close to victory only to see it slip from their grasp! Since the manuals for many skill games are available online, this is not hard to verify.
The answerer then goes on to link to many manuals so you can see for yourself. (via @sunilnagaraj)
There are all these simple little games that people play using their surroundings: don't step on the cracks, balance beam railroad tracks (or curbs), bicycle slalom, etc.
My game in the car was to use my hand to jump over driveways & telephone poles and swoop down into ditches...just a small flick of the wrist in the wind is all it took. Haven't done that in years. I still occasionally play don't step on the cracks and fight the daily urge to jump and touch. (via ★interesting)
The only governments left are two theocracies and myself, a communist state. I wanted to stay a democracy, but the Senate would always over-rule me when I wanted to declare war before the Vikings did. This would delay my attack and render my turn and often my plans useless. And of course the Vikings would then break the cease fire like clockwork the very next turn. Something I also miss in later civ games is a little internal politics. Anyway, I was forced to do away with democracy roughly a thousand years ago because it was endangering my empire. But of course the people hate me now and every few years since then, there are massive guerrilla (late game barbarians) uprisings in the heart of my empire that I have to deal with which saps resources from the war effort.
Actually, I changed my mind. I bet this does get turned into a movie. (via @zittrain / ★adamkuban)
If Nigel has a weakness, it's that his wide-open, high-scoring style often leaves him vulnerable to counterattack by opponents who also have prodigious word knowledge. And Nigel is regarded as having a less-than-proficient endgame, which is variously attributed to his lack of interest in strategic play or his reluctance to study board positions. Indeed, Nigel doesn't record his racks, doesn't review games, rarely kibitzes about particular plays. The other top experts, particularly the Americans, talk disdainfully about this gap in Nigel's ability, how it makes him an incomplete player. Naturally, Nigel doesn't care.
According to Wikipedia, Richards has continued his winning ways since 2001...he's a two-time World Championship winner and has won the U.S. National Scrabble Championship three out of the last four years.
If you've ever played Monopoly, you probably haven't followed the rules. The Campaign for Real Monopoly (via marco) would like to remind you of the real rules and the reasons for sticking to them.
BUYING PROPERTY...Whenever you land on an unowned property you may buy that property from the Bank at its printed price. You receive the Title Deed card showing ownership; place it face up in front of you.
If you do not wish to buy the property, the Banker sells it at auction to the highest bidder. The buyer pays the Bank the amount of the bid in cash and receives the Title Deed card for that property. Any player, including the one who declined the option to buy it at the printed price, may bid. Bidding may start at any price.
Contrary to popular belief, Charles Darrow didn't invent Monopoly in 1933 from scratch. It was heavily based on The Landlord's Game, an innovative board game patented in 1904 by Lizzie Magie, to be a "practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences."
In the past 4 months, I've changed my life for the better in three significant ways.
My relationships changed, and thus my everyday changed. I began eating with someone who ate differently than me. I adopted her eating habits, which spurred me to change how I ate. I also spent more time with Grant, who introduced me to the world of urban cycling. I adopted his lifestyle and his interests. And then I changed myself and started pushing my heart in the gym.
I'm playing Health Month this month, mostly just for the hell of it. The game is built to be social...there are teams, players offer each other support, etc. Just two days in, I can see why this might work for me: it turns private goals into public rules.
His brain is jammed with factoids: the names of songs and rock bands that lived and died before he was born, far-flung rivers and capitals, foreign sports equipment, dead astronomers, fallen monarchs, extinct cars, old movies, heroes of mythology, dusty novelists and the myriad other bevoweled wraiths that haunt the twisted minds of crossword constructors. He has learned their wily tricks and traps, like using "number" in a clue that most people would take to mean "numeral" but that really meant "more numb."
The article includes a sped-up video of Feyer solving the notoriously difficult Saturday NY Times puzzle in under six minutes.
But something about Burke's moment -- the mean-girl giggles in the audience when she asked to solve the puzzle; Sajak's speechlessness after she did -- better captured the imagination. People watching her clip as it crackled across the Internet responded the same way the stunned contestant standing next to her did. Like that poor guy named Rick, they looked at her, and back at the puzzle, back at her, and back at the puzzle, trying to figure it out: How did she do that?
"There are a million things I'm not good at," she told me on Tuesday. "But Wheel of Fortune, I can do."
Health Month is a game designed to help you improve your health.
There are about 50 different kinds of rules. Half of them are rules about what to avoid - things like alcohol, white flour, artificial sweeteners, and illegal drugs. And half of them are rules about what you do more of - things like exercise, sleep, greens, and multivitamins. Choose however many you like, and ignore the rest (you can always add more next month, right?). After choosing your rules, you have the option of making a promise to yourself about how to reward yourself if you stay in the game all month, or to build in consequences if you don't make it. It's all about self-accountability, in public. It works.
SuperBetter is a superhero-themed game that turns getting better in multi-player adventure. It's designed to help anyone recovering from an injury, or coping with a chronic condition, get better, sooner - with more fun, and with less pain and misery, along the way.
The game starts with five missions. You're encouraged to do at least one mission a day, so that you've successfully completed them all in less than a week. Of course, you can move through them even faster if you feel up to it.
McGonigal recently gave a short talk about SuperBetter:
and has plans to make a SuperBetter game guide so that anyone can play. (via mr)
Deep Blue was able to play chess well because the game is perfectly logical, with fairly simple rules; it can be reduced easily to math, which computers handle superbly. But the rules of language are much trickier. At the time, the very best question-answering systems -- some created by software firms, some by university researchers -- could sort through news articles on their own and answer questions about the content, but they understood only questions stated in very simple language ("What is the capital of Russia?"); in government-run competitions, the top systems answered correctly only about 70 percent of the time, and many were far worse. "Jeopardy!" with its witty, punning questions, seemed beyond their capabilities. What's more, winning on "Jeopardy!" requires finding an answer in a few seconds. The top question-answering machines often spent longer, even entire minutes, doing the same thing.
The match between Anand and Topalov was hard fought, partly because Topalov invoked a rule for the contest that forbids the players from offering draws to each other. The rule, named after the city where the match was being played, insured that there would be no short draws. As the match wore on and fatigue took a toll, both players began to make mistakes with greater frequency.
"Anand" was briefly a global Trending Topic on Twitter this afternoon, which was unexpected and nice.
Physicist John Wheeler devised a variant of the Twenty Questions game called Negative Twenty Questions in which, unbeknownst to the guesser, everyone privately picks their own object, resulting in a game where both the guesser and the object choosers are required to narrow their choice in object with each round.
When returning Joe (let's call him) asks the standard bigger-than-a-breadbox question, if the first person says no, then the other players, who may have selected objects that are bigger, now have to look around the room for something that fits the definition. And if "Is it Hollow?" is Joe's next question, then any of the players who chose new and unfortunately solid objects now have to search around for a new appropriate object. As Murch says, "a complex vortex of decision making is set up, a logical but unpredictable chain of ifs and thens." Yet somehow this steady improvisation finally leads -- though not always, there's the tension -- to a final answer everyone can agree with, despite the odds.
Wheeler thought the game resembled how quantum mechanics worked.
A spokeswoman for the company said the use of proper nouns would "add a new dimension" to Scrabble and "introduce an element of popular culture into the game". She said: "This is one of a number of twists and challenges included that we believe existing fans will enjoy and will also enable younger fans and families to get involved."
I also like this part:
Mattel said there would be no hard and fast rule over whether a proper noun was correct or not.
So you can just make shit up! Or maybe you don't have to...look at all these useful and real brand abbreviations: BMW, IEEE, XHTML, VW, SQL, QT, BBC, AAA, NAACP. No vowels, lots of vowels, more Q and X words...no more discards.
Here's what's actually happening. Mattel, which owns the rights to Scrabble outside of North America, is introducing a game this summer called Scrabble Trickster. The game will include cards that allow players to spell words backward, use proper nouns, and steal letters from opponents, among other nontraditional moves. The game will not be available in North America, where rival toy company Hasbro owns Scrabble. Hasbro, I'm told, has no plans for a similar variation.
All during the filming of 2001 we played chess whenever I was in London and every fifth game I did something unusual. Finally we reached the 25th game and it was agreed that this would decide the matter. Well into the game he made a move that I was sure was a loser. He even clutched his stomach to show how upset he was. But it was a trap and I was promptly clobbered. "You didn't know I could act too," he remarked.
Speakers move air to make sound. Some clever developer has used this fact to make a foosball game that uses small puffs of air from the iPhone's speakers to move a tiny real-life Styrofoam ball around. Video (or it didn't happen):
Carlsen: I have no idea. I wouldn't want to know it anyway. It might turn out to be a nasty surprise.
SPIEGEL: Why? You are 19 years old and ranked the number one chess player in the world. You must be incredibly clever.
Carlsen: And that's precisely what would be terrible. Of course it is important for a chess player to be able to concentrate well, but being too intelligent can also be a burden. It can get in your way. I am convinced that the reason the Englishman John Nunn never became world champion is that he is too clever for that.
SPIEGEL: How that?
Carlsen: At the age of 15, Nunn started studying mathematics in Oxford; he was the youngest student in the last 500 years, and at 23 he did a PhD in algebraic topology. He has so incredibly much in his head. Simply too much. His enormous powers of understanding and his constant thirst for knowledge distracted him from chess.
SPIEGEL: Things are different in your case?
Carlsen: Right. I am a totally normal guy. My father is considerably more intelligent than I am.
His comparison of his abilities with Garry Kasparov's later in the interview is interesting as well.
The heavy use of computer analysis has pushed the game itself in new directions. The machine doesn't care about style or patterns or hundreds of years of established theory. It counts up the values of the chess pieces, analyzes a few billion moves, and counts them up again. (A computer translates each piece and each positional factor into a value in order to reduce the game to numbers it can crunch.) It is entirely free of prejudice and doctrine and this has contributed to the development of players who are almost as free of dogma as the machines with which they train. Increasingly, a move isn't good or bad because it looks that way or because it hasn't been done that way before. It's simply good if it works and bad if it doesn't. Although we still require a strong measure of intuition and logic to play well, humans today are starting to play more like computers.
The section about people using computers *during* matches is particularly interesting.
This fun little post talks about how the economics of pinball changed as it became more and then less popular.
In 1986, Williams High Speed changed the economics of pinball forever. Pinball developers began to see how they could take advantage of programmable software to monitor, incentivize, and ultimately exploit the players. They had two instruments at their disposal: the score required for a free game, and the match probability. All pinball machines offer a replay to a player who beats some specified score. Pre-1986, the replay score was hard wired into the game unless the operator manually re-programmed the software. High Speed changed all that. It was pre-loaded with an algorithm that adjusted the replay score according to the distribution of scores on the specified machine over a specific time interval.
Scrabble isn't a game of who can get the best 6 letter words. It's a game of points and squeezing 2 letter terms into corners. Mehal Shah takes us through clean and sometimes dirty ways to win at Scrabble.
Several times in Last Year at Marienbad, the characters play a game called Nim. The gameplay is simple: a) players take turns removing objects from rows, b) they can remove as many objects as they want from a single row in one turn, and c) the player who removes the last object loses. The strategy is somewhat more difficult to understand, even though the player who goes first and follows the optimal strategy will always win. Although somewhat less glamourous than the film version, a Flash version of Nim is available to play.
So, as Mr. Bevacqua wrote on his blog, he spent the next several days following the hidden clues he believed he'd found, using Morse code, alternative computer keyboard layouts and even electrician's wiring codes to solve the covert brainteasers. Finally he was directed to a hidden Web site, from which he sent an e-mail message to a secret account. A short while later he learned that he was the first Wired reader to solve an extensive hidden puzzle embedded throughout the magazine.
Even after two weeks of letting Tetris HD play by itself, the screen is only about 2/3rds full. It's a fun image to see but the browser chrome is perhaps just as interesting...the Google search for "fuck fuck fuck" and a tab containing the Wikipedia page for "Anal sex" for example. (thx, my main man dj jacob)
People on the internet seem to be enjoying a game for the iPhone called Eliss. Offworld:
It was exactly one week ago last night that I fell in love, and to be quite honest I'm still at a little bit of a loss for words. The new object of my desire? She's Eliss, an iPhone game, and I say that only slightly facetiously, because I'm not entirely exaggerating when I admit to getting goosebumps every time I even just see her in the video above.
Who knew that radically expanding the size of the game board in Tetris makes the game almost completely unplayable, unless the object is to die in the least amount of time possible. Reports, which I have sadly corroborated with my own play, say that it take 15 minutes to complete one line. OCD, anyone? (via waxy)
From the folks who brought you Desktop Tower Defense comes The Space Game. The gameplay looks daunting (a huge mistake for online embeddable games like this) but skip the training crap and click on the missions tab to get right into it. Playing The Space Game, I'm fondly reminded of Dune II...loved that game. (via buzzfeed)
As such, it is a metaphorical representation of the fundamental ideology of the United States; the past is no constraint on the future, and each individual should strive resolutely for personal advance despite whatever the past may hold. The child born in a log cabin may achieve the presidency, an immigrant boy who grows up in the slums of Brooklyn may become a real-estate magnate, an Ivy-educated scion of wealth may wind up on a bread line, and a double green will speed you to the fore. Though there are winners and losers, initial conditions are no determinant of outcome in the freedom of America.
Tom Armitage references both Johnson and Costikyan in his response, Taking Turns.
Candyland is a great first game; literally, the very first. It teaches turn-taking. It teaches the mores, the manners, the culture of playing boardgames. Later, when a child comes to a game where the rules are more complex, the turn process more intricate, the customs of gameplay are already learned; rather than focusing on learning the social interactions, they can focus on the complexity of the game itself.
Fun little game from Ze Frank that I hadn't seen before: Every Second Counts. You're challenged to hold the mouse button down for 0.2 seconds, 0.4 seconds, then 0.6, 0.8, and so on. You need to be within 0.1 seconds of the target time to advance to the next time. Because the increments get increasingly smaller in comparison to the overall times, it quickly becomes difficult to gauge how long to hold the button, i.e. 0.4 is twice as long as 0.2 but 3.2 and 3.4 are almost indistinguishable. (It's also difficult because the button is kinda hinky.) I made it to 1.8 seconds...is it even possible to get to 4 or 5 seconds?
Update: Several readers made it to 4, 5, and even 8 seconds. Most were musicians who have strong sense of timing. I'm also reminded of a story about how Richard Feynman developed his sense of timing to the point where he could keep time in his head even while reading. (thx, everyone)
I'm not big into the "moral message" interpretation of pop culture, but plenty of critics of digital games are, so just for the record: what sort of message does Candy Land send to our kids? (And I'm not just talking about all the implicit advertisements for cane sugar products.) It says you are powerless, that your destiny is entirely determined by the luck of the draw, that the only chance you have of winning the game lies in following the rules, and accepting the cards as they come. Who wants to grow up in that kind of universe?
On the other hand, games of chance allow children of all ages and abilities to play the same games together and experience both winning and losing.
We determined that, generally speaking, the gravity in each Mario game, as game hardware has increased, is getting closer to the true value of gravity on earth of 9.8 m/s^2. However, gravity, even on the newest consoles, is still extreme.
In Super Mario 2, Mario experiences a g-force of 11 each time he falls from a ledge, a force that would cause mere humans to black out. In Madden 2006, the game's fastest cornerbacks can run the 40 in 2.6 seconds. (via waxy)
If I am to maintain my current levels of productivity and balance in my life, I do not need a tower defense game on my iPhone. But if I *were* to bring such a thing into my life, Fieldrunnerslooks like a good candidate. I can't wait until playing video games falls under the rubric of parenting. (Just kidding, Meg.)
Tom Armitage imagines If Gamers Ran The World. For instance, what happens if the President of the United States in 2018 is the same age as Barack Obama is now.
They're 45 in 2018 when they stand for office - that means they were born in 1973. They would have been four when Taito released Space Invaders came out; seven when Pac Man came out. In 1985, when they were 12, Nintendo would launch the NES in the west. At 18, just as they would have been heading to University, the first NHL game came out for the Genesis/Megadrive and might consumed many a night in the dorm. At 22, the Playstation was launched. At 26, they could have bought a PS2 at launch; at 31, they might have taken up World of Warcraft with their friends.
The story line and the narrative dilemmas of Gears are not very sophisticated. What is sophisticated about Gears is its mood. The world in which the action takes place is a kind of destroyed utopia; its architecture, weapons, and characters are chunky and oversized but, somehow, never cartoonish. Most video-game worlds, however well conceived, are essenceless. Gears felt dirty and inhabited, and everything from the mechanics of its gameplay to its elliptical backstory was forcefully conceived, giving it an experiential depth rare in the genre.
The Triple-A game is exhaustive by nature; but the world is inexhaustible; therefore the Triple-A game, that Faustian striver, can never attain its desire. The independent video game by contrast is inherently selective. By excluding almost everything, it can give perfect shape to what remains. And the independent video game can even lay claim to a kind of completeness that eludes the Triple-A game -- after the initial act of radical exclusion, it can include all of the little that's left.
"I told my doorman that if he sees anyone suspicious with a water pistol, then he's not to let them in the building," Mr. Deane said. He shaved the beard he wore for the picture his pursuer is carrying. He is considering borrowing a wheelchair to use as part of a disguise. By Friday evening, he had logged four kills; he was one of 16 players left. "I've been walking around like a crazy person," he said, "wondering when they're going to get me." His wife, who works promoting nightclubs, is very patient about the whole thing.
Oh, and people use umbrellas as shields! The final day of StreetWars is today. (Tried to work in a "don't make me go all Evian on your ass" joke but failed. (Or did I?))
Blindfold chess is playing chess without a board or pieces...you've got to remember where everything is in your head. The world record holder played 45 games of blindfold chess simultaneously. More at Wikipedia. (via panopticist)
He found patterns in the replies that surprised him. Chief among them was the common feeling that his games (and games in general) were overpriced for what buyers got -- even at $20. Secondly, anything that made purchasing and starting to play difficult -- like copy protection, DRM, two-step online purchasing routines -- anything at all standing between the impulse to play and playing in the game itself was seen as a legitimate signal to take the free route. Harris also noted that ideological reasons (rants against capitalism, intellectual property, the man, or wanting to be outlaw) were a decided minority.
The gaming, music, and movie industry would do well to take note of the key sentence here: "Anything that made purchasing and starting to play difficult -- like copy protection, DRM, two-step online purchasing routines -- anything at all standing between the impulse to play and playing in the game itself was seen as a legitimate signal to take the free route."
Last week, I tried to buy an episode of a TV show from the iTunes Store. It didn't work and there was no error message. Thinking the download had corrupted something, I tried again and the same problem occurred. (I learned later that I needed to upgrade Quicktime.) Because I just wanted to watch the show and not deal with Apple's issues, I spend two minutes online, found it somewhere for free, and watched the stolen version instead. I felt OK about it because I'd already paid for the real thing *twice*, but in the future, I'll be a little wary purchasing TV shows from iTunes and maybe go the easier route first.
I know it's only Wednesday, but I'm going to lay ruin to your productivity for the rest of the week with this little number: Chronotron. It's a Flash game where you and your past selves work together to complete puzzles. Just like in The Five Doctors. (Sort of.)
Oh, in other #1 news, Serena Williams will be the new #1 in women's tennis after beating Jelena Jankovic in the final of the US Open. On the men's side, world #1 Rafael Nadal lost in the semis to Andy Murray but won't lose the top spot in the rankings.
Warning, addictive Flash game: Fantastic Contraption. You build a little machine to push, pull, drag, or fling a special wheel into the goal. The best part is that when you complete a level, you can see how other players completed it (and how unimaginative you are). Really, really fascinating. For a level requiring some stair climbing, one fellow built a Theo Jansen-like beast that walked right up those stairs. For another level, another person built a catapult. (via buzzfeed)
As with an RPG, you roll a virtual character, manage your inventory and resources, and try to achieve a goal. Weight Watchers' points function precisely like hit points; each bite of food does damage until you've used up your daily amount, so you sleep and start all over again. Play well and you level up -- by losing weight! And the more you play it, the more you discover interesting combinations of the rules that aren't apparent at first. Hey, if I eat a fruit-granola breakfast and an egg-and-romaine lunch, I'll have enough points to survive a greasy hamburger dinner for a treat!
Mental flexibility is a great asset in solving crosswords. Let your mind wander. The clue "Present time" might suggest nowadays, but in a different sense it might lead to the answer yuletide. Similarly, "Life sentences" could be obit, "Inside shot" is x-ray and my all-time favorite clue, "It turns into a different story" (15 letters), results in the phrase SPIRAL STAIRCASE.
Addictive Flash game of the week: Hedgehog Launch. There's something really clever about the game play here but can't quite put my finger on what it is. The objective of the game -- to launch the 'hog into space -- is so beside the point the first time around that you forget all about it until it actually happens. My best time was 7 days. (via cyn-c)
Update: Woo, 5 days! My technique: upgrade to a parachute as quick as you can, use it to float for valuable multiplier, then get rockets and band/launcher.
Update: Got it down to 4 days. 3 days is possible but I'm retiring.
Finally, one day last fall, more than a year after they moved in, Mr. Klinsky received a letter in the mail containing a poem that began:
We've taken liberties with Yeats to lead you through a tale that tells of most inspired fates iin hopes to lift the veil.
The letter directed the family to a hidden panel in the front hall that contained a beautifully bound and printed book, Ms. Bensko's opus. The book led them on a scavenger hunt through their own apartment.
And it wasn't an easy hunt either.
In any case, the finale involved, in part, removing decorative door knockers from two hallway panels, which fit together to make a crank, which in turn opened hidden panels in a credenza in the dining room, which displayed multiple keys and keyholes, which, when the correct ones were used, yielded drawers containing acrylic letters and a table-size cloth imprinted with the beginnings of a crossword puzzle, the answers to which led to one of the rectangular panels lining the tiny den, which concealed a chamfered magnetic cube, which could be used to open the 24 remaining panels, revealing, in large type, the poem written by Mr. Klinsky.
"Actually I think it's pretty good," she said. "You can definitely get a workout. When I started doing it, I realized all the activities were pretty much on point. There were some things I didn't like, like the alignment in a couple of places. But over all, I thought they did a good job and this will be a good tool for people who can't make it to the gym."
The Wii Balance Board will be released in the US and Canada early next week.
On a Spring morning Brad showed up to homeroom with the crazed look of inspiration on his face. He erupted into babble and I sensed that he'd been waiting many hours to unload his revelation upon me. It was something about Starcade, and a club, and titles and duties, and other foreign concepts. I patronizingly agreed to his wishes and I even signed something. It was a letter...
Ooh, there's going to be a Dr. Mario game available for the Wii at some point, playable over the network. It's already downloadable via WiiWare in Japan...which should not be confused with the Virtual Console downloadable games even though the difference is really confusing.
In terms of the social environment, almost anything goes. Outside has a vast network of guilds, many of its players are active participants in designing the game's social environment, and almost any player will be able to find company to undertake their desired group quests. On the other hand, gold-buying is rife, the outskirts of virtually every city zone in the game are completely overrun by farmers, and the developers have so far proven themselves reluctant to answer petitions, intervene in inter-player disputes, or nerf broken skills and abilities. Indeed this reviewer will go so far as to say that the developers are absent from the game entirely, and have left it to its own devices. Fortunately, server uptime has been 100% from day 1, despite there being only one server for literally billions of players.
This game has been announced as supporting the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. This will feature online racing and battle modes, both of which are capable of up to 12 simultaneous players. It has also been confirmed that there will be online leagues, with international and local rankings. This will take place from within an entirely separate Wii Channel. This channel will also feature the option of sending saved time-trial ghost data.
Basically, Atari's marketing folks would negotiate a license to ship GameCorp's "Foobar Blaster" on a cartridge for the Atari Home Computer System. That was it. That was the entirety of the deal. We got ZERO help from the original developers of the games. No listings, no talking to the engineers, no design documents, nothing. In fact, we had to buy our own copy of the arcade machine and simply get good at the game (which was why I was playing it at the hotel - our copy of the game hadn't even been delivered yet).
Wiimbledon's back, and this year we're kicking it 3,000 miles clockwise from NYC to San Francisco. The plan: Leaving the first week in June, we'll 'Bago it Madden-style cross-country, stopping here and there for mini-tournaments, and gas, and probably your couch. We'll hit SF June 20th. The 2nd Annual Wiimbledon Tournament'll be held Saturday, June 21st.
If you've already seen King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, I'd suggest reading Jason Scott's pair of posts about the movie. In The King of Wrong, Scott suggests that the filmmakers left out crucial details and fudged others in order to make the actual events fit the story they were trying to tell.
What I'm saying here is that a good percentage of what makes the documentary "good" are made up conflicts, inaccurate reporting, smoothed-over narratives that are meant to make you root for one side or hate the other, when in fact reality doesn't hold up to these allegations. The whole point of the narrative is that Steve is wronged, denied his rightful place in the record books because of internal machinations. But he had the championship for 3 years! He had played Billy one-on-one. Billy was not on this campaign to cut Steve off at the knees at every turn so to humiliate him and dismiss him, to his own aggrandizement.
In a follow-up post, Scott elaborates on his poor opinion of the film, drawing upon his experience making a documentary about another nerd subculture, the BBS.
Is Billy Mitchell "real"? I have no doubt that he says things that are over the top. I have no question that he goes off the rails on certain subjects. I also know that if you interview people for hours on end, at various days, you will get some pretty crazy stuff. How you choose to deal with that stuff is a little bit of who you are as an interviewer and editor and director. There's no question you can "filter for crazy", or "filter for nice", or filter for whatever the hell you wish to. I never claim that Billy's not capable of throwing out whoppers. I'm saying that when you lace his words with an implication of malice, of cheating, of lying to stay on top, then you are moving into caricature and needless trashing of a real person to achieve your goals. Chasing Ghosts has Billy Mitchell and a whole other range of players, and gives you the story without turning the whole experience of video games, and arcades, into a petty small-minded pissing match.
Scott nearly comes off as holier-than-thou about the standards that documentary filmmakers should be held to, but he clearly put his money where his mouth is when filming his BBS documentary. After a rough interview with Thom Henderson, a controversial figure in the compression software community, which interview caused Henderson to recall, with pain, a particularly difficult period in his life, Scott offered him the chance to edit it out of the movie...and something else too:
But you know, when I put together the ARC-ZIP episode (later renamed COMPRESSION) and sent it to him to see, I told him flat out. "If you're not comfortable with this, if you don't like it, let me know and it won't go in." He wrote back and said he and his wife were fine with it. I then told him I was giving him irrevocable, permanent rights to the film such that he could distribute and copy and even sell it however he pleased. He's the only other person besides myself with any rights to my films. He has it for download from his site to this day.
I enjoyed King of Kong, but reading that some of the movie's tension was manufactured sure takes the polish off of it for me.
I invited [Steve Wiebe] to the Classic Gaming Expo, 2004. I invited him there, and I went up to speak onstage, as I do at each expo there. When I went up and spoke onstage, I called him to the stage, in order to honor him. I unveiled the poster in his honor, honoring his accomplishments. I did that in 2004. He was onstage with me. And I'm sorry to tell you that you can't see that, 'cause they forgot to put that in the movie.
We have two small children who need to eat dinner and raids start at 5pm. Ack! How are we going to make dinner?! There are no problems with the kids running around playing and such while we raid. They're already used to that, they play in the computer room and we can get them things that they need (you know, cups of juice, snacks, what have you) when we have breaks. Before it was easy because if I was running an instance and in the middle of combat my husband might be in a a space between pulls where he could safely go afk for 30 seconds you know. But now we'll be on the same schedule essentially. We both play support classes too (he's a holy priest, I'm a resto druid) so the guild ideally would want us to both be in a forty man raid. It's not like we can easily switch off any raid nights other than say, ZG and AQ20 runs.
Speaking of mining the archives of kottke.org, I just found this post that quotes a message board post by Ben Affleck about why he posts his thoughts to the web:
I think there is some responsibility on the part of those folks who benefit from the attentions of some section of the public to be responsive to that group.
It's worth noting that Affleck was one of the first celebrities to post online in a bloggish manner...he'd answer people's questions on his site's message board. (His site is now dead, but a coupleof instances of the board were collected by archive.org.)
I remember one post of his in particular (which I can't find on archive.org). Ben was up late, at like 3am, playing Everquest (or maybe Ultima Online?) because he was addicted and couldn't stop. He also mentioned that he was essentially playing the game instead of being in bed with his girlfriend at the time, Gwyneth Paltrow.
But, we can kind of think of the multi-playthrough Kaizo Mario World video as a silly, sci-fi style demonstration of the Quantum Suicide experiment. At each moment of the playthrough there's a lot of different things Mario could have done, and almost all of them lead to horrible death. The anthropic principle, in the form of the emulator's save/restore feature, postselects for the possibilities where Mario actually survives and ensures that although a lot of possible paths have to get discarded, the camera remains fixed on the one path where after one minute and fifty-six seconds some observer still exists.
Some of my favorite art and media deals with the display of multiple time periods at once. Here are some other examples, many of which I've featured on kottke.org in the past.
Averaging Gradius predates the Mario World video by a couple years; it's 15 games of Gradius layered over one another.
I found even the more pointless things incredibly interesting (and telling), like seeing when each person pressed the start button to skip the title screen from scrolling in, or watching as each Vic Viper, in sequence, would take out the red ships flying in a wave pattern, to leave behind power-ups in an almost perfect sine wave sequence. I love how the little mech-like gunpods together emerge from off screen, as a bright, white mass, and slowly break apart into a rainbow of mech clones.
According to the start screen, Cursor*10 invites the you to "cooperate by oneself". The game applies the lessons of Averaging Gradius and multiple-playthrough Kaizo Mario World to create a playable game. The first time through, you're on your own. On subsequent plays, the game overlays your previous attempts on the screen to help you avoid mistakes, get through faster, and collaborate on the tougher puzzles.
With the help of various filters and settings Recreating Movement makes it possible to extract single frames of any given film sequence and arranges them behind each other in a three-dimensional space. This creates a tube-like set of frames that "freezes" a particular time span in a film.
Passage, a tiny game that takes 5 minutes or an entire lifetime to play. It's much better if you play it once and then read the creator's statement. I didn't know a game (and such a tiny one at that) could be so poignant. (via clusterflock)
Both my priest and my rogue try not to hit anything, although there's always a chance of a misclick when trying to open a quest item with mobs fighting near it. Both of them always wield a fishing rod, so any accidental hits won't increase their weapon skills. Neither of them will do quests where they have to kill things.
But most disorienting of all was the hero: Pac-Man had been re-imagined as an octagon with a constantly chomping, greedy slot for a mouth, and designed so large he could scarcely squeeze through the maze. Because of Pac-Man's macrocephalic condition, he was incapable of rounding corners, but Atari found a brilliant workaround: Pac-Man would always face west. When pushing the joystick to the right, Pac-Man simply backed into dots and energy blocks, his mouth still opening and closing rhythmically, as if crying in pain from shoving things into his rectum. Underscoring Atari Pac-Man's overall cognitive disorder, the home game replaced the familiar rhythmic dot-munching soundtrack with a flat, repeating "bonk" note -- its own digital Tourrette's bark.
It's been awhile since I've heard anything about Spore, Will Wright's long zoom supergame. Last summer the word was that EA's promo machine had gotten started too early and that the game wasn't quite ready for primetime because it wasn't "fun":
The unofficial word from someone on the development team is that Spore the system is almost ready but Spore the game isn't all that much fun yet. A recent round of user testing didn't go so well. Hence, the delay.
EA said at the time that the release date would be after March 2008, which still seems to be the case. In an October 2007 interview, Will Wright said the game was about six months away from release, which means April 2008. Even so, Wired made Spore the #2 pick on their Vaporware 2007 list. Anyone have any better intel on a release date or if the game is more fun now? Hit me on my burner.
A pair of videos showing off Wii Fit, a balance board device for the Wii. Looks pretty interesting, although if it's marketed as exercise equipment, I fear it may not do so well. The board and a Wiimote in each hand could make for a pretty convincing skiing experience.
Update: Hmm, the Honda Fit and Wii Fit logos look pretty similar. (thx, dave)
Sad news. Guitar Hero 3 and I have broken up. Sure, we might hook up occasionally when I'm lonely at night, but our relationship is effectively over. I can play every song1 without effort on Easy mode but can barely make it through any on Medium after dozens of tries. So so lame. I've hit the wall and my pinky is to blame...the damn thing just won't work properly and I'm unwilling to try playing with just three fingers (a la Clapton) because that seems like a dead end once Mr. Orange Button comes into play.
But the real reason is that because I don't have a natural talent for the game, the only way to get better is through deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice entails more than simply repeating a task -- playing a C-minor scale 100 times, for instance, or hitting tennis serves until your shoulder pops out of its socket. Rather, it involves setting specific goals, obtaining immediate feedback and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.
Deliberate practice...sounds like fun! Yeah, no. No doubt I could master the game with enough focused effort, but when games stop being fun and become deliberate, that's where I get off. Back to the surprising depth of Desktop TD.
 When relationships end, that's when the lies start. The one song I still can't play all the way through is Slayer's Raining Blood. That damn song is just random notes as far I can can tell. ↩
Poker, a game of "constant pricing and repricing of risk", is fast becoming a younger and more lucrative game. To wit: a 19-yo Norwegian woman won the most recent World Series of Poker and $2 million (to add to her $800,000 in internet poker winnings). Also of interest: John Wayne once won Lassie at a poker game. (??!) The article mentioned 3-time poker champ Stu "The Kid" Ungar (most poker players seem to have nicknames); his Wikipedia page and NY Times profile are interesting reads.
Ungar won or finished high in so many gin tournaments that several casinos asked him to not play in them because many players said they would not enter if they knew Ungar was playing. Ungar later said in his biography that he loved seeing his opponent slowly break down over the course of a match, realizing he could not win and eventually get a look of desperation on his face. "It was fucking beautiful," he noted.