fun

Planecrafters

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Every now and then someone I know makes something awesome. In this case, it’s a board game (well, technically a card game) by my buddy Michael Patience.

And the name of the game is

Planecrafters

It’s up on Kickstarter right now and if you’re into card or board games I recommend you get it.

In Planecrafters, you build a task force of specialized workers in order assemble airplanes out of any spare parts available. Based on the workers you hire and the planes you build, you get shiny coins.

I have played the game in a nearly finished state and my wife and I loved it. It has all things I enjoy in a casual game: easy to learn, many roads to victory, player interaction, great art, unique theme, and, most of all, fun!

So fire up your engines, propel yourself over to Kickstarter and nab a copy.*

*I was not in any way paid or even asked to promote this game, I honestly enjoyed it and hope it sells well (I’ve already backed it myself).

space & sound

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Two fun audio/visual links for you today, both brought to you by APOD, which I've mentioned before.

 

First, a galactically packed image where each galaxy has a sound based on its distance:

The Hubble Ultra-Deep Field in Light and Sound

 

Next, a cross-section of Saturn's rings, which can be played in both major and minor keys.

Play Saturn's Rings Like a Harp

 

Safe travels (mind the tribbles and the treble clef) as you enjoy you voyage through space and sound!

fun and games

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Fun! 

There’s nothing I love hearing more than that word after introducing someone to a board game.

Being a board game aficionado, I have a lot of interest in what makes a game fun. 

During a family gathering, we played an old classic game I’d never heard of, Enchanted Forest. There is a special place in my heart reserved for old games. Granted, most of them don’t stand the test of time (based on my highly biased opinion), but they do retain a certain charm, an endearing quality, if you will. Likely this is because of all the old memories contained in their, dusty, weathered boxes.

I was actually surprised by Enchanted Forest. It had some interesting mechanics such as rolling two dice and using both results to move forward and/or backwards. It had a clever memory component where the players wondered through the forest peeking at symbols under trees in hopes to make it to the castle when a symbol they remembered came up. Though it had one aspect which I’ve never enjoyed and which took away some fun from the game: having to make an exact roll to land on a space. Even so, considering when it was made, it wasn’t a bad game.

The fact remains, many older games just aren’t as fun as their more modern counterparts.

But what is it that makes a game fun at all? I’ll save an in-depth treatise for a longer post, perhaps an article. Beside, the idea of “fun” is highly subjective. For example, my sister enjoys games with a high level of chance, while more hardcore boardgamers like games with more strategy. Chess-players enjoy a game with no chance at all.

All that said, there are three important fun factors which come to my mind: memorable, challenging, and surprising.

A memorable game does something unique, it has an element that stands out from any other game. When the party game Cranium came out it was a huge hit because it combined many forms of talent and artistry into one guessing game, rather than just focusing on a single one like drawing (Pictionary) or acting (Charades).

Who doesn’t like a little challenge in their game? A level of difficulty adds interest to a game, it creates a risk/reward system. Did I say Risk? Let’s shelve that for another time. Easy games with a predictable outcome get boring very fast.

Children’s games, on the other hand, are hardly ever challenging. Why, I used to outwardly scoff at games such as Candyland. The card game War isn’t much better. Then why are they so popular? Having kids, I’ve realized games like these do serve a purpose. They teach kids how to follow a set of rules, leading to a victory of some sort. They’re good for learning—a stepping stone to more advanced (and fun) games that favor smart decision-making over pure luck. Children’s games have their place, but you’d be hard pressed to find a bunch of grownups sitting down for a rousing game of Chutes and Ladders.

Last, a game needs some level of surprise. Replayability is the term you’ll often hear concerning a praiseworthy game. Most games have a randomized system built in, which allows for a good measure of the unexpected. Whether it’s a shuffled deck of cards or a modular board, even a familiar game should have some element of the new and unexpected to keep things fresh.

Alright, so that’s my crudely thrown-together list of what I find fun in a game.

How about you, are there any particular factors you’re looking for in your next game night?

tiny desk

A little recommendation this week, emphasis on little.

I’d like to direct you to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert. You can see their YouTube playlist right here.

This is something I only found out about recently and have really got a lot of enjoyment from. They bring a band or artist into their studio and have them play three songs. It’s a small space behind a desk while a bunch of NPR workers crowd around to watch, and, in some cases join in.

The whole thing is low-fi and intimate, which brings a special appeal you don’t find in a normal recording studio or stage concert. My favorite part about it is getting to see a side of the artists you don’t normally witness, something very personal and real. 

I’ve discovered many new artists by watching these as well as enjoyed some great recordings from artists I already loved. There are even some breakout moments I’d go so far as to call magical, such as when Natalie Merchant gets the entire crew to sing an old hymn a cappella with her.

Amazingly, there are even some good comments (which I find remarkable for YouTube), such as these for Andrew Bird’s performance: 

“He always looks like a road-weary salesman who just came in from the rain.”

It’s surprisingly accurate and a bit whimsical. Oh, and there’s this:

“He whistles better than Edward Snowden”

Ha, what can I say, it’s true!

Anyhow, check out Tiny Desk, if you like music at all—you won’t be sorry you did.

the grind

Gamers understand grinding as much as anyone (and no, I’m not talking about dirty Jr. High dance moves here). In a game, grinding means performing a repetitive, monotonous action over a long period of time in order to acquire something of perceived value.

Grinding has been in games for a while now and it seems to have only increased over the years. Many online RPGs are built off this concept: maybe you have to fight a bunch of low-ranked enemies just to level up and then fight a bunch of slightly harder enemies. Perhaps you've got to slowly, painstakingly collect gold or other materials so you can eventually obtain some special item which helps you be better at collecting gold and such. Or, as with many mobile games, you simply log in every half hour so you can repeatedly tap a button, which will unlock new buttons for you to tap repeatedly. That sort of thing.

But you know what? Grinding is not fun. Ever.

So why do we do it? Games, after all, are supposed to be for our enjoyment, right? From a game designer standpoint, it’s a cheap way to keep people playing your game longer. From the player’s standpoint, they believe whatever reward they get is worth the effort. But, from my perspective, it hardly is. Most of the time all you’re doing is grinding in order to do more grinding.

Sometimes life can feel this way. After all, we call work the daily grind (especially if you’re in a coffee shop). For some folks, they get up, go to work, and come home, with little change in their daily routine. Often the work itself is quite repetitive. I’m not dogging on a consistent and reliable job, but when the majority of your life is spent in repetitive monotony, it may be time to rethink where you’re heading.

Creativity, on the other hand, is all about embracing change; it’s like diving headlong into a big rushing river and not knowing where you’ll be swept away. It’s scary, challenging and fun—nothing like the grind. 

But even creatives can fall into a grind. And you know what, sometimes it’s ok, for a time. Even if you enjoy the outcome, some parts of being creative just aren’t very fun. Sometimes you have to stick that nose to the grindstone (sure sounds painful) and get a hard job done. Just make sure you have an exit plan, a reason for the grind that makes the trouble worth the effort. 

Once the grind is over, it should allow you to do something fun and exciting once more. Even better, find a way to avoid the grind altogether: develop a process so the further along you are on your creative journey, the less grinding is necessary. If your life seems like nothing but a grind, throw in an element of the unexpected, do something new and different, even if it's small and simple. 

Whatever you do, avoid an endless grind-cycle at all costs. Because if all you do is grind, eventually you’ll be ground away to nothing. That would be a stone-cold shame.

 

Creatively yours,

A. P. Lambert

 

Hey Creatives, has creativity ever felt like a grind to you, what have you done to change it up? Let us know in the comments below.