I have stated many times that I don’t play games. That’s not completely accurate of course – there are SOME games I enjoy. Spider Solitaire, for instance. 🙂 But mostly I mean competitive games, or role-playing games, or even card games. I’ve never learned to play chess or checkers. I did learn to play Bridge and Go!, but not to any degree of proficiency. So imagine my surprise last night when I found myself playing checkers.

Lalo wanted to investigate Wild West Town. I think he plans to post about that. It was a historical treasure. *smile* I offered to keep him company while he explored and took pictures. As usual my attention wandered. A friend I’d not seen in months (maybe years) logged in and I tp’d her over to chat. I rode my horse up and down the street. Finally I wandered into the general store, hoping for a nosh. There wasn’t much in the way of food but there was a gleaming checkers board. Now while I don’t PLAY checkers, I did indeed create my own checker board and pieces. I never scripted it to control movement or to account for kings. I was relying on the players to edit the pieces.

This board was scripted. It prompted each player in turn. When you selected the piece to move, it showed you the possible moves. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t all that swift at figuring out what “forward right”, “backward left”, etc. meant. I think I only messed up twice. Anyway, I sat myself down at the board and Lalo joined me. I did warn him that not only had I never played checkers, but that I wasn’t really a very good sport (illustration: right hand).

I had beginner’s luck and took the first piece, but Lalo quickly retaliated. Even when I seemed to be ahead at one moment, it was becoming clear that only one of us really had an idea of how to play and that one wasn’t me. *grin* I thought that perhaps Lalo needed a more visible reminder of how I’m really not a good sport (illustration: left arm).

I did try unfair tactics, trying different levels of distraction and pressure (illustration: c’mon, no one could miss this one). Good thing I still had my armament from my foray into Insilico. But to his credit, Lalo was unfazed. We did finally reach a point where we both had kings. We discussed the potential future moves and mostly it looked like chasing about the board.

Lalo proposed a deal. I offered a counter-proposal, which was accepted.

Lalo Telling: I say we call this a stalemate and be done :-\
Ahuva Heliosense: *grin*
Ahuva Heliosense: how about if we say i won and be done? *grin*
Lalo Telling: OK, I’ll accept that
Ahuva Heliosense laughs and kicks over the checkerboard

*grin* Lalo is a very wise man. I crowned myself Queen of the Checker Board and Lalo headed back out to take more pictures. We did try to catch a show at the theater, but apparently it was an off night.

Not my usual musical Friday night, but a lot of fun! Check out the Wild West. It has some very neat builds and humor. Especially in the school room. And vandals have not yet broken the lovely stained glass windows in the General Store.


I’ve not been in SL lately. The atomic world has been taking its toll. Which is not to say I’m not keeping a half-an-eye watch on SL – I do. Like Santa, I can see if y’all are playing nicely or not. I’ve also kept watch on my other reader feeds and plurks and tweets and IMs. A friend sent the following link: Spent , run by the Urban Ministries of Durham. This is a “game” that simulates trying to live for a month once you have no job, no income and very little good fortune. I don’t usually play games. This one intrigued me, and didn’t seem all that “game-ish”.

This is not a game. This is a slap-in-the-face reality check. This is a hard kick to someplace that hurts. The premise is that you are a single parent, unemployed, homeless, with no savings, down to your last $1000. The challenge: make it through a month. Your first choice is to find a job or exit the “game”. It gets a LOT harder after that. I had to choose between earning money or seeing my child in a school play. I regret to say that I chose earning money, because there was still more than half the month left and I was running out of money. I skipped health insurance. I compromised over and over. The first time I played I failed the typing test (don’t ask) and so could only take a job as waitstaff. That did not pay enough and the hours conflicted with using the library internet and the bus was late and I was docked my pay. You can see how it goes.

My son played. Over and over and over. He made it to the last day once. But he had to kill his pet which was sick and crying because he didn’t have money to pay the vet. He had to make some other cruel choices. He had no health insurance. If he contested his unjust speeding ticket he would have to lose a day of work and be docked. He was stunned, absolutely flabbergasted to learn the if you do not maintain a minimum balance in your checking account, the bank TAKES MORE MONEY from you monthly, because you are poor. I think he must have spluttered that 3 times minimum: you mean, because I don’t have enough money, they’re going to take MORE money from me???? We live in a state where you are required by law to insure your car. I forget what he had to give up in order to insure the car. Something else desirable. He never did manage to buy health insurance. One round found him with an ailment in his jaw, but he had to live with the pain because he could not afford any medical care. You are given the choice between being a “hit-and-run-driver” or running out of money in the middle of the month.

Each time you make a choice, you are provided with facts or statistics. For example, once you have gotten a job and know your salary, you are offered the choice to buy health insurance. Trust me – you can’t afford it. Even though you can’t afford to be without it. The message ends with: Let’s hope you don’t get sick. When you have to decide where to rent, trading distance and cost, you learn that “for every dollar a working family saves on housing, they spend an ADDITONAL 77 cents on transportation”. In other words – the difference is 23 cents. Twenty three cents. And on and on. Yes, you CAN make it through the month. But you may not have enough for when the rent comes due for the NEXT month. And you might not like yourself very much for the choices you made to survive.

Take the Challenge. It’s very educational. And I’m thinking about it A LOT when I want to moan about the atomic world taking its toll.


I’m very bad at most card, board and electronic games. I don’t like to lose. My idea of fun does not include getting stressed out over strategy and deal-making. I do not seem to have the patience for learning all the rules and applying them. One of my earliest recollections is listening to grownups berate each other over the bridge table. There was nothing that I heard there that sounded “fun”. My idea of fun seems to need physical activity, which makes it even more odd that I like SL so much, I suppose. But the games I like all involve many people working in teams: volleyball, softball, team charades, team Trivial Pursuit and the like.

Lately I have been viewing videos and attending discussions on gaming theory and game development as applied to business applications. Since I’m not really technical, most of what I watch is relatively “high-level” and so in many ways it’s not telling me something new. What I do find new and fascinating are all the ways in which people have been developing “games” that model real situations. Playing the games teaches the players more about the subject and often exposes fundamental fallacies in accepted wisdom.

(Let me make an aside. When I was a mere lass in elementary school, I had a wonderful game. I don’t remember the name – I’d love it if someone out there knows it, but since I can’t remember the details…. *grin*…. Anyway, this game was a race against time. The ball would drop down a given question such as “The longest river in Africa is:” and you would have to put the pin (blocking mechanism) in the slot with the correct answer: Nile. I loved that game and learned so much. So even in the archaic days of my youth there were fun educational games. )

Now I do see some issues in modeling real life into a game. One of the speakers I heard talked about his six year old son greeting him at the door saying “Dad, we need to talk.” And the issue was that the child had amassed so much stuff in his virtual world room that he couldn’t move. And he could either sell items or buy a bigger house, but that would necessitate a second mortgage. /me blinks. Yes. A six year old grasping the concept of mortgages. I like it. And I also think that maybe, just maybe, we are doing a disservice to our children. When I was six, I was a child. No one expected me to be other than a child. My world was about playing and learning to socialize and learning to learn. I believe the biggest trauma in my life when I was six was that Anne W. got to be the tight-rope walker in the 1st grade circus when *I* wanted that role. /me smiles smugly. I became the bareback rider. *grin* Hardly the stuff of mortgages and trade-offs of space/materialism.

A friend directed me to Ian Bogost’s video from FORA tv’s Growing Up in a Digital World series. (He is the one with the 6 year old financier.) Ian Bogost is a professor at Georgia Tech, a Founding Partner at Persuasive Games (a videogame studio), and a Board Member at Open Texture (an educational publisher), among other things. Bogost was talking about educational games he had helped create. I was fascinated by his description of the “game” they created to illustrate just how DIFFICULT it is for a virus to become a pandemic. He mentioned many other games that described such real life scenarios and actions, from modeling the most efficient way to pack (use) the Soccer-Mom minivan to how to train store employees.

Persuasive Games is an award-winning independent videogame studio that makes games about social and political issues. Our work covers a wide variety of topics not usually found in videogames, including airport security, disaffected copy store workers, global petroleum market, Christmas shopping, tort reform, suburban errands, and pandemic flu.

Ahuva’s Update:   I was a bit rushed yesterday and did not realize and mention that you can PLAY some of these very very cool games from Persuasive Games online at their website.  For free. Some can be downloaded for free. Some are phone apps. It’s definitely worth a look-see. You will be amazed at how many interesting games are there.

Yesterday I attended Metanomics Masterclass on Game Development. This was a panel discussion with 3 game developers: Tony Walsh, founder of Phantom Compass, Colin Nilsson of the MadPea Productions, a game and adventure destination in Second Life, and Oni Horan, one of the developers of the Logos collectible card game. At least two of these companies develop games that are played within SL. Again the interesting factor to me was their take on how games relate to learning and to life. It was interesting to hear them discuss whether they thought the non-player characters would/should become more “human” or less.

All of these game developers, whether for modeling rl or escapism, understand that games have a set of agreed upon rules and a goal. I think that is another reason why people like games. There are reasons, answers, goals. So much of life is less clear than a game. We may toss off aphorisms such as “Life is just a game”, but it’s not. Or rather – if it is, we still don’t have the complete rulebook.

I Don’t Play Games

KillerI “killed” my coworker yesterday. I used the gun she gave me. I tried to avoid the issue – missed twice by simply firing without aiming. But she insisted. She wanted me to SEE how the laser tag team-building game worked. She stood still and ignored my “I stink at hand/eye coordination” and repeated instructions about mouse-look and cross hairs. Sigh. I actually DID know how to do it. So I took aim directly at her chest and fired. She died. She fell to the ground, dead. It wasn’t fun. I didn’t enjoy it. She lay there dead for 15 seconds. Look – this coworker can seriously annoy me (*grin* – EVERYONE can annoy me at some point). And yeah, there are times I’d like to smack her. But kill her?? Until she stood up, I really felt “wrong”.

So. I do not play games. I can’t say it any clearer than that. I don’t play game-games, I don’t play emotional-games, I don’t play mind-games. I’m not killing anyone any more. Don’t ask me. I don’t want to play pool on my pool table. Yeah, I tried out the dart board. Eh. Big deal. The mazes aren’t too bad. They don’t feel especially game-like. But I’m not killing anything or anyone again. And my emotions are my real emotions – they are not manufactured for SL. No games.