SIMulated Haiku

Supernatural sims
Are taking over the town:
Witch, Vampire, Fae.

Cast a spell for love,
But hate emerges instead;
Soon you are a toad!

Who will kiss the toad?
Not I – playing with magic.
House burns to the ground.

What do we have if
Not love? I’ll cast once again.
Magical romance.

Kiss the toad now please.
Is he a prince? No – but wait!
He is the Doctor!

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Var and the Vikings

There’s this really awesome project on Kickstarter that I’d like to encourage everyone to support: a game that is a lot of fun and enables the player to learn AI (artificial intelligence). It’s called Var and the Vikings. I played the demo (in Chrome) and in just 10  simple levels felt like I had learned quite a bit about AI, while having fun and feeling a sense of accomplishment. From my experience, I believe it has the potential to be an extremely enjoyable, engaging, and educational game.

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I’m one of 324 backers who have already pledged a total of $8,481 to the project.

The thing is, the project has only 18 days to receive an additional $22,519 in pledges. Pledging doesn’t cost anything unless the project reaches its funding goal. So, if you think this is worth getting behind, you can show your support (for as little as $1) completely risk-free!

It costs just $10 to receive the game for Mac or PC, and all future updates (once the project is fully funded, then completed). Any backing of $20 or more gets you additional awesome rewards, which may (depending on how much you contribute) include:

  • the digital art pack
  • the opportunity to create custom message(s) other players will see in the game
  • opportunities to interact with developers
  • the soundtrack
  • the opportunity to name an enemy – possibly even a boss!
  • existing in the game as a viking spirit or statue that helps players for a short time while shouting your custom battle cry
  • be a character in the game!

You can also pledge to receive a classroom or school license for the game.

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But don’t take my word for it. Visit Var and the Vikings on Kickstarter today!

Virtual Mansion: Escapism, or Canvas for Creativity?

Depending on your perspective, I was either entirely unproductive, or extremely productive over the past couple of days.

The case for unproductive: schoolwork, household chores, errands, organizing all the stuff that was displaced in the move, training for the overnight walk, even updating this blog, etc. – EVERYTHING ground to a halt. If it is at all meaningful in the “real world,” then I took no part in it. (Am I proud of this? No. But I think I needed a break.)

The case for extremely productive: I built a mansion from scratch … in The Sims 3. Okay, so I had a very strong sense of what I wanted to do going into the project, but I did everything – from clearing the lot I wanted to build on, to moving in the family that’s going to live there and placing a few last-minute items – in 2 days.

I built this 4-story mansion in 2 days!

From left to right, the mansion includes: a 2-car garage with a game room on the second floor and grilling/party space on the roof; a barn capable of housing up to 6 horses; an art studio; a garden for fruits and vegetables; a gorgeous 2-story entryway and banquet hall; a giant library with multiple rooms; 7 bedrooms; 2 kitchens; a state-of-the-art gym; a very large, gorgeous bathroom multiple sims can use at once and still have privacy; a hot tub and pool with grilling/party space; and a children’s play space.

Best of all, I got to listen to some truly awesome music while doing it! 🙂

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Semi-Collaborative “Ticket to Ride”: An Unexpected Consequence

“Ticket to Ride” is a very fun, challenging, competitive board game by Days of Wonder. Each player has 45 plastic train cars to lay along tracks connecting different cities in a country, such as the United States, or a continent (Europe, Asia, Africa). In order to lay cars on a track, the player must collect and discard the right number of cards that are the same color as the track. The goal is to complete as many routes connecting distant cities (e.g. Los Angeles to New York) and score as many points as possible. If a player is unable to complete a route, ze loses the amount of points it would have been worth.

Fox and I have been playing this game like crazy: first with Banji and her dad; then against each other with our own, newly-purchased set; and this past weekend with Fox’s immediate family. We’ve had a lot of fun and gotten quite good at it.

5-player game with Fox (green), his mother (red), his sister (yellow), his dad (black) and myself (blue).

5-player game with Fox (green), his mother (red), his sister (yellow), his dad (black) and myself (blue).

Tonight, we decided to take on a new challenge: The two of us played a 3-player game. We each played for ourselves – Fox as black and myself as red – and we collaborated on the moves for a third, disembodied player who was Green. We looked at Green’s cards together, discussed what the best course of action would be, and cooperated to complete Green’s turn.

At the beginning of the game, I selected 3 routes that seemed to connect in a challenging and slightly crazy, but certainly doable way: San Francisco – El Paso – Santa Fe – Duluth – Winnepeg – Atlanta. After I had done that, Fox and I looked at routes for Green, one of which included a stop in Santa Fe. I was trying to keep my routes secret, so I agreed to attempt all 5 of Green’s routes (including the one through Santa Fe). Unfortunately, the most sensible track for Green to use was the same one I needed to connect Santa Fe to Duluth. I decided to take the more circuitous route through Phoenix in an attempt to use longer tracks (worth more points) and maintain one continuous line (also worth more points: 10 to the player with the longest one).

I (red) gave up the track that would have made the most sense to take, in an attempt to create the best route for Green and avoid disclosing my plans.

I (red) gave up the track that would have made the most sense to take, in an attempt to create the best route for Green and avoid disclosing my plans.

Now that I’m removed from the situation, I can see alternatives to my course of action. I could have used 4 less cars – cars I desperately needed, but did not have, at the end of the game – by connecting El Paso to Oklahoma City along the yellow track, then continuing Oklahoma City – Kansas City – Omaha. Or, I could have taken the track connecting Santa Fe directly to Denver and allowed Green to take the more circuitous route, saving myself 6 cars! Green had little to no chance of having the longest continuous line, so branching off to Santa Fe wouldn’t have hurt it, and it certainly had the 2 extra cars it would have needed to take the red track from Denver to Oklahoma City.

Previous image altered to show what I wish I had done: red takes a more direct route, while green only has to go a little bit out of its way.

Previous image altered to show what I wish I had done: red takes a more direct route, while green only has to go a little bit out of its way.

This was the only place I really compromised during the game, but it cost me dearly. I had bad luck when I tried to pick up more routes later in the game. Usually I can get at least one additional route I’ve already completed or can complete very easily, but this time all my options were unattainable. I got stuck with 2 routes that I could not complete because I was one car short for each of them!

Fox had also made compromises for the benefit of Green throughout the game. As a result, he almost got stuck with a route he couldn’t complete because he was also one car short. We agreed to both add one of the extra cars to our individual pools (my red one and his black). This enabled him to complete all of his routes and me to complete all but one of mine, only losing 7 points instead of 15 (23 if you count the 8 points I gained from the extra route I completed).

3-player game between Fox and Ziya: end game. Green (played collaboratively) blew us both out of the water with 10 routes completed and 172 points. Fox (black) completed 7 routes and scored 136 points. I only completed 4 routes and scored 122 points.

3-player game between Fox and Ziya: end game. Green (played collaboratively) blew us both out of the water with 10 routes completed and 172 points. Fox (black) completed 7 routes and scored 136 points. I (red) completed 4 out of 5 routes, had the longest continuous line, and scored 122 points.

So what was the unexpected consequence? Well, for one thing, each of us was hurt in our individual game by the compromises we made for the benefit of the third player, whom we played collaboratively. Looking at the situation metaphorically, I wonder what compromises we make in our relationship that hurt us as individuals – particularly as a result of withholding information or otherwise not talking a situation through. I also find it interesting that I was the one hurt more by the sacrifices I voluntarily made. That fits in with a pattern I’ve already noticed in my life and am working to remedy.

Another significant consequence is that we were both very mad at Green for winning, especially by such a huge margin! In other words, we were angry with ourselves for playing so well as a team that we did not stand a chance at winning as individuals. We each still wanted to win as an individual; we related to our collaboration as a “third player” that was separate from ourselves and our relationship. We ended up feeling like we both had lost (to ourselves!) rather than celebrating our collective achievement.

Neither of us was happy with the outcome of the game. We felt disappointed and turned to sharing chocolate for mutual comfort. Part of playing games is learning not to allow the outcomes to affect one’s relationship with others; we both have enough experience with this not to hold a grudge after a game has ended. But I still want to express my happiness that, as annoyed as we both were with the result of our attempt at partial collaboration within a competitive game, we did not take our anger out on each other. We remained united, expressing positive regard toward one another, sharing each other’s victories and defeats – even as we competed against each other (and against our collaborative effort!) for individual success.

There’s still a place for playing this game competitively, as it was intended. But if we want to “break the mold” again, we’ll play a fully collaborative game. I imagine that will feel completely different from the one we played tonight. Without striving to win as individuals, we’ll be better able to appreciate the awesome things we can achieve when we work together!