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Posts Tagged ‘games

“Some people have a way with words, and other people…oh, uh, not have way”*…


A few times each decade, the number of acceptable Scrabble words grows. Some sixty-five hundred new words—“lolz,” “shizzle,” and “blech” among them—will officially enter one of the two major competitive Scrabble lexicons on September 1st of this year. The grumbling that results when a word list lengthens is not so much about the inclusion of obscene or offensive words—though a cleaned-up list was controversially published in 1996, after someone protested the inclusion of “jew” as a verb. Instead, it is more about the growing divide between two Scrabble communities: North America and everywhere else…

The history of everyone’s favorite word game– and an explanation of the controversy roiling it today– at “The battle over Scrabble’s dictionaries.”

* Steve Martin


As we reach for a triple-letter double-word combo, we might recall that, while February 23rd, 1455 is the traditionally-given date of the publication of the Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed from movable type, the first evidence-based date is this date in 1456: the copy in the Bibliothèque nationale de France contains a note from the binder establishing the time of its publication.

(The Jikji— the world’s oldest known extant movable metal type printed book– was published in Korea in 1377.  Bi Sheng created the first known moveable type– out of wood– in China in 1040.)



Written by LW

August 24, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I took a test in Existentialism. I left all the answers blank and got 100″*…


English-speakers might say “existential despair,” among a number of different terms. Germans refer to Weltschmerz. As is often the case, the French have the perfect term to represent a somewhat intellectualized world-weariness that positively cries out for a pack of Gitanes. The term is ennui, and it’s so useful that we’ve incorporated it into our language. Using a French term gives the depression that extra bit of useless panache.

A game designer named Josh Millard has created the perfect Nintendo-style game to match that mood—it is called Ennuigi, and in it you can “spend some time with a depressed, laconic Luigi as he chain smokes and wanders through a crumbling Mushroom Kingdom, ruminating on ontology, ethics, family, identity, and the mistakes he and his brother [Mario] have made.”

Did I mention you can play it? Yes. You can play it.

Here is the complete list of controls:

left/right: walk around
up: ruminate
down: smoke…

More at “‘Ennuigi’: Nintendo for pretentious Existentialists.”


* Woody Allen


As we wait for the man, we might recall that it was on this date in 2008 that Microsoft discontinued the Xbox home video game console.  Introduced in 2002 to compete with Nintendo’s Mario-hosting Game Cube (along with Sony’s Playstation and Sega’s Dreamcast) , the Xbox had been the first U.S.- produced video game console since the Atari Jaguar disappeared in 1996, and had sold nearly 25 million units (on which, Halo and scores of other games were played) by the time it was replaced by the Xbox 360.



Written by LW

August 12, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The worst thing a kid can say about homework is that it is too hard. The worst thing a kid can say about a game is it’s too easy”*…


…Just a few of the hundreds of games available at The Internet Arcade.   As it’s Sunday (and a Sunday with an extra hour, at that), readers may want to kick back and click…

The Internet Arcade is a web-based library of arcade (coin-operated) video games from the 1970s through to the 1990s… Containing hundreds of games ranging through many different genres and styles, the Arcade provides research, comparison, and entertainment in the realm of the Video Game Arcade.

The game collection ranges from early “bronze-age” videogames, with black and white screens and simple sounds, through to large-scale games containing digitized voices, images and music.  Most games are playable in some form, although some are useful more for verification of behavior or programming due to the intensity and requirements of their systems.

Many games have a “boot-up” sequence when first turned on, where the systems run through a check and analysis, making sure all systems are go. In some cases, odd controllers make proper playing of the systems on a keyboard or joypad a pale imitation of the original experience…

Still, it’s a hoot…  The Internet Arcade, a service of the invaluable Internet Archive.

* Henry Jenkins


As we flex our fingers, we might send the heaviest of birthday greetings to Ronald McGovney; he was born on this date in 1962.  Having previously played with James Hetfield in the garage band Leather Charm, McGovney joined Hetfield in founding Metallica, playing with the band through its first year of performing and recording demos. The first of five bassists who’ve played with Metallica, McGovney left in late 1982; he went on to play in the thrash metal band Phantasm.

McGovney (left), with Hetfield (singing), Lars Ulrich (drums), and Dave Mustaine (guitar)– Metallica’s original line-up



Written by LW

November 2, 2014 at 1:01 am

“I think it’s wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly”*…


The game Monopoly was created in the early 1930s as “The Landlord Game” by a Quaker anxious to illuminate the dangers of unbridled acquisitiveness.  But by 1935, when it was acquired by Parker Bros., it had been copied, re-titled, and remade into the paean to aspirational capitalism that’s been a huge success ever since.

But times have changed; the methods of wealth accumulation have morphed…  and now there is a new set of rules to reflect this new reality.

It would be hard to simplify capitalism further than Monopoly. The game attempts to express the ruthlessness of raw capitalism by declaring that whoever has the most money at the “end” is the winner. While it’s true our culture proclaims the rich as our greatest heroes, the method of financial gain in Monopoly is not a system that allows for any creativity. Roll the dice, buy a property, pay rent, pass go, and collect $200. Repeat.

Simple models have long been used to help understand complex ideas. With a few small changes Monopoly can be a space where we can play at being in control of the economic system. All it takes is a few new rules.

Rule Change #1: The Banker

In the original rules the role of the banker is simply a chore–the board game equivalent of taking out the trash. But in real life the banker is no passive entity. The banker is the center of the universe.

The Libor scandal, the UBS money laundering scandal, the SAC Capital scandal, FINRA suing Wells Fargo and Bank of America, TD Bank paying to settle charges of a ponzi scheme, Galleon Group’s insider trading scandal. This list could go on. The point is that banking is
exciting work!

The role of the banker is special. The banker should have no piece on the Monopoly board, but this person is in charge of the bank’s money. The success of the banker is judged the same as any other player: Whoever accumulates the most wealth is the winner. Of course, as in life, the banker has some advantages (like control of all the money)…

Read the rest of the new rules at “Rethinking the game of Monopoly“…  then roll the dice.

Playing this version of Monopoly won’t help you understand the details of a banking scandal. But you’ll have experience with a simplified model of the financial system that generates regular “scandals.” A game where arguing and backstabbing are part of the rules and the winner is hard to determine. This simple model recreates the same results found in the real world.

* Stephen Wright


As we wonder why no one’s done time, we might recall that it was on this date in 1882 that the San Francisco Stock and Bond Exchange was formed;  it later merged with with Los Angeles Oil Exchange to become the Pacific Stock Exchange.  In 1999 it became the first stock exchange in the U.S. to demutualize, and in 2003, closed its trading floors and went to electronic transactions. The PSX, as it was known, merged into the New York Stock Exchange in 2006.

The San Francisco home of the Pacific Stock Exchange from 1930 to 2003


Written by LW

June 5, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”*…


Between 1900 and 1920, L. Frank Baum published 14 Oz books.  Astoundingly popular, the books spawned many theatrical adaptations (well before the classic 1939 movie we all know), as well as saga-themed objects like dolls, figurines– all aimed at an enormous fan base, the early century equivalent of Trekkies or Lord of the Rings freaks.  Among the theme merchandise, the 1921 Parker Bros. game pictured above.

The story’s popularity was such that this wasn’t even the first Parker Bros. Oz game. That was the Wogglebug Game of Conundrums, a card game published in 1905 and based on a character from Baum’s second Oz book, the sequel to Wizard. (You can see Wogglebug in the bottom right-hand quadrant of this gameboard.)

Many of the characters and places scattered around the 1921 board will be unfamiliar to people who know the Oz story from the 1939 movie or the original book (by far the most famous of the series). The presence of Woot and Ugu shows how familiar the whole Oz series would have been to the game’s audience…

More (and larger photos) at “The First Wizard of Oz–Themed Board Game, Sold to 1920s Superfans.”

Special Bonus:  Freud, Nietzsche, Carnap, and Marx: who would win at Monopoly?

* Dorothy


As we follow the yellow brick road, we might send mischievous birthday greetings to Beverly Cleary; she was born on this date in 1916.  One of America’s most successful writers of children’s literature, she has sold 91 million copies of her books– including Henry Huggins, and the Ramona series– worldwide.

Cleary won the 1981 National Book Award and the 1984 Newbery Medal; for her lifetime contributions to American literature, she has received the National Medal of Arts, recognition as a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the American Library Association.



Written by LW

April 12, 2014 at 1:01 am

“And now that I have some wood, I will begin the erection of my settlement”*…



Family game nights, game nights in bars, game nights with friends– game nights are back!  And Board Games for Me can help…

It is a great time to enjoy board games. Great publishers are turning out a wide variety or high-quality games. Crowd-funding sites, such as Kickstarter, are allowing independent designers to create unique and interesting games. Internet video series, such as TableTop, are demonstrating how fun board games can be to a huge audience.

This rise in popularity leads to one frustration, finding games that fit what you are looking for can be difficult. Few people have the time to wade through the flood of games that are available to find something you will enjoy. Board Games for Me aims to make things easier for you by allowing you to easily search through several games and find ones that are the perfect fit for you. We want you to spend your time playing games, not searching for what you want to play next.

So, give it a try. You can have results back in less than a minute. What are you waiting for? Get out there and play more games!

* Sheldon Cooper, playing Settlers of Catan in Episode 100 of Big Bang Theory


As we roll the dice, we might recall that it was on this date in 1991 that Pamela Smart was convicted Coral Gables, Florida of conspiring to murder her husband Greg.  A 24-year-old part-time heavy metal radio DJ (she hosted “Metal Madness”, as “Maiden of Metal” on local station WVFS), Pam had seduced 15-year-old Billy Flynn, then threatened him with an end to her sexual favors if he failed to help her get rid of Greg.  Flynn obliged, with the help of three friends.  All five conspirators were quickly arrested, tried, and convicted.

Flynn, who is serving a 30 years, has apologized and asked for a reduction in sentence.  Smart, who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, continues to maintain her innocence.

One can only wonder if regular game nights might have prevented this tragedy.

Pamela Smart taking the oath at her trial



Written by LW

March 22, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are”*…

Lars Yenken‘s “The Great Language Game” is an interactive game, being played worldwide, that challenges users to distinguish among (currently) 87 languages based on their sound alone.  As Lars explains,

There are perhaps six or seven thousand languages in the world. Even so-called hyperpolyglots, people who learn to speak six or more fluently, barely scratch the surface. You and I will never be able to communicate in all these languages without machine aids, but learning to identify what’s being spoken near us, that’s within our reach…

Besides, it’s fun!

[TotH to reddit]

* Ralph Waldo Emerson


As we prick up our ears, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Alfred North Whitehead; he was born on this date in 1861.  Whitehead began his career as a mathematician and logician, perhaps most famously co-authoring (with his former student, Bertrand Russell), the three-volume Principia Mathematica (1910–13), one of the twentieth century’s most important works in mathematical logic.

But in the late teens and early 20s, Whitehead shifted his focus to philosophy, the central result of which was a new field called process philosophy, which has found application in a wide variety of disciplines (e.g., ecology, theology, education, physics, biology, economics, and psychology).

“There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have consequences for the world around us.”



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