liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[livejournal.com profile] ghoti found a cool toy that tries to make inferences about what kinds of games you like. It seems to be reasonably competent, based on meaningful questions and using statistical analysis of a few tens of thousands of people, not just a near-random internet clickbait quiz.

who doesn't love quizzes? )

Anyway, feel free to have a go if you like this kind of quiz. You can compare your recs to mine, if you're so inclined; I didn't find any overlap between my recommended games and [livejournal.com profile] ghoti's, and we certainly do have a number of games we both enjoy. I think Takenoko is probably about the exact sweet spot between her sort of game and mine, but we've also been playing quite a lot of Castles of Burgundy and recently rediscovered Targi.
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
In the little breathing space between Yom Kippur and Succot, I managed to squeeze in some time with my loves, and we used some of it to play games.

reviews )

So yay, happy gamer.

Pokémon Go

Aug. 9th, 2016 01:36 pm
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
So Pokémon Go is basically a terrible game. It's opaque and annoying for beginners, and it ramps up the difficulty in a way that makes the game more annoying, not more challenging as you advance, presumably because it's somewhat clumsily balanced for monetization rather than fun. I liked Ingress better, and that's saying something, because I already found Ingress didn't have much actual gameplay beyond a cool concept.

But it doesn't need to be a good game, because it's an amazing phenomenon. It's just a perfect fit for the zeitgeist, unlike Ingress being launched at a time when smartphone coverage is extensive enough that people other than affluent tech-heads can play. It had a readymade userbase and fandom in the entire generation who loved Pokémon the first time round, which gives it enough of a network effect to make it appealing to old fogeys like me who weren't already fans. And it's the perfect gateway to augmented reality; you walk around in the real world and find cute things. It doesn't really matter what the scoring mechanism is, or that the most of the features and gameplay elements are promised rather than actual, or that that fighting side of the game is grindy and uninteresting. You walk around, you find cute things. Instant reward.

further detail )

So it's a terrible game, but it's giving me a lot of pleasure, and I hope its success will in fact encourage other developers to release better augmented reality games.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
I spent the weekend with [livejournal.com profile] ghoti's ex, celebrating his fortieth birthday. I like living the kind of life where I can write that sort of sentence! Anyway, the party itself was very cool, it had good food, and really impressive fancy cake made by [twitter.com profile] planetxanna, and interesting conversation; my girlfriend's ex introduced me to someone who's just submitted her PhD thesis on early Christian art history as someone who would be interested in her academic field.

And yes, I was indeed very interested, and also quite flattered that a host would think that was a useful way to make a connection between me, professionally a natural scientist, and another guest. I learned about this third century synagogue where not only is there representational art, which doesn't surprise me that much for the period, but actual images more or less of God, namely a hand coming out of the clouds, as you commonly see in lots of much later Christian art when they're less squeamish about drawing pictures of God.

mobile games )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Over the present-giving season we (that is me and my partners and my OSOs' kids) gave and acquired lots and lots of new games as presents, so I shall try to write not too extensive reviews of some of the ones we've played.

lots and lots of games )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
So months ago [personal profile] lizcommotion wrote a really interesting post about bad childhood experiences of games. And it's a theme I've seen quite a lot, that the only reason adults would want to play competitive games with children is to bully them. Which is very different to my experience; adults played games with me mainly because they wanted to entertain me and spend time with me. And in fact I turned out to like gaming a lot better than most of my influential adults did, so I carried on playing games into adulthood. My parents play bridge and Scrabble voluntarily, for example, but generally otherwise see games as something they don't really have to do any more now their offspring are adults.

So when I play games with kids, particularly my partners' kids, I'm mainly trying to share an enthusiasm with them. I play games because I enjoy it and I hope they will too, but accounts like [personal profile] lizcommotion's make me worry that I'm creating experiences which will undermine their confidence and that they will grow up resenting me for making them play games and possibly with anxiety around competition. I mean, I don't think it's very likely that I'm inadvertently harming the children, because if I thought it was likely I wouldn't be doing it, but, well, I personally enjoy competition and I am aware there's a fine line between purely playful competition and actually overpowering people. Also my OSOs are pretty intensely a gaming family, and I generally trust the parents' judgement that their kids are actively enjoying the games we play and not being coerced into anything by domineering adults.

I wrote a long comment on [personal profile] lizcommotion's post, which I probably should have yoinked over here as a top level post because it's mostly about me. So I shall reproduce it here now, belatedly. gaming experiences, as a child playing with adults and as an adult playing with children )

Many of my friends are gamers too, which is not surprising since I hang out in geek circles mainly. And many of them are introducing their kids to their hobbies, and I really don't think they're being horrible in the ways portrayed in the linked post. I think part of not being awful is picking games carefully, ones that don't require unreasonable amounts of analysis or long-term strategy, and certainly not ones that depend on world knowledge. Trivial Pursuit is kind of a terrible game anyway but it's particularly terrible with mixed age players. And honestly there's such a wide range of games available these days, I feel there's a cornucopia of options of things that are simple enough for children and fun for habitual gamers. I don't really like the solution of pure chance games because although it means younger players win a proportionate amount of the time, they're just not fun.

Anyway, one thing that seems to be working quite well is playing games on smartphones or tablets. Not video games in the conventional sense, but traditional or Euro-style multiplayer games that happen to be instantiated on the phone. I'd really like some recommendations for more of those! One that we've been playing a lot is OLO (basically digital shove-ha'penny). What I want primarily is games that can be played on a single device, passed between players.

I'm also interested in asynchronous games, essentially play-by-mail but with the phone handling the tedious bit where you have to write your move down and put it in the post. The sort of model espoused by Draw Something, a very good implementation of digital Pictionary except that it got bought out by evil Zynga the day after I bought the app. And along the lines Yucata, but for phones rather than desktops. Yucata is a website, so it works approximately on modern smartphones, but it's fiddly on anything less than 10'' and all the development work is geared towards desktops. Those games are nice to play with adult friends because I can make one move a day or even slower than that, and it's a little bit of connection and a few minutes at worst of distraction. I can imagine in the not too distant future such games might be nice to play with the kids as well, just as a way of saying hi while I'm not around.

I'm specifically not looking for networked games, where you both have to be fully concentrating and reliably connected to the internet for the whole duration of the game. That's less interesting to me whether I'm in the same place as the people I'm playing with or whether it's a long-distance thing. There seem to be a lot more of those around, which is a bit surprising to me as I'd imagine it's more difficult to code a networked, synchronous game than a turn-based game. But for example, I really like the phone version of Ticket to Ride, except for the fact that if you want to play with humans you have to both be online at the same time and there's not even a way to save the game, you have to play through the whole game at once. If I have an hour free to spend time with a friend, I'd rather chat to them than play a phone game. Also, I want to be able to add friends by username much more than I want to play against strangers, but I really don't want to sign up to the horrible Google Play Games thing which will spam everybody I've ever contacted through Gmail every time I get a highscore in a silly casual game, and force me to join Google+ (I just can't wait until Google finally admit that horrible travesty is dead and stop trying to trick people into signing up).

I'm sure turn-based asynchronous games like this must be out there, but I'm having a hard time finding them as all my searches turn up everything that's vaguely in the genre of electronic versions of board games. So I'm hoping my human friends can do better than search engines. Even really traditional games like chess, go or backgammon would be lovely to have, as long as I can play with specific individuals not anybody who happens to be online, and I can make a move and have the phone transmit the changed state to my opponents, allowing them to respond in their own time. Any ideas?
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
So one advantage of being out is that I can write diary posts about what I'm up to without being coy about spending time with my partners. Terminology wise, we've more or less settled on saying OSOs when we want to make a distinction between spouses and other partners, so I'll probably use that term a bit going forward.

In fact, [livejournal.com profile] ghoti introduced herself on the coming out thread and offers: But friends-of-Liv who'd like to get to know me better perhaps may wish to know that I will be doing December Days and that might be a good place to ask questions? [livejournal.com profile] ghoti is very much an LJ person and doesn't really do DW (indeed, DW-[personal profile] ghoti who is in my DW circles is an entirely different person whom I'm not dating, so I hope this does not result in any confusion.)

recent fun things )
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
So the very famous game Hatoful Boyfriend is in this week's Humble Bundle (if you see this in the next few hours, it's still available). I've seen so many comments on the internet saying that Hatoful Boyfriend is surprisingly profound and much more rewarding than the concept of a high school dating sim with pigeons would imply, so I gave it a go.

review )

It's a bit of a stretch to call this related, but [livejournal.com profile] ghoti recently gave me a very cool present, the Japanese themed game Machi Koro. She described it as a kawaii cross between Dominion and Settlers, and it's hard to imagine a better encapsulation of what the game is. first play thoughts )
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
[livejournal.com profile] ghoti wanted to hear about a game you like.

babble, but I do answer the question eventually )

[December Days masterpost]

Ungames

Nov. 11th, 2014 04:42 pm
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
I think it's Wittgenstein or some philosopher of that ilk who has a famous discussion of the fact that it's really hard to define what a game is; any definition you can come up with, it's easy to think of an exception which most people agree is a game. Recently I've been playing a couple of things which are kind of edge-casey, and I wanted to talk about some of them.

gaming )

Apart from trying out new quasi games, I've had a fairly quiet few days. Some good conversations with [personal profile] jack, some gardening (for we are boring middle-aged home owners now), and a really fun visit with [livejournal.com profile] ghoti and [personal profile] cjwatson Saturday evening. The very good thing about being boring home-owners is that we have awesome neighbours.
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
My mother had a theory that the best route to a good social life was to know how to swim, play tennis, dance formally, and play bridge. This turned out to reflect a society that isn't quite the one I grew up in, but still, I did learn some of these skills.

social skills and bridge geekery )

And coming full circle, [personal profile] jack has made himself very popular by making a fourth at bridge when he's visiting my parents. So far we seem to be an exception to the maxim that couples shouldn't be bridge partners! I think this is partly because we've set out very determined that we are interested in improving our game not "beating" our friends, and also because we are using bridge learning as a sandbox to practise communication. So ways for [personal profile] jack to point out that I did something wrong without turning it into a fight, and ways to come to a compromise quickly when we have incomplete information or limited time for negotiation. And generally being partners, something which we strive for in our life in general, not just at the bridge table!
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
I've just completed season 1 of the Zombies, run! mobile game. On the whole, I'm pretty impressed.

detailed review )
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
[personal profile] cxcvi very endearingly had me roll dice to pick today's date, and asked for Gaming, of a non-computer kind. There are brief mentions of you doing some in the past, but only light whispers.

yes, I'm a nerd )

[January Journal masterlist. Anyone want the last empty slot?]
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
After I posted complaining about the shrinking market for casual games sold on the model where you pay a few quid once to get a complete, playable game, lots of you made helpful suggestions. Now my play queue is longer than the time I have available for gaming, which is a much better problem to have, so thank you all very much!

reviews )

In other zombie news, I am very much enjoying Zombies, Run to make my regular running less boring. I was hoping for gamification, but in lots of ways it's more an interactive story than a game. Very good and engaging story, though, and innovative in the ways it could really only be played on a smartphone. And I am having far too much fun with Terraria; the recent big update has added a lot of interesting, playable content to the game as well as tweaking the balance in ways that are almost all improvements. One of the things I really like about Terraria is that it's fun and engaging without being addictive; it's pretty non-linear, but effectively you can choose a particular task or quest, carry it out and then stop. I've played over a hundred hours (!) not because it's manipulating my brain's reward pathways to have just one more go, but because it's just enjoyable. It's somewhat expensive for a casual game on Steam, but it's also quite often on sale.
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
There's been a lot of virtual ink spilled on the snobbery and sexism that permeates which kinds of video games are taken seriously. I think where I'm at is that actually, the industry has woken up to the fact that they can make serious money out of casual games, and it hasn't necessarily made my life as a casual gamer better (even though I am reasonably willing to spend money on games I enjoy).

why I'm a casual gamer )

So, any recs for casual games where the version you buy or download actually works properly out of the box? I'm willing to pay actual money if I know what I'm getting for my cash, I'm even willing to deal with in-game ads these days if I am getting a complete game in exchange for my eyeballs.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
Verdict: Terraria hits a lot of buttons for what I want from a computer game.

Reasons for playing it: [personal profile] syllopsium rec'd it originally, I think, and I played with it a couple of times but didn't get into it at all. Then there was a Making Light thread about Minecraft, which sort of encouraged me to give Terraria another go (Terraria being, essentially, Minecraft for casual gamers).

How it came into my hands: Steam sale. I am finding Steam a very good way of buying computer games. I don't really mind DRM for games, because with most, I just want to play them for a few months until I get bored, I don't feel the need to own them outright, so DRM seems a reasonably fair way of protecting the game makers' revenue. And Steam gives value added in exchange for having to put up with DRM, it provides a reasonably pleasant framework in which to play games, with some achievements and a little bit of social, and is better at making stuff just work than trying to install things directly onto my computer. The other thing it does is sell retro games; I've been wanting for a long time to be able to pay money to get hold of 80s and 90s classics, rather than having to mess around with emulators or dodgy "abandonware" sites, not to mention that plenty of games companies were aggressive about policing pirated versions but not actually making the original versions available for sale. And sometimes they sell recent games for pocket money; I've spent a good couple of hundred quid on random things because each individual one was cheap enough for me to give it a go, whereas I just can't see myself spending tens of pounds on a computer game. Especially since the things that make computer games expensive are not really things I want, I don't want hundreds of hours of gameplay or a complex plot or skills which are difficult to master, and I'm neutral about pretty graphics, I want a game I can play as a timewaster to clear my brain for ten minutes.

detailed review )
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
This one's for [livejournal.com profile] simont who expressed enthusiasm when I mentioned it as a possible topic.

I've been playing semi-abstract games since MK introduced me to Settlers of Catan in the 90s. (Being German himself, he was deeply into Settlers in its really early days, before it was a big thing outside Germany.) And the past year or so has given me a few opportunities to discover new exciting ones, of which I'm most excited about Dominion and Agricola.

game reviews )

Talking of Settlers, I don't suppose anyone wants to set up online games, do they?
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
Reason for playing it: Somebody mentioned it in a Making Light thread, and it sounded cool, and I wanted to have a go.

How it came into my hands: I went to download the demo, and discovered that it is only available through this weird framework called Steam. I'd heard mixed things about Steam, but I went and read all the small print carefully and decided it was a minor degree of evil that I could live with. I don't like DRM, but DRM for games makes some amount of sense, much more so than for music or texts.

The demo is extremely limited, letting you play only four games. I think an hour's play is reasonable, or a month with limitations on which game features you can access. Having an excessively restricted demo like that makes me reluctant to buy the full version; I was still getting the hang of the controls after four plays and couldn't tell if I was going to like the game or not. But it was on special offer of $5, (normal price $10), and that's impulse purchase money for me, so I just went ahead and bought it.

Verdict: Audiosurf is just the kind of addictive casual game I like.

detailed review )

Anyway, yes, I confess myself thoroughly addicted! Between this and accidentally rediscovering the Distributed Proofreaders adjunct to Project Gutenberg, I'm having a hard time making progress on my grant application...
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
The kind of computer games I like are easy to learn, addictive and largely abstract. Preferably the action takes place in a single screen (though there may be multiple levels of increasing difficulty), and ideally the controls require no more than half a dozen keys. This means that there aren't really any modern games that I like as much as the old staples: Qix, Snake, Bubble Puzzle, and Donkey-Kong type games. And nothing from the past 20 years has lived up to Tetris!

more gaming babble )

I think I need an icon for general geekery, (as opposed to talking about science or linguistics). I happened to stumble on a dollmaker that actually provides "long plait" as a hairstyle option, and has a reasonable amount of flexibility without being so over-complicated it's boring to use. So, behold, a vaguely manga-ish version of me!
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
I was surfing around on LJ today and I found something I've been looking for unsuccessfully for ages: an networked version of Settlers of Catan! (Yes, there is a Microsoft version, but it requires a subscription and generally has cooties.) Sea3D is written by one Jason Fugate, who describes himself as a game fanatic... uber-geek and is really properly thought out as well as being Open Source and free both as-in-speech and as-in-beer. Unlike a lot of OS by-geeks for-geeks software, it's incredibly easy to use. Setting up a networked game isn't at all a black art, and it handles a ladder tournament and all the systems to support the social side smoothly and comprehensively. And it has various options for custom rules and yay.

The only down side is that the interface is mildly awkward. You have to download a program, which is unfortunately Windows only. It's very Windows GUI in the way it's set up, which is fine; the activation barrier is very low if you're prepared to download and install it. But what's not so fine is that the board is 3-dimensional in a completely unnecessary way. I think the 3D part is partly because the Fugate is showing off his ability to handle 3D graphics, and partly to get round copyright issues. The fact is that the graphics don't work properly on my old computer (this is a known bug, apparently), so I have to rotate the board so that it appears horizontal (ie perpendicular to the plane of the screen!) in order to click on it. Which is a mild pain.

But I'm not in the least complaining, because yay networked Settlers! In the past I have also played Newman Settlers, which plays in Java embedded in the browser. That does have the advantage that it doesn't require a download, but it's basic rules only, and it's a pain to find opponents and it generally isn't nearly as complete as Sea3D.

I am in gamer heaven.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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