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Monday, August 28, 2006


House Rules

When folks get together to play the same game, they invariably invent some new rules to make things more interesting. These are mutally agreed upon modifications to the rules and are called "House Rules." A good example of this is the "Free Parking" rule in Monopoly where the Free Parking space has changed from a place where nothing happens (it's free) to a lucky jackpot where the player can get anywhere from $50 to all of the accumulated fines and fees that would normally go to the bank. Some of these house rules have become so pervasive that some folks insist that they are actually the real rules and get upset when someone tries to tell them different. This can get especially interesting when someone playing under one set of house rules finds themselves playing with a different group with their own set of house rules. Such was the case when I was growing up and playing board games with friends. The game seldom finished as the inevitable battle over whose rules were "the right ones" flared. Do you have some good house rules stories to share? Post them in the comments section!

Monday, August 21, 2006



This week's cartoon has dialog courteously provided by Brainage. Brainage is a game for the Nintendo DS that purports to "train your brain," mostly through a series of memory exorcises. One of those exorcises is for the program to ask you a question about a recent activity, such as "what did you have for dinner last night?" It records your answer, then a week or so later, it asks you to recall what you put down. Of course, the program has no way of knowing what you wrote, so it just puts both answers on the screen and lets you decide if you got it right or not.

The plan behind this exercise would be to train you so that you could remember your meals and other trivial decisions from way back. But what it really does is just train you to remember specifically the answer you made to the last question that it asked. Everything else is irrelevant. That is not to say that Brainage is a bad program or that it doesn't give your mental abilities a bit of a boost. But I do think that it falls short of actually improving your thinking abilities or turning back the ravages of time on your cerebellum. But hey, it's got 60 Sudoku puzzles. That's gotta be worth something.

I'll see you next week. Don't let me forget.

Monday, August 14, 2006


What they're really saying...

I think this week's cartoon speaks for itself. I was working this weekend, so I didn't have a lot of time to come up with a post. So what's up with you guys?

Monday, August 07, 2006


It's a guy thing.

For some folks, reading the instructions is a sign of weakness. Now I'm definitely not one of those people who will put others down for looking up information, but I do try to make my games as intuitive as possible. Ideally, I'd like the user to be able to pick up my game, start playing it, and actually have fun with it without spending a lot of time in "training." A game shouldn't require a lot of work to enjoy. When I was making the pinball games for Sierra, they were heavily involved with Prima, the company that publishes strategy guides. Naturally, they were keen on making a guide with hints and tips for 3D Ultra Pinball. Unfortunately, all of the strategy I could offer them would barely fill a pamphlet, much less a 100 page strategy guide (even with lots of glossy, full-color photos). True, there's some skill involved in winning pinball, but what it all boils down to is, "don't let the ball go down the hole." Words to live by.

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