Tombstone Hold'em Poker

Speaking of Halloween and all things Scary, how about a game of Tombstone Hold'em Poker (also, apparently, known as "All In" or even "Last Call Poker")? Allow me to quote the generously provided gist:
To figure a tombstone's suit, eye the shape of the stone:
- Curved or wavy on top? It's the curve of a heart.
- Flat on top? It's flat like the edges of a diamond.
- Pointed or peaked on top? It's just like a spade.
- Statue or fancy ornament on top? It's a club.
To figure the face value, count the number of people listed on the stone.
- If there's only one person listed, look at the last digit of the year of death.
.2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are what they are.
.1's are Aces. 0's are Tens
Clever, no? But clearly just the gist of the gest of it all. Before you leave for the graveyard, be sure to read all you could possibly need to know about Tombstone Hold'em Poker immediately.

see also this



Pointer, I might, shall we say, point out, is a mouse game that doesn't use the mouse buttons - a buttonless-mousing game, one might say.

The point is, there's something funny going on. Something not proper, if you know what I mean, about this game, some rule, some protocol, shall we say, violated. It feels different, your cursor somehow naked, defenseless, unbuttoned. I dast not say more.

While, at the same time, I dast not not. Because in a way this little game is pointing us to the source of all good new games - some unwritten agreement about how things are supposed to work is violated. And in doing so, the game becomes something new, something fascinating, something fun.

Link courtesy of Eric Jacobs, FunFinder

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


FunCast - The Second Concatenation

The Second Concatenation, received, oddly enough, before the First Concatenation, begins with the following conundrum-like observation:
"Just the other day I was playing war on my inner playground and I happened to notice how for the mere sake of the game I willingly and eagerly agree to become my own worst enemy."

For a perhaps even more poignant contemplation of the oddness of all this, you may, after you click here, close your eyes and imagine along with me.

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog


Shopping Carts of Art, Hubcaps of Playfulness

Take, for exmple, the Shopping cart art of Ptolemy Elrington. Contemplate, if you will, the depth of the artist's knowledge of shopping cart architecture. Note the consummate skill, the intimacy of the dialogue between form and substance, sculpture and cart. Now consider the artist's collection of Hubcap Creatures. One could only say the same.

Mr. Erlington is an artist who understands playfulness. He knows his junk. He knows what it will let itself be made into, and then he plays with it, right there, right at the edge, always honoring the essential junkitude of his medium, junk and artist making something new together, something lovely, something fun.

funscouting by Joel

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The politics of recess

In her article, The Hidden Dangers of Freeze Tag, Kyra Kyles writes:
"School administrators at Willett Elementary School in Attleboro, Mass., have banned kids from playing tag and touch football during recess because of liability fears. They join a list of overreacting officials at elementary schools in Wyoming, Washington and South Carolina with similar bans, according to The Associated Press."
Her article, fortunately, is fun to read. Fortunately, because fun is precisely what's at stake here - the fun of being a child, of having the energy and passion, curiosity and capacity for delight. Yes, yes, there are risks, liabilities even. But any institution that is purportedly dedicated to children, and finds itself unable to defend the child's right to play, simply cannot serve the whole child - physically, socially, educationally. I know this. I know you know this. But apparently there are others who have forgotten. Hopefully, all they need is a gentle, playful reminder, or two, or many.

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog


"QOLF," (pronounced KWALF) is, according to the manufacturers, "an indoor/outdoor game that is a cross between golf and croquet." It is, again according to the manufacturers, a popular leisure game in South Africa, which "now comes to the U.S. as the ultimate family fun game, as well as a unique golf practice tool."

Heartened by all these promises of patently family-friendly goflike glee, now, at last, available indoors and out, one is drawn inexorably to a contemplation of the various implications of the vertical target with both hole and arch, especially when combined with the shot-shapable nature of the Qolfball.

There's been a lot of very focused playing around here. The path from golf to Qolf, clearly, was by no means direct. The goal here was not to come up with what one might consider a "new" game, but rather with a way for people to practice an old game in new environments. Replacing a golf cup with an arch (as in croquet), but still playing by the rules of golf (no, you don't get to knock your opponents' balls off the green) certainly make things a lot easier to set up. But adding an extra hole on top of the arch is what we in the game biz call a "significant variation." By managing to pitch the ball through the hole, the player gets bonus points, and a chance to pull closer to the lead. Thus sustaining hope almost all the way to the last stroke.

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5-Card Nancy

It, apparently, is a game, a card-like game, invented by Scott McCloud, to be played with panels of a comic strip, in this case, 5-Card Nancy.

Scott explains:
"Find a reprint book of 'Nancy' comic strips. (Try here). Photocopy a good portion of the book onto white card-stock (with permission of course), and cut up the copies so that you end up with lots of small rectangles of paper, each containing only one 'Nancy' panel...Each player picks one card from their hand which they think would make a good “next panel” and places it to the right ofthe panel(s) already on the table. A judge or judges (usually your opponents) will decide if your choice is a good next panel. If it’s judged worthy, the panel stays. If it’s rejected, you must take the panel back."
Hmm. Given these rules, I suppose one could play, in like manner, 5 Card Blondie, 7 Card Mighty Mouse, or even 3 Card Peanuts. Unless there's some peculiar reason for the Nancy-ness. So, why Nancy? According to the author: "Ernie Bushmiller's comic strip 'Nancy' is a landmark achievement: A Comic so simply drawn it can be reduced to the size of a postage stamp and still be legible; an approach so formulaic as to become the very definition of the 'gag-strip;' a sense of humor so obscure, so mute, so without malice as to allow faithful readers to march through whole decades of art and story without ever once cracking a smile."

For more about Nancy, try, perhaps, Wikipedia

via Michael Weidenbach, Funfinder


The Royal We

Today's most amusingly profound FunCast is called
The First Concatenation. It is one of the so-called Sendings of the Oaqui. It reflects the fundamental significance of the observation "that you live with yourself, talk to yourself, laugh at yourself, surprise yourself, promise yourself, hurt yourself, fool yourself, trick yourself, reward yourself, support yourself, forget yourself, enjoy yourself - that you can be good and bad to yourself, that you can love and hate yourself, that you can blame and forgive yourself, listen to yourself and try to ignore yourself - that you can exercise self restraint, engage in self denial, self abuse, self pity, self aggrandization - that you can have self, esteem, loathing, pity, regard - that you can feel yourself - that you can feel not yourself - that you can be self assured, self motivated, self cleaning."

You can listen the abovementioned FunCast here.

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog


Aygo Soccer

Here's a Google video of a soccer game played with a very big soccer ball and a bunch of noticeably small cars.

OK. It's an advertisement. But the clearly noticeworthy point of the video is the fun of it - the fun that the announcer is clearly having, the fun of the idea itself.

Google Video now has a "comments" section, bless their blog-like hearts, wherein I found this:

"They are not Smart cars, but Toyota Aygo, a new for Europe only small car. The TV was brilliant, but I was at the filming and it was one of the most fun things I have ever witnessed. To see cars racing after a giant ball is truly amazing. The cars played several more games live at a show before Christmas in 2005 and are still going strong after a bit of TLC."

Fun finding by Grow-a-Brain

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog

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Beyond 99

Zeus on the Loose is quite solidly based on everything that makes the kids' card game 99 fun to play. And, quite like the Major FUN-awarded game Straw, it makes a good game, better.

Zeus on the Loose adds new cards, with new powers, a lot more interaction, and a Zeus statue.

Let me summarize the root game, as it were, according to Pagat, who classifies 99 as an "adding game": "These, in which the values of the cards are added together as they played in a single pile, the object being to avoid taking the total above the target score (98, 99, 100 respecively)."

So, you see, if your card has the power of, for example, reversing the digits (one of my favorites), you can make the card total, which is currently at, for example, 93, become 39, don't you see.

Interesting. Fun, even. But it's the "lot more interaction" that earned Zeus on the Loose it's Major FUN for Kids award. It would have to be. Because the added functionality and the significantly silly images of male and female Greek gods, and even the cool little Zeus statue cannot be compared in fun value to the Stealing Zeus rules.

You see, to win, you must be the Holder of the Zeus. To be the Holder of the Zeus, you must steal it from a player who is currently Zeus-Holder. O, you steal quite openly, there is no deception involved. Merely the experience of complete, if temporary, vindication. And then it gets stolen from you. And you can't win without it. And then you do a "Same Number Sneak" (see the rules), and steal it back. And, well, it's like a whole nother game, as it were. Like 99, sure. And Straw. But a whole new level of fun.

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog

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Happy returns

First of all, I'm a grandfather again. My sixth.

That happened while I was on my way home from a conference of an organization called the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) Their slogan: "Playful Methods. Serious Results." should make my interest in this group vividly clear. And even more vividly clear when you take into account that I was one of the keynote speakers for this year's conference. (You can download my speech here.)

Next, just before I left, ran out, actually, thinking (rightly, it turns out) that my grandfatherness was about to leap another quantum, I was told that I was the recipient of the IFILL/RAYNOLDS Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions to Simulation Gaming.

And what an award! Look at their criteria:
The recipients work should respect and make use of the power and spiritual richness within practical settings. In an exemplary way, the work should:
-Foster a sense of community among those who interact with it.
-Deepen understanding of a cultural, organizational, and/or global common good as it provides for interaction with the situation(s) and/or system(s) being modeled.
-Enable active, positive listening by participants to themselves and/or those different from themselves, enhancing their understanding of themselves and others.
-Contribute to strengthening and/or changing an organization's or group's climate and spirit while building a deeper understanding of it's purpose.
And they gave it to me!. Right as I was about to run home. And on top of that, I turned 65 two days later, receiving my official award of senior citizenship. And on top of all that, my grandfather award. Did I mention that it was my sixth?

Willard Wigen - Big Fun, writ small

Willard Wigen's wonders are almost unimaginably small, almost unimaginably challenging to create. I extract:
"The smallest sculptures can only be measured in thousandths of an inch which is why they can sit, very delicately, on a human hair three thousandths of an inch thick. When working on this scale he slows his heartbeat and his breathing dramatically through meditation and attempts to harmonise his mind, body and soul with the Creator. He then sculpts or paints at the centrepoint between heartbeats for total stillness of hand. He likens this process to 'trying to pass a pin through a bubble without bursting it.' His concentration is intense when working like this and he feels mentally and physically drained at the end of it."
OK, kids, this is what I mean about fun. What's Willard doing, if I may ask, getting in touch with the Creator so he can make a sculpture too tiny to see, if not having fun?

Oh, he's having fun, all right. Big fun. Deep fun. Really real fun. Playing in a teeny, tiny world, too small for the naked eye to see.

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Games of the 70s

I had to stop watching this video at least, what, 10 times? Toys and games I didn't remember. Never even saw. And certainly don't see now. Toys and games that looked like they were, like, really fun. I mean, that first one, the one in this picture, from Ideal? Bing Bang Boing! "the first open-end action game ever created." You remember that? Is that cool or who? "Open-end action game" - how mesmeringly relevant. And why isn't it a whole line of components that you can bounce balls off of? - neat, maybe electronic components already, electro-mechanical even, with voice chips?

It wasn't just nostalgia, you know. How can you be nostaligic for something you never experienced? But it was sad for me. O, I know about Ideal Toys. I used to work for them even. Sold and folded into an older mold.

Hate to see a good game die.

And it goes on, the video. Those Kenner SST cars with Sonic Sound. "Sonic Sound?" You mean kids actually thought there was something called "Sonic Sound"? Ah, to be young and gullible. And on and on, demolition cars and film projectors, and then, Masterpiece, the game - yet one more reminder of good games that are no more, for no good reason at all.


fun scouting by Gameskeeper Marc

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog


Checker lessons

This week's FunCast is taken from an article I wrote called "Ex Checkers." It's about a class I taught to prisoners, and the lessons thereof. It concludes:

Class after class, variation after variation, the convicts, the people in my checkers class, and I, played, and learned together. We even created new variations borrowing rules from one and fitting them into another.

As the classes progressed, I began realizing what my checkers classes must have meant to people who have lost their freedom:

* there’s more than one way to play checkers
* the more ways you know, the more you have to play with – more things to think about, more people to think with, more opportunities to keep the mind alive
* the only variation worth playing is the one that’s fun for both players
* because there’s more than one way to play, every game has to start with negotiation
* all the rules of a game are negotiable, the only rules that aren’t negotiable are the rules that keep you playing together.

You can listen to this week's FunCast here.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Reinventing Tic Tac Toe

Flip-Tac-Toe is a 3-in-a-row game on a 4x4 board for 2-4 players. And that's not all. It's a Tic-Tac-Toe game that breaks almost every convention of Tic-Tac-Toe, and yet, when all is said and done, is still definitely Tic-Tac-Toe.

You get 12 big bright foam chips apiece. You put one of your pieces anywhere on the board. Or you move a piece anywhere on the board. Yes, that's right, I said move "a" piece, as in any piece, as in one of yours or one of anyone else's. Anywhere. Even on top of another piece (unless there are already 4 pieces on it). And if there are stacks of pieces, you can also turn a stack over, on your turn, so to speak.

A stacking strategy, they explain, is to try to get your color on top and on bottom of a stack, like a sandwich - so that it always stays the same color even when flipped. Very interesting. And very different when you play with 3 or 4 people, stack-sandwich-making-strategy-wise.

Easy to learn, because it's tic-tac-toe. Takes a while to master, because it's so much more.

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog

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What game are they REALLY playing?

See the people in the picture?

See how they're lying on each other's general stomach area in a more-or-less circle?

Do you know what game they're really playing? Do you know another game they might be really playing?

Wouldn't this be a fun kind of contest to have? We could call it:
What game are they REALLY playing?
And if you wanted to enter the contest, and you knew the game, or you thought up an even better game for them to be REALLY playing, you'd leave your personal brilliance in the comments. And you could even play anonymously, if you didn't care about winning.

Which is fine by me. Because I don't care about contests - joining or judging. I do care, though, about you, and seeing if there's something fun and creative we cold be doing together, giving to the world, as it were. Contest? Nah. Enough with the contests already. Enough with the winning and losing. On with the fun, I say, on with the fun for all!
So, anyhow, do you know the game? Better yet, do you know what game they REALLY are playing?
Your (moderated) comments are awaited. And so are you.

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog


Why Play, Toys, and Games are Important

I have been fortunate to know Dr. Toy for maybe a couple of decades already, during which I've come to appreciate her more and more for her valiant and often heroic efforts towards creating a childhood that is a little more fun for many, many more children; in a world of adults who can barely remember what fun is for.

Her recently published article, "Why Play, Toys, and Games are Important," is one more example of her wisdom, expertise, passion and valiant defense of play. That she quotes me extensively in this article is yet further evidence of the aforementioned.

Here's a taste of what she has to say: "There are three 'Cs' I refer to when thinking about how the child's social development is nurtured by games and by thinking outside the limits to the learning process and traditional settings. When thinking about the value of games in the school or in libraries consider these values:
1. Communication — Communication involves others and leads to sharing, discussions, negotiation, and compromise.
2. Challenge — Challenges of game play give the child the opportunity to master new skills, solve problems, pursue goals, and enhance self-confidence.
3. Creativity — Creativity helps children imagine and wonder about ideas and stimulates self-expression."


Riding the Line - the art of fun

Line Rider

The artist comments:
This is a project i did for illustration class.

Its not a game, its a toy. What i mean is there is no goals to achive and there is no score.
Artist, I said, didn't I? I called the author of the program an "artist" because that's what the person named ~fsk, who seems to have made this thing of fun is called. A Deviant Artist, as a matter of fact.

Game design is, after all, an art. Especially something as compelling and unintentionally successful as this. It is an art to create something people want to spend their time with - a painting, a film, a game. It is an art to make something for an assignment that is a truly fun thing - true enough to become something other than you intended it to be, for more of the world than you intended to experience it.

Playing with it is also an oddly satisfying art - learning to draw a track that is complex enough yet doesn't make the unicyclist fall over and die. On the other hand, it is also oddly satisfying to draw something that does lead the unicyclist to an early, animated demise. Now that's the art of fun.

Found on Not Doppler

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Serious Games

As I slowly reach the conclusion of my NASAGA keynote, I begin to describe a simulation game, or what we are currently calling a "serious game." Today's funcast is about that simulation and those games, and can be heard by clicking here.

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog

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GiftTRAP - playing with empathy

GiftTRAP is a party game about giving each other gifts. The better you are at giving people the things they really want, the better you do at the game.

How do you like that for a party game premise? giving each other presents.

Well, we loved it!

What fun to think about what other people might want for a present! What a fun thing to think about for a change! What a fun way to play with other people - giving presents to the very people you're trying to beat, winning because you're good at guessing what other people might want!

OK, so they're not, like, real presents. They're only photos. But in the world of GiftTRAP, they're real enough. So real enough that you actually get excited when people give you the gifts you really want. Really excited. Even though they get more points than you do. And you're just as excited when you give people the gifts they most really wanted. Because they get excited. And, just maybe because you get more points than they do.

GiftTRAP is masterfully packaged. The board, for example, is folded into a U-shape that fits everso well into the GiftTRAP box (well, cube, actually). Since each player has to use a lot of different pieces (2 scoring markers, 9 gift tokens, and 4 choice tokens), all of the player's chosen color; the pieces come in their own individual, appropriately colored organza drawstring bags. Then there are the many decks of cards - 640 of them. Just so you never run out of something new to give each other.

But it's the game itself that deserves the most attention, and praise. Praise, because it's probably the first and only party game in which empathy is a strategically valuable commodity, empathy and intuition, sensitivity and appreciation, even.

GiftTRAP is a new kind of party game. A kinder kind. A Major FUN kind.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Reaction Effect

One of the biggest "wins" when you play Conway's Game of Life is when you create an arrangement of cells that grows and changes, all by "itself," forever, or 2 minutes, which ever comes first. Designed as a virtual laboratory for exploring "cellular automata" (the gateway to nanotechnology), The Game of Life is a wonderful introduction to scientific tinkering. Wonderful, but, for someone who really just wants to play and be amazed, not so much fun. It takes time to discover the wonders of The Game of Life. It takes more time to realize how wonderful these wonders are. You can quote me on that.

Reaction Effect is a, well, Life-like game, but much more gamish, much more. Even the rules reflect its gamelike elegance: "The obective of the game is to get a chain reaction of tiles as long as possible. Tiles will start each other if their lines are connected. Click on a tile to start." Each tile is the same, a square inscribed with a quarter-circle arc. Clicking on a tile turns it 90-degrees clockwise, the implications of which becoming immediately apparent upon your first click.

Not to wax too educational-philosophically, but merely to point out how deep the challenge offered by such a simple, playworthy game, while perhaps noting that the score of 1433 you can just about see on the accompanying illustration was achieved in two clicks.

Reaction Effect is one of a collection of elegant little Flash games you can find on,


Free Hugs

I found this video about The Free Hugs Campaign on Milk and Cookies.

It made me sad.

It made me laugh.

It made me angry.

It made me cry.

This is a world where giving free hugs is a political statement.

This is a world that was made to be a lot more fun than we let it be.

The Junkyard Sports Fundation receives its first donation

An anonymous donor, our first, sent in this box containing a significant collection of stretchy foot things. We are honored and humbled by this act of unselfish sharing (the foot things were washed), and hope in like manner to be able to share our bounty with those in need.

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog