a toast!

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Funny Together

It seemed to me curiously appropriate, yearly-speaking, end-wise, for a moment of appreciation. For you, first of all. And second, for that very sweet thing that sometimes happens when we get together - when we get funny together.

Which, beyond reminds me beyond serendipitously of an article I just published on the Deep Fun site. I called it "Funny Together." So enamored have I apparently become of this particular article that today I find it literally incumbent upon myself to read it to you for our little FunCast, and to invite you to read along, if you so desire, by clicking, obviously, here.

I begin, should you still so wonder, with the following:
Sometimes, we are funny together. All of us. At more or less the same time. Singing a silly song, maybe, playing a funny game. Walking a funny walk, talking in funny voices, in foreign accents, in slow motion.

For me, being funny together with my wife, my kids, my grandkids, is almost always the funniest, the deepest, the most deeply funny.

Were not being silly. No way. Were being funny together. Magically funny. Even when we are doing silly things, its not at all about being silly, its all about the funniness that were creating together. The magic of it. All about the laughter we are sharing.

I think those times when we are funny together, those amateurish, funny together times, we are funnier than comedians and clowns. Funny beyond clever. So funny, we are taken by surprise by how funny.

From Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Hanet Ball

Hanet Ball? According to this press clip, Hanet Ball, invented by Fritz J. Valdeus, is played:
"...with two circular goals called 'pengoals' on opposite ends of a court, teams compete with seven players on each side, including a goalkeeper who stands inside the goal, which looks like a playpen. The remaining players use a pint-sized ball that must be bounce-passed to a teammate and players shoot at the opponent's pengoal from outside a circle surrounding the pengoal area.

"Anybody that can bounce-pass a ball and catch it can play Hanet Ball," Valdeus, 30, said. "That's how basic it is. But there's a lot more things involved than just a bounce pass. There's more than 40 different ways to pass the ball, but they all require a bounce."

The movement looks similar to movements in basketball. Players are allowed to hold the ball for five seconds or four steps. Fouls can result in two free shots at the pengoal, similar to a penalty kick in soccer or free throw in basketball. Games are divided into four 13-minute quarters.
This was about the clearest description of the sport itself that I could find. And yes, it seems to be very, very much in the same spirit as that of the just-previously-blogged sport of Socci.

But before we rush to judgment about which is what, I'd like to direct your attention to the passion that fuels the invention of a new sport, as revealed on a sidebar in the front page of the Hanet Ball Website:
Welcome to HANET BALL - The sport that brighten even light into your path. I, Fritz J. Valdeus personally welcome you on HANET BALL online, the sport that every one in Palm Beach & Broward County are talking about. The sport that excites and alternates the ways you exercise.
"The sport that brighten even light into your path." Whatever that means, it reveals a lot more than a it reveals something of the passion, the reach of the vision, the genuine nobility of the spirit that envisioned it into being. It's far more than someone trying to sell new sports equipment. It's someone trying to bring something new into the world - sports for fun, sports that more people can play, sports that are created to celebrate the human body, spirit and community.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Ze Frank on Scrabble

Defender of the Playful Ze Frank, author of, for example, the visually delicious, play-invitingly voice-activated Meditation Flowers, has, since March, been producing, five days a week, video- and podcasts that range from the strange to the deeply strange. He calls it "The Show," and he intends to continue creating the show for exactly one year.

Since you're obviously one of the fun few, I thought you'd especially appreciate Ze's reflections on the game of Scrabble. It's a frank (naturally), funny, informed, often silly, and sometimes uncomfortably familiar exploration of his experiences as a member of a Scrabble-playing family. If you find yourself so moved, you can even read The Script.

Listen, Ze is one brave, talented and profoundly playful guy. Brave? Take a look at his presentation at last year's Technology Education Design conference. If you're unfamiliar with his work, or yours, spend the next couple of days exploring his site.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Cosmic Cows

Cosmic Cows - you gotta love them cows. Tiny little, doll-like, plastic cows. All ten of them.

And then there's the game. You know Yahtzee? OK. Think of it as Yahtzee with cows. And you're playing a Yahtzee kind of tug-of-war with your opponent, trying to get maybe all 5 dice the same so you can super beam the middle cow, as it were, all the way to your winning zone. Kinda like getting a Yahtzee in, uh, Yahtzee. Or maybe a full-house so you can move one cow three spaces closer to you and the other, two. Before, of course, your opponent, no doubt, pulls them back. Ten different cows to shoot for. Five different dice. The number of spaces a cow gets to move depends on how many dice show that number. Oh, and you get three rolls, like as in, well, Yahtzee.

But it's not Yahtzee. It's Cosmic Cows, and darn if those little cows and that dicey equivalent of tug-of-warring them back and forth across the board doesn't make it feel like something really different than Yahtzee. Not like a dice game at all. But a board game. And a sweet, light, semi-strategic board game it is. One that has very cute little plastic cows and is really easy to learn how to play - especially if you know how to play games like Yahtzee.

from Major Fun

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What's the fun of giving gifts?

The Judaeo-Christians of the world have just spent an inordinate amount of time and money giving each other gifts. I mean, inordinate. As in "an awful lot."

And a lot of it was awful: Too many choices, too many shoppers, too little money. And then there were the gifts we got that weren't what we wanted - some of them, not even what we asked for.

On the other hand, it's all about fun. Certainly, getting gifts can be great fun - especially when it's a surprise and it's something you really wanted, and maybe even more especially if it's something you wanted so much that you didn't even dare ask for it.

As for giving gifts, gift-giving and gifting, oddly enough, they all can be fun, too. In fact, gift-wise, the giving, purportedly, can be even more fun than the getting.

Which makes me want to ask: can it, really? Can giving be more fun than getting? In general? Even, in particular, for you?

"So what really is the fun of it?" I find myself honestly asking you, personally, "this gift-giving thing we just did. Really. What's the fun?"

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


20 Questions - Two Answers

It's interesting to note that according to the written rules of Twenty Questions, you can play the whole game and still need only two answers. Yes, No.

Many years ago, my friend David Thornburg invited me to play 20 questions with a computer.

Is it Animal? I typed. No, it answered. Vegetable? Yes. Edible? Yes. Is it Yellow? No. Corn? No. Is it Green? No. Red? No. White? Yes. (Aha, a white, edible vegetable!) A Cauliflower? No. A Turnip? No. A Jicima? Yes.

I was relatively impressed with the way the computer played. It certainly picked a difficult enough challenge. Jicima!

Listen to today's 20 Questions FunCast and read it here.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Questions games

There's a weblog called Question of the Day, which, as advertised, asks questions, every, apparently, day. Questions like: How many boxes of cereal are in your kitchen?. What makes this site work so well is: the cleverness of the questions, the responses of the readers, and the rule that when you respond to a question, you must add another question of your own. For example, the first response to the cereal question went like this:
"6 open and 4 or 5 unopened.

How many pairs of jeans do you own?"
The next:
"I own 15-20 pairs of jeans.

How many siblings do you have?"
et, most wonderfully, cetera.

I played a game like this at a NASAGA conference years ago. We were learning about a process for discussing a book. The leader began with a question. Anyone who wanted to respond answered, and then concluded by asking another question. As we progressed, our questions and responses became increasingly more genuine. It was strange, odd, even, because the structure didn't allow for what we commonly think of as "conversation" or even "discussion." And yet, as we progressed, we each experienced the development of a deeply and honestly shared inquiry, and understanding.

Then, of course, there's the Questions Game that has become a standard among improvisational theater games, and was enshrined by the not-yet-dead Rosencrantz and Gildenstern in the Tom Stoppard play - in which everything anyone says has to be a question?

And then there are the games of Two Answers and Plenty Questions as described elsewhere by yours, the funsmith, truly.

Play on!

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Get Well Seymour Papert

Seymour Papert, champion of playful learning, inventor of the LOGO language, progenitor of LEGO's Mindstorms, visionary who in the 60s saw the power of the computer as a learning tool for children, could use a little back from us.

Forgive me - this is not my usual "fun" post. According to this post, Dr. Papert was struck by a motorcycle and is now in a coma. For a fun-like opportunity, you might consider contributing your name to the general well-wishing. You can sign his get well card. It's free, and a little freeing just to know that, even if he doesn't know you from Adam, you can still express a moment of appreciation to this great Defender of the Playful, when moments of appreciation might be most valued.

Thanks for letting me know about this, Drew Buddie

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Five funnest games for 2006

The Major FUN Award goes to games and people that bring people fun, and to any organization managing to make the world more fun, through its own person contributions, and through the products it has managed to bring to the market.

Major FUN especially likes games that:

* make people laugh
* are original, flexible, easy to adapt
* are well-made, durable, easily stored
* are easy to understand and teach

The Five Most Major Fun party games for 2006 are:

Wits and Wagers combines trivia with betting to create a unique party game - one that can involve anywhere from 3 to 21 players in an evening or half-hour worth of relatively painless trivia questions and sometimes near-painful strategizing.

Knowbody Knows, for example, exactly how many hours Tom Hanks sleeps in a week. Probably not even Mr. Hanks knows that. So, OK, so you don't know. You can still guess. Because, see, it's only a guess, and, as the designers of the game are so ready to remind us, Knowbody, actually, Knows.

Quelf is a silly game. For those of us who are mature enough to appreciate silliness as an art form, it is both a bench- and a watermark of wackiness. If you find yourself unwilling to, for example, "suck your thumb in silence and start rolling the dice. When you roll a '3,' shout, 'Get off my land!' in your best chipmunk voice," mayhap Quelf is not exactly your kind of game.

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!

Luck of the Draw is described as "a game for the artistically challenged." And I am happy to tell you that this turns out to be a remarkably accurate description of the very people who will have the most fun playing it: the people who don't like games that make them draw.

See all my articles about these games.

Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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On being before your time

I have, for reasons which are currently obvious only to me and a few game manufacturers, been very interested of late in Family Fitness Fun. I love how it puts together three words which have so much trouble relating to each other. And I love even more the picture of families having fun exercising together. So, I did what anyone in my position (in front of the computer) would do, I Googled. And found my way to this article about a thing called a "Power Pad" - a game peripheral used to play, among other things, Dance Aerobics, which was ever so clearly a direct progenitor of the wildly successful Dance, Dance Revolution, and yet, despite the brilliance of it all, everso vividly failed.

O, it succeeded, the Power Pad did, in its way, but not in its time. And it made me honestly contemplate the possibility that maybe it's not so bad, actually, not such a minor achievement, in fact, not something one would poo-poo, the Power Pad, and all those things and people before their time, who, despite financial failures, have made this time possible.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


FunCast - Getting Paid to Play

While you're listening to this week's Funcast here, think about the fact that it was written by someone who makes something like a living designing games, teaching people how to have more fun, and stuff like that. It will make it perhaps a bit more useful to know that it was such a person who observed, perhaps a bit bitterly:
Here we are, play/creating along with the fortunate few who have also managed to be paid to play, making brilliance in the depths of conference rooms and kiosks, and it's not fun! We may be involved, heart, soul and might, in the depths of play and the heights of creativity, we may even have exceeded our wildest dreams, but, any attempts to share our ecstasy with our benevolent result in our being further patronized. The fact is, we are being paid to play by the very people who are being paid not to. We must bless our patrons as they bless us, for they derive their joy elsewhere. Though we delightedly sweat buckets of brilliance into the daily pale of commerce, our patrons are off playing a truly different game where fun is measured profit and the promise of a plenitude of plenty. (You can read the whole article here).

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Sedentary Players' Guide to Duck, Duck, Goose

As I grow older, there is one, almost universal game that has proven ever more central to both my growing and my olderness - the one you know as Duck, Duck, Goose. At the same time, as my olderness makes itself apparent in everless subtle ways, I have with increasing impatience sought out a version of this most wonderful game that doesn't involve running around. Not that I'm too old to run around. It's just that the people I play with tend to be. Too old to run around without hurting themselves a little beyond fun.

Today, because it's you, I am happy to go to these great lengths to introduce to you, special, my latest and perhaps most profound bit of funsmithery yet - a way to play Duck, Duck, Goose sitting down entirely.

It is based, loosely, on the game of A What, don't you know.

Everyone sits in a circle. Ah. One player, let us call her the "Goose," starts the game by turning to the person to her right and saying "duck." That person, the duck-pro-temps, turns to the person on his right and similarly says "duck." And on and on it goes, until one player, instead of turning to the person on his right and saying "duck," turns to the person on his left and says "goose" and then turns to the person on his right and says "duck." The person who was "ducked," as has heretofore been the case, says "duck" to the person on her right. But now, the person was, um, said "Goose" to, says "Goose" to the person on his left, don't you see. So now the Duck is going one way, the Goose the other. And the only thing you supposedly don't want to be is the person who finds himself simultaneously both.

That person being the Goose for the next round.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Ultimate Hoseball

hoseballThe Hoseball, Son of Schmertlz, came into being as a direct result of the propinquitous ubiquity of both knee-high and thigh-high hosiery. A 2-3-sock sockball, stuffed into the toe of these hose forms, creates a thing to fling of such stretchy spinworthiness that it is oft likened to a weapon of soft, but nonetheless intimidating attribute. A well-flung hoseball, trailed spectacularly by its gauzy, wobbly, hose-formed tail, beckons every eye on the playground.

Thus, the inevitability of Ultimate Hoseball, a game, remarkably like the game of Ultimate Frisbee, but not with a wind-surfing frisbee, but a skyrocketing, filmy-tailed, ineffably catchable Hoseball.

Let's see, how do you play Ultimate Hoseball? In teams. Kinda like soccer, only without the kicking or the butting. Just with the throwing. And with the no-running-with-the-Hoseball rule, and the having to get it to a team member who is standing in the opponent's goal. You could have just two on a team, if you wanted. And three teams with three goals. And two hoseballs. Ultimately speaking.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


The Camera as Sports Equipment

Take a look at this picture. It's a, so to speak, hole, in a game of Junkyard Golf as played during Leadership Training Camp at Southwest Airlines. You see here standard Junkyard Golf equpiment: a collection of junk. Note the use of the green swimming pool inner tube as a, well, cup, for example, and the cunning placement of the toy obstacles and cardboard box ramp. The only thing missing is the club, unless, perhaps, that inflatable harmless head-basher on the left is the club. Which might mean, perhaps, that the toys are not obstacles, but the balls themselves.

The only piece of Junkyard Golf equipment that you can't see is actually not junk at all. It's the camera they used to take this picture.

It took me three, maybe four years to realize this. Junkyard Sports was published in 2004. Well, really in the fall of 2003. So that means that I had it completed by the spring of that year, so give me another year for writing and revising. O, my gosh, it is 4 years!

Now that I think about it, cameras are sports equipment in every sport you can think of. But in Junkyard Sports, you might not think of cameras at all. After all, it's all about junk, and people having fun, it's not about taking pictures. And you'd be just as wrong as I was.

See, Junkyard Sports are what you call "evanescent." No two games of, for example, Junkyard Golf, are alike. And I don't mean snowflake-non-alikeness, I mean species. And every time we play, we don't want to let go of what got made - not without showing it off to the world, without stamping it into the virtual permanence of at least a digital photo. Because it's new, ingenious, lovely, and we made it. Because it's got to be captured before we can finish with it.

And photographs themselves, the very definition of photographs, are changing. As the visionary Sascha Pohflepp says:
Photography has become a networked process. It no longer ends with pasting putting prints into an album. Instead, making them public through services like Flickr is rapidly becoming one of the main ways how we treat our visual memories. The photographic process extends from preserving a moment to an act of telecommunication, with numerous implications on how we perceive reality, how we make our memories and how we create a narrative from it.

Which is why I am now deciding that cameras are as important to the sports part of Junkyard Sports as they are to the junk parts. They make it possible for us to complete the game without anybody really winning - just everybody, really.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Bar Crawling as a Gateway Event

Funspotter Noise E. Piranha and I were chatting as follows:
Noise: Last night, at Santarchy, my nephew, dressed as Old St Nick, proposed to his girlfriend, dressed as an elf.

Me: fantastic! did she accept?

Noise: she did. when santa proposes in front of 40 other santas, an elf dare not say no. here's a less-than-perfect photo. a landmark event, santa proposing to one of his elves. mrs. claus wasnt too happy about it

Me: bar crawling seems to be a great platform for many games - I think Urban Golf has that as its central premise (here, oddly enough, is a computer game version of Urban Golf, in which one, apparently, brings one's own)

Noise: i'm not a big fan of bar crawls in general... i only like the cacophony ones because we focus more on the crawl and less on the bar. i think we actually spent more time doing stuff in public than hanging out in bars.

Me: but the bar part is the excuse that keeps the party going

Noise: indeed it is... and the excuse to get many people involved who might otherwise consider it "too strange" i see the bar crawls as "gateway" events to get people comfortable with the idea of finding nontraditional ways to have fun and see how much fun they really can have.
Me, half-hour later, in retro- and intro-spect: the more you drink, the harder it is to see how much fun "you can really have." Because the drunker you get, the less connected you are to the "real you." In fact, for many of us, that's precisely why we get drunk - so we can get away from ourselves for a while. Most games do that for us, too - let us loosen the connection to our "real," mature, grown-up, selves.

Loosen, but not lose. That's the key difference. Loosen the connection, but not lose it. Loosen so we become larger than the selves we have come to think of as real.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Another Numbers Game

As I write in my article Meeting by the Numbers: "When you're trying to help people get something together, the first thing you have to do is get them together. And energized. And nothing does this faster and more wholesomely than a game. Especially if the game is presented in such a way that it is: easy to understand, easy to play, and clearly non-threatening. When a meeting reconvenes, especially after a long break, the best kind of game is one that can easily accommodate stragglers." Listen to this. See also this.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Q&A with "Pathways to Gaming"

In preparing for my participation in the Macarthur-Foundation-sponsored "Pathways to Gaming," I was given a couple of questions to cogitate over. The following are the questions and my responses:

How might we think about gaming as one experience within a larger system of experiences, which constitute contexts for learning, whether they are institutional, familial, or personal?

Before we can put the gaming experience into context, we need to consider the entire spectrum of activities that fall within the rubric of play (or perhaps "rubric cube of play"). Games of all sorts, sports of similar sorts, contests, solitary play, social play, pretend play, play fighting, dramatic play, dress-up, dance, music, dangerous play, nasty play, jokes, riddles, silliness of all sorts, seriousness of related sorts, toy play, puzzle play - and then maybe we can put gaming in its play context, at least. Then, of course, there's the kind of gaming that focuses more on achievement than on play, games that we use to help us learn things, or to distract ourselves, or focus ourselves (I wonder if meditation can be considered a kind of gaming?).

What are the ways in which we might capitalize on the different paths players take into gaming to develop new ways of thinking about learning and literacy across communities?

Then maybe we need to consider the kinds of learning that are native to games and play. Ever since I first taught elementary school I've been amazed and confused by kids who can play chess well, and are failing math. Maybe we need to take a closer look at an educational system that seems not to be able to capitalize on the many competencies people develop when they are in pursuit of nothing other than play. In fact, maybe we nee.d to contemplate the nature of an educational system that is guided by the things kids do in the name of play

Well, I must admit that I've been contemplating that very thing for very many years now, since 1969 probably when I began to understand how much kids were learning about themselves and society playing games like "Duck Duck Goose" and "Capture the Flag." And how utterly confused I've become by an educational system that has all but eliminated recess and a culture that has almost outlawed free play.


Jacob Davenport on Teaching Games

After I read this article about Teaching Games on Jacob Davenport's site, I suddenly realized how few people write about the art of teaching a game to someone, and what a useful piece of information that is.

Here, for example, is just the first paragraph of this article:
"Give your players information in the order they need to know it. First start with a summary of the game and the goal. When the goal is stated first, your discussion has direction. As you teach the game, players will imagine themselves playing it, and they need to know where they are going and how to get there. Even if the goal is simply to score points, and you will need a lot of explanation before players know how they get to score those points, you should still first tell them that they are competing to score the most points."
Clear, obvious, common sense, and yet, how many times has a game been taught to you like this?

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog


A brief history of videogames

This video clip shows the evolution of the use of graphics in computer games since their advent in the late 70s. A lot's changed in 30 years. One thing for sure: games have become a lot more expensive to produce. And another thing to contemplate - they really, for the most part, haven't become that much more fun. Prettier. More details. More story line. More fantasy. But more fun?

Me, I'm thinking along this time that it's not so much about comparing Pong to tennis, as it is about the different kinds of games that have appeared since Pong, like Lemmings and Pin Ball Construction Kit, and my Ricochet game, of course, and Myst...

Funspotting by Games Are Art

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog


Sports over a Distance

Exertion Interfaces. Think about it. Exertion, as in exerting, as in exercise. Interfaces. Interfaces implies something between, something connecting. Ah. Just like it says:
Exertion Interfaces are a new kind of interfaces that facilitate what can be described as "Sports over a Distance." These interfaces make you tired and sweaty, but also support you in bringing you closer to old friends and help you making new ones. So instead of creating technology that helps you being more productive and work more efficient, this design supports you in making more friends and fights boredom. Welcome to a new future of technology that is fun!
Ah. Sports, don't you see, over a distance.


Because we can.

Because it looks like fun.

Funspotting by Celia Pearce

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog

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Rehabilitation Games

See, this is what I've been looking for ever since Atari - remember all those controllers? The joystick and then the knobs, two different kinds of knobs, and Trac Ball, and two different kinds of keypads... ? How each felt different, each became a different connection between you and the game?

Remember those arcade machines with all those different kinds of knobs and buttons? That's when I dreamed up my Fitness Arcade, just about then, when I had all those controllers, and people went to the arcades, and I realized how each different controller connected me to a different experience of play. And I said to myself, "Bern," I said, "Bern, we could make exercise fun, we really could, really fun."

And today I find Biometrics Ltd, and learn that the fitness arcade might very well be in the process of becoming the rehabilitation arcade, bringing something fun to healing, something fun, at least.

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog

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Of Fun, Laughter and Happiness

This Friday's FunCast is about Fun, Laughter, and Happiness. As is often the case, you can read along by clicking here, while, for even more fun, laughter and happiness, you can download the Funcast here.

The article begins thuslyish:

The difference between FUN and laughter? You can have FUN without laughing. Some people, sadly, can even laugh without having FUN.

To my knowledge, there are vast collections of studies about the healing powers of laughter and humor (see for example Lee Berk's research, or look at a site called "Laughing Out Loud," or particpate in the Laugh Lab's study about what's funny, or read a study that shows how laughter can even cure hives!). But I still haven't found anyone researching the physiological, psychological or sociological benefits of fun.

My guesses:

* FUN is too hard to measure
* it's too hard to get funding to study FUN
* If you have to prove that FUN is worthwhile, we're all beyond help

Is FUN more important than laughter? I think so. Because you can spend more time having FUN than you can laughing. On the other hand, the kind of FUN I most enjoy having is the FUN that makes me laugh.

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog

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