Beyond Concentration

It was the 80s, and I was working as a designer with what was then called the Children's Computer Workshop. I remember working briefly on an idea for building on the concentration game mechanics, featuring something that would only be possible on the computer. (That "only possible on the computer" was my computer game design mantra in those days.) And almost thirty years later the Presurfer writes something about a game called Soundory, and both behold and lo, an only-possible-on-the-computer concentration game - one where you have to match...guess what?

Hence not only proving my particular pudding, but also paving the way for further extrapolations of concentration-like computer-only games involving say matching faces that change expressions when you click on them, or laugh in different ways, or balls that squish and sound differently, or things that morph and bounce and make noise and squish - on a 12x12x12 grid maybe even.

via Presurfer

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


The Eye Candy Machine

Speaking of the flavors of fun, one of the sweetest that has come to our virtual world is often conceptually packaged as "Eye Candy."

Of the various manifestations of the endlessly alluring varieties of eye candy, the kaleidoscope predates, and yet somehow anticipates the visual confections of the virtual world.

This is an image I made with the aid of a site called "make your own kaleidoscope." It was all I needed to be reminded of the dessert-like pleasures of visual delight.

Like kaleidoscopes a lot? Perhaps, as the Make Your Own Kaleidoscope people suggest, you should consider joining the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society, Sir David Brewster being the actual inventor of the optically delicious kaleidoscope. Should you desire to commune with some kaleidoscopic artists, the society has an impressive list (with email addresses) of said same. Amongst the impressive resources therein, you will find a detailed history of the kaleidoscope, and an overview of some of the different types of kaleidoscope.

Want to make a non-virtual kaleidoscope? Here's how.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: , ,

Finger Dancing

The Pipe Cleaner Dancer. Play it long enough and it turns you into a choreographer with good keyboard skills.

Silly little game. But it's fun, too. Fun enough to make you want to learn it - learn which key makes the Pipe Cleaner Man do what, learn how to create moves, so to speak, so it more and more appears like the Pipe Cleaner Man is dancing. Even though it's your fingers doing the dancing. And especially because it's your fingers doing the dancing that it gets more involving, more fun, more instructive. Just as challenging as you want to make it.

And it's simple. Simply understood. Simply made. With a pipe cleaner and a camera and a smattering of programming. And a very good sense of fun.

via Elyon DeKoven

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,


Many are the delightful varieties of the Falling Sand Game. Thisissand is the prequel. It takes the experience of being at the virtual beach, dropping sprinkles of sand, pretending to no one that you're artistically engaged in the creation of a Sand Painting, and interprets it into the virtual world - just dropping sand, of different colors, just that. And it turns out to be just wonderful fun. All by itself.

When you click on the link, it takes you to a gray screen. There's a little, even grayer box somewhere near the left corner of the screen. If you have any questions, click on the little grayer box, and all will be answered. Like if you want to change colors all you have to do is press C. The screen turns multicolors. You drag across as much as you want, and you return to your painting with sand of a new color gradient. Note the word "gradient." Therein much of the beauty lies. Also, beauty-lying-wise, there's the virtual sand itself, which acts like you'd think virtual sand should act if it was being serious about being sand-like.

Then there's an entire gallery of virtual sand paintings to be impressed, challenged, and humbled by. And of course you can add your virtual art piece to the virtual gallery, should you feel virtually so.

While you're in the virtual neighborhood, you might as well take the time to visit the Thisissand blog. Here, from their blog, is some insight into their reason for being:
"We are...experimenting with perceived connections between everyday artefacts, intermediality, art and play. There is no such thing as a linear plot or a particular set of expectations on it is a place for recreation and fun, and an eternal work in progress."

via Ultimate Insult

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith



Bomomo is my jeut du jour - a sweet invitation to mouse artistic whilst bemusing myself with the graphic splendor of it all and simultaneously pondering the connections between mystery and mastery, between mouse and movement, chaos and control, and line and color and things.

Designer Philipp Lenssen writes:
"I live in Germany and maintain and create my websites full-time, since
2005. I'm especially interested in the intersection between art and

"Here are some other sites I did that might be interesting:
All interesting, each deep, but none explains Bomomo, the invitation to play, to learn, to make something beautiful. Perhaps not such a giant leap for the likes of Mr. Lenssen, but clearly one more small step for Playkind!

via Metafilter

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Science play

Many, many, many years ago, when I was in high school, in Omaha, actually, I had the amazingly good fortune to participate in an experimental physics class that was experimental in every way possible. The course itself, developed by MIT, was just being tested, and the whole program centered around what seemed to me to be very much like fun (see this article for a teacher's perspective of the program). I probably learned a lot of physics in the process, but for me the biggest learning was that learning itself can be fun (I was in high school, where I went from classroom to classroom, discovering over and over again that fun and learning were supposed to be two very different experiences). In many ways, this whole program was a validation for everything I hoped would be true about education. We played. We made our own instruments out of, basically, junk (a micrometer out of two mirror slides, a toothpick and rubber band). We learned. We learned not just about physics, but our world and ourselves.

This was 50 years ago. Today, thanks to computer technology and a few illuminated science educators, we have physics simulations - virtual playthings that allow us to explore the interdependence of all things physical. For the most part, they are refreshingly fun, immediately accessible, inviting hours of observation and experimentation.

I don't think they can effectively replace experiences like making your own micrometer, but they can ignite the curiosity and playfulness that are native to all scientific enterprise. The best of these physical simulations are the most game-like, igniting wonder, inviting play.

There are many such resources available online. Here's one more example, called "My Physics Lab."

One of these days, educators will learn this lesson. One of these days, the distinctions between play and learning will no longer be so obvious.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: , ,

Filler Games, like Filler

It's a game called Filler. It's a simple game. With deceptively minimal graphics and space elevator music. The rules, as illustrated: "Big ball=good, bouncy ball=bad."

Not a shoot-em-up. A fill-em-up, actually. One big ball at a time. Put it anywhere, except where it'll hit a bad bouncy ball. And if you hold the button down, the ball'll get bigger. And that's it. Gamers call these kinds of games "fillers." Easy to understand, inviting to play, fascinating, fun, challenging. Filler maybe the archetype of all filler games.

via Buffalo Game Buffs Blog

And while you're at it, take a look at Throw Me for a similarly filler-game-like apotheosis. (See if you can play it without leaning)

via in4mador

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Personalized Fun

There's a certain flavor of fun that can be tasted only when making something for someone else - someone in particular. I call this "personalized fun."

And so we find ourselves at Festisite, a modest collection of well-made tools for making fun things, each with an intuitive-enough interface to ease our entry into a world of computer-assisted personalized momento-making.

I have taken very few pains to represent a small segment of my first project in the image accompanying this article - my face on a dollar bill. Which, of course, could be your face, on a Philipine peso, or a Malaysian Ringgit, or even a Ukranian Griven.

I had fun making it, partially because it was very easy, partially because it is always amusing to find one's face depicted on the local currency (in my case, also somewhat ironic), but mostly because I had a great deal of fun just thinking about all the people for whom I could be making fake, personalized dollar bills.

Festisite is a treasury of essential tools for making fun, personalized things. I must admit, I found myself having even more personalized fun with something called the Party Printer. Especially with that which led me directly to the speedy creation of a most amusingly novel sentence maze and also a most graphically splendiferous rebus.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,

Remembered Fun - - classic Nintendo 8-bit games online!

Remembered Fun is the taste of fun you get when you are playing something you used to have fun playing. It's a complex, many-layered taste, this particular flavor of fun, because the fun you are having tastes different than the fun you originally had, when it was all new, and that's fun, and at the same time, it's remarkably delicious, using our sophisticated online access to play these comparatively casual, naive little games that we once thought to be the ultimate and most profound statements of the art. serves up a delightfully varied buffet of Remembered Video Fun.

Go, therefore, play. Remember, replay, rediscover, rejoice.

via Im4mador

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,

Powder - falling sand and dancing dots

It is one of those quite lovely, webidipitious events, the continued evolution of the Falling Sand Game, the community of programmers and players that urges it forward. There's a version called the "Powder Game" that seems to have a plethora of both bells and whistles. To get a sense of the marvels awaiting, look on the bottom of the page for some of user creations at the bottom of the page (the one in the illustration is called "volcano" - it's a blast!).

If you haven't experienced the Falling Sand Game or explored its more recent variants, I suggest you begin with the Falling Sand Forum. And then continue here.

via Metafilter
from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Moon, Fish, Ocean

This is not an image of the Moon, Fish, Ocean game, but rather of a variant of the aforementioned - Pearl, Lotus, Bowl. I'll explain in a moment.

Developed by Craig Conley, the same Craig Conley, author of, amongst other significant scholarly works, the Magical Dictionary, about whom I've waxed so enthusiastically; Moon, Fish, Ocean is actually Rock, Scissors, Paper, only with different gestures. It's also, as described above, as Pearl, Lotus, Bowl, as well as Bridge, Stream, Boulder, and equally Candle, Incense, Fan, and even more equally Brush, Circle, Paper.

But is it, you might ask, actually, as Conley implies, a Zen game, as played by Zen masters to help acolytes to Zennish wisdom? Claims Conley, perhaps tongue-in-cheekily:
"Zen disciples play Moon * Fish * Ocean as a form of mindful meditation, or to determine who will chop wood and who will carry water. Disciples typically sit in either the full or half lotus position, upon round cushions atop square mats.

Zen Masters use the game as a test of a disciple’s reflexes and non-attachment to outcomes. The Master holds a pebble in his palm. The pebble remains hidden when the Master plays 'Moon' or 'Fish.' It is revealed only when the Master plays 'Ocean.' If the disciple can snatch the pebble quickly enough, he automatically wins the round."
It is, upon further retrospection, probably not an authentic Zen activity. But, on the other hand, as it were, what is authenticity other than illusion?

Point is, it's almost worth believing, and it's definitely worth playing. Learning the different hand motions is a good enough challenge to add interest to introspection. Appreciating the art, and the humor of it all, is a path to enlightenment, at least.

Craig comments: "First, I must confirm that you were correct that my tone is tongue-in-cheek. It is a whimsy that Rock Paper Scissors is a Zen game, and I set out to 'prove' my imaginative quirk with 'evidence' from Zen poetry. (This rather exhaustive research is more evident in the book version of the game than on the website.) HOWEVER, a distant relative of mine wrote that he has a friend in Taipei who confirms the legitimacy of 'Moon Fish Ocean,' though a better translation would seem to be 'Moon, Water, Fishes.' His friend also confirmed that the game is of Japanese origin and is studied mainly among Buddhist priests. His friend assumed that I am a Zen teacher or scholar. This is all beautiful confirmation that 'You can't make it up.' I suppose it's a lesson that if humor goes too far toward the deadpan end of the scale, it becomes cast iron! Perhaps it's also evidence that sincere playfulness, freed from ulterior motives, can lead one directly to the honest truth."

Should you still require further instructions from the cosmos, take a spin on Craig's Follow Your Bliss Compass.

via Neatorama
from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: , ,

Graphic Junkolage

"Deep Fun" by DeKoven, Google, and the NAG

"The generator automatically produces on demand.

"This version of the generator creates images. The resulting image emerges as a collage of a number of images which have been collected on the WWW in relation to the 'title' you have chosen. The original material is processed in 12-14 randomly chosen and combined steps.

"The generator was programmed by Panos Galanis from IAP GmbH, Hamburg, and was a commission by the Volksfürsorge art collection."
NAG found 4 images for me:
  • :: view
  • :: view
  • :: view
  • :: view

I am DeKoven. And I call my composition "Deep Fun."

See also Montage-a-Google

via Metafilter and The Presurfer

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Make a Flake

You cut a little here, you cut a little there, you unfold it, and you Make-a-Flake - online, at last, with no messy scrap!

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith



Here's another light and lovely gamelet from the digital pen of Defender of the Playful Ferry Halim.

It'll make you say "awww."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,

Torus Games

Here's something else to be thankful for. Torus Games is the latest of Jeff Week's wonderfully playworthy, genuinely educational, free, downloadable Geometry Games (both Mac- and PC-compatible).

Jeff explains: "Eight familiar games introduce children ages 10 and up to the mind-stretching possibility of a “multiconnected universe”. Games include: tic-tac-toe, mazes, crossword puzzles, word search puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, chess, pool and apples. While playing the games, kids develop an intuitive visual understanding of a model universe that is finite yet has no boundary. Players who master the games on the torus may move on to try them on the more challenging Klein bottle. Even though the games were designed with kids in mind, adults interested in topology, geometry and cosmology have also found them enjoyable and enlightening."

It is a gift, supported by the National Science Foundation and people who seem to care about kids and learning and believe in the educational value of play.

Let us give thanks. Let us play.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: , ,

The Grow-a-Brain Depository of Unusual Games and Toys

The "Huge Grow-a-Brain Depository of Unusual Games" grows huger and more unusual, including such recent finds as Ze (Defender of the Playful) Frank's bizarre, and yet rather lovable Miniracers game.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,


It is find one's way to a conceptual cornucopia of cunningly contrived conundra. It to read the misleadingly brief instructions many times. It is Blackflip, a virtual puzzle, a plethora of puzzles, participatory, too, because you can make your own puzzles and leave notes on the ones you solve and stuff.

Start anywhere. Draw a continuous line through the tiles you want to flip so that the tiles in each row, when flipped, match. There is continuous music.

You can play all you want. There is continuous music. Of a space-time-continuum probing sort.

My space-time got tired of the music long before I got tired of the puzzles. Ah, the puzzles! Oh, the puzzles! I say to myself and now you. Such a simple premise. So well-presented. Sometimes so elegantly devious. So subtle. So many puzzles.

Blackflip is a tribute, the designers say, to Nintendo's game Polarium. That, in turn, explains everything.

Well, all right, it explains one thing - that the cross-over between game system and Internet definitely goes both ways. And what a welcome cross-over it can be.

via Ultimate Insult

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Send virtually anything to virtually anyone, virtually for free

If you happened to find yourself in such a position, and you wished to express, materially, in a virtual-sort of way, your personal appreciation for my ongoing existence, you might very well wish to send me a gift of some sort - especially if it didn't cost you anything. The question remains, however, what to get me. I've narrowed it down to: Pottery Classes, a Digital Camcorder, and a dress-up outfit. As an added incentive, if you happen to choose the one I really, really, really wanted most in the world, given only those three choices, you'd get three thumbs-up points and so would I! So, see, I really do want you to guess the one I really want, because then we both gets thumbs-up points. So the game is about giving each other things, things that'd be nice to be able to give each other, virtual, no-cash-value gifts that nonetheless are genuine acts of thoughtfulness.

This is GiftTRAP Live, Virtual GiftTRAP, yes, the Major FUN award-winning GiftTRAP of that very same name. Only, it's online now, and it's all grown-up into a game for online social networks, if you know what I mean.

On the one hand, it's a kind of an eCard, so to speak, a nice virtual thing you can send people. Way more personal than a joke. Just as much fun. On the other hand, it's a great way to start that "what do you really want for your birthday, or holidays" conversation. So it's like Web 2.0, see, interpenetrating virtual and actual space. Now that you know that I'd actually prefer the dress-up outfit, you know where to shop for me. And you can shop online, even. And it's like one of those Mass Multiplayer Online Games you sometimes read about, like Second Life, only the life on GiftTRAP's stage is kinder and gentler and more fun.

It behooves me to admit to a personal interest in this project. It was a comment I made back to the Nick from GiftTRAP that kicked off this whole project, and I've been lucky enough to kibitz on various iterations of this game as its evolved.

Which is why I get to be the first to blog about it going live.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: , ,

Multiple Object Tracking - the shells game

Dr. Lana Trick (honestly) is actively engaged in researching the mechanics of multiple-object-tracking. To get an almost immediate understanding of what this is all about, take a moment or two to experiment on yourself. Should you wonder about the fund-worthiness of all this eye-challenging fun, consider the military applications of machines that can track multiple objects.

I was first made aware of the play value of Multiple Object Tracking when I reviewed a children's game called Scoops Surprises. It's like a kids version of the shell game, only with three different color "peas" (small cylinders of different colors representing ice cream flavors). I was amazed at how fun it was to play. Of course, I never got beyond two different ice cream flavors, and the kids won every time.

via Neatorama

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,

poking fun

Crush the Screaming Beans. Go ahead. Crush them. Smush them. With your finger, smush you them.

It will make you laugh, and there will be much poking of the fun kind.

You could think, if you wanted to, about the secret joys of bean-smushing, and how it even more secretly appealed to that previously hidden bean-smushing part of your essential reptilian psyche. But that'd be missing the point. The point is: it will make you laugh. And there will be much fun poking. The first time you play.

You're not going to play this a lot, so it's not exactly what you'd call a game. Not like what you'd call these, really. More of one of those interactive flash-like things. Pointless, in a way. Except for two things: it will make you laugh, and the fun poking.

via Metafilter

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: , ,

You are mighty!

It's called Aninote. "Aninotes are musical animations that are customized to display the name of the recipient in the animation. Customized Aninotes will allow additional content to be modified for the recipient. Another important feature of an Aninote is that the web address for the Aninote (e.g. contains a summary of the overall message contained in the Aninote."

A far more important feature is how much fun these are, and how wonderfully silly you can be to let yourself believe, upon receiving one, even for a moment, that it's really all about you.

The current collection includes:

" was created, and is maintained by Robert 'Gunny' Blake from Toronto Ontario Canada. Robert, an Information Security Specialist by profession, created during his free time, and continues to support it as a hobby."

Start with

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Chapay, shuffled

Return with me now to the game of Chapay, as so faithfully and lovingly described heretofore. From thence, shuffle forward to a flash game, serendipitously, and yet mysteriously known as "Shuffle."

Perhaps I should say no more, relying, rather, on your own personal musings, as you muse about the perhaps not-so-subtle connections between this obviously amusing amusement and the perhaps more mysterious joys of its lineage. Clearly, the similarities are beyond coincidence. Even more clearly, a game with beauty is a joy forever.

via Neatorama

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,

Line Flyer keeps on riding

Surely you remember that which was at one time called Line Flyer? And more than likely you now know it equally as well as Line Rider. But how aware are you of the fact that there is now a Line Rider Beta 2? And what about the significantly amusing and intriguingly different Freerider, arrow-key controlled game-like version, I ask you?

Oh, I could go on. I could mention, for added example, the Lineboarder, snowboarding-like variation. But, then again, perhaps I've said enough.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


New Games from Old

It's been what you might call a pervasive theme of this blog. You might call it "new games from old" is what you might call it. As so clearly exemplified by this simple crossword puzzle.

First of all, there's that Wheel-of-Fortune-like interaction with the puzzle, where instead of filling in each blank, the letter you select goes in every highlighted blank. So, for example, in the illustration - all the squares highlighted in yellow take the same letter - one of the letters in the panel on the right. Is it an "A"? No, because then you'd get AUB. Hmmm. Maybe a "P" - that'd give you PUB, but it would also give you CP_W. What, oh what could it be?

Well, you get my drift. It could be a new kind of crossword puzzle. One unique to computers. Faster to play, and as inviting as even the best of crossword puzzles - challenging, perhaps, one might say, even fun.

I'm not saying that this is the ultimate crossword puzzle, nor that it is the best, but rather that it represents what much of this blog is about.

And so do you.

via in4mador

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: , ,

Sweet Swedes Sneezing Soundboard

There are times when silliness, creativity, technical mastery, and the love of children coincide. And among those times, there are moments of surprising delight. This is one of those moments.

It looks like one of those photos of a kindergarten class. One of your typical collections of runny-nose darlings. It is definitely that. It's also a musical instrument, allowing you to create a kind of music out of a collection of tunefully rhythmic rheums. Once you've composed your sweet suite for serendipitous sinuses, click the "play" button on the lower right of the screen to hear your composition.

It will warm the cockles of your virtual heart.

It will make you want to see what else you can make it do.

You will have fun.

funspotting by Grow-a-Brain

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,


Sprout is the winner of the Second CasualGamePlay Design Competition. This is news of some significance. First of all, there is some significant significance in knowing that there is an effort underway to acknowledge what a fellow named Jay calls "Casual Gaming." You gotta love that term: "Casual Gaming." So descriptive of the kind of gaming to which we who seek the light-hearted depths of fun find ourselves most inexorably drawn. Next, there is at least equally significant significance in learning that not only was there a CasualGamePlay Design Competition, but that also this is the second one already. And, significantly enough, that Sprout was the winner of the design award and the audience award.

But all significance aside, there's the game itself, Sprout, in all it's elegant, artfully simple, innovative, gentle, point-and-click-worthy glory. Drop a coconut. Plant another coconut tree, or perhaps an apple tree, or take your chances on floating a seed or two, and make your casual way across an imagined world, towards some real fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,


Zoomquilt is a "collaborative art project," more than faintly reminiscent of the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse. One image zooms to reveal another which zooms, seamlessly, to reveal another, and on, and apparently on. Many of the images are a bit, shall we say, macabre - all of which contributes rather exquisitely to the corpse-connection.

You control the speed and direction (back and forth) of the zoom with a slider that appears when you mouse towards the left of the screen.

It is art. It is play.

funspotting by In4mador

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: , ,


Did you press "play" yet? This dancing fun guy took me about 13 seconds to make. You gotta love this. Reminds me of a wireframe version of a scene from Happy Feet

OK. Time to make your own. Click on Pictaps. It will make you happy.

from Bernie DeKoven funsmith



Jenova Chen's Master's thesis was called "Flow in Games." One result of Jenova's explorations of Dr. Csikszentmihalyi's concept of Flow was a remarkably gentle, sweetly meditative, eat-everything-in-the-universe game called flOw - which is now, can you believe it, available for the Playstation.

There is something worthy of celebration here - the development of an innovative game, based in no small part on a similarly innovative way of thinking about fun, embraced in some significant part by the commercial world, all in the pursuit of a Master's degree.

Rejoice in your accomplishment, Jenova Chen, as we rejoice in it, your fellow followers of the Playful Path.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,

For fun and function

I quote:

For all those times when you have spent a countless number of hours playing one of those little online games or watching stupid videos on the web, and stopped for a second to think to yourself, "Man, I really should do something more useful with my time...," and then kept wasting time anyways...

Now you can help us collect data about language AND play a fun game! We currently have two games, the Free-Association Game, and Categorilla...

Playing the games is useful in two ways. First, the games adapt and improve based on what people have typed. For example, the taboo words are generated based on the most popular past guesses for each word. Second, we collect the guesses, which gives us information about the relationships between words. For example, if you are playing Categorilla and type "George Washington" for the category "Presidents", we have now learned that George Washington is a president.

See also the semi-game-like Google Image Labeler

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: , , ,

Ze's Kaleidoscope

There's Draw Toy (and a gallery of drawings made with said same). And there's Byokal, a significantly amusing, easy-to-use, yet truly virtual kaleidoscope.

And today, from the website of the prolifically playful Ze Frank we have what can, oddly enough, only be called "Draw Toy vs Byokal."

Go ye, therefore, draw, reflect, amaze yourself.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Virtual Busybox

Pianographique converts your very own computer keyboard into a virtual busybox. Virtual busybox. That's right, you heard it here. Or actually, you'll hear it here, and watch it, and compose remarkable things with it.

After Pianographique's shockwavily lovely and lively front page finishes downloading (you need Shockwave 8.5 - Intel-Mac-users, etc., if you have problems, be sure to check the link that reads "click here to download"), click on any of the pre-defined "graphic pianos" in the list that appears in the bottom half of the splash page, and get busy right away.

Or get even busier and make your own visual-graphic synthesizer (a.k.a. Virtual Busybox), assigning each letter key of your keyboard a sound and image from a significantly vast collection of the same.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,

Visual Acoustics

I don't know if you caught this article. It's been a few years since it was posted. But it talks about art and play and how the Internet is bringing us more and more opportunities to do those very things at the intersection of art and fun. Which, had you continued to search for more examples of the said same, would have eventually lead you to a site called Visual Acoustics, to which I hereby most happily invite you. Play. Watch. Listen.

"Layers of different brushes can be built up, resulting in a stunning performance of improvised musical vision." Just by mousing around, here and there, skitter scatter, for no particular reason at all.

Visual Acoustics. For faster, more immediate amusement, select one the presets on the right.

Funspotting by Bill Harris

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Line Flyer

Ever since I wrote about the playlike joys of Line Rider, I've been looking for more of the same. I am pleased to announce that there is now a minor gaggle of Line Riding experiences available to the play-seeking multitudes, all to be found on one site, eponymously described as:

To wit:
Line Flyer, Jeep Flyer, Line Boarder, Chair Flyer, and, for the more virtually adventuresome, Line Flyer Beta with Undo
Note, if you will, that these are both kinder and gentler rides - that for those who ride the line, there is no death, no failure, and that the worse that can happen is to float off endlessly in space, or to stop moving altogether at all. Play any, and you will discover your Line Riding potential delightfully enhanced. Play all, and you will have spent a significant amount of time virtually amused. Time spent, actually, in quite a scientific inquiry as you hypothesize and test your way to virtual bliss.

from Bernie DeKoven, Funsmith

Labels: , ,

Benettonplay! Toybox

OrbitOrbit is one of 6 unusually creative play opportunities offered to us by the unusually creatively playful people at Benetton. Each is an invitation to enlighteningly light-hearted, online play. Each is designed so that you can compose anonymously or record and share your gifts.

If you're a game designer, or some Defender of the Playful trying to bring a little joy to the institutionalized, Benneton offers a welcome resource, and a paradigm of its own for commercially-supported, personally empowering fun.

Labels: , , ,

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

Labels: ,

One button games, continued

I read about Timed Climb in the Ultimate Insult weblog. I played. I was pleased. I was especially pleased by the fact that all I needed to use was the space bar. Because, as you so well know, I have a particular fascination with and respect for one-button games, as so previously described in my article "One Button Games."

As I was looking at the aforementioned article, I noticed that there were two comments, and one of them directed us to Globz. And so I went to Globz. And I saw these "minigames" on the top. And I played, o, I don't know why, Twin Spin. And, lo, it was a one-button game, of remarkably fun one-buttonness.

You get these two, well, balls, tied together, one orbiting the other, see, and when you hold down your button down, the other ball does the orbiting. So, with carefully timed button presses, you can actually make it walk. And there's a game called Kayak that uses a similar movement principle, but in a completely different environment - a flowing stream.

And I was again pleased. I was, in fact, deeply pleased.

Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,

How do you doodle?

The Falling Sand Game, originally from this weblog, is a much-blogged example of art play - a kind of virtual cousin of Spin Art, Etch-a-Sketch, and Lite Brite.

It's more like computer-enhanced doodling than anything recognizable as art, though, as with all doodling, it leads inexorably to playful creativity and, inevitably, to some genuinely art-like creations.

For most of us, doodling is the last remnant of our lives as artists. Being too young to know better, or care, we painted and drew and sculpted until our parents ran out of refrigerator-door-room. Today, thanks to the playfulness of people who bring us new tools like The Falling Sand Game, we find yet another invitation to be the artists we always were.

Thanks Presurfer, et. al., for the find.

Labels: ,


Samorost2 is, as those of you who are sufficiently alert might be sorely tempted to conclude, the sequel to what has subsequently become known as "Samorost1." It is currently my preferred paradigm for a kinder, gentler, and far more whimsical synthesis of computers, games, and art.

It's a puzzle-game, similar in principal to Myst - a series of "point-and-click" adventure puzzles. Only, unlike Myst, you can't really die, or even make a mistake. You just go on and on, pointing, clicking, observing, and clicking some more, until you figure out that clicking on this makes that do something which makes the other thing go where you want it to, and you find yourself somewhere you haven't been before.

Graphically, the game is often surprisingly beautiful. The music and sound effects complement the art - rich and enriching. Technically, it is filled with achievements (note especially the use of light) that are bar-raising. But, for me, it's the whimsy, the pervasive humor that keeps you from taking the game or your achievements in it too seriously. Even when you can't figure out what to do next (yes, each level has a code you can use so you can get back to it in case you have to go away for awhile, far, far away), you are constantly reminded that there's nothing really important here - just the fun.

It's the most successful of games from Amanita Design, founded by Jakub Dvorsky of the Czech Republic. It crosses many borders to come to us. And brings us a newer, and far more promising world to play in.

You can play it online, until you've run out of levels. You can buy it, get many more levels, and give yourself yet one more license to play.


Instant Audience - an Introduction to Soundboarding

Next time you're on a phone call with a friend, or relative, or telemarketer, try augmenting the experience of communication with your online, Instant Audience. Highlight moments of shared significance with a chorus of "ooohs" or "wows," applause or laughter. It will redefine the very nature of teledialogue.

Instant Audience is one of a growing cybercopia of what have become known to the virtual few as "Soundboards." So known is this Soundboard phenomenon that there is at least one site, eponymously yclept "," devoted entirely to the aforementioned. Many of the Soundboards in this collection are compilations of sound bytes from the cinema. See, for your typically outrageous example of Soundboarding, the Mel Brooks ibid. It will make you laugh.

Soundboards abound on the Internet because soundboarding is an invitation to a rather unique, and easily produced form of play. For more Soundboards, you might consider braving the fun and pop-up proliferating "eBaumsworld."

And yes, I am home, online, happily enMacintoshed, at last (applause, ooh and wow sounds).

Bernie DeKoven, Funsmith


Ferry Halim - Defender of the Playful

The world of compter games, and, consequently, of computer game players, can get very harsh. Despite the endless possibilities of faster processor and more graphic glories and completely surrounding sound, most of our games are given over, as we are, to violence. Not that violence can't be fun. Not that there's anything wrong with violent games. Just that there are far too few respites. Ferry Halim is one of the few. A true respite.

Ferry Hallim demonstrates that all it takes to make something as interesting to play with as violence is a little applied whimsy.

Whimsy. Hallim is a master of it. His games are true diversions, invitations to worlds that simply don't take themselves very seriously. He is the creator of light-hearted games that are bouyant enough to lighten-up even the dark of desire and the heavy of heart - at least for a few minutes. Like the game Summer Walk, where you make three bird-like things hop into the good floating things, to the tune of the pleasant guitar. Or A Cupid's Day where you, as Cupid, shoot arrows into clouds.

Whimsy. What a powerful concept.

Ferry Hallim is the newest inductee to the Major FUN Hall of Fame.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,

A Throat in your Frog

Well, looks like old Ze's done it again. This one's called "Frog." You'll need a microphone on your computer and the latest version of Flash.

So, go try it already.

Is it not like having some kind of virtual actual puppet?

I mean, is this not like a whole new fun thing?

My frog likes to sing.


Ricochet, Happy Pill - and the joy of kibitzing

I think it was maybe 1982. I was working for a company called Automated Simulations, which later became Epyx. One of the first games I designed for them was called "Ricochet." You can still find mention of it hither and yon on the Internet. It was successful enough to be made for every machine around: Commodore 64, Atari, TRS-80. It was a strategy game, with paddle-like pieces that could be moved like checkers, and changed orientation every time they were hit by a fusilade from one of the corner canons. What I liked about the game is exactly what I like about Happy Pill.

The principle is somewhat similar - you aim (well, there was no aiming in Ricochet - I said "somewhat" similar) and then fire off a shot, hoping that it will bounce off all the targets (the faces). Happy Pill is more of a puzzle than a game, but it is an intriguing puzzle, with increasingly complex dynamics. Once fired, the "pill" keeps on bouncing off the walls and the faces. The faces have four "states" - from smiling, to grinning, to looking wounded, to looking dead. Every time you hit a face, it changes state. If it hits a face too many times, the game is over. The strategic issues: where to place the pill, and in which direction to aim it.

It's a logic game, not an arcade game. There's just enough animation and interaction to keep the game from getting boring, and enough silliness in the game to keep it from being taken too seriously. Which lends itself wonderfully to kibitzing. Which, of course, is a great way to get students and family involved in some remarkably intelligent dialogue about things like frictionless physics and the emotional weight of "I told you so."

Labels: ,

The Color Test

When you see BLUE, what do you see first: the color or the name of the color? It's a left-brain/right-brain kinda thing, don't you know. And one has this tendency to confuse the other, in a kind of deliciously tickly way. Which makes it remarkably fun to play with, even if the playground is more like a test than a game.

As you go about perfecting your skills in The Color Test, here's a couple of extra thoughts to confound your playful being: 1) being confused - as long as it's just the right amount of confusion - is a great source of fun, 2) even test taking can be fun (see, for example, Jeopardy as lovingly and elegantly made into into educational Power Point delights by the Hardin County Teachers).

This fits quite well with my "fun that is good for you" theme. Which, given how much bad press fun gets nowadays, is sadly not one of your more popular, thematically speaking. In fact, fun has received such remarkably and consistently bad press (my wife Rocky keeps saying "Fun is not a four-letter word") that it's almost a revelation to think that anything fun can be good for you. Which may, now that I think about it, be the whole point.


The Name of the Game is "Whimsy"

The world of compter games, and, consequently, of computer game players, can get very harsh. Despite the endless possibilities of faster processor and more graphic glories and completely surrounding sound, most of our games are given over, as we are, to violence. Not that violence can't be fun. Not that there's anything wrong with violent games. Just that there are far too few respites. Ferry Halim is one of the few. A true respite.

Ferry Hallim demonstrates that all it takes to make something as interesting to play with as violence is a little applied whimsy.

Whimsy. Hallim is a master of it. His games are true diversions, invitations to worlds that simply don't take themselves very seriously. He is the creator of light-hearted games that are bouyant enough to lighten-up even the dark of desire and the heavy of heart - at least for a few minutes. Like the game Summer Walk, where you make three bird-like things hop into the good floating things, to the tune of the pleasant guitar. Or A Cupid's Day where you, as Cupid, shoot arrows into clouds.

Whimsy. What a powerful concept.

Ferry Hallim is the newest inductee to the Major FUN Hall of Fame.

Labels: ,

Desk Toys for the Broadbanded

Oddly, it wasn't until I started playing with Newton's Penguins that I was able to begin to understand, and appreciate, the gift people like Ze Frank have given us.

I backtrack.

Newton's Penguins is a delightfully animated and Penguinified version of a classic executive desk toy known as "Newton's Cradle." It works so well, and is so faithful to the Newtonian implications of it all, that playing with it is almost as calming as playing with the, if you'll forgive the expression, "real" thing.

The more I played with Newton's Penguins, the more conscious I became of a bunch of other little, interactive playthings that I've been finding on the web - not games, not puzzles, not art pieces, but little virtual, desk toys.

From doodling toys like the kind Ze Frank makes to Dave Bessler's wonderful Pipe Cleaner Dancer, Internet artists are producing an increasingly innovative, artful and delightful collection of Virtual Desk Toys - each of which is yet another invitation to fun.

Speaking of which, the graphic for this story was produced with the aid of a tool that Ze Frank, who is as much a social as a virtual player, created as part of his "Letter Project."



moovl is a product of the people who make the Major FUN Award-winning Soda Constructor (reviewed in this issue of the FunDay Times). Which might explain why it's such a fascinating, inviting, and playworthy drawing toy.

The big fascination comes from getting to draw things that: a) move and b) interact. I'm not sure which, a or b, contributes more to the fun. Having them both together, and being able to change the drawings, and how they move, and how they are influenced by the mysterious physics of gravity and friction and stiffness - each and all contribute to moving moovl funwards.

In the words of the Soda people themselves: "Moovl imbues freehand-drawings with life-like simulated dynamics and programmable behaviours. This dynamic transformation places drawing in a highly motivating self-directed feedback process of cause and effect, experiment and discovery."

In other words: moovl is fun. Like I said, it's: "a fascinating, inviting, and playworthy drawing toy." Online. Advertisement free.

Labels: ,

Puzzles, Art, and Interactivity

Samorost is a fun example of what one might call "Interactive Puzzles." After an introductory animation (during which you can't do anything other than watch), you find yourself in a strange world. Clicking on different things make different other things happen. Eventually, you discover that if you click on the right things, the "hero" manages to escape that world into another. It's essentially a kind of puzzle. The only way to solve it is through trial, error, and careful observation.

In a way, this has been true of almost every videogame you can think of. From Space Invaders to Myst.

I've been writing about an emerging form of web-based Interactive Art, as represented by the work of people like poet Jim Andrews and the artist Stanza." Here, the art can only be experienced by interacting with it. Not just viewing it, but actually playing with it.

I found a paper written on this subject almost ten years ago, called "The History of the Interface in Interactive Art." Though technology has progressed far beyond that described in the paper, it presents some powerful insights about this art/play form, not only as it appears on the web, but also as it permeates our museums.

Labels: , ,

Of Fun and Art

When you play with some of the stuff you might find clicking your way through a site called "Stanza," as much fun as you think you're having, you're actually playing with art. Mousing from one interactive, Shockwavey weirdness to another, you discover that what you're playing with isn't games, and isn't toys, and clearly has no use at all. Sure, you can make it do things. But there's never a purpose. Because it's art.

And Stanza, the person responsible for this site, makes it perfectly clear that what you are playing with is a work of art. Award-winning, even. Stanza explains:

"This main stanza site features lots of work, including the internet art project 'The Central City' as well as lots of soundtoys, interactive movies and the gallery of fine art. The intention is to make an interesting, interactive, multimedia website, with sounds, pictures and artworks. The site also contains multimedia work and electronic music; cd players are built into the site so that you can listen to my music as you browse. You can navigate around from each of the cells on the home page and you can go to to various experimental interactive audio visual pieces. Also online are paintings, photos and conceptual pieces from 1984 when at Goldsmiths', to the present day. Within the site are generative areas, areas where you can mix sounds and interact with images. There is a jukebox on the stanza main site and a karoake machine in the central city area."

Art? I exclaim in a questioning manner. It feels like fun to me!

Which, apparently, is the whole point.

Labels: , ,


Think of it as a virtual, animated tinker toy. Or, think of it as an opportunity to create life. Sodaplay provides a deep and fun world for exploration by the scientific and the playful.

As they explain: "looking at the fluid, lifelike way these creatures walk and roll and slink across the screen you might think that there must be some very complicated stuff going on behind the scenes. well fear not, it's actually very simple. It only looks complicated because lots of simple bits are working together. When simple bits work together you can get emergent behaviour. that means that the system as a whole can be more complex and sophisticated than the simple bits that it's made out of."

First, visit the Sodazoo. Scroll right and left to view the first 80 or so Sodacritters - creations of Sodaplayers from around the world. Click on any one. Watch it dance. Then play with the controls. Watch it change. Then go back to the Sodacritter collection. Repeat. Repeat repetitively. Then make your own.

For the documentation-needy, there's ample information on the Sodaconstructor page.

Sodaplay is the first virtual toy to earn the coveted Major FUN Award. It sets a standard that I truly hope will challenge imitators and innovators alike.

Labels: ,

The Play of Art and vice versa

As this search for signs of fun progresses, I seem to be including more and more of the arts. So far, two Major FUN Awards have been given to artists: one to a poet, the other to an event artist.

Recently, thanks again to the vigilance of Ultimate Insult for catching signs of the art of play and play of art on the web, I found Yellow Tail - a simple, unique, animated drawing toy that borders on genuinely interactive art. This turns out to be one of many "works by golan levin and collaborators" on a site called "Flong." Among their many projects, I happened to catch this RE:Mark & Hidden Worlds of Noise and Voice - an interactive art exhibit that looks like what one may clearly call "fun." See this video for further evidence.

Somewhere along the same continuum is this exceptional collection of games from Orisinal. Maybe not so artsy-playsy, maybe more basically fun-and-gamesy, but even more to be admired for their aesthetically delicious environments - blending subtle colors, sounds, and music with honest humor. I guess for many these games are simply too much fun to be called "art." Which is a loss for the art world.

Labels: , , ,

Soda Constructor

Of all the virtual playthings on the Internet, Soda Constructor has got to be one of the deepest and most playworthy. There's a Soda Zoo full of amazing critters to play with and a community of critter-makers to join. The little critters look innocent enough when in their conceptual cages. But click on them and a wold of virtual, playwithable wonder will be revealed unto you.


Virtual Animated TinkerToys

After years of deep browsing, I still haven't found a mindtoy as elegant and absorbing as SodaConstructor. Visiting them today, I learned about a new project in the works: sodarace "Robots created by both humans and Artificial Intelligences race against each other over a variety of simulated terrains and in the resulting Sodarace league we see how human creativity measures up against the best of machine learning."

This soda toy is a very deep fun thing. And it keeps on getting deeper. It's clearly designed by people who appreciate play, which makes it all the more wondersome that it's a joint venture between: Soda and Queen Mary, University of London and supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.