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Bernie DeKoven's FunLog

More fun, more often, for more people and other living things.

Samorost2

Samorost2Samorost2 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.

Goofing Off

"The pure pleasure of play is a true antidote to all the mundane duties of adulthood, especially that most tedious of tasks, maintenance of Self. But we have a hard time allowing ourselves the purposelessness that is absolutely fundamental to the relief we crave...."

This is the opening paragraph from an article by Paul Roberts in Psychology Today. The name of the article: "Goofing Off."

Sounds like a must-read, no? It's a long one, and it goes to some fairly authorative lengths to make its point. So I, as is my blogly right, have copied my favorite parts below for your personal and conceptual delectation.
"Play isn't simply the antithesis of work: Its an antidote to all the mundane duties of adulthood, from partnering and provisioning right down to the tedious maintenance of Self. Little surprise that researchers link play and playfulness to such positive outcomes as healthy relationships, strong families, creativity, spiritual growth, and personal confidence..."

"True play requires that we forgo the Self, step outside our relentless self-awareness--a step our Self-obsessed culture hasn't prepared us for. As the University of Wisconsin's Duncan notes, "in a highly organized, individualistic society, where every minute of every day must be accounted for in some way that is directly related to building the consciousness, people can't simply 'lose' themselves." Adds Penn State's Godbey: "Instead of seeing ourselves as the buffoons we really are, we take ourselves far too seriously. Instead of losing ourselves in play, we're concerned about what we're wearing or whether we smell good."..."

"And remember to goof off. A century ago, baseball was played by men who would, on occasion, go on field wearing outlandish top hats. Play, says Godbey, "means giving yourself over to an activity and not having worry whether you're making a fool of yourself. Playing is fooling around, and fooling around requires fools."..."

"Yet perhaps the most important step we can take is simply to pay attention: be open to play. Perhaps play will never be as simple or pure as it was when we were young, or when our culture was less complex, or when we had fewer responsibilities, or more money. But play, like hope, springs eternal. It breaks out, like weeds between cracks in the cement. It pops up and out in the most unlikely situations.

"Our task is to recognize play and then be willing to just let it happen. "Walking along a sidewalk isn't playing," says Godbey. "But as soon as one observes the cracks in that sidewalk, and then begins to measure one's stride by those cracks, then tries to avoid stepping on those cracks--well, that's play."

Douglas Rushkoff - on "having fun"

Here's a fun find I found fun. It's called "Having Fun," and comes to us from the highly articulate musings of author Douglas Rushkoff. He writes:
"No, fun is not frivolity. Well, it can be, but it's not a diversion from reality. It's a way in. It doesn't ignore the starving people, don't worry about that. It just means that if you decide to go help the starving people, you're doing it because it brings you meaning. A certain kind of fun.

"Please, don't anyone else reject the notion of fun until you've at least tried it. Because once you do have fun, you'll want everyone else to have it, too."
Yes, and again yes. "A certain kind of fun." One that "brings you meaning." Precisely the kind of fun I've been pursuing for the past 35 years with something approximating reckless abandon.

FunCast: Intimate Fun and the Tickled We

Today's FunCast is called: "Intimate Fun and the Tickled We." It's about, well, if you don't want to listen to it first, you can read it online, here. It may be of some assistance should you find this holiday season leading you to entwinining with one or several of your various lovers and family members.

Beer Pong

Beer PongBeer Pong, the online game, has an advantage and a disadvantage over the traditional game, and its variants, as described in this admirably exhaustive selection of Beer Pong rules - the advantage: you don't need any beer to play it - nor do you need paddles, glasses, ping pong balls or table; the disadvantage: you don't need any beer to play it.

Though I am not a drinker, and am actually less than comfortable with people who are under the influence (some of my worst experiences as a facilitator of play coincided with my attempts to bring more fun to a singles new year's eve party), I am nevertheless a great admirer of the, well, spirits, in which the game is generally played. That is, the spirits of informality, of playfulness and downright silliness, of invention and challenge and unabashed fun.

Further evidence of these spirits is well instantiated by this document making the distinction between a game called "Beruit" and that traditionally called "Beer Pong," and well-nigh unto conclusive spirits-related evidence with this official Beirut/Beer Pong House Rules Generator.

Beer Pong. A game in the tradition of Junkyard Pong, and similarly hazardous to sobriety. See "Eraser Bouncing" on the Junkyard Sports Hall of Fame.

Boundless Playgrounds

Boundless Playgrounds "enable all children -- including those with physical, developmental, cognitive and sensory disabilities -- to experience independent, self-directed play, each at his or her own highest level of ability."

What a concept! What a gift! What a valuable, meaningful, personally and socially enriching thing to be doing. Playgrounds designed so that everyone can play, as much as they want. Every body and every mind. I know. I know. It's asking to much to think that adults could play too - that there'd be things for us to play with that would allow us to play with each other, with all our glorious differences.

But let's not get carried away. O, what the heck. Let's. Let's look at this wonderful virtual tour of what might go into a Boundaryless Playground. Let us seriously consider supporting their wonderful cause with, at least with the purchase of a small gift. And let us dream of how boundaryless we could make it.

Deflexion - the Laser Game

Deflexion is a chess-like, two-player, arguably abstract strategy game - with lasers! Each player gets four different kinds of pieces, one of which is the "pharaoh." Two of the pieces have mirrors on them. The object: position the pieces so that when you fire your laser, it winds up hitting the non-mirrored side of one of your opponent's pieces. If you hit a Pharaoh piece, the game is over.

The pieces need to be set up in their specified starting positions. It took a while to do this, because the whole board (and not just the starting rows, as in chess or checkers) is used. And, as a taste of strategic implications yet to come, the rules describe two different set-ups, each chock-full of its own subtle significances. Meaning, as Shakespeare might have said if he had his own Deflexion game, that there are more things in lasers and mirrors than are dreampt of in our philosophies....

The moment we installed the (included) batteries and discovered that yes, there are actually lasers, and they are, yes, most definitely bright enough, and that, yes, they do bounce off the mirrors in a most classically laserlike manner - we were hooked. O, we were trepidatiously hooked, all right. What if the game doesn't really play as good as it looks? What if the laser light can't really be seen when it hits a piece? What if it's too complex? After all, there are some strange, chess-like rules about how certain pieces can move. And, o, we so much wanted the game to be as good as it looked! I mean, with lasers and mirrors and everything!

And, upon reflection, so to speak, we found it fun. We found it very fun. Major, as a matter of fact, FUN. And we were sorely happy.

The AntiFun

Brook Lawder, in her essay "Playgrounds and Classrooms," (Haverford College 2002), writes: "Before elementary school, I reveled in playing outside. I rarely watched television. I loved to read. Most importantly, however, I loved to invent. Creativity enthralled me. Everyday I had a new game invented. These games were not like hide-and-go-seek or freeze tag. They were much less ephemeral. My games lasted days, weeks even. They contained elaborate plot twists and super powers. Everyone on the playground played my games..."

Which reminded me of a 4th grade girl I observed, in a classroom in Philadelphia, about 35 years ago. She was this kind of game-creating, game-leading genius that Ms. Lawder describes herself as being. She used just about every technique I currently teach to the future playleaders of the world. She seemed to know exactly when to change the game, exactly how to keep everyone involved, exactly where to lead people so they'd have the most fun.

Being old enough to know the misfortunes that can befall such young geniuses of play, I read on, self-fulfillingly:

"I can pinpoint the exact moment when I stopped playing, stopped creating and inventing on my own schedule. It all started with homework. Homework was the destroyer of my childhood imagination. Melodramatic, I know, but so are most childhood memories. After pre-kindergarten, I began attending school fulltime. School began at eight in the morning and ended at three o'clock in the afternoon. Upon arriving home, the homework began. Dinner promptly concluded or interrupted homework. After dinner, if the homework was not complete, I sat down to finish the work. Bedtime arrived shortly afterwards. Everyday was like this. Even if I finished my homework early, it was usually dark and I was unable to play..."

My question is: who would actually want kids to stop playing? who would even think it possible? who could possibly think that it's better for kids to do homework than it is for them to be outside playing? The neighbors, maybe?

I quote on: "...One shining light continued to shine: recess. As long as I had recess I could continue my play and exercise my imagination. The older I grew, however, the more the time allotted for recess diminished. Recess became physical education. Such a scientific name for something that should be fun. The teachers were once again able to convert play into a set of rules associated with education. "

No, I think it's something else. Not education. (not even spelled the same way: "Capital-A-small-n-small-t-small-i-capital-F-small-un" vs. "Education"). A force. A perverse, childhood-denying, fuddy-duddy of a force. Not homework. Not educators, even. Something different. Something which I here-with and -by name "The AntiFun - the irrational repression of happiness."

Yes. Yes. A great wrong has been wrung. Less and less time for play. Less and less time for recess. And then recess became PE. And all play vanished. But no, no, Ms. Lawder, it isn't the teacher's doing. Or the parents or neighbors. It's a world held in sway by the AntiFun. And that's what it is.

FunCast: The Out-Blessing Game

The text for today's FunCast can be found here. It begins:

"Trying to out-bless people is much more fun than trying to outguess them. For this reason, I give you: The Out Blessing Game."

The Giant Pick-Up Sticks Runaway

Here, courtesy of artist Steven Goodman, who created a game of Giant Pick-Up Sticks at this year's Burning Man is an action photo of an extraordinarily brave, and perhaps profoundly misinformed attempt to play a solitaire version of Giant Pick-Up Sticks - more commonly known as "The Game of Duck and Run."

It is to play. It is to laugh.

Giant Card Games

The following brilliant collection of games for giant cards comes to us through the courtesy of the similarly brilliant USC student, Doo-Yul Park - yet another fine example of the kind of people I had to play with at USC.

[WHAT I DID]

I was a member of design team and had a couple times of meeting with team members after having thought about ideas individually, had another playtest meeting with other team members with pre-existing card games and other original game ideas, helped making stencils for cards and actually played every game we had at the Game Day(like everybody did). Also finally the Powerpoint Template design with Yuechuan and the diagram for SORTING game.



[DESIGN TEAM]

Design Team had a couple times of meetings. We had our own time to think about ideas individually and then the meeting was about how to make them into feasible games with solid rules by self-critiquing each game ideas. The main theme we came up with at the first brain-storming meeting was "Physicality", "Personifying Each Card", "Magic Trix", "Go Fish(Trading Game)", "The House of Cards", "Hide & Seek" and so on.



Physicality is definitely the most important theme to think about because of the idea itself of making Big Cards.



Personifying each card is interesting because the card is so big that each person would be able to carry just one card at a time. It is natural to think that each person would have specific attachment to the specific card he/she picked.



Magic Trix idea is actually driven from the theme of "Personifying Each Card." to feel special about one card they picked.



Go Fish was also fit to the theme of "Personifying Each Card" because when it comes to a Big Card Game, it's actually trading not just cards but the person who's holding the card.



The House of Cards is more about exploring player's creativity in terms of letting them build something with their own ideas and eventually making one big house out of collective efforts. It is important that every body have equal chance to devote themselves in making an output.



Hide & Seek is the first idea that I came up with thinking about an original Big Card game. I pictured a two team game that each team has to protect Queen or King by hiding them with numbers and face cards. Josh suggested that making one seeker for each teams and just like "Catching Dragon's Tail" Game (the game that IT should catch the tail person of a line of people.) the seeker should run around the cards of the opponent team and the opponent team should rotate their body & card to hide their numbers but more importantly hide their King or Queen. Lots of phsycality is expected by that.



Before the first class to present original game idea for the Big Card(the class we argued about making a whole deck of card or not.), I showed my SORTING Game idea to producers(Mihai & Jess) and they liked it. The SORTING game is a 2 team game. It was really successful in bringing people into playing with us at the actual Game Day.



[HOW TO PLAY SORTING GAME]
(Doox's game, Paradoox, ISOCard? Let's just call this SORTING game :)) is like this.

1. Each team members get one card out of the deck.

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2. The card each team got is for the opponent team. Each team shuffles cards to make the other team hard to make it in the order of numbers on the cards.

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3. After finishing shuffling, each team lines up and check who's the person in fron of you to exchange the card with.

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4. Each team meets together in the center.

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5. According to the signal from dealer, each team members exchange cards with the opponent person in front of them. (At this time each team members don't know what number they got.)

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6. Everyone flips the card and starts to sort in the order of numbers on the cards.

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7. The team which makes the sorting done first wins.

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[About SORTING Game]

I was focusing on the "Physicality" mostly when I came up with this idea. There are some reasons why this game was successful at the actual Game Day.

1. This game takes really short amount of time so people who's interested in really doesn't have to wait for a long time.

2. The number of players needed for this game is really sizable so people can be always added almost immediately. But the more, the funnier.

3. People liked the fact that each of them has their own card and felt attached to them. When they're shuffling they make a strategy with each other and when they're sorting they are yelling the number they have to notice other team members to sort faster. This game has certain team player mechanics in it.



[SOME MORE GAME IDEAS]

At the second meeting, we picked the most doable pre-existing card games. They are "Spit(or Speed)", "Clock Solitare", "War" and "Black Jack Tag(from Josh)." I had this "Duck Duck Goose" kind of game idea that day.



DUCK DUCK GOOSE is a game with 2 team formating a circle by sisting one by one. So each person has the other team members sitting right and left side of oneself. In the center of the circle there is two deck of cards. One deck is black and the other is red. Each person gets one card out of each team's deck(Red or Black) and go back to the circular posistion. The goal of this game is getting together with each team members and also making it sorted by numbers of the card each team members have while playing Duck Duck Goose game. If the other team members catch you then you should be back in your position and the turn goes to opponent's team. It means the team loses 1 turn of their chance. One thing really different to the Duck Duck Goose game is that this is a turn-based game so each team has their turn to be IT one by one. To add more interesting mechanics, when IT goes around the circle if IT meets same number of cards, the IT should draw another card from their deck and exchange card with that. One thing more important about who's gonna IT is that the other team member who is the closest person from last IT in specified circular direction(Clockwise or Counter-clockwise).



Before the day of Playtesting with other team members, I came up with another SORTING game(which is different version of sorting game showed above).

The another SORTING game is also a 2 team game. First, one of each team members draws a card and moves to a start point of each team's line. Next person of the each team draws a card and if the number is bigger or same with the first person's card then just go after the person to make a longer line. But if the number is smaller than the first person then the 2nd person should exchange the card with the first person to make it bigger and then moves to the next of the first person. Next the third person also picks a card and just like what I said before if the number is bigger or same with the 2nd person than the person can just go next to the 2nd person but if it's smaller than it, then the 2nd person should deliver the card to the person in front of him/her(who is,in this case, the 1st person) and if the card reaches to the first person then 3rd person can exchange his card with him(the 1st person). So, the card should be delivered to the 1st person in the line to exchange with new player of the team and while doing that team members should try to sort the numbers in ascending order with holding their position. The goal is making the specified length of line of people faster than the other team.



[A Designer's Perspective]

My issue as a game design team member was that this big card game started from the idea that lots of people already know card games and they're familiar with the rules so we don't have to explain them. They will immediately notice the shape of cards and it is good to attract people right away. Just like the argument we had at the class when we're trying to decide whether to make a whole deck of cards or not, game designers were at the other side of this whole idea. Making a creative game design out of cards which already has lots of good familiar games. How can we beat those card games? Not to mention that the purpose of this class, I personally think everybody should have been a game designer to think about this. It was a true challenge and a quite educational experience. Because there were those moment of endeavoring I feel even happier that the SORTING game made a successful result.



This was a really great project. What's really successful is I think more about that all of us worked as a team and helped each other no matter what's their original role was. Each of the classmates shined in their effort making this project a true success. I had a "Flow" and "wholy moment" throughout this project. Thank you all!!

Big Game

Big Game - the final report from my Experiments in Interactivity class at USC, describes the one exercise that turned out to bring everything together - the ideas, the talents, the people.

The idea of giant playing cards wasn't particularly new or innovative. But the insights the students gathered from the experience, and the solidarity they achieved, made, in fact, the entire class, and all that we had taught or hoped to teach, come together. You can download (right click) this video, made by the students themselves, for an even more vivid, and narrated overview of the activity.

Perhaps the most deeply instructional part of the experience for everyone took place during the event itself. It turned out to be, well, challenging to get other people to join. It was a hard and unanticipated lesson - all earmarks of its success. Both Tracy and I tried to soften the blow by directing the students' collective attention to all the people who came to watch, for the observers were as much part of the event as were the players. But the students wouldn't have it.

This is well-expressed on a temporary student wiki. Here, from temporary student Aaron Meyers, is a significantly representative sample of what they all experienced:
"On the day of the event, I arrived early and helped to get our game active before the official start time. When I got there, some other team members were already involved in playing some Solitaire. It occurred to me that this was possibly not the best way to start off. It wasn't very visible from the pathways through campus that surrounded us and it was also a kind of insular activity. It just wasn't very inviting. So I insisted that we commence with House of Cards-building at once. This was met with some initial success and earned us our first participants. I got pretty into building houses of cards and spontaneously came up with the idea to turn it into a competitive game. We had our pile of cards in the middle of our space and I directed two teams to attempt to build houses on opposite sides of the pile. The winner would be the team with the largest house when the cards ran out. This ended up working out quite well and was played again later during the day. During the rest of the event, I divided my time between directly participating in the playing of games and attempting to persuade passers-by to join in our game. Playing games presented no challenge. We had a lot of energy going between us so having a good time naturally followed. On the other hand, getting strangers to take part in our game proved a bigger challenge. It was a learning process. Certain approaches worked better than others. It was always a lot of work. I'm still not entirely sure why we had to work so hard to convince people to come have some fun. Most of the people who we got to participate didn't actually need that much convincing... just a gentle prod to try something they were already vaguely interested in."

Visual Delight

Mammatus clouds - according to this source "Mammatus are pouch-like cloud structures and a rare example of clouds in sinking air. Sometimes very ominous in appearance, mammatus clouds are harmless and do not mean that a tornado is about to form; a commonly held misconception. In fact, mammatus are usually seen after the worst of a thunderstorm has passed."

The photos, taken by Jorn Olsen, from Heartwell Park in Hastings, Nebraska, are reassuring evidence of the joy we take in beauty. There is something inherently, intrinsically delightful about these strange clouds. Something belonging clearly to the category of, well, fun. They have no tangible benefit. They are rare, and somehow precious, but you can't take them to the bank. Unless you're talking about a cloud bank. And even then, you really can't do anything with them or to them except enjoy.

I asked my wife, the artist. We were sitting on the beach, looking at the waves and birds and surfers and clouds. "Rocky," I asked, "why is it so much fun, looking at the waves and birds and surfers and clouds?" "Visual delight," she answered. "The same thing that makes people want to go to the grand canyon and the painted desert. To delight the eye." And open the heart. And touch the soul of the world.

FunCast: A Meditation on the Children's Game of Hot Bread and Butter

Today's FunCast seems to be "Meditation on the Children's Game of Hot Bread and Butter." It is not so loosely based on my article: "Play, Learning and Empowerment."

Chew by Numbers

Chew by Numbers. Really. Kind of like paint-by-numbers, as you might have surmised, only with an artistically chosen array of differently colored chewing gum, as you might also have surmised. From the remarkable palette, as it were, of Jamie Marraccini, author of the amazing GumArt website, within which you will find a veritable gallery of chewed-over pictures and sculptures of feats of dental prowess requiring as many as 3177 pieces of gum.

The Chew by Numbers kits are elegant in their simplicity - a blister pack containing a board upon which is printed a chew-by-numbers pattern, and a selection of bubble gum pieces. Perhaps not the kind of gift dentists or even fairly aware parents might purchase for their children, and yet, how can one resist? As the artist himself writes: "I've now come to the realization that the gum justifies the art. The fun is in the chewing and the art is an expression of the fun. Just remember, gum is not chewed for health or sustenance. People chew gum for pleasure. It is in that spirit that GumArt exists, and I am a spreader of gum."

"Sustainable Play: Towards a New Games Movement for the Digital Age"

My involvement with the USC School of Cinema Television Interactive Multimedia Division began last year with an invitation from Professor Tracy Fullerton to make a presentation about New Games, etc., to students and faculty. That has led to a closer and closer affiliation, especially with Tracy and her cohorts at Ludica. Which, in turn, led Celia, Janine, Jacki, and Tracy to author a most remarkable paper, called: "Sustainable Play: Towards a New Games Movement for the Digital Age." Here's the abstract:
"This paper suggests a revisitation of the New Games Movement, formed by Stewart Brand and others in the early 1970s in the United States as a response to the Vietnam War, against a backdrop of dramatic social and economic change, fueled by a looming energy crisis, civil rights, feminism, and unhealthy widespread drug abuse. Like-minded contemporaries, R. Buckminster Fuller (World Game), Robert Smithson (Spiral Jetty), and Christo and Jean-Claude (Valley Curtain), responded in kind to these environmental and sociopolitical quandaries with their 'earthworks.' As digital game designers and theorists embark upon developing new methods to address the creative crisis in mainstream game production, against a similar backdrop of climate change, a controversial war, political upheaval and complex gender issues, we propose a reexamination of the New Games Movement and its methods as a means of constructing shared contexts for meaningful play in virtual and real-world spaces."
Making the connection between the nature of the Fun Community as manifest by New Games, and the multimediated communities described in the paper, is extremely powerful: virtually packed with potentiating implications for people and media and play. And thanks to this revisioning of New Games, I am delighted, honored, and downright hopeful.

Making Playful Learning Visible

Fiona Bailey and Julian Sefton-Green wanted to find out how they could take advantage of technology to help "make playful learning visible." They ended up researching "the use of video mobile phones as tools with which to engage groups of parents in documenting, sharing and reflecting upon aspects of their children's learning outside of formal education settings." Such a simple premise, using a relatively ubiquitous technology to capture, document and discuss actual moments of children engaged in play-directed learning. It sensitizes parents to what is often, as the name of the project implies, invisible to them, and helps us all have a better understanding of the phenomenon of self-motivated learning (a phenomenon which our educational systems all too often ignore).

Skip down to the section describing example learning 'moments' with reflections. See for example: "Ben makes lines out of things, anything and everything...a line of toast crusts on the breakfast table, sent with no commentary or explanation. Laurie had noticed her son doing this on a number of occasions, but had not really thought too much about it until embarking on the project. Through documenting her son's play, she began to notice a pattern - lines of toys, lines of dinosaurs - and now toast!"

This is life-changing stuff for parents, and for those of us who believe in the innate value of play.

Dolphins and Flow

Scientists Stan Kuczaj and Lauren Highfill write:
"Many researchers have suggested that...animals inherited a predisposition to play because 'it helps animals gain knowledge of the properties of objects, perfect motor skills, and recognize and manipulate characteristics of [their] environment,'...

"One sign of the importance of play, they added, is that many animals play at the risk of loss of life and limb, including dolphins..."

Sounds just like what Csikszentmihalyi found out about why and how humans play (see Of Fun and Flow) - that whole "flow-seeking" thing, eh? Even at the risk of life and limb.

The authors also note that "The captive dolphins 'produced 317 distinct forms of play behavior during the five years that they were observed.' Three hundred and seventeen! It's all about repertoire.

They go on to describe some dolphin behavior that should be familiar to any good facilitator of human games - especially one who is familiar with Muska Mosston (the "slanty rope theory" as also described in my article about fun and flow):
"One calf became adept at 'blowing bubbles while swimming upside-down near the bottom of the pool and then chasing and biting each bubble before it reached the surface,' the researchers continued. 'She then began to release bubbles while swimming closer and closer to the surface, eventually being so close that she could not catch a single bubble.'

"'During all of this, the number of bubbles released was varied, the end result being that the dolphin learned to produce different numbers of bubbles from different depths, the apparent goal being to catch the last bubble right before it reached the surface of the water.'

"'She also modified her swimming style while releasing bubbles, one variation involving a fast spin-swim. This made it more difficult for her to catch all of the bubbles she released, but she persisted in this behavior until she was able to almost all of the bubbles she released. Curiously, the dolphin never released three or fewer bubbles, a number which she was able to catch and bite following the spin-swim release.'

"The dolphin may have been keeping her play interesting by blowing more bubbles than she could easily catch and bite,' the researchers wrote."
These observations not only help us understand our deep fascination with dolphins, but also affirm a great deal about our understanding of what and why we play.

FunCast: The Fun Intelligence

Today's FunCast is from an article I wrote about what I decided to call The Fun Intelligence. It starts like this:
You know how they talk about all these "intelligences" - like the "creative intelligence" and the "emotional intelligence" and the "mathematical..."?

Well, today I've been wondering if maybe "fun" is one of those "intelligences." Maybe our whole ability to perceive fun and create fun, the whole complex of rational and emotional and physical processes is part of an Intelligence.

You know how you sense something is possibly fun or you sense the fun possibilities...you know how we talk about the spirit of fun or the feeling of fun...

So I'm thinking maybe there is this Fun Intelligence, and that those of us in particular who are particularly gifted with this Intelligence have in fact found it to be central to our survival: socially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, spatially, mathematically...

Cardstacker

"Bryan Berg broke the Guinness World Record for the World's Tallest House of Cards in 1992 at the age of seventeen, with a tower fourteen feet, six inches tall. His latest record-holding structure in the category is over twenty-five feet tall. In 2004, Guinness created a new record category for the World's Largest House of Cards to recognize a project Berg built for Walt Disney World--a replica of Cinderella's Castle. He continues to hold both records...

"Using only freestanding playing cards, double Guinness World Record holder Berg will construct Egyptian Pyramids, the Coliseum, Taj Mahal, and other ancient structures. He may even attempt the CN Tower! Berg, a self-taught artist, uses no tape, glue, or other tricks in his work - this is the real deal."
Real deal in deed. Sheer testimony to the power of play. Berg explains: "The cards stand up–and stay up–for two reasons. First, there are so many cards in large constructions, the combined weight of all the cards actually adds to the stability of the structure. Second, the weight is supported by the strategic arrangement of cards, called grids. Cards, arranged in grid patterns, resemble waffles or ice cube trays. The cards actually prohibit each other from bending and also prohibit each other from falling over. If you can learn to build a grid structure, you can build just about anything."

Cardstacker.com

Giant Cards at USC

Here are some photos of the final project of the USC, School of Cinema - Television, Interactive Media Department's Fall, 2005 course called "Experiments in Interactivity I."

Justin Hall, one of the fortunate few who took this course, explains:
"Students learned that getting busy people to participate in a public game can be challenging. How can you make something exciting, inviting - easy to try, and rewarding to play over time?

"Large-scale gaming is inviting, the students agreed - giant playing pieces are both visible and tantalizing. They drew inspiration from Frank Lantz's "Big Urban Game" in Minneapolis, where citizens of Minneapolis/St. Paul were invited to move one of three 25-foot-tall inflatable game pieces across the city.

"Giant-sized playing cards offered a mix of the exotic and familiar. Everyone recognizes the two of clubs, or the Ace of diamonds; but to see them four feet by three feet, walking across campus? Students debated whether to make up new games, new cards, new rules. While they had some fun exploring different possibilities, students decided that the simplicity of a deck of 52 cards would be inviting, while the giant scale should be suitably mindblowing and thoroughly challenging.

"The cards are designed to be so large that no one person could expect to carry more than one or two. For a full game of poker, you'd need three or four other people to help you manage a hand, and keep it hidden!"
You can read the rest of Justin's comments here. And then there are these photos posted on yet another website by yet another student, Brad Newman. I expect more, later. Lots.

Junkyard Golf

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