Envisioning: Redefining Games

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“…I mostly just like the chance to put together these ideas I have as I’m wandering through life. I’ve had a few other “creative” pursuits in the past, particularly writing failed novels and drawing comics, but somehow making games feels like it fits me the best – it was a really great discovery to make. There’s something incredibly satisfying about having an idea for something interactive, and then writing the code and the art and the sounds and the text and so on that makes it a reality. And then just firing it onto the internet so other people might have a look at it.

I guess the shortest answer is just that I have a lot of ideas for things I think would be funny or interesting in game form and I want them to exist, so I make them.”

– Pippin Barr, from an interview at Quote Unquote

I’ve been sick and not doing much in the blog arena over the last few days, but I’ll add more links tomorrow, from Pippin Barr and others in the game design field.

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Let’s Play Together

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We met some friends in the mountains this weekend. They have two daughters, one who’s close to Sam’s age. Sam and Fiona don’t play together that often, but when they do it’s like they’ve know each other forever. They don’t focus on their differences, one a five-year-old girl and one a six-year-old boy. They just hit the ground running, literally. I don’t really know what they talk about or what they’re even playing, just that they laugh a lot. This morning they both woke up at 4:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep, so they whispered in their bunk beds, shared glow-in-the-dark silly putty, and made plans for ice skating and sledding.

They don’t go to the same school, and maybe that’s what makes their relationship work so well. I’ve noticed that boys and girls don’t mix that often at Sam’s school. When I pick him up in the afternoon, the boys are usually involved in some sort of playground espionage, while the girls enact their own dramas, just as interesting, but different. I wonder if Fiona and Sam would play during recess, if they went to the same school.

I’ve been thinking about their friendship, and why it seems so extraordinary, so I began searching for articles and blogs that focus on gender and childhood. I was happy to find  Superhero Princess, and Hillary Manaster’s post – “10 Reasons Girls & Boys Should Play Together.” The blog tagline is excellent: Strengthening connections between boys and girls, and laying the foundation for harmonious relationships in the future. 

I’d love to know your thoughts about encouraging friendships between girls and boys.

As a parent or a teacher, what do you do to create diverse play opportunities for your kids? Do your kids see you involved in healthy relationships/friendships with members of the ‘opposite’ sex?

Book Review: An Artful Alphabet

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Groom by Jennifer Kincaid

You might have gathered by now that we’re defining the category of Games pretty broadly. Anything that leads you to engagement and playfulness could be a game. Tonight’s book might bring exactly those elements into your life.

My step-sister, Jennifer Kincaid, is an artist and entrepreneur, based out of San Francisco. In addition to creating beautiful “traditional” abstract art, she plays with large-scale collaborative works that engage the public – crowdsource art. Six Factorial Times Four to the Sixth is a wonderful example of art morphing into game playing, with the whole process leading to conversation and community engagement. She’s taken that project and created an on-line beta version called Interactorial, which is very game-like and fun.

Jennifer’s current project is called An Artful Alphabet of Scribel Dudel. The first free coloring book in the series is A is for AbstractYou can download and print the free PDF version of the book, and then color and create to your heart’s content. Once you’ve scribbled and doodled some masterful work, you can upload photos of your work to a flickr pool, and see what others are up to.

I hope you’ll check out Jennifer’s work, share it with friends, and then get in there and play!

Envisioning: The Game of the Moment

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“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we
make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”
― Mihaly CsikszentmihalyiFlow

Setting Intentions: The Game of Life

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Game month wouldn’t be complete without a little Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Mihaly, currently a professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University, is known for his research in the areas of happiness, creativity, and the concept of flow.

My Mihaly connection is that I think about his flow theory every time I do the dishes. When I first read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, several years ago, I was impressed by an interview with a man who Mihaly found to be particularly joyful and content. His work was in a factory, and he approached each day, and each task as if it was a puzzle waiting to be solved. Mihaly described the man as being completely engaged in the moment, in a contest with himself to perform his work with efficiency.

I still have a long way to go, to create more flow in my life, but each time I do the dishes, it does turn into a game. The exact rules vary from day to day – sometimes it’s a race to beat the clock, sometimes it’s a game of balance, to see how many dishes I can carry at once from sink to cupboard. Trust me when I say, you don’t want to compete with me in the category of “most efficiently and fully loaded dishwasher.” This is my very best event, because I can always fit another coffee mug in there. Always.

I’ve read other theories that label these types of mental games as escapist – that the game player isn’t engaged in the reality of the moment, and that’s somehow bad. Honestly, I don’t care. If I’m going to do the dishes every night, for the rest of my days, I may as well have a little fun.

As a family, we naturally integrate all sorts of mini-games into our daily tasks. Do you think you can run downstairs to get your pajamas in less than a minute? How many bags of groceries can you carry in from the car? The puffy pancakes will be in the oven for fifteen minutes – do you think I can take a shower and get dressed before the timer goes off? The one standard that I try to keep in mind, is focusing on competing with ourselves, rather than others. Maybe that comes from my high school track team days – it’s great to win a race, but it’s even better when you beat your own personal record.

What are your mental games, that can turn chores from tedious to engaging? 

Free the Toys

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How did Silver Surfer get trapped in a bag on our window sill? And why is he so desperate to escape?

It’s a convoluted tale, that began at the Northwest Denver Toy LIbrary. We’re fortunate that the toy library is in the basement of our closest Denver Public Library branch. We make it there a few times a month, and the kids each choose two or three toys to check out. Sam usually chooses something that complements his own toys, like the police station below. Isabel always chooses the noisiest toys, with our blessing since we’ll be able to return them in three weeks

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The concept of a toy library exemplifies the idea of playing well with others. Our toy library has been a free resource for Denver families since 1980, always run and stocked by volunteers. We’re usually there on Saturdays, and inevitably run into someone we know. Kids and parents end up playing, talking, and building community.

Sam has recently decided to let go of a few of his toys, in order to make room for more Legos, Trashies, and Nanospeeds. The toys that he’s willing to donate are all collected from Happy Meals, but it’s a great start. You can see that SpongeBob isn’t sold on the idea of leaving his happy home.

IMG_8558The problem is that SpongeBob can’t move to the toy library. Donated toys that aren’t brand-new, must include proof that they meet federal safety standards. SpongeBob and all of his friends don’t have papers, so we’ve come up with another option. In the tradition of The Toy Society, we’re going to start leaving the toys at playgrounds, parks, and other spots where a toy might come in handy. We decided to wrap the toys in bags marked “Free Toys” so the finders will have no doubt.

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Tomorrow we’ll start the great toy drop. Got any creative locations, where Silver Surfer and SpongeBob might find appreciative new owners? 

Let the Games Begin

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Enough with food, let’s play instead! As our theme moves from meals to games, our daily focus for posts is shifting a little…As of today, this is what we’ve got laid out for February:

Saturdays: Playing Well With Others – interviews/profiles 

Sundays: Setting Intentions

Mondays: Envisioning

Tuesdays: Top Ten Resources

Wednesdays: Book Reviews

Thursdays: Play With Your Food

Fridays: Homemade Games and Toys 

Let me know if you have any requests, for any of the categories!

Guest Post: Emily’s Doctored-Up Dal

My dear sister sent me the first FLIP guest post for 2013, after regaling me with her description of da’ best meal she’s cooked in a long time. Thank you Emily – I look forward to cooking these combos with you soon! 
(Photo credits: All larger scale photos are by Elise and Isabel. Thumbnails of the ingredients are from Amy’s, Natural Lifestyle, amazon, Yves Veggie Cuisine, and Bite of the Best.)
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I love to cook, and often spend hours experimenting in the kitchen. But with a full life and lots of interests, sometimes I take the “Doctor-Up” shortcut.
  • Step One: buy extra cans of interesting stuff that you’ve never tried before when it goes on sale at the market (for me, it was Amy’s brand soups and varied beans)
  • Step Two: on a “Doctor-Up” day, take out your cans of “stuff”, maybe scrounge around your spice cabinet, check your freezer and vegetable drawer, and see what goes together
I saw an Indian theme developing with my Amy’s Golden Dal Soup, Amy’s Lentil Soup, garbanzo beans, leftover Dulcet Madras Curry Spice Rub, cucumber, red potatoes, and cabbage.
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The other can of mushroom soup and frozen pierogis went back in the pantry/freezer to be eaten another day when I’m feeling Eastern European inspired.
  • Step Three: open the cans and spices, taste them, and think of what meat and/or vegetables would go well together
  • Step Four: scurry to the store to pick up more veggies/meat/spices that would complement. I’ve been on a kale kick (and it was on sale too), so that went into my cart along with additional Aloo Gobi spices (I felt too lazy to combine 10 spices on my own), some tomato, and broccoli
  • Step Five: mix and taste soups and spices in spoonfuls to decide what to put together
  • Step Six: create some new recipes!
This is what I ended up with.

Potatoes (start these first, prep 8 minutes, bake for 20 minutes then finish cooking them following the instructions for the other vegetables below)

  • Preheat oven to 350. Wash and slice potatoes, toss with olive oil and salt, lay on a cooking sheet, and bake
  • Go do something else for 15-20 minutes, because everything else is easy and takes less time
  • Or you could prepare the Dals right away, but you’re probably going to have some free time at some point waiting for potatoes (good time to set the table, wash dishes, kiss loved ones, read trashy magazines, etc)
Da’ Easy Dal Stew (prep time 8 minutes)
  • 1 can Amy’s Lentil Soup goes in a pan 000502
  • Add 1 can drained garbanzo beans  Garbanzo_Beans_Canned_Lg
  • Add Madras Curry spices to taste 51Hw4JEbKHL._SL500_AA300_
  • Saute a few ounces of fake meat in a separate pan with a bit of olive oil  bprod_ground
  • Add fake meat to stew and simmer on low heat until ready to eat


Da’ Easy Dal (prep time – 8 minutes)

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  • Rinse, destem, and cut kale into bite sized pieces
  • Heat a lil’ bit of olive oil in pan, add kale and saute for 2-5 minutes
  • Add Amy’s Golden Lentil Dal FB_Amy_Lentil_Soup
  • Keep warm until other items are ready.

Veggies and Potatoes (Aloo Gobi is traditionally made using cauliflower and potato, or you could do broccoli instead) (prep time – 12 mins)

  • Heat 1-3 tablespoons oil in the bottom of a pan
  • Add Aloo Gobi spice mix until it foams51P9XwAKYpL._SL500_AA300_
  • Add the sliced and pre-baked red potatoes and fry slightly on each side then remove and return to oven (finish cooking in oven, maybe put oven to broil in last few minutes)
  • Add rinsed and cut up cauliflower (I used broccoli) to pan with remaining oil and spices, stir so that it is evenly coated, add water to pan to steam cauliflower and keep from sticking to pan.
  • Add additional veggies (onion, tomato, peas, ….) if you want 
  • I usually use medium to high heat to start, but then turn the heat down if I’m feeling rushed or if my items seem to need some slower cooking to get fully cooked and not burnt around the edges.
Cut up cucumber, tomato, cabbage to eat raw with the warm dishes.
Warm whole grain tortillas and/or lavash bread to wrap up your fillings. Keep warming the lavash bread, and you can toast it like a cracker for dipping instead. Spoon the yummy creations into fun dishes, take to the table, wrangle the family and/or friends into the room, and enjoy!
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Emily Roth rocks her day job, negotiating complex legal documents for commercial real estate ventures, and then kicks it into high gear during her off time. You’ll find her somewhere in the Portland metro-area, paddling dragon boats, critiquing questionable dance performances, meditating in the Chinese gardens, and doctoring up dal for her sweetheart. 
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Isabel is a part-time food stylist, full-time artist. Largely self-taught, her oeuvre ranges from the pedestrian to the sublime. Her current work, on display by her bunk bed, is an exploration of unexpected juxtapositions of organic and “man-made” materials.