Friday, September 7, 2012

TED Talk Response: Tom's Take On Gaming

Today's TED response comes from a wonderful blogger and writer. If you don't know and follow Tom Frankin, then what are you waiting for? I love that when he posts on his blog, he does so because he has something authentic and relevant to share. His post last week on the importance of honest reviews was especially compelling. Check it out, give the guy a follow, and then come back and see what Tom has to say about Jane McGonigal's TED talk on the importance of gaming.

Take it away, Tom! 

"The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play."
Theodore Sturgeon, from "Shore Leave(Star Trek S1E16) 
[as spoken by Captain James T. Kirk]

I love playing board games. My first games were simple roll and move games like King of the Hill and The Winnie the Pooh Game, and Trouble ("Popamatic pops the dice/pop a six and you move twice!") where you roll a die or pick a card and move where the die/card tells you to move.  

Around the age of nine puzzles started to fascinate me and games with puzzle-like elements became my favorites: Scan, and Score Four are games I still have in my collection. 

 Games were this awkward kid's way of interacting with friends and adults.  

I liked the idea of going one-on-one with them on a neutral playing field in a setting where athleticism was irrelevant and brain power was everything. 

 I was about ten when I saw the first Pong game.  (For those of you too young to know what Pong was, that simple blip being bounced back and forth between two moving lines was the first bit of pixellated gaming to crawl out of the primordial videogame ooze.)  

In my early twenties I was feeding quarters into DigDug, Defender, and Tempest machines.  But those were pixels, not pieces; consoles, not communication.

"Monopoly, Twenty-one, Checkers, and Chess (Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)

....Let's play Twister, let's play Risk (Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)"
 REM "Man on the Moon" (on "Automatic for the People")

I like video games -- don't get me wrong.  I just don't get the same mental workout from a video game that I tend to get from a board game.  I also don't get the same level of contact with other people through playing a video game. 

 For Jane McGonigal, gaming was a vital part of her healing process.  By creating her own game she turned a crippling situation into a challenge.  By getting her twin sister to play along, she expanded the game and started building a community around it. And that, to me, is the biggest difference between video gaming and board gaming.  Solitare games are fine, but to be truly meaningful, I think games need to bring people together, not keep them separate. 

 So, without further ado, here is: 
Tom's Highly Biased List of Gaming Axioms (with Examples)

Gaming Should Be Social.  A good game is where you can sit down and explore new situations and experiences with friends and family.  You can learn about each other and yourself as you compete with one another.   Try Settlers of Catan, Ingenius, or Agricola.

Games Should Level the Playing Field.  If you're an adult, try playing Gulo Gulo with your kids (their smaller fingers will give them a distinct advantage).  Heck, even Go has a centuries-old handicapping system that allows newer players to be competitive with more experienced players. 

Games Don't Have to be Expensive.  BoardGameGeek, my favorite site about games, has a wonderful list of Print and Play games that are not only good games, but beautifully done.  Cheapass Games allows you to print out their games for free, although donations are welcomed. 

Games Don't Have to Take All Day to Play.  Hey, That's My Fish! takes 10-15 minutes.  Quarto! takes five. Boardgames Don't Need a Board.  Hive, Zertz, Fjords, Carcassone -- these games have pieces, but don't need a board to be played. Games Don't Have to be Competitive.  There have been some great cooperative games in the past few years.  These are games where you don't play against each other, you work together to defeat the game.  (Pandemic is my favorite, although I've heard good things about Space Alert)

Playing Online Can Be a Great Way to Keep Up With Faraway Friends.  I've been playing Pente online with an old friend for years.  We keep in touch through the comments section on each game. offers a wide selection of games, all with comment sections, too. 

What are your favorite games?  Why do you play them?  What kinds of games do you like to play and why?

Oh, boy, thanks for the walk down memory lane, Tom. Pong was our first computer(?) TV(?) game. And I remember putting quest-type game tapes (actual tapes) into the tape deck attached to our computer. And Atari! Oh, and dungeons and dragons. Do people still play that? They've probably morphed into the online role-playing crowd. :)

My favorite all-time game is rubik's race. But only because I am unbeatable. It's a slide puzzle you play with an opponent. I challenge you to try to beat me. I double-dog-dare you. :)

I can't wait to hear your favorite games and why you like to game. And, feel free to continue to reference Jane's TED talk, in addition to answering Tom's questions. :) Happy Friday, everyone!

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