12 August 2007



"We've spoken with a health-care specialist who believes that the intensity of your research efforts is unhealthy."

OK, so Sharkrunners has issued me with a health warning, and I was up until 3am last night scrabbing in Facebook with Australians. In my defence, I was deliberately staying up late to get a good view of the Perseids meteor shower. And, anyway, neither Sharkrunners nor Facebook Scrabble can be played with any real intensity. In Scrabble, you're kept in check by the turn-taking (why do all of my opponents take so bloody long to make a move?) and in Sharkrunners you're waiting to be alerted to an encounter. According to area/code, the developers of Sharkrunners, ships in the game move in real-time towards sharks that are representations of real-world white sharks with GPS units attached to their fins.

So it's intermittent play and in that sense reminds me of Twitchr, Matt's mobile play prototype. In Twitchr, digital birds visit your mobile phone and you have a short, intense moment in which to snap them. I like these playful interruptions.

In other (non)news, I also like Wii bowling. Because I win.


No chance of overplaying that one, my arms couldn't take it.

Posted at 05:09 PM in Games, Nonsense, Play, Presence, Slowness, Social software, Toys | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

08 September 2006

Brain trained


But for how long?

It took me about three weeks playing every second day or so (and a fresh-air break in Aberdeen) to get my brain age down to 20. I haven't dared take the test since. Dr Kawashima would not approve.

Posted at 11:41 AM in Games, Learning, Nonsense | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

01 January 2005

Twinking and grinding in KOL

Dan Hunter recently wrote about Kingdom of Loathing on Terra Nova, noting that more humour is required in MMORPGs ("It's odd how even boring grinds become tolerable when there is a warped sense of humor behind the design") and wondering if/why there's a higher than usual level of twinking going on in KOL.

I think these two points are related. Kingdom of Loathing is much more about narrative than competitive game-play. If your turns are no more to you than grinding, you're missing the point. The humour isn't there to make the grinds tolerable, the grinds are there to out the humour. There is nothing else. The game is all about enjoying the details of each turn. And given that Kingdom of Loathing isn't so goal driven, there is a lot of twinking going on. Sometimes you'll gift someone some equipment or food just because the absurdity of the item delights you and you want to share that. The same goes for buffs. It's not so much about helping a character advance but even if it was, you're not really in competition with each other, so there's no harm done.

Plus, when the in-game currency is meat it's just too tempting to give meat trays away in trivia nights (see the newbie chat channel).

Sorry for the outburst of jargon.

Grinding: Term used to describe repetitive tasks in order to level up. Generally used in crafting items, but can also be used for running repeated combat missions to gain experience in a short period of time. Usually used in a negative connotation.

Twinking: The act of giving powerful equipment to lower level characters who could not have obtained the equipment at their current level of advancement.

Definitions from this MMORPG Glossary

Posted at 02:16 PM in Games, Nonsense | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Waiting for the naughty sorceress


So it's time to confess that I've sunk more time into the stick-figure populated virtual world, The Kingdom of Loathing, than I'm comfortable with, fighting its legion of anime smileys, spam witches, XXX pr0ns and flaming trolls. I initially checked in because it was a free RPG and I needed to reacquaint myself with the genre. Since then I've played 6955 turns (*gulp*); purchased a Mr Accessory; collected a full set of tattoos, familiars and skills; and completed all of the quests currently available. Exactly a month ago, I reached the end limit of the world, at the Lair of the Naughty Sorceress:

The details of the final confrontation with the Sorceress are still being hammered out.

It won't be too long...

-Love, Jick and Mr. Skullhead

You'd think that would have been closure enough... but I was still only an Apprentice Accordion Thief, so I spent a month grinding; eating, drinking and working out in my clan gym to build my moxie. Shameful, really.

I don't think I'm alone in this strange addiction to KOL. Its charms were well described by maisonneuve:

It’s so hilarious that you forget that the gameplay consists of clicking the attack button for forty adventures a day. See, that’s the neatest trick of all: at first I thought Kingdom of Loathing was making a brilliant mockery of the RPG form. And it is. But in playing this particular game, I’ve come to a first-time-in-my-life understanding (dare I say a genuine affection?) of role play.

For those of you who haven't played yet, here's a tasty sample of the daily adventures:

You're fighting an Anime Smiley This innocent combination of Shift+6 and the underscore has somehow mutated into a freakish grinning face. It gets the jump on you.

omg it zerg rushes j00 but j00 pwnz0r it lol.

You're fighting a Spam Witch

You look into this seductive creature's eyes and feel as if she can make your sword longer, your bank account bigger, your waist smaller, and show you the secret habits of barnyard animals. You fight to resist her charms . . .

You're fighting a MagiMechTech MechaMech

This is a big robot that's powered by a sinister blend of magic and technology. Since sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, though, you're not sure in what proportion.

It gets the jump on you...

Delightful moments of nonsense pervade every aspect of this game. I especially enjoyed its saucy ladies:

Aug_1 Arenamaster Goblingirl

Anyway, the day after Christmas, I'd finally done it. I was a level 15 Accordion Thief and could retire from the game with a sense of great satisfaction. But there was a Crimbo stocking waiting for me, with eggnog and candy cane and a gingerbread bugbear, and a small Crimbo pressie to open... And there I was, diving in once again.

There's nothing for it but to stay in the game, waiting for the naughty sorceress.

See also: Chillin' and Loathin' at Coldfront, the official Kingdom of Loathing fansite.

Update: I just found this fascinating LiveJournal discussion about what other players are doing while waiting for the naughty sorceress, e.g. ''I'm trying to make my 3rd million and spend my time farming and sending random stuff to newbies', 'currently collecting ratguts because I am a nerd', 'games channel and philanthropy', 'make a new character and start all over', 'get really really really drunk'...

Posted at 01:57 PM in Games, Nonsense | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

14 July 2004

Magic words

The anonymous verses that are passed down from one child to another often seem trivial if not irrational, but some of them are full of meaning. They are more than just a kind of primitive art: they are also primitive magic. Children are ritualists; they believe in the power of certain gestures and words. Oaths and promises are binding: charms influence events; counting-out rhymes call upon the powers of fate. Even the simplest verse can have an almost magical effect. The child who is taunted with the rhyme "April fool's gone past / You're the biggest fool at last" may - as I know from experience - feel contaminated with stupidity until he or she has shouted back the magical counterspell: "Sticks and stones / May break my bones / But words will never hurt me."

From 'Poetry by and for Children' in Boys and Girls Forever: Children's Classics from Cinderella to Harry Potter

Posted at 08:04 AM in Children and teens, Naming, Nonsense | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

13 July 2004


"Bee's knees" is actually one of a set of nonsense catchphrases from 1920s America, the period of the flappers. You might at that time have heard such curious concoctions as "cat's miaow", "elephant's adenoids", "tiger's spots", "bullfrog's beard", "elephant's instep", "caterpillar's kimono", "turtle's neck", "duck's quack", "gnat's elbows", "monkey's eyebrows", "oyster's earrings", "snake's hips", "kipper's knickers", "elephant's manicure", "clam's garter", "eel's ankle", "leopard's stripes", "tadpole's teddies", "sardine's whiskers", "pig's wings", "bullfrog's beard", "canary's tusks", "cuckoo's chin" and "butterfly's book".

Their only common feature was the comparison of something of excellent quality to a part of an animal with, if possible, a bit of alliteration thrown in.

From a series on myths about language, in The Telegraph.

Posted at 03:54 PM in Nonsense | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Elimination Dance

An elimination dance begins with a crowded dance floor. At a signal, the band stops playing and the announcer reads an elimination, say, "Those who are allergic to the sea." Any dancer answering this description must sit down, and their partner is also disqualified. The process continues (e.g. "Gentlemen who have placed a microphone beside a naked woman's stomach after lunch and later, after slowing down the sound considerably, have sold these noises on the open market as whale songs") until a single couple remains.

Watch the short film, made in collaboration with Michael Ondaatje, who wrote the original poem of the same title.

"It is a serious game. It is the dance of life."


Posted at 01:29 PM in Nonsense | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

17 June 2004

New game of human life


The New Game of Human Life encouraged young players to develop proper moral character, learning the exigencies of the seven stages of life, from “Infancy” to “Dotage,” while navigating the paths of vice and virtue. Players advance or forfeit according to the moral nature of the character represented in the square they land on. “The Assiduous Youth” or “Benevolent Man,” for instance, allowed players to advance, while the “Drunkard” or “Negligent Boy” forced players to lose a turn or to move backward. The game illustrates late-eighteenth century social values assigned to various careers. Landing on “The Romance Writer,” for instance, sends the player back to “The Mischievous Boy.” Similarly, the “Dramatist” forces the player to begin the game again. A warning from the manufacturer of the game points out the dangers of introducing dice into the family home and recommends the use of a spinning top called a totum or teetotum rather than a game piece so closely associated with gambling and vice.

From Cornell University's Rare and Manuscript Collection exhibition, Pastimes and Paradigms: Games we Play

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09 November 2003

I hadn't done a quiz in ages until...

what kind of social software are you?

Go on, you know you want to.

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07 September 2003

Lost correspondence

Do not suppose that I didn't write, hundreds of times: the difficulty has been with the directing. I directed the letters so violently at first that they went far beyond the mark - some of them were picked up at the other end of Russia. Last week I made a very near shot, and actually succeeded in putting 'Earls Terrace, Kensington,' only I over-did the number, and put 12,000, instead of 12. If you inquire for the letter at No. 12,000, I dare say they'll give it you. After that I fell into a feeble state of health, and directed the letters so gently that one of them only reached the other side of the room. It's lying by the side of the window now.

Lewis Carroll, in The Book of Nonsense

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