Tag Archives: play

5 Ways to increase Happiness and Play More

Today is the International day of Happiness!  What better way to celebrate than to play a game with others!

The benefits of play for anyone, especially playing with other people are numerous and well documented.  A quick internet search brings up many articles, such as this and this for example, and there are many more.

I have covered some unplugged games and console games that can be played together in previous blog posts, but how do you actually get time to play all of these games?  If you are anything like me, you already have a fairly busy lifestyle and maybe even though you really want to you don’t think you’ll ever have time for playing, not least finding other people to play with.

In this case, below is a list of things that I have tried and you can try too, to increase your play time and improve your life!  The list is not exhaustive, so any ideas you have are very welcome, just leave a comment 🙂

1. Play Time starts at home

If you live with others, try to start a regular game night every week (or more than one if you’re keen, I play almost every day!).  Setting a regular night will help encourage people to play more.  Take turns in deciding what to play, to ensure everyone is more engaged in the activity.  As well as increasing the level of fun in the household, playing with the people you live with also helps you bond and can improve everything about your day-to-day home life.

2. Replace wasteful habits with playful ones

A lot of people spend a lot of time on wasteful habits these days, such as binge-watching TV series and spending too long checking social media, etc on mobile phones.  While these things in moderation are fine and provide people a way to disconnect, it is very easy to spend too much time and end up regretting the time wasted.  Instead of crashing on the sofa with your other half and watching another 10 episodes of the Walking Dead, why not start your evening relaxation with a game or two?  Or try turning off your phone for half an hour for a game of snakes and ladders with the kids! After the gaming session you can still see an episode or two, or check Facebook again, but you will feel that you have used your relaxation time overall in a more fulfilling way.

3. Tell people about it

This one may seem obvious, but if you want to increase the amount of play in your life, tell other people that you like playing games!  I tried using this tactic more from the start of this year (partly by starting the blog you are reading now!) and just because more people know I’m into games, I find myself playing more, either by others inviting me to play games or as an icebreaker to lead to an invite for them to play one of my games.

This is possibly one of the most important things you can do as a gamer, as there are more other people out there who like games than you think , but just don’t like to talk about it, as it may not be cool, or may be considered childish.  I disagree of course, gaming is for everyone!

4. Gaming in the workplace? Surely not!

A couple of weeks ago I set myself a challenge – try to play games in my office.  It took quite a lot of time for me to build up the courage, but I did it!  The most difficult part of this is making that initial suggestion.  I sent an email around my department, suggesting we play a game on a Friday lunchtime.  I was hopeful, but realistically thought that no-one would be interested.  In the end the response was overwhelming, with more than half of the people in the department being up for it!  This goes along with my point 3 above, if you don’t tell anybody you want to play, you won’t play!

So far we have had one lunchtime gaming session, we played Jungle Speed, which is a great short game for a lunch break.  My longer term goals are to try and get a more regular fortnightly gaming session, or possibly open up the invitation to the whole building!  That may take a while, need to build up more confidence..

5. Find other gamers

So, you realise you are into games, and want to find others as into it as you?  Well, surprise surprise, there are hundreds like you!  The best way to find others with similar interests to you these days is through the internet, of course.  When searching, make sure you try to find people that live near you, so you can meet and game in person, and for safety try to find gaming groups rather than individuals.  There are gaming groups all over the place, who are all generally friendly and welcoming to newbies and probably have regular meet-ups where you can join in.  My home city even has a board gaming café pop-up that runs once a month and is open to everyone, and an annual board gaming festival, which I went to last year with my family and was great!  In fact, a lot of the games I featured in this post were first played there.

New Zelda Excitement!

Just thought I’d write a quick post about one of my favourite game series, which seems to be lesser known by non-gamers – The Legend of Zelda!

There is a new Zelda game coming out tomorrow, for the new Nintendo Switch console (also out tomorrow), but the game is also out for the Wii U.  More on those consoles here!  it is called Breath of the Wild, and reviews so far are already calling it probably the best game ever made.  This is not a light statement to make, especially for gamers, who prize their own personal top ten games over anyone else’s, but among gamers the Zelda series is one which is much more than others on or near the top of most of their best games ever lists.

breath-of-the-wild

The Zelda games are kind of their own genre.  They are mostly role playing, more or less open world, action adventure games, starring the hero Link (Zelda is the princess that Link has to rescue).  They have been around for as long as Nintendo have been making consoles, with the first one being released on the NES.  Although they are not quite as well known as Mario, they are one of Nintendo’s biggest game series, with at least one Zelda game released on each hand-held or home console (more or less..).

links-awakening
Zelda: Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy

 

The first Zelda game I played was Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy.  Even with its basic black and green graphics, the game still had the ability to immerse me in the fantasy world that it created and got me hooked for the series.  Since then I have played several other Zelda games and loved each and every one of them.

As for playing together, even though the games are single player, in the same way as watching a movie together, the Zelda games can absolutely be enjoyed with others.  I have played through at least half of the games with my wife, and that has only increased my enjoyment and given us an amazing shared experience.  With this new game I am extremely tempted to coordinate time off work with her so that we can spend a whole day immersed in the land of Hyrule together with no other distractions.

zelda-ocarina-of-time
Zelda: Ocarina of Time

 

Now I have kids, I have, of course introduced them to the series.  We are currently playing through the widely regarded best of all, the Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. We are currently on the water temple, and fans of the game will know that we may be there some time..  it is great to see them as excited as I was for this game when playing it for the first time.  Just about as excited as I am for this new game – The Breath of the Wild!

So here is a picture of my boy as excited as me!:

zelda-im-ready-2

Nintendo: The Masters of Playing Games Together (part 2)

nintendo-console-games-collage
Just a few amazing multiplayer games from the Wii U. CW from top left: Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Splatoon and Rayman Legends

So, I wrote about the early days of Nintendo consoles in a previous blog post (check it out if you haven’t already), and here is the second part, looking at the most recent consoles and their very newest one, soon to be released – the Nintendo Switch.

Wii

wii-console

Nintendo is really the best console maker if you are looking for something to be able to play with others in the same living room. One console that absolutely mastered that aspect, so much that it ended up in almost every living room in the late noughties, was the Wii.

When this console released back in 2006, it caused a bit of a gaming revolution (coincidentally, this was the console’s codename before release..).  It wasn’t the most powerful console graphics-wise, but it had a  completely new way of playing: motion controls.  Rather than trying to compete with the other main consoles of the time, PS3 and Xbox 360, Nintendo deliberately tried to market the game to absolutely everyone, in an attempt to increase the number of people playing games in the world rather than pleasing existing gamers – kind of what I’m trying to do with this blog!  This approach, coupled with the super casual-friendly game Wii Sports coming free with the console was extremely successful, and the console has sold over 100 million in its lifetime.

For me, the Wii was the first console I owned as a married man (so, co-owned with the wife..).  It was great to play with friends and portable enough to bring to family gatherings for Christmas Wii bowling tournaments. It continued the multiplayer racing excellence with the best Mario Kart ever (at the time), and it did have several other excellent games.

One of the best games on the console, and my personal favourite game of all time, was Mario Galaxy, and its sequel. This used the Wii remote controllers in an ingenious way and introduced asynchronous co-op multiplayer, definitely a mouthful, but a great way to play together! In this case one player controlled Mario, while the other used the Wii remote pointer to help by collecting power-ups, stopping baddies, etc. This was a great way to play for my wife and I, she was generally the helper as she wasn’t so good at the platforming, while I would never have 100% completed the games without playing together with her. I would say that this kind of gaming style is ideal for the type of couples I see where one is really into gaming and the other not (this does not apply to my wife, she loves games too!).

Wii U

wii-u-console

Then we come to Nintendo’s current console, well, for the next week anyway, the Wii U. Unfortunately, due to poor marketing (and naming) from Nintendo, people still believe that this is just a Wii with a new controller. It isn’t! It’s a new generation, the first HD console from Ninty. It came out in 2012 and unfortunately due to the above poor marketing it did not sell nearly as well as its predecessor. It is a really good console though, almost on par with the Wii, and now would be a great time to buy it, since it will probably be going cheap when the next generation comes out, and there is a good selection of games (also cheap now).

The games in the main image are some of the best the Wii U has to offer, and they are all up to Nintendo’s usual very high multiplayer standard. Again, Mario Kart 8 is the best Mario Kart, Super Mario 3D World, while not quite up to Mario Galaxy’s standard, is probably the best multiplayer Mario game. Splatoon is Nintendo’s take on an online shooter, and is fantastic paint splatting fun, and finally in that picture there is Rayman, not made by Nintendo but a superbly designed same-room multiplayer platform game nonetheless.

For me, this console generation followed the creation of my own generation, and was the first console we got after having kids. This is a great console to play with kids, as its any Nintendo console. We have had a lot of fun with our children playing Mario, Pikmin, Toad, Donkey Kong, Rayman etc. together, and I can see us still using this console all through this year.

Switch

Nintendo Switch Console
Another weird console from the big N

So, what about Nintendo’s future? Well, on the 3rd of March 2017 they’ll release their next console, the Switch. As you can see from the image, they still don’t care about looking like the others and have gone for another strange design. The main feature of this console is that it works on the TV and as a handheld. You can switch between the two modes as easily as removing the tablet-like console from the main unit (hence the name).

Ninty have again prioritised playing together with this offering, as the included ‘joy-con’ controllers (red and blue above) can be separated and used as two controllers out of the box. Also, if you are lucky enough to have 7 other friends who also have the console (unlikely..) they can be connected in a local network for up to 8 player multiplayer!

Nintendo Switch console in handheld mode
The console in handheld mode

Games-wise, this is looking good, but not from launch. I would recommend waiting until later in the year, maybe Christmas for this one, by which time there will be a very decent selection. At launch they will have the Wii sports equivalent minigame packed 1-2-Switch, the latest Just Dance and the amazing looking Zelda game, Breath of the Wild though, so it is quite tempting..

I can’t predict the future, but I really hope that this is a success for Nintendo. The reason I like them so much is that their attitude to gaming seems to be the same as mine – it’s better to play together – and I would live to see this kind of gameplay increasing in the world.

Nintendo: The Masters of Playing Games Together (part 1)

In previous blog posts I’ve mainly been talking about ‘unplugged’ games, i.e. board games or card games. My main gaming love is still playing on a games console however. There is something about them that just hits that enjoyment sweet spot for me, and no matter how much I get into other kinds of games I don’t think I’ll ever like them more than video games.

There are obviously many games to choose from when it comes to consoles, but I want to focus on my experiences of playing together with other people, i.e. in the same room, rather than single player or online multiplayer.

nintendo-retro-console-games-collage
Some classic Nintendo console games. cw from top left: Mario Kart (SNES), Super Mario Bros (NES), Tetris (Game Boy) and Goldeneye (N64)

If you ask any video gamer who is the best at same-room multiplayer games, the answer has to be Nintendo. With the increase of mobile phone/tablet gaming, and online gaming, playing together with family or friends is decreasing in general. Nintendo however are still, and always have been, the greatest supporters of this style of play, so let me indulge in a bit of nostalgia, and make the rest of this blog post about them.

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

nes-console

Even Nintendo’s first console, the NES, was known as the Famicom in Japan, short for family computer, and came with two controllers in every pack, showing that they always had family gaming in mind. I never owned or played this one myself when it was first out, but it did revolutionise console gaming, as this detailed Wikipedia article explains.  The first games of classic franchises, such as Mario Bros and Zelda were on this console, and the games they made then (over 30 years ago) are still very playable and enjoyable today. This has recently been proven by last year’s release of the NES Classic Mini, which is a mini replica of the original with 30 of its best games included. This has been extremely popular, and sold out really quickly after launch. I had a chance to play one around Christmas time, and a short try to show the kids quickly turned into a couple of hours of taking turns and just having ‘one more go’, the classic hook of a well designed game.

Game Boy

game-boy-consoleMy personal first experience of Nintendo was with the Game Boy. I didn’t want one at the time, I thought I wanted the rival, the Sega Game Gear. It had colour graphics, while the Game Boy was only black and white (well, technically black and green..). I soon realised though that graphics were not the main reason to play a game, playability was.

Being a single player handheld console, you may think that this is a strange choice for me to show examples of playing together. Just a simple game like Tetris however kept my siblings and I (even my mum) entertained for hours, trying to beat each other’s high scores.  Then there was Super Mario Land, which introduced the “level or life about” style of play in our house, as it was much more fun to experience the game together.  Nintendo also tried to promote multiplayer even with this console, with a “link cable” that you could use to attach two Game Boys together and play (among other things) a Tetris battle!

Super Nintendo (SNES)

snes-consoleWhile I never owned a SNES myself, some of my best childhood gaming memories come from playing this console. The main reason was Mario Kart, which had its first outing on the SNES. This was a revolution at the time, the playability and fun-factor was spot on, as well as the futuristic (at the time) quasi-3D graphics. It is considered by many to be one of the best games of all time.

The main fun to be had from this game was playing together with others in split-screen mode. There was the normal racing mode, but arguably more fun was the battle mode, where you had to burst balloons tired to your opponents’ by throwing green (or better, red) shells at them.

I remember playing this with my friends a lot, when I must have been 11 or 12. In particular, there was one sleepover where a group of about 5 of us played non stop, literally until the sun came up. Definitely one of my best gaming memories, and it cemented my lifetime love of Nintendo games.

Nintendo 64

nintendo-64Another console that holds many multiplayer memories for me is the N64. This console added to the possibilities by allowing up to four players at the same time!

This was about during my last years of school, so many an afternoon with free period was spent either having a four way Mario Kart battle, or better, a four way deathmatch on Goldeneye! You can keep your calls of duty and your battlefields, Goldeneye was so much more fun as you had to play together in the same room, and even if you have audio chat over the internet, the atmosphere and shared experiences this creates is so much better (especially in Golden Gun mode!)

Nintendo did have other consoles that I haven’t featured here, such as further iterations on the Game Boy: Colour, Mini, Advance, and later the extremely popular DS handheld.  Of course the GameCube home console shouldn’t go without a mention. I could go on forever about how great all of these are, but since I don’t want to bore you (more than you already are) I’ll stop there.

In the next part of this Nintendo themed blog, I’ll continue with the more modern consoles, the Wii and Wii U, and look to the near future with the soon to be released new console – the Switch! Stay tuned for that!

A wee Friday poem

I’ve had quite enough with all the misery and hate today, 

I wanna have fun, cos it really feels great to play!

Instead of stressing and depressing at the state of the world and stuff, 

Change it from the inside, you really are strong enough!

Play a game with your enemies, even leaders of nations,

Because what you find out May Trump your expectations,

That we’re all humans and we’re all stuck here on this rock together,

And we must have more fun and play, because this life is not forever.
Well, that’s what I think anyway.

Tabletop Games – Think you’ve seen them all?

The games Sushi Go!, Latice and Ghost Blitz
A few recently released tabletop games

Before starting my foray into non-computer gaming, I have to admit that I thought the same as most may about board/card games (collectively known as tabletop games); that they are out dated, a dying pastime and any recently made games are either cheap rubbish or overly complicated affairs, only played by super nerds*. (*I have to point out here that I consider myself a super nerd too, just with video games, so in no way I intend this term to be insulting)  Sure, I had fun with them when I was younger, but all of the good games have already been made, there can’t be any original ideas left.

But I was wrong! Over the last year or so, I have discovered that there are still great new games being made that are original and really good fun to play. To illustrate, here are three examples of great new accessible games that I have tried and can be played and enjoyed by people of any age:

Ghost Blitz

Pieces of the Ghost Blitz game: a pack of special cards and five wooden objects
The answer on the left is the ghost, and on the right is the bottle..

Released in 2010, this is a deceptively simple card game needing quick brain power and quick reactions.  It really is for any age, my four year old often beats my mother at this one!

The game comes with five wooden objects: a white ghost, a red chair, a grey mouse, etc. and a pack of cards with pictures of these objects.  For each card, one of the objects is the answer, and the player to work out the answer and grab the correct object wins the card.  if the card has a picture of an object with the same colour as the real wooden version, then that object is the answer. The tricky part comes when the card does not have the correct colour for anything.  In this case, the answer is the object that is NOT on the card and does NOT have any colour of any object on the card.

It takes a short time of playing to get your brain used to the game, but when you do it is seriously addictive!  It can cause so many moments of unsure hesitation, followed by ‘Aha!’ and then a frantic grab for the correct item. Or, if you manage to guess the correct answer before others, you can start to doubt yourself as you casually pick up the object while everyone is still thinking, then get such a feeling of relief when everyone else agrees that you were right.

I’d recommend this to anyone as a simple but addictive quick-fire game that can engage a mixture of age groups. The compact size makes it good for playing on the go, or taking along to e.g. family gatherings.

Latice

The board game Latice being played

Yes, I did spell that right.  This game was funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, but it already feels like a classic.  The name was chosen to be spelt differently on purpose to try and make it sound unique (although it is actually the Italian spelling for lattice).

The game comes with a board with a grid marked on it, several tile cards with different tropical themed pictures in different colours, and counters (called ‘sun stones’).  The idea of this one is to get rid of all of your cards, by placing them next to a card on the board that has the same shape or colour.  So far, so dominoes.. With this one though, if you manage to match the colour or shape of two or more sides of the square, you can win an extra turn, which can be used straight away, or kept till later. There are also special wind cards that can be used to ‘blow’ a piece already on the board by one square in order for you to play a better move.

A game of Latice starts slowly, but after there are a few pieces on the board it gets more interesting, as there are more options available and you have to plan your moves.  The best part of the game is using the extra turns to string together a long chain of moves, finishing half of your remaining cards in one turn!  The colour/shape matching is easy enough for young kids to pick up quickly, but there is a lot more strategy needed if playing with only adults, either offensively to rack up chains of moves, or defensively to block other players.  an even higher level of strategy can be used by checking the tiles already played, and therefore working out what is left.

So, this is on the surface a simple game, but it has a lot of hidden depths if you want them!

Sushi Go!

The cute cards of Sushi Go (Spanish version)

 

Have you ever wanted to play a game that simulates a sushi restaurant? Even if not, this is a great fun card game, released in 2013.

The game consists of over 100 specially printed cards, each with super cute pictures of various types of sushi.  The pictures are really very nicely drawn, and the art style and quality of the actual cards is one of the main draws of this game for me. Cards are dealt out to the 2-5 players.  There are three rounds, and the idea of the game is to collect the best scoring meal of sushi in each round.  You do this by selecting one card from your hand to keep, then passing all the other cards round to the next player, as if they are on a Yo Sushi style conveyor belt. Play continues like this until all of the cards are finished and everyone has made their ‘meal’, then points are counted. The different cards score differently, for example, you only score points for sashimi if you have three of those cards, and for maki, only the people with the most and second most in their meal score points.  This brings an element of strategy to the game, as you need to be aware of what cards are available in the round as they pass by you and also keep an eye on which cards other players are keeping in their meals.

Although the game may sound slightly complicated, after one round it is easily picked up and each card is printed with reminders of the scoring.  This really is another fun game that is accessible for children, but also holds enough complexities to keep adults interested too.

 

So, there were just a few examples of great, new, easy to pick up and fun games that are out there now.  I really am only scratching the surface though, and there are countless games like these for all skill and age levels released every year.  Off the top of my head, aside from the above three, I can also strongly recommend checking out Dixit, Forbidden Island, Super Rhino or Spooky Stairs (more for a younger audience).  If your excuse for not playing tabletop games is that they are old and boring, get out there and try one of these new titles now, you won’t regret it!

UNO! – Let’s Start With a Classic

UNO cards set out as in a standard game
UNO – An all time classic card game

Who hasn’t played UNO at some point in their lives? The fast moving colour/number matching card game that is almost as widely known as regular playing cards. This has to be near the top of the list of great games to play together with other people!

According to Wikipedia, UNO was invented in 1971 in Ohio as a slight variation of a similar normal playing card game called Crazy Eights (or Switch, Black Jack, Mau Mau, or whatever you called it..).  What makes it so great and fun to play compared to those though is the brightly coloured deck with easily recognisable symbols and numbers.  It is very easy to learn and understand the rules, making it an ideal first ‘proper’ game to teach children.  By adding complexities such as scoring and rule variations, it has enough tactical depth to keep adults entertained too.

I have many fond memories of playing this with my siblings and friends when I was younger. I still remember that great feeling of excitement when I got dealt the prized black ‘pick up four’ card (let’s be honest, I still get that feeling). Even better to get a chain of pick up fours, so some poor soul would have to have so many cards he or she couldn’t hold them!

Variations

UNO Power cards and 'Totems'
UNO Power Grab – One of the better variations

Over the years, the makers of UNO have tried to sell more by releasing their own variations on the classic. A lot of them can be found on this site, including robot UNO, a version that involves a set of weighing scales, and even one that can be played underwater!  Most of these are fairly rubbish gimmicks though, involving annoying big plastic mechanisms that do not add anything of value to the core game.  In saying that, we did get one of them for Christmas: UNO Power Grab (or Totem Power! in the rest of Europe). This adds ‘power totems’ to the game, which if you hold make you immune to certain attacks such as +2, +4, etc. This is not too bad to play and does give an interesting little twist to the tactics, worth a try if you see a set around. It still doesn’t beat the original though, that has been going strong for over 40 years.

I have, of course, taught the original game to my own children, and it has come with us on almost every family holiday. It is a perfect game for holidays, compact enough to fit in any bag.  I have also seen the educational benefits, it helps the kids learn colours, numbers, taking turns, etc., and (more importantly to me) it is a fantastic ‘gateway’ game that opens the door to so many more games and so much gaming enjoyment in the future!  In fact, all this writing about it has put me in the mood for a game right now! How about you?

selection of games

Join me on my gaming journey!

Hello everyone! I’m Tom.

I love playing games.  As far back as I can remember I have always loved playing games.  If you asked me at any moment what I am thinking, there is a very strong chance that it is about the last game I played, or a game that I plan to play in the future.

Although I am up for playing any type of game, as wide as that definition could be, my main interest is in computer games.  I have spent countless hours on mainly single player adventure and platform games, and as many other genres that I have had time for.

I have mainly gravitated towards single player games due to my general shyness and low confidence in speaking to others, but as I have grown older and have started to overcome this I have come to realise that while these types of games are fun, true game playing joy can only be had when playing together with other humans.  I also have young children who are now reaching an age where they can join in, and watching them play, or indeed playing with them is like tapping in to a source of the pure beauty of human life for me.

Since this recent realisation, I have started a new gaming journey, discovering with my family and friends new games to play together and also rediscovering the fun that can still be had with older classics.  This has expanded my gaming horizons to a refreshed desire to play physical tabletop games along with my favourite console titles.

So, that long winded introduction finally brings me to the reason that I have started this blog!  I want to share my experiences along this gaming journey with the world, in the hope that it will inspire you to play more with your family and friends.  I strongly believe that there are great benefits for everyone around the world, no matter what age, in playing games with other people.

I hope you enjoy it and it inspires you to have more fun in your life!