Monthly Archives: March 2012

Last weekend I went home and decided to clean out my old toy chest (anything to procrastinate me from studying! haha). As I was looking through my old toys, I came across a Rubik’s Cube. I started remembering how obsessed I was with it and how I used to get so frustrated with it and how when I would get 2 sides I thought I was the coolest and raddest kid in town. The feeling of accomplishing two of the six sides motivated me to continue on and solve the whole puzzle. I’ll never forget the day I finally got it. I was sitting in my room just playing around with it and then when I got, I jumped up with the greatest excitement and ran around my house yelling ‘I GOT IT! I GOT! I SOLVED THE RUBIK’S CUBE!! MOM! DAD! LOOK LOOK!!!” I even took it to school the next day to show everyone! I remember feeling like nothing could beat this moment and that anything was possible, which especially to a young child is an amazing feeling to have. Then, I started thinking how was the Rubik’s Cube created? And what made it so addicting and popular?! 

The Rubik’s Cube is the most popular puzzle in history. There is only one right answer and a million wrong ones. Erno Rubik, the creator of the cube, said, “”It was wonderful, to see how, after only a few turns, the colors became mixed, apparently in random fashion. It was tremendously satisfying to watch this color parade. Like after a nice walk when you have seen many lovely sights you decide to go home, after a while I decided it was time to go home, let us put the cubes back in order. And it was at that moment that I came face to face with the Big Challenge: What is the way home?” This was how the puzzle was invented. He realized the difficulty of realigning the colors and it took him a month to finally figure out the puzzle. This became a huge success. Erno Rubik became the first self-made millionaire from the communist block. Cube fans were called Cubic Rubes, and they formed clubs to play and study solutions. Competitions arose from it and today some people can solve the cube in about 24 to 28 moves. Erno did not only stop at the cube, he later produced the Rubik’s Snake and is now working on computer games. This idea became a phenomenon and the popularity of the game is ever-lasting.

The reasons for its popularity are its iconic factor. It challenges people intellectually and it’s accessible to people from a around the world. People from different backgrounds and cultures are able to play with it and having that universal factor is powerful. Also, some believe that it provides as sense of order and stability in an uncertain world. No matter how long it take you to solve it, or how difficult it is, there is indeed a solution. Erno says that the main reason why 350 million cubes have been sold since 1980 is that, “People like its beauty, simplicity and form. It’s really not a puzzle or a toy. It’s a piece of art.” I agree with this. The colors and simplicity of the architectural design is indeed intriguing and nice to look at. It sort of has the same power as the Cube in Ann Arbor. Another thing to note is that the cube itself is not expensive, and even in times of recession, people can stay occupied and have fun playing with this toy. The Rubik’s Cube also attracts an array of age groups! From 5 year olds to 80 year olds, everyone can play it, which is another factor for its popularity. The game also generates a lot of emotions. From stress, to anger, to frustration to excitement and happiness, it has it all! This game has all the makings of a great game-strategy, competition, emotional factor, worldwide acceptance, and more!




I mentioned in an earlier comment that I found simpler, stripped down games to have more replay value, meaning games like Sudoku, Tetris, and Freecell, and the like.  Because the mechanics of the game are so simplistic and transparent, the game sort of fades to the background.  The competition is more between the players and themselves than it is between the players and the game.  As long as a competitor is interested in pouring himself into all the iterations that game’s rules allow, they can stay extremely involved for a long period of time.  This can mean that the simpler the game is, the better.

To a point.

There’s a line between a game setting small enough boundaries for a player to explore each bit of the area closely and a game leaving so little room for choice that it suffocates.  Tic-tac-toe crosses that line.

After learning the rules [once you get three in a row you win, and no you can’t draw in a picture of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson], there are three major points of development for a tic-tac-toe player.  The first is learning how to draw the game board correctly.  It’s tough to draw 4 straight, even lines when you’re just learning how to write.  Once that moment comes, though, the player is free to have any number of competitions with classmates, parents with senses of humor, and themself at a moment’s notice.  The world seems large.

The second point is when they find out that the corner is a better first move than the center.  This is the high point of a tic-tac-toe player’s career.  At this moment, they find out that they can guarantee a victory with all but two second-move replies, and even then there are two places for the opponent to slip-up on the fourth move and allow a win.  The world seems winnable.

The third point is when they realize that every single game, no matter, is probably going to end up a cat’s game.  Everyone knows the tricks, there’s no joy in beating the people that don’t, and no one really wants to play anymore.  The world seems small and meaningless.
This transition can happen at different rates for different people, but it’s still an inevitable liability.  There is a discrete number of distinct games that can be played.  Taking into account rotations and mirror images of final board positions, there are only 138 possible ways that a game of tic-tac-toe can end.  That is small enough for even a child to grasp and get bored of.

So I’m left wondering where the line is drawn between a game being too simple to matter and simple enough to still be transparent to the players.  Is it 4 X 4 tic tac toe?  Checkers?  Chess?  NBA Jam Tournament Edition?

I’d imagine the line is drawn in different places for different people, but I’d think it’s still there somewhere.  For many people, tic-tac-toe is just the first game to move from one side of it to the other.

Disclaimer: I do not like 4X4 tic tac toe.  It’s a needless expansion of an established concept that almost serves to discredit the original. I didn’t like Tetrisphere either.

With my several million magicka and health point ring, I think I’m going to roam Skyrim as a superman. I’ve yet to explore the majority of Markath, so, first stop: Markath. As I entered the Markath gate market place, I suddenly hear a battleroar “For the Forsworn” and see a man stab a women in the back. Looks like it’s time for Twice-Vehk, the I of the tower-circle! As I raised my hand, a streak of lightning sheared through the criminal’s skull and his corpse bounced off a nearby wall. As the Forsworn’s body tumbled lifelessly around and the adrenaline subsided, I began to hear the screams in the background. Immediately, I am accosted by the guards for murder. “But- But- But-” I stammer, as they began hauling me away.

Because I was roleplaying as some sort of good superhero, I did not resist the guards. I’m a good guy, right? Yeah sure, why not. But was what I did really right? I was following a natural rule of the universe, that if a man kills than he must die. This is what a philosopher called Immanuel Kant would call an example of the Categorical Imperative, that certain circumstances compel certain actions. However, while it seems natural that a man very clearly guilty of murder should recieve the death penalty, his actions do not necessarily compel his exeuction. After all, we have not followed due process. The circumstances of the existence of crime within the confines of a society requires one to deal with crime within the setting of society, and in this case, the guards should have made an example of the Forsworn. Perhaps one of the beheadings the Imperials seem so fond of, but nonetheless, it is not the province of citizens acting as vigilantes to dole out justice as they see fit. It is the place of an impartial society setting another example of law and order, another example of doing-it-by-the-book, because only this will ensure a truly sustainable justice system over civilization-time.

ALMSIVI damn it, this hero stuff is harder than I thought.

I woke up in a prison and was informed that I need to dig for silver. I informed the informer that I am actually a demi-god and that he should probably worship my benevolent Love. He laughed in my face and gave me a pick ax. Excellent. … A few prison shivs later, I found myself face-to-face with the kingpin of local criminal operations, and actual king of the Forsworn. Not wanting to be thrown into solitary confinement, I decided to cooperate with King Madanach, who subsequently tells me to ice a rat if I want to get out of this hell-hole. I sighed and grabbed a shiv.

As I was gruesomely murdering Grisvar the Unlucky and ignoring his whimpering pleads for mercy, I realized that Kant was wagging his finger at me again. Just because I am imprisoned does not mean I am compelled to free myself through the Categorical Imperative. I was thrown into this pit for the rather good reason of being a homoicidal vigiliante, and each gory thrust of my shiv into Grisvar’s abdomen just proved that I am completely unreformed of my psycopathic ways. The circumstances of me being a societal misfit compels society to entrap me and reform me, and society’s right to not have its members murdered on whims overrides my right to freedom. If not because of the utilitarian idea of more people being benefited by my avatar’s incarceration, then the fact that I am undeniably guilty of vigiliantism. This guilt of crime forms a true Kantian Categorical Imperative, and the cirumstances of my avatar being guilty compels my avatar’s incarceration. There is a very good reason why prisons exist, and they do not form a moral dilemma because society’s natural right to living free from violations of the natural rights of its members by criminals is far more important than a single individual or a limited collection of individual’s right to freedom. However, execution is not condoned under Kantian philosophy, that is to say, guilt of homicide compels prolonged removal from society and incarceration satisfies this compulsion far better than execution. Execution of criminals, what my avatar is now twice guilty of of, is an immoral act simply because incarceration is based on removal from society and only on the removal of society, so is always a definitive good. On the other hand, revenge is based on not just removal from society, but the satisfaction of Lex Talionis (that is, an eye for an eye). Any arbitrary number of wrongs don’t make right.

After I was finished with the Unlucky one, I joined the prison break, and Kant started wagging his finger more vigorously at me.

The Dwemer had no interesting technologies to offer anymore, but their ideas still lingered on. A few thousand years back when I served with the Neveraine before the Battle of Red Mountain, I knew a couple of Dwemer. Their technology was really more or less clever magic and the power of their technology came from magic (of course, don’t ever tell one that to their face. Refer to it instead as the Ehlnofey or “Earth Bones”). I hoped to emulate their magic. Enchanting is usually done by disenchanting an item to learn its enchantment and then imbuing another item with the learned enchantment through soul gems. To learn enchanting, I traveled to the College of Winterhold, a center of Magicka learning.

Magicka in Skyrim is a learned skill. To become a master in the schools of magic, the trick is to practice, practice, practice. The idea of working for pleasure that is so commonly distributed throughout video games is a mechanic that is capable of teaching young men or women the most important life lesson of them: hard work pays off. This is similarly true in Skyrim if one wants to be come truly powerful (as we will see), and perfectly matches the grinding tediousness of an aspiring worker practicing problems to become a better problem solver. Furthermore, video games like Skyrim can exercise a player’s frontal cortex control, that is, allow them to make better cognitive mental administrative decisions such as working harder and faster. This is a highly marketable skill for players to learn and this video game acquired skill has direct positive impacts in a player’s life.

I traveled through Winterhold town to the entrance of the College, but was barred by a wizard named Faralda. She demanded that I perform a magical spell to demonstrate my competency with magic before she allowed me in. “Fair enough,” I said, and cast candlelight on her. She nodded in approval and led me through the bridge and past the gates of the college. I immediately sought out the Enchanting instructor, Sergius Turrianus, for enchantments and soul gems. To my dismay, he did not sell enchantments or soul gems, but would offer lessons for an obscene price. I decided to instead buy soul gems from the other teachers and practice on my own .

For whatever reason the vendors have a never ending supply of gold and soul gems that replinish every few days. While I gradually grinded my enchanting to level 100, I realized that Skyrim emulated a perfect capitalist system much like World of Warcraft. And because Skyrim is a perfect capitalist system, it makes the dissection of the proportionality between hard work and reward much clearer. For every enchanted life-drain iron dagger that I made, I recieved some predictable amount of gold and experience. This process of magical learning imperfectly mirrors the process of learning esoteric subjects in real life. For example, for every math problem we do, a higher math score will result due to previous exposure. But what is so comforting about Skyrim’s process of learning is the inevitability of our success, which draws an enormous contrast to taking a math test and accidently making a mistake despite repeated hours of practice. Skyrim’s perfect learning system teaches its players that not only the lesson “practice, practice, practice,” but also the anticipation and wariness of accidental mistakes while working. This highly marketable trait is taught to some teenagers through this video game along with the skill of hard work.

While I practiced enchanting and re-enchanting, gargling potion after potion, I only worked with one item. I called it “The One Ring,” and gives its user several million magicka and health points. when I finally finished it at level 100 enchanting. It seems that hard work does pay off. I think I’m going to be a superhero now.

Many people that I have come into contact with believe that Sudoku is not winnable, well it is. I have solved many Sudoku puzzles over the past couple of years. It’s not that Sudoku seems unwinnable; it may just be that many people do not have the patience to find strategies to solve the puzzles. That used to be me. A couple of years ago I was determined to learn to play Sudoku. Yes, it was hard at first and very time consuming, but I eventually got the hang of it. I actually use it as a stress reliever now that I am in college. When I need to take a break from homework or studying, I pull out on of my Sudoku books and complete a puzzle. I am able to solve most puzzles in under twelve minutes. For anyone interested in Sudoku, I suggest that they do not try to solve a puzzle in one day. I suggest taking it slowly and solving bits of the puzzle over the duration of multiple days, this way they will not become overwhelmed and give up all together.

Sudoku requires no calculation or arithmetic skills. It is essentially a game of placing numbers in squares, using very simple rules of logic and deduction. It can be played by children and adults and the rules are simple to learn. The objective of the game is to fill all the blank squares in a game with the correct numbers. There are three very simple constraints to follow. In a nine by nine square Sudoku game: every row of nine numbers must include all digits one through nine in any order, every column of nine numbers must include all digits one through nine in any order, and every three by three subsection of the nine by nine square must include all digits one through nine. Similarly, smaller Sudoku puzzles, such as the four by four puzzles, must have the numerals one through four in each row, column and subsection.

Every Sudoku games begin with a number of squares already filled in, and the difficulty of each game is largely a function of how many squares are filled in. The more squares that are known, the easier it is to figure out which numbers go in the open squares. As you fill in squares correctly, options for the remaining squares are narrowed and it becomes easier to fill them in. The Sudoku games on let you check your progress as you go, to help prevent going down a wrong path.

From playing Sudoku many times I have learned a few strategies to help me solve the puzzle. First scan the rows and columns to see where a certain number might go, given the three constraints listed above. For example, the fact that a seven is required in the top right corner can be determined by first analyzing its nine square sub-regions. The only numbers missing in the region are a five and a seven. However, putting a five in the top right box would conflict with the five already in the top row and the rightmost column. The seven, on the other hand, would not conflict with any of the given numbers. Once the seven is filled in, deduction requires that only a five can go beneath it as all digits from one through nine must be represented in the region. From there, one can turn to the two remaining open boxes in the right column – these must include a two and a four as the column’s digits must represent one through nine. One of these options, placing the four beneath the one, would lead to a conflict with the four already in that horizontal row, so the only option for this box must be a two.

However, options for boxes are often not that easy to deduce. Another technique is to “pencil in” possibilities and then follow the possible solutions that emerge until a conflict is found. Often these conflicts appear after two or three numbers are penciled in, and one can return to the start and try the next option until something clicks.

So, Sudoku is indeed winnable, you just have to be willing to put the time and effort into this unique set of puzzles.

Many people know solitaire to be a computer card game. It requires you to think about what move you want to make in order to win the game. It can be seen as a boring card game, not very lively with its lack of color and sound. Perhaps thei is why, as time goes on, game makers decide to change, or rather improve, certain games to make them more appealing. Jewel Quest Solitaire is an example of this. It puts a new spin on the way we play solitaire.

In Jewel Quest Solitaire there are cards laid out at the top half of the screen and two piles of foundation cards at the bottom center of your screen. To begin the game, draw your opening card from the right side of the foundation pile with the click of your mouse. These cards will be your primary source of game play. Next you select a matching card from the layout and place it on top of your drawn card. Draw a card from the left side of your foundation pile only when you run out of matches from the layout. You are given wild cards, which can be moved from the layout to the foundation pile at any time. Play any card from the layout on top of a wild card. You can earn jewels while matching cards. Match three or more jewels in a row when your foundation card matches one from the layout. The jewel board appears at the bottom right corner of the screen.  To gain bonus points, you must earn gold spaces on the jewel board during card play. Match three or more jewels horizontally or vertically to clear the rows and expose the gold spaces. At the end of each round, the jewel board appears in full view. Swap the jewels to match three or more jewels in a row to get more points until you run out of matches. Advance to another round of card play while earning more jewels.

The goal of Jewel Quest Solitaire is to move all cards from the layout to the foundation pile. Cards that are one value higher or lower than the foundation card are playable. When there are no valid plays, flip a card from the stock and try again. Jewels are dropped onto the board based on how you play the cards. The jewel dropped will match the suit of the card that is played. Earn jewels by playing long runs of sequential cards, and another one when suits match. A swap is earned every time cards match suits. A swap allows jewels to be moved around during jewel board play.

While playing the game you can undo cards if you are unsure about a move. Click the undo button at the bottom right of the screen, then try another move. You win if you complete each round and turn the entire jewel board to gold. Avoid running out of layout and foundation cards during the game. Once you run out of cards before completing your matches, the round ends, and you are forced to start over. It is a good idea to try to remove face up cards that are covering face down cards. This provides you with more card options. You will earn fifty points for each square you turn to gold and one hundred points for each remaining swap after completing the jewel board puzzle. You can replay any level that you have already completed to improve your score.

This game adds new rules to the standard game of solitaire. It draws the audience in more with its various card layouts, colors, and jewels. It does still require you to use strategic methods in order to win, but it is not as bland. It is not the same card game as it was before. This game also holds a story line, which encourages people to play. It has created a more interesting a fun way to play the game of solitaire. Game makers may believe that standard card games need to be transformed into more interactive games in order to keep them interesting. As time goes on, more adjustments are being made to games to make them more appealing to people. Jewel Quest Solitaire is among these.