Hello everyone!  I hope your “Spring” break was restful and pleasant, or at the very least productive.

In the last class we had before break, we started our discussion on games, particularly digital or video games.  The discussion was fruitful, with everyone sharing at least a couple games they enjoyed.  The most interesting thing I noticed during the in-class conversation was a widespread feeling of conflict between enjoying games and guilt about wasting time.  I guarantee this conflict is the result of our culture, where being overworked is not just expected, but praised.  Play is severely undervalued, and stress is a badge of honor.  I feel like we shouldn’t have to be apologetic about having and enjoying time for play. Without time for play, people become bitter and burnt out. The idea that games are only for children is no longer true.

Another thing we did in class two weeks ago was try out a game called Little Alchemy.  I wound up getting hooked on it, and I have unlocked over three hundred elements.  I’ve been playing it on my phone at home and in waiting rooms.

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It’s hard to pinpoint just what it is about Little Alchemy that makes it so addictive and fun.  I think for me it’s the small-scale reenactment of the scientific process.  The player comes up with a hypothesis for which elements can be combined to produce something new; they test the hypothesis; and they are either correct, or they’re not.  Sometimes the new element produced isn’t what the player expected, which adds an element of surprise.  Sometimes the product is exactly what the player expected, which proves their hypothesis and creates a feeling of satisfaction and intelligence.  Besides the mini-scientific-process method, one can also just go down the line combining random things and seeing what pops up.  Little Alchemy is a perfect example of a game that stimulates the mind while keeping stakes low enough that the player doesn’t feel pressured.

I’m looking forward to learning about more games in the coming weeks, and sharing information about some of my favorites.  In the meantime, I’ll keep combining elements…

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