We tend to think of our digital distractions as exactly that—distractions from the otherwise productive business of our daily lives. The Zombies, Run! game, however, could just as easily fit alongside the health and wellness posts on ProfHacker. This smartphone app (available for Android and iOS devices) is essentially a running app wrapped up in zombie narrative. Each run enacts a single “mission” in post-apocalyptic world threatened by zombie hordes. You play Runner 5—a courier with a mysterious past—and while you are running in the physical world, various characters from your struggling military base talk to you through your headphones, slowly revealing a background story. The narrative elements are broken up with music from your device’s playlist. And every once in a while you are “chased” by moaning zombies, which you outrun by picking up your pace a few notches.
Given the popularity of phrases like “grading jail” to describe the stress of the competing demands to offer meaningful feedback in the shortest amount of time possible, it seems unlikely that there’s any fun to be had in grading papers as part of a game, but that is the wager of The Grading Game, by modes of expression.
The Grading Game (iOS) makes you the TA of Dr. Snerpus, the meanest faculty member on campus, who demands that you flunk students for saying mean things about him on social media. You are then presented with a variety of papers with typographical and grammatical errors, and your job is to find them in a given amount of time. If you succeed, you will be able to pay off your (virtual) student loans. Game mechanics couldn’t be simpler: your finger is the red pen, and you tap errors to fix them….
One of my favorite pastimes is playing modern board games as I find it’s a great way to interact with friends and family. But on occasion you might find yourself without a partner to play against. And in that case, a digital version of a board game works great. In the coming months, I’ll share some of my favorite board game adaptations for iOS and other platforms.
Today, I want to recommend you check out the iOS version of Ascension. Ascension is a deck-building game; what this means is that every player begins the game with an identical hand of cards. Each turn, you draw a hand of five cards and use those cards to buy new cards from the center of the table…
This weekend I recommend not an individual game, but a platform for gamers called Steam. What is Steam? In some ways it’s like an iTunes for desktop video games. You download the Steam app—for Mac or Windows—and with the app you can purchase and download from a huge library of video games. Steam is also a community of gamers. You can follow other games, see when they’re online playing, or even compare progress through games. I don’t use Steam’s social features much, but I do love the platform for several reasons:
The sales. Steam sells games at deep discounts all the time. I’ve purchased some phenomenal, full-length desktop games for $3-4 through Steam, and many for $5-10.
The classic titles. You can download lots of classic games on Steam that you could never find in stores. These games are often cheap, can run well on most hardware (even older machines), and bring back…
This week, I’m going to stretch the term “digital distraction” to recommend our family’s favorite board game: Small World by Days of Wonder. Small World is a strategy game set in a Tolkien-esque fantasy world. I’ve heard Small World compared to Risk, but it has unique and randomized gameplay elements that, in my opinion, elevate it far above it’s more famous predecessors. The most thorough (and fun) explanation of the game that I know comes from the podcast Tabletop: :
If you’ve played any modern games, then you know how some games take “DLC” (downloadable content) to an extreme. DLC Quest is a satire that pokes fun at those games by making you collect all of the coins in the game before you’re able to do anything else in the game. There are over 16 different DLC packs that you need to purchase with those collected coins. Even the game’s sound and moving capabilities are among the DLC packs that you’ll need.
As an avid gamer, I’m always disappointed when a particularly hot new title launches mid-semester. So I was thrilled by the launch of Diablo III last week just on the heels of graduation, perfectly timed as a reward for finishing grading. This new role-playing game is my pick for a digital distraction this weekend, although its shaky launch includes some warnings for the future not only of gaming but of any online “service.”
First the good stuff: Diablo III is a classic dungeon crawl, with demons to fight and treasure to gain through relatively easy to pick up gameplay: click to move, and click or use different hotkeys to launch weapons or spells at the bad guys. The story of the Diablo series follows a realm torn by continue warfare between heaven and hell. This sequel has been awaited for over ten years, and the mechanics are polished, with lots of flexibility in equipping your…
As the end of the semester is upon us, it is important to take some time and refresh your mind. This weekend, having just this last week completed my undergraduate studies, I’ll be doing that by playing the “Honey Badger Don’t Care” game for iOS.
By this point, you might have already seen the YouTube videos in which Christopher Gordon provides comedic narration over National Geographic videos of wild animals. His most famous video, “The Honey Badger” (NSFW language), has over 43 million views.
This video has became so popular that there is now an iPhone/iPod Touch game called “Honey Badger Don’t Care.” The premise of the game is to see how many days you (as the honey badger) can survive in the desert by hunting various animals and completing tasks, such as eating 25 mice or scorpions in a single level (or “day”).
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