It’s a Gamble! Gambling – Great? Gruesome? Gambling – Essential, Addictive, Destructive

Love gamble, love tangleI’ve got all that I can handleLoveI’m used to thinking of gambling as horrible. Every day I hear stories of people destroying their lives, and the well-being of their families, because they can’t stop gambling. Everything goes. A woman speaks from her prison cell: she turned to robbing banks to pay for her addiction. She doesn’t excuse herself. But she couldn’t help herself. She wanted to be arrested. Despair.I’ve been thinking about gambling differently this past while. Not “pure gambling” (lottery tickets, casinos, online gambling). But gambling as an essential feature of healthy, hopeful living that takes us beyond the routine. My partner and I are building a business. Now, that’s a gamble – with our time, our lives. I’m also building this site – Elsa’s Creativity Emporium. Another huge gamble with time, energy, creativity. Columbus sailed for America. His gamble: that he would end up in the Far East. He didn’t get was he was aiming for – but the gamble paid off for the Europeans.Farmers plant seeds. The gamble: that the season will be good. Designers design The gamble: that the design will find a market.People fall in love, and decide to try to make a live with that person – one of the biggest gambles in life.****On the other hand, many people want a predictable salary. No gambling, please. So and so much an hour. Anything else feels wrong, out of control, dangerous. How can anyone live like that, they shudder and recoil.An observation. Many people don’t want to gamble with work time. They want steady dependable pay. At the same time, they have a hugely developed urge, even an overwhelming urge, to gamble. In other words, quite a number of the same people who want a steady paycheck spend a huge chunk of their everyday earnings on gambling!”It’s just for fun.” “It’s my right.” “I have every right to do what I want with my money. I earned it, after all. It’s mine.” “Everyone’s entitled to have a good time every now and then. All those hours I work. I deserve something.”So, though many people are entirely unable to consider working “on a gamble,” (building a business, doing creative projects that may well never pay), they gamble over and over in ways that are set up to make the huge majority of people lose.But most of the world does live “on a gamble” – or combining the gamble with as much certainty as possible. Traditional gatherer-hunting societies for instance have the relative dependability of gathering (which brings in about 90% of food) and the gamble on what is brought in through hunting (10% of the average food supply, according to my reading). Even with the gathering part, no year is like any other year. The steady dependable pay-off (salary, berries, etc.) is not the norm.And with that, back to gambling. I’m going to call the kind of gambling I’m used to recoiling from “pure gambling” – in other words, one isn’t gambling that the weather will cooperate with one’s efforts, one isn’t trying to make a sale, one isn’t trying to build a site or a business, one isn’t courting and hoping another will respond to us. “Pure gambling” – bingo, casinos, lotteries, slot machines, computer games like minesweeper and so on. The goal is winning in a game stacked against us, and the win builds nothing except the win. No book is written, no grain is harvested, nothing is built. In everyday gambling – which I’ll call “part-of-life gambling”, the pleasure of winning is part of so many other things. It’s part of building a life – gambling that our reaching out to someone will pay off, gambling that our design will find a market, gambling that the move to another city where there are supposed to be better jobs will lead to a better job.****In “pure gambling,” all that other stuff has been taken out. The goal: the win. The goal: the payoff. In some forms of “pure gambling”, one does build some skills – one learns to play bingo well, to know the ins and outs of computer games. One becomes fast, the moves automatic. In other forms of pure gambling, people just, say, pull the arm of a one-armed bandit – and the craving to keep doing this that be so strong that people have resorted (or so I’ve heard) to wearing diapers so they don’t need to leave to go to the bathroom.I’ve felt the pull of pure gambling, as well as part-of-life gambling. The time: about ten years ago. Too much stress. One day, I opened minesweeper, a computer game, and played a few games. The stress disappeared. I ended up playing minesweeper for several days, getting better and better. Wonderful and relaxing. At some point, I couldn’t get better at minesweeper. From that point on, winning or losing (most often losing), became a matter of luck. And yet I still wanted to play. Very much so.I did what was easiest for me to do: I asked my partner to take the game off my computer (at the time I didn’t have the skill to know how to delete it myself). I don’t think, though, that I could have used the computer and not played. The pull felt irresistible. I felt deprived when the game was gone. I wanted it back. I didn’t ask for it back, though. I was able to have that much power over the pull of the game.I did, for a number of years, turn to solitaire – not on the computer. Too dangerous. The old-fashioned way, with cards. If I played more than I thought was okay, I would put the cards in a place where it was inconvenient for me to get them – in a corner of the basement, for instance. Sometimes I would go and get them. More often I wouldn’t.The last several years have been so busy that there hasn’t been time to reach for the cards. And I’ve noticed that the urge is gone. I want, if I have a few minutes, to take a walk, to make supper, to do nothing. I like life better that way.I’ve been gambling enormously, these past few years, but the healthy way – doing things, hoping and planning that the projects will make it in the world.****I’m back to gambling: the good, the bad, the ugly.The good. This is when we take gambles in life, gambles that come from as much knowledge and experience as possible. Even then, it’s important that we check out the risks as well as possible – because in everyday life just as in a casino, one can gamble away one’s savings, one’s home, and so on. I took a gamble fifteen years ago: I had work (flight attendant) that was dependable but didn’t satisfy me. I was finishing my Ph.D. when the airline hit hard times and offered a golden handshake to people willing to leave. I didn’t have full-time college or university teaching lined up. Worse, there was hardly any teaching of any kind available where I lived. Still, I took a gamble. After all, I had an almost completed Ph.D. in hand, and had been doing university teaching part-time for years.It wasn’t an instant win. But I finally got college teaching, and eventually even steady college teaching. And that again isn’t an instant fix, like a casino win. It means having to work at making the teaching successful, learning how to make the more difficult classes work (when one can), etc. There are ongoing challenges.I think of Crick and Watson, who worked on figuring out the structure of DNA – and only after 10 years came to the realization (through a dream) that there was a double helix. They gambled with 10 years of their life.I think of Banting, who figured out how diabetes can be controlled through insulin. So much time and effort, done despite the lack of success of others.The dangerous good. I am thinking of people my parents knew. Not gamblers of any sort. They had built a financially successful life through steady paid-by-the-hour work. Then their 20-year-old son saw a “golden business opportunity”. A local successful business was for sale. The parents mortgaged their house to the max to buy it. In a year, the successful business was destroyed through a serious of stupid choices made by their inexperienced son who had all kinds of ideas for “improving” it. The parents lost everything.The bad. Pure gambling, when it’s more than an occasional pleasure. My mother would buy an Irish Sweepstakes ticket at a time when gambling was illegal in Canada. She got a thrill out of doing something illegal. Also the ticket was a kind of miracle hope for an instant fix to all the everyday financial struggles. But it was a small cost.For all too many people, the cost is high – financially, and in time and focus. Apparently over 15% of Canadian teenagers have at least a moderate addiction to what I call bad gambling.Of course it can also give some kind of gratification to people leading small boring lives. Bingo halls enthrall thousands of people week after week.The gruesome. This is when the pure gambling urge takes over someone’s life, and often destroys everything else in that life. Couple life, parenting, other interests.****What to do? One, recognize the intense power of the “gambling pay-off pull.” There it is, the jackpot – like a carrot to a donkey. Not easy to resist.Societies and countries which outlaw gambling – like both Canada and the States used to – recognize the destructive power of “the pay-off pull” central to pure gambling.Personally, I find it insane to take away the laws that prohibit gambling without at least, at the same time, mandating huge public education – from earliest childhood on – on the destructive power of “the gambling pay-off pull.”It’s like no longer ensuring that water is drinkable, but not doing anything so that people each take care of their own water supply. Can you imagine a huge campaign against providing drinkable water on the basis that this tampers with individual liberty? that each person has the right to drink the water of one’s choice?****And yet to go back to good gambling. I will now call it “integrated gambling” – gambling as part of other activities. The same intense pay-off pull may help us through tough times. We practice and practice a difficult guitar piece – we know there will be a pay-off and the high of getting there (at least for a moment, before we move on to the next challenge). We put in long hours working with a child with learning difficulties – and we exult when learning happens. Pay-off.Good gambling. I’d say that’s a core part of human development. It keeps us going – we’re not only doing whatever it is (trying to keep the corps alive in a hard season), but longing for the pay-off. And when it does happen, euphoria, a natural high. Yeah!!!Good gambling combines with creativity. It helps us move out of ruts, into the unknown. Something in us knows this is a good direction. There is a pull from deep inside ourselves.****As with so much about us, it’s easy to mess things up.Gambling – well. Gambling combined with a project, a goal, an end that does not have to do with gambling, a goal in itself that usually leads to further development.Gambling – bad. Gambling for the lure of the win, the pay-off – usually unrelated to the efforts we put in. (There was nothing my mother did, that would make her more likely to win the Irish Sweepstakes than what anyone else did – it was just luck. And she never won.)Gambling – gruesome – when “pure gambling” has taken over someone’s life.All it takes is a tiny change inside ourselves to go from the good to the bad to the gruesome – a disconnection of the pay-off pull from something constructive.****I started with words from a song I wrote years ago, on a gamble Western society gives huge value to: love. Young people are expected to find a partner to live with, taking a huge gamble with their lives. I would call it a central healthy gamble. And again here, it’s been found that, time after time, learning is important. People who have been around healthy love relationships are way more likely to have the love gamble pay off.I think we need to learn to gamble well – to do the right kind, and do it well.I’ll end with lines from that song – when can be about the best of a good gamble:Love is my kind of tangleLove is my kind of gambleI’ve got all that I can handleLoveMore of Love Gamble, Love Tangle****Where to send you from here? You can click here for Creativity Pure and Applied. Creativity – another side of ourselves that can be pure (creativity for the sake of creativity) and applied (creativity in the service of something else). The dynamics are decidedly different than with gambling!My writing, by the way, is a gamble. I’m gambling that it’s worth it – to me and to you.Comments welcome.****

Horse Fun and Games – The Making of a Card Game

For those of us who love everything equine, horses and games make a great entertainment combination. Creating a horse-themed card game is hard work and requires a lot of careful consideration. This article talks about the early days of discovery for the developers at Funleague Games as they embarked upon the journey of designing their very first card game called “Perfect Stride: Cross-Country!” Naturally, as with many things, the game started out as an idea. We wanted to create a fun horse game that was fanciful and stylized, yet still stayed somewhat true to the experience of riding a horse. Representing the idea of racing at high speed across country on horseback through a card game presented its share of challenges. We experimented with a lot of ideas and several times we experienced moments of “aha! This is it!” and away we’d go full-steam…only to discover a problem. The gameplay logistics were the main sticking points. We were cutting some new ground with this card game; it wasn’t closely based on any other specific game so we didn’t have a tried-and-true template to work from. Rather, we referenced bits and pieces of gameplay elements from other games we’d played and from our own vision of how we thought things should work considering the experience we were trying to emulate. Two other resources that have definitely been invaluable are Board Game Geek and Board Game Designer’s Forum. Thanks to everyone there who has posted such excellent info! Here are some examples of things we had a tough time figuring out: Our card game is essentially a race across country on horseback. You jump obstacles along the way…how do you represent that? Do you use tiles? Do you lay the cards out all at once, or one at a time? Face-up? Face-down? That kind of thing. Another element we struggled with was how the rider order was represented during the course of the race.If you were in first, but then dropped back to third, how would you know? We tried a bunch of things such as using charts, placing a token amongst the jump cards, etc. After a lot of trial and error, we eventually figured out a system that wasn’t confusing (unlike our earlier versions). We also struggled with trying to inject some strategy into the gameplay. We definitely didn’t want this game to be all about “luck of the draw”. We wanted the players to have to evaluate each situation and choose a best course of action. Strategy does add depth to a game, but on the flip side of this, a bit of chance can really spice things up and keep you wondering as you draw that next card. As this was a racing game, we didn’t want the players to get too bogged down pondering their options. That would detract from the idea that you were all moving at high speed over terrain in a dash for the finish line. Those were just some of the many things we needed to figure out as we developed our initial idea into something fun, functional and richly thematic. After emerging from the idea phase, we entered a stage of development where we needed to examine more practical business considerations: How big should the deck be?That has proven to depend upon a few things such as number of players, how many variables we were prepared to deal with, printing costs and art costs. We wanted the deck to have substance, yet still maintain some kind of control on the budget.
What should we price the game at?Now that one is ongoing. Naturally we need to make some sort of profit as a reward for our hard efforts and the main way to estimate what kind of pricing is involved is by breaking down the “per-unit costs”. For example, we make an initial assumption that the first print run might be about 5000 copies. Therefore, we would get a printing quote for 5000 copies of the game. And then add to that the cost for artwork creation. And legal fees. And advertising. That sort of thing. Add all those costs together, and divide by 5000. That will be our per-unit cost.How should we package and present the game?We need to look at a couple of key things here. One is; what kind of presentation will be most appealing to people? We want the theme to be immediately recognizable and we want to convey the message that this is a quality game. A game where it’s a high-calibre entertainment experience made of durable materials that will be a pleasure to handle. The other consideration is how much will the packaging and materials cost? Printing/manufacturing costs are arguably THE most expensive part of creating a board or card game. And the quotes will vary widely with each print shop we approach.Legal stuff?A board or card game is a creative product. It’s art and entertainment, meets commerce. There’s intellectual property, copyright, trademarks and other basic business considerations. We recognize that it’s a good idea to protect our hard work and ensure that all communication is organized and in writing. Legal stuff is not only about protecting what’s ours; it’s also about being clear about obligations when engaging in business with another party. When it comes to hiring artists to create artwork for a game, copyright ownership is one of the biggest key factors. It’s important to ensure clarity about who owns the art. Paying an artist to create artwork doesn’t necessarily mean we actually own it. It’s essential to have an “Artist Agreement” in place. This is a legal document that details the rights and obligations between Funleague Games and the artist. Artists work hard to do what they do best (we know this firsthand…Jeff and I are both professional artists) and naturally will want to be clear about all the details involving the work they do.What kind of art style am I looking for?This is an important thing to figure out, but it can be a tough one. The style of art is heavily influenced by the style of the hired artist(s) working on your project. It’s important to choose carefully who will be creating the visuals for the game. Arguably good art will sell more copies of a bad game than bad art on a good game. People like things to look “cool” or “beautiful”. Make sure you deliver in spades in this area by having a strong vision for what your game should look like and by only hiring artists who have an art style compatible with that vision. Art style should also take into consideration the target market your game is aimed at. In the case of Perfect Stride: Cross-Country!, I’m going for a style that is distinct from other games on the market. I also want the style to be inclusive and appealing to the full range of my target audience. For example, I need to avoid an art style that is too “young” as my target audience are people ages 7 and up. I want to feature artwork that has a fun innocence to it, but at the same time possesses enough refinement to appeal to a more mature audience.Who’s our audience?This is important right out of the gate (now there’s a theme-appropriate expression :) . Even at the earliest design phase it’s important to know our demographic. For example, if we designed a game to include a lot of deep and subtle complexities or tons of arithmetic, chances are that kids under 7 years of age could find the game too difficult. As for Perfect Stride: Cross-Country!, I feel that this will be a game that can be enjoyed by almost everybody, but the primary audience will likely be people who love horses. And as there is an element of strategy to the game, the very young may struggle with some of the gameplay concepts.Marketing?This is SOOOOoooo important. If Jeff and I never bother to get the word out about our really cool game, how are we going to sell it? Entire books (and even university degrees) are devoted to the topic of marketing, but suffice it to say it’s important that we learn a little bit about how to promote our product. Not only will we not sell any (or very few) copies, but so many people will never get the chance to enjoy a super-fun horse-themed experience! As our game is very strongly based on a specific theme (or niche) one of the first things we’ll do is seek to get the word out at places where the horse-loving public like to visit such as horse-themed websites, tack shops, equestrian magazines, etc.As you can see, we have our work cut out for us, but the creation of this card game has been a wonderful journey so far. We look forward to the time when the game is complete and ready to be enjoyed by many!

Best Card Games for Family Night!

Most psychologists will tell you that having a designated family night will keep the family together over the long haul. And did you know this is one of the secrets of LDS Families? It sure is, and many of these families have nearly 10-members in the immediate family too, amazing indeed. A strong family unit is paramount in this day and age, and I think we all know that don’t we?So, how about “family night” well, yes, you should be doing this, how about once a week. And at family night you better make it fun for the “whole” family, yes everyone. You’ll need fun things to do, perhaps, centered-around dinner and entertainment, and something you can do together. So, how about a card game, one everyone can play. Remember everyone needs to be involved.The game cannot be so complex and complicated that only the older kids or parents can win, thus, you need a strong element of chance, where even a very strategic thinker and player cannot win every time, otherwise the younger kids will lose interest pretty fast. It must also be exciting, challenges and most importantly down-right fun! And who says you only have to pick one card game? Why not have several, giving more chances for fun.One game I recommend that you have on hand is “Uno” because it is easy to play, easy to learn, hard to cheat at, and gives everyone a fighting chance. Let’s say you are going to buy 5-different card games, 5-different board games. Then each week play different games, still, UNO is one game you can play each week, without anyone losing interest. Please consider all this.


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