everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Beware the addictive app

A confession – I think I am addicted to an app. It all started out innocently enough – I was talking to my 7 year old niece about my new favourite game, Jewel Mania. (You have to match coloured jewels to remove them from the screen and win points – I assure you that it’s way more fun and challenging than I just made it sound.) Anyways, as I showed her, Ells said that they had found an even better game – similar to Jewel Mania, but with lollies. Sounded pretty perfect to me, so I searched the App Store and found what she had been talking about. And that was the beginning of the end.

Candy Crush is a brightly coloured game filled with jelly beans and a heap of other lollies, including – if you’re very lucky – chocolate freckles that can magically destroy all of one colour on the screen. I know, AMAZING, right? At first, it’s easy and you can fly through the levels. Then, the challenges get harder and since I am unwilling to pay money to play the game (I have some limits, see!) it can take a while to get through a level. If you’re willing to pay real $ for your fake candy, you can accept the advice of the patronising prompt that appears from time to time – something like “You seem to be struggling with this level. You can buy a [insert crazy sounding candy weapon here] for only $12.99!” But I’m old school, so I’ll save my money and take my sweet time (see what I did there?!) to get through the game using just my wits and my broadband data allowance, thanks very much.

Don't be fooled by the bright shiny candy - this game is brutal.

Don’t be fooled by the bright shiny candy – this game is brutal.

When I say I’m addicted, I don’t mean that I have my phone out all the time, playing the game. Mostly because I just can’t do that – if you don’t pay any real world $, you can only make five attempts at the level before you are ‘locked out’ and have to wait some hours before you can play again. So, I can still function in the real world – go out to dinner, work, see a movie, drive the car. I could stop playing any time. If I really wanted to stop, I could. Just like that. Truly.

One of my favourite features of the game is actually the soundtrack – there is some kooky background music and occasionally a voice that sounds eerily like Barry White compliments you on your moves, cooing sweet nothings like “Tas-ty“,”Sweet” and “Divine”. He’s very encouraging, if a little creepy, that Candy-Barry-White.

Anyways, I wanted to share the good news that this morning, I finally passed Level 34, on which I had been stuck for at least a week. I had come close before, but after an embarrassing number of attempts (thankfully, they don’t tell you how many), I finally made it. Now, I’ve never run a marathon or won a Nobel Prize, but I imagine that’s pretty much what it feels like. It’s going to be a good day!

(As an aside, my sister S currently runs a very successful virtual farm, my sister Jo used to run a fancy and very busy virtual clothes shop and I have successfully managed some very challenging virtual restaurants, diners, hairdressers and hotels. Still trying to find the best way to detail our extensive business experience on our CVs, though.)

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Using big words

I love word games. Yes, I’m a dork like that. And of course Scrabble is the daddy (or mummy, in the case of my family) of all word games. It gives you the chance to trot out all of those strange words you’ve read over the years and not really understood, while you try and block your opponent from getting their tiles anywhere near a triple word opportunity. And now there’s Words with Friends, which is sort of like Scrabble with a much higher tolerance for fake words, and you can play on your iphone as you sit on the bus or wait for the Doctor or pretend to work.

But whether you’re playing on the board or on the screen, there comes a time when you’re just staring vacantly, with no clue about what to do with the tiles in your rack. You need a different perspective – a fresh view of your options. Though I don’t think you’d have that same problem with this particular version of Scrabble that I found for sale at Hammacher Schlemmer.

For only $12,000 you could own this giant Scrabble set that’s sure to both impress and frighten your friends. According to the website, it’s the world’s largest wall-mounted Scrabble game – one of only nine that was handmade by artist John Kahn. It even comes with giant racks for your tiles. The product blurb says that it’s “nearly 5x the size of the original” – now, I’m not sure if that man in the photo is a pixie, but it seems a lot bigger than 5x the original to me!   

Anyways, you can read more about this interactive work of art at the Hammacher Schlemmer website here. Although if you’re like me – closer to the floor than the ceiling – then you might need to consider a step-ladder to make sure that those triple word scores are still within reach. Cos I reckon it’d be so much sweeter to beat your opponent with a giant triple word than a normal triple word. Game on.

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Honestly, thumb people…

If you’ve spent much time with little kids – especially little kids who start to cry or get cranky – there’s probably been a time when you’ve had to resort to singing weird songs to distract them. And maybe you’ve even put on strange voices and pretended that your thumbs/a toy/a piece of apple/a shoe is magically able to talk. In the hope that the talking is enough of a funny surprise to stop the crying. Or perhaps you remember that childhood game where your thumb battles another thumb, with the gauntlet being thrown down: 1,2,3,4 – I declare a thumb war. And then it’s on – sort of like an arm wrestle for thumbs. Of course, if none of this sounds at all familiar, you can just ignore this opening paragraph and you might still like this product that I saw on the Matomeno website, which never disappoints…

The post was called My thumb is my friend! which sounded wacky enough for me. And now that I’ve seen this product range, I think it’s something that we could all use at home, in the classroom, or in the office. In fact, I could have made this another EverydaySparks CEO post, as these little beauties will be mandatory for performance review discussions and will most certainly help at salary review time. Basically, there are five stampers (so, technically, I guess you could use them on your thumb and fingers if you wanted to create a whole gang), which you ink up and use to bring your digits to life.

Whatevs, I hear you say. That’s not so exciting. Well, of course that’s not where it ends – the good folk at Mikke Remikke have taken it to another level with costumes to accompany each of the faces. That’s right, you can choose from five characters: Timmy, Michael, Cathy, Bob or Andrew. Uh huh. Each comes with its own costume and hair-do. And accent and personality, presumably – but that part is up to you. I’d keep an eye on that Timmy – not sure if it’s the pink ‘fro or those overalls, but I think he’s an accident waiting to happen. Oh, and look out for Andrew – anyone wearing a personalised sweatband as a jumper is probably not a-ok.

Perhaps you know someone who finds it difficult to communicate in conventional ways, or someone who’d like an instant gang of new friends. Or maybe you’d just like someone else to blame for dumb things that you might say or do. Whatever the reason, you can find out more via the Matameno site here or you can buy them (and read a bizarre translation of the product and its purpose) at the Rakuten Global Market here.

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Kickstarting ideas

You might have already heard of Kickstarter, which is basically a website / online community that offers start-ups the opportunity to pitch their project to the world and get donations from ‘backers’. Or as they say (in a much clearer way): it’s the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. They have arranged all of the pitches into different categories and, although most of the projects are from the USA, there are some from other parts of the world too. It’s interesting to have a look at the range of ideas – some very clever, some very weird and some very dodgy.

I found this one in the ‘game’ section: Unemployment Quest! (With an exclamation mark to show you that it’s FUN!) With 14 days still to go, it is 503% funded (that’s over $5,000 when the developer only asked for $1,000) and has attracted donations from nearly 500 backers. If you donate at least $5, you get a copy of the game (with other treats added if you donate more cash).

The game was developed in New York by this chap named Charles. Apparently, Unemployment Quest is a game about the experience of unemployed youth. Now, I’m no geeky gamer, but that doesn’t sound like much fun to me. The graphics look pretty basic and Charles says the game’s story is minimalistic. And it seems that the music has been recorded to sound like those annoying soundtracks to early computer games. So why would anyone want to play this game, Charles?

Instead of fighting typical fantasy monsters, your foes will include “Doubts,” “Isolation,” “Shame,” and the main villain “Uncertain Future.” The aim of the game is to turn the negative experience of joblessness into something less terrible, while still having fun gameplay that will not bog down players by requiring gigantic time investments.

Because presumably you should be spending that time, well, you know, applying for jobs. Or doing something a bit more productive than playing this game. But far be it from me to know what the market wants – perhaps there are bzillions of people just waiting to experience virtual unemployment. Even if they are experiencing real world unemployment at the same time, as per Charles’ target market.

Whatevs, gamers, if you want to check out this project and maybe help Charles make his dream come true, you can find Unemployment Quest here. Or you can just have a look at some of the other ideas on Kickstarter here. And as a person with many, many kooky ideas, I really should get started on some Kickstarter pitches myself – there seem to be some generous people out there!

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