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The Games we play: Google Plus versus Facebook

3 May

Games.  I must confess that I do play some games.  Not as many as I used to, but I do play games on both Facebook and Google Plus.  Or maybe I should say did play them in both locations.

I recently stopped playing actively on Google Plus.

I played some of the same games on both sites.  Some were different too.  Now while I avoid playing Zynga games, there is still a lot of others to try playing.  So what was the difference?  After all, if the games are the same, they are the same, right?

Wrong.

There is actually a big difference.  Facebook has already had their growing pains with the addition of the games.  Games run smoothly, on the average, and have few problems loading.  The same isn’t true for Google Plus.  Games would frequently freeze, refuse to load, or have numerous other glitches that made playing difficult at times.

Facebook games not only run smoother with fewer glitches, they often have extra features not found on the Google Plus games.  They seem more finished and less “beta” than G+ games.  It may be easier to circle other players on G+, but…adding them as “neighbors” may not be so easy, as that is a common glitch in the games.  In addition, games have been leaving the Google Plus platform.

So why is there the differences?  Only a game company insider could really answer that question, but the most obvious answer is that Facebook requires some kind of exclusive feature added to the games playing there.  Game companies are probably willing to comply with few complaints too, after all, Facebook as a portal has fewer overall problems than Google Plus does.

I really like Google Plus as a social network.  I use it often in doing research, finding interesting people and information through G+.  (That’s not to say my Facebook friends are boring though!)  It is just easier to find topic specific posts and their advocates through G+ than with Facebook.  I can then circle them or not, without worrying about whether I will offend anyone.  I don’t have to know them to do that–it’s the whole concept behind the circles that makes it so easy to use for research on a topic.  Those features are not available on Facebook at all.

At one point, I thought I may largely abandon Facebook in favor of the more dynamic interface on Google Plus, but in reality, it would be like choosing to only eat bananas rather than bananas AND strawberries!  They are different, but they both have a very useful purpose for me.  On the other hand, if merely interacting with others to play games was my goal, Google Plus wouldn’t have much of my attention.  It’s just too aggravating to try and play the games, especially knowing that many of them are fleeing as fast as they flocked on board.

So what are my favorite games? 

My long term favorite has been Hit Grab’s MouseHunt.  I love the imagery, and I love the play and go nature of the game.  I can be active without devoting hours and hours of attention to it.

Other games seem to come and go over time with me, but I do like Zuma Blitz, Bejeweled Blitz, Monster World, and Township currently.  The blitz games have been favored for some time, although the other two are relatively new to my list of games I play.  I don’t like games that require extensive “begging” from friends for bits and pieces to “build” things, and while Township has some of those features, it hasn’t annoyed me excessively yet.  I also don’t like games that require me to recruit friends to play–being a game evangelist doesn’t appeal to me!

Too many of the games on social networks seem to occupy excessive amounts of time and attention.  I want a game to play for a few minutes, and then go on to other things.  I don’t want it to take over my life–the whole point of a game is that it should be FUN, not a new occupation.  Sometimes, I enjoy competing with friends, other times, I prefer something I can just do in my solitary fashion too.

So why are social network games free?

Plain and simple, they are paid for via advertisements that players click on.  Game developers hope that players buy the extra features, whether they are special powers or game-specific “play money.”  That’s how they earn money, not by being paid by the social network to provide the games to them.  If you ever wondered why so many games have these pay-only extra features, you can stop wondering now.  One of the biggest phenomena in the modern marketplace is the amount of money traded for fictional goods in games.

That means that you can also vote with your dollars too.  Don’t spend money on games or with game companies that you dislike, and you are casting a vote that IS counted.  By spending money with your favorites, you are casting a positive vote as well.

So enjoy, and see which you prefer for your gaming entertainment.

The games people play

4 Mar

People play a lot of games.

Oh, I’m not talking about the mind games, the things that make human interaction so tricky, but rather the interactive games available through websites and social networks such as Facebook.

People spend an immense amount of money on these games, even in a crappy ultra-recessive economy with high fuel and food costs.  These games can be played without any charge, but “extra” features are available for a fee.  And people pay for these extras at amazing rates.

So what do they get out of these games and what are they buying?

Essentially, they are buying nothing.  It’s just an image in a game, or a special skill within the game to allow for higher scores or to accomplish some task within the games’ parameters.  It may be clothing for their avatar (cartoonish character that symbolizes the player) or accessories for their “living space” within the game or even just special abilities to boost scores.

The games vary and vary a lot.  Zynga has a lot of games on Facebook, and many of their games have similar themes.  Things can be built, tasks can be achieved to earn badges, and scores can be racked up.  Their games require a lot of interaction and recruiting of other people to play as well, as your “neighbors” are requirements to level up or achieve a goal.  “Gifts” can be sent too, these images of objects, some of which must be paid for with real money.  Farmville, Frontierville, Mafia World, Cafe World, Pet World…can you see a theme here?

I played many of these games for a time, until the process of giving and receiving these gifts occupied all of the time I allotted to playing the games.  With the building, tasks, neighbors, gifting…the games began to seem more work than a real job, and then came the social aspect of the game too.

People start taking the games WAAAAAAAY too seriously.  They would get very upset and even verbally attack people that they perceived as a threat within the game interaction.  I found this interesting, maybe more interesting than the games themselves, but at the same time…who has time for that kind of stuff in relationship with a game, for crying out loud!  Most of us get enough drama in the real world, and certainly don’t need to add it to our “fun” part of life.

I began trimming away the games, starting with the ones that lacked the most fun.  Then, I eliminated the ones with the most time consuming gifting process.  After that, it was the games with the most seriously angry players.  Finally, I was down to a couple of arcade-style games and Mouse Hunt.

I have to admit, Hit Grab’s Mouse Hunt is fun.  I don’t have to sit around and deal with complicated gifting and receiving processes.  I get to look at cute mouse-like creatures.  I interact with friends and relatives who also play.  I actually read the stuff about strategy, and save my cyber gold to buy fancy traps to conquer the evil Mice.

Okay, so it’s not real sane…but it is fun, as long as everyone remembers its a GAME.  It’s also the only game I still play that involves interaction with other players.

I’m not sure what they get out of all of the villes and worlds, but I  know I was encountering too much stress and hassles for it to remain fun.  I must be weird, I still regard the word game to imply its something that should be regarded as recreational fun, not a deadly serious job.

So if you get the urge, come join me in Mouse Hunt and become a hunter too.  It beats the heck out of waiting for grapes to grow in Farmville!

 

Back to the bike kick…and evil plans

12 May

I had a great radio show tonight with Bonnie Jones Reynolds-so check out that podcast when you get time.  But back on the Gia front, I’m back to the bike kick.

The bike…oh man this is getting more and more painful, and here knowledge is supposed to be power!  I had just about made up my mind that I would go with the Tonino Lamborghini Leggenda, which I could get new for about $200 from Sam’s Club or Sports Authority.  Yes, I know both places don’t meet with much approval from the bike cliques, but its enough bike to enter into  a basic program with, and it’s not pushing the envelope of my price point too far.  I want to get in shape and lose weight, but it has to be more than just my wallet!

But once again, I had to scan bike forum pages, and once again, there were the negative comments about the Lamborghini bikes, which are apparently made by Kent, a producer of all fine bicycles sold in places like Walmart.  I was seeing it as a step up from the steel frame Huffys and Schwinns sold there, as it has an aluminum frame, a better sized frame for my height, and was a much more likely fit for me.  The problem is that there is not one on display anywhere in New Orleans, so I will be forced to buy it sight unseen and butt-untried.  That makes me nervous, I couldn’t even reach the ground on the Schwinn woman’s bike I sat on at Walmart, and I seriously think my days of running starts/stops are over with–I need to be able to touch the ground while seated on the seat, period.  The forums kept insisting that there were great Trek bikes at entry level prices not much higher.  Unfortunately, “not much higher” is still over double what the Lamborghini will run.

I started to wonder, was this lack of interest in spending more on the bike related to a lack of interest in committing myself to the goal of riding it and acquiring skill & fitness as a result?  Maybe.  Just maybe.  I’ve examined myself quite critically for this “flaw” of character, to see if I’m going to buy it and expect results by osmosis and admiring the bike.  I’ve thought about the painful logistics of getting the bike to and from the street to ride it–not easy, locks & gates, etc. stand between me and the world.  There is some fear factor, I have never ridden a bicycle with cars whizzing by continually at 45 mph+ before, and I suspect that will be unnerving at first.  There is little margin for error in Jefferson Parish & New Orleans for a bicyclist-no bike lanes.  In addition, it seems that it is normally open season on pedestrians with the cars–New Orleans supposedly has an unusually high rate of hit & runs involving pedestrians, and rumor has it that bicyclists are just regarded as fast pedestrians by that crowd.  Really unnerving.  Bicycle theft rates are high, as always in an urban/suburban area, and bike locks need to be sturdy, and removable gear removed.  I can handle that too.  We have potholes that can break car axles, and some qualify as more of a pit than a pothole.  I’ll have to learn to safely navigate the dreadful roads, especially in residential areas where road repairs are as rare as snow storms.

I really don’t think I’m as eager to try out a bicycle on the city streets as I am to attain a level of competency that will let me explore outside of the city.  I want to try out this idea I have of bicycle camping as a between stage of back packing and car camping.  I want to slow down and smell the roses while I ride down country roads.  On a bicycle, I can explore three to five times as much ground per hour with the same effort as I do on foot, maximizing my leisure time while still switching gears from the “hurry up and have fun” mindset.

If I do things like using the bicycle when I’m doing non-essential shopping, I can squeeze in some training time while ensuring I don’t buy things that take up too much space and I have too little need for, while still being able to carry home that great buy on a new tent…

Greg is not crazy about this new kick of mine.  I’m not sure why, whether he thinks I’ll get over it as fast as I got over the exercise bicycle (it was given to me, and three minutes on it had my head pounding as the gears screamed.)  or if he’s afraid of accidents/injuries, both of which are a real threat to our financial security.  I’ll admit, encounters of the too close kind with cars and dogs are why I quit riding bicycles about 25 years ago after the last trip to the ER on a Friday evening.  When I mentioned this idea to my daughter, she inquired how long it had been since I had last rode, and beyond the occasional spin to prove I still could, I guess its been about 12 yrs since the last time I borrowed her bike for a quick run to the bank & post office on occasion.  My butt is considerably wider (along with the rest of me) than it was then, so I’m pretty sure the stock seat of whatever bike I end up choosing is going to need replaced with one designed more for the senior crowd than a racing enthusiast.

I have decided on a hybrid bike, rather than a cruiser or a mountain bike.  Granted, mountain bikes have tougher frames and wheels in general, but they also have a shorter frame length and the position of the rider is slightly leaning forward with their feet directly under them pedaling.  The hybrid bikes move the pedals slightly forward (usually) and have a slightly longer (not taller) frame.  They too have sturdy wheels, but lack the knobby tires preferred by mountain bikers.  They also often have suspension frames or seats, whereas the hybrid usually doesn’t.  Suspension sounds good, but…at the same time, even when riding a bad country road, the rest of me is not up to bouncing over really rough ground.  I’m too old to want to risk falling.  I’m afraid of falling going over stuff like that.  I know I don’t heal as fast as I used to.  I know it will take less time to walk the bike through or around than it will to scrape myself up off the dirt if I take a fall too.  So it takes me an extra 5 minutes to do this thirty yard stretch–at least when I get through that stretch, I am going to still be physically capable of getting back on!

Maybe that’s what the bike thing is all about.  Its about knowing that I have nothing to prove to anyone, and I can take my sweet time getting there, and if someone doesn’t like it, they can go on without me.  If my heart starts to pound, and my legs are screaming for mercy, I don’t have to keep on going.  I know how to stop, take a few deep breaths, a swig of lukewarm water, let my pounding chest find the normal setting again, and set off all over again.  Touring bicyclists may average thirty miles an hour, I don’t have to.  I can do thirty yards in an hour if I want to.  What matters to me is that I enjoy that time, not that I meet anyone else’s standards.

I don’t have to wear tight bicycling shorts and skin tight tank tops that advertise the fact that I have lots of shapes to coordinate as I ride…I can wear whatever the heck I want!  If I want to bicycle wearing capris topped with a peasant skirt, while wearing a polka dotted t-shirt under my plaid flannel shirt, that is my God-given right to do so.  I can wear a tall hat and get a wicker basket to match that of the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz if it so suits me.  I can be as peculiar as I like!

Oh the beauty of middle age.  Finally, I get a chance to really embarrass my daughter!  I should start assembling this wonderful wardrobe for the eccentric woman riding the purple bicycle…

pointed ankle boots, preferably black & scruffy looking

striped socks, nice loud colored ones

black capris, (I have those)

wildly patterned brightly colored tiered peasant skirt (i’ll have to figure out a good way to hitch it up on the chain side so it stays clear of it.)

insanely striped loud t-shirts, long and short sleeved, something in perhaps, oh, purple and orange?

the largest most outrageous hat ever seen on a woman, nice bright colors, strange large decorations, but not too heavy, needs a chin strap for windy days too.

Remember Pippi Longstocking?  My hair is nicely silver colored now, but I think it would be wonderful to put it into pigtail braids and then add a fine wire to ensure they stick out at the appropriate angles, utterly and completely defying gravity in a way the rest of me never shall manage again, wire or not.  (Unless the anti-gravity bra is invented soon!)

Oh yes, wouldn’t she be thrilled to see me come bicycling down the road to her house in that get up?

(Insane evil laughter caused by inherited insanity [i got it from my daughter] as I contemplate this evil plan.)

Yes, middle age is wonderful, but being eccentrically odd is even MORE fun!

Facebook and the games people play

6 May

I confess, I play games on Facebook.  I’m guilty of wasting time & energy & attention.  Today was a real eye opener though–because I had thought I was wasting inordinate amounts of time on the whole thing, I didn’t realize that for some people, it was really pretty dang serious.  I received about a half dozen truly nasty comments/messages from people about my name appearing on some secret hit list of people guilty of spreading some fake zoo world (one of the games I was playing).  At first, since no one told me what this secret list was…or what this fake application was…how could I fix the problem?  I opted to stop sending gifts (free things you send to friend who also play the game), and I posted a notice saying so on my wall.  As I continued going through things, more nasty messages appeared until I soon lost any sense of fun.  What is the point of doing something that does nothing positive for you?  I don’t gain anything in the real world from the aggravation of putting up with nastiness in this game!

It was then that it began to become apparent–these games were taking way too much time, and I was associating with people who took these games way too seriously.  I think I’m going to bow out of the cooperative games for a while.  I need a break.  I’m tired of having to beg friends to send me things so I can build item x anyhow!  (Farmville & Zoo World both have this thing of having us build things, requiring numerous parts to do so.  Cafe World also added this feature with their “super stove.”)

I used the games as a distraction.  It was a game, therefore supposed to be FUN.  When it’s not fun anymore, why on earth should I do it?  If I want to do something unpleasant, I can go clean the bathroom & scrub the toilet!

In addition, I’ve noticed a number of my friends bowing out of the games.  Too many invitations to too many, and you end up with your life being sucked into a useless cyber existence where you are doing something less pleasant than working.  Even though several are disabled & unable to work, why waste your life being made miserable by games?  I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories too about it–people stopping what they were doing in an inappropriate manner, because they had a ‘baby being born’ or a crop to harvest or a dish to serve.  C’mon–this is the soap opera equivalent for the new millenia!

Perhaps its a symptom of our society in general.  Are our lives so unbearable that we need to seek relief in this imaginary one?  Are we so isolated in our day to day lives that these cyber relationships have more meaning than people do?  I’m not sure, but I’ve watched an increasing number of people in my circle become excessively involved in imaginary worlds on the internet.  I have known of them to call in sick to work, get fired or quit their jobs, and become financially destroyed as a result of their fascination with games.  Some have gotten divorced, lost custody of their children, and even become homeless as their imaginary lives consumed them.

I thought I spent too much time on the internet, on my computer, and in playing games.  I’m still a long ways from that point.  I suppose its a case of self control, of being involved in one’s own life, and of taking control & responsibility for your own life.  If I waste 20 hours this week on games, who’s fault is that?  It is MINE!  All MINE! Do I have better things to do? Oh yes!  (Like write this blog!)

Emergency preparedness, games & writing

25 Apr

Tonight, I’m working on book 2 of the series I’m writing.  I had to do something so I quit tweeking at the first one, and once it’s finally edited, I’m going to solicit publishers.  Yes, I know that’s the wrong way, but at the time, I had the time to write, a story to tell, and it was screaming to get out of me.  So…I wrote.  Everybody who had tried reading it so far has liked it.  Greg is waiting for the final edit before he reads it, I think sometimes he’s afraid to read it for fear it might be awful or he hates it.

In the meantime, that’s what I do when I’m in the mood…write.  I’ve discovered a few things too.  I’m more likely to write late at night.  I’m not going to write when I’m seriously worried about anything.  If I’m stressed, I’m apt to play silly games and wind down before I try to focus on writing.  What kind of games?  I’ll confess–it’s Facebook games.  The best wind down games for me are Mahjong Dimensions, Collapse, and Bejeweled Blitz.  All of those are 1 minute games.

I play some others but they’ve grown rather tiresome: Farmville, Zoo World, Cafe World, Mouse Hunt, Pet World and Yoville.  When they start being more work than working a job, they aren’t fun.  When game developers start changing the rules, it also isn’t so fun.  I had played other games, but I’ve dropped those, and just accept “neighbor” requests and the like for friends who do enjoy them, like all of the aquarium games.  I just don’t have the time and energy to use on them anymore, or maybe my need for diversion is not as intense.  I’m not sure how some of these people have any kind of a life except the games on Facebook though.  I have people on my friend list who must play well over twenty different games, all of which can easily eat an hour a day.  It amazes me!

On the food front, we dined on leftovers served with thick pan fried potatoes.  It was my answer to “I am not turning on the oven today.”  I sliced them (they were small reds) into about 4 slices per potato, laid them out in the skillet, and sprinkled them with Greek seasoning and browned them.  Perfect with the Greek style chicken & veggies.  I ate one of my horded gingerbread biscotti with my coffee this evening and enjoyed every coffee-drenched bite too!  I really should attempt to master making biscotti, it is the one thing I have seldom tried and never succeeded in making, and it shouldn’t be that hard.

On the camping front, I did order two inexpensive backpacks that should be more comfortable than the ones we currently have.  I had Greg put on the one he has, with the normal emergency load it carries, and there is no way he could walk two hours carrying that thing.  It rides entirely wrong on him.  I guess I can’t complain, it wasn’t purchased to do that anyhow, but rather as a pack to use on day hikes and grocery store walks, etc.  It’s fine for that stuff, without much bulk or weight, on either one of us.  With about 20# of stuff in it, it’s useless on him.  MM has one identical to it that I gave her with some emergency supplies.  Emergency preparedness is essential when you live in hurricane country!   It is something I’ve been advocating on the air and on our website for ages.  Check out the pages for it.

There’s a LOT of companies out there that sell emergency preparedness stuff.  There are a lot of books out there that tell you how to do it.  I’ll tell  you, just like most real experts will, that beyond having a few essential items, true survival is really all about mental preparedness.  That means thinking about those “what if’s” and practicing scenarios in your head, so that when the what if scenario really does happen, you are mentally prepared to figure out what your next course of action really should be.  I do some things people think I am a bit nuts for.  I have life jackets in my closet, one for each person and one for each dog.  (Cats, sorry to say, were told to talk nice to the dogs!) You wonder why?  I live surrounded by levees that protect me from water, and I’m talking BIG water.  Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River are neither one to take lightly.  If something should go wrong, I may have little to no time to prepare.  If storm surge should ever hit here, same thing…no time.  Those life jackets are to buy us time, because even though we can all swim, how well can we swim in debris filled water while terrified?  Perhaps in the dark, with howling wind or rain?  I jokingly refer to it as “real flood insurance.”  At least it’s less expensive than “flood insurance” is–I spent under $100 for all of them, and they are good for at least a decade since they are protected from deterioration by UV rays from the sun.

Now you wonder who I actually bought the cheap new backpacks from?  I got them from Be Prepared.com They aren’t expensive ones, and a friend had ordered one from them last year.  Not super well made, I think I can repair any ripping out seams, and I could afford to buy them from this company.  Two internal frame packs, and including shipping, it came in just about $50.  I bought one like the one the friend had, and one less expensive one to take a look at.  If nothing else, I think they will be great additions to the camp gear, able to carry our clothes, etc.  I’m a bit out of shape to consider real backpacking, but I should work on that too.

And moving right along to camping, a few weeks ago, I came across this blog from a young couple who are bicycling around the world, camping most of the time as they do so.  They have already been on the road for over a year, and the blog is an excellent read–it’s the ONLY blog I regularly read and always wonder what is going to be in the next installment.  They have spotty internet connections now that they are in Eastern Europe, but do take a look at it.  I spent an entire weekend enthralled as I read through their first year’s journey.  Over the year, they have improved their blogging immensely, and I’m sure they’ve learned a number of other skills as well.  I highly recommend this blog as a good read as you share Tyler and Tara’s journey with them.

One thing I have been advocating quite loudly, on the air and on our website, is emergency preparedness. It isn’t about an “end-of-the-world” mentality, it is about common sense. We have seen natural disasters in the USA strike over and over again, from Katrina to snow storms, leaving people on their own with no help immediately available. Protect yourself and your family, as well as the lives of your potential rescuers, by being prepared to take care of yourself. No one should be without the essentials for a minimum of THREE DAYS.
It isn’t just about fires, floods, snow, rain, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. It’s about job lay offs, furloughs, unexpected financial woes too. Even emergency evacuations due to chemical spills can cause problems. It can be a neighbor, friend or relative who loses their job or home. Be prepared, for everyone’s sake.
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