Sandbox #3 – All I really need to know, I learned from gaming


Anyone remember this poster? I think I remember seeing it adorning the walls of every elementary school classroom I happened to inhabit. You could call it hokey and painfully simple and lame and you’d probably be right on every count. But there’s also just enough truth to keep you from dismissing it altogether.

In a similar way, I feel like I have learned a lot about life from gaming. The number of forums I could post this in without feeling the need to take an insurance policy out on my credibility is somewhat limited. But I think that is probably more a function of how gaming is perceived rather than its relative truth.

So here, for your timekilling pleasure, is “All I Need to Know in Life, I Learned From Gaming.”

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Make It So: DIY Pocket Notebook

Hello again! It’s been awhile since I posted here last but I’m back now with a new installment of Make It So, everyone’s favorite geeky arts and crafts feature.

If you haven’t caught on yet from my previous posts, I’m a total geek about paper and notebooks. I have a pen on me at all times, but I don’t always have a piece of paper handy to write down a thought or doodle a doodle. And notebooks can get expensive — even the cheap ones add up when you’re on a college student’s budget — plus I have more paper already on hand than I know what to do with. So if you’re in the same position as I am, today’s tutorial will walk you through creating your own simple little notebook from paper and supplies you probably already have and a method called the three-hole pamphlet stitch.

April: DIY Pocket Notebook

First of all, here are the things you’ll need to gather up for this project:
-card stock or heavier paper for the cover (1 sheet)
-paper for inside (several sheets)
-embroidery floss or other thin string
-embroidery needle
-push pin

And here’s how you put it all together:

1. Cut down your cover and inside papers. I wanted a square notebook 3 inches by 3 inches, so I cut the inside paper down to 3 inches tall and 6 inches long. NOTE: This project works best with thin paper for the inside pages. I cut 9 3×6 sheets for a total of 36 sheets in my finished notebook. The cover is 3 inches tall by 6.25 inches long.

April: DIY Pocket Notebook

2. Fold all the sheets in half, and unfold.

3. Measure and make three marks along the center line (created by the fold) of each sheet. I made one mark in the center of the line and one mark 3/4 an inch from the end on either side. Mark the same spots on the cover, as well.

Hole Measurements

4. Use a push pin to carefully poke holes in all the sheets where you made your marks.

5. Stack all of your sheets together, including the cover.

April: DIY Pocket Notebook

5. Thread your needle with a piece of thread about 2-3 times as long as the height of your notebook. Mine was about 9 inches long.

6. Sew your notebook together using the following diagram. Make sure you tie the loose ends into a knot or a bow!

3 Hole Pamphlet Stitch Diagram

OPTIONAL: Cover the spine with masking or washi (paper) tape. This is a good option if the notebook will be going in your purse or pocket a lot, because it protects the string binding from coming un-knotted!

There you have it! A little book for notes and doodles and whatnot, made by your own two hands. You can make books of all sizes and sorts using this method. For much larger books, try the five-hole pamphlet stitch (there are plenty of tutorials for it online).

As always, if you make it so, let me know. And I’ll see you back here next month!

Poor Man’s Gamer Presents: Strategy is Key Pt. 3, XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Welcome back to the third installment of my look at strategy games.  This week we are taking a look at a personal favorite of mine, a game that I’ve meant to write about for a while now.  The game in question is XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

I first came in contact with the XCOM series a few years back when I discovered UFO: Enemy Unknown (1994), the first game in the XCOM series.  I bought it on Steam and for a few weeks during Christmas break I tried my best to play through it (it is ridiculously hard and it lacked an intuitive interface, because of which I never got very far at all).  Around the same time XCOM: Enemy Unknown a remake of the original game was released with improved graphics and simplified gameplay.  I picked it up a little while later along with Civilization IV and V as part of a bundle on Amazon.  I instantly fell in love.

XCOM is a turn-based strategy game where you play as a group of soldiers sent out on dangerous missions to stop invading aliens.  You control a squadron of customizable soldiers who you can name, customize, and give different power-ups.  The game switches between two different setups of gameplay.  In the first you control your squadron as you hunt down and kill aliens, in the second you manage your base buying facilities and choosing what to research/build.  Through proper coordination of your efforts you can build up a nearly unstoppable team of juggernauts who remain miles in front of the encroaching alien menace.  If you are not lucky you will find that your soldiers almost consistently die on you, making the game nearly impossible to win.

The game is made to be addicting, especially when you start building up your forces.  As you progress you will start to feel a bond with all of the members of your squad and you will be devastated whenever one of them dies from a stray shot from an enemy’s weapon (it doesn’t help that the game gives them all nicknames).

The game features a pretty good variety of different levels and enemies and a great story mode.  In my opinion the way to play XCOM is on “Ironman” mode which makes it so you cannot reload past save files meaning that once one of your squadron die, they are dead for good.  This is closer to the way the original game played and lends itself to a deeper and more strategic way of playing.

There are three sets of DLC for XCOM: The Slingshot Pack, The Elite Soldier Pack, and Enemy WithinThe Elite Soldier Pack is a purely cosmetic DLC that gives you new options for customizing your soldiers.  The Slingshot Pack adds a few new story missions to the game that add a little bit of variety, though not that much.  Enemy Within is the big set of DLC for XCOM and it adds all around additions to the original game.  Enemy Within adds more and more of what makes XCOM a great game.  It adds new weapons and technologies, new maps, new resources, and small additions to the gameplay in general.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is available for $29.99, The Elite Soldier Pack is available for $4.99, The Slingshot Pack is available for $6.99, XCOM: Enemy Within is available for $29.99, and the original UFO: Enemy Unknown is available for $4.99.

Poor Man’s Gamer Presents: Strategy is Key Pt. 2, Rymdkapsel

Welcome back to part two of my ‘Strategy is Key’ series of games where I will take through a series of my favorite strategy games.  Next up on our journey is Rymdkapsel a real-time strategy set in space.

Rymdkapsel is Swedish for space capsule and in many ways this title does a very good job at explaining the game for the most part.  You play as a group of spacemen sent out to explore and study monoliths in a deep, dark, forgotten region of space.  You accomplish this goal by gathering resources to extend your space station and recruit more units to your cause.  As you do this you will start to encounter more and more frequent waves of hostiles coming to murder your entire crew.  Once you have researched all four monoliths your job is simply to survive as long as possible.  Death is inescapable.

The game has a very unique and attractive minimalistic graphics style where most units and resources are expressed as simple 2D polygons.  You expand your base through a series of tetrominos that form your corridors and rooms.

Altogether Rymdkapsel is a very, very simple game.  Beyond what I’ve said there’s not much to it.  In a way I think this is part of its appeal.  It is a very easy game to pick up play for a few hours and then set down without having a long-term commitment to some overly complicated story.  In many ways the gameplay reminds me of Dungeon Keeper except simplified which is in no way a black mark on this game, if anything it is an accomplishment worthy of merit.  Rymdkapsel is good for a few playthroughs perhaps a few more if you are one of those people who cannot help but go back to try and beat your old high score.  If you are interested in picking it up you can do so for $7.99.