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February 8, 2014

Bird-related games to play on your phone this weekend

The hot new app Flappy Bird is taking the phone-having world by storm! You navigate a bird through a series of pipes by tapping on the screen, which flaps the bird's wings. People everywhere are praising the game for its simplicity and its difficulty — can you get a score in the double digits? It's easy to get frustrated when a single mistake ends the game. In order to succeed, your gameplay must be perfect.

It's an addictive game, but it's not a good game.* It doesn't increase in difficulty as you play, so it's just a test of endurance on the same skill. The physics are also pretty terrible — a single flap of the wings will lift the bird the same amount regardless of how fast it's falling, which ignores momentum. Once you get used to this mechanic, the game becomes easy. I played for about a half hour and earned a high score of 74, which isn't terrible. But it just made me want to play something better.

In the 90's when our family had a Mac Powerbook, I spent a lot of time playing a game called Glypha. It was a clone of the 1982 arcade Joust, where you ride an ostrich and duel with an increasing number of flying opponents. The wing-flapping mechanic is the same, but even in 1995, the gameplay was smoother and physics more realistic than Flappy Bird. Luckily, Glypha got ported to iOS and it's a free download! I just played it for far too long and it's still fantastic. I can't believe the game is 19 years old.

So, if you're going to spend your time on a bird-themed game this weekend, now you've got two.

* Do NOT try to argue that a game that's addictive is automatically good because it's accomplishing what it's supposed to. Slot machines are addictive but they're not good games.

Posted in: Gaming

December 16, 2013

Animal-Themed Moves You Can Try When Playing Go

It seems like every day I play a game of Go unlike any I've played before! This is of course a mathematical certainty, but it does not mean that I don't repeat sequences that have proven successful in the past. Here are some of my favourite moves that you too can attempt:

The Crane's Nest

This is a fairly basic sequence but never fails to bring a smile to my otherwise emotionless face. I'm not sure what stone is supposed to be the 'egg' in the situation but I like to think it's the one that gets cleverly sacrificed.

Golden Chicken Standing On One Leg

Another bird-themed position is also a favourite of mine, and it's a rare treat when I can make it work. The shortage of liberties of both sides of a split group prevents the capture of the invading stones, forcing the losing player to give up the position immediately. I used to call it an "Awkward Split" but its Chinese name is far superior.


A play on the second line is an insidious way to invade an opponent's corner-side, as it allows a follow-up either into the corner or off to the side. It does, however, give your opponent the choice of which side to defend — so if the corner is what you want, just take 3-3 right away instead.

Monkey Jump

Can't leave this one out. A great way to reduce territory near the endgame. I think it's fair to say that everybody likes doing Monkey Jumps.

The Three Crows

Probably my favourite shimari and the main reason I like to open at 4-4. This holds the corner but it's also high enough to have some influence on battles in the center.

Elephant Jump

This kind of jump can be cut easily, and I often use it to offer up a sacrifice stone. If your opponent is greedy, the Elephant Jump will be almost irresistible to cut through, and you can use this to leverage the side you want while losing only one stone. Greed, it's said, is something we don't need.

OK I'm done.

Posted in: Go