Category Archives: Lifestream
I love getting surprises in the mail — especially when it’s the ultimate weapon, created by my good friend Paul Vermeersch. Thanks, Paul!
I was introduced to the game Forbidden Island last year and I quite enjoyed it. The game is simple enough: you and your friends or family members are a group of explorers who become trapped on a mysterious sinking island. You must collect four artifacts before you can escape, but it’s not an easy task as the different parts of the island get flooded. Each of the characters has different attributes — the Pilot can fly anywhere, the Diver can move through flooded parts of the island, etc. — and you must work together flawlessly to succeed.
The game is the perfect mix of simplicity and playability. The rules are few and straightforward — you do little more than moving, shoring up parts of the island and trading artifact cards — but the game is always different thanks to the tile board setup. And the ever-increasing amount of water adds great tension to what is really a quick game.
The cooperative nature makes it a great family game, as you must work together rather than against each other. In my household, competitive games don’t go over so well, so this was a great find for me. I bought the app game, as it was cheap, and we have enjoyed a few family evenings playing it.
Plus, there’s the great imaginative play of the game. When I play it, I can picture moving through a Jules Verne/Myst like city, as water slowly rises around my ankles. It’s like playing the idea for a book.
When I heard there was a sequel, Forbidden Desert, I was very excited. And lo and behold, I received it for Christmas. It’s a great complement to Forbidden Island or even a great stand-alone game. Best of all, it follows the same simple yet playable formula without repeating the original game too much — it has enough new features to feel like a brand new yet familiar game.
Forbidden Desert features a group of intrepid explorers crash landing in the desert atop a mysterious city as a sandstorm blows. Their only hope is to find the different parts of an ancient flying craft so they can reassemble it and escape the city before the sandstorm buries it. It’s the same basic formula as Forbidden Island, with a few twists: the sand is constantly burying the city and moving the tiles about, as the storm covers and uncovers different parts of the city. The characters are different, with different abilities — I like the Meteorologist, who can spend action points delaying the storm or seeing what’s coming next. It’s even more cooperative than Forbidden Island, as you’ll need to end up sharing water and solar shields and so on.
Both games are delightfully playable and admirably simple — if you don’t believe me, just check out the photo of my four-year-old playing the game with me. He’s already planning the sequel — Forbidden Mountain! I’d be delighted to play that one.
A few years back I published a little book called The Warhol Gang. It follows the misadventures of a man who works in neuromarketing, getting his brain scanned in response to imaginary products, until he begins to lose his mind. He starts going out to accidents at night to get a dose of reality, where he falls in with a group of anti-mall activists. Things get crazy from there.
Almost everything I wrote about in The Warhol Gang existed at the time, just not in any meaningful scale. I wasn’t writing realism so much as I was trying to write the headlines of tomorrow — somewhere in between realism and sci-fi. As it turns out, I got a lot of it right — although that doesn’t exactly make me happy. Neuromarketing is a growing field, we’re increasingly live streaming terrorist attacks and political protests, we’re obsessed with the viral video — and we have sermons in movie theatres. One of the scenes in The Warhol Gang features our hapless narrator stumbling into a cinema in the middle of a religious service broadcast live on the screen. It’s the closest he can get to a real spiritual experience in his world, and he tries to get closer to the screen for a moment of communion. When I wrote the scene, I wondered if I was pushing things a bit too far. But I wondered that about almost everything in the book.
Today I checked out my news feeds and came across an article about people attending church sermons in much larger numbers than I projected in my novel.
So it turns out our son Ronan was born with a heart problem and will need a bit of surgery to fix it. The good doctors at B.C. Children’s Hospital will be performing the procedure in January. We set up a monthly donation to Children’s after our older son spent time there. I encourage anyone else reading this to donate to Children’s or one of your local hospitals this Christmas season. I’ve been in enough hospitals recently to know they all could use the help — and the doctors and nurses really do perform miracles every day. Now go give your loved ones a hug.
My colleague Dharm Makwana writes about how being detained by Customs has changed him. Definitely some things to think about here.
It’s the season for giving, as I mentioned in an earlier post. While you’re shopping for gifts for friends and family, why not toss a few charitable donations into the mix? I’m giving a little to Grace Rwanda, an organization my wife volunteers for that funds literary programs and libraries for Rwandan youth. I also support the local hospitals, as I think everyone should. But those aren’t your only choices, of course. Here’s a quick reminder of all the places you can give for just a few dollars a month:
– food banks
– women’s shelters
– homeless shelters and agencies
– cancer agencies and other support groups for life-changing illnesses
– school programs
I’m sure there are many, many others, but this is just to get you thinking about all those in need who could use a little help. We’ve all either been on the receiving end of such charity at one point or another — or we will be. Let’s keep that in mind during this festive orgy of capitalism.
It’s the time of year when people suddenly get charitable. I’m not sure if it’s seasonal Stockholm Syndrome or something more genuine. I know my charitable impulses often take the form of book purchases (no, not for myself). This year I was able to combine that with helping kids, thanks to A Good Book Drive, a book-donation program in Vancouver and Brooklyn. I wrote a piece about it for The Province and then donated a copy of The Gruffalo, a book that really helped me bond with my son through reading. That grimace on his face is a Gruffalo growl….
It’s November and you know what that means! Christmas displays in the malls and holiday-themed drinks at Starbucks. Christmas trees in your neighbours’ windows. And a growing sense of panic at your annual failure to finish your Christmas shopping by July. Now you’re going to have to fight the holiday mobs! It’s like The Walking Dead out there — what were you thinking?
Or you could just order some books online. I’ve even put together a handy list for you over at Corey Redekop’s site. Merry Bookmas to all, and to all a good lit!