Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Spent the day staring down a document at work. I just couldn’t muster up the courage or interest to power through it, so I whittled away at it all day. Could have done it in a few hours if I’d just gotten down to it.

I have sleep like al Qaeda has a conscience, though. I’ve spent the past several nights staring at the ceiling for hours, tired but unable to drift off. Then I finally drift off, and at 5:30, a steady beep yanks me out of Slumberland: it’s my roommate’s alarm clock. He’s been out the past few days, taking care of his son. I now know precisely how to turn off the alarm, and can do so while mostly asleep, but the clock’s in the other room. By the time I collapse back in bed, oh, I do go back to sleep, but I don’t get good REM vibes for the rest of the night.

So life’s been a bit of a haze all day: drive to work, work, drive to dinner. I’m having dinner with a friend, and I’m typing this as I wait for her to arrive at the restaurant. Got here a bit early and strolled around a nearby Toys’R’Us, observing the changes since my childhood. I don’t remember my childhood being filled with so many bright colors, or slick packaging. Then again, I picked up a classic re-issue Transformers box of Thundercracker, and things haven’t changed that much. The copy on the box was amusingly pointless, describing the character’s various skills. We didn’t care how fast Thundercracker was relative to Starscream; we just wanted ’em to shoot lasers at each other.

There was a huge rack of collectible card games, including one especially for girls (featuring fairies and princesses, it seemed). Now there’s a trend nobody predicted, and what a brilliantly simple game mechanic. The cards are relatively inexpensive to produce—glossy card stock doesn’t cost that much—and players keep buying them to build up their decks. Makes me want to get in on the action.

Actually, in a sense, I did: I designed a prototype collectible card game a year or two ago, called “Chaos!” I’ve still got the prototype sitting around, collecting dust. It’s a hard thing to do, really. You have to ensure the game is balanced, but not so balanced that it’s boring. My game also depended on various tokens, which would make the game less spontaneous than, say, Magic: The Gathering. Harder to just whip out a deck and play.

Later: Had a wonderful time catching up with my friend. Got home and spent the rest of the night chatting with friends and watching Flash Gordon, which has a strange power: once I start watching it, I don’t want to stop. It sucks me in very effectively. I can see why people wanted to go back every week and see what happens next.

Ironically, the cliffhangers don’t work much for me. So Flash is caught in the middle of an explosion; we know he’ll survive somehow, as he always does. And I don’t think audiences of the day were fooled, either. I think it would have been much more effective to end with a major character dilemma. If an episode ended with Flash having to choose between saving his own skin and sacrificing the lives of others, for example, I’d have been much more curious to see how the next bit.

But did the writers ask me? Noooooo.

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