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Tag: games

10 things I hate about Facebook

word box

Here’s my list.

It is not of 10 bands I saw in concert and one I didn’t. (How quickly that became tiresome.) It’s not my favorite books of all time, or my favorite movies of all time, or my favorite live giraffe births of all time.

It’s a list of the 10 kinds of Facebook posts that bore me, clutter my Facebook feed, and keep me from locating anything interesting I might otherwise find – the kind that, in their repetition, are so annoying that I hereby proclaim they should find a home somewhere else.

Perhaps little auxiliary Facebook-type sites, custom created for such niches, or a system in which, through the miracles of the Internet, all the flotsam, dregs, nauseatingly reappearing games and quizzes and fads could end up, thus making the page I get when I sign on to Facebook something where I’m interested in 25 percent of what might be on there, instead of only about 3.2 percent.

I seem to remember hitting a 60 to 80 percent rate of interest in the content of what we once called newspapers, making them therefore worth my time. Facebook comes nowhere close to that.

Just to sketch out a rough idea of how I’d like things to be, I’d offer these 10 new Facebook type sites — some or all of which might actually exist (I did not check first, for that would lead me to more of what I HATE). The idea, though, is that all the posts that, no offense, fail to interest me sufficiently, annoy me or outrage me, could be diverted to these auxiliary sites, instead of the real Facebook, or at least that version they feed me.

1. Highspeedrecipes.com: Super speeded-up videos showing the preparation of recipes that we use to spend a half hour watching get made on TV, and which take two hours or more to actually make. Now they whir before us on Facebook with only 30 seconds passing from the first cracked egg to the final finished product. Instantly gratifying as they seem, they serve only to remind me of the 29:30 I once wasted on each and every cooking show.

hairdo2. Feedmecompliments.com: Where all the posts about your new profile pic, your new hairstyle, your fancy manicure, what you cooked, or what you planted end up – the purpose of which, admit it, is to get compliments on how beautiful you look or it looks. Soon it will be prom dresses. And by all means, go ahead and post those photos and be proud. But, Facebook, please disappear them off my feed.

3. Detailsofmyailment.com: The most intricate details — especially when they come from the pretty much complete stranger kind of Facebook “friend” — of the latest twist and turns your disease, ailment, condition, bruise, depression, phobia has taken. (Your dog’s ailment? Well, I might be interested in that.)

(Interlude: I should point out here that, in some cases, namely those cases of close friends or relatives, I actually do want to be kept up on how you, your dog, your ailment, are doing (though it’s not necessary to show me photos of gashes, stitches, bruises or surgery) As I’ll explain more later, my Facebook friends list consists of relatives, actual real life friends, cherished former co-workers and a few online friends I’ve grown (because Facebook isn’t all bad) to care for and/or become interested in, and lots of people that, no offense, I am less concerned about because, hey, I don’t really know you.)

frankss4. Anyoneknowagoodplumber.com: Again, if it’s a post from someone I know or more specifically someone who lives in the same town as me, I might be interested, or even helpful. Otherwise, if you live in Alma, Kansas, or some such place, I can be of no assistance in your quest for a plumber, or anything else, and your words are cluttering my Facebook. It’s not your fault; it’s Facebook’s.

trump5. Trumpbeingmildlystupid.com: Sorry, but these have become so commonplace, so recurring, so more than once a day, that I no longer have time for them and would prefer my Facebook page be cleared and kept open for only the most blatant, outrageous and mind-blowing, of Donald J. Trump’s egregious acts and remarks — and preferably those based on accounts provided from legitimate media outlets. Quite possibly, even those in time will become too numerous as well, or maybe they have already.

franksplumbing6. Pinpointmeonamap.com: Unless you are somewhere in need of my immediate assistance, I can see no purpose in receiving a large map pinpointing your current location. If it’s a party and you’re inviting me, or dinner and you’re paying for it, OK. Otherwise, I do not require that knowledge and I definitely do not require a detailed map. But just in case you do, here’s where Frank’s Plumbing is located in Alma, Kansas.

(Interlude: I know what many of you are saying by now. I just need to take better control of the existing parameters available to control the content of my Facebook page, rid myself of those unreal friends, fine tune my profile and do a better job of letting Facebook know my needs and desires. Problem is, I feel they know them too well already, otherwise I wouldn’t be getting those sponsored messages about gout and where to buy whatever product I last Googled. Also tinkering with parameters makes me nervous – and almost as crazy as encountering useless (to me) Facebook posts.

In addition to not properly controlling my Facebook, I did not properly set it up. I created my personal site first – primarily for the purpose of leading to people to posts on my website, ohmidog! Then I added a separate Facebook page for ohmidog!, but I still link to a post every day on my personal Facebook page as well.

Thus my “friends” are a predominantly dog lovers and advocates I don’t really know (though they are generally speaking a good class of people). I still use that personal page to draw attention and link to new ohmidog! posts. Most people don’t go to the link, but prefer to comment based on seeing the picture and headline alone, or ask a question about it, rather than clicking on that blue link that will give them all the answers and details, and countless hours of reading pleasure.

So I use Facebook for two purposes — to stay in touch with friends and to procure the readers necessary to satisfy my ego. (Any profile pic of me isn’t likely to get compliments, so I post what I’ve written, which still sometimes does). In a way, what I’m doing is no different than that person who, proud of their new hairdo, or what they made for dinner, posts pictures of it on Facebook.

I accept almost all friend requests from strangers, as long as their timeline looks like they have an interest in dogs, for that could mean new readers. I reject those from strangers who look suspicious, like say one with a name like Boris “The Hacker” Ivanov, or one who is a scantily clad female who lacks a timeline, has three or four friends and is clearly a temptress lurking on Facebook for evil purposes.

Oh wait, weren’t we doing a list?

marathon7. Myaccomplishment.com: Whether it’s that casserole fresh out of the oven, that marathon you just completed, that award you won or any other achievement of yourself or, often more important, your children, you want to the world to see it. And that’s OK, within reason. But too much of it, stated too smugly, and your venturing very close to item 8.

beach8. Envymylife.com: A friend going on a cool trip? That’s acceptable. Sure, I’d like to see a few photos. But if you’re constantly going cool places that I can’t go, if I don’t know you from Adam, if you’re living a joyous life of wealth, leisure, fun and adventure, I’m going to get a little pissed – 98 percent because I’m jealous, 2 percent because you are flaunting it too much. I do not need to see every single pastry you enjoyed at every single café you visited during your trip to Paris. Try a little moderation — if not in your life, at least in what you post about that total fulfillment you are achieving.

inspir9. Mywordsinacolorfulbox.com: Putting your words in a colorful box makes me no more likely to read them. I tend to do the opposite and skip them entirely. Those who go to the trouble of putting their words in a colorful box are likely so full of themselves as to leave me uninterested in any substance or knowledge they might be trying to impart. Plain old box-less words are fine. We would include in this category all those all purpose, one-size-fits-all inspirational phrases you’ve stolen from somewhere else, and, often along with them, a photo or depiction of a sunset or a meadow with wispy clouds. I know you mean well. But spare me, please.

friends-cast-tease-today-16021010. Sillygameslistsquizzes.com: What possible interest would I have in 10 concerts you saw, and one you didn’t? Nor could I possibly care what “Friends” character, or “Survivor” character, or “Golden Girl” character you most resemble. Take those quizzes if they make you happy. Broadcast the results to friends and strangers alike. I won’t call you mindless sheep. (I can assure you with near certainty, though, that Bea Arthur would never have taken part in such time-wasting frivolity. Rue McClanahan? Oh she definitely would have. Estelle Getty? I’m guessing, she would start them, but get cranky halfway through and give up. Betty White, I’m quite sure, would only take part in them rarely, and in moderation

Conclusion: That’s it. That’s all I ask. Just a few little drainage points through which much of the trite, self-aggrandizing, look-at-me, time-waster posts could exit the stream that becomes my Facebook page.

I’m not asking you, personally, to refrain from anything. I’m just asking Facebook to fix it, or make it a little better, because I know Facebook cares about me (it has told me so) and I know it has all the answers — buried though they may be in the murky, often smothering, depths of its vast wasteland of content.

Should we let our cats play video games?

If I had a cat — and I don’t — I would never let it play video games.

Why would anyone want to take an animal that is always so joyously in the moment — in the natural moment — and immerse it in an artificial, non-tactile, monotonously repetitious, pixelated, and quite possibly addicting world where time passes in a blur?

To take the house pet perhaps best known for being able to make a game out of anything — string, toilet paper roll, dust bunny — and put a $200 iPad in front of it so it can paw at virtual fish? That just strikes me as wrong.

It might be fun for you to watch the first time, and it might even be amusing for the feline for a while.

ipads-for-catsBut then it becomes more obsession than play, and your feline, once a wildly imaginative beast with an admirable knack for making anything fun, is stalking the room, zombie-like, Jonesing for his iPad.

Then, when you try to take their iPads away, they become evil tantrum-throwing monsters who no longer see joy, mystery and adventure in something as mundane as a cardboard box or paper bag.

Sure, it is all starting out innocently enough. Remember, though, we humans started with Pong before progressing to virtual murder and mayhem. If history is any indication cat computer play will progress into darker realms — to the point where cats are tuning the real world out and, albeit virtually, engaging in pretend sex and violence, car theft even, on their computers.

Am I exaggerating to ridiculous proportions? Clearly. But seriously, taking the long view, is this best for cats?

Or will we, with all good intentions, slowly drive them insane?

How long, for example, can you watch this before feeling a certain panic in your soul?

Video games for cats have been catching on for several years now — to the point that even some animal shelters have turned to them.

The Regina Humane Society in Canada turned to iPads last year to keep their resident cats occupied and engaged.

“This is just another way, another tool in our toolbox that allows us to keep our animals healthy and happy while they’re awaiting their special someone who’s going to take them home forever,” said Lisa Koch, executive director.

“Owned cats around the world have apps that they play with on their owners [iPads], and it’s something that we’ve adopted here at the Humane Society for cats who don’t have families to make the environment that they’re living in more stimulating for them mentally.”

Koch said these programs are meant to keep cats active and stimulate them mentally.

Stimulate? Maybe. But does laying down and pawing a mouse on a $200 screen keep a cat more active than batting an actual $1.29 play mouse around the room and chasing it?

Lost, too, if we let cats live their nine lives in the virtual world, is interaction with humans. High-tech pet toys that bill themselves as “interactive” have a way of removing a human’s resolve to spend one-on-one time with their pet, to the point where they no longer feel much need to do so. It’s like setting child in front of TV set for three hours.

The Regina Humane Society does good and noble work, and maybe in a shelter situation, where it’s challenging to keep all the animals occupied, something like this is acceptable.

On the other hand, cats are already the ultimate game inventors. We should be pinpointing what is in them — a play gene? — that makes them so able to look at a spool of thread, a pencil, a puzzle piece, and see an amusement park.

Instead, we appear headed to making them as addicted to the computer screen as we are?

Fetching: Who needs a human when you have a catapult?

It may take two to tango, but fetch is a game that can be played solo, assuming you’re a dog with a catapult in your back yard.

This video was posted on YouTube last month, under the title, “This is What Happens When an Engineer Owns a Dog.”

An anonymous dog owner apparently built the contraption, then taught his dog to operate it.

Rocks, as opposed to softer projectiles, seem to the object of choice for this dog, who places a tennis ball-sized stone on the launch pad then jumps twice on the other end of the board, activating a spring that sends the rock flying across the yard.

The dog fetches it, and repeats the process.

The video was featured on the website of yesterday’s New York Daily News.

Pet Rescue Saga: How I single-handedly saved hundreds of pets from being crushed

petrescuesaga

I rescued dozens, possibly hundreds, of pets from certain death the other night.

But before you call me a hero, or saint, you should know I only did it on Facebook, and only in a video game.

Pet Rescue Saga is the popular new puzzle game, downloaded more than 150 million times and playable on Facebook and through apps. It’s free, at first,  but then, like a drug dealer who has handed out samples to get new clients hooked, it starts charging you to play more, or play more effectively, or to reach greater highs.

The game comes from King.com, the makers of Candy Crush Saga, which is similar and reportedly equally addictive.

When invitations to play Pet Rescue Saga first started showing up on my Facebook page, I wrongly assumed — given most of my Facebook friends are die-hard, do-gooding animal lovers — that it was a game that somehow was related to, or benefited, animal welfare causes.

It’s not, and it doesn’t.

There might be some unintentional similarities to the real world of animal rescue, such as walls being put up in front of you, and things piling up faster than you can handle them. But “Pet Rescue Saga” isn’t about rescuing pets in the animal welfare sense of the word. It’s mainly about busting blocks, and then more blocks, and then more blocks, by clicking on them to ensure that the “adorable” little pets atop them don’t get squished.

Given video games have a reputation for catering to our basest instincts — chopping off heads, running people over in cars and the like —  I had hopes, especially when Facebook friends kept inviting me to play, that this one might actually be about a noble pursuit, or might even be educational.

No such luck. What it teaches us about pet rescue is that we can save animals by matching two or more blocks of the same color.

Still, I ended up spending an hour playing it on Facebook, which annoyingly notified me to “share” every time I passed some friend’s record, before it got to the point where further play would require an investment of money. (That — having to fork up some money — generally prevents and/or cures any addictions to which I might fall victim.)

There are hundreds of levels of the game, and the higher you go (or the more you spend) the more tools you get to “save pets” — like sizzling rockets, hammers and exploding bombs.

In playing it, one becomes so focused on the blocks that he forgets about the animals. The endangered animals really seem a well-contrived afterthought, as if the gamemakers thought putting pets in need of rescue atop the stacks of blocks — as opposed to pots of gold or damsels in distress — might give it some relevance, or, pet rescue being a popular cause, add to its popularity.

“Wait! Don’t forget about the animals! ” says a review of the game on gamezebo.com. “Some levels of Pet Rescue Saga have dogs, pigs, and pigeons trapped on stacks of blocks, or wedged in columns. When you successfully clear away blocks, said animals drop safely to the ground. However, since many levels of Pet Rescue Saga scroll vertically, the animals on tall columns are in constant danger of getting squished on the top of the screen. Nothing ruins your day like the anguished squeal of a piglet.”

Squishing aside, it’s nice to see a game that’s seemingly about rescuing and saving, as opposed to killing and maiming.

It would be much nicer to see a game that was really about rescuing and saving animals, or that really taught compassion, or at least tried to.

I’m not necessarily saying the makers and marketers of the game are trying to capitalize on tender-hearted pet lovers, or that they mislead people to think the game might have some legitimate connection to the actual world of animal rescue.

But, after playing the game, I did start receiving emails from the gamemaker — far too many emails — with subject lines like: “Pets in danger. Help them now!” Clicking on the link in the email took me directly to the game’s Facebook app.

I don’t keep up much anymore with the latest developments in video games. So I don’t know if phony altruism is the latest video game trend: Bust up the blocks and find a cure for cancer. Bust up the blocks to feed the starving children.

Maybe there are some truly altruistic video games out there. The Game Show Network came close to that last month when it introduced Pet Pals Slots, a limited-edition game on Facebook. It earmarked a portion of money made from gameplay in November — up to $30,000 — to go to Best Friends Animal Society, providing food, medical care and shelter for animals at the organization’s Utah sanctuary. In other words, while playing a mostly mindless game, those who played Pet Pals Slots, at least in a way, were saving pets.

Video games, with exceptions, are rarely educational, and I don’t really expect them to serve as our moral compass. (More often they seem aimed at sending that compass haywire.)

And of course they’re not obligated to share the wealth they make with any deserving causes they borrow their themes from.

But how cool would it be to see — in addition to less squishing — more of that?

Dognition: Louie’s deemed a “socialite”


Didja hear the one about the blonde Fox News anchorwoman who took her golden retriever to get an IQ test?

While that has all the ingredients for a pretty good joke, it’s actually the basis of a pretty informative news report, in which Fox 8’s Katie Nordeen brought her dog Louie to Duke University scientist Brian Hare to find out just exactly what type of dog genius he — Louie, not Dr. Hare — is.

Hare, co-author of “The Genius of Dogs,” is the founder of Dognition, a research firm that puts dogs through a series of science-based games designed to assess their personality type — information that Hare says can help dog owners better understand their dogs.

Users of the service (it costs $39) don’t get to bring their dog to Hare, as Nordeen did, but get a “toolkit” and instructions on how to conduct the experiments in their own homes.

The experiments measure five dimensions: cunning, empathy, communication, reasoning and memory, and by virtue of the results, dogs are judged to be one of nine types —  Ace, Maverick, Charmer, Socialite, Protodog, Renaissance Dog, Expert, Stargazer, or Einstein.

Customers, after submitting their test results, receive a full report explaining their dog’s type, and how the conclusion was reached.

Louie, for example, was found to be a socialite.  (You can read Dognition’s full report on Louie here.)

“… Gracefully interacting and communicating with others requires talent. In Louie’s case, she takes this talent to a whole new level – it is definitely her genius. Although Louie is not as adept at independent problem-solving skills as other dogs, don’t jump to any conclusions about her intelligence. Louie relies on a very specific strategy – using you and other humans in her pack to get what she wants.”

(Yes, they got Louie’s sex wrong in the report, but they are personality experts, not gender experts.)

Cutsomers also have the option of becoming members of Dognition (for an additional $60 for a year, or $5 a month), entitling them to receive tailored training tips and activities and get a discount for testing additional dogs.

Hare says Dognition, established last year, is proving popular, with thousands of users from around the world.

“Everybody wants to understand what’s going on inside of a dog’s head. It has not been hard to get people excited about this.”

After visiting Dognition’s lab in Durham for the FOX8 report,  Nordeen continued conducting the experiments at home over the next two weeks. Once submitting her findings, the results were delivered, by email, almost instantly.

Hare says the purpose of Dognition is to enrich people’s relationships with their dogs, but it, like his book, is also aimed at showing the public how truly brilliant dogs are.

“Dogs were thought to be totally unremarkable. There were really no interesting things they could do relative to say dolphins or bonobos, so people were focusing on these other animals,” he said. “But at our feet, literally, were geniuses that had been undiscovered … What makes dogs such geniuses is that, relative to other species, they’re really skilled, really flexible, in understanding what it is we want and what we’re trying to tell them.”

The Dognition tests, in their at-home version, may not be the hardest of science, and their results may not be irrefutable. But given the firm’s stated goals, given the not entirely exorbitant price tag, and given that they’re fun and result in people spending more time with their dogs, I think they have a place in the spectrum of doggie evaluation services.

If people are willing to pay more than $100 to determine what breeds are in their dogs, through DNA testing, $39 doesn’t seem like too much to pay to assess that dog’s personality — and may even provide more telling clues into what makes them tick.

I haven’t run my dog Ace through the online Dognition drill yet, in part because I think his genius is too vast to be measured and could forever skew Dognition’s data base, in part because I already know he’s a charmer, with shades of socialite and Einstein. But Nordeen’s report answered a lot of questions I had about the service, and one of these days, I’ll give it a try.

We’ll close with some bloopers, courtesy of Fox 8, that occured while Nordeen and Louie were taping a promo for the piece — none of which, I’m sure, had anything to do with them being blond:

“Dog Wars” is back as “KG Dogfighting”

After a brief hiatus due to copyright infringement concerns, “Dog Wars” — the controversial game app for Android smartphones — is back on the online marketplace, where it’s being offered under the new name of “KG Dogfighting.”

Google’s Android Market website began offering the renamed app Saturday. While originally available for free, it’s now listed at $2.99.

A Google representative said the application was removed last week “based on a trademark infringement complaint” but did not say at the time whether it would be sold again if those issues were resolved, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The game application allows players to raise and train a virtual pit bull to fight other virtual dogs, garnering streed “cred” and “money in your pocket,” according to its developers.

Among those who have filed complaints about the application with Google is the president of Los Angeles police officer’s union.

In the letter sent to Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page, Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul M. Weber urged Google “to do the right thing and ban this game permanently.”

“The game teaches users how to breed, train, fight, medicate and kill virtual dogs,” Weber wrote. “The entire concept is repulsive and sickening.”

Animal welfare groups, including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have voiced concerns about the game and urged it be removed from the market.

Kage Games, the creators of the Dog Wars application, said in an email to The Times that the game was meant to educate the public on the evils of animal cruelty.

App-alling: A dogfighting app for your phone

A dogfighting game application called “Dog Wars,” in which players fight virtual dogs for virtual money, is being offered through Google’s Android Marketplace.

Developed by Kage Games, the downloadable game allows players to choose an identity, pick their dogs and feed, train and fight them, thereby gaining “cred” and making money.

The game is now available for free download. Players can purchase virtual “adrenaline pens,” from Android which can be used to “revive your dog during a fight or even bring it back to life.”

“Never let your dog go hungry or thirsty… you must train it and feed it a while before you can fight other player’s dogs … Building Cred puts money in your pocket and lets you earn more in fights,” the game description reads.

“Let’s get it on!”

Given its exceedingly bad taste, and how it perpetuates pit bull myths and glamorizes cruel and illegal activity, there are many who’d rather see the game taken off — the market, that is. 

In a post on BSL News, (BSL standing for Breed Specific Legislation), readers are encouraged to flood both Google and Android with emails and complaints.

(Android is an open source operating system created by Google. While Google does not approve every app offered there, it does maintain a website where people can complain about objectionable content in games and apps. You can find it here.)

The makers sound more than a little defensive about the game.

“It is just a video game,” they say in the game description, as if anticipating some controversy. “Perhaps one day we will make gerbil wars or beta fish wars for people who can’t understand fantasy role play games …  Just because something is illegal in real life in certain countries, does not mean it is illegal to make a song, movie, or video game about it.”

It doesn’t mean it’s right, or smart, either.

What’s next, a game in which players compete to see how many children they can molest?

Sure, the folks who came up with “Dog Wars” have a right to market any sick game concept they want. But my advice? Zap that app.