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Mobile game of the week: Sage Solitaire

Zach Gage is consistently one of the most elegant designers of our time. This week, we can say he's done a meaningful refresh on computer Solitaire (one of the most-played video games of all time, thanks to the iconic Windows bundle), and not really be exaggerating.

Recently-released iOS game Sage Solitaire is part Solitaire, part poker, in its way: You have 3 rows of 3 cards each (so nine piles) to clear from top to bottom, and you do this by building "hands", like pairs or straight flushes. When you're stuck you can use a limited "trash" ability to remove a card, and you may get extra points for using a certain suit.

Even its aesthetic decisions are subtle but bold: Gone are the traditional red and black suits, in favor of a fresh four-color scheme that helps in suit-matching and hand-building. I never really understood til now why I had so much trouble "reading" poker hands and whether or not I "had anything"; Sage Solitaire's system of rows and hues very gently makes it all easier to manage, clear and clean.

The basic game is free on the App Store, with a fuller, ad-free version available for purchase. Currently there is no official Android version, so beware of malicious imitators on the Google Play store.


The millennials are all right, and so are their sex games

The sneering condescension and pearl-clutching panic about young people's relationship to sex and technology willfully misses the fruits of an impressive creative movement.Read the rest

Monday reflection: Do-it-yourselfing, monsters and sad subways

mariomaker Our Monday reflection is a regular weekly item here on Offworld, a special satellite transmission designed to highlight our favorite Offworld stories, wonderful trends, and the stories from elsewhere in the galaxy that got us talking. Sign up here to receive this digest each week via email—it's a great way to avoid missing anything.

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A few years ago Anna Anthropy wrote a revolutionary book: Rise of the Videogame Zinesters documented the groundswell of free, cheap and easy-to-learn game-making tools, and how they were enabling new creators, particularly women and marginalized folks, to participate for the first time. She made the point ahead of its time, but since writing her book, she says the landscape has shifted—many of the tools she once celebrated have evolved away from their entry-level audience.

In her latest Offworld feature, Anna looks at what WarioWare D.I.Y. did correctly to teach and reward entry-level game makers and designers—with Nintendo's new Super MarioMaker about to inherit the mantle, her design study is an interesting look at what truly democratic software looks like.

Previously at Offworld Anna has looked at what games must learn from children's books, and has written about her personal (occasionally-scary) experience of Nintendo Style Savvy: Trendsetters.

Offworld Games

We were given an amazing compliment to our curatorial skills last week by Wired, who called us one of 20 must-follow feeds in entertainment. The only other games-related shoutout on the list is Double Fine's Tim Schafer (a giant among men, it's true), and we're one of only two websites—the rest are comics to read, Instagram feeds and Tumblrs to follow.

We're proud that every day we put forward a new and unusual face of the video game industry—Offworld is run by two women, our contributors are mostly women, the games we put forward are strange and easy to play and often free, and in this way we want to bring you not only the coolest and most creative games, but to offer you a fresh breed of game culture. You might not be the lanyard-wearing, model weapon-toting type, but we won't let that scare you, your friends, your family, your girlfriend, your Mom, or anyone else away from the wonderful world of play and creation.


Last week was the latest Ludum Dare competition, and the theme was "You are the Monster." It's amazing to see what game developers find monstrous: Passengers is about the complex and often grotesque machinery fueling Europe's ongoing refugee crisis; Unsolicited is about working at a form letter company (it's by Papers, Please's Lucas Pope, naturally). We also dug Everyday Misanthrope, a game where it's fun to be a jerk to others.

Our Mobile Game of the Week last week was Pac Man 256, and everyone is convinced that Pac Man looks like a dong in the screenshot. Finally, we loved Subway Adventure, a new game from the prolific and brilliant Increpare that's about wandering the "Dream World of Sadness Metro".

Transmissions from Elsewhere

My colleague Jordan Erica Webber wrote a piece that's part humorous, part sincere, about what we can learn about managing our life from The Sims.

At Kotaku, there's an interview with storied designer Harvey Smith of Arkane Studios about challenging the traditional tendency of commercial games to celebrate players' doing just whatever they feel like:

"Because people are not used to video game characters being mean to them, or telling them you’re not a hero, you’re a bad guy. Everybody just wants to be told in a video game that you’re great, no matter what you do. If you slaughter everybody—you killed the maids, you killed the old people, you killed the beggars—you’re great, here’s a medal, you’re a hero.

We decided that sounds psychotic. It doesn’t match our values, it doesn’t match the way the world works, it doesn’t match the way any other fiction—imagine a novel where a guy wakes up in the morning, kills everybody in the house, goes down the street, kills everybody on the way to work, kills everybody in the office, and then at the very end of the novel, there is a scene where he is given a medal and made some sort of hero and anointed in some way. It doesn’t make any sense."

Not games


After going most of my life with basically zero interest in cinema, I've been suddenly watching beautiful old films from the 1950s and 1960s. Whereas I'm used to using Netflix et al to zone out, lots of these timeless films (particularly the Alfred Hitchcock ones) encourage mindful watching, like noticing The Birds' gently-repeating lovebird color palette of red and green following Tippi Hedren around everywhere. From how excited everyone gets whenever I bring this stuff up I'm guessing this is what my friends did at college?

As I've been doing this I've gotten into the costume design work of Edith Head, who was apparently totally amazing. A good deal of the pleasure for me in watching these films is how finely everything is made. How I covet all those tailored lines! Breaks your heart!

Anyway, just look at this gallery of 30 Edith Head costumes and sigh along. Wow.

That's all for this week's reflection—remember to subscribe to get it to your inbox, and to share your favorite article with a friend to join the OFFWORLD POPULIST GAMES REVOLUTION.

Comic trailer: Raising Dion, superhero child with a single mom

What's it like Raising Dion, a 7-year-old son with superpowers? Watch the trailer, then read the first issue free.

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Donald Trump's fierce drag makeover


SaintHoax decided to give Donald Trump a drag makeover, and the results are glorious. Serving Ursula realness!

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Man jailed four months for "meth" that was epsom salt


While an Australian man cooled his heels in jail for 16 weeks, forensics took their sweet time in determining the "ice" he was busted for was epsom salt.

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BWAAAAP! Inception button makes everything dramatic


Need to spice up your next meeting or school presentation? Dave Pedu created this handy button to play the now-ubiquitous musical sting!

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Director Wes Craven dies at 76

wes craven

Famous for horror productions such as Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, and his 1972 debut The Last House on the Left, Craven died Sunday of brain cancer in Los Angeles.

Though dream-demon Freddy Krueger is his most famous creation, Craven's cinematic talents ranged from comedy to crime thrillers, with 2005's Red Eye among his biggest hits. He was also a birdwatcher, serving on the board of California Audubon.

He is survived by his wife, Iya Labunka, and two children, Jessica and Jonathan Craven.

The BBC collected some early tributes posted online by colleagues and collaborators.

Reflecting on his career, he once said in an interview: "I tried to make movies where I can honestly say I haven't seen that before and to follow my deepest intuitions and in some cases literally my dreams."

Actors posted tributes on social media including actress Courtney Cox, who starred in Craven's 1996 Scream and appeared in the franchise's three subsequent films.

She said: "Today the world lost a great man, my friend and mentor, Wes Craven. My heart goes out to his family. x" Rose McGowan, who also featured in the original Scream, said:

"Thank you for being the kindest man, the gentlest man, and one of the smartest men I've known. Please say there's a plot twist."

News of Craven's death was posted to his twitter account late Sunday night.

Justin Wm. Moyer wrote a long obituary, for The Washington Post, which traces the origins of Craven's art.

Born in 1939 in Cleveland, Craven’s childhood came with the trauma necessary to an artist obsessed with the macabre: death and religion. The director-to-be lost his father, an alcoholic factory hand, in his youth, and was raised by a strict Protestant family.

“I came out of a very religious background,” he said in 1984. ”As fundamentalist Baptists, we were sequestered from the rest of the world. You couldn’t dance or drink or go to the movies. The first time I paid to see a movie (‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) I was a senior in college. … My whole youth was based on suppression of emotion. As they say in psychological circles, my family never got in touch with their rage. So making movies — these awful horror movies, no less — was, I guess, my way of purging this rage.”

Director Edgar Wright remembers what it was like to be young in the VHS slasher era: "Rest In Peace, Wes. We willingly give you full permission to haunt our waking dreams forever."

Like many film fans who grew up in the 70’s and early 80’s, Wes Craven’s name became to me synonymous with cutting edge horror. When I grew up in a VHS less house, I really could only dream of the horrors behind the forbidding posters or video box art of movies like ‘The Last House On The Left’, ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ and ‘Deadly Blessing’. These were films I was not really allowed to see, but as a young horror obsessive I needed to know everything about them.

Save Over 75% On This Car Plug-In Air Purifier


Leave your car smelling fresh and clean with this Car Plug-In Air Purifier. Its built-in ionizer will boost your vehicle’s air quality, zapping foul odors and filtering out irritating allergens like dust and pollen. With this purifier eliminating unhealthy pollutants, you’ll breathe much easier while cruising down the highway.

  • Quickly improves air quality w/ the built in ionizer
  • Removes odors left behind by pets, sweat, food, exhaust, etc.
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  • Plugs into your car’s outlet
  • Produces no fragrances while cleaning the air

Betrayal at House on the Hill - play if you dare

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a board game that takes place in a haunted mansion. You and your friends must explore the mansion to discover its dark secrets. But you should tread carefully as one of you might be a traitor.

The game starts out as cooperative, in which players explore the abandoned mansion to find omens, trigger events and pick up items. This continues until the 'Haunt' phase starts. The Haunt is triggered by the omen cards. Every time an omen card is picked up, the player must roll the dice and try to score more than the collective omens currently on the board. If the player fails the Haunt starts and then, depending on the omen, one player will take on the roll of the Spider-Queen, Witch, Demon, Zombie Lord or Werewolf and the rest will fight for survival.

This is a really fun game for anyone interested in horror. It's interesting, different and will always keep you guessing. Every play through the mansion will be different. Couple this with random card picks, twelve characters to choose from and over 50 scenarios you can play, and this game equals great replay value. However, it isn't perfect. The Haunt will sometimes favor one side or the other, which can make it next to impossible to win, so it can be a little unbalanced.

The quality of the game is great. There are six miniatures (all colored), and each has a character's sheet printed on glossed cardboard. The tiles are solid, strikingly eerie and excellent quality. The sliders, which keep track of your stats, is the only drawback. They're not well-fitted and slide off the card pretty easily. It can play up to 6 players (three being the minimum) and plays about 1-2 hours, depending on the amount of players you have. – Engela Snyman

Betrayal at House on the Hill
by Wizards of the Coast
Ages 12 and up, 3-6 players
$34 Buy a copy on Amazon

See more photos at Wink Fun.

Oliver Sacks, neurologist and author, dies at 82

The neurologist and author explored the mysteries of the brain in 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,' and died after an earlier form of cancer in his eye returned and spread throughout his body.Read the rest

DEAL: LED Helicopter Shooters: 5-Pack ($7.99)


Easy to launch and fun to watch, these LED Helicopter Shooters are a surefire crowd pleaser. Simply flip on each helicopter’s light and slingshot your aircraft into the clouds using a rubber band launcher. Upon reaching maximum height, the helicopter’s blades will open up, allowing the aircraft to descend in a mesmerizing swirl of light and color.

  • Easily launch into the air
  • Operate w/ simple slingshot design
  • Decorate the night sky w/ colorful lights
  • Entertain yourself & others

The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and The Game of Thrones

Like any epic fictional world, the setting of George RR Martin’s massively successful A Song of Ice and Fire series is rife with a labyrinthine backstory and complex history that drives the story’s action and helps explain some of its characters' deeper motivations. At first blush, The World of Ice and Fire is just a lore book meant to set the record straight on historical events and eras preceding the series. However, through the voice of Maester Yandel, the work’s biased narrator and compiler, Martin, Garcia and Antonsson spawn more questions and greater uncertainty, with the Maester himself even admitting at times his ignorance as to crucial details. There are the necessary elements of rich and plentiful artwork, maps that seem torn and affixed to the page, and disconcertingly intertwined family trees that connect this history to the events of the books and television show. Then there is the attention to the small details, like the use of fancifully script-like fonts in titles, the depiction of heraldry with attribution to certain houses, and especially the dedication by Maester Yandel, “To his most esteemed and gracious lord, Tommen,” with the names of “Robert” and “Joffrey” barely distinguishable and faded underneath Tommen’s name.

As a physical object, The World of Ice and Fire also feels like an artifact plucked from the universe that it describes. To hold this book and read through its pages is to inhabit the world of ice and fire and to be presented with the same kind of piecemeal knowledge of that world with which its characters themselves struggle.

The book’s structure fittingly rambles from the series’ mythical prehistory to the more political historical present. A section on The Seven Kingdoms looks in depth at the various realms and sub-geographies of Westeros in terms of their history, culture and geography. A number of subsequent sections describe the increasingly foreign and exotic locales of Essos and Other Lands. From the obscure myths of the past, to the known present and familiar realms, and then back to more legendary lands, the subject matter’s transition into the known and then back out keeps with some of the overall themes of the series: fantasy threatening the periphery while human foibles form the core. The lineages and family trees appended to the end of the book give a succinct visualization of how the series and its myriad history intertwine.

A Song of Ice and Fire’s fandom has recently reached a critical mass. The viral popularity of the TV series has brought an influx of new readership and more voices to debate the final trajectory of the as-yet unfinished series. Martin’s co-authors, Garcia and Antonsson, gained their expertise through managing the online forums that have served as homes to Game of Thrones fans. Perhaps spurred by the endless theorizing of fans and definitely urged by wild popularity, The World of Ice and Fire is a shift back from this digital realm to a physical and printed object.

The World of Ice and Fire is many things. It is a fictional tome seemingly transported from the fictional world itself, a lavishly illustrated art book to gush over for hours, and a dubiously authoritative account of the history that motivates the series. In a world of social reading and communities of readers whose speculations often preempt the intentions of authors themselves, The World of Ice and Fire uses historical uncertainty to undermine even the savviest of theorizers. When you play the Game of Thrones with George RR Martin, you mettle with the author and the authority, and there are no sure bets. This wonderful book is that truth made manifest. – Stephen Webb

The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and The Game of Thrones
by George R. R. Martin, Elio Garcia, and Linda Antonsson
2014, 336 pages, 9.3 x 12.1 x 1.4 inches
$25 Buy one on Amazon

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Put Nutella on everything

Nutella on everything.

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Music: "Rush," Big Audio Dynamite (1991)

Situation no win.

What ethnic group is mostly likely to be shot by police in the USA?


Spoiler: Native Americans.

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900 dog poop bags for $15

AmazonBasics Dog Waste Bags with Dispenser and Leash Clip - 900 Pack

I used to reuse grocery bags for picking up after my dogs, and cleaning the cat box. Now that grocery bags are evil, I'm buying these bags in bulk.

Cleaning up after your dog is just part of responsible life with your pets. I'm surprised at how many people are lazy about it. Maybe it is because bags are harder to come by, as bags are being regulated all over California. I used plastic shopping bags for most of my life when cleaning up after my team. I've also noticed the trail-side "Need a bag, take a bag" dispensers are always empty. I've been leaving some of these bags in them when I walk past. They were once filled with shopping bags.

These bags work perfectly. They are cheap. They are black. They come with a dispenser, and its always handy to have another. You do not need to leave poop all over the place.

AmazonBasics Dog Waste Bags with Dispenser and Leash Clip - 900 Pack via Amazon