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1000 Blank White Cards

I like card games as much as the next guy, but it seems like half the fun must be in creating the cards and making up the rules. (Okay, maybe that's just one-third of the fun. But still.) If you enjoy creating games as much as playing them, check out 1000 Blank White Cards, a party game in which creating the deck is part of the action. (A sample card is pictured at left: Self Trepanation (lose 2000 points).)

A game of 1000 Blank White Cards, or 1KBWC for short, consists of three general stages (described after the jump...)

1. Deck Creation - in which players create some number of cards, starting with a stack of blanks (up to the eponymous 1000 if you expect to play until next year). Depending on the expected duration of the game, you might create a hundred cards in advance -- or you might start with a handful and make more as you go along. Each card can contain any drawing or text you want -- the card can implement rules (all players must discard a card, for example), give you free turns, add or subtract points, end the game, make the player perform a task, anything you want. Also note that deck creation is explicitly allowed during game play, so this early phase is just about setting up the initial game, which will evolve during play.

Solar Power Card2. Game Play - in which players draw five-card hands and play them "on" other players. For example, you might draw the Solar Power card, which simply has an illustration of a Lego man driving a solar-powered buggy -- it does nothing on its own (though you might get creative and combine it with something else -- for example, by creating an "Al Gore" card that grants +50 points for any player with a solar-powered vehicle). Or you might draw the I Have No Arms card, which offers eight points if you pick something up with your teeth. (Note that points are completely arbitrary, though many cards offer plus or minus points for various reasons.) As mentioned above, players are encouraged to create new cards during game play, so if you picked up the Pies card (a picture of three pies), you might create a "+5 points per pie in hand" card and play it. Eventually game play ends when the players decide it's over, or something in the game mechanisms (perhaps a "Game Over" card) declares the end. The player with the most points wins. (Unless the game has been altered, perhaps by a "Lowest Points Wins" card....) You can see the inherent complexity of this Nomic game, in which the game mechanics change during game play.

Pies! Card3. Epilogue - in which the characters decide which of the cards created during the game should be kept for future games. This is purely arbitrary, and offers another way to "win" the game -- by adding your cards to future decks.

History and Further Reading - 1KBWC was invented by Nathan McQuillen, and spread through university towns until it was finally written up in GAMES Magazine and even an edition of Hoyle's Rules of Games. (Read more about the game's history.) Several online lists of cards are available, but beware -- many may be offensive or non-work-safe! Check out: Random Card Server from Boston, Another Random Card Server from Boston, Random Card Server from Seattle, Flickr group. Recommended reading: Bob: 1KBWC in Boston, Wikipedia page on 1KBWC.

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This Augmented-Reality App Makes the Hospital Experience Less Scary for Kids
UsTwo
UsTwo

Staying in a hospital can be a scary experience for kids, but a little distraction can make it less stressful. According to studies conducted by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, UK, distracted patients have an easier time with their appointments and require less pain medication. Now, Co.Design reports that the hospital is releasing its own app designed to keep children entertained—and calm—from the moment they check in.

The Android and iOS app, called Alder Play, was designed by ustwo, the makers of the wildly popular smartphone game Monument Valley and the stress relief tool Pause. Patients can download the app before they arrive at the hospital, choosing a virtual animal buddy to guide them through their stay. Then, once they check into the hospital, their furry companion shows them around the facility using augmented-reality technology.

The app features plenty of fun scavenger hunts and other games for kids to play during their downtime, but its most important features are designed to coach young patients through treatments. Short videos walk them through procedures like blood tests so that when the time comes, the situation will feel less intimidating. And for each step in the hospitalization process, from body scans to gown changes, doctors can give kids virtual stickers to reward them for following directions or just being brave. There’s also an AI chatbot (powered by IBM’s Watson) available to answer any questions kids or their parents might have about the hospital.

The app is very new, and Alder Hey is still assessing whether or not it's changing their young hospital guests’ experiences for the better. If the game is successful, children's hospitals around the world may consider developing exclusive apps of their own.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Cell Free Technology
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This Pixel Kit Will Let You Play Tetris With Jellyfish DNA
Cell Free Technology
Cell Free Technology

Forget playing Tetris on your phone. Now you can play it with jellyfish DNA. Bixels is a DIY game kit that lets you code your own games using synthetic biology, lighting up a digital display with the help of DNA.

Its 8-by-8 pixel grid is programmed to turn on with the help of the same protein that makes jellyfish glow, called green fluorescent protein (GFP). But you can program it to do more than just passively shine. You can use your phone and the associated app to excite Bixels' fluorescent proteins and make them glow at different frequencies, producing red, blue, and green colors. Essentially, you can program it like you would any computer, but instead of electronics powering the system, it's DNA.

Two blue boxes hold Bixel pixel grids.

Researchers use green fluorescent protein all the time in lab experiments as an imaging agent to illuminate biological processes for study. With Bixels, all you need is a little programming to turn the colorful lights (tubes filled with GFP) into custom images or interactive games like Tetris or Snake. You can also use it to develop your own scientific experiments. (For experiment ideas, Bixels' creator, the Irish company Cell-Free Technology, suggests the curricula from BioBuilder.)

A screenshot shows a user assembling a Bixel kit on video.

A pixel kit is housed in a cardboard box that looks like a Game Boy.

Bixels is designed to be used by people with all levels of scientific knowledge, helping make the world of biotechnology more accessible to the public. Eventually, Cell-Free Technology wants to create a bio-computer even more advanced than Bixels. "Our ultimate goal is to build a personal bio-computer which, unlike current wearable devices, truly interacts with our bodies," co-founder Helene Steiner said in a press release.

Bixels - Play tetris with DNA from Cell-Free Technology on Vimeo.

You can buy your own Bixel kit on Kickstarter for roughly $118. It's expected to ship in May 2018.

All images courtesy Cell-Free Technology

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