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18 Beautiful and Unusual Playing Cards

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Cards are a fun way to pass the time, and there are so many decks available—featuring everything from lumberjacks to characters from Ghostbusters—that you'll never think about getting a boring set from a drug store ever again. Here are some cards so beautiful, you might not even want to use them.

1. RAINBOW CARDS; $13

These colorful cards come from the Brooklyn-based design duo Fredericks & Mae. When spread out, the cards create a vibrant rainbow. They come in a foil-stamped box and are accompanied by a booklet with some game recommendations.

Find it: Amazon

2. PEAKS; $15

Peak Playing Cards each come with an illustration of one of Colorado's 53 14ers (mountains that are at least 14,000 feet above sea level). Each card features a different mountain along with its name and elevation. You can decide between Day and Night decks that show different illustrations on the back. All the backs are the same so no one can figure out what cards you’re holding.

Find it: Art of Play

3. GLITCH; $15

These seemingly defective cards are created by San Francisco-based designer Soleil Zumbrunn. The result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, you can now purchase a deck for yourself online.

Find it: Amazon

4. BROSMIND; $4

Barcelona-based design studio Brosmind created 54 delightful illustrations for this whimsical pack of cards. Each illustration is better than the last, with images like spades riding dogs and doughnuts running around.

Find it: Amazon

5. GHOSTBUSTERS; $10

These officially licensed cards by Albino Dragon have completely original illustrations. Each card has a different character from the classic ‘80s comedy, including Slimer, Peter Venkman, and Winston Zeddemore.

Find it: Amazon

6. AND 7. CATS AND DOGS; $8 AND $4

Remember lenticular pictures? Now you can get them in playing card form. On one set, there are 52 different felines—and two dog jokers. If you’re more of a dog person, they have some of those too. Just try not to get too distracted moving the cards back and forth.

Find it: Cats, Dogs

8. SOLITAIRE; $14

Enjoy this throwback deck, which features the original artwork for the Windows 3.0 Solitaire game. Designer Susan Kare even designed joker cards just for the deck. The retro cards are the perfect thing to play with in your family’s computer room.

Find it: Amazon

9. MINIMALIST; $10

Designer Joe Doucet aimed to make these cards are simple as possible. Instead of illustrations of the suits, Doucet marked each card with the number and a small icon for the suit. The backs feature a single slash. The cards come in either black or white.

Find it: Areaware, Amazon

10. CMYK; $13

The cards do away with suits in favor of the colors in the CMYK model: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The cards in each color suit are different opacities, which creates a gradient when they're laid out.

Find it: Hundred Million

11. TIM BURTON; $5

This spooky deck of cards comes from the creative mind of Tim Burton. The face cards come with illustrations of characters from Burton’s book The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories.

Find it: Amazon

12. BACON; $8

Breakfast time is now card playing time. These bacon-themed cards are the perfect thing for the hungry poker players in your life. The face cards feature some royal piggies while the number cards are shown as strips of bacon.

Find it: Amazon

13. FIREFLY; $9

Fans that are still a little sore about the untimely end of Firefly might take some comfort in these officially licensed cards. Artist Ben Mund created illustrations of objects and characters from the show for the cards, which come pre-weathered.

Find it: Amazon

14. ANIMAL KINGDOM; $10

This deck is called "Animal Kingdom" for a reason—the face cards sport some pretty regal looking animals. These cards are also conservation-minded: They're printed on paper from sustainable forests, and for each deck purchased, a dollar will be given to the World Wildlife Fund.

Find it: Amazon

15. PIXELS; $10

These unusual cards are illustrated with pixels that are separated by a transparent grid. You can see through your cards, but your opponents can't see what you’re holding.

Find it: Amazon

16. JANE AUSTEN; $13

Relive all your favorite Austen novels with these playing cards, which feature quotes from the book as well as characters illustrated by Hugh Thomson and Chris Hammond.

Find it: Amazon

17. MADE BY CHILDREN; $12

These adorable playing cards were illustrated by children in Korea. Now you can play with smiling hearts, dinosaurs, and squishy looking spades. Best of all, a portion of the proceeds benefit children in developing countries.

Find it: Art of Play

18. LUMBERJACK; $12

Instead of crowns, deck your face cards in plaid. These lumberjack-inspired playing cards are sure to be a hit with your woodsier friends. Made by Bicycle, the fun cards feature trees, saws, and other lumberjack fixings.

Find it: Art of Play

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"American Mall," Bloomberg
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Unwinnable Video Game Challenges You to Keep a Shopping Mall in Business
"American Mall," Bloomberg
"American Mall," Bloomberg

Shopping malls, once the cultural hub of every suburb in America, have become a punchline in the e-commerce era. There are plenty of malls around today, but they tend to be money pits, considering the hundreds of "dead malls" haunting the landscape. Just how hard is it to keep a mall afloat in the current economy? American Mall, a new video game from Bloomberg, attempts to give an answer.

After choosing which tycoon character you want as your stand-in, you're thrown into a mall—rendered in 1980s-style graphics—already struggling to stay in business. The building is filled with rats and garbage you have to clean up if you want to keep shoppers happy. Every few seconds you're contacted by another store owner begging you to lower their rent, and you must either take the loss or risk them packing up for good. When stores are vacated, it's your job to fill them, but it turns out there aren't too many businesses interested in setting up shop in a dying mall.

You can try gimmicks like food trucks and indoor playgrounds to keep customers interested, but in the end your mall will bleed too much money to support itself. You can try playing the bleak game for yourself here—maybe it will put some of the retail casualties of the last decade into perspective.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Live Smarter
Why the Soundtracks to Games Like 'Mario' or 'The Sims' Can Help You Work
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iStock

When I sat down to write this article, I was feeling a little distracted. My desk salad was calling me. I had new emails in my inbox to read. I had three different articles on my to-do list, and I couldn't decide which to start first. And then, I jumped over to Spotify and hit play on the theme to The Sims. As I listened to the upbeat, fast-paced, wordless music, my writing became faster and more fluid. I felt more “in the zone,” so to speak, than I had all morning. There's a perfectly good explanation: Video games provide the ideal productivity soundtrack. At Popular Science, Sara Chodosh explains why video game music can get you motivated and keep you focused while you work, especially if you're doing relatively menial tasks. It's baked into their composition.

There are several reasons to choose video game music over your favorite pop album. For one, they tend not to have lyrics. A 2012 study of more than 100 people found that playing background music with lyrics tended to distract participants while studying. The research suggested that lyric-less music would be more conducive to attention and performance in the workplace. Another study conducted in open-plan offices in Finland found that people were better at proofreading if there was some kind of continuous, speechless noise going on in the background. Video game music would fit that bill.

Plus, video game music is specifically made not to distract from the task at hand. The songs are meant to be listened to over and over again, fading into the background as you navigate Mario through the Mushroom Kingdom or help Link save Zelda. My friend Josie Brechner, a composer who has scored the music for video games like the recently released Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, says that game music is definitely written with this in mind.

"Basically, successful video game music straddles the balance between being engaging and exciting, but also not wanting to make you tear your ears off after the 10th or 100th listen," Brechner says. Game music often has a lot of repetition, along with variation on musical themes, to keep the player engaged but still focused on what they're playing, "and that translates well to doing other work that requires focus and concentration."

If you're a particularly high-strung worker, you might want to tune into some relaxing classical music or turn on a song specifically designed to calm you. But if you want to finish those expense reports on a Monday morning, you're better off choosing a fast-tempo ditty designed for seemingly pointless activities like making your Sims eat and go to the toilet regularly. (It can help you with more exciting work responsibilities, too: Other research has found that moderate background noise can increase performance on creative tasks.)

These types of songs work so well that there are entire playlists online devoted just to songs from video game soundtracks that work well for studying. One, for instance, includes songs written for The Legend of Zelda, Skyrim, Super Smash Bros., and other popular games.

The effect of certain theme songs on your productivity may, however, depend on your particular preferences. A 2010 study of elementary school students found that while calming music could improve performance on math and memory tests, music perceived as aggressive or unpleasant distracted them. I was distracted by the deep-voiced chanting of the "Dragonborn Theme" from Skyrim, but felt charged up by the theme from Street Fighter II. There's plenty of variety in video game scores—after all, a battle scene doesn't call for the same type of music as a puzzle game. Not all of them are going to work for you, but by their nature, you probably don't need a lot of variation in your work music if you're using video game soundtracks. If you can play a game for days on end, you can surely listen to the same game soundtrack over and over again.

[h/t Popular Science]

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