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7 Once Fictional Games That You Can Now Play in the Real World

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StarTrek.com

J.K. Rowling never intended for Quidditch, her made-up wizard sport, to be played in the real world, but that didn’t stop committed Harry Potter fans from grabbing broomsticks and DIYing it Muggle-style. Potterheads aren’t the only ones who’ve pulled a game or two from their favorite stories, though. Here are seven more fictional games that made the leap to reality.

1. FIX-IT FELIX JR.

Disney

Wreck-It Ralph, Disney’s movie about an arcade villain who wants to be one of the good guys, is a love letter to video games. So it only made sense for Disney to create real-life versions of the games that appear in the film, including Fix-It Felix Jr. If you’ve played Donkey Kong, get ready for some nostalgia, as you guide Felix on a hazardous journey up an apartment building, dodging bricks Ralph throws from the top. As part of its promotional efforts, Disney built a traditional arcade machine to house the game and invited gamers to play it. One of these machines landed on eBay in 2014, but if you don’t have $20,000 to spare, you can play the game in your browser for the low, low price of free.

2. CONES OF DUNSHIRE

During a week of unemployment, Ben Wyatt of Parks and Recreation does what any self-respecting nerd would do: he creates his own board game. Cones of Dunshire is a game for two to 12 players, including a Ledgerman who keeps score wearing a jaunty hat. Players accumulate four cones to win, but need to create civilizations to earn cones. The game was written as a joke, but Mayfair Games—of Settlers of Catan fame—brought the real thing to Gen Con in 2014. Want to play Cones of Dunshire at home? Follow these instructions to build your own.

3. JUMANJI

 
The 1995 Milton Bradley version of Jumanji is a lot less terrifying than the one in the film (which sucks Robin Williams into a dark, dangerous jungle for 26 years), but follows the same basic rules of rolling dice and moving pieces around a board. You can still find it on eBay, but to get a little closer to the real deal, spring for a replica with moving magnet pieces. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

4. TRIDIMENSIONAL CHESS

In the Star Trek universe, chess has evolved from one board to many. Tridimensional chess first appears in an early episode of the original series (Kirk checkmates Spock) and the odd-looking game has reappeared throughout the franchise ever since. Naturally, you can buy your own tridimensional chess set at the official Star Trek website, and master the game yourself, if you can make sense of the rules.

5. SABACC

If you’re a Star Wars fan, you're probably familiar with the card game Sabacc. It’s thanks to a winning hand that Han Solo comes to own the Millennium Falcon. Sabacc’s rules are similar to our galaxy’s blackjack: To win, players need to get as close as possible to a value of 23 without going over, though the betting system in Sabacc is more similar to poker. Beyond a deck included in a 1990 Star Wars RPG called Crisis in Cloud City, there’s no officially licensed Sabacc deck available. That hasn’t stopped fans, though. They’ve been making their own DIY versions (including one using Tarot cards) for years.

6. JUGGER

A post-apocalyptic film from the ’80s may not be the most obvious source material for a sport, but enterprising Aussies and Germans have taken the game of jugger from the 1989 movie The Blood of Heroes (alternatively titled The Salute of the Jugger) to the field. Players wield medieval-esque weapons made from foam and score points by sliding a (fake) skull onto the opposing team’s stake. The game is now being played all over the world.

7. CYVASSE

Westeros’s answer to chess, Cyvasse is a strategy game that A Song of Ice and Fire readers first see played by Myrcella Baratheon in A Feast for Crows while she’s in Dorne. George R.R. Martin described the game as a mix of chess, blitzkrieg and Stratego, but besides a few hints in the books (two players, 10 pieces), fans have had to fill in the details themselves. Although it’s maybe not the exact version available in Westeros, one enterprising fan made a 3D-printed Cyvasse board; if you don’t have deep Lannister coffers to buy a 3D printer to make your own board, there’s a free online version, too.

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Why the Soundtracks to Games Like 'Mario' or 'The Sims' Can Help You Work
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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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This Augmented-Reality App Makes the Hospital Experience Less Scary for Kids
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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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