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Pick up your (loot) Baggage (bags) at the Curb. Our unofficial curbside service. And update of new stuff.

Here is the official unofficial way we* are doing things at D20 (for the moment) that is designed to keep everybody safe, give people a way to keep from going nuts that doesn’t involve screens, and trying to keep in business. 
*(not we, ok there is really nobody here but me and the pooch.)

What: Mystery Loot bags and specific game requests, We have Game Loot Bags, Magic Loot Bags, and D&D Loot bags.

Where: delivered to your car or at a distance outside the door

When:  Pretty much whenever I’m here, which is a fair amount.  Just call and check (510-522-2109). 

I’m not going to do regular hours because I don’t want to have any “time” I open up that might get more then one person hanging around at a time.   Call first and I’ll get things ready for when you get here.  

We are doing cash and credit cards and I’m rounding up the amounts so we don’t exchange any cash.  To keep thing safe for everyone, no customers are coming in the store, so that means no singles, either buying or selling.  Normally we spend a lot of time trying to help figure out what games are good for each person.  I’ll do that on the phone if I can, but the real way we are dealing with that are the Mystery Loot Bags.  Having said that , we are making some that are for younger kids vs adults and over, and if you let me know if there are a bunch of you or just two, I’ll see what I can do to help. 

Family Game Night-making a habit worth keeping.

Ok…we all know it is a painful  time, going stir crazy trapped in our homes with our kids/parents, desperately hunting for things to do to make the time move a little faster without getting on each other’s nerves. So lots of us have been pulling out projects, puzzles and board games. But in a time with all the old habits thrown up in the air, can we take one of the good things, family game night, and turn it into something everyone wants to keep around?

The thing of it is that this moment we are all going through has done something interesting and important that is worth thinking about. We’ve all had to basically blow up what we thought was the way life had to operate, and when this is done, we’re gonna need to put it back together differently then it was before. So maybe, we can use this to sneak back in somethings that were just too much of a change to get everyone to buy into before.

Old picture of a family playing games together

See I own a game store, so I get to see a lot of families come in, and I know from the tips of my toes to the top of my massively in need of a haircut head (remember when we used to be able to get haircuts, in the “before times”? Ah, the exotic luxury of it.), that the families that had regular family game night were bonded in ways that were just different from everyone else. I won’t go through the details on the case for board game nights again since I did that once upon a time in my store blog, but it’s an idea that almost every parent intuitively knows about as well as they know how exquisitely impossible it is to get going once screens and phones lodge into our kids brains. Getting this “quaint” idea going, with people who are able to fill every bored moment, is almost impossible. I will also not go into the details of why I’m deeply worried about the serious issues around the “Digital Nicotine” aspects of many of the things passing through smartphones/tablets, (So I’m Addicted to Cell Phones Too, Ben Calica). However, I will say that I’m much, much more worried about the danger of the literally physical addiction aspects of smartphone/screen problems right now, to the point where they could be much more difficult to deal with. Let me be clear, I’m not Luddite guy looking to throw all the glowing Satan boxes into the river (though there have been times when I wanted to take my own kids phones and lovingly put them under the tire of my car and just drive slowly back and forth for a little bit. I will put huge money that there is not a single parent of a kid with a phone reading this that isn’t nodding right now.) For learning, for communicating with loved ones, for opening the whole world of knowledge to us, these are amazing tools. But there are thousands of really smart people out there that have been paid a great deal of money to tickle those parts of our brains that keep us coming back to give them our eyeballs, and they know where the endorphins are kept locked up in the cupboard.

So now that things have got blowed up nice and good and we are face to face to face, at least with the family that got down in the tornado cellar before the big virus twister hit, how can we turn our shelter experience into a regular family habit that becomes a regular part of our lives?

The Elements of Successful Family Game Night:

Pick Carefully: The first and most important part of a successful family game night is what game are you gonna play. When I have couples come into the store to find a game, the first thing I ask them is how do they do playing against each other or with each other. There are some people who love the joy of getting to stretch their minds and skills against each other, and others who feel picked on or condescended to or just feel under pressure to “play right” and therefore don’t feel like they like games at all. If you have a family, what are the age differences in the kids? Will the youngest feel over-matched or left out? Is it a game of speed that leaves the Grandparents feeling left out? Is the game too complicated for people to be patient to understand the rules, or too simple and feeling random for more sophisticated players.

Generally speaking, the best thing to do is to start with simpler and more successful games and then let the games get richer from there. For those who don’t like feeling left out of behind or the pressure of understanding all the nuances to be successful, look at some of the really great cooperative games. The best ones aren’t Pollyanna crunch fests, but have the game as the “bad guy” opponent and source of challenge/tension. Other things to watch for is games that involve everyone as quickly and immediately as possible. Games where one person takes their turn for 5–10 minutes while everyone else waits around tend to kill a game night but good.

The Game/Rules Master: Once you’ve selected the types of games you want, each family game night, someone should be preselected to be the Game/Rules Master. One of the things that kills games nights but good is a lot of time where everyone is trying to battle over the one rule book to figure out how the stupid game works. Most games are pretty straight forward to play after you’ve muscled through the first game, but figuring out the basic setup, object and how the game works turn to turn isn’t always obvious the first time through. The game master is the one who gets the game the day before and who goes ahead of time to set the game up and to run through a practice round or two on their own to figure out how to play the darn thing. They are gonna be the ones who explain the game play to everyone else. You can also have them be the one who picks the game for the night. But if you do so, they need to have the goal of picking a game that they think everyone would like. (If you wanna be really cool about it, have them pick a game that they think one other person in the family would most love…kid picks game that they think mom would love, mom picks game that dad would love, brother picks game for younger sister, etc. If you do that, then they feel great when they see someone else in the family love the experience. It shifts the focus outside themselves. )

Big, big hint for the Game/Rules Master when they are teaching the game!!! Have the least amount of time possible between the time you start talking about the game and everyone is starting to play. The natural tendency is to go through the whole game, but people are getting bored off their rocker listening instead of getting to it. Better to be a little more basic in your description and let people ask you if they don’t understand something, then to take a lot of time describing stuff that people probably get already. And if there are complicated variants to how something happens in a particular circumstance, just say that there are some rare exceptions and move on. Once people get into the flow, you can get to that. What you need to explain to get started is:

  1. Objective-i.e. how do you win the game. (Collect the most X, get to the end of the board, be the last mushroom standing..). If it is complicated, give a basic view first and point to the part of the manual that has it for people to look at. If it is super complicated and the game doesn’t come with reference cards for everybody, consider making a copy of those pages for everyone playing.
  2. Set up– Ideally have this already done or have the place in the rules about this underlined and ready to describe. (“everyone gets 7 cards and 3 caterpillar tokens”)
  3. Basic steps to a turn: What does each player do in a turn. Again, top view and let people ask you questions if they don’t get it.
  4. Practice round!: This is really important if you can possibly do it. Run through how the game works by having people do it, but let them know the first round doesn’t count. That way people won’t feel under pressure or get grumpy cause they “never would have done that if they understood”.

Rules of the Table
What do they say, “good fences make good neighbors.” This is more then true of the table rules for game nights. Some of these work well printed out on the table to make sure that it is fun and not hurt feelings that rule the night, and others are examples to set.

  1. Phone Basket: Family game night is a sacred, phone free time. Make a big deal of putting your phones in a basket and even letting other people know that this time every week is time you don’t respond unless it is an emergency. Model the hell out of this. It is like sabbath, an electronics free zone.
  2. Family rules: You guys own the games. If you come to a rule that you guys don’t like as a family or you prefer a different way, agree and then change it. The big stack of cash under free parking in Monopoly wasn’t in the rules originally, but we always thought the game was way better with it. )
  3. Smack Talk/Shaming: This is a tricky one. The shaming is obvious, but extends to telling someone that they made a stupid move…just shut that stuff down, and I’d print this rule up. The smack talk is a different issue. It can be lighthearted and part of a family/friend dynamic. (I sure did it with my best friends in high school..the epic battle on who was better, Richie Rich or Scrooge McDuck took on an epic level of smack talk that makes me smile to this day.) But we have a rule against smack talk in the store because, well, the whole idea of smack talk is to try and get just a little under someone’s skin. The problem is that with teens and tweens in particular, their job is to not show when they get feeling hurt, so someone could be really hurting someone without realizing it. So just to play it safe, we just don’t allow it in the store. This is a call you gotta make for your own family, and I don’t know em enough to know if they have a good handle on that line, but I’ll include it in the list later and you can blame me if you need “aw Ma/Dad” cover.
  4. Food at the Game Table: Ok..I know I just got done with this whole thing about you knowing your family best and making your own choices but, YES…food at the gaming table. Let me make this simple: Hungry=low-blood sugar=crankiness/short tempers. Keep out that bowl o’snacks. Sure, make it grapes and pretzels and not Cheetos, BBQ and powdered donuts if you care about keeping the game clean, but snack ’em up. There are reasons that the image of D&D players in their basements included boxes of pizza. 😉
  5. No Know-it Alls (Table Captains), or Rules Lawyers: Table Captains is usually the older sibling who understands how the game is played and starts ordering people around like they are extensions of themselves. This is most often in cooperative games. It takes away the fun of playing from the other players, even though all they think they are trying to do is help. A little talk about being their to support the other players and asking the question “would you like a suggestion” and actually waiting for the answer goes a long way.
    I need a private moment with the game playing dads…(I’m gonna say something a little hard to hear. It is super likely that you are doing this too and don’t realize it. It is the single thing that makes their spouses not want to play with them. They may not get the pattern as fast cause that isn’t what they’ve done a lot, but they are pretty damn smart and it is way better to give them space to ask questions, then to over explain. It comes across as condescending and you are pushing off the person you most wanna join in.
    The second type of playing to be careful of is what is called Rules Lawyer-ing. This is playing gotcha with the rules, calling someone on a mistake they made because they didn’t understand or missed a nuance of the rules. Don’t, just don’t. If someone can take a move back because they didn’t get something, let them. It is way better to play a great game and lose it, then to make someone feel like they can’t try and learn a new game because they are afraid to be made to feel stupid because they misunderstood something.
  6. It’s Just a #%$ing Game: The slogan for the store that grace the back of our tee shirts and hoodies is a graphic representation of “Win with Grace, Lose with Style, and Play for Fun”. This is about the most important part of a good family game night. One thing to do is to make a winners trophy that rotates from player to player that is so epically stupid that it makes it clear the nature of winning and loosing in this house. (Right now, I’d probably take a roll of toilet paper and stick it on an old trophy to indicate the value of family triumph. Although that may be a little too valuable at the moment.) One word about modeling winning and loosing to small children that is a little counter intuitive. This works particularly well with coop games when the game wins. We tend to thing that acting serene and accepting a loss is what we need to model for little kids. The problem is that just make us alien beings to them, ones who just don’t have the same emotions they do. It is actually better to show starting to get frustrated and then taking a moment to breath or in some other way calm down and get to that “ah well” state. That way we are modeling something for them that is much more accessible, how to have those feelings and then manage them. Even with the older kids, if you get frustrated in a game, say so, and then talk it out. As adults, we often get frustrated with games, particularly if the rules are complex and we feel like we have more important things to be doing, and if this isn’t fun, then why are we bothering. Believe me, the kids will pick up on that frustration and walking away. But what we are walking away from is working out a problem that they were part of rather then expressing our feelings and trying to work it out. Much better to stick it out and work it though on this much safer ground, so when it is much bigger issues, you’ve had some successful practice rounds. I think this may be the very heart of why those families who got family game night into their regular pattern of life have this different feeling about them.

That seems like as good a note as any to end this on. This seems like play time, but it is some of the best parenting time that you can invest in. It isn’t easy, and is kind of like teaching a teenage dog to do new tricks (they already know all the tricks, and why should they listen to you anyway, dumb dad/mom dogs), but it is worth it. And this is an absolutely unique time to take the shattered pieces of the old life and maybe build something a little better from the pieces.

The Family Game Night rules

  1. Electronics Free Zone:
    No phones at the table, (unless the game requires it.)
  2. No Commenting on someone else’s dumb (or more clever then you realized) moves.
  3. No Insulting/Shaming other players, or teaming up on anybody besides Dad. (Ok..he deserves it.)
  4. No Rules Lawyer-ing…if someone makes a dumb mistake, let ’em take it back already.
  5. Don’t Cheat: Losing with grace is pretty cool and you learn and get better. Cheating just robs you of having people believe you when you win later.
  6. Oh yeah, remember the three magic words:
    It’s A Game.

Win with Grace, Lose with Style, and Play for Fun

Sew what can we do to help? Making DIY masks to relieve the pressure….

(I stared this at the beginning of the week before the CDC recommendation for everyone to wear masks….this is a list of the best links for DIY masks I’ve found. PLEASE comment back on which ones are better and send others that you find, I’ll keep the list updated as much as I can.)

We’ve all heard about the mask/materials shortages for hospitals, and its been sticking in my craw that we’re stuck at home with the impulse to help but nothing to do besides trying not to drive each other crazy.  So when I heard about people sewing masks at home to help out, that seemed pretty like a pretty cool use of creativity.  I can’t do it, but I can help figure out what is real, vs. nonsense, and try and spread the word.    The interesting thing is that even masks that are not of medical quality are of value.  Turns out that tea towels are pretty close to fancy medical grad material in terms of catching virus side stuff.  And even if it doesn’t do that, it helps with one of the biggest sources of spread, the almost impossible task of not touching yer damn face/mouth during the day.    What I’ve included is the links to resources that I’ve found, following the contents of a letter that just came to me from a member of a Kaiser task force on what is acceptable designs for them to use to help with their medical professional.  They would like masks for their local Kaiser centers, but obviously, get them to where ever they need to go.  Probably best to wash them, and put them in ziplock bags after extremely carefully cleaning…we don’t wanna pass the virus on in something designed to keep it out…too stupidly ironic.   If you find better information or improved designs, leave a comment or email us at info@d20alameda.com.   And if you do end up making one, send us a picture and tell us where it went and we’ll share it.  I know it seem like it’s too big for us to do anything about this besides hide in place, but there are a lot of us.  😉


From Kaiser (3/27/2020)
Materials that should be used to make the mask:

        • Reusable/washable
        • Cotton or T-shirt material

Design components:

Cleaning requirements:

        • Must be able to hand or machine wash when soiled or contaminated

Approval/Distribution:

        • Regional approval of masks is not needed if volunteers follow instructions and design components provided
        • Masks will be distributed locally (to medical centers)

We are extremely grateful for your willingness to help our organization keep our patients, members, visitors, staff and physicians safe.

Other Resources I’ve found for this…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s a Responsible Game Store to Do?

I’ve been struggling with the right thing to do at the shop to be good ducks right now and it is very tough. We don’t wanna be over the top, but we also really want to make sure we keep people safe and do our part to help as we can.  And we can also see how we can shift the business so we are still around when the cough’s clear.

Last week we replaced our usual tablecloths with the not as pretty ones we had that we used for parties, since we can clean/disinfect them. And before we did the magic draft where we passed the cards around we had everyone use disinfectant hand wipes.  Seemed a bit overly cautious at the time, but not so much at this point.  We are trying to figure out the best ways to make events at the store as safe as we can, including lots of disinfectant and even limiting the number of people at the events to insure more space.

We also know that we actually have something to offer to help so that people who are stuck at home as an alternative to video games or getting utterly sucked into phones.  We are going to look into trying figure out how to get people games in ways that don’t necessarily require coming into the store. And we are looking at creating game events for (limited) amonts of kids during the days when they are off school.  We don’t want these to be lots of people coming in and out, instead we need it to be less people who are staying with  a small group for the day.

So here is what we are doing as of now:

  1. Friday Night Magic will be 4 pack sealed instead of a draft:
    For the next few weeks everyone will get a “prize” Pack with the normal 3 and then the prizes will be promo packs for the top 4 players.  Since we now have the Mystery Packs ($5)  in, and were gonna do the drafts for $20 anyway, this should still be plenty of fun, sort of a Chaos Sealed. –Limiting to 26 players to insure there is enough space to have between people.
  2. We are gonna be suspending the Pokemon League for the next 3 weeks at least.  Don’t think there is any way to insure the little ones keep their fingers out of eyes, and mouths between playing/trading.
  3. Enforcing the 6 person max for D&D so there can be space between folks at the tables.
  4. Well–don’t be sick.  😉  We are all doing our best through this, but one of the biggest things is if yer coughing etc, don’t take the chance.  The truth is that a pretty good percentage of the folks who come to the store are young enough that they will likely be fine though this, but that don’t mean that they might not inadvertently pass it on to another kid.  No big deal unless they end up inadvertently passing it on to their grandma.  So to protect all our grandmas…don’t take the chance…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D20 Recommended Games

Recommended games  Who is it good for
Planet All , Families Image result for planet gameFrom the makers of Dr. Eureka and Photosynthesis comes a game that is like a 3d puzzle version of King domino (another recommended game)…simple yet pretty interesting.   see video review here  
Godsforge Tweens and up…anyone who likes MTG Godsforge Godsforge was Ben’s fav game at the last big game store owners show.  It’s kind of like Magic meets Yatzee. Extremely well designed and just a ton of fun.  Extremely highly recommended and a great game for magic players when you don’t know what they already have.
Tiny Towns Adults, Famlies, Party This is one of the first games I’ve seen where people can just enter and leave the game without it being a problem. Sort of like town building Tertris, the goal is to get the best score by making interesting combos of buildings with the block that the next person in line picks in turn. Want a better score, stick around a do another card.  Need to go check the pies, let someone else hop in.  The game is great and it is easy to imagine it being played by different people all day, with the top score on the fridge whiteboard.
Cover Your Kingdom (Cover your Assets follow on) All Image result for cover your kingdomWhen the all time fav game in the store (Cover Your Assets) gets an “absurdly ruthless spinoff”, you think it isn’t going on our recommended list?  Preview here 
Trekking the National Parks All
Mice and Mystics All Image result for mice and mystics Redwall meets self running D&D in this coop family game that is great to play with parents and kids together. More info here and here 
Coop games/Legacy Games 
Dark Souls Board Game
Mansions of Madness
Hogwarts Battles
Gloomhaven
Terraforming Mars

 

On Sale Reg Price Sale Price
Ogre $
Terraforming Mars

 

 

(April fools)Wizards adding unusual requirements for Magic Players to attend events

Earlier this year, Wizards introduced so changes for those of us scheduling events that actually made a lot of sense.  They let us start setting age limits for the events. (It used to be that if an event was sanctioned for Magic or D&D, that those events had to be open to all players.) Seems pretty inclusive, but what that meant was that we couldn’t do a kids only event and prevent an adult for attending, or if we wanted to do an after hours, grown-ups only event, stores wouldn’t be able to do that.

However, Wizards has been making some other decisions that have been somewhere between confusing us and, honestly, making us pretty upset. This latest on is clearly in the confusing category, with a little in the latter.  Apparently some internal research they have done has indicated that a better metric for determining appropriate levels of developmental maturity has to do with physical growth over chronological growth.   I guess it has been known for a while that girls are more mature at an early age then boys and that often is connected with early growth spurts.

As a result, we are waiting for a package coming from Wizards that is a 6 foot plus stand-up that includes a measuring tool for us to use to determine who is allowed in the adult/mature events vs. the less developed.  For those who come from groups that tend to shorter stature or who have genetic dispositions in that direction, there is a section on the Wizards site to apply for exempted status.  The cards will apparently take between 2-3 weeks to arrive, but we will be able to look it up on the Wizard website so it shouldn’t cause too much disruption to attending the events.

I want to make a personal comment on this.  It is not what I would choose and I could ignore the requirement I would.  I think it is utterly foolish, first to trust this kind thing, no mater how convincing the research seems, and then to create such an elaborate plan without testing it locally somewhere first.  It’s truly unbelievable.

So why is Yugioh Banned at D20 Games, anyway?

I just got an email from someone looking for a place to have his 12 year old son to come and play Yugioh, and I was about to tell him the tale of why it is banned at the store, and why I recommend steering him away from Yugioh when I realized that it’s been a long time since I told the story and it was probably worth putting it where everybody could see.

Yugioh is one of the big collectible card games, and was a pretty big part of the store when I acquired it back in 2011.  We would get 40-60 people coming in on Sundays, and it represented about 1/3 the business of the store.  But I gave it a partial ban in 2012, followed by a complete ban after we had the big break in that almost killed the store.

The day D20 was broken into

So Why Ban Yugioh?

So with all due modesty, I’m a good guy, and have a firm but gentle touch with people, including tweens and teens. (I used to teach Karate to kids.)  I can pull people aside and talk to them about behaviors that are not ok without shaming them or making them feel angry or resentful. And I spent a lot of time getting to know the community, participating and getting to know the individual players.  But our Yugioh days contained 90% of the trouble we had at the store. It seemed any deck or cards left attended would be stolen the moment someone’s back was turned, we had a huge amount of issues with people taking advantage of others in trades, bad language and people getting really angry, sometimes to the point of fights over games.

After the break in, I went to a big conference of game store owners from around the country and was shocked to find out that the problems we had had were present at stores as far away as Philadelphia, and were only with Yugioh.  I spent a long time trying to figure out why this was…it was just a game, after all.  Finally I came to a theory, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I became convinced it is correct.   There seems to be a fundamental design flaw in the game end’s up not only fostering, but training bad behaviors.  Those have become part of the tone/culture of poor behavior/ethics that riddles the Yugioh community.

Yugioh-Magic “fixed”?:  Yugioh was invented by a guy that was an old Magic player.  He hated the idea of what’s called set rotation. (Basically, only the last couple of years of cards are used in the most common competitive format.)  He wanted all the cards that were created in his game to be used all the time. The problem with that has to do with the nature of collectible card games.  See the cool part of these games is that there are basic rules, but the new cards get to introduce new rules that change the game.  That’s really great, but as you get more and more rules, if you aren’t careful, you get combos of the card that just came out with a card from 5 years ago that becomes powerful enough to break the game.   Games like Magic the Gathering and Pokemon spend a huge amount of time looking out for these kinds of combos, but Yugioh doesn’t do quite as good a job.  Add that by having all the cards available to play with, after a few years the game started to be defined by these game breaking combos.  What it meant was the best decks don’t just win, they utterly crush not so great decks.

Badly training the Young; So here is where things start to go wrong.  Imagine you are a 8 or 9 year-old, taking your first deck to go play with your buddies at school.  You don’t just lose, you get crushed.  You go home to your parents, tears in your eyes from the humiliation.  If your parents have means, they come to a store like we used to be and buy better cards so they don’t have to see that look again.  If not, the kid has several choices.

  • “This game is stupid, I’m not playing it anymore”.  Probably a good choice, but kids aren’t usually wired that way.
  • Trade for better cards.  This seems good on the surface, but the cards they need are worth many, many times what the cards they have are worth.  So they end up learning, at a pretty early age, to take advantage of less knowledgeable players.  This is something we deal with directly in all of the collectible card games, and when a kid gets taken advantage of, they can either decide to talk advantage of the next person or to never make anyone else feel as bad as they do now.  It is one of the fundamental building blocks to becoming an honest person or not.
  • Stealing: See the deck that beat them in the kids backpack….

This isn’t the majority of kids that end up down a bad path, but it is enough that starts to seriously influence the ethics of the community.   There are a couple of additional things about the game that complete the story.

  • Lotto Packs.  All collectible card games have the “oh, what’s in this one” aspect that has been part of collectible cards since baseball cards.  It’s true of Magic, Pokemon, etc. But Yugioh is an extreme with this.  It was well known that of a box of 24 packs had about 8 that were were worth anything at all.  It was totally common to watch people open packs, look for the ultra rare and throw the rest of the pack out if it wasn’t there.  With this level of gambling mentality, it affects how people view the ethics of trading.
  • Turn one win fury:  With all the combos that could win the game running around, it becomes almost a coin flip to see who finds their combo first.  If you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on your deck and your opponent gets his combo out first and locks you down, people tend to get, shall we say, cranky.  This is why we had so many near fights during tournaments.
  • “Dealing” trading cards:  Because the cards that make these auto win combos are so critical in playing, they become fairly valuable.  Add this to the culture of it being ok to take advantage of other people during trades, and you get people that are acting almost like the not so great version of dealers with the valuable cards.
  • Unclear Rules=different kind of players. The unspoken truth of the kids who really learn to play Pokemon and the Magic players is that it tends to attract fairly intelligent people.  Trying to figure out how to make different rules work together is a super interesting and challenging thing to do.  The rules on the Yugioh cards can be so difficult to understand and obscure that instead of people figuring out their own cool things, they hear from someone else how that new cool deck work.  That means that you get a fairly large percentage of the community that plays just for the chance to beat each other, or to try and make money off their wheeling and dealing for cards.   There is often a more aggressive group of players that joins then what you would imagine would be attracted to playing a non gambling card game.

Not all Yugioh Players are bad, but enough: I’m not saying that this affects everyone, or even the majority of players. But it does change the tone of the community, the ethics and how they treat each other.  I believe this enough that even though Yugioh was a full third of my business, I made the decision, as both a store owner and a father to ban the game utterly from the store.  This was not something I did lightly or without a great deal of thought and consideration. Not only no sales, but no Yugioh cards are allowed at the store, and I actively do my best to encourage kids away from playing the game. I’m sorry for the good folks who like the game, but after 5 years, I have never regretted it, and to answer a frequently asked question, will never bring it back to the store.  (I could use my access to sell it online and make a decent profit, but once I believed it was a bad influence, as a dad, I couldn’t do even that.)

But my kid wants to play Yugioh: For parents who’s kids (frequently Pokemon players who are looking to move on) are getting interested in Pokemon, I would strongly suggest gentle urging towards Magic instead. (You can bring them in and I’ll provide parental support.  I may be the Peanuts “wah, wah” parents to my own kids, but for other kids, I’m the guy behind the counter at D20.  I can use that bully pulpit to help with this so they don’t just end up seeing it as forbidden fruit.)   Magic was the first of the games, and has the good stuff of the collectible card games, (social interaction, really using your brain, etc.) without that level of negative side effects. Probably the best feature is they can do what is called limited play. (Basically show up and do events where they play with the cards from the packs they get as part of the event.  Everyone starts even, and it is a chance for them to play with the packs they collect.  There are even team events that can be played with a buddy or even parent.)  You still want to make sure they trade fair, and are get interested in the playing, not just opening packs, but it’s a good choice I have no problem recommending.  Tell you the truth, I hesitated talking publicly about my observations about Yugioh, because I didn’t want that to get generalized unfairly to the rest of the collectible card games.

So I’m addicted to phones too–An(other) open letter to D20 Kids & Parents

(Kids, don’t read this*.  It talks about some things being done in the mobile industry that are designed to manipulate people into doing things for the sake of advertising and in app purchases that are actually leading to medical level changes in the way our brains work, leading to some pretty bad stuff.)

There is an elephant in the room, and it is hard to get his attention because he has his trunk stuck in his smartphone.  There are a whole bunch of really smart people working really hard to use every psychological trick they can to get me to spend as much time as possible on our cell phones.

And they are winning.

Fun that makes me feel bad. I didn’t like it before when it just made me feel bad. And I now like it way less that I’ve come to understand it is affecting my sleep patterns,  how well I think, and acting like a drug, trading little moments of feeling good but leaving me sense of feeling depressed and out of control.  So I guess I fit into the classic definition of being addicted, knowing that something isn’t good for you, not wanting to do it, and doing it anyway.

Ain’t just me. The much bigger problem is that I talk to kids and parents everyday, so I know I’m not alone in this.  In fact it’s so universal that most of us have just thrown up our hands as the new way the world works.  But there is something about it that has felt more serious for a while, so I’ve started to look at it more carefully and what I found was a much bigger deal then I thought.  In a world where it seems like there is a crisis a day, it seems almost foolish to raise up a hand and try and point to a place where you think you see the damn starting to crack.  But I don’t raise my hand like this often, and I’m raising it here…raising the hand, waving the red flag, pulling the fire alarm.  I don’t even want to list the level of damage/danger here, because I don’t want to get written off as hysterical or overreacting…so I’m just going to ask that you trust me enough to read all the way through this over-sized tome, and if you end up feeling like I do, come and help me figure out what to do about it.

I’m a dad, and I spend a huge amount of time trying to get my kids to spend less time on their cell phones, and we get into a ton of fights about it.    “You don’t understand.  Your generation doesn’t get it.  I am being social, just with my friends on the phone and not with you.” etc, etc, The very process of trying to get my kids off the phone so we can have better time together generates fights that leave everyone mad in their corners, not being social at all.  (Does this sound familiar to any of you?)  As parents, its pretty obvious to see the difference in how our kids feel and behave when they are not on the phones so much, but trying to do something about it is way harder then it should be.  Besides, everybody is going through it so maybe it’s not really a thing, just us having to adjust to a different way of being in the world.  Or maybe there is something very serious going on and we in the middle of it so much that it’s hard to see what’s going on.

Hi, I’m Ben and I’m… I’m going to make two statements, one about me and one that is so outrageous that I’m either an utter fool, or it’s a very big and very real deal.

  1. I’ve been having real problems controlling myself with my phone too.  I’ve been trying not to says addiction, but if it looks like a duck and clicks like a duck…its probably an addicted duck. 
  2. In 10-20 years people will look back on this time as an actual health crisis, the way that we look back on the cigarette industry.
Digital Nicotine. So I’ll say that second part again, and try and explain what I mean.  When we look back in 10-20 years at this time, people are going to be looking back on this time the same way that we look back on the health crisis caused by smoking.  It’s almost impossible now to imagine there was a time when people didn’t recognize either the addictive power of cigarettes, or realize how much suffering/ death it was causing. And to imagine that there were people in that industry, who once they understood both the addictive nature of what they were doing and what it was doing to people, spend huge amounts of money, hiring the best people they could, to discredit the scientists, to increase the addictive properties of what they were selling and to focus the most sophisticated techniques possible to not only get people to smoke more, but to get to teens and pre-teens and get them to try smoking, knowing that once they did, they would likely have customers for their (admittedly shorter) lives.  (Smoker’s average lifespan is 10 years shorter then then those who never smoked.

We should have known better hall of fame: There have been a number of times in the past where we did mindbogglingly stupid stuff without realizing the effects.  It’s almost unimaginable that back in the 50’s people had no idea that smoking was actually bad for you.  There were dancing cigarette packs in the commercials of TV shows, and ads talking about the health benefits of one brand over another. Not to mention the X-ray shoe store boxes:  You know how when you get an x-ray, they drape your body with lead covering and step out of the room while they flash the x-ray for the shortest imaginable time, because they know that long exposure to x-rays has a high likelihood of caucusing cancer.
There was a period where you could go into a shoe store and put your foot in a machine.  To put that in context, the a dental x-ray would expose you to 0.005 mSv of radiation, 20 seconds in the foot box would expose you to ~48 mSv.  Oh, and did I mention the day my high school physic teacher brought in a nice blob of Mercury in a film canister for us to pass around and play with to show us metal that was in a liquid state at room temperature.  But hey, we didn’t know better and with the exception of the cigarette, when we figured out it was bad for us, we stopped.  
The cigarettes were a different story, for two reasons.  
  1. They were chemically addictive.
  2. There was enough money to be made that there was a whole industry dependent on, well people being dependent.   

I’m not addicted…what is addicted anyway? There are a lot of definitions for addictive, but the best one that I know if is something that you do, that you know is bad for you, can see the bad results, part of you is aware of it and knows you shouldn’t do it, and you do it anyway.  You can feel two voices warring inside of you, one that knows better, and the other that will use any tool at its disposal to have you not think about any negative consequences, and will rebel against anyone who might get in the way of doing it.  There’s a whole brain chemistry thing with the parts of the brain that are set up to reward us for doing things that are good for us, getting hijacked by things that provide the same sensations but without the benefits.

So how does this have anything to do with cellphones, or more specifically smartphones?  I’m going to do more writings about this in the year to come, but it turns out that when you hire a lot of the smartest people in the world to try and get people to spend as much time as possible with your apps, to basically figure out how their brains work and try and stimulate the parts of the brain that will get them to do something over and over again, that you are creating addictions.  That’s not quite digital nicotine yet, because what’s the harm being done?  It’s just people spending some of their free time on their phones…what the big deal?

Image result for addicted to cell phone

Getting Mad. Here’s where I start to go from nice guy, kindly store owner Ben, to quietly furious and determined to do everything I can to do something about this Ben. 
Here are a number of the affects that the wrong kind of/too much time on the smart phones has been having. ( Everything on this list makes sense from observation and has credible studies behind them.) One note before reading this list.  I think it’s really important for each of us to be able to be honest in our own observations in how we are being affected.  Really smart people have been working very hard to get us addicted to these devices, and it’s going to take a huge amount of effort and willpower to break that.  I don’t know what all the steps are, but the first is being strong enough to really look at what is going on with ourselves.   I will be adding more links/references to this list as time goes on.   
All the list contributes to and pales in comparison to the last item.
  1. Health5 Serious Side Effects of Using Smartphones Discover the dangerous consequences of your cell phone habitImage result for effects of cell phone addiction
    1. Sleep disruption
    2. Back and neck problems
    3. Hand/Finger problems
  2. Safety
    1. Distraction while driving is massively increasing…killing about 1/3 as many people as drunk driving.
  3. BI Graphics_Bluelight effectsCognition-changing the way our brain functions
    1. Significant reduction in ability to maintain attention and focus.
    2. Memory drops-Brain shifts to not store things that the phone has stored/access to
    3. Notifications cause shockingly high drops in productivity
    4. Neurological changes based on different stimulus creates same neurochemical addiction as most drugs. 
  4.  Homework/productivity
    1. Even just having the phone next to you—with the notifications off, reduces capacity to think/focus.
    2. Notifications lead to significant drop in focus/productivity
    3. “multi-tasking” consuming other media while working reduces how effectively you think.
  5. SocialImage result for effects of cell phone addiction
    1. Smart phone use is decreasing face to face time and skills, connected to depression and sense of isolation
    2. People withhold connection/trust from other people who are engaged with phones, even if they are just on the table
    3. Issues around smart phone use are causing stress and barriers between parents and children
  6. Depression and Suicide
  7. Smartphones becoming common among teens is the only significant/attributable change leading to a 25-30% increase in teen unhappiness, depression and Suicide that has been growing side by side with smart phone use from 2010 till the present.

 

And the last one is what has pushed me over the edge.  I can’t step back and do nothing anymore.  But I also know that there have been thousands of people who are extremely smart, who have gone through great efforts to make this problem much harder 

then just triumph of the will.  So I’m going to do my best trick in terms of solving hard problems…gonna get as many other brains (and hearts) as I can working on this.  And that includes the kids too… So look for more, comment, share and show up.  It’s too important not to.

*Of course I wanted you to read this.  See, I’m smart and a little manipulative too. (When you get addicted to something, one of the effects is a splitting of the voices inside you.  There is the voice that can see what is going on and wants control back.  And there is the voice that feels it needs that endorphin rush that comes from the behaviors, that will do everything your smart mind can think of to deflect anything that might give the first voice a chance to take control back. )

 

The Secret Life of Adults (and other kids)-The “right thing” if someone dies

[This article is part of a series where we reveal stuff that adults or kids don’t usually admit to each other.  Mostly it’s me fessing up to my secret thoughts or stuff I’ve done that maybe I shouldn’t have.]

One of the people at the store just lost their Dad, and my heart is kinda breaking for them as I write this.  I’m (like everyone else around him and his family) trying to figure out what the “right” thing is to say. And I want let him know that there are tons of ways that are normal to react to this, that there is no “right” way for him to feel, that whatever he’s feeling, it really is ok.  The truth is that everybody has a hard time figuring this out.

It feels like you should know the right thing to say or do when you find out about a loss that is just to big too imagine. If is a friend or someone we love, we tend fall back on “I’m so sorry for your loss” and “Is there anything I can do”.  And if it is you, you accept those words in a blur, unable to believe that the rest of the world is still going on as usual when everything has just completely changed.  Trying to figure out the right thing to do or feel makes a really tough time, much tougher.

If you are going through this, and this is intended for our friend, this stuff comes at you as it comes, and it’s all ok. All the cliche stuff has some basis in truth, but the order of what you are going through, and when or if you go through it is different for each person.

  • For some people, it hits them like a hammer to the gut right away.
  • For others, they feel bad that they don’t feel “enough” at the beginning.
  • Some people reach out to their friends and loved ones for support, others don’t want to talk about it.
  • Some take great comfort from the people who reach out, others snap back at them, because how can they understand?
  • Some put on a brave face to show that they are ok, and that no one needs to worry about them.
  • Some focus all their attention of taking care of the others in their family who are hurt.
  • Some just put all the feelings away to deal with later
  • Some just cry until they can’t cry anymore
  • Some write or draw or do anything else they can to either process or distract themselves
  • And a thousand other things…

Win with Grace, Lose with Style, Play for fun…The rules of the store and The Elections… (Or, don’t listen to them, listen to me…)

Win with Grace, Lose with Style, Play for fun…The rules of the store and The Elections… (Or, don’t listen to them, listen to me…)

I can’t believe I need to write this, but clearly I do.  The election is about to happen, and regardless of the outcome, it’s important to know that not only have the people running acted in ways that we shouldn’t emulate, that honestly, if they’d been in the store, we would have had a little private chat about the rules.
pic-of-d20-store-rules(I actually work hard to keep politics out of the store….there are certain issues, particularly those with deeply held personal beliefs, that once you start engaging in, it becomes hard to see someone who disagrees with you as anything beyond someone who is “other”, and this is a place for treating each other with respect so we can have (gasp) fun with each other.  I’m not going to change that policy now.  I have my own preferences, but I won’t push them on anybody.)
    • No Bad Language:   This rule extends beyond just swearing, but to smack talk in general.  Basically anything that is aimed at the purpose of making someone else feel uncomfortable, unwelcome or to attack their self-worth or self-confidence is just not ok. It doesn’t do anything besides make the other person like you less and poisons the ability to talk with each other and have fun.  Sure we compete and do our best to win, but none of that requires or is benefited by being mean.
Given that, I do feel like I need to say something about one aspect of all of this.  The idea of  elections is to choose people, in the case of the legislators (the law makers) who will act on our behalf to make the laws that will allow us to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And in the case of the president, that person is the citizen that we choose to act on our behalf in making sure those laws are enforced, in being our face to the world, to act when disasters happen, and to protect us and those we feel need protecting on our behalf.  They are both part of the check and balance of power on each other, come up with by our founding fathers who saw just what went wrong when all the power was in the hands of one person with the kings that ignored the will of the people, or with the will of the people when the passions of a moment turned them from people to the mob, as happened in France, who’s persecuted turned to persecutors, filling baskets with the remnants of their vengeance.
    • No Roughhousing or unwanted physical contact:  Not a place for grabbing, hitting or physically hurting other people.  (And no, if another player says that they will pay to get you out of trouble if you go and hurt someone that is annoying them, you’ll both get kicked out.)  Hurting someone, or encouraging someone else to hurt someone is utterly unacceptable.
The law makers are supposed to be our avatars….working together on our behalf, and the President should be the best of us, the person who we most trust to do the right thing when the clock is ticking and to lead and inspire us.
    • Good sportsmanship:  If you win or you lose, reach across the table, shake hands and say good game.  Those who do will have fun every-time, not just when they win, and get a chance to learn and get better.  Nobody wants to play or even be around someone who comes up with excuses why they didn’t win, particularly before the match even begins.
There has been behavior that has happened, over and over again in this campaign that, far from inspiring us and giving us things to aspire to, is so bad that if it happened in the store, I’d have to pull someone aside and have a quiet talk about treating each other with respect and trying to work things out.    For my young players, who’ve done so well at bringing out the best in each other, at turning away from teasing, name-calling and bad sportsmanship, know that for many of us adults, we are also looking in disbelief at presidential candidates who act with the language of frustrated little kids.
In terms of our Senators and Congresspeople, if we just wanted to have you vote on party lines, not actually talk with each other about the merits of each law, we can do that.   You guys can sit on the side, writing petitions, and we’ll vote from home.  Or we can just send one of those pecking water bird toys that hits the same button over and over again.
There are a lot of things wrong with the system at this point. Hidden money making it so our representatives need to give access to those with bigger pockets, often over doing the right thing for those of us who elected them. Legislators living in such fear of being singled out and attacked by their own parties, that the idea of reaching out to the other side and talking things through puts them at real risk.  Would any of us act that way?  Do we want those who are acting for us doing that?  (Here is an amazing video about what has happened over the last 50+ years in congress)
https://youtu.be/tEczkhfLwqM
But what we have to do is remember that the system was set up by some pretty smart people, (people like us), who tried to figure out the best way to do things and to set up systems of checks and balances that would keep things stable while they were working, but allow for changes (amendments) if something was clearly not working the way that they intended.  If you get frustrated, remember that, and then work to understand why and make things better.
And one final thing.  Every one of you that comes to the store on a regular basis, behaves better then what we are seeing in front of us.  So if that little voice inside says, “this isn’t a good person to try and be like”, pay attention to it.  You’ve been part of creating a good an welcoming place at D20, so as far as I’m concerned. you are doing good so far.
Ben
P.S. For those of you who are voting, I won’t suggest who you vote for, but would ask one thing:  None of this is as simplistic as it is portrayed.  Don’t get stubborn in either direction because of what someone else tries to tell you to do.  Take the time to really look at the candidates and decide who you want to represent and act for you for the next 4 years once all the ads are done and it is just working at the highest pressure, most intense job in the country, and who you would least like to see in that role.  We’ve seen from previous elections that they are not all the same and who is there has real and lasting consequences for all of us. And go and vote….

  

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