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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….

  

So I shoplifted as a kid. An open letter to my D20 kids about shoplifting..

“I couldn’t understand how I went from feeling such a good feeling of being clever and getting away with being better then the system to having what felt like a physical pit in my stomach and a flush of shame that I was convinced would never, ever go away…”

The other day, we caught some kids figuring out how to scam the card machine at the store.  These weren’t bad kids, but it didn’t even occur to them that they were stealing, or if it did, they didn’t draw the line to the wrong of it.  So I decided to pull out a story that I’ve only told a few people about what happened with me when I shoplifted at about the same age that these kids did.

Stealing and shoplifting are a fact of life for a store like D20, and what you would only know if you actually did the books at the end of the month, is that while the stealing is a fairly small percentage of our sales, so is the profit that we end up with each month, and that little bit of stealing here and there, really hurts us a lot.

But that is never my first thought when we catch someone stealing, particularly a kid.  I know, from personal experience, that moment in time can be the point where someone chooses what kind of person they want to be.  This is the time when …

The Case for Family Game Night

The_Chess_GameThe case for Family Game Night.
I see a lot of families come into the store and see how they interact with each other.
  • “It’s his/her thing” There are a lot of kids dropped off with parents who through their hands up in the air about understanding the games the kids are playing, but are just happy their noses are out of screens.
  •  “If only they knew…” There are kids who have no idea that their parents sill have 10-12 year-olds living inside that are a little surprised every time they look in the mirror and see adults looking back, who used to play when we were kids and are a lot cooler then they can see though offspring-tinted glasses.
  • “Alright..enough you two!” There are parents who have the weary look of having tried to get the kids playing with each other or them and had such a bad time with tantrums born of games being taken as some sort of form of personal attack.
  • “Game on!” And then there are parents who’ve somehow, by joyful force of will or family legacy, who have incorporated regular playing games together as a family into their lives.
There is something beyond special about these families.  I’m truly not saying that as the dude who sells board games, but there is something about they way these families interact with each other.  An ease of conversation, a gentle teasing that goes both ways, that creates a sense of longing and envy in me every time I see it. And it makes me determined to do whatever I can to try and help foster that in every family, including my own.  I’m resolved this year to do eveything I can to help make a culture that says that in our community, in Alameda, that we pick one night a week to look at each other’s faces, rather then our screens, that we put down the lists and logistics for a couple of hours in exchange for interaction, connection and hopefully a bit of laughter.  That we realize that time we spend on this is not bonus playtime, but the work of making ourselves and our kids, the people we want to be.
Of course I’m going to push games into this slot, because that’s what I do, but obviously the same connections can come from hiking, playing sports, or building a rocket together. Just get away from the screens and look each other in the eyes.
Here are a few hints/observations that I’ve seen for those who have been able to make this work:
  1. Get regular.  A lot of the resistance to getting off screens or spending time together goes away when that time is considered sacred.  It will very likely be hard to get this going at first.  Part of what I want to do is have the kids be the ones who are pushing for this and rewarded in the store for making happen.
  2. Get out of your comfort zone.  Let different members of the family pick the game each week and have everyone look at it as a way to find the most fun out of the game.  Sometimes only finding the one game that everyone likes becomes almost impossible.  Besides, if you only experience that smallest section of that intersection, then no one gets what they most like,and everyone else misses out on tasting something new.
  3. Teasing ok, shaming not so much.  A lot of hurt feeling get hidden under playful poking at each other…if you need to set some limits on this, do so a head of time.
  4. If competition  is a problem, go co-op.  Fair play and good sportsmanship are super important, and can be incredibly draining and no fun to deal with as referees each time you play. There are a ton of great games where the game itself is the opponent, and each of you are working to beat it together.  These games are great for this situation.
  5. Advice on request only:  One thing that can kill games for everybody if one of the players is the “You should do this” guy.  People like to be smart for themselves, so instituting the “Can I give you a suggestion?” rule is a very good idea, particularly when you team it with “its ok to let other people make mistakes…its just a game”
  6. Designate a “prepared guy/gal”. If you are going to be playing a new game, make sure somebody is assigned to be the person who checks out the game before everyone plays to be the rules jedi.  Nothing bores players more then trying to puzzle out the rules of a new game together for 50 minutes before you play.
  7. Share the mantra:  Model for the kids the D20 Mantra
    • Win with Grace
    • Lose with Style
    • Play for Joy
  8. Share joy, not expectations. A lot of parents get frustrated when their kids would rather stick their heads in the screen then do the things the parents wish they could share.  .
  9. For the parents…lighten up. 😉  We get so locked into being parents that we forget what it is like to be kids. Be kids with your kids…show them what that’s like.  And related to that, don’t turn up your nose at some of the games the kids like if they have adolescent humor or even violence.  They are adolescent, and conflict as one of the things that makes games (and) entertainment fun is utterly normal.  (Shakespeare’s characters knocked each other off with stunning regularity.)  I’m not condoning hateful or truly offensive stuff, but just remember what it was like to be a kid, and also remember that while when we were kids, we tended to play in gender separated groups, that as familes, we need to cross a lot of things we might not normally like to find common ground.
What I’m going to do to get this started is create a pledge card for the store.  Anyone who pledges (and really means it) to do a family game night at least twice a month, I’ll give them a special in-store goodies (or discount) tbd. If this rings true with you and seems worth it, I’d like to ask for help in trying to make this something bigger then just the store in the community.  My goal would be to have Alameda take some pride in being a community that has committed to this, and let’s see what kind of results it has on our lives.   If you want to help and have ideas, email me back and we’ll set up a time to get together and figure it out.  The best things I’ve ever done, have been done by cool people around me.
Have a great week and go play.  😉

D20 Holiday Gift Guide-Trading Card Games (Pokemon/Magic)

D20 Holiday Gift Guide-Trading Card Games

This guide is our best, most honest recommendations for gifts for the holidays; based on interest, experience level/age (and budget).

Parents cheat sheet:

TCG or CCG (Trading Card Games/Collectible Card Games)

Magic and Pokémon, are what are known as collectible card games.  (Think collecting baseball cards, where you could actually play those better cards in a game.)  The games are in their simplest form like the old card game War, where players put down two cards and the higher one wins.  Each player has a starting amount of life, and they play cards used to attack, defense and respond to try and get the other player to zero (or in the case of Pokémon, to get 6 of the other players Pokémon to get to sleep).  What is interesting about the game is that the cards themselves add and modify the rules of the game, creating an evolving set of game play. (That’s why the kids get excited about the new set of cards as they come out, each set adds new possibilities that they can puzzle out.)

From the parent’s point of view, the aspects of the games that are good are encouraging reading, math, and logic skills.  BTW…ignore the age recommendations on the boxes…Magic is listed as 13+ …whoever set those levels clearly had no clue about the reality of kids.   Pokémon is the usual game that starts kids playing, and it is very common for them to just enjoy collecting the cards without having a clue how to play it. Don’t worry…very normal. We do a Pokémon League on Saturdays where the kids get points for playing and actually get double points for helping the younger/new players figure it out.  It’s good to eventually get them to learn how to play the game, because that is when they will start reading the card for real and to start working on the math that is part of playing the game. 

It is also good for creating opportunities to learn fair play, though that benefits a lot from our help.  Some of the rarest cards can end up being valuable ($100 or more), so talk to your kids about keeping them safe at school, as well as being both careful and fair in their trading with others.  Keeping their cards in sleeves (usually between $3.5-$5 a pack) and in a deck box with their name on it ($3-5) will both keep the value of the cards intact and make it less likely for their cards to get mixed up with other kids by accident.

Players (kids and others) love opening up the packs, with that anticipation of finding some treasure within.  The individual packs are very fun as stocking suffers or small gifts, but have the possibility of being a disappointing choice as a primary gift, since they are only “good” if they happen to have good cards in them.  See the list below for better choices.

 The recommendations below are from our staff (and me) and are our best, most honest advice.

Pokémon (age 6-up)

Item Name Cost Description/comment
Just Collecting for fun
Good Bundle boxes $13-30 each These have a number of booster packs and either a full art cool card, little Album or toy figure that matches the cool card.  These are great for little kids…lot of “oh, ahh” per inch and there is at least one great card in each.   This is full of great stuff and really big, so it will open well for max under the tree happy factor.
New/learning players (6 and up)
Good Pokémon Intro decks $13.99-17.99 When they first start to play, they really need a deck that has been built for them that works together well.  If you want to play with them (which is actually pretty fun), get a second one.  (Dad advice…get a set of sleeves for each deck so when the cards get spilled all over, it’s easier to get them back to be usable.)
Knows how to play
Better Hidden Fates Pin packs $21.99 These big stocking stuffers have 3 packs and a bonus card.  The Hidden Fates is a more rare set that has been hard to find.
Best Hidden Fates Collections $79.99-120 These boxes have special rare promo cards and sets of the Hidden Fates Packs. We have about 10 in stock.
Intermediate-Advanced Players
Better Pokemon Tins- $19.99-24.99 These latest tin’s contain Ex (really good) versions of some of the best cards as well as a number of booster packs.
Better Ultropro Premium Side loading binders $24-29 These binders load the cards from the sides instead of the tops.  Because of that, the cards don’t fall out and it is much harder for other light fingers to take things out without being noticed
Best Full art Single cards or Ex-Cards or a box of boosters $15-50 for the singles, $110 for the booster box (36 boosters) If you know the cool card they are looking for, we can usually help. Otherwise, get them a gift certificate so they can come in and really trick out their decks.  Or get them a full box of boosters.  While no one really knows what is in each booster, generally each box has a few of the prized full art cards and they WILL be happy.  Let us know if you want these since we don’t always have a lot in stock.
Stocking Stuffers
Single Packs. $ 4-$8.99 each More fun for new players or kid collectors then advanced players. The more advanced the player the more they will be happy if the pack has good stuff and otherwise it’s a scratcher. Good for stocking stuffers. There are Pokemon special packs up
Card Protectors (Sleeves) $3.50-$5 Price is based on style and maker. Keep cards protected and from getting mixed up with other players-They come in units of 50 which is dumb since the decks are 60.  (We try and keep extra sleeves to make up for this…)
Pokémon Binders $11.99-28.99 Either smaller 4 card per page or larger 9 card per page binders, always a good choice, particularly for younger players.
Deck boxes $3-7 Available with lots of colors and styles, pick their favorite

 

Magic The Gathering

 

Beginning Players
Good Intro Packs $15-17 60 card pre-made, ready to play decks and a booster pack.  The decks are good for playing with other players, but not meant for learning from scratch.
Better Deck Builder’s Toolkit $22 A great mini-collection for new players (and one that kids particularly love).  Contains 125 semi-random cards good for building decks, 4 booster packs from recent Magic sets, 100 basic land cards, deck-builder’s guide and learn to lay guide, and a storage box.
Very cool Holiday Gift Box $22+25 4 Packs, a special bonus card and the coolest storage box we’ve ever seen.  This is a great goodie for any Magic player.
Beginners and Intermediate Players
Best Fat-Pack/bundles $40-55 Special box with 9 booster-packs, land, life counting die, and most fun for the kids, a full color booklet that shows all the cards in the set as well as having the backstory for the series and some special hints and combinations.
Intermediate-Advanced Players
Good Draft Gift Certificate $15 -25 Gift certificate for one of our Draft events.  Good for Friday Night Magic or the kid’s Date Night Magic ($25), these events include three packs of cards and an evening playing with the decks built from them.  Lots of fun for kids from 9-14 or for experienced players ready for the big time on Fridays.
Better Spellbook Sets. $25-30 Jace or Gideon, these special 9 card packs have sets of unique printings of some great cards.  Also makes a good stuffer
Better Thorne of Edraine Brawl Decks $25-30 These were about $40-50  when they first came out, but just reprinted and we are able to sell them for a WAY better price.
Best Archenemy Sets $60 Great set for helping players give a fun king of the hill style intro to other players they wanna share what they like..
From the Vaults Sets $49.99-169 Special Limited sets of foil version of classic cards.  These are limited edition sets.  We currently have From the Vault Angels (69.99 on sale), Annihilation ($49.99) and a few From the Vault 20 ($159)
Booster Boxes $120-$259 Booster box of 36 packs of any of the sets of boosters we have in stock.
Stocking Stuffers/Small Gift ideas
Single Packs. $ 4-29.99 each Always fun to open, from $3.99 Magic Packs up to $29.99 that we usually try and discurage the kids from buying with their own money, but make GREAT stocking stuffers.
Card Protectors (Sleeves) $3.50-$10 Price is based on style and maker. Keep cards protected and from getting mixed up with other players
Deck boxes $3-6 Available with lots of colors and styles, pick their favorite
HUGE D20 Life counting dice $12-16 An oversized 20 sided die used to keep count of life totals.  Available in the 5 different magic colors.
Box of Mini-dice $7-15 These mini-dice are loved by experienced player to use for counters on the cards
Play-mats $16-20 Providing a great surface to play on, these mats come in a number of great designs.

 

 

Parents back to school Guide for Trading Card Games

Or how to send your kid off to school with their beloved trading cards and get both back happy and whole…

Private Note to (fellow) Parents: Ok…now that school is back in session, a few parent to parent bits of advice about collectible card games during the school year.  

First…what are TCG’s (Trading card games)?  Imagine making a game with baseball cards, where the what’s on the card can affect the game.  The games are played by putting together decks of cards to battle each other.

What is good about the games (from a parent standpoint?) If you strip down the fantasy elements and pictures, what you get is math, logic, motivated reading and a chance to get the kids face to face, not face to screen.   They are also great motivators for getting homework, chores and other needed carrots to counterbalance our sticks. See our other post, the Guide to Trading Card Games, for the full skinny.  But the rest of this is specifically to help us parents in understanding the deal, and getting ahead of potential issues that might come up.    (You may notice that we don’t include Yugioh in our list of these games. Yugioh is a very popular game, but we do not encourage kids to play it, and in fact have banned it at D20 Games, something we did not do lightly.)

  1. source chzbgr.com

    Trading Issues: 80% of issues between kids that come up with kids at school regarding cards have to do with what end up being unfair (either intentional or unintentional) trades between the kids. Some of these cards can be worth real money, and nothing makes a kid feel worse then discovering that an older or more experience player took advantage of them.  As we say to the kids: there is no piece of paper that is worth a friend.

    We have three specific bits of advice for the kids regarding this:

    • Trade-backs are ALWAYS ok.. Make sure that your kid understands to always make the agreement that it is ok to trade back cards within a week or so, provided that the cards are still in the same shape, This way, if they go back home and find out that it was a bad deal, like they got pressured, or if they just want their cards back, they can do it.
    • Check prices if you aren’t sure;  For Magic cards, we use Channelfireball.com for our pricing (though we do $1 min for rares and .50 for other cards). Or for Pokemon (and if you aren’t sure) you can always look on eBay. (BTW..always look at Sold listings, not regular.  You can see what people really buy things for.)  For Pokemon, we use the Sold listings on Ebay.
    • If bad trades happen, remember the feeling, and be a good guy: No matter what you do, there will come a point where there is a rotten trade that will make your kid feel just horrible.  Believe it or not, this is a key (and good) moment for them to have under your care. They have the choice next time to take advantage of someone like they were taken advantage of, or to make sure to never make someone else feel the way they felt.
  2. Avoiding Stolen stuff at school:  Kids will want to bring in their cards to both play with other kids and to show off their good cards.  Inevitably, when they aren’t looking, something will disappear, and much badness and sadness will ensue. A few ways to avoid this are the following.
    • Names in deck boxes….make sure to put enough info not only on the outside,but on the inside to make sure the decks can get back to you guys. (The outside tends to rub off)
    • Card sleeves…These cost about $4 and not only protect the cards (and keep decks from disappearing into the big mush of cards back home) but keep kids cards from getting mixed up with the person they are playing with. It also provides quick identification if a card starts walking away.
    • Side-Loading Binders:  Lots of kids bring their good cards in the same box as their deck. What happens is that while they are playing a game, someone comes over to look at their trades, and while the kid is distracted, a card or two gains feet.   Bringing in a small binder for the trades/show off cards is a better idea. We strongly advise getting binders that have what are called side-loading pages.  Rather then putting in the cards in slots in the top, and having the turn it over, dump out problem, these go in from the sides in a way that doesn’t fall out.  More importantly it is kind of tricky to get the cards out, making it MUCH more obvious if someone is being a little light fingered.  Remember, just as with the deck boxes, make sure there is enough info somewhere inside the binder to get them back to you.
  3. Keeping Score:  A huge number of silly fights happen between kids because they try and keep the score for the games in their heads. At some point, inevitably, you will get the “but you are at 6!  No, I’m at 13 argument that leaves each kid thinking the other is a lying jerk. Paper, Dice or even some special deckboxes with score wheels built in are a great solution to this.
  4. Losing is just fine: Reminding kids that every time they lose, they learn something new is great.  Kids will often get so tied up with the social value of winning that they get tempted to cheat, not really putting together how much worse the rep they will get for cheating.
  5. Packs are great homework/housework motivators.  Kids that are playing Pokemon or Magic are always seriously motivated by getting to open a new pack.  While my own kids may hear me with the “wah-wah” sound of a Peanuts parent, for other people, I’m the guy behind the counter at D20, a bully pulpit if there ever was one.  Give me a nod and I’m happy to back-up whatever you are working on.  Tying a pack a week to getting the homework done is a great way to do some positive motivation.  (We’re working on something more official as time goes on…keep tuned)

Guide to Tabletop Games# 2 Deck Building Games

 

If games like Magic and Pokemon (Trading Card Games) are games where you build a deck to go and play each other, deck builders are games where you start with tiny decks, and part of playing the game is competing to acquire the cards to make your deck better. Most people who like the trading card games end up really liking deck building games, though they may not realize it.  The other big difference with deck building games is that while there are usually expansions, there isn’t the collectible card component so when you buy the game, you are usually all set.

The standard mechanic in the game is to have a set of cards that are used to buy stuff(usually better cards that you then add to your deck)  and another that are used to defeat stuff (usually to gain you points).  A typical starting deck for these games is between 10-12, with have drawn and played each turn.  As soon as you acquire a new card, it goes into your discard pile, and when you’ve used all the cards you have, that pile is shuffled up and becomes your new deck.  The more cool stuff you acquire, the better your deck becomes. Another common feature of the games is that there tend to be factions of cards that help each other out, oh, and the really great cards tend to cost a lot more.  It is almost always a strategic struggle between decking to add cards that give you more of the getting stuff power vs. the attacking power.

The first major deck building game was the medieval themed Dominion back in 2008

Dominion

 

 

Other great deck building games include the Ascension series as well as the Marvel Legendary Deckbulder series.

Star_Realms_Game
Star Realms

The most recent (and store favorite) add to the game is Star Realms, which changes the attack stuff mechanic, to attack, well, the other players…very, very, very fun.

From Wired Review of Ascension

Guide to Tabletop Games: #1 TCG/CCG (Trading Card Games)–Magic/Pokemon/Yugioh etc…

Hey guys…I’ll keep adding to this as time goes on, but I get asked a lot (particularly by parents) about what games like Magic and Pokemon really are.  Here’s a shot at doing geek to English translation.

Magic, Yugioh, and Pokemon are what are known as trading card games(TCG) or collectible card games(CCG).   Basically imagine a game made up of collectible baseball cards, where the ability of the card actually comes into play in the game.  Their big innovation was in creating a game where the cards that are added to the game can have rules or abilities on them that add to the game rules.  Magic was the first game of this type and was created by Richard Garfield over 20 years ago in 1993. There have been billions of the cards printed and there currently over 12 million Magic players. When you strip the game down, it is a lot of math, logic and strategy, and tends to attract a fairly intelligent player base. There is even a college scholarship for magic players. 😉

The games are in their simplest form like the old card game War, where players put down two cards and the higher one wins.  Each player has a starting amount of life (or in the case of Pokemon, a fixed number of “prize cards” that the players get to collect when they knock out an opponents Pokemon), and they cast cards in attack, defense and response to try and get the other player to zero.

What is interesting about the game is that ability for cards themselves add and modify the rules of the game, creating an evolving set of game play where it is figuring out the cool combinations of different cards that is the most fun part of the game.  Once they get past the pre-made starter decks, it’s all about learning the cards and trying to come up with new ideas for decks and seeing how well they do against other players.. (So yes, its normal for the kids to get excited about the new sets of cards as they come out, as each set adds new possibilities that they can puzzle out.)

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From the parents point of view, the positive aspects of the games are encouraging reading, math, and logic skills.  It is also good for creating opportunities to learn fair play, though that benefits a lot from our guidance.  Some of the rarest cards can end up being valuable ($100 or more), so talk to your kids about keeping them safe at school, as well as being both careful and fair in their trading with others.  Keeping their cards in sleeves and in a deck box with their name on it will both keep the value of the cards intact and make it less likely for their cards to get mixed up with other kids by accident.
Common Questions

  • Big difference between Magic, Yugioh and Pokémon: The way things get into play…Magic uses land that gets reused every turn to put different cards in play, Pokémon has energy that attaches to the Pokémon and let them do what they need to do, and Yugioh lets the player give up some of their smaller creatures to get bigger ones, called tributing .  Magic also lends itself to limited play like Drafts and Sealed events where everyone starts out even with new packs of cards and builds decks on the spot.
  • Do adults play these games too? Yep…there are lots of adults that play each of the games.We get most adults on the magic side, but quite a bit on the and Pokémon as well. For those who play, we see a lot of very nice connecting time with the kids.

For Parents:

Anything for parents to worry about? As a dad of a couple of 13 year olds and an 10 year old, here is my honest answer.  There are terrific things about the games, (math, reading, logic, learning to play fair with other people, and in general not having their faces stuck into screens.  However, there are a couple of things to that get brought to the surface by having access to things at a younger age that may be of value that provides so really important teachable moments for parents if they are aware of them.

  • Trading Fair: This is one of the first time that kids will get their hands on portable items that might be worth some money. It can bring out some strong desires that lead to some experiences with theft or making unfair deals on both sides.  When this happens, and it likely will, it is a key parenting opportunity to make sure that they understand how that feels and become determined to never make anyone else feel bad, rather then deciding, “well, I got taken advantage of, I’ll do the same thing to the next person I trade with.
    Ben’s Advice—Make sure that they always agree to trade backs being ok (within a week or so and provided the cards are still in as good shape as when they were traded.)  The standard thing that I say to kids is “there is no piece of paper that is worth losing a friend over.
  • One More Pack, just one more Pack… It’s super fun to open the packs…they could be anything until they are opened and the fun of opening and discovering a golden ticket of a card is a great feeling.  But when the desire to open the packs completely eclipses the fun of playing the game or even sharing the cards with their friends, it can expose something that we, as parents, don’t usually get to see until much later (and usually when they are in the never listen to us phase.) If they keep wanting to trade all their good cards for a chance to open another pack, that is an impulse very akin to gambling, and one where I’ll have a chat with the kids to make sure they are more interested in playing the games  that is an early version of being susceptible to gambling. Though both of these are a little scary, they are a great chance to get to work through these things at an age where the kids may still actually listen. 😉 On the other hand, the math, logic, reading and general sense of using their brains, combined with staying engaged with other people rather then computer or video screens makes it a great thing for kids to get into.

 

 

(April Fools) Big Changes at D20..Played out…

April 5th…yes there is Date Night Magic tonight.

Update….Happy April Fool’s Day…;-)—A joke…relax…just a joke…really… 😉

It is with very mixed feelings that I need to announce some big changes for D20.  After almost three years of working to make things work as a game store, I’ve needed to face some very difficult realities and admit that we’re just not making it financially.  The community has been great, and I’ve really come to love the people who have come to make us a home.  But at some point, I realized that all we were doing was playing games,  Thank you all so much for your patronage and kindness, and I hope that many of you will continue to do business with us in our new venture.

D20-Nail-Salon
The New D20

After looking at what works well in this area and thinking carefully about what this community really needs, we’ll be reopening D20 in two weeks in it’s new incarnation as a Nail Salon.  We’re hoping to bring the same care and attention that we’ve brought to picking only great games, to selecting the best in nail colors and really soft, big poofy chairs.  We’ll be open for business exactly two weeks after April 1st. After coming in for one session, we’re hoping you’ll feel that we “nailed it”. 😉

 

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