What is nerd nite? Aside from awesome, it’s a monthly lecture event that strives for an “inebriated, salacious, yet deeply academic vibe.” (credit: Nerd Nite – San Francisco)
Check out our local chapter’s website to learn more.
After the lectures tonight, be sure and check out our resource lists if you want to get nerdier with games, puzzle and video ones alike.
From Heisenberg to Parker Brothers: Cracking the Soma Treasure Map
My Best Mathematical and Logic Puzzles by Martin Gardner
The noted expert and longtime author of Scientific American‘s Mathematical Games column selects 70 of his favorite “short” puzzles. Enthusiasts can challenge their skills with such mind-bogglers as The Returning Explorer, The Mutilated Chessboard, Scrambled Box Tops, Bronx vs. Brooklyn, and dozens more involving logic and basic math. Complete solutions included.
How to be a Genius by John Woodward
Taking a sometimes humorous approach, this heavily illustrated encyclopedic love letter to the human brain covers such topics as memory, the five senses, creativity tricks and illusions, and the brain’s evolution-not to mention how one’s gray matter actually works. One spread illuminates how the brain processes data, labels experience and creates stereotypes by using photographs of a grass snake (the brain associates the harmless grass snake with other venomous snakes); another section utilizes a cartoon robot in a discussion of the development of good and bad habits. Photographs, flowcharts and activities work in tandem to create an accessible, fast-paced and informative read. Ages 9-12. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Riddles of the Sphinx and other Mathematical Puzzle Tales By Martin Gardner
Solving these riddles is not simply a matter of logic and calculation, though these play a role. Luck and inspiration are factors as well, so beginners and experts alike may profitably exercise their wits on Gardner’s problems, whose subjects range from geometry to word play to questions relating to physics and geology. We guarantee that you will solve some of these riddles, be stumped by others, and be amused by almost all of the stories and settings that Gardner has devised to raise these questions.
How to Solve It By George Polya
In this best-selling classic, George Polya revealed how the mathematical method of demonstrating a proof or finding an unknown can be of help in attacking any problem that can be “reasoned” out–from building a bridge to winning a game of anagrams. Generations of readers have relished Polya’s deft instructions on stripping away irrelevancies and going straight to the heart of a problem. “How to Solve It” popularized heuristics, the art and science of discovery and invention.
Power-ups and Ammo Crates, or How I Saved the World Today: The Allure of Modern Video Games and How This Fringe Cultural Phenomenon Turned into a Titan of the Entertainment Industry
Extra Lives by Tom Bissell
Grand Theft Auto IV is both a waste of time and “the most colossal creative achievement of the last 25 years” according to this scintillating meditation on the promise and discontents of video games. Journalist Bissell (Chasing the Sea ) should know; the ultraviolent car-chase-and-hookers game was his constant pastime during a months-long intercontinental cocaine binge. He’s ashamed of his video habit, but also ashamed of being ashamed of the “dominant art form of our time”; by turning the eye of a literary critic on the gory, seemingly puerile genre of ultraviolent, open-ended “shooter” games, he finds unexpected riches. Bissell bemoans the “uncompromising stupidity” of their story lines, wafer-thin characters, and the moronic dialogue, but celebrates the button-pushing, mesmeric qualities and the subtle, profound depths these conceal-the catharses of teamwork and heroism in the zombie-fest Left for Dead, the squirmy moral dilemmas of Mass Effect, the “mood of wistful savagery” suffusing the rifles-and-chainsaws-bedecked denizens of Gears of War. Bissell excels both at intellectual commentary and evocative reportage on the experience of playing games, while serving up engrossing mise-en-scene narratives of the mayhem. If anyone can bridge the aesthetic chasm between readers and gamers, he can. (June 8) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
As addictive as Tetris, McGonigal’s penetrating, entertaining look into gaming culture is a vibrant mix of technology, psychology, and sociology, told with the vision of a futurist and the deft touch of a storyteller. For the nearly 183 million Americans who will spend an average of 13 hours a week playing games, McGonigal’s book is a welcome validation of their pursuits. But for those who don’t understand, or who may worry that our growing preoccupation with games is detrimental to society and culture, McGonigal argues persuasively that games are in fact improving us. “Game design isn’t just technological craft,” she argues, “it’s a 21st Century way of thinking and leading.” And games, she argues, particularly the new wave of Alternative Reality Games, are not about escapism but a powerful new form of collaboration and community building. The book moves effortlessly from Herodotus to Halo, stitching together an intellectually stimulating view of human culture past, present, and future. And while not downplaying the potential for negative consequences, such as “gamer addiction,” McGonigal makes an inspiring case for the way games can both enhance our personal happiness and help society. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Game Boys by Michael Kane
Readers of a certain generation are surely thinking, video games hit the big time? Get serious. But their children or grandchildren know what the author is talking about. Today’s video games can be as exciting as movies; they can require as much skill as more traditional sports; and they are very big business. The author follows two video-gaming teams, Team 3D and CompLexity, as they battle for supremacy in the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL), which was formed in 1997. For a sport that many consider to be marginal (if a sport at all), gaming is highly competitive and full of players who are just as idiosyncratic, determined, and flashy as any other pro athlete. Kane does a nice job of catching us up in the excitement—no easy task, as we are reading a book about people who play a game on a computer screen. Like any good sports book, this one is about the game and the personalities in equal measure.
All Your Base Are Belong To Us by Harold Goldberg
This highly informative book, written by veteran gaming columnist Goldberg, is billed as the first of its kind, spanning 50 years of video game history with its zany personalities, many trends, and marketing coups. The video game industry boasts revenues equaling that of Hollywood and a huge consumer base of 70% of Americans playing its games, Goldberg reveals. He details the ebb-and-flow of video game history and stories of its creators such as Ralph Baer, Nolan Bushnell, Hiroshi Yamauchi, William “Tripp” Hawkins, Dan and Sam Houser, Graeme Devine, and Jason Kapulka. His coverage of the development of games like Tennis for Two, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Dungeons & Dragons, Myst, Sims, and Grand Theft Auto will appeal not only to nerds and gamers in Goldberg’s easily accessible anecdotes but to those who grew up with these games through generations. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talk: Gaming can Make a Better World
Games like World of Warcraft give players the means to save worlds, and incentive to learn the habits of heroes. What if we could harness this gamer power to solve real-world problems? Jane McGonigal says we can, and explains how.
David Perry’s Ted Talk: Are Games Better than Life?
Game designer David Perry says tomorrow’s videogames will be more than mere fun to the next generation of gamers. They’ll be lush, complex, emotional experiences — more involving and meaningful to some than real life. With an excerpt from Michael Highland’s film “As Real as Your Life.”