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  • The Cult of Foam by Nick and Colin June 10, 2012

    I for one welcome our new Overlords... aka our children.me. right now.

    Let’s ignore the deplorable state of the US public education system for a minute.  Let’s stop believing that our kids all have ADD, ADHD, Autism (or the spectrum formerly known as Autism) and all sorts of other bad things just for the remainder of this post.  In the last year, I’ve seen kids working on First Robotics Teams (if you don’t know what that is PLEASE click the link and be amazed) who know 3 programming languages by the time they leave high school.  I’ve seen pimply faced teenagers who have more skills than an unnamed 31 year old adult (who may or may not be me).  I’ve seen a 3 year old who absorbs more information in a day than I can in a year.  I’ve talked with 9 year olds who can not only explain the internal workings of a laser, but who can use their understanding of the mechanism to intuit outcomes they haven’t seen.  Amazing stuff.

    So let’s talk about stacking puffy foam blocks for a second.  But first, a little background:

    I spent last Monday with Ken Fergusen and his class at Kensington Woods High School in Howell Michigan.  Ken is a board game enthusiast and part time designer who is completely awesome.  He decided to do basically what I wanted to do with Collaboratuers this summer (except he did it and I didn't) - have a 3 week course for students to design, build, prototype, and show off an original physical game design.  My job was to show off the game I’m working on (The City), talk about game design, what makes a good game, how games get to the market, and help the students think about and improve their designs.  The students created everything from cooperatives games to cure cancer, a Clue-like game where players were trying to identify and kill Alice from Alice in Wonderland (kind of Clue + BANG! meets teenage Gothe), some clever war games, a gold mining themed game, and a clever poker meets wild west shoot-out game.  Really good stuff.

    This was the initial version where you stack your own hand

    Anyway, there was one group (twins, actually) named Colin and Nick making a soccer themed game.  It was a “flick-the-ball-into-the-goal” kind of game with posts and goalies.  Pretty cool, but Colin and Nick didn’t seem particularly motivated to work on it (they had the classic teenage “bored/tired” look on their face, you know the one).  Instead they were wasting time stacking yellow foam cylindrical blocks on the table.  I sat down and said “It looks like stacking blocks is more fun than Soccer... maybe that should be your game?”.

    Easy enough.  Within 2 minutes the game was this: you get one point per block you stack and you got +3 points for being the person with the last stack standing.  You whole arm must be completely off the table.  You cannot knock down someone else’s blocks.  There are a limited number of blocks on the table, so picking them up faster than your opponent was important since it’s possible he/she could use them all up.  Also, when an opponent dropped his/her blocks, that gives more for you to stack.  Quick.  Fun.  Easy to learn, easy to play.  Competitive.  High emotion.

    Our towers of yellow foam were attracting attention in the class.  Another guy who works at HeroQuest in Howell whose name I can't remember but should (also there to help/advise the kids on their boardgame journeys) suggested “perhaps players could sit in a circle, and everyone stacks the blocks in their neighbors right hand, while trying to hold up the blocks in their own right hand”.  Very clever!

    Well this made the game really awesome.  Now you had to pay attention to 2 things at once stacking blocks and keeping your stack from falling.  Plus, once one person went out, you shifted over and began to stack on the next person in the circle.  Also (and probably most interestingly) there’s no limit to the number of people who could play - you could have a circle of 100 people playing this game!  Finally, Ken came up with a great name - the Cult of Foam.

    I’m absolutely not kidding when I say this game could go viral.  It’s fun, cheap, easy, physical, and super addictive.  It could be used as a standard ice breaker or trust builder for groups as easily as it could be a common playground game for kids.  It is really really fun.  Seriously - go try you can get the little foam blocks from the Scrap Box in Ann Arbor if you're local.

    The bigger the tower of foam is, the harder it falls (though it's still pretty soft, really)

    So here’s the recap - kids are bored.  Kids do what they do naturally - play with stuff.  Someone suggests that playing with stuff is ok, fun, and cool.  Play becomes repeatable and measurable.  Game is refined with input and key elements from multiple people.  Viola - great game!

    If you like this game you should email Nick and Colin at nick.gagnon@student.kwoods.org for more information.

    Ok, you’re turn - repeat, repeat, repeat!

     

    PS - Expansion name ideas (I know, an expansion doesn't even make sense for this game, I just love the names)

    The Cult of Foam: Foamies Revenge

    The Cult of Foam: Massacre in Foamville

    The Cult of Foam: A Fistful of Foam

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