Girls Make Games (and Puzzles, too!)

[Alicia Crawford, winner of Sony Online Entertainment’s 2011 Gamers in Real Life (G.I.R.L.) Scholarship, aimed at bringing more women into the field of video game production and design. Photo courtesy of Sony Online Entertainment, by way of Wired.com.]

I am a huge proponent of seeing creative people succeed. From Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns to intrepid puzzlesmiths and game designers striking out on their own for the first time, I am always seeking out new stories about puzzlers enriching the world with their own creations.

So when Fred, Director of Digital Games here at PuzzleNation, passed along this link about Girls Make Games, it was right up my alley.

Girls Make Games organizes summer camp-style workshops to introduce girls to video gaming, both playing them and designing their own. It’s a very worthy cause that ties perfectly into ongoing efforts across the world to encourage more women to pursue STEM paths.

STEM education, for the uninitiated, is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, four key components to competing effectively in today’s global marketplace. Girls Make Games is a wonderful way to introduce girls to STEM courses and to add important, fresh voices to the world of video games.

[The “Nothing to Prove” video by the band The Doubleclicks.
A musical reminder that nonsense like the “fake geek girl” myth is
just one of the reasons why we need programs like Girls Make Games.]

And while it’s not reported as often as the gender gap in video-game design or considered as controversial a topic, there’s a similar disparity in the presence of female constructors and editors of crosswords among the major outlets. Ben Tausig published an article last year on the subject, and raised some intriguing points.

I admit, I was surprised by ratio of male-to-female constructors in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other big outlets, but that’s probably because I’m most familiar with the editors and puzzlers at Penny/Dell Puzzles, where the women easily outnumber the men.

Maybe this means the puzzle world could use a program along the same lines as Girls Make Games. With so many terrific puzzlers out there, from Kathy Matheson, Robin Stears, and Deb Amlen to Patti Varol, Leslie Billig, and Baffledazzle creator Rachel Happen, there are plenty of great role models out there for aspiring constructors.

I can’t wait to see what these new voices come up with.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

5 Questions: Alumni Edition!

Welcome to a special edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

Normally, I’d be posting a new interview with a puzzle constructor, game designer, puzzle enthusiast, or a member of any other creative field that enriches the world in a puzzly way.

But instead, today I thought I’d reach out to our 5 Questions alumni and bring you news on what they’ve been up to since their sessions of 5 Questions.

First off, puzzle constructor Trip Payne’s new Puzzle Extravaganza launches tomorrow, August 1! You can still sign up through the end of August, and the extravaganza is only $10 (a little more for bonus puzzles).

Put your puzzly skills to the test against a topnotch constructor who has contributed to dozens of newspapers, outlets, and puzzle books, including Will Shortz’s WordPlay!

[To check out Trip’s session of 5 Questions, click here!]

Next up, the dynamic duo of Aubrey and Angela, better known as The Doubleclicks, are continuing to fulfill all the promises made in the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for their newest album, Dimetrodon!

And they’re currently touring across the Midwest and East Coast! Their ambitious schedule of venues includes Toronto, Boston, Brooklyn, and plenty of other cities, many that will experience the Doubleclicks live for the very first time!

In addition, they’ve just completed their Weekly Song Wednesday project, where they posted a new song and video every Wednesday for ten weeks. You can visit their YouTube page to explore all sorts of delightful content fit for puzzlers and game fans of all ages.

[To check out Angela and Aubrey’s session of 5 Questions, click here!]

And lastly, I have some exciting updates from BaffleDazzle founder Rachel Happen.

After launching a tremendous Kickstarter campaign to fund BaffleDazzle’s first line of jigsaw-inspired puzzles, Rachel recently sent her Kickstarter backers an update on how the production phase is going.

So far, she’s on target to deliver all of her promised puzzles by the end of August!

As a one-woman puzzle-making machine, Rachel is exceeding expectations on all fronts, not only redesigning and improving every aspect of the looming delivery process, but designing brand new bonuses to include.

Just take a gander at these stacks of Codebreakers puzzles, freshly produced and awaiting happy homes and eager puzzlers:

[To check out Rachel’s session of 5 Questions, click here! And for a spoiler-light review of the BaffleDazzle puzzle Cirkusu, click here!]

These are just a few examples of puzzly people doing amazing, entertaining, fascinating things, and I’m glad I’m lucky enough to share their work with you, my fellow puzzlers.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out our library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

Let’s get it (kick)started!

The newest tool in the arsenal of big thinkers and big dreamers is crowdfunding, wherein creators take their ideas directly to the people in the hopes that a lot of small donations will add up into capital to make their ideas reality.

Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have literally made dreams come true — heck, LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow Kickstarter just raised over a million dollars in ONE DAY — and it’s quickly becoming a key outlet for worthy puzzle projects. Some top-tier constructors are going straight to the fanbase with their puzzles, and with marvelous results. Constructors like Trip Payne, Eric Berlin, and Matt Gaffney have all had success on Kickstarter and Indiegogo with previous campaigns.

In the past, we’ve covered several crowdfunding campaigns, including Rachel Happen’s Baffledazzle puzzles, The Doubleclicks’ board game and pop culture-infused musical endeavors, and a company making board games and card games accessible to the visually challenged.

And I wanted to spread the world about some other puzzly endeavors that might interest the PuzzleNation readership.


The first is Peter Gordon’s Fireball Fortnightly News Crosswords.

Peter Gordon is known across the puzzle community for his Fireball Crosswords, a challenging brand of puzzle for ambitious solvers, as well as an easier weekly news-themed puzzle for The Week magazine. So now, he’s combined the two to create Fireball Fortnightly News Crosswords!

Every two weeks, you’ll receive a crossword by email that includes as many topical news-related items in the grid as possible. So you get your news and your crossword in one fell swoop. Not as difficult as his usual Fireball Crosswords, these puzzles will still let you flex your solving muscles twice a month.

With backer prizes like additional crossword books and the chance to create a puzzle with a master puzzler, Fireball Fortnightly News Crosswords might be right up your alley!

The second Kickstarter campaign features a puzzle app for Android devices.

Blackout is similar to Lights Out, Q*Bert, and other puzzle games where you must make every icon on the screen the same color, which becomes a tougher task to complete as the patterns grow more complicated and each click affects neighboring shapes.

The game will feature multiple levels of difficulty — including one where the icons change shape as well as color — ensuring it’ll keep you thinking and clicking for quite some time to come.

Finally, we have Block Party.

Block Party is a pattern-matching game featuring several shapes, colors, and patterns, and players must find parties — groupings of similar aspects or collections of each different aspect — without touching the blocks. The first player to shout “Party!” then reveals the grouping they’ve spotted, and the game continues.

Block Party combines visual reflexes, pattern-matching skills, memory retention, and spatial reasoning to create an immersive game that appears deceptively simple at the outset.

With backer rewards like a printable version of Block Party and limited-edition versions of the game, this campaign is ready to engage solvers of all ages.

The amazing thing about all of these projects is that the audience, the potential fans, have an enormous role to play not only in sharing their thoughts with game and puzzle creators, but in showing their support for designers and projects they believe in, and doing so in a meaningful way.

Here’s hoping each of these projects finds success.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!