“A Theory of Fun for Game Design,” by Raph Koster, $35 from oreilly.com, is now out in color, with a full-page cartoon flanking every page of text. The author was the lead designer for massive online games such as “Ultima Online” and “Star Wars Galaxies.” He discusses what makes a game fun and how games can teach primitive survival techniques. Creative designers, he says, use other games for inspiration. The forward is by Will Wright, creator of SimCity.
“Survive! Inside the Human Body,” by Suk Young Song, is a series of three 180-page comic books, each of which is $18 from NoStarch.com. The books were originally published in Korea and have now been translated for the American market. They sold more than 20 million copies in Korea and they are terrific.
“3D Game Programming for Kids,” by Chris Strom; $36 from oreilly.com. Here’s a great system for teaching you to program, no matter what your age.
All you need is a computer and preferably the Chrome web browser, though anything except Internet Explorer will do. The author explains things so well that in literally a few minutes, Joy had created a colorful ball and cube on her screen and was able to animate them.
You can do a lot with LEGO blocks, but surely nothing more remarkable than what’s pictured in these two books from No Starch Press. Should keep the kids busy over the holidays. – “Beautiful Lego” ($30), by Mike Doyle, is all pictures of completed projects, and beautiful they are, everything from a haunted house that seems to be falling apart, to a fantastic city floating in space. – “More Amazing Vehicles ($20), by Kuipers and Zamboni. Using step-by-step photos and instructions, the authors show us how to build anything from a Formula One race car to a fork-lift truck.
“Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time,” $30 from Wiley.com, by Lance Whitney, has some great tips. Each tip will take only five minutes to implement, and you get colorful screenshots to show you exactly what to do.
For instance, you might want to use pictures instead of text for your passwords, customize the start screen so you see your favorite stocks updated regularly, keep everything backed up or print information from inside an app, such as the Travel app.
Boundless.com is being sued by textbook publishers for offering cut-rate and cut-down versions online. They cover 21 subjects and all the books are $20, which is quite a bargain compared to $100-200 for many printed textbooks. Here’s how it works: Instead of an actual textbook, Boundless summarizes all of the key information, chapter by chapter into a condensed version about 90 percent shorter. You’ll miss the author’s style, but you’ll get what you need to know, complete with flashcards, quizzes, and reminders. Their own research shows Boundless users study far less than other students and get better results.
MadamEulalie.org has the pre-1923 stories of humorist P.G. Wodehouse. They’ve just added some golf stories. You might know the two chief Wodehouse characters: Jeeves, the perfect butler and Wooster, an amiable upper-class goofball. The stories are free to read and download.
ipl.org : The call letters stand for “Internet Public Library,” a reference service provided by Drexel University dozens of other universities. There are more than 13,000 texts online, plus links to newspapers, magazines and libraries around the world. There are research sections designed for children and teenagers as well as adults. An outstanding service.