When I was a kid, I always ate everything on my plate one thing at a time. I wasn’t one of those kids who threw a fit if my peas touched my potatoes, but I always ate all my peas and then all my potatoes. Or all my potatoes and then all my peas, depending on if I was facing the worst first and saving the best for last, or visa versa.
I no longer eat all my food one item at a time, but I still have an obsession not too different. Instead of eating one thing at a time, I absorb things all at once. I might go on a Tess Garritson whim, and read all of her books in a few weeks. Or I might get really obsessed with the variety of games that on the surface require nothing more than a swiping finger and the ability to add 2+2 or 3+3. I’m talking, of course, of Threes and 2048, and all the subsequent versions that have boomed in popularity over the last month or so.
*In the interest of fairness to the creators, I will state that Threes existed first, and 2048 is a version of it. Actually, 2048 is a version of 1024, which I haven’t played; 1024 is a version of Threes. I will also state that the only official version of Threes is available as an app for $1.99. An unofficial version is here.
When you have a facebook wall full of math and science nerds from around the country, it is hard to not notice that a nerdy game is blowing up. And so you wander over to the website to see what the fuss is all about, and two hours later you’ve downloaded the game onto your iPad because you absolutely, positively, must have this game for your 45 minute commute every day. It has absolutely nothing to do with the desire to beat Madeline’s record, which has to this day proved impossible.
At this point, you probably want to know what exactly it is that I’m talking about. Below is the link to play, but I hope you’ll finish reading before you just go off and play. Because once you start playing, you will NEVER COME BACK. Before clicking the link, I warn you to set a timer or some other way to prevent yourself from falling into the dark hole of a time suck that 2048 is. Because it is a time sink. You think, “oh! I was so close! Just one more game and I’ll get there,” and then, once you do, “hm! that wasn’t so hard. I wonder if I can get to 4096 too…?” Apparently, I am not the only person who feels this way. Buzzfeed is very rarely good for anything, but here it gives an accurate impression of the mind of a 2048-player. Since you want to play anyway, here you go.
Threes and 2048 as fall into the only category of online games I truly enjoy – those that are a) incredibly simple to learn, b) easy to play and c) almost impossible to win. The premise is simple: combine like numbers to get to the highest numbers you can.
Threes starts with blue 1 and red 2 tiles. Combine them, and 1+2=3 (The 3 tiles are white, as are all the larger tiles). Each time you move, the tiles collectively move one square in that direction. You can see the next tile coming, but you don’t know exactly where it will show up. You do know, however, that it will come from the direction you’re swiping. So, if you move left to right, the next tile will show up somewhere in the left-most column. Usually, the new tile is a 1, 2, or 3, but sometimes larger tiles show up too. These are signified by a white tile with a “+” on them. Higher tiles become more and more adorable monsters, egging you on to find out what their elder brethren look like.
The furthest I’ve ever gotten was to 768, which apparently has been reached by less than 5% of the players of Threes. My next goal – 1536 – would put me in the 99.82% percentile. (See Threes’ official infographic)
The key to making progress in Threes is to keep an eye on what the next card is, in order consider both the moves you want to make on the board AND the next move you can make with your next card.
2048, while similar, is different. For one, you’re combining powers of two, not three. Like in Threes, you get the low tiles thrown at you – 2’s and 4’s. But unlike Threes, you’re never going to get a bigger tile added in; you’re always going to have to build up yourself. In 2048, the tiles go all the way to the end, so if you swipe left to right, all the tiles go all the way to the right, which means it is easier to combine multiple pairs into bigger numbers at once. On the other hand, you have no idea what number will show up next or where, because any empty spot is fair game.
To beat 2048, you need to set up a line of increasing tiles that you can combine. If you have a 1024 next to a 512 next to a 256 next to a 128 next to a 64 next to a 32 next to a 16 next to an 8 next to a 4, beating the game is just a matter of combining two 2’s and completing the trivial steps to win. But then, it asks you if you want to keep going.
My personal highest card is 4096, although I did have one game with a 4096 and a 2048, so I’m well on my way to the 8192 tile. I’ve got to get there if I want to beat Madeline.
Like any good game, 2048 has spawned dozens of fakes. Most of which are stupid, but hilarious, but some are fun, and some are impossibly difficult. My personal favorites:
1. The Tufts Theater version. Tufts is full of Computer Science people, and even the Theater department isn’t immune. So, when the make-your-own-2048 website became a thing, Artoun was kind enough to take pictures of Tufts Theater people and create our very own version. Fair warning: there are no numbers, so this is not a game you want to play necessarily unless you a) know people in Tufts Theater or b) enjoy randomly hitting the arrow keys. Also, you will not find me in any of the pictures. That is what happens when you live backstage…
2. The Nuclear Fusion version. This one, I’ll be honest, is a version I have yet to master. Because, just like Threes and 2048 are different and thus have different strategies, Fe also plays by its own set of rules. Complete with frustrating 3Helium when you want 4Helium, and inconvenient decays. Can you fuse atoms together to make 56Iron?
Please please please don’t forget that you have a life! And go outside sometimes too…?
Loděnice is a little town about 30 minutes outside of Prague, with nothing particularly interesting. It is, however, home to a school with an English teacher who has a friend who went to CIEE. Aka, a perfect place for an exchange. So that’s exactly what we did.
On Friday, my Czech class took an all-day excursion to Lodenice, where we went to English classes with four different grades, taught some English, practiced some Czech, and played some games.
When we first arrived, the sixth graders were standing at the bus stop waiting for us, with a giant sign that said „Welcome to Lodenice!“ It was absolutely adorable. As we walked from the bus stop to the school, we were supposed to introduce ourselves. Most of the kids were too shy, but a few were adventurous enough to talk to us in twos or threes. I met a very cute girl, Maria, who was 11 years old. Her favorite animal is a dog and she has two sisters. We also discovered that there is a pair of twins in their class. (Who knew that knowing dvojčata means twins would be useful?) They also kept stopping to tell us things about the city – the kids were all in pairs, with a few sentences each about random things – the city, the history of the school, their cloakroom, their classroom, etc.
It was funny to me to see how surprised the Americans were by the cloakroom. Perhaps because I’ve been to Japan and seen students taking their shoes off at the school entrance, perhaps because I wore slippers myself in middle school, perhaps because I’ve already been to Emma’s school many times, I was not surprised to see the cloakroom. Kids show up to school, take off their jackets and outdoor shoes, put on indoor shoes, and their stuff gets locked during the school day so it doesn’t get stolen. It makes a lot of sense, actually. Less dirt tracked through the building. No bulky jackets to deal with in the classroom. Plus, the kids have to keep it tidy or they get extra homework (that there is some of the best incentive I’ve ever heard of…)
After the 6th graders gave us our tour, we met the 4th graders. They were, unsurprisingly, excited to meet us. I was in a group with two girls, one of whom was full of questions, and one of whom was extremely shy. We were given a sheet of paper with categories, and our task was to fill it in with words in English and Czech. For example, one category was Rodina – Family. We had to write as many words as we could think of that had to do with family. Mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, aunt, uncle, etc. Part of our oral exam on Tuesday is like this – we get a category and have to give at least 8 words in the category. Our teacher was shamelessly getting us to study, but it was actually quite fun and I learned some new words. Plus, they made copies of the sheets, so all the kids will get the lists with some new words for them too.
Our next class was with some younger kids. I think some were in 3rd grade and some were in 1st grade. Regardless, we sang some songs and played some games. We sang a colors song in English, and then in Czech to the same tune. (Although it only kinda worked, because the names of colors in Czech are longer than in English). Then we sang „Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes“ in both languages. The Czech version has a different tune, though, which was confusing. But now I know some body parts…
- Head – hlava
- Shoulders – romina
- Toes –prsty
- Eyes – oči
- Ears – uši
- Mouth – ústa
- Nose – nos
We finished with a playground game in Czech that loosely translates to “Mr. Stork lost his hat. He’s looking for something colored…” And you say a color, after which everyone has to touch something that is that color.
Our last class was with the 9th graders – the oldest class in the school. As such, their English is actually quite good, and we were working on grammar. We were put into pairs, and each person got a sheet with the beginnings of sentences in their non-native language. For example, “on the weekend, I like to…” or “In five years, I …”. After we filled it out, we checked each other’s grammar, fixing spelling or adding missed articles. We finished with two quizzes – one about the Czech Republic and one about the USA; we again were given the assignment about our non-native country. With a bit of help from my buddy, I got 10/10, and he also got 10/10 with a little help from me. Unsurprisingly, though, the majority of the Czech students knew all 10 answers about the Czech Republic, but the majority of the Americans only knew 7 or 8 questions about the USA. (The youngest president in history, anyone? Was he 40, 43, or 50? Bonus: who was he?)
We finished our day with a late lunch in the cafeteria at the school – real chicken and mashed potatoes. The lunch wasn’t great (nothing compared to dinners at home), but it vastly exceeded anything I’ve seen at an American elementary or middle school.
All in all, the day was pretty awesome. We got to meet a lot of kids who were very excited to speak English and meet real Americans. We got to see a new village that I can’t imagine I would ever have any other reason to visit. And, I got to sleep in! Even though we met at 8:15 on the outskirts of Prague, we met at the end of the metro line closest to my house. Via tram and metro, it would have taken me over 40 minutes to get there, not unlike my daily commute to school. BUT, the buses are not restricted by where the rails are, and it took me just 8 minutes by bus to get there. I literally left my house at 7:55, walked to the bus stop (a little further than my normal tram stop – about a 10 minute walk), waited for the bus, and arrived in Zličin at 8:16. It was great. Anyway, chances are I have the same teacher next semester for Czech, and will thus have the same trip to the same school. It’ll be interesting to see the difference as to how much conversation I can actually have with the kids when I’ve got another four months of Czech classes under my belt.