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Rachel Lowe to develop new puzzles, board games and card games for Beano – Toy News

Award winning board game designer, Rachel Lowe has joined a brace of new licensing partners to develop and launch a new range of official Beano consumer products this year.

The prolific board game creator has signed with the popular childrens property to develop, produce and market a collection of Beano licensed puzzles, board games, and card games for Dennis and his Beanotown friends. The product range will be developed for both adults and kids.

Lowe is one of five new licensing partners to have been signed to the Beano property by Rocket Licensing, Beanos UK and Ireland licensing agency. She will be joined by thee likes of Smiffys who will be offering myriad products in the partyware space, including paper plates, bowls, cups, napkins, as well as paper decorations and bunting.

Beano confectionery in personalised packaging will also be created by Great Gifts. The unique gifting lines are set to include gift boxes, jars and advent calendars and launch across retail later this year.

Health and beauty experts H&A will also be developing a creative range of Beano products to include everyday essentials, play cosmetics, health and beauty accessories and hair care. These will be targeted at both boys and girls and launching into high street retail for autumn/winter 2020.

These new deals take place in the run up to Dennis 70thbirthday in 2021, for which Beano Studios and Rocket Licensing are planning a raft of celebrations, partnerships and new product launches.

Rob Wijeratna, joint managing director of Rocket Licensing, said: 2019 was an incredibly busy and successful year for Beano, with a fabulous calendar of consumer products deals, marketing initiatives and campaigns. Its great to be able to start 2020 with the same momentum, and five new best-in-class licensing deals for the brand, as we look ahead to a big celebration year in 2021.

Beano continues to capture the hearts of the British public and offers a huge depth of content for great consumer products partnerships.

Angeles Blanco, director of Global Licensing at Beano Studios, added Adding five new partners to our licensing programme shows huge momentum as we build up to Dennis 70th birthday next year. We plan to continue this, adding more partners to bring Beano products to more fans, young and across the globe.

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Rachel Lowe to develop new puzzles, board games and card games for Beano - Toy News

Newsdio: Oleg Nesterenko’s blog – Beidi Guo, developer of LUNA The Shadow Dust, on how story and environmental narrative increase repeatability in…

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of the Newsdio community.The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Newsdio or its parent company.

This interview was originally published in Game World Observer on March 24, 2020.

MOON The dust of the shadows is a hand-animated point-and-click puzzle adventure released on February 13. It is the debut title of the Chinese team called Lantern Studio.

We sat down with Beidi Guo, art director of the game., to discuss the ups and downs of the development process, as well as the overall fate of puzzle games.

One of the two is Beidi Guo, art director.

Oleg Nesterenko, managing editor of GWO: Beidi, tell us about Lantern Studio.

There are four members on the team. I'm there. There is Fox, who is our project manager. Susie Wang composed music for the game, and Wang Guan is our programmer. We are scattered all over the world. We are located in London, Toronto and Shanghai. We mainly keep in touch on Skype.

Susie and I are also in charge of social media as well as reporting to our Kickstarter sponsors.

We try to do everything ourselves to save budget. But towards the end of development, we hired our current Marketing Manager George Eastmead from Acorngames, who helped us manage our accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Discord. For example, he also suggested a cross promotion with other teams. We have met many other independent developers over the years, so when their games are released we will either RT each other or post some fan art featuring our characters but using their playstyle.

A rare Lantern Studio moment being physically together

The limited budget means you have to be very selective about the gaming conventions you attend.

At first, we tried to attend conventions that were free. There are also organizations that help independent teams in the UK, such as an organization called the Tentacle Zone. They help independent developers hire space at major conventions like EGX Rezzed and Insomnia. They have a dedicated zone there called the Tentacle Zone, and they generally offer booths and teams from independent developers.

Later, we signed with our editors. They helped us promote our game at trade shows like GDC and Gamescom.

Good for you. But you weren't that smart with your Kickstarter campaign, were you? The money you raised only lasted a year, and it took another three years to finish the game. How did that happen?

We lacked experience. We thought we could finish the game in a year. A year and a half, maximum. But after we started development, we realized that this game had much more potential than we expected. We had to decide whether to keep the game small so we could finish it within our budget or try to make the game the way we really wanted. And this was probably two, three times bigger than our original plan.

Beidi's first concept art for LUNA, when it was still a very small game that only existed in her head

We did not want to give up. We all got into our savings and contributed. This was enough to last us another three years.

It was not an easy decision. We also had to apologize to our Kickstarter sponsors because this game was taking longer than we promised. But our sponsors are very patient. Instead of rushing, they agreed to wait for us to provide a more complete experience, they have always shown us support and love, which was incredible.

And you didn't want funding from your publishers?

We only signed with them in 2018, when most of the game was ready.

However, prior to that, in 2017, some individual investors approached us to say they would like to invest in our game, but we declined. We wanted to maintain our creative freedom by doing MOON.

If publishers offer funding, that often means they could interfere with your creative decisions. In certain cases, developers even sell their IP to their publisher, which is something we definitely don't recommend. If you don't own your game, what's the point of being independent?

It must have been quite dark times, risking your own money, not knowing exactly what to do with your game

It was tough, but at least we could do something about it. The most difficult times were when unpredictable situations occurred that were completely out of our control.

For example, when we needed to publish our game in China. According to the last regulation, you must apply for a license. We had to queue a year earlier because we knew it was going to take a while, but we didn't know exactly how long. Throughout the entire process, there is no way to consult with the corresponding department staff. Ask them, "How are you doing? Are there any additional documents we need to supply? The communication is strictly one-sided. If they find a problem, they will contact you and ask you to fix it. Then you have to resend what you actually consumed. long time.

We never expected this because the law only came into effect in early 2018. And we definitely wanted to publish our game in China. We are a Chinese team, and many Chinese players supported us. In no way could we disappoint them.

This was probably the most difficult moment. I mean you want to start marketing your game almost half a year before launching it. But without knowing when we would get this license, we really couldn't start any promotion. And we didn't want to promote our game too soon. If you promote for too long, people can get tired of waiting. This caused us a lot of anxiety in addition to the existing health problems. There was literally nothing we could do but wait and pray.

We finally got the license after nine months.

Health problems, you said?

It is a common problem among all indies, when you do not have enough budget to allow yourself a healthy lifestyle. There is no extra money to spend at the gym or eat healthy. And you're working from home, so it's also a little lonely.

And we tried not to take time off because we were already way behind our original schedule. Towards the end of development, it began to affect the health of some of our team members. We were burned. It felt like all the creativity was squeezed out of us. We looked at our game, and all we could see were mistakes.

Last year, while we were still waiting for that license, the whole team decided to take a couple of weeks to recover from this exhaustion.

Pray and take breaks. Essential tips for all the indies out there. Let's talk about the game itself. How did you come up with an idea for MOON?

The general philosophy behind the game was inspired by the Terramar series written by Ursula K. Le Guin. His novels are never one-dimensional, he is not just the hero against evil, the light against the dark side. She emphasizes how everything is interconnected. Without shadow, there will be no light, and vice versa. It's something we don't really see in most games today.

So there is no evil in MOON. There are no boss fights. It is more of a balance. The more light you create, the more shadow will follow. The ambition to become the best and do good deeds can also have devastating consequences.

How did you design the puzzles?

At the beginning of development, we only brainstormed for a couple of weeks. We create a folder called "Crazy Ideas". And we add all kinds of ideas, be it about mechanics, images or history. At this stage, we didn't even think about whether these ideas could get us anywhere.

When we run out of ideas, we all sit down to mix and match different concepts. For example, we have a room with many objects lying around. Therefore, it can be fun to present a game in which people need a lot of things to interact.

Or vice versa. For example, we came up with this mechanic that we really liked. You know, when the character can become a shadow. So we thought, what setting is suitable for this type of game? You probably need a room with walls. It cannot happen outdoors. And to emphasize the contrast between light and dark, this room needs a very strong light source. So you can have a lot of candles. This is how we came up with the idea of a room for this puzzle.

We just try to fill each room with the proper mechanics and game. But all of this changed throughout development. For some of the rooms we couldn't find the proper mechanics. Either we started developing and then realized that it wasn't as fun as we thought or that it had nothing to do with our history.

Then we gave up some of the levels that were already in development. We also got rid of ideas that were technically too challenging for us.

Have you tried your puzzles?

Player feedback is crucial. The four of us think very much alike and sometimes we can't help but develop this kind of tunnel vision, caught up in our own judgment. Therefore, every time we finish a level, we try to invite as many people as we can to try it out.

First off, we would invite our friends game designers from the industry. They are professionals, so they would give us their opinion from a design point of view. After that, when we fix some of the gameplay issues, I would give them to more casual players.

That included our friends, our families, who don't even play. But we like to know what your first impression is. Because sometimes when we thought a puzzle was easy, but we found that a lot of people got stuck. We need to ask them for comments. We want to know your way of tackling the puzzles, wasn't the clue visible enough or is there confusion about the UI design? Then we have to solve these problems.

That's another important reason for us to go to gaming conventions. You hug hundreds of players. You can stand behind them, look at them, see exactly how they interact with a level. And then you talk to them. This is how we collect data.

Based on player feedback, we constantly adjust one or the other aspect. Some levels went smoothly, others went through multiple iterations.

However, you can't try them forever. When do you know that a level is complete?

Once you have around 50 or 30 people giving you the same comments, it's safe to say that we know how the majority of the audience will react to this level. However, there will always be players who think differently, we just have to accept that.

Doing individual puzzles correctly is quite difficult, but you should also think of a difficulty curve instead.

A good learning curve is difficult to achieve. This is something that we also tested on the players. We made many adjustments in the later stage by changing the order of certain puzzles to see which sequence works best.

We found, for example, that the difficulty should be uneven towards the end. If players have been playing a game for hours, puzzles of the same difficulty may seem more difficult because people are simply tired. Therefore, we need to include one or two intermediate levels that are relatively easy to give them some time to recover, just to enjoy history and the environment.

After all this adjustment, is there any weakness in MOON what do you think?

Maybe we try too hard to be original. This is why we sometimes make our riddles very different from each other. One of the common opinions we receive is that there is not enough continuity between the puzzles. You learn a skill early in the game, but then you have to wait a long time to use that skill again. We could improve that in the future.

We also try too hard to attract a wide audience. I wish I had understood before who our main audience was. If we had communicated more with them, we probably could have avoided some easy but less interesting puzzles that just tried to make sure everyone can get through the first stage of the game.

I mean, this is our first game. We weren't so sure about our decisions sometimes. In hindsight, I would say that for an independent team it's okay to make a game that the general public will criticize as long as their key audience really likes it. They'll tell their friends about their game, and that's how it slowly reaches the intended audience. You may not be able to find it right away because it is a niche and there are always risks when you do something new. People tend to be more comfortable with the things they're used to, I guess.

Now you have a better idea of who your target audience is?

They are the people who like to take their time and enjoy every detail of the game. Every time they finish a puzzle, they don't just run to the next level so they can beat the entire game in two hours. They like to stay and look at those paintings and try to use their imaginations to discover the story, the back story.

Many people found them somewhat dark. Did you think of it that way to encourage players to slow down when they play?

We definitely didn't want to confuse people. We tried to make the story understandable to most people. We try to use the universal cinematographic language. For flashbacks, for example, we use a different tone to make people understand that this happened in the past. Or, another example, in so many cartoons and television shows, every time you listen to a harp, you know this is a memory of the past. This is the type of cinematic language that we tested in our game.

Sometimes, though, it's okay to let the player take care of solving things for himself. I trust the players. They chose to play a puzzle game without a single line of dialogue, which means they have certain expectations of being challenged, they have certain expectations of themselves, and they are able to figure things out.

So yes, it's about how you play it.

Much of the history of the story is embedded in individual rooms. Once you've completed enough of the game, you also realize that the entire tower is actually a place designed for some people to live there. There are kitchens, there are bedrooms. They're not just random stage props. If you start to wonder who really lives there, which room is connected to which character based on the decorations in the background, you might find out what kind of relationship there is between these characters.

It was worth it? Inventing all this rich narrative that could be completely lost on players who just want to win the game?

Absolutely. People don't usually play puzzle games. But what we saw with MOON is that many players return to the game because they did not get all the details on the first try. They do not repeat it for the simple fact of the puzzles. They just want to get a complete picture of the story.

For these players, we even designed some Easter eggs.

For example, one of the scenes cannot be activated in the first round. You will still see it locked in the gallery. We hope this encourages people to wonder if they have missed something.

You need to revisit some locations and rethink your previous assumptions to unlock this extra bit of history.

We have also designed a MOON language that is decodable. Surprisingly, many people decoded it in the first 24 hours. So if you know how to decode it, you can go back to the game and read those writings in books, on paintings on the wall. That's something many YouTubers did on their streams. We are very happy to see players willing to spend so much time doing this.

Unlocking all of these secrets will answer some of the questions, but will probably raise some new ones. We hope that people who are genuinely interested in shaping the world will move from the game to our website because we maintain a very detailed devlog and did some interviews that explain the story behind the story. We also have many behind-the-scenes design processes, sketches, and images included in our digital art book, which is also available on Steam.

So was it an artistic decision not to use any real language in the game?

It was a pragmatic and creative decision.

Sometimes when I play a game that has a lot of dialogue, I switch between English and Chinese. Most of the time, many jokes, many puns are lost in translation. It was really a shame, but I also understood that translating this is very difficult. So even if you localize your game some meaning will be lost in translation.

However, we can all understand emotions by looking at the facial expressions and movement of the characters. It is the universal language that we all share. As one of my favorites, Oscar-winning animated film The house of small cubes by Kunio Kato, and Arrival, an image-only graphic novel by Australian artist Shaun Tan. Neither of these two works has dialogue, but I can still be deeply moved by them.

Last but not least, as a small team we have a very limited budget, and writing dialogues is not our greatest strength either. So creating a game that doesn't need a location was definitely a better option for us.

What's next for Lantern Studio?

I don't know, to be honest. Never wait MOON to become a great project. If, in the future, we have an idea, a story that we adore and feel that we have to tell it, we will make another game. That is, if a game is the right medium for this idea. If, for example, a graphic novel is a more suitable format for it, then we will make a graphic novel. Or an animated short film.

The things we have learned as game developers are not going to go away, even if we don't apply them to game design. First, we have learned to solve problems. These skills can be used in software engineering, animation, etc. Who knows? Perhaps in the future there will be no computers as we know them, and completely new new media will emerge.

Congratulations on the adventure that is LUNA and good luck in the future, without a computer or not!

This interview was originally published in Game World Observer on March 24, 2020.

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Newsdio: Oleg Nesterenko's blog - Beidi Guo, developer of LUNA The Shadow Dust, on how story and environmental narrative increase repeatability in...

The 21 best PC games on Xbox Game Pass for PC right now (March 2020) – For The Win

With health experts recommending the population practice social distancing to help curb the spread of coronavirus, many people are (hopefully) stuck inside and looking for things to watch or play.

If youve got a PC capable of running games, Xbox Game Pass for PC is a great value. For a monthly fee, you can download and play hundreds of different titles, including many triple-A blockbusters released fairly recently. Theres something for everyone on Game Pass whether you like single-player action games, RPGs or multiplayer-focused first-person shooters.

Which games are the best of the bunch? Were here to help. Here are 21 PC games you shouldnt miss on Game Pass for PC.

If youre a console player, you can see our list of 24 best console games on Game Pass here. Games are listed in no particular order.

1. Halo: Combat Evolved AnniversaryIt's the Halo you knew and loved, only better looking.

2. Ori and the Will of the WispsA visually stunning platformer that might just be the best Xbox-exclusive franchise.

3. My Time at PortiaIt's officially Animal Crossing season, but if you don't have a Switch, My Time at Portia offers all the addictive farming and crafting you could possible need plus combat and relationships! in a similarly cute package.

4. Yakuza 0If you like beat-em-ups, action games of any sort, or even just Japanese culture, you owe it to yourself to get into the Yakuza series. It all starts with Yakuza 0.

5. Two Point HospitalA goofy hospital builder where you're charged with treating various fictional illnesses, such as the Bard Flu, where affected patients will show up to your hospital looking like lute players from the middle ages.

6. Final Fantasy XV Windows EditionXV on Game Pass comes will all of the extra content that was released after launch, and just looks *gorgeous.* There's a high-res texture pack you can download to make the game look even better.

7. Age of Empires II: Definitive EditionThe strategy classic is back with a new campaign, and is fairly impressive visually for a game that originally released in 1999.

8. Bridge Constructor PortalMind-bending fun. Good for puzzle fans, or aspiring engineers.

9. Cities SkylinesThe ultimate city builder of the generation.

10. Europa Universalis IVOne of Paradox Interactive's highly-acclaimed grand strategy titles, it's a game so dense that you'll probably need to spend a few hours watching YouTube tutorials just to figure out what's going on. The time investment is worth it.

11. Hearts of Iron IVAlso made by Paradox, Hearts of Iron allows you to pick any country and play through the events of World War II, altering history any way you like.

12. FrostpunkA unique simulation/strategy game where your job is to keep a band of survivors alive in the fiercest climate imaginable, and are often faced with incredibly difficult choices.

13. Forza Horizon 4A very polished arcade racer that's one of the best looking games on the system. You need not be a car nerd, but it helps.

14. Gears 5The pinnacle of the Gears formula, with plenty of content to keep you occupied, from the campaign, to multiplayer, to the addictive Horde mode.

15. Opus MagnumIn this game, you essentially program machines to build something. It get very complicated very quickly, and can make you feel awfully dumb... until you figure out the solution for each level, and then you feel like a GENIUS!

16. Into the BreachA brilliant little grid-based strategy game that looks simple but can be incredibly challenging.

17. Kingdom Come: DeliveranceThink 'The Witcher 3,' but with a more grounded story and brutally realistic combat.

18. Slay the SpireAn addictive card-based rogue-like that will have you up all night saying 'one more run.'

19. StellarisAnother Paradox game that will require a serious deep dive, Stellaris is for strategy nerds or tabletop board game players who prefer sci-fi over history.

20. SubnauticaA survival-adventure game that takes place underwater on an alien planet. Oh, and it looks great.

21. The Outer WorldsThink Fallout 3, but in space. If Fallout 4 left a bad taste in your mouth, this is the perfect antidote.

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The 21 best PC games on Xbox Game Pass for PC right now (March 2020) - For The Win

Deciding to Postpone the Olympics Was Tough. Actually Moving Them May Be Tougher. – The New York Times

Postponing the Olympics, the largest sporting event in the world, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic was a widely accepted move, the acknowledgment of a chorus of worried voices around the world.

Actually moving the massive Tokyo Games, though, presents an entirely new set of challenges, a jigsaw puzzle of logistics for organizers to assemble in relatively short order.

We will make sure not to inconvenience people as much as possible, Toshiro Muto, the chief executive of Tokyo 2020, said after Olympic organizers delayed the Games to 2021.

For many reasons, that seems easier said than done.

Postponing the Games until 2021, for instance, risks scheduling clashes with the world championship events of two of the biggest Olympic sports, track and field and swimming. Though officials did not specify new dates for the Tokyo Games, they were originally planned for July 24 to Aug. 9, so a shift of exactly 12 months would create certain conflict, absent more maneuvering.

The governing bodies of the two sports rely on their world championship events as vital sources of income, but both released public statements signaling their intention to work with the I.O.C. and, if necessary, to shift the dates of their events.

Track and fields World Athletics Championships are scheduled to begin Aug. 6, 2021, in Eugene, Oregon, and in a statement, World Athletics said it was already working to ensure that Oregon is able to host the World Athletics Championships on alternative dates, should that prove necessary.

The world championships of swimming are scheduled to start July 16, 2021, in Fukuoka, Japan. FINA, the sports governing body, said in a statement that it plans to work with the Japanese Swimming Federation and public officials there in order to determine flexibility around the dates of the competition, if necessary and in agreement with the I.O.C.

The Olympics have been canceled during wartime, but never postponed.

Faced with this fresh challenge, international sports federations were sent scrambling on Tuesday to figure out how to shift qualification processes that were already halfway done. About 57 percent of athletes had qualified for the Games already, and questions swirled about whether their spots would remain secure for 2021, and what the new qualification parameters might look like across dozens of sports.

Athletes around the world began deciding whether the 2021 Games still fit into their life plans. And organizers in Japan began pondering which logistical plans could stay intact for another year.

There is not a book you can go to now and say, OK, heres Plan B, said Terrence Burns, a longtime Olympic bid consultant. Right now there is a blank piece of paper.

Burns said Japan was lucky that its Games were essentially ready to go and that many components of the event transportation, security, housing, and others were already in place to some extent.

They have all the ingredients for the cake in the pan; they just have to wait another year to put it in the oven, said Burns, who also noted that the organizers were lucky to have found sponsors and to have raised funds already.

Yet while the postponement helps to save Japans investment, it could still incur some significant costs. Muto said, for instance, that many of the venues that had been leased for this year would have to be extended for another year.

Our plan was to return all of the Games venues once we had finished, Muto said. So to hire them again means we have to pay additional costs for them and we might have to hire people until next year.

And, Muto noted, quite a lot of the venues have already been booked for next year, meaning those scheduling conflicts would have to be resolved in order for those facilities to be secured.

Who exactly would pay for all of that, Muto added, was still up for discussion.

The needs of ticket holders, many of whom entered popular lotteries, as well as those volunteers who had planned on traveling to Tokyo from around the world, were also being considered, but there were no answers yet to give.

Our policy is going to be, as much as possible, to make sure that people who have already bought tickets and people who have already been chosen as volunteers will get a special consideration, Muto said, while acknowledging that some people who. have been planning to attend the 2020 Games for several years might not be able to adjust to new dates.

Anbritt Stengele, the president of Sports Traveler, a company specializing in travel packages to major international sporting events, said she had already been in contact with hotels and other business operators in Tokyo about shifting the companys contracts to the following year.

But Stengele said little progress could be made by her or anyone else planning travel or business around the Olympics until the new dates for the Games were announced.

I think they have to come up with a date pretty soon, Stengele said. There are millions of ticket holders all over the world, and they need some definitive solutions.

The I.O.C. could also face some financial costs. The Summer Olympics are the I.O.C.s most significant source of income, money that it distributes to dozens of sports federations and more than 200 national Olympic bodies. A years delay could put those payments in doubt, given that broadcasters, notably NBC, which make up the bulk of its revenue, pay most of their fees close to the start of the Games.

In order to meet its costs, and not deplete its reserves more than necessary, the I.O.C. could perhaps ask its broadcast partners and sponsors to make payments earlier than they normally would be expected.

NBC, which will have to transform its programming schedule, declined to comment beyond a statement indicating that it understood the decision of the I.O.C. and Japanese government to postpone the Games.

After a long awaited announcement, the only thing that seemed certain on Tuesday was that the uncharted territory could potentially change the way the global sports industry is run.

There will be much more robust business continuity and contingency planning in response to pandemics like this, said Kristen Jaconi, a risk management expert at the University of Southern California. It is a new a playbook for the sports industry, no question.

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Deciding to Postpone the Olympics Was Tough. Actually Moving Them May Be Tougher. - The New York Times

Spyder is a game about a spider that’s a spy. And it’s on Apple Arcade now. – iMore

Most weeks we see a new Apple Arcade arrive and this week it's the turn of Spyder, an adventure game from Sumo Digital sees a robotic spider become a spy. So that's where the name comes from!

Spyder is set in a retro world where a spy agency has created a new agent. Agent 8 is a "sophisticated miniature robot spider" and it's full of tricks. And you get to control it, too.

And you only have one aim through the entire game. Sounds simple, right?

Your One Tiny Objective? Save the World!


You can download Spyder from the App Store now, but you'll need to be an Apple Arcade subscriber to do so. You are an Apple Arcade subscriber, aren't you?

Unlimited games, one price

Apple Arcade has over a hundred premium games with more added regularly each week. There is something here for everyone, and it only costs $5 a month for all you can game!

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Spyder is a game about a spider that's a spy. And it's on Apple Arcade now. - iMore

YMCA Partners with Covenant Living to Reduce Seniors Isolation –

The North Suburban YMCA has joined forces with long time community partner Covenant Living to launch the "Brighten Someone's Day" outreach program, designed to bring joy to senior residents struggling with isolation. During the shelter-in-place order, residents have been unable to visit with their families as well as other residents, and are now restricted to their apartments.

The "Brighten Someone's Day" program is open to anyone in the community who would like to share an uplifting picture, card, story, or video with Covenant Living residents. The Y has worked to make sure these messages will be delivered virtually to Covenant Living. For residents ordering groceries through Sunset Foods, delivery staff will place a "Brighten Someone's Day" note, drawing, or message directly inside the resident's grocery bag.

"We feel very fortunate that we have had a long partnership with the North Suburban YMCA," commented Hilde Sager, Executive Director of Covenant Living. "Knowing we have support from them and the community is a great source of connection during these challenging times for our residents."

Both Meadowbrook Elementary School in Northbrook and the Field School in Wheeling are actively participating in the program by asking children, their parents, and anyone interested to contribute to "Brighten Someone's Day" program.

To ensure the process is completely contact-free, all artwork and messages will be uploaded to the Y's website. To participate in this Community Outreach program, visit and click on the "Brighten Someone's Day" link. Participants will be linked to a form where they can upload their messages or artwork.

"Even though the Y is physically closed, we feel it is important to continue to spread joy and connections, one inspirational message at a time," stated Kim Nyren, Director of Community Investment at the NSYMCA. "We also hope these efforts will encourage other people in the community to get involved so we can reach even more seniors and other isolated residents in our community."

The NSYMCA recommends four unique ways the community can participate in the "Brighten Someone's Day" program. Write a letter or a poem of encouragement or joy. Paint or draw a colorful uplifting picture Record a 30-45 second video to say hello, tell a joke, or show off a particular talent. Paint or draw a colorful picture on poster board. They will be mounted, staked, and placed in front of the residence windows.The NSYMCA is also is bringing the community together through a variety of virtual programming for Covenant Living and the community at large. These initiative include: NSYMCA VIRTUAL FITNESS The Y has local instructors as well as national YMCA videos to keep the members healthy. Facebook live classes are also offered for an interactive experience. The classes currently available are - Cardio & HIIT, Cardio & Strength, Strength, Barre, Bootcamp, Mind & Body (Yoga), Adult, Tai Chi & Youth. Members are encouraged to check the website for daily updates. NSYMCA Community Boards Community members can interact, get ideas, ask for help, have virtual fun or ask a question: Current Boards are:o Brighten Someone's Day A forum to ask for help, and a place to share ideas to stay connectedo NSYMCA Community Membership or specific Y questionso Adult Programming Includes Brain games, the NSYMCA social club, Caregivers support group and other senior programmingo Health & Wellness Tips, workouts, questions answeredo Performing Arts Keeps the kids dancing o Visual Arts Check in for art plans, virtual classes and artist ideas for everyoneo Special Olympics Stay in touch with the Special Olympics team o Youth Development Offers activities, questions, websites and fun for kidso Smartlab S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Maintenance) programming o Camp Summer Camp updateso CEO- YMCA updates from the CEO

Senior Activities o Brain games Tuesdays at 1pm & Fridays at 9:15amo NSYMCA Social Club The Community can join for camaraderie and a meal if participants want to eat along with the meeting Lunch Thursday 3/19 at 11:45am Dinner Monday 3/30 at 5:30pmo Caregivers Support Group Fridays at 10:30amo Adult Education Seminars Community Check-In form Residents can sign up to receive a call or make a call to someone who is feeling isolated. Sunset Foods Delivery Messages- The Y is working with Sunset Foods to include inspirational notes & art made by Y families and local schools to include in their deliveries. NSYMCA - Community Fitness Challenges Encourages members to work out to reach 30,000 minutes of exercise. People can track through the Y app, Facebook, email or the Wellness Community boards.

To be a part of Brighten Someone's Day. For more information visit or contact Kim Nyren at

About the North Suburban YMCA The North Suburban YMCA services Northbrook and 14 surrounding communities with programs and tools that help its residents become healthier, more connected, and confident, ensuring that everyone, regardless of age, income, or background, has the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive. The NSYMCA focuses on Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility and is a charitable organization, inclusive and welcoming to all in our community. Learn more at

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YMCA Partners with Covenant Living to Reduce Seniors Isolation -

Coping with Social Isolation – Shepherd Express

Feeling a tad claustrophobic? Being quarantined, social distancing and sheltering in place diminish control over ones external circumstances, fueling a cascade of emotional and interpersonal stressors that undermine well-being, tax relationships and test personal resilience.

Common reactions to the social isolation caused by COVID-19 include restlessness or outright agitation, disturbed sleep, anxiety, anger, boredom, irritability, loneliness and cabin fever, among others. What to do? First off, remember were all in this together. Next, embrace strategies proven to support coping in the face of imposed separation from others.

Adopt a new schedule: Having a regular schedule of activities creates structure and purpose. When ones usual routine is disrupted, adopting a new one proves reassuring. Studies show that predictable routines lower anxiety.

Create a diary: Talking out loud or writing about things we find disturbing alleviates stress. Creating an audio, video or written diary helps us tell our personal stories about this difficult and painful odyssey. Each of us has a unique tale to tell, and a diary is one way to feel heard and validated.

Tackle projects: If you have work-related or personal projects on the back burner, you can use this hiatus to catch up. Doing something productive increases our feelings of personal power, restoring the sense of control this pandemic erodes.

Play games: Video games and old-fashioned board games help pass the time. Using both types offers variety, which helps keep the mind engaged and interested. Also, sharing gaming with others, whether in person or online, reduces feelings of isolation.

Go outside: Immersion in nature provides an immediate, positive impact on your mood. As little as ten minutes outside increases serotonin and dopamine in the brain, both feel good neurochemicals. Also, nature immersion broadens mental perspective, pushing back against that walls-closing-in feeling social isolation generates.

Learn: This situation provides an opportunity, albeit unwelcome, to start learning a second language, try a new hobby, take an online course, watch TED talks (, or give brain games a try. New learning wakes up the mind, helping us engage with the present moment, rather than worrying about whats coming next.

Exercise: Even short bursts of exercise positively impact mood. Studies show, when depressed or anxious, exercise can prove more beneficial than medications, such as antidepressants. Even simple physical activities, such as calisthenics, stretching, climbing stairs, push-ups, jogging in place, and taking a walk outside, put us in a better mood.

Eat healthy: Food is a drug, one directly impacting ones emotional state. While comforting at first, sweets and junk food eventually worsen anxiety, depression and moodiness. Do your best to avoid highly processed foods and sugar. Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and complex carbs. When it comes to alcohol, small amounts may take the edge off, but too much undermines well-being.

Sleep: When we fail to get enough restful repose, both emotional balance and mental functioning suffer. Extinguish or dim all light sources in your bedroom. Avoid screen time an hour before going to sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, try the eyes-wide-open technique. Most of us just lie there with eyes closed, hoping we will drift off. Instead, try to force your eyes to stay wide open as long as possible. It sounds counter-intuitive, but often works.

Connect: Even before the pandemic, a Harris poll found almost 70% of Americans reported feeling lonely with surprising frequency. Social isolation exacerbates the issue, particularly for the elderly. Ramp up your interactions with others, whether by phone, digitally or via snail mail. Now, more than ever, we need each other.

There are no panaceas for addressing social isolation. However, when we take steps to manage our mood, interactions and well-being, we experience a greater sense of control not over what is going on around us, but over what is going on inside us. As famed psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl told us: When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Thats a big challenge, but not an insurmountable one.

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Coping with Social Isolation - Shepherd Express

The Bucs keep the band together on defense – Tampa Bay Times

TAMPA Ndamukong Suh is not a very good pass rusher anymore. He had about as many sacks as he did touchdowns last season. Hes not even the best defensive tackle on his own team. Vita Vea is.

But together, Suh (307 pounds) and Vea (346 pounds) are two immovable mountains of men who clog up the middle of the defense so linebackers Shaquil Barrett (19.5 sacks) and Jason Pierre-Paul (8.5 sacks) can wreak havoc on quarterbacks with no avenue of escape.

What Suh represents is a vital piece the last one among the Bucs front seven who were free agents that the team needed to re-sign in order to keep everyone together for 2020.

We wanted the entire defense, if we could, to stay together; they played so well together, Bucs coach Bruce Arians said on a conference call Wednesday. That was a piece of the puzzle, they knew each other. Suh was a big, big part of it, obviously. Not as much in the sack game as much as his interior pressure and the great job he did last year against the run. I mean, we were No. 1 against the run in the league last year and a lot of it was because of him and Vita.

Suh, 33, agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract to return to the Bucs in 2020. He earned $9.25 million last season while playing in 77 percent of the defensive snaps.

He had drawn interest from at least the 49ers, who traded DeForest Buckner to the Colts for a first-round pick. But when that fizzled, Suh agreed to remain in Tampa Bay.

Nobody ran on the Bucs last season. They allowed only 73.8 yards rushing per game. In the final three games, including one against the playoff-bound Houston Texans, they allowed only 67.3.

When you consider the roll call of running backs the Bucs faced last season the Panthers Christian McCaffrey, the Saints Alvin Kamara, the Rams Todd Gurley, the Giants Saquon Barkley and the Titans Travis Henry its even more impressive. None of those elite ballcarriers rushed for 100 yards against the Bucs.

Only three of Tampa Bays 16 opponents in 2019 rushed for more than 100 yards as a team. The Seahawks Chris Carson, who rushed for 105 yards in a Week 9 loss at Seattle, is the only running back to reach the century rushing mark against the Bucs last season.

The No. 1 goal for me coming out of last season is to continue to build on defense and the only way to build is to keep everybody in place and grow," Arians said. Its huge.. ... We did some really nice things last year and we got better and better, especially the last six weeks of the season. I really liked the way we played against Houston, which was a playoff-caliber team and I thought our defense played more than well enough to win that game."

Of course, turnovers were the problem and the Bucs believe they have addressed that, replacing Jameis Winston with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

What the Bucs wanted from Suh he delivered. Vea, who battled through injuries as a rookie, still has only begun to tap his potential. Hes so strong with balance and speed that its impossible to block him with one player.

But he didnt have enough of a mean streak, and the Bucs were hoping Suh would help draw that out of him without crossing the line.

Like Suh, Vea had two-and-a-half sacks while hauling in a touchdown pass from Winston. Suh had nearly as many touchdowns (two) as he had sacks (2.5). He played in 16 games with 41 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hits and 2.5 sacks. He returned fumbles for touchdowns at Los Angeles and Atlanta.

The Bucs used the franchise tag on Barrett, who led the NFL in sacks with 19.5. Then they signed Pierre-Paul to a two-year, $25 million deal. Pierre-Paul had 8.5 sacks in 10 games after missing the first part of the season with a cervical fracture in his neck.

Arians is known for his expertise on the other side of the ball. But no matter who is under center, it wouldnt mean much if they couldnt stop anyone on defense.

Right now, weve got just about the whole defense back and we changed quarterbacks," Arians said. I think we gained the best quarterback to ever play the game. I think it sends a good message.

The front seven has been preserved. Suh, Vea and William Gholston are back as the starting three defensive linemen. Barrett, Pierre-Paul, Lavonte David and Devin White are locked up at linebacker. The Bucs lost linebacker Carl Nassib to the Raiders and defensive tackle Beau Allen to the Patriots in free agency, but that was about it on defense.

After signing Suh, the Bucs have about $14 million in salary cap space. Some of that has to go to signing a draft class and injured reserve. Arians said the only things left to add in free agency would possibly be a pass-catching running back and depth in the secondary, especially safety.

I dont think talent will be an issue whether we make the Super Bowl or not," Arians said. Theres some luck that comes with that, staying healthy and some other things. But talent wont be an issue to keep us out of the playoffs, no."

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The Bucs keep the band together on defense - Tampa Bay Times

Heal is a story-driven puzzle game for iOS and Android that aims to cover heavy topics such as dementia – Pocket Gamer

Heal is an upcoming story-driven puzzle game from indie developer Jesse Makkonen. The game will deal with some pretty sombre and heavy topics you don't frequently see in video games such asold age and dementia. It will be heading for iOS and Android on 10th April.

Though the main focal point of the game is the story, there isn't much in the way of text within Heal itself. Instead, the narrative is told through the atmosphere which is created by a variety of audio choices and the unique, dark aesthetic the game possesses.

Heal follows an old man who is suffering from dementia and therefore has difficulty remembering things that used to be familiar to him including, very tragically, his beloved wife. The game will look to convey a message about all of these topics through its story, so expect a fairly sad tale that definitely won't be for everyone.

It'll be up to you to help guide this older gentleman throughout the game, solving a variety of puzzles you'll be faced with as you progress deeper into the story. You can see a few examples of the conundrums you'll need to solve in the trailer above, which includes a lot of clocks, dials and buttons.

As you can see, Heal has a very distinct look and I'm definitely getting some horror vibes from the trailer too, so I'm very intrigued to see how that ties into the story. It's an impressive looking game, particularly when you consider that sole developer Jesse Makkonen makes everything by themselves, including the art, music and audio.

Heal will be available on the App Store and Google Play on 10th April. It will be a premium title that the developer says will cost around $6.99.

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Heal is a story-driven puzzle game for iOS and Android that aims to cover heavy topics such as dementia - Pocket Gamer

How to solve the Button Puzzle in the Quarantine Zone in Half-Life: Alyx – Gamepur

As you venture through the Quarantine Zone in Half-Life: Alyx, you will eventually come to the games first real puzzle. Your path will be block by a metal barrier, and you will need to figure out how to move it.

A panel with 16 buttons will be in front of you, and you will need to press the right ones in order to make the heavy metal door that is blocking your progress open.

If you look to the right of the panel, you will notice a strangely lit area under a bridge, with all manner of designs and lights on the wall. This is actually where your clues lie, and there is a very easy way to find out what to do.

Right beside the panel of buttons you will see a cage. Open the cage and all the trash inside will get sucked into the a strange energy vortex under the bridge, forming a floating eye on the air. This is one of your earliest introductions to the strange alien magic that is present in some parts of the games world.

If you jump up onto the cage and look through the eye, you will see the solution to the puzzle.

Go back to the panel, and push in the third button on the top row, and the second button on the bottom row. Thats it! The heavy metal barrier will be lifted into the air and you can progress further into the quarantine zone.

How to solve the Button Puzzle in the Quarantine Zone in Half-Life: Alyx - Gamepur

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