Monday, November 19, 2012

Review & Giveaway: Double Shutter: The Anatomy of an Addictive Game

Just as in life, you can't control the hand you've been dealt but you can control the decisions you make.   Double Shutter is totally AWESOME!

WHAT: Double Shutter by Blue Orange Games
DOES: an educational game that gives practice in risk analysis, encourages you to leave as many possibilities open so you can keep on playing, less confrontational than other games and yet still competitive, can be played solo and with friends
Lose and Win Gracefully, Math is Everywhere (new), Social Scene Helper
AGES: 8+  (kids as young as 5 have enjoyed this game, need to understand basic addition though)
EXPERT OPINION: Kerry Kappell, Gold Life Master, Certified Bridge Director, ACBL Accredited Bridge Teacher, Manhattan Bridge Club

What makes a game addictive?  Is it different for everyone or is there a certain element that strikes a chord with the majority of people?  If so, what could that element be?

The two and the three could come in handy later so I decide to opt for taking the five instead.  I'm not sure if that is the best strategy but I'm still learning. If I roll a number that I can't equate with the unflipped tiles, it's game over for me. 

This time, to gain expert insight, I thought I'd ask a game coach to help me.  While I usually talk with teachers and psychologists about skills and real-life applications, I've never talked to a professional that makes games his life and sees dozens of people each day who are doing nothing but playing games, watching them laugh in delight or fall into depression because they've lost.  

Game coaches not only know how to help players improve, they also understand what motivates them. Thus I asked Kerry Kappell, a former financial analyst-turned-Bridge Director and Instructor at the Manhattan Bridge Club for his counsel.   Kerry is an awesome instructor who spends his days coaching students to play this popular but very complex game.  On the academic front, Bridge is also climbing its way towards the status of chess as both Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have even donated funds to establishing Bridge programs in schools.  So if anyone is going to know about what makes a game educational and even addictive, it's Kerry.   And what did Kerry think about Double Shutter?

You can TRY before you BUY!!???  Click on this picture to play!  Remember the real thing is MUCH more fun but beware, do not play this if you have to be somewhere else in five minutes, you will be late.  I guarantee that!    source:

Varied Outcomes Will Always Keep Your Attention

"I love it," Kerry said.   He first played it on Blue Orange Games' website and didn't stop playing it until he won.   I asked Kerry why this game is so addictive and he had an answer for me immediately.

"It doesn't give you the same results every time.  That's key to keeping your attention."  A-ha!  No wonder Number 1 Son loves this game so much.   He pretty much refuses to suffer through anything that only mildly excites him so when I saw him starting to salivate over Double Shutter, I knew we had a winner.

Kerry said that any game that varies the outcome will trigger our interest.  As an example, he talked about something that many of us are thinking of this time of the year: the annual bonus.  He said that if you were to receive the same amount every year, the bonus would lose its effect, "You'd come to expect it and then you might not work as hard."   

Kerry thinks that it is wise to let the children figure out the strategies by themselves, through trial-and-error learning.  I think that is really wise but if you watch this video, you will see that I am not that patient myself (but hey, the kid's only five and he just needed a little tip..... so hopefully, I didn't ruin it too much)

This got me thinking. How can a person expect to become good at a game with such variable outcomes?  Doesn't that mean it's all about chance and not about skill?  With Double Shutter, Kerry didn't think so.

Keeping Your Options Open Forces You to Think Ahead

"You could never win it all the time," he explained however, "You could certainly get better at picking up tricks as you play it."

He said that the first objective with Double Shutter was to keep yourself as open to as many different possibilities as you can.   OOH!   It's all probability!  No wonder my husband is hooked.  For years he used to spend his entire day making "bets" on the floor of the American Stock Exchange.   Whenever, we play games with high probability components, like Yamslam, another Blue Orange favorite, my husband forgets his dad role, firmly plants his butt next to his kids, and gets ready to knock out anyone in his path.

On our first day out after Hurricane Sandy, we went to a Vietnamese restaurant and there is nothing like a modern version of a 17th century French game to keep you busy while you wait for a hot steaming bowl of noodles. 

Practicing your skills in probability will help your child keep as many options open as possible because you need that to keep on playing as long as you can- the longer you play, the more tiles you flip down, and if you flip down a lot, you'll likely come out ahead.  As an example, he told me that when we roll the dice, "Two (1+1=2) will only come up 1 out of 36 times but seven comes up much more often."  (6+1=7; 4+3+7; 5+2=7; 1+2+4=7) Thus, keeping those middle numbers (3,4,5,6) might keep you in the game longer.

Losing Gracefully to Lady Chance

Kerry also pointed out the similarities between Double Shutter and Bridge in that it engages people because of the random rewards it offers.  "Because no matter how good you are, you can't win all the time." It's funny how kids know this and they don't get upset when they lose. Even for the sorest of losers like me and Number 2 son, we just laugh when we lose at Double Shutter.   It's still fun because we still do some strategic thinking as we try our luck with Lady Chance. The same can't be said for games like chess.  If someone is better than you, Kerry reminded me, you will be beat.  Games like Double Shutter allows for non-veterans to have a fighting chance at winning.

I love how a person can stay focused onto another person's round.  It's a bit relaxing to play an entire round by yourself. but you are still in a "group" because you are both looking at the same game board.  

Math Games are Very Social!

Some kids get anxious at games.  I know I do.  When I am playing a game and it is not fast-paced enough, my mind wanders.  However, with this game, you don't really get that.  First, you play your round by yourself.  If you don't end up "shutting the super box," as most people won't, you will just tally up your score.  However, I find that even the most inattentive kids will pay attention as his opponents play, they will imagine which numbers they would be knocking down even if someone else is playing.

During this time, there is little room for social anxiety because the players are all looking at the game and not each other.  As soon as one person is done, and the box gets passed to the next player but everyone's eyes will still be focused on the game.  It's like the way video games are socially easier, everyone is looking at the same screen and not at each other.

Travel Friendly! Numbers 1 and 2 get one last game in before Double Shutter gets dropped off at Number 5's house.  That week after devastating Hurricane Sandy, school was canceled five days in a row.  We all needed some good games to help us cope.

There is also no room for cheating and there is no room for grey areas.  Some kids really want things to be black and white and I find that those kids are usually good at math!  There is only one correct answer and that is a relief to them. 

Speaking of math, I have to thank the good people at Blue Orange Games for igniting a math spark in my youngest son.  THANK YOU!!!  He has always liked his numbers but both Yamslam and Double Shutter have uncovered a new level of excitement to explore math and challenge himself.   I'm not saying that he's excellent because of the game but I'm certain the game had much to do with his positive attitude towards arithmetic.  Additionally, Number 5, a nine-year old who just came home last week with the highest score in her class in math, (HURRAH!) has surprisingly never been crazy about math.  However, a few weeks ago, she started playing Double Shutter with her friends and family.  Her question at the end of several rounds?  "Aw dang, how come there's no subtraction?"

Those kind of complaints are all the thank you a parent needs when buying an educational game for their kids.  Am I right or am I right?

Now you can win your own Double Shutter!   
Try the Rafflecopter widget below and remember... please follow the rules... If you are supposed to make a comment on the blog post, the rule of thumb is... if you can't see your comment then, it doesn't count as an entry!   Also, if you have trouble entering Rafflecopter via Facebook, try just using your email address. I'm sorry this system frustrates some of us.  If you have trouble email me.  I want to help.  This giveaway will only be shipped to U.S. addresses only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want it now? If you are going to purchase it someday, go to my Amazon link, put it in your shopping cart before logging out and you can support Toys are Tools!

Disclosure:  Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any way by the manufacturer of this product.  The product was submitted to tester and expert to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised.  The giveaway prize is being donated by the manufacturer. 


  1. I'm getting kind of addicted to math games as a teaching tool, and this one looks like a perfect addition! Thanks for the review. :)

  2. Oh, and regarding Black Thursday/Friday and Cyber Monday: I never shop on Thanksgiving. We normally do not go out on Black Friday (at least to go shopping). BUT I have been known to make some purchases on Cyber Monday. (Not sure if this is where you wanted comments on this topic.)

  3. I'm trying to use games like this to get my kids excited about math!

  4. i've never seen this game before. it looks like something that would have helped me as a kid. i was a bit terrified of math...

  5. nope, i don't shop on black thu/fri. nor on cyber mon. consumerism, ugh. i do get sucked in sometimes, i admit it, but i really try not to.

  6. I don't go near the stores at all if I can help it - thank you, Internet!

  7. I don't shop on Thursday and dread the lines on Friday but Cyber Monday is good

  8. I love the idea that the kids are getting math without realizing it, and in that way, will develop a familiarity with numbers and probability that will help them in life. This one goes on my list!

  9. I SOMETIMES shop on Friday. Wouldn't think of it Thursday(I'm the primary bird watcher), and Never been out on Monday. Haven't gotten into the cyber shopping all that much, but now that I follow YOU Jen, I am inclined to purchase more online:)

  10. Goodie! Maybe a way my son will like to do math.
    Black Friday? I shop online, you usually can get the same deal.
    Just not leaving your house.
    Less Stress Is Best!!!! :)

  11. I had never seen this game and when I first saw the review, my immediate reaction was that it was for little kids. Then I read the review and thought, well, maybe not. Then I played and I'm hooked!!

  12. I will not shop in stores on Black Friday. Too much competition, too many lines, and honestly, the stores with all those big sales don't usually have what I would be looking for. Cyber Monday...if there were a good sale on something I wanted, I could be persuaded.

  13. Is the Facebook like button the one right above this section? I don't see a "like" button anywhere. Or a pin button specific to this post (but I did pin it by copying the URL).

  14. I haven't seen it before, it looks fun.

  15. I rarely do it because I don't like the pushy crowds. I've done it on occasion when I know it won't be too busy. I do cyber monday when I can get really good deals since it's online.

  16. Really, the yellow and red totally say VEGAS to me. I try very hard not to play the online version. The dice-rolling sound is like music! I love it! thanks for your comment!!!!

  17. the first time I went was last year. it was the first ever in my life. I went in the afternoon. there were toys but as far as good deals are concerned.... there wasn't much left.

  18. less stress is best! well said!

  19. You may also like Yamslam then. They both have the same "flavor" There is something about rolling dice that kids really like.

  20. I know what you mean. I can't deal with crowds. I start to panic.

  21. Oh, I need to put pin buttons in there. I am so sorry about that. But there is an Facebook button here. Right after the synopsis and at the end of the review. Thanks!

  22. I believe that we have all seen it somewhere. I really do. But the tin design is a bit retro and the red and yellow are a classic combo design, toys these days seem to sport the color chartreuse. After I played Double Shutter, I realized that they were everywhere. In my neighborhood, they sell it at Michael's. In my neighborhood Toys R Us, they sell Yamslam too! I've definitely seen Double Shutter in specialty toy stores. Once you fall in love with a Blue Orange games, the other games seem to start catching your eyes. That's what it did for us!

  23. I don't do crowds. I stay away from black Friday and will do so with Thursday. However, I am game for a movie;)

  24. I've never seen this game before but my son's school is teaching Singapore Math and this looks like the kind of game they would like.

    I don't shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

  25. Black Thursday is ridiculous. I worked at Best Buy one year during the holiday season and certain departments had to come in on Thursday evening just to ready the store for our 6 am Black Friday opening. So, I suppose that stores doing Thanksgiving openings had employees on premises 6-12 hours prior to their evening openings. There is a thrift store chain in my city that was open on Thanksgiving Day, 9am-9pm. I hate to admit it, but my BFF and I shopped there, partially because we were bored and love to thrift, but also because we figured the employees had to work anyway, we may as well come in and give them some business! My friend scored a wayyyyy underpriced mid-century Mc Coy pottery planter.

  26. I have never seen Double Shutter before, but it kind of reminds me of an adult drinking game! It looks like a blast. I'll have to check out the demo.

  27. The first time I saw double shutter was at my sons family game night at school. He loves math so this would be a great game for him!

  28. No Thursday/Friday shopping for us. It's time to spend with friends and family. I'll probably do a little shopping online for the 'From Santa' gifts.