Show Posts

You can view here all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas to which you currently have access.


Messages - Mandle

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 396
1
WAR AND PEACE AND MY MOTHER

It took me a very long time to decide if I could write all this down or not but you're reading this, and you already know that I did, so here it is:

When I was two-years-old, my mother threw me across the border to a soldier who did not take his hands off of his rifle to catch me. My head hitting the concrete is my earliest memory of pain.

My mother was screaming something at me but my ears were ringing. I couldn't understand a single word as she was dragged back and the line of soldiers on the other side closed ranks.

I think I remember seeing her hands splayed out between military shoulders but that might just be something I saw on a propaganda poster later on as...

I grew up on our side of the wall, raised by uncles and aunts more out of duty than love. No... that was a harsh thing to say. I doubt I would have done better raising a child thrust upon me.

On my third or fourth birthday I remember a cake and even presents of a kind.

On my seventh birthday there was a card, smuggled in at mortal risk, as I understand now, across the border by one of my cousins, down his pants.

I'm opening the drawer in my desk where I keep my most treasured things right now. I'm taking out that card so that I can write the words here exactly:

"Dearest Joseph, I don't even know if you remember me but I am your mother. I dream of the day when I can see you again and hold you in my arms. Know always that I am here loving you and hoping to one day see you again. I love you more than anything. Your mother, Helen."

I turned sixteen and entered compulsory military service.

While on an employment experience drill at a guard tower overseeing the wall the door opened and a distant cousin held his finger up to his lips.

From behind him a woman walked into the room. I didn't recognize her but, as you, reading this, will have already guessed, she was Helen, my mother.

Some introductions, hugs, awkwardness, crying, hugs, awkwardness, and then a desperate calm where the darting around of heads told me that time was short, later:

My mother handed me a book. It was Tolstoy's "War And Peace".

She told me to read it, and that she loved me, and then was almost carried out the door and was gone.

During the next thirty-odd years I read the book cover to cover, over and over.

Well, that would be a great line in a book, wouldn't it? Actually I read it twice in totality and then just kept it by my bed and opened it at random before going to sleep. And I did this less and less as time went...

By the time the wall opened up, kind of, I was in my late forties.

We were allowed passes to visit family on the other side but the process was long and expensive.

After saving up for months I got to see my mother again in a tiny room, across a table, with intimidating men with military shoulders on both sides.

Oh God, she looked so old.

She asked me if I had read the book and I told her that I had. She asked me if I knew why she had asked me to read the book and I told her that I did.

I saw the recognition of my lie in her eyes as they took her away.

The wall closed.

And then, just as suddenly, it opened again nine years later.

Weekly visits to relatives were now a thing again but without the bribes.

Oh God, she looked so old.

"The doctors say I'm dying but I don't believe them."

I asked her why she didn't believe them and, after a rant about them being government quacks who never have to fear unemployment, she told me that she always knew I would read "War and Peace" to her, cover to cover, before she would die.

So, every week I showed my papers, crossed the checkpoint, and read "War and Peace" to my mother across a table, a bit at a time.

Now, this is the point in my story where I have to get really honest, especially with myself.

After a while I could tell that she was not following the story from week to week as precisely as she thought she was.

So, I started to cheat. I started to repeat the story. At first I would go back just a few paragraphs and then I would read entire pages and then even chapters over again.

Sometimes she would catch me out doing this and I would skip back to the place we were really at, but this happened less and less as the disease ate away at her mind.

Fucking sue me. I didn't want the book to end.

My mother died before I had read her even a third of it.

On my last walk back out through the checkpoint I laid the book down as close to halfway across the border-line, painted in a thick white line across the asphalt, as I could.

I didn't lay it down with "War" on one side and "Peace" on the other.

I laid it down so that the line on the asphalt bisected the title top to bottom as best as I could judge.

And then I walked away.
 

2
General Discussion / Re: Kickstarter
« on: 16 Jan 2019, 16:35 »
Have a look at the Kickstarter campaign page for Chronicle Of Innsmouth: Mountains Of Madness here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/201868287/chronicle-of-innsmouth-mountains-of-madness/

It's an appeal for the sequel to a game that was already quite well received critically.

The campaign peaked right away with the Early-Bird packages... within 48 hours the main goal of 11,000 bucks was about a third of the way there.

So, yeah, make sure you have Early-Bird packages with bonus material if possible.

Donations slowed down a bit after those packs were all gone but eventually we made it to the all-or-nothing goal and got funded.

It's a nail-biting experience and a team-effort got us there which included many late-nights and lost sleep working to get the campaign as good as it could be.

The awesome layout of the kickstarter page and the preview video cost the developers a LOT of time that could have been spent on the development.

The demo game release to mach up with its announced release date was down to 6 minutes before deadline before everyone signed off on it to be the final candidate.

It's a massive amount of fun and a massive challenge to do a successful kickstarter campaign...

I would never want to try one on my own though... Getting everything done for this one almost killed me, and I was only one of the cogs in the machine...

3
I finished it!

Spoiler: ShowHide

The first puzzle I solved without understanding the pattern. I just thought 3-4 and 4-5 like it already did before. When 3-4 then didn't work, I tried 3-3 and that was correct. I only read the reason afterwards in the hints thread.

The second puzzle I couldn't figure out myself, only with the hints. I didn't understand that I had to replicate the sound. And I didn't know that "sew" is pronounced "so". The "ewe" was easy on the other hand (remember, I like sheep)

The wire puzzle was pretty easy, I got that with the second try (I think there were two possible solutions), but the wires were very small to click on.

The number puzzle was ok, but I had trouble finding the two of the operators.

The final quiz was hilarious!


I think the game would significantly benefit of changing the order of puzzles. The one that requires most patience and takes longest to do (because you have to click and wait and stuff) was first. Maybe if the wire puzzle or numbers were first, people wouldn't give up that easily.

I was a bit disappointed, I hoped that the LedEx truck would come at the end to pick the bomb up again  :P


So happy that I heard someone else completed  the game, especially someone that I respect as much as cat!

All of the issues with the game like the puzzle difficulty being out of order and the wires being small and hard to click on are known to me but I don't think I will be remaking it as the voice acting would have to be redone and, yeah, not gonna happen.

I kind of like the first puzzle being really hard, it separates the wheat from the chaff early on, and it is also brute-forcible with patience as you said.

I also like the wire clicks being precise, but not impossibly so. It adds to the tension I feel. When I had a group of people play the game live in front of me the really smart dude happened to have an eye infection and needed someone else to click the wires while he called out the order, which was very fun for me to watch.

As for the ending... Yeah, that would have been awesome! Maybe I will look into it!

4
The Rumpus Room / Re: What grinds my gears!
« on: 15 Jan 2019, 14:14 »
People who won't change their views/opinions no matter how hard they are proven wrong really grinds my gears. It really p####s me the hell off when you know you are 100% correct about something but the moron in front of you still says "No you are wrong" or "I must check this up"

Dude, just read the comments under that first video in my playlist. I was trying as hard as I could to talk sense into this bloody idiot "Flat Earth Aussie Jesus" after realizing with growing horror that not only was he a fellow Australian but also that we share the same first name.

I started out quite optimistic but eventually had to either give up or end up eating my own head out of frustration.

Then I eventually found peace in thinking that he is so far down the rabbit-hole that he can't possibly gain followers who are not already beyond any help and also that he probably needs this belief to prevent himself having to examine his life which could lead to him doing something drastic to himself or others.

So, yeah, a bit of a harmless old duffer hopefully.

5
The Rumpus Room / Re: What grinds my gears!
« on: 15 Jan 2019, 13:33 »
It's hard to believe that there are people seriously thinking the earth is flat. Where do they expect to be the edge of the world?

Most of them think the AE map (basically the U.N. logo) is the map of the flat earth and that Antarctica is actually a giant ice wall that circles the circumference and stops all the water from falling off.

Their theories then differ on whether or not the flat plane continues on from there, possibly infinitely, or whether the whole shebang is covered by a dome with the stars on it, and other such anally-extracted fantasies.

6
The Rumpus Room / Re: What grinds my gears!
« on: 14 Jan 2019, 23:43 »
hehe interesting,   but there is no convincing people otherwise who actually believe this stuff ,  it almost becomes pointless to try persuade them away from such theories. In fact i might go as far to say you have more chance in convincing an orthodox religious believer of the possibility of no god, then a flat earther of the possibility the earth is spherical in nature . The fundamental issue is, above all evidence and facts they desperately want to believe in what they want to believe in. There is no changing that stance no matter what evidence is presented.

Yeah, they are a very frustrating lot. But the fight against this kind of backlash against science is growing and I have seen interviews with ex-flat-earth cult-members who mention videos by people like SciManDan and Conspiracy Catz as their reasons for realizing that they were wrong, so there is a slight hope for some.

I'm more interested in trying to reach the fence-sitters: vulnerable people who have looked into the flat-earth and are on the verge of getting sucked into it but have decided to look around and see it their ridiculous claims have been debunked somewhere first, which is why I try to attack their main arguments in my videos like:

* You can't see the horizon curve (and any video that shows it curving must have been taken with a fish-eye lens)
* The atmosphere could not exist next to a vacuum (they think vacuums are like vacuum cleaners and should suck the atmosphere off the earth)
* Crepuscular rays, the fanning rays of sunlight through holes or gaps in clouds, indicate a small and local sun.
* Gravity doesn't exist. Things only fall because they are denser than the air under them.

I even had a close friend tell me that he thought they kind of had a point with the atmosphere/vacuum thing and I spent the next twenty minutes explaining pressure gradients and such and perhaps pulled him back from the rabbit-hole entrance.

One of the ex-cult-members, in an interview, went as far to say that they considered suicide after realizing they had invested the last few years into something so meaningless and had lost their marriage and the respect of friends and family over it.

That was when I decided to have a go at fighting it myself because, unlike disproving God to religious people, there is actual science and easy ways to explain the concepts when it comes to debunking something as silly as the flat earth.

****************************************************************************************************************************************

Oh, and yes... One more thing that grinds my gears is how childish and frightened of debunkers these cult members are:

I had some videos up on my channel of the Halloween rooms we made for the kids at my school which were themed on Harry Potter and Star Wars. Since I started making this flat-earth debunking series these videos were hit with copyright claims so I made them private rather than face potential YouTube BS strikes against my channel.

I doubt the timing is a coincidence as several other debunkers on YouTube were hit with false copyright claims around the same time.

Scared little children.

8
The Rumpus Room / Re: What grinds my gears!
« on: 14 Jan 2019, 14:37 »
What's really grinding my gears lately is the backlash against science by certain religions, woo-peddlers, and other cults that promote ignorance over the massive amount of knowledge that mankind has built up over time and depends on to just basically survive (so far) at our current population level.

Now, I cannot argue back against anti-vaxxers because I'm not a doctor or a medical scientist. Even if I learned everything I could about vaccines and how they obviously help humanity it wouldn't matter. People should just watch a video by an actual medical professional instead.

I cannot argue back against any religion because every argument ends with "God works in mysterious ways."... (I do have a few ideas to combat religious cults but they would take time and money I don't currently have... Reserved for a future project)

But there is one destructive cult that I know of that I know how to fight back against:

THE FLAT-EARTH MOVEMENT!!!

Sounds hilarious, right? Well, I thought so as well and started watching the whole circus of the flat-earth being defended and debunked on youtube. I even thought at first that it could be just a brilliant conjoined plan by the proposers of Flat Earth and the debunkers to gain exponential views and money on youtube.

But, the more I learned about what was going on the more I realized what a dangerous cult Flat Earth is. Still sounds silly, though, right?

The more I learned about the Flat-Earth movement the more and more I recognized it as a genuine cult which destroys lives... Many have lost their employment, their marriages, and the respect of their family and friends over this rubbish.

And what is even worse: Many of these people that believe the earth is flat are home-schooling their children into this belief, and/or are telling their children to remain skeptical whenever their teacher is talking about any topic concerning the earth being a globe.

So... I cannot fight anti-vaxxers (I'm not a doctor)... I cannot fight religious cults (yet)... But I know how to fight Flat Earthers!!!

One thing they always ask for (because they distrust any math or science) is repeatable and observable experiments that they can do themselves. And their own videos of their "experiments" are very, very shitty. So I'm appealing to that level of shitiness in the hope that this makes more of them identify with what I'm trying to do. Well, good videos are also really hard to do and usually fall short and are cringey... Aim low and I'll never fail!!!

So here is my playlist of exactly that so far:



I would really appreciate it if people could become even silent subscribers to my channel as the youtube algorithm doesn't care and it helps push my content up on search lists.

Like I said before, if I can save even one person from ruining their life over something so silly like Flat-Earth that it should be a Monty Python skit, then making my shitty videos will have been worth it.


9
Best Character: Baron
Best Plot: JudasFM
Best Atmosphere: Baron
Best Writing: Baron
Best Ending: JudasFM

AGS forums were down for me and so no time for comments before bed, I'll try to write some tomorrow.

10
Okay, Baron, understood... and I was a bit drunk when I typed that last post so don't go thinking I'm getting all sensitive in my old age or anything... Just sometimes when I'm drunk. Cheers!

And, I shall be voting soon, gotta go to lunch first though.

11
Best Ending: I'm going with Mandle at last, mostly because the cat unexpectedly died.  I hope this vote doesn't help you win though, Mandle, since yours was easily the most depressing "happily ever after" story I've ever read.  :tongue:  Mine was bad too, but jeez!  It was hard to wade through the story for all the dead cat corpses bunging up the way.  Why didn't they just find a dead baby under the up-turned wheelbarrow while you were at it?!?   :-\  ;)

My "story" was non-fiction and while there is actually an upturned wheelbarrow in my land-lady's vegetable field I don't think there is a dead baby under it, but now I'm kinda scared to go look.

And yeah, my story is very depressing in a way, but I also feel that it is honest about what the concept of "happily ever after" means in the long run.

"And he/she/they lived happily ever after..." has an expiration date whether it be a long or a short one.

I find it hard sometimes to tell when you are joking but I must admit I found your comment about hoping I don't win because of your vote a bit jarring in this instance. This feeling will not shade my own votes though, which I will place tomorrow.
 

12
As for games that do have dark themes, the game The Cat Lady say's right off the bat that “Contains occasional graphic violence & gore, some strong bad language and infrequent frontal nudity.” when you enter the Steam store page, and I've yet to see a single person complain that the content warning ruined their experience of playing the game, so I don't see why Unavowed too could have just a short warning that the game features scenes of something that looks like sexual abuse.

The warning for The Cat Lady doesn't mention "Depictions of suicidal thoughts", which would be the one I would say should be most important if the warnings were in place to avoid triggering negative responses from people dealing with such issues.

I feel that the warnings are there more to cover the creator's ass for legal reasons of "decency laws" than to avoid showing a player something that may trigger a negative emotion for them.

While I sympathize greatly with anyone dealing with issue like strong phobic reactions or PTSD I also feel that it is not the responsibility of any form or art to cover every single possible variation of such in its list of warnings.

The TV news media doesn't come with specific warnings that the following story contains rape, child abuse, etc. themes, and neither do most movies, theatrical works, and so on.

It could be argued that games are only supposed to give us a respite from the horrors of the real world and should be able to be chosen via a filter that allows the player to pick the one that will contain nothing that might disturb them.

But if we were to impose that on the game creator then the list of everything they might have to mention in the warning list could be so long that it might go on for pages and pages. And also this kind of relegates games to a position of being taken less seriously than other forms of adult storytelling. If a movie doesn't have to mention in its warning list that a character makes mention of being sexually abused as a child (Eg; Forrest Gump) and doesn't have its rating adjusted because of that, then why should this happen with games? There was no graphic scene of the incident in Unavowed, it was only talked about (and also turned out to not be the case later on, but that's beside the point).

Maybe a one-stop website where games, or other media, that could be searched specifically for how many potential triggers it contains as flagged by the audience is a potential solution?

I don't know if anything like this already exists, and, if not, then feel free to go ahead with this idea if anyone is interested in doing so.

www. triggerwarnings. com or somesuch as the domain name perhaps?

(Yeah, such a thing probably already exists, but if not, and if anyone makes a fortune from this idea, just let me know and my lawyers will be in touch that would be enough satisfaction for me... hehe)

13
The Rumpus Room / Re: Happy Birthday Thread!
« on: 10 Jan 2019, 13:01 »
Happy birthday to Dualnames!

14
That said, now you mention it and rereading my post again, I do see your point. I'll edit it tonight when I get home, but for the moment I'll just say that none of your votes were won by default  :)

Cheers mate, and I'm really happy for your votes. I didn't mean my post to sound snarky as well, but seeing such long comments after votes for my story and seeing that they were all about other stories just felt a bit weird.

15
For once, The Squid and I got our votes in quickly!

Best Character: Baron with Comrade Gruff.
Best Plot: Mandle. I found Baron's entry more confusing than entertaining, like I'd just read an extract from the middle of a novel instead of a short story. What were they supposed to be fighting against? There was no clear-cut enemy that I could see. Is this fantasy? Alternate future? You make contemporary references to Russia while talking about elves and dwarfs. Are the fantasy races Communist? What exactly is there problem? Basically, I was just left with too many questions and not enough answers.
Best Atmosphere: Mandle.
Best Writing: This was a tough one, but I'm going to have to go with Baron.
Best Ending: Mandle. Again, no disrespect to Baron, but For the Cause didn't seem to have any kind of ending, happy or otherwise (just reread it to make sure). The two main characters do a bunch of random things with no reason given other than the Cause, which is never really explained. Then they fly away and we as readers don't know nearly enough about them to know if this is supposed to be a happy ending or a Villain-Wins (granted, though, Sinitrena didn't specify whose happy ending it was supposed to be :-D) Credit where credit's due, though, the cocaine for smurfs comment did make me laugh aloud :D

Well, I just won three votes without knowing why. Were they won by default? Usually when someone puts a comment after a vote it mentions something about the story the vote was for, right? Maybe not? Am I just going crazy?

16
SSI.php is apparently missing from the test folder, and the forum theme has lost its stylesheet.

Whew, I was worried that this might have been the new skin.=D

17
but I still think it was in very poor taste to spring that on the player without warning.

I see what you're saying to a degree but putting topics like sexual abuse out of bounds or having specific "Contains sexual abuse references" warnings for viewers, in the case of movies, or for players, in the case of games, or readers or whatever is getting a little too specific and also into too much spoiler territory I feel.

"Contains adult themes" should be enough, really, and then you know that you might be confronted with things that could make you uncomfortable without having the powerful moment of the particular scene spoiled for you ahead of time.

If a game, or movie, or whatever, had "Includes sexual abuse themes" in its description then it's going to rob that scene of some of it's impact when it happens.

Like I said, though, that's not exactly what happened in the story of this game, but let's say it was what happened for the sake of argument.

As long as the game is rated with an "Adult themes" warning then I have no problem with it. I don't want my warnings broken down into "Sexual themes", "Sexual abuse", "Drug use", "Tobacco use", "Violence", "Explicit Violence", "Swearing", etc. etc. as these labels could become spoilers and also way too annoying as they propagate down the screen.

"Contains adult themes" is enough and, if someone has an issue with any kind of specifics then they can google the game or movie for specific warnings somewhere I'm sure.

18
I'll put up my MAGS game "Strawman Bombing Disposal" for a possible entry into Best Puzzles.

The puzzles are pretty hard which is probably why, apart from two people (that I know of) who figured them out, what I got back mostly as feedback was "I pushed the buttons and got blown up and quit."

I designed this game to be quite hard as an alternative to the current trend of "a game is only good if anyone can finish it". There's nothing wrong with games like that, don't get me wrong, but I felt that a real challenge every now and then might be a nice change.

It's the kind of bash-your-head-against-the-puzzles-until-you-get-that-CLICK-moment-and-everything-becomes-clear that a lot of us grew up on. There are hints, if you listen to the evil villain carefully, but the rest is pretty much pure logic plus a bit of perseverance.

Everyone who has completed the game, the two people I mentioned above and some friends that played the game in front of me live at a mate's gaming night, all said that the puzzles were hard but logical and fair once figured out.

The puzzles are all 100% original of my own devising and a lot of thought went into them on my bike rides to and from work.

SO, AS MY ENTRANT FOR BEST PUZZLES:


STRAWMAN  BOMBING  DISPOSAL


You are crossing a Washington D.C. road when a truck pulls away revealing something shocking.

This game is not meant to be easy. Only a very few will probably have the patience to complete it.

The game starts and ends suddenly as I wanted it to feel like you are abruptly thrown into a situation and then right back out of it.

You can click to skip a bunch of diaglog and/or cutscenes by clicking the mouse to cut to the chase, but I would advise you to listen to and watch everything all the way through at least once.

There is no save game function or checkpoints system at this time but once you know how to solve a puzzle it is pretty easy to repeat the solution within a few seconds.

I will be making a Tips And Hints thread of my own for the game so I would appreciate it if noone else does so for now.

Controls: Mouse only + ESC to hard-quit from the game.

DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO SAVE WASHINGTON?!


CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE GAME

19
I've been playing the game and I loved it so far, but when it came to the Bronx and the player gets a vision that shows
Spoiler: ShowHide
that the player had an affair with a guy while they were possessed by a demon and couldn't control their own body, and a picture taken of them together is used for a puzzle afterwards.
and I just felt terrible after seeing that. Am I the only one that feels that this scene was massively inappropriate for the game? I get that it's a way of showing how evil the demon is, but I can't help but feel like sexual abuse is an overused trope whenever people want to make a story dark and it feels unfair to have that sprung up on you without warning, especially since you are meant to create your own protagonist and identify with them.

And I wish to say that these sort of things can be extremely stressful to survivors with PTSD or people suffering from anxiety or depression, and I don't think this kind of subject should be included without a content warning.
For me personally, it took all the enjoyment out of the game and if I had known it was going to be a plot point I probably wouldn't have bought it.

Spoiler: ShowHide

If you continue to play through the game after this point then you'll find out that your character not having had control over their body during this event isn't exactly what really happened.

20
A Happy Life

I first saw the little black-and-white kitten that myself and my wife came to call "Panda" in my backyard, walking through his towering grass, glancing around every time the wind made it move.

I told my wife about this later that night and she told me back that she had seen the kitten on a tree stump in the yard next door all crouched and huddled up the day before.

She called the kitten "Panda" and I told her not to name stray cats. We had just lost our own pet cat of 22 years a few months before and...

Well, shit, I wasn't planning on going all the way into a lot of backstory but here we go I guess.

Our cat died, and it was one of the saddest days of my life but I was glad I could be there for his final moments.

My wife and I were officially done with pets. They bring so much joy but so much heartbreak as well and we are too old now to take responsibility for a pet from start to end.

Anyway...

Then, the very next month, a stray cat we came to call "Chibi", meaning "little one" in Japanese, had her litter of four kittens behind a shed in our backyard and now we had the defacto  ownership of Chibi and her litter. Well not really. We weren't feeding them but we watched over them, chasing away the crows, and such and we even watched as Chibi took her kittens one by one from behind the shed as the clouds closed in and the wind kicked up during a particularly powerful typhoon.

Long story short: Chibi's kittens grew up into adult cats, fed by the next door neighbors, and then the little black-and-white kitten we came to call Panda wandered into the picture.

My wife and I speculated that he had maybe been abandoned by his mother as the runt of his litter, or that maybe he had just lost his way, or that maybe something bad had happened to his mother.

Anyway, Panda became a regular thing in our day to day life. He would sleep on the cushions on the chairs on our backyard's deck, and then we came to notice that the cats from Chibi's litter started to sleep around him as the weather started to turn colder during Autumn.

At times Panda was completely covered by two or three other cats and my wife worried if he could even breathe. At other times he slept between the other cats or on top of them.

Chibi's litter had adopted Panda and licked him during bath time and he went with them everywhere.

On the way back home from a shopping trip I saw two of the grown-up cats of Chibi's litter crossing the road and Panda was behind them, in tow, glancing around nervously and I could imagine that he was just like a young kid out on a lark with older brothers and saying stuff like "Hey... guys... are you sure we should be..." but tagging along nonetheless.

I didn't see Panda for the next two weeks or so.

My wife went over to our land-lady's house around Christmas and gave her a flower bouquet as she does yearly and heard from her the following...

Our land-lady was out working her vegetable field behind our house and came across Panda huddled up in a little trough in the row of cabbage.

She bundled him up and took him home with her.

And she buried his little body under the orange tree in her backyard.

When my wife told me how Panda's life ended I was terribly sad, I had looked into his eyes, but then I remembered how he slept all warm and cozy with Chibi's litter, his adoptive family, and realized that his life could have ended even faster and sadder if he had never found them.

He would never have known the happiness of his warm bedfellows.

And I thought that a short but happy life is better than nothing.

And that is why I wrote this story.

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 396