by Curtis Gibby, November 2009

An Idea

One night in early October, as I was headed to bed, I thought about making something cool and creative to share the details of our life for the last year with our friends and family -- an interactive alternative to the standard "Dear family and friends" holiday letter.

In 2008, I had made an online Christmas tree, with ornaments for each member of our family. When you clicked the "Curtis" ornament, a little window popped up with information about what I'd done that year, photos, and links to my blog, and so on for each family member's ornament. The idea was a good one, but the execution was far from perfect.

This year, I thought I could top that with a Memory-style game. There would be a set of cards for the whole family, one or two for each person, and when you clicked on two matching cards, you'd get a description of the picture, or a link to a blog, or an embedded video. The possibilities would be endless.

Then I thought, "If I'm building the infrastructure for this game anyway, I might as well open it up for other people to use." I decided to make almost everything about the game customizable -- fonts, colors, card style, you name it. I was up half the night, thinking of different ways to make the game as personalized as possible.

We Have the Technology...

A year ago, I wouldn't have been able to create this whole project. My CSS and Javascript skills were just not up to par. But I've learned a lot in 2009, and I thought I'd now be able to take on the challenge.

One big help in creating the site has been the jQuery Javascript library. Their slogan is, "Write Less, Do More" and it certainly has proven true in this case. Every time I needed some specific functionality, I'd find that someone had already written it in jQuery. In addition to the jQuery core, I owe a debt of gratitude to the authors of the following plugins and libraries:

Special Thanks

The technical assistance that I got from those people is nothing compared to the emotional support I've gotten from my family. My wife Sarah has been very accepting during the last two months as I've gotten up early and stayed up late to make this site great. She was the first person with whom I shared the idea for the site, and the first to encourage me to go for it. My children have also been good about turning off their games on PBSKids.org when I told them that Daddy needs to use the computer to finish his own game. My family is the reason that I came up with the idea in the first place, and I'm proud to show them off in my sample game.

My parents, John and Shauna Gibby, have also been very supportive during the site-building process, contributing ideas to make things run more smoothly. They even made people sit down and try the game, even when there wasn't much to play yet. ("Wow, Curtis, you made it flip. Good job! Does it do anything else?") Many thanks.

All of the default artwork on this site (aside from what I created myself) comes from Creative Commons sources, including:

This does not include images or text that users upload to their own games, which are subject to the DMCA and other terms and conditions.

What Now?

Go play one of the games! That's the easiest way to see how it all works, and to have a good time while you're at it.

Create your own game. It's very simple and takes less than five minutes. Use your family photos, blog entries, YouTube videos, whatever you want. Choose your own font, colors, and text size. The only limit is your imagination. You can study for your art history final using the paintings game, document the first year of your baby's life, or make those vacation photos a little more bearable... or come up with ideas that we haven't even imagined yet.

When you've got your game looking just how you want it, where you want it, share it with your friends on Facebook, right from the game page. You can also spread the word by linking to us from your blog or web site.

If you like what you see online, buy a print version to keep for yourself, or to give away as a gift. Our products start at just $3.95 for a PDF download that you can print at home in minutes. You can also donate to our development as a way of saying thanks. All transactions go through Paypal's secure servers, so you can have a worry-free purchase.

Check us out on Twitter and Facebook -- we'll be listing some special deals only for our social network fans and followers.

We'll also have more improvements to the site in the next few weeks and months, and we hope to hear from you about how you think we can make it better. Use the Contact form to share your opinion with us.