Wednesday, January 11, 2017

So that happened, or the 2016 Women in Gaming Survey

Last week I thought to myself, "Self, you need to do a blog post." In trying to think of what this blog post would be about, I thought that maybe covering stuff that had happened in gaming last year from and by women would be a good topic. The problem, of course, was that I didn't have any data.

I made a Facebook post querying about interest in the topic and whether people would help with information, and someone on my list suggested asking what women had been playing last year. I pondered this and decided that a "year in review" survey might be a good idea. I then took a few days of messing with Google Forms and ended up with the survey you see a portion of above. I thought I might get as many as a couple of hundred responses, assuming people were interested.

Oh, what a sweet summer child past Me was.

On Monday, January 9th, I started sending out the links to it. I posted it on Facebook, G+, and Twitter -- once each. It went live at 4:30 PM EST that day. Today at 10:30 PM EST, January 11th, I've shut down responses because I've reached 6000 responses. I was still getting them at a good clip, but honestly I'm nearing the limits of the database to hold all the info.

Just to make sure no one missed it, that's 6000 individual responses. Holy cats. Six zero zero zero.

So... there's no way this is going to be just a single blog post. This is an event. This is article fodder. This is a freaking archive. I deeply regret now not being more rigorous with the questions and filters, because this... this is amazing. It can't be more than an informal survey, and who knows if I'll ever manage to get that sort of response again, but I will absolutely be studying it and posting about it. Who knows, it may even be worth a blog or project of its own. Once I figure it out, though, I'll definitely let people know. This kind of interest and participation should definitely not be ignored.

Again, my thanks to everyone who participated, for everyone who shared it around the Internet and vouched for me and gave me 15 minutes of your time. I will honor the trust you showed by sharing a glimpse into your gaming worlds and try to make good use of the information you gave me. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

So, I really meant to post more in December, truly I did, but then the end of the semester happened, and then I fell and broke my thumb, which put a damper on my typing overall. I just got my cast off yesterday, and it's a glorious feeling. (See pic of my son cosplaying John Bender from The Breakfast Club to embody that emotion. :) ) It's sore, and I can't ask it to do too much, and I have a splint to wear at night for support, but it's so much better than it was.

So I have more about game design to post, but I'm going to take a bit to do the obligatory end-of-year post. 2016 seemed like a year of huge upheaval for just about everyone I know. Some good, some bad, but lots of it regardless. My eldest son moved in with us and started his senior year again, for example. He's doing well, but it was an adjustment. My dad had health issues but is doing okay. My car got wrecked (by my son) and replaced with my parents' old minivan.  I had a chapter approved for my committee and have started job applications. Our business got in with another distributor via the IDGN, which will be great for 2017. The presidential election happened, and we'll be dealing with that for a long time to come -- enough that I fear for what the world will be like this time next year. There is nothing to do but move forward, though. Dwelling on the past and what might have been only gets in the way of what needs to be done.

That said, I at least had some good things come of the past year. I went to London and got a ton of research done -- my first time overseas. I went to Rare Book School, and that was an amazing experience. I went to Metatopia and learned I might actually be a game designer after all. I get to lead an organization I love (the IGDN) and hopefully make a real difference over the next two years. Plus I've learned a ton about myself -- I did some healing and hopefully some self-realization and I've been working on putting that into practice. It's good. Hard sometimes, but good.

Tonight I'm watching a double feature with my husband (The Big Sleep and The Big Lebowski), having an awesome dinner (halibut) and ringing in the new year with some lovely wine. I'm also working through a job app and some additional work on my dissertation. Tomorrow I go see Matt's mom and we have a pork and sauerkraut dinner to bring luck on the new year, which will be awesome. I cannot pretend to know what the new year will bring, but I hope -- I hope -- that it will be kind to us. I suspect it might not, but I hope that it will. May everyone be blessed for the coming trip around the sun one more time.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Game Design: Core Tenets

From the app game Monument Valley
So I've been bitten by the fantasy bug, probably at least part in reaction to the whole election stuff. This isn't unusual, really -- look at Tolkien -- but it's unusual for me, because working at WotC and on d20 stuff for so long had seemingly inoculated me against fantasy stuff. I still can't play D&D or Pathfinder. It's like a mental contact allergy, except it involves ranting and a reaction to classes and levels.

However, I've started putting thought into a fantasy game, and I think it a) actually has some legs and b) would be fun to play and c) does enough that's different to be worthwhile and not just another heartbreaker. So I figured I'd post about it as I go along and see what people think.

So, first of all, I've figured out I have rules for game design overall, and even fantasy games have to fit within them. Here are my rules.

1) There has to be a goal of play. 
I have nothing against sandboxes settings and systems, but that's not generally what I want to do. Frankly there are tons of generic systems and settings -- there's very little point in me adding to that pile just for the sake of it. I prefer games, though, that hew toward a specific type of play experience or genre emulation (and I can and do make the argument that even generic systems call out a specific type of game experience, but that's not the point of today's post).

2) Nothing is sacred.
There is no idea of game design that isn't better off removed at one point or another. I haven't wargamed with minis in forever, for example, and so I'm not interested in replicating that environment. "Because we do it this way" isn't enough to include something in a game. Go back to empirical philosophy, except instead of sense-based phenomena, go with play-based phenomena. If we can't confirm that it exists and what it does for the game we want, it doesn't belong there.

3) Power dynamics at the table are meant to be part of the design. 
So people organize into groups, and groups distribute power. A traditional d20 table has a GM with all the narrative power over the world (and some over the characters), while players have limited and largely reactive narrative power that applies primarily to their own characters and not much else. That's a lopsided, largely classroom dynamic. I don't think there's anything wrong with it necessarily, but it does lock the table into a specific style of play, and that style may not be the one you want.

4) Something has to be cool.
There a whole universe of ideas and themes out there, and games up to date have explored only a few of them, and those somewhat exhaustively. Novelty is cool. Fun is cool. Emotion and reaction are cool. People play games to be transported, whether for new excitement or a familiar comfort. Escapism or Nostalgia. That can happen through the type of game, the setting, the genre, the experience... there's a lot of ways to do it. Using a different die type is not one of them. Games have to earn their place in the world -- they don't come into being and get played just because. Find what makes it cool and build on that.

So those are my starting points. Let's see where they go.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Updates and Full Plates and Imposters

Oh friends, readers, and countrymen, what tales I have to tell you. I have returned from London and completed revisions on my first dissertation chapter. I have started writing using the research I did in London for my fourth (written second) chapter. I have been teaching a class and I have made a prototype for a new card game, which is not a thing I have ever done before. I have made hand-raised steak and ale pies for my gaming group, and shared the joy of Jaffa Cakes. My company has even just finished a successful Kickstarter for a new Chill 3rd Edition supplement -- Monsters. We not only met our very realistic (aka not lowballed) goal, but we exceeded it by 5k, and as a result will be adding extra content in the form of more monsters!

Closer to home and the present day, the weather is currently giving me fits as it yo-yos from 40s to 70s and back again, all of which triggers my migraines. Metatopia is this weekend, and I am not really ready, but I am likely as ready as I will ever be, and it will have to do. I am keeping up with my work hours, I just finished an uneventful bout of jury duty, and I gave a talk on using games in pedagogy to grad student TAs at my university.

When I list it all, it sounds like a tremendous amount of stuff to have happened in just a month, and honestly it is. At the same time, I feel like I get nothing done. Part of that is imposter syndrome, and part of that is my inability to judge time effectively. I am continually focused on trying to do something so that the thing I needed to have done does not become the thing that screws me over. I like to think of it as a healthy dose of mild fear, but probably it's just anxiety with a nicer name and a combover (see above).

For example, I just found out that next semester I'm going to teach the intro to lit course I'd previously proposed. I opened the syllabus and discovered that I wrote it for a MWF class, and I'm going to be teaching it TTh, and so I have to rewrite the whole thing. Gaaah. I also have papers to finish grading, rules to write up and print, books to read and take notes on and synthesize, and chapters to write. I could also list the things I'm behind on: getting job docs in place, job applications, and writing -- always writing.

If I can keep myself out of the fear hamster wheel, though, then I can actually get stuff done and seem to make a difference, even if it isn't always perfect or exactly on time. I wish I was the person who could be perfect and on time, but I'm not. If that makes me an imposter, then so be it. I cannot be other than who I am, and that's the most authentic I know how to be.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Things I've Learned in London: Week 1

This is the delicious fish and chips I ate.

  • That is some big fish. No, seriously. That's a MEDIUM. Really well done, too. Cod, but that's like the least adventurous fish they have there -- I just like cod. If you get the chance, go to The Fish House on Portobello Road. The upstairs waiter is this very nice Italian guy from Milan. Two thumbs way up. 
  • My hair loves it here. It's the humidity, I'm sure. Seriously, best hair in ages. 
  • Sweating. So. Much. Again, it's the humidity (and that I'm fat, I'm sure). Because the temp isn't that high and the exercise is not that strenuous, and it seems to depend on the room I'm in (if I'm in a room) as much as anything. Not terribly fun. Better on lower humidity days.
  • Laundry services. Expensive, but a super nice splurge. I can't afford to do it again, but I'm glad I did it once. They even got the spot out of my skirt! 
  • I got a coat. Actually, let's be clear -- I think I could be in love with Marks and Spencer. I've had to restrain myself from trying on lots of things in there. As it is, I have a nice waterproof light coat that's lined and will be super useful when it's cold and a bit damp, but not worth digging out the wool coat. 
  • This is the street I'm staying on. 
     London is hands down the most open city I've ever been in. I haven't visited New York, mind you, but I've been to Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Denver, New Orleans, Washington DC, Baltimore... To some extent, they all hold themselves like closed doors. You can fit in eventually, maybe, but that doesn't mean you're not a stranger. In some places this can be overcome (Chicago can accept you fairly well if you survive a winter there -- it's a bonding experience -- and learn about the customs of parking spots), while in some it's never changing. London... London doesn't care. You need some English to live here, but you can get by regardless. The half-understood conversations over a couple of different languages, the smiles over children's heads, the kind offer of a band-aid when I was limping... It's a little professional, a little distant, but largely friendly and willing to be the same towards everyone -- we're all here, after all. I appreciate that tremendously.
    This is me, on my street, with my coat.
  • Print is a living thing here. I think it has something to do with public transit, honestly. The fact is that everyone's a commuter, because cars for downtown London are a sign of insanity or driving for a living, in my opinion. As such, there's time to read. You can read on your phone, but signal is iffy if you need an internet connection. Also... I dunno. I suppose it's a lot less likely someone's going to steal a book, if it comes down to that. Also, the Evening Standard. The Metro. All the publications handed out for free on the evening commute or on the way home. People read here in ways I've heard about but never seen. It's fascinating and makes me a little wistful that I can't see this back home. 
  • People don't care or mind that I'm from the U.S. Thanks, Obama. :) 
There is more, much more, but I can't fit it all in here. I'll do a post on the British museum itself, even though I only saw like a quarter of it, tops. And I'll have to do a theater post at some point, since I went to see the Mousetrap and I will be seeing Cymbeline (or rather, Imogen) before I go home. I could go to a LOT of theater if I lived here -- it's astounding, really. So more to come. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

London research ramblings

So, I thought I should probably post a bit about exactly what I'm trying to research, if only to give myself a chance to work through it.

My initial plan was to look at reprints of famous novels, particularly in periodical format. Specifically, I'm looking at Novelist's Magazine, and trying to figure out what changed both in subsequent printings and in this particular format of the novel. I'm looking primarily for added illustrations, but I'll also take general decoration, typeface, layout, etc.

I wanted to look at two novels: Pamela and Joseph Andrews. The image to the right is the title page from an early edition of Pamela by Samuel Richardson. This is, of course, kind of appropriate, since Pamela was such a huge hit, and Joseph Andrews is Henry Fielding's response to Pamela by writing about her brother and his adventures.

Now, I know from research that both Pamela and Joseph Andrews were published in Novelist's Magazine. And obviously, the British Library has early versions of Pamela to work with. Unless I'm missing something, though, it doesn't seem to have print copies of early versions of Joseph Andrews. There's digitized versions, but I really wanted to work with the print so I can judge paper quality, how it was made, and thus try to discern who the audience for the work may have been. I could go to Irish printings if I wanted to -- they have Dublin printings -- but I'd greatly prefer to stick to London printings if I could, if only for consistency. My understanding of the Dublin press is that it was generally a cheaper printing, which is... well, not what I wanted to study, and less likely to include illustrations.

So then the question becomes, do I stick with Joseph Andrews or look for one of the other novels? Tomorrow I'm back to the library and I'll be making that decision. It's disappointing, though. Still, this sort of thing happens when you're doing research -- you never know what you'll find.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Things I Learned in London: Days 2 and 3

  • The coffee shop/bakery across the street from me sells the best latte I've ever had. No, seriously. It is that good. Here is it. Apparently it's part of a small chain, but if it serves coffee this good, I don't care. Also, their regular coffee is quite nice as well. The only thing I don't care for is their insistence that everything should be served on a small plank. A plank is not a plate. Even trenchers had a carved indention. It's not that hard, people.

  • If they tell you that they have crispy bacon, they're lying. Or else "crispy bacon" is code for "not-crispy-at-all bacon, but it has grill marks. See?" On the other hand, ham hereabouts is amazing, and I don't even really like ham all that much.

  • Public restrooms are hard to come by. Some places don't have them at all, some places hide them unless you ask.
- Traveling and being an introvert is hard. I'd been pushing myself because, after all, I don't have that long here, and I'd intended to do another day of that, but I just... couldn't. So I didn't. And I feel better for it. I wish I were young and able to keep going endlessly on four hours of sleep (or even seven) but there's no denying that this just isn't me anymore, if it ever was. I found the TV lounge in my dorm today. I've never been so excited to sit in a quiet room with exquisite windows and watch Wreck-It Ralph. Oh, and part of something on either the BBC or ITV about Victoria. Whatever. My ankles are thanking me. 
  • Transit here is amazing. Now, I have a thing about buses and trains. I didn't even remotely get to use them until I was an adult, and there was always a bit of a stigma about them, and trying to figure out how to use them makes me all kinds of nervous. I got over it in Chicago enough to use the L with decent competence., but I still haven't mastered the RTA in Cleveland. The Tube and the buses though? No problem! I'm sold. Whatever it takes to keep the trains running, we should pay for it.
  • This gentleman in marble behind me is George III. Yes, the one we fought the Revolutionary war against. This bust has him in a (in my opinion) ill-advised Roman get-up. Behind us both is the King's Library. He decided it was a shame that the British king didn't have a good library to speak of, and so he set about correcting that. 
As you can see from the picture to the left, boy did he ever. There is a square room many stories high (6,7?) in books all all the way around it, all in glass, in the center of the British Library. That is the royal library he created, that was bequeathed to the British Library by George V. Needless to say, that was one of the more awesome things I've been able to see thus far. 

- I shopped at a green grocer today. The differences between food stores hasn't stopped tripping me up yet. I have some semi-healthy plant material for my room, however, along with some cheese and juice. It's enough for snacking at any rate, without falling back into junk food. 

- "Veg" as such foods as "vegetables" are commonly called here, are strangely handled. It's as though despite years in the EU, they don't entirely know what to do with them hereabouts. I ordered a bacon quiche at the BL only to discover they'd hidden enough corn in it to call it a corn and bacon quiche, but they didn't. I ordered pasta last night with chicken, mushrooms, and roasted tomatoes, and got three halves of cherry tomatoes for the whole plate. I ordered a salad the other day and got a few greens, but way more Caesar dressing, rendering a lot of it only vaguely edible (again, see faux "crispy bacon"). Also, while I know courgettes and aubergine, what the heck is rocket? Greens of some sort, it seems? *shrug*

Tonight I think I'll finally try fish and chips, unless I decide to order in, as I've learned I can get apparently good fried chicken delivered -- the decadence! Stay tuned and see!