Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland. A professional woman who'd gotten a job in student outreach at her alma mater in Texas. She looks like someone who would be good at that, doesn't she? She's got a great smile, good taste, and friendly eyes. Sadly, pictures are all we have to go on anymore, because she's dead.

She's not the first black woman or man to be killed in police custody for doing nothing in particular wrong in the first place. She joins a long line of what are by this point martyrs. The list is too long and varied at this point not to acknowledge it, stretching back centuries and renewing itself unwillingly on a daily basis. We deny it at our peril, all of us -- and by us, I mean the people who don't live this reality daily and thus don't have to recognize it. It's our "privilege," by which I mean our fault.

An African-American friend of mine, someone I admire, tweeted about how he was really nervous about driving his family cross country to visit his mother; he had to think about recording devices and bail money and medical records. I listened to his worries and nodded, because there was no comfort I could offer him. I couldn't tell him he was wrong. I wanted to, oh how I wanted to, but I couldn't. There's not even an area of the country to tell him to avoid, because it's everywhere. Racist actions and police brutality are everywhere, particularly for our black neighbors, and the very fact that there are those among us who don't have to think about it is damning, because it proves that it is not just a problem with authority; it is a black problem, which means in all reality, it's a white problem. We are the culture and the ones at fault, whether we directly participate or not, because we refuse to see the problem when it's not directly in front of us, and we fail to stop it or call for sanctions and change when we are forced to see it.

I didn't know Sandra, but I wish I had. She seems pretty darn awesome, from what people have gleaned of her life. I want her death to mean something, both to myself and to others, and that's why I posted this; I know my reach is small, but she deserves every voice to speak, no matter how quiet. We all deserve that, and until we acknowledge this problem and lobby for change, we in the white community will continue to live in shame, as our neighbors live in fear. I am ashamed, but I won't let that silence me. I'm sorry, Sandra. You deserved so much more than this.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


GenCon's next week, and I'm going to be there! I'm wearing a few different hats this year: Co-owner of Growling Door Games, Convention Coordinator of IGDN, and manager of GenCon's very first quiet room, located in ICC 237!

However busy I'll be, though, I'd love to say hello to people and talk to them (and possibly sell you some games). So, want to find me at GenCon? Here's where you should look!

Wednesday, July 30th

IGDN Social! -- We'll be at Loughmiller's Pub from 6:00 to 9:00, with special drinks just for the group. The menu will be available to our guests (or to take out) during that time, and we'll have drink tickets ($5 each, each one worth 2 drinks). Come on down!

Thursday, July 31st

IGDN Booth! (#734, beside IPR) -- I'll be at the booth bright and early to kick off the exhibit hall opening and there on and off through the day.

Clue: A Tragedy in Five Acts -- 8:00 PM, Marriott Downtown, Ballroom 7. I'll be running a Clue-based game of A Tragedy in Five Acts! The event is sold out, but if you'd like to bring generics and try your luck, I'd love to have you stop by.

Friday, August 1st

IGDN Booth! (#734, beside IPR) -- from 5-6, I'll be closing out the day at the booth! Come by and see me. :)

Saturday, August 2nd

Signings & Meet and Greet! -- The IGDN Game Room (Marriott Ballroom 7) from 10-noon! Come by, talk design, ask me about my tender years as a delicate editing flower in the FASA greenhouse... whatever works!

IGDN Booth! (#734, beside IPR) -- from 1-6, I'll be hanging out in the booth, selling games! Come see me!

Sunday, August 3rd

IGDN Booth (#734, beside IPR) -- I'll be there from 12-2, helping people pick up all their last-minute purchases!

Outside of those times, I'll likely be wandering the exhibit hall, playing games, or checking out things in the Quiet Room. If I don't see you, have a great GenCon -- I know I will. :)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Weekend Update!

That sounded way more exciting than it is. It's the weekend. My kids are around, and they're watching screens, as kids do when they're not being forced to do something else. The something else is coming, so they get some screen time this morning without me making a fuss. Choose your battles, etc. Also, it's hot out today and I don't feel I can, in good conscience, make them go outside until it cools off a bit this evening.

Went to see Ant Man Friday night, and I really enjoyed it -- far more than I thought I would. Paul Rudd was very good, mostly playing a straight man for Michael Douglas (who completely rocked, btw) and Evangeline Lilly (who also completely rocked). The plot was a bit disjointed at times -- no movie involving significant shape change "science" is going to be wholly on point -- but we got as much backstory as we needed, and a lot of focus on the personal relationships and stuff to keep the plot rolling. I'm looking forward to seeing how this plot gets integrated into the main Marvel Universe -- I'm intrigued and pleased at the idea of seeing Wasp get the respect she deserves. 

I just finished Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women. It was a slog -- I suspected it would be. It's simultaneously so remote from our present day experience and yet so applicable; it did not make for comfortable light reading. I would frequently have to put it down and move on to something else, as it would become too depressing in light of present day cultural struggles. I offers hope, though, and I can feel the passion she held and her courage in the face of risk, even through the centuries. I would have liked to have met her. There is, in particular, a phrase from the introduction that I find speaks to me:

"I shall not waste my time in rounding periods, or in fabricating the turgid bombast of artificial feelings, which, coming from the head, never reach the heart. -- I shall be employed about things, not words!"

I too in my dissertation shall be employed with things, though I cannot say I will not be employed about words, but rather the intersection between the two. I'm going to print this out and put it above my desk, so I can see the passion of it at times when I can't feel it at all. Hopefully this will see me through the times ahead. :) 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Game Chef Entry: Vovetas

So I wrote an entry for Game Chef this year called Vovetas. It's a card game. I've included the link in case anyone would like to take a look:

Vovetas game and cards

I got my feedback on it today, and I'm really torn. On the one hand, people were intrigued enough to actually try to dig into the mechanics and tell me where they thought it needed more work (lots of it needs more work -- it hasn't been playtested yet). On the other hand, the theme seemed to go right over their heads. I didn't get accused of appropriation, which I pretty much expected, so that's something. I just also didn't manage to make a connection with people that I thought I made pretty obvious. The Game Chef ingredients are, I felt, crucial to the game, but a number of my reviewers simply didn't see it. I'm more disheartened by this than I want to be.

I have a goal to actually playtest this, refine it, and bring it to market. I'm going to press forward with this, since the bulk of the game design is actually done, and card games are a direction we've been thinking about at Growling Door for a while now. I'll start playtesting this summer -- if anyone else would like to playtest it and send me feedback, please grab the link above and give it a shot. It works for 3-5 players, and so testing at all levels is helpful. Maybe if I put this through its paces, I'll feel better about it and it'll start to gel. Thanks!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

I can't look at the Google Deep Dreaming images

No seriously, I can't. As soon as I start looking at them I see all the composite parts and then I get wigged out at finding eyes where there shouldn't be eyes and then I can't really see the image as a whole, it's just all the composite images, and then I start feeling sick to my stomach and panicky and then I look away.

That is my brain on those images. I just really can't cope with them. They aren't the only things I can't cope with, but they are definitely on the list. Other things are too much low-frequency sound (makes sci fi movies a real bitch), too many disparate conversations and sound sources going on, too much random sensation, directly overhead or one-directional lighting, polyester clothing, rough tags in my shirts, unexpected textures in my foods, things on my face (like my HAIR or WATER oh god), repetitive sounds or speaking, a certain type of random patterning that kicks in my gestalt response and all I can see are faces where there shouldn't be faces, breezes blowing directly on me with no buffer between, and so on.

I stim when I'm confronted with this sort of stuff and I can't get away from it. I rub my face compulsively, or touch my fingertips to each other repetitively, or rub my arms, or rock in place, if it's really bad. Usually I'll grab a blanket to wrap around myself before it gets to that point, but that isn't always an option. It means that going out is... well, hard. I love libraries and coffee shops because they're quiet, but social. There's music sometimes going on but not a lot in the way of loud conversation. I can't do bars very easily. The music there overwhelms me, but there's no way to get away and offset the stimulation, and there's too many other things I have to pay attention to. I love karaoke, but a crowded bar just wipes me out. Plus I'm an introvert anyway -- so that doubles the prepwork necessary for me to go be social with people whose company I really enjoy, plus recovery time takes longer.

And yet.

I go to conventions (and hoard in-my-room downtime like a dragon with jewels). I go to conferences (same thing). I go to movies. I try to go out and do social things, though I don't succeed as often as I'd like. After work stuff is hard, because I'm already worn out from a day of being "on." I will try to do it on occasion, though. I have Matt, who helps me reset and understands when I get back from something and can't come up with the right words for things anymore, because my brain is so tired from coping.

In return, I do my best to limit my exposure to stuff that twigs me and makes my sensory stuff go nuts -- like the deep dreaming Google pictures. Have fun with those, y'all. They aren't for me.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

I am an entertaining but potentially ineffective GM

So, I like GMing, but this latest Rising Waters game has brought home to me that while my players have fun, and that's really the metric I'm shooting for, I am often unintentionally funny as a GM, and thus not as effective at horror gaming as I'd like. I apparently have a hard time judging in advance what's funny vs. what's creepy, for example. This means that my players have very strong reactions to the things in my games, which is good, but that the reactions are largely unexpected on my part, which is less good (not bad, I roll with it, it's just a thing).

For example: In the first season, the bad guy was Azael; he's the demon associated with scapegoats and sex, so he's got some goat-like features and he encourages sloth and dissipation. He's Fallen, but got stuck in the body of someone who's dying and isn't happy about the situation, since although he can keep them from dying, he can't fix the weakness of his current body all on his own. He needs worshippers then, and power, and preferably a different vessel. He's learned, though, that you might be better off if you craft and prep the vessel first, so you know what you're getting, so he recruited some college undergrads to start worshipping him as he picks one and gets them ready to take over.

Sounds legit, right? It was going really well -- everyone was creeped out at appropriate places, and then they started getting close, so the Fallen ambushed them with summoned demonic constructs. Here, however, is where I went wrong. I combined the stuff Azael is known for (goats and sex) and made anthropomorphic goat demons -- female goat demons -- and then I saw the Addicting Saliva power, which totally worked with his rap sheet, but saliva seemed the wrong choice, so I went with a different body fluid -- milk. Because goats. So I created sexy goat she-demons who lactate addictive milk. Again, each step was reasonable. The end effect, though... less so. My players were creeped out, but also just sort of gobsmacked and have NEVER let me hear the end of it, in a good natured way. :)

This last game, I prepped for a lot of different combats, knowing my players were going to be in different places. There were underwater constructs, and then ghouls on land, and then I wanted the characters in the boat to be attacked, so I chose an air-based threat to punctuate (for me) their opponent's level of control. From the air indicates birds, which has a nice Hitchcockian feel to it. Seagulls are good sea birds, so there's that. I didn't want just regular mind controlled birds, though, so I decided there were five demonic construct seagulls that were tougher and meaner and controlling the flock as cover. Again, spooky, etc., and it was all fine until I went to do sound effects (because I like to describe smells and sounds and sensations in my games) and I made the sound of a gull who got hit by a bullet -- and then the table burst out laughing. Apparently I make good gull sounds, but that's of very little help when all they do is send your players into gales of laughter. And what was worse, I kept doing it, because that was the way they could tell they'd been effective, right? Not better.

So really, I think my issue as a GM comes down to a blind spot regarding context and reactions -- I have a hard time predicting the end effect of what I set up as a GM until my players give me their reactions. The games are always interesting this way, but not always what I intend. Now I just have to decide if that's a bad thing, so long as my players are having fun.