Sunday, September 27, 2015

Project Ramblings: A Comedy in Five Acts

Game Design Thoughts Ahoy!

Okay, so A Tragedy in Five Acts. It's actually done a lot better than I thought it had any right to, and I'm glad about that. Word of mouth has spread enough that people are starting to run it at cons who aren't me, and it's turning out to be something of an evergreen game -- it sells consistently if not hugely, and that makes me happy. It's never going to be a sales leader, but it has something of a following, and that makes me happy.

That said, it's occurred to me of late that the endgame in Tragedy needs some reworking. It works great until you get to Act V, and then things stumble a bit in resolution -- it's not impossible to work it out, by any means, but the system that drives the game so well up until that point just stops mattering, and that feels rather abrupt to me. It's a thing I've been thinking about addressing in a second edition of the game, and the more I think about it, the more I want to press forward with it. Of course, that means that it's getting closer to the time of doing something about the long vaunted A Comedy in Five Acts game I've thought about, as I could release them both together.

Whereas Tragedy is actually a very cooperative game in many ways -- you're all working together to screw your characters over, and your own character most of all -- I don't think that can really work for Comedy. Shakespeare's tragedies are arguably all about social ties and how that can destroy you, whereas his comedies are much more about individual fulfillment. In Shakespeare's tragedies, everyone is together at the beginning but spins apart by the end, while the opposite is true in his comedies. Hence the narrative auction mechanic in Tragedy, which gets everyone competing but ultimately on-board with the same story. Works great to replicate the experience of his plots while maintaining the audience perspective of knowing more than the characters know. The question is, what do I do to get the same level of immersive audience/narrative experience in Comedy?

I think that Comedy is going to have to be much more of a "screw your neighbor" game than Tragedy is, at least system-wise. In Comedies, the characters are beset by unexpected (yet somewhat formulaic) problems that force them out of their customary roles and into intimacy with someone else. There are issues (mostly social, but not entirely) that can be overcome if they'll just grow up a little and think or feel or act their way through them. The ones who do are the heroes and heroines, the ones who don't are our comic relief. But before they figure it out, there are all sorts of struggles and fights and arguments (whereas in the tragedies, those are typically suppressed until the end of the play, when they explode).

So instead of fatal flaws, I think I need to come up with a "surprise!" deck of cards, which includes elements of the comedies that the characters don't see coming. I think I'll need one at the beginning to set the elements and one halfway through to mix things up even more. I'm also thinking that I need some sort of team mechanic, possibly having teams shift halfway through the game, and making it from 4-6 players -- matches of up to 3 couples are not uncommon in the comedies, but you need at least two couples to make it work, and conceivably two couples and a bad guy trying to keep everyone apart. (While I'm at it, I could make some reference cards, fatal flaw cards, and role cards for Tragedy II.) The question is whether it's a random draw, or whether players can play these cards on each other. That I think I'd have to run some playtests to find out.

The real question is, does the auction mechanic make sense for Comedy? I would like to have some sense of continuance between the games, so that people who know Tragedy wouldn't have too much trouble picking up Comedy, so I think I do need some sort of auction mechanic in place. Hmm. I wonder, though, if I could auction off plot cards, so they go to the highest bidder (or, conversely, are avoided by the highest bidder)? Can you also draw cards to play against opposing factions? Do different factions have different strengths and weaknesses? Are we auctioning off narrative control in the form of an idea that gets played out in the next round as volunteered by someone, or are we putting the narrative in the hands of the plot cards? While on the one hand I rather like the randomness, we'd have to be careful not to kill the narrative arc of the play -- maybe the available cards change per act?

Additionally, I think moving the director role around will still work (Ooh, what if I ended made a 4-player version of Tragedy that ended the points run at the end of Act IV, with the winner being director of Act V?) The next question, though, is do we have roles in Comedy? I'm not entirely sure that we do. Maybe instead of roles we have complications and relationships, with some echoes of Fiasco mechanics popping their heads in here. I actually really like that. Characters in comedies are much more defined by their relationships to the other characters in a personal way, whereas the tragedy networks are social or societal more than intimate.

Of course, the final thing I have to think about is leaving room in the game for customization of experience. Shakespeare, God love him, is really sexist and heteronormative despite the travesty roles (cross-dressing women) and some good representations of women (although we can talk about whether the fact that all the players were men dilutes that a bit, particularly if we try to set aside a modern perspective). That was edgy back in the day, but I don't want to enforce a boy-girl, boy-girl relationship dynamic in my games. One of the awesome things about Tragedy is that the freeform aspects of the game allow for all the latitude you want in setting up who you are and how you relate to other people. I don't want the addition of more formulaic elements to kill that aspect of the game. I'll have to find a way to keep that individual freedom of identity while still routing it through some very expected twists and turns in order to keep that Shakespearean comedic feel.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Dissertation Chat: Latour

This recurring feature of my blog will be talking about various sources I'm using in my dissertation, both in the hopes of getting my brain around them using the "can you explain this to your friend/relative/spouse/grandmother" method of understanding concepts, as well as seeing what other people think of such things and fostering some discussion.


Our first topic of discussion today is Bruno Latour and his undying fights to bring science studies into the light of respectability -- and, you know, to reorient our relationships with the world as we know it at the same time. Just a little thing. No big deal.

So, if you don't know who Latour is, what you really need to know is that his primary theory, using the terminology that's been largely settled on (although he's still not entirely happy with it) is a thing called "actor-network theory," or ANT for short. The jist of it is that we tend to look at the world (and particularly science) in terms of subjects and objects. Subjects do things, and objects have things done to them. Pretty much textbook grammar, right? Except that Latour argues that not only is that a very limited view of the world, it's flat out wrong. It's not subject and object, it's human and non-human; they're not one prioritized above the other in terms of intent or action or ability, it's everything acting on everything else. Non-humans are capable of acting on their environments and on humans, just as humans do the same. Non-humans mediate human relationships and humans mediate the relationships between things. It's not a top-down hierarchy, it's a great sprawling network of connections and relationships and the in-between spaces of connections where things actually happen.

Also, non-human things aren't just things, like tables and computers (already a pretty complex series of connections and networks), but are also things like organizations and concepts and events. The history and practice of science, according to Latour, isn't just what happens in a lab report, but also the lab in the context of the organization, and the personal networks of the scientists who live there, and the various groups or people who have stakes in the research, and the places the materials for the research come from, and the political situation that surrounds the lab funding -- all of that comprises science and its practices, not just a given experiment in a given lab at a given time.

There is a lot more to his ideas, of course, including the idea that since humans make non-human objects, those objects contain scripting that tell humans how they should interact with the non-human objects in question. Design and bias, conscious or not, pervade the things we do and make, even if we don't think about it most of the time. He argues for the reclamation of human relationships with our surroundings, abandoning a false nature/social split that predicts the decline of the world and our corruption from a pre-historical cultural and moral purity in favor of embracing that human and non-human actors/actants are actually very closely entwined and will only become more so, and that this is a good thing as we realize that this has pretty much always been the state of man, rather than some form of degeneration (he's not a big fan of postmodernism, as this may show).

Whew. That's a lot of stuff and I've barely scratched the surface. Suffice it to say that Latour is a figure of controversy and has been for a number of years in all sorts of disciplines.

For me personally, I think what he's saying makes a great deal of sense. I'm not heavily invested in top-down vertical power structures, though, even if it's just people and things we're talking about. My whole life is networked effects, so it seems intuitive to me. More to the point, though, it works with my research. I think that the way we use things is heavily wrapped up in encoded social and cultural expectations. Looking back to the 18th century and the advent of consumer culture in Britain (as a sort of environmental/historical petri dish to set up our experiments in), it's a great way for us to see how non-human actants complicate questions of class and political visibility.

Even better, though, are objects in fiction. Why, you may ask? Because the 18th-century saw the advent of realistic fiction, where objects started being called out and included purposefully rather than just as a brief sketch tied into a plot event, mentioned once and never again. Objects weren't included as stage setting with no purpose in fiction in this period and setting -- if you as an author included blue curtains, for example, there were some real reasons why those curtains were blue, and it was related to the story or the character in question, and you could be pretty darn sure that your audience (largely homogenous culturally) would get it (or get it explained to them).

So if literary objects (the objects authors put in their novels) consist largely of references to real objects and cultural truths that humans are expected to understand, then they aren't anything but embedded cultural scripts. And if they're used to illustrate or embody cultural boundaries of race, gender, class, status, etc.... then how they are used (whether as intended or subverted) through their relationship with the human characters is pretty darn telling as to what those scripts might be, which tells us a lot in turn about society and the expectations (often unstated) that exist in that time and place. That in turn can teach us how to look at our own time and place and things and relationships, and maybe draw some conclusions for ourselves that are a bit overdue.

So yeah, that's Latour, at least from my perspective.

*Works that inform this include: "The Berlin Key," Pandora's Hope, We Have Never Been Modern, Reassembling the Social




Thursday, September 24, 2015

Diversity in Gaming, or not being the yardstick of the universe.

Bradley, by Timm Henson
Man, that is just not an exciting title. But I'm currently writing a mentoring guide about diversity in games, and so that's where my mind is at. The pic to the right was drawn by the amazing Timm Henson, and it's one of the Agents available for play in our free downloadable Chill character pack. His name is Bradley.

So, diversity means a lot of things. Basically it means "have a bit of everything involved, more or less equally spread around." That's harder than it sounds like when you're used to everything looking one way and you start changing it up. It can be difficult to think outside the box, and so most games and game companies historically haven't worried about it. There are some stand-out exceptions, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't so long ago we were having talks about passive cheesecake and chainmail bikinis being a righteous standard for portrayals of women in games (and in some places on the internet, people still do).

Thomas Simpson, by Timm Henson
For a few years now, I've had a game company of my own (and as a woman, that's a big step forward for diversity, lemme tell you). I share it with my husband, and we both write and work on everything. I still get overlooked a lot when people talk about "Matthew McFarland's company" and people tend to assume I do admin work (or worse, secretarial/accounting work), aka a support role to his creative genius. I think he is a creative genius, don't get me wrong, but it's actually closer to the other way round at least half the time. I'm good at production, bad at business oversight; faster at editing than writing; better at art dev stuff, but not as good as having a real graphic designer/art person (thank you, Thomas, for your awesomeness). Point is, I'm an equal member of the company and the games. And I'm a woman. So that's still a bit of a struggle in perceptions at times.

Maria, by Timm Henson
For all that, though, I've got it easy. I'm a white woman married to a game industry veteran who has a day job. I'm in grad school, and while that eats a lot of time, it's a really privileged position where I have the opportunity to take risks and do creative stuff. We're not rich, but our bills get paid (I love you, Matt). I have been a single-income, family-supporting single mom working from contract to contract and freelance gig to freelance gig, making decisions about what bill isn't going to get paid this month. I have hustled so hard for money that I couldn't even think about doing something that wasn't going to result in getting paid ASAP, no matter how many creative impulses I might have had.

And even with all that, I wasn't "of color." I came from an impoverished background, but my teenage years were solidly middle class. I was the first of my family to graduate from college, but my parents both went. I am a US citizen. I am autistic, but all my limbs work. I have anxiety, but I can manage it and it's nothing more debilitating or unpredictable than that. I do not register to the outside world as having a disability, which has its own challenges and benefits. No one wants to deport me. No one sees me as a threat to national security because of my background or skin color.

It could be a lot harder, and I work to remember that every day. I am not the yardstick of the universe.

Rory, by Jenna Fowler
It can be easy to forget that whole yardstick thing, though. We gravitate to people like ourselves; it's where we as humans feel at home and understood. Diversity flies in the fact of that instinct, though; it pushes us to include people who have life experiences nothing like our own, to leave our comfort zones and instead make room for someone else's comfort. It demands that we, of our own volition, make room for other people and tell them, straight out, that they are welcome here, even if we feel like we would have liked that as well and didn't get it back in the day (whenever that was). It demands effort on a number of fronts, from trying to recruit people who have different voices and experiences to work on products, to thinking about presentations within games even down to examples and pronouns, to working to make the game accessible to those who are dealing with physical and mental challenges so they can play as well, to deliberately marketing to different demographics than the default (18-36 yr old hetero cis white men), to including art that represents people from different walks of life, different skin colors, different challenges, and yet are still capable, still actors -- people who you want on your side.

By making the effort to have a voice and enable others to have voices as well, to reach out and help people share in the gains that you've made, you actively make the world a better place, even if just by working in a small corner of it. By passing the microphone around, we create a full-bodied chorus. This is one of the missions Matt and I have with our company. We do not always get it right (no one ever always gets it right), but we make an effort and we learn from our mistakes, and I think that's the best anyone can ever do. If we all do at least that much, we can change the world we live in.


Friday, September 18, 2015

The past returns

So, I have this project I've been working on, and it's now crunch time. It's designed to be a Halloween costume / cute outfit for a certain little girl, and I only see her mom once a month, and I need to finish the dang thing like now because she'll be here this weekend. The big thing that has been holding me up, though, is that I've decided I need a flower on it. The pattern doesn't call for a flower, mind you. No, I'm the one who picked a flower to go on the hat, and I cannot convince myself to go forward without it.

Of course, as any knitter can tell you, it's not that you can't knit flowers -- you can -- but it's a lot of work and there's very little point when crochet does it so much better (knitting - straight lines, crochet = circles). You can do things in both crafts to offset these basic tendencies, but you're crafting uphill a bit in either case.

 So I decided, finally, to bite the bullet and pick up a crochet hook and start a flower. How hard could it be, anyway? Not that I've ever read a crochet pattern or done it since my grandmother taught me to make potholders when I was 9. I was nervous -- I haven't had any interest in or experience with crocheting since that time, and it's not like one remembers things like that. I've been puzzling through online instructions and explanations, and things were going okay... when suddenly I was crocheting. Like, single crochets without having to look at the diagram. In fact, I was convinced the diagram said I was wrong at one point and I was confused because the way I wanted to do it wasn't the way it said to... and then I realize it was, and the difference was that it was the way Grandmother had taught me.

All of a sudden, I was comfortable. It was like she was with me again, and worrying about the right way to do it or anything like that just faded away. I remember her hands on mine, and how her rose lotion smelled, and the way she'd guide me through things, and I suddenly feel like crocheting is a gift, because it let me feel close to her again after so long. Love you, Grandmother. Miss you.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

I have made a pair of socks that is too small for everyone I know


I really like these socks. I made them for my stepdaughter, because I wanted to use up this fantastic striping sock yarn I had and because I didn't have enough of it to make socks for me. So I made the first sock and it fit her like a dream, but then 2/3 of the way through the second sock, I ran out of yarn.

Given the tightness of finances during the summer, I put the socks on the back burner until I could afford to get more yarn. Finally, this past week, I did. I finished up the sock and gave it to her to try on... and she'd grown out of it. :(

The socks fit Cael, but they are made of wool and are fuzzy, and he doesn't care for them despite appreciating the striped awesomeness. So now I have this awesome pair of handmade kid-size wool socks that don't fit anyone I know at all. I am a sad knitter, if only for the fact that I could only wish that they would fit me, but there is no way on this earth that they will go on my foot. *sad trombone*

I will wash them and block them, and then see if anyone I know has someone in the 6-9 yr old range who'd take them. They deserve to have a home, really they do.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Status!

Okay, so I'm going to start doing periodic status posts to kind of keep myself honest about my workload and what I'm focused on at the moment. I'm working on balancing freelance gigs + coursework + school work + teaching + dissertation reading. I'm staying home today and not doing a whole lot out of the house (maybe going to pick up the ceramics I did with my stepdaughter), so hopefully I can get things done.

Here's my current statuses across the categories:

Freelance: 

  • Redlines for the one of the Dark Eras for the Onyx Path book; finished one era, still one to go. Deadline of Monday. 
  • Started in on the next chapter for Emerald City, the Interface Zero 2.0 book I'm working on. Got 500 words done yesterday -- aiming for at least that much today. 
Coursework:
  • Read another two chapters on Cicero. 
  • Finish translating Ad Familiares 7.1.
  • Study vocabulary.
Teaching:
  • Grade 11 1st drafts with global and local feedback for Monday. 
Dissertation Reading: 
  • Finish Pandora's Hope (Latour). Start something else -- non-Latour would be a good idea. Still debating whether I want to go back to a primary (period) source or read a theory piece. Butler is sitting on my desk, taunting me. Perhaps just to get it out of the way. 

That does sound like rather a lot, doesn't it? Ah well. We'll see what we can do.



Thursday, September 10, 2015

Letting Perfect be the Enemy of "Oh Just Do Something Already."

If you know me at all, it doesn't seem like this would be a problem I would have. And yet, I can assure you, it is something I struggle with on a regular basis. In looking around at the Internets of late, it seems to be something that others struggle with too, so I thought I'd write about it.

So there's a thing that happens where nothing is quite right. We can envision something as it should be and anything short of that seems like a pale comparison, practically a joke. When we could have the awesome of the perfect thing, why should we be asked to settle for anything less? Why shouldn't we push ourselves to achieve the thing that is obviously so much better?

This is a thing for me in my writing. It's a thing for me in my knitting. It's a thing for me in a lot of ways. It's an outlook I sort of struggle with when it comes to politics and compromise and solutions to issues at work. I have problems being invested in something and yet being flexible about it at the same time. I have worked REALLY HARD over the years at getting better at this, because frankly, the world does not give a damn what my level of investment is in terms of repaying me with exactly what I want. The world, as a whole, doesn't do that, as there are all these other people in it who also want what they want and have different views of perfection.

Not to mention that there are always real-world limitations: do I have unending amounts of time to achieve my goal? Of course not. Can I afford the materials I really want? Probably not. (I have an absurd desire for artisan yarn, for example, but $40 for 100 yds is not feasible on my budget.) Is my desire practical? Maybe? But hypotheticals aren't good at noting real-world applicability or practicality, so I'm sure there's something I've overlooked.

These real-world limitations also apply to other people. Obviously, everyone should just do X so that things would be so much better. But assuming X invariably also assumes that everyone out there is a rational actor who shares my brain, or at least my priorities and expectations, and again I've learned the hard way that my brain is only mine, and just because I feel something a lot doesn't mean anyone else feels it too. Nor do I have the right to expect that of them, because I know no one else has the right to expect that of me.

It's funny; I identify as a progressive liberal. Some people paint that stripe of political and social belief as idealistic; I view it as darkly realistic. I think that conservative political belief is idealistic because there's so much that's theoretical about it, and it relies so much on everyone feeling the same way and doing the same thing. That said, it's entirely possible to have liberal progressive goals be similarly idealistic. You can not only think that perfect is not only achievable, but that no other outcome is possible or desirable. I don't think that's the way things actually work, though; at the very least, I can't think of any historical examples to back up this idea. The way we get things done seems to be through incremental change; even the biggest breakthroughs that seem sudden can be traced back to a thousand tiny steps and alterations prior to the event. Everything is a step at a time; nobody can eat an elephant in one go.

The temptation is, though, to accept only the perfect, which means that stuff you could achieve that falls short just doesn't get done. The perfect isn't just the enemy of the good, it's the enemy of "let's get something in place and see how it goes, and then we'll fix it once we see how it works in play." It's the enemy of deadlines, of increments, of moving forward. I'm not saying that people should rush crappy stuff ahead just to do it -- really I'm not -- but there is a point at which you have to be committed to "as good as this can get right now" versus a Platonic ideal.

I don't begrudge anyone their feelings; we've all got them, and they're all valid (even if I'd disagree regarding the validity of some of the criteria some feelings are based on). The Internet doesn't encourage us to take a breath and judge validity, though. The format encourages us to vent, and there's a comfort to joining a bunch of people venting en masse on similar topics. While social conversation and pressure are absolutely means to effect change and should be used, they can also serve as a distraction and get in the way, often elevating the theoretical, personal, "perfect" above less exalted compromises and solutions, and I think that's dangerous in the long run. If we can't accept a flawed (but fixable) improvement to the current problem over an ideal that cannot come to pass, then we aren't ever going to see change happen -- whether that's progress on my dissertation or a larger social issue -- and that, to my mind, is what's really unacceptable.

 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Non solum canes sed etiam feles vivens promisce

This probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone, but actually doing Latin translation, even the relatively easy stuff, is kind of kicking my butt. On the one hand, I actually seem to be able to do it, more or less, which is a vast improvement over this time last year. I lost a lot of ground over the summer that I'm slowly getting back, but it's a process that for now involves looking up nearly every freaking word and making sure that yes, that's the word I think it is in the form I think it might be, which means it means X.

Luckily, I actually like doing Latin translation, though I'll like it much better as I improve at it. It's code breaking, basically, and it's got the satisfaction of doing puzzles combined with "oh THAT's what that says!" What's funny is that I sort of approach my dissertation the same way, with my focus on objects and meanings and how we code or decode things. Apparently those letter substitution puzzles I loved so much in GAMES Magazine had a larger effect on me than I'd realized.

At the same time, it does feel a bit like the title to this blog post. I am doing my best to tread water, and the language is eating up more of my time than I want it to as I try to keep pace with the class. I know that's really the only way to do it -- to dive in and just take it on -- but right now it wants to eat my lunch. Also, Cicero was kind of an entertaining butt. That is all for now.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Things that happened this weekend:

I went to DragonCon and saw a ton of cool costumes.

I walked miles and miles, as I stayed in an off-site hotel.

I learned that Atlanta has hills downtown.

I saw 3-4 whale sharks -- I didn't even know that was a thing, but they're amazing.

I watched giant manta rays loop-the-loop.

I saw river otters sleeping in a pile.

I learned that the flight between CLE and ATL is surprisingly short.

I had some of the best biscuits I've had in a year.

I watched bits of 300 twice accidentally.

I learned how to use my phone as a personal internet connection.

I ran a game of Clue: A Tragedy in Five Acts that was called "Murder in the Caribbean."

I came home and now I'm going to go fall over. G'night.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Game and voices (semi-random)

So designing games.

One of the weird things I've discovered over the past year is that I actually have ideas about games. I have the game I made for Game Chef (called Vovetas), I have another all-ages game I'm still working out, I have Daedalus, and I have A Comedy in Five Acts still on my plate, in addition to some far flung ideas about the steampunk mad scientist game, and a couple other RPGs and other things that I'm doing freelance (and, you know, my dissertation and syllabi and whatnot but lets not talk about that right now).

I have discovered during this period of time that yes, I really am a game designer. Not just a mechanics inventor or writer or editor, but a designer, designing games from scratch. I have opinions about what works and what doesn't, and although I don't get things right all the time, I get them right often enough in games that I feel as though this is not going to be something I give up lightly. I think it's especially important given that I'm a woman, and it's really freaking time that women in game design got credit for their work, and put their names out there -- I'm far from the only one, but I may be one of the few who's in a position to really exert the creative control and have production experience behind it.

Which sort of brings up the idea/problem/question -- how do I make this work with my very real and important to me academic life? How do I use it to pull others up and have them see their value and hear their voices too? How can I make my games a more useful mirror to a wider world? If I have a microphone, I ought to use it for something useful as well as something fun, you know? It has taken me a lot of years, and only now am I coming to understand forms of activism and how they can work in my life. My social anxiety makes it hard for me to protest in public or go to major political events. I don't have a lot of extra money to donate to things; grad student stipends aren't all that, you know, plus I have kids who need support as well. But issues of representation, offering a chance for other voices, helping out where I can... these are things I can do.

One of the things that's been brought home to me from the latest ToR debacle is how incredibly wasteful it is to create something tasteless and harmful, just because you can. I mean, sure, you can do that. You can also stick your hand in a blender. Both of these beg the question as to why you would bother when you could spend your time in so much more enjoyable and productive ways. And I'm not even saying that you have to avoid darkness or awful things. There's SO MUCH value in looking at and talking about the awful things in the world, even though it's hard to do (I do focus on the Gothic, after all, and let me tell you, it does not shy away from icky stuff). But your goal can't be to glorify or dismiss the bad stuff. You have to give it its proper weight and horror. The only way the Grand Guignol works is if you take it seriously and respect it; if you play the horror for comedy or, worse, treat it as passe or commonplace, then you're seriously screwing up and probably some people will be hurt by it.

If, as OBS suggests, we are to view RPGs as art (and I think there's an argument to be made there), then artistic integrity is a thing. Respect your work and its potential power, both in terms of an artistic statement and in terms of your audience. Respect the people who buy and read your work and don't subject them to schlock (or worse, try to play them for suckers). Respect the content and take it seriously. Respect that you have a voice to use that can be heard, and that you have a platform for it; that's no small thing in this world. Respect yourself -- is this something you won't be ashamed of when someone comes up to talk to you about it in five years? If you can't answer that straight on, then maybe it's not ready for primetime yet. Because seriously: anything less is a waste of everyone's time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

RPGaDay2015 -- The End

Okay, so I fell behind again. Here's the last lap, though, all in one fell swoop for all you patient readers who are, no doubt, endlessly interested in all my RPG stuff. :)

Day 28: Favorite Game You No Longer Play

Oh man. So... Shadowrun. Shadowrun was my go-to favorite for a lot of years. It was the first game I ever really GMd. I like how the fantasy races let us deal with some of the uglier aspects of human nature head on. I like how the magic gave it just enough fantasy without getting rid of all familiarity (and I'm a sucker for urban fantasy). I liked the cyberpunk aspects of it. I loved the people it introduced me to, many of whom are still dear friends to this day. It was my entryway to the industry, first in editing through my work for FASA Corp., and then through writing as I started picking up bits and pieces in the line. I haven't touched it since I parted freelance ways with Catalyst.

Really, the reasons for this boil down to two things. First, I really don't like the rules changes; 4th was going in an awesome direction, I think, but the departure of pretty much the entire creative team meant handing something new and fragile over to people who had no part in its creation and no reason to try to shepherd it until it gained its feet. It was a big change, and without that team to keep pushing it forward... it couldn't end well. 5th edition may well be an improvement over where 4th ended up, but I don't like the stuff they brought back that we were trying to get away from in the first place. So no.

Second, my taste in games has changed. I still like urban fantasy, but 80s urban fantasy cyberpunk feels super dated to me now. Also, the system is weirdly crunchy in odd ways (go 90s game design!) and that's not the sort of system I like. If I'm going to run games now, I'm going to do it using systems that are more intuitive and provide more narrative engagement. So, yeah, no more Shadowrun for me. Keep having fun, though, chummers, fake cursing and all. :)

Day 29: Favorite RPG Website/Blog

So, this one's a tie: First place goes to RPGnet. I've been a mod there for years, and now I'm an admin. I'm proud of my work there and the work of all the staff (all of whom are volunteer), and I think that despite the challenges that come with handling an userbase of 10k souls who enjoy playing games from all around the world, it's pretty darn reasonable and nifty. No one likes all the decisions we make as mods, not even us. Overall, though, it's a really good place to talk about games and a good, if occasionally fractious, community. Also, I'd like to say that I know its rep stretching back to the days of yore; to those who feel that way, I'd like to suggest that a) you haven't been by lately and b) if you pay attention to the Internet, then you know what a real Mos Eisley looks like thanks to 4chan and Reddit. Perspective in all things.

Second, I've got to put up my husband's blog, Gaming and Related Services. He's got more actual play action than anyone else I know of, as well as movie reviews and game reviews and the occasional GMing article, etc. If you don't read it, you should.

Day 30: Favorite RPG-Playing Celebrity

So, we know of a lot of men who play tabletop RPGs, but have far fewer women that we're aware of. I'm therefore going to stretch and say Rosario Dawson, who's a huge gamer, does voicework, made a fantastic Gamora AND puts Daredevil back together again when he gets beaten up in the Netflix series. If she's ever at a con I'm at, I'll give her a game to try with her daughter. :) Thanks, Rosario. You're awesome.

Day 31: Favorite Non-RPG Thing to Come Out of RPGing

So, my marriage. Playing RPGs led to working in the industry, and working in the industry led to working with Matt and meeting him, and meeting him led to reading each other's LJs back in the day and keeping in touch, and then that led to a relationship, and here we are married. And we own a game company together. We have kids and dogs and friends and love and a house that desperately needs more TLC than we can afford to give it, but such is the way of things. I am profoundly grateful for this hobby and this industry, cottage though it may be, and the ways in which it has affected my life.