New D&D Sneakily Poaches Inclusivity, Narrative

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I grew up playing AD&D, as my brothers introduced me to RPGs before I was 7.  I’ve since moved away from the various D&D systems, flirting with them occasionally in passing while I instead focus on other systems that I find more interesting; I’ve come to prefer more narrativist games for the most part, though my friend Zach’s super-old-school D&D certainly calls to me at times.  But with the release of the newest edition of D&D (5th ed? Next? Whatever we’re supposed to call it) I thought I’d give it a look.  I’d examined some of the playtest documents and made appreciative noises, so I thought I should take a chance.  I’m glad I did.  It seems like the new D&D has learned a few tricks from the games that pulled me away from it in the first place.

There have been a few things that have really stood out to me while I’ve been reading the new Player’s Handbook (PHB), two quite good and one that I’m not sure how to qualify.  These have nothing to do with the rules, I’ll talk about those later.  The first item is one which I understand has already been discussed elsewhere, namely the game’s specific mention of a player’s ability to construct their character’s gender- or sexual-identity, and statement that that’s a perfectly fine thing to explore in this game; the second item is D&D’s incorporation of distinct backgrounds, personalities, and motivations into character creation, including something called “bonds” which I can only presume has come from Dungeon World; the third item is the art chosen for the book, and its depictions of a diverse group of characters.  I’ll talk more about all of these, but let’s tackle that last one first.

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A Time For Giving: Charities

While we should be nice and altruistic all the time, we are now hitting the Season of Giving (I don’t care that this comes from Western tradition.  Anything that advocates charity is a good thing, so let’s just leave it be.)  Since this here is a nerdy media blog I thought I’d give you all a hand and share some amazing game-related charities that are floating around.  There are definitely some which I have missed as well as non-game charities which are amazing.  But if you would like to give and have no idea where to throw your dollar, then here at least you can find a short list worthy of your consideration.

http://www.extra-life.org/

http://www.childsplaycharity.org/

https://www.humblebundle.com/ (you can choose for your money to go fully to charity, fully to game developers, or customize the spread yourself)

http://www.ablegamers.com/ Who are currently linked to a cool game bundle:  http://www.wraithkal.info/bundle-in-a-box-ordinary-gamer/

http://www.gamesaid.org/

http://www.callofdutyendowment.org/

http://gamersoutreach.org/

http://www.youtube.com/give8bit

The Attraction of Games: Why?

Zeeblee

This article is honestly me cheating a bit as I would have preferred to write a true analysis or something more comprehensive than a question, but I’m busy!  So this is what you get.  But don’t fret, I think this question is actually extremely interesting, and very important.

Why do we play games?  I ask this because I recently got into a debate and one participant countered criticism about a game’s setup with, “I hear people play games for the story.”  Now this very well may be true since many games have fun stories, but so do books and movies, and you don’t have to fight your way to the next bit of stories in those.  You don’t have to spend hours jumping from one plot point to the next.  So why do we turn to games for story when we have books and movies?

To me I think the answer is “participation.”  Games allow you to participate in the story.  But it is with this answer that I then begin to question certain games which don’t let me actively participate in the story, but instead just force me to do task after task that holds no real meaning in the overall narrative.  Along this vein, should we forgive games with great stories for their bad gameplay?  I could go on, but I actually wrote a bit about this previously in my article about games and art, but I think we can go further into this question.

Since I need to get going I’ll leave the floor open for you to counter, explain, extrapolate, divulge, or what-have-you in the comments below.

Chiptunes: Beauty in Simplicity

Zeeblee

I love chiptunes.  I have met few other people who love chiptunes as much as me.  Hell, I have met few other people who can even sit down and listen to chiptunes without getting annoyed.  It is arguable that my love for chiptunes comes from nostalgia.  It is true that some of my favorite games are old enough that their soundtracks are chiptunes (and I do listen to them recreationally).  But I would argue that my love of the genre is more than just a fond looking back at simpler times.

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League of Legends

I figured I should get around to reviewing this game at some point, because, well, it’s sort of where I made my writing debut. What is League of Legends and why do I think it’s so great as to spend a ton of time on it? It’s an entirely different type of game than everything I’m used to commenting on, so this post will have a much different tone. League of Legends (or LoL) is what we call a MOBA, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. Essentially, it pits teams of 5 players, represented by their champions (heroes in the League of Legends universe) in a battle against each other. I think League of Legends (or LoL) is one of the best run and designed games I’ve ever played because the company that produces it (Riot) pays so much attention to its upkeep, and today, I want to talk about a few areas where League of Legends is revolutionizing gaming and eSports.

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Somebody Like Me

At the close of my previous post, the most consistent comment I got was ‘I had hoped for more of a story’, or ‘I wish you had gone more in depth into your experience’. And really, I hadn’t planned to. Why? Because stories about me are — I feel — inherently boring. I rarely do inner turmoil. I’m pretty focused, driven, and single-minded. There are a few things I do feel conflict about it, and until 2 or 3 years ago, I had thought race to be outside of that. So gather around, and I’ll tell you a story, the spiritual successor to my previous story,  or perhaps what it was meant to be. I had the words to say, but it wasn’t until I was given the right inspiration that I know how to say them. So while this is a story, it is also an homage, and the stylistic similarities are both intentional and the sincerest form of flattery.

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Games Are Art

Zeeblee

As the title says, games are art.  I begin with this because I have gone through multiple false starts in getting this argument going.  While I believe most other gamers would agree with me, making this topic seem rather pointless, I have also noticed that a good deal of the rest of the world still does not acknowledge games as an artistic medium.  The debate over the artistic merit of games was quite loud years ago when Roger Ebert declared, “Games can never be art.” and since it has quieted down.  Unfortunately I think the quiet only really occurred because the only people speaking were gamers.  Well, that’s still going to be true today, but perhaps I can at least outline my argument well enough that if a non-gamer comes across it they can begin to understand what this medium means to us.

To begin I think it would actually be valuable for everyone to first watch Kellee Santiago’s TED Talk to which Ebert’s article responds to, and then to read Ebert’s article.

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Now This Is A Story All About How…

I got to where I am right now
So I’d like to take a minute; just sit right there:
I’ll tell you how I got to the set of sociocultural beliefs I’m at right now and why I think it’s important (especially for gamers) to confront sexism/racism/homophobia within our community because minority groups are already not really taken seriously so all of their bad actions reflect on them whereas bad actions of ‘normal’ people just reflect on people which is why things like Steubenville don’t make the majority of our culture say ‘see, I knew football players were no good’ whereas things like this make people say ‘see, I knew gamers were no good’ when really both of them should lead us to the belief that we live in a self-propagating rape culture

…and I did this all after going to high school in a town called Bel-Air?

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Sexism in Gaming: How to Begin to Address Harassment

I want to talk about designing a setting with your players, but I’ve been pretty preoccupied with a piece I wrote elsewhere on sexism in gaming (specifically League of Legends), so instead I’ll show that off. Check it out here!