Archive for December, 2010


Hard gaming with Monopoly

December 20, 2010

If America were a game of Monopoly:

The money and jail rules are pretty awesome, but this is extra bonus:

5. Settling disputes: If there is a dispute between players, it is put to a vote. (See Voting below).

6. Changing rules: If a player asks for a rule change, it is put to a vote (See Voting below).

7. Voting: To win a vote a motion must get at least 5.1 votes. Each player gets the following number of votes:

8.2 white
1.3 black
0.4 yellow
0.1 red

This wouldn’t be a fun game, but it pretty much well reflects the issues of institutionalized racism. Sadly, it would be a poor education game, since these issues are pretty easy to discover with even casual research and thought- and the people who would need it the most will simply go, “These numbers are made up, it’s not true, etc. etc.”

There’s also the issue that yes, people don’t work as racial monoliths, on the other hand, privileged people DO favor the status quo.

For games that are more fun and educational at the same time, I’d recommend Steal Away Jordan, The Drifter’s Escape, and (sadly, no longer available online) Liam Burke’s Dog Eat Dog. (ETA: Dog Eat Dog is back, currently as a Kickstarter: )


Hard gaming

December 16, 2010

US News on Brenda Brathwaite’s designs:

Train has proven the most controversial, particularly because of Brathwaite’s decision to formally conceal the subject until late in the game. Critics say it’s a bait and switch. “If, following a game of chess, I declare all the white pieces were homosexuals, should the black player experience any guilt for their participation in systematic homophobia?” asks Stewart Woods, a board-game scholar at Australia’s Curtin University of Technology.

But the surprise some players experience at discovering the game’s subject may result more from their own ignorance than an intentional trick in Brathwaite’s design. “There’s nothing about this game that doesn’t scream, ‘I’m about the Holocaust,’” Brathwaite says, and she has a point: The game’s symbolism—from the broken window to the boxcars to the yellow pawns—isn’t exactly concealed.

While I get the mainstream news reaction “ZOMG WHAT IS THIS GAME ABOUT?!?” reaction, I kinda have to look at fellow gamers who’ve played Puerto Rico and similar colonization games and what they thought those games were about this whole time.

And, of course, there’s always the stupid folks who imagine that the answer is some sort of sanitized world free of problematic material, when really, and always, the question is why so MUCH of it is prevalent and unremarked.

Which is also why I pulled that specific quote. It’s a funny bit of denialism in that- to claim it’s a left field switcheroo…when, as she says, the game is drenched in the symbolism.

I don’t think Brathwaite’s work is exceptional art, or even a good way to necessarily educate about history and problematic elements, but I do think it’s notable especially in contrast to all the other problematic stuff that draws no attention at all.


Doing things the hard way

December 14, 2010

Today’s Penny Arcade on GM Burnout is funny and sad.

I point back to Jono’s big chart, although, in this case, it doesn’t even need to be about Illusionism- it’s just hard to constantly be the sole player for prepping and churning up the interesting events every week, week after week.

The thing that rpgs excel at is the variability and non-repeatability in play experiences – which, if you’re playing a game that has the GM as the primary contributer of events, you are forced to come up with new material all the time.

This can be extremely taxing if the goal is also to create “just tough enough” challenges against a group that is evolving in ability, and inconsistent in capability from week to week.

For me, as much as I enjoy a good crunchy, gamist game, I know I don’t have the wherewithal to keep it going for long.

And not only that, I also still hold a lot of that expectations in terms of gamer baggage- everytime I sit down to play Universalis or Primetime Adventures, I’m amazed at how little work it takes to have a great time. I get anxious, afraid I didn’t prep enough, not sure if I’ll be able to wing it – and then it goes smoothly and whatever rough bumps are so small, no one notices it.

Granted, part of that was playing with people who want to play the same game, but the other part was playing games that push everyone to contribute, where the interesting events are pushed by the GM alone.

GM burnout is something I don’t really deal with anymore. If I don’t want to GM, it’s only because I also enjoy playing, rather than feeling drained by the level of work put in.


Epimas game bundles

December 13, 2010

12 indie games at low prices

Epimas is the time of the year when you buy roleplaying games for your loved ones at a greatly reduced cost and receive those same games for yourself, for free!

The bundles include 3/$15, 6/$25 or 12 games for $40.

The games this year are:

1,001 Nights
Apocalypse World
Bliss Stage
Dogs in the Vineyard
Dread House
Mist-Robed Gate
My Life with Master
Shock: (with Human Contact Preview)
Steal Away Jordan
Time & Temp


Into the Far West getting the side eye

December 12, 2010

Into the Far West had me hesitantly excited, after all, Wuxia + Wild West is a good idea, and one which stuff like The Good, the Bad, and the Weird show you can do in awesome ways.

…but then:

What is the role of American Indians or analogues group in the setting?

There is no analogue. For three reasons:

1) American Indians did not feature for the most part in Spaghetti Westerns — usually due to a lack of Europeans who could convincingly play them. The stories just didn’t concentrate on that part of the West, as a result — which added to the Spaghetti Western’s odd sense of dislocation.

2) There is really no accompanying analog in Wuxia stories — and we’re shooting for the overlap between the two genres.

3) RPGs already have some frankly troublesome issues surrounding portrayals of minorities/”the other”, and I didn’t want to contribute to that. You’ll also note from our artwork that we’re going with a cross-cultural look to our characters — similar to the BBC’s decision of “colorblind casting” on their series.

…so… you trust yourself enough to incorporate wuxia, and asian influences without being problematic… but not Indians?

This is sounding a lot like Patricia Wrede’s Thirteenth Child where people want a twee Wild West without all those troublesome Indians.

In this case, asians are being used as the Model Minority even in a fictional fashion to replace the scarier Indians.

I’d imagine if you’re building a setting that is not-earth, why not include Indians? Indians who aren’t losing a war of genocide and displacement, in fact, a world without such a war?

To repeat the Penny Arcade analogy about the power to create and making wackness:

“This is like having the ability to shape being from non-being at the subatomic level, and the first thing you decide to make is AIDS.”

Sigh. I’m tired of having to keep coming back to the options of either invisibility or stereotypes. For a hobby “limited only by your imagination”, people seem to have rather narrow confines.