Game Pile: Rise of the Triad (2013)

As a gamer who went through the bulk of the period known as the golden era of the FPS and the rise of the console to the impoverishment of the PC in the cultural cachet of gamer culture, I have childhood memories of plumbing my way through the games media of the time that wasn’t focused on control sticks and how great the Playstation or Nintendo were, and that means that when people talk about ‘hey remember when’ I almost always have a bunch of ridiculous examples that nobody else, largely remembers. I’m that annoying guy who bothered to memorise the lineage of film history that leads from Hitchcock to Tarantino and wants to take any opportunity to tell you about it, only for PC shareware videogames, a field that could not matter any less but still has a direct line in it from Marcus Fenix back to furry porn then back further to sticking a fish in a door.

For the majority of you, this isn’t the case, so let’s talk about Rise of the Triad.

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Decemberween: Generation IV

I love some dorky superhero roleplay. Ever since City of Heroes I got in the habit of just enjoying the stories I could tell, the ways I could play in story universes that care about superheroic elements and the tropes of superheroes. I like sidekicks. I like superfamilies. I like doom robots and death rays and I like capes and costumes and I like all of these things.

I love Generation IV, which is a roleplaying setting ran and maintained by a handful of friends. Gen 4 hasn’t been super busy lately – in part because some of the major players have had major life shifts and vacations – but it’s something that I’ve really loved to be able to go to throughout this year. It is a thing that my friends made and for which I am grateful.

Decemberween: Hannibal

If I want to tell you about my roleplaying character, that’s dorky. If I want to tell you about my friend’s roleplaying character, that’s inspiring.

This time last year I was involved in the beleagured RP community for the Secret World, which is urban gothic horror. In TSW, you had these global conspiracies based on particular varieties of fictive representations of ancient conspiracies – awkwardly in the representation of Asia, but pretty great as it pertained to Roman era stuff. Particularly, there was an enemy faction that showed up at the end of the game, to represent a threat for all parties, the Phoenicians.

There was a lot of work done by fans to build roleplay stuff, and in this space, one of my friends, Leastwise, came up and one day started playing a character going by the name Hannibal, who spoke about the sea and empires and overcoming great odds. He was urbane, he was stylish, and he crystallised the Phoenician characterisation into a space that let a lot of us other players latch on to it. Hannibal was a humanising element to the faction and with it came such a wonderful personality. The twist? It wasn’t just Hannibal The Name, he was Hannibal Barca, the actual warlord of Ancient Carthage. And under that jovial, fatherly frame, Hannibal boiled with rage at the Empire, at the people who had taken his home from him, and he had spent centuries nursing that grudge. The player wove this wonderful mythology in the empty space of the game, and created a really interesting, engaging faction building on real histories.

At one point Hannibal, the player, by a series of successful negotiations and people operating on incomplete information, successfully took control of the city of Las Vegas, during a RP event with over thirty players involved – resulting in a coup for the Phoenicians that the player just pulled off by just listening and talking.

I don’t play TSW any more, and I miss, so badly, being able to play alongside Hannibal.

Vandread

Vandread was an anime that came out in the year 2000 and it’s a bit tricky to introduce because everything it is it’s also not quite. It’s a harem anime, but not quite. It’s a space giant robot anime, but not quite. It’s a science fiction anthology anime, but not quite. It’s about genders, but not quite, about relationships, but not quite, and about identity, but not quite. In a lot of ways, Vandread is a really confused piece, a gem of its time.

The premise of Vandread is – okay, hold on – there are these two planets of entirely gender-segregated populations reproducing through artificial means that been at war with one another for centuries because the men planet thinks the women planet eat liver and it’s all cast as a propoganda war, where our main character such as he is Hibiki is working in an awful factory job that dehumanises him. He stows away on the warship that holds a mecha he helped to build, to try and steal it, because he’s an idiot, and then Lesbian Pirates attack as the warship is about to go show off how great it is. A Space Accident ensues and the warship is swallowed in part by the pirate ship, which then becomes an Extremely Sweet Ship with three male prisoners on board – Hibiki, and two other guys from his own home culture, a doctor and a navigator. The ship is then flung out into the middle of nowhere and our cast have to work out what happened, why their cultures are the way they are, who they are and why some of the mecha and space-ships they have can now combine into a powerful Vandread Unit.

Oh yeah, the shapeshifting robot thing comes up, and there’s also these unidentified attackers who keep trying to kill them.

This is the first episode.

Vandread then follows an almost Star-Trekky kind of plot arc where they move from place to place, and each new episode brings a new problem they handle and learn a bit about the overarcing plot. Sometimes it’s a internal drama on the space-ship, Hibiki learning he’s a doofus, or sometimes it’s going to a new planet and finding out there’s a problem there. The plot on this one kind of unfolds, but it’s also much more of a story about a world as a concept than it is about anything the story wants to say with that.

For all that Vandread is a story about segregated genders, though, there are two really weird points to it – and they get a bit spoilery, so I’ll jump on the far side of a cut for that, so you can avoid it. Continue reading

Announcing: Decemberween 2017!

I had a whole month of writing planned about December, which has all just been bumped to January. I don’t think anyone’s going to be spending their December trying hard to crack some personal puzzle about how to make paper look torn, or looking for a project that’s just waiting for the right artist to bring it to life.

In this month, we’re going to continue Game Pile, weekly TV and weekly MTG articles, as normal – but in the intervening days? It’s all going to be me telling you about something a friend does that I think is cool. No long-form articles or big goofy work, just sincere, honest appreciation for the work of people I love.

Watching Culture Change in MTG

Years ago now I wrote an article about Magic: The Gathering and its representation of women. Please don’t go looking for that article; it’s not very good and even if I do make points I still stand by to this day I also sling around some really inappropriate ableist and whorephobic language which was both totally unnecessary at the time and cringeworthy now. I’ll summarise the points of the article here:

  • Tity armour is bad
  • Most of the big, tough and badass things are boys
  • Most of the dirt and junk things are girls

This was not a hard and fast rule by any measure (I mean c’mon, it features the words ‘most.’)

At the time of writing this article I was a StarcityGames Featured writer for the free side of the site, back when the site had a forum of its own, a forum that got pretty weird as I related to it. It was a weird place because on the one hand, I was a featured writer paid for his words, and on the other hand, I had an actual banned topic list of people I shouldn’t talk to or talk about, and I understood, some other featured writers had even more restrictive rules on how they could post on the forums.

This was totally reasonable, by the way: I was at my best a condescending snot and at worst a volatile dickheel on those forums, even as I was, without really articulating it, trying to argue for accessibility and communality while being a total dick about it. Even if I wasn’t a dick, the suggestion ‘don’t talk in a way that looks insulting about one of our other featured writers’ is pretty obvious. I still remember, though, the way that the forums reacted to this article.

I saw three basic takes:

  • This isn’t a problem
  • Women don’t play Magic so it’s not a problem
  • You’re a dude, why do you care?

What makes this even more interesting, in hindsight is that while the forums were negative about this, that article was being referenced by other featured writers. The culture of the game as we spoke about it was negative and hostile to the idea of examining this feminism issue. I remembered at one point, when someone asked me why do you care, you’re a dude, why I didn’t ask a woman if she wanted to write the article, with the statistical examination and the breakdown of the characters and whatnot…

And at the time I was struck to realise I could not name a single SCG woman writer.

I’m not bringing this up to point at SCG by the way. The top level people at SCG I’ve dealt with, by all accounts are genuinely good people. I have seen Pete Hoefling be in a lot of situations an Unnecessarily Good Guy. Ben Bleiweiss, as both a forum moderator and a dealer, has basically got conspiracy theory websites written about him and not one of them ever lines up with the guy who I remember putting me in my place in some extremely awkward situations, being very harsh but also very fair. My editors, Ted Knutson and Craig Stevenson, were both by all accounts stand-up people.

(I’m pretty sure Ted thinks I’m still a total joke of a human, but you do what you do).

That was where our culture was: The second biggest MTG site, and I, with the tools of the website’s inner workings at my disposal, could not find or name a single woman writer of the game. The writers for SCG were international but somehow precariously all very similar.

Fast forward ten years. I stopped reading StarCityGames years ago. Not any mark against them, but a shift to video in some production fronts when my country still didn’t have good internet infrastructure and the increased demands of MTGO kinda edged me out of the game for quite some time. I went back to MTGO as our internet improved, I started using Youtube all the time, and eventually, eventually, found myself looking at all the things that had changed while I was out.

I actually agonised over this paragraph because pointing out and naming names kind of spirals off into just this ridiculous list of people like I’m trying to brag about All The Girls And Enbies And Queer People In Magic I’m Fan Of, and that feels gauche. But I’ll give you this as an example of where we are now: I tune in weekly to watch someone’s mom play Magic. That would have been a punchline once.

As I get to the end of this article it’s hard to frame the conclusion, because I don’t want to say ‘well, we started including girls, go us!’ or ‘thank you, strange and wild unicorn girls, for coming to the culture and sharing your wisdom.’ I certainly don’t want to start patting everyone on the back for Not Doing The Obviously Bad Thing Any More. At the same time, the voices in the game – both making it, producing content for it, and being part of the play experiences – are more, more diverse, and better.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m just really, really happy that things have gotten a bit better.

And we can make it better still.


This was written a few weeks ago, back before one of the Youtube Poop-Boy squad and his assorted jerkhole dinguses coordinated and sustained harrassment of Christine Sprankle leading to her leaving Magic and the community.

These people are reactionary jerks. They are not to be given countenance or power. They are absolutely to be dismissed and ignored and spurned from the scene. And if you find yourself saying ‘hey, well now, let’s not be too hasty,’ then you might find you are too close to those people to be someone I trust to make good decisions for the community.

My central point remains: The hobby is growing in its presence of women. The directives controlling the voice of what the game is about are seeking to enable and include women and nonbinary people. This space has gotten better and it can keep getting better. The awful parts of our community are lashing out louder and harder in their efforts to control it – and they should be driven out.


Also, being against the harrassment and abuse of Christine Sprankle doesn’t mean I think she’s blameless for things she said in the past regarding Alesha, Who Smiles At Death. But now is not the time, nor is now the time to tell people who are trying to make good happen and give people hope that there’s no point in doing so.

Bullet Journal Module: Project Tracker

If you’re at all like me, your Bullet Journal is a tool you use to put your actions in a greater context, and perhaps to either make yourself feel good about what you’re working on, or make it possible for you to know where you should be focusing your efforts next. I’ve got plans that work literally month to month, but I wanted some sort of module I could use going forwards as I use Bullet Journals more, so I could always look back a month or two and double check if what I’m doing is part of my plan.

With that in mind I devised this module with different tracker methods in it:

This tracker is set up so I can use it to mark weekl breakups – like the Podcast; it has enough room to give a short note for them. It can also be expanded across a spread in two larger sections, twice as wide, to allow a lot more room for notes on individual entries.

This is just the design version of the module. Don’t look into it, since I made this months ago and I don’t use it yet for my Bujo. But it’ll probably go in the front of my next one.

Game Pile: Olympia Rising

As with Snakebird before it, there are some games which you play, you experience, and you set aside. In the case of Olympia Rising my metric is this game cost me as much as a pair of chocolate bars, and I definitely got to have more fun with it than I would have out of a pair of chocolate bars.

There’s your really basic point: Olympia Rising is almost perfectly $5 of videogame.

Sometimes a game gets on the list just because it’s interesting looking! Wanna know more about that? Well, let’s see what we got.

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An Example _Plan – Encoded

 

Going through my drive and cleaning up, I found this outline for a possible print-and-play scenario game. I’m putting it up here, not to build hype for a project I’m not going to make, but rather to show you an example of the process I go through for _plan files.

Oh and if you’re curious, I label them as _plan files, because it means they show up at the start of the directory.


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How To Talk To Your Trans Dude Friends About Boobs

One thing that exhausts trans people and wastes a lot of their time is explaining Some Of The Most Basic Stuff. I try to make sure I offer some basic explanations of things, not because I have special insight, but just as a basic footing. And this time, we’re going to real quick talk about how you, a cis boy, should approach talking to your trans boy friends, about their boobs – not boobs in general, but their boobs, this is important.

Don’t,

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