drwex: (DMs)
[livejournal.com profile] sweetmmeblue sent me this link: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/04/pro-gaming-tournament-attempts-to-limit-gay-and-transgender-players?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Google%2B

Let us count the number of things wrong with this... no, is too long. Let's sum up. Gay != trans. Neither has anything to do with gaming. Gah. We know all this.

Also, for the language nerds like me "pro-gaming" is not the same as "pro gaming." The former indicates someone is in favor of gaming; the latter indicates someone is a professional gamers. Apparently the "pro-journalists" at the Guardian failed to notice this.

THAT all said, Current Genital Load-Out is totally my new band name.
drwex: (pogo)
This morning, I got a surprise invite to a group chat from a gamer friend. He wanted to tell a lot of people all at once (the vast majority of us gamers) that he was coming out as trans. He still chooses to use male pronouns and hasn't changed his name but he identifies as something not-male/not-female right now and was acutely aware that his blood family was not reacting well. So he came to us.

The chat was tear-inducingly awesome. People were congratulating, cheering, offering hugs/support/brunch and generally validating this person's life choices.

I know I live in a special social bubble - most of you reading this live in that bubble with me and make it a place unlike other places, for which I am grateful. But I also live in the world of gaming, which is still awash in sexism, rampant homophobia, and not-particularly-covert racism. To see that people are not all awful examplars of the worst elements of their subculture really made my morning.

I was recently chatting with [livejournal.com profile] sovay in LJ comments about liking problematic things. For me, gaming is one of those problematic things I dearly love. Days like today give me hope that it won't always be so.
drwex: (DMs)
I still play Warcraft from time to time. Pygment has mostly gafiated from it and I'm playing a lot less than I did. But there are moments and I still enjoy a couple hours of raiding now and then.

It helps to understand this story if you know that when a group attacks a monster there's often a countdown to synchronize everyone's initial actions. Prior to that, the raid leader usually does a "ready check" where people can click yes/no if they're ready to begin. For reasons of sheer luck I happen to run in raids that are led by women.

Last raid I had to click "no" on a readycheck because I mostly couldn't breathe for laughing. It went something like this:

Raid leader: Everyone ready?
Raider: Give me five seconds... well, ten max.
Other raider: I bet you say that to all the women.
Other other raider: Yeah, and they find the countdown really annoying, too.

(I actually have no idea if non-gamers or maybe just those without an inner 12-year-old will find this funny so please do tell me what you think.)
drwex: (VNV)
Some of you know I play Ingress (I'm drwex there, too - Resistance, though I do have more than a few RL friends who play green). This past summer Pygment finally picked up the game and it became a great way to motivate us to get out together more and do things.

Ingress is, in part, a game of making triangles. You connect up points and form a triangle, called a field. You score two kinds of points for this - a personal score that is fixed and a team score based on the size of the field. In-game achievements (badges) are given based on total team score acquired. Saturday night we made a field, which looked something like this:

In case the image isn't clear, that's going from the Cape to Holliston and up to Maine. The field had 16 layers, each scoring points for the person who made it. We got 3 people Onyx badges (the highest level in game) and 3 people got Platinum (the next-to-highest). A lot of people were involved in planning and carrying this out. I might have had something to do with organizing and motivating it, but lots of other people did heavy lifting.

I've said before that Ingress isn't very good as a game. Its quality comes entirely from the people who play it. Early in the planning stages of this thing an in-game friend contacted me to tell me that one of their friends had just been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. Would it be OK if this guy came in and took the points for making some of the field layers?

Uh, hell yes. I don't know this guy, but I know cancer sucks and it's serious. Getting an Onyx badge is something that would take a long time and given his diagnosis he might never make it. But with the donations from Saturday he went from zero to the top in one night. He got to see his name on the leaderboards, too. Big credit to Pygment, who delayed getting her Onyx so this guy could go.

We can't improve his condition, nor change what is to come. But for one night we did a thing to buoy the spirits of someone who isn't likely to get a whole lot of good news anytime soon.
drwex: (DMs)
(I posted this as a comment in someone else's LJ and thought I'd share. I was commiserating about how players seem to treat the GM's plot rather like the croquet ball in Alice in Wonderland.)

OK, here's what happened:

Idiot the Thief-Mage fails to grok that this magical trap they've detected is higher level than she can deal with and blithely goes about setting it off. It's a Prismatic Spray. (It's worth noting that before starting this adventure the group learned that there were powerful traps and the players had carefully plotted how their characters will avoid traps by using short-range translocation magic.)

Not one, not two, but THREE of the party manage to roll a 7 on their random Prismatic Spray effect which is "Get sent to another Plane of Existence". Two of them make their saves (whew!) but not the third. The one that failed, though, is the NPC whom the characters have just met and whom they have no reason to like overmuch. In fact, she's been something of a dick to them because her lover is in trouble offstage and she gets cranky when nervous.

Whew, says I the GM. At least it wasn't a party member they'll want to... wait, what's that? Noble Soul the Cleric is talking the party into going to another plane to rescue the NPC? Ah, not so much talking them into it as joining the enthusiastic chorus. What the... Oh, and Noble Soul has an empty 5th level spell slot, which happens to be the right level for Plane Shift. And the psion has a cross-planar means of communication so they can figure out where said lost NPC is. And now Noble Soul is making prayers to his god for divine intervention here because he has no hope otherwise of getting the tuning forks he's going to need. Well, that's no problem, he only has an 11% chance of that working... and he rolls an 06.

(Aside, I should note that the players are alternating between gales of laughter at the situation/GM's discomfort, and fairly earnest role-play. They are totally into this.)

So game gets called until next session while the GM scrambles to figure out how to have an extra-planar adventure that won't kill off the entire group. Because in addition to the special effects and budget committee I'm also the entertainment committee. Yes, I could have fudged any of those die rolls. But that sort of deus ex machina stuff always rubbed me the wrong way when I was a player so I try hard not to do it as GM.

And I carefully set aside the thick stack of paper representing hours of prep work and figure I'll get cozy with the Manual of the Planes for a while.
drwex: (DMs)
I posted a pointer to my previous write-up of my Ingress experience to a couple of Ingress player boards and got some good commentary and feedback. Here I'd like to address two points people raised in favor of Ingress that I did not touch on in the previous post.

Objection 1: "The best part of the game is the social". People have great stories of the folk they've met through the game, the events their side has organized, and so on. All of this is true, and none of it is relevant. Ingress is a social game in just about the way that golf is a social game. There are things you can do in Ingress if you have more than one person around, but nothing in the Ingress game rules or structures requires cooperation or teamwork.

If you like, compare Ingress with chess. To play chess the rules require two people playing opposite each other. We've added rules that let people do things like play chess by mail so no actual social interaction is needed, but those are rules outside the basics of chess. Chess is a social game; Ingress is not.

The social that comes with Ingress comes as a result of the people involved. People form social interactions around bird watching, bowling, and barbecue. All of those social things are great, but none are required by the underlying activity/game. Compare with basketball or baseball, which are inherently team games. You can do lots of things with baseballs and basketballs by yourself, but that's not playing the game. Likewise with Ingress, you can do lots of things in groups, but the game itself doesn't require it, isn't structured to reward it, and can be a completely solo activity without missing out on anything. Ingress fails at social - some people who play Ingress win at social, but I suspect they'd also win at social if they were organizing dinners or backpacking expeditions or anything else. No credit goes to the game for this.

Objection 2: "It's a great way to get exercise." This one has more merit and at times I've called Ingress the ultimate gamification of exercise. The rules of Ingress portals are such that in theory you should be able to walk to them, though portals have been set up on the tops of mountains and in other locations that are hard to reach by standard walking. But I don't think Ingress does anything particularly novel here - every AR game is situated in the world and requires you to go out and be in the world.

The notion "well, I walk more now that I'm playing Ingress" is also a particularly situated notion. It's great if you're in an area that accommodates walking well and the weather is good, but when you're dodging cars in the dark because the sun went down at 16:30 and the outside temperature is 22F before the wind chill, this whole "I walk to play the game" conceit melts away quickly. Not that I've, y'know, ever done that.

Yes, I get more exercise playing Ingress than if I played a desk-bound game. But I also get more exercise because I have a dog and she needs to go for walks, too. It's not a particularly great point in favor of Ingress-as-a-game.
drwex: (DMs)
A number of people have asked why I'd stop playing the game just as I'm hitting level 8, the max level. The game is also coming out of beta soon, though I still have a bunch of invites if you want to try it out. I'm warming up for a gaming/storytelling panel at Arisia next month at which I may talk about Ingress. Writing this down helps me organize my thinking.

Ingress is an artificial reality game played on Android devices in the real world - the game app presents you with layered information relevant to the game overlaid on top of physical spaces and objects. You play as an agent for one of two sides - Resistance or Enlightened - trying to cope with the sudden influx of something called XM (eXotic Matter) into the world. I played as Resistance in part because the Enlightened philosophy creeps me right out and appears to be recapitulating Dr Frankenstein's error. More on this in the final paragraphs.

If you just want the punchline, here it is: Ingress is a great experiment and a terrible game. Google have put together a remarkable analogy for WWI-era trench warfare in which a lot of energy is expended for no actual gain. There's a reason why successful games avoid this part of the reality of warfare - it's boring and pointless.
What exactly are Ingress's successes and failures? )
I should close by saying that I'm not rage-quitting. I'm not going to delete my account or anything. Part of what makes an experiment good is what it reveals and I plan to hang around and see if Google can fix the game's flaws sufficiently that I'd want to be an active player again.

ETA: I wrote a short follow-up covering a couple of common objections to this post.
drwex: (DMs)

This is a Kickstarter for a turn-based RPG/puzzler rogue-like game. The concept is a game that isn't _for_ kids but that you can play around kids. A game that's designed with the expectation that you'll have to stop playing, frequently, to deal with life and come back to the game from time to time. An underserved market, as they say.

And yes, I know several of these people either as direct acquaintances or as friends-of-friends. That said, I think the world could use (and I would play) more turn-based rather than twitch-based games so I'm supporting them for that reason as well.
drwex: (DMs)
Pygment and I play World of Warcraft, often together.

In the new expansion there's a rare monster that gives no credit, and only drops one thing: a B.F.F. necklace. Once per day you can use this item to place an ornamental "BFF" marker on someone.

A couple days ago I got a guildmate to help me kill this mob so I could get the necklace so my character could BFF Pygment's character last night.

That is all.
drwex: (DMs)
One of our D&D players is moving away so we are now in search of a person who would like to play in an adult, long-running D&D campaign. 3.5 rules with some house mods, lots of roleplay and lots of hack-n-slash.

We play on odd-numbered Sundays (1st, 3rd and sometimes 5th) in the afternoons.
drwex: (Python)
I totally did not see the third-panel gag coming....

drwex: (Default)
Pygment, on logging onto one of her WoW characters: That's odd.
Me: Oh?
Pygment: $character is on a griffon. I wonder where she's going.
Me: Oh, you let Thing 1 play her - no telling where she's going. Or where she's been. You might want to wash her...

(OK, it amused us.)
drwex: (WWFD)
I don't need the latest and greatest, but I am thinking about buying myself a new gaming machine (thus, PC) so I can pass my current one down to the kids.

I loathe do-it-yourselfing things; I just want to spec out a box then have someone build it and make it work. The less I have to frob with the hardware and software myself the happier I am.

ETA: I like playing reasonably graphics-rich games. I play Warcrack now, and am looking longingly at Skyrim. I don't tend to play FPS, so complex input devices and twitch-level control aren't necessary.

My budget for this is probably around $1k. Less is always better. I seem to buy a new machine every 3-4 years so if this one was reasonably capable of lasting that long before becoming hopelessly outdated that'd be good.
drwex: (VNV)
I thought this was grotesquely obvious at the time but apparently my brain is more convoluted than I first thought.

Set up: in Warcraft guild chat one of my guildmates is complaining about the fashion disaster that is the game-supplied reputation tabard. It has our logo but messes up the color schemes and frankly looks like a Gloria Gaynor cast-off.

Me: are you complaining about the fashion of the tabard? Just turn to the left.

Him: (pause) I did that - it still looks just as bad.

Me: Well, turn to the right.

Him: I'm sure that if I do that it'll still look bad.

Me: Ooh.

Guild chat: *crickets*

Apparently not everyone has this on their brain - even Pygment didn't get it, knowing it was a set-up. Apparently, I'm oooold or something.


drwex: (Default)

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