Why Games?

June 8, 2016

I’m sure some of you out there, some of you who are friends and some of you who are not, are looking at the kind of person I am and wondering why games are so important to me. Not just a hobby I’m invested in, not just a cultural zeitgeist I count myself a part of, but something that I think represents and important philosophical and emotional technology to humanity. A very important element of culture that, I think, is currently being treated like no more than a toy. Games, I believe, are the cousin of narrative and storytelling that teach us empathy from the opposite direction. They inform our mechanisms for understanding empathy. Rules allow us to step into another person’s life and understand their motivations because the mechanisms tell us what we can and cannot do – that is, what decisions we would never make and which we would always make if we were the person we’re playing as.

To explain why in detail, come with me while I explore the very idea of what a game can be with you.

Read the rest of this entry »

Playing With My Son — The Message — Medium.

I really enjoyed this article, and it’s something I plan on doing with my own kids. While I might be playing Skyrim right now, I’m also playing through System Shock 2 because it matters to me.

I want to discuss mechanics with my kids and why they matter. I want my children to be critics of their world.

Video Game Giveaway!

December 19, 2014

Video Game Giveaway!.

Hey everyone! Merry Happy! I’m giving away video games with my partner Heina! Head over to their blog and check out the list!

Some Worldbuilding

October 3, 2014

Thinking of the second major character for the fantasy setting I’m working on, Smoke, got me thinking about the kind of trope design the setting will be built around. Almost all fantasy settings have ‘classes’, or types of heroes that wander around in those worlds. Usually it’s a combination of professional fighters; thieves, rogues, and other cut-throats; clerics, priests, shamans, or other sorts of healers and holy men; and wizards, sorcerers, mages, and other types of magicians. Occasionally there are specific versions of one of these four groups that are particular to whatever setting it is, or unique hybrids among them that provide flavor for the setting.

In this world, all great persons can be summed up into 3 groups: Warriors, those whose martial prowess, extreme technique, and skill with arms give them power and prestige; Sorcerers, whose sage like knowledge, wisdom, and control of the four elements and five directions grant them mystical abilities through their sacred knowledge; and Alchemists, the rare martial artists who practice an internal form that mixes martial prowess, mystical abilities, and the arcane energies of the Dao to manipulate themselves and their opponents.

Savisha, or my Grey Paladin as I think of her, is a Warrior. She is a master of the Eight Arms of Marisha, the martial art that was created by the founder of her holy order. It uses six weapons, outlined in the last bit I wrote about this, as well as an open-handed style and intricate study of the body’s positions and how they reflect the mind’s wisdom to make practitioners skilled diplomats. Other Warriors include samurai from beyond the White Peaks who mastered a flowing and fast style of fencing with their curved but strong swords or the soldiers of Hwaran Shein who patrol the emerald hills around their kingdom on horseback with heavy chopping swords and axe-like polearms. Most militaries and royal clans are made almost completely of Warriors. Their secrets lie in the mastery of External Martial Arts, the methods of striking out from the body aggressively.

Smoke, her companion through the journey she finds herself in within the story, is an enterprising Alchemist. He is a master of a form of combat that centers around deception and manipulating his body to make it light enough to fly short distances, flexible enough to bend around his opponents, yet strong enough to deliver crushing blows when necessary. His style is centered around the control of the qi in his breath, so as to control his breath itself. To exploit this, he carries a large water pipe, using the sweet smell to disorient those trying to overtake him and controlling the smoke to hide his presence in a fight. Other Alchemists would include the ancient orders of doctors in the Xiaolin states or the horse-callers of the open plains of the Khans. Every great martial arts tradition has a mystical arm composed of Alchemists to master the body and the mind through their martial practice. Their secrets lie in the mastery of Internal Martial Arts, the methods of controlling the body’s flow of energy, or qi, to work mystical feats.

The last group is the Sorcerers, who will not go without their own representation in the story, are the most secretive and rare group of the three. Their practices are truly arcane in nature, drawing on an understanding of all of the sacred forces of the world that govern its nature. They are the sage students of the four elements (Water, Fire, Stone, and Wind) as well as the five directions (North, South, East, West, and Center). Both wizards with no allegiance or alliance who lock themselves away in ancient places to study arcane forces and the holy men in the temples of the Merciful God who speak words of healing and curing are Sorcerers. The truly magical feats of the world are all rooted in the 3 Sciences; Elemental Control, The Methods of the Five Directions, and the Sacred Names. Elemental Control allows Sorcerers to direct and control the fundamental force of their world, from drawing poison right out of the blood by commanding its Water essence to shaping steel into a legendary sword by commanding the Earth within the iron and carbon. The Methods of the Five Directions grant Sorcerers incredible powers over distance when studies properly, allowing them to move at quick speeds, take flight, or even stand timeless in a single place and never aging at the highest levels of mastery. The Sacred Names are an incomplete collection of sutras, or sacred writings, that describe the true nature of things and allow the Sorcerers to manipulate the world using inscriptions in these sacred words directly on objects or by using temporary pre-written spells called Talismans. Their secrets lie within this body of knowledge and their creativity in using the 3 Sciences together in powerful ways. Many Sorcerers find themselves performing strange experiments to expand the knowledge of one of the Sciences, working to help those less powerful than themselves due to pacts with themselves (or occasionally powerful spirits), or serving leaders of the great nations of the many lands in the great continent of Surra and the islandsto the south in the Hwaran Archipelago.

Surra is but one part of the largest continent in this world and the most powerful political entities in their world. Though other nations certainly interact with them, and I’ll be exploring those later.

So, Patronage

September 26, 2014

I’ve set up a Patreon account. I haven’t launched my campaign yet, though I am considering it. I don’t expect it to make me any money, let alone enough money to really support me. But a boy can dream.

Mainly what’s going to come with this is a couple things.

One – if I do get support, I’m going to start updating more frequently. If I’m being paid for it, I’ll write. As it is, it’s very difficult for me to find the energy to write because I don’t strictly have to and no one seems to care outside of some phantom accounts on WordPress and a single friend who I can prattle on endlessly to about my writing ideas. This will give me a concrete reason to create more fiction. And game designs.

Two – I’m going to start interacting with those of you who do support me much more. For one, there’ll be a regular, weekly stream of me playing video games that Patreon subscribers of a certain amount would get to Skype into and influence heavily. Like having the option to decide what characters I make in Neverwinter Nights, what decisions to make in Deux Ex, or what army to play in Starcraft. There will be a separate weekly stream of me drafting in Magic the Gathering Online with subscribers being able to influence what queue I join and what kind of deck I draft.

Three – Game prototyping. Beyond beta-prototypes, which will be a subscriber only kind of thing, I’ll reserve my personal prototypes, such as handmade prototypes, for selling/giving away/prizes for my supporters.

Four – Roundtables. Two monthly roundtable discussions, one for my fiction with a writing circle of subscribers where participants will have the ability to come at me directly about choices in my fiction and what kind of fiction I should be working on next. I’ll also help people parse their own fiction and do structure support and other general writing circle kinds of things. The other monthly roundtable will be discussing game design, working on game prototyping, and working on beta rules. This group will definitely always get betas and prototypes of game designs and have influence over the design process.

I really hope I can find a way to make all of this work. If I get any support at all, it’ll be a wonder but maybe, just maybe, I’ll get that and more.

Thanks for listening. First up, a poll about what I should be streaming. If you’d like to see something else, please add it in the comments. I’ll let you know if I own it or not. I’d ask about the Magic stream too but, well, I can’t draft anymore this month without a patron and the beginning of next month is reserved for the KHANS OF TARKIR pre-release and release events.

I’m awake, I’m awake…

September 24, 2014

So, it’s been a while. I know.

Writing that book I was working on, conceptually, didn’t work out. Between my PC being down for two weeks and how hard it is for me to focus when it’s hot, I didn’t get any real work done on it. Now the story has mothballed in my mind. However, I do have another story brewing in the back of my mind. Work on that will be at the end of this post, even, if you want insight into what’s going on there.

In other news, my partner got my little laptop fixed so I once again have a simple, long-lasting portable writing machine. It’s super adorable. I’m updating my wardrobe slowly, but surely, and I’m feeling generally better. I’m waiting on the inevitable denial of the California Social Security Administration for my disability so that I can get the appeal started. This past week has been a little hard, though – my glasses broke (again) and the company that made them is unwilling to replace them. I’m going to fight them a bit and see if they’ll do it, since they broke the exact same way in the exact same place as the first pair. I’ve got a couple of (small) partial 2nd degree burns on my gut from meat-juices and molten cheese flying at me from making dinner two days ago. It also looks like the tabletop games I wanted to run won’t be working out, but it’s better to have no game than a bad game anyway.

One thing, above all else, has been really getting me out of bed and thinking, though. I’ve always had a love of Magic the Gathering but I recently started using Magic the Gathering Online (I’m Luarien, by the way, if you want to talk to me or whatever) and I freaking love drafting. It’s the best format ever. A friend bought me a Commander deck, and we’ve done a few games of that, but it’s kind of wacky and I don’t know if it’s really possible to make a consistent Commander deck. The high variability of games (and the disgusting way you can get shut out in Commander) isn’t always the most fun. It’s a fun format generally, though, and I’ve got most of a sliver deck put together as well. For those of you who, like me, came up in Magic during the golden age of slivers. Y’know, right around Ice Age.

I’ve also been playing through Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut. Which has been fun. I’ve considered streaming it but there’s not a lot of clamor for people wanting to watch me play video games. Or listen to me babble to myself about them. However, if suddenly there is interest then I could see myself streaming a lot. I’m considering going through Fallout New Vegas again, since I never finished it, and I’ve still got Baldur’s Gate to finish (and then import my file into Baldur’s Gate 2) now that I’ve got both updated versions. I might even consider streaming Battlefield 4, which I’ve been playing a bit, but I’m both not terribly good at it and my connection can be very, very spotty which makes it difficult to play well.

I had thought for a bit about getting back into HEMA, but the local group here is antagonistic to anyone with a social conscious. I’d say that they’re antagonistic to anyone who isn’t a white, able-bodied guy but there’s women on their meetup so I can’t really say that completely honestly. I’ve been trying to do some light exercising in my room but, well, I can be bad about that. Especially on days where I’m not feeling terrible but I’m also not feeling fantastic. I might have to take up walking again, it forces me to do something.

So, worldbuilding. The story I’m revisiting is the Grey Paladin stuff I was working on before. It’s a fantasy setting that I’m designing to be a kind of pastiche of medieval and ancient Asia the way that most fantasy settings are a pastiche of medieval and ancient Europe. The main character is coming from a large Hindu Kingdoms-style nation and is dedicated to an ancient warrior order called the Daughters of Marisha. Their particular oath, the Precept of Marisha, states –

We fight so that others stay safe.

We march so that others stay at home.

We search so that others are found.

We stand so that others rest safe.

We are powerful.

We are steadfast.

We are persevering.

We are protectors.

Marisha is depicted as an 8-armed warrior goddess, and six of the arms wield weapons – the khanda, a straight sword with a blue gem set in the hilt and three blackened fullers that has been enchanted to deal with the undead as well as stay incredibly sharp; the ursha, a silvered short ‘sword’ that’s designed to pierce armor similar to a main gauche; the madura, an enameled 8-sided metal buckler that’s related to both the pa kua and the idea of ‘rising’ and ‘falling’ or ‘ascendant’ and ‘descendant’ elemental forces; the malappuram kathi, a broad-bladed dagger that’s also used as a utility knife; the vel, a javalin that’s usually carried in sets of three and is enchanted to resist destruction. Her last two hands are empty – one is a fist to represent the Daughter’s training in unarmed combat and the other is an open, upraised hand to represent their training in diplomacy and their standing offer to help any who might need them.

Some of those are real weapons, re-imagined for this world. Some of them are not. The Hindu Kingdoms inspired nations are going to be called the Sister Kingdoms, and there are five of them. Each focuses on a different part of their shared religious heritage and each descends from a single mother, Marisha, and her five daughters. They’re all matriarchal, with local democratic control sending representatives to the kingdom’s capital where the queens rule alongside a democratic legislative body. That legislative body writes laws and elects local law enforcement, with the national congress choosing the highest criminal and civil court. Reviewing the laws, and being the last court of appeal, is a council of elders, one from each of the great guilds in the kingdoms – merchants, military, magicians, doctors, and judges. Each guild elects their representative in their own way. Each of these kingdoms is host to a large community of foreign people, both people who have immigrated into the kingdoms and those people who pass through major kingdoms who trade along the sea and land routes that they control.

If you guys like this, maybe next time I update I’ll tell you about the other nations in this fantasy world I’m mulling over.

A personal story

August 20, 2014

It was four AM again.

“I am…awake.” I don’t know who I was talking to. I knew I was awake. No one else was there. I stared at the ceiling fan, spinning lazily so as not to shake itself completely from its mooring in the ceiling. So it did not descend on me like a vicious dervish of dust and mechanical fury. I listened to the small insects outside, coordinating with each other to reproduce and eat before their short lives were swept into the sands of time. I marveled at the unique qualities of the air around me – it wasn’t hot but it was definitely too warm, the air felt dry but a peculiar kind of dry that made my skin prick and crawl slowly.

It was four AM again and I was spinning my limbs slowly against the strange, cooler pools on the sheet of my bed, hoping to find a momentary comfort while I talked to myself.

“Ugh.” Normally, I think, I’m pretty witty. But at four AM, while I’m in a kind of mild buzzing pain – not horrid compared to what I’m used to, to be sure, but bad enough to keep me awake – and in a distinctly uncomfortable state that is almost impossible to describe I lose almost all semblance of authority or majesty. “It’s too fucking hot.”

Granted, that assertion is not necessarily true. If it wasn’t so dry, or if I wasn’t always in pain, or if I were more high or more drunk or more something I probably wouldn’t notice. I would just sleep. Instead, like most nights, I was haunted by the shimmering, friendly specter of insomnia.

Insomnia was like an old girlfriend to me. Insomnia is like an old girlfriend to me. We know each other really well and when she visits I feel compelled to catch up with her but, honestly, my life would be easier if I didn’t have to see her again. She has her own life, I have my own life, it doesn’t help either of us to keep meeting and “catching up” as if we’re comparing scores to see who got the better of the breakup in high school.

It was four AM, I couldn’t sleep, and I was uncomfortable. As if on cue, my body started to sing the sweet symphony of stinging and burning pain that reminded me, constantly, that I am both a broken human being and probably a liar. It starts in my toes and knuckles, accompanied by a deep, wrenching throbbing in my lumbar region. It crawls slowly up my arms with tiny, shuddering cramps that felt as if my bones were twisting and trying to dance. The pain in my back, meanwhile, began to be replicated in my legs with on-beat and perfectly off-beat pinching and grinding. I could forestall some of this when I cracked my joints but it was only a temporary measure.

Within moments, my body was a study in pain and discomfort.

I’m not sure, exactly, how I located my pot in the darkness without my glasses on. It doesn’t much matter, really. What does matter is that a deep inhale of the chemicals swirling out of the cannabis freed me. The pain dulled, my mind cleared, my skin stopped crawling.

Soon, it was six AM. It was six AM and I was falling asleep.

Tonight, I finally won. Maybe tomorrow I won’t even have to fight, if I’m lucky.

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