28 October 2017

The X-Card: Making Games Safe for Everyone

I know it sounds like something out of the Marvel X-Men franchise, but this topic actually has nothing to do with mutant powers. Although it might be considered a superpower, in that it really does help to make the world a better place.

The idea is that when playing roleplaying games or storytelling games, especially with people you don't know very well (with a new gaming group, or at a convention with strangers, etc), there's always a chance that the game may veer into territory that is uncomfortable for some players. It's less likely when you're with a group that you know quite well, but even then, it is still a possibility. When such a theme pops up in a game, it may diminish the fun for one or more players. In extreme cases, it might even trigger a traumatic experience.

The X-Card is a way of helping to avoid such experiences as much as possible.

The X-Card is, quite simply, an index card with an X drawn on it. The concept is described in great detail by its creator, John Stavropoulos, in the Google Document he wrote. In this article, I'm going to provide a brief overview of the X-Card, some background, and detail the advantages of using it.

21 October 2017

Board Game Review: Abyss

A friend of mine purchased a copy of Abyss when he encountered it at the Geekway to the West convention in St. Louis. He bought it primarily because he thought the artwork was stunning, but he was delighted to find that the game itself was quite enjoyable. Since I have now managed to play it twice, I will review it for you here.

Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take. Gamer Profile Ratings measures how strongly a game will appeal to players based on their interest in one of four areas. These areas are measured as High, Medium, or Low. Strategy describes how much a game involves cognitive challenges, thinking and planning, and making sound decisions. Conflict describes how much direct hostile action there is between players, from destroying units to stealing resources. Social Manipulation describes how much bluffing, deceiving, and persuading there is between players. Fantasy describes how much a game immerses players in another world, another time.

Get ready for some numbers!
Strategy: 4
Randomness: 3
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Game Play: 45 minutes
Gamer Profile Ratings:
  Strategy: Medium
  Conflict: Medium
  Social Manipulation: Low
  Fantasy: High

14 October 2017

PinkFae Archive #3: Can Games Save the World? The Social Benefit of Games

In our reposting of my PinkFae articles, we come to #3. This article was originally published on 18 January 2016. Enjoy!

One very long game board of the Settlers of Catan board game stretching across many tables, as hundreds of people sit along it playing the game with each other in small groups. The ultimate in social gaming?

We live in a crazy world. Despite the internet, people have bad ideas, wrong ideas, and just plain stupid ideas. But research has shown that increasing social contact helps spread good ideas. Humans are, after all, social creatures. We crave contact with others, and the more diverse the contact we have, the better society will be. What better way to improve our social situation than through playing games?

07 October 2017

Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville

We're going to take another stroll into off-topic-land. As I'm sure you know by now, this past month has seen the debut of two new television series of interest to nerds and dorks like myself: Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville. Fans of this blog will be aware that I am a major Star Trek nerd.

Just to be certain, let me describe why. Some of you may have read my previous post in which I describe the reason I love the original Star Trek so very much. If this is the case, you can safely skip the next paragraph to get to the good stuff. But I want this understanding to be explicit so that the rest of this entry will make sense.

The original Star Trek was wonderful for five main reasons: 1) it was relentlessly optimistic, 2) it used science-fiction to explore modern social topics, 3) it eschewed the traditional good/evil dichotomy for a more nuanced dynamic between antagonists and protagonists, 4) it emphasised exploration and discovery, and 5) the character dynamic of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy was a wonderful thing to behold. Although The Next Generation did not have #5, it did a good job (especially starting in season 3) of the other themes listed here. The other Trek series? Not so much...

So when I heard that they were making a new Star Trek series, I was very excited. I was looking forward to getting back to basics. Back to what I loved about the original series. Sure, it wouldn't have Kirk, Spock, or McCoy, but it would have the other elements.

Or so I hoped.