Tag Archives: gaming

Gamers Divided Will Never Be United

10 Aug

While riding the bus, I was playing my stupid solitaire game, and a commercial for another game comes on. I couldn’t help but notice most of them end in the gamer failing, with the challenge, “Could you do better?” Who does that speak to?

Because what it doesn’t appeal to is me. I’m playing a casual game – solitaire – it has a small challenge level and is designed for people like me who just want to be amused while waiting for something else. Which reminded me that applies to all my games: I prefer the sandbox, world building games with a little bit of challenge to keep me going.

But the “casual gamer” is not who these ads are focused to… which is odd, considering these ARE casual games they’re promoting. I think the disconnect is because the marketers are “competitive gamers;” those who fail at a level and say to themselves, “Oh hell no you don’t! I’m going to sit at this level for another hour to get past you!” Whereas in the rare time I sit down to Tour of Battlefield IV: Special Ops, I might get killed at the level three times before I say, “Let me go check on my Minecraft realm.”

I prefer cooperative games where I can build a civilization that lasts. But I don’t want a huge learning curve to accomplish that, regardless of how cool the game is. Look at Sid Meyer’s Civilization. You start out with a limited number of choices (one or two units, four or five technologies to research) and whole lot of nothingness to explore. Minecraft does the same technique; you chop down a tree, you build tools, then you can chop other stuff, then get better tools and more tech… yadda yadda.

But when Civilization V became VI, they forgot that rule. They combined religion, cultural advancement, and attitudes into one GIANT screen full of options. And you had to do this right off the bat, along with units and tech. And I have no idea what any of this does or why I should care or how I can improve this. So guess what? I play Civ 5 and I haven’t touched Civ 6 since. They listened to the challenge gamers, not the “builders.” In Minecraft, they have goals and challenges and dungeons that appeal to people who want to “win the game.” (And you can, apparently.) But me and my friends are builders–skeletons are (necessary) annoyances, but it encourages us to build defenses, keep the things that threaten our perfect blue buildings from being destroyed. (Trust me, creative mode–without monsters–is boring as hell.) You can still enjoy the game without the challenges.

The joy I get from extra options–or challenges–only come with playing them again. “Oh, let’s see if I can stay on this one island and still dominate the world.” OR “I wonder if I can build an automated chicken farm.” NOT Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock, where if you can’t figure out how to defeat the Cylons in Scenario 2, “Oh, well, guess you got to try it again.” Linear storylines bore the crap out of me. If I wanted that, I could read a book. I don’t care how cool the graphics are… which is why I still play Empire Deluxe, a thirty-year-old game. Okay, it’s the newer version, but the graphics are still pure-1993 VGA screens–I want the simplicity with more options. That’s true with Google’s design over Bing / Yahoo, that’s true with my games.

But I may be the minority; let me know your favorites in the comments below.

Lines and Veils

16 Dec

I recently came across someone outlining the rules of a game and doing something rather odd. He asked his group “what actions are off-limits?” At first, I dismissed this as overly touchy and sensitive, but the more he talked, the more he made sense.

The game is Vampire: The Masquerade (5th Edition), which I last played in college under the first edition, so I didn’t even know that they made four more since then. This was also called a “session zero,” which again, is another term I never heard before. That’s a way to explain the game to a group of people who have never played it, which I have participated in before, but never heard the term.

I was watching Dice Friends, which is a recording of folks playing an RPG up in Victoria, British Columbia. Their group–Loading Ready Run–is a brilliant group of internet comedians that I’ve followed for years. So to have them play an RPG is great to watch. However, they are UBER-liberal, so to hear them talking about lines and veils immediately struck me with the same disdain I have for “what are your pronouns” (which are on their Twitter feeds) and putting “x” at the words to make them gender-neutral.

However, I gave it a listen, and the more they talked, the more the concept made sense. I play Dungeons and Dragons regularly, so this issue doesn’t come up very much. You know what you’re getting into with DnD–you’re going to weapon-up and kill monsters. This is the way. If you have a problem with that, this is not the game for you. On the other hand, when my son (13) runs a game, he likes to be overly descriptive when it comes to finishing off a creature, and his sister (10) really doesn’t like that. That’s her “line,” and given enough “Asher! Stop!” he eventually listens.

When you’re dealing with a horror game, what you’re in for is… not exactly clear. If you’re used to DnD, you’d be surprised just how different another RPG is. Vampire does have combat, but it also has negotiation, mind control, sex… and that gets into some oogie areas. What if you’re a vampire who only feeds on dogs? The most blood thirsty barbarian player in DnD may be iffy about gory details about killing dogs.

So lines made sense, but some things are part of the game, like drinking blood. You’re a vampire. You can’t get around the fact that you suck blood from someone. So if you have trouble with this, you create “veils:” this where you just say, “Okay, you do that.” No description, just move on.

The more I heard about this, the more I liked it. Just tell your players, “If at any point, you don’t like what I’m talking about, just say, ‘Stop. That’s a line for me,’ and I stop.” I don’t have to go into as much explanation as this particular GM did, but then again, I’m not playing an RPG that people haven’t played in before. This may or may not work in everyday conversations, depending how comfortable you are with that person, but it’s good in this context.

How does making your lines in conversation/gaming work for you? Is this a new concept for you? Is this a bunch of touchy/feely clap trap? Let me know in the comments below!

Stepping Out of the Dungeon

2 Dec

I’ve been running a D&D game for two years. This has not stopped due to COVID, we just went online. The players have not remained the same, but the game continues. However, I’m beginning to worry–how do I get them off the screen and back at my table?

This is where “Your Mileage May Vary.” Not everyone’s at the same comfort level with social interaction as I am, and that’s true in my group as well as my life. I’m thinking about this now, even though my current campaign won’t run out for another couple months, because I’m getting REAL tired of playing online. My work is online, my games are online… I want to actually interact with people, not an image of them.

First off, it costs me–playing on Roll20 requires a monthly subscription ($5) and then the platform’s adventure cost an additional $25 each time I start a new campaign (every three months or so). When we were at Desert Sky Games, I actually got paid for running the game. Each of the players paid $5 per week, got $2 back in store credit, and I got $2.50 in store credit. It let the store get their money, players got credit, I got credit–it worked beautifully! I got all my D&D stuff for “free,” it was great. Now I have to ask my players to contribute and they do… somewhat.

Second, we no longer have a game store to come back to. The owners are on the extreme end of COVID scared, and after months of wondering, they decided to close their original shop and get into a smaller location–without a gaming area. Apparently, they got enough business to justify staying open, although they had to take a hit from not having people arrive. Magic cards was the biggest part of their business, and without people actually meeting in person to play…? Selling cards still pays the bills, I guess, although I can’t see how.

Third, as I said, we’ve changed some players. We have seven in our circle, which frankly, is amazing for any game. One is NOT in the Phoenix metro area, which I thought I could afford to lose, but now another is moving out in another month. That still leaves five core players, but one couple is taking care of their elderly father, so I’m not sure how hot they will be to meet in person again. So that leaves three I might get in person.

I’m thinking of a blended campaign–with half the group away, half in person–but my own experience with someone calling into a game has not been great. I can offer my dining room table and a friend has offered his house in the past, but that Zoom delay… it’s a killer. If everyone is on their computers, but half of them together, that might work… but then, what’s the point of meeting?

I’m torn. Have you run into this problem before? Do you have a solution? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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