#Fiction Old, Fat Punk Released

Derek, Tim and ‘Trol’ are three ageing rebels, hitting their fifties. Disillusioned by the way the world has turned out and the frustration of their teenage dreams of a better life or a revolution.

All they have left are stories of past glory and pints of cheap beer at one of the last punk-pubs in London.

Watching a riot unfurl on television, to no point and no effect, their frustration boils over and they decide to do something futile and stupid, a grand, nihilistic gesture of futility.

Comedy, social and political satire, and frustration all meet in this story of a ‘revolutionary caper’

 

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Review: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

A narrative computer game, derisively called a ‘walking simulator’. EGttR is as long-winded as its name, painfully slow to play with no meaningful interaction.

There’s zero point to this being a computer game or interactive experience since it isn’t really an interactive experience in any meaningful way. It would have been better as a film, radio-play or miniseries.

Pretty though.

Style: 4/5
Substance: 1/5
Overall: 2.5

Looking back on a Year of ‘Gooberglob’

bannerOver a year ago now I heard there was some kind of scandal involving Zoe Quinn. I was concerned for a number of reasons, not least of all that – as a depressive – I had been promoting Depression Quest as a way to help non-depressed people understand what it could be like. I’d bigged up her ‘game’ a number of times, I’d supported her against what seemed to just be ‘haters’ and I’d even contributed to her fund when she was mugged. So when this came up I was, initially, concerned for Zoe and secondarily concerned that I might have been backing and supporting someone who wasn’t what they appeared to be.

I briefly logged on to the infamous IRC chat that was discussing this to try and get more information, got a few links and comments and went looking around.

While I was getting to the bottom of things, it all kicked off.

It was obvious that there were problems here and while the sex scandal aspect gave people some prurient ‘lulz’ it was also clear that there was potentially a serious problem with regard to the games media. A problem that raised questions that needed to be answered.

We all knew games media was rubbish, biased and agenda-laden, but ‘being crap’ is not necessarily the same thing as being corrupt. We already knew that games media was full of bribery, threats and so on that were skewing reviews (the average review score is 7/10, not 5/10, showing part of the problem), but people had largely adapted to this and become suspicious.

Here, however, we had indie developers, who had been held up as the wave of the future for a new, more moral, more ‘progressive’ games world, showing to be just as riddled with conflicts of interest and other ethical issues as anyone else. This was only confirmed by the rampant censorship of discussion about these issues – by the games the media that was under scrutiny – and the steadfast refusal of anyone in a position to do so to address the issues. Instead the whole thing was reframed into the existing (also overblown) narrative of online harassment and (also overblown) hostility to women in technology, which was nothing to do with anyone’s concerns.

The ‘Gamers are Dead’ onslaught and the revelation of the GameJournoPros email list – and the shenanigans that went on there – only upped the ante and are the things that really launched Gamergate into a full blown event and ‘movement’. It’s also what exposed further corruption and got people digging and boy, did they find a lot of things that were wrong.

For me, though, Gamergate is merely one aspect of a much bigger culture war. It’s a microcosm of the broader issues where it’s ‘reals versus feels’, where genuine, very real and honest concerns about corruption and bad practice get misrepresented as misogyny and where that mere accusation is SO powerful that even after concerns have been vindicated by the Society for Professional Journalism, that misogyny and harassment narrative continues to be pushed.

The broader battle is similar, one of a rift and a split on the political ‘left’ between left-libertarian values (classical liberalism) and left-authoritarian values (what you might call an extreme version of progressivism).

Classical values of individual autonomy, choice, freedom of expression, artistic freedom, the value of reason and enquiry are not exactly being challenged, but being misrepresented by people who cannot see past identity politics – what a person is – to actions – who a person is.

  • Gamergate wants ethical games journalism, and because some of the people they are concerned about are women they get tarred with a misogyny brush and shuffled into the ‘women in tech’ and ‘online harassment’ arguments, which are not what it is about.
  • Sam Harris wants to criticise Islamic ideology and theology and to discuss the possibility of applying reason to questions of morality and ethics. He gets called a racist and ‘islamophobe’.
  • Are you concerned about artistic freedom? Then you’re everything from a misogynist and racist to a rape apologist.

And so it goes, politics, art, music, fashion, comics, games, television, movies, science fiction fandom, writing. Everywhere there are these emotive attacks that bypass reason and force the moderate, intellectual side of the debate onto the defensive (because who wants to be called a racist, right?)

The discourse is damaged to the point of being virtually irreparable. Universities have become safe spaces, in that they’re now safe from the ravages of intelligent thought and free enquiry and those same, highly damaging ‘values’ are being imposed everywhere else.

To me, then, after a year, buoyed up by seeing Gamergate vindicated I see a chink of light in the clouds. A possibility that, perhaps, reform and change is possible not just in games, but everywhere. Those attacks no longer have the power they once did. We know we’re not sexist, racist, bigoted or whatever else might be thrown at us and without that power over us what reason remains to take these extremists seriously?

It has been a tough year. It’s cost me friends who bought into and couldn’t see past the harassment/sexism narrative to the truth. It has cost me work – I should have been anon. I’ve been censored, vilified, driven to the point of suicide by lies, libel and genuine harassment. There’s plenty of people who don’t understand and make no effort to understand but, on the other side of things I have made many new friends, found a like-minded community of brilliant, mutually supportive and very creative people and I’ve participated in making a huge positive change in games and beyond.

Moving post-gamergate – and I intend to cut down my direct participation after #GGinBrum I think the best takeaway is to start doing more positive things as part of this new community that has emerged in games – and further afield. Ignore the crazies and ‘get shit done’ because if there’s one thing we really have learned about the opposition, it’s that they don’t really make or do much of anything, and what they do make or do isn’t successful.

Perhaps that’s how we win in the broader context.

Do stuff.

 

#RPG – New Podcast Out: Game School

cropped-GameSchool_Banner

Disclosure: I dare to call Satine my friend, she’s on the podcast, has done some work with me (Machinations of the Space Princess) and I consider her an all-round awesome human being. Plus she’s hotter than jerked Azer. I don’t know Chad Parish from Adam though.

There’s a new podcast series out that is, essentially, a ‘review show’ but the format is something different and awesome.

The hosts (Satine Phoenix and Chad Parish) get a designer on, talk about their game, go over some of the design principles and ideas and then go over how to make a character and play a short bit of the game – a couple of scenes – to show how it works in play.

It’s a novel and fantastic way to get across both the essence of a game and the intentions of the designer and I heartily recommend listening in.

Linkypooh HERE.

#Gamergate Vindicated at Airplay

CMenzR7VEAAiqCpHere’s some initial thoughts on what went down at SPJAirplay and it should be read or viewed even by people who are sick of the whole thing or have written it off as a misogynistic hate movement.

The Society of Professional Journalists held an event in Florida, part of which was a separate event to discuss Gamergate. Gamergate representatives were chosen by popular votes on Chans, Reddit and Twitter and anti-Gamergate… refused to come. Even with offers of having their way paid, despite any and all inducements to do so. This may have been a tactical mistake.

In its final form the event became more like a panel of Gamergate involved people, trying to explain to conventional journalists a) what Gamergate was b) why it was more important than it seemed and c) why the media had failed so hard to report well on it.

There were two panels, the first explanatory and giving examples of some of the ethical breaches Gamergate has been concerned with, the second supposedly to try and find solutions and new practices, though the second panel was very poorly handled by the moderator and then interrupted by a ‘credible bomb threat’ (according to the local police department).

The event was simultaneously a huge vindication of everything Gamergate has stood for and argued, and a disappointment.

Gamergate’s ethical concerns regarding cronyism, corruption and collusion were agreed upon to be unethical, chuckles were had at the expense of Gawker Media (and others) and Gamergate got a well-earned morale boost and stamp of legitimacy from the SPJ.

This was a win.

The more frustrating part was the second panel. Panellists Cathy Young, Milo Yiannopoulos and Christina Sommers tried to explain Gamergate contextually by reference to other problems and other, similar movements (such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter) but kept getting shut down before they could make their points, by the moderator.

It seemed obvious to me what they were trying to establish:

  1. That these issues are serious issues not just in games journalism.
  2. That it is possible to report on these issues in a more sensitive and balanced fashion.
  3. That these were, perhaps, more understandable and analogous situations via which conventional journalists might be able to understand Gamergate.

To take one example that the moderator seemed very keen to avoid, the problem of radical feminist influence on media in general and with special reference to Rolling Stone’s rape-reporting scandal the issue of blindly believing what you’re told, reporting it as true and causing a great many people a great deal of harm on the back of irresponsible reporting is obvious and a window into the sort of biased, activism-distorted reporting that has plagued discussion on Gamergate.

Thwarted at every turn trying to make these points, via constant interruptions from the moderator (who I think was trying to fill in for the lack of anti-Gamergate) the conversation finally had to turn to more simplistic examples of better ways to report on internet affairs… only to be interrupted by a bomb threat.

Every precaution had been taken, the police had been pre-warned of hoax bomb threats but this final one – the tenth – containing details on the venue and other warning signs, was enough that the police had to act. Everyone was evacuated out into the terrible heat and continued the discussion in smaller groups wherever shelter could be found.

Videos of those discussions haven’t emerged yet, but hopefully these small group discussions were productive.

The bomb threat was likely simply third party trolls, upping the ante having been shut out of the chats on streams and so forth. Another high possibility for me would be the conspiracy theorists who have – unfortunately – been lurking around Gamergate since Common Core and DARPA were mentioned. We shall see if anyone ever gets caught for these hoaxes though. It’s probably best not to speculate too much.

Something has changed though.

Gamergate is vindicated as an ethics/consumer movement.

Some parts of the media are now reporting more sympathetically.

The spin of anti-Gamergate on Airplay, and older events, is now ringing even more hollow.

The Gamergate meeting in Birmingham will likely be the endcap on my more active participation. Many of Gamergate’s goals have now been met and with Airplay I think Gamergate can smugly consider itself – rightly – legitimised and vindicated.

Gamergate won the war, on all fronts, and now there needs to be a negotiated peace. Hopefully we can continue what’s started with SPJAirplay – a conversation instead of a confrontation, a move to understanding and mutual tolerance that hasn’t been possible so long as Gamergate has been blamed for the actions of trolls and while ideologues have cowered behind automated block lists.

I hope some people will join me in trying to start conversations, and I hope some on the other side (rather than simply neutral people and journalists) will contribute.

Pax.

#RPG – Five Fingers Card Game (Four Captains)

Rooftop-ChaseI came up with a quick and dirty card game for use in the gambling houses of Five Fingers and thought I’d share it.

The game is called ‘Four Captains’ and uses a normal set of cards with Ace’s low and Kings high.

A = ‘Scrub’
1-10 = ‘Crew’
J = ‘Mate’
Q = ‘Wench’
K = ‘Captain’

The aim is to get as many of the same card as you can in your hand with value of the card breaking ties.

Single
Double
Triple
Quadruple
Four Captains (if you play a four captains – called a New Captain), the other players must all pay you the ante-value from their stash).

Play

Draw cards to determine who is dealer, after this play passes to the left each round. The dealer has advantage.

  1. The ante (typically 1, 2 or 10 gold crowns is placed in the pot. The dealer must pay double the ante).
  2. Dealer deals out four cards face down to each player.
  3. Players may fold at this point, forfeiting their ante. Their cards are placed on the bottom of the deck.
  4. Players determine which cards they are going to discard and all are discarded face up near the pot in the centre of the table.
  5. Starting with the dealer, each player may draw from the face-up cards (seen) or the deck (unseen) to try and better their hand.
  6. Starting with the dealer again, each player may choose to up the ante by its initial value, going around the table, until it cycles back to the dealer again. They may also choose to fold, on their turn, if they do they no longer have to ante up (they do if anyone before them antes up) and their cards are placed on the bottom of the deck.
  7. The hands are revealed and the winner takes the pot.
  8. The cards are put together, shuffled and the dealership passes to the left.

EG: Abelard, Bogrot, Calista and Delbot are playing Four Captains.

Abelard wings the dealer position on a draw and all toss their ante into the pot (1GC with Abelard having to pay an extra coin). The pot now stands at 5GC.

Each tosses cards face up into the middle, ready to redraw.

Abelard tosses a 6, 7 and 8 from his hand, leaving him with a Jack. He knows he’ll get to draw first so there’s not a lot of point him being sneaky, he could take these cards back if he needed them.

After the others toss their cards the pile contains…

4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9

Abelard gets to draw back first. If he takes the two 8s that gives him the highest visible pair, so he goes for it and takes both. That’s enough to win based on what he knows is out there, so for his last missing card he draws from the stack – and draws a King. He now knows he has a pair of eights, the highest visible cards, and that the most Kings anyone could have is three.

Bogrot draws two cards blind.

So does Calista

Delbot takes both the sevens.

Abelard knows that there wouldn’t be any point drawing the sevens – as his eights beat them – unless Delbot had one already. So he could be facing three sevens, or it could be a bluff…

Abelard doesn’t up the ante, but he doesn’t fold.

Bogrot folds, showing his hand, best he had was a King.

Calista folds, all she had was an 8.

Abelard’s heart sinks as Delbot ups the ante, forcing both of them to put a coin into the pot, raising it to 7 GC.

They both reveal their hands.

Abelard has a pair of 8s, a Jack and a King.

Delbot has three 7s and an eight.

Delbot wins ans scrapes in the pot.

Dealership passes to Bogrot.

The game is partly satirical, making fun of the machinations and paranoia of the four High Captains, the shifting alliances and advantage and disadvantage.

As the game has spread beyond Four Fingers it has changed its name to ‘Four Kingdoms’, referring to Cygnar, Khador, Ord and Cryx, though which Kingdoms are named varies wildly from nation to nation.

(More information on gambling is in No Quarter issue 7, and it says the decks – at least in The Galleon are blades, wheels, anchors and skulls).

DTRPG/RPGNOW Hack

Just a signal boost in case anyone was unaware, and having had my identity and money stolen in the past – better to be safe than sorry.

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