#RPG – Tales of Gor – The Turian Gambit RELEASED

221585Buy it HERE in PDF
Buy it HERE in hardcopy

Long ago something precious was hidden amongst the wagon people to keep it safe. Now it seems something else – a key to the Game of Worlds – may be hidden amongst the savage and vicious people of the Plains of Turia.

This booklet contains an adventure, heavy on tribalism, diplomacy, and ingratiation, as well as additional rules for chases and pursuits – as well as the games of the Wagon People.

Ta Sardar Gor!

Inside #Gamergate Hardcopy RELEASED.

Gamergate coverYou can now purchase Inside Gamergate at Lulu.com

Check the Lulu.com front page for discount codes, you can enter LULU20 at the moment  (September 2017) for 20% off.

The hardcopy book will also be available through Amazon – and potentially other sites – in the next 6-8 weeks.

Meanwhile, if you prefer the ebook version, you can also get that via Amazon HERE.

Please leave reviews wherever you buy it and on independent sites like Goodreads. This is an independent publication and relies on your goodwill and word of mouth to get out there.

While you’re at it, check out our cover artist’s sexy Patreon.

 

#RPG – Word Wizards RELEASED!

An RPG based around using words to complete tasks, rather than using mathematics. Compatible with popular word-tile games and great for learning spelling and vocabulary in a game setting.

Designed to encourage the use of words and to help kids with language the way many games help with mathematics, Word Wizards should help with vocabulary, spelling and teaching about synonyms.

Buy it HERE

Hardcopy can be purchased HERE.

#TheTriggering – Commemorative Discounts!

triggeredThe Triggering is a social media event (#TheTriggering) proposed by libertarian commenter and reporter Lauren Southern as a sort of ‘online demonstration’ in favour of free speech and free expression and to raise awareness of Social Justice Warrior interference and threats to those fundamental human rights and to a free internet. Lauren knows better than many the kind of problems that face free speech advocates having both been thrown out of a protest for staging a counter-protest and, more recently, being assaulted (with a bottle of urine no less) for having a different opinion.

The ‘public square’ is increasingly in private hands and under private control, but is also being used by proxy to censor and control opinion. Whether it’s Twitter’s dubiously Orwellian ‘Trust and Safety’ council or Zuckerberg cooperating with the German government to suppress negative stories about immigration, we have to admit that there is an issue and it’s an issue that has been thrown into sharp relief by the conflicts on college and university campuses and the febrile atmosphere surrounding almost any piece of entertainment that intersects – however fractionally – with PC hotbutton issues.

You don’t have to agree with people to agree that they have a right to speak. I’m a left-anarchist and a pragmatic socialist, yet I support Lauren Southern’s right to espouse her Libertarian ideals. I worry about the demonisation of immigrants, but I believe people have a right to express their concerns about that (and genuinely worrying stories are being suppressed there too). There’s suggestions recently that media companies, including social media companies, are going to collude to exclude and undermine Trump now. I would gladly gnaw my own leg off if it would prevent Trump being president, but he has a right to express whatever opinions are most popular at the time and will win him votes. That’s democracy, that’s freedom, that’s the principle of free speech.

I’ve made games and presented ideas that people find objectionable and I’ve been censored, pilloried, boycotted and banned for it (or, more often, for ideas that people have assigned to me) so I’m presenting some of those ideas (games) under discount to participate in #TheTriggering because not only have these games ‘triggered’ people, but shilling a product on a hashtag will ‘trigger’ a whole other set of people.

Exercise your free speech and free expression today. Say something controversial. Air an opinion that might upset someone. Buy some porn, read 1984 or Huckleberry Finn, post a ‘problematic’ joke. Flex those rights and shake the tree, see who actually believes in free speech and who doesn’t.

And for those SJWs blocking the tag, or anyone that posts on it… you’re proving that we don’t need censorship and that you’re capable of maintaining your challenge-free bubble all by yourselves. You’re also proving the need for this event – which I hope becomes as annually celebrated as Draw Mohammed Day.

***

DISCOUNTED GAMES FOR #THETRIGGERING

Discounts are available for 48 hours ONLY, ending on the 11th of March.

The Little Grey Book [Pay What You Want]: A simple party game that plays off the hypercritical panopticon of social media.

Hentacle [Marked down to $2.50]: A comedy print-and-play card game of tentacle rape, which is such an absurd concept it’s just inherently laughable. Apparently some people fear for the welfare of drawings and genuinely fear being molested by cephalopods. #TeachOctopiNotToRape

Cthentacle [Marked down to $2.50]: A slightly different and simpler/faster version of Hentacle, but with a Cthulhu theme and many, many horrendous Lovecraftian puns. Of note is that poor, dead racist HP Lovecraft’s head used to be used as the World Fantasy Award prize, but this was changed due to conerns about his racism. Short of a visit by Herbert West I don’t really see how Lovecraft’s racism could really be a problem for anyone any more. He’s dead. Then again #RhodesMustFall so apparently we have to erase history and ignore influential figures for wrongthink. Down the memory hole…

Privilege Check [Marked down to $2.00]: The less privileged you are… the more privileged you are. This was the basic hypocrisy behind ‘the progressive stack’ which came to prominence during the Occupy movement. Equality, apparently, is not a good way to treat people and the best way to cure *ism is to be *ist. Irony is missing from a lot of dictionaries it seems. This game triggered the hell out of a lot of people when it came out and it’s a bluffing/tactical card game that mocks the progressive stack.

Gamergate Card Game [No discount, sorry!]: This was SO triggering that it, unlike the material above, was censored off my usual sales site. This despite it containing no graphic depictions of tentacle sex, nor any off colour jokes about racial/gender/etc politics the way Privilege Check does. Just invoking the name of the consumer revolt was sufficient to bring down a gang of crybabies to get it taken down.

If you’re interested in our other products, though none are really as controversial, you can grab our catalogues, which make it easier to find stuff than using the site navigation.

#Gamergate – For Great Ethics Versus Against SocJus – FIGHT!

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The guy with the horse penis is the broader context.

With so many enemies now crushed and defeated beneath Gamergate’s armoured boots, with increased ethics all around and with the separate but related victory of Chairman Pao being removed by the glorious counter-revolutionary wing of the Reddit Revolt, GG seems to have turned in on itself a bit and a divide that has been felt before (with the exit of Internet Aristocrat and others) has reared its head up again.

Are we fighting for ethics in game journalism – and ONLY ethics in game journalism, or are we fighting against the authoritarian censors of the Social Justice mob? What is appropriate to post on the tag and what isn’t?

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way quickly first.

  1. You can’t control the hashtag. People can and will post whatever the fuck they want on it. You can’t control other people’s output, only your own. If someone spams a lot of stuff you’re not interested in, mute them or something. Jesus. This isn’t difficult.
  2. Proposing a new hashtag is going to go down like a cup of cold sick. There’s strength in unity and some shitposting, spam and off-topic or semi off-topic material isn’t the end of the world. By all means, go make a new tag if you like (#mediagate was tried, I believe) but it’s unlikely to garner the same traction and impetus that #Gamergate has.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at the ethics part.

The fact is, games media has been corrupt since forever with in-house magazines, bribery, extortion, threats (mostly coming from distributors and publishers rather than studios, to be fair) and because this was the status quo people kind of navigated around it while quietly seething. This was financial corruption, where threats and money are used to protect and further the bottom line.

This was all ‘background radiation’ to Gamergate, what made it achieve critical mass was a different kind of corruption. Political corruption and agenda pushing, initially exposed via Literally Who’s sexual shenanigans but much, much bigger than that. Political corruption is when threats, coercion, ideological naivety, bribery and shaming are used to push an agenda and socially engineer.

What, I think, made this blow up so hard was that the indie scene (like many other indie scenes in music, tabletop games and elsewhere) had become synonymous with activism, not independence. The kinds of people making these activist, high-concept games were looking down on popular games and their audiences (as exemplified recently with the meltdown of hate and arrogance from  Tale of Tales when their housework simulator failed to excite audiences). When people looking down on and criticising you for your moral failings turn out to have feet of clay, people get understandably upset at the hypocrisy.

One of the greatest tragedies of all this, for me, is that it was a massive missed opportunity for games media to sort its life out. Here was a massive consumer uprising which could have been leveraged against those companies offering bribes, threatening to remove early access, bullying for higher scores AND to assert press neutrality against egregious ideological corruption. Backing, using or surfing Gamergate could have allowed the press to assert themselves – with popular backing – against distributors, publisher and PR flacks and could have been used to regain trust.

But no.

And that exposes the first part of the problem in trying to separate these issues into two separate things. The big reason the games media didn’t do the right thing here is because whole wings of it ARE SocJus and that is seemingly the entirety of their identity and raison d’etre. When you ask for them to act ethically you’re asking for them to act against their core beliefs and personal identity. As we’ve seen, many think the ends justify the means and many think opposing their means, means that Gamergate is against their ends (Gamergate is not anti-diversity, anti-women etc, it is broadly very liberal on these things as a whole. It just values creative freedom higher and prefer organic, consenting change).

This entanglement of the ethical issues and the SocJus issues shows why the two are inseparable.

Another reason to include the fight against SocJus within Gamergate is that it builds alliances. There’s people in other communities who have, or are, facing the same kinds of issues that Gamergate has, from Sad Puppies in fiction, to ConsultantGate in tabletop gaming (and everything around it). There’s issues of this sort all over the place and things are starting to turn. Just as with Gamergate itself, internally, we’re stronger together.

Another aspect to this is that a lot of these other enterprises feed into games.

If writers are suffering in this way, generally, then writing for games will suffer by extension.

If artists are suffering in this way, generally, then art assets for games will suffer by extension.

If the internet becomes more controlled and legislated, then games are harder to sell and may fall afoul of the same legislation.

If shops are pressured into censorship then the same applies – and this is doubly true of online sales platforms and payment processors.

Let’s try an analogy.

Say your local political situation is horribly corrupt. The local council is full of shills for companies and they’ve all been bought off.

Voting them out won’t really solve the issue, money can buy whoever else is elected.

Changing the rules could work, but it’s almost impossible to change the rules in a system that is already corrupt.

Say you do manage to change the rules. Congratulations, you now have ‘ethics in local government’, but there’s still financial corruption everywhere else. Contractors that the government uses, the unions, companies are still offering bribes at every level, interest groups are still lobbying – sometimes via underhanded means, and on a national level the parties are still compromised – and they select the candidates.

Only fixing ‘local government finance sourcing’ does practically fuck all to repair the broader issue.

To point to another, analagous example, unwinding the Satanic Panic of the 80s  (we’re now in an Ism Panic) came about because everyone came to reject it. The groups being attacked and smeared, the media, the science. There was a broad group – if not a full-on alliance – of people all saying ‘this is bollocks’, and they were able to prove it.

Trying to separate these two strands is impossible, because just as the threats to gaming used to come from a broader cultural movement of the religious right, now it comes from the authoritarian left. If you want ethical journalism and free expression, you have to take an holistic approach to understanding it.

If you don’t want to, then don’t, but you’re not going to be able to stop anyone else anyway – so the whole discussion is fucking pointless.

#GamesSoWhite – Are they really? Why?

ACLiberation-Aveline_CoverArtI have a crashing headache so now may not be the best time to get into this, a lot of it is also going to be repetition of old points, but still, I think it’s worth weighing in.

This hashtag, and topic, is bait – not intended to create or sustain any intelligent discussion about the issue but rather to stir people up. The writer, Tauriq Moosa, associated with the tag (and The Guardian) appears profoundly ignorant of the actual diversity in games or the reasons why it’s not even more diverse.

So let’s actually look at some of the surrounding issues about diversity in games and try to look at why things are the way they are and how they might be changed – if they even need to be.

Why are Games Predominantly White?

Jared Diamond attributes western dominance, very simply put, to ‘Guns, Germs & Steel’. In terms of games you can attribute this to ‘Demography, Technology & Money’.

First world nations are predominantly white (Japan and Korea being two notable exceptions). First world nations have the technological infrastructure, money and access to personal technology on an affordable basis to support a gaming industry.

DIR_PurnaMany European nations are also much more racially homogeneous than the United States is, even the UK – pretty cosmopolitan – is around 90% white while the USA is around 75% white and Poland – focus of recent ire – is almost entirely white with white minorities rather than ‘persons of colour’ in its population, the Romani people not necessarily being treated very well across Eastern Europe.

So, aside from the obvious exception of the first-world Pacific nations, most games are produced by western, predominantly white nations by a process of simple demography. As such they stem from the ‘white point of view’, if such a thing can even be described. Remember, ‘whiteness’ is many different cultures. Just as it would be racist and ignorant to assume ‘Africa’ to be one single culture it would be racist to assume that the life experience or culture of a Scottish Islander has any real similarities to that of a Romanian Tatar.

Diversity is more than colour.

So, we have majority white populations. They’re going to produce more programmers, artists, designers – and consumers – by simple virtue of weight of numbers. Western, white-majority nations also have greater access to the technology, both to produce things, provide infrastructure and to make the necessarily technology available. The last factor is money, which ties into technology but which is worth looking at by itself.

Money exacerbates the problem in a number of additional ways. Minority communities are often poorer, which means they have less access to education and technology even in otherwise advanced nations. While social advancement is easier for people from poor backgrounds in Europe than it is in the US (democratic socialism) it’s still not as good as it could be. This combines with the white demographic dominance to make even less opportunities for people from minority communities.

This is a problem, but it’s not one really soluble by games companies.

Sheva-Official-Render-Rear-View-sheva-alomar-20099937-570-1100Why isn’t there more Diversity?

I say ‘more’, because there actually is a lot of diversity. This is why gamers get annoyed and upset when they’re told that their hobby is racist or sexist. They can give you a huge litany of diverse race and gender representations in games, but you have to be into games to know how ignorant it is to assume and presume that they are not diverse. This is not helped by ‘white saviour’ hipster kids playing up the supposed problem to – seemingly – profit from it.

So not ‘why aren’t games diverse?’ but ‘why aren’t games more diverse?’

In the previous section I covered a huge part of that – simple demography. Minority populations are called minorities for a reason, so simply by population weighting you would expect less designers and artists. Minorities also tend to be poorer, further reducing opportunity.

This we all know, if we’re honest, and we know it’s not really something that’s the responsibility of companies to address.

There are other social and financial pressures at work as well, and paradoxically the ‘hipster saviours’ may well be making things worse, not better.

There’s a catch 22 when it comes to minority representation. If you present a minority in your game you’ll be accused of stereotyping, doing it wrong, even cultural appropriation. If you don’t present a minority in your game, you’ll be accused of racism. If you do include a minority (or female) representation everything that character says, does or has happen to it will be placed under intense scrutiny. The (tempting) way to minimise this is to go for a standard white-male protagonist, since nobody much cares what happens to them and the racism accusations probably have the least bite or traction (or at least get more evenly distributed).
Alyx_Vance_2_by_SG_KatanAAdvertising/PR consultants and ‘social justice warriors’ have a belief in common which, seemingly according to research – gamers don’t share. Both PR people and SJWs both believe that representation matters. Gamers don’t seem to care as much (according to DiGRA research) about what their character is, they’re focussed on completing the game. PR and SJW however both think it matters a great deal. If firms could accept the fact representation doesn’t matter that much to their audience we’d probably see more diversity. So long as PR think it does matter, there’ll be pressure to pander to the majority audience, which for the big, showy titles remains stubbornly white and male. SJWs only make this worse by insisting that representation matters, enforcing the idea that catering to one is excluding another. If there’s millions of dollars at stake, why would you risk turning off your majority audience? That’s not good business sense.

Fixing the ‘Problem’

I’m not convinced there is a problem here. People who really know about games can point to countless examples of representation and the audience doesn’t much seem to care. I’d like to get some hard data on the racial breakdown of video-game buyers (USA stats would probably be the most useful) so if anyone has a link to any that would help. We do have stats on gender which is placed at 50/50, suggesting there’s no real problem there at all.

tumblr_me98p9Ost01rm9fh5o1_500Let’s assume there is a problem, or at least that we want to socially invest in minority communities because regardless of anything else we want to help people out – simply because it’s the right thing to do.

The only way to really make a difference here is to deal with the problem root and branch. Fund coding classes or after-school game design courses in public schools. Create scholarships. Continue the democratisation of gaming via the indie scenes. We don’t need blue-haired white hipsters banging on about diversity, we need to support the diverse creators that are out there.

We also need to change the way we go about things. Praise games and companies that are inclusive, rather than attacking the games and companies that we think are not. People will only dig in and resist to protect their creative freedom – as they should – and gamers will only react angrily to people ignorantly calling them racist. American diversity campaigners also need to learn a little more about European history and geography, before they open their mouths and fling insults.

Let’s also not forget that diversity doesn’t make a game good.

At the end of it all everyone needs to retain their free expression. Box-ticking on diversity quotas doesn’t make a better game. Allowing the artist to pursue their vision is much more likely to. If we are to do anything we need to create situations in which more diverse artists have the opportunity to express themselves, and we need to be a lot less judgemental of people creating games outside their own culture.

The future’s already here, it’s just unevenly distributed – to quote Gibson.

On a personal note there are many mythologies and subjects I would like to delve into, such as Indian mythology or alternative history around America’s history of slavery, but even I find myself self-censoring because I know the kinds of negative reactions I would get – despite the fact these settings would increase diversity.

I’m sure there’s others like me.

Mature conversation welcome in the comments!

Pax.

Appendix:

I did some back-of-an-envelope figures on the racial demography of the top selling (UK) games of 2014 as reported in Metro UK.

From the top selling (UK) games of 2014
35% race wasn’t applicable – either due to being sports/team games, non-human protaganists or unknown protaganists (cars).
65% had human/humanoid protagonists where race was applicable.

Of that 65%
50.77%% had white protaganists.
18.46% had PoC protaganists.
32.31% had customisable/choice of protaganists including PoC

As previously mentioned, the UK is around 90% white, so as far as representation of population goes this isn’t so bad,at all (though Japanese people may be highly overrepresented!).

What we do seem to be seeing is a continuing trend towards customisable protagonists which includes just about anyone.

I should note that in assigning this I stuck to single-player campaigns. Many games have online multiplayer with racially customisable characters but that isn’t reflected here.

#RPG Fistful of Horror 1: RELEASED!

Continuing in the tradition of the 100 Adventure Seeds books and Fistful of Fantasy, comes Fistful of Horror, five one-page game inspiration ideas with the legend, the truth and three or more story ideas for your games.

In this booklet:

The Seven: An horrific circus with seven rings, one for each circle of hell.

She Keeps Her Council: Something evil and manipulative squats in a squalid sink estate, a no-go area where the police will never investigate. Its power grows.

Beauty Never Fades: Most strip clubs are tacky, horrid, disappointing places. Not this one, but what could motivate such beauty to work at such a small, hidden place for – seemingly – little reward.

Hand and Fist: A pair of demon hunters, on the run from the law – who don’t believe the occult even exists. These men are heroes to the occult underground and rely on them to support them and hide them, but they’re not what they seem.

Windows to the Soul: What if madness is contagious? What if the murderous impulse is alive and has a destructive will of its own?

You can get it HERE.