Tag Archives: Gaming convention

Gaming Needs a Critical Langauge

In the most general sense, Gaming needs to have a Critical Language. Not just for board games, but some theory to encompass all of it. RPGs, Video Games, and everything in between. Gaming has become complex, intricate, and more and more reliant on psychology that simple analysis is no longer sufficient. Genre categorization has become less useful thanks to the blending and mutations that have happened in the last few years. Classic and iconic forms have become so deeply embedded into games as to become unrecognizable to most eyes.

Gaming and Games deserve more. A deeper understanding of the whole. A way to communicate to both the player and designer where what part went right or wrong and how. In saying this, you confront the central problem of any such endeavor; Where does one begin?

Gaming is a complex social activity which stands directly next to story-telling and like it, is probably one of the most basic forms of human interaction. Through games friends and families bond. Through games societies and cultures are expressed and challenged. In board games we find depths of strategy and maps of imaginary worlds to explore. Through RPGs we find the ability to explore our own psychologies and the safety to see if there’s not something else we’d like to be. But mostly we do such things because they’re supposed to be fun. We want some entertainment and respite from our everyday lives.

In this, I think we hit upon the first question that has to be satisfied in any analysis of a game: Was it fun to play?

That’s only the beginning. There is so much more to explore.

Part of having a good critical framework is that it gives you different ways to look at the subject. This means having meaningful categories which help in clarifying and inform about said subject. With games and gaming there are a thousand ways to examine them.  There are games which which rely on cards, ones which rely on dice, some that do both, and many which use neither. Games can use no random elements, games can use only random elements. What is meaningful in all of those differences? Which ones are useful?

And that’s only for a small subset of gaming. Video games are a different sort of game. Those games don’t always necessitate the same sort of interactions and have an entirely different basis of control. Likewise, RPGs have their own conventions and genres which require a separate analysis. None of this gets us any closer to the goal, however.

This leaves me with the impression that whatever happens, creating a critical theory, language, and framework is going to take a good amount of time and no small amount of effort. It is not a small thing, this.

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GenCon 2009

Gencon 2009 was very fun. While there were a few disappointments they did not detract from the overall experience. My wife and I went in well prepared, having learned from our first experience in 2007 and from going to DragonCon last year. Snacks, backup breakfasts, and various supplements came along. Left behind were all of the rpg books that are dead weight. Laptops were kept locked in safes back at the hotel, and only what we needed each day was taken along. It helped.

Wensday night brought the first disappointment after passes were picked up. The swag bag, a long traditional greeting of many a gaming convention serves both as an advertisement for the various vendors and companies attending, but also as a way for those running the con to thank all of those who paid to attend. This year’s consisted of several handfuls of postcards and single page fliers, an anemic coupon book, and finally a six pack of M:tG cards. There was much grumbling as people walked away from that line. In contrast, 2007′s swag bag had a starter deck of World of Warcraft’s CCG latest expansion, two full packs of M:tG cards, a pack of Axis & Allies minis, hundreds of flies, and a hefty coupon book.

However that did not diminish the fun. Thursday came too quickly and not quickly enough as we were up at the crack of dawn to get going. Friends needed to be at the con by 7:30 am and I had an 8:00 am seminar to attend. My time in seminars was split between writing ones and game design this year. I was able to get into the dealer’s room around 10:30 in the morning and it was a great feeling. Being there and in the middle of this wonderful gaming environment gave me goosebumps.

Of course that didn’t last very long. I shortly found out about the new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. The dice and cards and everything was put on display.

I need to put this out there: I am doing my best to keep an open mind about this new version of the game. However, I am disapointed in the lack of information about it. Likewise there is a absence of outreach to the many WFRP communities. Fantasy Flight, to their credit did hold several seminars at GenCon and has put those on the web for the curious. Hopefully those in charge will be relenting on the information hold and will soon allow those that have participated in the development to speak more about it.

The highlight of the day was getting to meet another gaming blog group, the Brilliant Gameologists. They were recording a podcast in one of the seminars. When it goes up, I’ll set a link here.

Friday was likewise busy with more seminars and a little bit of shopping. Saturday was the final two seminars and the L5R interactive. Unfortunately with the way events unfolded that day, I was unable to get to the costume parade or contest. So no pictures of that this year. By this point, everyone I was there with was exhausted. We passed the last few hours of Saturday with a bout of the new Pathfinder. It was nice to spin a few d20s before heading back to the hotel for one last night. Sunday morning was a slow affair. It started with a trip to a restaurant discovered on Wednesday night for one last meal. We did not reach the dealer’s hall until close to 11 that morning.  A couple of hours was spent running around picking up last minute buys. Dice, a new map grid, and a few games. Once upon a time, a storytelling card game published by Atlas Games, the Pathfinder core book, Forbidden Kingdoms, the d20 version and finally The Prince by Phalanx and Kragmortha (a Rigor Mortis game) published by Mayfair games.

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