Hey internet I’m a huge COMEDY BANG! BANG! fan, and somehow that has led to me illustrating 46 characters that Bob Ducca (AKA Seth Morris) mentioned in episode 234 of the podcast. I hope you like them! xoxo
Detective Frank Shark.
I brought four games to Metatopia to test, was on two panels, and played in a few playtests (along with a bunch of downtime play of existing games and some drinking.)
HEAT and INSIDE JOKE are my two games that my tests largely confirmed that these games are done and just need a home.
SPELL DICE functioned well, but has some pacing issues that the playtesters honed in on. I have some ideas to try from their feedback (while keeping the components largely the same.) It also gets me closer to a title and theme I’m happy with.
HOBO FUN TIME ADVENTURE GAME is the further from being done. As my “high test” game session that likewise is at a make or break portion, it definitely needs work. I’m going to try a few things that were suggested during that session, and if it still doesn’t click, it’ll probably be shelved.
PLAYTESTING BRUTALLY: A small panel co-run by myself and . I thought it went very well and I’m really looking forward to releasing the recording of the panel. We did not make any of our audience cry from brutality, however.
RPG DEVELOPMENT: The convention wrapped up with this panel from and . In addition to just talking about the role, I think we really delved into some very functional topics like outlining, working with freelancers, wearing multiple hats at a small company, and who gets the final say over text. Another one that I think will be very valuable to have out there.
NEW GAME OF THE SHOW: 's Five Fires. If you were at the convention you probably heard this too. I think Quinn has 80% of a good game in its very initial form, which is both the good news and the bad news. I’ve never played a game before where your character builds a portfolio through play.
EXISTING GAME OF THE SHOW: Band or Album.
TO: Critical Hits Staff
Subject: Article submission on your blog “http://www.critical-hits.com/”
I’m Alice from “India”. I am a blogger and writer.
I’d love to write a concise overview of the “Games”, and I can tell you that most people have never heard of it!
Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll send over a draft for review.
[SNIP sample article about entirely unrelated topic and contact info, including links to Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter, all with usernames that no one would pick for themselves]
It’s National Suicide Prevention Month. This is a cause that means a lot to me. This is one reason why.
The second (out of three) universities I would eventually attend was Miami University, and in many ways, it was the most influential on me and my academics. Part of the reason I went there specifically was the Western College Program, one of the most well-regarded interdisciplinary programs in the country (especially compared to my previous university, whose interdisciplinary program consisted of “take whatever classes you want, I guess.”)
Western College Program had its own section of campus, and could loosely be described by both its student body and curriculum, as “hippy school.” Of course, that was where I decided I should be.
One of my early classes was called “Land & Struggle” featuring one of the most all-over-the-place, useless/fascinating courses I’ve ever experienced. Trying to write a paper about Frolov the Russian farmer- while not being able to allude to all the interesting stuff going on in Russia at the same time- is one of the academic experiences most burned in my brain.
The final project was to be a group project with 3 other folks selected at random from the class. I knew two of my group members from another class, and the fourth I had talked to a few times in class, and I felt good that everybody in the group was hard-working, the most common pitfall of a group project being a pain. (You know what I’m talking about.)
The group project, for EVERY group, was going to be about Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has a really interesting story about how important the land is, both in the basics of farming to diamond trade, and how it’s wrapped up in colonial history and racial politics etc. A lot of that is still going on to this day.
This wasn’t just a research project: we were told to turn our research into some kind of “multimedia” presentation, like a webpage (and remember, this is back when web design was not as known a skill as now.) We were encouraged, repeatedly, to “think outside the box” on a presentation. Our group settled on a webpage, since I could code the thing, and frankly that seemed easiest.
Well, a few weeks into the project, we discovered that every single other group was doing a webpage too. All of them. The professor once again encouraged us to “think outside the box” in case any of us wanted to change. It wasn’t even my idea to change to a board game for our presentation, though you better believe I went for it.
A week before the presentation, the four of us are working in earnest. We have our research, including maps of which areas of Zimbabwe were good for agriculture, had diamond mines, were city centers, etc., perfect for transplanting onto a game board. We had a list of real events to turn into cards. I had come up with a set of game mechanics (really bad, like all my early stuff, with one or two twists I still like to this day.)
The Saturday before the presentation, we meet to discuss what we still need to do. We need a game board and pieces for the game, among other supplies, so the one guy I don’t know well is the only one among us with an easily accessible car, so he drives us to the Walmart near campus. For $20, split among us 4, we buy a copy of Risk. The guy who drove us offers to hang onto it, for some reason I don’t entirely remember. (I’m pretty sure he had some artistic plans for it.) We all agree to split with our supplies, get some more work done on our own, and reconvene Sunday evening.
I worked on printing out the cards, and cutting them, including some trips uptown to the copy center. (Good to know some things haven’t changed since college.) We reconvene as expected. Except…
There are only three of us. A group member says to me: there’s a rumor going around that the one who is not there has died. The meeting is short, where we discuss next steps. None of us wants to think about it being real.
Our class meets the next morning. I am late. Everyone is somber. I had forgotten the rumor, but it all comes rushing back. Shit. It turns out to be true.
We meet with the professor after class. She offers us more time if we need it. I sheepishly ask for $20 because he had our Risk set and we needed it for the project, and we weren’t going to ask his family but were also poor college students. Without any protest, she hands us the money.
We replace the Risk set. We make the board and the cards like we all discussed previously. We acquire Zimbabwean music, which was one of the jobs our missing group member had volunteered for, and insisted on.
In the middle of the week, there’s a wake, and a subsequent funeral. I attend the wake because it’s uptown and I can walk there, and the funeral is opposite a class during finals. I barely know anyone at the wake, just a few classmates, who I don’t know too well. The pictures and documents there paint a brief picture: he was older than many of us, in his mid-twenties, having some spent some time in the army before going back to college.
I overhear his mom talking to a family friend: “Is it true he had a heart attack?” The mom responds, with much more composure than I would have in that situation, “No. He had a lot of sadness in his heart.” There’s a few rumors about specifics, but that’s the extent of real details I get. On Saturday morning, he was with us. By Sunday morning, he had taken his own life. He drove away with our copy of Risk and we never saw either of them again.
Days later, we’re the last group to present. The other groups present all their final projects (AKA their webpages.) One group takes a different spin, focusing specifically on the plight of women in Zimbabwe and their relation to the land, as well as having the best looking webpage through using a lot of haunting photography. The other three webpages are, well, generic webpages.
We’re last. We explain how our lost group member really wanted music, and play it while presenting. We show the game board and explain all the research that went into it. We go through some of the cards based around historical events. We talk briefly about the mechanics, and how it models the choice between taking land from earlier settlers violently and the consequences of that, or by trying to peacefully evict them at a higher difficulty. (That’s the mechanic I still like.) The game is never played.
It turns out half of our final grade is determined by the other groups, the other half by the professor. We end up with a B-. The other groups panned us. Comments accused us of “trivializing the struggle in Zimbabwe by making it into a game” and “not doing enough research.” The professor liked us better, opting for a B, and probably feeling a bit sorry for us, unlike the rest of our class. I guess that’s the price of “thinking outside the box.” Our group grumbles, and the whole things feels petty given the circumstances, but ultimately, we’re stuck with the results.
And that was it. The game stayed in my possession for a few years, until I stripped it for parts and tossed it in one of my many moves since. There was never any followup, no campus-wide email about our loss, and no memorial service on campus I ever saw.
I remember all these details, but I don’t remember his name at all, and have no real way to find out. Yet, I miss him.