Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Why They Hate Us

Cirsova has transcribed a fairly massive Geordie Tait interview. It’s interesting, but quite a lot to wade through, so I have pulled a few of the best bits out here for those that are interested. Even these excerpts are long, so pop some popcorn before you dig into this…!

Geordie Tait Interview Transcribed – Pt 1

KOP: Why is genocide ever justified, out of curiosity?

GT: Because these are literally evil people who are making people’s lives worse just by existing.

KOP: Okay, give me some examples, some links maybe, something I can show that these people are so evil that they needed to be genocided, at least something that would, you know, I can understand that, I can understand the concept of ‘Listen and Believe’, but I also understand the concept of ‘Trust but Verify’.

GT: Yup.

KOP: And I would want to trust it, but you’ve gotta verify it with me and everybody else, so that we understand that we are…

GT: I really think that, you know, I mean it’s so obvious to me, I just feel like you must not be looking for it.  You must be just ignoring 90% of what the members of gamergate say, cuz it’s…

KOP: I’m not, I’m just saying can I get some links and stuff to show to the chat why we’re, why gamergate, is evil?

GT: I could try and find some. I didn’t actually prepare any.  I could have.

KOP: No, no problem, we don’t have to rush it.  Just look while we talk, it’s no big deal.

GT: Alright, I’ll try.

Geordie Tait Interview Transcribed – Pt 2

GT: I believe that a lot of people.  When [Anita Sarkeesian] asked for X amount of money and then out of nowhere people donated – does anyone remember what the final number was?

KOP: It was a little over 100k, go ahead.

GT: A little over 100k which just blew everyone’s expectations out of the water.  Now, me personally, and a lot of other people that I talked to thought that that was a sign of a silent majority that were so tired of just the general bullshit having to do, y’know, the, of women in video games, the many different shortcomings that needed to be rectified to have them as in the positions narrative, and, uh, otherwise that they should be.  So that’s why she got all that money.  I’m sure she was completely surprised by it and I’m sure that she didn’t have the expertise to use $100,000.  But I don’t care.

KOP: I just have to say, though, getting money doesn’t make your ideology right.  Lenin killed and took over and created communism, but that didn’t mean communism was right just because people thought it was a good idea at the time.

GT: Well, I think she’s right.  I think she’s right, so…

KOP: That’s a fair assessment, but that doesn’t mean it is right, just means you think that.

GT: Jesus Christ, I know that, that’s common sense, but I think it’s right.

KOP: What does  that…

GT: Because I think it’s right, and morally correct and very important and because you’re… the gamergate organization generally is against her efforts, and you know, has tried to sabotage her in various ways or, you know, I don’t know what I would call it. I’ve got to apologize because my vocabulary is not where it should be, not only have I been awake for 24 hours…

KOP: It’s okay, man, you don’t have to.

GT: Okay, so, let me just finish my point.  Because I believe she’s right, absolutely with all of my heart, I have no doubt, I’m not going to change my mind, no one can ever change it.  Because I believe that and because gamergate is, in general, against her efforts.  I believe gamergate is evil because I believe she is good.  I believe she is a force of absolute good and thus I believe gamergate is a force of evil.

Geordie Tait Interview Transcribed – Pt 3

GT: The point I’m trying to make is she just said that a lot of people in gamergate agree that the portrayal of women is bad, and it’s really been my experience that a lot of them don’t care, and, you know, don’t give a shit that the portrayal of women is bad and they were more the sort of people who would look at the response to that, you know, that Hitman Trailer with the nuns in it and they would say “Why were you complaining about that?  That trailer was awesome.  It’s just a bunch of complaining assholes white knighting, blah blah blah.”

KOP: Right, but…

GT: I think there’s tons of people like that in gamergate.

KOP: K, fair assessment.  What if I told you it’s because people weren’t looking at it in a pseudopolitical or ideological way, they were looking at it as a form of entertainment and art?

GT: Uh.  That’s what I mean when I say that they don’t think it’s important.

KOP: Well, it’s probably because its… and to most people, for most gamers, they would take video games, for them, as a form of art & entertainment, like if you went to go see a movie.  It is art & entertainment.  Or if you read a book, it is entertainment and art.  Sometimes books can be intellectual properties, if they need to be, if you’re reading something like that, if that’s your taste, just as much as there can be (unintelligible) in games, documentaries, there have been historical games as well.  It just depends on your taste.  Once again, that’s art and entertainment and what you’re attracted to.  I just want to say, it goes back to the same question I made before, which is what’s stopping, at least the anti-gamergate side, or let’s say as an example, Anita Sarkeesian, as you will, from making the game that portays women in the right aspect instead of critiquing the free market, if you will, that has been around since… a long time, now, I would say for the most part.

GT: Okay.  I think the main problem with that is that it…  I would like more people to be political thinkers, um, and not just, vanish into a wasteland of only caring about the artistic side.  I think that too many people do that.  I think it’s an excuse that they make.  I think it’s the worst kind of, y’know, anti-intellectual garbage, just, to listen to someone say “That trailer is sexist” and then, y’know, look over at them and say “Can’t you just enjoy it? Fucking shut up”.

KOP: Okay, if I can interject.  Then if that’s the case, then why not make games that are educational to the subject at hand?  And not say that because, let’s say Bayonetta 2, “She’s so sexy, but she’s also a witch who can do magic who’s fighting figuratively fictitious ant-creatures and monsters that don’t exist in our world in a world that does not adhere to our world at all.”  You get what I’m saying?  That’s entertainment, but if you’re looking for what you’re talking about, Geordie, that’s still falls back to if that is what you want and you’re looking for, then why not make an educational game based off that so people understand it better?

GT: I’ll tell you why.  Because educational games suck.  You want an exciting action game like the best ones in our industry but you want it to contain, like, the correct message, and not just be vacant and stupid.

Geordie Tait Interview Transcribed – Pt 4

KOP: …would you say if, um.  Would you say that if anybody were to question, let’s say, Anita Sarkeesian’s views, do they also deserve to “meet the gas chamber” as you put it?

GT: No.  Not necessarily.

KOP: What if they doubted it?

GT: It would depend on their motives for doubting it.

Sargon: But you don’t know their motives.

KOP: Hold on, Sargon.

GT: I can judge their motives.

KOP: Whoa, hold on.  But when you say “depend on their motives”, if they doubt it, is it just a simple yes or no, should they meet the gas chamber if they doubt Anita Sarkeesian’s views?

GT: It’s not a simple yes or no, no, their motives have to be…

KOP: Would you say some people might, and some people won’t?

GT: Uh, no, because I don’t even know what you’re talking about.

KOP: I’m asking you, with Anita Sarkeesian’s views, if somebody doubted them, you said it’s not a yes or no question, so would you say that it depends what they view, whether or not they should “meet the gas chamber” as you put it in your other facebook post or not?

GT: I would judge whether or not they should ‘quote-unquote’, cuz you insist on using that, “meet the gas chamber”…

KOP: I’m just using it because it’s what you suggested for gamergaters, so…

GT: Yeah, sure, yeah, okay.

KOP: Okay.

GT: But I know that it’s kind of inflammatory, right, just to keep repeating that?  Anyway, um…

KOP: Okay, alright, anyway, so, continuing on, I think we’ve got the understanding of what you think on ‘cult’. Geordie, do you have any questions for Sargon before Sargon asks you the next question?

GT: Well, I haven’t answered your question yet.  Let me just quickly finish.  Uh, I think that if someone were to ask me “What do you think of this person who disagrees with Anita Sarkeesian?” and at first I would say “Well, I don’t know anything about them, so let me look at some of their other tweets and the people they associate with and their previous behavior, previous articles they’ve written, statements they’ve made, so on and so forth.” And if I thought, from reading that or talking to the person that they were just a misogynist and like… even if they claimed, it’s, um… they don’t like Anita Sarkeesian because they think that she’s, y’know, was given too much money, and just, y’know, not worth the $100k, they’re jealous or whatever, or they’re just a misogynist.  Any of those reasons?  They’re just, y’know, a force of evil.  And for that reason, if they died, I would not care.  Y’know, good.

KOP: So, Geordie, just to follow this up, to wrap this up, would you say that basically the anti-gamergate side’s ends or goals that you guys have would justify whatever means necessary to basically make that – the politically correct term – against gamergate?

GT: Uh, no, I wouldn’t say that.  I don’t think I’m like other anti-gamergaters at all.

KOP: Okay.

GT: I can’t really speak.. I wouldn’t want to speak for them because I know I say things that are a lot more extreme than the things that they would say.  But I would have no… I would literally have no problem if all these fucking, y’know, Republican fucking d-bags…

KOP: Okay.

GT: …would just vanish of the face of the fucking earth.

KOP: Okay, I think we got an understanding from there.  Alright Sargon, you have another question Sargon? Go ahead.

Sargon: Well, yeah, I want to know how you know what their motives are?

GT: By reading what they’ve written.  And seeing who they associate with and what those people have said to them.  So on and so forth.

Sargon: Is your motive to start another Holocaust?

GT: Obviously not.

Sargon:  I’ve read what you’ve written.

GT: but it would be totally…

KOP: whoa, whoa, whoa…

Sargon: Let me finish.

GT: Okay

Sargon: I’ve read what you’ve written, and that’s essentially what you’re saying.  So it would be unfair for me to assume…

GT: It’s not even close.

Sargon: …your motive is.  Shut up, right?

KOP: Whoa.

Sargon: It would be unfair for me to say that your motive would be genocide because you’ve written this really hyper emotional “I hate gamers” post.  So, for you to then go round and say “I know that he’s a misogynist because of the way I interpreted what he wrote”, that’s… do you see why that’s a double standard?

GT: You… Like…  My head hurts from the stupidity.  It’s not even close to the same thing at all.  Even if I did manage to shove everyone in gamergate into a gas chamber, they’re not, like… the Jews were innocent.  That’s why it was such a tragedy.  People in gamergate are scumbags.  It’s a huge difference.

KOP: Okay, so you would say that Gamergate is not innocent and that the Jews were and…(unintelligible)

GT: It’s like a house landing on the wicked witch of the west.

Sargon: Do you know what a principle is?

GT: uh… it has multiple meanings.

Sargon: Okay, could you give me any of them?

GT: Headmaster?

Sargon: Uh… okay.  A principle as in, um, a method of action or a method of reason.  The principle of something, rather than…

GT: I mean, I know what you mean.  That definition seems…  I can’t really think of the exact definition but I do know what the word means and what you’re talking about.

Sargon: Yeah, so, this is… but a principle is… I’m just going to quickly look it up: “A guiding sense of the requirements and obligations of right conduct”, right?


Sargon: That’s a dictionary definition of the word ‘principle’.

GT: Okay.

Sargon: Do you know how that applies… do you know why I’m asking you about principles right now?

GT: Uh… It’s a leading question as usual so you can try to…

Sargon: Well, it’s actually directly related to what you have literally just said.  You think that the Holocaust was bad because it happened to Jews and, as far as you’re concerned, Jews have done nothing wrong.  I don’t know either way, I’m just saying what you’ve said.  And then, but, you are happy to apply the principle of genocide to gamers, because, in your mind, gamers have done something wrong.

GT: No, I think assholes have done something wrong.

Sargon: Whatever.  Whoever.  The people who are supporting gamergate, whatever you want to call them, you say they have done something wrong…

GT: Yeah.

Sargon: …and therefore you think they deserve gas chambers. Right.

GT: Or whatever method (unintelligible)…

Sargon: …but that is the same principle the Nazis were operating under.  You’re just changing the noun.  You know, you’re changing Jews to Gamers or whatever you want to call them, but the principle of pushing people into gas chambers is what’s wrong.  Do you understand?

GT: Nah.  I don’t think so.  I mean, what’s wrong is that they were innocent and they were pushed into gas chambers.

Sargon: No, it’s what’s wrong is that they were pushed into gas chambers, regardless, for being Jews.  That’s the thing that’s wrong.

GT: Yeah, that is wrong.

Sargon: Right.  And so you’re saying you want push, I don’t know, gamergaters, or whatever you want to call them, into gas chambers for being gamers.

GT: No, for being fucking assholes, misogynist pricks.  Right wing dickheads, fucking guntoting dingleberries.

Sargon: So you think they deserve it for being right wing?

GT: I think they deserve it for being an actual damaging force in multiple countries and societies in the world over that are sabotaging women, have been for years.  I’m finished with them.  I’m totally finished.

Sargon: Do you know…

KOP: Hold on, Sargon.

Sargon: …that the Germans said exactly the same thing about the Jews in Germany?

GT: They were wrong.

Sargon: Yeah, but… that makes you wrong.

GT: I’m not fucking wrong, I’m absolutely right.

Geordie Tait Interview Transcribed – Pt 5

Sargon: Right, okay then, can we talk about something you do care about then?  I’m very curious about, um, misogyny

GT: Yep.

Sargon: Could… I mean, could you define it for me?  What do you think misogyny is?

GT: What do I think misogyny is?  Well, it mostly takes the form, uh… I would say, of contempt… Most of it is just not caring about what is an obvious problem.  At least in gamergate.  But there’s also just a lot of really repugnant comments and like stupidity.  You know, prejudice against women.  That’s what I would say misogyny is.

Sargon: Right, cuz the definition everyone else is working to is, um, the hatred of women by virtue of them being women.  That’s… That’s the definition that everyone else works on, so when you say someone’s a misogynist, they’re like “well, there are women that I don’t hate”.  So, when you say that…

GT: Well, I’m sure that there’s plenty of women (unintelligible).

Sargon:…they’re a misognynist, it doesn’t make any sense to them.

GT: I mean, it’s possible to be a misogynist and have women that you don’t hate.

Sargon: Sorry, say that again.

GT: It’s possible to be a misogynist and have women that you don’t hate.

Sargon: I don’t think that’s true.

GT: It is obviously true.

Sargon: Why is it obviously true?

GT: (unintelligible).  Okay, I’ll tell you how it’s true: you have contempt for women who are trying to, you know, rise up from their position of being chattel and marginalized and, you know, not allowed into the best spots in industries and underpaid.  Having, you know, all of that stuff.  So, you don’t like that, but you’re totally fine with your, you know,  meek and cowed wife who you driven down into the ground over the course of 8 to 10 years, and you’re fine with, you know, the, uh, the women on twitter who says, you know, “I don’t believe in feminism”, uh, “I’m fine by myself”, and like “I have my own definition of feminism” and “I don’t care about this other thing and I don’t hate men and I don’t hate anything that’s going on” and, so of course you’re fine with that person, even though you’re a misogynist, cuz she’s tapdancing on top of the fucking dugout.  So…

Sargon: But hang on.  Okay, so, you’re saying that I like some women if they’re traditional women, traditionalist women, right?

GT: Yeah, but this is not…  This is just one example.

Sargon: I’m really just trying to understand what you’re trying to tell me, because you’re not working off the standard definitions that everyone else uses, so I really am trying to give what you’re saying credence.  Like, so, there are some women that I like because of the way they act, and there are some women that I don’t like because of the way they act.

GT: Yep.

Sargon: Is that… And so that’s what makes me a misogynist.

GT: Uh.  That isn’t what makes a misogynist.

Sargon: That’s part of, sorry, that’s why you’re calling me a misogynist: because there are some women I don’t like.

GT: That’s one way a misogynist could be.  They could also hate all women, as you say, or they could hate one woman because she’s a woman, like every other woman still be a fucking misogynist.  (unintelligible)

Sargon: What if I don’t like certain women because of the things they do?

GT: Depends what they do.

Sargon: Well, okay, maybe, um, uh, I don’t know, maybe they’re trying to defame… deface an Argentinian cathedral?

GT: Okay, are they doing that because they’re women?

Sargon: Yeah.

GT: So, you think that they’re doing that because they’re women?

Sargon: No, that’s not true, they’re doing it because they’re feminists.

GT: Oh, you think they’re doing it because they’re feminist?  That’s not the same as…

Sargon: Oh, I know they were, that’s what they were saying.

KOP: Hold on, Geordie, he’s, hold on.  I don’t think Geordie knows.  Geordie, he’s referring to a recent, not too long, a couple months ago, there was a radical feminist group, the – I can’t remember the name off the top of my head, I know, Sargon, you know what I’m  talking about – in Argentina and they went on a riot against a church where there was a priest, a couple priests, while they rioted and destroyed everything because they hated men.

Sargon: Yeah, so I don’t personally, very… like those women very much, because they’re trying to deface someone else’s property, and because the people they were attacking hadn’t done anything to them.

GT: They hadn’t?

Sargon: No, not at all.  Not as far as we know, anyway.  I would find it hard to believe a small group of very religious men had done anything to this 7 or 8 thousand strong mob of feminists.

GT: I actually disagree that someone who’s hyperreligious is less likely to have done something to women.

Sargon:  It doesn’t matter if they’re likely or not, it’s just that we have no evidence to suggest they did anything.  So…

GT: It sounds like there hasn’t been much information come out, but like if they didn’t have a reason to do that, then fine, you know, they should’ve expressed themselves in a different way.  But I think they’re justified in just generally being mad at men.

Sargon: Okay.  But if I say I don’t like those women because of what they did, am I misogynist?

GT: That’s a tough question. You’re giving me a real corner case here.  It… Y’know…

Sargon: I’m just trying to understand.

GT: I would have to really examine.  I would have to really examine those women and what they did and why.  And I would have to know your background, like, do… are you a religious person?  How do you treat other women in your life? And you know, stuff like that.  And so, you know, I would need more information.

Sargon: Okay. Um, okay, so, it’s possible to be a misogynist who doesn’t hate all women though.  There can be some women I like.

GT: Yes.  Yep.

Sargon: Cuz, it, the way that it sounds like your describing misogyny is anti-feminism.

GT: Not quite. I mean… But it takes the form of, y’know, anti-, I don’t know what I would call it.  Women who are… uh, standing up for themselves in various ways?  So… You know, sometimes that’s the case and sometimes it’s just there’s no reason for it and you dislike a very meek and cowed woman just for her nature of being a, y’know, very, sl…, just, “pathetic”, you would think, “look at her with her head hung.”  You know, meek and scared when I raise my hand, I don’t like that, so I don’t respect that, so I don’t like that woman.

Sargon: I don’t ever raise my hand to women, man.

GT: Of course, sorry, I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about a hypothetical other misogynist.

Sargon: Right, okay, so you… you kinda seem to be talking about like a guy from the 50s or something.

GT: What? No.

Sargon: You just said like “When I raise my hand to her she’s all meek and stuff” and I’m  just thinking in my own life experience and I don’t think I’ve ever met a meek woman.  Um, most of them are quite outspoken, do you not find?  I mean, I don’t know what it’s like in San Francisco.

GT: Um, I mean, I think that I’ve met women who are easy to manipulate and, y’know, I could’ve taken advantage of easily.  And of course I’ve met women who are just real firebrands, that would never be possible.  Um, I mean, I don’t know.

Random Thoughts: Real Life Flaming, Welcoming People to the Hobby, Your Mom Plays Video Games, and Influential Gamers

I found out about this sort of thing the hard way talking to a younger dude that was like this. He was edgy and cool, but his brain was somewhat colonized. He somehow got to talking about this thing that happened at his high school… some kid had worn a shirt that was deemed to be across the line by his type and they’d rallied and made it clear that nobody could do that there. I was surprised that he could be so positive about doing something like that. I said, “that’s the difference between my generation and your generation. People like you at least had the sense not to attack free speech back when I was in school….” This assertion that he was basically a product of his times rather than some stripe of free thinker put him into a rage. He started screaming and cursing at me for several minutes. (Yes, he thought himself the voice of tolerance and reason, of course.) It was then that I realized that this “flaming” stuff you see online… it’s not just a product of anonymity and technology. No, some people really are like that….! They actually can’t respond to a difference of opinion with anything but rage.

On being “welcomed” into the hobby — No no no no no! You have no idea how clueless you are. Honestly. It just isn’t like that at all. If you think anyone is going to roll out the red carpet for you then you don’t know anything about gaming. Do you have any idea how merciless competitive chess is? How hard it is to find an opponent for a wargame? Have you ever interviewed people to see if they’d be a good fit for a wacky roleplaying campaign concept you want to try out? Have you ever run a demo at a con and felt the pressure of having to be at least as interesting as the people running a dozen other tables…? Have you played games that other people want to play and then been disappointed that they never reciprocate and play the stuff that you are into…? There is no welcoming committee. When I bought my first tabletop game– Car Wars of course– I basically had to become an evangelist for it in order to get people to play it with me. Look, gaming is something people do for fun in their spare time. It doesn’t need you. It will go on just fine without you. If you have a notion of what you’d like to get out of it that’s maybe a little offbeat, it’s not gamerdom’s fault for not being just right for you. You have to invest a little effort to go out and make it happen yourself. It’s ironic given that so many people in the scene are themselves outcasts to varying degrees… but the fact is, you’ll also have to develop some significant social skills to pull it off. If you don’t have those and are unwilling to develop them… then there’s not much that the designers, the industry, and the convention organizers can do for you. So by all means… grow up and get over yourself. It’s a hobby, stupid. They can’t fit a team of coaches and cheerleaders in the box for you… and they never will.

Welcome to the hobby — We hope you enjoy getting stomped in the face, stabbed in the back, and painfully outmaneuvered as much as we do. If you’re looking for a “safe space” for sadists, psychopaths, and masochists you’ll be right at home.

Welcome to the Hobby — “Dune gives you (and the other players) an absolute, unrestricted, and utter unbeatable chance to be a JERK. That’s right. Dune allows you to be a huge jerk, and all in the name of FUN. And really, whats more fun than being a jerk? Being a jerk to PLENTY OF PEOPLE AT ONCE. Jackpot.”

“but now your mom wants to play video games and everything’s no longer about you…” — Wait, so more people playing games means my hobby is no longer about me. That’s interesting. Because I get to play games for maybe two to five hours a week tops. It is my favorite thing… and the only thing I get to have my way. At work, the customer is always right and what my boss says goes. At home as a parent, I am under the normal demands of compromise, commitment, and responsibility. The needs of my family carry a lot of weight in how things have to be done. That’s how things are for an adult. Gaming is the one break I get from all of this, the one place where I recharge… and it’s for such a pitifully small part of my week. And yet here are these orcs– these busybodies– suddenly showing up and explaining how it has to “change” and how it’s got to be “better.” What’s wrong with these people?!

Much as they like to accuse the people that they bully of being losers stuck in the mom’s basement, I think it makes sense to turn that around. How many of these people have settled down and actually had children? Sure, I’m no Sigmund Freud or anything, but it sure seems like some kind of displaced psychological mania. Still, I just can’t imagine these people having ever been responsible for a child. I mean, you have to tell them what to eat, when to sleep, when to bathe… you have to explain to them how to do the simplest tasks. Heck, you even spend a lot of time managing their play time. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it. People that live with that kind of ongoing responsibility just aren’t going to be inclined to try to manage what other people do in their free time. In the first place, parenting is too humbling of a thing to make that sort of tilting with windmills seem productive. Mostly though, it’s just so exhausting you don’t have the energy to try to take responsibility for other people’s pastimes.

So lets look at this completely spurious argument one more time: but now your mom wants to play video games and everything’s no longer about you…. This is all predicated on the assumption of scarcity when the fact is, more games are being created, developed, and published right now than ever before. On the tabletop and on the computer, niche games which wouldn’t otherwise have been made in previous years are getting funded on Kickstarter. Tools that allow novice developers to create video games and amateur designers to publish role playing games have never been better. No matter how off the wall your tastes are right now, there’s something out there that’s been created as if gaming really were all about you. Given that people have the choice, why should they be shamed for wanting it any other way? This makes no sense.

The fact is that people that have no interest in gaming and that have no idea what is actually going on are using this fact of increasing diversification as a club to bash a particular segment of the market. In a weird spasm of incoherence, just as the diversity problem is being solved– to the point where even I can get support for B/X D&D and first class microgame reprints– a movement has emerged with a goal to make gaming less diverse. But there is absolutely no case here for changing games. There is no need to attack one segment of the market so that less well served segments can supposedly blossom. The fact that one group of people having fun right now shouldn’t bother anybody except the envious and the spiteful.

The community was diversifying quite well on its own without the help of these outsiders, as can be seen in the shift from wargames to rpgs to CCGs to euros and complementary trends on the computer gaming side. But changing or eliminating wargames, for instance, wouldn’t do anything to help people that like puzzles or cooperative games. It’s just not a zero sum game. The answer here is to leave gamers alone and let them continue to sort out the problems they are already in the process of addressing.

And now for something… completely different:

Games Should Be Religious Tracts — “It is not enough to make games that sell. We must make games that change the gamer. Tom Clancy wrote books that sell, but he changed no one.” — Ernest W. Adams, founder of International Game Developers Association, November 18, 2014 (Twitter)

I think this Guy Just Holds Gamers in Contempt — “‘Influential gamer’ is silly; it’s like ‘influential TV watcher.’ Follow the creators, not the consumers; Sid Meier, not some random buyer.” Ernest W. Adams, Nov 13, 2014 (Twitter)

Okay, so what about Bobby Fisher’s combinations? What about those guys that play world championship level Starcraft? What about that girl that goes to several conventions a year, stays up all night playing rpgs? (She doesn’t gamemaster, she doesn’t blog, she doesn’t design anything… she just playes the heck out of these things to the point that all the game masters at the cons know her and even prep their adventures with her in mind.)

Let me tell you something about the best designers in the industry, the ones I respect the most and the ones whose games I play avidly. The ones that I have had any amount of contact with, when they find out that I have played a crap ton of Car Wars sessions, they invariably pick my brain about what’s right about the game, what’s wrong with the game, how to fix it, and what makes it fun. I have made zero contributions to the design and development of that game, and yet they don’t hold their noses and treat me like some sort of obnoxious Archie Bunker type. They treat me like someone that can provide insights from a gamer’s perspective that they don’t have time to figure out by trial and error.

Designing games and writing about games takes a lot of time. The gamers out there that do nothing but play can rack up an incredible amount of game sessions. Like that guy that’s played over five hundred sessions of Britannia, a six hour board game…. If you are designing a game that is even remotely like that, you would do well to spend a little bit of time talking to that guy!!!

That’s common sense… but it’s apparently news to some of these gaming pundits. Doing something for the gamers is of course the entire point of game design and the games industry. Of course you’d want to pay attention to what gamers care about and what they actually do with these games out in the wild.

Guest Post: Go Forth and Kill

All five players were present for the 7th game session. After a bit of healing (clerical and magic honey) the party regroups for a 2nd raid on the tombs of King and Queen in the center of Tier 3.

Wilfer and Guia are still lvl 1, as are the NPCs Cheyenne and Souvlacus. Guruff and Abraxo are lvl2. Igollad is lvl3, as are Mengelev and Dongelev. That’s five PCs all under direct control of the players, and four NPCs on the relatively capable and thoughtful end of the spectrum.

In the last post, I did not talk about the care the players took in the central tomb complex. It’s an environment that seems much more lethal than it is. There’s the pendulum trap and a lot of atmosphere, which the module explicitly tells the DM to play up. The players spent a lot of time discussing and skirting real and imagined traps. There IS also a spot where they are deliberately bottlenecked into single file which they did not like at all. Only four rooms wound up being explored this session, but they took a long time.

The party returns to the false tomb and tries the unexplored secret door to Room 32 (Queen Zenobia’s burial chamber). Pyrsoglos, the +3 vs. undead sword, is now wielded by Guruff. Wilfer has the +1 lawful shortsword. The stone coffin has a warning inscribed on it and the room is otherwise pretty bare. The party knows perfectly well that something is going to spring out of the coffin when they pry off the heavy stone lid so they prepare accordingly.

When the stone lid is pulled back a few inches, Zenobia’s leathery claw lashes out. Wilfer and Guruff plunge down with swords while the others pour in oil and a couple missile weapons. Most of it doesn’t damage the Wight, but there’s a lot of activity. By restricting the Wight’s movements and keeping the low AC Wilfer (plate, shield and protection from evil) as the main target, they manage to kill it, collecting the second priceless crown and the scepter of paralysis. Somewhere in there, the Wight hits Souvlacus who slumps to the floor unconscious.

The higher HP members of the party then storm the King’s tomb again and snatch up his +1 plate mail before taking too much damage from the Banshee. They then withdraw to safety.

The Old God faction leaders have all returned to the underground city for one reason or another. When he awakes, Souvlacus is hysterically angry about his close brush with death and the general recklessness of the Topsiders. Despite some wild successes, the Cynidiceans just don’t really understand what the party is up to or what they’re after. As many of them see it, these Topsiders are just stirring up horrific monsters better left undisturbed. Cheyenne and Souvlacus return to their people for now.

During a brief rest period, Mengelev and Dongelev work out an agreement with the PCs, wherein they claim an equal share of treasure on raids they aid. They also bring up the sticky issue of the legal standing of the Expedition.

The players have not thought much about escape or getting back home up to this point. Mengelev points out that the Expedition into the desert was under a charter held by the Viscount. In the Viscount’s absence (and presumed death) the entire project has no legal standing. They therefore probably have no legal claims to any treasure. The issue had no immediate bearing. I just used it to bring the players back around to their overall situation and to make them think about how their characters have lives outside the ziggurat.

Suited up in some new gear, the party of seven (the PCs plus the twins) takes its first steps down to Tier 5 via a short tunnel connecting Room 44 to a main hallway [one of Philotomy’s more useful suggestions to rationalize transit between Tiers 4 and 5].

This is about the point where I veered off from the module considerably. The entirety of my first campaign had already happened. I felt like I had a good bead on Moldvay Basic so that part of my experiment was satisfactory. No longer feeling any need to run a “pure” B/X module, I rewrote much of Tier 5 to have it make much more sense as a space partially occupied and controlled by the Zardozians.

The players are told the general lay of the land of Tier 5 and are warned that Goblins and Priests roam much of it at will. The entire Tier is kind of a gauntlet that cult members have to run to get to and from the City. Wanting to gather intel about the Harvest and disappearances of citizens, the players set out to capture some Zardozians for questioning.

The center of Tier 5 is a huge vaulted chapel, through which most traffic passes. At the moment, Darius (one of the High Priests) delivers a rousing speech to nearly a hundred of his minions, partially overheard by the players:

The blade is good, the penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the world with a plague of men. But the blade sows death, and scours the world of filth. Go forth and kill.

Wishing to give the host of bloodthirsty enemies a wide berth, the PCs creep south and east to Room 53 (Priest’s Quarters). A gelatinous cube already consumed almost everything organic in the room, and it waits in the doorway. When they open the door, the cube slides towards them. They run a short way, regroup and then take care of it. In the priest’s room, they find little of note besides a number of masks, which they use to try to make themselves look less conspicuous.

They locate the secret door to the north and follow the passage to 56 (Lobby). Two Goblins stand guard outside the door. One is killed in the party’s initial charge but the other backs into the room to alert the four other goblin guards therein. They cut down three more Goblins, but one dashes through a door to the south.

With the session already running late, we pause at this cliffhanger.

A little over 5000 XP divided among them propels Guia and Wilfer to level 2 and Abraxo to level 3.

In the last session, Wilfer and Igollad had visions. Guruff would have too, but the player Dickie was absent, so he got his this session. He had failed several saves by this time, so his vision was bleaker than the others’, in proportion to his infection by the Breath of Zardoz:

As you rest in the pyramid, you sink into sleep and dream. You walk through stone passages, slickened with the effluvium of unsavory horrors. Indistinct screaming bounces off the walls. You turn a corner into a bare, cold room. Thick blood spatter coats the walls. Sand pours in from holes in the ceiling. You look to escape, but there is no exit. Sand quickly buries your legs… then torso.

As it covers your face and outstretched arms you try to scream but produce no sound. You choke as sand fills your gaping mouth. Darkness sweeps over you. Not the darkness of night, nor even of lightless caves. It is an inky darkness, annihilating all life, joy and hope.

A massive shape whose presence you feel more than see looms over you. Slick tendrils encircle you, bringing you close. Razor sharp claws pierce your flesh, and you feel it burrowing into your mind, dredging up to lay bare every fear you ever had. As it pierces your body and mind, it whispers a simple command- “Go forth and kill”.

Thanks again to my long time Car Wars opponent Earlburt for putting this campaign together and writing it up like this. 

The Pink Slime Room

“You are in a room. There is slim dripping off the walls. There is a torch on the wall. The walls are crombling. There is a big blob of slim. It has one eye it strs at you. You fell as if you are being plop neer someting. You clasp into someting slimy evering is slimy. You fell as if some wone or someting is wating you. You die! You die! You die!”


Note: I gave my daughter an assignment to produce something that has a combination of art, writing and game design in it. She said she couldn’t do it because she can’t spell. I said… do it anyway and who cares about the spelling errors right now.

Random Thoughts: Outside the Rules Structure, an Eclectic Fiction Diet, Watershed Moments, Lenin, Artiness, and Chronicles of Riddick

Just speculating about what’s going on here, but… the thing about role playing games is… random stuff on your character sheet that everyone has forgotten about can very quickly become amusingly important. But the essence of play is the game master describing a situation and the players imagining it and then figuring out what their characters would do. And this often has nothing to do with the rules or the character sheets! The structure of the rules help point the entire group toward this particular engaging and fun thing… and yet, at the same time, the fun that is encountered often occurs outside the structure of the rules themselves.

This is a great pic, though. You can see the tracking of minutia, the way rpg’s make people explain stuff, and the way that imagination is the ultimate arbiter all at once. I haven’t seen anything from the award winning snarky pants gaming theorist types that makes me think they really get that this is what it’s all about.

Even the mediocrities on the Appendix N list can provide valuable insights. Jack of Shadows is a better distillation of the zeitgeist of the baby boomers’ children than even I’m Okay, You’re Okay. Changeling Earth is a direct consequence of a generation that had lost faith in science and was all to willing to create new gods for itself. Come to think of it… there is a disproportionate number of stinkers from the seventies in that list.

Why is it that Gygax had a diet of fiction that spanned more than half a century, but the designers that followed him and the younger generation of gamers that played his stuff did not for the most part? What kinds of things do we fail to see simply because we’ve never bothered to survey the past…? And what the heck happened during the seventies to turn everything upside down? Something happened. The fact of it doesn’t require a conspiracy theory to explain it, but it does make me wonder about what all’s gone on since.

Remember: people that haven’t read from the Appendix N list tend to assume that Gary Gygax was a weirdo for using the term “Fighting-Men” instead of something like “Warrior.” They will even go so far as to say that the reasons for his word choice there are unknowable. It’s a small thing, sure… but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. These people are not only ignorant, but they don’t even know they are ignorant. They are simply not equipped to make an intelligent critique of classic D&D, much less assess Gygax’s contribution to gaming.

That “Wisconsin Shoe Salesmen” precipitated a watershed moment in gaming history. His influence is not confined to tabletop games, but spills over into computer gaming and fantasy in general. While many tropes of classic D&D have by now become ubiquitous, the literature that inspired them has since dropped into obscurity. This is interesting and bears further investigation. Among other things, this provides a method for revisiting the axioms which we take for granted in both games and genre fiction. If you’re tired of your adventure scenarios being derivative of blockbuster movies, this can open up a smorgasbord of inspiration. And if you don’t already know who A. Merritt was… if you haven’t read Jack Vance or Robert E. Howard… you are in for quite a treat.

Netflix just blows my mind. First it was the episode of Midwives where the baby got saved because of the National Health Service had just passed. Then there was the BBC series about female WWII code breakers tracking down a necrophiliac rapist/serial killer against their husbands’ wishes. And now its a roaring twenties detective show where the simple Australian cab driver has to point out that Lenin legalized abortion in 1920. It’s almost like the entertainment is structured so that it reinforces somebody’s political narrative…. Agh. Fortunately, I have some books here where the authors don’t pull this kind of crap.

Somebody was complaining to me about not being about to get intoThe Dying Earth. “Well the prose must be at a higher level than what you’re used to,” I said a bit too gruffly, ignoring their protestations. I handed them The Face in the Frost and suggested that it might be more their speed.

The view on warrior women in history presented here has about as much credibility as Solar Freakin’ Roadways™.

The problem with “arty” is that is too often indicative of a particularly sanctimonious variation of contempt. Most people prefer an honest entertainer that stumbles into the sublime over a cookie cutter hipster that purports to foist it on them.

Riddick is an epic movie hero cut from the same cloth as John Carter, Dumarest, and Conan. The bad guys are wonderfully and irredeemably evil. You even see a cross-section of real world religions depicted sympathetically and (uselessly) in opposition to them– very rare. The “strong female character” is completely devoid of any romantic elements; despite many scenes of gratuitous baddassery on her part, she still needs to be rescued in the clutch. Her role is nevertheless identical to that of Danny Glover’s in the Lethal Weapon series: the “best bud.” Meanwhile on the other side we get a hard core Jezebel or Lady MacBeth type character. She is clearly the brains behind her husband’s ascent to influence and power. Finally… that world in the middle section: loved it. Not your standard “Class M” world from Star Trek. Not your George Lucas “pick a single Earth climate and roll.” Just a nice, believable and fun environment. Altogether, a very nice package of a film. This is about as “old school” of a blockbuster as you’re liable to see.

Photo used with permission.


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